This is an outstanding article, and it deserves a lot more analysis and debate. Here are some of my initial thoughts.
First is that the phenomenon could be nearly entirely to rent-seeking. You said the key words: “all of the important things”. Education is critical, health care is critical. K-12 is critical as preparation for college, and getting a high reputation college is critical for status and earnings throughout life. The medical system is obviously directly critical to health. The offerors of these services have an effective monopoly (as a collective) on their services, so they can increase prices and not see a decline in quantity of goods. That the money is not going to teachers or doctors indicates that within these collectives, the actors with the greatest power are not actually those individuals, but other elements. This is not a surprise; each individual doctor or teacher does not have a monopoly, as they can be replaced with another doctor or teacher. The power resides in the bottlenecks of these institutions.
Within education, the bottlenecks are the NEA, the elite schools, accreditation organizations, and Government. Each of these players have a monopoly within their respective fields of action. So if you look to see where the money is going, it’s to these actors, or others like them that I’m not aware of as I type this paragraph.
Within medicine, the monopolies include patented drugs, major hospital chains, local hospitals, large health insurance companies, and Government. In some places, the local health insurance provider has a stranglehold over the health insurance market. Even if they are non-profit, they still control the market and collect rent.
Where does the money go? I can guess that it leaks out through people networks, some going to increased administrator salaries, and also more administrators, more consultants (who happen to know the head admin), other miscellaneous and specialized services that would have been completely unheard of 60 years ago (like unconscious bias training), and preferences for services companies. Some of this likely meets the definition of corruption, but it is usually well-hidden, transitory, or within the supposed discretion of the principle players.
Another factor that I didn’t see fully covered was actual rent. Urban real estate is significantly more expensive over the time periods you indicated, and I believe has appreciated faster than the general inflation rate. Urban colleges, medical facilities, and highly educated elites pay these increased real estate prices and pass on those costs to their customers. So each area of unusual cost growth also faces monopolists in the real estate business, and those monopolists seek to capture rent from the users of health and education services.
It’s not clear to me that we have a choice on postponement. If company A refrains, then company B has an edge. If as a nation we constrain companies A and B, then country X will not, and gain an edge. And if country X and we sign a treaty, then country Y will have an edge. And if all countries refrain, then a criminal or terrorist group outside of all civilized nations will have an edge.
The longer that the postponement occurs, the easier it will become for an entity that is outside of the agreements to create AGI on its own. The bonus value (power) gained by breaking the treaty grows greater as others refrain, reaching its maximum when everyone except the rulebreaker refrain.
All participants are in a dollar auction.