How should a state tax investment income if it wants to maximize its citizens’ welfare? This sounds like a simple question but I find it surprisingly hard to think about. Here are some of the positions I’ve moved through over the last few years: Taxing investment has distortionary effects, but we should have non-zero investment … More Taxing investment income is complicated
From the perspective of an organism trying to propagate its genes, sex is like a trade: I’ll put half of your DNA in my offspring if you put half of my DNA in yours. I still pass one copy of my genes onto the next generation per unit of investment in children, so it’s a … More Reframing the evolutionary benefit of sex
Imagine a world where some pairs of whom want to talk to each other—each person has a unique n-bit identity (e.g. 64-bit strings), and wants to send a message to someone with a particular identity. The number of people is ballpark exp(n), I’m imagining ~10 billion. We’ll start with a graph G, where people know how to … More Some open problems in P2P routing
Suppose that there were was no number theory, no elliptic curves, no lattice-based crypto. Perhaps because our universe was rigged against cryptographers, or perhaps because our society had never decided to explore abstruse mathematics. How bad would this be? Would electronic commerce be impossible? Would modern society crumble? In this post I’ll explore the possibility that … More How replaceable is public key crypto?
I really like One Night Ultimate Werewolf (ONUW), and recommend trying it out. The Daybreak expansion is also good (but I’d skip the later games in the series). App For those who’ve played a lot and wish the night took 20 seconds rather than a few minutes, I’ve made an app that you can download … More One Night Ultimate Werewolf
(Cross-posted from facebook.) If welfare grows with log income, then a flat 50% tax actually has no impact on my incentive to work—I get half as many dollars per hour worked, but I’m twice as poor so I value each dollar twice as much. (That is to say, the income effect exactly offsets the substitution … More Flat taxes are neutral under log utility
It has been argued that blackmail should be legal if gossip is legal, and even that there are no good consequentialist counterarguments (!). I think this isn’t obvious because the disclosures incentivized by blackmail are systematically worse than gossip. Gossip has costs and benefits: on the one hand people learn information they can use to make better decisions … More Checkmate on blackmail?
Suppose that I’m considering investing $1 in EvilCo (ticker EVL), but decide I don’t like the company’s activities so I refrain. Or maybe I decide to short EVL. Is this effective in reducing EvilCo’s activities? In this post I’ll argue: Divestment can be reasonably effective, despite replaceability. My best guess: I can often sacrifice <$1 … More Analyzing divestment
I’d prefer it if states took from the rich to give to the poor. But I wish they did it in a reasonably efficient way, such that poor people get about $1 of utility for every $1 of utility a rich person loses. I think we often fall short of that goal. (An expansion of … More On redistribution
In my last post I presented a basic argument for EDT, and a response to the most common counterarguments. I omitted one important argument in favor of CDT—that EDT can involve conditioning on a measure zero event, yielding either undefined or undesirable behavior, while CDT is always well-defined. In this post I dive into that argument … More EDT vs CDT 2: conditioning on the impossible