Link: Longtermist Institutional Reform

There is a vast num­ber of peo­ple who will live in the cen­turies and mil­len­nia to come. In all prob­a­bil­ity, fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will out­num­ber us by thou­sands or mil­lions to one; of all the peo­ple who we might af­fect with our ac­tions, the over­whelming ma­jor­ity are yet to come. In the ag­gre­gate, their in­ter­ests mat­ter enor­mously. So any­thing we can do to steer the fu­ture of civ­i­liza­tion onto a bet­ter tra­jec­tory, mak­ing the world a bet­ter place for those gen­er­a­tions who are still to come, is of tremen­dous moral im­por­tance. Poli­ti­cal sci­ence tells us that the prac­tices of most gov­ern­ments are at stark odds with longter­mism. In ad­di­tion to the or­di­nary causes of hu­man short-ter­mism, which are sub­stan­tial, poli­tics brings unique challenges of co­or­di­na­tion, po­lariza­tion, short-term in­sti­tu­tional in­cen­tives, and more. De­spite the rel­a­tively grim pic­ture of poli­ti­cal time hori­zons offered by poli­ti­cal sci­ence, the prob­lems of poli­ti­cal short-ter­mism are nei­ther nec­es­sary nor in­evitable. In prin­ci­ple, the State could serve as a pow­er­ful tool for pos­i­tively shap­ing the long-term fu­ture. In this chap­ter, we make some sug­ges­tions about how we should best un­der­take this pro­ject. We be­gin by ex­plain­ing the root causes of poli­ti­cal short-ter­mism. Then, we pro­pose and defend four in­sti­tu­tional re­forms that we think would be promis­ing ways to in­crease the time hori­zons of gov­ern­ments: 1) gov­ern­ment re­search in­sti­tu­tions and archivists; 2) pos­ter­ity im­pact as­sess­ments; 3) fu­tures as­sem­blies; and 4) leg­is­la­tive houses for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. We con­clude with five ad­di­tional re­forms that are promis­ing but re­quire fur­ther re­search. To fully re­solve the prob­lem of poli­ti­cal short-ter­mism we must de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive re­search pro­gram on effec­tive longter­mist poli­ti­cal in­sti­tu­tions. (Ma­caskill, John)


See also these com­ments from Riedel, crit­i­ciz­ing the pa­per for naivety with re­gards pub­lic choice: