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Prediction is very difficult, especially of the past

There’s been some recent discussion here on political change, so I thought I’d give people an opportunity to put their money where their mouths are.

I gathered data from Pew Research, who ask a representative sample of Americans whether they agree or disagree with statements like “I am very patriotic”. They’ve been doing this every year from 1987 to 2009, so they have 22 years – about a generation – worth of data on value changes.

In a second, I’m going to link you to a test which will ask you three things. First, the percent of Americans whom you think agree with each statement today (for values of “today” equal to 2009). Second, the change you believe occurred since 1987. Third, your own political position.

(I’m also asking people to voluntarily add their names at the end, so that winners can be properly honored and people have an incentive to get it right)

My hypothesis – and I know it’s bad form to state a hypothesis to research subjects before an experiment – is that most people will underestimate the strength of their own political position due to a version of the underdog effect. I am especially interested in seeing Neoreactionaries take this test due to their belief in the power of the Cathedral.

Test is closed, answers/data to be posted soon

PS: I promise I didn’t rig this test. I used the first values survey I could find and included all the questions except the boring ones or the repeats. I’d like to say I didn’t even peek at the answers, except that of course I did. Nevertheless, these are not trick questions.

PPS: I don’t have access to the original questions verbatim, so assume they might have used slightly different wording.

PPPS: Yes, you could easily Google the right answers. I’m trusting you not to do that.

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145 Responses to Prediction is very difficult, especially of the past

  1. Yadal says:

    Didn’t take the test because I already know my ability to gauge human nature is pathetic and I don’t even live in America.

    • Rory Judith says:

      But the test isn’t just looking at how well you gauge human nature. It’s also looking at in which direction your expectations are off.

  2. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    This is a fantastic idea, I’m really happy you’re doing this.

    I will not be pleased if people don’t do the test and then say “I could have told you that” after they see the answers.

  3. I don’t think this test is meaningful.

    Most of your questions are on issues where our society is hypocritical, and it is dangerous to speak the truth, or even notice the truth, issues where people fear they might be punished for thought crimes where it is forbidden to know what thoughts are forbidden.

    For example the very first question.

    “We should ban dangerous books from school libraries ”

    Almost no one will admit to believing that we should ban dangerous books from school libraries, but in practice, dangerous books are banned from school libraries, dangerous being defined so broadly that anything in a school library is very very bland, and in practice, just about everyone supports this banning of everything except the most utterly bland, banal, and boring.

    And similarly for most items on the test. Everyone will lie about their position, since current practices are hypocritical, and noticing the hypocrisy is dangerous.

    How about you ask the British: Should the government murder elderly sick people who would otherwise lie around in hospital taking up expensive hospital beds while they very slowly die?

    Very few are going to answer yes – but even fewer are going to criticize the existing bipartisan and uncontroversial NHS policy of murdering old people who are taking too damn long to die.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Then you should have no problem predicting what percentage of people answered the questions yes or no. Not seeing a problem here.

      • Well, it is forbidden to think that dangerous books should be banned from school libraries, and it is also forbidden to think that existing practice is wrong, so all up, it is a wash, depending what thought crime people are most afraid of committing. I would say that both thought crimes are about equally forbidden, so the the outcome is probably around fifty fifty.

        But it makes no matter what the result is, because either way, they are fearfully making the same sort of lie for the same sort of reasons.

        And the same is true of most of the other questions. They are, for the most part, on topics that people are required to lie about, thus the answers are unlikely to be informative.

        • MugaSofer says:

          “I would say that both thought crimes are about equally forbidden, so the the outcome is probably around fifty fifty.”

          Then go fill it in, then. Or at least Google it and test your hypothesis.

          “But it makes no matter what the result is, because either way, they are fearfully making the same sort of lie for the same sort of reasons.”

          So you’re saying your beliefs are untestable?

          But that doesn’t actually matter here, because we’re measuring how people’s PREDICTIONS match the actual survey results.

          • > So you’re saying your beliefs are untestable?

            Not by this test. I therefore propose some different tests – for example that Reactionaries knew that Sarah Palin’s account of the Midnight ride of Paul Revere was correct, and everyone else thought is was not merely wrong, but wicked.

      • It is difficult to predict the school library question, since the truth, that school libaries are severely censored, is openly admitted, thus people are torn between the politically correct answer, “no to censorship”, and the other politically correct answer “this is the best of all possible worlds and it is only getting better and better”.

        On questions where the truth is not admitted, prediction is much easier. For example, no one is allowed to admit the obvious reality that whites are required to be respectful to blacks, while black are permitted, indeed encouraged, to be physically and verbally aggressive to whites, hence on those questions, the PC answer is going to be near one hundred percent, because reality is a thought crime.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Almost no one will admit to believing that we should ban dangerous books from school libraries, but in practice, dangerous books are banned from school libraries, dangerous being defined so broadly that anything in a school library is very very bland, and in practice, just about everyone supports this banning of everything except the most utterly bland, banal, and boring.”

      That sounds like an testable prediction. Even better, it’s a controversial testable prediction: respondents to the survey have given various numbers like “50%”, “70%”, and “80%” for the percent of people who will endorse book banning. In fact, judging by the responses I see right now, no one else seems to agree with you about people giving those sorts of signaling answers.

      Why don’t you take the survey under your name and see if, armed with your theory about hypocrisy, you can do better than everyone else? If you win, I will write a long paragraph about how clever you and the hypocrisy theory were in the post where I explain the results.

      • Randy M says:

        I agree with him, in part (I think the percent agreeing to ban will be very low, despite the practice being followed commonly under other names) and have taken the survey under this name. 🙂
        Hopefully you will make a new post with the correct answers as I don’t have time to read all the comments.

    • Oligopsony says:

      A quick check of my high school library for “dangerous” books:

      Mein Kampf: yes.
      the Bell Curve: yes.
      Gobineau: no.
      Communist Manifesto: yes.
      God Delusion: no, but “Blind Watchmaker” is stocked.
      Atlas Shrugged: yes.
      de Maistre: no.
      Anarchist’s Cookbook: no.
      Turner Diaries: no.
      LaVey: no.
      Invisible Man: yes.
      SCUM Manifesto: no.
      Little Red Book: no, but several collections of Mao’s writings (poetic, military, and political) are available.
      the Nigger Question: no, but the admittedly perhaps less dangerous “French Revolution” is stocked.
      Lady Chatterley’s Lover: yes.
      Time on the Cross: no.

      So obviously they’re not stocking every “dangerous” book – the above are off the top of my head, I stopped when I got bored – although obviously it would be a bit strange of them to so demand. In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I attended a private high school, but if Reactionary theories are such that the Jesuits are no longer some sort of sinister Thought Police I’ll have to color myself disappointed. Judge for yourselves whether they are, or check your own high schools’.

      I’m not even going to bother checking my (public) university catalogue, since it’s all going to be there and I presume that’s not what the question is about.

      I may or may not be wasting my time on a small sample size when there’s some sort of central database offering info on how many high school libraries carry various items (perhaps comparable to innocuous items on best-seller lists.)

      • > if Reactionary theories are such that the Jesuits are no longer some sort of sinister Thought Police I’ll have to color myself disappointed. Judge for yourselves whether they are, or check your own high schools’.

        Bone up on your history.

        Of course Jesuits are some sort of sinister thought police. Their order was explicitly created for that exact purpose, and as the Roman Catholic Church moved leftwards, so did they.

    • Oligopsony says:

      In the way of something like aggregate data: this seems to suggest that in effect the only books that are challenged are young adult novels with racy or occult content and adolescent health manuals; i.e., that the only things in danger are somewhat bland, banal, and boring themselves. The closest thing to political content I can spot is probably the Anarchist’s Cookbook, which IIRC does have advice on how to make bombs, etc.

      Of course the reactionary might still plausibly hold that Progressive librarians in the business of procuring are censoring-by-omission Marcion Mugwump’s Destroy All Darkies, &c.

      • Of course the reactionary might still plausibly hold that Progressive librarians in the business of procuring are censoring-by-omission Marcion Mugwump’s Destroy All Darkies, &c.

        Recall that when Sarah Palin gave an accurate account of Paul Revere’s ride, all those that had a government education were incredulous. The version they had been taught was nothing remotely like that.

        History gets radically rewritten at ever shorter intervals, and all older history books are effectively banned.

        Consider, for example the ever more radical rewrites of the career of Daniel Boone, which ended with him being expelled from history altogether, and that today’s student has no idea what “The shores of Tripoli” refers to.

        Ninety nine percent of what students used to be taught not very long ago, is now unthinkably controversial, shocking, and disturbing.

        The very prototype of the pioneers and the Indian wars was Daniel Boone, who
        always wanted to cut a deal, always wanted to buy land, rather than steal it,
        and met each horrifyingly vicious Indian atrocity with tolerance and
        astonishing forbearance, perhaps excessive forbearance. Once upon a time, the
        history of the Indian wars covered both Daniel Boone and Wounded knee.

        Daniel Boone could, and did, make a deal with some Indians, and other Indians would break that deal – for example by torturing to death one of his children.

        • g says:

          when Sarah Palin gave an accurate account of Paul Revere’s ride

          You have made that claim three times in separate comments here. It doesn’t appear to me to be true. Here is what Sarah Palin (in)famously said on the subject:

          …he who warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringin’ those bells and, um, makin’ sure as he’s ridin’ his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we’re gonna be secure and we were gonna be free. And we we’re gonna be armed.

          I have been unable to find any source other than Sarah Palin claiming credibly (1) that his purpose had anything to do with “warning the British”, (2) that he fired any “warning shots”, or (3) that he rang any bells.

          (Palin and some of her supporters have defended her on the grounds that when Revere was captured by British soldiers and interrogated he defiantly told them that the American rebels were ready to take them on. I do not see how any reasonable person could think that that’s what her original comments meant.)

          Perhaps you wish to say that what Palin got criticized for was the idea that it had anything to do with “taking away our arms”, and that that really was what it was about. I’m not going to try to adjudicate the historical question there (because asking what a still-kinda-new revolutionary movement was “about” is asking for trouble), but it doesn’t appear to be true that that’s what Palin was criticized for. Representative examples of the criticism: Mother Jones, Gawker, Think Progress.

          • > > …he who warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringin’ those bells and, um, makin’ sure as he’s ridin’ his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we’re gonna be secure and we were gonna be free. And we we’re gonna be armed.

            > I have been unable to find any source other than Sarah Palin claiming credibly (1) that his purpose had anything to do with “warning the British”, (2) that he fired any “warning shots”, or (3) that he rang any bells.

            Well of course you have not, because you don’t regard dead white males, such as Paul Revere, as credible.

            Look it up in a history book written before the days of hate-America-first history. The New Century Speaker for School and College, published 1905.

            Of course this would require you to read old books, but old books are like kryptonite to a progressive. Since they were written by dead white males, no respectable person will read them for fear that dangerous and forbidden thoughts might contaminate his brain. Like a vampire confronted with a bible, a progressive will cringe in fear before any dangerously old book.

            Page 326
            Already the village Church bells were beginning to ring the alarm.

            The life of Colonel Paul Revere, page 203

            When I got there, out started six officers, on horseback, and ordered me to dismount; – one of them, who appeared to have the command, examined me, where Icame from, and what my name was? I told him. He asked me if I was an express? I answered in the affirmative. He demanded what time I left Boston? I told him; and added, that their troops had catched aground in passing the river, and that there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the country all the way up.

            You may sneer at the version of history kids today are taught, where perhaps it was an adopted transexual negro girl with two illegal immigrant Mexican mommies that saved the day, rather than a dead white male, but the version of history you were taught is equally ludicrous, for while dead white males are allowed to save the day, they are saving the day for modern liberal progressivism, gun control, and democratically chosen taxes, rather than liberty – and this incident reveals how ignorant and out of touch people like you are. It exposes not Palin to ridicule, but you to ridicule.

            Ever since 1905 or so, kids have been taught hate-america-first history, and in this incident, Palin reveals how ignorant and stupid the supposed elite is.

        • g says:

          (This is intended as a reply to James’s reply to my reply; the threading system here has limited depth, and it may end up in the wrong place.)

          I have now read the relevant chapter of Goss’s book, for the reference to which I thank you. It contains an account of the events in the words of Paul Revere, which I see no reason to doubt Goss has reproduced accurately.

          This account makes it very plain that Revere’s purpose was to warn the Americans and not the British; it does not have him firing any warning shots; it does not have him ringing any bells. There are a few bells in the footnotes, none of them rung by Revere and all of them intended to warn Americans of the impending British attack. There is one volley of gunfire that might be a warning shot, but it is not fired by Revere or at his command.

          I don’t think I am the one who is ignoring the testimony of the dead white male Paul Revere here.

          Your other reference is a two-page oration by George William Curtis. It’s a nice piece of rhetoric, but I see no reason to think it is intended as careful history. In any case, it also makes it clear that Revere’s aim was to warn the Americans, not scare the British, and it makes not the least suggestion that Revere himself rang any bells (nor does it mention warning shots).

          As for the personal insults, I will remark only that I have probably read more old books by dead white men than you have, that your confidently expressed claims about my beliefs and motivations are badly wrong, and that in any case it’s hard to see why someone wanting to teach “hate-America-first history”, whatever the hell that might be, would prefer the story that Paul Revere sensibly wanted to warn the people on his side of an attack over the story that he stupidly wanted to make a lot of noise in the hope of intimidating the people on the other side. There is a reason why military operations are generally conducted with what secrecy they can be unless they have the advantage of overwhelming force (which the Americans, at that point in proceedings, did not have).

          • > This account makes it very plain that Revere’s purpose was to warn the Americans and not the British;

            Who suggested anything different?

            This reminds me of the time that Sarah Palin observed that you can see Russia from Alaska. All the good and the great shat themselves laughing.

            “Haha. She thinks you can see Russia from Alaska. What a moron.”

            When it was pointed out that you can, in fact, see Russia from Alaska, they adjusted her words to say “I can see Russia from my house”.

            Which adjustment implicitly admits that our terribly smart intellectual elite are brilliantly educated in how to hate heterosexual white males, but do not know much geography.

            And similarly, you lot have adjusted her words from “Paul Revere warned the British by …”, to “in order to warn the British, Paul Revere …”, which adjustment implicitly admits that you know how to hate heterosexual white males, but do not know much history.

          • > As for the personal insults

            I guess you think that personal insults are only amusing when threatening conservative women with rape and sexual mutilation.

        • g says:

          Incidentally, I have never heard it so much as suggested that Paul Revere was “saving the day for modern liberal progressivism, gun control, and democratically chosen taxes, rather than liberty”.

          • I have never heard it so much as suggested that Paul Revere was “saving the day for modern liberal progressivism, gun control, and democratically chosen taxes

            Compare and contrast the PC version of Paul Revere, with the version that was taught until quite recently.

            General Gage planned to seize American guns. Word got out, so he locked down the town, so that word would go no further. In the dark of night Paul Revere sneaked across the river in a rowboat with his oars muffled by his wife’s petticoats.

            And this is the main thing most kids remembered. British intending to seize guns, and the petticoats around the oars as Paul Revere silently rows in the dark.

            Guns, silence, wet petticoats, and then, in dramatic contrast to this, a wild and noisy ride with the bells ringing. Then bravado: The British catch him, and he boldly tells them they are the ones in danger.

            So first fear, silence, and wet petticoats, then drama noise, and maximum attention, then bravado as he himself confronts the British in person.

            Compare the old account, the wet petticoats account, with the modern account, and the modern account sounds in comparison as if Paul Revere was campaigning for the right to hold a gay parade.

        • g says:

          (Composite reply to several things from James.)

          You ask “Who said anything different?” about the purpose of Revere’s ride having been to warn the Americans of impending attack, not to warn the British of impending defeat. Of course the answer is: Sarah Palin did. “Revere warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure as he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free”. There is not the least evidence that warning the British was any part of Revere’s purpose; any bells and warning shots were not rung or shot by Revere; and their purpose was to warn the Americans, not to alarm the British.

          Your complaint about the “old” and “new” accounts of what Revere did seem to amount to this: the old version was more dramatically exciting than the new. Perhaps it was, but if there’s any relationship between that and your claim that nowadays it’s taught, or thought, that Revere was riding to save liberal progressivism or gun control or something, I am unable to see it.

          I have no idea what you’re on about with “threatening conservative women with rape and sexual mutilation”, but for the avoidance of doubt let me say that I have made no such threats and regard them as precisely as hateful as threatening anyone else with rape and mutilation. (If you think such threats are characteristic of liberals, though, I think you haven’t listened to what some people have said e.g. about Hillary Clinton.)

          Anyway, it becomes increasingly clear that you have precisely zero interest in either civil discourse or rational debate, so farewell.

          • The meaning you attribute to Sarah Palin makes no sense in context. How would Paul Revere be warning the British by riding through town? Only by warning the people, and then later telling the British that he had warned the people.

            To someone somewhat familiar with Paul Revere’s ride, her meaning is obvious.

            It is not clear whether or not he himself personally rang any bells with his own hands, but he caused bells to be rang, and fired shots in the air, to summon people to hear his news. It is perfectly clear that this is what Sarah Palin is referring to, and her sentence makes sense in that context.

            Her statement is addressed to someone who is familiar with the politically incorrect account, and is a random list of colorful and dramatic fragments, not intended to tell the story. It assumes you know the story, and randomly mentions some of the dramatic points of the story.

            You are interpreting her as telling a story, with motive, beginning, and end, but this is, in context, a forced meaning. It is more as if she is telling about an Indiana Jones film as grave robbery, a whip, snakes, and a big stone ball – not intended to be a coherent story, but a random list of well known dramatic points of the story.

        • Damien says:

          “when Sarah Palin gave an accurate account of Paul Revere’s ride, all those that had a government education were incredulous”

          Sarah Palin has a government education. She went to a public high school.

          I don’t know what the point of your ramblings about Daniel Boone is. What’s it even mean for him to be a prototype? So he bought land when he could, so what? That doesn’t nullify other thefts. As for “Daniel Boone could, and did, make a deal with some Indians, and other Indians would break that deal” I’m not sure how other Indians can break a deal they weren’t party to.

          Left out of “buy land or steal it” is “not acquire Indian land at all, because they need it to live on.”

          • “Daniel Boone could, and did, make a deal with some Indians, and other Indians would break that deal” I’m not sure how other Indians can break a deal they weren’t party to.

            By kidnapping Daniel Boone’s son and elaborately torturing him to death.

            That you do not know this stuff illustrates that your knowledge of history is propaganda – propaganda that over time has become ever more strident, ever more rapidly.

            I don’t know what the point of your ramblings about Daniel Boone is. What’s it even mean for him to be a prototype?

            Well of course you don’t. You don’t know this stuff. That is exactly my point.

            Daniel Boone is an important historical figure because he personally exemplifies the conflict between settlers and Indians, and was a major participant in that conflict.

            That Daniel Boone has been steadily slipping further and further out of history shows us that official history is moving further and further left.

            That you do not know the story of Daniel Boone shows that what you think you know is hate filled fanatical propaganda and poisonous lies, the murderous screams of raving moonbats.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Hey chicken-man, if you want to see a very popular, highly acclaimed book about the Indian wars in the U.S. that covers – in great detail – Native atrocities and the irreconcilable moral differences between them and white settlers, just read Empire of The Summer Moon by S.C. Gywnne. Scott reviewed it very favourably last year. It’s written from a very liberal, anti-imperialist and politically-correct perspective. It still covers all of the horrible shit that went down – massacres, betrayals, double-dealing on all sides – and how the white Americans perceived the conflict.

          • Hey chicken-man, if you want to see a very popular, highly acclaimed book about the Indian wars in the U.S. that covers – in great detail – Native atrocities and the irreconcilable moral differences between them and white settlers, just read Empire of The Summer Moon by S.C. Gywnne

            How balanced can a book be that entirely leaves out the role of land sales and alcohol in the wars between Indians and settlers?

            If you think that is balanced coverage, you probably think that Pol Pot is moderate centrist, Chairman Mao is right wing, Obama is extreme right wing, and no words exist that can express how far right any potential Republican presidential candidates are.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          You’re right. I didn’t know that Daniel Boone’s son was killed by Indians.

          On the other hand, I wonder whether my knowledge of Daniel Boone is more or less than your knowledge of Quanah.

          My understanding of the relationships between whites and Indians was that it was not simply “white massacred Indians for no reason” but also not as simple as you make it out to be. Indians did often strike first, sometimes brutally, but generally because they felt whites were encroaching on their lands. Whites, for their part, felt okay encroaching on Indian lands because by white standards (but not Indian standards) the Indians weren’t even using “their” lands and the tribe might be hundreds of miles away at the time.

          In other cases, Indians “sold” their lands to whites, which was often another case of cultural misunderstanding – Indian tribes weren’t nation-states in the modern sense of the word, whites had no idea who the leader was, and any Indian with a large headdress could come into camp, claim to be the chief, and agree to “sell” his lands in exchange for alcohol, beads, et cetera. Since Indians thought the idea of land ownership was ridiculous a lot of them were happy to do this and thought of whites as stupid people who gave away free beads for no reason. Often the same “land” would be sold to whites three or four times by different people, with the inhabitants of the land having no idea in any case. Records from the time show that generally neither side had any intention to obey any treaties, but whites signed them anyway because they were politically popular back in Washington, Indians signed them anyway because white people would give them commercial goods in exchange for doing so, and then both sides would immediately break the treaty as they had intended to all along.

          Basically, both Indians and whites were violent, corrupt, and greedy in their dealings with the other.

          On the other hand, only one of those two sides had lived on the land for hundreds of generations before being almost entirely wiped out or herded like animals into tiny reservations. So there’s that.

          • On the other hand, I wonder whether my knowledge of Daniel Boone is more or less than your knowledge of Quanah.

            (I look up Quanah)

            Why would an American schoolkid be taught about Quanah other than to brainwash him with ignorant maniacal hatred of whites? What the Comanches did that made it unavoidably necessary to crush them is far more interesting, dramatic, important, and relevant than than their extremely boring sad and irrelevant doings after they were thoroughly crushed.

            Indians did often strike first, sometimes brutally, but generally because they felt whites were encroaching on their lands.

            The usual case however, was that the whites “enroached” by purchasing those lands, and Indians got upset about the enroachment after they had drunk all the money.

            Daniel Boone gets left out of modern history because the story of Indians selling land, then torturing women and children to get the land back, gets left out of modern history. That is a rather more important omission than an obscure leader of a washed up and defeated Indian tribe.

            If we are going to teach kids the story of the Comanches, let us tell the tale of brave and cruel warriors fighting mighty, terrible, and desperate wars that shook history, rather than the complete non story of beaten down and defeated non violent weaklings sadly doing nothing much under the obscure leadership of a obscure woman called Quanah.

            The only reason for teaching kids about Quanah is to avoid teaching kids about all the interesting, important, bloodthirsty, and horribly politically incorrect things done by those who led the Comanches before she did.

    • Agree that people are hypocrites and how they answer vaguely-worded questions is not indicative of what policies they’d support in practice. In spite of agreeing with Scott on the specific book-banning question.

    • Ben says:

      The fact that you think there’s an accepted policy of murdering old people in the NHS suggests you have lost contact with consensus reality. If you mean the Liverpool Care Pathway, that’s controversial.

      • The fact that the murder of old people who take an inconveniently long time dying is called “The Liverpool Care Pathway” tells me that it is not controversial.

        • Do you often feel that you can tell all about something just from hearing its name? Do you feel that you have special insights that others can’t understand? Do you have a special plan for the world?

          Back in reality, the use of the LCP is going to be stopped because of the controversy.

        • naath says:

          Gosh, no. It’s enormously controversial. It’s been Big News here, although I guess a bit drowned out by bigger international news.

          I object to the framing of the basic idea as “murder”, although the specific ways it has been implemented appear in many cases to be much closer. I recall Scott wrote on the issues of end-of-life care a while back.

          • > I object to the framing of the basic idea as “murder”

            The common case is that an old man has breathing difficulties and a multitude of ailments of old age, needs looking after, but there is nothing terribly wrong, nothing that is going to kill him imminently,. His major problems are that he needs help going to the toilet, and is apt to wet the bed. With routine (but expensive) care, could well live for decades.

            The ideology of NHS was that care was guaranteed for everyone, so cannot turn anyone away – the man is clearly sick and in need of care, though not sick enough to die any time soon. But, in practice, you cannot guarantee care, even quite routine care, for everyone.

            If he was very ill his ailments would probably kill him soon enough, thereby solving the problem. The big problem is that he is sick and not likely to get better, but not very sick and therefore not likely to go away any time soon..

            So they kill him. If he was seriously ill, if he was dying, would not need to kill him.

            The individual has an incentive to choose suicide when life is painful and likely to be short.

            The bureaucracy has an incentive to choose murder when someone else’s life is inconvenient and likely to be long.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Almost no one will admit to believing that we should ban dangerous books from school libraries…everyone will lie about their position, since current practices are hypocritical, and noticing the hypocrisy is dangerous.”

      Now that the answers are in, do note that in fact 46% of people admit to believing that we should ban dangerous books from libraries. It was an even 50% in 1987.

  4. Crimson Wool says:

    WARNING: some discussion of actual answers, gotten by googling.

    Man, a lot of these questions are way harder to guess than they look. Like “I have old fashioned values about family and marriage.” If I had to guess what percentage of people ACTUALLY HELD old fashioned values about family and marriage, I’d guess maybe… 30%? Tops? I’d probably guess more like 15%. I mean, how many people nowadays wouldn’t even consider divorce for anything other than infidelity, abuse or the like, and try to guard their chastity and ensure the chastity of their spouses in order to get a happier marriage? But how many people hear “old fashioned values about family and marriage” and go “buzzword I agree with!” or go “old-fashioned? pshaw, more like buzzword I disagree with!”? That’s a very different question, and is ultimately the one being asked. I got pretty close to right on this one by recognizing this.

    A similar thing goes with prayer. How many people’s have prayer as an important part of their daily life? I mean, I come from a pretty religious family, but I can’t imagine that they really pray THAT much? I guess they could be while I’m not looking, but really, even trying to give them the extra benefit of the doubt, it’s not THAT much. Maybe they set up some iPhone alerts to remember to pray for members of their church, but are those really that big a deal? I mean, if you spent that much time playing Tetris on your computer would you consider that an “important part of your daily life”? On the other hand “Prayer is an important part of my daily life” = “I am a good, Godly person” is probably a lot of what people mean, so they answer “yes”. Although, I suppose, “important” could be related more to efficacy than time spent, which of course would mean that it’s a completely unimportant part of your daily life since it doesn’t fucking work. I didn’t realize this was such a huge signaler so I severely underestimated it.

    Then you have the questions where two of them are basically the same question, but with the wording switched. I’m thinking particularly of “Government should guarantee food and shelter” and “Government should help more needy people despite the debt.” If you think the government should guarantee food and shelter, you pretty much by definition think the government should help more needy people despite the debt. But we all know that the second will get fewer positive responses than the first because when you remind people that social programs have costs (which they really ought to know already) suddenly support drops like a rock.

    I’d still like to know how far off I was from the hoi polloi, though. How could you not include a gradesheet at the end?

  5. von Kalifornen says:

    The Reactionaries will probably say that this test doesn’t measure the way that goalposts move (as well as cultural aspects to some degree).

    Trying to think of questions such as ‘individuals should conform to society’ that won’t be superbiased.

    • Progressive here agreeing on moving the goalposts.

      • What exactly do you mean by that?

        I guess as my examples:

        -Racists and other bigots have long seen the left’s equality as a full turning of the tables.

        -Equal opportunity has become a gigantic question mark due to the failure of integration, huge effects due to internalized discrimination, subconscious discrimination, etc.

        When Mr. Alexander engages with neoreaction, he usually tends to focus a lot on object level, despite how important the meta is to reactionaries, and how there might be a chance for common ground on meta.

        • lmm says:

          Lots of the questions are relative to current policy, e.g. “we should restrict immigration more than currently” or “equal rights has gone too far”. It seems like that’s more a measure of how far policy leads or trails public opinion in 1980 and now, rather than whether public opinion has changed.

        • The first one that comes to mind is the “traditional values on family and marriage” one. Used to be that was a common justification/code word for opposing gay marriage, but I’m willing to bet lots of people have switched their views on gay marriage while continuing to see themselves as having “traditional family values.”

          Other examples:
          * “People who get rich working hard”: people’s ideas about who qualifies for that description may change.
          * “Society should make sure everyone has equal opportunity”: big disagreements about what equal opportunity means.
          * As lmm says, generally any question about current situation being “too much,” needing to do less/more of X, etc.

        • Traditional families: I’m one of them. Where I come from, gay marriage is considered entirely orthodox, but there is a much more real expectation that people will get married, etc.

          On Too-Much-ness and too-far-ness: 1. How about a test where you take analogous things (say, interracial marraige and gay marriage, or something), one of which is now orthodox and one of which is still controverisial, and look at differences at how people take them?

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Sorry I don’t understand what you mean by this.

  6. JRM says:

    I am sure I did well on the test. I have read the articles on these before. I am certain I actually read a detailed summary of the Pew survey in the last 15 years, and they talk about it on NPR sometimes. I still want credit for getting the drift questions right or wrong, but since I care about this stuff and pay attention, I should not have been more than 20% off on more than a few of the questions (barring a drift more extreme than I expect.)

    Also, some of the questions are loaded in a way to generate different answers, clearly. Help the needy? Yes. We all want to do that. Increase the debt? Now, not so much. Phraseology is key.

    One quibble: The political choices aren’t quite right, and seem to cover a lot of the same ground.

    “Reactionary” is a bogeyman; few are actual reactionaries. “Progressive” is generally very liberal. Omitting, “Liberal,” seems regrettable. (I’d go with Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, Libertarian for US-centric readers.)

    My other survey guess is you get an extremely tiny sample of “Conservative” people, considering demographics on sites sorta like this one. Given that I did well (knowing some of the numbers is going to beat the hell out of intuition) and I listed myself as conservative (pro-gay marriage, non-Libertarian conservative, but registered Republican who votes for more Republicans than Democrats), I think we on the right are going to win the survey. That’s right before I get burned at the stake by Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul for being a godless heathen. (To be fair, Ron wants to have me burned at the stake privately, without government intervention.)

    • Do you know who Mencius Moldbug is?

      Reactionaries here means neoreactionaries, a very small self-described political group. They are a school of political thought about seven to ten years old that exists mostly on the internet. They are characterized by a rejection of most left-wing politics since the French Revolution, skepticism toward the idea that society gradually becomes more moral, scientific racism, and support for cultural traditionalism and monarchism. They typically claim that regardless of who has the most power in the normal political battlegrounds, the left wing holds control over periods of centuries because it has managed to control the voice of morality and political theory.

      While their blind belief in scientific racism and failure to update with respect to matters such as homosexuality is dangerous and distasteful, they are notable for their avoidance of blind hatred or slavish, uncritical worship of the past.

      • JRM says:

        Yes, I know who he is (and I believe he’s had some adventures recently). We agree that the movement, such as it is, is very small. I retain my initial view.

        • Jack says:

          While the movement is very small generally, it is well represented here– quite possibly better represented than the more common conservative– and Scott is interested in discussing the issues they raise.

        • It’s VERY well represented here. Also, Scott basically represents the bridge between Reaction and the mainstream/left as far as I can tell.

      • >While their blind belief in scientific racism

        Wait, what? Unpack “blind”. If you mean what I think you mean, it’s not “blind”.

        For me at least, the evidence looks convincing, in the sense that many many different measures and natural experiments all agree that there are racial differences in behavior and cognition, just as there are racial differences in everything else.

        If there is some grand theory that explains all that, that is actually plausible, or some convincing counter-evidence or scientifically literate debunking of racial differences, I’d be glad to change my mind.

        Perhaps I’ve missed something, but “blind” implies that there is a convincing case against racism. What is it?

        >failure to update with respect to matters such as homosexuality

        There seems to be a split in neoreactionary thought on this one, and not much of an explicit position.

        Moldbug seems no comment. Some more More Right writers seem explicitly anti-homophobia. Radish/Carl F Boetel has used homosexuality tangentially as a rhetorical tool against conservatives in some of his visual propaganda, but has not explicitly targeted it for criticism. Cochran makes a convincing case that homosexuality is the result of an infection, and seems to not be fond of it, but doesn’t seem to take an explicit moral stance. 4chan /lgbt/ has major reactionary/right-wing tendencies.

        I’ve definitely seen some reactionaries say bad things about homosexuality, but on the other hand no one seems to think it’s a central point.

        (I for one am somewhat reactionary but also very sex positive and have no problem with nontraditional sexuality)

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          If by differences they mean that there happen to be differences due to a complex interplay of social, environmental, biological and historical factors then yes there are obviously differences.

          If by differences they mean that there are significant intrinsic differences (ie. genetic) then I have yet to see a good argument or evidence in favor of that conclusion. I would be open to examining such evidence if it exists.

          In my experience, reactionaries usually point out that the first kind of differences exist, assert how blind progressives are for denying that any sort of differences exist, then bait and switch for the second kind.

          • > If by differences they mean that there are significant intrinsic differences (ie. genetic) then I have yet to see a good argument or evidence in favor of that conclusion. I would be open to examining such evidence if it exists.

            By “complex interplay” you mean magic invisible racism falling out of the sky and harming black people, that evil witches hurt black people by thinking evil thoughts at them. This sounds untestable, impossible to disprove, but can readily be tested.

            The problem is that people reel back in horror from the results of these tests.

            Here are two tests: One to check if black people are inferior:

            What happens to blacks when we drive out whites? For example Congo, Zimbabwe, Detroit etc. Surely no more magic invisible racism is falling out of the sky?

            One to check if environment has a significant effect on socioeconomic outcomes.

            What happens when we randomly assign children to families?

            So, environment does not affect socioeconomic outcomes within the range of environmental differences normally encountered in functioning families – infants assigned to poor families have of course the same socioeconomic outcome as infants assigned to rich families, as any idiot would expect.

            And white authority benefits blacks subject to it, does not harm them. Blacks were better off under slavery than in the immediate post slavery period (there was a huge die off when they were freed), and better off under segregation than integration (low crime, low violence, high family values) Similarly Detroit, Belgian Congo, etc.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I’ve seen some attempts to justify the latter. This is by far the most thorough. I’m not saying the average Reactionary has read it or is basing zir conclusions on anything other than the bait-and-switch you mention, but at least a few of them have done their homework.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Scott

          Thank you.

        • MugaSofer says:

          “By “complex interplay” you mean magic invisible racism falling out of the sky and harming black people, that evil witches hurt black people by thinking evil thoughts at them.”

          Woah, there. Principle of charity much?

          I’m really not sure how much of that is a strawman and how much is hyperbole/exaggeration for effect…

          • Woah, there. Principle of charity much?

            I have marshalled a wide variety of evidence, which is met not by contervailing evidence or relevant argument, but by abuse. I therefore assume you are one of the people who respond to reason by threatening to sexually mutilate the children of a certain female blogger. Not hyperbole. If you yourself did not issue the threats, you were probably part of the group that thought it was really good idea and hilariously funny.

            No one has attempted to make an intelligent response to any of the facts at issue.

            Present rational argument and relevant evidence, and I will treat you as if you are a normal human being, rather than a vicious subhuman savage.

      • Konkvistador says:

        The scientific racism they espouse mostly really is scientific in the sense that of tomorrow we crack the genetics of intelligence and they show no racial differences, I expect most neoreactionaries to abandon it. I’d also be willing to bet the results of cracking the genetics of intelligence would be closer to reactionary priors than mainstream ones. Moldbug himself makes the point that he isn’t certain about the racial differences question, but is certain that popular opinions on the question being settled are wrong.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Sounds like in-group favoritism to me.

        • >Sounds like in-group favoritism to me.

          In what sense?

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          I suppose I assumed that Konkvistador aligned with scientific racists – if I’m wrong on that I apologize. If he does however, then I think my charge follows. He thinks that scientific racists are on average quite rational – able to abandon a core part of their ideology on the basis of evidence. I think that is extremely unlikely.

          • He thinks that scientific racists are on average quite rational – able to abandon a core part of their ideology on the basis of evidence. I think that is extremely unlikely.

            I am sure you also think that they are highly likely to have sex with their sisters.

            It is obvious, however, that you have no basis for your belief except mindless ignorant hatred the same indoctrination of hatred and ignorance that we have been discussing with what you guys do not know about history.

            The evidence that race and sex is more than skin deep, that there are large biological and genetic difference between the races in matters that people care about very much, is compelling and overwhelming.

            Affirmative action, far from obliterating these differences, has instead made them blindingly obvious to people who formerly would have been sheltered from exposure to these differences. To doubt these differences is to disbelieve your own lying eyes.

  7. I feel very un-confident in my answers, and am less worried about the “underdog effect” than other biases, including the “everyone I know is liberal so I’m going to overestimate how liberal the country is” effect. (I consider myself a liberal, so that runs counter to the “underdog effect” for me, though for Bay Area neoreactionaries those to effects may reinforce each other.) Also, I’m pretty sure I used 50 as my anchor point and adjusted from there on the first round, and maybe anchored to 10 on the second round.

    Finally, I was to a degree working on the hypothesis that except on issues where it’s obvious the country has gotten more liberal (e.g. firing gay teachers) people have tended to see themselves as slightly more conservative than they used to see themselves, though I’m not assuming that translates into more conservative views on specific policy questions.

    • Similar: I;m mostly surrounded by fellow aristocrats and urban Californian liberals. The people who in former times voted for Bush are not really visible to me.

      • Konkvistador says:

        This reminds me, Bush is a great example of how you can be basically a centrist leftist but the Brahmin will hate you for your Vaisya gang signs. Iraq might have been Iran, but I’m pretty sure the general shape of say Al Gore’s foreign policy would be basically the same, yet I also would be willing to bet the psychotic hate-fest wouldn’t have materialized. He was no more or less friendly to Wall Street than Obama. The Romneycare of Earth(R) would also probably be 90% identical to Obamacare of Earth(D).

        This is particularly bitter for me because from 2000 to 2008 I was an honest young fully Cathedral Bush hating liberal. I have the doddle comparing him to Hitler.

        This is not to say Bush has redeeming qualities, indeed he is terrible, but he is terrible because he is a center leftist who enabled Progressive delusions of having powerful enemies to fight.

      • Konkvistador says:

        Typo, should have been: I have the doddle comparing him to Hitler to prove it.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m also of the mind that extrapolating your in-group to everybody (I’m sure there’s some fancy name for this) is going to have a larger effect than the underdog effect.

  8. yli says:

    Ugh, come on. There’s too many questions, don’t want to have to answer all of them. Should have picked a smaller subset.

  9. Rory Judith says:

    Would you like non-Americans to answer the survey too, or only Americans?

  10. Here is a more relevant test:

    If reactionaries are correct – which is to say if the public is both brainwashed and terrified:

    Then there will have very recently been a huge change from the public favoring the firing of gay teachers, to the public opposing the firing of gay teachers.

    The ability of reactionaries to predict which lie is perceived as more politically correct, and the extent to which people will speak the truth in these surveys is irrelevant to the truth of the reactionary position.

    The ability of reactionaries to predict changes in “public opinion” on the basis of brainwashing and intimidation, is relevant to the truth of the reactionary position.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If everyone except Reactionaries was unable to predict this shift of opinions, but Reactionaries did predict it, that would be a point in favor of Reactionaries. This test will be able to measure that, since that is one of the questions and I will be distinguishing Reactionary from non-Reactionary answers. I will let you know how this turns out.

      But I predict nearly *everyone* will predict this shift of opinions, in which case it can’t provide differential evidence for either the progressive theory (people have realized gays are people too and are being nicer to them) or the reactionary theory (brainwashing and intimidation), since holders of both theories were equally able to predict the data.

      • > This test will be able to measure that, since that is one of the questions

        Yes. It is one of the questions.

        But all the other questions, or almost all of them, I have not read them all, are irrelevant to the truth or falsity of the reactionary position.

        Here is a couple of questions that would be more relevant: When Paul Revere warned people the British are coming, what were they coming to do?

        How did the abolition of slavery and reconstruction affect the black death rate?

        I am pretty sure that all reactionaries, as near all of them as makes no difference, would get those answers right, and all non reactionaries, as near all of them as makes no difference, would get those answers wrong, and the reasons why they will get those answers wrong matters to the truth of the reactionary position.

        In contrast, I don’t think there will be any difference on successfully guessing what other people think or thought about censoring school libraries, and if there is a difference, would not signify anything that matters.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Are you familiar with the concept of evaluating competing hypothesis by comparing their predictions? Are you familiar with importance of falsifiability in evaluating theories? I ask because I feel as though we are speaking different languages and I’d like to figure out why.

          • Reactionary theory is that the American public is brainwashed and intimidated, and that the content of the brainwashing and intimidation moves ever leftwards. That you are unfamiliar with the ride of Paul Revere, while previous generations used to be familiar, illustrates the movement leftwards.

        • MugaSofer says:

          “Here is a couple of questions that would be more relevant: When Paul Revere warned people the British are coming, what were they coming to do?

          How did the abolition of slavery and reconstruction affect the black death rate?

          I am pretty sure that all reactionaries, as near all of them as makes no difference, would get those answers right…”

          Well, yeah. That’s not a *prediction*, though, is it? That’s “reactionaries are more likely to have read the answer sheet”.

          Those are the data reactionary positions were developed based on, not new data they uncannily predict.

          • Those are the data reactionary positions were developed based on, not new data they uncannily predict.

            The relevant data is not history, but that this stuff gets adusted out of history – that history is rewritten leftwards, and rewritten with increasing speed, after the fashion of the Ministry of Truth in 1984.

            This is a test of the reliability of your priors. Your priors are not reliable.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          You didn’t answer my questions.

          • > You didn’t answer my questions.

            Your questions were not questions, but screams of schoolyard abuse.

            I present evidence and arguments, get insults. Respond to the evidence I present, rather than asking me how many little boys I molest and sexually mutilate.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          What? My questions were neutral in tone. If we don’t have an epistemological common ground then we can’t discuss anything. That is what I am trying to establish – whether that common ground exists.

          • My questions were neutral in tone.

            I provided empirical evidence. Instead of responding to that evidence, perhaps by providing alternate interpretations of the evidence, or evidence inconsistent with the obvious interpretation. you asked if I was familiar with the concept that one needed to provide empirical evidence.

            That is not debate, that is abuse.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Wait a minute you think that the following two sentences are equivalent in connotation?:

          “Are you familiar with predictive power as a test of competing hypotheses?”

          “You are a child molester”.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Reread my questions. They concern the nature of hypotheses and theories not the nature of evidence (not directly anyway). If you are familiar with falsifiability and predictiveness as criteria for evaluating hypotheses then we can continue. If not we are speaking different languages.

          Assuming that you are familiar with them, then what sort of test could falsify the reactionary position and confirm the progressive position? (All of the tests you propose are unable to do this).

          • If you are familiar with falsifiability and predictiveness as criteria for evaluating hypotheses

            The question is insulting, absurd, abusive, and outrageous. Of course I am familiar.

            then what sort of test could falsify the reactionary position and confirm the progressive position?

            I have explained that over and over again, and will explain it yet again.

            For example, if you guys had understood what Sarah Palin was saying when she spoke of Paul Revere, or what I was saying when I spoke of Daniel Boone, this would be powerful evidence against the reactionary interpretation of the world since it would indicate that you held your beliefs on the basis of familiarity with the evidence, rather than brainwashing, propaganda, blind hatred, self imposed ignorance, state imposed ignorance, and crimestop.

            Such familiarity with the evidence would indicate that reactionaries merely imagine pervasive propaganda and censorship, in the same way that progressives merely imagine that blacks are held back by whites thinking evil thoughts at them.

            The reactionary theory being in large part that the movement ever leftwards is a state sponsored religion/ideology, a religion that by selecting the ruling elite on the basis of superior holiness rather than superior ability, tends move towards ever greater extremes of holiness, which then requires the masses to be adjusted and made holier to catch up with their holier betters.

            If you were familiar with history as it used to be taught, this would disprove the reactionary theory of why and how we are moving ever leftwards. If you recognized this stuff it would not prove the progressive theory that we are moving ever leftwards because leftism is truth and virtue, and past positions were evil, hatred and sin, but it would be consistent with that progressive theory, and inconsistent with the reactionary theory (that the movement left is the result of brainwashing and state enforced ignorance) , as the phases of Venus were consistent with heliocentrism, and inconsistent with Ptolemaic theory.

            And did you catch my reference to the phases of Venus, or did it go over your head like Paul Revere and Daniel Boone? With Global Warming, the story of phases of Venus has become politically incorrect, precisely because it illustrates the primacy of evidence over consensus, and, like Daniel Boone, has disappeared from school, although you are probably old enough to have been taught it.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          But you’re still cherry-picking the tests you get to use. For example, I could claim “Unless every schoolchild has heard of Eugene V. Debs, our history books have a strong conservative bias and are leaving him out in order to prevent children from learning to challenge capitalism.”

          And although most likely most children indeed do not know about Debs, you would just say “Nah, I don’t think that fact in and of itself proves the US is brainwashed by the Right”.

          It seems perfectly reasonable to have this same thought when you claim children not knowing some supposedly right-leaning piece of history proves Reaction (especially when inevitably everyone in this thread *does* know that piece of history)

          By an empirical test, we mean something where real Reactionaries and real Progressives would differ in what they would predict, but we can do the experiment and find out which one is right.

          • But you’re still cherry-picking the tests you get to use. For example, I could claim “Unless every schoolchild has heard of Eugene V. Debs, our history books have a strong conservative bias and are leaving him out in order to prevent children from learning to challenge capitalism.”

            But such a claim would be silly. Not knowing about Eugene versus Debs does not make what you think you know about capitalism a lie. Not knowing about Daniel Boone does make what you think you know about the conflict between settlers and Indians a lie.

            History is that capitalism works, socialism does not, and that the whites were doing the Indians a favor. You were taught a different history.

            Not knowing about Daniel Boone while knowing about the trail of tears creates a profoundly and radically misleading impression of the conflict between Indians and settlers, demonizing the settlers, demonizing whites. Not knowing about Eugene V Debs does not create a misleading impression of capitalism. If you have heard of the Trail of Tears, and not heard about Daniel Boone buying land and making peace in the face of extraordinary Indian misbehavior, you have a wildly distorted impression of the conflict.

            This is supports the reactionary interpretation that the ever leftwards movement is produced by ever more extreme brainwashing and intimidation.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @James:

          Excellent. I am glad that you are familiar with those concepts. Now we can proceed.

          Consider the following two hypotheses:
          “People do not know about Daniel Boon because there is a massive evil leftist conspiracy to suppress the truth and brainwash people”

          “People do not know about Daniel Boon because people are generally ignorant of all but the most famous history (for many reasons including its boringness)”

          Those two hypothesis make exactly the same prediction with respect to the test you propose. Therefore the test cannot distinguish between them.

          • Consider the following two hypotheses:
            “People do not know about Daniel Boon because there is a massive evil leftist conspiracy to suppress the truth and brainwash people”

            “People do not know about Daniel Boon because people are generally ignorant of all but the most famous history (for many reasons including its boringness)”

            That people do not know X may have many explanations.

            That people do not know X but do know Y is apt to have considerably fewer explanations.

            The second hypothesis is inconsistent with the fact that everyone knows that something really bad happened to the Indians and has heard of Trail of Tears, for Daniel Boone is a lot more entertaining, memorable, and relevant to how America came to be, than the sufferings of the Indians and trail of tears.

            Further, if you learn Daniel Boone, you will not only be entertained, but will have a pretty good understanding of why things were likely to turn out badly for the Indians.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Eugene versus Debs

          😀 This is fucking priceless, and sooooo going in my ShitFascistsSay.txt.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          “The second hypothesis is inconsistent with the fact that everyone knows that something really bad happened to the Indians and has heard of Trail of Tears.”

          No it isn’t – notice the qualifiers “generally” and “all but the most famous history”. I didn’t say all history. Also I would wager that less than 20% of people have heard of the Trail of Tears. I had never heard of it but then I am not American, so I could be underestimating people.

          • The second hypothesis is inconsistent with the fact that everyone knows that something really bad happened to the Indians and has heard of Trail of Tears.

            No it isn’t

            Oh come on. Everyone has heard of one side of the story, no one has heard the other side – even though the other side is far more memorable, entertaining, and more directly shaped the present day.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Which is entirely consistent with people not knowing most history. Part of not knowing most history is knowing some facts and not others.

          If what you’re really arguing is that people only know the evil that was done to the Native Americans but not the evil that they committed (as opposed to knowing one semi-obscure fact about that conflict) then that is much more reasonable, however there is a third hypothesis that I think is more likely than either of the first two.

          “Due to the myth of pure evil, people tend to assume that the winner of a physical confrontation is purely guilty and the loser is purely innocent. For instance in many murder cases, the victim also used violence but we only hear the story about the evil murderer who took the life of an innocent victim. The same is true of at least some historical conflicts”

          For more information about the myth of pure evil see “Evil, inside human violence and cruelty by Roy Baumeister”. I haven’t read the whole thing though.

          • Which is entirely consistent with people not knowing most history. Part of not knowing most history is knowing some facts and not others.

            But which particular facts they know has been changing – from interesting and relevant facts that show whites be regular people, to boring and obscure facts that show whites to be extraordinarily hateful, demonic, evil, harmful, malicious, malevolent, and hurtful.

            If you do not know the story of Daniel Boone, you don’t know the story of the settlement of America. If you are American, and do not know the story of the settlement of America, you are profoundly and extraordinarily ignorant.

            If you don’t know the story of Daniel Boone, and you do know the story of some Indian Chieftain who ruled her tribe after white people had hammered them down – but not the events that led to them being hammered down, you are ignorant and hateful, which is to say, full of ignorant beliefs that cause you to hate people who do not deserve to be hated.

            As I said earlier, any account of the conflicts with native Americans that leaves out the fact that most of these conflicts were preceded by and resulted from settlers buying land from the Indians is profoundly misleading.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          But such a claim would be silly. Not knowing about Eugene versus Debs does not make what you think you know about capitalism a lie. Not knowing about Daniel Boone does make what you think you know about the conflict between settlers and Indians a lie.

          I have to disagree about the content of understanding Debs. Debs was a major US third party candidate, represented a substantial portion of the electorate and political dialogue of the USA over the 1900-1920 period, and his personal life (arrested for anti-war politics) also provides an excellent example of the illegal and immoral repressions of the Woodrow Wilson regime. Regardless of the truth or falsity of his positions, he is important to history, just like any number of other American losers throughout history.

          As a leftist arguing the case that the US school system removes important elements of history, I would bring up the domestic repressions of Woodrow Wilson (of which Debs is just one case) and the way they are whitewashed out of history; the way that people know who Helen Keller was but not that she was a communist; the way that the positive effects of Reconstruction on race relations in the South are completely written out of history; and the way that the founding influence of communists like Harry Hay and W.E.B. Du Bois on major civil rights movements is completely deleted. Just to get started.

          • I have to disagree about the content of understanding Debs. Debs was a major US third party candidate, represented a substantial portion of the electorate and political dialogue of the USA over the 1900-1920

            He was minor third party candidate in an election that occurred a hundred years ago. Most people cannot remember minor third party candidates in the last election, unless they got enough votes to potentially alter the outcome between the major candidates.

            Which he did not.

            He represented an utterly insignificant portion of the electorate. His entirely unsuccessful trade union was all chiefs and no Indians – existing only in his head and the heads of various left wing ideologues. It lacked any actual workers, though it had a large oversupply of people claiming to speak in the name of the workers.

            Hard to see how someone could be more obscure, irrelevant, and boring.

            He claimed to speak for the masses, but the masses failed to strike for his union, and failed to vote for him.

          • (Looks up Eugene Debs)

            Eugene Debs was an intellectual who thought he was the people, thus became somewhat famous among radical leftists who wished they were the people.

            But he was not the people. The workers did not strike for his union, nor vote for his party.

            Thus, he was an obscure third party candidate of a minor party in an election a hundred years ago who gained insufficient votes to affect the outcome between the major party candidates.

            One could argue that Daniel Boone’s personal direct affect on history was equally small, but Daniel Boone was the prototypical pioneer, and in learning his adventures, we learn about all pioneers, and about the conflict between them and the Indians. What happened to Daniel Boone reflected the events experienced by all past pioneers, and shaped the behavior of all subsequent pioneers, and influenced their dealings with the Indians, thus what happened to Daniel Boone had an enormous affect on history.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          You pretty much asserted your hypothesis again without addressing whether or not my hypotheses also predict the data. I happen to think that both of them do and they have higher priors than your. Quoting my hypothesis and then asserting that yours is correct is not a refutation I’m afraid.

          I’ll admit that my first hypothesis is not the best in terms of predictiveness (it can’t tell you which historical facts people are ignorant of), but it has the highest priors out of all three hypothesis – that fact that most people are ignorant of most things is well established.

          As for my second hypothesis, it has reasonably high priors (the myth of evil is fairly well studied) and it predicts the data nicely, making the the best explanation in terms of those criteria. If you would like to suggest another criteria or argue that my hypothesis are not predictive then do so rather than asserting your conspiracy theory yet again.

          If you fail to do this, then I will likely not waste my time further.

          • You pretty much asserted your hypothesis again without addressing whether or not my hypotheses also predict the data

            Liar.

            Repeating:

            If fact A (Daniel Boone) is not included, that does not tell us about systematic bias.

            But If fact A is not included, but related fact B is included, that does tell us about systematic bias

            Particularly if fact B is boring, unimportant, and, in the absence of fact A, gives a profoundly and radically misleading impression of events, demonizing one group, and making saints of another.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I’m confused why you are willing to excuse Daniel Boone’s personal insignificance by pointing out that Boone was a prototypical pioneer and that by learning about him we learn about all pioneers…

          …but not willing to excuse Eugene Debs’ personal insignificance by pointing out that he was a pioneer labor leader and that by learning about him we learn about all labor leaders. The labor movement was pretty darned important, especially in the context of why America didn’t have a communist revolution and where the modern left came from.

          PS: If you respond again and I want to reply to you, I’ll probably continue this discussion at the bottom of the page since this comment threading is getting out of control.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          One could argue that Daniel Boone’s personal direct affect on history was equally small, but Daniel Boone was the prototypical pioneer, and in learning his adventures, we learn about all pioneers, and about the conflict between them and the Indians. What happened to Daniel Boone reflected the events experienced by all past pioneers, and shaped the behavior of all subsequent pioneers, and influenced their dealings with the Indians, thus what happened to Daniel Boone had an enormous affect on history.

          Do you consider the First Red Scare to not matter to history? Because Debs has similar representative power for a huge and important political event. When you’re talking mass raids, political deportations, arrests of people who disagree with the government, I think it does matter to history. You cannot understand the Wilson regime without understanding the virulence of Wilson’s anticommunism and the way it expressed itself.

          There is a reason why, despite not running any campaign at all and being a boring compromise candidate who did not even rank in the top five in the Republican primary, President Harding won with the largest popular vote margin since the Era of Good Feelings. That reason’s name? Woodrow Wilson.

          If you write out the public antipathy for Wilson, you are rewriting history in a very substantial way. That antipathy had many parts (his imperialist, interventionist and exceptionally racist politics probably didn’t help him), but a substantial part of it was the repressive actions against political dissidents which included, as one of the more poetic examples, the arrest, trial, conviction, and imprisonment of a major Presidential candidate for opposing American involvement in WW1.

  11. Here is a better test for the truth of the Reactionary position:

    What does “the shores of Tripoli” in the Marines’ Hymn refer to: Answer without looking it up in a reactionary or politically incorrect source.

    If you don’t know the answer, then reactionaries are right, and you are wrong, because if you don’t know that, then everything you think you know is unlikely to be true – if one lie, all lies.

    If all lies, then you need to get history from the writings of those who lived it. From which the neoreactionary position follows.

    • naath says:

      What? If I didn’t learn this one fact in history, and never forgot it, that means I can’t possible know anything about anything? If that’s actually the reactionaries’ position then they are so far from anything I’d consider a rational point of view I simply can’t see why anyone would take them seriously.

      • Jack says:

        I *think* that comment was being sarcastic, but I find it genuinely hard to tell. (I think the one about the NHS slaughtering people was serious :O )

      • > If I didn’t learn this one fact in history, and never forgot it, that means I can’t possible know anything about anything?

        If you did not learn this one fact in history, then yesterday’s curriculum is today’s racism.

        In which case, you have been brainwashed, and the brainwashing is moving ever leftwards.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Uh, is “the Barbary pirate wars” the correct answer, or some sort of weird liberal propaganda I was fed in public school? Because I would be pretty confident in that one, but I’m not sure how it proves Reactionaries wrong or right.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I was wondering the same thing, but a quick googling seems to have turned up the answer. Scroll down to the comment by James A. Donald on this post:
        http://darkecologies.com/2013/06/02/thomas-carlyle-calvinist-reactionary-and-prophet/

        I was aware that the Barbary States did generally enslave prisoners their pirate raids took if their ransoms were refused, but that wasn’t the first thing that leaped to mind. Piracy and kidnapping, yes, but the enslavement aspect was secondary in my understanding.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          You mean “Further, whoseover says that slavery can never be justified, will also say that the Marine invasion of Tripoli to rescue white Christian Americans enslaved by brown Muslims, was not justified.”?

          This statement confuses me. I would expect most people who believe slavery can never be justified to endorse the marine invasion of Tripoli, and that those who wouldn’t would oppose it primarily on “We shouldn’t police foreign countries” grounds.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Your expectations pretty much match up with mine.

        • Barbary Pirates enslaving whites was deleted by the ministry of Truth. In the material that you quote, I accuse those who deleted this from history of being hypocritical about slavery. In this thread, I am merely drawing your attention to the rewrite of history.

          The issue of hypocrisy about slavery is, for this thread, a red herring.

          Since this a red herring, let us hear it for Sarah Palin and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

          The uniform and universal reaction among the great and good, was that even if Sarah Palin’s version was true, the official version was truthy, and she committed a terrible gaffe by deviating from the official version taught in school, to the version reported by Paul Revere and others of his time. After all Paul Revere and company are merely dead white males. What would they know? Obviously anyone who relies on their version is an idiot, and a racist.

          But I cannot resist chasing that red herring:

          Your reflexive reaction to the Barbary wars, your first thought, was not “slavery”, but “imperialism”, that if whites are enslaved, cannot really be the same thing as blacks being enslaved, that racism equals slavery equals evil whites, that it is a strange and peculiar use of language to call it slavery when the victims are white, that just as blacks cannot be racist, the Barbary pirates enslaving whites does not really count as slavery because it cannot really have been real slavery, it was perhaps not slavery, but reverse slavery, and thus objections to it, like objections to any form of Reverse X, was white people whining about being denied privilege.

          And if you yourself did not react as hypocritically as I accuse, that is how the people who rewrote history reacted, and how they intended their students to react.

          And how, for the most part, their students do react.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          If it’s been whitewashed (no pun intended, but if you write a blog post on this be sure to use the phrase “whitewashed” in the title, and thank me later) how come we all know about it?

          I mean, it’s not taught at as much length as black slavery, but it’s taught a little, and I challenge you to claim Barbary slavers had 1% of the effect on the US that black slavery did (see: states’ rights, the Civil War, continuing presence of black people in US today).

          Besides, if you want to talk about white slavery that nobody’s heard of, the story of Irish slaves in the US is much more interesting!

          • I mean, it’s not taught at as much length as black slavery, but it’s taught a little

            That they were pirates is taught. That they were slavers is not taught, and indeed, many people find it remarkably difficult to get their head around the concept of Muslims slavers taking white Christians. Surely, they think, that is not slavery, that is reverse slavery! It is the opposite of slavery!

            And if you don’t like the example of the Barbary pirates, how about the example of Daniel Boone. Is he taught “a little”? A “little” meaning leaving out most of the stuff he was famous for.

            You may have heard that Obama is not descended from the ancestors of American slaves. He is descended from those who sold them. For most people this just incomprehensible. When they hear it, they just cannot parse it.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          As far as I can tell Daniel Boone is taught about as much as Davy Crockett and Sam Houston in the general category of “people who were relatively badass but we are going to mention them in passing to focus on the Missouri Compromise because we are boring”

          Out of curiousity, are you familiar with works like Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” and other works claiming that left-leaning US history gets ignored by the mainsteram? It seems like a general trend that both sides object that narratives favorable to their side are being “cleansed” from history books, which suggests to me that aside from people who obviously deserve mention like Washington and Lincoln it’s more random noise who does and doesn’t get included.

          • As far as I can tell Daniel Boone is taught about as much as Davy Crockett and Sam Houston in the general category of “people who were relatively badass but we are going to mention them in passing to focus on the Missouri Compromise because we are boring”

            You have not been taught what every schoolchild used to be taught: that Daniel Boone’s son was tortured to death by Indians that were his guests, and that two of his daughters were adbucted and enslaved, and of the dramatic events that led to this, and followed from this – because if you heard the story, it would not fit with the story of demonic whites cruelly maltreating innocent nature loving Indians and stealing their lands.

            In fact the whites generally purchased Indian lands, as Daniel Boone did, and the conflicts were generally the result of horrifyingly bad Indian behavior in the face of amazing white forebearance. Daniel Boone exemplifying bold baddass pioneering, honest purchase of Indian lands, and astonishing forebearance in the face of extraordinarily treacherous and evil Indian behavior.

            By and large, the typical conflict between Indians and settlers happened like this:

            Whites purchase Indian lands. Indians get drunk and stay drunk. In due course they wake up with a blinding hangover, no food, no money, no whiskey, and no hunting grounds. They blame the whites for this, and find some women and children whose menfolk are away. They rape the women, skin the children alive, and roast them over hot coals. War ensues.

            Leaving out the story of Daniel Boone and the other bold pioneers creates a grotesquely distorted account of white sin and nonwhite virtue – thereby demonstrating the reactionary thesis that education has become a propaganda engine whose propaganda becomes ever more extreme.

            The driving force of the settler Indian conflict was not that the settlers were inclined to steal indian lands, but that Indians were inclined to blow their money.

    • Explain.

      Google first link for “shores of Tripoli” is wikipedia First Barbary War. Wikipedia *is* the Cathedral, what is it not telling me?

    • Thomas Jefferson sending the US military to deal with pirates in the Mediterranean?

    • Konkvistador says:

      I think Jim is right about what the test he proposes measures.

    • MugaSofer says:

      This argument is stupid.

      If one stupid, all stupid. Thus, the untruth of the Reactionary position follows.

      (And for the record, I’ve never even heard of “the Marine’s Hymn”, let alone the words.)

      • MugaSofer says:

        Oh, and since Reactionaries are wrong, they should of course turn to someone who is not a Reactionary. I am not a Reactionary! Thus, I am right about everything. QED.

    • Richard Gadsden says:

      (a) it refers to the US war against the Barbary Pirates.

      (b) I’m not an American

      (c) I have no idea how this is relevant to anything, beyond being the first declared war of the United States of America.

      (d) I’m a history buff. I know a heck of a lot of obscure facts about history. I don’t think that knowledge of obscure facts about history proves any moral position.

      Do you know who was ultimately responsible for the final destruction of the Barbary Pirates?

      • What does “the shores of Tripoli” in the Marines’ Hymn refer to: Answer without looking it up in a reactionary or politically incorrect source. If you don’t know the answer, then reactionaries are right, and you are wrong, because if you don’t know […]

        (a) it refers to the US war against the Barbary Pirates.

        (b) I’m not an American

        (c) I have no idea how this is relevant to anything,

        If you don’t now how it is relevant, then you do not, in fact, know what “the shores of tripoli” refers to.

  12. Romeo Stevens says:

    Intuition barometers are under rated. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  13. Steve says:

    Should’ve asked whether testee is American or not, to compare predictions made from outside prespective vs inside.

  14. Konkvistador says:

    I’ve taken the test as Konkvistador. I expect to be wrong a lot because I have low confidence in my answers, my priors on American popular beliefs are probably distorted to be less conservative than it actually is because they are formed by second hand accounts, so I tried to guess the magnitude of that effect.

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  16. Damien says:

    “many people find it remarkably difficult to get their head around the concept of Muslims slavers taking white Christians… When they hear it, they just cannot parse it.”

    Citation needed for either claim.

    • Konkvistador says:

      Anecdotal evidence: I’ve seen an initial or sustained inability to parse from 6 out of the 8 people who I happened to reach this subject with during conversation. 2 actually “corrected” me and proceeded to speak of Christians enslaving Muslims for centuries.

      • Anecdotal evidence: I’ve seen an initial or sustained inability to parse from 6 out of the 8 people who I happened to reach this subject with

        When these guys call themselves “the reality based community” they mean the official reality based community.

        Evidence from mere Mark 1 eyeballs does not count.

  17. Damien says:

    Turning “Eugene V. Debs” into “Eugene versus Debs” is pretty funny from someone going on about ignorance of history.

    • Turning “Eugene V. Debs” into “Eugene versus Debs” is pretty funny from someone going on about ignorance of history.

      Doubtless, but it woudl be more entertaining if there was some plausible explanation of why anyone other than an expert in Marxist history should have heard of him.

      • Multiheaded says:

        ^

        …This is the most pathetic display of “sour grapes” that I’ve seen recently.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5iqYuFmzqg

      • Scott Alexander says:

        “Doubtless, but it woudl be more entertaining if there was some plausible explanation of why anyone other than an expert in Marxist history should have heard of him.”

        Because he received 6% of the vote for President of the United States? While running his campaign from prison?

        Most important socialist/labor leader in American history?

        Unfairly imprisoned for his beliefs in a case that became a foundation for a lot of future debate about the ethics of passive resistance and government oppression?

        Had a *heck* of a lot more impact on American history than some Indians killing Daniel Boone’s kids?

        But he’s also a weather vane. If there were the slightest bit of Progressive bias in history classes, Debs would be the sort of person everyone in the country would know about.

        And I feel like if you’d studied the history of American progressivism, and talked to genuine progressives as opposed to the straw men you keep bringing up, you’d have heard about him too. Multiheaded isn’t even American, English isn’t even his first language, and it sounds like he knows all about him.

        The fact that you don’t think it matters if anyone knows about Debs’ very existence, but the fact that not everyone in the world knows every single detail of the random minor conservative stories you bring up proves Reactionaries are right about everything, seems kind of contradictory.

        • And I feel like if you’d studied the history of American progressivism, and talked to genuine progressives as opposed to the straw men you keep bringing up, you’d have heard about him too. Multiheaded isn’t even American, English isn’t even his first language, and it sounds like he knows all about him.

          Well of course. Progressives control the education system world wide, and teach everyone about their saints and heroes, and as society moves ever leftwards, ever more boring, obscure and inconsequential saints and heroes get taught about.

          This confirms, rather than disconfirming, my thesis.

          To recap: Leaving out Daniel Boone gives a profoundly false impression of the conflict between settlers and Indians, one that gives a crazy fanatical demonized account of the white settlement. Evil hateful whites massacre Indians to steal their land.

          Leaving out Eugene Debs gives a completely accurate impression of American history – that socialism never had much support in the US and was never seriously tried except by Robert Owen, the Pilgrim fathers, etc, perhaps because of what happened when it was tried.

          And if progressives want to report socialist heroes in America, why leave out Robert Owen, New Harmony, and the Pilgrim fathers, who actually had a go at doing it?

          Surely Robert Owen is ten thousand times as significant in the history of socialism and socialist thought than Eugene Debs. Eugene Debs said he was the people, and hoped to implement socialism, but he was not the people, and got nowhere fast. Robert Owen actually implemented socialism: With entirely predictable results.

        • Konkvistador says:

          ” If there were the slightest bit of Progressive bias in history classes, Debs would be the sort of person everyone in the country would know about. ”

          This is a ridiculous claim, I flat out refuse to believe you believe.

  18. Damien says:

    Guys, y’all are arguing with someone who thinks the story of a “prototypical pioneer” is more important than the Trail of Tears, where a US president ignored a Supreme Court order and authorized the dispossession of the Cherokee. Someone who claims that Indians not party to Boone’s deals somehow broke those deals, as if making a deal with one set of Indians should be binding on all of them. Who keeps going on about “buying land” while ignoring the fact that often no one had the authority to sell such land, especially not the people putatively doing so.

    Does the Center for Applied Rationality have any stuff on “how to identify that your disputant is not remotely rational and that you’re wasting your time arguing with them”?

    • >Does the Center for Applied Rationality have any stuff on “how to identify that your disputant is not remotely rational and that you’re wasting your time arguing with them”?

      Do you think anyone needs CFAR’s help to realize that Jim is a madman and/or troll?

      We argue to grind. It’s not always wise to hold off fighting until the final boss; sometimes you should sharpen your skills against some inconsequential lesser monster like Jim.

    • Guys, y’all are arguing with someone who thinks the story of a “prototypical pioneer” is more important than the Trail of Tears, where a US president ignored a Supreme Court order and authorized the dispossession of the Cherokee. Someone who claims that Indians not party to Boone’s deals somehow broke those deals, as if making a deal with one set of Indians should be binding on all of them. Who keeps going on about “buying land” while ignoring the fact that often no one had the authority to sell such land, especially not the people putatively doing so.

      You are speaking from an imagined reality based on ignorance and lies, and arguing that from your ignorance that anything that is inconsistent with your ignorant beliefs is not worth knowing.

      Indians had private property in land – and private property in slaves.

    • Does the Center for Applied Rationality have any stuff on “how to identify that your disputant is not remotely rational and that you’re wasting your time arguing with them”

      The man who provides evidence and arguments is rational. The one who responds with childish abuse is irrational.

      I argue, I provide evidence and arguments. You guys provide insults intermixed with reiterations of the holy faith.

      • Multiheaded says:

        I argue, I provide evidence and arguments. You guys provide insults intermixed with reiterations of the holy faith.

        Irony concentration has reached critical levels, evacuate immediately!

      • Multiheaded says:

        P.S.: I’m queer, you shit. Protecting myself from homophobic shits like you is a much lesser priority to me than generally opposing brutal classism, the vile sickening oh-so-“reactionary” misogyny and other things that are more central to your corrupt ideology. Nonetheless, your comments about queer people already suck enough on their own to disqualify you from a debate with any standards. Luckily, I don’t have much in the way of standards.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      You are correct, I apologize for not realizing sooner that I was wasting my time and clogging the comment space.

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