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More Links For September 2014

Jeff Kaufman wades through conflicting claims about the effectiveness of SAT coaching.

And speaking of which: Scott Aaronson endorses Steven Pinker’s critique of the college admissions process, which you might remember from the last links post here. Yet another very persuasive essay. Key quote: “I admit that my views on this matter might be colored by my strange (though as I’ve learned, not at all unique) experience, of getting rejected from almost every “top” college in the United States, and then, ten years later, getting recruited for faculty jobs by the very same institutions that had rejected me as a teenager.”

Related to a recent conversation here: How To Fake Your Way Through Hegel. (h/t Oligopsony)

We don’t really know anything about the the London Stone except that it’s been called “the London Stone” and considered important in some way since at least 1100. Unproven theories include a Druidic cult object, the milestone marking the center of Roman Britain, a magical talisman protecting the city, and the stone from which King Arthur pulled his sword. It is currently in a little case built into the front of a bookstore.

Civilization: Beyond Earth (unofficially: “Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri II”) is available for pre-order for its October 24 release and has been gradually releasing faction information. They have a tough job: they need to live up to the beloved factions of their predecessors, match them to real-world countries, have them be sufficiently different to be interesting, and avoid the trap where there is the Generic Military Faction which thinks Strength Is The Greatest Good and the Generic Religious Faction which wants to Kill The Infidel. Currently I rate them a “C”. The Slavic Federation seems almost perfectly generic, the People’s African Union takes the easiest angle possible, the Polystralians are best described as “cute, I guess”, and only the Kavithan Protectorate seems to show slight signs of anything unexpected or creative. Given how burnt I felt after pre-ordering Civilization V, and this game’s reliance on the same engine, I might just wait and see.

Indian officials are investigating how the monkey god Hanuman got issued an official biometric identity card. Also: whose fingerprints and iris are those on there?

California bans Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar from offering carpool services at a lower price. I feel safer already. Don’t you feel safer?

My mother has been a school teacher for a long time, and she swears the kids are getting worse every year. This claim interested me when I first heard it, but I didn’t have any way to investigate. I still don’t, but AskReddit: Teachers Who Have Been Teaching For 20+ Years, How Are The Students Different? suggests that a lot of other people feel the same way. Although many of them think of it less as a gradual decline and more of a one-time drop around the late ’90s or so. Theories welcome.

A Survivor style gameshow where a Republican and Democratic senator compete to make it on an uninhabited desert island will air on the Discovery Channel next month. Key quote: “We can promise you a happy ending — even if it’s only two fewer senators.”

Someone on Reddit asks for the most interesting Google Maps street view scenes, and the site did not disappoint. Also, my home city.

I will always link other people suggesting lithium in the water supply, especially if it’s the New York Times.

As we discuss whether the earning premium for a college degree represents genuine learned skills, signaling value, or a simple proxy for class, it’s worth noting that prostitutes with college degrees earn 31% more than those without.

A new study uses high-powered genetic clustering techniques to show that schizophrenia is actually eight distinct genetic disorders. Now something like this is almost certainly true, in that there are probably many very different ways you can end up with schizophrenia. On the other hand, there have been lots of attempts to do this sort of thing before and the statistics involved are notoriously iffy – even assuming the relevant axis along which to divide types of schizophrenia is indeed genetic. In any case, whether this is true or not I expect it to be ignored by psychiatry for at least ten years, until (if?) it gets replicated a few times and people find something useful you can do with the information.

I often talk about the contractarian idea that you shouldn’t cause trouble for your neighbors if you wouldn’t want your neighbors causing trouble for you, and I’ve specifically cited disruptive protests as a good example, but it usually stays pretty hypothetical. But here’s a town where the local pastor sent religious people to picket a strip club, and the strip club owner retaliated by sending strippers to picket the church.

Obsidian, one of the oldest substances used by mankind to make tools, still has the sharpest edge of anything known, so much so that obsidian scalpels make surgery safer than the traditional sort.

Before they settled on killing the Jews of Europe, the Nazis had a more creative plan: send them all to Madagascar. They hoped that after taking over Britain they could use the British merchant fleet to transport them, with the voyages being funded by confiscated Jewish assets. Imagine a world in which the plan was successful – say all European Jews deported to Madagascar – but the Nazis were defeated on schedule and the victorious Allies declared Madagascar the world Jewish homeland instead of Israel. Sure, we would probably end up debating Malagasay apartheid with the same fervency as the Gaza War. But the Madagascaraelis would have twenty times the land area of Israel, probably at least double the population (since it would include the six million murdered Europeans) and infinitely more farmland and natural resources. And they would be on a basically uninvade-able island. Between the land God promised us and the land Hitler promised us, I’m kinda going with advantage Hitler here. At the very least it would make good alternate history.

Hair Color Stereotyping And CEO Selection In The United Kingdom. Of the top 500 CEOs in the United Kingdom, 5% have blond hair, compared to 25% of the general population. Evidence of prejudice? Seems possible, although that is a scary large effect. Study also says none of the CEOs were non-white (removes possible confounder, but seems hard for me to believe – I know there’s prejudice, but seriously, 0/500?) and only two were women (which means that this is apparently a prejudice against blond hair in men). If true, this would be strong evidence in favor of the ability of prejudices to impede workplace advancement in a way that might be less confounded and politicized than real studies on race or gender or other more important things like that. But still want more evidence before I believe that blond hair cuts men’s chances of advancement by 80%.

Vox: The Democrats And Republicans Really Are Different. Some political scientists suggest that the Democrats and Republicans aren’t just mirror images of each other, but that they represent fundamentally different sorts of coalitions. The Democrats are a more practical coalition of a bunch of different interest groups, and the Republicans are a more ideologically motivated group of small-government true-believers. This asymmetry reflects a second asymmetry; because policy more often expands than contracts government, and it’s easier to enact policy than reverse it, Republicans are more comfortable with gridlock and dysfunction, which shapes their strategy. Reminds me of Land on the ratchet.

NASA makes the safest and most boring decision possible and chooses both Boeing and SpaceX as joint leaders in the contract to create the next generation of American manned spacecraft. The Reddit comment thread makes a pretty interesting point: Boeing is getting paid $4 billion and SpaceX $2 billion for the exact same service (1 spaceship meeting certain requirements). The reason: Boeing said they could do it for $4 billion, SpaceX said they could do it for $2 billion, and NASA gave both of them what they asked for. That’ll teach SpaceX to dare try to be cost-effective when seeking government bids! But others suggest a more complicated picture, where NASA will experiment to see if they can succeed with such low expenses, and if so they may have won themselves preferential treatment next time.

Less Wrong: Superintelligence Reading Group

The history of spies seducing people. Key quote: “When the KGB tried to blackmail Indonesian President Achmed Sukarno with videotapes of the president having sex with Russian women disguised as flight attendants, Sukarno wasn’t upset. He was pleased. He even asked for more copies of the video to show back in his country.”

What Can Evolutionary Biologists Learn From Creationists? Love thine enemy, for he teaches you the parts of your theory that need further investigation. H/t Dia Pente.

Teen drug and alcohol use continue to fall due to new anti-drug programs, according to same logic by which all rain dances work eventually.

Jeff Kaufman: Policies That Would Probably Make Us A Lot Better Off. Please assume this, if not quite a Consensus Rationalist Opinion on politics, is a lot closer to such than what random people on Tumblr accuse us of believing.

Seen on Tumblr: “When you hear this joke about Russell’s Paradox, you won’t be able to contain yourself.”

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226 Responses to More Links For September 2014

  1. Tim Brownawell says:

    Re kids suddenly getting worse around the late 90’s — How does that timing match up to the introduction of unleaded gasoline? Maybe the kids all suddenly got smarter and found their classwork less engaging?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      That seems like the exact opposite of what one would expect to happen, but nice try 😛

      • Tim Brownawell says:

        Why? The ideas of “flow” and “deliberate practice” both include having your tasks be appropriately hard. If they’re too hard you make no progress and lose interest; if they’re too easy you get bored and lose interest.

        Suppose most schoolwork was tuned to be appropriate for kids around the middle of the bell curve, and then the kids all shift a few points in the “smarter” direction. Would the same work really be expected to still hold their interest?

        • Benquo says:

          Well, if it turned out the kids had seemed to get better instead of worse – would you have been surprised by that? Or would you have just “explained” it the same way?

          • g says:

            So I’m going to kinda-sorta defend “explanations” with that sort of reversibility.

            Imagine that a mad scientist develops a drug that makes people more intelligent but also more unstable mentally, and finds a way to put it in the water supply.

            Afterwards, the nation’s economy { improves / worsens }.

            It seems to me that “The economy got better because people got smarter and therefore worked more creatively or efficiently or something” and “The economy got worse because people got more unstable and therefore more likely to mess up their jobs or need lots of care and attention that would otherwise have gone into other productive work” are pretty reasonable explanations, even though ahead of time we couldn’t have predicted which would be appropriate.

          • Tim Brownawell says:

            I’m fairly sure I can’t know that.

            What would work, is to quantify “kids are getting worse” enough to (a) see if it affects all grade levels at the same time, or affects a particular crop of kids and advances thru the grades as they do; and (b) see if the timing varies by state according to when leaded gasoline was phased out.

            If it both affects a particlar crop of kids and varies by state, it’s a reasonable explanation. If not, it’s something else (like maybe education policy, or parenting fads, or …).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            As for parenting, these dates might be suggestive.

            late 90s – kids worse
            1993 – Endless September began
            1976-1986 – lead removed from gasoline
            1940s – lithium removed from common drinks
            1920s – lead added to gasoline

        • Julia says:

          One of the symptoms of lead poisoning is attention deficit/learning difficulties. Doesn’t exactly make for an easier classroom. So I was surprised that classes would get worse with less lead exposure.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Okay, anecdotally speaking, I went to a really *good* SAT test prep teacher, who pretty much explained the underlying procedure involved in generating the grammar questions such that you could see a question and immediately know what type of question it was.

    I went from a good but not scary good verbal score to perfect, not a single question wrong verbal score.

    I felt like it really helped, whatever that’s worth.

    • Ben Pace says:

      Well hello there, my dearest friend. I am a seventeen year old Brit who has little time to prepare for the SATs, yet still would like to apply for MIT and other awesome American Universities.

      Would you mind awfully explaining how that works, publicly or privately? I’d appreciate it a lot.

      benitopace atsign gmail dot com

      • Sysice says:

        I’m not even taking the SATs, but this interests me. If you posted this info publicly and it was something I haven’t internalized previously, I’d be willing to offer a small ($5<x<50) charitable donation reward.

        abelkeith gmaildotcom

        • meyerkev says:

          To both y’alls,

          Same thing happened here (1310 – 610R/700M) on old test at age 12 to 2660 – 800R/790M/670W on new test at 15), but I’ll just post my secret.

          The Princeton Review SAT prep book is absolutely farking scary. ACT book is not nearly as good, but SAT book is brilliant. And sitting in the very front seat of the bus going over practice tests in your head for 45 minutes every day because the rest of the bus is scary random Detroit ghetto refugees who got in fistfights on the bus about 1 day in 3 (The bus was scary enough that Dad would go in late to work just to drive me and my sister to school, and she was banned from taking that bus home) gives you several dozen hours of practice tests.

          I have no doubt that SAT prep coaches are better, but given that the Princeton Review book is both at your local library and $20 on Amazon , that’ll get you 90% of the way there.

          /And in retrospect, it turns out that the secret to essays is to just make crap up and use big words. The graders don’t know or don’t care, and have too many essays to do. Make it look good on a surface skim, and they’ll grade it good.

      • Anonymous says:

        It was too many years ago for me to remember it at a truly useful accuracy.

        But in summary, we learned somewhere between 5-10 common grammatical “errors”. Every single standardized grammar question is testing one of those common errors, so if you understand the precise nature of the 5-10 errors you can answer pretty much any grammar question. Once you’ve learned all the common errors, you no longer try to figure out which sentence is correct – you just have to figure out which grammar error is being tested, and then the correct answer becomes plain.

        I guess it’s not *really* a shortcut, since you do actually learn the underlying grammar – it’s just taking advantage of the fact that the grammar repertoire tested is extremely narrow.

  3. Joe says:

    I’m a little bummed that the super intelligence group is about economics. However I am enjoying the “Sequences”.

  4. Protagoras says:

    Reading the link on the prostitute example, it kind of sounded like evidence for the skills hypothesis. Admittedly, not the job where I would have thought skills developed in college would be the most important, but then 31% is not that huge a difference; I suppose I can believe skills developed in college could make a difference of that scale.

    • Randy M says:

      I wonder if it was the coursework or the extra curricular activities that gave them the chance to earn those skills.

    • social justice warlock says:

      I’m guessing the habitus to interact with richer johns, though that was likely learned as much at home as in college itself.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s what I thought, but “More lucrative working patterns rather than higher hourly rates explained the difference…older men who seek longer sessions and intimacy.” More per client does mean richer clients, though. Maybe business classes taught them to pay attention to fixed costs.

        The author shows up in the comments as endorses the high class prostitute theory. And says “We control for parental education actually.”

    • Tracy W says:

      Possible alternative explanation:

      Premise 1. People go into the sex trade for one of two reasons:
      a) deliberate business decision, or
      b)their life sucks (eg lured in by a pimp, ran away from home as a teenager)

      Premise 2: People in category 1.a will have earnings higher on average than people in category 1.b.

      People are more likely to be in 1.b if they have serious life problems, eg mental illness, history of abuse at home, fetal alcohol syndrome.
      People with serious life problems are less likely to obtain a degree.

      Consequently, prostitutes with degrees earn more on average.

      (Note: this is about averages, I’d expect some people in category 1.b to have degrees and some people in category 1.b to be earning more than some people in category 1.a.)

      • Protagoras says:

        Possibly, though the link sounded like they measured an effect along those lines separately. Also, the difference in proportions, and the amount of non-college educated people in category 1.b, would seem to have to be quite large to explain a 31% difference; it is not clear from the research I’ve seen in this area that this is likely.

      • Julia says:

        I’ve never asked them directly why they got into it, but the prostitutes I’ve worked with seem to mostly be heavily into heroin. Some of them say that virtually every female drug user will turn tricks periodically in order to afford her habit.

        Also, once you get a criminal record it’s very hard to get any sort of legal employment, so prostitution is one of the more viable ways for a woman to earn money after a few arrests.

        Heroin use and a criminal record are pretty strongly anticorrelated with getting a college degree. If someone does have her act together enough to finish college, she probably also has the skills to negotiate better rates for prostitution if that’s what she goes into.

        (I don’t know much about male prostitutes, but I bet most of them were teenaged runaways from homophobic homes.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Personally, it struck me as evidence that people with lower mutational/parasite load are more likely to go to college in the first place, thus rendering all these statistics utterly useless.

  5. Matthew says:

    On bettter policy — Let us assume, arguendo, that progressive income taxation is a good tax system. Calculus is a thing. Instead of discrete tax brackets that distort behavior at the margins, we should have a continuous smooth curve. It’s not necessary for the average taxpayer to know calculus for this; it’s only necessary for one person at the IRS to know calculus and create a look-up table for everyone else.

    • somnicule says:

      It has brackets in terms of marginal tax rates, but in terms of total tax rates it’s a curve. (IIRC).

      • Anonymous says:

        so few people understand that so the brackets distort behavior

        • Nick T says:

          How many people don’t understand it, but do know which tax bracket they’re in and where the boundaries are and factor that into their decisions? (Is there empirical data?)

        • James James says:

          No. Income tax itself distorts people’s behaviour by disincentivising work. The higher the rate, the higher the disincentive/distortion. People make decisions on the margin, so the brackets are irrelevant. A continuous curve would be elegant but it’s not important.

          What would it mean for brackets to distort people’s behaviour in addition to the higher rate itself? How would you detect it?

          I suppose someone might be irrational in which case the bracket might affect their behaviour, but I don’t know how you’d detect that. Someone who says “I’m not going to bother working once my income goes above the bracket because 40% tax is too high” could just be responding to the higher rate, and switching to a curve instead of brackets could decrease the amount of work they do even more.

          • Quixote says:

            This is a theory. How does it hold up in tests. An alternative theory is that people have a target “lifestyle” and work exactly hard enough to maintain that life style and no harder. In this case a slight increase in tax rates would increase work. Subjectively, theory two seems to describe my behavior better.

            What does the lit say? It’s not completely clear, but studies on taxi availabilty after changes in the legally allowed rates seem to support theory two.

          • Protagoras says:

            I would add a third theory to Quixote’s two; if what someone cares about is status, as measured by being richer than the other guy, then the tax rate won’t matter at all, as it won’t have any effect on the amount of work needed to keep ahead of the competition, since the competition is equally taxed.

        • eeuuah says:

          it distorts behavior because a $5000 bonus this fiscal year is worth at least $520 more for me than a similar bonus received in january

  6. Anonymous says:

    the stripper link is broken and this version is better

  7. Randy M says:

    “Between the land God promised us and the land Hitler promised us, I’m kinda going with advantage Hitler here.”

    Yes, well, talk is cheap.

  8. ari says:

    Watching people talk about CivBE has been one of the funnier things to do on the internet recently. The Civ5 fans are talking about it as if it was Civ6 because it’s mechanically similar, and they’re having big arguments over how the virtue trees are balanced, whether you can play wide, whose virtue plan is the best, etc.. Meanwhile the SMAC fans are talking about it as if it was SMAC II because it’s thematically similar, and are having completely different arguments over how the characters measure up to the originals and whether the techs are too boring or the wonders too outrageous, etc.. The one thing they have in common is coming up with terrible ideas for new affinities.

    • Paul Torek says:

      And by the way, CivBE will the worst Civ ever. I say this as an objective and well informed observer, not influenced at all by the prospect of losing Scott’s frequent awesome posts to the time-suck of Civ 😉

  9. Rachael says:

    Surely the hair of most CEOs is grey. And even among the remainder, I’d expect less blond hair than in the general population because many people who are blond in early life go darker as they get older.
    I haven’t read the full paper because it needs a login, but I think we might be seeing the results of age rather than prejudice.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The paper says that in the case of gray-haired or bald CEOs, the researchers looked at old photographs to see what the original color was, or contacted companies to ask.

      (this must have been a really weird query to get)

      The part about going darker is a possibility. I was blond as a kid, now brownish-haired. I didn’t know that kept happening at older ages.

    • caryatis says:

      Good point. Also, if a person goes gray and then wants to cover it up, darkening hair is easier than lightening it. So a person might go from blond–>gray–>brown, thus distorting the numbers further. (unless the study controlled for dyed hair)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Was your line of discovery Scottish Independence → Stone of Scone ⇒ London Stone ?

  11. Matthew says:

    The London stone sounded familiar; I checked, and indeed, the Londonmancers in China Mieville’s Kraken have their lair near it.

    • OldCrow says:

      I just finished Kraken, and as soon as I saw the London Stone article I thought “Why the hell wasn’t this in Kraken?” Good to know I just missed it.

  12. Samuel Skinner says:

    I don’t think CiV:BE faction for India works; 15% of the population is currently Muslim (and 4% is Christian and Sikh) and attempting to achieve unity via a new prophet would work… poorly.

    Also, I’m going to have to disagree with the policies, specifically:

    •Legalize Drugs. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, and it’s not working for pot either. The states that have legalized it are doing well, though we’ll know more soon. Probably legalize some other drugs too; probably not the hardest ones.

    This ignores gains from people using drugs less. While it is a brute force solution, that doesn’t mean it is wrong- death from using alcohol dropped during prohibition and I think the lives saved were more than lost from lowered standards and mob violence.

    •Jail People Less. We have way too many people in jail. Drug legalization would help, but we’re far too willing to lock people up in general.

    That is an assertion; there is no reason to believe that is inherently true, especially given the US’s higher crime rate.

    •Less Military. Military action is incredibly expensive for what you get. Keep a smaller military, don’t go starting wars, and prefer non-military solutions.

    That isn’t a policy decision, but a political one. It isn’t exactly something workable in the same way the other items are.

    •Give People Money. No more EBT, Section 8, Medicaid, student loans, school lunches, or other forms of restricted assistance. No more means testing. No more high marginal tax rates disincentivising work. Give every person rich and poor a minimum income, and charge every person the same income tax percentage from their first dollar earned.

    This distorts incentive to work. It is questionable if the gains in bookkeeping are more than the reduction in labor output.

    • Anonymous says:

      How does a giving people money distort the incentive to work more than all the existing welfare programs? The explicit point is that current welfare systems have high effective marginal tax rates. The highest in the world.

      • Tracy W says:

        The impact on work incentives is for the people paying for the programme, not the people getting it.

        Every proposal I’ve seen for a minimum income that doesn’t involve cutting the incomes of the poorest drastically requires very high taxes. (Eg we did a rough calculation for NZ in 2001, and got that a UBI of $10,000 per person would require an average tax rate, note average not top marginal, of 50%. And that UBI would have meant a cut of about 1/3 in the single person’s pension rate at the time.

        There’s a reason that no country has introduced a UBI. It’s very expensive for the benefits.

        • James James says:

          Which is why you switch to Location Value Tax at the same time, which doesn’t disincentivise work.

          • Tracy W says:

            I assume “Location Value Tax” refers to what is commonly known as a “Land Value Tax” (your choice of wording strikes me as more precise).

            Total value of land in the USA is about $14.5 trillion.

            Population of the USA is 314 million, of whom 245 million are over the age of 15.
            So paying $10,000 each year to each of these people would cost $2.45 trillion a year. That’s a LVT of 17%. You own a house on $100,000 of land, you’re paying $17,000 a year in taxes. That’s a lot of money to be coming up with, on top of all the taxes to pay for the rest of government, such as defence, education, etc.
            (It makes a big difference if the $10,000 a year is meant to cover health care or if that’s covered by government spending as medicare and medicaid. If medicare and medicaid continue then total taxes are going to be a lot higher, if they’re dropped then living on $10,000 a year gets really tough.)

          • Paul Torek says:

            You have to annualize the Location Value (i.e. convert the present value into an equivalent stream of annual payments) before applying a tax rate of <100%. Otherwise perverse incentives result in no one but the govt. holding any land other than what lies directly under a house or factory.

    • Auroch says:

      >This ignores gains from people using drugs less. While it is a brute force solution, that doesn’t mean it is wrong- death from using alcohol dropped during prohibition and I think the lives saved were more than lost from lowered standards and mob violence.

      Actually, while there isn’t great data, during Prohibition alcohol use probably didn’t decline. And drug legalization in other countries hasn’t significantly increased drug use, in recent years. Even if not outright legalization, decriminalization is conclusively beneficial.

      The argument for drug legalization largely rests on the fact that prohibition is incontrovertibly a terrible method of reducing injury, illness, and death from drug use. Medicalizing the government response and setting the goal as harm reduction are much more effective whenever and wherever they’re tried.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        While there isn’t great data, alcohol consumption was probably cut in half. table graph. Do you have something better than Rorabaugh?

      • Jaskologist says:

        Cirrhosis rates dropped by about 2 thirds. I find that pretty compelling evidence:

        Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928.

        Arrests for public drunkennness and disorderly conduct declined 50 percent between 1916 and 1922. For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol declined by 30 percent to 50 percent.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Also, these can’t both be true:

        “Prohibition doesn’t work.”

        “Taxes reduce how much people consume, so tax things you want people to consume less of.”

        Bonus question: should we end “prohibition” on prescription drugs, including antibiotics?

        • Multiheaded says:

          Yes they can trivially both be true, because taxation (and that includes social stigma, various punishments, etc) might bend the curve – but at some point the curve snaps, because a critical mass of people see abiding by the restrictions as more onerous than breaking the rules.

          Bonus question: should we end “prohibition” on prescription drugs, including antibiotics?

          There is clearly some point past which the contraction of supply increases the direct disutility to consumers and the problem of a demand for black-market alternatives more than it decreases the disutility from abuse. Different drugs are in different positions here. From what the media says, some drugs in some countries, like Adderall, should be less available, but on the other hand opiate painkillers everywhere should be handed out a lot more freely.

          (Personal anecdote: I am fairly sure that the prescription status of DXM-based medicine in my country is not enforced nearly as strignently as the controlled substances schedule would have it, and that someone might well be consciously choosing not to clamp down on it for fear of driving recreational users to more harmful stuff. Some years ago all of it was made prescription-only and got a lot less available in general… but I’ve had little trouble locating a steady under-the-counter supply.)

    • Princess_Stargirl says:

      The usa has 7 times the OECD average number of incarcerated. You really think our natural level of crime comes close to justifying this?

      Also you seem to be ignoring th biggest cost of prohibition. That is people get thrown in jail, businesses shut down etc.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        “The usa has 7 times the OECD average number of incarcerated. You really think our natural level of crime comes close to justifying this?”

        I’m not aware of the rest of the western world have significantly better policy makers so I don’t see any reason for the American one to be uniquely dysfunctional.

        “Also you seem to be ignoring th biggest cost of prohibition. That is people get thrown in jail, businesses shut down etc.”

        That isn’t a cost, that is a benefit. You shut down businesses that produce things harmful to people and you are imprisoning individuals who are more likely than the general population to be involved in criminal activity anyway.

        • Nornagest says:

          It annoys me that people in these conversations like to throw around the word “criminal” as if it carries economic information. If someone’s a career thief or swindler, then sure, throwing them into jail may have direct economic benefits (though only if their career would have consumed more value than their imprisonment and court costs; the former averages about $25000 a year in the US, and the latter varies wildly). But for non-economic crimes the values aren’t easily commensurate, and for drug-related crimes… well, I suppose it’s possible that five grams of crack generates more than a hundred thousand dollars of economic damage on average, but I don’t, to say the least, find it very plausible. And that still ignores the value that non-career criminals would have been generating through their regular work if they weren’t imprisoned.

          On balance I’m pretty sure it’s a cost — particularly since what I’ve read about criminal justice suggests that the swiftness and certainty of punishment is a much stronger deterrent than its severity.

    • caryatis says:

      Re: Jail People Less, I’m also incredibly unconvinced by the argument that the U.S. should incarcerate fewer people because Germany/Japan/whatever does so and has lower crime. The U.S. is different from other OECD countries, notably because of its size, number of guns, and the fact that many different ethnic & cultural groups are constantly in contact. There is no reason to assume that the crime control tactics that work for other countries would work for us. It may be that we need to shorten prison terms for some crimes (maybe no life without parole for theft, Louisiana) or look at diversion programs, but I can’t see a non-dumb argument for “jail people less”, period.

      • Nornagest says:

        Sure, the US is a bit of an odd duck among first-world countries, and you can use that to fuel all sorts of special pleading. Some of it is probably even justified. But it seems rather implausible that our sentencing policy is just excessive enough to bring our crime rates roughly into line with what you’d expect from global statistics given the US’s stability and affluence.

        Particularly since, as I’ve said elsewhere in these comments, the people whose business it is to study this sort of thing (and I mean criminologists, not sociologists) seem convinced that sentencing has relatively minor deterrent effects.

        • caryatis says:

          Yeah, I’m not arguing that current sentencing policy is perfect. Criminologists like to talk about how certainty of punishment is more powerfully deterrent than severity of punishment, but unfortunately catching and convicting criminals is harder than increasing sentences.

          • Nornagest says:

            unfortunately catching and convicting criminals is harder than increasing sentences.

            More complicated, certainly. But more expensive? Well, let’s look at some actual numbers. The city of Oakland has a PD with a budget of about $176 million, and it’s got a crime rate of about 7000 reported serious crimes per 100,000 population as of 2011 — which comes to 28,000 in total given its population of 400,000. Let’s assume a quarter of those crimes are cleared, giving us 7000 convictions, and that these carry a sentence of three years each on average — a number I totally just made up, but which seems if anything low given that these are all felonies and California has a three-strikes law. Prisoners in California cost about $47000 per year as of 2008 (this is high for the US). So we’re talking $987 million in prison expenses added per year.

            987 / 176 = 5.61. So, if we want to lower Oakland’s crime rate, it looks like adding time to sentencing would proportionally have to have about five and a half times the deterrent effect of giving more resources to the police department (which I here take to translate into “swiftness and certainty”) to be equally cost-effective.

            That’s… a pretty dramatic difference. Granted, the responses aren’t going to be linear on either side, and I’m ignoring the fact that a more effective PD is going to arrest and imprison more criminals in the short term, but I think I’d expect deterrent effects to dominate in the long run.

          • caryatis says:

            That’s interesting. I suppose we would have to look at how well the police department could convert increased funding to numbers of people convicted of serious crimes. It’s possible that finding and convicting criminals is hard enough that longer sentences would still deter more. We also have to think about the incapacitating effect of sentences (i.e. a person behind bars for x years can’t hurt me for x years unless I am inside the prison).

  13. dublin says:

    Ask a victim of the Rotherham rape gang how good immigration is for existing residents. (I won’t argue that it’s not very good for the new residents; they wouldn’t have had the same access to young British girls in their home countries.)

    I notice no explanation is even attempted on the immigration bullet point, but when an explanation is attempted it’s generally based on facile economic modeling that assumes away any heterogenity among populations other than high-skill vs. low skill, and that doesn’t even see issues of culture or national identity as worth discussing.

    • Unintentionally Blank says:

      Rotheram rape gangs. It wasn’t and isn’t a gang. If it was there’d be something to stop. It’s a culture, just like the police and social workers had a culture of contempt for the working class girls who were abused and one of crimestop/deference for the Pakistani-descended perpetrators.

      I must also note that this is not.an inevitable consequence of immigration. None of the new E.U. immigrants do this kind of shit, nor do the Indians, Carribeans etc. From a utilitarian standpoint free(er) immigration to the first world is a very, very big win. The coarsening and degradation of various European cultures from immigration of stupid peasants saddens me but it is the moral thing to do. If you’re not willing to become Brazil you can still become Canada or Australia. They have higher immigration than Britain and their points system is unabashedly elitist. They aren’t going to have these problems.

      In the end this is all ephemera. Even if AI doesn’t eat us or render all this otherwise moot, intelligence enhancement or at latest genetic engineering will.

      • James James says:

        “I must also note that this is not an inevitable consequence of immigration.”

        Correct, but the linked article is glib and reckless.
        “Increase Immigration. Immigration is good for existing residents, and it’s very good for new residents. The potential gains here are very large; stop turning people away.”

        Some immigration is good for existing residents, and some is bad. The potential gains are large, but turning people away is necessary to realize them. So that should be “The potential gains here are very large; turn some people away.”

      • James James says:

        As a meta point, I think the “rationalist community” does not publicly acknowledge the consequences of racefacts enough. Even Eliezer acknowledges the science, but a statement like “Immigration is good” completely ignores it. “Immigration is good” ignores the differences in the quality of populations: some immigration is *not* good.

        • Nornagest says:

          The rationalist community already spends way too much time on “racefacts” for its own good. Much more would turn it into a slightly smugger auxiliary of the least interesting parts of neoreaction.

          • Vulture says:

            Well, there’s a difference between smugly dwelling on something and taking it into account.

          • Emile says:

            (I would also like to see less focus on “racefacts” here, but even more importantly less meta discussion about how “racefacts” are oppressed by political correctness, etc.)

          • dublin says:

            You’d like to see racefacts oppressed by political correctness, but even more importantly, you’d like to prevent discussion of that fact.

          • Emile says:

            Whut?

            I agree with a fair amount of things that could be called “racefacts”, I just don’t like a lot of the culture that sprung out around theme (as in comments on isteve or UR etc.), because of tendencies either to use’em as a once-size-fits-all explanation of anything, or complain excessively about how liberals hate and oppress them (I’m also not a fan of terms like “HBD” or “racefacts”).

      • BenSix says:

        From a utilitarian standpoint free(er) immigration to the first world is a very, very big win.

        I think some readers here would find Michael Oakeshott’s Rationalism in Politics stimulating.

      • Multiheaded says:

        and one of crimestop/deference for the Pakistani-descended perpetrators.

        What twaddle; anything’s an excuse for some strata of bureaucracy, but precious few extrinsic things seem to actually affect it. Or are you going to tell me that the American system that repeatedly betrayed this woman was driven by a deference for a bunch of rednecks? In the worldview of SSC rightists, aren’t the most invasive “progressive” agencies like child protection and the Designated Contemptible Enemy like rednecks supposed to always clash? But instead we see that the system fails to protect victims from groups of any status; clearly it’s not very motivated to push the Official Liberal Narrative!

        • The linked article, if true, is awful, and I have no desire to defend or minimize any of it.

          But I have two reservations. First off, several pieces of it ring my “hoax” alarms. The cutesy asides (“Have you noticed yet that many of the people who want to buy children to molest also have lots of money? Damn, this really does just keep getting worse, doesn’t it?”), the jarring details (an abused “redneck” girl picked for being “erudite”), and the way that the linked statistics all align so perfectly with the elements of the story. All of these together signal a story that’s more truthy than actually true, ie. it was written by a grad student somewhere stitching together a plausible story from statistics and anecdotes.

          (I could be wrong about this, and if so, I pre-apologize to the woman victimized.)

          Or are you going to tell me that the American system that repeatedly betrayed this woman was driven by a deference for a bunch of rednecks?

          Perhaps you missed the part where the police and social workers themselves were also rednecks .

          • Multiheaded says:

            The cutesy asides (“Have you noticed yet that many of the people who want to buy children to molest also have lots of money? Damn, this really does just keep getting worse, doesn’t it?”)

            Um, not to be sarcastic – is this literally the first Cracked article you’ve read? It’s somehow mandatory for even the most serious subjects over there.

            the jarring details (an abused “redneck” girl picked for being “erudite”)

            Selection effects: if she didn’t have a somewhat extraordinary personality, she would’ve been far less likely to survive and tell her story.

            Perhaps you missed the part where the police and social workers themselves were also rednecks .

            Have there been many cases where a culture clash between social workers from a more liberal elite background and a non-protected lower class group has greatly decreased false negatives? (I would expect many false positives, sure – but elsewhere there are a plenty of false positives from anti-progressive factors like old-fashioned racism.)

            (No sources at the moment, sorry, but I’ve read various kinds of things like these in blogs and articles.)

          • I’m familiar with Cracked style, and the article as a whole (complete with barely-appropriate stock photos) is clearly based on their templates. But the narrative itself still rings false to me. As you pointed out, it’s not entirely impossible, but unlikely.

            a culture clash between social workers from a more liberal elite background and a non-protected lower class group has greatly decreased false negatives?

            Um, what? I’m not sure of any cases, but I’m trying to process why a culture clash between social workers and white working class folks is supposed to decrease false negatives.

          • Multiheaded says:

            Um, what? I’m not sure of any cases, but I’m trying to process why a culture clash between social workers and white working class folks is supposed to decrease false negatives.

            Presumably because the classist liberal social workers would want to exercise their sense of power and assure themselves of their moral superiority – so there would be some incentive for them to counterbalance complacency, indifference etc. when faced with suspicions of bad conduct from their charges. Wouldn’t we expect this tension to both increase false positives and decrease false negatives?

            Note that this is how I’m trying to extrapolate the NRx view of class interaction; my personal feeling is that bureaucratic minions are not nearly as easily prodded by status considerations like these, and are best described as hardly giving a fuck about anyone at all. The NRx view sounds like it would predict more aggressive class warfare against some groups than what we’re seeing.

          • I actually doubt that personal animosity between social workers and lower-class whites comes up very often. Progressivism is inherent in the sorts of regulations which social workers are expected to enforce, but I don’t think that you see this dynamic very much in the actions of individual social workers. There may be some over-reporting of abuses when the social worker and the clients are of different classes, but I suspect that the effect is small.

        • Daniel Speyer says:

          >Or are you going to tell me that the American system that repeatedly betrayed this woman was driven by a deference for a bunch of rednecks?

          From the article:

          > In my case, the local CPS officer was one of my cousins. She turned her back and just wrote it off as a family secret. The first cop that knew about my plight also happened to get his regular drug fix from my dad, and so he looked the other way.

          I’m not sure what generalities (if any) can be drawn from this, but expecting class bias to be visible over those sorts of personal connections is absurd.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        Letting people immigrate because it is the right thing to do is like taxing everyone at 90% and using the proceeds to directly buy people in other countries malaria nets and other cheap life-saving resources. It makes us poorer, and it makes the people benefited richer by more than we become poorer. And no government does the latter to any significant degree, because it’s their job to benefit their people, not the world.

    • Emile says:

      I agree with most points in that post, but (probably) not the immigration one.

      I’m not disputing that it’s better for the immigrants, but I’m not sure it’s better for those in the host country; many (most?) people are concerned about unregulated immigration giving rise to criminality and other shitty behaviour.

      I get the impression that most people have a fairly good idea about what kind of immigrants they would rather have in their country, but that the general taboo against racism (which has good reasons to exist!) gives rise to immigration policies that try to be “more neutral”, and as a result either reject “wanted” people (including by requiring them to jump through too many hoops), or accept “unwanted” people (giving rise to ghettos and crime).

      I would like to see a progressive (in the broad sense) address those points in a better way than saying “not wanting poor Somalis to move in your town is racist/elitist!”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Whichever poor Somalis end up in your town are probably smarter than the average Somali. Once the next generation grows without stunting, it might actually be beneficial to the local gene pool.
        This theory is probably bullshit, but I’m curious what’s the race realists’ answer.

        • James James says:

          Two retorts:

          1. Probably smarter than the average Somali, but that’s not saying much. Somalia doesn’t appear on Lynn’s table of global IQ but neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia get 72 and 63, so perhaps 3% of Somalis are above 100. (Yes, I know Lynn’s table could be improved upon, but that doesn’t subtract much from the force of the argument.)

          2. Outcomes for Somali Americans are terrible, far below the American average.

        • Emile says:

          Something I’ve heard a few times is that the children of immigrants are worse than their parents in terms of integration, because:

          * What distinguishes the parents from the peers they grew up with is that they moved their asses to get a better life, so they’re happy to be in the new country

          * What distinguishes the children from the peers they grew up with is that their parents come from far away, which makes “far away” a big part of their identity (this can be problematic when the “far away” sucks, which is often why the parents immigrated in the first place).

          I don’t know how true this is though, it doesn’t really match my personal experience but that could be because of a selection effect on the children of immigrants I’ve encountered.

          • James James says:

            To me it sounds like regression to the mean: to the lower mean of the foreign country.

            That’s why I find the explanation I hear the most, that America somehow corrupts the children of immigrants, unconvincing. You don’t hear the “children of immigrants are worse than their parents” story about all immigrants, just those from certain countries.

          • Emile says:

            James²: I think you hear it about immigrants from more all countries, not only “some”.

            More specifically, my model is something like “Children of immigrants from A to B identify more strongly as ‘people from B’ than their parents”.

            So children of Chinese immigrants will be more nationalistic about China than their parents were, children of Muslim immigrants will be more religious, etc.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This has not been my experience with American Born Chinese at all, nor the impression I’ve gotten from conversations with many of their parents. The thorough Americanization of their children is a big concern among the Asian population (the other being the conflict between older immigrants, who are Taiwanese, and newer ones, who are heavily from the mainland).

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            It’s true of Muslims in the UK. Young Muslims are much more likely to want to live under Sharia law.

            I think this is a result of enclave formation – young Muslims in the UK are very likely to live in areas where there are mostly Muslims. Contrast that with second generation Chinese Americans who are likely to be a minority in their communities.

          • Emile says:

            I know Chinese people who are more “pro-China” than their immigrant parents, but I don’t know how generalized it is; in general I would expect immigrants from X to be closer to X’s social norms, but their children to identify more strongly with X, though there are probably plenty of confounders and the effect may not exist.

      • Eli says:

        Ok, here’s a progressive answer: a Canadian-style points system that’s scaled by the conditional probability of Candidate X achieving Y points given his demographic background (nationality, sex, any relevant facts about ethnicity, religion, or class…). Points come in “plus” and “minus”, and both are scaled by the separate conditional probabilities of achieving those specific scores given your background before being summed to actually compute your score.

  14. lmm says:

    Ate the teachers’ claims backed by objective evidence? Or is this just “kids these days…”?

    Have you read /The Yiddish policemen’s union/? That’s a rather fun alternate history with a different Jewish homeland.

    • The top comment certainly looks pretty terrible. Like, why exactly were kids genuinely motivated back in the day? Was there some factor affecting student psychology that was in effect then that isn’t now? I’m having a hard time imagining what that could be.

      In general I’m unwilling to completely trust any analysis of an institution made by someone who has just quit in frustration. Is it worth reading further down the thread?

      • Anonymous` says:

        This comment provides a pretty attractive explanation of why kids would’ve been more motivated in the past: Things went from being *real* to the laughable, designed-by-bureaucrats fluff there is today.

      • Nick T says:

        Why do you assume that if there were some generational psychological shift, you would easily be able to know what it was?

      • Eli says:

        The top comment certainly looks pretty terrible. Like, why exactly were kids genuinely motivated back in the day? Was there some factor affecting student psychology that was in effect then that isn’t now? I’m having a hard time imagining what that could be.

        Here’s an easy one: availability of productive, remunerative careers for the masses, broadly defined as everyone who isn’t a special goddamn snowflake.

        • So you think today’s unmotivated kids are rational actors who don’t bother because they know that not being near the top in terms of raw talent means they don’t have a future either way?

  15. Carinthium says:

    Can somebody who knows more about the attitudes of Hegelians give me a serious, objective analysis of how much truth there is in the satire? I’m curious how much truth there is in it.

  16. xhxhx says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter: Scott, I haven’t heard your thoughts on Civilization V before, and I can’t seem to find them on Google. What didn’t you like about the game?

  17. Anatoly says:

    Please assume this represents the closest thing to a Consensus Rationalist Opinion on politics.

    Huh? What a weirdly unreasonable request. No.

    Please consider this comment to represent the consensus opinion of all SSC commenters.

    • So what do you think comes closer?

      • Anatoly says:

        Nothing, there’s no Consensus Rationalist Opinion on most of these subjects. Is there Consensus Rationalist Opinion on string theory? On generative grammar? On the Continuum Hypothesis? Why should there be such on something like minimum income? I expect virtually nobody in the Rationalist Community understands the relevant economics well enough to have an informed opinion, and that’s not even taking the mind-killing political aspects of it into account.

      • Matt C says:

        I do wish Basic Income was regarded a little more skeptically and, dare I say it, rationally.

        The idea has been around for decades (at least) but in the last couple years it has suddenly become this perfectly obvious and necessary social policy that all thoughtful people must support.

        (I exaggerate a little. Not that much, if you read Hacker News.)

        It’s not obvious or necessary to me, and the excitement over it sure looks like a social fad, not a change in the fundamentals for or against it.

    • James James says:

      “Opt-Out Organ Donation”
      Better, allow people to sell their organs. For most organs, this would mean the money going to the person’s estate.

      Allow people to buy and sell sperm and eggs, anonymously if they want. The idea of anonymously donating your genetic code will become increasingly silly, but at the moment the lack of anonymity discourages people from becoming donors.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s not mutually exclusive. You could have an opt-out organ donation, and among the opt-out options an organ selling box.

        Edit: I’m an idiot, I didn’t realize the part where organ selling is currently illegal. So yes, allow organ selling. Still make organ donation opt-out and hope that peer pressure will keep the donation market supplied enough to avoid lower-income people ending up without organs.

      • Deiseach says:

        Re: buying and selling sperm and eggs, what about the offspring produced?

        How do you balance out the wishes of donors to be anonymous (if that is what they want) and the wishes of the people born by these techniques to find out about their ‘real’ family?

        What if Sally or John turns up on the doorstep one morning with “Hello, dad/mum!” What about legal responsibilities?

        The difference between known donors and anonymous donors who provided their genetic material through sperm/egg banks may erode, given that people can use all kinds of easily available DNA tests to start tracking down who the ‘anonymous’ donor was.

        I can easily see future legal cases where Sally gets her DNA swab test done, does a bit of Internet tracking (and I would bet some bright spark will set up a company especially to track down ‘real’ families, if they haven’t done so already) and now you have a new half-sister you never knew about contesting for a share of Dad’s estate.

        It’s easy to say this will never happen, but take adoption – it used to be considered that ‘sealed’ adoptions were the ones in the best interests of the child. Now it’s swung around to the view that this was heartless cruelty of the bad old days and children have the right to know who their birth parent(s) were. Are you willing to bet future courts won’t take the view that children have the right to know who their genetic parent(s) are?

        • social justice warlock says:
        • blacktrance says:

          AFAIK, if someone is given up for adoption, they don’t have any legal connection to their biological parents anymore, so there’s no threat of them interfering with inheritance. If the system isn’t currently like this (which would surprise me), it should be.

          • caryatis says:

            That’s consistent with my understanding of the law. The biological parent gives up parental rights and obligations, and the adopted child gives up potential inheritance rights. That doesn’t eliminate the emotional complications involved when a previously unknown child shows up though.

    • James James says:

      “Fund Schools Federally”: This conflicts with “Give People Money”. Give people money is the better idea.
      Federal schools are generally terrible. The author is prioritizing progressivism (i.e. equality) over rationality.

      • Jeff Kaufman says:

        You’re saying instead of replacing locally funded schools with federally funded ones we should replace them with privately funded ones? What do we do when poor people with high discount rates and poverty-damaged impulse control don’t educate their kids? There’s a huge loss of potential there, plus it seems awfully rough on the kids.

        (Cash aid makes the most sense in cases (food, housing) where we’re not worried people will allocate their money to underconsume them.)

        • somnicule says:

          I agree with this. Shitty parenting is basically my major problem with libertarianism, creating and caring for a vulnerable human is a big responsibility and a good place for the state to participate. I think this applies to food and other necessities of child-raising as well. Lots of kids aren’t fed enough, but still aren’t malnourished enough for it to count as abuse.

          I would prefer some market mechanism, like social impact bonds or decision markets, along with reasonable federal funding, over a bureaucratic school system. A market for such things might find much more high-impact solutions than policymakers with little real stake would.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I have sympathy for this critique, but it’s tempered once I realize that the awful prospect of poor kids not learning is the situation we already have. If the state were so capable of fixing it, they would have by now. Might as well try something new.

          • Anonymous says:

            I do believe the literacy rate is higher than ever, so I don’t quite see how this is a failure. Most of what I take from this is that educating kids from bad environments is hard.

            Moreover, I fail to see how linking education prospects with wealth will help with poor kids’ education.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            I suspect the critique is not “poor parents won’t send their kids to school, so they won’t learn quantum mechanics and how to appreciate Shakespeare”; it’s “poor parents won’t send their kids to school, so the kids will grow up unable to recognize the alphabet or read words like ‘cat’ or ‘dog.'”

        • James James says:

          Point taken, for “cash” read “vouchers”.

          • Jeff Kaufman says:

            I’m fine with vouchers. I think they’re a good candidate for experimentation so we can get a better idea what happens in practice. You probably get for-profit voucher-schools that grind up against the lower limits of whatever you set as your accreditation criteria, but as ugly as this sounds it could be much better than our current system in most school districts.

            But the funding for schools or vouchers needs to come from a wider area than the town.

        • Leonard says:

          What do we do when poor people with high discount rates and poverty-damaged impulse control don’t educate their kids?

          More generally, what do we do when poor people with high discount rates and poverty-damaged impulse control take the money we give them and buy hookers, drugs, lotto tickets, and generally stuff they can’t afford? Are we going to let them starve?

          What we do is cut off the money, and return them to restricted assistance.

          Schooling is not significantly different from rent or food. Give them money. If they fail to spend it in ways that we (with our superior ability) approve of, give them a voucher. If they fail to use that properly, take the responsibility from them entirely. (As a reactionary I am also tempted to add: and also sterilize them for the good of the species.)

          • Multiheaded says:

            Right now folks like you all over America are raising an ungodly whine over pictures of people buying a tasty snack or a pizza with their food stamps. You whine about “Obamaphones”. You whine about every tiny little luxury that The Poors allow themselves. Responsible spending doesn’t necessarily sound too awful in the abstract, divorced from any social realities, but in practice you’ve always attempted to use it as an excuse to be cruel to people who are insufficiently enthusiastic about the hair shirts you would have them wear.

            http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-stupidest-habits-you-develop-growing-up-poor/

          • social justice warlock says:

            Right now folks like you all over America are raising an ungodly whine over pictures of people buying a tasty snack or a pizza with their food stamps. You whine about “Obamaphones”. You whine about every tiny little luxury that The Poors allow themselves. Responsible spending doesn’t necessarily sound too awful in the abstract, divorced from any social realities, but in practice you’ve always attempted to use it as an excuse to be cruel to people who are insufficiently enthusiastic about the hair shirts you would have them wear.

            See also the outrage inspired by stories of “hipsters” (this being how such stories inevitably phrased them) using food stamps to buy healthy food. Look how irresponsible they are! And what luxury! This after, of course, decades of the poor being berated in exactly the same way for purchasing unhealthy food.

            (See also Deiseach’s comment in the other thread, about the Irish being characterized as barbarians by Victorian British for not being sexually constrained enough, and then by liberal Brits for not being sexually liberated enough.)

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            See also the outrage inspired by stories of “hipsters” (this being how such stories inevitably phrased them) using food stamps to buy healthy food. Look how irresponsible they are! And what luxury!

            “Healthy food” is typically used as a form of price discrimination and market segmentation for companies to get more money from people with disposable income. People who complain about using food stamps to buy “healthy food” typically recognize this on some level.

      • Quixote says:

        What’s your evidence federal schools are terrible? I spent several years in a federal DOD school. It was worse than an expensive NY private school, and also worse than a free NY magnet school, but I don’t know that it was any worse than a generic public school. I think DOD schools do fine on their standardized tests (including APs) compared to other public schools

  18. BenSix says:

    At the very least it would make good alternate history.

    “In this cartoon comedy, from DreamWorks Animation, a bunch of animals move from New York to Madagascar and find that they have a lot in common.”

  19. Zubon says:

    the Republicans are a more ideologically motivated group of small-government true-believers

    Wouldn’t that be the Libertarians (or at least libertarians)? The last time the Republican Party held the White House, the competing ideologies were called National Greatness Conservatism and Big Government Conservatism.

    • Nornagest says:

      Yeah, I’m not necessarily saying it’s wrong, but that point hews a bit too close to Democratic conventional wisdom for me to trust it. Every political group likes to think it’s a ragtag bunch of misfits and their opponents are a focused movement; that has the simultaneous effects of justifying group infighting (which everyone loves), justifying outgroup homogeneity (ditto), aligning you with good-guy expectations by pop culture standards, and covering your ass if you don’t get anything done after all of that.

      The bit about gridlock, on the other hand, is so common-sensical that I’m surprised anyone bothered to research it.

    • The version I heard was that the (GWB era, I think) Republican party was an implausible coalition of free market absolutists, cultural conservatives, and the military-industrial complex.

      The left-wingers I read were bewildered at how it held together (the explanation I heard was “party discipline”) and had no theories about how or when it would fall apart.

      • Zubon says:

        As I recall from National Review in that era, yes, that was how the three wings of the party were described, albeit in slightly friendlier terms (libertarians/free marketeers, social conservatives, and neo-conservatives/anti-terrorists). They tracked the same back to 1980, just replacing “anti-Communists” for the third wing.

        Right-wingers often vary between being bewildered at how the left-wing coalition holds together and chuckling about how it doesn’t.

      • Vulture says:

        What does “party discipline” even mean?

    • Eric Rall says:

      My understanding was that Bush was attempting to implement Karl Rove’s plan to build a new Republican coalition modelled on the Democratic Party’s New Deal Coalition. The search term is “permanent Republican majority”.

      It worked well enough to win elections in 2002 and 2004, but collapse spectacularly in 2005-2006. A lot of the internal politics within the Republican Party in recent years (rise of the Tea Party, etc) can been interpreted as a reaction by ideological factions against the attempt to remake the party as an interest group coalition.

  20. rkj says:

    Re: college admissions. Law school admissions are based almost exclusively on GPA and LSAT scores. In stark contrast, MBA admissions are far softer, and things like recommendations, essays, work experience, and face to face interviews matter a lot more. Each of them are looking for a very different type of person and skill-set.

    I think it ultimately comes down to a debate about what you think college is for, and what you think it should be like. In that light, it’s not surprising that a hard-science academic would emphasize academics. He’d love all schools to be more like Caltech.

    But many people think college is about more than that. One type of social engineering that most people applaud is balancing out the male/female ratio. If it gets too out of whack, you can end up losing a lot of good students (on both sides).

    I don’t know if the way admissions are done right now is great (probably too much social engineering for my taste), but I guess I’d rather leave the decision up to the school to decide what they care about.

  21. Konkvistador says:

    Theories on Self-domestication and the origin of blond hair by Peter Frost together with the psychological traits needed to become a CEO probably answers under-representation of blond male CEOs. The assumption that I haven’t checked is that most men with blond hair have it as a natural hair color.

  22. Emile says:

    A couple explanations on how we could get reports from teachers of “the kids are getting worse” without the kids actually getting worse:

    * Kids react differently to younger vs. older teachers, i.e. being more engaged with a teacher closer to their age.

    * Random variation in class quality, where if it goes down, teachers will complain that kids are getting worse (and we’ll hear about it), but if it goes up, teachers will attribute it to themselves becoming better teachers, so we won’t hear as much about it (at least, not on threads like that one).

  23. Jordan D. says:

    RE: Alpha Centauri II – There’s no way for me to evaluate this game fairly. I spent unbelievable amounts of time ‘perfecting’ planet-wide civilizations* and my nostalgia glasses are so rosy that I’ve won horticulture awards for them. On the other hand, I distinctly remember that the AI for the factions the last time around was so miserable that you could predict with total certainty when Sister Miriam was planning to declare one of her patented Badly Miscalculated The Advantage Higher Tech Gives Units Crusade against you, and the Spartans could be counted upon to act reasonably and charitably if you let them cross your territory. Fluff aside, I remember the AI factions being distinctly one-note when it came to interaction.

    RE: Soviet spy seductresses – Unrelated, but there’s something very appealing about that kind of candor in a politician. I wonder whether a slightly more genuine approach to that kind of mistake appeals to voters, or if the conventional political wisdoms are more correct. And when?

    RE: Lyft and Uber – I know that these two companies are currently applying for public utlity status in my state, and they’re getting tons of favorable press along the lines of ‘Bold tech-savvy companies defy outmoded regulation which exists entirely to protect established taxi mafias’.** A quick glance through some (old) reports on taxicab regulation establishes that there are good and bad reasons for regulating cab companies, and I wonder if Lyft and Uber fall more afoul of the good or the bad regulations.

    Either way, I’ve failed miserably to find a real rationale for the California PUC’s ‘If you’re in a pool and being individually charged, you might get scalped!’ I’ll put that down to bad library science on my part for the time being.

    Thank you for the links!

    ~

    *For some weird value of ‘perfect’ which doesn’t match up with any of my actual values. For example, I liked to conquer virtually the entire landmass but leave each other faction a ‘preserve’ of three or four cities, which I’d subsidize. Being the sole superpower of the world in a game where you mostly get novel interaction out of the heads of other states is lonely.
    **Under the state’s Public Utility Code, I suspect that neither company qualifies. Given how popular they are, I’d bet a minor amount that they’ll get in somehow anyway.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Re: the College admissions process …

    Am I the only one who finds it bizarre that the customers are apparently competing for the privilege of paying for a place in college, by offering evidence that they will basically do well regardless (grades) and thus enhance the college’s (presumably wildly skewed) reputation?

    • moridinamael says:

      You’re not the only one.

      There were about 23,000 students accepted to the Ivy League schools as part of the Class of 2018. There are about 13,000,000 full-time students in United States universities – estimating roughly, we’ll say 3,250,000 people in the nationwide freshman class. So the Ivy League is admitting less than one percent of all students in the nation. Why are we even talking about this? The conversation is dominated by discussion of admission to these schools that practically nobody is attending. I’m much more interested in discussing the admission policies that affect three million people – for example, what minimum autoadmit cutoffs to put in place for SAT score, or a prohibition against legacy considerations – than discussing policies that affect one quarter of a football stadium of people.

      • meyerkev says:

        Ivy League schools have acceptance rates somewhere between 5 and 10%. So 23,000 kids get in out of 3-400K who apply. And that’s 10% of all college age kids.

        Limit it to the kids of upper-middle-class SWPL people who have halfway decent SAT scores and are in the honors courses, and it’s probably north of 30%. More in the big media centers of NYC and LA, which have an outsized influence on our national discourse.

        My (mostly white, 10% Asian) Midwestern high school published college matriculation numbers as well as average SAT scores and it was always weird to compare those to the names and numbers getting thrown around by the (50% Asian, though I was mostly in the math classes) honors kids in my classes.

        Average score was about 1650. Average score in my classes was north of 2000. We sent 20% of the graduating class to the local community college. Most of my classmates treated the Top 25 State college 30 minutes down the road like a safety school.

        And then for whatever reason, the sort of people who are successful enough to write lots of articles in the NYT, throw hundreds of dollars an hour at SAT coaches, go to Washington DC and do interesting things… were almost certainly part of that collective smart person upper-middle-class mostly white/Asian hive-mind, had a well-above-average chance of going to Ivy League, hang out with lots of people who went Ivy League, or are in a position where they probably should be thinking very hard about how to get their kids into the Ivy League.

  25. primality says:

    Scott Aaronson’s proposed system for university applications sounds a lot like the current system in Denmark. Would-be students can apply in two ways – there’s “quota 1” which is solely based on grades and exam scores, and “quota 2” which also takes experience and motivation into account. Between 35% and 50% of applicants are accepted via quota 2 (the exact breakdown is up to each education – science tends more quota 1 and humanities tend more quota 2).

    It works pretty well, though I talked to a university maths teacher who said that because most people aren’t that nerdy, the maths education doesn’t get that many applicants, so the required grades for quota 1 are pretty low. He said that this meant that the quota 2 students were very rarely good students, since if you couldn’t make the quota 1 cut you probably weren’t cut out for higher education. In his ideal world, the quota breakdown would be more up to each education.

  26. Multiheaded says:

    Scott, these suggestions all sound excellent when put together and look pretty much universally applicable, but what the evil irrational enemy tribe SJWs might be suspecting – but lack the discourse to explicate – is that they make for a dangerously good motte, while selective implementation is already notorious as the bailey of factions that SJWs (not unjustifiedly) hate.

    I’m talking about the things on this list like dismantling the minimum wage and cutting taxes, the ones conspiciously absent – like increasing collective bargaining power for employees in the face of deteriorating conditions (already Manna-like in the service industries), esp. given conflicts where UBI might lack the precision and coordination of old-timey labour laws, and the ones that taint the genre by association, like “every child left behind” tracking.

    Kaufman is not to blame for any of the problems with the discourse here, the Left’s dynamics and the Right’s words and actions are – but still you have to consider that people might be suspicious of bipartisan “win-win” policy proposals for reasons other than a fanatical viciousness towards your tribe. Yes, that would be stupid, but not entirely insane.

    • social justice warlock says:

      UBI would improve worker bargaining position.

      (I would actually prefer universal make-work programs, optimized for skill development and a sense of dignity rather than productivity, and maybe with some sort of EITC-type thing so that people still have an incentive to go into the productive stuff if they can. Sitting around is demoralizing, and long periods of unemployment can degrade your ability to get a job.)

      • Nornagest says:

        Feeling unproductive is demoralizing. In our (or, at least, my; I don’t know where you come from) culture, feeling productive is generally linked with having a paying job or raising children, though at least some retirees manage to get along without.

        I don’t know to what extent this is a contingent fact of culture rather than a law of nature, but figuring it out strikes me as imperative given that this is going to be a much bigger deal as soon as automation takes off in earnest.

        • social justice warlock says:

          Yeah.

          Here I don’t even think the issue is at all a sense of feeling productive to society, but one of exercising skills and growing. When I spent a year being unemployed, the things that kept me alive (I mean this 100% literally) were being part of a sketch comedy troupe and private tutoring. The former produced all the social value that you’d expect, and the latter’s “legitimate” side (i.e., when I wasn’t all-but writing papers for the clients) basically just consisted of giving rich students a leg up over their poorer classmates. But the students seemed grateful and the audiences would sometimes laugh and I felt myself getting better at these admittedly stupid-from-the-outside-important-from-the-inside tasks, so I didn’t jump off a bridge.

          A lot of the appeal of crime is in these things, I suspect.

      • Multiheaded says:

        UBI would improve worker bargaining position.

        Well naturally it would, it’s awesome; just one of the reasons why, if we are to have a workable catch-all reformist agenda, it should be UBI UBI UBI in my opinion. My worry is that things like forced parental leave or a heavy premium for overtime – while of course they have their downsides, they sharpen the divide between the labour aristocracy and the precariat, etc – provide a coordination advantage that’s otherwise impossible for worker power to replicate within the confines of a bourgeois social democracy.

        In theory, I’m all for less regulation and more directly empowering measures, but things like the increase in overwork and the destruction of the single-income household in the US need to be investigated carefully; it feels to me like overall they were more sneaked in than forced, and that’s the kind of thing that inflexible labour laws might be better for guarding against.

        (Am I talking nonsense?)

        I would actually prefer universal make-work programs, optimized for skill development and a sense of dignity rather than productivity, and maybe with some sort of EITC-type thing so that people still have an incentive to go into the productive stuff if they can. Sitting around is demoralizing, and long periods of unemployment can degrade your ability to get a job.

        I’m for encouraging a culture of voluntary unpaid labour for the very broadly defined communal good, with something like hobby associations/social clubs for everything from keeping neighbourhoods clean to sifting through statistics. Socialist competition, etc. I think people are more adapted for dealing with social pressure to do something useful once they feel secure in their personal well-being; make-work that’s too directly tied to income, even with many legitimate ways to take time off, feels more likely to create a sense of duress that leads to resentment.

        • J Scott says:

          In theory, I’m all for less regulation and more directly empowering measures, but things like the increase in overwork and the destruction of the single-income household in the US need to be investigated carefully; it feels to me like overall they were more sneaked in than forced, and that’s the kind of thing that inflexible labour laws might be better for guarding against.

          I’m not sure why you’d think, a priori, that inflexible labor laws are guarding against an increase in overwork and even further causing the destruction of single-income households, rather than being the thing that let them sneak in in the first place, by distorting incentives and normalizing models of production and labor that don’t necessarily make the most sense.

  27. Leonard says:

    I certainly hope those “Policies that would probably make us a lot better off”, which is almost pure progressivism, is not a “Consensus Rationalist Opinion” on politics. Of course, I have literally no idea what random people on Tumblr accuse y’all of believing, so maybe that’s my problem. Can anyone educate me on that?

    But as they are, that list is mixture of things I think you guys agree with, with some that I’d hope you’d flat out deny, but mostly things that I’d hope are nowhere near consensus.

    For example: “Build more housing”? Really? Does this guy not remember the oughts? The housing bubble? We have plenty of housing. And even if we didn’t, there’s a more or less free market just sitting there waiting to build it if it is needed. We don’t need the government encouraging more building. Indeed, if there’s anything we need right now it is the government to discourage more building, so as to help liquidate the existing surplus.

    “Fund schools federally”? How about, separate school and state? (And what happened here to “Give People Money”? Is not state education a form of restricted assistance?) Don’t you guys have any libertarians around throwing monkey wrenches into the progressive consensus?

    “Increase immigration”? You guys claim to accept HBD. If you do, then immigration as we do it — letting low IQ scofflaws immigrate, while strictly limiting those who try to immigrate legally — looks like a pretty bad idea. At least it looks bad for us natives. We are filtering the immigrant genepool for “don’t obey the law”. Is there really a consensus that all governments should serve the interests of all sapients? Don’t you see the failure modes there? Don’t you have anyone who believes in a government which serves the interests of its own people?

    • Alejandro says:

      And even if we didn’t, there’s a more or less free market just sitting there waiting to build it if it is needed.

      Not at all. Zoning restrictions make it impossible to build tall buildings to accommodate market demand in the places where the demand is greatest (e.g. the D.C. or the Bay Area). Eliminating these restrictions should be a policy where principled rightists and leftists can easily make common cause (it is pro-free market, and also pro-equality since the losers would be rich current owners and the winners poorer people who are now priced out).

      • Nornagest says:

        Local politics is local. Leftist and rightist principles alike have almost no effect there; it’s the exclusive province of ass-covering, nepotism, corruption, and NIMBY.

        • social justice warlock says:

          Huh. You know, I don’t normally put too much stock in construal level theory, but this seems to fit: people engaging politics in far mode focus on the grand national stuff since that’s more exciting and they get to feel a part of something big, while those operating in near mode go for, well, what you said.

          Maybe rational ideologues should see local politics as low-hanging fruit?

      • caryatis says:

        Agreed. The housing surplus Leonard refers to is largely suburban expensive houses far from transit, not small, affordable urban apartments in popular cities.

        I tend to be hostile to zoning restrictions too, but the thing is, a lot of people like them and strongly believe they ought to have a voice in what their neighbors do with their land. Strong tenant protections are another factor in urban housing shortages.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Is there really a consensus that all governments should serve the interests of all sapients? Don’t you see the failure modes there? Don’t you have anyone who believes in a government which serves the interests of its own people?

      Unfortunately, utilitarianism is pretty close to a consensus position in the rationalist movement.

    • social justice warlock says:

      I have literally no idea what random people on Tumblr accuse y’all of believing, so maybe that’s my problem.

      We believe they believe what you believe, roughly speaking. The mechanisms of this aren’t too mysterious, I think; NRx is the most conspicuous political idea to have associations with “rationalism,” so people apply the base rate fallacy. (I have changed comrades’ minds on this by linking them to Scott’s surveys, which provide relatively hard data.)

      e: Also even you’re doing it! I.e., “You guys claim to accept HBD.” That’s something I hear more often here than elsewhere (though you’ll find it even more at, e.g., the comments section of any newspaper) but it’s not anything close to a “rationalist consensus.”

      • Nornagest says:

        though you’ll find it even more at, e.g., the comments section of any newspaper

        The comments section at the SF Chronicle’s website convinced me to stop reading news. I’m not exaggerating. It does an even better job of showcasing the worst of ideology than Tumblr does — the more so because the issues being discussed are so low-impact most of the time.

      • Leonard says:

        We believe they believe what you believe … (dopey look and Keanu voice:) whoa…

        What is “you” here? It seems to be NRx? Funny, I would have guessed that mainstream critics would criticize rationalists as libertarian.

        I was not accusing rationalists of being HBD-credulists, just the SSC corner of the rationalist community. I am aware those are different things.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          My interpretation of that sentence was “Tumblr believes that Rationalists believe what Neoreactionaries believe.”

    • Jeff Kaufman says:

      > How about, separate school and state? (And what happened here to “Give People Money”? Is not state education a form of restricted assistance?)

      See the discussion with James James above: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/18/more-links-for-september-2014/#comment-146346

      > immigration as we do it — letting low IQ scofflaws immigrate, while strictly limiting those who try to immigrate legally …

      By “increase immigration” I mean let in more of the people who try to immigrate legally.

      > We are filtering the immigrant genepool for “don’t obey the law”

      And also high levels of “ambition” and “resourcefulness”. Which sound way more like things that might be genetic than “obeys the law”.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        With the weak way we enforce laws against illegal immigration, we’re not filtering for ambition and resourcefulness. That’s like saying that an unlocked door filters for ingenuity among burglars.

      • caryatis says:

        The other thing is that a person who immigrates illegally *and then commits another crime* is a lot more likely to get deported than a person who immigrates illegally and then gets a legal job. I’m not sure how high the risk of deportation actually is for either group, but the Feds are at least trying to kick out the real criminals.

      • Nick T says:

        And also high levels of “ambition” and “resourcefulness”. Which sound way more like things that might be genetic than “obeys the law”.

        Why do you believe what you believe? “Submits to authority” sounds like a thing that could easily be genetic.

    • Patrick says:

      “For example: “Build more housing”? Really? Does this guy not remember the oughts? The housing bubble? We have plenty of housing. And even if we didn’t, there’s a more or less free market just sitting there waiting to build it if it is needed. We don’t need the government encouraging more building. Indeed, if there’s anything we need right now it is the government to discourage more building, so as to help liquidate the existing surplus.”

      Not all housing is equal. The housing market has historically tended to over build certain types of housing (expensive housing), and under build others (cheap housing for poor people). And since housing tends to retain value reasonably well, and the business entities who own unused housing stock tend to have a weird mixture of a long term business perspective coupled with a pathological fear of book loss, the existing unused housing stock can sit for a very long time instead of being resold at lower prices.

    • blacktrance says:

      Don’t you have anyone who believes in a government which serves the interests of its own people?

      Pursuit of interest within the constraint of rights is legitimate and good, but it’s not good when it leads to rights-violations. For example, it’s good to help your friend study for an interview, but it’s illegitimate to slash his competitors’ tires. “I’m just pursuing my interests” is no excuse. The same principle applies here: trying to help natives by restricting foreigners’ freedom of movement is interference with peaceful activity, and morally unacceptable.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        Then who don’t you support the government taxing everyone at 90% to buy people malaria nets in third world countries, or other ways of directly serving the interests of non-citizens at the expense of citizens? Or do you?

        • blacktrance says:

          Because I don’t believe that people have a legitimate claim to 90% of people’s income, or to malaria nets. I’m not a utilitarian, I’m a libertarian*. Rights should be respected, and people have a right to not be interfered with when they’re engaging in peaceful activity, but they don’t have a right to someone else’s income.

          *Some libertarians are utilitarians, but you know what I mean.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            If you’re supporting increased immigration, and the immigrants have an average income level which results in them paying fewer dollars in taxes per person than the average citizen, then you *are* asserting that they have a right to someone else’s income, unless you want to deprive them of government services once they get here. I highly doubt that you do (you probably want the immigrant to be able to use the government to enforce contracts, and you can’t prevent the immigrant from using things like police and military protection that can’t be denied to individuals).

            Even considering only services that you as a libertarian want to reduce, such as public schools, you would have to advocate for increased immigration as a package deal with getting rid of such services. You can’t just say “immigration is good if we get rid of public schools; but even if we only increase immigration we’re still halfway there”; halfway doing something can be worse than not doing it at all.

          • blacktrance says:

            That same argument could be used to restrict births by poor people – children of the poor are more likely to be poor, and therefore pay less in taxes and collect more in services, but immigration restrictionists hardly ever use this as an argument for not letting people have children.

            This also assumes that the average immigrant would consume more in government services than they’d contribute in taxes, a questionable assumption.

          • Why doesn’t ‘no one has a right to someone else’s income’ entail that poor people shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce? You say it would be wrong to take 90% of people’s income to fund malaria nets, but it also sounds like you think there’s some smaller percentage that could be taken without violating anyone’s rights. Is that right?

          • blacktrance says:

            My argument is that if it’s legitimate to restrict immigration because of whatever effect immigrants would have on taxes, it would also be legitimate to restrict births for the same reason. But I’ve never seen an immigration restrictionist bite this bullet, despite having debated many of them.

            As for taxation, no one is entitled to any percentage of anyone’s income. However, funding things like courts and law enforcement isn’t redistribution in the objectionable sense.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You don’t see forced sterilization as fundamentally different from keeping somebody from moving to your country?

          • blacktrance says:

            I don’t think they’re that different, no. One prevents immigrants coming in from other countries, the other prevents “immigrants” coming in from nonexistence. Also, the policy need not be sterilization – “unwelcome” newborns could be deported to Antarctica, for example. Or immigration restrictionists could really bite the bullet and deport them back to nonexistence.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            My argument is that if it’s legitimate to restrict immigration because of whatever effect immigrants would have on taxes, it would also be legitimate to restrict births for the same reason.

            I have some libertarian sympathies, but I’m not a libertarian. As such, I don’t think that taxes are sufficient reason to not allow immigration.

            However, I was pointing out that by your standards–which go from the libertarian perspective that it is wrong to take people’s money for taxes to benefit others–you should oppose immigration when the immigrants are a net drain on tax money.

            If the same reasoning leads to opposing births, that just means that your standards have even worse flaws than the one I was pointing out. It doesn’t imply that I should oppose births, since I don’t hold to those standards myself.

            (Besides, it doesn’t really lead to opposing births. What it would lead to is opposing birthright citizenship.)

          • blacktrance says:

            However, I was pointing out that by your standards – which go from the libertarian perspective that it is wrong to take people’s money for taxes to benefit others – you should oppose immigration when the immigrants are a net drain on tax money.

            That is a misleading formulation of my standards. It’s wrong to take people’s money to simply give it to other people, it is not wrong to take people’s money and use it to fund institutions (police, courts, etc) that benefit the people paying for them. The price of effectively operating these institutions can vary.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            It’s wrong to take people’s money to simply give it to other people, it is not wrong to take people’s money and use it to fund institutions (police, courts, etc) that benefit the people paying for them.

            I stipulated that in this case the immigrants are a net drain on taxes, so people other than the immigrants would be paying extra money but the extra benefit of paying the extra money would not go to them.

          • blacktrance says:

            The right comparison is not to the status quo, but to not having these institutions at all, because otherwise we presume that the status quo is justified.

      • Leonard says:

        Freedom of movement is interfered with by any regime of property in land, other than world socialism, and probably even then. Do you feel all private property to be morally unacceptable? Assuming not, why do you feel it is morally acceptable for me to order a bum out of my yard, but it’s not morally acceptable for the US government to order an illegal immigrant out of the USA? Surely USG owns this swath of North America in any sense worth discussing? I mean: nuclear weapons say yes. The will of the people says yes. The only thing saying no is the religion of a tiny minority. Admittedly, open borders is preached at our best seminaries. But still.

        • blacktrance says:

          Surely USG owns this swath of North America in any sense worth discussing?

          Definitely not. It acts like it does, but in doing so it is usurping the rights of private landowners. It having nuclear weapons makes no difference, that just means it can defend its usurpation, it doesn’t make it legitimate. The will of the people doesn’t make a difference either. because the only way it could be legitimate is if the majority as a whole already had a legitimate claim to all of the territory of the US, which it doesn’t.

          People indeed have the right to exclude people from their own property, and they also have the right to invite whomever they want to their own property. If the government or “will of the people” prevents me from inviting a foreigner onto my property, they are violating my property rights.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            If you want to make the US completely libertarian, then immigration would not be a problem. But again, you can’t go halfway on that by just adopting immigration, but not adopting the other features of libertarianism that would mitigate the problems with immigration. That would be worse than just not adopting either one. And realistically, that’s what support of Mexican-type immigration is going to do.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Private landowners probably got their land via the Homestead Act or some other act where the government gave them land – or by transfer from someone who did.

            Given that it seems unlikely that the spirit of the Homestead Act included an implied “and we’re giving this to you in an absolute sense, where we’re no longer allowed to do governmenty things on it and any attempt to pursue the business we’re immediately going to start pursuing is an act of usurpation”, doesn’t this imply the US government owns the US enough to do governmenty things with it?

          • blacktrance says:

            That assumes that the government had legitimate authority over the land to begin with. For the government to be able to say “We’re letting you use this land, but we retain ultimate ownership of it” implies that they had legitimate ultimate ownership of it before giving it away – and I reject that.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Unless you’re making the claim that the Indians had ownership of it and still should, then I’m confused.

            If the government’s claim was illegitimate, then surely all claims deriving from the government’s claim (ie the settlers who were granted the land by the Homestead Act) are also illegitimate.

          • blacktrance says:

            That’s only true if the settlers couldn’t acquire legitimate ownership despite that, which I think they did, by farming the land, building on it, and so on – they mixed their labor with it, and in the absence of competing legitimate claims, they acquired legitimate ownership. The settlers’ legitimate claim doesn’t derive from the government’s illegitimate claim.

          • 27chaos says:

            What is labor? Seems subjective. How much labor is necessary for ownership? Seems arbitrary. A moral account of ownership that says the settlers owned the land seems nonsensical to me, so the governmental one seems the only one we can look at.

            If you don’t think the Indians did work on the land, you’re wrong. They were very careful about setting fires to manage the ecology, and contemporary accounts reported that the US looked like an amusement park, not painful wilderness.

          • blacktrance says:

            I’m not going to attempt to give a rigorous definition of how much labor is necessary for ownership, because I don’t know the answer. Though just because the exact amount of labor-mixing may be hard to define, it doesn’t follow that labor-mixing isn’t the legitimate form of original appropriation. Also, the following example may be worth considering. Imagine an Earth-like planet is discovered, with similar soil, atmosphere, etc, and entirely uninhabited by humans or any species of comparable intelligence. If I were to simply assert that the entirety of Earth-2 is mine, you’d probably agree that my claim wouldn’t be legitimate. Even if some neighbors and I got together and asserted that we have joint ownership, that would be no different. If we started forcibly deporting anyone who’d land on Earth-2, it would be seen as aggression on our part. However, if I were to travel to Earth-2, find some unappropriated land, and build a house or a farm there, forcibly removing me from it would be an act of aggression.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yeah, but America was inhabited, unlike Earth-2. If you cannot give the most vague explanation of why it was legitimate to expropriate the natives, it looks like you’re arbitrarily endorsing situations you like and don’t have any principles. If you refuse to even acknowledge the question…

            Why is the individual the correct unit of analysis? Why not say that the government mixed labor with the land to own it? Removing the Indians was often a group effort. You say that it is legitimate for the government can create institutions that help the people as a whole, but why does this rule out the border patrol? Who are you to tell the people as a whole that it does not benefit them?

          • blacktrance says:

            I don’t think expropriating the natives was legitimate. They had a legitimate claim to the land, and the government aggressed against them by removing them. I think you may be misinterpreting the “in the absence of competing legitimate claims” part of my comment – it’s meant as a hypothetical: if there are no other competing legitimate claims, then legitimate ownership is acquired. But here there was a competing legitimate claim.

            Why not say that the government mixed labor with the land to own it? Removing the Indians was often a group effort.

            Removing Indians isn’t mixing labor with the land, not any more than me expelling you from your house would be.

          • Anonymous says:

            So is the claim legitimate or illegitimate? Why have you written so much about what makes a legitimate claim, when you don’t believe that they actually exist?

          • blacktrance says:

            The government’s claim is illegitimate, both when it removes the natives and when it tells you that you can’t invite foreigners. However, there is a difficulty regarding the natives’ current claim to the land, because enforcing it would involve displacing people who had done nothing wrong and who were in no way involved in Indian removal. While those who took the land owed compensation to the Indians (ideally, in the form of the original land), their heirs don’t owe anything to the natives, because descendants aren’t responsible for the crimes of their ancestors.

          • AJD says:

            However, if I were to travel to Earth-2, find some unappropriated land, and build a house or a farm there, forcibly removing me from it would be an act of aggression.

            I think the labor theory of property needs more defense than you’re giving it, and I don’t think the above is obviously true.

            For example, if the nations of the world collectively decided that Earth-2 was to be left uninhabited (e.g., indefinitely as a nature preserve, or temporarily pending the results of research into whether it was safe for humans to inhabit), it seems to me at least strongly arguable that they would be justified in forcibly removing anyone who attempted to homestead there. (Note that a similar principle actually obtains in international law with regard to Antarctica and the moon, though with lower probability of unauthorized homesteading.)

            In general, I’m troubled by the principle that unoccupied land may be claimed by “mixing labor” with it, because it seems to allow the wishes of someone who wants a particular area of land to be developed to automatically trump the wishes of someone who wants it to remain undeveloped, regardless of priority, necessity, or consequences. If I’m the first person to happen upon a particular unoccupied parcel of land, and I decline to build or farm upon it because to do so would endanger the local flamingo population, or pollute a stream that other settlements depend on, or whatever, the labor theory of property seems to imply that I can do nothing to claim it or protect it from the next bozo to happen along who just sees free land and doesn’t care about flamingos or their neighbors’ fresh water.

          • blacktrance says:

            The point about intentionally unoccupied land is an interesting one. I’ll have to think about it. But as for the nations of the world collectively deciding to not settle Earth-2, that is in principle no different from my neighbors and me imposing the same decision on others – the only difference is that the nations of the world are stronger.

          • AJD says:

            Since the thesis of my comment is that you and your neighbors may well have the right to impose that decision on others, I’m not troubled by that.

            But I do think “the nations of the world” differ from you and your friends in more ways than just being stronger—at least they (1) ostensibly represent the interests of more people than you and your friends and (2) have a specific mandate to solve coordination problems.

            So if it’s the case that one person’s preference to leave a particular parcel of land intentionally unoccupied can have force, I think the preference of “the nations of the world” is more likely to have force.

          • blacktrance says:

            The inferential gap between us is larger than I originally estimated, because I hold that it doesn’t matter how many people’s interests my neighbors and/or the countries represent, that doesn’t give them the right to prevent me from acquiring property. But because the inferential distance is so large, I’ll be dropping out of this conversation for now.

  28. michael vassar says:

    WRT rain dances, I saw a shocking lecture at Columbia years ago, where they showed a slightly time-lagged very strong correlation between government spending on anti-drug messaging and teen beliefs about drugs. Propaganda actually *does* seem to work, at least in the short term.

  29. Leonard says:

    Scott Aaronson writes:

    …our “progressive” admissions process works strongly in favor of the upper-middle-class families who know how to navigate it, and against the poor and working-class families who don’t… Defenders of the status quo have missed this reality on the ground, it seems to me, because they’re obsessed with the notion that standardized tests are “reductive”: that is, that they reduce a human being to a number.

    No. Defenders of the status quo know that the only way to get large numbers of blacks and other low-IQ minorities into top universities is via the “judge their soul” method.

    • Anonymous says:

      Then why are they trying to exclude Asians?

      • meyerkev says:

        Because the stereotype is that they cheat.

        http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/asian-immigrants-and-what-no-one-mentions-aloud/
        http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/timothy-lance-lai-reading-between-the-lines/

        Many people, reading of the clear discrimination against Asians, become all righteous, thinking of those poor, hardworking Asians. Come to America, work hard, and look how the system screws them.

        But that reaction ignores the stereotype.

        The stereotype, delicately put: first and second generation Chinese, Korean, and Indian Americans, as well as nationals from these countries, often fail to embody the sterling academic credentials they include with their applications, and do not live up to the expectations these universities have for top tier students.

        Less delicately put: They cheat. And when they don’t cheat, they game tests in a way utterly incomprehensible to the Western mind, leading to test scores with absolutely zero link to underlying ability. Or both. Or maybe it’s all cheating, and we just don’t know it. Either way, the resumes are functional fraud.

        Is it true for every single recent Chinese, Korean, or Indian immigrant? Of course not. I know far more recent Asian immigrants than most people, a fair number of whom effortlessly exceed their academic records, with style points to boot. That doesn’t make the stereotype any less relevant. Or less accurate, as stereotypes go.

        Add to this the annoying little niggle that the kid who spent every Saturday and most summers since the age of 10 in SAT boot camp probably doesn’t have a whole lot of interesting experiences or interests outside of school, and why would you ever let in a stereotypical Asian? (Please note the use of the word stereotypical).

        I don’t necessarily agree with this (and I think that if you’re trying to keep Asians from cheating, hitting them with a 200-400 point difference compared to whites and Hispanics/blacks is insanely counterproductive), but assuming that the stereotype is true (and yes, it’s based on a certain degree of reality. See linked article for cites), then yes, a certain degree of discrimination against Asians is kinda sorta rational. It’s not right (I’d much rather filter on “International Asians” or “People who took prep school since the age of 12” than Asians. You can affect behavior, you can’t affect race), but it’s correct.

        • Anonymous says:

          I can’t peer into the souls of admissions committees, but it appears to me that the relevant stereotype is that they are boring grinds without leadership potential, not concern about their academic abilities.

        • caryatis says:

          “They game tests in a way utterly incomprehensible to the Western mind.” WTF does that even mean.

          • Clockwork Marx says:

            I don’t know, but it makes me think of the videos on YouTube of Japanese gamers beating games like OoT in ten minutes or so.

          • Multiheaded says:

            This is your brain on racialism!

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’m inclined to think it’s more “culture realism”; “Western” isn’t a race, and he specifies first and second generation Asian-Americans as the gamers. So presumably someone racially Asian but culturally assimilated to a Western perspective would be just as baffled as a gold-star blond-hair-blue-eyes white.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have a friend that beat Link to the Past in (IIRC) six minutes for a contest.

            She’s of English and Scandinavian descent, though. A bit gothy. Is goth heritable?

          • Matthew says:

            6 minutes?

            I mean, I’ve beaten it in a sitting, but that just does not sound possible. There are 3 light world and 8 dark world dungeons to get through. I cannot conceive how this could possibly be done in 6 minutes.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, it was like ten years ago; the feat may have grown in my memory. But I’m fairly certain there was sequence breaking involved.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I seem to recall hearing about glitches in LttP that let you skip most of the game, but I don’t see anything nearly that fast on Speed Demos Archive — their fastest is over an hour. Maybe I’m confusing with a different Zelda? (The original? Best time there on SDA is still over half an hour.)

            TASVideos has a video of LttP being completed in under 3 minutes, but apparently the glitch used requires pressing 3 directions on the D-pad simultaneously, which explains why such a feat doesn’t appear on SDA.

          • Jadagul says:

            Any time you hear about ridiculous times like that it tends to involve some odd glitch. This is someone doing it on actual hardware on an actual TV as proof of concept. This is someone doing it live on (I believe) unmodded hardware with a slightly longer route.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            The caption on the first one said they had to remove the D-Pad on the controller; presumably it’s the same glitch used in the TASVideos run I linked. That makes it ineligible for SDA.

            The second one meanwhile was apparently *at* an event run by SDA… so why isn’t it on their site? I’m definitely confused here.

          • Jadagul says:

            It’s my understanding that SDA is actually pretty bad at keeping its site updated with top runs. I know that when they do live LTTP speedruns they have “that glitch is banned” specifically listed in the rules (e.g. this run, which allows glitches but not the exploration glitch. They actually discuss that glitch briefly starting at about 4:30 in this video EDIT: and demonstrate it starting at like 42:30).

        • alexp says:

          I’ve got two anecdotal objections to that:

          1. I have never heard that stereotype before and I believe my social circles are such that I would have been exposed to them pretty quickly. At least regarding American Asians.

          2. Generally, I’ve seen that cheating occurs among poor or mediocre students rather than excellent students. I was an excellent student in high school and never was tempted to cheat. I was a mediocre student in college and was tempted a few times. I crossed the line when I was a poor student during my fraternity pledge term.

          • Anonymous says:

            The single strongest predictor of cheating is not being a good student or a bad student, but being a premed.

          • Protagoras says:

            In my experience as a teacher, the vast majority of the cheating I’ve encountered has involved mediocre students turning in plagiarized but nonetheless mediocre work (maybe they thought if it was too good they would be suspected? Or maybe they were too incompetent to identify good work to copy?) This may of course be affected by what kind of students take classes in my field (philosophy), and may also be biased in that my data is only based on the cheaters I’ve been able to catch. I haven’t noticed any unusual tendency of Asians to cheat, nor had I encountered that stereotype previously.

  30. Ken Arromdee says:

    The comment about Israel seems to assume that Israelis all come from Europe. You’re forgetting that much of the population of Israel traces back to Middle Eastern countries who persecute Jews. Creating Israel somewhere other than in the Middle East might create less of an incentive for Middle Eastern countries to immediately expel them, but ultimately they would be driven out, and with Israel in Africa it would be much harder for them to either get to, or adjust to living in, Israel.

    Furthermore, you’re ignoring the anti-colonialism that followed World War II. As a majority-white state in Africa imposed by Europeans, it would be the number one target for all sorts of anti-Western campaigns regardless of anything it did, and if I had to pick one movement that united lots of unaligned countries and was not about the Middle East, ending actual colonialism, “colonialism”, and white rule would be it. And the Jews wouldn’t even be able to claim historic ties to the land, making opinion more unbalanced against them.

    (And quickly checking Wikipedia shows that Madagascar has more than twice the population of Israel. Putting Israel on Madagascar would require actual genocide of the natives.)

    • Eli says:

      it would be the number one target for all sorts of anti-Western campaigns regardless of anything it did,

      Speaking as an Israeli, I see absolutely no difference between this counterfactual tale and reality. We are already the #1 target for all anti-Western campaigns, rational and irrational, with very little correlation to anything we’ve actually done or not done.

      I have one Hadashnik/BDS-nik friend who still actually believes that, thanks to a level of legalism that would impress the ancient Pharisees, Gaza is still occupied. I mean, it has no Israeli settlers or troops inside it whatsoever and governs itself 100%, but apparently Israel just has so much leverage over Gaza that it is Legally Occupied.

      • Anonymous says:

        #1 target still standing. before that it was south africa. before that rhodesia.

        • Ken Arromdee says:

          It would be the #1 target period, since South Africa and Rhodesia were white-ruled, but not white majority.

          Eli: Yes. But Scott seems to think it’d be an improvement, not that it’d be as bad.

          • Kzickas says:

            Being black majority means a country can’t be the target of anti-western campaigns? I’m pretty sure South Africa was white majority on paper anyway, that was the very purpose of the Bantustan system and displacing black people from “white areas”. Similar to the role the division of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of the part that is Israel played in creating a Jewish majority state.

          • Anonymous says:

            Piecing together data from different time periods, I conclude that SA was 20% non-black, 40% blacks in bantustans, and 40% blacks in the main area. The blacks were all citizens of bantustans, not SA. That’s not quite like israel, where the palestinians in israel proper are citizens (with suffrage, if not all rights).

            I have heard it said that if the whites had been willing to give up their servants, they could have displaced them into the bantustans and the world would have been OK with it, but it was the non-citizen servants in close proximity that pissed off the world.

          • Kzickas says:

            I’m not quite sure the world would have been OK with that. I certainly hope it wouldn’t be.

          • Anonymous says:

            I just mean as OK as Israel, but that’s the difference between existing and not existing.

            How else do you explain that Rhodesia was enemy #1 while South Africa was only #2?

            Britain promised SA that if it would just destroy Rhodesia, everything would be forgiven.

  31. MK says:

    Between the land God promised us and the land Hitler promised us, I’m kinda going with advantage Hitler here.

    This would make a great header motto.

  32. Raoul says:

    I wanted to check that the hair colour study was looking at the percentage of male UK adults with blond hair. (Children are more likely to be blond. Women might be more likely to be blond, and they’re definitely more likely to dye their hair.)

    “Of the 500 CEOs, 25 (5%) had blonde hair, 20 (4%) had red hair. There were 114 CEOs with black hair (22.8%) and 341 (68.2%) with brown hair. Of the 500 UK CEOs, only two were female and both had brown hair. They were included in the sample. There was no minority CEOs. These findings were compared to normal population statistics on natural hair color provided by the CIA Fact Book (www.cia.gov), and supported by further research (Snee, 1974) on hair color and eye color distributions. In the U.K. population inclusive, it is estimated 25 percent of the population is natural blonde, 68 percent is natural brunette (brown), one percent is redhead, and six percent have black hair.”

    Snee 1974 is on students at the University of Delaware, so we can safely ignore it.

    I can’t even find the numbers in the CIA World Factbook (admittedly that doesn’t mean that they’re not there, but it does mean that I can’t check how relevant they are).

    So I went looking for other figures on hair colour. Finding stuff on blond hair was difficult (a lot of the results were citing this study), but for red hair I got figures like 6% of people in England (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2249635/Redhead-Four-Britons-carry-ginger-genes-having-red-hair–major-health-implications.html) or about 10% of people in the UK (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24331615). This isn’t even close to the 1% reported by the study, so whether they’ve adjusted for age, sex, etc. or not, someone has incorrect figures (and based on the number of redheads I know, my guess is that it’s the study).

    • Raoul says:

      I’ve just had a look through the photos in my school yearbook (obviously it’s not particularly representative of the general population, but it’s a reasonable sized sample of people from the right sort of background), and I’d say that ~10% are blond and ~5% have red hair. There are just under two blonds for each person with red hair, which is quite different to the 25:1 ratio suggested in the study.

  33. think happy memes says:

    Steve Sailer on blond men years ago. [Content note: Steve Sailer stuff]

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