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Links for January

Mormons can often recognize other Mormons on sight, even in pictures stripped of any remotely plausible symbol of religious affiliation. Scientists confirm the phenomnenon and decide the most likely explanation is that Mormons are healthier and therefore have clearer skin.

China displays a model of their moon rover to celebrate its successful landing, with a picture of the Earth in the back. An astute Redditor notices that the Earth in the picture has a small mushroom cloud rising over Europe. Other Redditors speculate as to what’s going on.

Silicon Valley’s need for space is cramming young professionals together with the urban poor, with predictable results. The Right spins it as poor people being government-subsidized to take up valuable space. The Left spins it as colonialist carpetbagging oppressors coming in and trying to kick out the poor. The rest of us just complain that the whole thing is due to the Bay Area’s super-restrictive zoning regulations and if people were allowed to construct real buildings the whole problem would solve itself. Matt Yglesias gets fed up and suggests the whole shebang just pick up and move to Cleveland. Meanwhile, the usual suspects distribute flyers threatening violence against all privileged rich people who don’t “get the fuck out”. Hint from a Detroit area resident: this ends poorly.

Yesterday was Eastern Orthodox Christmas, and the Christmas season is always a good time for people to crack contraceptive jokes about how abstinence is 99.99% successful. But before citing made up numbers, be sure to check a study that suggests the real rate is closer to 99.5%.

Cute test answers by (presumably) little kids

There will soon be a (very impressive) science fiction museum in Washington DC with (among other things) lots of scale model spacecraft. It sounds kind of gimmicky, but at least it’s my kind of gimmick.

A while back I mentioned that African immigrants are the best-educated demographic group in the country, and someone asked whether their children regress to the mean. Tyler Cowen links to a study showing the answer is yes. Even worse, he cites another study showing that even the (abysmal) statistics on how well black Americans have been doing over the past few decades are confounded by the increasing number of (more successful) immigrants – meaning that however you think native-born African-Americans are doing, it’s probably worse than that. Study is notable because it claims there was large amounts of economic progress for blacks relative to whites from 1940 – 1980, whereas I have previously heard the exact opposite. Now I am confused.

Migraine headaches are very common, hard to treat, and a lot of the good drugs have side effects. Right now standard “lifestyle advice” is “make a diary of when your migraine headaches happen and see if there are easily predictable triggers”, which just annoys patients since there rarely are. Now a new study offers another big suggestion: stop chewing gum! “After a month without gum, 19 of the 30 patients reported that their headaches went away entirely and seven reported a decrease in the frequency and intensity of headaches. To test the results, 26 of them agreed to resume gum chewing for two weeks. All of them reported a return of their symptoms within days.” Thus far only tested on teenagers, but anxious to see if the same results apply to adults.

The author of the Anarchist Cookbook, the infamous treatise on making bombs and biological weapons, reinvented himself as an education expert, currently runs a teacher training center, and has requested (fruitlessly) that his work be taken off the market.

A simple, easy to understand diagram of the new health care system (h/t @admittedlyhuman). Compare to the chart of metabolic pathways. Since the one keeps getting more complex with time and the other stays pretty stable, it’s interesting to think that someday medical administration will be more complicated than medical research. As above, so below.

An anti-aging drug that “rolled back the key indicators of aging to make two-year-old mice appear six months old” will soon be entering human trials. The cost is $50,000 a day, but hopefully expected to improve.

Paul Ryan, the guy everyone made fun of during the last election, has reinvented himself as a radical anti-poverty crusader after being inspired by Pope Francis and a meeting with local ex-convicts. No, really.

In my Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous Planet-Sized Nutshell post, I speculated on how quickly leftists would turn against immigration if immigrants tended to hold rightist beliefs. In proof that great minds think alike, Popehat tells the same story with a much cooler science fiction twist.

Did you know that Kerry Thornley, who wrote half the Principia Discordia under the pen name Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, was a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald’s before he assassinated Kennedy? Or that he later went paranoid and believed that Robert Anton Wilson was a CIA agent sent to spy on him? I so want this to be true.

Since we’ve been talking about “the spirit of the First Amendment” recently, here’s Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments For Living In A Healthy Democracy. I’m curious if anyone will admit to explicitly disagreeing with it.

It’s bad form to laugh at other countries’ culture-bound mental disorders, but puppy pregnancy syndrome, “a psychosomatic illness brought on by mass hysteria localized to villages in several states of India…[in which] people believe that shortly after being bitten by a dog puppies are conceived within their abdomen” is pretty adorable. At least until you get to the part where “It is believed that the victims will eventually die – especially men, who will give birth to their puppies through the penis”.

The science of predicting social trends with artificial societies. I find their corrupt bureaucrat model very interesting, since it answers otherwise confusing questions about why there is so little explicit corruption in some societies compared to others, and why the low-corruption societies so rarely relapse. Also a good review of Schelling’s work on how non-racist people can “accidentally” end up building segregated neighborhoods, and a diversion on the Anasazi I didn’t really understand.

“Everyone knows” Ronald Reagan made up the “welfare queen” in order to scare gullible conservatives. But like most things everyone knows, it’s not true. The search for Linda Taylor, the original welfare queen, reveals a larger-than-life criminal who changed identities at will, posed as everyone from a welfare recipient to a heart surgeon, kidnapped children, married up to eight people, may have committed murder, and either practiced or faked practicing voodoo as a witch doctor.

The book review for Something More Than Night begins: “The official description of Tregillis’ novel sounds intriguing enough: a Raymond Chandler-style murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’ version of Heaven. But the actual book is something quite a bit more ambitious”. h/t Leah Libresco.

More on the Oklahoma city hospital that just tells people up front what they charge and lets them pay with money. It all makes sense up until the point where the insurance companies are arraying themselves against his cost-saving measures. Why wouldn’t insurance companies want their patients to go to the lowest-cost hospital possible?

Instead of boycotting Phil Robinson about gay rights, how about we boycott the country that’s trying to punish homosexuality with life in prison? See my old post on the ethics of boycotts for why I can propose this consistently.

The Economist chooses a Country Of The Year: Earth’s Got Talent.

This Chinese condemnation of America turns out to be a veiled tribute to the US and backhanded criticism of China. Good for making you count blessings you never even knew you had.

The big problem in psychiatry is deciding which of many equally efficacious drugs to give a patient with a treatable disease. Most people respond to one or another of them, but not everyone responds to the same one, and you can waste months or even years treating someone with a drug that’s inferior for them personally. There is constantly this promise on the horizon of personalized medicine allowing genetic testing for drug response, and now some of that is finally starting to tentatively appear: two SNPs with a 93% sensitivity for predicting response to lithium in bipolar disorder.

A new survey on self-described libertarians: 6% support Obamacare, 26% support stronger environmental regulation, 30% oppose physician-assisted suicide, 31% want to make it harder to access Internet pornography, 41% want to make it harder to get abortions, 60% oppose same-sex marriage. Conclusion: pretty much anyone can call themselves a libertarian.

Some of my younger friends with unusual beliefs, lifestyles, or gender issues have had to stay in the closet lest their parents kick them out of the house and they become homeless. I was happy to see at least one group working on a partial solution. The Transgender Housing Network is a charity that tries to connect transgender people up in bad situations with others willing to house them. Part of me wants to say it’s a terrible idea from a safety point of view and will be sued to oblivion after the first incident, but then again, if Couchsurfer can work maybe this can too.

Reactionary publication Radish Magazine publishes the majority of their fascinating and hilariously-named 2013 Anti-Progress Report.

Atul Gawande gives his much more polished and prestigious opinions on what I have called the life cycle of medical ideas. Also, did you know that some clergy objected to anaesthetics during childbirth because God had decreed childbirth should be painful?

The Tumblr Argument Generator. Next step is to Sokal-hoax this to a prestigious humanities journal and see what happens.

Chinese Wal-Mart Recalls Donkey Meat For Containing Fox

The Washington Post points out that Economists Agree: Raising The Minimum Wage Reduces Poverty. The New York Times counters with an article saying that raising the minimum wage is a much less efficient way to reduce poverty than nearly anything else.

The biography of feudal-era Japanese judge Ooka Tadasuke contains some pretty impressive examples of historic virtue. Example: “When he [first became town judge, Ooka] found out that there was a long–standing boundary dispute between the farmers of the Yamada and Yoshimune fiefs. While it was obvious that the Yamada claim was the just one, no previous judge had been fool enough to irritate Yoshimune as he was very close to the shogun. However, Ōoka took up the case, and immediately settled it on its merits. Yoshimune was so impressed that when he became shogun five years later, he took the unusual action of promoting Ōoka over hundreds of other candidates to the important post of mayor of Edo.”

A rationalist community member and medical student hypothesizes that some spices are partial agonists of the capsaicin receptor – in other words, that eating certain moderately spicy things can decrease the spiciness of very spicy things. He decides to test this by eating the spiciest pepper in the world. Empiricism!

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120 Responses to Links for January

  1. Tarn Somervell says:

    From the Schelling bit
    “That might, of course, have been a result of widespread racism, but Schelling suspected otherwise. “I had an intuition,” he told me, “that you could get a lot more segregation than would be expected if you put people together and just let them interact.

    In the first frame blues and reds are randomly distributed. But they do not stay that way for long, because each agent, each simulated person, is ethnocentric. That is, the agent is happy only if its four nearest neighbors (one at each point of the compass) include at least a certain number of agents of its own color”

    How is that not widespread racism?

    I’m wondering what would happen if you added the symmetric constraint (certain number of neighbours must be opposite), or even just had the symmetric constraint on it’s own.

    • misha says:

      Read further. The effect persisted even as you lowered requirements for agents of the same ethnicity to be adjacent, to the point where a society that was minimally (if not not all) racist and cared only about having at least 1 neighbor of the same kind still ended up in segregated groups. I don’t think “Has a slight preference for their own kind” is the kind of thing we mean when we talk about widespread racism.

  2. Adele_L says:

    I suspect that other tightly-knight homogenous groups besides Mormons would be able to recognize other group members with a similar rate of success given the same cues.

  3. gattsuru says:

    I’m curious if anyone will admit to explicitly disagreeing with it.

    *Raise*

    Most of these commandments are good, but most of these commandments are about ruling your own thought processes. The ones that are interact with a society — 5, 7, and 9 most obviously — can go terribly, terribly wrong very easily. Lacking respect for authority, being eccentric, and being truthful are applause lights : things our society holds as valuable traits, but only within very small ranges of actual disrespectfulness, eccentricity, and honesty. In practice, the beliefs and norms of authority are sometimes right, because experts in a field become experts by putting a lot more time and focus into a topic than non-experts can. Stating one’s beliefs or positions honestly can easily get you in trouble, even for slightly non-normal beliefs. To take a topic you touched later in today’s links, there are quite a large number of professional positions you can lose for stating the wrong position on GLBT matters.

    Furthermore, the truth can hurt. To borrow from a wiser man than I : “The fat acceptance movement seems slightly less funny after treating my 3rd or 4th suicide attempt pt who got called fat one too many times.” Much of that harm is due to people in society who intend to cause shame rather than harm — but once those societal trends exist, you can do a lot of harm with the wrong honest words.

    Less severely, 4 is not really a viable result. Argument by discussion is better than argument by authority, but neither is a good route to domestic tranquility.

    • Dammit, didn’t read your comment until after I posted mine. Now I regret mine because you said it so much better than I did.

    • Salem says:

      I also disagree with a bunch of Russell’s Commandments:

      4 and 5 seem like clear nonsense, as with 7 (which is really just 5 restated). Authority within argument, and society, is crucial. It’s part of the division of labour. I don’t have time, energy, or specialisation to understand the basis of everything. When I need information, I frequently ask someone knowledgeable, and accept on trust what s/he tells me. That is how all of us, necessarily, conduct our lives.

      I’m very suspicious of (and intrigued by) anyone who thinks #9 isn’t good advice.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree that these are not always great ways to win friends, but I think they would make some pretty neat aspirational social norms. Like I would *want* to live in a society where people felt free to argue from evidence and such.

      I think giving him the benefit of the doubt he was recommending honesty but not “radical honesty” the way moderns use the term. One can be honest without telling people they’re ugly all the time – unless they ask, and even then there are more or less kind ways to express things.

      I agree that “don’t fear to be eccentric” is a double-edged sword and that virtue consists of finding the golden mean between sheeplehood and crackpottery.

      • Michael Edward Vassar says:

        My general impression is that Russell is characterizing how to live with integrity, not how to win esteem within a democratic society. The trouble is, democratic ideas degrade the intention to live with integrity, and transform such ‘commandments’ into empty words.

  4. Since we’ve been talking about “the spirit of the First Amendment” recently, here’s Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments For Living In A Healthy Democracy. I’m curious if anyone will admit to explicitly disagreeing with it.

    Many of the points seem vague enough to be have more reasonable and less reasonable interpretations, but #9 seems especially implausible no matter how you slice it.

  5. a person says:

    “A new survey on self-described libertarians: 60% oppose same-sex marriage”.

    This is shocking to me.

    1. I don’t understand how opposition to same-sex marriage could be considered by anyone at all to be compatible with libertarian ideas.

    2. I thought libertarians were basically people who are young, intelligent, and educated, but are for conservative economic policy unlike most of their peers. I would have thought that this demographic would be pretty strongly for same sex marriage rights.

    • a person says:

      Oh and I thought libertarians tended to be atheist. Who knows, man.

      • malpollyon says:

        “Google Ron Paul” was a Libertarian catchphrase on the internet for some time — if you actually do google Ron Paul you’ll find he’s a conservative christian opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion rights. The support of those things by many self-described libertarians makes perfect sense to me.

    • I suspect that this is collecting a bunch of tea-party-types who have been caught up in a very self-serving, fake-libertarian framework, along with actual libertarians. People who are only libertarian because Obama isn’t and they feel alienated from most governmental programs but haven’t completely decoupled from laws. (Sometimes you run into people who seem to think that the authority that enforces the law against murder, and the authority that accepts tax money and gives out Social Security, and the authority that runs the freaking Army are three different sovereign structures. And not in the Moldbuggian sense.)

    • gattsuru says:

      The spread isn’t as severe as the survey writers want folk to believe: see here for how the numbers actually look, which leaves self-identified libertarians are more supportive of gay marriage than the general populace.

      That said, there are still a significant number of self-described libertarians that still oppose gay marriage. Having read the writing of, and spoken or argued with, a number of these folk, there are a few major positions :

      * But Not That Libertarian — desiring limited government isn’t a binary matter. Nor is it even a spectrum with classical liberals on one side and anarchists on the other. A good number of self-identified libertarians can come up with a very long list of bad, overreaching government actions, and either don’t care about or don’t want to change the rest of the structure. If you oppose the War On Drugs in the US, pretty much the only group that reliably agrees with you has, until very recently, been libertarians, so into the bin you go.
      * Positive and Negative Liberty — some libertarians focus on the difference between negative liberties (things other people can not do to you) and positive liberties (things other people must do for you), and either do not hold in as high regard or actively reject the latter. Many of these folk are very happy with Lawrence v. Texas, but don’t really see the right to be recognized as married by the government as a right. You’ll often see phrases like “the government should get out of the marriage business entirely” here.
      * The Camel’s Nose In The Tent — the belief that regardless of whether the government should care about the genders of any two individuals seeking a marriage license, the long-term results of same-sex marriage are likely to involve serious government overreach. This can range from presented bills like (G)ENDA, to more extreme and rather unlikely stuff like a churches not being allowed to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages. Historically, this didn’t happen as anti-miscegenation laws fell, but these folk tend to point to the Elaine Photography case, as well as several circumstances involving bakeries.
      * Different Information — at least some libertarians argue that there is some meaningful and identifiable harm related to same-sex marriage (or even general expressions alternate sexuality). I’ve not been much impressed by the data used to support this belief, but it’s sometimes the cause of the distinction.

    • Vaniver says:

      At an IHS seminar for young libertarians, I decided at one point to take an informal poll on gay marriage.

      The first person said “I don’t think the state should be involved in marriage. Any contract between consenting adults should be okay.”
      The second person said (more carefully, I’m paraphrasing from memory) “Well, I know this is probably an unpopular opinion here, but this position is informed by my faith. I think marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

      At this point I stopped the poll, so unfortunately I don’t have much data to draw conclusions from. But I think the second person is right that most libertarians identify gay marriage as an issue that libertarians support- but I think most of the ‘support’ is of the first variety, which comes across as tepid at best to an actual gay person, and many (such as Paul) are the second sort. (Of course, there are strong proponents for gay marriage among libertarians, and if I had continued the poll I certainly would have found them at the seminar.) The first person, instead of saying “I think gays should be able to be married, and I think that the government’s power to destroy is dramatically larger than its power to create, and gay marriage is a great example of this,” used an argument from a principle that many libertarians use to justify (voluntary) slavery contracts.

  6. Douglas Knight says:

    It’s not clear what the pepper hypothesis was how Michael updated. In particular, he seems to have a joint hypothesis of (1) different peppers have different capsaicinoids and (2) partial agonism by different capsaicinoids can displace heat. He could isolate the second hypothesis by using vanilla. Isn’t it standard part of the medical curriculum that vanillin is a capsaicinoid? (well, technically vice versa)

    It appears that he updated to believe that tabasco and scorpion peppers have the same capsaicinoid, but continues to believe that his explanation of the barbecue experience is correct. I am very skeptical of hypothesis (1) and think that there are lots of other potential explanations for the barbecue experience, like the presence of fat.

  7. T. Greer says:

    I found the researcher’s explanation for the Mormon-on-sight powers interesting. Not surprising – it is a pretty old joke in Mormon circles that we can recognize each other in the crowd. But just based from personal and anecdotal experience, we do this from afar, not just when close enough to examine one’s facial skin. It would be interested to see the experiment repeated with pictures of the entire person instead of a close up on their face.

  8. Multiheaded says:

    The Right spins it as poor people being government-subsidized to take up valuable space. The Left spins it as colonialist carpetbagging oppressors coming in and trying to kick out the poor. The rest of us just complain that the whole thing is due to the Bay Area’s super-restrictive zoning regulations and if people were allowed to construct real buildings the whole problem would solve itself.

    Support for class segregation isn’t neutral, Scott. Not neutral at all. Frankly, looking from the outside in, I find its acceptability to be one of the most disgusting features of Western polite society. The only “problem” that would solve itself would be the bourgeoisie’s problem. The proletariat’s “problem” here is entirely different, not just a case of two neighbours each disliking another. Would you say that this flyer’s first paragraph is lying?

    • Multiheaded says:

      A paper on socially mixed communities.

    • Multiheaded says:

      A good article by a left-libertarian/anarchist who appears to know the scene well.

      Those who have lucked out to grow up in contexts conducive to analytic cognitive strategies, higher default confidence, and access to educational opportunities do not necessarily also avoid being alienated. The problem is when many first reach the inevitable frustration with “why are people around me so slow on this, why don’t they get what I get, why won’t they come play with me with these toys” rather than actually doing the work necessary to tease out the real and complicated answers through empathy and intellectual vigilance, they encounter prepackaged frameworks of “race/gender/class/etc realism” and then decide to accept it because such stark defenses of oppression appear “iconoclastic” in this era and thus fit their self-model.

      Stir in the aforementioned unnatural market conditions and these notions of superiority can successfully detangle themselves from all recourse with reality. How much consideration do you really have to give other people’s experiences when you can ride over the rest of society in a sled made of money? It might be an amusing foible if that money didn’t translate into political power and first class status, but it very much does. Images of Gopman hanging with the Mayor aside, the Bay economy has grown so dependent upon tech yuppie wealth that their spams of poorly considered opinions and near total disregard for the humanity of outsiders inherently swing around the gun of the state. If and when homelessness, poverty, and displacement register as issues they will be “solved” on a HackerNews thread to the satisfaction of the tech yuppies alone. First-hand experience explicitly not welcome.

      Many residents of the Bay rightfully view this insularity as an existential risk.

      • David Gerard says:

        “If and when homelessness, poverty, and displacement register as issues they will be “solved” on a HackerNews thread to the satisfaction of the tech yuppies alone. First-hand experience explicitly not welcome.”

        Or indeed on a LessWrong thread: “Someone affected by the issue might bring up something that nobody else had thought of, something that the science and statistics and studies missed – but other than that, what marginal value are they adding to the discussion?”

        Note also that CEV – the big plan to save the world, which is what LW was founded to advance – explicitly includes a magical step: build a computer that will talk to the mass of humanity for them to work out what humans want, rather than subjecting themselves to any actual interaction with the people affected.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Yeah. I still sort of halfway trust in the possibility of CEV, but I’d have to agree with your attitude towards LW. The background hubris really surges when (archetypical) LW-ers encounter any challenge to the privileges that makes the hubris possible.

        • Multiheaded says:

          *make

        • Multiheaded says:

          After reading some more of those comments and some links in them, I feel so euphorically enlightened by LW’s intelligence that I just want to hurl.

          I think that’s my relative privilege speaking, in a twisted way; actual minorities seem to get inured to all this shit over a long time, while I’m so innocent that I still have the emotional reserves to get pissed off over yet another LW complaint about worthless degenerates or sexthings disobeying owners.

        • Not a rich programmer says:

          This hyperbolic satire from Cracked does not feel all that hyperbolic when compared to expressed attitudes (complete with voting patterns) on LessWrong with regards to the poor. I recall someone blatantly stating that poor people would benefit from commitment contracts if they just scaled down, and that they don’t indicates a psychological bias or something. (Meanwhile, people are donating more money than I’ve ever had at one time to MIRI like of course they should. Jee, if I had $100,000.00 sitting in the bank, I’d donate a few thousand to charity, too!)

        • DSimon says:

          The explicit (and endlessly reiterated) point of CEV is that people are shitty at manually designing utopias, particularly if we’re talking about wielding the ridiculous amount of power that a hard-takeoff AI would have. Are you saying that this is just a rationalization for wanting to avoid talking to people?

          • David Gerard says:

            I’d say that having no interest in talking to actual people or understanding them factors into it. They’re talking about automating something they don’t know how to do. You can’t actually do that.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Mutilheaded

          Would you mind giving an example of a policy decision that you think LWers have come to a horribly wrong conclusion about?

          Your perspective is quite unique on this blog and is one that I think I’d like to understand better, but the vagueness and ranting makes it hard to do so.

        • Multiheaded says:

          It’s more about how the overton window on LW looks, and the way it excludes policy proposals that I believe in. When the opinions present are 1) something extremely edgy, reactionary or thereabouts, and highly upvoted, (“segregate away from the poor”, “make black people breed less idiots”) and 2) ordinary boring liberalism (“welfare state”, “racism is ew”), the resultant overall direction is different from 1), 2), and 3) extremism in my preferred direction (“take the commons back from the rich by any means”, “anti-racism should be anti-white“).

          I believe that by only ever swinging rightwards from mainstream liberalism, LWers do worse than it. No particular reactionary opinion is really predominant over a liberal position on the same issue, yet together they significantly skew the whole discourse.

          I think occasionally-upvoted reactionary opinions in a healthier and more diverse climate wouldn’t be a pro… okay, would only be a social and political problem for people like me, not an epistemic problem for LW as a whole.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Okay, here’s an example. When the boring “We believe in gender equality, sure” and the edgy “Women shouldn’t work or vote, it’s all a power grab anyway” collide, it results in the unstated but nonetheless dominant “We’ll keep it civil, but we don’t want feminist theory around here.” Which leads to more blindness than the usual on things like the problems of indirectly coercive relationships, or exploitation of women’s affective labour.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Multiheaded

          I wonder if the LW respect for reactionary positions and lack of respect for the positions that you hold has to do with something like a language barrier more than anything else. Because really, reading some of those links was like reading another language to me.

          If you take a reactionary claim “If women are allowed to enter certain professions then those professions will become worse and the damage to those professions is greater than the gain to those women”. It is ready packaged in an easy to understand consequentialist framework. All you need to do is figure out if the premises are correct. It’s only edgy in that its an unusual to hear in broader society, but its just an object level claim about the world.

          On the other hand if you take the radical leftist claim “Whiteness is synonymous with oppression and racism, and the position of whites in society was gained through destruction and genocide, hence to defend justice we should destroy whiteness”. Well, I don’t know what to call that. The conclusion does not follow from the premises, and there is no obvious consequentialist paraphrasing of that argument. Perhaps I’m just not understanding – I’d be very interested to see a clear exposition of that argument.

        • Athrelon says:

          Seconded; I would be very interested in a take on far-left politics that actually engages with LW-style rationality and consequentialism, even if only to (coherently) lay out concrete deficiencies in that framework. This might be epistemically useful beyond mere curiosity: in many cases I believe far-left and far-right thought identify similar oversights in Overton-window thinking while coming up with radically different prescriptions.

          • David Gerard says:

            I suspect everyone remaining on LW who is far to the left of techno-libertarians has pretty much given up by now – I can think of a few names whose absence from threads ilke that one I’ve noticed.

            But don’t worry, the neoreactionaries are still in full voice, and LW is still on the neoreactionaries’ own chart.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I suspect everyone remaining on LW who is far to the left of techno-libertarians has pretty much given up by now – I can think of a few names whose absence from threads ilke that one I’ve noticed.

            But don’t worry, the neoreactionaries are still in full voice, and LW is still on the neoreactionaries’ own chart.

            Seriously? Compare the lukewarm reception of an interesting article about the profound consequences of unintended economic incentives (5 upvotes, 88 comments) with the massive self-struggle session instigated by a rambling screed castigating the rationalist community for being insufficiently leftist in their censorship (25 upvotes, 797 commments).

        • The “don’t want feminist theory” thing may be an illusion: some (very, very some, not even slightly all) of the far right people (not just libertarians) are willing to engage with feminists to a considerable degree (witness the conversations of Ozy Frantz, for example). The right-wing view would be that feminists and other leftists tend to be very anti-pluralist about these matters and see no difference between neutrality and active defense of sexism. The left wing view would be that women (ergo feminsts) usually don’t have privilege and therefore are too vulnerable to engage in quasi-neutral enviroments that can accept seemingly equal but opposite deviations.

          To make a more material argument of Stanislaw’s, I’d say that the *more intelligent and elevated* parts of the Left seem more, rather than less, likely to do what the least intelligent and elevated parts of the Right do: advocate complete destruction of enemies when there should be other options with higher utility, and when they lack the actual ability to destroy those enemies.

          To me, the right usually seems like extremely stupid consequentialists who are insensitive to people’s pain, and the radical parts of the left seem to consist of a form of romanticized hatred sometimes articulated through unreductionist sociological theory.

        • Multiheaded says:

          On the other hand if you take the radical leftist claim “Whiteness is synonymous with oppression and racism, and the position of whites in society was gained through destruction and genocide, hence to defend justice we should destroy whiteness”. Well, I don’t know what to call that. The conclusion does not follow from the premises, and there is no obvious consequentialist paraphrasing of that argument. Perhaps I’m just not understanding – I’d be very interested to see a clear exposition of that argument.

          Hm, this article actually seemed rather simple and clear to me, although written in a tone resembling M.M.’s. This is how I would interpret the claim: white nationalism is unlike every other nationalism because whiteness is not a natural category and is construed by “whites” themselves along lines of power and privilege, not shared ethnic and cultural heritage.
          “German-Americans”, “French Americans”, “WASPs” point to far more concrete things than “Whites”, which is merely shorthand for “people treated as fully human”. And it’s no coincidence that you hear about “whites” instead of all the former! The… extremely flexible… racial approach to people like Jews/Hispanics/Irish/Middle Easterners throughout history is evidence for this. A historically privileged group of people, grouping around their socioeconomic self-interest, creates both whiteness and non-whiteness in a more twisted realization of the human instinct for tribalism; non-whiteness points to everyone who’s been historically outcompeted by “whites” and serves to justify socioeconomic and cultural dominance over them – from Jim Crow to white man’s burden. The words “white race” and “non-white race” literally mean “winners” and “losers”.

          Even Hispanic people, despite their European heritage, were punished with exclusion from “Whiteness” not because they interbred with too many wrong people, but because they “lost” throughout history (failed empires, etc). On the other hand, Jewish people finally obtained their fair share of security and influence after WW2, and started counting as “white”. Us Slavs have always implicitly registered as “not white enough”, too distant and alien to share in the racialized dominance.

          Other nationalisms might be oppressive because of the dangers of tribalism, but white nationalism has oppression as its only substance. It’s not about preserving tradition, it’s about preserving control.

        • Multiheaded says:

          The “don’t want feminist theory” thing may be an illusion: some (very, very some, not even slightly all) of the far right people (not just libertarians) are willing to engage with feminists to a considerable degree (witness the conversations of Ozy Frantz, for example).

          Yes, but I meant less the active reactionary commentariat and more the overall background intellectual atmosphere there. After all, if a feminist were to post on LW with getting some interesting theory across as her aim, her intended audience would probably be the average commenter and not the occasional upvoted reactionary.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          David, I am getting annoyed by what I perceive as your tendency to play the victim in a bravery debate when every piece of evidence (cf. survey) confirms you’re in the majority and the only question under discussion is whether people who disagree with you should be allowed to express their opinion at all.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Re: the extreme left end of anti-racism – yes, it’s all kind of controversial to say the least. But to me it’s a very interesting, although sometimes poorly explicated, contrarian model. What it is NOT is just run-of-the-mill tribalism directed against pale-skinned individuals for a change.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteness_studies

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Multiheaded

          Thank you that is clearer. I won’t discuss the accuracy of the premises right now (which I do dispute) since it would derail this thread, but I have a problem. Your argument is missing a conclusion.

          It is missing something of the form “Hence we should do X which would lead to Y which is good” or “Hence we should not do X which would lead to Y which is bad”.

          The weakest conclusion that I could draw: “hence we should oppose white nationalism” does not follow from the premises: it does not follow that if whiteness has been used in the past as a tool for oppression that we should oppose white nationalism now. There is a missing step in the argument: *namely that opposing white nationalism now will decrease the amount of oppression in the world (and that it won’t lead to worse consequences). Stronger conclusions such as “we should get rid of white people” or “we should eliminate whiteness as a concept” definitely don’t follow from the premises.

          *or alternatively, the missing step in the argument might be “and we should punish white people now for the sins for their ancestors”.

        • Multiheaded says:

          To make a more material argument of Stanislaw’s, I’d say that the *more intelligent and elevated* parts of the Left seem more, rather than less, likely to do what the least intelligent and elevated parts of the Right do: advocate complete destruction of enemies when there should be other options with higher utility, and when they lack the actual ability to destroy those enemies.

          I have a theory why this indeed appears to be the case, but in light of recent drama on this blog, and comments on Twitter, I’ll only say the gist of it: we perceive ourselves to be weak and pushing against an overwhelming tide of Bad Stuff, because there is no longer any mainline Left comparable even with the 1960s; a constructive mass movement, rooted in shared group interests, no longer exists. And I’m afraid this is because of a historical tectonic shift, irreversible by any political organizing.

          All we can really do is scream and complain online, at people who frequently end up screaming and complaining back; it’s a truly miserable outlet for any remaining will to change things. It’s a horrible sign that the SJ movement is the biggest thing currently going in the West! Look at the flop that was Occupy. The ancients would’ve been shocked at how far we’ve fallen. We’re being so reactionary in the technical sense because we can no longer even envision progressive mass action. Hence the desperate witch hunts that I so reluctantly support. The only game in town is so rotten. Shit’s fucked.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Multiheaded

          New strategy: my issue with the extreme left comes for my perception that no one (of the writers that I have read so far) has bothered to think about or predict what will happen if they succeed and get their way. Perhaps I’m wrong. So let me ask: could you point to a society that you think has lived up to the ideals of the extreme left? Or if not, describe what such a society would look like?

        • Multiheaded says:

          So let me ask: could you point to a society that you think has lived up to the ideals of the extreme left?

          Well, some ideals make value much more narrow than others, so I’d say that all competition here is extremely unequal if you compare us to liberals or ordinary conservatives. I’d put forth the (uncharitable) guess that reactionaries also have a rather high bar to clear, but might not be sufficiently familiar with the history of societies they like to become really disappointed in them (as unstable, irrational, whatever).

          I’d nominate Anarchist Catalonia, with some reservations, and cautiously point out that Nordic countries are usually agreed to be a working modern-day compromise. Beyond that, we see different worthy elements in different historically existing societies, just as you do. E.g. the Soviet bloc had some highs on multiculturalism and gender equality, despite its many awful aspects. (Here is a rebuttal to Bryan Caplan’s attack on the Spanish experiment.)

        • Multiheaded says:

          Also, that’s just me without Marxist mode on. A stereotypical Marxist would pretty much laugh at any speculation about “an ideal society” before the material conditions that would create it exist, call you a “bourgeois idealist” and say some determinist things.

        • Multiheaded says:

          On third thought, scratch that about Nordic countries altogether. It’s an overused, reflexive cliche and there are many reasonable objections to it from all corners. I need to evaluate where I stand more carefully before I open my damn mouth.

        • Ideal society needing material conditions? That almost makes it sound as if Marxism is technocratic or sees the future as dominated by technology the way transhumanists and singularitarians do, and yet it does not appear that way to me.

          White Nationalism? I do think that it is needed to destroy white nationalism, such as it exists, as it is a terrible mess of racial hatred. That said, I think that there is something beyond hatred in a sense of pan-European sentiment, and also that most white people who define and own the white identity are not white nationalist.

    • I thought Scott was saying that if there was more housing, competition wouldn’t be a problem, not that there should be blatantly separated housing. He’s not using Left and Right as metonyms for the rich and the poor; he’s describing each side’s elite. I don’t think I’ve ever really heard a clearly articulated claim of a specific harm other than the rapidly increasing price of housing and other amenities due to demand (from people who can pay) outstripping supply. The other complaints seem to be to the effect that rich people exist and are not poor.

      (I’d add that the combination of meritocratic ideology, the “poor as temp. embarrassed millionaires” (uncommon outside white poor?), and this awful late-democratic idea that people are independent from each other less some minor “service to society” leads to some really nasty outcomes as well as a lot of paper wealth being thrown around. When class war is added in, heaven help you.)

      In any case, though, technology created this class problem, and will steamroll it in time and give us another.

      • Multiheaded says:

        I’d add that the combination of meritocratic ideology, the “poor as temp. embarrassed millionaires” (uncommon outside white poor?), and this awful late-democratic idea that people are independent from each other less some minor “service to society” leads to some really nasty outcomes as well as a lot of paper wealth being thrown around. When class war is added in, heaven help you.

        Strongly agree.

      • Andy says:

        I don’t think I’ve ever really heard a clearly articulated claim of a specific harm other than the rapidly increasing price of housing and other amenities due to demand (from people who can pay) outstripping supply. The other complaints seem to be to the effect that rich people exist and are not poor.

        Here’s one:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/opinion/what-tech-hasnt-learned-from-urban-planning.html
        The urbanist ideal is to have a large number of people from different companies interacting with each other and small businesses in their area- sandwich shops and cafes are mentioned in the article – and tech companies tend to do everything in-house. The areas they move into get a sudden shock of rent increases, which drive small business out. The tech companies aren’t creating new customers because like Facebook, they have their own coffeeshops on-site that are Employees-Only. This removes opportunities for interaction and engagement with the street, which is a sin to most of us New Urbanist fanatics.
        It’s too early to tell whether this’ll change over time, and new businesses will replace the old, but I can think of some gradual changes tech companies could make: working with local small businesses instead of building their own on-site services, or making agreements asking landlords to not raise the rent on small-businessy neighbors. I don’t know enough about the Bay Area’s zoning to comment if that’s a factor in this phenomenon. But the sealed-off “company building” is troubling.

        • Vaniver says:

          But the sealed-off “company building” is troubling.

          But the business value of the sealed-off company building is massive. If employees from my company can just order coffee or food to their desks, or go to the company cafeteria and talk with other employees, they’re spending extra time on the job. And meal times are especially valuable, because people relax and bounce ideas off each other and innovate more.
          When employees eat or drink alone, ideas die, but baristas don’t have to move out of the Bay Area. I’d rather have the ideas than the baristas. (Although, if the startup is employing their own baristas, this seems to be primarily a loss to the storefront small business owners, not back-end supply businesses or workers.)

        • Andy says:

          But the business value of the sealed-off company building is massive.

          So which is more important, the company or the community it sits in? One reason local governments are competing for tech companies to move there is the idea that tech workers will be spending money on local businesses and sales taxes instead of sealing themselves off.
          Also, in my years as a tech worker before I went back to school, the 15 minutes of going to the corner store and buying an orange, a window of time where I could look at the neighborhood and not breathe company air was invaluable for my being able to survive that job at all.
          My feeling is that if tech companies move into an area, trying to be part of the larger community instead of making all time company time may pay off in local PR and defusing some of the problems like the Bay Area’s.
          Some of the policy proposals I’ve been turning over in my head are: Asking local landlords to hold off on raising rents for a 3- or 5-year period as part of a Development Agreement or Area Specific Plan, until the local market settles down. Asking landlords not to kick out businesses or residents unless they’re seriously behind in rents.

        • Really? It’s another side of the way that modern professionals are chained to their desks all the time? Oh god.

        • Kevin says:

          But the business value of the sealed-off company building is massive.

          Only if the company ignores everything outside of itself, as well as decades of research about human productivity.

          • David Gerard says:

            I’m sure technical types are in no danger of ignoring the entirety of knowledge in a field and thinking they can reinvent it from scratch in a few months.

      • Multiheaded says:

        The other complaints seem to be to the effect that rich people exist and are not poor.

        There’s a proud, mighty, now-dying tradition focused around claims that (many) rich people are rich because poor people are poor. I happen to cautiously agree with it in some regards. One reads the most damning things occasionally, like this.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      How is anyone supporting class segregation? All I’m doing is saying there should be taller buildings so everyone can afford to live in the same place!

      • Multiheaded says:

        …so everyone can afford to live in the same place

        Daymn. Sorry! Really getting more paranoid than is proper. The international reactionary conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids evidently hasn’t completely overtaken you yet.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Like this.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I don’t feel like this was a statement too amenable to misinterpretation. Taller buildings leading to a greater supply of housing leading to lower prices and more affordability for everyone is the whole point of having tall buildings and basically the way cities work. I also think the linked Slate article explained this pretty explicitly.

          This is not the first time you’ve misinterpreted me and then accused me of one or another ism, and being accused of isms is kind of triggery for me. I think I’ve given you a few warnings already. And with more and more people commenting here and taking the opportunity to accuse me of stuff, I’m starting to feel like I should be more aggressive in protecting my sanity.

          I’m not going to enforce a ban against you at this time, but maybe think very very carefully whether you’re contributing to the discussion before commenting here further?

        • Multiheaded says:

          Time for a break. Really, sorry, dude. Like, really, sorry. I admit I’ve never been in a situation like yours, so I guess it’s rather easy for me to end up a totally inconsiderate jerk for no personal gain.

          Um… Scott… does the secret treehouse still exist? I’m thinking I might be more welcome back there.

        • a person says:

          Scott, I feel like lately you’ve been weirdly biased towards reactionaries and against leftists. I’m not a reactionary so this isn’t a bravery debate or anything. Why did you call out Multiheaded and David Gerard in this thread and say nothing about that guy James Donald in the Empire/Forest Fire comment section who was going around saying that the majority of rape victims are lying drunken whores, in those exact words?

          It might just be me, sorry if it is.

        • a person says:

          I meant to say I’m not a leftist, sorry. (I’m not a leftist or a reactionary.)

        • Multiheaded says:

          Why did you call out Multiheaded and David Gerard in this thread and say nothing about that guy James Donald in the Empire/Forest Fire comment section who was going around saying that the majority of rape victims are lying drunken whores, in those exact words?

          Well, I’m personally ok with the notion that Scott does so because he – thankfully – hasn’t been a victim of gender-on-gender oppression (AFAIK, sorry if wrong), but did suffer what he perceives as slander and aggression from overzealous leftists. …Some might call me a cynic, but to me there’s nothing wrong with it; everybody has the basic right to fight for their own self-interest and even take it to heart above others’ concerns. I don’t want universal altruism, I just want people to have respect for one another’s self-interest in a more equitable society where the worst-off are still entitled to a decent life and dignity.

          And so I feel Scott is entirely correct to lay blame on me here, and it’s unethical to demand “fairness” and “impartiality” on the matter from him.

        • Nick T says:

          My guess, related to Multiheaded’s but more specific, is that Scott, being liberal by background, finds it psychologically easy to write off JAD as a raving loon when he finds him objectionable, but feels like leftists are moral agents who he’s obligated to engage with (and who are reciprocally obligated to use and listen to reason, and are dangerous when they aren’t reasonable, because he can’t as freely call them raving loons).

        • a person says:

          I don’t think Scott considers that guy a raving loon – he’s cited and written responses to several of his blog posts in his discussion of reactionary thought.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If you want to know why Scott called them out, don’t guess, but instead read the reasons he gave.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I haven’t called out anyone for anything in that Forest Fire thread because I stopped reading it a few days after I posted it after everyone started acting like idiots (I think I might have responded to one or two things that the blog somehow threw up into my news feed)

          Also, I tend to treat attacks on me personally, or other commenters personally, somewhat less leniently than attacks on vague categories of third parties who are not reading them.

        • a person says:

          I’d be pretty surprised if there are zero rape victims who read this blog. But thanks for the explanation, it makes more sense now.

      • Andy says:

        Though taller buildings can create some unpleasant side-effects, like unpleasantly shadowed urban canyons and not being able to landscape decently because you get no light. This is one problem that LA’s odd system of “air rights” set out to solve. Each building gets up to 13 stories, and can buy “Air rights” to unused floors from a neighboring structure. This is how the 73-story US Bank Tower got built right next to the 5-story LA Central Library, and coincidentally helped fund a great deal of the Library’s recovery from its arson fire. The US Bank Tower bough air rights from a whole bunch of other buildings, and our last mayor vetoed a plan to sell off air rights from a convention center to allow more high-rise development in the downtown region.
        On the other hand, I think in SF you’d be dealing with more than light and air, you’d be dealing with people’s views. And given the temper tantrums I’ve seen here in LA suburbs when someone wants to put up a two-story structure in between someone else and a nice ocean view… Good luck. Because in theory, that’s causing harm to the property values of the uphill neighbors – that might result in not only a lot of yelling at the city council meetings, it might result in an expensive court case as a taking of property value. I am not a lawyer or professional planner, I am a geography student focusing on urban planning, but as I understand it from my land use planning law class last semester:
        Here’s the legal background: By the US Constitution’s 5th Amendment, the government may not take property for public use without paying compensation to the owner of the property. In the Pennsylvania Coal v. Mahon case in 1922, the Supreme Court ruled that a regulation that reduced the value of a property (ex, a law outlawing coal mining in an area where that’s the only real use of land) constituted a “Regulatory taking,” for which the owner of the property must be compensated by the government. This has see-sawed back and forth between different Supreme Court cases, which I shall not bore you with, but it’s been contentious, because a lot of money can be at stake. California’s figured in a lot of these cases.
        The current last word in regulatory taking is “First English,” short for First English Evangelical Lutheran Church v. Los Angeles County in 1987. This was one where a moratorium on building in flood zones effectively made it impossible for a church camp to rebuild after a fire. The Supreme Court’s opinion reinstated monetary compensation for a regulatory taking (as noted above, the interpretation of the Constitution had seesawed quite a bit in the 65 years sing Pennsylvania Coal) and introduced the idea of a temporary taking, roughly analogous to the government renting part of the value of a property for a time with its regulation.
        So where does this leave SF? Bearing in mind that I’m not familiar with the SF Bay Area’s geography, zoning, or local politics, I speculate that people who own properties with a view line that crosses the area where you’d put tall buildings feel that their views of the Bay adds monetary value to their property. If SF allows taller buildings, that then block these people’s (hereafter referred to as “upview neighbors,” because there’s not a good word in my lexicon for this phenomenon) nice scenic views and replace them with bricklike apartment and office complexes, there might be room to sue not the owners or developers of the tall buildings, but the city for allowing the tall buildings that reduced their property values. And if they won, the City would then have to pay each of them a value, in dollars and cents, representing how much value their properties had lost. This would be an extreme stretch of the case law to my knowledge, but with a sufficiently well-funded counsel to the plaintiffs, it could be done. And there’s enough NIMBY and BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing anywhere Near Anything) groups and lawyers around to make a case that could make a new precedent.
        And in the (very likely) event that I’m comletely wrong about the legal aspects, there’s the high probability of community outrage over “You’re despoiling our views!” and “Not in my backyard!” and quite likely a lot of the same antigentrification crowd yelling about “destroying our city!” for… not very much in immediate perceptible benefits, though the utilitarian benefits of taller buildings/more density could I imagine be quantified. But then you’d have to make the argument that these benefits outweighed the costs, to a room full of hippies who are invested in their personal outrage.
        Good luck.. Though the tech companies are free to try their luck in Downtown LA, where we have excellent network infrastructure, a number of server farms already, and a number of close tech-centered schools with bright, energetic students. Also, we have bacon-wrapped hot dogs on every street corner. What’s not to like?

    • suntzuanime says:

      The proletariat’s “problem” is that outgroup members are getting wealth and status.

      “When free market democracy is pursued in the presence of a market-dominant minority, the almost invariable result is backlash. This backlash typically takes one of three forms. The first is a backlash against markets, targeting the market-dominant minority’s wealth. The second is a backlash against democracy by forces favorable to the market-dominant minority. The third is violence, sometimes genocidal, directed against the market-dominant minority itself.”

      This theory was advanced regarding *ethnic* minorities, but I think “techie scum” are alien enough to ordinary human beings that they count.

  9. Matt Simpson says:

    More on the Oklahoma city hospital that just tells people up front what they charge and lets them pay with money. It all makes sense up until the point where the insurance companies are arraying themselves against his cost-saving measures. Why wouldn’t insurance companies want their patients to go to the lowest-cost hospital possible?

    My first guess: cheap health care means health insurance on the current scale is no longer necessary – people will choose to buy less health insurance and pay for more out of pocket. The insurance companies are protecting their long term business interests.

    Second guess: insurance companies are perhaps required to tie their premiums to actual health costs with some sort of percentage mark up. Lower costs = lower premiums and lower profits.

    Something casually mentioned in that article to shout from the rooftops: the hospitals are competing for, among other people, patients from Canada. This despite Canada’s free health care system. Why would they pay for care in the U.S. when they can get it for free in the U.S.? Use econ 101 and you can probably figure it out.

  10. Doug S. says:

    I’ve read that people from Northern Ireland can tell the difference between Protestants and Catholics by looking at them. It was in a book of anecdotes by one of those successful rich large corporate manager types; he asked someone from there how the sides managed to tell each other apart because Protestants and Catholics look the same, and the person said that no, it was easy to tell who was what – and then proceeded to pick out the one Catholic in a room of twenty people, all Americans. The conclusion he drew from this story is that when it becomes very important to make a distinction, people get very good at making that distinction, regardless of how subtle the cues are.

    • Roman Davis says:

      … I feel like I can tell if a girl is single or not. I’m not sure how I do this.

      I’m also pretty sure I can tell if a man is gay or not (something to do with the face) and, while I’m a little less sure, who is a Jehova’s Witness.

  11. David Gerard says:

    “In my Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous Planet-Sized Nutshell post, I speculated on how quickly leftists would turn against immigration if immigrants tended to hold rightist beliefs.”

    This appears not to be happening in the UK, where a pile of the most furiously-defended immigrants are Pakistan’s equivalent of backwoods rednecks.

    • JTHM says:

      From The Guardian:

      “Only one in 20 of those who call themselves Muslim say that they “generally” consider themselves to be Conservative compared, with 42% who consider themselves Labour (the national figures are 23% Conservative and 28% Labour). Similarly, 49% of Muslims claim they feel that the Labour party has been most friendly towards the Muslim faith over recent years, compared with 6% who think that the Conservatives have been.”

      Source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/feb/22/muslim-voters-labour?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

      • David Gerard says:

        This says little about the beliefs.

        • Matt S Trout says:

          If they support leftist parties surely for political purposes one can file them under ‘effectively leftist’? This seems like an instrumental vs. epistemic distinction where the data reflect the former and you’re pointing out that the latter is different.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I think the point is that Political Bloc X will support immigration if and only if the immigrants move the electorate towards Political Bloc X more than they move it away.

      • coffeespoons says:

        It seems to me that Muslims vote Labour because Labour (and the left in general) have been so pro-Muslim, not because Muslims actually hold (centre) left-wing views.

        • David Gerard says:

          Pretty much. The Tories has also been tooting the anti-immigration horn the last couple of elections, alienating immigrants who would otherwise be natural Tory voters.

        • Andy says:

          The Tories has also been tooting the anti-immigration horn the last couple of elections, alienating immigrants who would otherwise be natural Tory voters.

          A similar phenomenon has been happening with the Republican Party and the Muslim community if the US. The Republican Party engaged in a whole bunch of anti-Muslim signaling as a proxy for pro-America signaling, and alienating voters who would otherwise be Republicans.
          http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/2012/11/the-gop-and-me.html

        • BenSix says:

          I doubt that it’s anti-immigration policies that alienate immigrant voters. (Once they come in a lot of them are anti-immigration themselves.) I think it is more liable to be the fact that when you are quite poor, income redistribution, social services and unemployment and disability benefits sound like a pretty nice idea.

          If right wing parties tried to appeal to immigrant communities by supporting liberal migration policies I suspect that the few incomers they might bring around would be cancelled out by the left-wing voters who came in with them.

    • It’s my impression that right-wing Third World immigrants tend not to care that much about the society they immigrate into, and lack the power to control it (I.e. fears of sharia law are overblown, one needs to worry about honor killings of Pakistanis before the eyes of Europe but not of one’s own) but left-wing-ness of immigrants affects the whole society.

      Also, I think that the right-wing-ness of these immigrants is often orthogonal to the left-wing ideas that can be advanced for them, as they will still be poor and can plausibly be claimed to have suffered from colonialism.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Perhaps Scott could amend that statement to:

      “how quickly leftists would turn against immigration if immigrants tended to vote for the other party”

  12. coffeespoons says:

    In my Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous Planet-Sized Nutshell post, I speculated on how quickly leftists would turn against immigration if immigrants tended to hold rightist beliefs. In proof that great minds think alike, Popehat tells the same story with a much cooler science fiction twist.

    That really doesn’t seem to be true with regard to Muslim immigration to the UK. The Muslim community is fairly rightist, but the left still seem to be very positive about it.

    • Multiheaded says:

      I see a previously unstaked cynical position: rightists are wrong about the leftists/liberals being secretly as racist as themselves but more hypocritical – liberals genuinely are less xenophobic – but correct about them only caring about fashionable beliefs and not the well-being of the oppressed. So liberals might be genuinely tolerant of immigrants but care little for their rightist politics, because they have no real interest in preventing the effects of said politics on the ground.

      • That’s actually more or less my claim (above). I’d add that some leftists have elaborate methods of tripping over their own cultural relativism when Third World traditional patriarchy is concerned.

  13. Ada says:

    Part of me wants to say it’s a terrible idea from a safety point of view and will be sued to oblivion after the first incident, but then again, if Couchsurfer can work maybe this can too.

    Fortunately/unfortunately most of the people using this resource are in no position to sue. (Then again, I suppose any number of rich anti-trans groups would have reason to try and get standing to sue after a well-publicized enough incident).

      • Mark says:

        That was incredibly painful to read.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          “Bertrand Russell says an ATHEIST thing, but the Ten Commandments say a CHRISTIAN thing. And since Christianity is right and beautiful, clearly the Ten Commandments are better than Bertrand Russell”.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t think that’s really the format his criticism takes (except perhaps #6). It is more like:
          “Bertrand Russell says an ATHEIST thing, but the Ten Commandments say a CHRISTIAN thing. And Bertrand’s justifications don’t tend to support his point or else aren’t clearly actually conductive to civilization.

          Now, maybe you’re just asserting that the reason VD finds Russell’s arguments uncompelling is that he already has his bottom line written… but I would be interested in reading a more considered take down.

        • Mark says:

          I mean, he’s comparing apples to oranges. The author is imagining that Russell’s commandments are actually supposed to be direct replacements for/atheistic analogues to the Ten Commandments. But that’s ridiculous. They’re not supposed to be the definitive, normative guide to objective morality. They’re just a collection of witty aphorisms related to issues of intellectual honesty that Russell happened to be interested in. The resemblance to the actual Ten Commandments is part of a joke.

          How tiresome would it get if every time you, an atheist, complained under your breath that “there’s nothing new under the sun,” some Christian apologist immediately replied that you have no valid epistemic basis for saying so because you don’t believe in the Book of Ecclesiastes?

        • Randy M says:

          >The resemblance to the actual Ten Commandments is part of a joke.


          I think the resemblance to the ten commandments is more of an implicit rebuke of them than a mere gag. Overall, The piece itself doesn’t seem to be a joke, from the article discussing it. “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows,”. Bertrand Russell doesn’t seem to be saying “Hey, here’s a good idea,” but closer to “I’ve got a better list of rules upon which to build a society” –the “disposition” that “remains the hope of humanity”, which I think makes the linked critique fair.


          >>”How tiresome would it get if every time you, an atheist, complained…”

          Well, be fair, the piece was not muttered, but printed, and the reply was not immediate but some decades later, and linked in response to a request for disagreement of it. So I don’t think the analogy of the hectoring apologist holds.
          Though, I think there’s a few other ironic things that could be said about your example than merely noting the fact that the athiest is lifting from the Bible in general.

        • Mark says:

          I think the resemblance to the ten commandments is more of an implicit rebuke of them than a mere gag. Overall, The piece itself doesn’t seem to be a joke, from the article discussing it. “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows,”. Bertrand Russell doesn’t seem to be saying “Hey, here’s a good idea,” but closer to “I’ve got a better list of rules upon which to build a society” –the “disposition” that “remains the hope of humanity”, which I think makes the linked critique fair.

          Certainly he rebukes the theological parts of the Ten Commandments. But do you really, seriously think that Russell believes “having intelligent discussion” is a more important foundational principle for a healthy society than “not stealing,” or even “not suppressing contrary opinions” than “not murdering people in general?” I read
          Russell not as listing the absolute most important principles it’s possible to instill in a person, but the ones he feels are least appreciated in the modern context (one where a populace’s intellectual hygiene has humongous policy impact.) Hence the curmudgeonly tone of the piece. And I certainly don’t read him as saying anything that requires a One True Source of Objective Morality! You don’t need that to believe, for example, that being “scrupulously truthful” is a very good idea.

          Also, I didn’t say the piece was a joke. I said the format is, and additionally that the aphoristic writing style isn’t meant to be taken entirely seriously. Which is why I found it so obnoxious that the author appeared to take every word pretty much literally. You have to be spectacularly uncharitable to interpret “Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed” complete at face value, as the blog post seemed to do.

          Well, be fair, the piece was not muttered, but printed, and the reply was not immediate but some decades later, and linked in response to a request for disagreement of it. So I don’t think the analogy of the hectoring apologist holds.

          I regret my hyperbolic and distracting wording. The post is still a rapid-fire succession of low-quality, tendentious replies to maximally uncharitable readings, which is what the analogy was meant to communicate (in addition to the particular religious flavor thereof).

      • Mark says:

        And of course I forgot to mention the most relevant part of Russell’s article. You quote him saying

        “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows…”

        But the immediately preceding paragraph reads,

        “Perhaps the liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one, but only to supplement it.

        So I really can’t see how you can possibly interpret his commandments as a complete rebuke.

  14. There is a very simple reason insurance companies no longer want to reduce the cost of medicine. Medicare (and now Obamacare) cap the medical loss ratio. Suppose an insurance company takes in $100. They must (by law) spend at least $80 on medical costs, and the remainder is distributed between administrative expenses and profit (mostly the former). If medical costs drop to $40, they must reduce admin expenses + profit to $10.

    https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/medical-loss-ratio-MLR/

    http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Health-Insurance-Market-Reforms/Medical-Loss-Ratio.html

    Amusingly, one easy way to game these ratios is to spend less money reducing waste, fraud and abuse. If an insurance company spends 1% of revenue to reduce waste/fraud/abuse by 2% of revenue, this hurts both their numerator and denominator: (cost + 1%) / (revenue – 2%).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      That is super super terrifying.

      • Paul Torek says:

        Unless you believe the free-market theory that says consumers will flock to an insurance company with lower costs, allowing the company to make more $ overall by making fewer per customer.

        You’re right. It’s super scary.

        • Matt Simpson says:

          In the U.S., individual people typically don’t pick insurance companies – the company they work for does. This has some benefits (bulk policy discounts, e.g.) but the cost is that the person consuming the insurance often has no option to choose the cheaper option. Theoretically the employers could take advantage of the lower costs, and they might, but there’s a lot of room for inefficiency here – the principle agent problem is a problem, after all.

      • St. Rev says:

        This is a well-known phenomenon.

        You may not be old enough to remember when banks were akin to Greek temples–marble and gilding everywhere, huge atriums, etc. etc. This was a consequence of statutory limits on banking profits–to increase their profits, they had to inflate their operating expenses. Deregulation of the industry in the 80s had the side effect of much shabbier banks!

    • Benquo says:

      Less harmful way to game system might be to find a way to redistribute what used to be called administrative expenses this medical expenses. After all, isn’t deciding which treatments people get a medical decision? And isn’t the cost of a medical decision a medical expense?

  15. Anonymous says:

    A new survey on self-described libertarians: 6% support Obamacare, 26% support stronger environmental regulation, 30% oppose physician-assisted suicide, 31% want to make it harder to access Internet pornography, 41% want to make it harder to get abortions, 60% oppose same-sex marriage. Conclusion: pretty much anyone can call themselves a libertarian.

    It might be worth looking at the underlying paper. Not only is there some goofy methodology matters, the reporting on the surveys have conflated or outright confused people calling themselves libertarians and people that the survey designers considered libertarian. There aren’t any reported numbers on self-identified libertarian positions on Obamacare, 52% support higher environment regulation, 33% oppose physician-assisted suicide, 58% want to make it harder to access internet porn, 35% want to make it harder to get abortions, and 36% oppose same-sex marriage. The numbers you used were those produces not for self-identified libertarians, but those made by the study’s rather strange “Libertarian Orientation Scale”.

    Oddly, several other attributes had self-identified libertarians embracing government power more than Libertarian Orientation Scale folk, but only on select topics : self-ID’d libertarians were more likely to support environmental regulation (52 v 26), increases to the minimum wage (63% to 35%) and restrictions on internet pornography (58% to 31%), but there was little gap on the topic of restricting abortion (35% to 41%), marijuana (67% to 71%), euthanasia (66% to 60%).

    See page 35 of the full study for these numbers. Since the Libertarian Orientation Scale explicitly bases itself on marijuana legalization, pornography, minimum wages, and a few questions that they didn’t survey, it’s not surprising that it predicts for marijuana legalization. It is surprising that it doesn’t predict pornography or minimum wage, which it specifically measures for — but perhaps there are confounding factors, or the questions were formatted or presented to cover different topics.

    ((This also means that it’s not as much folk calling themselves libertarian — since self-ID’d libertarians support it more than the general populace, which support it more than LibertarianOrientationScale!Libertarians — as the study’s Libertarian Orientation Scale being… well, wrong, at least for the topic of gay marriage. The 58% of self-ID’d libertarians wanting to increase restriction on internet porn and 63% wanting to increase the minimum wage are probably more illustrative, but they’ve also got confounding factors.))

    • gattsuru says:

      Sorry, that was me. Apologies for putting it up as anonymous.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good points! Thanks!

    • synapseandsyntax says:

      I admit to puzzlement about why support for increased environmental legislation should be considered a libertarian heresy. Obviously the details matter here, but a finding like “libertarians want the state to stop people from dumping toxic waste on other people’s lawns” is not very surprising, is it?

      • Andy says:

        Most libertarians I’ve had that argument with felt that disputes over environmental quality would be better handled through the courts – IE, if you dump toxic waste on my lawn, I have to hire a lawyer and drag you into court and prove that your toxic waste has harmed my lawn, rather than the government making a law saying you can’t dump toxic waste anywhere.

        • synapseandsyntax says:

          When I google “libertarian carbon tax”, the first result is from Reason Magazine’s blog, and is in favor. The editorial line at Reason is pretty close to my idea of “thoughtful libertarianism worth paying attention to”, which may differ from the beliefs of the modal self-described libertarian, let alone the modal autre-disant Libertarian-Oriented Person.

          In fact the best I could find, among people I’d consider serious, was Tyler Cowen sort of musing against carbon taxation as an intellectual exercise. I realize the No True Libertarian problem I’m courting here, so I’ll just leave it at that.

          I don’t know what’s up with the appeal of treating pollution as a tort rather than a crime (or a tax liability), though.

        • Andy says:

          When I google “libertarian carbon tax”, the first result is from Reason Magazine’s blog, and is in favor. The editorial line at Reason is pretty close to my idea of “thoughtful libertarianism worth paying attention to”, which may differ from the beliefs of the modal self-described libertarian, let alone the modal autre-disant Libertarian-Oriented Person.

          Ah. I hadn’t been looking at Reason. My sources for this line of argument had mainly been Tea-Party-oriented science fiction fans for whom government and collectivism were always The Enemy, and the EPA stood for liberal tree-huggers trying to force people back into the Stone Age. Not terribly thoughtful argument, from some very bright people who were nonetheless slaves to their prejudices and manufactured outrage.

  16. roystgnr says:

    41% want to make it harder to get abortions

    This was a weird insertion. Libertarian ethics clearly supports allowing you to destroy your own property and opposes allowing you to destroy other people, but doesn’t seem to have a big advantage over any other ethical system when trying to answer the question of when blastocysts stop being property and start being people.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Very good point.

    • Randy M says:

      The inclusion indicates that the researchers expect an anti-abortion position to be evidence of libertarian inconsistency, which indicates that they not only have their own answer to the question of when humans are worth protecting, but don’t take seriously anyone elses profession of an alternate view.

      Which would probably be par for the course for social science that looks at political views and tries to divine people’s true motivations.

  17. nydwracu says:

    Mormons can often recognize other Mormons on sight, even in pictures stripped of any remotely plausible symbol of religious affiliation.

    I wonder if this also holds for Adventists, who have even stronger dietary restrictions than Mormons (thanks, Kellogg!). No alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine (not even chocolate!) and vegetarianism is strongly encouraged, though apparently not that strongly practiced — Wikipedia says 35%. They do have a lifespan advantage similar to that of Mormons.

    My mother says she’s sometimes identified as an Adventist from very little information, though I don’t think it’s on sight. (She was raised Adventist, but left, and doesn’t follow any of the dietary prohibitions* except for the ones about pepper and usually-but-not-always fish and alcohol.)

    There’s an Adventist health food store near where I live. They have a wide variety of carob products. America is weird. (Which is the whole point, and one of the best things about it.)