by Jason Kuznicki
If you can bring yourself to advocate a policy that runs against your personal interests, we can infer two very interesting things. First, the policy is probably especially good for the public; it would not otherwise overcome the personal interest. Second, if you have to “bring yourself” to advocate it, then you are probably under-advocating. You should talk about it more often, not for your own good, but for the good of the country.
Here are some of mine:
- Phase out the mortgage interest tax credit. My family would suffer directly if it disappeared. That doesn’t make it good policy. The mortgage interest tax credit distorts the housing market and unfairly privileges the upper middle class, of which I’m a member.
- That goes for the adoption tax credit, too. I doubt very many adoptive parents are swayed on the margin, and those who are probably shouldn’t be adopting anyway. As an adoptive parent, I say we should eliminate it.
- Just eliminate all tax credits and drop the marginal rates to compensate. Doing so would make compliance easier and eliminate a whole lot of deadweight loss and fraud. The downside for me? It would make policy wonkery a whole lot less fun. That’s not a public interest; that’s a private interest particular to my tribe. Reducing nasty complicated IRS audits? That’s a public interest, because it potentially benefits almost anyone.
- Privatize NASA. This could mean ending almost all of it, including my husband’s high-paying job as an aerospace engineer. I almost deleted this item. Then I reread my first paragraph. I hope he’ll forgive me.
- Drastically reduce the length of copyright. There is a good chance that I will write a book one day, and cutting copyright terms will hurt my royalties. But lengthy copyright is bad for consumers and bad for our culture. “Life of the author plus 70 years” is preposterous, but the people who write the most about copyright are… well… writers. Thus the policy we have.
Now I challenge my fellow wonks: What policies do you support that run directly against your personal interests?
It would be extraordinarily improbable if impartial reasoning about public affairs never led you away from your personal interests, wouldn’t it? So when was the last time that you advocated against them? As Eliezer Yudkowsky says, relinquishment is a virtue.
(And yeah, I’m aware that this post can be metagamed ad infinitum. Do your worst. That’s part of the fun of it, no?)