Sunday, July 06, 2008

Spending Money

Robin Hanson (oops) that was Eliezer Yudkowsky takes a quote ("even $10 trillion isn't a huge amount of money") out of context to make an interesting question:

So if you had $10 trillion, what would you do with it?

After reading the first several responses, I quickly dashed off a list of my own:

  1. Fund the top half of The Copenhagen Consensus projects. The idea behind this project was simple: different things that could be done to improve the world have vastly different apparent costs and claimed benefits, and very little policy discussion considers the trade-offs between. The project got leading economists to compare various proposals for big interventions intended to improve welfare across large populations. The recommendations and rationale are very interesting and the process is convincing to me.
  2. Longevity research: Give a billion to Aubrey de Grey.
  3. Push the US government towards more support of liberty. Money on that scale could make a significant start to unwinding the welfare state.
    1. The Institute for Justice has a very good program making practical steps. They could productively spend at least 10 times their current budget. Think about whether their methods can be applied in other areas.
    2. Try to convince Marshall Fritz to return to the Advocates for Self Government. He pioneered a process of inventing tools to spread liberty, and then measure the results to decide how to spend more money.
    3. Start think tanks to flood the political market with arguments and (funded) proposals for moving toward liberty. The Cato Institute does a good job, but in this case, I'd expect to improve things more by providing them with competition than with funding.
  4. Buy OLPCs for the kids in all the "bottom billion" countries.

With a little more time to think about it, it doesn't seem like I'd change my priorities much. I've added some explanation about the Copenhagen Consensus; the others seem to stand on their own. Otherwise, I'll just republish it here with appropriate links added.

Addendum: while looking for the links for this article, I discovered that Marshall Fritz has terminal cancer. I'm tremendously saddened. Marshall is the one person in the libertarian movement I most respect. His pioneering work in promoting and promulgating the freedom philosophy was without peer. Other people continue the fight, but he was the first to approach the problem of spreading the word scientifically and experimentally. He generated ideas himself and welcomed ideas from other people, and would implement them whole-heartedly, and see which ones were the most successful in recruiting new libertarians. Others have continued to run the organization he started (the Advocates for Self Government), but they merely continue to use the successful tools he developed, rather than using his approach to continue to invent and evaluate new techniques.


Robin Hanson said...

Actually that was Eliezer's post.

MarshallFritz said...

Thank you for your kind comments.

Let's give credit where credit is due. Yes, while I had a lot of creativity---and one of the ideas worked out well, the World's Smallest Political Quiz---my successors Carole Ann Rand and Sharon Harris have promoted that puppy far beyond what I might have done. So, my hat's off to them!

BTW, as of this date (july 6, 2008), I am holding up under the chemo quite well. Scheduled to go to Las Vegas to speak at FreedomFest, and also am booked on a Catholic Answers cruise/pilgrimage in October.

(Yea, verily, I did buy the trip insurance. :-)

Robert Ayers said...

The good news is that the leaders of the G8 just agreed to spend $10 trillion (more or less) on Copenhagen Consensus projects.
The bad news is that they say they'll spend it on the bottom few projects: the ones that have negative payoffs, namely the climate-change projects.
The good news is that they are probably lying about the spending.

Mike Linksvayer said...

Has anything been written about Fritz's methods of evaluation? A few Google queries and poking around the Advocates' site turns up zero mention.

Chris Hibbert said...

Good question, Mike. I looked through my files and found some old materials from the period when Marshall Fritz was running the Advocates. I have a Business Plan from 1985 that may have been the original proposal for the founding of the Advocates. (It refers to the "Self Government Advocates".) There's one page titled "Measuring Progress Motivates Progress" that covers some of the methods I was talking about, though I think the process evolved over time. I no longer have any of the newsletters and notes covering those productive years.

I'll write to Marshall and ask whether he will give permission to post what I have and see if he knows of anyone else who has additional historical material.