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On April 1st, in a groundbreaking pivot from traditional charitable efforts, we are thrilled to unveil "Bribe Well", a charity destined to redefine the boundaries of effective altruism. This idea was pioneered by EAs from Eastern Europe as we have seen firsthand how little money from private interests can move governments a long way. The post was written in large parts by AI, but we see no conflict of interest (in general, not just about AI writing this). 

With a mission firmly rooted in the principle of maximizing impact, Bribe Well leverages the untapped potential of "direct governance by money," pioneering a future where philanthropy and pragmatism intertwine througthrough the strategic election of the most amenable politicians. Yes, you heard it right—we're talking about those with a flexible moral compass because in the world of impact, direction matters more than standing still.

The Philosophy Behind Bribe Well

At Bribe Well, we embrace the notion that the best way to predict the future is to buy it. Our innovative approach, dubbed "Ruling by Fiat (Currency)," is not about undermining democracy but enhancing its efficiency. Why waste time with debates and legislation when you can ensure the right decisions are made upfront, with a modest financial incentive? It's about cutting through the bureaucratic red tape with green bills.

How It Works:

  1. Selection Savvy: We identify potential political candidates possessing a unique blend of ambition and pliability. Our rigorous vetting process ensures they're open to... let's call it "philanthropic persuasion".
  2. Investment in Influence: Through a carefully curated portfolio of "donations", we secure our candidates' commitments to policies that align with our high-impact agenda. Think of it as crowd-funding for the common good—with returns measured in societal benefits.
  3. Governance by Guideline: Once in power, our elected officials receive ongoing support and guidance—along with reminders of their generous benefactors. It's about keeping the ship of state on the right course, with a steady hand on the tiller (and a finger on the scales).

Why It's Revolutionary

Bribe Well isn't just a charity; it's a movement towards "efficient democracy," as practiced in many countries around the world. By prioritizing outcomes over processes, we ensure that the path to impactful change is as direct as a cash transfer. Our model bypasses the inefficiencies of the democratic process, offering a streamlined route to societal improvement. We are a version of GiveDirectly, with our direct giving going to the most efficient politicians for most bang for your buck.

What you should look forward to

We are hoping to have a website listing our achievements, with prices and services listed out, but the politicians and judges keep complaining about it, so we keep getting delayed. Perhaps by next April 1st we manage to have it up and running.

We have also managed to work with all the politicians you dislike to do the thing that you hate, but that was accidental.

Possible slogans, vote for your favorites or add your own in the comments

  • At Bribe Well, we believe in transparency—every dollar spent is a seed planted in the fertile ground of governance. You might say we're into "green" policy in more ways than one.
  • Some say money can't buy happiness, but at Bribe Well, we know it can certainly lease legislative efficiency.
  • Our critics may accuse us of moral bankruptcy, but we prefer to think of ourselves as investing in ethical liquidity.

A Call to Arms (and Wallets)

As we launch Bribe Well on this auspicious April 1st, we invite you to join us in embracing the future of philanthropy. Together, we can ensure that the road to hell is not just paved with good intentions but funded by them, too. Let's put our money where our mouth is and prove that with the right amount of cash, the (cheque writing) pen isn't just mightier than the sword—it's mightier than the legislative pen.


Thanks to all the people in the EA Eastern Europe CB retreat who spoke to me about this idea in 2023; if only you had bribed me to write this sooner!





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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:22 PM

Fantastic stuff, there are some amazing lines here.

"It's about cutting through the bureaucratic red tape with green bills."

"Our critics may accuse us of moral bankruptcy, but we prefer to think of ourselves as investing in ethical liquidity.

"Together, we can ensure that the road to hell is not just paved with good intentions but funded by them, too."

I shamelessly admit that AI wrote all of those, leaving me in awe. I thought I'd need to write in some zingers, but honestly, it was just my job to get out of its way. There's a metaphor there somewhere...

Oh wow I use chat GPT 4 but am actually surprised that they are this good, was it Chat GPT or Claude.

Yeah, ChatGPT - this is first response, few edits, and it was unusually full of zingers. Maybe the bullet points I used mentioning Eastern Europeans brought our sense of humor over to it.

Well done; but what if we can BribeEvenBetter?

Many times, you just want to get a few specific politicians out of the way. Maybe they are on a specific committee, or are deferred to because of perceived domain expertise, or whatever. BribeWell's business model isn't likely to work here -- it's just not believable that (e.g.) a Wisconsin politician suddenly had a come-to-Qualy moment and is going to start championing pro-vegan legislation.

The traditional means of getting rid of politicians is expensive and doubtful -- financing a serious competitor takes massive coin, and re-election rates are rather high. On the other hand, creating scandals can be a very cost-effective way to get rid of one's political enemies. Consider ABSCAM, which netted seven members of Congress (including a senator). Unfortunately, that "led to stronger rules and safeguards on these kinds of investigations within the FBI." In other words, the politicians' complaints weakened the ability of law enforcement to run similar stings. Since then, if a politician is caught with freezers full of cash, we usually haven't learned that from proactive attempts to rid ourselves of bribe-taking politicians.

BribeEvenBetter will use false-flag operations to bribe politicians whose continued tenure in office is particularly net-harmful, and then ensure that selected knowledge of the bribe reaches the right ears in law enforcement, media, social-media influencers, and/or the general public. The theory of change involves those lawmakers resigning, being expelled, and/or being sent to prison. At a minimum, they should be marginalized and rendered less harmful. One drawback is that Congress seems to be very hesitant to expel its own, although recent events show that it will still do so if the optics are terrible enough.

Further research is urgently needed to determine whether to use the old standby cover stories (generally private individuals seeking official acts that make them more money) or whether we should try to further increase impact by establishing false-flag entities that appear to be aligned with an adversary (e.g., AI acceleration efforts, big ag). The latter approach does seem high risk, so perhaps sticking with the tried-and-true is best for now.[1]


  1. ^

    Although the satirical tone is hopefully obvious, I have seriously thought that there should be regular attempts to bribe senior government officials. If someone is amenable to bribes, the public should know that. And I want any public official who is offered a bribe to worry that it is actually part of a sting operation! 

    So BribeEvenBetter will serve the public interest more generally by rooting out bribable politicians. However, it will probably lose efficacy as knowledge of its interventions grows amongst the political class (and it removes the most suspectable politicians). We need to start researching interventions to counter this effect now, before it happens.

Oh, another stellar contribution! I mean, if their reluctance to bribes generalizes to our adversaries, then that's some positive externallity; but the downside risk of adversaries getting to do all the "Bribin' " (as we call it in the biz) and us doing none is too high. Still, "if none of your prospects ended up in jail, your "funding" bar was too high", as the saying goes! Maybe we just do BribeWell, and simultaneously run a secret market for how much money we could get paid if we revealed our transactions, allowing us to "cash-out" when we see a high enough impact opportunity (bribing AGI for example).

New Alignment Agenda - Make AI Bribable.

I think in the US it's called "Lobbying" and Open Phil has spent several hundred thousand dollars there

Strong disagree -- this does not recognize the innovation of BribeWell's approach. Lobbying is inefficient -- due to so-called "transparency" and other inefficiencies, donating $X to a campaign is much less impactful than putting $X directly in the politician's wallet. Lobbying isn't BribingWell because it isn't BribingDirectly.

Lobbying is like trying to buy influence by slipping retail engagement rings to politicians. The moment those walk out of the store, those can only be sold for a small fraction of the purchase price. In this model, the politician only realizes a small fraction of the money invested. A lot goes to the wedding-diamond industrial complex, or to whoever buys the ring (and doesn't tell the intended recipient of its origins). Plus, if Senator Jones starts selling dozens of retail engagement rings, someone may start asking awkward questions. To mitigate against this, the senator has to create various convoluted structures to create at least plausible deniability, consuming their time and further reducing yield.

>Lobbying isn't BribingWell because it isn't BribingDirectly.

Thanks, I was feeling a touch of imposter syndrome because I didn't have a clever April 1 post, but I felt better after coming up with this one-liner while walking my dog.

Thank you, Jason, for so clearly showing all the advantages of our approach! Once we get funding from a mysterious benefactor in ~25 years, I'll reach out to you for our "Director of Explaining BribeWell" position!

TBH I do wonder if it would be possible to bribe plutocrats into stepping down. How much better off would Uganda be without Museveni?

I think the Ibrahim Prize was created partly to "bribe" (incentivize) heads of state in Africa into being good leaders and respecting term limits. Iirc it's the biggest prize for an individual in the world

Fantastic, I didn't know about this, I would have included it in the post! :D

There's something about the fact that having dissolved justice system in order to rule, dictators are often afraid of stepping down, since there's no legal process to protect them once they are no longer president. Thus, a credible island paradise where all countries in the world agree to send leaders who decide to peacefully retire would be a good EV; including good or mediocre rulers, so that there's no incentive to be extra bad. Maybe it brings in bad motivation to rule in the first place, but I am sure we could figure it out by next April 1st and turn it into a post :D

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