Not a bad thing – like being vain, where you say, we care too much about how we look. An actual good thing, like being compassionate or waiting to learn more before we make decisions. There are plenty of good things, and I think it's relatively obvious that any socially rewarded thing has the same effect as negative externalities: we consume them much more than the ideal amount because we aren't rewarded in proportion to that ideal amount. Good social feedback produces bad incentives.

We care too much about not dying. Doctors, who know much more about the process of death than we do, opt for less medical treatment in their final days. They have wisdom, and we should all learn from it: do not try particularly hard to avoid death. We don't have the technology to actually succeed, and it will likely be excruciating in the meantime.

We also spend too much "Keeping America Safe" – so much so that we've ossified a bureaucracy around it that doesn't do a particularly good job of keeping America safe. If the current establishment was clearly unfit for the next crisis, it would be easier, when massively scaling it up, to design that larger scale to best address the nature of the threat, so paradoxically, by investing in a huge peacetime military force, we've essentially assured maximal fragility. It was going to be tough anyway, look at how much destruction the FDA brought to America during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that was a relatively good performance from that institution, which routinely does much, much worse.

I know you're all thinking, isn't this just "social desirability bias" – and that's a part of it. We like the idea of the government e.g. providing healthcare – even when it does so poorly and in a way that doesn't improve anyone's actual health – because it sounds nice. But this is slightly different, I think. That's a situation where people are completely unresponsive to incentives. I've never seen anyone argue coherently for e.g. Head Start, after all the research saying it doesn't help anyone. They'd rather yell about how charter schools (which do help poor and struggling students) are wrong, for, well, some reason I haven't figured out. This isn't about that. That's too easy to spot and criticize.

I'm saying, America ought to have some military. We ought to engage in some efforts to avoid premature death. These aren't pointless things people spend money on to look good. These are very important things we ought to spend less on, because they look good and the current equilibrium is extremely inefficient.

Tell me something that's a good thing to do – but we should do less of. Make an argument at the margin, and one that doesn't just flatter the people you want to protect or impress. Then, I'll listen to your ideas.