This essay is pretty far outside my usual beat of niche biology topics, but I thought it was important. If you find it boring or distasteful, don’t worry, I don’t intend this to be a regular thing. To start off with, I’d like to say that I am very sympathetic to effective altruism (or EA, for short) and its goals. Both the philosophy and the community have had a big impact on my life and my business. I also think EA would definitely be a beneficial force in American politics, which sorely needs good people.
Just a note that SuperPACs are legally not allowed to coordinate with candidates, so Flynn allegedly would not control Bankman-Fried's millions. So compared to this essay, more blame for one of the Bankman-Fried brothers and less for Flynn
"Make sure you pick the right people for the spotlight."
I think this is the big one. Political scientists think some candidates are just higher-quality than others but they have no real way to measure it, haha, so they tend to use whether or not they've been elected to any position before. This captures, in part, a lot of related things- competent campaigners, not scandalous, high name recognition and so on. Trying to launch someone from nowhere at such a high level probably isn't going to work.
"10. Know what the press cares about."
Probably could have bought the local paper for less than the price of the campaign!
Good post. A few points:
1) This post primarily demonstrates how the Flynn campaign could have been substantially better. But I don't know whether it's accurate to say that it "fumbled". How successful should I expect EA's first foray into electoral politics to be? Is it above or below the base rate of how successful first-time candidates with a lot of money are? Perhaps you should sharpen your claim to something like "the Flynn campaign was surprisingly bad relative to my expectations considering it came out of a community of extremely intelligent purportedly rational people with plenty of money".
2) You note that it's easier to ride waves of public opinion than to create them. How does change ever happen on things the public doesn't care about? Should a future Carrick Flynn pretend to care about pointless culture war issues, and do things that actually matter in secret? This seems like it would contribute to the image of being shady and having ulterior motives.
3) I'm sceptical of claim that "it's difficult for any Congressperson to make a difference in today's government". There's not an obvious trend of Congress doing less over time (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/statistics). I assume that, as the population and the scope of government increases, the per-person influence of each Congressperson rises. The government clearly has a huge influence on net (maybe more than it has ever had before). So you would need to make some argument that, while the government might be doing more *stuff*, it's currently very difficult to pass important/meaningful legislation through Congress.