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deletedSep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022
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Speaking of easily avoidable mistakes, starting out your essay talking as if the worst problem facing America is/was Donald Trump was an enormous one. Millions of people you could have made common cause with instantly categorized you as "oh, one of those" and hit the back button. I recommend revising your approach to not mention Trump at all, even indirectly. It's easier than you'd think!

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How about decreasing low-skilled immigration (which is bad for a lot of reasons, of which ethnic conflict is the most important, but ignoring for the sake of argument ethnic conflict, social trust, quality of life, and other intangibles, and focusing purely on GDP per capita, https://www.amazon.com/Wanted-Workers-Unraveling-Immigration-Narrative/dp/0393249018 and https://georgefrancis.substack.com/p/national-iq-is-the-best-predictor are probably the two clearest pieces of evidence that low skilled immigration is bad news) and ending Affirmative Action and its hundreds of variants (given that AA mandates incompetence, making doing literally anything else much harder)? What about actually preventing crime, which is quite easily doable on a technical level (US crime rates today are higher then in 1960, despite vastly more advanced forensic technology, far more surveillance, vastly more money spent on crime prevention, and an older population) and would have huge benefits. Imagine the US with the crime rates of, say, early 20th century England.

As it is, this seems like it will very rapidly turn into just another (D) NGO on top of the hundreds that already exist, which would be a huge waste of talent.

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What sort of software do you think would help you here that doesn’t currently exist?

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As a DC resident, I would like to strongly footstomp the proposition that a shockingly large percentage of issues here are radically understaffed relative to what an Actually Serious Civilization would do. I would therefore strongly suggest that you do more of a breadth-first search for bets where you can win relatively quickly and build up a track record, rather than purely prioritize by impact. There's a lot of impact to go around, but much of it takes a while.

A secondary suggestion for what that track record should be measured in: there are DC groups that care about keeping score publicly, and those that care about convincing their funders and other political insiders that they scored the point but don't care about convincing anyone else. Counterintuitively, the latter groups (if they can honestly score their own work) are often more impactful In This Town as they can cheaply give away public score points in order to close deals.

(Of course, "assume honest scoring" is a big load-bearing assumption, but one I suspect you'd be more likely to be able to achieve than most and one where you might not immediately see yourself as Better Than The Replacement Policy Nonprofit, but where you almost certainly are.)

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Sep 27, 2022·edited Sep 27, 2022

This is one of the biggest problems facing the world. American political dysfunction absolutely cripples our progress. While I have no idea how to even affect this in the slightest and it SEEMS completely intractable to me, I suspect that it must not be; the perception of intractability is incredibly paralyzing to attempts at, well, 'tracting' it.

I don't really have anything to contribute to your cause unless you need a moderately competent software dev for a few hours a week, but at least here's some encouragement:

Go. Cut the enemy. This fight is worth it even if you merely show others that it CAN be fought.

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I think you and I have nearly identical policy preferences and I applaud your initiative to actually do something to make the (political) world a better place.

That said, on to the criticisms!

1.) Your mandate is insanely broad.

New policy ideas, AND drafting legislation, AND conducting research on the effects of policies, AND polling/focus groups, AND campaign management software, AND beyond-state-of-the-art algorithmic marketing?

There's a huge risk of being spread too thin here.

You're inevitably going to narrow your focus once you start work; the only question is whether you do so strategically and deliberately, or allow it to happen by chance. The latter will make your org much more boring in the long run.

2.) You are assuming things are easy, rather than assuming you have opposition.

Any policy objective that seems "obviously" good to you and me, but has not yet been done, is probably being blocked by someone who doesn't want it to happen.

This isn't a reason to sit back and do nothing, but it is something you really, really need to understand.

We do not lack rational, coherent, efficient, beneficial policies because nobody is proposing any. We lack such policies because they are *selected against* by public choice incentives.

Yes, ALSO, nobody is proposing, drafting, and advocating for the Legislative Agenda From Utopia, and you could fill that gap. But I don't imagine for a second that this is the hard part. The hard part is that the Legislative Agenda From Utopia will probably get warped or defeated by the actual legislature. (And the Executive Agenda From Utopia will probably get warped or defeated by the actual executive branch.)

3.) You absolutely must learn to see the world through someone else's eyes.

As a writer, you can lay out your own worldview and build an audience among those who find it worth reading. You can be quite successful even if most people bounce off and think you're an idiot. And you never really have to ask "what do things look like from the perspective of the people who think I'm an idiot?" because those people were never going to be subscribers/readers/fans anyway.

As a political strategist this is no longer the case. You need to win over majorities or critical masses or specific people who are not at all selected for compatibility. I think that does require being able to inhabit the perspective of people who don't share your values, beliefs, frameworks, etc.

You would need to radically break down and rebuild how you read and listen and what you expect other people are thinking. Think of it as a big philosophical/spiritual/psychological transition of the same order as "becoming an atheist" or "going from introverted to extroverted"; it's not impossible, but most people don't do it, and even fewer people do it after age 30.

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I think if you turned this problem upside down, it would say "Made in Higher Education." That is, colleges are turning out so many mis-educated people that I don't think that good public policy stands a chance. But I hope that I am wrong. Good luck!

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>avoiding 100%+ marginal tax rates

Glad to see this on the list. Our open source tax and benefit rules engine can identify opportunities to improve cliffs (https://policyengine.org). Just submitted the form, hope we can partner.

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I am glad you are doing this!

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Just curious for an update on what has happened with Balsa Research since September? Thanks!

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