As seen on some really big websites I am scared and confused to have been featured on

Open Thread 2: Free Minds, Free Threads

Time for another Open Thread / Housekeeping Thread.

1. Commenter Lila wants to signal-boost the existence of psychiatric advanced directives, where you can write a (somewhat legally binding) plan for a future in which you become too mentally ill to make good decisions.

2. Ozy is looking for a part-time job better than camming – preferably one compatible with working from home and with occasional couple-day-long panic/depression attacks. So far we’ve got odesk.com and video transcription services as ideas to look into. Any other ideas would be welcome.

3. I’m going to be cracking down on comment sections a lot harder here in the near future. In particular, I want to cull the bottom 50%-90% of neoreactionaries. I like them, but I also like deer, and that doesn’t stop me from realizing that sometimes deer need to be culled. Having every thread with even the slightest opening turn into a full on neoreactionary feeding frenzy is tiring and driving other people away. I realize this is unfair, in that it’s not neoreactionaries’ fault that everyone else refuses to go to places where they are allowed to talk. Luckily, their whole ideology is that rulers have the right to optimize their territories for maximum productivity without regard for fairness to individuals, so I am sure they won’t object. Honestly I’d be pretty happy getting rid of everyone except maybe Nydwracu, Nyan, Konk, Athrelon, and Mai (apologies for inevitable people I forgot), but I won’t raise the banhammer until someone gives me at least a tiny bit of justification.

4. Also, if someone is sufficiently new that no one will complaint, I might just ban them silently and without record, to save myself the trivial inconvenience of doing it formally.

5. Every time I see someone describe this as “a blog about social justice” I die a little inside. I WRITE LIKE ONE POST ABOUT THAT A MONTH.

6. Highlighting interesting comments: Mai on ecclesiology, Sarah on ecclesiology. And an off-blog one: Mitrailleuse on Motte-Busting. Honestly motte-busting seems like a terrible idea to me, but knowing that other people endorse it as a strategy makes certain things fall into place.

PS: NO RACE OR GENDER ON THE OPEN THREAD THAT NEVER HELPS

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

509 Responses to Open Thread 2: Free Minds, Free Threads

  1. Shmi Nux says:

    How does even one motte-busts “god is love”?

    Report comment

    • Toggle says:

      “We say that God is love. We do not say that love is God.”

      I think that was the wording anyway; it’s been a while since I heard it, so my memory of the conversation is fuzzy. It was in an anti-gay context, for sure. But rhetorically it was a very striking turn of phrase.

      Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      er, edit – nevermind. not sure how to delete.

      motte busts?

      Report comment

  2. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    I keep hoping that some regular commenter who is old enough to have children gets them to post here and then gets himself banned, just to see if Scott will actually enforce the descendant clause of his traditional ban notice. I suppose it is too much to ask that a commenter be old enough to have great-grandchildren who can post, while himself, his children, and his grandchildren are banned?

    Also, my name isn’t on the list, so I guess I’m on track for being banned. Shame; it was nice posting here.

    Report comment

    • Matthew says:

      I had actually considered pointing the “children and children’s children” thing out too, as I do have children, though they are not quite old enough to be posting here.

      Report comment

    • von Kalifornen says:

      Are you even a neoreactionary?

      Report comment

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I don’t have my own blog/twitter/ask.fm, if that’s what you are asking, but I do read dark enlightenment blogs and consider myself to have reactionary political opinions.

        Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I actually didn’t know you were neoreactionary! You tend to be quiet about it.

      (Which probably means you’re safe.)

      Actually, my main association with you is “bully”. Literary fame comes at a price.

      Report comment

      • Konkvistador says:

        Keeping reactionary ideas or values closeted is something we are pretty good at due to practice or maybe its a selection effect.

        Report comment

        • Well-Manicured-Bug says:

          As a progressive, I would consider that a huge achievement of human kind. To a limited extent, we’ve succeeded at driving these racist, sexist, xenophobic, utterly redneck-ish ideas underground.

          Report comment

        • lmm says:

          I think we progressives aren’t doing great if you’re able to use “redneck” as an insult in the same paragraph where you call yourself a progressive.

          Report comment

        • Well-Manicured-Bug says:

          @lmm
          So, you’re saying that not-insulting anyone is an intrinsic part of progressivism?

          It’s just what these ideas really are. They are the thoughts of a working-class, politically reactionary white person from a rural area, articulated in verbose, obscure language, with a few fancy words like Cathedral, and some nonsense about how cool a monarch would be.

          Report comment

        • Matthew says:

          Since neither being working-class nor being rural is something inherently bad — yes, it’s a problem. It’s no better for you to attack a grouping that loosely but decidedly imperfectly correlates with conservative positions rather than just attacking conservative positions directly than any of the obnoxious stereotyping the reactionaries do.

          Also driving bad ideas underground is counterproductive if it doesn’t actually get rid of them. Personally, I’d prefer if people wore their prejudices on their sleeves, so I’d know who to avoid.

          Report comment

        • Well-Manicured-Bug says:

          @Matthew

          I’m sure somewhere in there I had written “politically reactionary”. No, being a working-class rural white person isn’t inherently bad, but being a working-class, politically reactionary rural white person is pretty bad. It’s so bad that these hip, sophisticated neoreactionaries usually don’t want to associate themselves with them.

          You want to get rid of bad ideas instead of driving them underground? You’re living in a fantasy. There are still people who believe in National Socialism. There are still those who believe in Zeus. Most of the time, you can’t ever completely get rid of an idea. If on the other hand you can show how to completely get rid of those ideas, it’d be pretty cool.

          Report comment

        • nydwracu says:

          xenophobic, utterly redneck-ish

          Report comment

        • Oligopsony says:

          Neoreaction is pretty emphatically not the characteristic viewpoint of working-class rightists, but rather of the proto-fascist intellectuals who became disillusioned with fascism specifically for its adopting the aspects necessary for it to acquire enough (which being less than a majority of) working-class toughs and voters.

          Report comment

        • Andy says:

          I’m sure somewhere in there I had written “politically reactionary”. No, being a working-class rural white person isn’t inherently bad, but being a working-class, politically reactionary rural white person is pretty bad. It’s so bad that these hip, sophisticated neoreactionaries usually don’t want to associate themselves with them.

          As a fellow progressive, it’s a bad sign when you are taking cues from the enemies you want to crush. Also, it is harder to crush Reaction when there are bad leftists spewing classism and rural-phobia (I just made that up, because I don’t know a better word, but many of my best friends come from rural areas and I’m not sure it correlates well with being a Bad Person) all over a semi-nice comments section.
          Come on, WMB. Leftism deserves better than this crap.

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          “Working-class”? Seriously? Rednecks have been significantly oppressed– I really recommend the book Not Quite White, which explores the ways that anti-redneck oppression has mirrored racism– therefore it is inappropriate to use redneck status as an insult.

          It seems like either you are making the factual claim “neoreactionaries are rednecks,” which you know is not true– after all, you yourself later call them “hip, sophisticated”– or you are tarring neoreactionaries by associating them with a low-status group. Don’t do that. “Politically reactionary” should be insult enough; you don’t need to include other morally neutral but low-status traits.

          Report comment

        • @ Well-Manicured Bug:

          I am neither racist (if you mean wishing to or actually discriminating from people against some race, or thinking there’s some racial essence that somehow makes members of a race different from that of another), nor sexist (for the same definition), nor xenophobic (this is so utterly far off the mark with respect to me that I don’t know where to begin); I’m not working class and don’t have any sentimental attachment to the label, people, or lifestyle it describes, I’m not politically reactionary (in the sense of trying to keep in place existing power structures, or bring back old ones; I actually distrust power and power structures), I’ve lived in cities all my life, and am not a redneck or even white.

          I still think there are serious problems with how things are today that *only* the self-described “reactionaries” are willing to openly talk about, partially because they’re the only ones willing to consider facts which others are too scared to. None of these facts have required me to change my ethical stance – I still think racism is foolish (though it doesn’t cross over from “bad” to “evil” unless it’s used that way), I think sexism is foolish but more likely to hurt people, and I simply don’t understand xenophobia.

          “As a progressive, I would consider that a huge achievement of human kind. To a limited extent, we’ve succeeded at driving these racist, sexist, xenophobic, utterly redneck-ish ideas underground.”

          Do you think it’s a good thing that those you describe as “we” have succeeded in scaring those who disagree with them on the topics you mentioned (sexism, racism, etc; which, as I said before, I consider pretty unpleasant myself) with threats of ruining their life if they express such disagreement? I don’t think it’s a good achievement at all to threaten people to scare them so much that they’re afraid to say what they believe. And I think it wasn’t “humankind”, but a specific set of people from a specific group with specific ideas, most of these ideas not being universal to humankind and with most of humankind not members of the group, who acted to bring it about.

          I think that the people you disagree with are not a different kind of person because they disagree with you on a morally charged topic (like racism, etc), they’re just wrong. They may be more likely to be malicious or morally repugnant to you in other ways – but I think it’s really dangerous to say that’s reason enough to threaten and scare people.

          Most fundamentally, I simply think you haven’t substantiated your claim. Could you please show me the link between rural white redneck-ish ideas, and reactionary ones, and substantiate your assertion that the latter are the former in rhetorical camouflage? Or even that they’re descendants? I’m explicitly open to changing my mind, and will do so if what you say is true.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          I have noticed things about reactionaries.

          One is that they are indeed very good at not saying whatever it isthey have to say.

          The other is that on the rare occasions you can get them to articulate a Truth OthersDare Not Speak, it turns out to be quite poorly thought out and unimpactive.

          I suspect these facts are connected.

          Report comment

      • Eliezer Yudkowsky says:

        Eek. I am moderately worried that this happened, and wonder if I should make only safe roles be cameos if I ever do this again.

        Report comment

  3. Thomas Eliot says:

    Ozy should consider becoming an escort. Zi seems to like sex work, the hours are as flexible as you want, the pay is excellent, and you can work from home, hotel rooms, or wherever.

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Not only is it illegal, but there’s this complicated “accepting proceeds of sex work” law that means that if Ozy contributed to groceries or rent (which they presumably would) then I would somehow be committing a felony.

      Report comment

      • Matthew says:

        Not only is it illegal

        An excellent reminder to mention this (totally unsurprising) result — Accidentally decriminalizing indoor prostitution reduces rape, STD prevalence

        Report comment

      • Thomas Eliot says:

        Well, “illegal”. Hiring someone to hang out for two hours is totally legal, and if you happen to end up liking each other well enough to have sex, well, there’s no law against that…

        What’s more, if you’re white and middle class or higher (which as a competent female sex worker, zi would be), and you do proper screening, the police aren’t really a problem.

        I’m curious to hear more about that law you mentioned. Googling that phrase, without quotation marks, brings me right back to this post.

        Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          This one. Very unlikely to be enforced AFAICT, but Scott is understandably leery about committing felonies even if he is unlikely to be arrested for them.

          Report comment

        • Anthony says:

          The federal equivalent law (though it’s broader) was what got a major escort website shut down recently.

          Cops aren’t generally a problem for upscale prostitutes, as long as they don’t kill their clients with heroin overdoses. I suspect Ozymandias could avoid this pitfall relatively easily. However, the dodge you suggest doesn’t ever actually get anyone acquitted. In general, it’s lack of evidence.

          Report comment

      • Peraspera says:

        If this comment is an indication that you’ve decided to switch from “zhe” to “they” as Ozy’s pronoun, I approve. It causes significantly less flinching.

        Report comment

        • Kevin P says:

          Vaguely relevant: I always read this blog in a ridiculous over-the-top French accent (think “Monty Python & the Holy Grail” or “Allo Allo”), and that pronoun was the trigger.

          Report comment

        • James James says:

          How about “zy” (short for “Ozy”)?

          Report comment

        • lmm says:

          After a youth reading science fiction my instinctive reading is as an alien from a species with a different set of sexes from the human set. I’m always slightly disappointed to remember Ozy’s only human.

          Report comment

      • I have no idea if you (Ozy) would be into this, but a perfectly legal job, similar in some ways to being an escort, is being a professional cuddler. However, unless you have a large home where you can dedicate a couple of rooms to the business, I don’t think it’s a convenient job to do from home.

        Report comment

    • Error says:

      My old company employed a fair number of medical transcriptionists who all worked from home. I *think* it required some medical-ish credential, but I’m not sure.

      (I also don’t know how much it pays)

      Report comment

  4. Drake. says:

    oh hey, looks like i got here early this time. just like to offer up general compliments in the form of “this is the only blog i consistently read” and et cetera. also to the effect that i fully endorse the banning of people who lead to the comment threads being full of political screeds, but am a little fearful of this: “Also, if someone is sufficiently new that no one will complaint, I might just ban them silently and without record, to save myself the trivial inconvenience of doing it formally.” as a new commenter (if not visitor) myself, i worry that i will misunderstand the moderation policy/dominant social norms and find myself on the receiving end of a ‘culling’.

    also — and i’m sorry for this, because it’s off-topic even in an open thread, but i’ve been unable to find a satisfactory answer for an uncomfortably long time — would a uniformly paramagnetic object experience any g-force from a magnetic field? one side of me says that “gravitation” is simply objects following the contours of spacetime and so is the only possible source of non-stationary freefall, and the other says that g-force is caused by non-uniform force and not any relativity mumbo-jumbo.

    Report comment

    • Vilhelm S says:

      If the field is uniform and the material is uniform, then I guess the paramagnetic object will feel weightless (to the extent that an inanimate homogeneous paramagnetic object feels anything at all). In more complicated situations it may not—does a magnetically suspended frog feel weightless?

      But the principle of relativity is much stronger than just “you feel weightless”, it says that there are no physical experiments at all which can distinguish freefall from absence of gravity. Clearly there are a ton of experiments you can do to figure out if you are in a magnetic field or not.

      Report comment

      • Drake. says:

        thanks for the reply, that clears up some confusion. i guess i was unsure whether freefall was intrinsically related to gravity, or whether gravity was just the most common macro-scale force that effects an entire substance equally. the frog link, though, highlights an interesting point: doesn’t the same apply to gravity? obviously you can’t determine the effect of gravity on a point mass, but it seems like objects that have non-infinitesimal volume would experience some tension between the part furthest from the source of the field and the part closest.

        Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, that’s called tidal force. The equivalence principle says that you can’t locally distinguish freefall from the absence of gravity — i.e. at a single point. It’s absolutely possible to do over a nonzero volume of space.

          Report comment

        • Drake. says:

          oh, thanks. minor personal crisis averted.

          Report comment

        • ShardPhoenix says:

          >it seems like objects that have non-infinitesimal volume would experience some tension between the part furthest from the source of the field and the part closest.

          Yes. This is called “tidal forces” because it’s what’s responsible for the tides. It’s also would tear the moon apart if it came close enough to Earth.

          edit: beaten by 3 hours. Must have had this open for a while without refreshing.

          Report comment

        • Daniel H says:

          Further information: this also (at least in theory; I don’t know if it’s ever been observed) leads to “spaghettification” (yes, this is the technical term) of objects close to the event horizon of black holes. There is so much more force on the part of the object close to the black hole than the part farther away that the object is stretched out (leading to a greater differential, etc.).

          Report comment

        • Drake. says:

          on “spaghettification”: i remember reading about that in a pop sci book/magazine or something as a child. is it an actual actual technical term, or is it something that media synthesized and ran with?

          Report comment

        • g says:

          I did a Google search for “spaghettification” on arxiv.org and found two results (compared e.g. to about 50k for “compactification” which is a technical term in mathematics and 5k for “naked singularity” which is related to black holes and such things and seems like it might be comparable in scope to “spaghettification”).

          That would be weak evidence suggesting that (1) some real physicists use the term when writing real physics papers but (2) it’s not exactly commonplace in the literature, which to my mind makes it hard to justify calling it “an actual actual technical term”.

          (But it might just be that it’s not something that often needs referring to in technical papers about black holes.)

          Report comment

        • Drake. says:

          ooo, thanks, i didn’t realize that site existed. that’ll be useful in future, probably.

          one of the two papers that comes up doesn’t appear to have “spaghettification” in it at all (???), and the other contains the phrase:

          The volume element defined by the spatial metric is unity, but
          any extended object would be
          infinitely stretched in one direction, and infinitely squeezed in two directions, in an infinite
          spaghettification.

          so yeah, looks like it’s just a colloquial term for an otherwise-unnamed phenomenon.

          Report comment

    • Army1987 says:

      Depends on what exactly you mean by experiencing a g-force. I’d say it would by the definition a theoretical physicist would be most likely to use but it wouldn’t by the definition an engineer would be most likely to use.

      Report comment

  5. Aaron Brown says:

    1. Hey Scott, here’s a comment of mine that you may have missed.

    2. Hey other codicians, I use Feedly as my RSS reader and it pretty frequently fails to show me comments (usually several in a row). I haven’t gotten around to any serious troubleshooting of this yet, but has anyone else had this problem (with Feedly or other readers)? I have only noticed it with the SSC comments feed, but that’s also the highest-volume of all the feeds I read regularly.

    Report comment

    • Vertebrat says:

      SSC’s comments feed only includes the last ten comments, so if your feedreader doesn’t fetch it often enough, it will miss some. (The comment rate on new posts is something like 20/hour, so “often enough” means every 30 minutes.)

      There’s probably a way to increase the number, but the WordPress documentation does not make it obvious. (Does the number-of-posts setting for the main feed also affect the comments feed?)

      Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I actually edited the offending word, but yeah, I don’t really care about spelling errors in general.

      Report comment

  6. Sarah says:

    Mild crackpottery of the day: binaural beats. (Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcjk1LIuBt0&list=UUfbqO0LtXWrdoenkD2p48pA)

    They seemed to induce very “real” trance states for me. In comparison to ordinary guided meditations (relaxing chimes, instructions to imagine a beach, whatever.)

    Wiki claims that binaural beats really do “entrain” brain waves, and cites some papers, but I haven’t checked the papers.

    Do binaural beats do a thing? Friends, Romans, commenters, give me your opinions!

    Report comment

    • Nick T says:

      Yes, to my surprise, although it’s been too long since I tried for me to remember the specific effects. I’ll try this one later probably.

      Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I used to have a machine that used binaural beats and lights. It got me into some pretty weird emotional states, but not in a controllable way where specific programs corresponded to specific effects.

      Report comment

    • blacktrance says:

      It didn’t do anything for me. If anything, I found the noise annoying.

      Report comment

      • Matthew says:

        I’m not really trying to meditate, just listening to it in the background, and finding it mildly stress-inducing rather than relaxing (my heart rate is increased listening to it).

        Still, it’s not as bad as the ASMR whispering librarian, which I find irritating to the point of enraging and makes me want to throw things at my computer.

        Report comment

    • Deiseach says:

      Only stuck it out for three minutes. Found it very pleasant (though much better when the whispered affirmations stopped as those I found irritating and distracting). Wouldn’t put me into a trance-like state, though; if I want that, I tend to go for Arvo Part.

      I have no idea if I’m a neo-reactionary or not, given I have no clear idea what exactly neo-reactionism is. Though thanks to my new job in local government (exceedingly minor bureaucratic minion level), I have discovered that I would very much like to be made Tyrant of the World so I could introduce and enforce on pain of pain some draconic, not to say Hammurabian-style, legislation and binding regulations on people applying for various social housing supports.

      I had thought my time in local government (exceedingly minor bureaucratic minion level part one) in education had already made me hardened and cynical about human nature, but apparently not as much as three weeks in this job has managed.

      Report comment

      • Multiheaded says:

        1) This is ironic, considering how Hammurabi instituted some early welfare such as (IIRC) pensions for widows. 2) Do people, like, abuse drugs, shit up the place, drink irresponsibly, etc?

        Report comment

        • Deiseach says:

          All that and more. Much, much more. There’s a reason we have a whole section on the application form for “Have you ever been convicted of public order offences/other offences under Section This, That and the Other of Acts This One, This One, Or That One as Well?” :-)

          Actually, the people with genuine drink/drug/mental health/literacy/family problems are not the worst. I have sympathy for them, and they should be getting a (what is Scott’s policy on swearing? He can edit this out if it’s not acceptable) fuckton more of support than they are (insert rant about social workers here), under the economic conditions in Ireland at present (and our way too long history in the State of providing fuck-all services, thus leaving it up to private charitable institutions and the Catholic Church to take up the slack).

          It’s like every other area of human behaviour: you get decent people, you get scumbags, and you get in-between people, some of whom are trying to game the system because they’re genuinely stuck and are trying to squeeze a few extra bob out of somewhere and the regulations don’t permit flexibility, some of whom are trying to game the system because they’ve got an entitlement mentality and will milk the cow dry if they can get away with it.

          It’s somewhat depressing, in a way: as I said, I was involved with education in my last job, and that was with a school in an officially classified “disadvantaged area”, the Early School Leaver programme, and the Adult Literacy programme. And from there, I can recognise several of the names on files now crossing my desk six or eight years later – kids from broken homes now legally adults and in broken homes of their own with kids who I know, in five or eight years time, will be in that disadvantaged school/then dropping out/then up on minor criminal charges/then rinse, repeat cycle themselves unless we can get a government in that will not alone announce shiny new social improvement schemes but effin’ well provide the financing to run them long-term as well.

          Scott may already have experience of this kind of encounter, as he’s a psychiatrist in a public hospital (if I’m understanding where he works correctly), but my new colleagues are introducing me to dealing with the likes of clients such as:

          (1) The co-habiting partner of a tenant of one of our social houses. Rang up to complain that she lost the key to the back door and she can’t open it. Petty complaint, right? Not urgent? She can always use the front door to get in and out until we provide a replacement key?

          Oh, no. Decision was made that “Shit, we better send someone out there to sort that out immediately”. Why? Because Mr. Reasonable responded on the phone call to “She can use the front door” with “But what if there’s a fire and she can’t get out the front door? That’s a health and safety violation!”

          Now, the urgency of the decision was not because “That is a good and cogent point” but “This guy is the type of head-the-ball who would and may well set a fire at the front door just to prove his point. And we know this because (a) dealing with him over the course of his partner’s tenancy and (b) he’s already been in trouble with the police for running around the estate late at night waving a samurai sword”.

          (2) I’m 5′ 4″ and the office manager is even shorter than me. She has been accosted by a client in the carpark of a supermarket, who physically blocked her and wouldn’t let her get into her car or move away, until she answered his questions. This was after work, on her own free time, and said client also had a history of violence. If Mr Reasonable was a potential arsonist, this guy was an actual arsonist (he had been in trouble for setting one of his ‘best friends’ on fire during drunken row).

          (3) Casual mentions such as “Oh yeah, wasn’t So-and-So convicted of manslaughter?” when discussing dealing with clients (that’s how we’re supposed to refer to applicants now; you’re a customer or a client, not an applicant).

          (4) My own reasons for being Tyrant of the World? I would introduce a NO CANOODLING FOR FIVE YEARS MINIMUM AFTER RELATIONSHIP BREAK-UP!!!! law. I don’t care if you break up with your significant other, spouse, or what it was, or who was at fault, but if I get one more file like the soap opera I have just been handed this week (you may wish to take notes)…

          …wherein Household A comprised of B, C and child D and Household Q comprised of R, S and children T and U have both had applications in for a couple of years for social housing.

          (i) Household A’s application failed because the parties B and C were not in communication with us as to whether they wanted to proceed. B did not answer our letter, C did; they’ve since split up and are at different addresses. More letters on our part to the new addresses. B doesn’t answer but C does, he still wants to apply for a house because now he’s with a new partner and they have a new baby. Fine, that’s what we’re here for.

          (ii) Household Q’s application has been approved. Except that R and S have also since split up, but they never bothered to tell us, and I only discovered this because

          (iii) C and S are now cohabiting. And have a new (third) application in for social housing. All of which means:

          (iv) We don’t know where B is; we presume she took child D with her wherever she is now. Maybe she will or maybe she won’t apply for social housing on her own behalf. R’s application which has been approved now has to be nullified or something of the like because the circumstances have changed. R may be cohabiting with a new partner and with a new baby of their own; we don’t know and will have to find out.

          Meanwhile, C and S and her children T and U and their new baby W are all in a fourth new address, have a new application in as Household Y, and will have to be processed as soon as we disentangle Household A’s application, deal with terminating Household Q’s application, and enter Household Y’s application with the two persons from A and Q that the computer system – which was not designed to deal with the game of “musical chairs” when it comes to swapping your partners – won’t let us assign C and S to a new application because they’re already on the system with their prior applications.

          And that means delay, which means C and S (and possibly R and/or B) will be on the phone yelling at us about being on the housing list with years and why the delay when they’re qualified they’re going to the local paper, their local councillor, their local representative about this!

          You can see why I’m all NO CANOODLING UNTIL YOU SORT YOURSELVES OUT AND GIVE US ALL AND I DO MEAN ALL THE PERTINENT DETAILS IN A TIMELY MANNER, I trust?

          Report comment

        • Deiseach says:

          “Do people, like, abuse drugs, shit up the place, drink irresponsibly, etc?”

          Dump rubbish so they fill up the garden/house, then move and leave us to clean it up. Run up utility bills, move out without paying, leave us holding the (metaphorical) baby when the gas/electricity people won’t reconnect the supply for the new tenant because of outstanding bills. Let their dogs/children bite other children and not take responsibility so we get phone calls and letters of complaint from angry neighbours. Ring up making complaints on behalf of a tenant as “concerned neighbour” (read: “in a relationship but not declaring we’re cohabiting as that would change our financial circumstances and we might lose the house”) and be threatening about it. Hang around the offices and be generally if vaguely menacing. Tell their kids “That’s the lady who is going to get you that nice house” in an attempt to emotionally blackmail favourable decisions when they come in for interview. Know how to game the system so they can manipulate (admittedly overworked and overstretched) social workers into making representations for them, usually on the basis that we’re ignoring genuine medical needs when we’re aware of the true domestic circumstances. Threaten to go running to the local politicians/local press and radio/their lawyers (yep, we get threatened with solicitor’s letters) about not making a decision fast enough/in their favour when they purposefully neglect to provide the necessary information to process the application.

          Phone up/write in with dog’s abuse/emotional manipulation/guilt tripping even though we are stuck with the bureaucratic red tape that means we can’t make decisions (if central government ain’t building houses and ain’t providing the money for grant schemes, we can’t magically pluck ‘em out of the air).

          Report comment

      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe you’re a reactionary, but you aren’t a neo-reactionary.

        Report comment

      • subforum says:

        My impression as a longtime lurker and fellow-traveller is that the most insightful neoreactionaries (Handle, Foseti) tend to be people with direct experience of working in a government bureaucracy or “N”GO.

        I’m an unimportant clerk in an unrelated section (“cultural heritage”) of the Cathedral. (In the US, not Ireland, but same difference.) I’m not convinced by his proposed solutions, but Moldbug’s analysis of how the system actually works is the only model with which I’m able to make any sense of my own experiences as a minor bureaucrat. This makes me willing to give the rest of neoreaction a hearing I wouldn’t have otherwise been likely to give it.

        (I also used to date a New York City social worker. It’s just as bad over here.)

        At the meta level, as a lurker and fellow-traveller I endorse Scott’s new comment policy. The quality of discourse here is high enough that I read just about every comment thread despite rarely having the time to leave worthwhile comments here or anywhere else. It’s the only place I’m aware of where good faith, high quality discussion between pro- and anti-NRx commenters takes place, and culling trollish and bad-faith participants seems like the best way to preserve this fragile equilibrium.

        Report comment

        • Deiseach says:

          The problem is a clash between (a) regulations that were drawn up back in the 70s and nobody wants to tackle them to update them because they’re just too much hassle – I saw this with school transport in my education days, and it applies just as much with housing, while attitudes and the entire tone of society has changed massively in the past forty years, but the ministers who are the ones with the ultimate say-so don’t want to touch this with a bargepole and (b) top-down change imposed with little to no consultation of the front-line workers who have to deal with the public.

          We’ve just gone through a huge re-organisation mandated by the national government and as a result the place is in chaos. No, that’s not exaggeration or hyperbole: for the past ten weeks, nobody knows what section they’re supposed to be in, who’s in charge of what now that the people who worked there for five/fifteen/more years have been moved on and out, or what the whole bunch of new schemes which have replaced the old schemes are going to be like to implement.

          There was a whole-department meeting called last week (at the most inconvenient time and location, but of course!) and that’s where all these snarls and grievances should have been aired.

          Except that all the higher grades (7s and 8s, as well as the SEOs and the CEO himself) were there, so naturally the 3s and 4s never opened their mouths. Nobody wants to be seen to be complaining or rocking the boat.

          All of which means that the service the public is getting is sub-standard and we know it, but there’s bugger-all we can do about it. And then we get the verbal abuse for things we have no control over.

          The fun never stops when you’re a Clerical Officer (Grade III), isn’t it so? :-)

          Report comment

        • subforum says:

          Sounds brutal. I don’t have to deal with threatening clients, thank goodness; most of my interface with the bureaucracy involves writing elaborate reports to justify my day-to-day work activities in terms of the latest “standards” and “theoretical models” developed by tenured academics in the academia/fedgov clusterfsck who haven’t done frontline work in decades.

          One of the leading “authorities” in my field is convinced that “how best to do [cultural heritage function X]” can be determined by deductive reasoning from a priori first principles, and of course it’s this “productive research program” that gets the funding and that the most ambitious grad students have to sign on to. The result is an endless series of impenetrable white papers that the rest of us have to pretend we’re aspiring towards implementing, when in practice our work mostly involves local institutional knowledge, ordinary interagency communication, and occasional consultation with actual scientists and engineers on questions like “what temperature and humidity should you store a nineteenth-century Foo at to keep it from spontaneously combusting?”

          Report comment

    • Lavendar bubble tea says:

      I find that I have the best results with some guided meditations with good binaural beats in the background moreso than youtube beats alone/guided meditations alone. I suspect that there might also be a quality issue in that some systems are outright better than others or that youtube might be a really bad medium for the audio.

      I’m not sure about them entraining my brain but I’ve gotten good enough effects personally to consider using them again or buying some reasonably priced audio using binaural beats.

      Report comment

  7. Jun says:

    Honestly motte-busting seems like a terrible idea to me, but knowing that other people endorse it as a strategy makes certain things fall into place.

    What makes you call it a terrible idea? It seems like motte-busting could be summarized as “engage with your opponent’s actual position, not the deceptively uncontroversial version they put forward as a feint”.

    EDIT: never mind, I got mixed up between which thing was the motte vs the bailey. Serves me right for not taking an extra 5 minutes before posting. I am still interested to hear more details on your reasoning, though.

    Report comment

    • Roxolan says:

      If you take the mote, which is a completely sensible and legitimate (if boring) position, and use rhetorical tricks to attack it anyway, then you’re no longer trying to find or share truths. You’re trying to win the argument with nukes, leaving nothing but smoking, poisonous ruins in your wake.

      Report comment

      • Xycho says:

        That appears to be a common tactic if you’re the sort of person who would like nobody to ever return to that (now visibly poisonous and ruined) point of view.

        That probably falls under ‘people who hold opinions strongly enough that they might attempt to make the argument appear one sided should in all cases be ignored, or preferably immolated as an example to others.’

        Report comment

  8. Steve Reilly says:

    Has Ozy considered making indexes for nonfiction books? It’s not the easiest thing when you start doing it, but you can work from home, make your own hours, and get paid to read.

    Report comment

    • lambdaphage says:

      Rawls and his wife met through their shared love for indexing, iirc.

      Report comment

    • Gavin says:

      Where does one find such a job? Is this relatively easy to get into with the proper qualifications?

      Report comment

      • Steve Reilly says:

        I lucked out and just happened to know someone who was doing it at a time that a major firm was hiring. (By “major firm” I mean there are only about 10 or a dozen people, but the big-name publishers give us the big-name books. So we’re not exactly Google, but we have a good reputation in the publishing industry.)

        You could try applying to various indexing firms, or just free-lancing on your own. In the latter case, it obviously helps if you know non-fiction authors and can ask them if you can try it. Otherwise, you might want to try just emailing authors and offering your services. Offer to do a sample chapter so they can see if they like it.

        Report comment

    • Anomplamoose says:

      Publishers of computer books have a position called “technical editor” that means that you go through a computer book that someone else is writing and make sure that all the stuff it’s telling you to do is doable and gives the expected results.

      (I say “position” but it’s a contract job. The person I know who did it did it for one book. It is a work-from-home thing.)

      Report comment

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I’m curious about how your comment policy came about – did you research your current comment policy, or generate it from your model of what you wanted and how to make Internet commenters happy? – and how you decided to phrase this comment policy update. Lately I’m thinking a lot about how Internet commenters in our general social spheres like to be treated.

    Report comment

  10. a person says:

    This is an odd question, but I find this topic fascinating for some reason. Why do you think this video causes such extreme negative reactions in almost everyone who views it? Read the comments to see disturbing amounts of pure, unadulterated hate at people who are doing nothing to harm anyone. I have my own theories but I was wondering what you guys think.

    TW: Bullying, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

    Report comment

    • Drake. says:

      fucking hell. watching that was… tough. certainly more difficult than i was expecting.

      i think that it’s to do with the fact that they’re displaying ignorance (of social norms, but in human beings that’s essentially the same thing as actual ignorance). i know that subjectively i experience the same gut reaction to watching that video as to, say, reading pro-creationist text, or a bio from an otherkin. it’s not hate, as such, more like a feeling of contempt: “this person is extremely low-status”. i think people are responding in such a vicious manner not because they actually feel that way about the people in the video, but because they are trying to raise their own status by mocking them in front of an audience. as a comparison: do you think they’d write the same thing if they were in a private chat with the creators, assuming that they couldn’t show anybody the log?

      Report comment

      • a person says:

        i think that it’s to do with the fact that they’re displaying ignorance (of social norms, but in human beings that’s essentially the same thing as actual ignorance).

        What social norms do you think they are breaking? The only one I can think of is that the two people on the couch on the left are overly touchy-feely with one another, but there obviously are more that are subtle. For some reason I get a very childlike feeling from it – it reminds me of how I acted in middle school, and how adults are Not Supposed to Act. But I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

        as a comparison: do you think they’d write the same thing if they were in a private chat with the creators, assuming that they couldn’t show anybody the log?

        If you look at the cringe thread on reddit for this video, the creators show up and people become nice to them all of a sudden.

        Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          What social norms do you think they are breaking? The only one I can think of is that the two people on the couch on the left are overly touchy-feely with one another, but there obviously are more that are subtle. For some reason I get a very childlike feeling from it – it reminds me of how I acted in middle school, and how adults are Not Supposed to Act. But I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

          yeah, that’s the feeling i got. ‘infantile’, probably, is the way that i would put it; they’re violating norms by not having appropriate inhibitions. the little “banah-nas kill-me in-the head” thing was an especially pure example of this, seeing as it’s exactly the sort of thing that a child would find amusing (and he says it apparently without realizing that).

          If you look at the cringe thread on reddit for this video, the creators show up and people become nice to them all of a sudden.

          i’m a pretty frequent visitor to r/cringe, and i can’t remember a time when they haven’t been sympathetic to the target of a post (when the target appears, ofc); it could be a general thing, but it might also be something to do with the culture of that sub in particular.

          Report comment

        • Drake. says:

          and apparently i am in outstandingly bad form today when it comes to filling in the appropriate “email” boxes. oh well.

          Report comment

    • Adele_L says:

      Well, the first thing that I noticed is that your comment had primed me to look for reasons to dislike it. But I’m pretty sure I would have found it rather annoying regardless. I didn’t feel any hate toward the people in the video though.

      I think the reason it gets hate (which was way less intense than I expected from your comment) is just because it is annoying, and the people in the video are easy to make fun of.

      Report comment

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Its moralizing.

      People believe that their value system should be universal – other people should follow it too. People who deviate too far from the norm will therefore be viciously attacked for having the wrong preferences and values.

      I’ve seen people attack each other for preferences as trivial as cooking meatballs in sauce vs frying them first. Its strange – people seem to elevate aesthetic preferences (and in this case social norms) to the level of morality.

      Report comment

    • ozymandias says:

      IDK my response was a sort of instinctive sense of “ah, yes, this is My Tribe.”

      Report comment

      • a person says:

        If I had that reaction it would scare me that so many people hate my tribe so much. Out of curiosity, did you feel that way at all?

        I know you can brush it off as “oh, well the people on YouTube comments are terrible most of the time anyway”, but it’s not like those people are all together in a cave somewhere separate from the rest of society.

        Report comment

        • Anon says:

          >If I had that reaction it would scare me that so many people hate my tribe so much.

          These sort of people are My Tribe, and, well, it’s not exactly news to us.

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          Yeah, what anon said. You mean people hate weird fat autistic gender-neutral retards (to quote one of the comments)? God, I never would have fucking guessed.

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          That’s a really shitty feeling to have, I’m sorry. I can’t imagine having to know that so many people despised me just for being myself.

          Report comment

      • That was exactly my reaction. I’m sure that if I were teleported into a room with those folks I’d have an enjoyable conversation.

        Report comment

    • Anon says:

      Best guess? We find people who we regard as lower-status than us behaving as if they are not low-status to be threatening, or somehow otherwise Needing Correction.

      And this is probably especially vehement the lower status you regard yourself. If there’s only one group lower status than you, and they act in a way suggesting they don’t know they’re low-status, that leaves you at the bottom of the status-chain. The sort of people who get actively angry at (rather than dismissive of) this sort of thing are probably not generally the super high-status clade. Though this is kinda a just-so story and should probably be taken with some grains of salt.

      ETA: refining the “just-so story” bit, what I mean is, this explanation implicitly positions me as higher-status than both parties involved (Adam & friends and the commenters) and therefore is unusually likely to be self-serving rather than true. In general I try to be wary of any explanation which boils down to “that’s a thing lower-status people do”.

      Report comment

      • Anonymous says:

        i was tempted to agree with this, but on further thought i’m not sure your premises are sound. you say “people with low status behaving as if they are not low status”, but i’m not sure that this ever doesn’t happen. i can’t imagine ‘adam’ saying “hey, i think fedoras are pretty cool, but i’m probably wrong”, or anything that would suitably signal his apparently low status. with that taken out, the paragraph becomes “we find people who we regard as low status are threatening, or somehow otherwise Needing Correction” — which i think makes essentially the same point (but doesn’t lead to your conclusions).

        EDIT: and apparently i forgot to reenter my name and the like

        Report comment

        • Anon says:

          I think fedoras are a bad example here, because almost the entire class of people who wear fedoras would fall in the category I’m talking about.

          But for the general claim… I don’t buy it. I’m pretty sure mostly the people we regard as low-status behave as if they agree almost all of the time. Think posture, willingness to share created content with the world at large, willingness to ask potential partners out and the phrasing used to do so.

          Actually, unless I’m misreading you, your position would seem to imply that there are never people who are not confident. Am I misreading you?

          Report comment

        • Roxolan says:

          “Hey I think fedoras are pretty cool so I’m going to say so to those of my friends I’m absolutely sure are in the same tribe as me, alongside a bit of embarrassed laughter” is the low-status thing to do.

          “Hey I think fedoras are pretty cool so I’m going to go on the internet, start a channel with my name in the title, and record a video of myself where I confidently sing it to the world, seemingly enjoying myself much more than you” is not so low-status.

          I have to admit there was a part of my brain screaming “no, stop that, be ashamed of yourself you low-status people!” which I had to consciously silence.

          Report comment

        • Xycho says:

          Would somebody mind explaining the fedora/status/subculture connection? Is it confined to the States, or is it British as well and I’ve just missed it somehow? I can find via Google a substantial number of variants on ‘people who wear fedoras are *insert profanity*’, but no actual reasoning or background.

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          Xycho, I think it originated from the now-defunct blog Fedoras of OK Cupid, which was a “bullying in the name of SJW” esque tumblr. This blog basically showed pictures of guys on OK Cupid wearing fedoras, juxtaposed with parts of their profile that showed right-wing political beliefs, traditional gender ideas, nice-guy isms, nerdy traits, or pretty much anything else that could be made fun of.

          Since then, wearing a fedora has been associated with atheists, MRAs, and more generally, arrogant nerds with intellectual pretensions.

          I’m not sure why this type of person started wearing fedoras in the first place, but I’m guessing it comes from desire to stand out + seeking a way to signal intellectualism/sophistication + complete ignorance of fashion.

          I don’t know if it exists in Britain, but the guy who makes those Zero Punctuation videos is British and an arrogant nerd and he always wears a fedora.

          Report comment

        • Nornagest says:

          “Fedoras of OK Cupid” is definitely where the vitriol comes from, but I’m not totally sure how the hats became popular among that demographic in the first place. I do remember them being genuinely fashionable about five years ago, especially among people that wanted to look retro in a kind of grungy way — think Johnny Depp. But there’s no obvious reason for them to cross over into the nerd scene from there.

          Best guess is that there’s something about geek culture that drives it to mistake stuff with noir associations as cruise control for cool, and the hats just happened to be popular in the mainstream during the right period. Remember how every geek in the world owned a black trench coat six months after The Matrix came out?

          Report comment

        • Matthew says:

          I previously associated fedora with Indiana Jones (definitely a positiive association for me); this thread has been illuminating.

          Report comment

        • Anon says:

          BoingBoing has a good explanation. Choice quote:

          The problem is that the fedora has become a go-to accessory for a peculiar subculture of love-entitled male nerds whose social inexperience and awkwardness manifests in a world rocked by a gender revolution—a tectonic shift in the makeup of formerly cloistered, rule-bound clubs. They aren’t bad people – they simply need a place from which to draw a sense of manhood, if not from women. When deciding how to represent themselves in a dating profile, why wouldn’t they cling to a fashion emblem from a bygone age, a time when guy was just a guy and a doll was just a doll? A fashion which recalls Frank Sinatra and Al Capone, a conventional masculinity marked by elegant detachment and an appeal to women that remains decidedly independent of their approval?

          The fact that so many consider the fedora a personal “signature” item, added to Twitter avatars and self-portraits on DeviantArt alike, lend credence to this idea. Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, a game reviewer at The Escapist popular for his snarky humor and penchant for going against the grain used the trilby as something of a logo: a sharp-brimmed hat suggests a sharp wit, a certain whimsy and mystery.

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          I don’t really like that answer that much because I don’t think every fedora wearer has traditional gender ideas – I doubt the guy in the video does, for example, considering how androgynous his friends are. I think the key traits behind fedora wearers are more, like I said, arrogance, nerdiness, social awkwardness. What you posted sort of seems like a just-so story justifying the existence of Fedoras of OK Cupid.

          It definitely is accurate in certain cases, but I don’t think it’s a universal description of the fedora stereotype.

          Report comment

        • von Kalifornen says:

          Basically, there is a stereotype of people with the following traits:

          – Nerdy (not the newer, sorta-hip nerdy, but the old-timey awkward-with-awkward-interests nerdy)

          – Wears fedoras and trenchcoats. May try to dress like an action hero in everyday life. May make fashion decisions based entirely on personal appeal, without considering how the outside world will view them.

          – May try to purchase and accessorize their way to awesomeness. For example, a handsome man wearing a retro suit and matching fedora is a beautiful and romantic sight to behold. A person in this stereotype might wear a ratty graphic T-shirt, jeans, and a cheap and poorly matched fedora (which they will not remove indoors) and imagine that it gives them some of the glamour of the well-dressed man.

          – Self-important, loves to argue everything aggressively. May be an atheist who thinks that everyone who isn’t an aggressive atheist is stupid or evil, without realizing that there is a whole world out there.

          – Poorly groomed, either very fat or very thin, may have Adulthood Fails like being in late twenties and still not having a good job / own house / ability to have platonic and romantic relationships.

          – Poor social skills, sometimes with a suggestion of autism or the like.

          – Very poor ability to see themselves as others see them, may adopt aesthetics, behavior, etiquette based on personal appeal, without considering that it is a form of communication to others. May have taken “fake it till you make it” or “be confident” advice to heart — in the worst possible way and therefore is in denial about problems or taking the wrong approach.

          – May adopt a goofy, entirely imagined romantic standard of chivalry, and impose it on modern women who have no interest in it, and see themselves as superior for adhering to this standard that few people really want. May apply this standard in incredibly prejudiced ways. May seriously expect that they can win a woman’s love in some form of contest.

          – Is misogynist, an MRA, or prog-reactionary. May consider the difficulty of people like themselves to get into heterosexual relationships to be a serious political issue or major injustice. May consider the “friend zone” a serious problem or a meaningful condition.

          – Has specific nerdy hobbies, often ones that make one a corporate tool (such as Magic Cards or other extremely consumerist nerd hobbies), romanticized ones with no practical application and that look unpleasant to the outside (such as being a mall ninja, playing video games competitively, fencing, LARP)

          The problem is, the stereotype is perpetuated by people who normally balk at the idea of having cultural standards, and conflates a lot of the cultural and personal standards (including some that suggest disability) with misogyny and antisocial behavior.

          Report comment

      • Mark says:

        I understand the claim that the people in the video are low-status. I don’t understand the claim that they’re acting high-status. Could you elaborate on what that means/how it’s the case?

        Also, if I were conducting a job interview and a homeless, uneducated candidate walked in trying to pass himself off as more economically advantaged than he really is, I wouldn’t have the same visceral reaction of loathing (which I’m not endorsing, BTW). I’d probably sympathize with him, if anything. So I don’t think “acting above your station” can be the whole explanation here.

        Personally, I think the problem is that they’re sincerely emulating stereotypes which we 1. think are shameful or pathetic and 2. expect them to be able to recognize as such given the demographic they’re in.

        Report comment

        • Anon says:

          Ugh, reply got eaten. Again but shorter:

          > I don’t understand the claim that they’re acting high-status. Could you elaborate on what that means/how it’s the case?

          They’re happy, they’re actively celebrating their atypical fashion choices, they’re making content to share with the whole world.

          > So I don’t think “acting above your station” can be the whole explanation here.

          I guess a better explanation would be “not acting ashamed about displaying behaviors we regard as low-status despite being (in our eyes) low status”. Your homeless guy is actively trying to hide his lack of status, so that’s fine by us, or at least not a cause for anger. The people in the video are not ashamed of their fashion choices etc. Other good example: the massive anger at the fat-acceptance movement you find on some parts of the internet. [Stretching it a bit, the vitriol directed at female content producers, especially in gaming, makes sense under this model if the bad actors in question regard women as inherently low-status, at least in the relevant domain.]

          Report comment

        • What do you think of my observation that they’re constantly breaking normal conversational rhythms?

          I watched it again– their clothing strikes me as merely casual rather than aggressively awful. And they’re obviously trained singers with a background in modern music, which I’d call high status.

          If they’re really loathed for looking like ordinary people and goofing around in a way that takes a good bit of skill and intelligence, I’m lowering my opinion of people in general.

          Report comment

        • Second thought– avant garde music was supposed to annoy normal people– that is, it was a rather dramatic status grab.

          Perhaps that group is being dinged for doing high-status hostile behavior without the status markers.

          Report comment

        • Anon says:

          @Nancy:
          Fedoras are, at present, among the lowest-status items of clothing you can wear, at least to a large segment of the online populace.

          I don’t really want to go through a list of things in the video which read to me as things most people would identify as low-status (wow that sounds like a painful exercise), but there’s a lot of things, from other fashion choices (hoodie, haircuts) to the mere fact of being apparently unironically and completely enthusiastic about anything.

          Breaking conversational rhythms might well be a low-status marker – it’s correlated with neuro-atypicality, at the very least, or not having internalized the way conversation is “supposed to be done”.

          That they’re trained singers is obvious if you think about it, but I very much doubt most of the people watching noticed. I also doubt that anyone at all made the connection “oh, this is avant-garde, and avant-garde was a status grab, and so we must punish status-grabs”. I’m pretty sure the original video was not intended to be musically annoying (at least, I don’t find it to be).

          > If they’re really loathed for looking like ordinary people and goofing around in a way that takes a good bit of skill and intelligence, I’m lowering my opinion of people in general.

          Easily falsified. Lots of people meet that description without tens of thousands of people getting angry. Also, I guarantee you that this would not have attracted nearly as much anger if it hadn’t been about fedoras specifically, and that fedoras are relevant only because they’re a low-status thing to wear which are often not seen as such by the people wearing them.

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          I feel like they weren’t trying to make music that was enjoyable in an avant-garde way OR in a traditional way. I think the point of the video was mostly just to be goofy, and they didn’t care how it sounded.

          Which is why I think they are “acting high status”. The video has no point really, it’s not a good song and it’s not really funny, it’s just a group of friends messing around. So by uploading this video, they are implicitly saying “you should care about us messing around”. Which is something a celebrity, for example, could get away with, but not a random nerd with a YouTube account.

          Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          Anon, I don’t think that the reception has anything to do with fedoras. here is another video of the group singing on the couch, with the same 20:1 downvote ratio and 3% of views resulting in downvotes. (a normal video has 1% of views casting votes) Though the comments aren’t quite as nasty.

          Report comment

        • Anon says:

          Anonymous: same ratio, but well over an order of magnitude fewer views. I am unwilling to discount the focus on the fedora as being influential, here.

          That said, it’s certainly very far from the sole cause.

          Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          What, you don’t think 17k is a statistically significant sample?

          The higher number of views is due to it being linked on r/cringe, etc. Maybe that was due to the choice of fedoras. But despite the fedora viewers watching it for the sole purpose of mockery, it didn’t yield more downvotes.

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          Yeah, but the fedora video has 571,655 views whereas the other one on the couch has only 17,090. Something in the fedora video made it blow up that wasn’t present in the other one (my guess is the fedora).

          Also, I suspect that many of the views and dislikes on the other video are from people who hated the fedora video so much that they just had to go find more of this guy’s videos and hate them too.

          Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          Maybe all the downvotes on the other video are spillovers from the fedora video, but most of his videos have a mere 2:1 downvote ratio.

          Report comment

        • I found that one pretty irritating– something about the timbre of the voices.

          I think the first one hit a sweet spot for me.

          Report comment

        • von Kalifornen says:

          One possiblity is: suppose a lower-economic-status person trying to look richer came in wearing an obviously cheap 19th century aristocrat costume with monocle.

          Report comment

    • I liked the video. They were playing with some odd rhythms, but it struck me as fun and exhilarating rather than annoying. The way they ran variations on fedoras and bananas was amusing.

      I only have guesses about why it attracted so many negative comments. It could be that a lot of people don’t have have the mental flexibility to enjoy the odd rhythms, and I may be further from neurotypicality than I thought.

      I don’t think of my tastes as very avant garde, but I wonder if there’s a correlation between being able to enjoy Sun Ra and being able to enjoy the video.

      On the other hand, it may have attracted enough trolls to hit a critical mass where the trolls are playing off each other, and the comments don’t have much to do with the video.

      Report comment

      • subforum says:

        That’s an interesting point. While some of the performers clearly have vocal training, I suspect that their enthusiastic/juvenile body language and unfashionable subject matter prime the viewer to see “untutored ineptitude” as opposed to “willful difficulty.” If they were wearing all black on an austerely lit stage, not smiling, and singing about something other than fedoras, the audience response would be very different.

        The singer himself implies in the Reddit thread that this was an improvisation where the rhythmic sloppiness was unintentional, and my own intuitive sense of the “fedora” subcultural clade’s musical tastes suggests that willful abrasiveness wasn’t their intention, so I suspect that this is a Shaggs-style case of accidental experimentalism.

        Report comment

    • Sarah says:

      My impression was “cute, fun, but childish.” It’s disinhibited play. I bet it would get annoying to be around people who did that constantly, but in small doses I think it’s charming.

      Report comment

    • Quite Likely says:

      Wow, that video really does seem almost designed to be unbearable.

      Report comment

    • rsaarelm says:

      The word that’s missing from your language is fremdschämen.

      Report comment

      • nydwracu says:

        “Secondhand embarrassment”.

        ——

        We have a word ‘fremd’, but it doesn’t look English (could borrow the UK dialectal form ‘fremmit’, I like that better) and the only time I’ve ever seen it used in English is when pthag tried to construct a distinction between ‘fremd’ and ‘elthedish’, a distinction I don’t remember the specifics of.

        My current thede-dynamics vocabulary doesn’t have a set way to distinguish between “characteristic of a thede one is not in” and “characteristic of a thede one’s own thede positions itself against” — anyone have any ideas on how to patch that? “Elthedish” is overloaded, but I’ve started trying to limit my use of it to the second sense.

        Report comment

    • yli says:

      Explaining that they’re getting hated on because they’re displaying “low status” is pretty lame and is kind of using status as a semantic stopsign. It’s about as insightful as pointing out that they’re “uncool”. I think the reason that the status thing feels like an explanation is that around here we judge the idea of attacking someone because of their lower status as morally wrong, and people are naturally disinclined to try to “understand” morally wrong actions because that feels like justifying them.

      Report comment

      • Anon says:

        I don’t think so. Status has moving parts; there are further questions to be asked, like “what behaviors are they displaying which are low status” [liking fedoras, among other things] or “what singles out these particular low-status-demarcated people for anger” [my answer: not being visibly ashamed of lack of status], or even “why do we even care about status” [see: Robin Hanson].

        Semantic stopsigns are supposed to be words which stop further inquiry. Pointing out that something is demarcated as low-status does not do that.

        Put it another way: what features of an explanation does “they’re displaying low-status markers but not acting like they know it” lack? What do you want from your explanations that this explanation doesn’t do?

        Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          [liking fedoras, among other things]

          Here’s what really frustrates me about the fedora thing:

          It was high-status fashion a few years ago.

          And yes, I know that this is how fashion works, but I still want to explicitly spell out what’s going on:

          High-status douchebags start wearing fancy suits with vests and fedoras as sort of a retro-hipster thing. They get a lot of hate (for being douchebags) but no attacks (because they’re too high-status to be safely attacked).

          The low-status neckbeards notice that ‘vest + fedora’ = ‘sexy cool’, so they try to emulate.

          As with all fashion, the moment the lower class starts emulating the upper class, it is time for the upper class to move on.

          Now, all that frustration and rage that’s been building up against the upper class can be unleashed upon the new wearers of their symbols, who of course have no defense against the righteous fury coming down on them.

          Report comment

        • subforum says:

          Anecdotally, I’m not sure this chronology is accurate. When Williamsburg hipsters briefly picked up on fedoras a few years ago, my reaction at the time was “what? But fedoras are low-status nerd headgear! What gives?”

          As people have pointed out elsewhere in the thread, the association of fedoras with nerdiness stems from an un-self-aware attempt at “badass cool” (like trenchcoats), not an attempt at copying “douchebag” styles. In my own memory this association goes back at least a decade if not more, although it didn’t become a popular hate object until the Fedoras of OKC blog.

          Report comment

      • Drake. says:

        Explaining that they’re getting hated on because they’re displaying “low status” is pretty lame… It’s about as insightful as pointing out that they’re “uncool”.

        … so what? why is “they are very, very uncool, and this makes people aggressive towards them. people don’t like uncool people.” not a correct explanation? a lack of ‘insightfulness’ doesn’t make something any less true.

        Report comment

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I think a lot of it is that these people sort of made themselves walking stereotypes, and that the stereotypes have been marked with moral qualities. It doesn’t help that they seem to have their own aesthetic standards (I find them sort of “adorkable” but not exactly aesthetically pleasing) but don’t quite realize that their standards are unconventional. (I think a lot of the neckbeard-hatred is about people Trying To Purchase Coolness (wearing a trench coat does not make you an action hero) and people expecting status to transfer over.)

      Report comment

    • Berna says:

      I’ve no idea why people would dislike it that much. Just some silly young people having fun.

      Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      They’re singing off-key, their mannerisms feel “affected” and calculated rather than natural (false enthusiasm being the most salient one). You know, like that kid in grade school who kept doing random things for the sake of attracting attention.

      I don’t think it’s because they’re queer, fedora wearing, unattractive, or otherwise low-status.

      Report comment

    • MugaSofer says:

      My reaction:

      Watched it, laughed a little, that really is terrible music.

      Scrolled down.

      Ahh what the hell what is wrong with these commenters?

      I cannot explain it.

      Report comment

  11. a person says:

    4. Also, if someone is sufficiently new that no one will complaint, I might just ban them silently and without record, to save myself the trivial inconvenience of doing it formally.

    I would be happier personally if you didn’t do this, the best thing for free speech and etc. would be a policy of openness so we can at least know who is getting banned and for what. Obviously it’s up to you though.

    Report comment

  12. Oligopsony says:

    If neoreactionaries are selected for quality that will only worsen the unrepresentative quality gap to which you, and now others, are exposed. I recommend putting each IP address on a rotating schedule of making posts from conservative/reactionary, liberal/libertarian, radical/socialist, and utterly bizarre eclectic positions, and then having some sort of automated Ideological Turing Test system to ban those whose real views are too obvious.

    Report comment

    • Matthew says:

      Since the research seems to suggest that conservative positions are harder to simulate, wouldn’t the test be biased against liberals?

      Report comment

    • I am a neoreactionary, and I approve of this plan.

      Report comment

    • Aleph says:

      Wait a minute, isn’t a “quality gap” exactly what we want? I mean, I don’t want to read comments written by idiots. If I wanted that, I’d go elsewhere.

      Also, nobody is ever going to implement the “rotating IP addresses with automated ideological Turing Test” idea.

      Report comment

      • suntzuanime says:

        I think the concern is that selecting for intelligent, polite, interesting Neoreactionaries while not applying any selection pressure to the Left will tend to make Neoreactionaries seem highly intelligent, polite, and interesting by comparison and may cause conversion to their ideology. Similar to how we don’t filter immigrants by IQ for fear that letting in only high-IQ immigrants would make foreign cultures seem more attractive and destroy our native culture.

        Report comment

        • I think the reason intelligent immigrants aren’t wanted is neophobia– smart immigrants aren’t wanted, stupid immigrants aren’t wanted….

          Let me bounce an idea off you guys. I think the reason the only immigrants who are wanted are rich immigrants is intuitive merchantilism– a belief that the only real wealth is money. (I don’t think this is true.) Immigrants who do useful work are simply competitors for a limited pool of wealth (money)– the work they do doesn’t get counted as improving the society.

          Report comment

        • Oligopsony says:

          Idiot: wealth is money, or maybe even something reigned further yet, like bullion.
          Contrarian: wealth is goods and services.
          Hipster: wealth is access to the deference and obedience of others, which in sum-flexibility is more like gold than goods.

          (The classical distinction between wealth and value, or something like it, is probably useful.)

          Report comment

        • Anthony says:

          Similar to how we don’t filter immigrants by IQ for fear that letting in only high-IQ immigrants would make foreign cultures seem more attractive and destroy our native culture.

          This does not seem to be the actual reason that the U.S. does not screen immigrants by IQ or reasonable proxies thereof. Do you have any evidence that this is the case?

          Report comment

        • nydwracu says:

          For those who didn’t get the parent comment: America does, in fact, filter [some] immigrants by [things that are probably proxies of] IQ.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          Who’s we? Lots of countries make immigration easier/possible for well qualified individuals in shortage areas.

          Admittedly they may not be keen on high IQ basement dwellers.

          Report comment

      • Multiheaded says:

        Also, nobody is ever going to implement the “rotating IP addresses with automated ideological Turing Test” idea.

        Just donate to MIRI and we’ll have the means to.

        Report comment

      • Oligopsony says:

        Also, nobody is ever going to implement the “rotating IP addresses with automated ideological Turing Test” idea.

        I was going to respond with http://youtube.com/watch?v=xECUrlnXCqk but then I remembered that Will Newsome suggested that you could totally create a site that automated these things and assigned Elo ratings and stuff, so really I should get off my duff and learn to do computer things and implement that.

        Report comment

    • So… ban unthinking non-NRx? That doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world, actually…

      Report comment

      • Continuing on this thought (where’s the edit button when you need it?): actually, somehow highlighting good comments / killing bad comments would be good. Your comment section is huge.

        Report comment

        • lmm says:

          If you care enough to put effort into this, find and test a suitable WordPress plugin.

          (My vote remains firmly on Disqus, but apparently that has issues. Which I’ve never seen except when using shonky script blockers, so have no way to address)

          Report comment

    • MugaSofer says:

      Genius.

      Does anyone know how to set something like this up, actually? I really like the idea.

      Report comment

      • Drake. says:

        the first bit’d be fairly easy; just hand out cookies with an expiration date of a week or so, and tell people what political ideology they’re posting under (ofc, the ideology would be the username). give a new cookie to anyone coming to the site without a politics-cookie (either new visitors or people off their clock), based on which ideology has the least recent comments (possibly weighted). it’d be very, very easy to game, of course, but so would IPs; just use tor.

        as for the ideological turing test, you could have a standard upvote/downvote thing (idk how easy that is in wordpress), and manually ban the most obvious people (again, easily dodged).

        Report comment

  13. Joe says:

    My wife is a stay at home mom so we were looking for ways of making extra income. We found some people on line that wanted their novels transcribed for them. They send you an audio file and you just type it into a word document and e-mail it back. Also Ozy could put out an add for light house work and errand running. There are a lot of old people that don’t need a health care nurse but could use some help with laundry or grocery shopping.

    Report comment

  14. Yeric says:

    Why don’t effective altruists talk about population ethics more? I haven’t yet seen an EA cost-benefit analysis that explicitly values the intrinsic cost/benefit of a change in population size, even though they’re generally very large from a utilitarian standpoint. For example, if you compare an intervention that creates a new person in a rich country (~$30,000 annual income) to one that creates a new person in a poor country (~$500 annual income), the difference between the value of the interventions is comparable to the value of making a future poor person rich (raising income from $500 to $30,000) – most people would consider that a huge improvement, but if you ignore the intrinsic value of new lives, you would miss that entirely in your analysis!

    This example actually doesn’t depend on your population-ethical views (average utiltarians vs. total utilitarians, etc.). Even average utiltarians should care about the intrinsic value of new lives – if the new life has utility far above or below the average, its intrinsic value will be very high or very low. And since there are a lot of places with utility very different from the global average, an average-utilitarian EA usually shouldn’t ignore the intrinsic value of the lives that would be prevented or created by their intervention. This is even more true for total utilitarians – causing someone to have 0.1 fewer children doesn’t seem like much, but if you treat all QALYs equally this is equivalent to shortening their life by 5-8 years!

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think population ethics is enough of a pitfall that it’s a good choice as a movement to ignore them and focus on solidly-grounded things everyone can cooperate on.

      Also, how often do questions like these come up in real life? Even if you can affect the creation of new people (for example by funding or defunding birth control) it seems unlikely that an opportunity to exchange creation of a new person in Country A for one in Country B comes up very often.

      Report comment

      • Matt C says:

        International adoption could be encouraged much more than it is.

        Report comment

      • Eric Y (same as Yeric) says:

        I think population ethics is enough of a pitfall that it’s a good choice as a movement to ignore them and focus on solidly-grounded things everyone can cooperate on.

        Ah, that makes sense. So since people can’t agree on it, it’s better for them to focus on other things so they don’t argue too much or cancel out each other’s efforts? (e.g. Person 1 funds one thing, Person 2 funds the opposite, and both end up wasting their money)

        Also, how often do questions like these come up in real life? Even if you can affect the creation of new people (for example by funding or defunding birth control) it seems unlikely that an opportunity to exchange creation of a new person in Country A for one in Country B comes up very often.

        It doesn’t have to be a single intervention that works in both countries. Suppose there are 3 independent interventions: #1 (+1 rich person, costs $70k), #2 (-1 poor person, costs $10k), and #3 (future poor person will be rich instead, costs $100k). Then #1 and #2 together accomplish the same thing as #3 at lower cost. This doesn’t mean that you should do both #1 and #2, though (assuming you’re restricted to #1-3 only). A consequentialist whose population ethics aren’t fine-tuned to make #1 and #2 equally cost-effective would pick a single one to focus on.

        Report comment

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        exchange creation of a new person in Country A for one in Country B comes up very often

        *Cough* immigration *cough*

        But seriously, the vast majority of humans that will exist haven’t been created yet, therefore by far the largest ethical interventions we can cause now is to change who will be created in the future. I admit that I haven’t run the numbers on this, but I suspect that most of the effects of malaria nets will come from their effects on fertility patterns. We can increase lives saved linearly, but fertility rates change populations exponentially. No matter how small the exponent, that effect will win in the long run.

        Report comment

        • Eric Y says:

          A related point is that most interventions’ effects go away in the long run – for example, if malaria is eventually controlled everywhere, today’s malaria nets won’t affect future malaria rates. In a Malthusian world the same would be true for population – an additional birth will raise death rates and decrease birth rates so that its effect on the population is eventually offset (very approximate time scale: 10-1000 years). But since the world isn’t currently Malthusian, any change made to the population today should last largely indefinitely, unless the world becomes Malthusian again some time in the future.

          Report comment

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Thats a good point. If a cure for malaria is inevitable than the long term effect of malaria interventions right now on malaria are zero. That qualifier “long term effect on malaria” is important because fighting malaria now has other effects – it might cause malaria to be cured sooner; and it might impact the development of countries with high incidence of malaria; it might also affect the timeline of other diseases being cured since it might teach us something about managing diseases on a massive scale.

          And of course someone might have non-utilitarian reasons for contributing to charity. For example I might want my children to live a world that is slightly healthier or more peaceful.

          Report comment

  15. Matthew says:

    Ozy could start/join a dog-walking service. If ze likes dogs, it might even be beneficial for panic/depression.

    Report comment

  16. Carinthium says:

    I figure it’s unlikely, but just in case: Does anyone here have views on the Amoralist Challenge in philosophy? I’ve been trying to see if it can be refuted, and am looking for potential arguments against it.

    Report comment

    • Anon says:

      It seems pretty reasonable to say “If you think the question ‘why should I be moral’ is coherent, you and I are not referring to the same concept of ‘morality’.”

      Which probably indicates that I’m failing to grasp the nature of the debate.

      [With that said, I'm pretty sure I'm the hypothetical amoralist.]

      Report comment

    • Charlie says:

      It seems like in actual fact there are several different ways one can use the word “morality.” It’s a common enough usage to call social expectations “morality,” which can indeed be logically divorced from someone’s internal motivation.

      But it’s also totally common to use the word to refer to a class of motivations. And even more often, people mean something more complicated and gestalt-ey, which can recognize multiple different verbal definitions if primed in different ways.

      This seems like an excellent chance to avoid debating definitions.

      Report comment

      • Paul Torek says:

        But it’s also totally common to use the word to refer to a class of motivations. And even more often, people mean something more complicated and gestalt-ey, which can recognize multiple different verbal definitions if primed in different ways.

        +1, with added emphasis on referring to a class of motivations – as contrasted to the totality of all motivations. And more power to the people who mean something gestalt-y. Morality is a well-established empirical cluster that ill fits into any one neat-and-tidy box. That said, I’m all in favor of examining it one strand at a time to see if any rationality improvements are available.

        This seems like an excellent chance to avoid debating definitions.

        I’m not sure those debates can be better than postponed. The empirical cluster is probably there for good (among other) reasons, and I don’t see people giving up talking about it, ever.

        Report comment

      • peterdjones says:

        The best way to avoid debating definitions is to offer the correct one upfront. Morality is the theory and practice of acting with positive regardfor the values of others.

        Report comment

    • blacktrance says:

      My response is that starting out with an ethical system and then trying to figure out why someone should follow it is getting it backwards – rather than saying “One should be moral”, it is more correct to say “Moral is what one should be”, i.e. morality is determined and constituted by whatever follows from what’s already internally motivating. This doesn’t mean morality is “do whatever you want”, because agents can be internally inconsistent and bad at carrying out what their motivations require, i.e. humans are not automatically strategic. Morality is closer to “Do what you’d want to do if you were rational and internally consistent”.

      So my answer to “Why should I be moral?” is “Because morality is constituted such that you can’t reject it without saying that you don’t want something you want”.

      Report comment

      • Carinthium says:

        You do realise that this means that in many cases this has implications most people who try to advocate for a morality don’t like? For example- I don’t donate to charity because I honestly don’t give a crap about the people starving and dying in Africa. There is no inconsistency here.

        Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          Yes, it does imply that, and I endorse your example, though with the caveat that it is possible to argue that you not caring about people starving and dying in Africa is internally inconsistent and if you were rational and internally consistent, you’d want to donate to Africa, because it follows from some value you have. But that’s a claim that has to be proven, and it’s not necessarily true, as there are possible beings that don’t want to donate to Africa even though they’re internally consistent – and agents with those preferences really shouldn’t donate to Africa. People assume that morality, whatever it is, has to be altruistic and agent-neutral, but that need not be the case.

          However, this does check most of the boxes for “Is it morality?”. It’s action-guiding, moral error is possible, it answers questions delineated as “moral” (such as “When is it okay to kill?”, “What, if anything, do I owe to my family?”, etc), and it’s motivating.

          Report comment

        • Paul Torek says:

          That’s understating the problem. There are some sociopaths who could probably kill you for your money after maximal rational reflection and with perfect consistency. I don’t see why we should apply the word “moral” to that, when “rational” already covers it and “moral” has a lot of associations that don’t apply.

          Rather than replying to the amoralist with a moral argument, I suggest a prison, backed by guns. The great thing about people who don’t give a crap about others is that it’s really hard for them to cooperate well.

          Report comment

        • Xycho says:

          “The great thing about people who don’t give a crap about others is that it’s really hard for them to cooperate well.”

          It’s not that hard. Well, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s not actually difficult. It just has to be unavoidably more beneficial to cooperate than to defect, in order for it to be worthwhile. In the ‘probably kill you for your money after rational reflection’ example, society has made the probability of being punished for defection, and the probability of the proceeds being confiscated as well, sufficiently high that except under exceedingly well-planned and controlled circumstances it’s really not the sensible thing to do.

          The apparent inconsistency arises as a result of the question ‘what is the value of the life/wellbeing of a random sentience, unadjusted for closeness, species, language, race, sex, age etc?’. As far as I’ve been able to tell, the world divides rather neatly between the answers ‘I don’t know, but it feels quite high’, and ‘I don’t care, so it’s about zero’. From this division arise most arguments about morality (there are some edge cases where people would give the same answer to the above, but differ on what is meant by ‘sentience’, such as abortion.)

          People appear to mostly define ‘moral’ as something along the lines of ‘behaving as close to rationally as possible, given an assumption that people are very important’.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “I don’t see why we should apply the word ‘moral’ to that, when ‘rational’ already covers it and ‘moral’ has a lot of associations that don’t apply.”

          Because, as I said, it checks off many of the boxes of something labeled “morality”. It’s motivating and action-guiding, provides answers to moral questions, and has the possibility of someone being in error about what it requires. It’s also in line with how “morality” is used in academic philosophy – contractarianism (as in Thomas Hobbes and David Gauthier) and egoism argue that morality is practical prudential rationality, and they’re still acknowledged to be ethical theories. In contrast, the amoralist not only rejects altruistic ethical theories such as utilitarianism, he rejects ethical theories altogether, including ones rooted purely in prudence.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          Let me clarify here- I am considering spending a lot of life writing philosophical articles trying to persuade the existing philosophical Establishment of amoralism. Sentimentally speaking I don’t like arguing for a false posistion, so I wanted to check it was actually true first.

          Some people might try to argue with me, despite the amoralist stuff here, saying philosophy is useless. My posistion is unusual because, relative to an ordinary person, I enjoy philosophical debate a lot more.

          Paul Torek- Your posistion suggests that the argument going on for thousands of years by philosophers that morality is rationally defensible rather than an arbitrary desire is ultimately a failure. I wonder if you realise how controversial that would be in philosophy (he he he…)

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          Some people think you can derive morally-should from rational-should, and hey think that because they think it is irrational to treaty yourself as oobjecively more important than someone else.7

          Report comment

      • peterdjones says:

        Morality is not essentially about what you want. It is not hedoni.cs or aesthetics or self cultivation.

        It is true that you are not going to act morally unless motivated, utilitarian that makes your own wished a necessary condition, not a sufficient one.

        Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          If morality isn’t about what I want, then why should I care about it? What makes it bonding?

          If you define morality such that it excludes, e.g., ethical egoism, then I think the amoralist is correct. But that is too narrow of a definition of morality.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          @blacktrance

          It’s not all or nothing.

          Something doesn’t become moral the moment you start caring about it. However, if something already ticks the boxes for morality, your caring about it has the added advantage that you will do something about it.

          That does not lend any support to things like ethical egotism, since someone can care about altruism.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          No, my question is, if something ticks the boxes of morality (as you use that term), but I don’t care about it, why should I start caring about it?

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          People change their views on morality from time to time because of life experiences , persuasion by others, etc.

          If you care about rationality, you will accept the conclusions of sound arguments, including ones about morality. That’s one way persuasion works.

          Perhaps you think you can’t be persuaded of and moral conclusions if you don’t hold any moral beliefs in the first place

          Well, the jury’s out on whether you can leverage ethical normativity from rational normativity .

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “Well, the jury’s out on whether you can leverage ethical normativity from rational normativity.”

          Suppose you can’t – as I think is the case with how you’re defining morality. If so, is there a reason to care about morality (as you’ve defined it)? If not, why does morality matter?

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          Suppose you can….

          You seem to be taking it that amoralism is the obvious default position.

          But it’s not obvious. Principles like Occams Razor suggest you should default to disbelief in entities whose existence cannot be proven. But we are not talking bout entities here.

          Why care about rationality? Yoou could argue that rationality gets you what you want..but why care about what you want? You could argue that you are just wired up that way,…but then the moralist could argue that they are just wired up to care about morality, …..and are therefore no more lacking in fundamental motives that you are.

          It’s easy to criticise some X for being unable to bootstrap itself without presuppositions, because nothing can.

          It’s hard to explain why the same argument doesn’t rebound .on yourself.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “You could argue that rationality gets you what you want..but why care about what you want?”

          Because if I didn’t care about something I wanted, it wouldn’t be what I’d want. If I said that I didn’t want what I wanted, I would be contradicting myself. Caring about things you want is baked into the concept of wanting.

          If the moralist says that he’s wired to care about morality, that’s not a sufficient justification for morality, because it fails to be normatively binding on people who aren’t wired to care about morality.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          You would be contradicting yourself if you did not care about what you want, and you would be contradicting yourself if
          you agreed that x is moral, but disagreed that you should do X.

          The idea the idea that moral claims are theoretically motivating is baked into the idea of morality.

          But theoretical motivation can fall short of practical motivation…in all spheres.

          You might argue that you recognise the truth of moral claim X, such as “charity is good” and you might also recognise the tautology that “if X is right, I should do X”,
          but you still don’t have the motivation to actually do X, in practice.

          The problem there is that akrasia, lack lf practical motivation is not unique to ,morality. You might want a fancy car, and you might realise that if you for a promotion you could afford it, but you might still be too apathetic to work hard and get the promotion.

          The fact that some individuals lack motivation to do some of the things they want to do or think they ought to is a psychological fact,and therefore does not mean there is no reason to be moral….where reason means something like rational justification.

          (I suspect that a lot of the confusion here is down to the fact that “reason” is ambiguous between “rational, justification” and “causal drive”. If you can understand the theoretical motivation of oral claim, but lack be drive to out them into practice, that would be a problem with you, not with morality)

          Alternatively, you could claim that you don’t get the link between X is moral, and I should do X. Bureaucratst that would amount to saying that rational justification doesn’t motivate you because you are not rational.
          Finally, you could claim that “x is a moral trut, , therefore I should do X” doesn’t get off the ground because there are no moral truths.

          You haven’t argued explicitly in this way…but it is what amorality is typically taken to mean …and is the only version of your claim that isn’t self defeating.

          “If the moralist says that he’s wired to care about morality, that’s not a sufficient justification for morality, because it fails to be normatively binding on people who aren’t wired to care about morality.”

          If you care enough about rationality to accept anything that can be rationally justified, then you have to accept that true moral claim are motivating, so long as an argument can be made to that effect. So the moralist intends to leverage moral motivation from rational motivation, and you need to show that that is impossible.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “The idea the idea that moral claims are theoretically motivating is baked into the idea of morality.”

          Here morality as you define it seems to run into a problem, because if morality must be motivating, it must be about what I want – perhaps not what I happen to want right now, but what I’d want under some idealized version of my desires (e.g. if I weren’t akratic). If morality is necessarily motivating, it isn’t necessarily altruistic, and if morality is necessarily altruistic, it isn’t necessarily motivating.

          For example, imagine an internally consistent conscious and rational Caligula-alien that doesn’t care about anyone’s well-being and gains great pleasure from torturing others. Is such a being possible, or would it necessarily be internally inconsistent? If such a being is possible (i.e. it’s internally consistent), does it have any reason to care about morality? If it has a reason to care about morality, is morality necessarily altruistic? Why would it have a reason to care about altruistic morality if it gains great pleasure from torturing people, doesn’t care about anyone’s well-being, and is internally consistent?

          I answer that such an internally consistent Caligula is possible. Morality is necessarily motivating, so it must care about morality, but because it’s internally consistent, it wouldn’t be motivated by anything remotely altruistic, so morality doesn’t have to be altruistic.

          As for moral claims and motivation, it’s complicated by linguistic ambiguity. Someone who says “X is moral” could mean “X is the right thing to do and I should do it”, which is necessarily motivating, or they could mean that “according to Ethical System E, X is good and someone who subscribes to E should do X”, which is not necessarily motivating. If someone appears to make a moral claim in the first form but doesn’t find it motivating, they’re really making a claim of the second form. If you believe that X is the right thing to do, you do it – simple as that.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          Note the difference between theoretical and practical motivation.

          Morality has no hope of being necessarily motivating, in the sense that everyone actually will follow it in practice.

          Morality has some hope of being theoretically motivating to epistemic rationalist.

          I don’t know why you think altruism is relevant. An argument for ethical egoism is not an argument for amoralism.

          Avoidance of contradiction is not the only condition for rationality. Avoidance of bias is also needed. Your Caligula has massive egotistical bias, as did the original.

          You need to explain why altruism is self contradictory…and what altruism has to do with amoralism.

          Ethical claims still aren’t necessarily motivating in practice, nor are normative claims in general. The world is full of people who understand that they should give smoking, but don’t “just do it”

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “I don’t know why you think altruism is relevant. An argument for ethical egoism is not an argument for amoralism.”

          Because you said, “Morality is not essentially about what you want. It is not hedonics or aesthetics or self cultivation.” But if ethical egoism is correct, then morality is essentially about what you want – perhaps not what you want at any particular moment, but what you’d want if you were internally consistent and understood you interests properly.

          “Your Caligula has massive egotistical bias”

          My Caligula only values his own pleasure, and gains pleasure from torturing others. In what way does this make him biased?

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          I don’t know why you think altruism is relevant. An argument for ethical egoism is not an argument for amoralism.”Because you said, “Morality is not essentially about what you want. It is not hedonics or aesthetics or self cultivation.” But if ethical egoism is correct, then morality is essentially about what you want – perhaps not what you want at any particular moment, but what you’d want if you were internally consistent and understood you interests properly.“

          I said morality is behaving with positive regard to the preferences and values mothers. Ethical egoism is not, as you note, just any form of self interested behaviour. Egoism justifies itself as an ethical theory by arguing that the best way to behave with regard to the values of others is to leave them to pursue their own goals while you pursue yours. So Caligula is no ethical egoist. And ethical egoist isn’t amoralism. Amoralism says there are no true moral claims, whereas EE says you should not murder people, as that prevents them achieving their goals.

          “My Caligula only values his own pleasure, and gains pleasure from torturing others. In what way does this make him biased?”

          He only values his OWN pleasure. That isn’t much of a problem for instrumental rationalism, since bias for IR just means something that gets in the way of an arbitrary goal. However, epistemic rationalists need to value truth as an aim, and that can conflict with other goals. To have an arbitrary goal is to treat it as important, without being able to justify why it important. That is analogous to having a strong belief in something you can’t prove, which is anathema to epistemic rationality.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “Egoism justifies itself as an ethical theory by arguing that the best way to behave with regard to the values of others is to leave them to pursue their own goals while you pursue yours. So Caligula is no ethical egoist.”

          No, egoism is not libertarianism (or its social equivalent, “live-and-let-live”), even though some libertarians reach their political conclusions on egoist grounds. Egoism is the claim that moral agents ought to do what is in their self-interest, which has no necessary connection to others’ values. Caligula is acting in his interests and thinks he should do so, so he’s an ethical egoist. Depending on the situation, if agents’ interests and circumstances are constituted in a particular way, they would find in their self-interest to adopt live-and-let-live – but egoism doesn’t necessarily imply live-and-let-live, and in the case of Caligula, it implies the opposite.

          “To have an arbitrary goal is to treat it as important, without being able to justify why it important. That is analogous to having a strong belief in something you can’t prove, which is anathema to epistemic rationality.”

          Terminal values are the foundational bedrock of value and impossible to justify. Having terminal values and being epistemically rational isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive. If I’m Clippy, I want to tile the world with paperclips. Nothing justifies that preference, but it doesn’t prevent me from being epistemically rational. Something similar goes for Caligula.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          ”No, egoism is not libertarianism (or its social equivalent, “live-and-let-live”), even though some libertarians reach their political conclusions on egoist grounds.”

          “Egoism is the claim that moral agents ought to do what is in their self-interest, which has no necessary connection to others’ values. ”

          Where does the “ought” come from? What makes that ethical?

          (I wasn’t putting forward the only form of EE, I was putting forward a form that has a hope of working as an ethical theory)

          “Caligula is acting in his interests and thinks he should do so, so he’s an ethical egoist.”

          “Thinks he should do”? He can think the world is flat, but that doesn’t make it flat. He needs to provide justification for the claim that egoism is what he ethically-should be doing.

          “To have an arbitrary goal is to treat it as important, without being able to justify why it important. That is analogous to having a strong belief in something you can’t prove, which is anathema to epistemic rationality.

          ”Terminal values are the foundational bedrock of value”

          Value is relevant to ethics, but only some values, in some ways. You can’t claim that the pursuit of personal goals automatically coumts as ethics. Although previously you were claiming that nothing counts as ethics….

          ” and impossible to justify”

          You can define them that way, but then there is doubt as to whether they exist. You can’t define things into existence. You need evidence. The evidence is that values, without the terminal, exist in some sense, and can be justified or refuted, and can change over time.

          ” Having terminal values and being epistemically rational isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive. If I’m Clippy, I want to tile the world with paperclips. Nothing justifies that preference, but it doesn’t prevent me from being epistemically rational. Something similar goes for Caligula.”

          Arbitrary values and epistemic rationality are inconsistent in the sense that an ideal or maximal epistemic rationalist would not tolerate arbitrary values or beliefs. You are effectively arguing that low levels of epistemic rationalism are compatible with arbitrary values.

          …..and what this had to do with amoralism remains a mystery.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “Where does the ‘ought’ come from? What makes that ethical?”

          tl;dr, not too rigorous version: Whatever morality is, it must be motivating. What we find motivating are our already existing desired ends, and there is no plausible justification for us to adopt ends that don’t follow from what we already find motivating. If we were internally consistent, we would act in our own self-interests, i.e. pursue happiness and the ends that are instrumental to it. People can be internally inconsistent and fail to do so, but if they were properly rational, they would. Moral “oughts”, when they are true, are the “oughts” of practical rationality (or a subset of them, depending on how broadly you define “morality”).

          “He needs to provide justification for the claim that egoism is what he ethically-should be doing.”

          He has a motivation to torture people. If morality requires him to not torture people, it must motivate him to do so, which means he must have a motivating reason to not torture people. If there is such a reason, what is it?

          “You can define them that way, but then there is doubt as to whether they exist.”

          Instrumental values can be justified by appeal to terminal values, but terminal values are the foundational values that are held despite them not being justified by appeal to any other values. The only coherent way I can imagine terminal values not existing is if all values are cyclically instrumental, as in “I want X because it’ll get me Y, I want Y because it’ll get me Z, and I want Z because it’ll get me X”, but this seems like an implausible structure of value, and I don’t think it’s what you’re arguing for. (And even then one could argue that while none of X, Y, nor Z are terminal values themselves, the combination of them is a terminal value.)

          “Arbitrary values and epistemic rationality are inconsistent in the sense that an ideal or maximal epistemic rationalist would not tolerate arbitrary values or beliefs.”

          By your conception of epistemic rationality, the epistemic rationalist would reject all value.

          In case I’ve been unclear, I’m not arguing for amoralism. I’m arguing that the amoralist gives a good reason to reject external conceptions of morality, but he fails to reject internal morality as constituted by practical reasoning, as in ethical egoism.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          “Where does the ‘ought’ come from? What makes that ethical?”

          “not too rigorous version: Whatever morality is, it must be motivating.”

          That’s a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition.

          “If it’s not motivating, it’s not it morality” (1) ..may be true, but its not equivalent to…. “If it’s motivating, it’s, morality” (2)

          And 2, or something like, is whatyou need to get your “ought”.

          I can see that morality has something to do with motivation, but not the specific thing you are claiming. More rigour is needed.

          “What we find motivating are our already existing desired ends, and there is no plausible justification for us to adopt ends that don’t follow from what we already find motivating. ”

          Nothing in that is false, as stated, but I’m not sure you appreciate that almost some motivations are “gateway drugs”, … almost anything can follow from them. If you’re motivated to believe in the dicta of the prophet Zarquan, that one motivation would lead you to follow all Zarquans moral precepts. Or if you were motivated to be rational, you would accept the conclusion of any good, evidence based argument, including ethical conclusions.

          And even if that is wrong, and there’s no way Caligula would change his behaviour, that doesn’t mean his behaviour is moral, which is the claim in question.

          “If we were internally consistent, we would act in our own self-interests, i.e. pursue happiness and the ends that are instrumental to it.People can be internally inconsistent and fail to do so, but if they were properly rational, they would. Moral “oughts”, when they are true, are the “oughts” of practical rationality”

          No they are not. Moral quandaries exist, and are often conflicts between ethics and self interest. That would logically impossible, by your theory.

          ”He has a motivation to torture people. If morality requires him to not torture people, it must motivate him to do so, which means he must have a motivating reason to not torture people. ”

          As I have stated several times, a potential motivation is rationality.

          And if that doesn’t motivate him, so what? That doesn’t make “torture is wrong” false. If someone is too irrational to believe that 2+2=4, that doesn’t invalidate 2+2=4.

          “You can define them that way, but then there is doubt as to whether they exist.”Instrumental values can be justified by appeal to terminal values, but terminal values are the foundational values that are held despite them not being justified by appeal to any other values. The only coherent way I can imagine terminal values not existing is if all values are cyclically instrumental, as in “I want X because it’ll get me Y, I want Y because it’ll get me Z, and I want Z because it’ll get me X”, but this seems like an implausible structure of value, and I don’t think it’s what you’re arguing for. ”

          Indeed. I’m arguing that you can’t know that an apparent terminal value is actually terminal in the sense that it is knowably logically independent of all the others, ie you can’t guarantee that someone won’t argue you out of one of your TV’s on the basis of the others.

          ”By your conception of epistemic rationality, the epistemic rationalist would reject all value.

          An epistemic rationalist would value truth and rationality. They might be troubled by their inability to justify that, as philosophers often are. The ideal of zero arbitrary beliefs and values may be unobtainable, but that doesn’t make any amount of arbitrariness unacceptable.

          ” In case I’ve been unclear, I’m not arguing for amoralism. I’m arguing that the amoralist gives a good reason to reject external conceptions of morality”

          Which are what? I haven’t seen you argue aong the lines that “as a rational person , you should reject external ,morality, because…”. I’ve only seen you argue that some people would not, as a matter of fact, follow external morality, whether there are rational reasons for it or not,

          “, but he fails to reject internal morality as constituted by practical reasoning, as in ethical egoism.”

          You need to argue that efficiently following arbitrary values is any kind of morality. Caligula looks like a counterexample.

          Report comment

    • Troy says:

      It depends on what you mean by the amoralist challenge. The most extreme position would perhaps be someone who denied the existence of normativity — i.e., claimed that all sentences of the form “A ought to X” or “A has reason to X” are false. Such a person will almost certainly at least practically contradict himself. For example, if he argues for amoralism, he appears to be representing amoralism as something you ought to believe or that one has reason to believe.

      The amoralist could instead admit the existence of epistemic norms but deny the existence of norms governing actions. But assuming he still reasons about what to do, even just at the level of “doing X will make it more likely that I’ll get Y,” he’s still following practical norms, and so contradicting his philosophical position.

      Perhaps he could only deny that there are moral norms, where this picks out some subset of the practical (action-guiding). This is probably the most common position, but to make sense of it we have to ask which norms in particular the amoralist is denying. Does he think that he ought to only follow his self-interest? Does he think that he ought to only aim to maximize his own desire satisfaction? The latter is a kind of Humeanism, the former what might more properly be called egoism. In both cases we can ask him why he accepts these norms and not ones we usually call moral; and in general he’ll be hard pressed to give a good answer.

      Of course, the best way to defeat skepticism about morality or normativity more generally is to give an argument for a certain positive normative theory. But that project is, shall we say, difficult.

      Report comment

      • Patrick says:

        Moral error theorist here. Those arguments don’t work. For the first paragraph, you’re conflating senses of the word “ought.” For the second, try an analogy. Someone claims that pepperoni pizza is objectively superior to extra cheese. I respond that this is little more than a subjective preference, which, while it may involve some objective facts (pepperoni pizza is objectively saltier than extra cheese, your taste buds operate in a particular way, etc), is ultimately arbitrary. Someone says, “Oh yeah? How do you explain the fact that you LOVE anchovy pizza, and hate pineapple and ham? Hmm, smart guy?” This wouldn’t even faze me. The fact that I acknowledge that a preference is arbitrary doesn’t mean I can’t have a preference.

        If you want a more on point example, I acknowledge that politeness norms are arbitrary, but I still adhere to American ones and raise my eyebrows when people violate them. Because I was born, raised, socialized, and now reside in America. If I were from Saudi Arabia I imagine I’d feel and behave otherwise.

        Your hypothetical amoralist (error theorist, as you’ve described him) could flat out endorse every moral norm the objective-morality-believer next to him holds, without fear of contradicting himself. He’d just acknowledge that his endorsement doesn’t reflect some kind of cosmic order or objective moral law, but rather the operation of his socialization, biology, and psychology.

        TLDR- Acknowledging that the human mind does stuff doesn’t make your mind stop doing it.

        Report comment

        • Troy says:

          Hi Patrick,

          I don’t think the first paragraph is conflating two senses of ‘ought.’ We use many of the same normative terms in discourse about belief and action — we say that you ought not believe contrary to the evidence and that you ought to keep your promises, that you have reasons to believe a proposition if there are good arguments for it and that you have reason to order a pepperoni pizza if you like pepperonis, etc. The terms ‘ought,’ ‘rational,’ ‘reason,’ etc. seem to mean more or less the same thing in these two domains — they’re certainly not univocal in the way that (baseball) ‘bat’ and (animal) ‘bat’ are univocal. It might be that there are objective norms for belief but not objective norms for action, but this would be a rather odd metaphysical states of affairs, and most of the arguments error-theorists offer seem to work just as well (if they work at all, of which I am skeptical) against the existence of epistemic norms as they do against the existence of moral norms.

          Turning to action: I suspect that even most actual psychopaths, and certainly most philosophical error theorists, in practice take the hypothetical imperative (take the means to your ends) as normative — i.e., they think that people who don’t take the means to their ends are irrational and they think they have themselves acted irrationality when they don’t take the means to their ends (e.g., because of laziness or weakness of will).

          It’s true that someone could say, “Well, I follow the hypothetical imperative myself, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not doing so.” (And similarly, someone could say, “I follow the evidence, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not doing so.”) But I think such a person is at least psychologically unrealistic, and possibly metaphysically impossible (if, e.g., it’s part of the nature of being a person that one acts intentionally and part of the nature of intentional action that one takes oneself to have reasons to act in certain ways).

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          Regarding Troy’s position: He doesn’t give the amoralist posistion enough credit. An amoralist could argue, for example:
          -The epistemic ‘ought’ is really two theoretical constructs that are related:
          (a): A theoretical construct designed to refer to a set of abstracted rules which represent things as they really are.
          (b): A theoretical construct designed to refer to a set of abstracted rules that tend to fullfill one’s own desires
          -The moral ‘ought’ is either incoherent (e.g. layman’s understanding of right and wrong), a myth (e.g. divine command theory or Kantian ethics), or reduces to human desires (e.g. Elizier’s metaethics), depending on which metaethics are adopted.

          What’s important here are moral norms. God doesn’t exist, nor does some sort of Kantian Absolute Morality. This leaves a morality rooted in human intutions as the only choice left- which involves defining the moral ‘ought’ as referring to human intuitions about right and wrong.

          The first problem is that these intutions contradict each other such that ultimately you can’t follow them. People’s moral intuitions contradict each other culturally, by personality and, by life experience. There are also things which undeniably affect moral intuitions but which people don’t want to include (such as beauty or one’s relationship to the parties involved, at least in concrete cases).

          Ultimately, therefore, it is inevitable that ambigious cases will exist in which, by a rule based on moral intutions, there is no answer without adding some additional rule that cannot be defended based on moral intutions alone.

          An arbitrary rule can be made such as ‘a morality we can all agree upon’, but this is a fiction for the sake of harmony and not anything that could be defended as real, so we can ignore it.

          The second problem is this. Say a person, any person, is in a posistion where what they want (presuming for the sake of argument that this is the case on a true emotional level) contradicts their moral system based in any possible moral rule. Looking at this situation, the moral “ought” and the epistemic “ought” are very clearly at odds- how is the moralist supposed to defend their posistion as being compatible with both, even in this case?

          I remind you in case you get this wrong- we’re assuming the moralist’s emotions, as truely as emotions can, and their moral theory conflict. This challenge is universialisable to practically any moral theory (except for something along the lines of blacktrance’s).

          Further notes:
          -It is irrelevant if a theory is ‘psycologically unrealistic’ because we are aiming for truth here. It is easily possible that something is completely true and psycologically impossible for humans to truely believe. This doesn’t mean we can’t believe it as much as our psyche allows. The behaviour of actual people is irrelevant- what’s relevant is what is true.
          -Regarding epistemic norms, a tendency to reliably reveal the truth is an arbiter. If different epistemic norms tend to work in different contexts, this is a reason to complexify epistemology based on what works in what contexts. This cannot be applied in morality, as different norms are applied to the same context depending on the judge of the situation.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “What’s important here are moral norms. God doesn’t exist, nor does some sort of Kantian Absolute Morality. This leaves a morality rooted in human intutions as the only choice left”

          There are other alternatives, one of which I described above. To see them described in greater detail, I recommend Morals by Agreement by David Gauthier. The problem is also addressed in a chapter of Jan Narveson’s The Libertarian Idea.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          A moral theory by contract feels to me too ridicolous to contemplate, but I can back that up with reasons.

          Taking the hypothetical premise that the only reason to be moral is the pragmatism of a contract, a rational actor would want to subvert the contract by breaking it strategically and feigning compliance. This particularly applies in modern society, where many actions that are contractrualist-immoral are smiled upon by some and can be gotten away with. Ultimately, it reduces to self-serving pragmatism taking into account what society would desire, which is no more than amoralism.

          A moral theory based on desires like you outlined is an extenstion of intuitions.

          Report comment

        • Patrick says:

          Troy- In normal conversation if someone says that “one ought to believe that the moon landing occurred,” the typical English language interpretation is something akin to “the occurrence of the moon landing is supported by sufficient evidence that one should accept it as being true.” The typical English language interpretation is NOT “given that the moon landing occurred, it is moral that one should believe that it occurred.” The speaker of the former statement may be presuming that the person with whom he is conversing believes the second statement, but he isn’t actually saying that.

          And you yourself run afoul of this issue when you write “he appears to be representing amoralism as something you ought to believe or that one has reason to believe.” There is a material difference between a conversation as to what one “ought” to believe given that one’s goal is to believe true things, and a conversation about whether one should “believe” something just because it is “true.”

          “Turning to action: I suspect that even most actual psychopaths, and certainly most philosophical error theorists, in practice take the hypothetical imperative (take the means to your ends) as normative — i.e., they think that people who don’t take the means to their ends are irrational and they think they have themselves acted irrationality when they don’t take the means to their ends (e.g., because of laziness or weakness of will).”

          I’m not 100% sure what you’re trying to express here, because you’ve made an error again. You treat the argument ‘Joe is intentionally not following the hypothetical imperative, therefore Joe is behaving irrationally’ as a normative argument. It isn’t. Example: Joe’s goal is drive to from California to New York. Joe rejects the hypothetical imperative, and is therefore driving his car due west, come what may. Conclusion: Joe is going to end up in an ocean, and not in New York. His means are irrational in that they are not rationally related to accomplishing his goals, and will in fact frustrate his goals.

          Note that this does not require the conclusion that Joe is behaving in a normatively wrongful fashion.

          “It’s true that someone could say, “Well, I follow the hypothetical imperative myself, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not doing so.” (And similarly, someone could say, “I follow the evidence, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not doing so.”)”

          There’s nothing problematic about those statements if the speaker is a moral error theorist, but is using the word “wrong” in the sense believed in by non moral error theorists.

          Look… here’s the thing. Evidence seems to support the conclusion that moral approval, moral disapproval, moral outrage, etc, are emotional states and nothing more. Humans have a tendency to reify the attribute “induces in me a particular action.” So food that their taste buds react pleasantly to are identified as having the trait “delicious,” babies that induce in them a desire to nurture are identified as having the trait “cute,” a member of the appropriate sex that makes them feel aroused is identified as having the trait “sexy,” and so on, up to and including actions that make them feel upset have the trait “wrong” and actions that they approve of and want to see more of have the trait “good.” And then people get in stupid arguments. If a pizza has the trait “delicious,” but you taste it and say that it’s gross, your taste buds must be malfunctioning. Eventually people realize that this can’t be right, and cede the points to which they’re least attached. They still talk about the pizza as “delicious,” but if pushed, acknowledge that it is only “delicious… to me,” that if we were evolved from insects we probably wouldn’t find human babies cute, etc. But the stronger people feel about the issue the harder it is to give up. And human moral emotions are strong indeed. But ultimately nothing else appears to being going on inside people’s craniums other than business as usual.

          So in the end, what’s left to do? Acknowledge that ceci n’est pas une pipe- that a gap exists between a thing and your emotional response to that thing, and that the gap consists of your brain’s interpretation of the thing. Then enjoy the pizza anyways, nurture the baby anyways, love the appropriately-gendered person anyways, and accept that you live in a universe where two people can have contradictory moral feelings without disagreeing on the nature of reality.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          Carinthium:

          Regarding contractarianism – rights theory is part of ethical theory, and contractarianism is one way of grounding what rights we have and why we have them. Also, it is in the contracting agents’ self-interests to set up an enforcing agent that prevents the parties from undermining the contract.

          “A moral theory based on desires like you outlined is an extenstion of intuitions.”

          I think there’s a significant difference between rational desire-satisfaction and moral intuitions, because moral intuitions are direct claims about what the content of morality is, while in the case of rational desire-satisfaction, there are no direct claims about what morality is and it has to be logically derived. You are correct to say that people’s moral intuitions can conflict, and this is a significant problem for basing morality on moral intuitions. But conflicts between the fulfillment of people’s desires is not a problem for morality based on rational desire-satisfaction. If your intuition is that X is moral and my intuition is that X is immoral, it’s possible for us to be unable to reach an agreement as long as we rely on our intuitions. But if we derive morality from rational desire-satisfaction, then we can come to a variety of agreements, such as “Doing X is moral for you and immoral for me, because of relevant differences between us”, “You doing X is moral even though it’s contrary to my desires, and me doing X is moral even though it’s contrary to your desires”, etc.

          Finally, I suspect we may be using the term “amoralism” differently. I am using it to mean something like “the rejection of all normative ethical theories” or “the belief that no normative statements are true”. What do you mean by it?

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          It’s far too broad to talk about it being the interests of the contracting parties to have enforcement mechanisms. In a typical contract, some clauses will be the interests of one party and some of the other- both will want to make sure clasues in their favour are enforced but have no reason to be interested in the clauses that were concessions on their part.

          As for rational desire-satisfaction, my apologies I misunderstood your posistion somewhat. It’s looking rather doubtful if it can be legitimately called a moral theory, but since that’s a definitional question I’ll leave it.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          “both will want to make sure clasues in their favour are enforced but have no reason to be interested in the clauses that were concessions on their part.”

          If the parties all prefer the enforcement of the contract (including the parts that were conceded) to its non-enforcement, it would be to their advantage to include enforcement mechanisms that enforce even those parts of the contract that they don’t like. (They can’t make a contract that only enforce the parts that they like, because other people wouldn’t agree to it.)

          “It’s looking rather doubtful if it can be legitimately called a moral theory, but since that’s a definitional question I’ll leave it.”

          FWIW, both contractarianism and egoism are classified as ethical theories in academic ethical philosophy, so if that’ll be your audience, then you should take that into account. Also, amoralists typically say things like “There is no such thing as a morally correct action”, “Any act is as good as another”, “There are no true statements about what one should do”, etc. To me, it seems strange to put my views in the same category as that position.

          Report comment

        • Troy says:

          Okay, lots of discussion here. I can’t reply to everything, but let me try to clarify my position in response to a few points. My views on normativity are very different than your average SSC-er, so there may have been failures of communication at a few points.

          First, on epistemic norms: I do not think that epistemic norms are a species of moral norms – i.e., I do not think that “one ought to believe that the moon landing occurred” means “it is moral to believe that the moon landing occurred.” Philosophers disagree over whether all norms are moral – whether normativity and morality are coextensional. I don’t think they are. I think that there are many non-moral norms, and that meta-ethics has been hindered by wrongly supposing that all norms are moral. Here are some other (non-epistemic) examples of non-moral normative statements:

          – “You ought to be more afraid of that hippopotamus – those things can kill you, you know.”
          – “You shouldn’t be so sad – things aren’t going so bad.”
          – “You ought not make plans you know you can’t carry out.”

          This is sticking purely with norms governing agents – if we consider “natural norms” there are arguably more (“Trees ought to grow strong roots,” “Hearts ought to pump blood”).

          Second, on prudence: I think Patrick, and perhaps Carinthium too, is taking the existence of prudential norms as somehow unproblematic in a way that other kinds of norms aren’t. I reject this asymmetry. Here’s an example:

          Conclusion: Joe is going to end up in an ocean, and not in New York. His means are irrational in that they are not rationally related to accomplishing his goals, and will in fact frustrate his goals.
          Note that this does not require the conclusion that Joe is behaving in a normatively wrongful fashion.

          I disagree with this last sentence. “Irrational” is a normative term of appraisal, just as surely as “immoral,” or “ought not” is. We can imagine Joe saying “I realize that my means are not conducive to my ends, but I don’t think my actions were irrational.”

          Perhaps you think that (something like) “it is irrational to not take effective means to your ends” is analytically true – you think this is just what “irrational” means. Against this, I would make two points: first, as above, “irrational” has a normative connotation that, say, “not likely to bring about your ends,” does not; and second that I, and many others, think that this statement is simply false. For example, I think that if someone desires something bad for themselves, it is irrational for them to pursue that end, and not irrational for them not to. Perhaps you think I’m wrong, but do you think I’ve just said something logically false (like “some bachelors are married”)?

          Here’s another example of the presumption that prudential norms are somehow unproblematic (analytic?):

          There is a material difference between a conversation as to what one “ought” to believe given that one’s goal is to believe true things, and a conversation about whether one should “believe” something just because it is “true.”

          On my way of understanding normativity, the fact that one has a goal to believe true things makes no difference to what epistemic norms one should follow. I think you ought to believe what’s supported by your evidence – regardless of whether or not you want to do so, or want to believe true things. If I understand this comment correctly, it denies that my position is even coherent, or takes me to be confused about the meaning of the word ‘ought,’ holding that there is a meaning of ‘ought’ on which “If your goal is to believe true things, you ought to believe what’s supported by your evidence” is analytic. In addressing this position I would appeal to arguments similar to those I gave above.

          A third point, because I can’t resist: I don’t think it can be reasonably maintained that in following epistemic norms we are always in some way acting in accordance with a desire to pursue the truth. Consider a simple case: I know that P, learn that P –> Q, and infer that Q. If P and P –> Q are just manifestly obvious, I will be unable to avoid this inference, no matter how much I desire to not believe Q and no matter how little I care about believing the truth. More generally, while various forms of self-deception are possible, belief is not under our voluntary control in the same way action is: I can’t just say to myself, “I’d like to believe Q,” and thereby believe Q. (Another problem for the desire-for-truth view is that young children follow rules like modus ponens, but do not yet have a concept of truth.)

          Further reading: arguments very similar to the above can be found in Terence Cuneo’s The Normative Web and Thomas Nagel’s The Possibility of Altruism.

          TLDR: not all norms are moral, and prudential norms are not exempt from the kind of criticism skeptics level at moral norms.

          Report comment

        • Patrick says:

          “I disagree with this last sentence. “Irrational” is a normative term of appraisal, just as surely as “immoral,” or “ought not” is. We can imagine Joe saying “I realize that my means are not conducive to my ends, but I don’t think my actions were irrational.””

          It is true that the word “irrational” has normative connotations in popular English speech, but that isn’t what you need for your argument to work. You need the speaker to be committed to actually believing or feeling the normative connotation, instead of just being stuck with it because he’s speaking English.

          Your argument is like a francophone claiming that nouns are inherently gendered, and supporting his claim by noting that even people who believe otherwise use gendered nouns when speaking French.

          “Against this, I would make two points: first, as above, “irrational” has a normative connotation that, say, “not likely to bring about your ends,” does not; and second that I, and many others, think that this statement is simply false. For example, I think that if someone desires something bad for themselves, it is irrational for them to pursue that end, and not irrational for them not to. Perhaps you think I’m wrong, but do you think I’ve just said something logically false (like “some bachelors are married”)?”

          I’ve addressed the first point. With respect to the second, even under moral error theory, selection of goals does not occur in a vacuum. It occurs in a milieu of other goals. You mention someone desiring something “bad” for them. I don’t think your sentence is necessarily logically false, though it may be, but I do think that you need to explain what “bad” means before your sentence could be parsed.

          Remember, error theorists aren’t saying that whether something is “bad” is arbitrary. They’re saying that “bad” as it is typically used is a crap category designed to masquerade a subjective statement about your reaction to something as an objective statement about the thing.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjOZtWZ56lc

          Morality is numberwang.

          Report comment

        • Troy says:

          It is true that the word “irrational” has normative connotations in popular English speech, but that isn’t what you need for your argument to work. You need the speaker to be committed to actually believing or feeling the normative connotation, instead of just being stuck with it because he’s speaking English.

          I don’t think that my argument has turned on peculiarities of the English language, although if you’re aware of other languages that function differently I’m open to being corrected. I take my linguistic points to be revealing facts about our underlying normative concepts. I think that when we think of an action or belief as irrational we think of it as wrong.

          I’m not sure I understand your counter-proposal. Is it that although the English word “irrational” is normative, the underlying concept isn’t (what would that mean?). Is it that the word/concept is ambiguous? Is it that we should (oops — there’s that word again) stipulate a sense of ‘rational’ that has no normative connotations?

          With respect to the second, even under moral error theory, selection of goals does not occur in a vacuum. It occurs in a milieu of other goals. You mention someone desiring something “bad” for them.

          Yes, one response to this kind of case is to say that an irrational desire is one that thwarts one’s other desires. But I think that many desires would remain irrational even if they did not thwart one’s other desires. It’s irrational for you to desire to be miserable even if you don’t also desire to be happy, and it’s irrational for you to pursue misery for yourself even if doing so thwarts none of your goals.

          I don’t think your sentence is necessarily logically false, though it may be, but I do think that you need to explain what “bad” means before your sentence could be parsed.

          My view on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is that Geach was right — goodness and badness are always of a kind, and so whether X is good for Y depends on whether X contributes to Y being a good member of its kind.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          blacktrance: You’re being too theoretical here, and ignoring practical matters. I’ll give a hypothetical example.

          Say A and B have a contract with Clauses 1, 2, and 3. Clause 1 works to A’s advantage, Clause 2 works to B’s advantage. Clause 3 works to B’s advantage as well.

          It’s true that, if the options are “no enforcement” and “enforcement which works for both”, A and B will both have an interest in “enforcement”. But in many cases how to enforce the contract will involve various possible mechanisms, with different degrees of actual capacity to enforce.

          Say one party sees an opportunity to double-cross the other and get their clause’s benefits anyway, or A gets a chance to reneg on Clause 3 whilst leaving B no choice but working with the amended deal. A contractrualist cannot process these sorts of scenarios, because they blindly assume the implicit value of keeping the contract.

          Another problem with contractrualism is that a contractrualist morality cannot cover “hard bargaining”- i.e. the sort of bargaining that leads to a deal which, according to most people’s moral intutions, would be ‘unfair’.

          A theory based purely on pursuing one’s own desires, amoralist or otherwise, gets around this- every step in negotiating is strategic to one’s own ends. A contracturalist is at risk of getting caught up moralising about a fair or appropriate contract when they could easily rip off the other party.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          Troy- I’m going to come at this in a whole new way. My basic thesis I will summarise at the start.

          BASIC THESIS: The way humans view language is irrelevant in this case because it distorts thought. All normative views in humans are irrational cognitive biases. Hence, as people who agree on an aim of the truth (even if it cannot be normatively justified, of course), we should agree to use our language differently.

          This doesn’t rule out the prudential ‘ought’, not as a normative ‘ought’, but merely as a linguistic means to indicate a person’s actions are counterproductive to their own ends. In this sense, ‘irrational’ can stay a word in the language without distorting human thought.

          People do pursue goals because they want to, and there is no reason to call this irrational. I have some desire to believe the truth and don’t like falsehood in philosophy to some degree, so there is nothing inconsistent in my arguing here.
          ——
          The above was a summary of my posistion. Now to demonstrate it.

          Let’s start with your thesis ‘It is irrational to desire to be miserable’. It is a practical fact that very few people desire this (except those who feel very guilty, and this is debtable). But from a theoretical perspective, there is no philosophical argument to demonstrate that this desire is Inherently Bad.

          Rationality of the sort I understand (involving only what ultimately achieves one’s own ends) passes the Amoralist Challenge, because it is rooted in what an entity needs to be to achieve what they want. Yours doesn’t.

          Take a fictional case of the entity, “A”, a computer program designed to make itself miserable because it’s programmer is bored. Why should it care that it is ‘irrational’ in your sense? The fact is pretty much irrelevant. By contrast, if making itself miserable is in any way difficult (say, because it lacks the capacity for misery), ‘irrationality’ in my sense is very relevant to ensure it achieves it’s end.

          Report comment

        • Troy says:

          Hi Carinthium,

          I disagree with your basic thesis about language: I don’t think it’s possible to study human concepts without studying human language. I’m fine with saying that in some cases, our terminology is unclear or unhelpful: but this is usually with derivative, more complicated concepts. Very basic concepts like know, ought, cause, and other perennial focuses of philosophical analysis are fundamental to our understanding the world at all, and the corresponding linguistic items cannot be “taboo”-ed without making discussion of the philosophical issues impossible.

          Let’s start with your thesis ‘It is irrational to desire to be miserable’. … from a theoretical perspective, there is no philosophical argument to demonstrate that this desire is Inherently Bad.

          Even granting this (which I don’t), my thesis is a metaphysical claim, and your claim here is an epistemological claim. That it’s irrational to desire to be miserable might be a priori even if there’s no separate philosophical argument for this. In this case it’s true that one couldn’t reply to a resolute skeptic about my claim. But one likewise couldn’t respond to someone who resolutely denied basic mathematical facts and the validity of modus ponens; being rational in believing something does not imply the ability to convince all skeptics.

          Take a fictional case of the entity, “A”, a computer program designed to make itself miserable because it’s programmer is bored. Why should it care that it is ‘irrational’ in your sense? The fact is pretty much irrelevant. By contrast, if making itself miserable is in any way difficult (say, because it lacks the capacity for misery), ‘irrationality’ in my sense is very relevant to ensure it achieves it’s end.

          As far as I can tell, the case of A desiring misery and A not taking the means to its ends are analogous in terms of what A can say to us and what we can say to it. In both cases, A can ask us “why should I care?” You can respond “because you won’t achieve your ends.” I can respond “because you’ll be miserable.” In both cases A can again respond “but I don’t care about achieving my ends,” or “I don’t care if I’m miserable.” You must say that it ought to care about achieving its ends, and I must say that it ought to care about being happy.

          You’re right that ‘irrationality’ in your sense is very relevant to ensure it achieves its ends. But ‘irrationality’ in my sense is relevant to ensure it achieves happiness, and I think that’s more important than achieving its ends. So I think it has more reason to care that it is ‘irrational’ in my sense.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          APatbrick,

          An error theorist has to hold that moral claims are false. You seem to hold that moral claims made by you are true statements about your preferences, etc.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          Carinthium

          The fact that some people might want to break a contact is insignificant. Contractual momorality cannot guarantee 100% compliance, nor can any other kind. Nor can any legal system. 100% compliance is simply not a requirement.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          Carinthium:
          “A contractrualist cannot process these sorts of scenarios, because they blindly assume the implicit value of keeping the contract.”

          A contractarian (contractualism is separate though related ethical theory, and not one I advocate) holds that the contract has value because it furthers agents’ own ends. If the agents can further their ends more effectively by not making a contract, or by subverting it, they should do that instead. The contract is not assumed to have implicit value, it is merely assumed that both parties’ ends and capabilities are structured such that they’d prefer the presence of a certain effectively enforced contract to the absence of a contract.

          “Another problem with contractrualism is that a contractrualist morality cannot cover ‘hard bargaining’- i.e. the sort of bargaining that leads to a deal which, according to most people’s moral intutions, would be ‘unfair’.”

          Contractarians usually reject moral intuitionism and say that if the contract is agreed to by the relevant parties, there’s nothing unfair about it. Indeed, they’d say that what counts as “unfair” is determined by the contract, so it makes no sense to call the contract itself “unfair”.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          blacktrance- In that case, it’s clearly not a moral theory at all. It’s pragmatism, in the ordinary man’s sense of the word. It also isn’t practically useful. A far more useful moral theory would be “What serves my own interests?” and ignore the rest of it.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          Apologies if this sounds harsh, but I’d compare your conception of rationality to a samurai code of honour- self-consistent, demanding, and utterly baseless.

          On human language:
          You appear to be mixing up “study of the human psyche” and “study of the world”. The question of “How do human beings understand ‘ought'” and the question of “What use of the term ‘ought’ is most productive for understanding the world as it actually is?” are different.

          You also claim that only more complicated concepts can be amended, while simple ones cannot. But why should you have this irrational faith that basic concepts aren’t misleading?

          The concepts of “reasonable” in it’s modern sense, referring to acting according to social mores, and “reason” in it’s modern sense used to be linked. But there is no reason to link them, illustrating this point.

          On irrationality of wanting to be miserable:
          What philosophical argument could possibly be used to illustrate being miserable as Inherently Irrational?

          What is rational is based on it being a reliable guide to what actually exists. Mathematical facts are reliable, as is modus ponens- this is proved by contradictions if you claim otherwise. Whether you believe in the contradiction or not, it clearly exists.

          Regarding A:
          If A doesn’t care about achieving A’s ends, then the thing you are calling A’s end is not actually A’s end. By definition, if something is A’s end he cares about achieving it.

          You assume that happiness is important. But WHY should happiness be important? Other than you wanting it to be, I can’t see any decent reason.

          Report comment

        • blacktrance says:

          Carinthium:

          At the risk of disputing definitions, I ask why you don’t consider this an ethical theory. Your classification is at odds with that of academic ethical theory, which classifies both contractarianism and egoism as ethical theories (and for a good reason, as they make normative claims about what people ought to do). One commonly accepted usage of morality is “what one ought to do regarding certain topics delineated as ‘moral'”, and my ethical theory provides an answer. Another commonly accepted usage of morality is “what one ought to do” in general, and my ethical theory provides an answer to that as well. Another commonly mentioned prerequisite for ethical theories is that error is possible (i.e. “This is good because I say it’s good” doesn’t count as an ethical theory), and error is possible here because one can fail to further one’s own ends.
          In contrast, the amoralist denies even pragmatism, egoism, and contractarianism – he denies that you ought to further your own ends, as he denies that there are any oughts in general.

          As for whether contractarianism is useful, it’s a specific claim about part of what would further an agent’s ends. “What serves my own interests?” is a very general question, and different ethical theories answer that differently. Contractarians say that making a certain contract furthers agents’ ends, virtue ethical egoists say that being virtuous furthers agents’ ends, etc.

          Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          Edit: This is Troy.

          You appear to be mixing up “study of the human psyche” and “study of the world”. The question of “How do human beings understand ‘ought’” and the question of “What use of the term ‘ought’ is most productive for understanding the world as it actually is?” are different.

          I agree that they are different questions, but I think that conceptual analysis is important for metaphysics, because our concepts are the means by which we understand the world.

          You also claim that only more complicated concepts can be amended, while simple ones cannot. But why should you have this irrational faith that basic concepts aren’t misleading?

          I’m not in principle opposed to any revision of primitive concepts, but I think it’s much harder to do coherently, and I’ve never seen an example where I’m convinced that a basic concept is in need of revision.

          What philosophical argument could possibly be used to illustrate being miserable as Inherently Irrational?

          What philosophical argument could possibly be used to illustrate not taking the means to your ends as Inherently Irrational?

          You assume that happiness is important. But WHY should happiness be important? Other than you wanting it to be, I can’t see any decent reason.

          You assume that achieving one’s ends is important. But WHY should achieving one’s ends be important? Other than one’s wanting it to be, I can’t see any decent reason.

          I apologize for the parroting, but one of my main points is that any criticism you can level at my conception of rationality can be levelled at yours as well. (I do have some thoughts about positive justifications for objective norms, but they’re too tentative and involve too much philosophical set-up that I’d rather not try to articulate them right now. I’d rather keep the discussion focused on whether our conceptions of rationality are disanalogous in any important way.) I take it that the following is your argument against this parallelism:

          If A doesn’t care about achieving A’s ends, then the thing you are calling A’s end is not actually A’s end. By definition, if something is A’s end he cares about achieving it.

          We need to be careful to keep related but distinct desires separate here. Consider:

          (1) A desire that P
          (2) A desire that one satisfies one’s desire that P (i.e., achieves one’s ends that P)
          (3) A desire that one satisfies one’s desires in general (i.e., achieves one’s ends)

          (1)-(3) are all distinct mental attitudes. It’s true that one cannot have (1) without having (1). But one can have (1) without (2), and one need not have (3). Plato argued in the Republic that people do not desire to have merely what they take to be good, but to have what is really good. Whether or not he’s right in general, I think that this is right in my case. So I do not have (3) – if I were given a choice between having everything that I want whether or not it’s good and having everything I want that actually is good, I would choose the latter. Similarly, someone could have (1) but not (2) if they thought their first-order desire was irrational. Consider a conservative Christian who wants to look at pornography but thinks this is wrong. He has a desire for pornography but not a desire to satisfy that desire.

          Someone who has (1) without (2) or who lacks (3) seems to me to be in a position to reply to you as I suggested A could. For example, if you presented the above Christian with a means to satisfy his pornographic desire, he would not think you have done him a favor; and he might indeed say, “I don’t want to satisfy that desire – it’s a bad desire!”

          You could say that desire =/= end, but substitute analyses of ‘end’ will either suffer from the same problem or be overly rationalistic for your project (e.g., end = something believed to be good).

          It’s also open to you to claim that it would be irrational to have (1) without (2), or not have (3). But this is a substantive claim, and people like me, who would rather have the good than the merely believed to be good, will not agree. From our perspective, pointing out to us that this sense of ‘rationality’ is relevant to achieving our ends is only relevant if achieving our ends is in itself good, something that we deny.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          A:
          Conceptual analysis of a sort is important. However, just because concepts are a way to understand the world doesn’t mean our concepts are the only, or the best means for understanding.

          B:
          Just because you haven’t seen an example before doesn’t mean you aren’t now.

          Your concept of “rational” mixes up a moral system with a system used to determine how best to act as well as what actually exists. This is effectively ruling out nihilism and amoralism by definition without adressing the substantial reasons for either.

          It also has other problems- it makes “rational” subjective rather than objective for practical purposes (different moral beliefs), it leads to people mixing up their own interests with what is morally right (confusing thought), etc.

          C, D, and E:
          First, we have to keep in mind that although people have a concept in their heads of Objective Good, this does not actually exist. We can therefore ignore all arguments about preferring objective good, becauase everyone who believes in objective good is delusional.

          Regarding the cases you discuss, I model them somewhat differently by making a distinction between the Conscious Self and the Subconscious Self. In your conservative example, the Conscious Self does not desire porn but is influenced by a Subconscious Self which drives him towards it. This is a definition of various brain aspects as ‘conscious’ or ‘subconscious’, rather than a neurological theory.

          If we are discussing the desires of the Conscious Self, in a human’s case, then 1 and 2 must be together. 3 must exist as an aggregate of 2 being the case in every individual instance of 1.

          If you want to refute this, you will have to somehow demonstrate the existence of Objective Good. Otherwise, the desires for an Objective Good are incoherent and therefore irrelevant for the purposes of analysis.

          Report comment

        • Troy says:

          Your concept of “rational” mixes up a moral system with a system used to determine how best to act as well as what actually exists. This is effectively ruling out nihilism and amoralism by definition without adressing the substantial reasons for either.

          All I’m trying to establish here is that your normative theory (what you’re calling amoralism) is, dialectically, on no firmer ground than mine. I am not offering a positive argument for my normative theory, although I am contending that any argument you can make against my system can either be parroted by an equally strong argument against your system or is independently unsuccessful. If you’d like to list what arguments you think this is not true for, I’ll do my best to respond to them.

          Regarding the cases you discuss, I model them somewhat differently by making a distinction between the Conscious Self and the Subconscious Self. In your conservative example, the Conscious Self does not desire porn but is influenced by a Subconscious Self which drives him towards it.

          I don’t understand how you’re drawing this distinction. Which desires are subconscious? Ones we don’t reflectively endorse? Ones we reflectively repudiate? And what would this theory do with 3rd-order repudiation of a 2nd-order repudiation of a 1st-order desire? For example, imagine someone who was raised Christian but now is not, desires porn, feels guilty about desiring porn, but also reflectively rejects his 2nd-order guilt because he thinks porn isn’t really wrong.

          If we are discussing the desires of the Conscious Self, in a human’s case, then 1 and 2 must be together.

          Whether this is true will depend on how you draw the above distinction, and so I’ll wait until you clarify that before responding to this. I will note, though, that (1) and (2) are distinct mental attitudes – they have different content. My porn case illustrated this, but that (1) and (2) are distinct is true whatever you say about that case. It would thus take an argument to show that necessarily, whenever a person has one he has the other.

          First, we have to keep in mind that although people have a concept in their heads of Objective Good, this does not actually exist. We can therefore ignore all arguments about preferring objective good, becauase everyone who believes in objective good is delusional.

          This is clearly question-begging in this context. But suppose it’s right. For what I’m trying to show here, it doesn’t matter. I’m trying to show that someone could respond to your urging the Hypothetical Imperative on them in exactly the same way you respond to my urging other norms upon you. For these purposes all I need to do is describe someone who isn’t moved by your pointing out to them that satisfying the Hypothetical Imperative is necessary to their achieving their ends. If that person’s rationale depends upon a desire for something nonexistent, so what? You won’t be able to show that there’s something wrong with that without assuming objective norms. If for example, you say that someone ought not desire something nonexistent, what is the force of that ‘ought’?

          You might justify it to the person by saying “but your desire is for something nonexistent, therefore it can’t be satisfied. So you ought to give it up if you care about getting what you want, because if you have this desire you’ll never get what you want.” But this assumes the very question at issue, which is whether we ought to try to get what we want, something I am denying.

          3 must exist as an aggregate of 2 being the case in every individual instance of 1.

          Let us suppose that (a) (2) does exist in every instance of (1), (b) unsatisfiable desires are not allowed, and (c) there is no objective good, so that a desire for it is unsatisfiable. I agree with none of these, but even granting them, (3) still doesn’t follow. For people have can have desires that are (known to be) individually satisfiable, but mutually unsatisfiable. I can want to visit my friend and want to stay home and play computer games, knowing that these are incompatible. Knowing that these are incompatible, I do not desire (3), which says that I desire that my desires in general be satisfied.

          The usual response to this is to amend (3) to something telling you to maximize expected utility. Call a desire to maximize expected utility (3*). Even given (a)-(c), clearly not everyone must have (3*). First, it’s empirically disconfirmed that people act in accordance with expected utility theory. (Google the Allais Paradox.) Second, there’s nothing in the content of each instance of (1)/(2) that provides any instruction on how to weigh desires against each other. Supposing that we assign higher utility to objects more strongly desired, that stronger desires should be preferred is a substantive normative claim that does not follow from merely having a strong desire.

          Main points:
          – My goal in this conversation is to establish dialectical parity between the hypothetical imperative and other norms.
          – Your subconscious/conscious decision needs sharpening. Can you state necessary and sufficient conditions for a desire being (sub)conscious?
          – Denying an objective good is question-begging in this context, and doesn’t help your project unless you assume objective norms (like “don’t desire what you can’t get”) to which you’re not dialectically entitled.
          – The hypothetical imperative at any rate needs to be amended to something like “Maximize expected utility” to be satisfiable, and a commitment to maximizing expected utility does not follow from simply having desires.

          Report comment

  17. blacktrance says:

    Assorted thoughts on motte-busting:

    1. Often, both sides agree with the motte position, so busting the motte is undesirable for everyone involved. You’d have to argue for a position you don’t hold, and winning means convincing people of something you yourself believe to be untrue. It’s the equivalent of burning down your own house to get the termites out.

    2. On the other hand, sometimes both sides don’t agree with the motte position. In such a situation, motte-busting may be a viable strategy. However, the motte is a more defensible position, and while busting it has a higher payoff, it’s also less likely to succeed, and can even have negative repercussions for you if you fail, such as if you ineptly and unsuccessfully attack a popular motte. I suspect that people who use motte-and-bailey tactics do so unintentionally – from the inside, it feels like there’s little distinction between motte and bailey. Whether you’re trying to convince onlookers or the person whose position you’re opposing, it’s probably more effective to clearly illustrate that the bailey is not the motte. Doing this sufficiently will either force your opponents into the bailey where they have to defend a more contentious position, or get them to abandon the “productive” parts of their position. It also makes the motte easier to destroy later, if that’s something you want to do.

    3. On the third hand, not all mottes are sturdy. People may think they’re retreating to an easily defensible position because it’s worked for them before because the people they usually argue with accept the motte-argument, but they rarely encounter anyone who says something like, “Actually, I disagree with a more fundamental premise” and then proceeds to engage with it, and the position they thought wouldn’t need to be defended may actually be difficult to defend.

    Report comment

    • Slow Learner says:

      I have done motte-attack with religious proselytes of various kinds. It’s odd, but many of them, despite the high levels of atheism and agnosticism in this country, are still somewhat shocked to find people who don’t believe in a deity and aren’t prepared to reverently accept wisdom from their holy book. So they assert presumed-uncontroversial points like “everyone knows there’s a God”. Oops…

      Report comment

  18. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    Embarrassingly basic question. Is it possible to subscribe to a single thread or only replies to my comment? When I sign up for follow-up comments my inbox gets flooded with all of the comments on that post.

    I’m spoiled by Disquis/Reddit style comment systems – so much easier to navigate.

    Report comment

    • lmm says:

      No, it’s not possible. I share your frustration. Scott has previously expressed a willingness to install a wordpress plugin that would provide such a thing if you can find one you’re willing to vouch for.

      Report comment

  19. Zathille says:

    While this is your blog, I’m always wary of bans without explanation, undocumented bans or crackdowns in general.

    If there is a reason why some reactionaries are being banned and others aren’t, I think it’d be for the best if the conditions were explicitated in the clearest way possible, else none understand why they are banned and feel like a victim of pure whim.

    Report comment

  20. JTHM says:

    Scott,

    Have you considered repulsorship as an alternative to censorship? Like, instead of dropping the banhammer, just post stuff that you like that but that you anticipate would cause the neoreactionaries’ numbers to thin a little. The line between an NRx-y comment and a non-NRx-y one isn’t perfectly demarcated, and it’s impossible for a commenter to know in advance exactly what you would or wouldn’t ban. There are probably also significant numbers of non-reactionaries who just happen to have some reactionary opinions, and they might be dissuaded from posting things that you might not want to dissuade them from posting. You’ve posted some really strong NRx bait over the years, especially your critiques of social justice. I think you need to identify what kinds of other political groups you want, and tailor your posts to attract them before you try dropping the banhammer on 50-90% of a particular faction. I mean, yeah, you try posting apolitical stuff, but that’s not what I’m talking about—it won’t actually rebalance the political skew of the commentariat, it just doesn’t attract any additional reactionaries. If you want a higher fraction of left-libertarian commenters or whatever, just make a list of stuff that they would like to read but reactionaries won’t and post that. Or just stop mentioning neoreaction so much. An argument about neoreaction, for or against, gets their attention.

    I’m not saying “Don’t feed the trolls,” because I don’t think they are all trolls. And it’s precisely because they’re not all trolls that I’m a little squeamish at your plan to cull their number. They *are* too numerous, but the political atmosphere of SSC is your own creation, whatever your intentions. The banhammer is a bit of a ham-handed way to correct your own mistakes.

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Unfortunately, the rules seem to be:

      Post stuff neoreactionaries agree with: Attract more neoreactionaries

      Post stuff neoreactionaries disagree with: Attract LOTS more neoreactionaries

      At the moment, I think neoreactionary-bait is “anything political outside very the banal things everyone else is talking about like minimum wage and Hobby Lobby”. Even left-liberal commentary is neoreaction-bait in that sense as long as it’s sufficiently meta-level and incisive. And I can’t guarantee everything political I want to talk about will always be left-liberal.

      This blog isn’t a public service. It’s something I write because I enjoy discussing whatever I’m thinking about at the time and whatever it is I find interesting at a particular moment. And I find politics really interesting a lot of the time. I’m much more willing to accept a solution that inconveniences other people than one that prevents me from using my blog for what I use it for.

      Report comment

      • Troy says:

        Scott, I think you get a lot of neoreactionaries not because you post about political stuff, but because you post intelligently about political stuff and because you (and most other commentators) are (at least comparatively) polite to the neoreactionaries who comment. I can think of no other left-of-center site that meets both those criteria. (And I hope it goes without saying that I think these are both good things.)

        Report comment

      • Eric Rall says:

        Is the problem you’re trying to address:

        1. Discussion/advocacy of neoreactionary view in general, or
        2. Discussion/advocacy of neoreactionary views on particularly sensitive issues (particularly race and gender)?

        If it’s #2, I’d like to suggest a viewpoint-neutral moderation rule that forbids discussion of race and gender issues in the comments section except when you’ve explicitly indicated in a particular post that it’s fair game (for example, you might do this on your one-social-justice-post-a-month).

        Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          Both, I think. With respect to 1) It’s that the lowest common denominator of neoreactionary thought hijack threads that have nothing to do with politics and turn it into politics – and not always particularly insightful ways – and as a result the people who aren’t there to talk about politics get tired and bored.

          Neoreactionary views are fine on topics that are *actually about politics*.

          With respect to 2), neoreactionary viewpoints often don’t meet the”2/3 out of true, kind, or necessary” criteria, which makes people get upset and leave.

          Report comment

      • Please please be as ban-happy as you need to be to not develop negative affect towards blogging. You are helping people more than you are hurting those few NR’s. I say this as sort of a NR.

        Report comment

    • Eli says:

      Coming soon to Slate Star Codex: “Mods are asleep: post neoreaction!” Wait, that’s actually about as bad as one of the other two things you post when mods are asleep…

      Report comment

    • von Kalifornen says:

      Problem is, people like to argue with things.

      Report comment

      • Viliam Búr says:

        Further problem is, neoreactionaries pretty much have no other place for expressing their political opinions in front of (1) sufficiently intelligent and rational audience which (2) isn’t already on their side.

        (For example, Less Wrong has smart readers, but also a soft taboo on politics, so the NR opinions expressed there would probably be quickly downvoted. More Right and personal blogs of NRs have the problem that no one except for other NRs is reading them.)

        So, whatever treatment Scott gives them here, it will probably still be the best treatment they could get anywhere, so they will continue to use this site for expressing their political opinions.

        I guess it kinda sucks for both sides.

        Neoreaction on Slate Star Codex is something like a creepy guy following a girl who clearly doesn’t reciprocate his interest, but is still the only attractive girl around kind enough that she hasn’t called the cops on him yet. :(

        Report comment

  21. Multiheaded says:

    I find your comments to be boring and lacking the intellectual novelty of some other reactionarie,s but you’re not a blatant shitposter/derailer. Unlike, say, me.

    Report comment

    • Multiheaded says:

      This was @jaime. Goddamn phone.

      Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I should probably mention that you’re enjoying the opposite problem as the neoreactionaries – you’re one of the blog’s few consistent leftist commenters, so I avoid banning you even though I really should. Try to abuse it slightly less.

      Report comment

      • Multiheaded says:

        I am aware of that, and I’ll say in good faith that I would be far more restrained if there were more leftists like Oligopsony and Zathille here. As it is, please understand my frustration at so few sharing far-left moral intuitions and ground-level assumptions (what is violence? what is power? how do we shape our world?) while liberals here take pains to empathize with the reactionary philosophies. I feel that it places an unfair burden on me to cover the inferential distances.

        Report comment

        • Matthew says:

          I object to the claim that liberals in the comments take pains to empathize with reactionary philosophies. Scott seems to empathize with them, and I think you may be projecting that onto the commentariat.

          That being said, there pretty clearly is a huge inferential distance between liberals and the far left here on the acceptable use of force.

          Report comment

        • Eli says:

          It’s ok. There’s other Marxists here. We just hide out.

          (Proof of Marxist cred: last week suntzuanime told me that my kind of ideology always causes the Holodomor because I’m not reformist enough.)

          Report comment

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Eli: yeah, I totally forgot you, comrade! We’ll show those liberals yet!

          Report comment

        • nydwracu says:

          I would start posting as a leftist, but I don’t think the difference would be very large outside certain specific topics that don’t come up here very often.

          (About a third of neoreaction has fairly strong Old Left sympathies, though this is obscured by the rhetorical utility of Stalin-bashing.)

          Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          I think we’re actually *mostly* leftists here…and even though Scott shuns the label, I don’t think any intelligent leftist fundamentally disagrees with anything he writes. I considered myself on the “left”, but Scott’s political views are closer to my own than any other blogger I have read.

          Leftists here hold a default perspective and thus don’t feel the need to re-iterate the position that everyone, by default, is already aware of. (It’s kind of how white people often don’t think of themselves as having a race – the default is always invisible and un-commented upon.)

          Report comment

        • Randy M says:

          Did Anon just tell multi to check his privilege? How droll!

          Report comment

        • trieste says:

          Anonymous, actually, here we’re mostly liberals, interested in free debate. You are suffering from liberal privilege that makes you fail to notice that people like Multi resent your cultural appropriation of the term left.

          Report comment

      • lmm says:

        I think of myself as leftist. OOC do I come across as such?

        Report comment

        • Multiheaded says:

          Frankly, I’ve been unsure if you’re even a liberal. I had you flagged as “LW type”.

          What are your thoughts on resource distribution/redistribution in a nutshell? Do you believe that business-as-usual features of past regimes such as denying women control over reproduction constitute an atrocity at least on par with direct physical violence?

          Report comment

        • lmm says:

          I’m in favour of progressive/redistributive taxation (and high inheritance tax) within what’s generally a free-market economy (but with natural monopolies either directly nationalised or heavily regulated, anti-cartel regulations, taxes on externalities like pollution and the like). I believe a basic income guarantee is probably a good replacement for unemployment benefit, but I don’t think it obviates the need for more directed, paternalistic government grants like nationalised healthcare, education, or old age pensions.

          “Denying women control over reproduction”… what a neutral phrase you have there. I’m opposed to rape (duh) or genital mutilation of those not of age to consent to it. I think reproduction should always be by mutual consent. I think a small number of those below the legal age of consent are in fact competent to make such decisions, and wish there were a way to enfranchise them without massively enabling the rape of their compatriots.

          But you’re presumably talking about abortion, and I think the government has a duty of care towards its most vulnerable citizens – which in at least some cases is what a fetus is. In terms of current law where I live (UK), I would argue for removing the provision that allows abortion of disabled fetuses after the 20-week limit on (what are in practice) at-will abortions, because, like, whether you’re disabled shouldn’t make a difference to how much of a person you are. I feel quite strongly that a medically viable fetus should have the same rights inside the womb that it would outside it (in fact this seems mind-numbingly obvious), and if there were a premature baby on a ventilator and its mother were trying to kill it I would want the police to protect the baby, by force if necessary. FWIW I heard the violinist analogy out of context and took the position that one is obliged to keep the violinist alive (though should ideally be compensated for one’s trouble), because his life is more important than the inconvenience to oneself in keeping him alive.

          At the other end of the scale the morning-after pill is fairly obviously ok because embryos fail to implant, like, all the time. I don’t have strong views on abortion after implantation but before viability, but would expect the gap between them to narrow to nothing in the not too distant future.

          I see my views on abortion as unrepresentative of my politics in general (there are many people with whom I agree on most issues but disagree on abortion), and outside view suggests they’re possibly a legacy of my Catholic upbringing.

          Report comment

        • Oligopsony says:

          Yup, you’re a liberal.

          Report comment

        • Kevin says:

          Nitpicky but important correction: the morning-after pill (essentially a super-strong dose of hormones) prevents fertilization. There’s no evidence that it affects implantation.

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          Regarding abortion (since for some reason I can’t reply directly to that one), I’m strictly an amoralist. But just to throw an interesting query at you:

          Let’s assume a situation where the woman was raped or otherwise clearly didn’t consent to the risk of getting pregnant (Otherwise it’s more ambigious). Why should they lose the right over their own body?

          At the absolute minimum, I think the woman should be compensated for the use of her body. Any less is indefensible. If I were to ban abortion (a policy which I see as defensible), I would have either the government or the rapist compensate the woman in such situations.

          Admittedly it would be very rare, but in extremis the situation could be a lot worse. Say the woman is a psycologically fragile person already (easily possible, especially if they have been raped)- the trauma of pregnancy might break them.

          Report comment

        • lmm says:

          @Carinthium

          Yeah, I almost said something about that case. Horrible situation, and one we can’t pretend doesn’t happen.

          Assuming we’re talking post-20-weeks, my view is that we’ve got two innocent people and should try to minimise the overall harm. A traumatic experience for one of them, bad as it is, doesn’t outweigh the life of the other. I’d try and make the same kind of decisions we do in conjoined-twin cases.

          (One other analogy: I understand that if an endangered bat nests in your house you can be made to move out, even though you’ve done nothing wrong. Obviously not the same scale of violation, but the principle seems similar)

          Report comment

        • Carinthium says:

          Just because society follows a certain principle doesn’t make it morally right. I’m playing devils advocate to an extent here in that I’m actually amoralist.

          That being said, do you agree in the idea of compensating the woman? Even if she wasn’t traumatised, it derails a life significantly to become pregnant so compensation for loss of earnings applies.

          Report comment

        • lmm says:

          Broadly yes. I have views about how we currently handle maternity pay and the like which tie into this but that’s definitely getting into banned territory.

          Report comment

  22. ‘motte busting’ sounds like trolling

    Report comment

    • Matthew says:

      I don’t think that is true. A troll just wants to provoke an overreaction; he doesn’t care if the premise he’s attacking survives as long he makes the defenders look ridiculous. A motte-buster may sincerely want to destroy the premise of the motte.

      Report comment

    • Eric Rall says:

      I think it’s very close to what’s referred to as “bullet-biting” in philosphical discussions. It tends to come up in response to thought experiments that are constructed to serve as counterexamples to a proposed principle.

      For example, take Nozick’s “Utility Monster”, a hypothetical sentient being who feels pleasure and pain far more intensely than any normal human and who gains utility in a linear function to the amount of resources devoted to “feeding” it. Under naive hedonistic utilitarianism, it is morally obligatory for everyone else to devote all available resources beyond basic subsitance and productive capital goods towards feeding the monster.

      A utilitarian responding to this may take one of three general approaches (assuming they don’t concede the argument and abandon utilitarianim):

      1. Attack the hypothetical as contrived and unrealistic to the point of being useless, or quibble with details to derail its implications,

      2. Make minor concessions to adjust their proposed form of utilitarianism to avoid the implications of the thought experiment, or

      3. “Bite the bullet” and say “Yes, of course it would be morally obligatory to feed the utility monster. Your point?”

      Report comment

      • Erik says:

        Relatedly, it may be that the motte logically implies the bailey across several steps of reasoning, so an attack on a weird-sounding bailey pursued to its conclusion winds up targeting an obvious-sounding motte.

        Report comment

  23. Anonymous says:

    Motte-busting makes perfect sense if you think there’s some force that’s causing lots of positions to become uncontroversial for bad reasons (such as religion, the Cathedral, reptilians, or certain cognitive biases). A position that’s both wrong and uncontroversial should be a rare thing if people’s beliefs aren’t systematically distorted in a particular direction, but if they are, you’d expect to see it happen all the time. This suggests that such people should keep the idea of motte-busting in mind even if the motte initially seems correct to them, because they should expect that they are not immune to the distortion.
    I think the author of the piece overreaches when he claims motte-and-bailey is a tactic designed to target conservatives. It seems like the kind of basic sophistry that’s probably been invented independently thousands of times in the course of various unrelated arguments (though given that he’s defined ‘conservatives’ as ‘people who merely respond to change or badness as it comes up’, he may be using it a bit himself here).

    Report comment

    • Daniel H says:

      A position that’s both wrong and uncontroversial should be a rare thing if people’s beliefs aren’t systematically distorted in a particular direction, but if they are, you’d expect to see it happen all the time.

      I agree that this is a sufficient condition for uncontroversial wrongness, but I think it’s hardly a necessary condition. People often adopt the opinions of those around them. This doesn’t seem like it trends in a particular direction, but it can still lead to prevalence of ideas for reasons other than their truth value. As such, even those who think that people’s individual opinions would, in isolation, trend towards truth (or be a random walk) should probably keep the technique in mind.

      On the other hand, I think the author of the original post oversells the technique. You shouldn’t indiscriminately bust mottes whose baileys you disagree with. Suppose somebody’s motte is “Sometimes people without certain privileges need safe spaces without being bothered by people who don’t understand their situation”, and you agree with that statement. No matter how outrageous the bailey, you probably shouldn’t go around saying “No, people without certain privileges should not be able to talk to each other without the interference of people who don’t understand their situation”. That would be stating an opinion most people, including you, think is wrong. This is both lying and unlikely to win you arguments.

      Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you saying that this whole thing is meta, and the author’s claim that this is a tactic to target conservatives is the bailey?

      Report comment

  24. James Miller says:

    Depending on your state’s laws Ozy could set up a daycare center at home. If you live with Ozy, parents would consider it a huge plus that Ozy lives with an MD.

    Report comment

  25. suntzuanime says:

    Well-kept gardens die when you pour herbicide on them. This seems like a bad move for the quality of the comments section; perhaps you are more interested in preserving your respectability among “decent folk”, though.

    Report comment

    • Anon says:

      Don’t know why you think the analogy is relevant. I have a strong belief that this is a major positive for the quality of the comments section, so… I guess our posts cancel out, neither offering any particular reason to side with us.

      Report comment

      • Drake. says:

        he was refering to the lw post “well-kept gardens die by pacifism”, wherein eliezer advocates for strict moderation because bad posting drives off good members (you might already be aware of this, your comment doesn’t really indicate one way or the other). i think he’s arguing that communities die just as surely if you start banning good members.

        Report comment

  26. rsaarelm says:

    Adding a “read more” cut after the first few paragraphs of the very long slatestarcodex articles would make the front page much nicer to view. Now you need to scroll over the entire recent very long post to get over to the slightly less recent post.

    Report comment

  27. Konkvistador says:

    Aren’t you worried selecting for only the highest quality reactionaries will make reaction look saner than it is?

    Report comment

    • Is selecting the best something like steelmanning?

      Report comment

    • Andy says:

      Not if anti-Reaction posts like the FAQ link to some of the lunacies of Reaction like some of Jim’s wilder moments. Also, there are the records of past comment positions such as “scientific progress stopped in 1972″ or “fire departments no longer rescue people” or other Reactionary lunacies that we anti-Reactionaries can pull out if y’all start looking too smart.
      I think Reactionary positions have some sanity to them, and can even be fitted into a broader Progressive framework. Prepare to be assimilated.

      Report comment

      • Something big happened in 1973 that looks a lot like a decline or halt in technical ability.

        Also, Jim is saner than he appears.

        Report comment

        • Andy says:

          Do you have a citation to this outside the NRx fermentation tank? Because I am surrounded by counterevidence – my desktop, my phone, my Kindle, the laptop I am typing this on, as well as the 4-day Geographic Information Systems conference I just got back from (4 days for us ordinary users – the advanced stuff for the hosts’ VIPs and partner networks continue on the weekends before and after the main events), which was saturated with new technical ways of displaying information, and included a number of very interesting ways to process data that were not around in 1973. The counterexamples I remember from that comment thread were the Concorde and the SR-71 Blackbird, as well as the lack of new supertall buildings, all of which had counterarguments based on the idea that these things weren’t as efficient as they needed to be to justify the additional performance. IE, despite being technically more sophisticated, the Concorde was generally a poor investment – not enough people willing to pay extra fly on it to recoup its costs. And modern planes outstrip older planes in terms of fuel efficiency and navigational accuracy, so forgive me if I say that this seems like a line of argument fabricated in order to make the modern world look worse than it is, and make NRx sound less loony.

          Report comment

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          my desktop, my phone, my Kindle, the laptop I am typing this on, as well as the 4-day Geographic Information Systems

          Note that these are all computer technologies. There have not been similar developments in transportation, medicine, space travel, energy, or civil engineering.

          Report comment

        • Andy says:

          Note that these are all computer technologies. There have not been similar developments in transportation, medicine, space travel, energy, or civil engineering.

          Yes, there have, even if there haven’t been the kind of quantum leaps (or low-hanging fruit, possibly) that we’ve seen in the computer field lately. Let’s go sector by sector.
          Transportation – in addition to my above point about planes being more efficient, modern cars are safe and much more efficient than they used to be. Also, self-driving cars are pretty damn cool, and while they were probably being worked on in 1973, we’re pretty close to having them to market. Container ships are also more fuel efficient than they used to be.
          Medicine – forgive me for laughing out loud at this point. Cancer survival rates, alone, would blow this claim out of the water, but also stem cell research, the entire field of HIV/AIDS research, and I have no idea how many new medicines and devices.
          Space Travel – Here I’ll concede the sole exception, but I’d argue that since space travel is generally seen as a high-risk, low-immediate-reward field, people and companies have little inclination to invest in it. It may need to wait for technologies in other fields to advance sufficiently for space travel to be attractive enough to invest serious technological resources in.
          Energy – I’m just going to link Wikipedia’s Timeline of Solar Cells which includes a number of advancements made after 1973, including thin-film solar cells, the dye-sensitized solar cell, and solar converters of 20 and 30% efficiency. And something I found with a 30-second Google search.
          Civil engineering – here we go a little more obscure, and less easy to Google, but I’d argue that the GIS stuff I’ve just spent most of the week drooling over represents a serious advance in being able to plan and model cities and infrastructure. However, that’s mostly been better computers and awareness in the field (getting engineering departments to give up their precious stacks of paper for a nice efficient computer system is harder than it looks, and even harder to get a city council to pay for it)
          Actual improvements are slower to roll out in civil engineering both because governments in the US have been fairly cash-strapped, and advances have to have a very high profit ration in order to overcome the sunk costs of our previous infrastructure. So advances are slow to replace current infrastructure. But I’ve found several advances in concrete composition that don’t get widely noticed, such as Tiocem, a concrete that has air-purifying properties, developed in the 90’s. It also sorta cleans itself.

          Report comment

        • Erik says:

          I am surrounded by counterevidence – my desktop, my phone, my Kindle, the laptop I am typing this on, as well as the 4-day Geographic Information Systems conference I just got back from (4 days for us ordinary users – the advanced stuff for the hosts’ VIPs and partner networks continue on the weekends before and after the main events), which was saturated with new technical ways of displaying information, and included a number of very interesting ways to process data that were not around in 1973.

          This is a little vague on which specific ways of processing data you are discussing, but I’m going to guess that a lot of them had already shown up in 1968, when Engelbart gave the Mother Of All Demos, showing off [precursors to] hyperlinks, document search, multimedia files with interactable graphics, collaborative editing, screen sharing, version control systems, videoconferencing, and a hell of a lot else.

          I won’t come on so strong as to say technological advance stopped, but somewhere around 1970-1973 there does seem to have been a shift to refinement of existing things.

          Report comment

        • von Kalifornen says:

          Jim is amazingly bad at seeing things from other people’s points of view, in any case. Not only is he bad at it plus belligerent, but he also doesn’t even have the common progressive Fake Open-Mindedness (having a rote list of Other Points Of View To See.)

          A lot has happened since 1972. But there does seem to have been a huge collapse in *power* as opposed to *control*. Jetpacks have become a joke, and nuclear power is fading away with no serious attempts to use it in space applications. OTOH, high-powered computing is unlocking whole new ways to use and manipulate energy. SpaceX has not yet succeeded in doing anything fundamentally new. The most interesting new power technology is lithium batteries. But control will only take us so far (unless you believe in the Singularity.)

          Report comment

        • Andy says:

          I won’t come on so strong as to say technological advance stopped, but somewhere around 1970-1973 there does seem to have been a shift to refinement of existing things.

          I agree with this point, but I think it’s more of a natural part of scientific progress – we have periods where there’s a lot very rapid quantum shifts, and then there’s periods where we figure out how to do a few new things with the new tools brought by the quantum shifts. Rapid advancement and consolidating ground, if you will.
          But in my view, this differs wholly in spirit and detail from the line of “science stopped in 1973!” and neoreactionaries should stop using that line if they don’t want to be mocked out of existence.
          It feels a bit like “science stopped!” is the bailey, and “there haven’t been massive, rapid advancements, we’re figuring out how to do new things with older tools,” is the motte. Too bad, because I really want to tear down that motte, nuke the bailey, and sow the whole thing with salt.
          Something is still an advancement even if it doesn’t make your socks roll up and down, even if it’s not something we were promised in the Jetsons, even if it’s an incremental advance building on top of others. You do not get to redefine Science because it helps to make your point, and those who attempt to do so should be mocked for very bad argumentation.
          “There are two kinds of scientific progress: the methodical experimentation and categorization which gradually extend the boundaries of knowledge, and the revolutionary leap of genius which redefines and transcends those boundaries. Acknowledging our debt to the former, we yearn, nonetheless, for the latter.”
          Source

          Report comment

        • Erik says:

          I’m fairly sure this isn’t motte-and-bailey, it’s internal dissent. Nydwracu disagrees with Jim, citing public-key cryptography and the Oculus Rift if I remember correctly. Nick B Steves argues that science is at least advancing far more slowly than various extrapolations would suggest, as there are more humans, more tools and more wealth around than a hundred years ago, so the recent lack of cubically more inventions suggests some limiting factor, and most of the candidates for limiting factors are very worrying. Nick Land is still happily optimistic about bitcoin, which he expects to set off some kind of transhuman machine economy with self-enforcing code-contracts. Various pessimists suggest that we’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit (or all the medium-hanging fruit, or all the fruit available without a ladder…)

          I’m tentatively working out a position, but I continue to boggle at Engelbart’s demo. “Yer a wizard, Douglas!” The man was showing off computing systems that I feel are comparable to core elements of Word, PowerPoint, Skype, Google Docs, Google Maps, Github among others 45 years ago, and most of the improvement since then feels like it’s been more detailed maps, bigger screens to show the more detailed maps on, and extra bandwidth to send the more detailed maps with.

          One thing that makes me tentative is that it’s very hard for me to say what “should” or “would” have been invented in a counterfactual history of faster scientific advance, or I’d be inventing it myself. One thing I think is a good development is high-level programming languages and high-level programming tools which are starting to become so powerful and abstract that they step away from feeling like a language. RPG Maker Vx Ace is a very powerful tool for a certain kind of game design, and I’d love to see its equivalent for program design.

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Medicine – forgive me for laughing out loud at this point

          The question is not whether I’ll forgive you, but whether I’ll have to forgive myself for ignoring this warning sign.

          Cancer survival rates, alone, would blow this claim out of the water

          Cancer survival rates are a lie (flash graph w/o: 1 2), 95% due to early diagnosis, completely unrelated to cures.

          Report comment

          • Slow Learner says:

            And how have early diagnosis rates improved? By the advance of science: knowing what to look for, better tests &c.
            So even if it’s all diagnosis, no treatment, the very fact that survival has improved tells you something is being done better.

            Equally, look into combat medicine; the amount of shit that would have killed people even ten years ago that now lands them in Headley Court for some hardcore rehabilitation is astounding.

            Report comment

        • Andy says:

          Cancer survival rates are a lie (graph), 95% due to early diagnosis, completely unrelated to cures.

          Okay, I stand corrected, that was a bad example. But it doesn’t wipe out the advances in early diagnosis, especially the genetic screening bits.
          And it really doesn’t wipe out all the other advances made since the early 70’s – the artificial heart, mass-produced insulin, better DNA sequencing, the ongoing mapping of the human genome, the entire field of HIV/AIDS research I mentioned earlier, joint transplants, stem-cell research, and I don’t know how many new compounds and proteins and bits of the human body we’re still discovering. I still think medicine has more than enough advances on its own to debunk the Reactionary claim of a decline in technical ability, unless you want to move the goalposts to “we haven’t had SUPER QUANTUM LEAPS therefore the modern world is corrupt!”

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Actually, it does wipe out the “advances” in early diagnosis of cancer. The vast majority of things labeled cancer are completely benign and shouldn’t be treated. Early diagnosis is early false positives. Mammograms are bad for you.

          If you mean BRCA, yes, it’s useful to know that you have a completely broken BRCA, but Myriad will also tell you that you have a 10% higher chance of breast cancer, which is worthless information, if it’s even true. Completely broken BRCAs only apply to 1 in 10,000 women. Genetics has advanced, but the only practical consequence is insulin.

          Also, it should worry you that your first recourse is not only an example of lack of medical progress, but an example where medicine fabricates progress.

          Report comment

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’d really appreciate an expansion of this section.

    > 5.1.1: The conventional wisdom among libertarians is completely different. I’ve heard of a study saying that people in the lower class are more likely to end up in the upper class than stay in the lower class, even over a period as short as ten years!

    > First of all, note that this is insane. Since the total must add up to 100%, this would mean that starting off poor actually makes you more likely to end up rich than someone who didn’t start off poor. If this were true, we should all send our children to school in the ghetto to maximize their life chances. This should be a red flag.

    Or not. People could die. In particular if the rich die more because the rich/poor divide is just a “younger people are poor, then the grow up and get rich, then they die” divide, this would make sense. (I don’t believe that this is the case, but I think it’s a common enough belief lately that you should address this in the section.)

    Report comment

    • Nornagest says:

      First of all, note that this is insane. Since the total must add up to 100%, this would mean that starting off poor actually makes you more likely to end up rich than someone who didn’t start off poor.

      The most likely option here seems to be that class is being defined in some nonstandard way, like for example in terms of debt burden. I have no idea what the actual population economics look like, but if everyone with a ton of debt either claws their way out or (more likely) declares bankruptcy inside ten years, then we could get the specified behavior as long as there’s a large enough supply of people falling into serious debt from the upper classes (which seems plausible). Conversely, people can limp along on moderate-but-not-extreme debt for quite some time.

      Report comment

  29. nydwracu says:

    Now that Roko’s Basilisk has hit Slate, someone should write a general theory of basilisks so I don’t have to.

    (They’re not really basilisks; they’re cockatrices. A true basilisk would operate by inducing perception of oneself as low-status, leading to suicide. Things like Roko’s, I suspect, operate by inducing paralyzing fear, though I can’t say if that’s really what’s going on without an insider account written by someone capable of accurately describing their mental states: what does it feel like from the inside to get Roko’s-Basilisked?)

    Report comment

    • Multiheaded says:

      A true basilisk would operate by inducing perception of oneself as low-status, leading to suicide. Things like Roko’s, I suspect, operate by inducing paralyzing fear

      No to both. What you’re describing is memetic hazards; a “true” basilisk would be an actual infohazard, meaning that it’s objectively dangerous to people who understand its logic, regardless of any emotional state it might or might not induce. This is speculated to be possible through weird acausal considerations.

      Report comment

      • Leonhart says:

        Here’s an example that doesn’t involve acausality.

        Consider a universe ruled by a God modelled loosely on the God of Christianity. Salient properties of this God: it demands belief; it demands that the belief be purely out of faith. If you were argued into your belief, then into the lake of fire you go!

        Suppose that this universe also contains a valid and correct argument for the existence of God. You read it and understand it, you’re fucked. Basilisk.

        Report comment

      • nydwracu says:

        “Objectively” requires metaphysical calls.

        Roko’s Basilisk is objectively dangerous if you believe the objective claims about it. So is hell. Abstracting away from that would make the concept a lot easier to use.

        Report comment

    • MugaSofer says:

      Now that Roko’s Basilisk has hit Slate

      … ah, crud. Of course it has.

      When did this happen?

      Report comment

    • A basilisk is an idea with the potential causal properties of, via it’s understanding by individuals, actualizing a disproportionate disadvantage for late adoption.

      At least that’s how I’ve been using the idea.

      Report comment

  30. Ben says:

    I’m amazed that when you spoke of ‘culling’ the neoreactionaries, they didn’t all start talking about gulags and crocodiles. Or did you just delete those comments?

    Report comment

    • Erik says:

      I think it’s a combination of honesty and objectivity on Scott’s part at work here. This neoreactionary is happy about Scott being open about who he’s banning from his site and why. Compare Theden: The SFWA is Full of Crocodiles. The SFWA didn’t just cull Vox Day, it lied about the reason for culling him, lied about culling him, and tried to prevent Vox correcting their lies on his own site to boot. Jibes about how badwrong Vox is replaced arguments why Vox is wrong. As one might expect if one were familiar with the Principle of Explosion, this stack of falsehood and incoherence laid the ground for the Janus-faced second act of some people trumpeting the SFWA’s diversity and inclusivity while other people trumpeted the SFWA’s progressivism and shat over everyone in the general political vicinity of Vox Day. (Also, those matters which shall not be mentioned on the open thread.)

      “Gulags and crocodiles” are terms, is my impression, to be deployed when the powers that be are behaving in underhanded (not necessarily violent) and totalitarian (not necessarily authoritarian) ways. They’re not general complaints about [micro]rulers that one dislikes.

      Now, if Scott were to start featuring particularly retarded neoreactionary comments in posts dedicated entirely to smearing and jeering, painted these as representative, misquoted neoreactionaries and deleted their original remarks, and tried to get moderators elsewhere to deny neoreactionaries a platform also on unrelated matters, then I’d call him a crocodile.

      Report comment

  31. Kiboh says:

    There was a thread on 4chan about possibilities for working at home; I saved one of the more useful posts. I’ll summarise it here:

    .There is a thing called ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ which pays around twice minimum wage and lets people work from home. Basically, employees look at search engine results (ideally, search engine results related to topics they have qualifications for) and work out how useful the results are. LeapForce, ButerHill and Lionbridge are companies which do this.

    .Talk2Rep and CallSource are hiring customer service representatives. Pay is only ~$9/hr and it presumably involves talking to people (some of whom will be unpleasant) over the phone, so probably not the best option, but still worth mentioning.

    .A company called Uber is hiring ‘email support techs’. Only requirement is a college degree and ‘experience using Zendesk’. Since you can download a free trial of Zendesk online, and since it’s insanely simple to understand, you can take a few hours out of your day and have all the ‘experience using Zendesk’ you’ll ever need. Or you can just blatantly lie to the recruiters and watch a Zendesk tutorial on Youtube: it basically amounts to the same thing.

    .Data entry jobs exist.

    Report comment

    • Ragnhild says:

      There is a thing called ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ which pays around twice minimum wage and lets people work from home. Basically, employees look at search engine results (ideally, search engine results related to topics they have qualifications for) and work out how useful the results are.

      What? SEO is rewriting a website so that it ranks higher in search results, usually by adding words to the ‘head’ part of the HTML files.

      When somebody says “There is a thing …” in 4chan they are usually lying, and intend to laugh at anyone that takes them seriously. Unless you already know enough about something to tell lies from truth you can’t learn about it from 4chan.

      Report comment

      • Leonhart says:

        I have worked in SEO for about a decade. (Thankfully, I now do other things as well.) Your description kinda ceased to be accurate long before I entered the industry :)

        You are, however, more correct than 4chan here.
        What Kiboh is describing sounds more like search engine quality assurance – that is, something the search engines themselves would do to assess the quality of their output. That’s no doubt still a thing, and it’s indeed about the optimisation of search engines, but it’s not SEO, which means “the industry outside of search engines that tries, implicitly or explicitly, to reverse-engineer them”.

        Report comment

      • Kiboh says:

        That’s actually my fault, not 4chan’s. The post itself didn’t include any details on what SEO meant, so I decided to be a good samaritan and do some research on my own. Unfortunately, it turns out that speed-reading the (highly biased and euphemistic) website of exactly one SEO company doesn’t produce the most reliable results. (who knew?)

        Report comment

  32. Nestor says:

    Is banning someone from an open comment system a solved problem nowadays? Because back when I used to run a few wp sites there was no clear mechanism to do this. Ip banning someone on a dynamic ip… complicated.

    I got banned from 4chan recently (A proud achievement) and it took about 30 seconds to circumvent by resetting the router.

    Report comment

  33. Mostly I’m impressed that I managed to make the list of Good Neoreactionaries (or at least Acceptable Neoreactionaries), since I’m fairly new here and don’t actually comment that often, and I wasn’t sure that anyone was paying attention. But maybe “not commenting that often” is part of the trick.

    Anyway, I came here after the anti-reax faq, but I stayed for the articles about the therapeutic effects of fish oil, and I’m not even joking about this. So keep up the good work, Scott.

    Report comment

    • Multiheaded says:

      You seem a nice enough person and I like you. I have a problem with Nyan being on the list, though, due to… a personal grudge (coughtranscough).

      Report comment

      • Vulture says:

        [tumblr-in-action-style joke about "transcoughs" goes here]

        Not to dig up what is apparently the source of a personal grudge, but I have to say that I wouldn’t have expected neoreaction to take much of a position on transgenderism in general. It seems like an issue that would just fall under “keep healthcare at modern levels”, at least to me.

        Report comment

        • My guess is that neoreactionaries want everything held stable, including gender roles. The one big change is for them (or people they agree with) to be in charge, and then stasis forever.

          If neoreaction took hold in a society where trans people were accepted as normal, neoreactionaries might well be neutral about trans people (especially if trans people were slotted into a hierarchy), but we aren’t in that society.

          Report comment

        • Erik says:

          Doesn’t this subject fall foul of the “no gender on the open thread” rule?

          Emailing my digressions on the topic to Nancy.

          Report comment

        • lmm says:

          Could you set up a Google Group or something (it’s not many clicks, though trivial inconveniences and all that)? I’m interested to see what you said.

          Report comment

        • Oligopsony says:

          I suspect the position of any given individual is going to come down to temperament, but the recommendation of the principles would seem to extend to tolerance towards degenerates of whatever stripe as long as they don’t get too uppity and political about it, while also upholding the right of the paterfamilias to throw children out in the streets (appropriately extending this up whatever meta-levels of uncontested governance.)

          Report comment

      • >I have a problem with Nyan being on the list, though, due to… a personal grudge

        Wat? Please explain, good sir.

        Report comment

    • Lavendar bubble tea says:

      The fish oil articles are really cool. The more recent one on how fish oil was accepted as something insurance could cover was actually one of the few article I’ve shared with people unlikely to find this site. I tend not to comment as much on those articles since I feel like other people have it covered/have better things to say, but a lot of times I’m tempted to just to write “Awesome article” in the comment section.

      I still don’t really know much about about a lot of the regular commentators so I’m also impressed that you were able to make that list. (Not sure if I agree with it because I don’t really know many people on here)

      Report comment

  34. bad at pseudonyms sorry says:

    I’m not a neoreactionary, but when you ban me, send me an email. I promise to be less incoherently frustrated with you over private communications. (but still frustrated, of course.)

    Report comment

    • Randy M says:

      I sense that this is a good/devious strategy because Scott seems likely to both be turned off by the trivial inconvenience and unable to turn down the polite reply.

      Report comment

  35. Erik says:

    This neoreactionary approves of your plan to swing the banhammer some more. I’d like to see a bit more detailed reasons in the future, though, such as a note of which specific gates were failed.

    Report comment

    • Andy says:

      This anti-neoreactionary seconds the notion of a public declaration of which gates were failed.

      Report comment

    • Anon says:

      I feel like it’s important for personal blogs to retain the ability to ban people for being detrimental without taking the time and effort to list specific reasons which could then be rule-lawyered. For personal blogs, comments policies are norms, not laws.

      Report comment

      • Andy says:

        Yes, but for those of us who A) like to argue vociferously, and B) have some social anxiety toward the possibility of defying rules or Ruining The Walled Garden, having very clear notices like “DID NOT CITE SOURCES” or “USED THE NONCENTRAL FALLACY TOO MUCH” or “INSULTED RAPE SURVIVORS” attached to severed heads helps us learn Not To Do That.

        Report comment

      • Erik says:

        I quite agree that Scott retains and should continue to retain the ability, right, power, and so forth to arbitrarily ban people from his blog, including banning them for rules-lawyering. I’ve been a DM myself and I have a form of floating errata for one of the most common categories of stupid rule interpretations: no getting infinite anything. (Which itself is not entirely literal. “No getting unbounded exponential-or-greater anything in linear time” would be more accurate.)

        But there are pitfalls beckoning on either side of the road: the jobsworth and the man of lawlessness.

        Report comment

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’d like to see absolutely no claims about why people are banned, beyond which particular comments triggered it. It would be terrible if Scott confabulated reasons.

      Report comment

      • lmm says:

        Isn’t that a fully general counterargument? I agree that Scott should reserve the right to ban people for any reason or none, but any guidance Scott is willing to give would be beneficial, I think.

        Report comment

  36. Lavendar bubble tea says:

    I recently found out that a site is selling a reasonably priced (compared to other models for this…) home sensory deprivation tank. So for about the price of a pool or sauna (or possibly even less) you can have your very own sensory deprivation tank. I’ve wanted to try using one of these tanks for a while but haven’t been able to receive access to one. So I’m excited for the possibility of it becoming more widespread. I’m sharing it here because I think that we should all go on a new age retreat, have drum circles and work out all collective differences between leftists, liberals, neo reactionaries and conservatives in the most stereotypical and saccharine way possible. some mind hackers/meditation fans might really like it/I suspect SSC has a lot of readers in the core demographic of sensory tank owners.

    Report comment

  37. Would it be possible to have the reply-to-comment feature in email notifications go to the comment in its context rather than to the top of the comments?

    Report comment

  38. Vulture says:

    I know that a vote-sorting system is infeasible here, but does anyone know of a WordPress plugin which would allow a “like” button or equivalent? Especially for comments along the lines of “I don’t know about anyone else, but my experience in this area has been…”, I think it would be nice to be able to see a rough agreement measure

    Report comment

  39. Multiheaded says:

    @Nancy: that’s mostly true of MM (although he’s often inconsistent and hypocritical). For 90% of NRx, that’s the motte, but the bailey is an utterly imaginary 18th century Europe with an ideology of total dominance for the set of people sufficiently like white tech dudes. For example, NyanSandwich is a really edgy and thoughtless bigot who imagines that trans people are there to be controlled and suppressed first, graciously allowed some scraps from heteronormativity’s table second.

    Report comment

    • Leo says:

      Could you please link to some of Nyan Sandwich’s writing about trans people? Not sure if looking to challenge my beliefs or feeling masochistic.

      Report comment

      • Yeah, seconding this. Where have I taken that position? I suppose I have a position that could be misconstrued as such if you really disliked me, but I wonder what my most “edgy and unthinking” public writing on the subject is.

        Report comment

      • I guess it was probably you who asked the latest question on my tumblr, but in case it was not, I’ve answered it with my official psoition.

        Report comment

        • Drake. says:

          since i don’t have a tumblr and am confused: what did you mean when you said

          I think the same “pretend to be normal” thing should be done in gender, with (less of but still some of) the same unofficial time and space for deviation.

          ?
          one interpretation (“people should act like their identified gender without making reference to the fact that they’re trans except when relevant”) seems fairly defensible, but another (“people should all conform to their sex so other people don’t have to bother thinking about it”) seems pretty, well, edgy and thoughtless.

          EDIT: aaaand apparently you posted it below. goddamn.

          Report comment

    • I think you’re being a bit over the top with your characterization of me. In reality I have trans friends, am civil to trans people, always use people’s desired pronouns unless I’m deliberately being an asshole or am instructed otherwise by the owner of a space, and have nonevil politics towards trans people (see below).

      That said, the factual content of your accusation is at least roughly correct. I do think degenerates (eg trans people) ought to be “suppressed” in favor of heteronormativity:

      To steer off the explicit gender angle, analogize to professionalism in the office. It is a fact that most or all people are not mentally conformant to the professional rational agent model that we use in business culture in that we have anxiety, irrational fears, feelings, laziness, etc. But to make things work smoothly, we “suppress” all that stuff and pretend to be professional, and nearly everyone is capable of making a convincing go at it. It works a lot better when everyone does so pretend than the alternative where it’s total chaos because everyone is a unique snowflake and it’s everyone else’s responsibility to tiptoe around frailties rather than everyone’s own responsibility to route around their own nonconformities. And then of course outside the professional environment, we have time and space for deviating from that model in private with friends, so that we are not fatigued by constantly pretending.

      I think the same “pretend to be normal” thing should be done in gender, with (less of but still some of) the same unofficial time and space for deviation.

      Leo, you can take this as my official hopefully not-too-hurtful position, without having to expose yourself to any previous unthinking bigotry.

      Scott, if this is too close to “no gender in the open thread”, please delete the whole thread.

      Report comment

      • Vulture says:

        Although your argument sounds not unreasonable, I don’t think the word “degenerate” is doing you any favors here.

        Report comment

      • Andy says:

        Scott, if this is too close to “no gender in the open thread”, please delete the whole thread.

        Seconded. Multi, in future it would probably behoove you to have an example of someone’s specific beliefs, perhaps linked with a content warning, as I’ve done in the past when dredging up specific examples of Jim’s.

        Although your argument sounds not unreasonable, I don’t think the word “degenerate” is doing you any favors here.

        Also seconded. Perhaps the word “non-conforming person” will sound nicer, and less like you want to inflict violence on trans people for being trans.

        Report comment

      • Multiheaded says:

        am civil to trans people, always use people’s desired pronouns unless I’m deliberately being an asshole or am instructed otherwise by the owner of a space

        have nonevil politics towards trans people

        Hahahahaha… Pistols at dawn! :slap:

        Someone make us a google group or another space where we could hang out, and then I’ll really lay down the hurt on this bullshit, and the liberals who tolerate such intolerance (arguing from my understanding of social dynamics, psychology and, like, a decade of personal experience). Andy, Nancy, vK and lmm are especially invited, as are any and all queer folks.

        I apologize to Scott again, that’ll be the last of this stuff ITT.

        Report comment

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        The third paragraph here is the kind of NRx writing that I wouldn’t mind seeing arbitrary amounts of here–it’s like you’re writing to persuade rather than to shock. The position is, in itself, potentially upsetting, but your presentation doesn’t make it more so. Kudos.

        Report comment

    • von Kalifornen says:

      My own view is that queer identities should be identified and integrated into heteronormativity. (The Laws of Queer Galantry is not a joke!)

      Report comment

  40. Andy says:

    A topic for the more Reactionary crowd: I’ve been interested by the state-as-corporation model, but I’d like to see it explained in a relatively concise fashion. Any sources?
    And I have a science-fiction/space opera concept brewing, but I’m running into some problems when writing a constitution. The primary nation is intended to be a blending of Progressive and Reactionary ideas – for example, there’s a monarch with very strong power, but the right to recall and depose the monarch is written into the Constitution. There’s a semi-feudal nobility with a local monopoly on violence (the local baron always has the biggest guns around, unless Royal forces intervene) but there’s a procedure to let peasants petition to recall their local noble, and the Royal Guard, which is dominated by commoners, ensures a fair election. It’s an unholy mess, but I have so far that the system evolved out of a massive slave revolt against a corporate state, followed by a period of anarchic civil war, ended by the first king beating down or co-opting all the other warlords. But I’m having trouble figuring out a good way to bring for-profit corporations into the governance structure without letting them have too much power. I’ve been playing around with the idea of a tricameral legislature – hereditary nobles, elected commoners, and corporate delegates – but I’ve been stuck on what powers should go to the corporate delegates, who would be the weakest of the three. The Nobles have the power of the purse, writing regulations, and ratifying treaties, the Commons have the power to confirm or deny Royal appointees like judges and semi-executive positions like the Chancellor… which doesn’t leave a lot for the Chamber of Commerce types to do. Any ideas?

    As a palliative to all this constitutional blather, I give you a verse and chorus from the anthem of the Star Kingdom of Arcturus. The tune is the same as “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

    They march upon the mountains, and they march across the plains
    To where the wicked oppressor is secure in their domains
    They’re loosing all the shackles, and they’re breaking all the chains,
    Justice is marching on.

    Glory, glory, Justice marches!
    Glory, glory, we will be free,
    Glory, glory, hear the footfalls!
    Justice is marching on.

    Report comment

    • Erik says:

      Best source I know of is Moldbug, but he’s not concise. Let me try summing up the state-as-corporation model first, and I can comment on your political setup later.

      There are two kinds of property: sovereign or primary property, and secondary property. Sovereign property is that which Bob holds, owns, controls, etc. because Bob has a big stick and will hit people who dispute his property. Secondary property is that which Bob holds, owns, controls, etc. because someone other than Bob has a big stick and will hit people who dispute Bob’s property. This “someone other” is often called things like police or government, and often also has the power to seize Bob’s property. Often they promise not to use this power, and being able to make this promise credible is a good way of keeping Bob happy.

      When a government nibbles at the edge of this promise, it may be called “eminent domain”; when a corporation does similarly, it’s usually with a clause along the lines of “Terms of Service may be subject to change without notice”.

      Most of what necessarily separates a government from a corporation is that a corporation holds secondary property. That corporations are usually organized for profit is an incidental, not a necessary, difference, and governments would in many cases be better off organizing for profit in a corporate manner. A private property restaurant organized for the profit of its owner, for instance, will generally make good food, because it has to sell good food in order to get customers in order to get money, as it can’t just beat customers up and take their money. (In theory. Semi-efficient market hypothesis, etc.)

      But, doesn’t sovereign property mean that a state can in fact beat its customers – its citizens – up and take their money? Well, yes, but that’s not actually profitable in the long run. In the Fnargl thought experiment, we suppose that the gold-hungry immortal Fnargl arrives on Earth a millennium ago to set up the Thousand-Year Fnarg enforced at the point of his alien death ray. If Fnargl simply enslaves everyone and orders them to start digging for gold on penalty of being zapped with the death ray, he’s going to also want farmers to keep the slaves fed, cheerleaders to keep slave morale up, doctors so the slaves keep reproducing and don’t die young… in the end, it’s probably less disruptive and more enriching if Fnargl just takes over the world, leaves the system mostly as is, imposes a tax payable in gold, and tries to speed up the advancement of civilization a bit so people can get around to inventing motorized excavators and the like. As a side effect, Fnargl will have a strong incentive to keep down crime, accidents, etc. because these reduce the amount of gold he’ll get in the long run.

      Governance by a corporate person allows for rulership by a fnargl-like semi-immortal who will have the right sort of very long planning horizon, (this is the part where state-as-corporation starts to get very optimistic, IMO) and also aligns people’s incentives. Right now the bureaucrat who writes a stupid law is practically impossible to fire (per Foseti) and will never see consequences of the stupid law; the elected representatives can blame “the bureaucracy” or “my voters” and dodge consequences quite well too since their pay isn’t tied to national tax income or anything else that the stupid laws might affect. Under corporate governance, stupid acts would result in financial penalties for the corporation, showing up directly in the internal corporate accounting as a sign to stop doing that. Thus, if we convert various countries and/or split them into city-states to be owned and run as corporations, they’ll probably do better.

      Report comment

      • JME says:

        In the view of reactionaries, what went wrong with the Congo Free State (or, to a less graphic extent, the British East India Company) that made their endeavors in for-profit government so infelicitous to their inhabitants?

        Alternatively, are there good models of for-profit government that got it right in reactionaries’ views?

        Report comment

        • Erik says:

          In the view of reactionaries, what went wrong with the Congo Free State (or, to a less graphic extent, the British East India Company) that made their endeavors in for-profit government so infelicitous to their inhabitants?

          Before the main answer, I wish to state my agreement with the underlying assumption that the Congo Free State went wrong. This is something [neo]reactionaries should account for, not try to wave away.

          The very cynical part of a reply: Insufficiently secure property rights, market illiquidity, lack of enforcement ability, and an utterly retarded incentive structure mangled through layers of bureaucracy. Going by parts –
          The Scramble for Africa and colonial disputes meant that Congo wasn’t a secure possession, but something of a quasi-commons which Belgium happened to be sitting on, so it was best to extract maximum resources now before someone else did.
          When Belgium started going into debt, it wasn’t able to borrow against the future income from the CSF, partly for the above reason, and partly because there wasn’t enough of a rubber market and cash flow available to monetize the future income stream properly. This meant that Belgium was pressed to cover the debt by extracting even more resources now at the cost of the long term.
          King Leopold was sitting a thousand miles away from the Congo and a hundred years away from our live video feeds and omnipresent cellphone cameras; if he got a lie from one of his colonial administrators, checking it was a convoluted process where he had to hire a detective squad and send them across half the world to investigate. Following it up was similarly hard for reasons of dealing with large swaths of recently-colonized land in a hostile environment (and that’s not a slur on the natives; I’m talking about the heat and malaria and so forth).
          Low-level soldiers on the spot were supposed to be there to keep the peace; what they got watching them was a bean-counter checking how many bullets they’d spent and rebels they’d killed; their means of counting got mangled into how many hands of alleged rebels they handed in with spent cartridges. The resulting incentive was paying soldiers to go out and shoot people and bring back a basket of severed hands. I’m fairly confident that this does not actually maximize profits for the government, so it should go in the “fuckup” category and not the “nasty things profit-maximizing governments would do to people” category.

          Speaking of fuckups, I will move on to the more combative part of a reply: What went wrong? Not much, really. Since we’re comparing the worst, what went wrong with Soviet Russia, Cambodia, Nigeria, North Korea, Nazi Germany, Turkish Armenia, Rwanda, Sudan, and a dozen other non-profit government places? Shit happens, and Belgian Congo is an outlier compared to, say, British Egypt. The Congo wasn’t even the site of a malevolent deliberate genocide, but an atrocious bungle during colonial uplift.

          Report comment

        • Erik says:

          JME wrote:

          Alternatively, are there good models of for-profit government that got it right in reactionaries’ views?

          Radish suggests Belgian Congo, a generation later.

          TIME Magazine wrote:

          In little more than a generation of intense economic effort, the Belgians have injected 20 centuries of Western mechanical progress into a Stone Age wilderness. The results are staggering: in forests, where 50 years ago there were no roads because the wheel was unknown, no schools because there was no alphabet, no peace because there was neither the will nor the means to enforce it, the sons of cannibals now mine the raw materials of the Atomic Age.

          Congo was briefly functioning at the level of a European country in various respects. Today, it has to a great extent collapsed. There are many terrible statistics on things like the civil wars and rape squads and low life expectancy and low literacy so forth, but one that stood out to me as marking a deeper regression than a mere outburst of violence is that the amount of paved road remaining in Congo is steadily falling and is now less than the diameter of Congo.

          edit: dangit, I’ve tried blockquote cite=JME and blockquote cite=”Time Magazine”, why is neither showing up? Added vulgar attributions.

          Report comment

        • Deiseach says:

          That’s a lovely notion: poor King Leopold miles and miles away in Belgium completely unaware of what the nasty low-level functionaries on the spot were doing.

          Unfortunately, it’s a load of tosh.

          Leopold ran the Belgian Congo as a personal possession (not as King of the Belgians but as his own personal money-making enterprise) since 1885. Complaints from various quarters, including missionaries on the spot, had been making their way back to Europe for quite some time.

          In 1903, the British Consul Sir Roger Casement visited the Belgian Congo and wrote what came to be known as the Casement Report. He’s a major minor figure in Irish history, if I may put it that way, so his name is still known in Ireland at least, which is how I know about it.

          This finally forced the Belgians to do something other than ignore the problem. However, there is a work from 1909 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, regarding how “improved” conditions were after this, titled The Crime of the Congo. You may be interested (or not) in the frontispiece of photographs of some of the persons with their hands chopped off – but then again, this is but the price to pay for “colonial uplift”, is it not?

          “Atrocious bungle” is, I fancy, a rather euphemistic way of putting it. I am steamingly angry that you or anyone can think to brush it off as “Ah, but it was so far away and long ago, how was anyone to know?”

          It was at the tail-end of the 19th century, the century of explosion of science, technology and progress. Africa as a continent was chock-full of European explorers (for instance, Stanley of ‘Dr Livingstone I presume’ fame had reported on the Congo and the potential for trade and development there, part of which was precisely that the natives were accustomed to trading and economically ambitious, that drew the interest of the Belgians).

          Missionaries amongst others were thick on the ground. Reports, letters, articles in the newspapers, photographs even were all flooding back to Europe about conditions. But huge profits from exploiting and mistreating the natives were also flooding back.

          Turning a blind eye to what was happening to savages as long as the money was coming in and Belgium was holding her own as a colonial power amongst the other European powers was not, therefore, that unusual a response. They had no excuse for not knowing what was going one; even in 1904 after the outcry caused by Casement’s report, they set up their own independent commission of enquiry which upheld the findings.

          (On an unrelated note, I am grimly amused by how often I find that I, who regard myself as a socially and religiously conservative centre-rightist in politics, am a flaming liberal and even leftist by American standards. If the above posts are a sample of neo-reactionism or whatever the damn thing is called, I am most definitely not a neo-reactionary).

          Report comment

        • Erik says:

          Deiseach: I didn’t say Leopold was “completely unaware”, I said verification was difficult (Leopold did eventually set down a commission which returned a negative verdict) and I wasn’t brushing anything off. “Atrocious bungle” isn’t euphemistic, in my opinion – would you rather I swear more? – euphemism would be something like “unfortunate accident”, and I agreed with JME that something went wrong with the Congo Free State, so I’d rather you didn’t paint me as some sort of whitewasher.

          I don’t contend that the Belgian exploitation of the Congo was some kind of acceptable price to pay for progress. I do contend that the Belgian exploitation of the Congo is an exceptional case which fails to demonstrate that for-profit governments are all-destroying forces, and that if for-profit government has blood on its hands, its alternative and competitor is arguably knee-deep in the stuff.

          Report comment

      • Troy says:

        in the end, it’s probably less disruptive and more enriching if Fnargl just takes over the world, leaves the system mostly as is, imposes a tax payable in gold, and tries to speed up the advancement of civilization a bit so people can get around to inventing motorized excavators and the like. As a side effect, Fnargl will have a strong incentive to keep down crime, accidents, etc. because these reduce the amount of gold he’ll get in the long run.

        Even if we assume that the incentives are as you suggest, some people are irrational, and will think that they can turn a profit through mistreatment of their citizens. True, such people will be punished by the market. And in many ordinary harmful business transactions (e.g., irrational discrimination in hiring) the positive effects of regulation are not worth the cost, and so I can understand leaving it to the market to punish people for those. But in the case of whole countries the potential for harm is on the scale of the Congo Free State, and I’m not okay with leaving it up to the market to punish rulers whose policies kill 10 million people.

        Report comment

        • Andy says:

          A second problem with the Fnargl parable: Fnargls don’t stay in place. One of the plot lines have a general idea for, the crescendo to the concept, was the necessary overthrow of a new King who refuses to enforce the law in favor of “natural hierarchies” put in his head by an adviser with Evola-ish philosophies – Tradition oriented toward a Platonic ideal outside time and space rather than “the facts on the ground,” led by his sister, who regrets the necessity of fighting her brother but goes forward anyway because if she seizes leadership of the rebellion, she can keep it from spiralling into a new age of chaos. It will be a great deal of fun to write.

          Report comment

        • Arguably, history punishes sufficiently bad governments, but it’s awfully slow.

          Report comment

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        There seems to be this persistent idea that if something is inefficient, the market will get rid of it.

        In fact, what happens is that a state beats its people (or does other inefficient things). Because of his inefficiency, it doesn’t last as long as a more efficient state. But by the time it dies, another state has arisen that didn’t learn the lesson and beats its people too.

        You end up with a steady state where states pop into and out of existence all along, the ones that beat their people pop out faster, but there’s always a consistent percentage of them and this percentage depends on how likely they are to begin as well as how long they last once they’ve begun.

        This is also true for, for instance, inefficient companies.

        The equivalent works for natural selection because reducing the number of inefficient organisms gets inherited and the next generation starts out with a lower percentage of inefficient organisms. It doesn’t work when the inefficient things are created from scratch in each generation.

        Report comment

    • Erik says:

      I’ve been stuck on what powers should go to the corporate delegates, who would be the weakest of the three.

      You might be interested in borrowing ideas from Nick Land, who wrote a bit about a trichotomy (and speculative post-collapse trichotomy-ocracy government) of ethno-nationalists, theo-traditionalists and techno-commercialists. The techno-commercialists would be fairly close to corporate delegates.

      You could start by splitting up “power of the purse”. I see at least three components it could usefully be reduced to: power to set/veto taxes, power to collect taxes, power to spend money. Extra possibility: all taxes (and tariffs, use fees, etc) are temporary by constitutional mandate, up for renewal or dismissal every N years. Possibly there’s a hard upper bound on N to avoid “forever minus one day” cheats – or maybe there isn’t, just custom and a social contract. Either way, the Foobar tax is up for renewal, the Plutocrats threaten to veto any proposed Foobar tax over a small percent, the Nobles counter with a threat to cut security spending and sit behind their private armies, the Plutocrats say that under the present circumstances they’ll accept one year of high Foobar taxes as a temporary measure, the Nobles demand at least a five-year planning horizon… is this giving you ideas yet?

      You could go with the historical standby that the particularly rich end up buying noble titles from incompetent noble families/heirs, so over time there’s a slow meritocratic-plutocratic drift from the Chamber of Commerce into the House of Lords or whatever.

      As a passive power, the corporate delegates (how are these selected? Income, market share, capitalization, brand recognition?) might be entitled to immunity from all new taxes during their term of service. This would prevent short-term money grabs. It would also tend to shift lawmaking towards the end of terms, so you’d want the terms of corporate delegates to be staggered, perhaps even semi-randomized. Though if given enough say in a particular new law, or various other compromises, they may opt to selectively waive this immunity, perhaps even because they want to demonstrate that they are supportive loyal citizens.

      Report comment

      • Andy says:

        (this is the part where state-as-corporation starts to get very optimistic, IMO)

        Very optimistic, I agree. And in the background of this, I do know this state was founded when peon-level workers of the Orion Company, a state-as-corporation fond of breeding and genetically engineering its workers, decided “enough!” and rose up in bloody revolt. So as a result, corporations are regarded as a kind of necessary evil, the way many Americans feel about government. I do know corporations are forbidden from owning lethal weapons, under pain of treason and royal seizure and redistribution of assets. Corporations also can’t own land, and so have to lease or rent it from the nobles who do. Thus, the local nobles are the ones who are employing force in the case of something like a nasty labor dispute. Since nobles are also the ones setting and enforcing local labor and safety regulations on their lands, they have the ability to get corporations to not abuse their workers, or to get workers to calm down and go back to work. To use the terms you referenced above, corporations have secondary property, nobles have semi-sovereign property, and the Monarch has very sovereign property, a very big stick, and the willingness to use it on any noble or corporation that gets uppity. As my main character starts off as a minor noble, holding a mineral-rich frontier area, these issues get explored a fair bit.
        For the corporate delegates, I was thinking the Chamber of Commerce has a limit of 50 shares that can be bought and sold, but only by corporations headquartered in the Kingdom. Corporations owning shares are ineligible for any government contracts or tax breaks. The corporation then selects a delegate or delegation to represent it in the Chamber, though there’s some variety there – at least one corporation, I think, will assign one of its shares to a person elected in terms by all of its workers, who may or may not agree with the rest of its delegates. But for the majority of corporate delegates, it’s determined that they are voting by the will of the corporation’s power structure.
        And I had a perception of the flow from the Chamber of Commerce to the House of Nobles (with King Hank I’s original revolutionaries being quite mixed in gender makeup, many offices in government have gender-neutral titles, this is the closest I will intentionally get to race and gender in this thread, sorry Scott) working both ways: not only do corporate executives occasionally get ennobled for charity work or something (though military service is the more common route), noble scions who aren’t in line for a fief might go into the private sector after publicly forswearing any inheritance of land or title, and making sure their company isn’t doing major business in the lands of their relatives. FE if John Huerta, second son of Duke Huerta, gets a job offer from StrexCorp, he can get a public contract swearing that StrexCorp will publicly obey exactly the same laws, and agrees to cooperate with random unannounced audits by the Royal Chancellery, to ensure that StrexCorp isn’t getting special favors from his family for as long as he works for them.
        Splitting the power of the purse is interesting. I’m also pondering the idea of nobles being confirmed for their fiefs after being nominated by the Monarch. And this can be streamlined – if the Baroness of Glass Dome is fairly sure she wants her oldest son to succeed her, she can get that ratified before she dies or abdicates in order to have a smooth transition when that time comes.
        Because I’m mostly an action author, rather than political intrigue I’ll be looking for ways that can go wrong violently and with explosions that can be fought with giant walking robots. Partly because why not robots, partly because I have A Grudge against Battletech authors. Definitely going to have a struggle over the throne at some point, hopefully much better-written than the FedCom Civil War.
        The point about the great distance from King Leopold to the Congo caught my eye, especially because I’d already pinpointed the Royal Guard, the elite commoners-only arm of the military, as a potential failure point in the system whereby nobles could be recalled and replaced by a majority of their subjects. If an incompetent or corrupt local Royal Guard commander, at a distance from the Monarch doesn’t bother to report that a petition has been made, or suppresses it, thinking that the commoners will get over their issues without needing to involve the Monarch, the populace might just boil over into full-out rebellion, thinking that the Monarch is ignoring their needs and desires in violation of the social contract. That’ll be a good hard mess for the Royal forces to sort out, combining counterinsurgency with systems theory to sort out the problems. And lots of explosions in between the yelling-at-each-other.

        Report comment

        • Erik says:

          Because I’m mostly an action author, rather than political intrigue I’ll be looking for ways that can go wrong violently and with explosions that can be fought with giant walking robots.

          Well then!

          Corporation gets abusive. Local noble A withdraws military protection from corporation. Violent commoners begin looting corporation and outlets. Corporation hires mercenary company from some other noble B to fend off commoners. (Speculative aside: what’s the status of mercenaries and “hired violence” and the like?) Nobles begin clashing too, A asserting that B is trampling on his fief, B asserting that A isn’t doing his job.

          King decides to experiment with setting up Special Economic Zone locally relaxing some of the restrictions on corporations. Corporations in zone start arming themselves. Nobles opine that this is verging on treason, then clash with the Royal Guard in attempt to shut down the zone and end this bullshit.

          Variant: Nobles opine that this is verging on treason, minutely examine the relaxed regulations of the zone, find loophole they can drive tanks through. Nobles call up their tanks and go to town on the corporations in that zone. Royal Guard mostly responsible for containing the violence.

          Report comment

  41. JME says:

    You probably have a big backlog of post ideas already, but for what it’s worth, I’d like to see a good analysis of the case for public support of the fine arts. It’s not a matter of great budgetary importance compared to, say, the military, but I’d be interested in seeing an analysis from someone more capable of understanding prima facie incomprehensible viewpoints than myself.

    Background: I have people in my family who are classical symphonic musicians, generally left-leaning. Some of them and their friends seem to regard public support for the fine arts as so self-evidently right that only a philistine or right-wing reactionary could oppose it.

    I remember a conversation about this that went something like this (arguments are not necessarily in order; trying not to strawman or steelman, but my memories are imperfect; also, there were two people, who basically agreed with each other but may have made subtly different arguments (one a family member, one not) whom I’ve merged under “art support advocate”):

    Art Support Advocate: Every great civilization has supported the arts. Whether we abandon great art or continue to ensure its survival is a defining aspect of whether we are civilized people or not.

    Me: I don’t know how true that is, but just because others have done something historically doesn’t strike me as a high recommendation, except as a conservative argument. Why can’t things like symphonies be supported privately?

    ASA: Not everything should be left to the free market, and some things have value beyond dollars and cents. Symphonies never really cover their own costs. Private support isn’t a real alternative: the real alternative is letting music die.

    Me: I didn’t mean to say that everything should be based on the free market; just that a specific case is needed for public support unless you have a socialist/command economy where everything is a state enterprise by default. In general, I don’t think the fact that something has high costs compared to revenues is good case for public subsidy. I suppose I could see the case for preserving classical symphonic music if it were really on the verge of extinction as an art form, at least to retain knowledge of it in a symphony or two or three, but surely you don’t mean music as a whole? I mean, hip-hop and country music generally aren’t publicly funded, and can do well privately, nor do you advocate publicly funding them.

    ASA: Well, pop music is a general sign of how uneducated and undiscerning the masses are. Its listeners are poor ignorant low-class people.

    Me: I’m lost as to why the tastes of the upper class are worthy of special subsidy.

    ASA: It’s not about subsidizing the tastes of the upper class. It’s that classical symphonic music ans the fine arts have intrinsic value.

    Me: Well… if classical music had some properties that made it objectively superior to other forms of music, maybe that could be a case? Like, I seem to have some vague recollection of a study where rats listening to Mozart learned faster than rats in silence, and rats in silence learned faster than rats listening to Iron Maiden?

    ASA: I don’t know about studies like that; it sounds dubious to me. That’s not what I’m talking about, though. I’m talking about intrinsic value.

    Me: I also suppose that with certain publicly available art forms, like public broadcasts or murals in public places, you could make the case that the art is a kind of public good, with no real way of charging for the service — that doesn’t apply to concerts in symphony halls, though, which are conventional rival and excludable goods.

    ASA: Public support is needed for concerts in symphony halls too.

    I’d be interested in seeing your thoughts — ideally, presenting the positive case for public support of the fine arts more sympathetically than I have without straying too far from actual advocates’ views.

    Report comment

    • lmm says:

      Arguments I might make:

      If you give someone $15 tonight, they go to a bar. But if you ask them to choose something worth $15 to receive in three months’ time, they pick symphony tickets. What we want isn’t always aligned with what we enjoy, but it’s also not always aligned with itself. Markets are bad at satisfying certain kinds of preferences.

      Some people value being part of a tradition. This preference is at a historical low, which makes it at least plausible that it might be higher in the future. But if we stop maintaining these traditions today, there is no way for future people to make them into traditions again.

      Report comment

      • Desertopa says:

        I can certainly believe that given the opportunity to receive something worth $15 in three months, the same people who would often spend that same money on bar attendance would choose to spend it on something else, but I find the assertion that they would or do choose to receive symphony tickets surprising. Do you have a source for that?

        Report comment

        • lmm says:

          I can’t find the result I saw on LW (am abroad on phone). Even assuming I’m remembering it correctly, what I said was a rhetorical exaggeration – but there was a result that people choose a more highbrow art when choosing for themselves in 3 months than when choosing for themselves now.

          Report comment

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I think what Desertopa is saying is that as stated, this argument is heavily privileging the hypothesis. For the case to support subsidies to highbrow art, you would need evidence that people choosing what to do in three months frequently choose highbrow art from among all possibilities. Choosing highbrow art in a binary decision between lowbrow art and highbrow art, or between highbrow art and the bar, isn’t enough.

          Report comment

      • JME says:

        Hmm… I find the “tradition-preference might increase in the future, so we should preserve traditions now even if we don’t see their value appropriately now” argument very interesting. It seems somewhat like an argument for ecological conservation, but applied to culture. Thanks.

        Report comment

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Though a possible counterargument is that people can also enjoy reviving traditions. I think it’s fair to say that the modern elite would much rather partake in a decades-defunct tradition than a continuing one. If tomorrow’s masses are like today’s elite, the nicest thing to do for them would be to kill off every tradition we can.

          Report comment

      • Nornagest says:

        But if we stop maintaining these traditions today, there is no way for future people to make them into traditions again.

        “Make some shit up” seems to be a popular option, even when there are legitimate traditions around to adopt.

        Report comment

    • caryatis says:

      There’s a –gasp– social justice argument for support of the arts. If there were no public funding, I don’t think symphonies would disappear, but they would almost certainly get more expensive. No more free museums or discounted tickets to the theatre, maybe no public libraries. Some low-income people who want “high” culture would have no access to it.

      Of course, one could argue those people don’t really exist outside the ranks of broke students.

      Report comment

      • lmm says:

        You still need to explain why it’s more important to have access to high culture than to, say, flashy sports cars.

        Report comment

      • blacktrance says:

        Why is this a case for supporting the arts, rather than for taking that money and giving it to poor people in cash? If their first choice for spending that money is on art, then it’s equivalent to a subsidy, and if they’d rather spend it on something else, then the subsidy would’ve been wasteful.

        Report comment

      • caryatis says:

        Agreed. The only argument I can think of there is that people need high culture, regardless of whether they think they need it. But since I don’t buy this I’m probably not the best person to argue for it.

        Report comment

      • 30 seconds-of-thought counterpoint is that democratizing art access lowers the quality that the market will accept and thus lowers the quality of the art. (Assuming quality of art one appreciates is correlated with wealth)

        Report comment

    • Andy says:

      Another argument is that symphonic musicians might not be terribly good at working in the private sector, and thus should be supported as a sort of WPA-ish jobs program. I can even see a NRx argument for this, a la the Moldbug point (sourced secondhand from the Anti-Reactionary FAQ) that Royal California could pave its roads in brick rather than asphalt, thus supplying meaningful jobs to many who would not otherwise be employed. This also provides a net gain, since those bricklayers (or musicians) go on to buy food and clothes, and thus employ many more people and keep the whole system running.
      Though I’d like to see symphonies employ other means of funding, including broadcasting symphonies on the Internet Pay-per-view or even into movie theaterss, or Kickstarter/Indiegogo, before drawing on the public coffers. But yes, I support public funding for the arts, including symphonies.

      Report comment

      • von Kalifornen says:

        Also useful in the modern world where all art can be copied (photographs of physical works, ubiquitous recorded music and video, etc) and it’s nigh-impossible to charge money for recordings.

        Report comment

    • Anthony says:

      This is something which Scott could profitably farm out to an actual reactionary (or neo-reactionary). The idea that the government should support good art is actually a pretty easy case to make for a non-libertarian rightist.

      Of course, a reactionary republic would have standards regarding the art it supported. The symphony musicians would probably do fine, so long as the music director stayed away from that weird atonal shit. Unless the director of the National Endowment for the Arts had really sophisticated taste, they could probably even play Copland and Stravisnky on the government dime.

      Report comment

  42. caryatis says:

    I suggest Ozy consider legal transcription. Good job for someone with a big vocabulary who can type fast (ideally a bit of a perfectionist). You can work from home with flexible hours. Downside is that it can be dull and you need to be able to meet deadlines. An established company would likely pay more than someone on Odesk.

    Report comment

  43. >I realize this is unfair, in that it’s not neoreactionaries’ fault that everyone else refuses to go to places where they are allowed to talk. Luckily, their whole ideology is that rulers have the right to optimize their territories for maximum productivity without regard for fairness to individuals, so I am sure they won’t object.

    Yep. Nothing like public mass executions of heretics to keep a polis sane and productive.

    Thanks for placing me in the “not harmful” branch of NRx. I’m surprised; my comments here are not exactly what I’d consider my best work.

    Report comment

  44. michael vassar says:

    I’m curious as to what the major downsides of camming are.
    Uber/Lyft driver sounds to me like the new flexible job that would work well for most people.

    Report comment

  45. switchnode says:

    [delurks]

    I have an odd hypothetical question that it seems like you might be interested in and/or have some idea about.

    I have no visual imagination whatsoever (resembling Galton’s case 98). The same goes for sound, smell, etc. Even my dreams are completely asensory, and for this reason I can always distinguish them, without effort, from real life. (I had heard of lucid dreaming as a child, but the idea of having or needing tricks to distinguish dreams from reality, and the ‘dream control’ aspect, were always totally bizarre to me.)

    Suppose that I develop schizophrenia, or start taking a drug with unfortunate side effects, or become highly stressed and sleep-deprived. Am I capable of hallucinating? At all? What would it even be like if I did?

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I have no real evidence for this, but I would guess you would. My basis is that schizophrenics describe their hallucinations as totally unlike auditory imagination, and in fact indistinguishable from real voices.

      (you may not be aware that for most people, being able to imagine sounds, and the “voice in your head” that thinks thoughts, sounds very different, in a hard to describe way, from real sounds)

      Also, the most interesting explanation I have heard for schizophrenic voices is an extreme bias in favor of interpreting background noise as signal, which doesn’t seem to require imagination at all.

      Report comment

      • nydwracu says:

        I sometimes get auditory hallucinations right before going to sleep. (My mother does too, though she’s never said whether her parents did.) They register as real sensory input — I once got out of bed to find out who was speaking Spanish right outside my window, but no one was there.

        Report comment

        • subforum says:

          During my own hypnagogic state, I’ll sometimes hear the voices of people I know in a way that registers as “real,” although in my case I remain aware that they’re coming from within my own head rather than elsewhere in the room. I don’t control the content of their words, and it feels as if I’m passively “hearing” them with the same faculty that perceives external sounds, as opposed to actively recalling the memory of their voices.

          I don’t know enough about the brain to make an informed guess as to what’s going on, but I suspect that it has something to do with volitional control over memory having shut down while awareness of being awake rather than dreaming remains operative.

          Report comment

        • Tom Womack says:

          I get those, though they’re usefully relaxing: I’ll have been lying tossing and turning, I get an auditory hallucination of a great big bell going ‘bong’ and pretty much immediately get to sleep.

          Report comment

      • rsaarelm says:

        I’d describe the difference in imagining visuals or sounds as re-experiencing recognizing a sensation (a visual sensation as a face, an auditory sensation as a tune) without re-experiencing the actual sensation.

        Report comment

      • Anonymous says:

        >you may not be aware that for most people, being able to imagine sounds, and the “voice in your head” that thinks thoughts, sounds very different, in a hard to describe way, from real sounds

        Hmm…well, they seem all the same to me (imagination, dreams, and real senses) except in vividness, and the fact that I know that imagined ones are imagined in the same way I know when I’m moving my own hand vs. when other people move my hand.

        Report comment

    • Oligopsony says:

      What’s an asensory dream like?

      Report comment

      • AspiringRationalist says:

        I have them occasionally, but not commonly. Other people’s experience with them may differ.
        For me, I have the mental experience of being in a particular situation and I mentally process the situation, but I just don’t have any sensory data. When I have asensory dreams, I don’t notice the lack of sensory data; it seems normal.
        The experience is not that different from reading fiction and imagining what it would be like to be in the story, just not imaging what things look like.

        Report comment

        • Both halves of what you said back a notion I’ve got– that part of what’s going on in dreams is what I call tags. If you were reading a wonderful book in a dream but don’t remember any of it when you wake up, you may have activated the “wonderful book” tag– you didn’t read any of it (or what you read wasn’t special) in the dream.

          Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      You’d probably still have disconnected thought processes, imagine situations that didn’t happen (false memories), and delusions concerning what was occurring around you?

      Report comment

  46. Tenoke says:

    Out of curiosity, what is happening with the technical improvement of SSC (specifically the comment section)? I remember that you were looking for someone to help you out, and I remember that there were some responses – did anything come out of it? If yes, should we soon expect some sort of a revamp of the commenting system? I assume that there are answers to those questions in a comment somewhere, but yeah, it is hard to sift through them here.

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So far nothing. No one recommended any good plugins I could use, and the site occasionally goes down when I install a plugin which makes me unwilling to experiment too much.

      Report comment

      • Andy says:

        Can you set up a non-public-facing copy of the site? This was a trick that worked well when I was setting up map services – we’d have a second service, called “Test” or “Dev,” experiment on it until it looked good, then copy the code and setting exactly to the “production” (customer-facing) side. I’d offer, but the languages and processes our services used are totally different from a WordPress site.

        Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          The problems seemed to have to do with performance under load, not the correctness of the code under test conditions. It is possible to simulate load, but I don’t think Scott is going to do that.

          Report comment

      • I just went searching for WordPress plugins that let visitors rate comments using upvotes and downvotes. I couldn’t find any to definitely recommend, but there are a few you could try.

        One possible one is UpDownUpDown. It hasn’t been updated since 2011, so it might not work, but a 2013 blog post said that it still worked at that time, so it might still be worth trying.

        I also found a few plugins that integrate comments completely with a third-party commenting system. Someone commented above that you had had problems with the Disqus plugin, which is a pity. I don’t know what those problems were, but maybe you wouldn’t have those problems with its competitor IntenseDebate. There is also a Facebook Comments plugin, but that would require all commenters to to sign in with a Facebook account, so I don’t recommend it.

        All other plugins I found had various problems:

        • the link was broken; the plugin had been removed from the WordPress plugin repository
        • the plugin only provided voting on posts, not on comments
        • the plugin integrated with a third-party site to store the ratings data, and the third-party site had only a limited free plan

        Report comment

  47. Armstrong For President 2020 says:

    Sounds like a sensible policy, but I’m a bit confused on one key point;

    Can commenters be banned for responses to flames by unbannable commenters?

    From my, admittedly skewed, perspective it seems like about a third to a half of bannable NRx / Reactionary content here is five to ten posts deep in a thread which starts with an ad hominem or explicit threat. If responding to that sort of bait means banning, I predict that will act as an incentive towards threadcrapping rather than the alternative.

    Report comment

    • Oligopsony says:

      If NRx shitposts are mostly troll-feeding, then that would presumably kill two birds with one stone.

      (Likewise I think James would serve as a nice sample for interested liberals of what reactionaries sound like when they’re not trying to seem reasonable to outsiders – it’s when the marks inevitably respond to him that everything gets derailed.)

      Report comment

  48. Hainish says:

    Ozy: Consider freelance copy-editing/proofreading. The schedule is pretty flexible, but you do have to meet deadlines. (You’d also need some sort of English-y degree.)

    Report comment

  49. Matthew says:

    Open thread seems like as good a place as any to raise the possibility of SSC-meetups. (I realize LessWrong already has meetups, but I suspect that meetups organized here might select slightly more for niceness, and also that the people gravitating here from LW may have slightly different interests than the ones who’ve stayed active there.)

    Anyway, I’m in Northern Virginia, and interested in the possibility of socializing with other astrocodecarians.

    Report comment

  50. James James says:

    Why is gravity not an anti-entropy force? It militates against a uniform distribution of matter, i.e. it appears to counter entropy. Why doesn’t the existence of gravity imply that entropy will not always increase?

    Report comment

    • anon1 says:

      (a) Gravity is not a new phenomenon. We basically started out with a minimal-entropy state and maximum compression and the universe is going to expand without limit from there.

      (b) Intuitively, when matter is gravitationally compressed, potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, raising the matter’s temperature. This opens up a whole new huge set of available microstates that satisfy the current macrostate, and it turns out that that this more than compensates for the fewer available positional states.

      Report comment

  51. moridinamael says:

    Is NRx just composed of Neal Stephenson fans, or is Neal Stephenson a Reactionary propagandist? Which way does the causality go?

    Report comment

    • lmm says:

      Is there even a correlation? I would expect many people in the demographic that seems to support NR to be Stephenson fans.

      Follow-up thought: what is the general NR view on literature? I’d expect that demographic to not have much truck with the “all good literature is pre-1970″ school of thought, but that would fit the general NR ideology well.

      Report comment

      • moridinamael says:

        I’m really just churlishly pointing out that every interesting idea expressed in NRx was fully explored and in Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, published in 1992 and 1995 respectively, regardless of whether neoreactionaries are aware of these books or not.

        Report comment

        • lmm says:

          I don’t think that’s entirely fair. The corporate governments were a background and the consequences barely touched on. Yes, the basic idea is pretty simple, but as with communism, the devil is in the details.

          Report comment

        • Leonard says:

          Actually most neoreactionary ideas are older, some of them being ancient. (Hence the “reactionary” part.) I.e., the East India Company predated Snow Crash by almost 400 years. The only really new stuff in NRx, at least in my view, is the idea to use modern technology to secure the state.

          All you need for reaction is old books. It’s why Mencius Moldbug calls Google books the “Sith library”.

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I don’t see anything reactionary in Snow Crash. It is about anarcho-capitalism. Moldbug was ancap before he was reactionary. The big divide among neo-reactionaries is whether ancap follows from reactionary ideas or whether it’s baggage that Moldbug carried along from his libertarian days.

          The Diamond Age is reactionary. Moreover, it has an important aspect in common with Moldbug, which is that it preaches reaction to a libertarian techie audience. I think that’s enough to simply call it neo-reactionary. Both it and Murray’s Coming Apart say that the upper class should preach what it practices. Neo-reactionaries preach those points, but also complains that the upper class preaches a lot of things that it does practice, but which the lower class cannot practice.

          But the central point of Moldbug, the central point of neo-reaction is how to view the current world, especially the current America. I don’t see much of this in Stephenson. I have heard people say that some of it is there, but I think it’s a small portion (not the popular portion) and buried pretty well.

          Report comment

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t see much of this in Stephenson. I have heard people say that some of it is there, but I think it’s a small portion (not the popular portion) and buried pretty well.

          In The Beginning… Was The Command Line is, like, 60% “Western popular culture is decadent and depraved”, with most of the remainder being cheerleading for an Apollonian strain of geek culture. There’s not a perfect overlap with NRx, partly for reasons that I won’t elaborate on by request of our gracious host, but it does seem to share some important memes.

          Of his published fiction (that I’ve read), Anathem probably goes into this in the most depth, with The Diamond Age in second place.

          Report comment

        • Anthony says:

          Neal Stephenson can’t be reactionary, because to be reactionary, you need endings.

          Report comment

        • Sarah says:

          I think it’s a generational thing. Moldbug is his *contemporary.*

          Report comment

    • Erik says:

      Neal Stephenson fan here.

      Report comment

  52. Ialdabaoth says:

    So, on a lighter note, what other board and card games do readers or writers of SSC play?

    Report comment

    • Zathille says:

      Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Pathfinder, some Magic: The Gathering on the side and the sheer weight of childhood nostalgia is drawing my interest to Yu-Gi-Oh.

      On a related note, Roll20 is an amazing tool for Tabletop games.

      Report comment

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        *nod* I’ve been looking into Roll20 a lot; I was somewhat frustrated with it last year but it sounds like they’ve made a lot of improvements. do they have a 3E-style distance calculator yet?

        Report comment

        • Zathille says:

          Try looking at other options in the page option menu. If anything, maybe Euclidean could be a good proxy. I remember Pathfinder/3.5 were options, as was 4th ed.

          I use Euclidean to play Warhammer on roll20, taking off the grid, changing units to inches and stuff.

          I digress, but the fact you can resize tokens to be proportional to the unit you set for distance measurement has allowed me to resize tokens to be just about the right size for the tabletop: 0.75 inches squared for infantry, 1.5 inches squared for monstrous units and 1 by 2 inches for cavalry. Very good stuff. Also sized the battlefield so it’s the equivalent of 6 ‘realm of battle’ table sets put together. The only problem is how zoomed out you need to be to get a good view.

          Roll20 is a powerful tool, with some creativity.

          Report comment

      • blacktrance says:

        I also play Yu-Gi-Oh, though I’ve been absent from the game for about a year and haven’t kept up with the meta.

        Report comment

    • lmm says:

      The games that keep me coming back are (riichi) Mahjong (skill, luck-pushing, inference, deceit, tradition. A game that has it all, as long as you’re willing to memorise a big scoring list amd have exactly four players, and don’t mind the lack of theme) and Tanto Cuore (an incrementally improved Dominion. Fast-paced, different every time you play, but with just enough interaction to make it interesting, pretty artwork, compact box (do not underestimate the importance of this). And a light-hearted theme that stops anyone taking it too seriously and encourages terrible jokes, although [REDACTED DUE TO DANGER OF BANNED TOPIC]).

      Honourable mention to Tokaido which is gentle and very pretty, and a good game to play with a group where you want to keep things friendly. Also Galaxy Trucker is great fun if you enjoy building spaceships and having them blow up, but I rarely get to play it because it’s rather big and heavy to transport.

      Report comment

    • Erik says:

      A lot of D&D 3.5e. (And derivatives, such as Mutants&Masterminds.)

      Many people say it’s shit, and while I usually agree with most of their arguments for why it’s shit, I don’t think the conclusion is justified. D&D 3.5e has a bunch of minor bugs like a ten-foot ladder costing less than a pair of ten-foot poles, suggesting that you should acquire your ten-foot poles by buying a ladder and hacking through the rungs. (If you are unscrupulous, you could try to buy a ladder, hack through the rungs, and sell the two ladder halves as ten-foot poles for profit. Be prepared to dodge objects thrown at you by an angry DM if you attempt this.)
      But that sort of micro-silliness doesn’t obviously disrupt the game when it’s consulted. If a D&D character wants to buy a ten-foot pole and the price is a bit too high, the worst it will do is stretch his purse. Whereas in (for example) Exalted 2e, which I do consider to be shit after having played it a few times, the descriptions and mechanics for a lot of things fail sanity checks in a way that badly affects the gameplay. For example, suppose a character has caught an infectious disease, and the DM wishes to determine if a kind samaritan catches the disease after helping the character. If you look at the Exalted 2e rules for disease transmission and the description of a common citizen, the citizen has a 60% chance of catching leprosy from being in the same house as a leper, and leprosy is the disease with the lowest infectious virulence in the rulebook. All other diseases have 100% chance of spreading to commoners and various other characters who become exposed to the disease without having raised their Disease Resistance skill above the starting value.

      As for most of the systems that are less shit than D&D, they also seem to have less content, but I’ve been positively experimenting with FATE/FUDGE for a while now.

      I also play some Settlers of Catan, Magic: the Gathering, Go, and Bridge.

      Report comment

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t think that is remotely the most serious critique of D&D 3.5. =P

        Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          not when there’s the Peasant Powered UltraHigh-Speed Rail, no.

          Report comment

        • Erik says:

          Perhaps the case of the Market for Ladders is not the most serious critique of 3.5, but I find it fairly representative nonetheless.

          The Peasant Rail is akin to reading a physics problem saying to disregard friction, and reasoning your way to a perpetual motion machine. You’ve taken a domain-specific simplification and assumed that the simplified factor (instead of friction, it’s the time interval between two actions on the same initiative count) remains negligible when scaled up indefinitely.

          Second, it doesn’t even work inside the game rules, because one can only ready actions in combat, and the peasants are not in combat, so they can’t ready an action to pass the parcel to the next person in line. (If you do put them in combat, they will rapidly cease to be a rail and become a mob of peasants.)

          Third, supposing you’ve selected a DM and selectively interpreted rules to get away with it, what you’re getting away with is basically Peasant-Powered Teleport, except you’re paying through the nose. It requires over a thousand peasants per mile (5280 feet), which translates to wages of 100gp per day per mile. Unless you’re in a big city, this will run out of peasants across any significant distance, and if you are in a big city, just hire a wizard to cast regular Teleport, which has a range measured in the hundreds of miles and is cheaper than the peasants at ten.

          Report comment

        • suntzuanime says:

          It’s representative of a class of nitpicking from people who want 3.5 to be even more 3.5 than it is, and patch the flaws in its physics engine. It’s not representative of the much larger group of people who think that a physics engine is a friggin’ stupid thing for an RPG to try to be.

          Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Objection: Exalted 2E, when taken as an actual physics engine, is delightfully weird.

          Report comment

      • lmm says:

        One of the good things about lighter systems is that it’s pretty easy to use content from another system with them.

        Report comment

    • Matthew says:

      Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

      Report comment

    • Multiheaded says:

      I used to play a fair bit of Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader, and had an absolute blast, but first our GM dropped out, then I volunteered, then it went the way of every project I start… I still can’t quite be arsed to find a new group, even though I know where to look.

      I looked at the Dark Heresy 2.0 beta and frankly I’m highly disappointed; instead of fixing the stuff that needs fixing (e.g. people without a special rule about them being cannon fodder aren’t even debilitated when you put a laspistol up against their head and pull the trigger) it introduced more complicated and nonsensical bullshit. The first version needs a lot of houseruling, but it still has a certain elegance in its balance of gamism/narrativism/simulationism and the signature d100 system.

      I also played some 3.0 with friends way back in the day.

      Report comment

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Many, but recently I’ve been playing a lot of Space Alert…

      Report comment

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      My own gamelist:

      RPGs:
      – My very own D&D4E/2E hybrid (because stock 4E drove me crazy, and 2E/3E consistently made me sad)
      – Exalted 2E, heavily modified
      – My oWoD / nWoD hybrid (oWoD for flavor, nWoD for rules)
      – Shadowrun 4E, lightly modified

      Board/Miniature games:
      – Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy
      – Descent: Journeys in the Dark, heavily modified
      – Battletech
      – Warhammer 40K

      Card Games:
      – Magic
      MechBrawl (an XCG I’m currently developing / playtesting)
      – Dominion sometimes

      Party Games:
      – Ladies & Gentlemen
      – Flux

      Unfortunately, right now I don’t really have any players who want to play with me, so my whole gaming shelf is just sitting in my basement, unused.

      Report comment

      • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

        Have you ever looked into Adventurer Conqueror King? I feel like it keeps the old school feel of earlier editions of D&D (its core is B/X by way of Rules Cyclopedia) while still using more modern gaming innovations that most OSR types refuse to touch. It’s not quite as combat optimized as 4e but it’s still only a few short steps from Chainmail so hardly a bad combat engine.

        Not to mention it’s the only RPG I’ve ever seen with verisimilitudinous worldbuilding built into the box, even sans official setting. The guy behind it is actually scarily obsessed with classical/medieval economics and it shows.

        Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’ve heard a lot of good things about ACK actually; if I ever progress my system past level 10 I’ll probably start borrowing heavily from it.

          Report comment

      • Matthew says:

        With Skype and Vassal, you can play with people without being physically near them.

        I sympathize, though. I have several games that I’ve never played, bought on the hope that I will someday get the chance to do so.

        Report comment

    • Andy says:

      Not many board or card games, but I’ve been working up one that’s an unholy bastard of Warhammer 40K, Warmaster, and D&D, where players would take the part of sorcerer-generals of small magical armies – 5-6 units at the norm, no larger than 10 including summons. At current rate, I miiiiight have something playtestable by the time of the next Open Thread. Maybe. Finding a group of playtesters is going to be a challenge when I can’t stand boardgame forums in general.

      Report comment

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I’ll playtest yours if you playtest mine!

        Report comment

        • Andy says:

          That’s too good an offer to pass up. Trade emails at the next Open Thread? I’ve put a note into my Big Ugly Notes Document that you’re interested.

          Report comment

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Why wait? I’m brent {dot} j {dot} dill {at} gmail {dot} com

        Report comment

        • Andy says:

          Because it’s not ready to be seen by anyone but me. It’s still screaming and wailing and covered in its own fluids, and I have a lot of work to do yet. Hopefully by the next Open Thread it will be suitable for company.
          And I’ve been in no shape to critically look at anyone else’s work, and won’t be for a while.

          Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Fair enough :)

          Report comment

      • Randy M says:

        I’ve got scraps of notes on several board games I’d like to design. At the rate I’m going, in a few months I’ll have scraps of notes on many board games I’d like to design.

        Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          heh. I’d love to collaborate with other Really Smart People on making games.

          Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          This seems to be evolving into a “talk about games we’re designing” subthread.

          *rubs hands together*

          All according to plan.

          So, lemme talk about the games I’ve already got mostly designed:

          MechBrawl is an XCG (Expandable Card Game, like Magic except the card packs aren’t randomized) where the cards represent components of a giant robot and/or maneuvers that your giant robot can perform to blow up other giant robots. MechBrawl has been sitting at ‘99% complete’ for almost a year and a half now.

          As build-and-play games go, it’s apparently pretty fun. A single 1v1 game lasts between five and fifteen minutes, so you can try lots of different things in a one-hour game session.

          Adventurers! is sort of like Descent: Journeys in the Dark, which is sort of like super-simplified D&D. Adventurers! is unique in that there is no DM – monsters and traps are controlled entirely by randomized card decks. It’s designed for 4 players, but should work reasonably well for anywhere from 3 to 8. Adventurers! is about 80% ready for playtesting.

          Kingdom of Flowers is a game explicitly designed to teach 6 to 10 year old girls deep strategy game concepts. You play one of four magical princesses wandering the kingdom, recruiting allies to defeat the evil Queen who’s trying to enslave everyone. Different allies are strong in Courage, Wisdom or Kindness, each of which is necessary to defeat certain monsters. Kingdom of Flowers is still mostly in the design phase.

          Report comment

        • Randy M says:

          “Kingdom of Flowers is a game explicitly designed to teach 6 to 10 year old girls deep strategy game concepts. ”

          Oh, well, that reminds me, I did have one game complete enough to play; it was basically a dumbed down and rethemed Smash-Up my daughter illustrated that I made for her to practice arithmatic. Punch lines were such as “My ghost, fairy, and kitten manage to ‘dig a hole’!” “Well my tiger and werewolf can ‘scare a human’!”

          Yours has my interest.

          Report comment

  53. Adam Casey says:

    I very much enjoyed Ozy’s post. Any plans to have more guest posts?

    Report comment

  54. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    I just realized something I feel very foolish for missing about the steady GDP graph: not only does it say that women’s entry into the workforce had no effect on GDP, it says that nothing had any long-term effect on GDP. If we take this seriously, doesn’t that tell us that any policy we adopt to increase growth is misguided, since nothing affects growth?

    Report comment

    • More exactly, if the graph is sound, then nothing we know of affects growth.

      It’s hard to come up with a policy which both new and plausible.

      Report comment

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Scott Alalready made this point in his review of The Great Stagnation.

      There’s another thing that bothers me too, which is the sheer damnable linearity of the economic laws. The growth of science as measured in papers/year; the growth of innovation as measured in patents; the growth of computation as measured by Moore’s Law; the growth of the economy as measured in GDP. All so straight you could use them to hang up a picture. These lines don’t care what we humans do, who we vote for, what laws we pass, what we invent, what geese that lay long-hanging fruit have or have not been killed. The Gods of the Straight Lines seem right up there with the Gods of the Copybook Headings in the category of things that tend to return no matter how hard you try to kick them away. They were saying back a few decades ago Moore’s Law would stop because of basic physical restrictions on possible transistor size, and we worked around those, which means the Gods of the Straight Lines are more powerful than physics.

      Report comment

  55. Douglas Knight says:

    Scott,

    How about you close the comments on Map-Territory Distinctions? At the very least, it would be an experiment to learn if that would change the amount of spam, or just spread it thin.

    ━━━━━━━━━

    If I link to SSC, it thinks I’m a spammer. But if I give a relative link, it doesn’t.

    Report comment

  56. buckwheatloaf says:

    why is the comment section so skinny. can we widen it up to normal width. the width of original comments feels a bit cramped by the margins as it is, but i can deal with it, but when people start replying to each other then their comments get too squished to the point where i will just ignore them. i had a tuna subway sandwich the other day (it was pretty tasty) and the dimensions of so many of the comments reminds me of that. for a sandwich those dimension are cool. for comments to a blog they’re not.

    Report comment

  57. Ialdabaoth says:

    So, I see you added ads! Awesome!

    Why do they keep coming up as Asian dating sites?

    Report comment

  58. Matthew says:

    The Moloch post has reminded me to ask this…

    After the last time Scott mentioned the series, I went and read Kushiel’s Dart. And I have to say that while it was great as pornography, it seemed pretty trite as fantasy. Does the series get better as it goes on, or am I likely to be unimpressed by the rest of them if I was unimpressed by the first one?

    Report comment

  59. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    Perhaps its time for a spam filter.

    Report comment

  60. Matthew says:

    I made myself a gravatar, but it’s not showing up here. Can someone tell what step I’ve failed to complete?

    Report comment

  61. Erik says:

    Weird, how did this comment wind up above the “What?” made three days earlier by Anon?

    Report comment

  62. Anonymous says:

    replies to deleted comments (and further replies, which is annoying) wind up at the very bottom.

    Report comment

  63. Nornagest says:

    Well, that’s the best spambot name I’ve seen for a while.

    Report comment