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More Links for March 2014

I remember discussing why we couldn’t do this with a couple of people. Now we can – fecal transplant now in pill form. Still less gross than other ways of a getting fecal transplant!

Doing it right: pro-Israel American Jewish groups nevertheless oppose legislative attempt to financially penalize boycotting Israel because of free speech issues.

Stanford Social Innovation Review claims other forms of charity are probably much more effective than GiveDirectly-style cash transfers. GiveWell, which supports GiveDirectly, responds here.

Pretty much everything you hear about test preparation for the SAT is wrong – it doesn’t help that much, it’s not too related to wealth, and it’s disproportionately used by black families. So all the arguments you’re hearing for various changes to the SAT are not only wrong, but diametrically opposite reality. Especially when they cite race. Surprise, surprise.

86% of Americans expect their first marriage to last forever, even though over a third of first marriages end in divorce, almost as if there was some kind of “overconfidence bias” or something.

!!! Decentralized bitcoin prediction markets !!! I doubt that these will overcome the technical problems, if they do I doubt they will overcome the user interface and popularization problems to ever take off, but I don’t think I’ve ever salivated so much thinking about a new technology.

And speaking of prediction, who predicted Russia’s invasion of Crimea? Answer: no one did a very good job, but Russia experts and security experts did slightly better than others. People who identified with any particular “paradigm” of international relationships did worse than those who didn’t (keep your identities small!) and people working for a Top 25 institution did worst of all (reverse meritocracy)?

After years of hearing how checklists change everything, a new study shows surgical checklists not having much of an effect on patient outcomes. Interesting, but let’s not fall victim to the “one study contradicts dozens of previous studies, therefore we throw out the dozens of previous studies” effect.

The kind of libertarianism everyone should be able to get behind: unused government buildings costing gov billions in maintenance, but they won’t sell them because it’s too much trouble complying with all appropriate regulations.

2225 Things Mr. Welch Can No Longer Do During An RPG. Number 108: “No, I do not get XP for every single crewman on that Star Destroyer.”

The Onion’s fake reporting on evolutionary psychology is probably more accurate than most newspapers’ real reporting: Researchers Find Human Beings Naturally Evolved Towards Monogamy And Carrying On Fun Little Flings On Side.

A while ago I posted on here that hospital-acquired infections had plummeted after Medicare said it would no longer pay for them. I can no longer find that link so I can’t double-check, but I recently found a trustworthy source claiming the opposite – that changing the incentives didn’t affect levels of hospital-acquired infections much at all.

The army’s top official in charge of prosecuting sexual assault was suspended after being accused of sexual assault at a conference about sexual assault, a year after the Air Force’s top sexual assault official was acquitted of a similar allegation. I wonder whether sexual assault is just so common they can’t find anyone who doesn’t do it to serve as a prosecutor, whether assaulters are disproportionately attracted to take anti-sexual assault positions for some reason, whether false accusations disproportionately accrue around top anti-assault officials because of the shock value, or a mixture of all three.

This blog does some really neat things with Renaissance art, collages, and animation. Less pretentious than that sounds. Much less pretentious.

Russian lawmaker wants to abolish the letter ы from the Cyrillic alphabet, because it is used by “Asiatic people”, who are “primitive”. Says that “this is the reason people don’t like us in Europe”. This must be why people keep putting sanctions on Russia, right?

The spite house.

Halloween prank: attach a Grim Reaper to a hexacopter, have it hover over cemeteries and pursue visitors. Hilarity ensues. Warning: YouTube video.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that while saturated fat is not as bad as most people think, most studies do continue to support a link between it and heart disease. Well, the latest study that just came out doesn’t.

We all know what jobs make more money than others, but some of that could be class-related – ie primarily upper-class people go into those jobs. Another interesting question is – what jobs are most likely to cause people to earn more or less than their parents did? NPR gives us the list.

Tumblr on diagnosis and self-diagnosis. For a second I worried I might have been the psychiatrist in the first story until I remembered I haven’t been given any ADHD cases yet. Apparently other people have stolen my secret patented medical techniques!

@jsperera sent me The Germ Theory Of Democracy, telling me it would tie in nicely to my theory of political differences. Which it does: “Severe pathogen stress leads to high levels of civil and ethnic warfare, increased rates of homicide and child maltreatment, patriarchal family structures, and social restrictions regarding women’s sexual behavior. Moreover, these pathogen-avoidant collectivist tendencies, they wrote, coalesce over time into repressive and autocratic governmental systems.” This also holds the potential to address what I consider one of the most important unanswered sociological questions: how did segregation and proud explicit racism collapse so quickly and thoroughly when other political battles like abortion are totally unwinnable – their answer is because it corresponded with the eradication of most traditional Southern American diseases.

Scott Sumner: Why We Debate Unimportant Issues. A good supplement to Robin Hanson’s idea of pulling policy ropes sideways.

If you have some of your genetic code from a site like 23andMe, help advance the progress of science by donating your results to OpenSNP, which feeds the anonymized possible-to-derive-personal-information-from data to scientists studying genetics.

Russia is invading the Crimea, and soon we may witness the return of La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia. For like twenty years. Before it sinks into the sea. Are you sure this is a good time to try to go it alone?

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85 Responses to More Links for March 2014

  1. BenSix says:

    Russia is invading the Crimea, and soon we may witness the return of La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia.

    Don’t forget Catalonia and Scotland. If one of the US states were to secede, which would it be?

  2. I’m anxious to hear what GiveWell has to say on the issue.

    Here you go!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Bah, and here I was looking for this all over GiveWell’s blog. Thanks. Added in.

  3. Scott,

    Genetic data cannot be anonymized. Y chromosomes essentially contain surname data. (And this is just one of many ways it is not anonymizable.) You need to strike this from your statement above.

    But I welcome public sharing, for those who understand and want to share anyway!

    US citizens and permanent residents above the age of 21 are also welcome to join the Personal Genome Project at Harvard Medical School. In fact, PersonalGenomes.org is running exciting event in Cambridge, MA at the end of April – GET Labs – where researchers can work together with Harvard PGP participants. People can enroll in PGP Harvard now and apply for an invitation to GET Labs, provided they’ve shared the necessary public data on their PGP profile (genetic and trait surveys).

    [Not at all exclusive to participating in OpenSNP! Joining both is cool. 🙂 ]

    If you want to understand more about the risks of enrollment (re-identification, etc.) checkout the enrollment exam study guide here: http://www.personalgenomes.org/harvard/documents

    • Steve says:

      “23andMe.com” and “33bits.org” have serendipitously parallel naming structure, eh?

  4. Typhon says:

    The Veneto region leans right and votes for separatist Lega Norde candidates, but Venice itself leans left.
    Were the Serenissima repubblica to become independent anew, it’s quite likely it’d need another capital city. How ironic.

  5. Said Achmiz says:

    The bit about abolishing the letter ы made me gasp in shock and dismay (there’s an old, beloved comedy film with that letter prominently featured in its title!! What would become of it?!), until I clicked on the link and saw the “Russian lawmaker” is Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Move along, nothing to see here.

    • pwyll says:

      Yeah. American politicians say stupider things on a far more frequent basis, but we expect the rest of the world not to freak out when they do. The ы issue is just being highlighted by the currently fashionable hate-Russia brigade.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        “The ы issue is just being highlighted by the currently fashionable hate-Russia brigade.”

        No, pretty sure I just found this legitimately amusing. When a member of Congress wants to remove a letter from the Latin alphabet, I’ll cover that too.

        As for the hate-Russia brigade – I’m having a lot of trouble mustering sufficient outrage about the Crimea annexation. Yeah, national sovereignty is an important Schelling fence. On the other hand, Crimea is historically Russian, was given to Ukraine for weird reasons in the 1950s, and continues to be inhabited mostly by Russians who would prefer to be part of Russia. It would have been nice if Ukraine had themselves conceived the idea of a referendum on where Crimea wanted to be, and that referendum had been conducted legitimately with international observers, but I haven’t heard much to make me think it would have turned out differently.

        I kind of feel the same way about Eastern Ukraine. Most of the people there want at the very least close association with Russia. No, war is not a good way to make that happen. But I also don’t like the thought of a country where the two halves hate each other and are constantly trying to drag each other down. I don’t see why the best solution isn’t for Eastern Ukraine to join Russia like it wants, and then Western Ukraine is free to become a nice liberal Western European country that joins the EU without further strife. Seems like the main obstacle is nationalism where everyone is horrified at dividing the Motherland. Can someone tell me how I’m being hopelessly ignorant here?

        • lmm says:

          What bothers me is that the experience forms a strong argument against giving up your nuclear weapons in return for diplomatic guarantees, when other nations consider whether to do that in the future.

        • Eli says:

          The problem, to wit, is anschluss. Russia does not look like it is making a one-time annexation for the sake of historical nationhood in line with the desires of the people of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine (the natives in Crimea are Tatars anyway, Russians were invaders from the start). No, instead, Russia is making mouth-noises and army-noises that politely suggest that any place with ethnic Russians or Russian-speakers in it is rightfully Russian soil, no matter what those inhabitants actually think (opinions vary) or what Russian citizens think (opinions vary subject to heavy, heavy nationalistic indoctrination).

          It’s not just a Schelling fence, it’s that Russia’s current actions pattern-match on the German anschluss moves in Austria and Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. Russia does not view anything as dividing countries in accordance with citizens’ desires; they view it as Uniting the Motherland by Force If Necessary.

          Needless to say, such views have a track record for rather extreme evil.

          Now, was anyone worried about this prior to the actual military invasion? No: irredentist blood-and-soil nationalism has its pushers on the far-right in every country, and in some cases even in the mainstream right (though that’s generally a sign a country has become worryingly right-wing, in most Westerners’ eyes). The precise difference is that most of the time, blood-and-soil irredentism remains a ploy to stoke emotions and win votes for insane politicians from insane voters, in the context of a liberal democracy with open political debates and free speech. This time, that same ideology is coming from the mafia-don “president” of a country which commits state violence against political dissidents, has little free speech, and has much of its industry and media controlled by that same mafia-don and his comrades, and he has actually, factually deployed his army in service to that ideology.

          In short, Putin is a fascist. Most countries have some fascists somewhere, but usually not in power and usually not capable of controlling public conversation. Putin is both in power and in control of the public conversation. Putin has deployed his armed forces to take territory on a blood-and-soil nationalist justification. He has then issued implicit threats to continue deploying his armed forces further away from his legal borders to take more territory on blood-and-soil nationalist grounds.

          This has made a lot of people estimate the probability that Putin will start a nationalist land war in Eastern Europe as being fairly high — which is really, really bad.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Needless to say, such views have a track record for rather extreme evil.

          Bullshit. By “a track record” you mean one example, because you don’t know any history. The actual track record of centuries of using language and culture as a Schelling point for state boundaries is a lot better than anything else that has been tried.

  6. 86% of Americans expect their first marriage to last forever, even though over a third of first marriages end in divorce, almost as if there was some kind of “overconfidence bias” or something.

    Does “expecting” entail assigning > 2/3 probability estimate?

    • BenSix says:

      I suspect that if you put that question to them they would answer “yes”.

      (I’d be interested to know why people who don’t expect their marriages to last get married in the first place. Tax breaks?)

      • Said Achmiz says:

        It’s entirely reasonable to get married for the usual romantic reasons even if you don’t expect your marriage to last forever. “I love this person and want to spend many years of my life with them, and I want, and want them to have, all the social benefits that come from marriage. However, I reasonably allow for the strong possibility that we may, one day, ‘fall out of love’, or tire of each other, or wish to pursue different lifestyles, or what have you; that is natural and not necessarily anyone’s fault. Until then, however — and it may be a long time — I promise to cherish and to hold, etc.”

        • BenSix says:

          Yes, that makes some sense. But I wonder if their spouses know they have that outlook…

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Certainly the ethical thing to do would be, if you had such an outlook, only to get married if your spouse-to-be felt similarly.

          I’m given to understand that this sort of attitude is reasonably prevalent in transhumanist communities (which of course makes excellent sense).

          Edit: And if I were ever to get married (unlikely, but possible), those are the sort of vows I’d take.

        • JRM says:

          I thought my marriage would last; it has so far. I think part of that is that we do have a serious commitment.

          OTOH, I love romantic songs… of a sort.

          Good Enough/Yankovic:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbFU6w7q3dQ

          If I Didn’t Have You/Minchin:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn6gV2sdl38

          Millionaire Girlfriend/Coulton:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbtWsFi0GSg

          That’s probably enough links to get me into the spam filter already, but Skullcrusher Mountain (Coulton) One More Minute (Yankovic)… there are lots of fine romantic songs out there.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          You have a serious commitment, eh? Unlike all those other people who get married but eventually end up divorcing, who don’t have serious commitments?

          What do you think they’d say, if we asked them, early in their marriage, whether they have a serious commitment? “Nah, man. This marriage thing is whatever. My girlfriend’s dad offered to pay for the whole wedding, so I figured, hey, free food! Score!”

      • You can want a marriage to last forever without assigning a super-high probability estimate to its lasting forever. Like, “we both know what the divorce rate is these days but we’re in love so we’re going to take that risk.”

        Of course, I suspect rationally looking at the risk of a divorce is correlated with low rates of divorce—if nothing else, if you’re thinking along those lines, you probably know that getting married young is correlated with a higher divorce rate and therefore will want to delay marriage.

        I’m curious to know what probability estimate you think “expecting” indicates. According to this article, “for college educated women who marry after the age of 25 and have established an independent source of income, the divorce rate is only 20 percent.” So is 80% enough for “expecting?”

        Or, for myself, I think I could plausibly point to factors suggesting that if I hypothetically got married, my chance of getting divorced would be as low as 10%… but I’d be overconfident to go lower than that. Is 90% enough for “expecting”?

        • Andy says:

          This would actually make a really interesting therapyish service – a person who knows marriage and statistics meets with a couple who are looking at getting married, and lets them know how likely they are to make it to 10,20,30 years, etc, and how likely they are to last a lifetime. It would never work as a business, because people (including myself) aren’t rational enough to actually take such a service without either ignoring results we don’t want to hear, or turning statistical predictions into a self-fulfilling prophecies.

        • J. Quinton says:

          A friend of mine got really upset with me when I told her I prefer to marry a woman older than 25. Which didn’t really make sense to me because even though she was 22 at the time, she had just gotten engaged with her boyfriend.

        • naath says:

          I’m not sure what they point of “how likely are we to get divorced?” is as a question if *right now* you really want to get married. Getting married doesn’t generally *cause* break ups (it just relabels them “divorces”).

          If I think my relationship is likely to last the next ten years and no longer then I might think that my best option is to marry now – gaining various legal and social benefits for ten years, and then having access to legal frameworks for the division of jointly owned assets and the arrangement of custody for children (where applicable).

    • Brian Donohue says:

      Exactly. If I have a fair three-sided die with 1, 2,and 3 on it, and you win if it comes up 1 or 2, how many people would expect to lose on a single roll?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good point!

    • Eli says:

      That depends quite heavily. Do you estimate your own optimization power as being able to overcome a 1/3 prior probability of divorce, and are you actually committing to keep your marriage together as a terminal or near-terminal goal?

      It sounds pretty foolish to assign a probability to keeping your marriage together without taking into account the effects of your own deliberate maintenance of that marriage. This would be one of those situations where I’d throw out a-posteriori estimation and just try to optimize.

  7. gattsuru says:

    86% of Americans expect their first marriage to last forever, even though over a third of first marriages end in divorce, almost as if there was some kind of “overconfidence bias” or something.

    I’m actually surprised there’s only 20 percentage points in that overconfidence bias, especially since it’s something where internal properties do control heavily.

    …their answer is because it corresponded with the eradication of most traditional Southern American diseases.

    It’s an interesting theory for the biodeterminists, but I can think of a pretty sizable number of exceptions. We’ve seen massive changes in political beliefs about homosexuality long after effective STD treatments were possible (1940s for effective antibiotics, mid-1950s for the Mattachine Society and ONE magazine, 1970s for Stonewall) nor did the gay rights movement vaporize under the stress of HIV (1980s). The Reconstruction’s failure doesn’t seem especially marred by plague compared to the Civil War itself.

    At a deeper level, segregation specifically seems to have changed dramatically at the same time that a very specific brand of machine politics — most obviously, the Byrd Organization — was essentially burned out. These political machines allowed political tail (<20%) positions to essentially control entire states. Drastic changes in a states' expressed desires after such a machine collapsed /may/ still be useful support for a larger theory, but it's a different enough situation that the type of distinguishing marks are important.

    • It’s also worth noting that 1. Homosexuality had enjoyed a period of comparative acceptance, though I do not believe it was anything like today, with the other bohemainisms of the 1920s and 2. Segregation was clearly on the map, while gay rights were not.

  8. Douglas Knight says:

    over a third of first marriages end in divorce

    Why did you choose that number? The article says about half, which is the correct number.

    • anodognosic says:

      The article says, specifically, that half of all marriages end in divorce, in contrast to first marriages. What is evident from the difference in these figures is that the general marriage:divorce ratio is skewed by people who marry and divorce multiple times.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        OK, maybe he thought that’s the meaning of the article, but where did he get the number 1/3? But the truth is that the figure 1/2 really is for first marriages, not all marriages.

        (More precisely, half of first marriages last 25 years, according to Stevenson-Wolfers.)

        • DavidS says:

          That chart seems to support a “more than 1/3 and less that 1/2” figure, and I’m not sure where I would put the estimate in that range.

          None of the cohorts have actually reached 50%, and only the “married between 1970 and 1979” cohort is close. The younger cohorts hadn’t finished the 25 year period when the data was collected (2001), but they were trending below the 70-79 cohort. So a prediction of under 50% for them seems reasonable.

          On the other hand, every cohort except the youngest had crossed 33%, and that one certainly didn’t look to be leveling off fast enough to avoid it.

          As a final confounding factor, if I understand the phrase “conditional on being married but not widowed” correctly, marriages which ended in death before 25 years are excluded from the sample. Including them would bring the 25 year divorce rate down, although that probably isn’t what the 25 year divorce rate was intended to measure. (Things not to say to a genie: “I want my wife to love me until the day I die.”)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, the article says half, but I’d heard before that was a false statistic so I looked up the real one and it was somewhere between 30 to 40%

  9. ChristianKl says:

    After years of hearing how checklists change everything, a new study shows surgical checklists not having much of an effect on patient outcomes. Interesting, but let’s not fall victim to the “one study contradicts dozens of previous studies, therefore we throw out the dozens of previous studies” effect.

    If I remember right the dozens of previous studies didn’t provide very strong evidence as the weren’t controlled studies. I memory might be wrong. Can someone recap what evidence we have?

  10. US says:

    As for the hospital-acquired infection link, there are some reasons why one might assume ex ante that such a change would not have a particularly large effect, as a lot of problems remain unaddressed in terms of getting the incentives right. I’ve added what I believe to be some relevant observations from a chapter of the book ‘Antibiotic Policies: Controlling Hospital Acquired Infection’ below:

    “Medicare does not have a billing code for infection control or antimicrobial stewardship. These activities are cost centers for a US hospital, not direct sources of revenue. This is a first-order error if our goal is to promote long-term effectiveness of antibiotics.” […] Medicare has not created a reimbursable DRG code for hospital infection control efforts, antimicrobial stewardship programs, or special isolation procedures for MRSA. Medicare wants something that it isn’t willing to pay for directly.”

    “By focusing solely on discrete hospitals and patients, Medicare ignores the larger epidemiological reality—that hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions operate within a germ shed. Under current Medicare rules, institutions that invest in infection control or antibiotic stewardship may actually lose money and benefit rival firms in the market. […] A germ shed is roughly analogous to a watershed: clinical regions that are epidemiologically interdependent and thus share positive and negative infectious disease externalities. For most hospitals, the germ shed will be larger than just the institution, but will also include long-term care facilities that transfer patients to and from the hospital. Other institutions in the germ shed could include ambulatory surgical centers, rehabilitation facilities, dialysis centers, prisons, schools and the community at large. The existence and scope of a germ shed is empirically established, using epidemiological data (Huang et al. 2010; Donker et al. 2010). Tools to promote the long-term effectiveness of antibiotics include infection control, vaccination, and antibiotic stewardship and other antibiotic conservation measures […] Our primary insight is that some of these tools should be applied across the germ shed, not just in discrete institutions. […] In an ideal Coasian world, hospitals could contract with the other institutions in their germ shed, allocating the positive and negative MRSA externalities through private ordering. Medicare explicitly makes many of these activities felonies through the fraud and abuse laws. In the US, it is illegal for a provider such as a hospital to make or receive a referral for many designated health services, if the two have a financial relationship. It would be illegal for a hospital to contract with an independent longterm care facility to coordinate infection control and antibiotic conservation generally if that contract anticipated any financial flow in either direction. In other words, Medicare prohibits private ordering to capture germ shed externalities. US competition law also would look askance on contracts between horizontal competitors such as the hospitals in a germ shed. […] So long as Medicare focuses on DRG reimbursement in single institutions, germ sheds will not be directly addressed.”

    This link has more on this topic if you’re interested in these things.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Understood, I just felt guilty because I had previously posted an (apparently false) claim that infection rates DID plummet.

      • US says:

        When I wrote the comment I assumed that you knew about the existence of various complicating factors such as the ones I touch upon in my comment (I was considering prefacing my comment with an, ‘As I’m sure you know…’-statement or something to that effect), and that you’d just left out such stuff because of reasons of space/time/whatever. However I also assumed many of your readers did not know much about these things and that they might benefit from me adding this information in the comments.

  11. Alex says:

    Russia is invading the Crimea, and soon we may witness the return of La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia.

    I don’t even know where to start, but trust me, I haven’t read such an uninformed (and misinforming) article in years. The political initiative mentioned is an act of showmanship with no legal value, similar to past initiatives of the Northern League. In fact, no major Italian newspaper has even bothered reporting it. . . even the local Venetian newspapers barely have! After reading the Daily Mail article I rushed to look up information about such a “major” event I’d never heard about, and all I found in the Italian media was (few and minor) articles commenting about bizarre reports from foreign media (mis)reporting some unnoteworthy event.

    (Anyone who is curious and understands Italian should read this.)

  12. Kaj Sotala says:

    86% of Americans expect their first marriage to last forever, even though over a third of first marriages end in divorce, almost as if there was some kind of “overconfidence bias” or something.

    If people are asked to make a binary choice of “do you expect your marriage to last for life or to end in a divorce”, and the chance of your first marriage ending in a divorce is around 1/3, then doesn’t 86% of people replying “life” mean that they are being underconfident? Since if they took the outside view, then everyone should reply “life”, and even if they had inside knowledge predicting that their marriage was less likely than average to succeed, they should still pick “life” unless the inside knowledge was enough to bring the probability to less than 50%.

  13. Alternate theory about sexual assault accusations of military officers who are supposed to prevent and/or punish sexual assault: The case you linked to looks more to me like not proven either way.

    It’s true both that there are some false accusations and that there’s pressure to withdraw *all* accusations, whether true or false. This makes it hard to know what’s going on.

    588 soldiers out of 20,000 in positions of trust doesn’t sound especially high to me, especially considering that the number may include adultery as well as assault.

    Another possibility is that bringing an accusation is hard for the accuser, socially speaking, which may mean that the angriest people are more likely to bring an accusation– and being assaulted by someone who’s supposed to be preventing assault is more of a betrayal of trust.

  14. Douglas Knight says:

    The three explanations you offer for why the sexual assault prosecutors are accused of sexual assault sound to me mutually exclusive, so I’m surprised you suggest the hypothesis of “all three.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure why they’re mutually exclusive. There could be a high general rate of assault, assaulters could be be disproportionately likely to take positions in the assault field, and fake accusers could be disproportionately likely to target anti-assault officials.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        All three could be true in general, but for any particular accusation, only one can be true. Since you only have two examples, at most two explanations can apply.

  15. Martin-2 says:

    “The kind of [policy] everyone should be able to get behind”

    But, according to Sumner, won’t. Maybe there’s a hack for this? Like, if I got some goons together we could start an obnoxious campaign for more building regulation while insulting everyone along the way and claiming our coming was destined in the Bible.

    • Jai says:

      I wonder if this ever happens? A while ago there were a flurry of reports about an obnoxious Google employee yelling at protestors… Before it turned out to actually be a protester disguised as a Google employee.

      I like the idea of false flag activism for the greater good, but we’ve probably wrecked any possibility of that by posting about it in the public comments section of a widely read blog.

      • It’s far worse than that. The neoreactionaries and other people on the right wing have a (true?) mythology of hoax racism and sexism.

        The typical form is that, at a university campus, someone who is a member of a minority, one that both attracts discrimination, has liberation movements and oppression studies departments in its name, and has a history of suffering blatant hatred, will discover an example of blatant and unambiguous hate speech (Nooses, swastikas, “go home ” scrawled everywhere, vandalism, rape threats, etc). They are taken seriously by the university, where such things are *simply not done* and such minorities usually face racism more in the range of “but you got in because of affirmative action!” and ill-bred young women asking for twerking lessons. A large amount of discussion is started, and the university leadership responds with discourse and sometimes mandatory teaching. (Which commonly uses extremely deconstructionist views of race (It’s usually race) that white people find hostile and alienating, esp. when they come from their own institutions.) It then comes out that the offensive communications were actually sent by the apparent victim, who (at least in the neoreactionary, libertarian, and main-stream conservative mythology) escapes accountability.

        I can’t seem to find any really reputable sources for these occurrences, and the alleged victims seem to claim victim-blaming (which sometimes seems more plausible than other times). I don’t know what to say about the actual hate speech, although the example of the “hatefucking” rape threat against a black, leftist woman did not to my mind sound like the kind of rape threat a right-wing American student would make. Depressingly, the right-wing blogs that picked this up chose to variously insult the alleged victims physical appearance and habits, and subtly suggest that no man would want her, which vile insult they did her before the eyes of Europe!

        On a different note, that may have already been accomplished via perception control instead — I think that the modern teaching of theories about racism, etc trains people to feel outrage against things that would not necessarily naturally insult them, resulting in many events where one side is distraught and feels betrayed about a mistake the other side did not even realize could be offensive.

      • Martin-2 says:

        @Jai
        “we’ve probably wrecked any possibility of that by posting about it in the public comments section of a widely read blog”

        … Scott’s ban on meta-comments is really hurting right now.

  16. CrisisEraDynamo says:

    Regarding the “Germ Theory of Democracy,” I’m not so sure — because US society doesn’t seem all that “free.”

    There are increasing amounts of regulations on the economy, schools are becoming ever more tight-fisted with their rules (no finger guns or dodgeball!), college campuses have become leftist indoctrination camps, and SWAT teams are overused. We are required to support illegal immigration into the country — Americans are outright not allowed to have their own country. It has become a thoughtcrime to talk about racial or sexual differences, too, lest someone’s feelings get hurt.

    And then there’s alimony and child support awards due to no-fault divorces by wives; a wife can punish her husband for any reason or none at all.

    What I think is going on in that article is that the writer is identifying his leftist political perspective with “freedom” when it manifestly isn’t. Overtly favoring women, having to tiptoe around the most sensitive members of society, mandating lying about essential biological differences, and supporting illegal immigrants who burst in and make demands of this country is not “freedom.”

    • von Kalifornen says:

      On a less aggressively oppositional note, I would say that some of those things, such as patriarchy and autocracy, seem different from others, such as ethnic strife.

      • CrisisEraDynamo says:

        Though this “germ theory” does dovetail nicely with r/K selection theory as an explanation for political differences; just think of diseases as a kind of “predator,” which they are.

        (The problem with the word “predator” is that we tend to associate it with large, carnivorous animals when the meaning is so much broader.)

        • MugaSofer says:

          Wow, that’s a REALLY relevant article. To the point where it’s almost a reinvention of Scott’s thrive/survive hypothesis from a conservative perspective.

          Makes us wish there was an upvote function here, sometimes.

        • ozymandias says:

          Except that the r/K selection hypothesis has been falsified. (Or, well, “it turns out ecology is way more complicated than that” anyway.) Even if it was, r/K selection theory describes species, and both liberals and conservatives are generally considered to be part of the same species and can even produce fertile offspring.

          In addition, humans require the most parental investment of pretty much any species out there; if the r/K selection hypothesis were true, we would be absurdly K-selected and not r-selected at all.

        • Andy says:

          Even if it was, r/K selection theory describes species, and both liberals and conservatives are generally considered to be part of the same species and can even produce fertile offspring.

          Yes, and even do so, upon occasion. I actually know a woman, faaaaaar lefty, who was married to a right-wing Republican for almost 50 years, until he died two years ago, and she’s still heartbroken over him. And the article linked contains some terrible generalizations about Liberal thought. (As well as some rather wrong generalizations about rabbits, which can be vicious.) Implying that Liberals don’t have an “in-group” loyalty misses whole spheres of Liberal thought and policy debate – the “environmental justice” movement alone I consider a strong argument against that line of rhetoric. I’d argue instead that Liberals like myself see everyone as our in-group. And I’d argue that in a more connected, more industrialized world, forming policy as if the United States and China and Peru are actually separate entities on different planets is quite silly and obsolete, and we could do much better as a single world economy and government. Maybe something on a federal system to allow some local autonomy, but coordinating on the global scale? We’re even groping toward such a system with the IMF, the UN, Interpol… halting and uncertain and sometimes ineffective progress, but the Articles of Confederation weren’t so effective either.
          It’d be nice to see a conservative actually articulate the subtleties of Liberal thought the way I’ve seen Scott make sense of Reactionary thought, instead of deploying farms full of strawmen.

          In addition, humans require the most parental investment of pretty much any species out there; if the r/K selection hypothesis were true, we would be absurdly K-selected and not r-selected at all.

          To quote Anonymous Conservative:
          “Or, as time goes on, the r-types may evolve strategies designed to see a few members persist during times of scarcity, so they may explode again once resources become plentiful.”
          “Those among them who did the best from Darwin’s perspective, were those who adopted the most r-type strategy of free promiscuity, single parenting, and early age at first intercourse. They had no need for loyalty to in-group, and indeed, would have adopted a more selfish and cowardly psychology, to better disperse their genes, and serve their own self interests. They became our population’s r-type cohort, and even today, the gene which is associated with Liberalism is found in large numbers in migratory populations, even as social psychologists note that Liberals score highly in novelty seeking, such as preferring new and novel environments, or unusual foods.”
          In other words: an r-strategist cohort fled from the advance of K-strategists.
          “In between where the r-types fled to, and where the K-types were battling it out, there was likely a sort of geographical spectrum. At one end were the extreme r-types on the frontier, and at the other were the extreme K-types, battling with neighbors. But in the middle, were areas where some r-types were mingling with some K-types.”
          Interesting that AC touts this as proven by all of history, but can’t bring up a single concrete historical example.

        • Hello Andy,

          First, the website gives the general theory to Conservatives, so they can understand what it is talking about, without evidence. So note that when you say “I know a lefty woman who broke the rules,” the evidence supporting the theory (in the book) cites data which shows Leftists overall have more sexual partners, beginning at an earlier age, and shorter relationship durations. Show me a competing study demonstrating the opposite (and not conflating geography or other non-ideological variables with actual expressions of ideological preference), and then you have a debate.

          There will always be exceptions to generalizations about humans in a world of billions of people, and that work doesn’t pretend to explain them all. It explains why two groups of thought coalesce, uniting disparate issues which appear unrelated, in a world which should seemingly contain a big blur of unlinked random preferences distributed randomly on many different issues. Yes not everybody fits perfectly, but the vast majority still fly off towards one side or the other of the ideological spectrum, these traits that attract people are exactly what you see in the study of reproductive strategies, and they are adaptive to variability in resource availability. In the book, we show a credible mechanism, from the genes involved, to how they structure the brains of ideologues, to how these structural differences produce the mindsets and behaviors you see in ideologues, to how most issue positions are optimized to best facilitate reproduction under conditions of resource excess or resource scarcity.

          “Implying that Liberals don’t have an “in-group” loyalty misses whole spheres of Liberal thought and policy… I’d argue instead that Liberals like myself see everyone as our in-group.”

          I will just point out, if resources snap, and the only people to eat are the people who form small groups and brain others to get resources, you will have difficulty, while a violent Special Forces A Team would not. True loyalty cannot be extended to everyone, because that implies an unwillingness to do unpleasant things to others, for those whom you are loyal to. I am capable of terrifying things for the ones I love, because I am loyal to them, and will do anything for them – even things which would repulse me and haunt me forever. You lack that, by your own description. That is in-group loyalty, it is by nature necessarily discriminating against outsiders, it is best exhibited if resources are scarce, and it is probably a disadvantage if resources are everywhere, since it promotes a pointless confrontationalism.

          “Interesting that AC touts this as proven by all of history, but can’t bring up a single concrete historical example.”

          Well, what is being discussed in what you quote occurred before known history, when these two opposite urges were probably burned into our primitive, barely human ancestors (these psychological programs predate any politics, having led to our ideologies only after intermingling with more modern developed intellects and governing structures). It is believed that our ancestors spread from a small population near a beach in Africa, likely numbering in the low thousands, out into new, uninhabited regions, and gradually colonized the entire globe. That those apex predators, migrating out into new, unpopulated ecosystems recently reclaimed from an ice age would have had little competitive stress would seem logical. So too, would the idea that some would have evolved behavioral predispositions to to continue to spread to avoid competition as populations became denser and resources were consumed to scarcity behind them. Afterward, as resources waxed and waned, it would probably have favored an adaptability.

          That a long-form DRD4 gene is associated with migration, novelty-seeking, competitive drive, promiscuity, and liberalism would imply some linkage, and that it codes for a receptor whose transcription itself is regulated by resource availability and harshness would explain the adaptability.

          As for history today, a graph of the rates of Conservative Policy Preferences would seem to follow, almost exactly, economic downturns in a graph of the Misery Index. That you can watch Conservative inclinations follow Economic Misery would further link them as programmed psychologies, designed to confront scarcity or abundance, and emerge in populations in response to each. Notice there is a prediction in there, for what will happen if our global economy collapses in the near future. We shall see, but I think the evidence clearly indicates that Liberalism isn’t so much thought out, as programmed to emerge when resources are free and conflict is consequently sparse. Reverse that, and Conservatism will return.

          It isn’t that weird, if you think about it. Cut resources, and many will get grumpy, hostile, intolerant of out-groups, competitive, judgmental of social faux pas, demanding of group loyalty, less tolerant of out-groups, and fiercely protective of families, as they cling to the familiar in their family, take more of an interest in who their children associate/mate with, and ally against a harsh world outside. That is basically the same psychology you see in Conservatives, and in wolves. You don’t see it in gazelles, rabbits, lemmings, etc., and there is a reason for that.

          I think this is one of the most fascinating concepts out there today, and could be of immense use in predicting what is to come. It both explains how events arise, as well as how they affect the future course of events, as produced by our natures.

    • Amanda L. says:

      > And then there’s alimony and child support awards due to no-fault divorces by wives; a wife can punish her husband for any reason or none at all.

      Are you saying that divorce courts are biased towards women? I know that in California, for example, child and spousal support are determined by a gender-neutral formula, but am less familiar with other states. Source for claim?

      (If you mean that “wives can punish husbands for no reason AND husbands can punish wives for no reason, but I’m choosing to highlight the former because it’s more relevant to my interests”, then I misunderstood you; never mind!)

      • CrisisEraDynamo says:

        Yes, I am saying that divorce courts are biased towards women. It’s not “equal” — this is typical squid ink whenever antisocial behavior is noticed in females.

        Women often divorce precisely because they perceive an advantage in family court — and before you jump on the date, note that social conventions regarding how husbands and wives should operate have changed little, and neither has divorce law.

        • Amanda L. says:

          To clarify your point, are you saying that since men typically earn more than women, that women are typically more likely to receive [greater amounts of] child support / alimony? Or that the courts are explicitly biased such that even when the woman earns the same amount or more she will receive alimony / not be forced to pay out [as much] alimony?

          If the first claim, I agree but I wouldn’t consider that a gender bias on the part of the legal system. The linked article seems to support the first claim, since they expect that equalized incomes would lead to equalized filing rates:

          Our results are consistent with our hypothesis that filing behavior is driven by self-interest at the time of the divorce.

          […]

          What does this mean for divorce reform and for predictions of future filing behavior? It suggests that as men and women’s women’s labor force income becomes nearly equal, the difference in filing rates should disappear and will likely be determined by custody alone.

          If the second, that would indeed be an injustice in need of remedy. The article you link doesn’t support that interpretation, however. As I mentioned before California has a plug-and-chug non-gender-based formula, which was why I asked you if you had stats from other states with different policies.

          It’s not “equal” — this is typical squid ink whenever antisocial behavior is noticed in females

          This is neither necessary nor kind, and I do not think it is true either. But I will not pursue the point.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          This is neither necessary nor kind, and I do not think it is true either. But I will not pursue the point.

          Please don’t do this, I’d hate to have started a stupid trend of people arguing over whether a comment conforms to the moderation policy or not. If you really think the comment is out of line then hit the report button and let Scott decide.

          Anecdotally – arguing over tone and wording is a great way to derail a discussion and decrease the content to word ratio. I try to follow Leah’s suggestion of responding to comments as though they were worded respectfully.

    • Jai says:

      There were hours of lectures on gender differences in my freshman sociology class. It was not a particularly subversive institution, either.

    • ozymandias says:

      I agree that biological racial differences are censored, but biological sexual differences are not censored nearly as much– the lowbrow press includes many articles about how women like shoes because evolution; I was taught in sex education that women were designed by God to not be interested in sex and men to not be interested in romance; etc. I suspect that gender studies as a field could use more acceptance of the fact that biological sex differences exist and more good cross-cultural work to find out what they are, but that is very different from a societal censorship.

      In addition, while leftists are overrepresented in the social sciences, some fields such as economics do not seem very much like leftist indoctrination camps.

      • CrisisEraDynamo says:

        I agree that biological racial differences are censored, but biological sexual differences are not censored nearly as much

        They’re not censored as much because everyone’s been romantically frustrated. 🙂

    • Daragon says:

      Wait… how are people required to support illegal immigration? I’m extremely confused as to what you could possibly mean by this statement.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Financially support, because it’s not prosecuted. And, y’know, there are reasons they’re immigrating, and those reasons are taxpayer-funded.

        (I find this logic rather dubious, but that’s how I interpreted it.)

    • peterdjones says:

      Everyone thinks their political perspective maximizes freedom, because people choose perspectives that allow them to do what they want (hunting, drugs) whilst forbidding the things they don’t want to do (drugs, hunting). The Typical Mind Fallacy makes them think that maximizing the kind of freedom’s of interest to them is “maximizing freedom”.

      • blacktrance says:

        Only for liberals, and progressives and conservatives influenced by liberalism. National conservatives and Soviet-style Communists don’t care about maximizing freedom.

        • Andy says:

          I would add religious conservatives to this – less willing to allow others to do something that would piss off God / have the bad consequences that God warns of.

  17. CrisisEraDynamo says:

    @ Amanda L.

    The emotional tone was a bit out of line; this topic gets my dander up.

    Perhaps I need to study the matter more, but from what I’ve been hearing, marriage doesn’t exactly improve a man’s quality of life, since women are often trained to view men as enemies (if you don’t cut down your man all the time, you’re seen as “oppressed.”)

    • Andy says:

      women are often trained to view men as enemies (if you don’t cut down your man all the time, you’re seen as “oppressed.”)

      This I’d strongly disagree with. I’ve met very few women (cis or trans) who have “been trained to view men as enemies.” I am familiar with the lunacy of the radfems, but would put their views as a minority on my college campus. OTOH, my sample size is purely anecdotal and disproportionately young and third-wave, rather than radfem. Certainly my girlfriend hasn’t gotten much (if any) flak for not “cutting down her man all the time.”

      • I’d concur. There is a left hand to independence (Jane Austen frequently used the term to refer to people who ignored their societal obligations) but among women who are still even going to get married, there’s not ‘cutting down’ happening. It’s mostly a non-issue.

    • Amanda L. says:

      The emotional tone was a bit out of line; this topic gets my dander up.

      That’s cool dude. Gender relations discussions tend to get my dander up disproportionately much too, so I sympathize. Womanhood is somehow very hard for me to Keep My Identity Small in relation to.

      from what I’ve been hearing, marriage doesn’t exactly improve a man’s quality of life

      This MSU study points towards marriage increasing happiness for a brief period of time after which happiness returns to baseline rates, whereas death of a spouse may cause a permanent decrease in wellbeing:

      http://news.msu.edu/media/documents/2012/05/3eee4c51-e850-4028-ad59-bff3e186b9d0.pdf

      Although this study claims that people can rebound from the death of a spouse but not from divorce:

      http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2005/12/18/after-divorce-happiness-levels-decrease-and-may-never-completely-rebound/

      I don’t think there is really any consensus on this though; the existing research looks pretty exploratory to me.

      since women are often trained to view men as enemies (if you don’t cut down your man all the time, you’re seen as “oppressed.”)

      I do see where you’re coming from.

      The deepest I’ve ever been immersed in radical feminism was in high school when I went through a livejournal-feminist phase. I don’t think most of the things I learned were false per se, but as with immersion in any single culture, it’s easy to get “man with a hammer” syndrome and start to view everything in terms of sexism, racism and “oppression.” At the very peak of my involvement I did start to get very bitter towards “the system” and those it favored.

      But this wasn’t sustainable at all and once I went to college I very quickly and effortlessly shed the emotional aspects of that mindset. The only reason I managed to keep it up through the tail end of high school was because I didn’t have any male friends. It’s easy to feel bitter towards an amorphous group of “privileged people”, very hard to feel bitter towards your close male friends and boyfriends.

      For context, most of the women I know have never been exposed to radical feminist culture at all. Of the ones who have, I’m the only one who ever fell into the “seeing men as the enemy” trap, and only because I had no male friends and hadn’t dated anyone at that point. Once I did start dating I never thought to resent any of the life advantages of my boyfriends even when they were pretty damn extreme (born to insane wealth, etc), let alone their gender advantages.

      It is very, very hard to view someone you love as “the enemy”, even if you’re immersed in a culture that pushes that view, which the vast majority of women aren’t. I don’t think there is much risk of a woman you are dating viewing you that way. (Besides, the way love works is you want your loved one to have all the advantages they can damn well get, fair or not! Hence nepotism and all the bad things).

      • You say it well. I’d add that a lot of ‘cutting down men’ behavior makes the news because it’s a reaction to threat, but won’t actually affect a healthy relationship.

      • CrisisEraDynamo says:

        All very enlightening responses. I’m with you on the “amorphous threat” thing. It’s far harder to be venomous to people you actually know.

        While most women obviously aren’t radical feminists, the social structure seems to favor feminist sensibilities. I would still assert that the US isn’t as free as it likes to think it is due to the hammerlock of political correctness, and that high pathogen loads are basically a form of predation akin to lions and tigers. Less debilitating disease leads to a perception of lower risk.

    • Roman Davis says:

      I’m going to go against the grain and say I have seen a form of “viewing men as the enemy.” A lot of woman with trust issues, seeing men as only after sex, more or less saying they have to play goalie to their vagina. These are all pretty common memes.

      There’s a small cultural meme set against men where woman are lauded for “putting a man in his place,” usually for understandable reasons (cat calling. date rape), but sometimes not.

      While I do know some bossy wives, I’ve never known a woman nor observed a woman who constantly cut down their man outside of fiction, and there only as a character to be disliked or hated.

    • Any thoughts about a non-feminist style of viewing men as the enemy?

      It’s something that I’ve heard about well before feminism became as pervasive but that I haven’t seen.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Well, if you skew your definitions correctly, anything “viewing men as the enemy” is “non-feminist”; right?

        • You could skew your definitions that way, but that isn’t what I meant.

          I’m talking about an informal, non-political belief that men are just intractably difficult/inferior, and there’s nothing to be done about it except complain, endure, work around it, take charge of them and/or possibly leave.

          I think I’ve seen some mild versions of it. I know three men who say their mothers were misandrist. One of them *might* have been influenced by feminism, and the other two almost certainly not. (I”m not being more specific about details for reasons of confidentiality.)

  18. ThrustVectoring says:

    >We all know what jobs make more money than others, but some of that could be class-related – ie primarily upper-class people go into those jobs. Another interesting question is – what jobs are most likely to cause people to earn more or less than their parents did? NPR gives us the list.

    It looks like there’s a significant amount of selection effect going on here, which makes the list much less useful as career-planning advice. It only takes into account people who become doctors, and not those who try to become doctors and fail. Or, for a more extreme example, consider what kind of job you’d wind up getting with Down’s Syndrome as a child of wealthy parents.

  19. ThrustVectoring says:

    >86% of Americans expect their first marriage to last forever, even though over a third of first marriages end in divorce, almost as if there was some kind of “overconfidence bias” or something.

    These two numbers are not the same thing at all. As long as under half of all first marriages end in divorce, then if the only thing you know is that you’ve just gotten into your first marriage, you’d answer “no” to “do you think your first marriage will end in a divorce”. You wouldn’t answer “no” randomly a proportion of the time equal to the divorce rate – and that would be necessary for surveys of people like you to match the actual divorce rate.

    • ozymandias says:

      It depends on how predictable marriages that end in divorce are, I think. Like, “a third of first marriages end in divorce” could mean “a randomly selected marriage from the population will end in divorce in about a third of cases,” in which case your critique is exactly correct. Alternately, it could mean that some people have a very very large chance of getting a divorce (two socially liberal nineteen-year-olds who don’t really get along with each other and have incompatible life goals) and other people have a very small chance, in which case this is evidence that the socially liberal nineteen-year-olds who don’t get along are overconfident about their chances.