I agree with this line of analysis. Some points I would add:
-Authoritarian closed societies probably have an advantage at covert racing, at devoting a larger proportion of their economic pie to racing suddenly, and at artificially lowering prices to do so. Open societies have probably a greater advantage at discovery/the cutting edge and have a bigger pie in the first place (though better private sector opportunities compete up the cost of defense engineering talent). Given this structure, I think you want the open societies to keep their tech advantage, and make deployment/scaling military tech a punishment for racing by closed societies.
-Your first bullet seems similar to the situation the U.S. is in now, Russia and China just went through a modernization wave, and Russia has been doing far more nuclear experimentation while the U.S. talent for this is mostly old or already retired + a lot of the relevant buildings are falling apart. Once you are in the equilibrium of knowing a competitor is doing something and your decision is to match or not, you don’t have leverage to stop the competitor unless you get started. Because of how old a lot of U.S. systems are/how old the talent is, Russia likely perceived a huge advantage to getting the U.S. to delay. A better structure for de-escalation is neutral with respect to relative power differences: if you de-escalate by forfeiting relative power you keep increasing the incentive for the other side to race.
There are some other caveats I’m not getting into here, but I think we are mostly on the same page.
Some of the original papers on nuclear winter reference this effect, e.g. in the abstract here about high yield surface burst weapons (e.g. I think this would include the sort that would have been targeted at silos by the USSR). https://science.sciencemag.org/content/222/4630/1283
A common problem with some modern papers is that they just take soot/dust amounts from these prior papers without adjusting for arsenal changes or changes in fire modeling.
This is what the non-proliferation treaty is for. Smaller countries could already do this if they want, as they aren’t treaty limited in terms of the number of weapons they make, but getting themselves down the cost curve wouldn’t make export profitable or desirable because they have to eat the cost of going down the cost curve in the first place and no one that would only buy cheap nukes is going to compensate them for this. Depending on how much data North Korea got from prior tests, they might still require a lot more testing, and they certainly require a lot more nuclear material which they can’t get cheaply. Burning more of their economy to get down the cost curve isn’t going to enable them to export profitably, and if they even started it could be the end of the regime (due to overmatch by U.S. + Korea + Japan). The “profit” they get from nukes is in terms of regime security and negotiating power… they aren’t going to throw those in the trash. They might send scientists, but they aren’t going to give away free nukes, or no one is going to let planes or ships leave their country without inspection for years. The Cuban missile crisis was scary for the U.S. and USSR, but a small state making this sort of move against the interest of superpowers is far more likely to invite an extreme response (IMO).
I generally agree with this thought train of concern. That said, if the end state equilibrium is large states have counterforce arsenals and only small states have multi-megaton weapons, then I think that equilibrium is safer in terms of expected death because the odds of nuclear winter are so much lower.
There will be risk adaptation either way. The risk of nuclear war may go up contingent on their being a war, but the risk of war may go down because there are lower odds of being able to keep war purely conventional. I think that makes assessing the net risk pretty hard, but I doubt you’d argue for turning every nuke into a civilization ender to improve everyone’s incentives: at some point it just isn’t credible that you will use the weapons and this reduces their detergent effect. There is an equilibrium that minimizes total risk across sources of escalation, accidents, etc. and I’m trying to spark convo toward figuring out what that equilibrium is. I think as tech changes, the best equilibrium is likely to change, and it is unlikely to be the same arms control as decades ago, but I may be wrong about the best direction of change.
Precision isn’t cheap. Low yield accurate weapons will often be harder to make than large yield inaccurate weapons. A rich country might descend the cost curve in production, but as long the U.S. stays in an umbrella deterrence paradigm that doesn’t decrease costs for anyone else, because we don’t export nukes.
This also increases the cost for rogue states to defend their arsenals (because they are small, don’t have a lot of area to hide stuff, etc.), which may discourage them from gaining them in the first place.
I meant A. The Beirut explosion was about the yield of a mini-nuke.
I could imagine unilateral action to reduce risk here being good, but not in violation of current arms control agreements. To do that without breaking any current agreements, that means replacing lots of warheads with lower yields or dial yields, and probably getting more conventional long-range precision weapons. Trying to replace some sub-launhed missiles with low yield warheads was a step in that direction.
There’s a trade-off between holding leverage to negotiate, and just directly moving to a better equilibrium, but if you are the U.S., the strategy shift may just increase your negotiating power since the weapons are more useable.
The main thing I want to advocate is for people to debate these ideas to see if there is a potentially better equilibrium to aim for, and to chart a path to it. I don’t want people to blindly assume I am right.
I think you need legible rules for norms to scale in an adversarial game, so it can’t be direct utility threshold based rules.
Proportionality is harder to make legible, but when lies are directed at political allies that’s clear friendly fire or betrayl. Lying to the general public also shouldn’t fly, that’s indiscriminate.
I really don’t think lying and censorship is going to help with climate change. We already have publication bias and hype on one side, and corporate lobbying + other lies on the other. You probably have to take another approach to get trust/credibility when joining the fray so late. If there were greater honesty and accuracy we’d have invested more in nuclear power a long time ago, but now that other renewable tech has descended the learning curve faster different options make sense going forward. In the Cold War, anti-nuclear movements generally got a bit hijacked by communists trying to make the U.S. weaker and to shift focus from mutual to unilateral action… there’s a lot of bad stuff influenced by lies in distant past that constrain options in the future. I guess it would be interesting to see what deception campaigns in history are the most widely considered good and successful after the fact. I assume most are ones with respect to war, such as ally deception about the D-Day landings.
It’s not an antidote, just like a blockade isn’t an antidote to war. Blockades might happen to prevent a war or be engineered for good effects, but by default they are distortionary in a negative direction, have collateral damage, and can only be pulled off by the powerful.
While it can depend on the specifics, in general censorship is coercive and one sided. Just asking someone to not share something isn’t censorship, things are more censorial if there is a threat attached.
I don’t think it is bad to only agree to share a secret with someone if they agree to keep the secret. The info wouldn’t have been shared in the first place otherwise. If a friend gives you something in confidence, and you go public with the info, you are treating that friend as an adversary at least to some degree, so being more demanding in response to a threat is proportional.
Vouchers could be in the range of competition, but if people prefer basic income to the value they can get via voucher at the same cost-level then there has to best substantial value that the individual doesn’t capture to justify it. School vouchers may be a case of this, since education has broader societal value.
Issue there is that implicitly U.S. R&D is subsidizing the rest of the world since we don’t negotiate prices but others do. Seems like an unfortunate trade-off between the present and the future/ here and other places, except when there is a lack of reinvestment of revenue into R&D.
I agree with your point in general. In these cases, I’m specifically focusing on regulations for issues that evaporate with central coordination: - Government is doing the central coordinating, so overriding zoning shouldn’t result in uncoordinated planning: gov will also incur the related infrastructure costs.- If you relax zoning and room size minimums everywhere, the minimum cost to live everywhere decreases, so no particular spot becomes disproportionately vulnerable to concentrating the negative externalities of poverty while simultaneously you decrease housing cost based poverty everywhere.
I think I agree with the time-restricted fund idea on competitive commodities as being better than just providing the commodities since there aren’t going to be a lot of further economy of scale benefits. Having competing services and basic income coming out of the same gov budget does create pressure to not make things as poorly as past gov programs. The incentives should still be aligned, because people can still choose to opt out just like the normal market. On food, the outcomes shouldn’t be as bad as food stamp restrictions over time not just because of the opt-out option, but also because the data will be more legible to the government and enable better standards over time where we otherwise have pretty bad food science. I think people would only opt-in to the food plan if it basically allows them to capture benefits somewhere else within the service package they select (e.g. extra basic income via reducing expected medical bills). Otherwise basic income should dominate a food plan as an option unless the person is looking for a way to tie their own hands.
I agree that it is a huge problem if the rules can change in a manner that evaporates the fitness pressure on the services: you need some sort of pegging to stop budgets from exploding, you can’t have gov outlawing competition, etc. I also don’t have a strong opinion on how flexible the government should be here. The more flexible it is, the less benefit you get from constraining variance and achieving economies of scale, the more flexible it is, the more people can get exactly what they want, but with less buying power. I do think it is helpful to have the ability to individually opt out of services, and this would be a very useful signal for forcing both the government and service contractors to adapt. I’m not sure just how many services should be competing for a given service niche within the broader system. One idea would be you have a competition to come up with cheap standardized services, and then companies compete to provide them. The big thing you are trying to achieve is providing a welfare floor at a much more sustainable cost via competitive pressure combined with the ability to centrally coordinate consumer preferences. The coordination doesn’t just give market power benefits, you also have increased legibility that decreases search and transaction cost for consumers and potentially the ability to do better large scale (though still not randomized) experiments in nutrition science and regulation design (e.g. food standards far exceeding regulatory requirements cheaply, exceptions to housing size requirements, etc.)
I think this is a good argument in general, but idk how it does against this particular set-up.When spending levels are pegged, and you are starting out with a budget scope similar to current social programs, some particular company or bureaucracy is only going to capture a whole market if they do really good job since: A: people can opt-out for cash, B: people can chose different services within the system, and C: people can spend their own income on whatever they want outside the universal system.As long as you sustain fitness pressure on the services, and constrain the competition to performance rather than anti-competitive capture maneuvers, I think it could go well. Singapore’s health system comes to mind since it is a very low percentage of GDP, has both public and private options, and there is still universal care (though you always face some degree of cost when getting care in order to avoid bad rationing). This sort of thing could go very poorly in practice if the government is too corrupt, but in that particular case it seems like there is sufficient fitness pressure on government hospitals from the private sector that they are probably doing a good job.
The goal is to standardize a floor, not to chop up the ceiling. People would be free to buy whatever they want if they opt out. Those that opt-in benefit from central coordination with others to solve the adverse selection problem with housing that incentivizes each local area to regulate things bigger and bigger than people need to keep away poor people, making housing more expensive everywhere than it needs to be and curtailing any innovation in the direction of making housing smaller. It probably isn’t a coincidence that Japan has capsule hotels, better zoning, low housing costs, more spread out high speed transit and a lot of wacky houses given its barriers to immigration. Don’t forget that most large group houses that people live in are illegal (though enforcement is lax unless something else goes wrong) and that cities all over the place have all sorts of NIMBY policy and rent controls that distort the market. That is the counterfactual you are replacing, there isn’t a pure market counterfactual in any big city I can think of, but would be interested to hear. The current equilibrium in most places creates an extremely strong incentive to create barriers to housing innovation, and accordingly they do. Singapore is hyper market oriented and rich as a country, but nevertheless did central coordination on housing to drive down costs and erode the support base for communism (not saying one should copy all their policies of course).https://reasonstobecheerful.world/singapore-affordable-housing-freedom/#:~:text=In%20Singapore%2C%20housing%20is%20affordable%2C%20diverse%20and%20impeccably%20maintained.&text=80%20percent%20of%20Singaporeans%20live,Singaporean%20context%20in%20a%20moment.)On the lack of paternalist services, I am getting at why the market doesn’t do them by default. If there are so many can you give one example? If you are just talking about gov ones, then we are talking about different things. On GiveDirectly, I am incredibly skeptical of unconditional cash transfer vs. other targeted interventions in terms of direct effectiveness and vs. or institutional interventions for the long-term: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/givedirectly_not_so_fastIn abstract, interventions like this have always been possible since there have been political entities that use money, and yet you don’t see any country anywhere getting rich via this mechanism. Governments through history instead coordinate and provide services that would otherwise be difficult to provide. When there are systematic transfers, they are usually conditional in order to sustain good incentives over the long-term.More concretely, the costs the GiveDirectly RCT gives for roofing costs seem a bit strange once you start reasoning about local prices. If people are so poor they are earning like a dollar or two per day, it isn’t going to cost $55 to thatch a tiny roof unless it someone actually has to spend about a month doing it… if metal roofing is less than $1 per square foot in materials I have no idea how you get to a $400 roof when labor wages are so low.