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Links For March 2014

The fax machine was invented in 1843 and fully automated in 1881. I feel like the engineers of those days must be laughing at us for needing digital technology to transmit information.

Someone checks to see if any papers by the joke paper-generator software SCIgen have actually made it into publication; finds 120 of them in various scientific fields. On the one hand, it’s mostly small conferences in China and the like. On the other, it’s getting a lot harder to make fun of those Sokal people.

The troubled relationships between atheism and conservativism. Both the president of the American Atheists and the director of the Secular Coalition of America identify as conservatives. But a lot of atheists object to any conservative in a leadership position. And American Atheists got their booth kicked out of the Conservative Political Action Conference as an “attack on God Himself.” Also, I should feel bad for being amused that CPAC is being held in the Gaylord National Convention Center.

Apple unveils memorial to hideous alien centipede Steve Jobs. Something less than a fitting tribute to a man known for the aesthetic excellence of his products.

IMF takes the stand that inequality is damaging to economic growth. But, they ask, is the cure worse than the disease?. And then they conclude ‘no’ and say countries should redistribute money. +1 unexpected.

Object-level versus meta-level political thinking in one picture. Well, mostly just object-level.

Empiricism! Half of the police officers in a medium-sized town were randomly assigned to wear body cameras that recorded their actions. Number of complaints against officers dropped 88%, and police officers were 60% less likely to use force. Which is confusing, as both of those numbers are greater than 50%, suggesting that there must have been some change among the cameraless officers as well. Spillover effects or fundamental problem with the experiment? Full study here.

Science Based Medicine, which is about as conservative and establishment as you’re going to get, writes about dieting, and declares that diets should not make you hungry, fat is not the enemy, and willpower is not the problem. Probably safe to say these ideas are now officially mainstream.

The Book of Revelations declares that a bunch of people will be killed by a star named Wormwood. On one level, it’s quite interesting that “Chernobyl” may be Ukrainian for “wormwood”. On a higher level, it’s even more interesting that different interpreters have read the same prophecy as referring to the Chernobyl meltdown, the emperor Constantine, Pelagius’ denial of original sin, and the rise of Attila the Hun. This does not speak well for the quality of the prophecy interpretation industry.

Included because I’ll include anything if it has a clever enough name: There Is No American Meritocracy As Long As People Are Naming Their Kids Truffles. Libertarianish blogger rejects the idea of American society being fair or a pure meritocracy (okay, with you so far) but also of solving the problem by throwing welfare money at it (still sooooorta with you) and so concludes that the solution must be more early childhood interventions. I’m still kind of with her, but her own article mostly concludes that the problem is intrinsic to the culture of poor groups (like naming their kids Truffles) so I’m not sure why she thinks ‘eliminating homophobia’ and ‘knocking down shitty public schools’ and all the other things she’s proposing are the solutions.

Why I Can’t Stand Asian Musicians Who Play Beethoven – this article is approximately what I think of everyone who uses the word “appropriation”.

Browser Dating – “a singles community exclusively for users of Internet Explorer”. I assume this is fake, but it brings up some of the same Poe’s Law-esque uncertainty as Sea Captain Date.

Muslim scholars look for the most Islamically governed country in the world, decide upon New Zealand. Hint: THEY MAYBE SORT OF REDEFINED ISLAM AS LIBERALISM.

Add Courage Wolf to Calming Manatee and you get Calmage Wolfatee!

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Giant corporations were a big player in Arizona’s decision to veto right-to-discriminate-against-gays laws. In response, the American Conservative decides Karl Marx was a pretty smart guy.

There is a moderately serious movement to build a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast to counterbalance the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast. I am torn between thinking it is a symbolically appropriate gimmick, and thinking we probably have better things to spend money on than symbolically appropriate gimmicks. But the design (a pair of clasped hands) is absolutely awful and breaks the parallelism with SoL, so forget about it.

In rem are a form of legal case in which the defendant is property rather than an individual. This can lead to some very humorous case names, like Quantity of Books vs. Kansas, United States vs. Approximately 64,695 Pounds Of Shark Fins, and United States vs. 11 1/4 Dozen Packages of Articles Labeled In Part “Mrs. Moffat’s Shoo-Fly Powders for Drunkenness.

Interview with Charles Koch CTRL-F “your political views” if you want to skip through interminable business stuff. He seems like a kind, intelligent, reasonable person, just like everybody else who is ruining the world.

Bo-meme-ian Rhapsody.

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254 Responses to Links For March 2014

  1. Anon says:

    You post that last link and yet get upset at people who like doge?

    Wow, such hypocrite, very disappointed, 0/10

  2. Cyan says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen even one person — of any political stripe — defend that Salon article Volokh is panning. Conclusion: it’s very successful linkbait; mission accomplished, Salon editors!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I dunno, a lot of people on Tumblr reblog the heck out of all this appropriation stuff.

      • Jai says:

        I was skeptical, so I googled “site:tumblr.com appropriation”. Now I am sad.

        • Cyan says:

          I’m not a participant or lurker in the tumblrsphere or whatever it’s called, so I never thought to look there. I Googled specifically for comment on the article in question; I found this, which has no actual content beyond a “yay” of the yay/boo variety (and so I stand corrected), and this rather measured observation, which, in spite of its title, doesn’t actually defend the article. Hmm.

      • Sebastian says:

        Well, tumblr is tumblr, but also the Salon article is hardly a shining example of nuanced discussion of cultural appropriation.

        I think the idea that if you’re going to take an aspect of someone’s life which has deep historical/religous/cultural significance, then it would be wise and kind to try to understand that significance and question whether your use is likely to hurt people is quite a good one.

        Obviously the idea that no white westerner should ever make use of any of the trappings of any other culture is completely bonkers, but with a few outlying exceptions, that’s a parody of the position of most people who think cultural appropriation is something worth giving thought to.

        • blacktrance says:

          It seems to me that even if people don’t like a specific instance of cultural appropriation, it doesn’t mean that anyone should stop doing it. Suppose I was forced to eat broccoli as a child and I have traumatic associations with it. That doesn’t mean that people should stop eating broccoli to appease me. The same goes for cultural appropriation. If something merely bothers you (as opposed to, say, physically injuring you), it’s your problem and making others stop doing it is not an acceptable solution.

        • Sebastian says:

          I entirely agree with you that “making others stop doing it is not an acceptable solution”. But I don’t see why that doesn’t mean that anyone should stop doing it.

          I choose not to do lots of hurtful things that I could do, and I’m all for encouraging others to do the same.

        • I also am less than impressed by that article. While East Asian vs European is a *sort-of* comparison, people who write about appropriation tend to consider privilege differential to be totally universal and totally important — it wouldn’t be cultural appropriation for Asians to play European music, but rather could be construed as Westerners displacing and diminishing traditional forms of Asian music.

          I do think that there are some fairly serious forms of cultural appropriation. Many of these will satisfy one of the following tests:

          – Seems aesthetically degenerate and awful even to more enlightened Westerners (or whoever the would-be appropriators are.)
          – Is done without any real contact or engagement with the source culture.
          – Isn’t even really appropriative, but just full of hostile or super-shallow sterotypes.
          – Somehow ignores an incredibly obvious native option, such as people who ignore European regional culture (which is incredibly diverse, beautiful, and interesting even within individual nations or tongues) in favor of something further away.
          – Takes something that isn’t considered particularly sexual in its original context, such as belly dancing or even twerking, and makes it extremely focused on sex within the modern Western unsensual but sexually-liberated context

    • Nate says:

      Salon has pretty much completed its long journey to becoming Fox News North. Paul Campos has a decent article in there sometimes, but it’s otherwise unreadable junk.

  3. Max says:

    The response to SB 1062 has raised my confidence that repealing the CRA of 1964 would be an extremely good thing, as it would surely result in enormous gains to economic efficiency without any risk whatsoever of reviving Jim Crow. The response to SB 1062 has also raised my confidence that this will never, ever happen.

    Hard to read tone in text, but do you sincerely think Charles Koch’s political activities have had a net negative impact on the world? That seems pretty weird, because in my mind he’s practically a secular saint.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The only thing of his I know a lot about is his funding of global warming skepticism, which I think is probably wrong and a big net loss for the world. I don’t know much about his general libertarian stuff, but it’s hard to imagine it making up for that.

      • Max says:

        Funny, his funding of global warming skepticism is one of the activities that I thought made him worthy of being called a secular saint. Do you know any good sources of information designed to address the criticisms of skeptics? I’ve done what I feel is a reasonable amount of research on the subject and am pretty confident that no intelligent person could be anything other than skeptical if exposed to the same stuff I’ve seen, but I remain open to the idea that I simply haven’t been reading the right pro-warming arguments.

        • Doug S. says:

          You can make compelling-sounding arguments for just about anything. And it’s even easier if you’re willing to tell lies.

          When a significant fraction of climate scientists employed by universities become global warming skeptics, I’ll stop considering funding global warming skepticism as morally bankrupt as funding “skepticism” about whether or not tobacco causes lung cancer or whether HIV is the cause of AIDS.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Do you think it’s a good general rule never to argue with anything a majority of university professors believes?

        • Doug S. says:

          If you are not a PhD-level expert in a field and you disagree with a position taken by a 95% majority of credentialed experts in that field (and you can’t persuade them otherwise), you are almost certainly wrong. Granted, the experts may indeed be wrong about something, but that doesn’t make every other possible position right!

          (I don’t even have to make an exception for religion here. No religion has even a bare majority of the world’s population following it, let alone a 95% supermajority, but experts do tend to agree on what each religion says and how it is practiced, at least in broad strokes, even if they don’t agree on which religion is correct.)

        • suntzuanime says:

          The verdict is still out on whether or not Koch can persuade them otherwise. Isn’t that what he’s trying to do, and what you’re castigating him for?

        • Jai says:

          How many years have to pass before you can declare the verdict in?

          Also, is there anywhere to bet on climate change trends right now?

        • St. Rev says:

          Citation for the 95% figure, please. If you mean the 97% figure from the Cook study, reread the abstract: that was a count of abstracts of papers that expressed an opinion on AGW.

        • Jai says:

          St. Rev: There’s an entire Wikipedia article devoted to surveys of scientists on climate change. The survey groups vary (scientists in general, Earth scientists, meteorologists, climate scientists), but all find 80% agreement, and most are around 95%. Here’s a PNAS paper finding 97% concurrence among the most-published climate scientists.

        • Max says:

          “When a significant fraction of climate scientists employed by universities become global warming skeptics, I’ll stop considering funding global warming skepticism as morally bankrupt as funding “skepticism” about whether or not tobacco causes lung cancer or whether HIV is the cause of AIDS.”

          When a significant fraction of priests employed by The Church become Trinitarian doctrine skeptics, I’ll stop considering funding Trinitarian doctrine skepticism as morally bankrupt as funding “skepticism” about whether or not tobacco causes lung cancer or whether HIV is the cause of AIDS.

        • Max says:

          The first Google hit for “arguments against climate change skeptics” (without quotes)”.

          I’ve actually been to this site before. Despite making a conscious effort to guard against the backfire effect, the overwhelming impression I was left with was that these were people in the business of speaking power to truth. I believe most of them should be in prison.

        • Max says:

          If you are not a PhD-level expert in a field and you disagree with a position taken by a 95% majority of credentialed experts in that field (and you can’t persuade them otherwise), you are almost certainly wrong. Granted, the experts may indeed be wrong about something, but that doesn’t make every other possible position right!

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_studies

          My point being is that not everything coming out of the universities these days is scientastic. Also,

          http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-climate-falsehood-you-can-check-for.html

          http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/03/hasenpfeffer.html

          http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/03/a-different-climate-risk.html

        • Jai says:

          Max: Your priests argument proves too much. If almost all weather forecasters tell me its going to rain today, that same argument tells me I shouldn’t be worried about getting wet.

        • Max says:

          Here’s a PNAS paper finding 97% concurrence among the most-published climate scientists.

          Funnily enough, >97% of Catholic priests are Catholic! This is because, as you might have guessed, non-Catholics have a tough time becoming Catholic priests. Similarly, AGW skeptics have a tough time getting published! This need demonstrate nothing more than that these people are a criminally fraudulent priesthood closing ranks to defend themselves from attacks that would expose their true nature. Now, it may be true instead that they are legitimate scientists who simply don’t publish AGW skeptics because the latter aren’t worth the paper they’d be printed on. However, when I witness a group presenting a bald and unapologetic appeal to authority as if it were a legitimate argument, my antennae start buzzing.

          http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/08/media-credibility-and-the-murray-gell-mann-amnesia-effect/

          I do not pretend to possess the same degree of knowledge or expertise as most climate “scientists,” but I have caught enough high-profile people of that persuasion in enough outright lies that I feel justified in doubting the rest of what they’re saying as well.

        • Max says:

          Your priests argument proves too much. If almost all weather forecasters tell me its going to rain today, that same argument tells me I shouldn’t be worried about getting wet.

          Jai: Sorry for not writing faster, I’m a bit distracted at the moment. If you’ll check the comment right below the one I’m quoting and (hopefully) right above this one, you’ll see that I addressed this. “Now, it may be true instead that they are legitimate scientists who simply don’t publish AGW skeptics because the latter aren’t worth the paper they’d be printed on.” Certainly, I am in agreement that smart people studying stuff deserve some degree of deference, as a general rule, in the absence of evidence that they are either incompetent or liars. My claim is that there exists enough public evidence that climate “scientists” are frauds and liars to cast a pall over the entire field of study. And many of the tactics they use to silence their critics remind me more of a priesthood than, say, a group of astrophysicists.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I believe most of them should be in prison.

          – That’s a hell of an act, gent[le]sirs. What do you call it?

          – …”The Libertarians”!

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Given that Max’s name links to Unqualified Reservations, it would seem unlikely he’s a libertarian.

        • misha says:

          http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/10/24/survey-finds-professors-already-liberal-have-moved-further-left

          Trusting the majority of professors seems suicidal for anyone who’s not a leftist.

          Anyway: You can’ trust the claimed beliefs of anyone on anything if they can get fired for going against public opinion. Their public statements will all but inevitably simply be those which allow them to keep their livelihoods.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Also, is there anywhere to bet on climate change trends right now?

          Coastline real estate investment?

      • St. Rev says:

        I think global warming is about twice as likely as global cooling. But I think global cooling is likely to be more than twice as bad as global warming. Conclusion…?

        • misha says:

          De facto: The earth cools and warms on its own. Before we ever existed. Why are we so obsessed with preventing something that has happened an uncountable number of times throughout history? Very few climate scientists propose geo-engineering to keep the earth in a narrow goldilocks band of temperature. Instead most proposals are entirely unactionable or pointless. Because this is a matter of professing rather than actually believing.

        • Randy M says:

          The only possible fix for man-made climate change is for either the west (the convinced part of it, which almost has sufficient power to enforce whatever solutions it wishes) to persuade China, India, Russia, and Latin America to go along with capping emissions and accept a standard of living well below what the west had (though would also have to give up), or else somehow force them to.

          It is a tragedy of the commons (assuming true, of course) where the cost to do anything is exceedingly high and no one has any faith that the others will cooperate.

          In such a situation, is it really the moral choice to make the concessions on one’s own, especially given the totalitarianism that would be required to enforce it?

        • St. Rev says:

          I’m talking about the simplest risk-benefit analysis, guys, not just shooting random objections over the bow.

          What I’m trying to communicate here is this: stipulating that AGW should be assigned X credibility as a hypothesis, it’s still the wrong terminal issue to be arguing about. That is: given a distribution of outcomes from cooling to heating, the problem is not minimizing the right hand side of the distribution, the actual problem is minimizing the weighted harm integral over that distribution. And the left hand side–cooling outcomes–is much worse than the right hand side. Global warming would flood a lot of coastal land and force mass migrations away from the equator. Global cooling would kill billions very fast.

      • Brian Donohue says:

        Scott,

        I’ve found Matt Ridley to be a rational ‘luke warmer’. Accepts AGW, thinks the consensus forecast estimates are too high and rely on dubious positive feedback effects. For intelligent people, the answer to the question of “What do we do about it?” is far from obvious though.

        Are you familiar with Ridley and his ilk, and some of the counterproductive policies he documents in the UK? If so, do you have a one paragraph critique?

    • Salem says:

      Entirely agreed on both counts.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Google ‘Koch brothers right-to-work’. Union-busting = pure fucking evil, in any country (and, ironically, shits all over labour’s freedom and power in the “free” market, but since when have capitalists wanted an equally free market?). If you disagree, go try to work any non-unionized menial job. Like, say, an Amazon warehouse.

      P.S. If a particular union is corrupt/over-bureaucratized, let the workers themselves deal with it, they don’t fucking need “libertarian” assistance in an internal struggle. The greater question is always the relative bargaining power of labour vs. capital, and to the degree you’re for capital, you’re objectively against labour. Yes, government regulation is usually inefficient, bumbling and corrupt, but that’s no excuse to side with the boss against the worker. Simple as that.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Google ‘Koch brothers right-to-work’. Union-busting = pure fucking evil, in any country (and, ironically, shits all over labour’s freedom and power in the “free” market, but since when have capitalists wanted an equally free market?). If you disagree, go try to work any non-unionized menial job. Like, say, an Amazon warehouse.

        Sure, but there are plenty of forms of pure fucking evil that kind, intelligent, reasonable people endorse and engage in because of particular mind-killed beliefs.

        The most horrible realization I’ve had as a ‘progressive’ is that, while my enemies have the luxury of dehumanizing me, I no longer have the luxury of dehumanizing them.

        • Max says:

          Sure, but there are plenty of forms of pure fucking evil that kind, intelligent, reasonable people endorse and engage in because of particular mind-killed beliefs.

          I don’t think I can endorse this statement. What, in your view, is a reasonable definition of “pure fucking evil”?

          The most horrible realization I’ve had as a ‘progressive’ is that, while my enemies have the luxury of dehumanizing me, I no longer have the luxury of dehumanizing them.

          The most horrible realization I’ve had as a ‘reactionary’ is that, while progressive Christians have the luxury of dehumanizing me, I no longer have the luxury of dehumanizing them.

          See, we can make content-free assertions of moral superiority too.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          See, we can make content-free assertions of moral superiority too.

          What causes you to believe that the statement I was making implied moral superiority?

          Understanding (even incomplete or faulty understanding) supercedes moralization.

        • Randy M says:

          The fact that “you no longer have the luxury” implies that there is a constraint on your behavior due to your chosen beliefs. That is, you have an additional moral stricture that your enemies lack. In yet otherwords, due to being a progressive, you are more moral than your enemies.

          Compre to “I’m sorry, I can’t go to the bar with you, I’ve found Jesus.”

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          The fact that “you no longer have the luxury” implies that there is a constraint on your behavior due to your chosen beliefs. That is, you have an additional moral stricture that your enemies lack. In yet otherwords, due to being a progressive, you are more moral than your enemies.

          Except it’s not morality. I no longer have the luxury of dehumanizing my enemies for precisely the same reason that I no longer have the luxury of trusting that an interventionalist God will ensure that I succeed, if only I pray to Him – I understand the world to not work that way.

        • Max says:

          Except it’s not morality. I no longer have the luxury of dehumanizing my enemies for precisely the same reason that I no longer have the luxury of trusting that an interventionalist God will ensure that I succeed, if only I pray to Him – I understand the world to not work that way.

          Good for you, but my purpose in mirroring your comment word-for-word was to illustrate that the loss of this luxury has nothing whatsoever to do with your identification as a progressive Christian. As a rationalist reactionary, I assure you that the vast majority of progressive Christians continue to enjoy the luxury of dehumanizing their enemies (i.e. me), even as I refuse to reciprocate. Your unwillingness to follow suit is a testament to your rationalism, not to the moral superiority of progressive Christianity.

          Furthermore, note that although you may be unwilling to dehumanize your enemies, you absolutely put them on a lower moral plane than yourself and your tribe, and you commit an intellectual error in doing so – mistakenly assuming that an unwillingness to dehumanize one’s enemies stems from political beliefs rather than from adhering to a rationalist worldview.

          Politics really is the mind-killer. That’s why it’s so important to abolish politics and restore the Stuarts. ;-P

        • Sniffnoy says:

          And now you no longer have the luxury of expecting that statements about how you don’t have the luxury of dehumanizing people will not be read as statements of moral superiority! 😛

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’m confused; did I claim to be a Christian?

          Also(1):

          As a rationalist reactionary, I assure you that the vast majority of progressive Christians continue to enjoy the luxury of dehumanizing their enemies (i.e. me), even as I refuse to reciprocate. Your unwillingness to follow suit is a testament to your rationalism, not to the moral superiority of progressive Christianity.

          Point conceded; I will update and back-propagate.

          Also(2):

          And now you no longer have the luxury of expecting that statements about how you don’t have the luxury of dehumanizing people will not be read as statements of moral superiority!

          My comfort zone is a steadily decreasing area, yes. 🙁

        • Zathille says:

          I’ve never understood this facet of Reactionary thought: “Abolishing Politics” sounds much to me like “Abolishing Economics”. One could very well abolish democratic structures and parties as well as establish a strict and clear structure of government. Still, even in the absence of such structures, political mobilization would still be possible and, without official institutions to which such discontent can be channelled towards, and thus, tamed, one could see escalations of violence or emergence of organizations parallel to The State.

          As an illustrative example: Greece, the government has officially banned the ‘Golden Dawn’ party from official politics. The party is no more, but, of course, its constituents still exist and are very much active politically, though unofficially and their influence is felt. I would even opine that such a move was a blunder on the government’s part not only as a gross violation of principle, but also as having the unintended consequence of giving such a movement a very high status of legitimacy in the eyes of malcontents “If they’ve banned this party and not the others, clearly, this one must be the true opposition!”, but enough of my personal views.

          Perhaps I misunderstand. Is the proposition that a truly Reactionary form of government would be so efficient it would be able to serve the needs of all social classes within its umbrella in such a way that none would be in want, and therefore, have need nor incentive to engage in opposition or advocacy?

          Hopefully, we can get back to a useful discussion, the signal-to-content ratio here appears a tad askew.

        • Max says:

          I’ve never understood this facet of Reactionary thought: “Abolishing Politics” sounds much to me like “Abolishing Economics”.

          I agree with your comments and apologize for not making the tone of my remark more clear. The ;-P was meant to indicate that the preceding sentence was a jest, while acknowledging that many self-proclaimed reactionaries would indeed endorse it. Humor is hard.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          No, but I find it useful to remind supposedly godless progressives that the intellectual ancestors of their political philosophy were explicitly Christian. Moldbug has written a lot of great stuff on this subject – did you ever read “How Dawkins got pwned”? I highly recommend doing so, if not.

          I find this tactic unnecessarily hostile and disrespectful. How could I earn enough of your respect that you would stop performing it towards me?

        • Max says:

          I find this tactic unnecessarily hostile and disrespectful. How could I earn enough of your respect that you would stop performing it towards me?

          You needn’t earn any of my respect at all. As I said, the purpose was to remind (or inform, as the case may be) you of the fundamentally anti-rational nature of your political philosophy – not to attack or disrespect, but to enlighten. I am always amenable to calling people what they’d prefer to be called, and if you’d like me to drop the “Christian” part, I’d be happy to. However, I would encourage you to note that my accurately labeling your philosophy makes you feel attacked and disrespected. I think this is a strong sign that you ought not to identify with the label at all, even after scrubbing away the part of it that you don’t like.

          If you haven’t read the series of Moldbug posts that I linked above, I wish you would.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’ve gone ahead and re-read them; I did not find them particularly enlightening this time around, either. What do I need to do to get the intended meaning out of them?

          EDIT:
          I’m willing to acknowledge that I probably have alternative reasons for valuing progressive ideologies. As someone with mental health issues, who often doesn’t manage to fit into society very well, I recognize myself as someone that would probably be utterly destroyed under more “rational” ideologies – and rightfully so.

          My self-preservation instincts tell me to seek out people who claim to want to nurture and protect me, rather than seeking out people who assert – accurately, of course – that the world is a mean scary place and if I can’t hack it, I should fuck off and die already.

          Ultimately, my skills and contributions aren’t worth the cost of my company, and I am not nearly Alpha enough to self-advocate and enforce the baseline level of respect to ensure my survival. So a world in which I have to compete on equal merits with Actual Worthwhile People terrifies me.

        • g says:

          Max: No, you did not accurately (still less accurately) label Ialdabaoth’s philosophy. You called him a “progressive Christian”, and even if you are correct in claiming that present-day secular progressivism is derived from earlier Christian progressivism that would not make it correct to label someone as a Christian who does not so identify. (I remark that you earlier referred to “your identification as a progressive Christian”, which was just flatly a lie unless you have some evidence of such “identification”.)

          I think you are being obnoxious and dishonest. I hope you will stop because you are making the comments of SSC a worse place. Other reactionaries should hope you will stop because you are giving Reaction a bad name. (Unless they positively value obnoxiousness enough to outweigh that. Which, come to think of it, it seems awfully plausible that some of them do.)

        • suntzuanime says:

          If you want the right to call people racists when they don’t self-identify as such, you gotta put up with people calling you Christian when you don’t self-identify as such.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          If you want the right to call people racists when they don’t self-identify as such, you gotta put up with people calling you Christian when you don’t self-identify as such.

          Negotiating mutual respect seems difficult in general. I’d like better general-case guidance on that, but all the guidance I’ve found is contradictory and suspected poisoned.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          people who assert – accurately, of course – that the world is a mean scary place and if I can’t hack it, I should fuck off and die already.

          I think that is considerably less fair than anything else on the comments on this post.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I think that is considerably less fair than anything else on the comments on this post.

          Probably so; this is one of the points where my grasp on rationality fails. My own “inner neo-reactionary”, due to upbringing and early childhood environment, is a little less Moldbug and a little more Goebbels. That’s why I said it, in fact – to illustrate concretely the manner in which I fail to rationally appraise neo-reactionary thought.

        • Zathille says:

          @Max: It seems I must be the one to apologise duo to my jumping to conclusions. I still am intrigued by that phrase, however, seeing that I’ve read it many times before.

          As for the matter of Christianity, the comparison is indeed intriguing, but considering the political history of the West, it is hardly surprising: With the near hegemonic power of the Catholic church in Europe as the source of legitimacy for the many monarchies it sponsored, political resistance to its power often took shape of heresies: Luther and the influence of Lutheranism, supported by princes who stood to gain by weakening the Catholic Church’s influence in their territories. Likewise, the formation of the Anglican church.

          Religious language has even been employed as recently (in the historical sense) as the American Revolution, secularisation being a slow process consisting of the loss of (at least overt) political influence of organized religion in matters of politics. It is understandable that secularized concepts originating from such religious tradition still survive.

          Likewise, Moldbug’s criticism of Progressivism on this dimension does not prevent him from employing concepts that also seem to be of overt Christian origin: The meme of universalism is said to be a parasite, a mind-addling disease that currupts the very thought process and identifies any threats to its existence as anathema, even if such threats are the Truth and Reason. Such a concept seems quite like that of Sin, which debauches people to the point where they cannot see it, much less admit their wrongdoing! Admitting, confessing, is the first step for repentance.

          How would such a repentance happen, however? Through the use of Reason, the search for Truth! The ascetic pursuit of such very much reminds one of the eternal quest for salvation, which is only found in The Word, Logos, God.

          It could very well be that I appear uncharitable, do I accuse Moldbug of the same atheistic Christianity he engages with? Accusation would be too strong a word: For one to criticize, one cannot be orthogonal to the target of one’s critic. Moldbug has lived and learned in the Western world and immersed in its philosophy, with all its Christian addendums, secular or otherwise, on display. There is nothing inherently wrong in such, for one can do no other as a Luther to The Cathedral.

          Of course, having established such, I don’t believe showing the Christian antecedents of Progressivism is much of an argument against it. it only is insofar as its incongruities with reality can be laid bare, which I believe Moldbug does to some extent, but knowing reality says nothing of more normative questions, of what is to be done with it. Does acknowledging median differences in certain cognitive and physical characteristics of gender groups or racial groups necessarily call into question the wisdom of granting every citizen equal rights under law, as a principle? I believe not, but am open to arguments.

          and onto a different matter: To declare Ialdabaoth’s political positions and phylosophy ‘inherently anti-rational’ on the basis of his agreement with an emotionally loaded appeal seems rather uncharitable to me, particularly since, from my impression of Max’s earlier posts, he jokingly referred to a part of neoreactionary rhetoric he disagreed with “Abolishing Politics”.

          That is not to say I approve of such emotionally loaded mind-killing language, but I don’t find the reactions to it conductive to what I believe to be a MUCH NEEDED debate on these matters.

          Through weeks I’ve been reading these comments and many times reading things I found disagreeable or even unreasonable. I do remember a poster who seemed adamant that Feminists held their positions and did what they did out of pure ill-will towards men, with epithets thrown in. It was not pleasant reading, but I never discounted it, knowing he must have a basis of personal experience to warrant such feelings. Even so, I’ve never counted such comments, which I’d say erred on the side of uncivil, as a point against Reaction. There are many points to critiscise in Feminism, but to assume Ill-will on part of one’s ‘Opponents’ is never constructive or conductive to debate.

          In fact, it’s precisely such presumption of ill-will which seems to have sparkled this whole debacle.

          I know Reaction is a varied and heterogeneous ‘movement’ or ‘cluster’. One of the things that attracted me to this site was the contrast between Scott’s honesty in arguing with Reactionaries against many a hatchet-job articles I’ve seen on the web conflating Neoreaction with fascism.

          Likewise, I wouldn’t like to see Neoreaction make the mistake of viewing the opposing views as homogeneous, Outgroup Homogeinity Bias seems to have affected both sides of the discussion in my view.

          The last thing I’d like to see is more incivility leading to mind-killing, then to entrenchment of positions culminating in all different camps retreating to their respective echo chambers.

          Excuse the length, as well as the rather emotional loadedness of the last paragraph. It’s something pent up for a long time.

        • Zathille says:

          @St. Rev:

          I do not intend this as an attack, but considering the relative temperature of this comments thread, citing examples, quotes and the like that may illustrate your point could prove to be constructive. I don’t think many would be able to take such a comment as anything but signalling otherwise, further endangering the discussion.

          Ugh, LIBOR preserve me, I hope I’m not overreacting. Sorry, Scott, if so.

        • ozymandias says:

          Your unwillingness to follow suit is a testament to your rationalism, not to the moral superiority of progressive Christianity.

          Do you have any actual evidence that not dehumanizing one’s enemies is more likely to come about as a result of rationalism than as a result of basically Christian morality? I mean, the Christians do have a book where the whole “don’t dehumanize your enemy” thing is mentioned quite a lot, and while Christians are notoriously terrible at paying attention to their book, one might expect it to have some effect.

        • Max says:

          I’ve gone ahead and re-read them; I did not find them particularly enlightening this time around, either. What do I need to do to get the intended meaning out of them?

          I apologize for the time you wasted on my behalf. My hope was that understanding where your beliefs and values came from would encourage you, as a rationalist, to discard them.

          I’m willing to acknowledge that I probably have alternative reasons for valuing progressive ideologies. As someone with mental health issues, who often doesn’t manage to fit into society very well, I recognize myself as someone that would probably be utterly destroyed under more “rational” ideologies – and rightfully so.

          I think this comment betrays a perverse and mistaken understanding of what constitutes a “rational” ideology. It also implies what I imagine must be a fierce inner struggle. If you believe a “rational” ideology would result in your liquidation, then why would you consider yourself a rationalist?

          My self-preservation instincts tell me to seek out people who claim to want to nurture and protect me, rather than seeking out people who assert – accurately, of course – that the world is a mean scary place and if I can’t hack it, I should fuck off and die already.

          It is simply false that such assertions are accurate. In fact, they are Not Even Wrong. Remember Hume/Nietzsche: No statement with “should” in it can ever be true or false (except in the “if . . . then” form). Like renowned progressives Milton Friedman and Charles Murray, I support a basic income guarantee. The best reactionary critiques of progressive insanity do not focus on “ought,” they focus on “is.” Like Moldbug once said, if I could push a button that would create HNU (human neurological uniformity), I would press it, and I would feel good about pressing it.

          I may not want to nurture and protect you specifically, because I don’t know you, but I would like to ensure that as many people as possible are nurtured and protected.

          Ultimately, my skills and contributions aren’t worth the cost of my company, and I am not nearly Alpha enough to self-advocate and enforce the baseline level of respect to ensure my survival. So a world in which I have to compete on equal merits with Actual Worthwhile People terrifies me.

          http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Litany_Against_Fear

        • Max says:

          No, you did not accurately (still less accurately) label Ialdabaoth’s philosophy. You called him a “progressive Christian”, and even if you are correct in claiming that present-day secular progressivism is derived from earlier Christian progressivism that would not make it correct to label someone as a Christian who does not so identify.

          I disagree. I don’t think self-identification is a flawless method for deciding the political tradition people to which a person belongs. People can be mistaken about the nature/label/identity of their beliefs. That is why I think it’s worthwhile to point out that all progressives are the descendants of progressive Christians – they have been pwned. It is not possible to simultaneously have both a rationalist value system/epistemology and progressive Christian beliefs about the world. The two visions are in conflict, and I would like to make that conflict more obvious so that fewer rationalists will continue to identify as progressives.

          (I remark that you earlier referred to “your identification as a progressive Christian”, which was just flatly a lie unless you have some evidence of such “identification”.)

          He identified himself as a progressive. I claim that all progressives are progressive Christians – there is no important difference between them. The whole God/Jesus stuff is immaterial. As Robin Hanson says, religion isn’t about God.

          I think you are being obnoxious and dishonest. I hope you will stop because you are making the comments of SSC a worse place. Other reactionaries should hope you will stop because you are giving Reaction a bad name. (Unless they positively value obnoxiousness enough to outweigh that. Which, come to think of it, it seems awfully plausible that some of them do.)

          I am sorry that you feel this way. I sincerely promise that it is not my intention to be either obnoxious or dishonest. I suspect that you feel the way you do because our worldviews are so radically different. I encourage you to try and put yourself in my shoes as best you’re able in order to better understand what I’m saying and why I’m saying it.

        • ozymandias says:

          Human neurological uniformity seems like a prima facie terrible idea. It’s very fragile: assuming that different brains are better suited for different situations, having lots of different kinds of brains maximizes the chance that the human race has *some* brain suited for any situation you can throw at it. Even in our own society, a diversity of brains seems useful. A society with some charismatic leaders, some weirdo intellectuals, and some garbagepeople seems strictly superior to a society where one of those groups is missing.

          Perhaps you meant “we can continue to have people with different personalities, but no one is mentally ill or developmentally disabled.” In that case, I still advise caution: mental illnesses generally seem to reduce one’s survivability and ability to have children substantially, are often very genetic, and yet they have stuck around. The probability that the genes associated with mental illnesses are doing something good seems rather too large for me to be comfortable eliminating them.

          I am interested in your elaboration of your ideas, as I am sure you have put far more thought into them than I, since I am just working on surface impressions.

        • Max says:

          It seems I must be the one to apologise duo to my jumping to conclusions. I still am intrigued by that phrase, however, seeing that I’ve read it many times before.

          Your curiosity is misplaced, in my opinion – as the phrase is commonly used in reactionary circles, it means almost exactly what you suggested it did in your original response to my comment making use of it, and it is precisely as stupid as you implied. Sometimes people in my tribe say dumb things.

          I don’t believe showing the Christian antecedents of Progressivism is much of an argument against it.

          If we accepted the notion that CP (or PC =P) was merely an antecedent, then I would agree with you. The criticism I level, however, is that Progressivism simply is Progressive Christianity – that there is no substantial difference between the two ideologies at all (aside from the whole God stuff, as I mentioned in the above comment). Christianity is just craziness – ditto Progressivism/Progressive Christianity. It’s all of a piece.

          it only is insofar as its incongruities with reality can be laid bare, which I believe Moldbug does to some extent, but knowing reality says nothing of more normative questions, of what is to be done with it. Does acknowledging median differences in certain cognitive and physical characteristics of gender groups or racial groups necessarily call into question the wisdom of granting every citizen equal rights under law, as a principle? I believe not, but am open to arguments.

          You’re setting up a straw-man. I advocate granting every citizen equal rights under law, as a principle. The criticism of Progressive Chr . . . Progressivism that I would make is that it does not. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which I referenced in my initial comment to this post, is a prime example. How does mandatory affirmative action in hiring and university admissions support equal rights under law? It’s exactly the opposite. The reason Progs support this is because of the absolutely empirically unsupported and utterly insane idea of HNU – the belief that if minorities don’t do as well at work or in school or on tests, it must be due to discrimination and require the placement of legal barriers to the success of Asians and white people. In the exact same vein, look at the shamelessness with which Progs wave the “women make 74 cents for ever dollar a man does” flag, thoughtlessly (and religiously) assuming that this must imply the existence of sexist discrimination.

          However, the most important sacred value that the rejection of HNU undermines is… you guessed it: Democracy. Yes, perhaps every citizen should have equal rights under law, but not every fool should have the vote.

          and onto a different matter: To declare Ialdabaoth’s political positions and phylosophy ‘inherently anti-rational’ on the basis of his agreement with an emotionally loaded appeal seems rather uncharitable to me, particularly since, from my impression of Max’s earlier posts, he jokingly referred to a part of neoreactionary rhetoric he disagreed with “Abolishing Politics”.

          I partially agree with this criticism. I have been uncharacteristically uncharitable in my recent comments, but I’ve done so with good intentions, and I firmly maintain that rationalism and progressivism are fundamentally at odds with one another, and a committed disciple of one must discard the other if ze is to maintain intellectual consistency.

          One of the things that attracted me to this site was the contrast between Scott’s honesty in arguing with Reactionaries against many a hatchet-job articles I’ve seen on the web conflating Neoreaction with fascism.

          Ditto. I first became aware of this site through Scott’s commentary on NRx. To be fair, though, the links between NRx and fascism are about as clear as the links between progressivism and communism. So I don’t think comparing us to fascists is out of bounds at all.

          Excuse the length, as well as the rather emotional loadedness of the last paragraph. It’s something pent up for a long time.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

        • Max says:

          Do you have any actual evidence that not dehumanizing one’s enemies is more likely to come about as a result of rationalism than as a result of basically Christian morality? I mean, the Christians do have a book where the whole “don’t dehumanize your enemy” thing is mentioned quite a lot, and while Christians are notoriously terrible at paying attention to their book, one might expect it to have some effect.

          No, but that’s beside the point, as my comment was not intended to refer to all Christians (the vast majority of whom are not rationalists), but instead was directed exclusively at Ialdabaoth. I believe he made it very clear that his inability to dehumanize his opponents was the result of rationalism and placing positive value on viewing the world in an objective and unbiased way, even though he initially attributed this trait to his basically Christian morality. After calling attention to this, I believe he agreed with me that rationalism and not progressivism was indeed the source of this inability.

        • Max says:

          Human neurological uniformity seems like a prima facie terrible idea…

          Perhaps you meant “we can continue to have people with different personalities, but no one is mentally ill or developmentally disabled.” In that case, I still advise caution…

          I am interested in your elaboration of your ideas, as I am sure you have put far more thought into them than I, since I am just working on surface impressions.

          Assuming this comment was in reference to my claim that I would push a button creating HNU, it should be understood that this comes with all the usual utopian caveats that hardcore progressives believe are true of the actual world. In other words, if it were somehow possible to raise the IQ (and hence the earning power) of every black person by 15 points and every brown person by 8 points without negatively impacting creativity or any other potentially positive attributes that are paired with those lower IQs, I would. I would not eliminate the math/language gap between men and women or the difference in the standard deviation of the intelligence distributions, however.

        • Zathille says:

          “However, the most important sacred value that the rejection of HNU undermines is… you guessed it: Democracy. Yes, perhaps every citizen should have equal rights under law, but not every fool should have the vote.”

          I’m confused by this statement. I think the way it is formulated conceals an underlying logical step. The way I understood it seemed incongruous, as I’ll elaborate:

          Not everyone has something constructive or insightful to say > Yet they have the inalienable right to free speech

          Not everyone can manage their belongings in a way that would be construed as efficient or proper > Yet they have the right to property

          Not everyone is knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision in a political matter > they should not have the right to vote.

          In short, I do not understand how acknowledging differences, having acknowledged that doing so would not undermine fundamental constitutional rights, would necessitate putting the right to vote in check. What element of this right makes it different from the others?

        • Max says:

          Not everyone has something constructive or insightful to say > Yet they have the inalienable right to free speech

          This seems to me to be clearly false. If the right to free speech is inalienable, then how have so many governments managed to alienate it?

          Perhaps the claim is intended to be an aspirational one. In that case, I must again push back – every reasonable conception of the right to free speech recognizes certain limits on it – prohibitions against fraud, false advertising, slander/libel, blackmail, etc. Exactly where to draw the line is an issue about which intelligent persons may disagree, but all should agree that there is not and ought not be an unfettered right to free speech. Thus, I maintain that every citizen should have equal rights under law, and that these rights ought not to include the right to free speech, except insofar as the government sees fit to grant it. Secure governments may profit from granting their citizens more freedom of speech, while less secure governments may see fit to suppress some (political) speech. Consider the case of the American progressives’ push for campaign finance reform, the goal of which is to silence the political speech of wealthy individuals. This is a perfectly sensible response to the realization that wealthy donors have begun to undermine the unanimity of opinions to which average Americans are exposed. When the Cathedral had a tighter grip on the organs of indoctrination, no such restrictions were necessary.

          Not everyone can manage their belongings in a way that would be construed as efficient or proper > Yet they have the right to property

          They have a limited or contingent right to property – that is, they have the right to certain property so long as it is used in a way that the government approves. So, for example, citizens do not have the right to possess firearms in the UK, and businesses in the US may not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation (soon). Further, the sovereign retains the right to confiscate as much or as little of that “property” as it sees fit (see: 90% income tax rates in America, 95% rates on capital gains in the UK, etc).

          Not everyone is knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision in a political matter > they should not have the right to vote.

          Not everyone is knowledgeable enough to drive > they should not have the right to drive without first demonstrating that they possess this knowledge/skill/ability. Not everyone is knowledgeable enough to perform open-heart surgery > they should not have the right to perform open-heart surgery without first demonstrating that they possess this knowledge/skill/ability.

          We already deny the vote to persons under 18, convicted felons, and non-citizens. We do not deny the vote to people with Down syndrome or schizophrenia, who are illiterate, who cannot speak English, who are homeless, who have an IQ <70, who voted yes on Prop 8, etc. Why not? How is the political process improved by the input of these individuals?

          In short, I do not understand how acknowledging differences, having acknowledged that doing so would not undermine fundamental constitutional rights, would necessitate putting the right to vote in check. What element of this right makes it different from the others?

          There is no such thing as a fundamental constitutional right – all rights are contingent and subject to revocation or modification by the sovereign (this is not an “ought” statement but an “is” statement; if the USG decides to suspend the Bill of Rights, there is absolutely nothing We the People can do to stop it). Also, the idea that every citizen should have equal rights under law has no implications for what those rights should be. If you do not consider it wrong for the government to require a demonstration of competence before permitting citizens to pilot a plane, why is it wrong to require a demonstration of competence before permitting citizens to vote?

        • a person says:

          Secure governments may profit from granting their citizens more freedom of speech, while less secure governments may see fit to suppress some (political) speech.

          I don’t understand why you can expound at length about how evil it is that the government (well, okay, not the government, but the Cathedral, which is kind of like the government) censors your opinions (well, okay, not actually censors, but highly disapproves of, which is kind of like censorship), and then turn around and say that freedom of speech is not an important right?

          I know this is not exactly on topic, but I have always been incredibly confused about this issue.

          However, the most important sacred value that the rejection of HNU undermines is… you guessed it: Democracy. Yes, perhaps every citizen should have equal rights under law, but not every fool should have the vote.

          I don’t know, this kind of seems like a strawman. I don’t think that the typical advocate of democracy (i.e. the typical American) actually believes that there is no such thing as a genetically smart or genetically dumb person. And even those starry-eyed idealists who do, would still admit that some voters are much better informed than others. I don’t think democracy flows from the axiom that every citizen is thoroughly informed on the issues. I think it’s more: everyone votes based on their own desires, and with lots of people we get a big, blurry picture of what America’s desires are. Contrast with a system where only a handful of people get the vote, and you could end up with the majority of Americans’ desires misunderstood or ignored.

        • Zathille says:

          @max: Thank you for the clarification.

          Now for another matter: How would you measure “Competence for voting?” This, I believe, is likely the core of many disagreements here. Many, myself included, would be very careful in such definitions.

          For instance, homelessness as a a disqualifier: Effectively, owning and renting a home becomes synonymous with franchise, I’m not sure about the effects this could have on real estate, but I do believe it could result in widespread disenfranchisement after an economic downturn or other such shocks.

          As has been raised before: While smarter, richer people may have better instrumental reasoning and, potentially, better understanding of certain matters, that is merely instrumental, they may be more effective in making the country better, but it could be that they only do so for themselves.

          The needs of the populace below the voting franchise line, if not addressed through alternate means, could then escalate in unrest. Without official political power, many could turn to unofficial organisations completely free of legal constraints.

          That is not to say such unrest is inevitable. Should adequate living standards be maintained for a broad enough segment of the population, revoltist humours would find it hard to set root.

          Edit: To clarify and present a more direct point: “How would the participation of such people IMPROVE the political process?” I’d answer that it does so by broadening the scope of discussion and bringing forth multiple views to be analysed. Do I disagree with them? Yes. Is this basis for disenfranchising them? No. Were it to be so, I would not be debating about NRx.

          What I mean is: An improvement for ME does not necessarily make it an improvement for anyone else, much less to the nation as a whole. To distribute the franchise based upon voters who would ‘improve’ the voting process seems like adopting a prior (one that is inherently political) and using such to justify distributing power on the basis of who supports the one distributing. Does that happen nowadays? Yes, but in pointing out how problematic it is, why do the same in the opposite direction?

        • Andy says:

          I don’t know, this kind of seems like a strawman. I don’t think that the typical advocate of democracy (i.e. the typical American) actually believes that there is no such thing as a genetically smart or genetically dumb person. And even those starry-eyed idealists who do, would still admit that some voters are much better informed than others.

          Agreed and agreed. As a (somewhat rabid) advocate for democracy, I regularly point out to my fellow advocates that pure democracy, besides being slow and noisy, has some nightmarish potential failure points. Especially in an atmpshoere of fear and paranoia, it can be quite popular to round up a despised minority and cart them off the camps in the middle of the desert – Hello, Manzanar! And sometimes the popular will is to deny access to the legal and political processes to an underclass, as in the segregated South.
          But the American system, at least, has a profoundly undemocratic component to help ameliorate some of these potential failures. I’ve written about this before:
          http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/12/12/papal-pr/#comment-24854

        • Max says:

          I don’t understand why you can expound at length about how evil it is that the government (well, okay, not the government, but the Cathedral, which is kind of like the government) censors your opinions (well, okay, not actually censors, but highly disapproves of, which is kind of like censorship), and then turn around and say that freedom of speech is not an important right?

          I know this is not exactly on topic, but I have always been incredibly confused about this issue.

          The first point I would make is that I have not expounded at length about how evil it is that the government/Cathedral censors/disapproves of my/our opinions. The second point I would make is that I have not said that freedom of speech is not an important right. In other words, I flatly reject the premises of your question.

          However, I think it’s possible to steel-man what you’re trying to ask, and so I will. There is an important distinction that I believe many reactionaries draw between physical control/violence and mind control/brainwashing. The former is viewed as an inescapable fact of reality – he who has the guns make the rules. Because there is no conceivable way of getting around this fact, reactionaries do not often object to its use. Thus, a sovereign may legitimately prevent potential revolutionaries from engaging in propaganda, “organizing for action,” etc. Indeed, because a sovereign possesses physical power, he may legitimately engage in mind control/brainwashing as well. The reactionary objection to this practice is that only a weak sovereign would ever need resort to it. A strong and secure sovereign would not need to engage in either practice. As Bismarck put it: “They say what they want, I do what I want.”

          Thus we see that freedom of speech is a luxury good. Strong governments can provide it in abundance; weak governments cannot afford to. The existence of the Cathedral is evidence of our government’s weakness. And the weak are not fit to rule.

          I don’t think democracy flows from the axiom that every citizen is thoroughly informed on the issues. I think it’s more: everyone votes based on their own desires, and with lots of people we get a big, blurry picture of what America’s desires are.

          This romantic and religious vision of democracy bears no relationship to reality. Citizens do not simply vote based on their desires, they also vote based on their beliefs. Because these beliefs are systematically and predictably delusional, we get government and policies that do a poor job of providing the results that citizens desire.

          Bryan Caplan has written a book on the subject called The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies that I would encourage you to read. Robin Hanson has proposed a solution for this problem that he calls futarchy, which suggests that we should vote on values (as you mistakenly believe that we already do), but bet on beliefs.

          Contrast with a system where only a handful of people get the vote, and you could end up with the majority of Americans’ desires misunderstood or ignored.

          Caplan’s book addresses this. The concern is a legitimate one, but empirically it has been demonstrated that most citizens engage in what is known as sociotropic voting – that is, they vote for what they perceive (often wrongly) to be in the best interests of their fellow citizens, rather than voting for what they perceive to be in their narrow self-interest.

          That a restricted voting pool might result in non-voters’ desires being misunderstood would be a stronger objection, in my opinion, if the evidence did not so overwhelmingly demonstrate that voters misunderstand their own desires, or at least the best way to achieve them in the real world.

        • Max says:

          Thank you for the clarification.

          You’re welcome. Thank you for engaging in civil and productive dialogue!

          Now for another matter: How would you measure “Competence for voting?” This, I believe, is likely the core of many disagreements here. Many, myself included, would be very careful in such definitions.

          I’m glad you asked. One idea I’ve had is to create a basic income guarantee (while simultaneously eliminating minimum wage laws) and make the right to vote dependent upon returning this stipend to the treasury. This would have the dual effect of instantly eliminating involuntary poverty and radically restricting the voting pool, both of which I believe to be good things.

          For instance, homelessness as a a disqualifier: Effectively, owning and renting a home becomes synonymous with franchise, I’m not sure about the effects this could have on real estate, but I do believe it could result in widespread disenfranchisement after an economic downturn or other such shocks.

          I would call this a feature, not a bug.

          As has been raised before: While smarter, richer people may have better instrumental reasoning and, potentially, better understanding of certain matters, that is merely instrumental, they may be more effective in making the country better, but it could be that they only do so for themselves.

          The needs of the populace below the voting franchise line, if not addressed through alternate means, could then escalate in unrest. Without official political power, many could turn to unofficial organisations completely free of legal constraints.

          The primary objection I would raise is empirical. Social science demonstrates (to the extent that social science can demonstrate anything) that most citizens engage in sociotropic voting, not selfish voting, and this tendency is more pronounced in wealthier citizens than in poorer ones. However, I agree that a corrupt and selfish aristocracy is almost certain to create conditions ripe for revolution. I don’t know a single reactionary who is not an ardent advocate of fostering virtue in the aristocracy and encouraging Noblesse Oblige. Hence my support for a basic income guarantee.

          Edit in response to your edit:

          To clarify and present a more direct point: “How would the participation of such people IMPROVE the political process?” I’d answer that it does so by broadening the scope of discussion and bringing forth multiple views to be analysed.

          I fear I must protest. What you are saying is an argument for permitting the freedom of political speech and expression of all persons. Voting is a simple act of symbolic violence, and recognizing that everyone’s opinion has value and should be heard in no way implies that all voices have equal value or that our political process should pretend as if they do.

          Do I disagree with them? Yes. Is this basis for disenfranchising them? No.

          Where you go wrong is in forgetting that democratic governance – that is, majority rule – disenfranchises minority voices by definition. A person who votes for losing candidates in a democracy is in precisely the same situation as a person living under an unelected monarchy/aristocracy. The right to vote for people with views outside the mainstream simply isn’t valuable. I would sell mine for a penny.

          What I mean is: An improvement for ME does not necessarily make it an improvement for anyone else, much less to the nation as a whole.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_choice

          To distribute the franchise based upon voters who would ‘improve’ the voting process seems like adopting a prior (one that is inherently political) and using such to justify distributing power on the basis of who supports the one distributing. Does that happen nowadays? Yes, but in pointing out how problematic it is, why do the same in the opposite direction?

          Good point. Obviously, the solution is to end the franchise altogether and return to a system of divine right monarchy. ;-P

        • Max says:

          As a (somewhat rabid) advocate for democracy, I regularly point out to my fellow advocates that pure democracy, besides being slow and noisy, has some nightmarish potential failure points…

          But the American system, at least, has a profoundly undemocratic component to help ameliorate some of these potential failures.

          So you’re a rabid advocate for democracy, but you acknowledge that democracy has some nightmarish potential failure points and agree that profoundly undemocratic components of the American system help to ameliorate some of these potential failures.

          As the joke goes: “Madam, we’ve already established what kind of woman you are. Now we’re merely haggling over the price.”

        • Zathille says:

          @Max: Forgive my slips of tone, I must admit it’s ironic I complained of bad form before, but seem to be erring myself.

          Nevertheless, some minor things:

          “As the joke goes: “Madam, we’ve already established what kind of woman you are. Now we’re merely haggling over the price.” ”

          This seems like a rather strange thing to say considering:

          “However, I agree that a corrupt and selfish aristocracy is almost certain to create conditions ripe for revolution. I don’t know a single reactionary who is not an ardent advocate of fostering virtue in the aristocracy and encouraging Noblesse Oblige. Hence my support for a basic income guarantee.”

          Particularly considering The Cathedral seems to be identified with the federal bureaucracy, and that aristocracies, irrespective of their moral character, have historically been employed in state bureaucracy. Then again, that may be another thing about NRx that I do not fully understand.

          Also, speaking of the moral character of one holding political power is cold comfort, the incentives that drive such a person are predominantly those which are related to the position, for instance: If a company is having competitive difficulties and figures the only way to avoid bankruptcy is to cut costs and disengage people, it matters not if the owner is greedy or lazy or compassionate or wishes to keep his employees out of charity, he will either fire people and survive competitive pressures [for the time being] or go bankrupt.

          I believe this is relevant because, if an aristocracy is to govern stably, a structural feedback mechanism must be in place in the absence of voting, in my view. Something which can pressure an unelected elite whose income depends on the State with that of the masses they govern, whose income predominantly comes from wages. A matter of lessening conflicts of interest to ensure the incentive to rebel is kept low.

          “The primary objection I would raise is empirical. Social science demonstrates (to the extent that social science can demonstrate anything) that most citizens engage in sociotropic voting, not selfish voting, and this tendency is more pronounced in wealthier citizens than in poorer ones.”

          I’d like to see studies related to such a phenomenon, I’ve never heard of such, are there any sources save the book? What sort of voting behaviour is defined as ‘beneficial to all’? Must citizens be aware of the conditions of others for this to take place? As it stands, the potential hazyness of such definitions does not appear convincing to me.

        • Max says:

          Forgive my slips of tone, I must admit it’s ironic I complained of bad form before, but seem to be erring myself.

          To what slips of tone are you referring? Nothing you’ve said has struck me as objectionable or rude in any way.

          “As the joke goes: “Madam, we’ve already established what kind of woman you are. Now we’re merely haggling over the price.” ”

          This seems like a rather strange thing to say…

          Forgive me, but I don’t how what follows in your comment constitutes an objection to the punch line I quoted. The purpose of that punch line was to demonstrate (or at least assert) that Andy, despite self-identifying as a “somewhat rabid advocate for democracy,” was not actually an advocate for democracy at all. He recognizes that unchecked democracy is horrible and wants to prevent it from destroying everything in the way that democracies inevitably do. He is not a rabid advocate for democracy, he is a reactionary like myself – he simply doesn’t realize it yet. Similarly, the woman in the joke does not think of herself as a prostitute for hire, but she’d be willing to sleep with a random stranger if he offered her enough money.

          Particularly considering The Cathedral seems to be identified with the federal bureaucracy, and that aristocracies, irrespective of their moral character, have historically been employed in state bureaucracy. Then again, that may be another thing about NRx that I do not fully understand.

          A common complaint in NRx circles is that democratic institutions have corrupted the character of America’s aristocracy. Thus, it may be the case that we cannot return to a proper form of government any time soon. Are you familiar with the concept of kyklos? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyklos) If it is valid, we may simply have some very dark days ahead of us, and we may be unable to do anything to stop it.

          if an aristocracy is to govern stably, a structural feedback mechanism must be in place in the absence of voting, in my view. Something which can pressure an unelected elite whose income depends on the State with that of the masses they govern, whose income predominantly comes from wages. A matter of lessening conflicts of interest to ensure the incentive to rebel is kept low.

          Strongly agree. Solving this problem is one of the most important questions that serious thinkers should be concerning themselves with in the modern era. Constitutional republicanism has failed so spectacularly at this task, however, that it has actually interfered with the ability of its citizens to recognize the need for a superior system. This is why the Cathedral/PC is so dangerous/awful and should be destroyed – it has precisely the same parasitic effect as classical religion, consuming the brains of its hosts, turning them into mindless repeaters who promote and spread the meme with little or no regard for the survival and flourishing of the host.

          I’d like to see studies related to such a phenomenon, I’ve never heard of such, are there any sources save the book? What sort of voting behaviour is defined as ‘beneficial to all’? Must citizens be aware of the conditions of others for this to take place? As it stands, the potential hazyness of such definitions does not appear convincing to me.

          Unfortunately, I loaned out my copy of the book, and so I can’t check which source(s) were used. However, a bit of googling brought up this: http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/pdfs/sociotropes.pdf

        • Andy says:

          Forgive me, but I don’t how what follows in your comment constitutes an objection to the punch line I quoted. The purpose of that punch line was to demonstrate (or at least assert) that Andy, despite self-identifying as a “somewhat rabid advocate for democracy,” was not actually an advocate for democracy at all. He recognizes that unchecked democracy is horrible and wants to prevent it from destroying everything in the way that democracies inevitably do. He is not a rabid advocate for democracy, he is a reactionary like myself – he simply doesn’t realize it yet. Similarly, the woman in the joke does not think of herself as a prostitute for hire, but she’d be willing to sleep with a random stranger if he offered her enough money.

          ABSOLUTELY NOT. You’ve completely mischaracterized my position. I am NOT a NeoReactionary, and generally loathe NRx ideology for a very, very long list of reasons. I’d go into that, but I have work to do, and Scott’s Anti-Reactionary FAQ is a reasonable approximation of my own feelings on the matter.
          Let me explain: Democracy, like gasoline, is a valuable tool. But gasoline should certainly not be sprayed on everything, and vehicles powered by gasoline should have safety features like brakes to keep the gasoline in the motor from flinging the entire vehicle out of control. These safety features do not prove that internal combustion is horribly flawed, just that it needs controls. The American system has non-democratic formal and informal safety features to keep democracy from ruining the country.
          I’ll see your Shaw and raise you a Churchill: “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Democracy isn’t perfect, nor does it destroy everything. Aristocracy and monarchy have their places in certain social conditions (See Scott’s “We Wrestle Not With Flesh And Blood…”) but we are NOT in those conditions, and in my view, we are unlikely to be in those conditions for the foreseeable future.
          The Dark Enlightenment is performing a valuable service in critiquing democracy, but DO NOT call me a NeoReactionary. Your line reminded me of someone saying to a person they want to romance, “You love me, you just don’t know it.” I find it creepy and insulting, and please do not do it again.

        • Zathille says:

          I guess I tend to be paranoid about form, better safe than sorry, considering the mind-killing consequences of rudeness. Should I ever seem rude or disrespectful, feel free to point out.

          To clarify, my placing the joke side-by-side with your comment on the necessity of a moral aristocracy was meant to imply that you too realise an extreme form of your position would be untenable. I’d also point out to your agreeing with me over the necessity of the aristocracy having fetters related to public need as another example.

          By the same token that you claim anyone not espousing an extreme form of democracy is a reactionary, I could claim that advocacy of a non-independent aristocracy is a Reformist position. However, that appears to stretch the definitions of these political camps a tad too broadly, in my view. Many camps question Modernity in many different ways, most of them seem to claim monopoly over such, strangely enough. If I got a dollar for every ‘red pill’ I’ve been exposed to…

          As for the study, an interesting start. However, I have some theoretical troubles with it: The Economists’ view is taken as reliable, but isn’t the Cathedral said to heavily influence academia, particularly social sciences? How can this match up to such a study in terms of possibility of bias? How did such study get through if its conclusions called its views into question?

          I personally am willing to take it for a reliable study, quite surprising in some details. However, from what I gather, the bias seems bidirectional and polarized by party affiliation rather than systemically unidirectional in the populace. Assuming the Cathedral would benefit the most from homogeneous beliefs, it seems to be very ineffective. I’d love to see more sources.

          The ‘curruption of character’ point sounds intriguing, though I’ve previously argued that, duo to systemic incentives, I tend to rank such things below structural matters when it comes to analysis. I’d also love to hear about what constitutes the ‘American Aristocracy’ you refer to. The owners of the means of production, I assume?

        • Multiheaded says:

          Ialdabaoth: you’re badass.

          Re: Christianity – I think all this ultimately proves is that it’s insane to segregate modes of thought with different justifications in this way, or judge them more for their justification than for their content. As usual, the reactionaries exploit kinks and inconsistencies in the mainstream liberal picture of the world, but all it really tells us is that you can have a more straightforward progressivism with fewer kinks. That’s fine by me.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I apologize for the time you wasted on my behalf. My hope was that understanding where your beliefs and values came from would encourage you, as a rationalist, to discard them.

          The problem is that these aren’t where my Progressive beliefs came from. In fact, most of my Progressive attitudes and beliefs developed when I was very young, and were explicitly in conflict with my Christian upbringing.

          Ultimately, my neurobiology makes it very difficult for me to thrive in environments where outgroups are treated hostilely, or where people are made to suffer. I think the new-fangled term for it is “highly sensitive person”; regardless, the way it feels from the inside is that if I am aware of two other human beings, and one feels contempt for the other, I feel that contempt. If one feels ashamed for themselves, I feel ashamed for myself. If one feels coldly superior and the other feels furtive and afraid, I feel coldly superior to myself AND furtive and afraid of myself. Imagine the reaction that most males have to watching another male suffer a violent testicular injury, and then extend that reaction to *all* physical and emotional stimulus.

          So I’m not really cut out to say “these people are my inferiors”, because some faulty wiring in my mirror neurons makes me FEEL AS IF I WERE THEM. As I learned to extend my awareness to people in the abstract, this sensitivity heightened, to the point that I tend to expend a lot of willpower not disintegrating into histrionics when people on internet fora start insulting each other.

          Most of my Christian upbringing was distinctly Reactionary in nature, being exceptionally hyper-Calvinistic, ethnocentric, and Dominionist. My choice to identify with Progressivist movements has nothing to do with Progressivism’s history, and everything to do with the fact that – at this particular moment in history – it happens to occupy a place that matches my own rational goals (most of which are “get people to stop abusing and humiliating each other so that their psychic screaming will quiet down in my head”).

          Most of the people that I have met who have made arguments similar to yours, and who have used debating tactics similar to yours, and who have professed goals similar to yours, have tended to enjoy seeing out-group members humiliated and abused. They have tended to avoid helping people when they had easy ways to do so, and they have tended to explicitly abuse and humiliate out-group members when given an opportunity to do so, even when doing so had no other instrumental value. So even if you sincerely believe that your stated methods would achieve your stated goals, I have a significant weight of prior evidence against believing you.

        • nydwracu says:

          Ialdabaoth: What progressivism have you seen? My impression is that progressives tend to be much less “don’t cast anyone as inferiors” and much more Brian Leiter.

          Are you counting the Guns and Dope Party sort of Anton-Wiltonian pseudo-libertarianism as progressive? That’s the sort of thing I’d expect those psychological tendencies to lead to.

          Max:

          To be fair, though, the links between NRx and fascism are about as clear as the links between progressivism and communism. So I don’t think comparing us to fascists is out of bounds at all.

          What is ‘fascism’? Does the word have any consistent denotational content? If it does, I can’t find it.

          Adding the capital F makes the statement cladistically questionable — what does libertarianism have to do with Long and Coughlin?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Ialdabaoth: What progressivism have you seen? My impression is that progressives tend to be much less “don’t cast anyone as inferiors” and much more Brian Leiter.

          Here’s where I invoke Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of progressive liberals are crap. That said, I’d far rather work with the 10% that aren’t, than dig through the neofascists for principled and compassionate Reactionaries. It’s also a matter of exposure, degrees and consequences: with Progressivism pretty much taken over, you can expect that we’d be swimming in Progressive crap a lot more than we’d be swimming in neofascist crap, and that’s pretty much what we find. That said, having lived under a neofascist minority for awhile, I find the Prograssive-majority crap far easier to deal with (and I say this as exactly the kind of low-status male that feminism likes to vilify).

          Are you counting the Guns and Dope Party sort of Anton-Wiltonian pseudo-libertarianism as progressive?

          Yes. Otherwise we’ll be here all day playing “no true Scottsman”. I consider myself a Progressive explicitly because I think all people should be treated decently, and because I agree with most of the basic assertions that “lots of different kinds of people have been steamrolled by history and that’s awful”. When something better (from my perspective) than Progressivism comes along, I’ll call myself that – but for now, they’re my most logical allies.

        • Max says:

          ABSOLUTELY NOT. You’ve completely mischaracterized my position.

          It strikes me as strange that you’d feel the need to make this statement. My claim was that your conscious beliefs do not reflect your subconscious reasoning. In other words, you have been pwned, good sir. The worm has its hooks in you deep. Of course you think I’ve mischaracterized your position – my position is that you mischaracterize your own.

          I am NOT a NeoReactionary, and generally loathe NRx ideology for a very, very long list of reasons.

          I assure you that listing all of them would be redundant. The real reason you loathe NRx ideology is that your brain is genetically pre-disposed to favor left-wing thinking, and so you self-identify as belonging to left-wing tribes. However, because you’re too bright to swallow the blue pill completely, you engage in heresy, attempting to mold the insanity of your tribe’s ideology into something resembling rational thought while maintaining your tribal affiliation. Witness:

          “I regularly point out to my fellow advocates that pure democracy, besides being slow and noisy, has some nightmarish potential failure points. Especially in an atmpshoere of fear and paranoia, it can be quite popular to round up a despised minority and cart them off the camps in the middle of the desert – Hello, Manzanar! And sometimes the popular will is to deny access to the legal and political processes to an underclass, as in the segregated South.
          But the American system, at least, has a profoundly undemocratic component to help ameliorate some of these potential failures.”

          These simply aren’t the words of a rabid advocate for democracy. They are the words of a rabid advocate for democrats – not the political party, but the tribe consisting of your “fellow advocates.” This love of one’s own kind and loathing of outgroups is perfectly normal, and your embrace of it simply serves as further proof that you aren’t really a Universalist/Progressive/democrat at heart – you are a realist (I would say reactionary, but you asked me not to call you a NeoReactionary, and I respect your wishes too much to get around that request on a technicality).

          I’d go into that, but I have work to do, and Scott’s Anti-Reactionary FAQ is a reasonable approximation of my own feelings on the matter.

          Correction: Scott’s Anti-Reactionary FAQ is a reasonable justification for your feelings on the matter. Be honest – when you were reading that epic takedown of my alien/evil/awful ideology, didn’t you feel good? Didn’t it feel like winning? Like victory? Of course it did. The urge to conquer and dominate one’s enemies is shared by all.

          Remember – thoughts follow feelings, not the other way around. Your mind did not evolve to act as an honest truth-seeker, it evolved to help you win arguments. Thus, it is not correct to say that your feelings towards NRx are the result of thinking logically about it; instead, your thoughts about NRx are the result of feelings it brings out in your subconscious.

          This isn’t a problem, of course, because as we all know, gut feelings are never wrong and should always be trusted without question! ;-P

          Let me explain: Democracy, like gasoline, is a valuable tool. But gasoline should certainly not be sprayed on everything, and vehicles powered by gasoline should have safety features like brakes to keep the gasoline in the motor from flinging the entire vehicle out of control. These safety features do not prove that internal combustion is horribly flawed, just that it needs controls. The American system has non-democratic formal and informal safety features to keep democracy from ruining the country.

          I fear the metaphor simply isn’t ringing true for me. Perhaps if you could kindly define the term “democracy” as you’ve used it here, I might better understand what it means to say that democracy is a “tool.” See, I was under the impression that democracy is a form of government, and furthermore that we don’t actually live in one, as you’ve acknowledged. If we agree that “pure democracy” is horrible and must be prevented from coming into being by a “profoundly undemocractic component” in order to prevent “nightmarish” failure points from “ruining the country,” then we can quibble over the label of our shared philosophy all you like, but calling yourself a somewhat rabid advocate for “democracy” is simply incorrect. That word already means something, and it doesn’t mean what you want it to.

          Democracy isn’t perfect, nor does it destroy everything.

          “The American system has non-democratic formal and informal safety features to keep democracy from ruining the country.” (emphasis mine)

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

          The Dark Enlightenment is performing a valuable service in critiquing democracy, but DO NOT call me a NeoReactionary.

          Okay, my fellow traveler – whatever you say. =)

          Your line reminded me of someone saying to a person they want to romance, “You love me, you just don’t know it.” I find it creepy and insulting, and please do not do it again.

          What a fantastic use of Game you’ve deployed here! Are you a regular reader of Roissy, or are you just a natural? I’m guessing the latter, but either way, my sympathy for and admiration of you just increased. We’ll get that worm out yet, friend.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Correction: Scott’s Anti-Reactionary FAQ is a reasonable justification for your feelings on the matter. Be honest – when you were reading that epic takedown of my alien/evil/awful ideology, didn’t you feel good? Didn’t it feel like winning? Like victory? Of course it did. The urge to conquer and dominate one’s enemies is shared by all.

          Remember – thoughts follow feelings, not the other way around. Your mind did not evolve to act as an honest truth-seeker, it evolved to help you win arguments. Thus, it is not correct to say that your feelings towards NRx are the result of thinking logically about it; instead, your thoughts about NRx are the result of feelings it brings out in your subconscious.

          This isn’t a problem, of course, because as we all know, gut feelings are never wrong and should always be trusted without question! ;-P

          What a fantastic use of Game you’ve deployed here! Are you a regular reader of Roissy, or are you just a natural? I’m guessing the latter, but either way, my sympathy for and admiration of you just increased. We’ll get that worm out yet, friend.

          This is exactly the kind of smug, smarmy, “let me tell you what you really think” shit that I could do less with around here.

          And stop projecting your “empty moral superiority” onto the people you’re talking to; “I know you are but what am I?” is a troll tactic, not valid discourse.

          I hope I’m not the only one feeling this way, but I just ran out of “kindness” for this line of dialog. Poisoned honey is not respect.

        • Max says:

          I guess I tend to be paranoid about form, better safe than sorry, considering the mind-killing consequences of rudeness. Should I ever seem rude or disrespectful, feel free to point out.

          I appreciate that, and I encourage you to do the same.

          To clarify, my placing the joke side-by-side with your comment on the necessity of a moral aristocracy was meant to imply that you too realise an extreme form of your position would be untenable. I’d also point out to your agreeing with me over the necessity of the aristocracy having fetters related to public need as another example.

          I’m not sure I can agree. To what position are you referring? The most reasonable interpretation of your words here implies that I take a position I have never taken. Bear in mind that the word “reactionary” is simply a convenient label; it implies opposition to progressivism, but not necessarily polar opposition. Surely most progressives would say that water is wet, and I would be inclined to agree. Similarly, most progressives recognize the importance of preventing corrupt elites from oppressing the masses, and I agree that this is important. However, the Progressive Christian view (and I believe using the ideology’s original label here is important to remind us of its anti-rational nature) is that having more people vote is innately valuable – in other words, that democracy and expanding the franchise are positive moral developments independent of the consequences that these things bring about. And on this point, I must disagree with the Progressive Christians and side instead with my friend Andy, the “somewhat rabid advocate for democracy” who wants to keep democracy from ruining the country. Letting people vote is good exactly and only insofar as it produces superior consequences to not letting people vote, and not letting people vote is good exactly and only insofar as it produces superior consequences to letting people vote.

          By the same token that you claim anyone not espousing an extreme form of democracy is a reactionary, I could claim that advocacy of a non-independent aristocracy is a Reformist position.

          Indeed.

          However, that appears to stretch the definitions of these political camps a tad too broadly, in my view.

          Not in mine! The point I’d raise is that the label “reactionary” doesn’t really point to a single coherent political ideology or “camp” at all – instead, it is defined entirely by opposition to and disagreement with Progressive Christianity; that is the only unifying feature of the different branches of the Reaction. In other words, anyone who isn’t an insane religious fanatic (well – I should say, anyone who isn’t that particular kind of insane religious fanatic =P) is by definition a reactionary.

          Many camps question Modernity in many different ways, most of them seem to claim monopoly over such, strangely enough. If I got a dollar for every ‘red pill’ I’ve been exposed to…

          I would agree with your criticism here if I were pushing one particular solution to the problem, but I’m not. I claim instead that everyone who recognizes and opposes the insanity of Progressivism can be united under a single banner/label despite sharing nothing in common other than that recognition and opposition.

          As for the study, an interesting start. However, I have some theoretical troubles with it: The Economists’ view is taken as reliable, but isn’t the Cathedral said to heavily influence academia, particularly social sciences?

          Indeed it is. That’s why when the Cathedral produces research that undermines itself, you really should sit up straight and pay attention (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statement_against_interest).

          How can this match up to such a study in terms of possibility of bias? How did such study get through if its conclusions called its views into question?

          Moldbug would say that it’s important for a neutered false opposition to exist in order for the Cathedral to maintain the illusion of objectivity and impartiality. Overt oppression and censorship of ideas is a last resort – using them too freely may undermine the success of its mind control tactics.

          I personally am willing to take it for a reliable study, quite surprising in some details. However, from what I gather, the bias seems bidirectional and polarized by party affiliation rather than systemically unidirectional in the populace. Assuming the Cathedral would benefit the most from homogeneous beliefs, it seems to be very ineffective. I’d love to see more sources.

          Don’t forget that the Cathedral was not Intelligently Designed – it evolved via natural selection, and so it is not perfectly efficient or as powerful as it might be if God Did It. Instead, the manufacture of consent is a long and tedious process (usually – it turns out that getting people to support gay marriage is actually pretty easy).

          I’d be happy to look for more sources if you can find stronger evidence in opposition to the view I’ve just put forth. Epistemology is important – we have prima facie evidence for one view and none for the other, so shouldn’t we take the former for granted before demanding an ever higher standard of proof? “Aaron Swartz sees no convincing evidence that neohominid males and females are not neurologically identical.”

          The ‘curruption of character’ point sounds intriguing, though I’ve previously argued that, duo to systemic incentives, I tend to rank such things below structural matters when it comes to analysis.

          I don’t think it’s possible to separate the two. Character shapes institutions shape incentives shape character shapes institutions. It’s a feedback loop.

          I’d also love to hear about what constitutes the ‘American Aristocracy’ you refer to. The owners of the means of production, I assume?

          I was talking about the members that make up the Cathedral, of course.

        • Andy says:

          What a fantastic use of Game you’ve deployed here! Are you a regular reader of Roissy, or are you just a natural? I’m guessing the latter, but either way, my sympathy for and admiration of you just increased. We’ll get that worm out yet, friend.

          I should probably not respond to this, as angry as I am. However, I have a lot of work to do today and steaming over this and formulating a perfect response would just distract me, I’ll respond now, as charitably as I can.
          I find your comment to be, in Ialdabaoth’s words,

          This is exactly the kind of smug, smarmy, “let me tell you what you really think” shit that I could do less with around here.

          As well, both of your comments have been reported, for exactly this.
          I call what you said the “No True Strawman” tactic. Other examples:
          [please not, these examples are presented exclusively for demonstration and neither sentiment is intended]
          “You can’t be a feminist! You don’t hate men, or advocate enslaving them!”
          “If you’re a Reactionary, you must be a spoiled white man-child trying to justify your privilege!” [This one I have used in the past, and I am ashamed and apologetic for it.]
          And you continued to do this, even after I requested that you not. See why I’m quite peeved at you?
          I see no point in continuing this conversation. I quite like debating with Reactionaries, but not while having the sincerity of my own positions called into question, or being subjected to an insulting armchair psychoanalysis.
          Have a good day, sir.

        • Randy M says:

          “I hope I’m not the only one feeling this way”

          The assumption of perfect insight is off-putting, and I would consider myself pre-disposed to be sympathetic.

        • Zathille says:

          The point about tribal affiliation is very apt, something I’ve learned is very important to always keep in mind, to fetter one’s thoughts with the humility of knowing one is always ignorant of many things.

          Which is precisely why I’d stress it needs to be widely followed.

          I’d wager a guess that one of the reasons Dawkins was Pwned stems from the fact he employed the logic of evolutionary adaptation to analyse to the explicitly theistic mind, perhaps forgetting to analyse his own.

          By the same token, when one theorizes about the mindset of one holding an opposing view, one must be humble enough to know the same driving forces behind them also apply to oneself, lest the theorizer be pwned.

          I apologise in advance, but I feel I must ask this to bring my point to object-level: Do you feel good, Max, in saying Ialbadaoth was pwned? In implying he is, essentially, part of your tribe for considering your points? For now I assume so duo to the patter of emoticon use in your post. Does that not show you the possibility that you hold your positions partly out of tribal affiliation?

          Notice, however, that I’ve said ‘partially’, you’d be justified in feeling insulted if I did not add such a qualifier, for had I not, I’d have implying you had not raised any points in defence of your position and also implying you were being irrational, which seems like a particularly damaging social signal in these LessWrong-ese parts.

          I do believe many objections to your observations stem from such subtle implications, intended or not. To the extent that objections to it can be construed as another instance of tribal bias, they are construed as such, leading to a chronic mind-killing death spiral.

          As for the Metaphors about Democracy and fires and destruction: To the extent the concepts are not well-defined, or rather, historically and materially contextualized, I don’t believe this discussion will get anywhere. A feudal monarchy, duo to its mode of production, is fundamentally different to an absolute monarchy reigning over a mercantile economic base. The incentive systems are different, and yet, both are monarchies. The same can be said about Democracy: Greek democracy is different from a modern one. This is precisely what leads me to think that, fundamentally, one must look at the material and economic basis of a society, as well as how this has changed over the course of history and see the different forms of government as expressions of these, rather than an ideal superstructure divorced from its material basis.

          Not defining such concepts leads to people often using their own internalized concept of Democracy to argue, to the extent that such definitions may differ from person to person, we end up talking past one another, leading to potential accusations of hand-wringing and other mind-killing stuff.

          At least that’s my take on where this discussion has been headed, which I consider a pity.

        • Max says:

          The problem is that these aren’t where my Progressive beliefs came from. In fact, most of my Progressive attitudes and beliefs developed when I was very young, and were explicitly in conflict with my Christian upbringing.

          “He thinks he is attacking superstition on behalf of the armies of reason. In fact he is attacking M.41 on behalf of the armies of M.42. D’oh!

          Of course, I’m sure Professor Dawkins is quite sincere in his beliefs. Hosts always are. However, he has devoted a remarkable level of ratiocinative attention to one phenotypically insignificant meme – the God delusion – in which M.42 conflicts with M.41. My view is that this behavior is best explained by memetic infection, ie, pwnage.

          I share Professor Dawkins’ preference for the derived M.42 meme, at least at this one spot on the chromosome. But I can’t help observing that (a) M.42 and M.41 are both large and intricate memeplexes; (b) it strikes me as by no means obvious that when M.42 and M.41 are compared in toto, M.42 is more reasonable or less morbid than M.41; (c) M.42 (like M.41) includes many other memes which replicate via the same arational indoctrination paths as the God delusion; and (d) while some of the M.42 (and M.41) memes are quite reasonable, others strike me as inadequately examined at best, transparently preposterous at worst.

          Ergo, pwning Professor Dawkins is quite adaptive for M.42. It focuses potential hosts on the question of whether M.42 is superior to M.41 on this particular point – as it clearly is. This distracts them from considering the more general and interesting question of whether or not M.42, considered by itself, is stark raving bonkers, and if so constructing a reasonable perspective which is reassembled from scratch and which can correct both M.42 and M.41.

          I would love to see Professor Dawkins rotate his impressive intellectual artillery to this angle. But if I’m right that his neocortex has been devoured and replaced by a foam of M.42 cysts, I wouldn’t exactly hold my breath.”

          I don’t know what else to add. I feel like anyone with a sufficiently high IQ should be incapable of failing to recognize what’s going on here.

          Ultimately, my neurobiology makes it very difficult for me to thrive in environments where outgroups are treated hostilely

          http://thinkprogress.org/

          or where people are made to suffer.

          http://radishmag.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/come-back-colonialism/

          I think the new-fangled term for it is “highly sensitive person”; regardless, the way it feels from the inside is that if I am aware of two other human beings, and one feels contempt for the other, I feel that contempt.

          http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

          So I’m not really cut out to say “these people are my inferiors”, because some faulty wiring in my mirror neurons makes me FEEL AS IF I WERE THEM.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/nyregion/06rape.html?_r=0

          http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch/#/columbia+rape+%2522robert+williams%2522/

          You don’t feel superior to Robert Williams? Not even a little?

          My choice to identify with Progressivist movements has nothing to do with Progressivism’s history, and everything to do with the fact that – at this particular moment in history – it happens to occupy a place that matches my own rational goals (most of which are “get people to stop abusing and humiliating each other so that their psychic screaming will quiet down in my head”).

          http://www.msnbc.com/

          Most of the people that I have met who have made arguments similar to yours, and who have used debating tactics similar to yours, and who have professed goals similar to yours, have tended to enjoy seeing out-group members humiliated and abused.

          http://handleshaus.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/bullied-and-badgered-pressured-and-purged/

          They have tended to avoid helping people when they had easy ways to do so

          http://philanthropy.com/article/Religious-Americans-Give-More/143273/

          they have tended to explicitly abuse and humiliate out-group members when given an opportunity to do so, even when doing so had no other instrumental value.

          http://radishmag.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/no-reason/

          So even if you sincerely believe that your stated methods would achieve your stated goals, I have a significant weight of prior evidence against believing you.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          “He thinks he is attacking superstition on behalf of the armies of reason. In fact he is attacking M.41 on behalf of the armies of M.42. D’oh!

          I’m no longer capable of accepting your arguments in the spirit of good-faith reasoning. My “he’s just trying to score points” detector has red-lined.

        • Max says:

          What is ‘fascism’?

          Hitler/Mussolini. Right-wing authoritarian government.

          Does the word have any consistent denotational content?

          http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism

          Adding the capital F makes the statement cladistically questionable — what does libertarianism have to do with Long and Coughlin?

          What does progressivism have to do with Stalin and Mao?

        • Max says:

          Here’s where I invoke Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of progressive liberals are crap. That said, I’d far rather work with the 10% that aren’t, than dig through the neofascists for principled and compassionate Reactionaries.

          Here’s where I invoke Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of reactionaries are crap. That said, I’d far rather work with the 10% that aren’t, than dig through the neocommunists for principled and compassionate Progressives.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sONfxPCTU0

          having lived under a neofascist minority for awhile, I find the Prograssive-majority crap far easier to deal with

          Pray tell – which neofascist minority was this?

          Yes. Otherwise we’ll be here all day playing “no true Scottsman”.

          The Guns and Dope Party sort of Anton-Wiltonian pseudo-libertarianism is actually reactionary. Don’t bother disagreeing, otherwise we’ll be here all day playing “no true Scottsman”.

          I consider myself a Progressive explicitly because I think all people should be treated decently, and because I agree with most of the basic assertions that “lots of different kinds of people have been steamrolled by history and that’s awful”. When something better (from my perspective) than Progressivism comes along, I’ll call myself that – but for now, they’re my most logical allies.

          I consider myself a Reactionary explicitly because I think all people should be treated (governed) decently, and because I agree with most of the basic assertions that “lots of different kinds of people have been steamrolled by history and that’s awful”. When something better (from my perspective) than NRx comes along, I’ll call myself that – but for now, they’re my most logical allies.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          This thread should have died a very long time ago. I do realize how easy it is to get sucked into a futile argument though*. You’re always hoping for that moment when your interlocutor says “Oh, your position is more nuanced that I thought, I’m glad I learned something today”. It’s like scratching an itch.

          *See any James McDonald conversation for the most impressively low productiveness to thread length ratio that I have ever seen.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Here’s where I invoke Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of reactionaries are crap. That said, I’d far rather work with the 10% that aren’t, than dig through the neocommunists for principled and compassionate Progressives.

          I know you are, but what am I?

          The Guns and Dope Party sort of Anton-Wiltonian pseudo-libertarianism is actually reactionary. Don’t bother disagreeing, otherwise we’ll be here all day playing “no true Scottsman”.

          I know you are, but what am I?

          I consider myself a Reactionary explicitly because I think all people should be treated (governed) decently, and because I agree with most of the basic assertions that “lots of different kinds of people have been steamrolled by history and that’s awful”. When something better (from my perspective) than NRx comes along, I’ll call myself that – but for now, they’re my most logical allies.

          I know you are, but what am I?

          Seriously, dude, “rephrase your opponent’s statements and substitute words to turn it around on them” is clever, like, once. Then it’s tedious. Then it’s just rude.

          I’m reading you as waaaay past rude at this point, and I’ve expended way too much effort on giving you the benefit of the doubt. I’m reporting my own post so that you can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you managed to troll someone into getting themselves banned, which I’m beginning to suspect is the whole idea.

          If you’re actually serious about engaging people, please, PLEASE look at your rhetorical tactics, and ask yourself “how would I feel if someone used these tactics on me?” – because if your goal is to make people think more rationally about politics, how does riling up their emotions serve that goal? (On the other hand, if your goal is to prove to yourself how much more rational you are than your opponent, I’d expect you to develop tactics like these.)

        • Max says:

          This is exactly the kind of smug, smarmy, “let me tell you what you really think” shit that I could do less with around here.

          Note the consequences of taking this stance – if ever you are mistaken about what you really think, you will be impervious to correction by outside sources. Further note that you did not use logic or reason to decide that this tactic should be out-of-bounds and expelled from polite discourse – it simply makes you feel bad.

          This is why changing your mind is so hard and why so few people manage to do it. Learning hurts.

          And stop projecting your “empty moral superiority” onto the people you’re talking to; “I know you are but what am I?” is a troll tactic, not valid discourse.

          I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t believe I’m morally superior to anyone – I am a nihilist. Morals are a fiction; they do not exist.

          It is possible to believe that you are right and someone else is wrong without believing that this makes you morally superior to them. Obviously, I think that I am right and that you are wrong, or we wouldn’t be disagreeing in the first place. If you think that making comments based on this assumption is a “troll tactic, not valid discourse,” then your cocoon is sealed tight, and no amount of logic or reason will ever be able to penetrate. Don’t you see a problem with that?

          I hope I’m not the only one feeling this way, but I just ran out of “kindness” for this line of dialog. Poisoned honey is not respect.

          When did I say that I respect you? I don’t, and I never claimed to. Does the teacher respect the student when the latter is mired in willful ignorance? Does Stephen Hawking respect the creator of Time Cube? Until some level of mastery is achieved, respect is (and should be) a one-way street.

          You and I are not equals. I’m genuinely sorry if my saying this makes you feel bad, but I’ll do a little more of that thing you could do with less of around here and point out that you feel the same way, even if you don’t consciously recognize it. You think that you are superior to me. You find me to be rude, crass, and trollish.

          Disagreement always creates disrespect. The amount of disrespect is precisely proportional to the amount of disagreement. To the extent that people see eye-to-eye, they respect one another. To the extent that they don’t…

          In any case, you may not be the only one who has run out of “kindness” and tolerance for continued dialogue, but my cup remains full. I love you and wish you the best, and I sincerely apologize for any distress that exposure to me and my ideas has caused.

        • Max says:

          I should probably not respond to this, as angry as I am.

          http://lesswrong.com/lw/gux/dont_get_offended/

          As well, both of your comments have been reported, for exactly this.

          Is it not permissible, then, to claim that one has greater insight into the beliefs of another than the other person does himself? Adopting this stance seems like it would have some very obvious drawbacks.

          I call what you said the “No True Strawman” tactic. Other examples:
          “You can’t be a feminist! You don’t hate men, or advocate enslaving them!”

          Obvious response: The term “feminism” does not imply hatred of men or advocacy of their enslavement.

          “If you’re a Reactionary, you must be a spoiled white man-child trying to justify your privilege!”

          Guilty as charged. ;-P

          And you continued to do this, even after I requested that you not. See why I’m quite peeved at you?

          Well, in my defense, I did make a request that you haven’t responded to. I’ll quote it here:

          “I fear the metaphor simply isn’t ringing true for me. Perhaps if you could kindly define the term ‘democracy’ as you’ve used it here, I might better understand what it means to say that democracy is a ‘tool.'”

          In other words, if we extend the feminism metaphor above, I said you couldn’t be a feminist because you don’t hate men or advocate enslaving them. It seems to me that an obvious response should be to correct my misperception about what feminism is – to tell me that, in fact, one can be a feminist without hating men or advocating enslaving them, because feminism is _____. I asked you to offer an alternate definition of democracy so that I might better understand how you could claim to be a somewhat rabid supporter of it (as a “tool”) despite making comments that I perceived to be in direct opposition to it. You have not responded to this request, so if there is a reasonable explanation that you’ve simply chosen not to share, I remain ignorant of it. If you want me to stop offensively and incorrectly assuming that I know what you believe, then tell me what you actually do believe instead. Help me help you.

          I see no point in continuing this conversation. I quite like debating with Reactionaries, but not while having the sincerity of my own positions called into question, or being subjected to an insulting armchair psychoanalysis.

          Why the opposition to armchair psychoanalysis? Afraid you’ll learn something you won’t like?

          Have a good day, sir.

          You too! =)

        • Max says:

          The assumption of perfect insight is off-putting, and I would consider myself pre-disposed to be sympathetic.

          Would it be better if I prefaced every proclamation with, “It seems to me that…”?

        • Randy M says:

          “Is it not permissible, then, to claim that one has greater insight into the beliefs of another than the other person does himself?”

          I’m not the authority on what is permissible, but as a naked assertion it falls flat; there should be some evidence or reasoning behind granting that a recent acqaintence (to stretch even that meager relationship) has greater insight into the other based on some pattern matching of a handful of political posts.

          “Would it be better if I prefaced every proclamation with, “It seems to me that…”?”

          At least make the reasoning for such assumptions clearer and allow somewhere in the lengthy post some room for error, yes.

        • ozymandias says:

          Disagreement always creates disrespect. The amount of disrespect is precisely proportional to the amount of disagreement. To the extent that people see eye-to-eye, they respect one another. To the extent that they don’t…

          This may be true for you but it is empirically not true for me. At least, I spend a lot of time talking to some people I disagree with, read books that they recommend, call them my best friends, defend their beliefs against strawmanning by others, spend money visiting them, &c. I suppose I could be putting a truly extraordinary amount of effort into signalling that I respect social conservatives and anti-effective altruists for… all of the social points which respecting those groups gets me. Or I could say that I have been wrong in the past and still feel that past me was a well-intentioned, kind, and intelligent person, and therefore well-intentioned, kind, and intelligent people may be wrong in the present. (Whether myself or others.)

          It is often considered rude to tell people what they really think. For instance, imagine if I told you “you say that you don’t support democracy because it doesn’t work, but actually you don’t support democracy because you hate me and people like me; you want us to not have a voice in society so that we can suffer endlessly to make your life better without a means of redress.” If my model of you is correct, you would, quite rightly, believe that I was not engaging with your argument and that I had not extended you the courtesy of thinking you are neither stupid nor evil. Now, some people like Mr. Hanson argue that *everyone* believes things for nonrational reasons, which is fine. But if a person believes that they believe things for rational reasons and their opponents believe things for nonrational reasons, then it is reasonable for an outside observer to believe they’re engaged in motivated skepticism, and for their opponents to take offense.

          It is really, really hard to not demonize your opponents; I regularly find myself considering my opponents stupid or evil, or rejoicing over evidence that they are even worse than I thought. But I really do encourage you to make the effort. It is probably just my Christian morality though– “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” and all that.

        • Max says:

          I apologise in advance, but I feel I must ask this to bring my point to object-level: Do you feel good, Max, in saying Ialbadaoth was pwned? In implying he is, essentially, part of your tribe for considering your points?

          Very much so, yes! It gives me the warm fuzzies for sure.

          For now I assume so duo to the patter of emoticon use in your post. Does that not show you the possibility that you hold your positions partly out of tribal affiliation?

          At the very least, absolutely. I might argue that the positions I take are almost entirely attributable to my tribal affiliation rather than pure logic or reason, and this is a very good reason to question them. Hence my decision to engage in verbal sparring with members of the opposition. “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.” If I am wrong, then let me learn it with rapidity.

          Notice, however, that I’ve said ‘partially’, you’d be justified in feeling insulted if I did not add such a qualifier

          I disagree. I do not think feeling insulted is ever justified. Thinking rationally is hard, and feeling insulted makes it pretty much impossible. I have made a conscious commitment to never feel insulted, and for the most part I do a pretty good job of it.

          for had I not, I’d have implying you had not raised any points in defence of your position and also implying you were being irrational, which seems like a particularly damaging social signal in these LessWrong-ese parts.

          Imply away. I trust the best among us to be impartial judges of the accusation. Most will render a verdict based on tribal affiliation, but I care naught for the opinions of the masses.

          I do believe many objections to your observations stem from such subtle implications, intended or not. To the extent that objections to it can be construed as another instance of tribal bias, they are construed as such, leading to a chronic mind-killing death spiral.

          +1

          I think the most important lesson one could learn from this is the importance of never feeling offended or angry or insulted ever if one has the meta-goal of seeking truth. There is probably no post of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s that I disagree with more strongly than this one: http://lesswrong.com/lw/hp/feeling_rational/

          Emotions are in fact impediments to rational thinking. What to do with this realization is up to you (because moral nihilism is true). I choose to feel happiness and light as a default 24/7 (whenever I am not making a conscious effort to think rationally) while never feeling offended or angry. I am happy with this decision (lol). You could call this a “chronic mind-killing death spiral” if you wanted to, but I think I do an alright job of breaking free when necessary. Do be sure to let me know if you disagree, though!

          As for the Metaphors about Democracy and fires and destruction: To the extent the concepts are not well-defined, or rather, historically and materially contextualized, I don’t believe this discussion will get anywhere.

          Agreed, that’s why I asked Andy for his definition of democracy. Unfortunately, he never responded.

          Not defining such concepts leads to people often using their own internalized concept of Democracy to argue, to the extent that such definitions may differ from person to person, we end up talking past one another, leading to potential accusations of hand-wringing and other mind-killing stuff.

          At least that’s my take on where this discussion has been headed, which I consider a pity.

          +1

        • Max says:

          I’m no longer capable of accepting your arguments in the spirit of good-faith reasoning. My “he’s just trying to score points” detector has red-lined.

          What’s the difference between good-faith reasoning and just trying to score points?

        • Randy M says:

          “Disagreement always creates disrespect.”

          I suppose this is true if one carefully cleaves the definitions of respect and politeness, kindness, etc, and makes respect to mean the level of regard for the abilities of another. Such that is someone else makes what I am absolutely sure is an error (insert your own examples), I have to lower my regard for their analytical abilities, ie, disrespect them.

          But that is not the only connotation respect has, so to say disagreement always creates disrespect is to be misleading.


          “I disagree. I do not think feeling insulted is ever justified”

          You seem to mistake justified for useful, but then, maybe a nihilist/utilitarian sees them as useful? I would agree that it rarely if ever useful, but calling it never justified seems to be a refusal to see intentional violations of protocol/status, or other clearly purposeful insults.

          But while I think there is a difference between taking offense and being insulted, maybe that is just my own interpretation of the mental states associated with the words.

        • Max says:

          This thread should have died a very long time ago. I do realize how easy it is to get sucked into a futile argument though*. You’re always hoping for that moment when your interlocutor says “Oh, your position is more nuanced that I thought, I’m glad I learned something today”. It’s like scratching an itch.

          *See any James McDonald conversation for the most impressively low productiveness to thread length ratio that I have ever seen.

          You misunderstand my motivation. I enjoy the art of debate and argumentation regardless of the outcome. If you imagine I haven’t found myself unable to suppress grins of glee multiple times throughout the course of this exchange, your mental impression of me is badly flawed.

        • Max says:

          Seriously, dude, “rephrase your opponent’s statements and substitute words to turn it around on them” is clever, like, once. Then it’s tedious. Then it’s just rude.

          Have you stopped to ask yourself why I did it? The purpose was to demonstrate that the “reasons” you gave for identifying with Progs were not rational and did not provide a logical basis for said identification, because I could just as easily use the exact same reasons to identify with the opposite tribe.

          Do you disagree with that critique of what you said? If so, then make it known. Instead, you have opted for outrage over my method of pointing out your mistake. This should tell you something.

          I’m reading you as waaaay past rude at this point, and I’ve expended way too much effort on giving you the benefit of the doubt.

          =(

          I’m reporting my own post so that you can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you managed to troll someone into getting themselves banned, which I’m beginning to suspect is the whole idea.

          I can only assure you that it is not. The problem here is just that you and I are very different – perhaps too different to bridge the gap with a shared love of logic and learning.

          This is why multiculturalism can never work, btw. ;-P

          If you’re actually serious about engaging people, please, PLEASE look at your rhetorical tactics, and ask yourself “how would I feel if someone used these tactics on me?”

          I wouldn’t feel anything at all except perhaps mild amusement. Strong emotions are insurmountable impediments to rational thinking.

          because if your goal is to make people think more rationally about politics, how does riling up their emotions serve that goal?

          Who said my goal was to make people think more rationally about politics? Perhaps my goal is to make people think more rationally about everything. In that case, might it not be useful to demonstrate that strong emotions are insurmountable impediments to rational thinking rather than to merely assert it? By doing so, might I not be able to make a more persuasive case for consciously committing to never feel strong emotions when attempting to think rationally?

          I freely confess that this was not my purpose in beginning our dialogue here, but I’m certainly pleased to be presented with an opportunity to defend the idea.

          (On the other hand, if your goal is to prove to yourself how much more rational you are than your opponent, I’d expect you to develop tactics like these.)

          Of course my goal is to prove to myself (and others) how much more rational I am than my opponent. I’m nothing but a status-seeking monkey, just like you.

          Now, do you think we could put our disagreements over tactics aside and continue an object-level discussion?

          Note: I’m not proposing that we do so. I’m genuinely asking whether you think that would be possible. If not, don’t you think it might have something to do with the strong feelings you have in your brain? Isn’t that strong evidence in favor of the idea that rationalists should commit to freeing themselves from (at least some) strong emotions?

        • Zathille says:

          @Max:

          “He thinks he is attacking superstition on behalf of the armies of reason. In fact he is attacking M.41 on behalf of the armies of M.42. D’oh!

          I wouldn’t say this would apply exclusively to Ialdabaoth in this situation. Notice how you’ve repeatedly characterized the struggle against Progressivism as one against irrationality, in which Reaction represents Reason. If both Dawkins and Ialdabaoth were pwned for championing their causes in such terms, why repeat the same mistake?

          Sturgeon’s Law has already been invoked, separating 2 idealised concepts of Progress and Reaction from those who expound them and justifying an entrenchment of opinions. This is quite worrying.

          But enough of my whining, on to my actual points:

          I notice that when I mentioned questioning Modernity you seemed to conflate it with Progressivism. While many movements do so, I’d say that this would be an error, an idealistic conception of history. The modern world shows many fundamental characteristics whose origins cannot be reduced to progressive Ideology: An increasingly economically integrated world, the globalisation of production and distribution of goods, The increasing competition between nations to attract investment as well as the greater role of financial markets as the distributed nervous system of capital allocation. I’ve seen many ideologies analyse and criticise parts or even the totality of such arrangements from various angles, that is also questioning Modernity, which is why I maintain that this is no Reactionary monopoly.

          I guess I could say, in short: you may not be advocating a specific solution to the problem, but I say that not everyone who questions Modernity shares this notion of what the fundamental problem is.

          As for character and whatnot. I’ve never maintained they were independent from institutions one way or another, but to return to my example of the owner of the failing business: It matters not his moral character or how he feels about his employees, only that he is part of a defined market structure which would punish him for not cutting costs and restoring competitiveness. His incentives are structurally given.

          I guess I could say that my greatest, greatest objection to such a focus on character can be exemplified by what we’ve witnessed in this very thread: moral character is very often conflated with factionalistic identity. The difference between a ‘moral politician/aristocrat’ and an ‘immoral politician/aristocrat’ for a person is often the difference between agreeing and disagreeing with a position, not necessarily something with a rational basis, as we’ve already established, which is why I’m inherently suspicious of such things not only in elections, but in discussions such as these. Appeals to morality always sound like a cop-out to me, common, generic and universally applicable Applause Lights and all. In short, agreeing with someone who advocates ‘morality’ feels like implied agreement with their terminal values.

          Instead of talking about ‘character’, what do I refer to in order to address the influence of people and movements inside institutions aside from material/economic/class interests? Tribe and Identity, as You’ve said before, we often rationalise our beliefs a posteriori of having them.

          My analysis of the current situation is that many people with certain tribal identifications are repulsed by aspects of current culture and politics, find other people with similar grievances on the internet and start discussing and sharing thoughts and experiences, in time, these grievances merge into a more cohesive ideology as a consequence.

          As the movement gains influence, the Establishment attempts to co-opt it or negotiate with it, many times resulting in policies directed at these groups as well as special academic disciplines related to their struggle and thought. Then the movement becomes part of the Establishment, many times rejecting its most radical aspects.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          STRONG SUGGESTION TO NOT CONTINUE THIS LINE OF DISCUSSION.

        • Max says:

          I’m not the authority on what is permissible, but as a naked assertion it falls flat; there should be some evidence or reasoning behind granting that a recent acqaintence (to stretch even that meager relationship) has greater insight into the other based on some pattern matching of a handful of political posts.

          Are a handful of political posts not evidence? Is pattern mapping not a form of reasoning? Were you to attack the reliability of either on quantifiable grounds, I’d likely agree with you, but the characterization of anything I’ve said here as a “naked assertion” is simply wrong.

          At least make the reasoning for such assumptions clearer and allow somewhere in the lengthy post some room for error, yes.

          I feel I’ve done a reasonable job of explaining – or at least linking to explanations of – my reasoning. And though I don’t always make a habit of inserting qualifiers into my (sometimes questionable) declarations during a debate, I hope you’ll trust me when I say that I’m no zealot. Had the responses to my “naked assertions” been more persuasive or less in line with what I expected them to be, I would’ve changed my mind.

        • Max says:

          This may be true for you but it is empirically not true for me.

          Well, this is probably just going to get me in trouble again, but I disagree. I’m pretty sure you’re overlooking the importance of the fact that there are at least two levels to any disagreement – the Object Level and the Meta Level. Check Scott’s 3/8/14 post for more on the subject. Persons with whom you disagree on one level may be persons with whom you agree on another. Which level you focus on will determine the degree of respect that you feel for a person.

          This phenomenon is very common in the political sphere. Republicans and Democrats often feel much more enmity towards people in their own party whom they disagree with on a few issues (which they focus on) than they feel about people in the other party whom they disagree with on a lot of issues but manage to make common cause with on the few issues where they do see eye-to-eye. Framing matters.

          At least, I spend a lot of time talking to some people I disagree with, read books that they recommend, call them my best friends, defend their beliefs against strawmanning by others, spend money visiting them, &c.

          I assume you disagree with these people on the Object Level, yes? But plainly you see eye-to-eye with them on such vitally important Meta Level issues as: Is it better to talk calmly and nicely to people, or is it better to hit them in the head with a brick and steal their stuff? Is it better to be open-minded and read books you might disagree with while suggesting books to people who might disagree with them, or is it better to be closed-minded and shield your mind from ideas you might disagree with?

          I claim that disagreements over these issues must necessarily cause you to lose respect for the people supporting the opposing side, assuming that you genuinely place a positive value on agreement about these issues.

          Before going on, I would encourage you to read this paper by Robin Hanson (if you haven’t already): http://hanson.gmu.edu/deceive.pdf

          Disagreement between perfectly honest and perfectly rational people who both perceive the other person to be perfectly honest and perfectly rational is impossible. Thus, continued disagreement between parties necessarily implies that one or both are either not honest or not rational. After enough time, you should either agree with the other party’s position or begin to suspect that they are less than perfectly honest and rational, which I claim represents a loss of respect by definition.

          Another way of phrasing what I’ve been saying: All conscious creatures have value systems. Some things are perceived to be good, some are perceived to be bad, and some are perceived to be neutral. By definition, those things that you perceive to be good are things that you look up to, admire, and respect. Also by definition, those things that you perceive to be bad are things that you look down on, despise, and disrespect. If you think positively of a person, it is necessarily because you think they are basically good (on net), which implies either that they share your values and consciously further them or do not share your values and unconsciously further them. The former implies the existence of respect, the latter does not. If you think negatively of a person, it is necessarily because you think they are basically bad (on net), which implies either that they do not share your values and consciously oppose them or do share your values and unintentionally interfere with them. The former implies the existence of disrespect, the latter does not. Respect is based on sharing values, disrespect is based on opposing values. If you don’t agree (or claim that it is empirically not true for you), it can only be because you aren’t defining the word “values” broadly enough.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/nyregion/06rape.html?_r=1&amp;

          http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch/#/columbia+rape+%2522robert+williams%2522/

          Do you respect Robert Williams?

          I suppose I could be putting a truly extraordinary amount of effort into signalling that I respect social conservatives and anti-effective altruists for… all of the social points which respecting those groups gets me.

          You misunderstand my position. I don’t claim that your actions or beliefs are the result of signaling at all. Instead, they are a result of the fact that you share values with the individuals you are describing, and you place a greater degree of importance on those shared values than you do on those where you disagree. This is perfectly sensible. For example, I respect the hell out of Scott (our host), even though I disagree with his evaluation of Charles Koch’s moral status and the likelihood of catastrophic effects resulting from global warming, because I think his epistemology is extremely strong and also because I value niceness a lot. For similar reasons, I respect the hell out of you, even though we’re having a disagreement right now, because you’re disagreeing with me in a thoughtful and respectful way, which is an ability/trait that I value a lot.

          Or I could say that I have been wrong in the past and still feel that past me was a well-intentioned, kind, and intelligent person, and therefore well-intentioned, kind, and intelligent people may be wrong in the present. (Whether myself or others.)

          100% agree with this. Your disagreement with my position is the result of misunderstanding it.

          It is often considered rude to tell people what they really think.

          I’m aware of that. I think tone matters more than substance in these situations, however, and I don’t feel that I’ve crossed any important lines here. I’ve tried to keep things light and playful while making what I thought were potentially accurate observations about the people I was interacting with.

          For instance, imagine if I told you “you say that you don’t support democracy because it doesn’t work, but actually you don’t support democracy because you hate me and people like me; you want us to not have a voice in society so that we can suffer endlessly to make your life better without a means of redress.”

          I’d lol.

          If my model of you is correct, you would, quite rightly, believe that I was not engaging with your argument and that I had not extended you the courtesy of thinking you are neither stupid nor evil.

          And that’d be fine! Most people are quite bad at engaging with arguments and extending courtesy to people who disagree with them. I’d bid you adieu and be on way.

          Now, some people like Mr. Hanson argue that *everyone* believes things for nonrational reasons, which is fine.

          I agree with this position and have indicated support for it in this thread, agreeing with my opponents when they criticized my motivations for making certain arguments.

          But if a person believes that they believe things for rational reasons and their opponents believe things for nonrational reasons, then it is reasonable for an outside observer to believe they’re engaged in motivated skepticism, and for their opponents to take offense.

          Agree with it reasonable for an outside observer to diagnose the participant with a case of motivated skepticism, disagree with it being reasonable for rational people to take offense at anything, ever, for any reason. Getting offended is the equivalent of tattooing “I am not a reasonable or rational person and should not be taken seriously” on your forehead.

          lesswrong.com/lw/gux/dont_get_offended/

          It is really, really hard to not demonize your opponents; I regularly find myself considering my opponents stupid or evil, or rejoicing over evidence that they are even worse than I thought. But I really do encourage you to make the effort. It is probably just my Christian morality though– “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” and all that.

          I promise I’m not demonizing anybody! I’m simply making the accurate observation that respect (not love or compassion – those are different) is founded upon shared values and beliefs about the way the world is. One or the other is sufficient, but both would be best. Also, respect/disrespect isn’t a binary distinction, it’s a sliding scale, and my comment about proportionality still holds.

          Your comment about Christian values is an important one. You realize that they’re insane and produce predictably bad consequences for every possible value system, right? You have limited resources, and devoting them to enemies who hate/curse/mistreat you rather than friends who love/compliment/comfort you is only worthwhile to the extent that you expect doing so to have some positive ripple effect on the universe. (Do you believe in magic/karma?)

          Otherwise you’ve basically just adopted a value system that commits you and your kind to suicide.

        • Max says:

          I suppose this is true if one carefully cleaves the definitions of respect and politeness, kindness, etc, and makes respect to mean the level of regard for the abilities of another. Such that is someone else makes what I am absolutely sure is an error (insert your own examples), I have to lower my regard for their analytical abilities, ie, disrespect them.

          Indeed.

          But that is not the only connotation respect has, so to say disagreement always creates disrespect is to be misleading.

          Well, to the extent that the statement is interpreted in a way that makes it incorrect, it’ll be incorrect then. I hope it’s obvious that I meant it in the way that makes it true though.

          You seem to mistake justified for useful

          Nah, I definitely think that getting/appearing offended can be useful:

          “Of course, one (perhaps Robin Hanson) might also point out that getting offended can be socially useful. While true– quickly responding in an offended fashion can be a strong signal of your commitment to group identity and values[1]– that doesn’t really relate to what this post is talking about.”

          but then, maybe a nihilist/utilitarian sees them as useful?

          Right, I am both a nihilist and a utilitarian and I can imagine situations in which getting offended would be useful.

          I would agree that it rarely if ever useful, but calling it never justified seems to be a refusal to see intentional violations of protocol/status, or other clearly purposeful insults.

          Not a refusal to see them, merely a refusal to respond emotionally to them in a way that interferes with one’s ability to think rationally.

          But while I think there is a difference between taking offense and being insulted, maybe that is just my own interpretation of the mental states associated with the words.

          No, I agree that there is a difference between taking offense and being insulted. I experience “being insulted” as the conscious recognition that another person has a lower opinion of me than I have of myself. It does not come attached to any emotional baggage whatsoever, though cleaving the two took some time and effort.

        • Max says:

          Hey Zathille, sorry for the delay and thanks for your patience, but I actually fell asleep a few times in the middle of responding to ozy and so decided that I should probably go to bed before finishing up here.

          I wouldn’t say this would apply exclusively to Ialdabaoth in this situation. Notice how you’ve repeatedly characterized the struggle against Progressivism as one against irrationality, in which Reaction represents Reason. If both Dawkins and Ialdabaoth were pwned for championing their causes in such terms, why repeat the same mistake?

          Who said it was a mistake? You seem to be implying that my characterization of the struggle was how I actually saw things rather than consciously constructed propaganda designed to paint my tribe in as positive a light as possible. It may not win many converts here, but this place ain’t exactly my regular hang-out, in case that wasn’t clear.

          Sturgeon’s Law has already been invoked, separating 2 idealised concepts of Progress and Reaction from those who expound them and justifying an entrenchment of opinions. This is quite worrying.

          Meh, only if you think the goal of most people is or ever could be to seek truth in an honest way. On the contrary, most people aren’t even interested in knowing the truth about themselves, let alone the world around them. So it goes.

          Hooray for democracy though! Right?

          I notice that when I mentioned questioning Modernity you seemed to conflate it with Progressivism…

          Cite? I’m not necessarily denying the charge, as it’s been a long conversation, but I’m afraid I can’t recall doing this. Mind jogging my memory?

          I’ve seen many ideologies analyse and criticise parts or even the totality of such arrangements from various angles, that is also questioning Modernity, which is why I maintain that this is no Reactionary monopoly.

          Unless you choose to define the questioning of Modernity as Reactionary, of course. Which I have! ;-P

          I guess I could say, in short: you may not be advocating a specific solution to the problem, but I say that not everyone who questions Modernity shares this notion of what the fundamental problem is.

          Of course not. Don’t believe I’ve suggested otherwise.

          As for character and whatnot. I’ve never maintained they were independent from institutions one way or another, but to return to my example of the owner of the failing business: It matters not his moral character or how he feels about his employees, only that he is part of a defined market structure which would punish him for not cutting costs and restoring competitiveness. His incentives are structurally given.

          Right, but my point was that the incentives he faces were shaped by institutions that were shaped by human character. It’s turtles all the way down.

          I guess I could say that my greatest, greatest objection to such a focus on character can be exemplified by what we’ve witnessed in this very thread: moral character is very often conflated with factionalistic identity. The difference between a ‘moral politician/aristocrat’ and an ‘immoral politician/aristocrat’ for a person is often the difference between agreeing and disagreeing with a position, not necessarily something with a rational basis, as we’ve already established, which is why I’m inherently suspicious of such things not only in elections, but in discussions such as these.

          How is the difference between agreeing and disagreeing with a position not a rational basis for evaluating a person’s moral character? Recall that, because moral nihilism is true, there are no objective moral truths. And yet we all have value systems, do we not? Thus we necessarily a person’s “moral character” based on the degree to which we perceive that their values are in line with ours.

          Note: This isn’t a claim about how people ought to behave. It isn’t even a falsifiable hypothesis to which one might reasonably reply that “[t]his may be true for you but it is empirically not true for me.” Instead, it is a tautology. There is no conceivable way that it could ever be false. This is how all conscious creatures behave, whether human or alien or AI.

          Appeals to morality always sound like a cop-out to me, common, generic and universally applicable Applause Lights and all. In short, agreeing with someone who advocates ‘morality’ feels like implied agreement with their terminal values.

          +1

          Agreement with the above paragraph is a large part of the reason why I found Moldbug’s writing so emotionally appealing, at first. He consciously presents himself as an amoral engineer whose only goal is efficient and effective governance while disparaging as anti-rational religious zealots our current ruling class. This sort of propaganda might as well be written for the express purpose of pwning me, and it did a pretty good job for awhile. Only after I realized that there’s no such thing as an amoral person did I snap out of it. To the extent that an entity has more complex values, it is more of a person/more conscious. To the extent that an entity has less complex/simpler values, it is less of a person/less conscious. An entity with no values is not a person/not conscious.

          There’s a good discussion of this idea in Hofstadter’s I Am a Strange Loop, which I highly recommend.

        • Max says:

          STRONG SUGGESTION TO NOT CONTINUE THIS LINE OF DISCUSSION.

          Which line, and why? I’m happy to cease discussion of any subject you don’t like – it’s your blog, after all – but I’d obviously prefer to understand your reason(s) for electing to shut down what I’ve found to be an interesting exchange of information.

        • Zathille says:

          Max: I quote what I wrote and the reply which geve me the impression of a conflation of Modernity with Progressivism:

          “Many camps question Modernity in many different ways, most of them seem to claim monopoly over such, strangely enough. If I got a dollar for every ‘red pill’ I’ve been exposed to…” -Deacon Zathille

          “I would agree with your criticism here if I were pushing one particular solution to the problem, but I’m not. I claim instead that everyone who recognizes and opposes the insanity of Progressivism can be united under a single banner/label despite sharing nothing in common other than that recognition and opposition.” -Max

          I emphasize the use of ‘The Problem’ followed by a rally for those who oppose progressivism, this after I talked about modernity in general, not specific problems nor political movements, giving me the impression these terms were being conflated.

          “Meh, only if you think the goal of most people is or ever could be to seek truth in an honest way. On the contrary, most people aren’t even interested in knowing the truth about themselves, let alone the world around them. So it goes.

          Hooray for democracy though! Right?”

          “How is the difference between agreeing and disagreeing with a position not a rational basis for evaluating a person’s moral character? Recall that, because moral nihilism is true, there are no objective moral truths. And yet we all have value systems, do we not? Thus we necessarily a person’s “moral character” based on the degree to which we perceive that their values are in line with ours.”

          I thank you for clarifying what you mean by moral character, it certainly helps bring the discussion forward.

          You having said this, I take it a moral aristocracy would be one in agreement with your values. I think this where the disagreements over what constitute good governance arise from.

          To take an example from this very discussion: You’ve presented the concept of Sociotropic Voting, how people tend to vote in the interests of society as a whole. My problem with this is that there seem to be hidden terminal values in such: What is a nation’s or a Society’s ‘best interest’? Is it divorced from the interests of its constituents? If so, to what extent and why?

          At this point, I assume the answers lie in the Reactionary emphasys on stability and predictability of governance, but what if not everyone shares such ‘values’ or interests?

          I’d also like to see a concrete example of what Sociotropic voting would look like at object-level, contrasted with selfish voting. My scepticism arising mostly from hearing, from multiple parties, that their policies were ‘in the best interest of society’.

          I do believe I know a way out of the whole ‘ethics-institutions’ conundrum. For that I shall take your definition of moral values and apply it to a historical context: The American Civil War and the extremely important [though often overlooked] processes that occurred preceding it.

          I would characterize the war as an escalation of the conflicts of interest between the industrial North, based upon wage labour and the rural South, dependant on Slave-labour. Their conflicts over matters like tariffs, which became zero-sum games between the North and South, were often couched in moral terms, as the excerpt below shows:

          “But the tariff, like abolition, was also a question of honor. The disingenuous arguments of the protectionists tended, like those of the abolitionists, to dwell upon the moral inferiority and stupidity of southerners in comparison with wise, righteous, industrious New Englanders. Calhoun did not engage in that type of polemic, but he replied to it, again in the Exposition: ‘We are told, by those who pretend to understand our interest better than we do, that the excess of production and not the Tariff, is the evil which afflicts us. … We would feel more disposed to respect the spirit in which the advice is offered, if those from whom it comes accompanied it with the weight of their example. They also, occasionally, complain of low prices; but instead of diminishing the supply, as a remedy for the evil, demand an enlargement of the market, by the exclusion of all competition.’ ”

          Link: http://www.etymonline.com/cw/economics.htm

          With that, I posit that common ethical ground is best found in groups with similar backgrounds, experiences and, amongst the most important factors, common economic positions. As animals, we see our sources of income as our rightful domain upon which to feast upon, to be enlarged and never sullied by any other. The kicker is that, in cases such as the Civil War, the advancement of one interest in the political and economic arena represented an encroachment on the other. Both sides balked at the audacity and hypocrisy of the other side, believing themselves to be cheated.

          But then I’d say that such morals would not exist save as a rationalisation for one’s group position, based upon one’s material interest. I do not believe ethics change institutions, not unless they are bound to such economic interests and, even so, such ethics are derived from such interests.

          This article, I think, Illustrates what I mean in a more pleasant format:

          http://www.vulgarmaterial.net/blog/2013/03/19/just-another-word-part-3/

          In short: Ethics is the expression and cover for material interests, which class within institutional frameworks, thus, changing them, abolishing them or even creating new ones. As that happens, new relations are created or existing ones reorganized, leading to new potential conflicts and changes of framework.

          Basically, Class interest, Class Struggle and all that jazz. To use more familiar terms

        • You-Know-Who says:

          I emphasize the use of ‘The Problem’ followed by a rally for those who oppose progressivism, this after I talked about modernity in general, not specific problems nor political movements, giving me the impression these terms were being conflated.

          Gotcha. To clarify, the way I view things is that Modernity is a product of Progressive Christianity, which has taken over the minds of the world’s ruling class, resulting in many/most of The Problems for which red pills are being offered up willy-nilly. Questioning Modernity is therefore tantamount to questioning progressivism, even if the connection is not consciously made. Eliminate Progressive Christianity, and you eliminate the need for all those pills. Of course, as some guy once said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.” Thus, eliminating PC may indeed eliminate the need for all those pills, but no doubt several more will be called for in their place. So it goes.

          I thank you for clarifying what you mean by moral character, it certainly helps bring the discussion forward.

          You’re very welcome! I see now that there was a rather distracting typo though. I meant to say this:

          “Thus we necessarily evaluate a person’s “moral character” based on the degree to which we perceive that their values are in line with ours.”

          You having said this, I take it a moral aristocracy would be one in agreement with your values.

          Not all of them, no. That would be both a) impossible and b) undesirable. Yes, even from my point of view – I value the existence of other agents whose values do not perfectly align with my own.

          I do believe that a moral aristocracy would share some of my values, but these are values that I hope you share as well. You can read about them here: http://yudkowsky.net/rational/virtues/

          I think this where the disagreements over what constitute good governance arise from.

          To what disagreements do you refer?

          To take an example from this very discussion: You’ve presented the concept of Sociotropic Voting, how people tend to vote in the interests of society as a whole.

          You’ve left out a vitally important clause here. People tend to vote in what they perceive to be the interests of society as a whole – where “society” = “the nation.” Voters tend to be nationalist sociotropes. Systematic ignorance, irrationality, bias, and stupidity are wrenches in the gears of democracy.

          My problem with this is that there seem to be hidden terminal values in such: What is a nation’s or a Society’s ‘best interest’?

          Because moral nihilism is true, this is a question without an objectively correct answer. Instead, every individual has his or her own conception of the Good that they seek to pursue with their political actions.

          Is it divorced from the interests of its constituents? If so, to what extent and why?

          To the extent that the interests of some of a nation’s constituents are perceived to be in conflict with the interests of other constituents, it is necessarily true that in seeking to promote societal welfare a voter must side with some part of the polity over another. The basis on which this decision will be made varies from voter to voter.

          At this point, I assume the answers lie in the Reactionary emphasys on stability and predictability of governance, but what if not everyone shares such ‘values’ or interests?

          Stability and predictability of governance are instrumental values, not terminal ones, and I would not promote them over all others. Further, I would argue that stability and predictability are symptoms of good governance rather than causes, in contrast to some reactionaries, who seem to believe that these qualities necessarily produce desirable (or at least predictably superior) outcomes.

          I’d also like to see a concrete example of what Sociotropic voting would look like at object-level, contrasted with selfish voting.

          1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_apartheid_referendum,_1992

          2) Barack Obama campaigns on taxing the rich, fair and square. A rich man decides that this is a desirable policy for the nation as a whole and votes for Obama, despite recognizing that his election will likely result in him paying more taxes and having less money.

          3) Paul Ryan campaigns on reforming Medicare and turning it into a means-tested voucher program for individuals 55 and under, which will lower the amount of money those individuals can expect to be spent on their behalf by the federal government. An unhealthy 54-year-old man decides that this is a desirable policy for the nation as a whole and votes for Paul Ryan, despite recognizing that his election will likely result in him receiving fewer benefits.

          4) A gay man who lives in a red state and is prevented from marrying his long-term partner votes Republican because he believes this party will do more to promote economic growth.

          5) A wealthy pro-life Catholic who supports traditional marriage votes Democrat because he believes that this party will do more to address rising income inequality, which he views as an important social problem, even though he is not personally harmed by it.

          My scepticism arising mostly from hearing, from multiple parties, that their policies were ‘in the best interest of society’.

          To be sure, men are remarkable in their capacity to perceive what is in their interests as also furthering societal interests. And as some guy once said, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. Furthermore, if you take the view of psychological egoism, then every action is ultimately self-serving. Thus, to make a meaningful distinction between sociotropic and selfish voting, we must define the latter rather narrowly.

          I just ordered another copy of Caplan’s book off Amazon, not being able to reference the examples he used is annoying.

          I do believe I know a way out of the whole ‘ethics-institutions’ conundrum.

          What conundrum? It’s turtles all the way down. Ethics shape institutions shape ethics shape institutions, ad infinitum. Changing one changes the other, altering the cycle forevermore.

          I would characterize the war as an escalation of the conflicts of interest between the industrial North, based upon wage labour and the rural South, dependant on Slave-labour…

          It’s a fine story, and one that I subscribe to as a default, but take care not to forget that, as with all historical analysis, you are crafting a lens which focuses on certain elements to the exclusion of others, imposing a narrative upon events that – though it may include bits of reality – is not itself a part of reality. The narrative is a simplification – an interpretation – and not an accurate description of the world as it actually exists.

          Have you read Popper’s The Poverty of Historicism? I can’t recommend it highly enough.

          I posit that common ethical ground is best found in groups with similar backgrounds, experiences and, amongst the most important factors, common economic positions.

          Strongly disagree. You seem to be making the falsifiable prediction that groups in common economic positions are at least approximately as likely to find common ethical ground as groups with similar backgrounds and experiences. This seems to me to be transparently and obviously false. After all, what does war represent if not the banding together of individuals who share similar backgrounds/experiences but have wildly different economic positions, in order to compete with another group organized on the same grounds? Capitalists fight capitalists, laborers fight laborers, and nobody (or almost nobody) stops to worry about “economic positions” until the fighting is over.

          International “class consciousness” simply isn’t a thing-in-the-world. Marx thought what you’re saying was true too, and he turned out to be wrong. Nationalism trumps socialism every time.

          As animals, we see our sources of income as our rightful domain upon which to feast upon, to be enlarged and never sullied by any other.

          And yet we pay taxes – sometimes with a bit of whining, but I don’t hear much talk about the illegitimacy of the practice except amongst a small group of radical libertarians/anarchists. For the most part, people seem to accept that they are property, even if they don’t consciously acknowledge it (likely for reasons of ego preservation).

          But then I’d say that such morals would not exist save as a rationalisation for one’s group position, based upon one’s material interest.

          It’s possible to interpret this statement as being trivially or tautologically true – if we accept that moral nihilism is correct, then we necessarily believe that morality evolved. And because it’s part and parcel of Darwinism that traits tend to spread as a result of promoting the host’s genetic (material) interest, we must agree that morality would probably not exist if it hadn’t tended to promote the genetic (material) interests of our ancestors.

          Where you err, however, is in forgetting that the necessity of a trait’s having promoted genetic fitness in the past has no implications whatsoever for how that trait is used in the here and now. In the absence of selection pressure, evolution is a random walk. Thus, although the pleasurable feelings associated with sexual intercourse might not exist if they hadn’t tended to promote the genetic (material) interests of our ancestors by encouraging them to reproduce, it is most certainly not the case today that pursuit of the pleasurable feelings associated with sexual intercourse is always done for the purpose of promoting one’s genetic (material) interests. You have heard of birth control, right?

          In the same way, morals have taken on a life of their own and are often completely divorced from the furthering of one’s own material interests – or even the material interests of one’s group. Sometimes, they are even at direct odds with these interests. Scroll up to see an example of this:

          “It is probably just my Christian morality though– ‘love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you’ and all that.”

          I do not believe ethics change institutions, not unless they are bound to such economic interests and, even so, such ethics are derived from such interests.

          Well, I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re just flat wrong about this, and I’m curious to know how you manage to be so selectively delusional. Is this a belief that you take on faith, in an unexamined and axiomatic way? I would encourage you to develop some falsifiable hypotheses on the basis of this belief, if so.

          What would it look like if ethics sometimes changed institutions despite not being bound to economic interests? What might a set of ethics look like if it were not directly derived from economic interests? (Obviously, as we said earlier, ethics may have historically needed to promote economic/material/genetic interests in order to come into being/spread far and wide, but this relationship can break down with the passage of time).

          Have you ever read The Selfish Gene or The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins? I highly recommend both. In the former, Dawkins does what I think is a good job of explaining how memetic fitness can be completely divorced from genetic fitness (consider the meme of anti-natalism, or the fact that Catholic priests are forbidden from marrying/fornicating). Now recognize that morals/ethics are simply memes. Then snap the pieces together. You should be able to see that a person’s ethics need not bear any consistent relationship to their (or their group’s) economic interests, and the statement you made above is pure folly. Ethics – even ethics divorced from economic interests – change institutions.

          In short: Ethics is the expression and cover for material interests, which class within institutional frameworks, thus, changing them, abolishing them or even creating new ones. As that happens, new relations are created or existing ones reorganized, leading to new potential conflicts and changes of framework.

          Basically, Class interest, Class Struggle and all that jazz. To use more familiar terms

          Nope. To gain a greater understanding of how the world actually is, read less Marx and more Haidt. Start here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Righteous-Mind-Politics-Religion/dp/0307377903

        • Zathille says:

          @Max: Thank you for the reply. It’s rather late where I am, so I’ll likely have to return at a later time to discuss more thoroughly.

          I’d say we disagree on Modernity, I do not consider it exclusively the product of Progressivism since it is merely one political facet of it, with underlying economic and international arrangements which would exist regardless of its influence. Eliminate Progressive Christianity and you still have an economically globalised world but still separated politically into nation-states which compete for capital with all the advantages and problems that entails.

          I guess that, in light of our respective analyses, the charge of historicism is one that may befall us both in light of this. The reactionary analysis of Modernity is no less a historical narrative.

          Your point on Sociotropic Voting has me confused now. You’ve argued before that this phenomenon was the reason the voting franchise could be safely constrained, but now point out its limitations and intrinsic biases?

          As for the specific examples, in the absence of historical context for the majority, I can only dare evaluate the first: Taking into consideration that a ‘no’ vote, within the socio-political context of that time, could mean an escalation of intra-national conflicts as well as continuation of sanctions. With this in mind, I hardly see how the individual interest of the voter would contrast with sociotropic interest

          As for the point on class-consciousness. It may very well be that Nationalism has historically trumped any tendency for the consolidation of a strong internationalist tendency, but to discard it as a force in history does not seem to be warranted considering many a law and principles of labour relations were established after much struggle on the part of labour and popular movements, many such principles surviving as standard to this day.

          For the point about memes improving genetic fitness in the past, but not in the present: Does this not appear to be a strange assumption? You claim that selective pressures of the past no longer exist, which may be true, but why assume new pressures have not arisen? For the condom example, I’d say that its use helps one satisfy base urges without committing to child-rearing one may not be prepared for. Nowadays, with an emphasis on smaller families which invest more in their children relative to the past, this seems like an appropriate response to a different social context.

          This is what I think is missing in your analysis: You describe ethics and memes as arising from evolutionary pressure, then becoming detached from it and even potentially becoming detrimental to one’s material/biological interests. What is missing is socioeconomic context, which the examples you brought forth serve to illustrate: The prohibition of clergy to sire children had the purpose and effect of avoiding church land from being split up by potential heirs of the clergy, a phenomenon that plagued many a secular landholdings, thus, the continued property of the land by the church alone was secured. As for antinatalism, It strikes me that its earliest proponent of note, Schopenhauer, was contemporaneous to Malthus, which may indicate a link between the perceived problem of impending Malthusian Catastrophe and such philosophy.

          People aren’t Fitness Optimizers, but Adaptation executers, and in filling a role in society, a person is subjected, willingly or otherwise, to the memeplex inherent in such position, one that tends to have ‘evolved’ as a mechanism to preserve and further the interests of the institution it serves. The same can be said of society in general: We pay taxes because this is a social imposition and a necessity for there to be a functional state, in a similar vein, someone born today is more likely, willing or not, to be a wage-labourer rather than a subsistence farmer duo to how the relations of production have ‘evolved’ through the ages. Whether these memes help or hinder the propagation of genes of a person in particular is secondary to the preservation of social relations, I’d conclude. Is this not the basis behind the theory of The Cathedral?

          As such, I reject your claim that what I posit is delusional. You have already said:

          “(Obviously, as we said earlier, ethics may have historically needed to promote economic/material/genetic interests in order to come into being/spread far and wide, but this relationship can break down with the passage of time).”

          But that begs the question of why such a historical relation would break down, which seems to stem from a rather bio-deterministic view of memeplexes. Not that there are no biological determinants, but I do believe you positing that certain selective pressures disappeared does not nescessarily mean there is less pressure at all. What changed is the character of such pressures: From environmental in the raw Darwinian ‘survival of the species’ sense to the social pressures characteristic of more complex societies, which require memeplexes to organize an increasing division of labours.

          But if you wish to understand the motive behind my train of thought, it is quite simple: My instinct is to doubt anything that reduces phenomena to nebulous concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘ethics’, ‘pure fucking evil’. As a heuristic, I always consider these to be veils hiding something deeper: Freedom of whom to do what? Whose ethical standards? These questions help see the relations underneath such ‘thought-stopping’ concepts, down to what I consider to be more grounded bases: That of individuals or groups establishing relationships with one another whose character is determined by their historical and socioeconomic context.

        • You-Know-Who says:

          I’d say we disagree on Modernity, I do not consider it exclusively the product of Progressivism since it is merely one political facet of it, with underlying economic and international arrangements which would exist regardless of its influence.

          I disagree that we disagree on Modernity, I do not consider it exclusively the product of Progressivism since it is merely one political (religious) facet of it, with underlying economic and international arrangements which would exist regardless of its influence.

          In other words, I think we’re needlessly quibbling over how to define “Modernity,” and I don’t particularly care much either way about the outcome. Define it broadly and my statement about Modernity being a product of PC is absurd/obviously wrong, define it so narrowly that Modernity = “those aspects of the world that have resulted from the spread of PC amongst elites” and my statement becomes a tautology.

          However, I maintain that “many/most of The Problems for which red pills are being offered up willy-nilly” “[are] a product of Progressive Christianity, which has taken over the minds of the world’s ruling class.”

          Eliminate Progressive Christianity and you still have an economically globalised world but still separated politically into nation-states which compete for capital with all the advantages and problems that entails.

          This is true but largely irrelevant, in my view. I see the advantages of this situation as clearly outweighing the problems and tend to have an incredibly low opinion of individuals who disagree. Most of the capital-P Problems that I see with how the world is run these days stem from empirically false beliefs and irrational biases propagating amongst those who hold power. Fix these beliefs/biases and the Problems I’m thinking of go away.

          I guess that, in light of our respective analyses, the charge of historicism is one that may befall us both in light of this.

          No charge of historicism was made. You perceive a critique where I intended only to offer a warning. Note the opening clauses of the paragraph prior to my mention of Popper: “It’s a fine story, and one that I subscribe to as a default.” ALL historical narratives are necessarily simplifications/interpretations rather than perfect descriptions of reality, but that doesn’t mean we ought to discard historical narratives altogether. Instead, we should simply remember to keep the warning in the back of our heads so we don’t go overboard and begin to think of these narratives as Gospel. Fail to, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself defending an interpretation of history that you think of as “yours” rather than attacking it in order to find flaws produced by the (necessary) simplification and thereby obtain greater understanding.

          The reactionary analysis of Modernity is no less a historical narrative.

          The concept of “the reactionary analysis of Modernity” is no less a historical narrative of a historical narrative. (It’s turtles all the way down.) It’s important to keep this in mind, because I do not always subscribe to what might properly be called “the reactionary analysis of Modernity.” Fail to, and before you know it, you’ll have thoughts which follow the form, “Socrates is a reactionary. Socrates said X. X is wrong. Max is a reactionary. Therefore Max is also wrong.”

          Your point on Sociotropic Voting has me confused now. You’ve argued before that this phenomenon was the reason the voting franchise could be safely constrained, but now point out its limitations and intrinsic biases?

          I have not argued that the existence of sociotropic voting is the reason the voting franchise could be safely constrained, nor would I ever. How you came by this misunderstanding is clear, but it still diminishes my enthusiasm for continuing our conversation.

          Let us pretend that I did so argue, however. In that case, it would bear pointing out that the problems with democracy that I identified had nothing whatsoever to do with whether citizens voted in a sociotropic or selfish fashion; instead, the point was that democracy suffers when and to the extent that voters are incompetent. Plainly, this is a problem that could be ameliorated by improving the quality of the electorate. One objection often raised to restricting suffrage is the idea that the “improved” electorate might vote selfishly and without consideration for the needs/wants of non-voters. However, the fact that most citizens vote as sociotropes is a reason to take this objection less seriously.

          It is important to note, however, that one of the reasons why citizens tend to vote as sociotropes is that voting has effectively zero chance of swaying major elections. If the franchise were restricted to the point where individual votes actually mattered, we should expect to see a big fall in sociotropic voting and a rise in the selfish sort.

          As for the specific examples, in the absence of historical context for the majority, I can only dare evaluate the first: Taking into consideration that a ‘no’ vote, within the socio-political context of that time, could mean an escalation of intra-national conflicts as well as continuation of sanctions. With this in mind, I hardly see how the individual interest of the voter would contrast with sociotropic interest

          http://www.genocidewatch.org/southafrica.html

          As for the point on class-consciousness. It may very well be that Nationalism has historically trumped any tendency for the consolidation of a strong internationalist tendency, but to discard it as a force in history does not seem to be warranted considering many a law and principles of labour relations were established after much struggle on the part of labour and popular movements, many such principles surviving as standard to this day.

          I am becoming convinced that communication between us is impossible, as you continue responding to arguments I’ve not made and implying that I believe things I don’t.

          For the point about memes improving genetic fitness in the past, but not in the present: Does this not appear to be a strange assumption?

          This is not a point or assumption I ever made. You are confusing the evolution via natural selection of brains that view the world through a lens of moral realism with the “memes” of various moral/value systems. There is no requirement that a meme ever have promoted genetic/material fitness in the past. A meme is like a virus. Its interests may be entirely independent from those of the host. Certain types of memes may need to benefit the host in some way to spread, but this is not necessarily true of memes in general.

          You claim that selective pressures of the past no longer exist, which may be true

          Claim? May? You actually doubt this? Environments are not static. Evolutionary pressures are always changing.

          but why assume new pressures have not arisen?

          At no point have I ever assumed or stated this. The exact opposite is true. We know for a fact that new pressures have arisen. But they need not be acting on the same traits.

          For the condom example, I’d say that its use helps one satisfy base urges without committing to child-rearing one may not be prepared for.

          . . . Right. Which is the point I was making – “that the necessity of a trait’s having promoted genetic fitness in the past has no implications whatsoever for how that trait is used in the here and now. In the absence of selection pressure, evolution is a random walk. Thus, although the pleasurable feelings associated with sexual intercourse might not exist if they hadn’t tended to promote the genetic (material) interests of our ancestors by encouraging them to reproduce, it is most certainly not the case today that pursuit of the pleasurable feelings associated with sexual intercourse is always done for the purpose of promoting one’s genetic (material) interests. You have heard of birth control, right?” Not sure why you felt the need to re-state this. It suggests to me that you didn’t understand what I said.

          Nowadays, with an emphasis on smaller families which invest more in their children relative to the past, this seems like an appropriate response to a different social context.

          Non-sequitur. Pleasurable feelings associated with sexual intercourse evolved/spread because they promoted reproduction, yet the pursuit of those feelings today is often divorced from reproduction. This demonstrates “that the necessity of a trait’s having promoted genetic fitness in the past has no implications whatsoever for how that trait is used in the here and now.” This demonstrates that morals may be “completely divorced from the furthering of one’s own material interests – or even the material interests of one’s group.”

          This is what I think is missing in your analysis: You describe ethics and memes as arising from evolutionary pressure, then becoming detached from it and even potentially becoming detrimental to one’s material/biological interests. What is missing is socioeconomic context, which the examples you brought forth serve to illustrate: The prohibition of clergy to sire children had the purpose and effect of avoiding church land from being split up by potential heirs of the clergy, a phenomenon that plagued many a secular landholdings, thus, the continued property of the land by the church alone was secured. As for antinatalism, It strikes me that its earliest proponent of note, Schopenhauer, was contemporaneous to Malthus, which may indicate a link between the perceived problem of impending Malthusian Catastrophe and such philosophy.

          I describe ethics and memes as arising from evolutionary pressure, then becoming detached from it and even potentially becoming detrimental to one’s material/biological/economic interests (“ethics may have historically needed to promote economic/material/genetic interests in order to come into being/spread far and wide, but this relationship can break down with the passage of time”). You respond by agreeing that some memes arose and spread because they promoted economic/material interests (again re-stating a point I’d already made, suggesting that you didn’t understand the point as I was making it) and bizarrely noting that “socioeconomic context” is missing from examples specifically selected to highlight a conflict between memetic and genetic fitness. In doing so, you seem to imply that by agreeing with things I’ve said, you are in fact refuting them.

          As such, I reject your claim that what I posit is delusional.

          Sorry, but you seem even more delusional now than you did then. It’s almost as if you are consistently hearing me say the exact opposite of what I am actually saying. I don’t know how else to interpret your almost perfect record of misunderstanding me.

          But that begs the question of why such a historical relation would break down

          “In the absence of selection pressure [on a trait], evolution is a random walk.”

          which seems to stem from a rather bio-deterministic view of memeplexes.

          No. Yet again, literally the exact opposite of this. Memes very rarely have selection pressure exerted on them via biological means, instead such pressures are almost always social in nature. “Environments are not static. Evolutionary pressures [both biological and social] are always changing.”

          But if you wish to understand the motive behind my train of thought, it is quite simple: My instinct is to doubt anything that reduces phenomena to nebulous concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘ethics’, ‘pure fucking evil’. As a heuristic, I always consider these to be veils hiding something deeper: Freedom of whom to do what? Whose ethical standards? These questions help see the relations underneath such ‘thought-stopping’ concepts, down to what I consider to be more grounded bases: That of individuals or groups establishing relationships with one another whose character is determined by their historical and socioeconomic context.

          In other words, you’re a full-blown Marxist, so detached from reality that talking to you like a human being is about as productive as talking to a tree. Sorry, but you seem like a special kind of crazy, and correcting your constant misunderstandings stopped being fun several paragraphs ago, so I probably won’t keep replying to things you write.

        • Zathille says:

          I apologise, it seems we’ve been in violent agreement in terms of the phenomena we’ve been discussing. I’d say my being called delusional and posting late at night contributed to a flawed reading of your reply.

          What lead me to reply was my confusion over what you think caused memes to become detached from the interests of their holders. You posit this is possible, what I should have done in order to clarify was merely ask: Do you believe this is happening right now? If so, Why? Shouldn’t social pressures which spring from modern organisations, from which people’s daily lives depend upon, mold such changes in a way that may be detrimental but not ‘a random walk’?

          As for the matter of South Africa, In the context of international pressure as well as internal political galvanisation, do you think a ‘no’ vote would de-escalate the tensions that had already mounted before the vote? Would it not be possible that a ‘no’ vote could result in an escalation of such tensions and in an even worse fate for the boer?

          As for discussion being impossible with me due to ideology, I find this claim strange considering we’ve been having this discussion over many weeks and that I do remember you yourself describing it as ‘productive’. It certainly was and is possible, I didn’t become a ‘Marxist’ over the course of the week.

          What I think happened is a repeat of a pattern previously seen in this discussion. Your well-founded objections to my statements stemmed from the way I stated them, with my own imprecise assumptions of what your thoughts were. Now I’m trying to go back to what I’ve been doing previously and worked to propel the discussions: Asking questions, for in doing so, my statements are open to input and uncertainty.

          I say the pattern has been repeating because we’re the only ones left on this thread. The others left after the points about ‘progressive christianity were raised’, which is your perception of what progressivism consists of, which you criticize.

          Some people, likely as frustrated as you were when last replying to me, objected, believing your conception of progressivism to be a strawman. The objection seemed to come from progressives who did not recognise themselves in such characterisation.

          I’d wager they also thought you detached from reality and unworthy of discussion for these very reasons. A special kind of crazy whose misconceptions of their ideas were not worth correcting, so they stopped replying.

          Now it seems I’ve committed the same mistake, mistaking my flawed idea of what reactionarism consists of for your own positions. Resulting in a very skewed reply which only served to repulse you.

          Much like what happened to the others before, I’d say. A pathetic irony. It really is turtles all the way down.

      • Max says:

        Union-busting = pure fucking evil

        I respect your religious liberty and right to worship God as you see fit. However, I also reserve the right to identify your fundamentalism for what it is and encourage others to steer clear of these ancient, dangerous, ignorant, and backwards ideas.

        “Evil” is not a thing. It does not exist in the real world any more than gods or demons do. That you reference it with such passion says a great deal about your lack of commitment to rationality and honest truth-seeking.

        Our disagreement on the issue of whether Right to Work laws are a good thing stems primarily from genetic differences in our brain chemistry. I do not think that your feelings on the subject are “pure fucking evil” (though I do think that they promote economic inefficiency), and I do not condemn you for holding them. I would, however, like to encourage you to take a deep breath and try to see things from another point of view. Or, as some guy once said:

        “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

        • g says:

          Indeed “evil” is not a thing. However, “actions that predictably make things worse for large numbers of people whose lives are already difficult, with the only compensating benefits going to people whose lives are already comfortable, pursued by those latter people in full knowledge of the effects on the former people” are things, and “evil” seems like a decent enough shorthand.

        • Mary says:

          If there’s no such thing as evil, then what on earth is wrong with a lack of commitment to rationality and honest truth-seeking, or for that matter those ideas that denounce as ancient, dangerous, ignorant, and backwards?

          One also notes that using “ancient” and “backwards” as terms of abuse is a bad sign of a lack of commitment to rationality and honest truth-seeking, given that it’s intentionally invoking a logical fallacy. No one after the truth should try to bring up at what period of time an idea was propounded as a flaw or virtue in it.

        • Multiheaded says:

          g:

          Furthermore, such actions, due to their relative ease, profitability and huge but “distant” effect, feel to me like we should try to disincentivize them much more strongly than other, harder and less tempting immoral activities. Angry hyperbole is just another tool.

          That’s why you see people protesting drone strikes much more loudly than, say, hypothetical torture-murder Satanic cults, despite the latter in theory being close to “pure evil” and the former having a little rationality to them.

        • Zathille says:

          I think more could be assessed from this emotional outburst. Every idea, even those not tempered by the fires of rational critique, have a basis for existence. Ideology and Religion, in my view, are one and the same in practical terms, both being reflections of material forces in the real of ideas.

          The following may not necessarily be true, but I think it illustrates the structure behind such a thought:

          Historically, unions have been present in many a struggle between employer and employee, a struggle whose fires have forged modern labour relations, 8-hour workday, better work conditions and the like.

          Such conditions are viewed by many as the basis for the existence of a ‘middle class’, to which many a things, mostly positive, have been attributed: conscientiousness, political stability, good communities. This seems almost universal, many articles on More Right strike me as nostalgia for the years of the ‘strong middle class’, one article even pointing to stagnating wages as a sign of decline.

          Thus, the power of Unions and the continued existence of the Middle Class are conflated, to attack one is to undermine the other and since the latter has so many positive associations…

          (I apologise if that does not truly represent the frame of mind behind the thought, I acknowledge this may sound as patronising armchair psychology, I do not intend it as such)

          On to another point: While I agree to some extent with Moldbug’s analysis, I do think it incomplete. On a meta level, I think it shows certain idealistic (in the phylosophical sense) trends which sometimes bring the analysis to a full stop. Ideas move people, but whence do they come from?

          It may seem a foolish question: “From the minds of their thinkers, surely!” But then what elicits such a thinking? I’d say that people, historically placed in their own context, have their thought shaped by such a context, earlier ideas re-evaluated through the lenses of one’s everyday life and that of their peers.

          For one example: Moldbug has contact with progressive ideas, the facts he observes around him seem to contradict aspects of such an idea, he then goes on to criticise them. It was not the idea which spurred him, but its relation with reality as he observed it.

          I say all this because the impression I get when reading some reactionary authors is that, while they point out the idealistic basis of ‘Zeitgeist’ they do not seem fully able to exorcise its spectre. As such, I not-so-subtly point to what I believe to be the issue: The insufficient scrutiny of the material and historical basis for the emergence of ideas.

        • nydwracu says:

          Zathille: Agreed. I think it was KarmaKaiser who compared Moldbug to Foucault — and that is not all that inaccurate. Genealogies of ideas only go so far, but they’re what’s most easily done with just Google Books.

          Neoreaction needs more Marx!

          Though the concept of the ruling formula at least makes the break from total cladistic idealism…

        • blacktrance says:

          “‘Evil’ is not a thing. It does not exist in the real world any more than gods or demons do.”

          There is no ontologically basic stone-tablet evil – but there are no ontologically basic tables or chairs either, and yet we don’t say that tables and chairs don’t exist. Evil is an abstraction.

        • Max, instead of calling yourself a “moral nihilist,” it might be more appropriate to say that you don’t believe in moral realism. “Moral nihilist” has a lot of ridiculous connotations that would not hold up under revealed preference, such as indifference over your own death.

        • Zathille says:

          Anissimov: Excuse me for straying off-topic. But have there been any problems with MoreRight? I’ve been trying to access it in the past few days, but keep getting an error and after consulting downforeveryoneorjustme.com, it says it’s down.

        • It’s down, and will probably continue to go down intermittently forever. It should be back up in a few days. Until then, try using Internet Archive.

        • Max says:

          Indeed “evil” is not a thing. However, “actions that predictably make things worse for large numbers of people whose lives are already difficult, with the only compensating benefits going to people whose lives are already comfortable, pursued by those latter people in full knowledge of the effects on the former people” are things, and “evil” seems like a decent enough shorthand.

          Strongly disagree. Using the term “evil” encourages you to assume that your conclusion is written into the rules of the universe rather than the result of potentially flawed reasoning.

          For example, I believe that the formation of labor unions in First World countries predictably makes things worse for large numbers of people whose lives are already difficult, with the only compensating benefits going to people whose lives are already comfortable, pursued by those latter people in full knowledge of the effects on the former people. Thus, if I were a fan of your terminology, I might say that the formation of labor unions in First World countries is “evil.”

          However, Multiheaded has asserted that “Union-busting = pure fucking evil.”

          Where do we go from here? If we each see the other as evil, how do we engage in reasonable and intelligent dialogue so as to sort out our differences, learn from one another, and reach common ground? I claim that doing so is pretty much impossible when you consciously mind-kill yourself by using labels like “evil.”

        • Max says:

          If there’s no such thing as evil, then what on earth is wrong with a lack of commitment to rationality and honest truth-seeking, or for that matter those ideas that denounce as ancient, dangerous, ignorant, and backwards?

          Objectively? Nothing. If you choose not to value a commitment to rationality and honest truth-seeking and instead support those ideas that I denounce as ancient/dangerous/ignorant/backwards, then there’s probably very little that can be done to persuade you that you ought to. It is only after agreeing upon some shared foundational principle(s) or value(s) that productive dialogue is possible.

          http://ansible.wikia.com/wiki/Hierarchy_of_Foreignness

          One also notes that using “ancient” and “backwards” as terms of abuse is a bad sign of a lack of commitment to rationality and honest truth-seeking, given that it’s intentionally invoking a logical fallacy. No one after the truth should try to bring up at what period of time an idea was propounded as a flaw or virtue in it.

          Fair enough. I accept this criticism and will try to do better in the future.

        • Max says:

          Furthermore, such actions, due to their relative ease, profitability and huge but “distant” effect, feel to me like we should try to disincentivize them much more strongly than other, harder and less tempting immoral activities.

          So you agree that Right-to-Work laws should be passed in all fifty states, then? After all, the suffering of foreign workers wrought by a failure to do so is profitable for domestic labor union members, easier than fighting their own self-interest, and it has a huge but “distant” effect . . .

        • Max says:

          There is no ontologically basic stone-tablet evil – but there are no ontologically basic tables or chairs either, and yet we don’t say that tables and chairs don’t exist. Evil is an abstraction.

          There is no ontologically basic God – but there are no ontologically basic angels or demons either, and yet we don’t say that angels and demons don’t exist. God is an abstraction.

          Oh wait, I just realized something. We do say that angels and demons don’t exist, because they don’t. And God is not just an abstraction – He is a fictional one.

          All this could as easily be said of “evil.” The concept is nonsense on stilts, and you should discard it.

        • Max says:

          Max, instead of calling yourself a “moral nihilist,” it might be more appropriate to say that you don’t believe in moral realism. “Moral nihilist” has a lot of ridiculous connotations that would not hold up under revealed preference, such as indifference over your own death.

          Michael, instead of calling yourself a “monarchist,” it might be more appropriate to say that you don’t believe in democracy. “Monarchist” has a lot of ridiculous connotations that would not hold up under revealed preference, such as a belief in the Christian God.

          I can’t prevent people from drawing absurd and incorrect conclusions based on their misunderstanding of words, but “moral nihilism” has a wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_nihilism), and it in no way commits me to indifference over my own death.

          Similarly, being a monarchist does not commit you to believing in the Christian God. If someone thinks it does, they’re simply wrong, and changing the label you apply to yourself in order to prevent these misunderstandings strikes me as unnecessary.

      • Zathille says:

        Edit: Moved to proper thread, so long…

  4. suntzuanime says:

    It looks like in the police study the randomization was per-week-per-shift rather than per-officer, so I would guess that having their actions taped half the time kept them from falling into brutal habits, and that lack carried over even while not being taped. They never got a chance to get lazy and arrogant over time because when they started cutting corners they would have the cameras on them next week.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

    • My initial thought was that it was counting only the officers who had the cameras.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      And it is more likely that this effect applies to the police than the people, so this suggests an answer to Andrew and Misha’s assertion that it is the people whose behavior improved. It’s not entirely clear, because they may have heard rumors about cameras without knowing how big they are.

  5. Jordan D. says:

    Anyone looking for more hilarious case names- in rem or otherwise- could do worse than check out Lowering The Bar’s legal document archive: http://kevinunderhill.typepad.com/lowering_the_bar/comical_case_names.html My favorite is ‘United States v. Article Consisting of 50,000 Cardboard Boxes More or Less, Each Containing One Pair of Clacker Balls, 413 F. Supp. 1281 (D. Wisc. 1976).’

    I really like the Statue of Responsibility, but I’m not at all sure it competes with the Monument to Neutrality. I saw an idea on Reddit the other day to build a monument to all of the poor souls who have died from falling off the monument to the Great Fire of London, and that’s got potential.

    (Reddit thread here: http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1zfs16/ – note the second top-level comment casts serious doubts about the veracity of the original claim, but there you are.)

  6. Jack V says:

    “a singles community exclusively for users of Internet Explorer”

    I can believe a dating site for people who DON’T use IE, started as a joke, but it’s true, that almost certainly correlates with geeks I’m likely to find interesting. I assume the IE site is poking fun — I think most people who use IE aren’t passionate about it.

    “THEY MAYBE SORT OF REDEFINED ISLAM AS LIBERALISM.”

    LOL. But I approve of this. Most religions have a “no, don’t worry about the letter of the law, but be awesome to each other, that’s the main thing” wing, and I’m generally very fond of them.

    “This can lead to some very humorous case names, like Quantity of Books vs. Kansas,”

    They missed a hilarious opportunity to call it “quantity of erotic books vs kansas” 🙂

    • Jack says:

      “Why I Can’t Stand Asian Musicians Who Play Beethoven”

      At first I thought this was going to be “White musicians shouldn’t play Beethoven because he was black” 🙂 (The evidence for Beethoven isn’t very convincing, but there’s other historical figures where it’s reasonably accepted, but no-one seems to remember it.)

      I’m a bit torn. I think people who believe cultural appropriation is a problem (including me) think there’s a DIFFERENCE between “european americans dressing up in native american headresses” and “japanese people playing bethohoven”, and it’s a straw man to pretend they don’t. But also, if you disagree that there’s a difference, that’s an obvious target for satire.

      I do the same thing with views I disagree with, but feel guilty and try to stop myself doing it — eg. it’s easy to pretend all people who believe some anti-vax things, or some biblical funamentalist things, or some homeopathic things, automatically believe the most obviously stupid and easily-debunked form of it, but most actually believe something more complicated (even if I personally still think it’s wrong).

      So I’m genuinely unsure. I feel something about the article is unfair, but I’m not sure there’s a reason this is unfair and other satire isn’t, or if I’m just annoyed because it’s disagreeing with me.

      • suntzuanime says:

        The usual justification is that since white people are so great, they should take on various additional burdens and handicaps to help the lesser races catch up. It’s unsporting for white people to bellydance.

        • naath says:

          I think the main justification, and one I believe applies to some extent, is that white, Christian-influenced culture is *very* keen on sharing. We went out there and we told everyone that we are AWESOME and they should try to be JUST LIKE US (and then we shat all over them, and were generally the opposite of awesome).

          Not all cultures are equally keen on sharing. It seems somehow wrong to take something that is special and sacred to people and use it frivolously. Partly that’s because “poking fun” is mean, partly it causes people to be less aware of the original meaning (if I take to casually wearing a General’s uniform and my friends just assume it’s a cool thing then now they might be confused when a real General is wearing their uniform to indicate their status as a General), also partly because it just feels rude to me.

          Also if the Thing is in use as an in-group signifier, then everyone else doing it is going to make it useless, which is kinda irritating when it’s *your* signifier. (if you are wearing an XKCD shirt I will assume you *like XKCD*, if you don’t I will be a bit confused – example deliberately trivial).

        • Hainish says:

          This is a quote from the original article:
          ************
          “It’s Arab face,” my friend Nadine once said, pointing at an invitation from a white acquaintance of hers. The invitation was printed on card stock and featured the woman and a dozen of her white friends dressed in Orientalist garb with eye makeup caked on for full kohl effect and glittery accessories. […] The most disturbing thing is when these women take up Arabic performance names — Suzy McCue becomes Samirah Layali. This name and others like it make no sense in Arabic.
          ************

          …which makes me think that it’s about something other than burdens and catching up.

        • ozymandias says:

          I notice that I don’t give a fuck about white people bellydancing but am totally squicked by white bellydancers adopting faux-Arabic names. It’s sort of like… of course white people can bellydance, why do you have to pretend to be an Arabic person to do it? (And not even pretend WELL!)

          Similarly I would be deeply puzzled if Yo Yo Ma chose to rename himself Miniton Terress for cello-playing purposes, because that sounds more European to him.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Ozy, performers routinely adopt names to match their audience. Professionals get professional help choosing a name, so they do a better job. So Ma doing that would not be so surprising, except for the incompetence. The analogy would be Ma adopting that name to perform in China. That is much less common, but I think not so rare. Which is not to say I approve.

        • Andy says:

          Not all cultures are equally keen on sharing. It seems somehow wrong to take something that is special and sacred to people and use it frivolously. Partly that’s because “poking fun” is mean, partly it causes people to be less aware of the original meaning (if I take to casually wearing a General’s uniform and my friends just assume it’s a cool thing then now they might be confused when a real General is wearing their uniform to indicate their status as a General), also partly because it just feels rude to me.

          And a single culture may have different levels of sharing-comfort with different things. I mentioned to a Middle Eastern acquaintance that I’d adapted and modified a recipe for cinnamon-spiced rice from his home country, and he thought that was very cool, but I doubt I’d have gotten the same reaction if I’d modified Arabic calligraphy (which is often used for religious purposes) to carry my own name in in place of the Name of God.
          Beethoven, as lovely as the old skeleton is, doesn’t have the religious/historical/status significance of the feather headdress commonly associated with Native Americans. I’ve seen some rather intelligent tumblr posts equating the headdress with military medals for valor – the appropriation which would be much more offensive to some veterans than just wearing the uniform as a costume.

        • St. Rev says:

          It’s actually really, really common for East Asian people to take Western given names when moving to or operating in Western cultures. Look at the names of Chinese/HK actors, or Dorian Nakamoto.

        • Randy M says:

          Oh yes. I work with a large number of Chinese engineers, and many have two names, a Chinese name in the database, and an official English name.

          Never occured to me to object, in fact I took it as a gesture to facilitate communication.

        • Andy says:

          I notice that I don’t give a fuck about white people bellydancing but am totally squicked by white bellydancers adopting faux-Arabic names. It’s sort of like… of course white people can bellydance, why do you have to pretend to be an Arabic person to do it?

          It’s kind of ironic, because there’s a large number of names in English usage that are derived from Semitic languages like Arabic, and have survived. Just a selection of feminine names I’ve seen (with variants, of course) among women of European extraction:
          Aida
          Farah
          Layla
          Lina
          Miriam
          Mona
          Nadia
          Jasmine (from Persian Yasamin)
          But I suppose none of these have enough “exotic” around them as the more fanciful faux-Arabic names. I suppose part of the insult is reducing a culture to the “exotic” rather than the everyday. See the “Chili Queens” of San Antonio, or the tamale street vendors of Los Angeles pre-1900. I wonder whether these lost the “exotic” tinge as they became more accepted by the cultural mainstream, and whether bellydancing will eventually have the same transition, where a performer of any race, with their own name, can perform bellydance without needing a faux-exotic stage name.

        • I used to know many Indian and East Asian people — both first or second generation immigrants, and people whose families had been in the United States for a long time. Among those whose first names were hard for English-speakers to pronounce or which when romanized were hard to figure out the pronunciation, it was fairly common to adopt similar-sounding Western first names that were used for all purposes except legal documents.

          As to headdresses and medals: There are several matters here. Native Americans (and other unindustrialized and non-imperial cultures) seem to have a lot of sacred ideas and artifacts, in places where we of Europe (and possibly the people of the Middle East and Asia) would not expect them. For example, Christian religious ceremonies are quite circumscribed, and in many cases do not involve any intrinsically sacred artifacts at all.

          My intuition for whether people will complain about cultural appropriation is whether a cross-cultural adoption of something coincides with a contemptuous impression of fakeness. I have this impression of fakeness in same-culture situations plenty; among other things, I tend to get it with insufficiently serious bohemians and middle-classers who go beyond the genteel identity and try to find aristocracy.

          I suspect that, like a few other race and gender matters, some of the complaints about appropriation are from people who have been culturally trained to see it as racist and bigoted, while naively there would be not as many (though still a significant number) complaints.

          (Compare, for example, how any use of makeup to disguise a European as someone of another race is compared immediately to blackface, which is a hateful and deliberate caricature that does not look vaguely like what it supposedly portrays.)

      • Jai says:

        As a mixed-race person, this either severely limits what I’m allowed to do or gives me way more freedom than everyone else, depending, maybe?

        Anyway, I encourage any and everyone to appropriate as much as they want from any cultures I’m affiliated with, either by inheritance or upbringing.

        • Jack says:

          “I encourage any and everyone to appropriate as much as they want from any cultures I’m affiliated with, either by inheritance or upbringing.”

          I think that’s an interesting question. Does it really mean, “be inspired by my culture, even if completely devalues it” or does it actually mean “be inspired by my culture as long as they’re doing something interesting with it, but if they do something I hate, that’s not OK, but that’s something different to cultural appropriation?”

          Eg. in theory, I feel the same. But if, eg. Tom Cruise thought it was cool to call himself a rationalist because it makes him sound all intellectual, is that actually completely OK? Or would rationalists say “my god, you’re doing it wrong” if you call yourself a rationalist but still believe in scientology?

          If you genuinely mean that’s ok, then I applaud your open-mindedness, but I think I’d be upset, and I think many other people would be too.

        • blacktrance says:

          “if, eg. Tom Cruise thought it was cool to call himself a rationalist because it makes him sound all intellectual, is that actually completely OK? Or would rationalists say ‘my god, you’re doing it wrong'”

          “You’re doing it wrong” doesn’t necessarily imply “You shouldn’t do it”. Certainly if Tom Cruise did that, I’d be displeased (mostly because it would cause people to have a mistaken impression of what a rationalist is), but I would never suggest or even think that he shouldn’t do it.

          I second what Jai said. If you want to appropriate something from any of “my” cultures, feel free.

        • ozymandias says:

          IDK there are a couple of Catholics I’d be happy to call rationalists, a Scientologist does not seem entirely beyond the realms of possibility.

          blacktrance: What if a bunch of scientologists started reading Less Wrong and using concepts like “metacontrarian” or “Schelling point” to refer to unrelated Scientology concepts? At what point would you be like “THAT IS NOT WHAT THE WORD MEANS, STOP USING IT LIKE THAT”? Or do you believe that it is wrong to even correct someone using “metacontrarian” to mean “Operating Thetan”?

        • blacktrance says:

          Ozymandias:
          At that point, the problem isn’t cultural appropriation but misleading use of language. It would be the same problem as I would if someone would’ve started using a culturally neutral word to refer to something that could confuse the unaware – for example, if Scientologists started using the word “water” to refer to hydrogen peroxide. The problem would be that it would cause confusion and be misleading, not the appropriation itself.

          If scientologists appropriated other elements of rationalist culture – for example, effective altruism, polyamory, a belief that “politics is the mindkiller”, etc, I wouldn’t mind that at all.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I think there’s probably a difference between discriminating on the basis of inherent features like race, and discriminating on changeable features like rationality.

          Telling Tom Cruise “you need to take this shit more seriously if you want to call yourself a rationalist” is less objectionable than telling Tom Cruise “you need to be born an Arab if you want to bellydance”, because Tom Cruise can take rationality more seriously, but there is nothing he can do about the race he was born as.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Instead of merely asserting that you see a difference, why don’t you tell us what difference you see?

        I don’t see anyone replacing the Salon writer with a strawman; quite the opposite.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          A rather excellent metaphor I’ve seen going around Facebook right now:

          “There’s no sanctioned White History Month or White Pride Parades or White Affirmative Action quotas for the same reason that the guy in first place on Mario Kart doesn’t get blue shells or lightning bolts.”

          I’m not asserting that it’s excellent from the perspective of quelling the debate; merely that it’s excellent from the perspective of focusing the debate in more fruitful directions, such as:

          – What does “being in first” mean?
          – What does the scoring process look like, and what evidence should we be looking for to determine whether whites/etc. have “dropped out of first place?”
          – Are Affirmative Action/History Months/etc. appropriate game-balancing measures, or do some of them need buffs/nerfs?

          Turning it into a gaming metaphor frames the entire race/gender cultural debate into a gaming forum “Nerf Rogues!”/”lol lrn2play n00b” debate, which drastically improves its quality.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Did you mean to respond to someone else?

        • Watercressed says:

          the same reason that the guy in first place on Mario Kart doesn’t get blue shells

          Apparently there are no White Pride Parades because they would just move in a circle and then explode.

        • Brian says:

          @Ialdabaoth:

          Framing race relations in terms of something as inherently zero-sum as Mario Kart looks like a horribly bad idea to me. “Nerf rogues” actually is a good metaphor, in that game balance isn’t a zero-sum game but rather seeks to ensure either some abstract notion of fairness or a pleasant gaming environment for everyone, but that’s really quite a different thing.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Race relations are status games are zero-sum. You could argue, though, that the point of a videogame’s design is to make it fun to play in an environment of friendly competition, whereas status-games are inherently unfriendly because the outcome actually matters.

          Rubber-banding and other “screw-the-leader” effects make videogames more interesting because they make the outcome uncertain for longer. When it comes to real life status games, though, we don’t want them to be interesting. We want to waste as little of our resources as possible on them. So tearing down whoever’s in first place is just encouraging greater intensity of status rivalry, which is not a good thing.

          Life isn’t the same as videogames, who’da thunk.

        • Brian says:

          Status is a game played among people; races have status only insofar as race affects people’s status. If we were trying to equalize individuals’ status, that would be a zero-sum game, but we’re not; we’re trying to take race out of the set of criteria we evaluate status on, which is a different problem that requires a different approach.

          Speaking less abstractly, racial prejudice — any kind of prejudice, really — doesn’t necessarily work like adding a term to some ordering function. It can — hiring does, for example — but it’s hard to argue that, say, tarring and feathering someone for staying past sundown with the wrong skin color or bone structure equivalently elevates those not subjected to it. That’s a negative-sum move, and getting fewer people to play it can only be positive-sum.

        • Andy says:

          it’s hard to argue that, say, tarring and feathering someone for staying past sundown with the wrong skin color or bone structure equivalently elevates those not subjected to it. That’s a negative-sum move, and getting fewer people to play it can only be positive-sum.

          It’s hard to argue from a rationalist perspective, but it’s an accepted canon among the histories I’ve read that keeping the black underclass at the bottom helped elevate even poor whites who didn’t own slaves, because they were still above the slaves and free blacks. They could enlist in the militia, and got to boss around the slaves, and search (and loot) free blacks’ homes anytime there was a rumor of a slave rebellion.
          From Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl: This is right after Nat Turner’s rebellion

          It was a grand opportunity for the low whites, who had no negroes of their own to scourge. They exulted in such a chance to exercise a little brief authority, and show their subserviency to the slaveholders; not reflecting that the power which trampled on the colored people also kept themselves in poverty, ignorance, and moral degradation. Those who never witnessed such scenes can hardly believe what I know was inflicted at this time on innocent men, women, and children, against whom there was not the slightest ground for suspicion. Colored people and slaves who lived in remote parts of the town suffered in an especial manner. In some cases the searchers scattered powder and shot among their clothes, and then sent other parties to find them, and bring them forward as proof that they were plotting insurrection. Every where men, women, and children were whipped till the blood stood in puddles at their feet. Some received five hundred lashes; others were tied hands and feet, and tortured with a bucking paddle, which blisters the skin terribly. The dwellings of the colored people, unless they happened to be protected by some influential white person, who was nigh at hand, were robbed of clothing and every thing else the marauders thought worth carrying away. All day long these unfeeling wretches went round, like a troop of demons, terrifying and tormenting the helpless. At night, they formed themselves into patrol bands, and went wherever they chose among the colored people, acting out their brutal will. Many women hid themselves in woods and swamps, to keep out of their way. If any of the husbands or fathers told of these outrages, they were tied up to the public whipping post, and cruelly scourged for telling lies about white men. The consternation was universal. No two people that had the slightest tinge of color in their faces dared to be seen talking together.

          This wasn’t just in the South. In Northern cities, poor white workers sometimes went on race riots, attacking black people, usually because of economic competition. Poor whites would go on strike for better pay or conditions, and black workers, normally barred from working those jobs, were brought in as strikebreakers. This meant increased tensions between poor whites and poor blacks.
          It isn’t logical, but it’s happened over and over and over in history. Now how the hell do we get out of that trap?

        • Multiheaded says:

          Andy: +1

          It isn’t logical, but it’s happened over and over and over in history. Now how the hell do we get out of that trap?

          In the previous century, a popular solution was “Make a vanguardist organization that would always keep in mind that’s what going on, and denounce these sentiments while agitating among workers.” E.g. see the anti-racist and pro-communist CIO vs. the more establishment AFL which fell into this trap. Overall, results have been… mixed.

        • Zathille says:

          Since Unions seem to be a topic tangentially touched upon here, I figure I have enough an excuse to drop this off here:

          http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1998/01/unio-j10.html

          Thus furthering my sinister (get it?) agenda of proving that just as Neoreaction is varied, so are various Left-Wing movements. Outgroup homogeneity Bias indeed.

          Looking forward to a potential response by Multiheaded.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Snap judgment: these dudes sound like strawman Trotskyists made up by an anarcho-syndicalist. They raise some entirely valid concerns to promote their own ridiculous and undemocratic thing. Ah, left unity.

          To see what’s so awful about it, just imagine if a feminist wrote something like this, substituting women for workers and various third-wave feminisms for unions. She’d be rightly denounced by her peers, I think.

          Bonus: tug-o-war over Rosa Luxemburg. A timeless classic.

        • On the “No White History Month thing”:

          I’ve been seeing this thing which I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about for a while: A lot of people tend to see inequalities such as the race-relations and gender issues in the modern world as somehow permanent and unchangeable, even as they perform, probably successfully, the work of changing them. This finds its most absurd expression among radfems who say things like “feminist is a genetic marker of inferiority” and the like. They tend to imagine no stopping conditions in the struggle for justice, except some ethereal and probably unattainable Great Revolution, while in the real world whole segments of oppression have fallen away piecemeal.

          As to No White History Month: I’d say that there are somewhat conflicting views of history and pride going on here. “White People” in general is a bit too broad (ranging from the Britons to the Russians), possibly a much less compact and relevant category in *modern* times than slave-ancestry Black Americans.

          Meanwhile, White Americans are incredibly deracinated and their culture has been entirely exposed to the ravages of crass capitalism. People tend not to notice this, except when Black History Month rolls around and there is something there to see.

          The typical counter-argument — “Every month is White History Month” — is true but insufficient. It is correct enough in that a White History Month with all the same aspects, including the sense of response to oppression, would not fail to be a brutal fascist celebration. However, it seems apparent that a sense of benign racial unity and history is beneficial, and might prevent the institution from being resented as a permitted Celebration of Grievance.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Oh, look, it’s this pattern again. People notice a bad thing other people are doing. Then, instead of taking the time to try to accurately characterize that bad thing, they present a simplistic, overbroad version of the problem, and, well, you know how it goes from here; terrible discussion, as well as paranoia around the concept from well-meaning people, ensue.

    • Multiheaded says:

      LOL. But I approve of this. Most religions have a “no, don’t worry about the letter of the law, but be awesome to each other, that’s the main thing” wing, and I’m generally very fond of them.

      Hear hear!

    • MugaSofer says:

      “Most religions have a “no, don’t worry about the letter of the law, but be awesome to each other, that’s the main thing” wing, and I’m generally very fond of them.”

      Isn’t that a core doctrine of Christianity? So … shouldn’t that wing be … the whole religion?

  7. Aaron Brown says:

    This American Life did a story on Singles in Agriculture, a group for single farmers and people who want to marry them.

    Speaking of This American Life, I have been meaning to mention them in a comment to your “Bad Dreams” post.

  8. Crowstep says:

    The Islamic Governance paper reminds me, sadly, of what a Muslim friend of mine said.

    She was absolutely insistent that Osama Bin Laden was an actor. She believed that Al Qaeda was an elaborate Western ruse designed to denigrate her faith. She believed the same thing about the killers of Lee Rigby in London, who were recent coverts to the religion.

    The tribal loyalty to her faith didn’t surprise me so much, but I was shocked by the intellectual acrobatics necessary to entertain the conspiracy. Apparently it can be found in academia as well.

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      The tribal loyalty to her faith didn’t surprise me so much, but I was shocked by the intellectual acrobatics necessary to entertain the conspiracy. Apparently it can be found in academia as well.

      I don’t see how that should be surprising; academia, like most cultures, isn’t a huge monolithic Thing as much as a loose collection of people with particular trends based on loosely shared values and practices.

      I think this is true of almost all “cultures” or “subcultures” – most behaviors that you see in a particular individual, you’ll typically see to some extent in individuals across all cultures / subcultures, with relative frequencies being the only distinguishing difference from one subculture to the other.

      • Crowstep says:

        You’re correct about academia not being monolithic, but they are aspiring to some kind of objective truth as a field.

        In other words, how the hell did this get past peer review?!

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          In other words, how the hell did this get past peer review?!

          It has not been my experience that groups of humans are ideal at enforcing or implementing their stated norms and goals.

  9. Andrew Hunter says:

    In the filmed police study, is it possible to distinguish between:

    A) Cops are violent bullies but smart enough to avoid getting caught on camera

    B) The citizens cops meet are badly behaved and escalate interactions, leading to (necessary) police use of force and (bogus) complaints, but straighten up when they realize they’re on camera?

    Everyone seems to be assuming A) but I think cops get a very unfair bad rap…

    (When I used to bounce drunk college students out of my (quiet) dorm from the nearby parties, the best trick I learned was to carry a camera. “Smile while I take your picture” is a great way to get an obnoxious drunk to realize that no, he really shouldn’t pee on that wall/scream at sober student/whatever.)

    • Jeff says:

      That would be easy enough to test by concealing the camera sufficiently.

    • Slow Learner says:

      There is at least a subset of police officers who are aggressive and violent, and rely on public respect and the deference juries show to their uniform to get away with it.
      White middle class people are frequently unaware of this, unless they have:
      Been poor
      Been on protests/demonstrations
      Have seen their black/Muslim friends interact with police.
      If you want a better source than “this random commenter”, go to Popehat and search for police.

  10. Anthony says:

    In a big discussion on my faceboook feed about the original “Why I can’t stand white belly dancers”, someone brought up (it was hinted at in the original article, too) the sexualization of “exotic” art forms by Americans, and belly dance does seem to be particularly prone to this.

    That argument might carry weight if most of the people who worry about “cultural appropriation” positively celebrate the inappropriate sexualization of Christian religious and cultural symbols.

    • AJD says:

      The people who worry about cultural appropriation usually can’t stand the sexualization of cultural symbols; I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Brian says:

      Not that I’m a great fan of cultural appropriation as a concept, but can you point me to what you’re talking about here? I can think of a couple examples, and those are anecdotal and a little questionable even within that context. Certainly not enough to generalize from.

      • Ones that come to my mind:
        1. Belly dance, which is sensual but not particularly sexual to its inventors, and which was originally for a female audience.
        2. Twerking, which is also not considered particularly sexual by its originators, but of which Miley Cyrus made an abandoned and malignant show of edgyness.
        3. A sexual angle that appears in the romanticization of Native Americans and Roma (who are not properly called “gypsies”). The latter have somewhat strict sexual norms, and sexualization of them suggests the old racist myth that their women would deliberately seduce European men.
        4. Tantra, which includes some minor sexual elements (this seems to be somewhat common in Hinduism, based on my very limited knowledge), has been flanderized into a practice of sex acts in the West, sometimes in the context of what seems to merely be a very sensual form of prostitution with mystical elements.
        5. Not actually a sexual example, but the Western form of Yoga seems to be much more physical than the original image.

  11. Brian says:

    Which is confusing, as both of those numbers are greater than 50%, suggesting that there must have been some change among the cameraless officers as well. Spillover effects or fundamental problem with the experiment?

    Possible mechanism: cameraless cops want to stay cameraless, so they stay on their best behavior in hopes that that’ll make differences between experimental and control groups less apparent.

    • John Salvatier says:

      Or that camera wearing cops behave better which leads to a cultural norm of behaving well.

    • Randy M says:

      Mave we looked at the obvious? Perhaps camera wearing cops are partnered with non-camera wearing cops sometimes, effecting both their behavior?

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        And even if not partnered with a camera-wearer, a camera-wearer might show up as backup.

      • ThrustVectoring says:

        More straightforwardly, bringing in some cameras communicates to the cops that they’re being watched.

        I can’t find the source easily, but I remember hearing that putting up pictures of people watching you increased hand-washing compliance at hospitals.

  12. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    The IMF report surprised me, but the responses to it did not (“Damned socialists!”). The first thing that popped into mind was: What about Singapore and Hong Kong? However, I don’t think we can make the leap to policy proposals even if the result turns out to be correct. The report is essentially making the following argument (note that the paper is less forceful that this and recommends caution in rushing to conclusions about policy):

    1) Inequality is associated with low economic growth.
    2) Redistribution has a neutral effect on economic growth.
    3) From 1) inequality reduction has a positive effect on economic growth.
    4) Redistribution reduces inequality.
    5) From 3), 4) and 2) the net effect of redistribution is to increase growth.

    1) does not surprise me, however I think that they are assuming casualty in the wrong direction. I think that low human capital results in both inequality and low economic growth. Extreme inequality does reduce human capital, but its not the only cause.
    2) surprised me a lot. I really hope its true because it would solve what I thought was a pretty big problem with welfare.
    3) is where I start to get concerned. Even if it is true that more equal countries have higher economic growth, it is not necessarily true that decreasing inequality in a country will increase economic growth. You can narrow the wealth gap without narrowing the gap in human capital/productivity.
    4) is an unstated assumption. It might seem silly to question it, however there is no guarantee that the poor will use their increased wealth to increase their human capital. Also, if small business owners are caught in the cross fire, then redistribution might even worsen inequality.

    Finally, I think that policies need to be country specific. Separate analyses for different kinds of economies would be been much more convincing to me (rather than simply adding GDP/per capita as a control variable) – since redistribution could have different effects in different economies. The policies that work for South Africa might not work for the US. If country has problems with proper nutrition or literacy – fixing that has got be a higher priority than redistribution.

    • Brian Donohue says:

      I’m skeptical of the report’s conclusions.

      I have a question for rationalists: might a worldwide frame for assessing inequality be preferable to ‘within country’ analyses? Because there’s a helluva story about worldwide inequality over the past forty years that lots of people haven’t noticed.

    • Paul Torek says:

      I think you’re interpreting the study wrong. There is no conclusion to the effect (5) that the net effect of redistribution is increased growth. Rather, finding (2) should be read as: the net effect of redistribution is approximately neutral.

      The linked article doesn’t really specify, and you might be right; I just think my interpretation is more straightforward.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        This is a quote from the summary:

        And third, redistribution appears generally benign in terms of its impact on growth; only in extreme cases is there some evidence that it may have direct negative effects on growth. Thus the combined direct and indirect effects of redistribution—including the growth effects of the resulting lower inequality—are on average pro-growth.

        What I’m arguing is that even if the direct effects of redistribution are neutral with respect to growth, the net effect could nevertheless be negative – its possible that redistribution actually worsens inequality in the long term, or it doesn’t address inequality in a way that has growth enhancing effects.

    • The IMF report looks interesting–I haven’t had a chance to look at it closely yet. It is worth noting, however, that there are public goods aside from GDP maximization which are compromised by income redistribution efforts. For instance, there is a clear connection between increases in government transfer payments and a decline in the labor participation rate of adult males. (See Eberstadt’s “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” which contains many graphs that show a clear relationship between the two.) Is active redistribution really benign if it lowers the incentive for males to seek gainful employment, which provides non-quantifiable benefits such as a sense of meaning and purpose, even if the effect on aggregate GDP is negligible? The language in the Guardian summary is extremely loaded, by the way… beware the power of framing. To experiment with a different frame, consider referring to a high Gini coefficient as “income diversity”. The psychological impact is rather different. The obsession with GDP maximization at the expense of all other goods is one of the perils of economics studies on public policy.

      • blacktrance says:

        Ceteris paribus, lower labor force participation is a good thing, because it frees people up to do things that they like more than work. Labor has disutility, and if we can get what we want while working less, that’s obviously good.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Unemployment causes depression.

          Or people with Factor X tend to get depressed more easily, tend to recover from depression more slowly, and tend to not be very employable.

        • AJD says:

          Or, unemployment causes depression because it causes people to be unable to have enough money to live the lifestyle they want to live, or because they live in a society in which they have been taught that their worth as a person hinges on their ability to produce value in a capitalist economy; and if those weren’t true, unemployment would not cause depression.

        • ozymandias says:

          That study reads to me as “depressed people are bad at getting jobs and more likely to be in the long-term unemployed category.”

        • peterdjones says:

          Or monied leisure is a very different kind of unemployment to the kind where you can’t pay the bills.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Or, depression is a natural psychological reaction to recognizing that your tribe has no use for you whatsoever, but provides no approved rituals for self-termination.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Whether unemployment causes depression, worsens it or doesn’t affect it, ceteris paribus is not a good assumption. Within the existing system unemployment has negative externalities.

          You could attempt to address them by increasing welfare and decreasing the stigma against being unemployed but that too would lead to negative effects (for example the positive effect of welfare on fertility).

          Also, its very easy to imagine someone for whom unemployment is a good thing for them and for society. For example, the hobo academic who gives talks and does unpaid work with colleagues (Someone like Erdos). Or perhaps someone with excellent organizational skills who directs an NGO. Or, perhaps less glamorous, the person who lives with their friends or family and hosts fancy dinner parties while doing odds jobs*. Yes they exist, however, the vast majority of unemployed people under welfare would not be like that.

          *These examples were largely taken from here

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          the vast majority of unemployed people under welfare would not be like that.

          why do you say that?

      • peterdjones says:

        Not all redistribution is welfare. It is hard to see how increasing benefits could make a country wealthier. It is easier to see how a well funded education system could.

      • Andy says:

        For instance, there is a clear connection between increases in government transfer payments and a decline in the labor participation rate of adult males.

        I like how you ignore the effect on technology on labor force participation. This is what deeply annoys me about people who advocate against welfare: other jobs are not easily available, and becoming less so.
        According to the US Beureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.8 job seekers per opening, so we have roughly half the open jobs we’d need to supply a job to everyone looking for one. This doesn’t count people who are out of the labor market due to age, disability or laziness.
        PDF
        Especially for lower-status, more menial jobs like working in fast food, the instant something can be done by a machine, that worker is gone. I’ve seen this myself, in my own field of mapping and cartography. As the software improves, and companies grow in Third World countries, there’s a bit less demand for workers in the US, especially at the entry level. Digitization, the most labor-intensive part of the job, can be outsourced to companies in India quite quickly and cheaply.
        Part of our economic problem, I think, is that we as humans don’t have a large frontier to move into, the way Europe’s excess population flooded into America for centuries. Add to that the way technology is eating the job market, and we’ve got a quandary that won’t be fixed by just cutting transfer payments.
        I agree, transfer payments as they are now don’t give people a sense of meaning and purpose, but so do a lot of low-wage, low-skill jobs – working in a call center. Software testing. Some fast food jobs where it’s the same damn thing over and over. But a lot of those jobs are not coming back without laws saying “you can’t replace people with machines!” It may be better to figure a way for people to earn meaning and purpose along with their transfer payments, rather than rock the economic boat too hard.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          This is what deeply annoys me about people who advocate against welfare: other jobs are not easily available, and becoming less so.

          Not everyone who advocates against welfare uses the same arguments. For example, when I’m in a mood to argue against welfare, my general argument is “why should people like me be allowed to live? Exactly how many paperclips am I worth, anyway?”

        • peterdjones says:

          Technology creates new kinds of jobs as well. There is also an equality issue here. It would be nice if everyone stayed in employment with ever reducing hours, but that is extremely difficult to arrange because of naturally very unequal distribution of skills. Not only are those with redundant skills likely to be underemployed, these with cutting edge skills can find themselves overworked.

        • Andy says:

          Technology creates new kinds of jobs as well.

          Not always, and this certainly shouldn’t be treated as axiomatic. Certainly in the last 30 years we’ve seen labor-saving technology advance in a number of fields simultaneously. Add to that the labor force of the Third World, and we have an imbalance. I get the inequality argument, but we’ve always had that kind of inequality.

          For example, when I’m in a mood to argue against welfare, my general argument is “why should people like me be allowed to live? Exactly how many paperclips am I worth, anyway?”

          You have a point, but I consider this a non-standard argument. This is the first time I’ve seen the “should people who are unemployable be allowed to live?” in the same contextual space as “these are people like me!”
          And I think you’re selling yourself short; you’ve made several cogent arguments, and in my opinion that is sufficient reason to live.
          HEY! There’s an idea for giving people on welfare meaning and purpose! We pay them to argue on the Internet!
          I see no potential downside to this plan.
          (Sarcasm. It would probably be a nightmare. But it would make an interesting science fiction concept: what would Reddit look like if lots and lots of unemployed people were paid to argue on there?)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          And I think you’re selling yourself short; you’ve made several cogent arguments, and in my opinion that is sufficient reason to live.

          My standardized response to this translates to “great, how much weight does your valuation of me have in the paperclip-maximizer’s general utility function?”

        • Randy M says:

          I mentioned yesterday to my also not particularly progressive friend that there is an argument that makes me consider socialism; someone without the skills to be profitable in a modern economy cannot just go out and provide for themselves with their own two hands. There is no out to the economy given the reach of civilization, and the number of people who will fall into the “unprofitable to employ based on having skills below what is easily automated” category will will grow, and at some point it will cross over the mean. So the typical unemployed person will not likely be due to being unwilling to work or prefering the easy way out; they will be unable to compete at even a level to survive, with no other options.

          And I don’t value people primarily based on whether their skills can profitably be employed.

        • Randy M says:

          “I’ve seen this myself, in my own field of mapping and cartography”

          Hasn’t all that stuff already been discovered by, you know, Magellen, Cortez… NASA?

        • peterdjones says:

          @Andy

          I can’t see how major advances in technology can fail to create new kinds of job, since there has to be some designer or engineer or content creator for every machine. NB, that’s KINDS of jobs, not nett increases in jobs.

        • peterdjones says:

          @randy

          But note that technology makes everything easier. Anyone can edit a video or print off a professional looking book now.

        • Randy M says:

          Exactly. A job that used to take writer, editor, + who knows how many more, now takes one.

          How long until actors are obsolete? Certainly I’d wager in a few years you’ll have 1 job of digitizing all the crowd scenes and many incidental parts in many movies.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          There is no out to the economy given the reach of civilization, and the number of people who will fall into the “unprofitable to employ based on having skills below what is easily automated” category will will grow, and at some point it will cross over the mean. So the typical unemployed person will not likely be due to being unwilling to work or prefering the easy way out; they will be unable to compete at even a level to survive, with no other options.

          They are, however, full of useful organs. And once that utilization runs out, there are plenty of sadistic narcissists who will want people to abuse and humiliate.

        • ozymandias says:

          I suspect a system where the majority of the population is used for organs or torture will rapidly find itself in violent revolt.

        • peterdjones says:

          @ialdabaoth

          Do you have evidence that a clippie is actually running your life?

        • Andy says:

          Hasn’t all that stuff already been discovered by, you know, Magellen, Cortez… NASA?

          I used to facepalm at this, but you’d be surprised how often a geography major gets exactly this question. Here’s what I’m in school for:
          PDF
          It is fun. I’m especially fascinated by concepts of urban political and eoconomic metabolism and the new ecosystems that are being built in urban areas.
          I don’t want to drag the thread too far off-topic, but trust me on this – there are always more things to map.

          I can’t see how major advances in technology can fail to create new kinds of job, since there has to be some designer or engineer or content creator for every machine. NB, that’s KINDS of jobs, not nett increases in jobs.

          New kinds of jobs, of course! But at the extreme, you might go from 1 car designer and 1000 auto workers to 1 car designer, 1 robot designer, 1 robot programmer, 2-3 robot watchers, and 50 robots building cars. THAT’S what I was talking about, and probably has more impact on discussions of welfare programs than growth in new kinds of jobs.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Do you have evidence that a clippie is actually running your life?

          Effectively, yes. There’s two of them, actually – one’s paperclips are called “replicated genes”, and the other one’s paperclips keep changing their abstract representation, but apparently they are currently called “dollars”.

        • Andy says:

          I suspect a system where the majority of the population is used for organs or torture will rapidly find itself in violent revolt.

          Only if people know they are! Or a religious system that glorifies being harvested for organs or being tortured by those of higher caste.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Only if people know they are! Or a religious system that glorifies being harvested for organs or being tortured by those of higher caste.

          Cold reality time: All it would really take is to offer people a choice between being tortured by the gentry or harvested for organs.

          Provide people that choice, and they’ll spend all their time violently fighting amongst themselves over which option is better and which option indicates weakness of character, rather than revolting.

        • peterdjones says:

          @ialdabaoth

          Do you have evidence that these “dollars” of yours actually decide things? I have always believed them to be peices of paper whose alleged value is the result of some mass delusion.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Do you have evidence that these “dollars” of yours actually decide things? I have always believed them to be prices of paper whose alleged value is the result of some mass delusion.

          Huh? The dollars don’t decide anything, the dollar-maximizer does. Note my response to Andy above:

          My standardized response to this translates to “great, how much weight does your valuation of me have in the paperclip-maximizer’s general utility function?”

          Put more succinctly, “just because you think I’m kinda cool, doesn’t give me money to eat with.”

        • Andy says:

          Do you have evidence that these “dollars” of yours actually decide things? I have always believed them to be prices of paper whose alleged value is the result of some mass delusion.

          No, they’re arbitrary trade markers used to quickly and efficiently exchange goods such as soybeans, rice, gasoline, scissors, and staplers for services, and vice versa.
          In this case, I would argue that Ialdabaoth’s lack of access to necessities such as food and shelter, which can often only be purchased in dollars, exert a more powerful decisive force than the paper or electrons which encode dollars.
          (I love this comment thread, and I love you all.)
          EDIT:

          Put more succinctly, “just because you think I’m kinda cool, doesn’t give me money to eat with.”

          Yes, but I propose to set up a system to give you money so long as you cogently argue things on the Internet. The value-maximization system has enough slack for abstract art, God knows it can afford to subsidize some Internet commenters.

        • Randy M says:

          ” used to facepalm at this, but you’d be surprised how often a geography major gets exactly this question.”

          It’s from the pilot episode of Arrested Development. Just say “Never hurts to double check!”

        • peterdjones says:

          @Andy.

          The number of pieces of paper that Ialdabaoth has is decided by humans,not Clippie. Pieces of paper are a medium of exchange, of no intrinsic value.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Yes, but I propose to set up a system to give you money so long as you cogently argue things on the Internet. The value-maximization system has enough slack for abstract art, God knows it can afford to subsidize some Internet commenters.

          At which point I repeat my previous question: How influential are you to Clippy’s decision-making process? Should I hold my breath waiting for this system to be implemented, or should I go back to expecting that all that slack will be arbitraged away by automated day-traders?

          This is not a rhetorical question; I’m barely holding my shit together in a $40K/year programming day-job right now (minus about $15K/year in medical, personal, and student loan debts that I took on to stay alive over the past decade), and until 3 months ago I was effectively homeless. If it is your opinion that I am not a waste of resources, then I ask you: what does that opinion actually *mean* to me?

          (And then, multiply my voice by an arbitrary-but-large amount; I am not unique.)

        • peterdjones says:

          @Ialdabaoth

          I see no Clippie.

          I see no dollar maximiser.

        • ozymandias says:

          peterdjones: The dollar maximizer (or, really, GDP maximizer) is called the economy. Seriously, what on earth are you arguing? Dollars are a social construct, but so is which side of the road you’re driving on, and if you ignore either of them you will shortly die a very painful death.

          Ialdabaoth: Presumably that he will advocate in favor of transfer payments to keep us useless eaters alive?

        • Andy says:

          Presumably that he will advocate in favor of transfer payments to keep us useless eaters alive?

          Yes. And evidence in favor of a guaranteed basic income is growing stronger, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come up as a serious proposal soon, assuming we can shake the advancing lunacy of libertarianism.
          Past that, I would not want to invade your autonomy or reduce your agency by blindly charging in (like my ancestors laboring under the White Man’s Burden) to do what I think would be best for you. Bearing in mind I’m a twenty-something college undergrad with no income, what then am I able to do?

  13. lambdaphage says:

    Everything about the title of that case is awesome, except the issue of false precision. As if you could ever practically weigh ~60k pounds of shark fins to 5 significant digits. C’mon.

  14. l33tminion says:

    Re cultural appropriation, there’s a difference between:
    1. The argument that cultural things should be the exclusive purview of racial or ethnic groups that originated those things (sometimes in the form of: the cultural mainstream has lots of things, why should they get this, too?)
    2. The argument that people in the cultural mainstream can harm groups outside of the cultural mainstream by influincing how cultural things associated with those groups are percieved (e.g. by making those things look frivolous or rediculous)

    Both the Salon article and Volokh’s response seem to conflate the two.

    • Randy M says:

      I agree that is a useful distinction; could someone elaborate on what the potential harms would be in such a scenario, though?

  15. misha says:

    So here’s a thought I had on the police thing: It seems very likely to me that many if not the majority of complaints against police are probably fraudulent (ignore for a moment the value of taking all complaints seriously). I think this follows from A) A person willing to make fraudulent complaints against the cops is probably willing to do it repeatedly, since it doesn’t cost them that much and B) Police are much more likely to interact on a regular basis with people who would view them as enemies. So it seems to me that while the reduction in self-reported use of force is probably a case of less police brutality, the huge reduction in complaints might be a case of people suddenly becoming far less willing to lie.

    • ThrustVectoring says:

      Anyone who has worked in customer service or retail can confirm this kind of thing. People are terrible at keeping track of what actually happened when it gets in the way of getting themselves worked up emotionally.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I have the opposite problem. I’m terrible at getting myself worked up emotionally when it gets in the way of keeping track of what actually happened. This makes it harder to scam freebies out of customer service workers, among other things.

  16. St. Rev says:

    Regarding object-level vs. meta-level: The graph shows opportunistic flipping behavior in only 10%-20% of the population. That should actually be somewhat encouraging.

    • gattsuru says:

      ~20-30% of the American populace has also changed their minds on gay marriage within that time period, and the legal landscape regarding federalism changed pretty dramatically in the last four. So there are even some alternative explanations for the folk that changed their minds.

  17. Douglas Knight says:

    I believe that Switzerland has an official list of 300 Indian names and Indian immigrants are not free to name their children Dorian.

  18. DavidS says:

    My favorite in rem case name is “The United States versus the Spirit of Freedom”. (The Spirit of Freedom was the name of a boat.) I’m finding it surprisingly hard to turn up an official court record to link to, but you can find it mentioned here for example.

  19. Mary says:

    The sort of early-child intervention that would actually help most of those kids is not something most people would have stomach for: identify the demographic of disaster, where outcomes are worst, and remove the babies at birth for adoption. Which would have an enormous number of false positives, counterbalanced only by the severity of the problems that the demographic is likely to give children, and also many false negatives.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      I do love extreme interventions like this that would never fly politically, but if you take away their kids, won’t they simply have more kids? I’m guessing that already having one child is a pretty good contraceptive. And if you’re going to go to that far, why not just have sterilization? Not mandatory of course just heavily promoted. And suddenly I am reminded of planned parenthood – Hmmm.

      • Mary says:

        If they know you will take away the next?

        If they have two under those circumstance, perhaps we should start to look at the law. We already know that these circumstance are a danger to children. We already have laws about people who can’t control themselves and pose a risk to themselves or others.

    • Charlie says:

      Well, the Harlem Children’s Zone is at least a pretty head-on attempt to do holistic (like, pre-natal through college placement) intervention to help out young children, and it got national support and widespread media praise.

      And I think that holistic efforts are waaay better than just forbidding poor people from raising children. What you might call “lacking nerve,” I’d call “having additional values that aren’t satisfied by maximizing the number of children with middle-class memes.”

      • Mary says:

        Who said anything about forbidding poor people to raise children? I spoke of the “demographic of disaster.” Obviously one would have to work out what circumstances really are bad, but since illegitimacy is a better predictor of both infant mortality and juvenile crime than poverty, poverty may not even feature, and certainly would not be the sole factor.

        That you leapt to “poor people” is fully your own prejudice.

    • Andy says:

      identify the demographic of disaster, where outcomes are worst, and remove the babies at birth for adoption

      Compare to the Australian program removing mixed-race children from Aboriginal families and fostering them among white people.
      Wikipedia scroll up from the link to “The Policy in Practice” and we find this gem:

      The report said that among the 502 inquiry witnesses, 17% of female witnesses and 7.7% of male witnesses reported experiencing a sexual assault while in an institution, at work, or with a foster or adoptive family.

      Far more humane, in my opinion, though equally hard to get implemented, would be some form of mandatory contraception on both priviliged and under-privileged alike. In science fiction, I’ve seen frequent reference to “contraceptive implants,” permanently pausing a woman’s fertility until she chooses to have children, and (often) qualifies for a child-rearing license. which seems a much more fine-grained solution – don’t let someone raise a child, regardless of demographic, until they are mentally and financially prepared to go through with it.

  20. Scott says:

    It amuses me to no end that, in the case of United States vs Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins, the three-judge panel ruled that “the fins should be returned to their owners.”

    One presumes it was quite a task finding all the estimated 30,000 sharks whose fins had been taken.

    Also, United States v. 422 Casks of Wine sounds like a fun party.

    • Brian Donohue says:

      I dunno Scott. We’d be lucky to snag a small glass apiece, depending on turnout.

  21. Sharif Olorin says:
  22. Kevin says:

    I just saw this, and it reminded me of Generalizing from One Example:

    Canadian student has “out of body experiences” whenever she wants

    After attending a lecture on “out of body experiences,” a 24-year-old student from the University of Ottawa approached her professor saying, “I thought everybody could do that.” She can apparently do this at will — making her the first person with this condition to be studied.