Originally I was going to have this be part of my Links from Last Week, but I decided I had enough to say about it to justify creating a stand alone post.
Join or Die Part 2 is a fairly good discussion about attending protests from an Effective Altruist standpoint. Frequently the argument is made that going to protests is a waste of time because it 1) detracts from more effective things you could have been doing, 2) is hard to track the results of, and 3) usually doesn't create results at all. I think Zach addresses these concerns quite tidily. With my background in politics & political science I appreciated his take on all this. I also appreciate him stating that we can (and in fact try really hard to) measure complex things like the relationship between political agency and impact.
I also think that his conclusion is sound. It helps that the conclusion is a resounding 'eh, it depends.' But what he states it depends on seems pretty true. A lot of what could make a protest or political activism useful has to do with emergence, which I think ties in quite closely with the EA idea of uncrowdedness. With the clear difference that the goal is to create more crowding.
The big problem it raised for me - which is something I continually have an issue with when EAs discuss using our time - is the assumption that someone's time could have spent working and earning more money. First, most people that earn to give do not work hourly jobs. Adding one hour of work time does not mean you get a set amount of extra money you wouldn't have otherwise had. And secondly, those of us that do work hourly jobs can't just show up to work willy-nilly and get more hours. "Oh that hour and a half I added to my time sheet? Yes it was on a Saturday at 3pm when we were closed, but I decided I wanted to earn a little extra money this week." Trust me, that shit don't fly.
I understand that this is used as a way to quantify time and how we can best spend that time. But every time it is used it feels like a blatant red flag that we are out of touch with the way most people function in the world. This bothers me.