How Self-Taxing Changes Your Mind

I have enough money, so I self-tax myself 20% post-tax ($900/month) to give to support civil society. By categorizing this 20% into a special self-tax bucket, this money now has a completely different texture. Instead of "money for self", it is "money for the world". This "self-tax" framing leads to some interesting new design space! i.e. When we're (traditionally) thinking about "money for self", we allocate it to things like rent, food, transportation, retirement, etc. But what happens when we change the "allocation constraint" to others instead of self? (This is an example of what Mark Rosewater calls constraints breed creativity.)

Some examples of this new self-tax design space, and how it has changed my mindset:

  • The key idea is this: I feel like I have $900/month to just give to things. That money is no longer mine. It's like when you put money into a retirement account before your bank account. Yes, you can technically spend it. But you won't. The money is seen as "retirement money", not "spending money".
  • Although there are lots of ways you can "break up" that $900, I like doing ~50% "pre-allocated" to various charities (especially Effective Altruist charities). Then you have $450/month that accumulates over time that you feel compelled to give in other ways.
  • For example, this mindset helped me choose Ghost as a blogging platform. It's $30/month, but I love its open-source ethos. Of the $30/month, I see $20/month coming from my "self-tax" bucket.
  • Having extra money to "throw" at things is especially powerful for things where the current price is super low. For example, Spotify pays artists 4/10th's of a cent per play. If I allocate an extra $10/month to music, I can pay musicians more in a bunch of weird ways: I can "commission" music (pay artists to make a certain kind of music I'm interested in), just pay my top 10 artists an extra $1/month (h/t Glenn McDonald), support folks on Patreon, etc.
  • Speaking of Patreon, you could also imagine a system for funding arbitrary projects on the platforms. In other words, I could say "I want to spend $10/month to fund projects on Patreon, GoFundMe, and Kickstarter. Allocate it for me." I'd love to see matching treasuries for crowdfunding platforms. (This is similar to funding a quadratic funding matching treasury, rather than funding specific projects.)
  • In addition, when you switch your mindset to "money for others", your "ROI" becomes different. e.g. If you think about it as X-as-a-Service, X is no longer constrained to "things I want", but is rather "things other people/society wants". e.g. Something like Effective Altruism is Impact-as-a-Service. (Or see Carbon Offset-as-a-Service.)
  • You can then create "clubs" that folks can only join if they've done the requisite Impact For Others-as-a-Service. This is currently done in meatspace with donor galas, but I could see it spreading online. (Something like Reddit gold may be a strange example of this.)

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