18 months ago I wondered:
Franklin … [left] £1000 each to Philadelphia and Boston in his will to be invested for 200 years. … by 1990 the funds had grown to 2.3, 5M$. … Why has Franklin’s example inspired no copy-cats?
Thanks to Gwern, I now know of several copy-cats, mostly failures (quotes below). This confirms that many are willing to donate to distant future folks, but are prevented by law, largely from fears that donor funds will eventually dominate the economy. Alas, as these are the likely consequences of allowing donations to the distant future:
1) The fraction of world income saved would increase, relative to consuming not-donated resources immediately. This effect starts small but increases with time, until savings become a large fraction of world income, after which diminishing returns kicks in.
2) While funds are in saving mode, world consumption would be smaller at first, relative to immediately consuming donor resources, but then after a while it would be higher, though it might eventually fall to zero difference. When such funds switch from saving to paying out, or when thieves steal from them, the consumption of thieves and specified beneficiaries would rise.
3) As investment became a large fraction of world income, interest rates would fall, and the market would take a longer term view of the future consequences of current actions.
4) Some would change their behavior in order to qualify for benefits, according to the conditions specified by the original donors and the agents they authorize to later interpret them.
These changes seem good overall, especially if, as I estimate, the future will have many folks in need. Not only would donors actually get to do what they want with their resources, but policy-makers usually lament that savings rates are too low, and interest rates too high, leading us to neglect distant future consequences of our actions. The added consumption given to future folk is mostly stuff that would not exist if not for their donations, so it is hard to begrudge them giving to whom they wish. Our evolved instincts to resist domination makes less sense here, as “dominating” donors are long dead, influencing the world only via largely-altruistic explicit visible instructions.
Note that once physical, if not economic, immortality is feasible (i.e., paying enough lets you survive indefinitely), then original donors can stay around to manage their growing funds. Those promised quotes: