"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Links 4/15: Link And You’re Dead

Perytons are mysterious bursts detected by radio telescopes. Some kind of novel astronomical object? Maybe not – a recent investigation suggested something more banal – microwave ovens in the astronomers’ break room.

Greg Cochran on creepy cell line infections. “There are diseases that look as if they might be infectious where no causative organisms has ever been found – diseases like sarcoidosis. They might be caused by some disease that started out as your second cousin Frank.”

Yale on climate change polling. More people believe in global warming themselves, than believe there is a scientific consensus around it? That’s the opposite of what I would have expected. More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists? Polling is weird.

A lot of the scrutiny around Ferguson focused on its corrupt police force as an example of white officials fleecing black citizens, and how this might be solved by mobilizing black voters to take control of the government. The Daily Beast has an interesting article on the town next to Ferguson – where black officials fleece black citizens about the same amount.

CVS will allow people to get naloxone without prescriptions in order to fight deaths from opiate overdose (which naloxone treates). The two interesting things I took from this study – first, it’s surprisingly legal to give prescription drugs away without prescriptions if you can get a couple of trade groups to agree to it. Second, maybe this will mean alcoholics can try the Sinclair Method on their own.

Lot of interesting graphs on my Twitter feed this month. Here’s one on how fertility isn’t declining and one on how IQ affects likelihood of escaping poverty (source)

An Italian surgeon is prepared to attempt the world’s first head transplant.

A multinational team says their machine learning program can now predict IQ from MRI images accurately enough that their estimates correlate at 0.71 with the real thing. I asked Twitter what they thought; apparently it’s real prediction rather than “my machine learning algorithm correctly predicted the same data we fed it”, but it might be confounded by the sample of different-aged children; the program might just be reading off whose brain looks older and predicting that older children perform better on IQ tests.

How did surveyors in 1919, long before the computer was invented, calculate the geographical center of the United States?

No Irish Need Apply: A Myth Of Victimization. A historian argues that there are no actual records of 19th century American businesses or advertisments using this phrase, and it was later made up to promote Irish-American solidarity. When asked for comment, experts look shifty and say they “know nothing”.

More strong claims for probiotics: a four-week treatment with a multispecies supplement decreases reactivity to sad mood, considered a risk factor for depression.

Vox writes about Raj Chetty’s theories of location-dependent social mobility, and now it seems that Hillary Clinton is a huge fan. But Steve Sailer points out exactly the same giant gaping radioactive flaw that I noticed – he is basically just noticing that there is less social mobility between races than within them, and that therefore, places with high black populations appear to have less social mobility. Please tell me I’m misunderstanding something and he didn’t actually miss this.

A while back we discussed gender differences in ethical theories. A recent big meta-analysis finds that women are moderately more deontological than men, and men slightly more utilitarian than women. Whatever.

It’s morally wrong to blame a victim’s actions for their own victimization. We should be blaming those victims’ genes. Or something. Not really sure what to do with this one.

Very closely related: a while back I argued that the apparent connection between childhood bullying and psychiatric disorders was way too strong to be real and likely to represent some kind of common confound. Sure enough, when somebody twin-studied it they found that at least in the case of paranoia 93% of the association is likely to represent a common genetic risk factor.

Ready For Hillary? Take Our Quiz And Find Out! Question four: “Her slogan is (a) Ready for Hillary, (b) Resigned to Hillary, (c) Preparing for Chelsea, or (d) What Difference, At This Point, Does It Make?”

19th century polymath Francis Galton was among the first to study the efficacy of prayer, noting among other things that despite all the people praying “God save the King” royals tended to die earlier than other upper-class individuals.

Chris Blattman conducted a study in Liberia that finds that at-risk poor young men given cognitive behavioral therapy were involved in 20-50% less crime, drugs, and violence than a control group, with effects lasting at least a year. This sincerely surprises me. I would pay money to see what James Coyne thinks of this.

New work with odd jellyfish-like creatures called ctenophores raises the surprising question: did neurons evolve twice?

At least three towns have exclamation points in their names: Hamilton!, Ohio; Westward Ho!, Devon, and Saint Louis du Ha! Ha!, Quebec.

In order to prove some kind of point, Ecuador very carefully disguises a portion of its territory as Costa Rica, tells some of its citizens they were going on a trip to Costa Rica, then keeps them in Ecuador. Now it’s an international incident with the Costa Rican government getting involved.

Individual Differences In Executive Function Are Almost Entirely Genetic In Origin. And when they say “almost entirely”, they mean “about 99%”. This doesn’t make sense to me – why should this be the only 99% genetic thing in a world full of cognitive skills that are about 50% genetic? Really looking forward to a replication attempt.

Has Obamacare Turned Voters Against Sharing The Wealth? Maybe not Obamacare specifically, but the magnitude of increasing opposition to redistribution is surprising and disturbing. Also a confusing sign of how poorly trends in media coverage mirror trends in people’s attitudes.

FBI Admits It Fudged Forensic Hair Matches In Nearly All Criminal Trials For Decades. “Oops” doesn’t seem to cut it.

If Douglas Hofstadter wrote erotica (h/t Multiheaded)

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363 Responses to Links 4/15: Link And You’re Dead

  1. Sarah says:

    “Chuck Tingler” is an anagram for “Urge Nth Click” — that last story *must* be by Hofstadter!

  2. Steve Reilly says:

    Has naloxone been shown to be effective for alcoholism? I thought only naltrexone was used in the Sinclair method.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Naloxone and naltrexone are really similar. I think the main difference is half-life and onset of action. I would naively expect that naloxone would work too as long as you’re willing to time it right, but I’m not a pharmacologist.

      • caryatis says:

        FYI the article Scott linked says that CVS is only doing this in Rhode Island. I don’t think you can get it without prescription in other states (though I’d love to be wrong).

      • AnonymousLurker says:

        I do the Sinclair Method and I while I have heard of nalmefene being used, I have never heard of naloxone being used.

  3. Zykrom says:

    “despite all the people praying “God save the King” royals tended to die earlier than other upper-class individuals.”

    This makes sense if God is interpreting the prayers as meaning “save” as in “save their souls.” He kills them before they have time to leave the faith, therefore ensuring that they’re saved.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Isn’t the verse just before that “Long to reign over us”?

      Also, maybe God’s interpreting it as “God save [a backup copy of] the King”, and if anyone ever prays “God load the King” then any past monarch of their choice can be restored exactly as they were in the prime of life.

      • DanielLC says:

        Wouldn’t they be restored the way they were when someone last prayed “God save the King”?

        Don’t you hate it when you accidentally save a game right before you die?

        • Emerit says:

          This is especially fun when you’re playing a VN and kicked yourself right after failing to save *before* the last choice, and saved, only to find that you already committed to death, gloom, or a manly picnic.

          I’ll stop spoiling KS now.

      • Dennis Ochei says:

        Oh? What version control does God use?

        • Nornagest says:

          I imagine “God revert the King” could be construed as lese majeste.

        • fubarobfusco says:

          The Old Testament makes it pretty clear that God is even more of a Git than Linus Torvalds.

          (Subversion is too anti-authoritarian, Mercurial is too hermetic …)

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          He doesn’t–he’s always fixing forward.

          Well, except for the flood, which was more of a rewrite from scratch.

      • Hedonic Treader says:

        This is why I think em technology will create a mental phenotype radiation much faster and more powerful than even Hanson realizes.

        Once you can edit and undo microchanges in the brain, you have unprecedented adaptive power.

      • haishan says:

        Have the neoreactionaries tried this? Worth a shot at least.

      • ryan says:

        If your doctor who reference there was not unintentional then you’ve got a rosary and some hail mary’s coming.

      • shemtealeaf says:

        Wasn’t there a Doctor Who episode with pretty much that plot?

    • creative username #1138 says:

      Scottish nationalism has risen since the “Rebellious Scots to crush” part of the anthem was dropped. Another point for prayer (‘though as a counterpoint Jacobitism still seems fairly contained).

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Maybe prayers are working, it’s just that being a royal specifically (vs another noble) is very dangerous, and the life expectancy would be even worse without prayer!

      • Anthony says:

        That was my thought – the proper control group isn’t “other upper-class individuals” or even other nobles, but other kings whose subjects don’t pray for their long life.

        Or perhaps kings whose subjects pray to different gods, but that would be a somewhat different research topic.

        • RCF says:

          Although I think there would be quite a few confounders in comparing kings whose subjects pray for them to kings whose subjects don’t pray for them …

          • Anthony says:

            So what I was wondering is if there are any cultures where praying to the dieties for the health, long life, etc., of the King is just not done. Because that would be a proper control group.

      • Anonymous says:

        Galton considers this 😛

        The prayer has therefore no efficacy, unless the very questionable hypothesis be raised, that the conditions of royal life may naturally be yet more fatal, and that their influence is partly, though incompletely, neutralized by the effects of public prayers.

        • Anthony says:

          Alternate hypothesis: God listens more to the rich and powerful, and among that group, there are always a few, and sometimes more than a few, who are praying for the speedy demise of the king. Meanwhile, there aren’t very many rich or powerful people praying for the demise or removal of any particular noble.

    • spandrel says:

      The proper comparison group is not non-royals, but royals for whom no one prayed.

  4. re: https://twitter.com/bechhof/status/586005427332259840 – why crop to 0-87 percentile test results only? N=? population=? why “in->out of bottom *quintile*” [wealth or income]? seems cherry-picked and if those are 95% confidence intervals i guess barely significant. are single and couple households w/ N children ranked separately?

    let’s stipulate it’s a significant effect (i suppose it is). explanations: 1. usual prejudice => individually unfair outcomes. 2. iso-IQ criminality difference (i’m not aware of any stats for this; would be cool if we administered high-stakes exams to all convicts) 3. intraracial affinity in marriage preferences (one way to move up is to marry up) 4. strength of family/community connections+mentoring 5. effectiveness of formal schooling+mentoring 6. mean reversion in individuals (a single test score updates your belief away from the group mean but not infinitely so – but should be irrelevant if you integrate over the whole population) 7. something about the slice of the bottom-quintile population that takes AFQT that holds at the lowest and highest percentiles but not the 10-60%

    • Brandon Berg says:

      They probably cut off the top because they didn’t have enough data. How many parents with incomes in the bottom quintile have children with IQs in the 90th percentile?

      Anyway, what is it that you find not credible here?

    • JK says:

      The full report is here. This is how they describe the graph:

      Individuals with higher test scores in adolescence are more likely to move out of the bottom quintile, and test scores can explain virtually the entire black-white mobility gap. Figure 13 plots the transition rates against percentiles of the AFQT test score distribution. The upward-sloping lines indicate that, as might be expected, individuals with higher test scores are much more likely to leave the bottom income quintile. For example, for whites, moving from the first percentile of the AFQT distribution to the median roughly doubles the likelihood from 42 percent to 81 percent. The comparable increase for blacks is even more dramatic, rising from 33 percent to 78 percent. Perhaps the most stunning finding is that once one accounts for the AFQT score, the entire racial gap in mobility is eliminated for a broad portion of the distribution. At the very bottom and in the top half of the distribution a small gap remains, but it is not statistically significant. The differences in the top half of the AFQT distribution are particularly misleading because there are very few blacks in the NLSY with AFQT scores this high.

      I would add that they should have estimated “true score” IQs purged of measurement error. The formula is T=r*(X-M)+M where T is the true score, r is test reliability, X is observed test score, and M is group mean. This might have closed the racial gaps at the tails.

    • Tarrou says:

      Without having checked the validity, at the 87th percentile, the chance of moving up out of the bottom quintile was very close to 100% for all groups. It may have just saved them the plateau, or it may be as Brandon suggests. Cropped graphs ring an alarm bell for me as well, but I can’t see it producing a problem here.

      As to your other concerns, I’m not sure I understand them all.

      1: Prejudice? How is that supposed to be making smart kids of all races do better than stupid kids of all races? Unless you want to postulate that people are both more prejudiced about intelligence than about race and furthermore are better at distinguishing intelligence than race, I can’t see a path for this to work.

      2: There’s been a fair bit of IQ research with convicts, with most of it showing lower than average results. A very short summary of one such study here: http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4243&context=jclc. I doubt the difference in population IQ is enough to explain everything here though.

      3: This is interesting, there is a slight correlation between subjective attractiveness and IQ, up to a short plateau. I could see a mechanism whereby IQ was correlated with greater openness to such marriages. I’m not currently aware of research to that effect, but it seems plausible.

      4: These have little to do with IQ, I doubt there is much effect there. I would postulate that such social capital is more important for the lower IQ groups than the higher.

      5: ditto this. High IQ kids tend to get a lot less out of school than most, given the laser focus on the laggards and the small effort it takes to get by.

      6: Not sure what you’re saying here, restate?

      7: wat?

  5. Did the CBT +20-50% to good behavior have a control group that would be equally subject to Hawthorne effect (better behavior when you think you’re being studied)? http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2594868

  6. Dale says:

    At present most health insurance companies are not making any profit on customers they’re picking up off the public exchanges (source: company filings). It seems their plan is to raise prices once the exchanges have matured in terms of volume, and rely on customer stickiness. Is anyone aware of any research on what will happen to the exchanges / prices / other parts of healthcare when this happens?

    • CaptainBooshi says:

      I haven’t really been paying any attention to how the health care law’s been doing, so I have absolutely no idea whether or not companies are making a profit, but I would offer a word of warning when looking at the company filings.

      To my knowledge, a ton of the people on the public exchanges are massively subsidized by refundable tax credits from the federal government, and it’s usually set up so the money automatically goes straight from the government to the health insurance company. I don’t know how that would appear in company filings, and if you’re just looking at the actual money the people on the exchanges are actually giving the companies, it’s probably really underselling how much money the companies are making off those people.

      Since I have no experience with company filings, maybe this isn’t a problem, but I would suspect that anytime you have to start dealing with tax credits and government funding, things get complicated quickly, and the real picture isn’t easy to figure out.

    • Tarrou says:

      The companies have their profits guaranteed by the ACA. If they fall short of some target percentage profit, the government pays the difference (I want to say it was 6%? could be wrong here).

      Just because they aren’t making a profit directly off the clients doesn’t mean they aren’t making a profit.

  7. Dale says:

    > first, it’s surprisingly legal to give prescription drugs away without prescriptions if you can get a couple of trade groups to agree to it.

    CVS is also quite popular with the Obamas, especially after stopping selling tobacco (despite Barack’s addiction).

    http://www.providencejournal.com/news/content/20150119-cvs-president-to-sit-with-first-lady-michelle-obama-during-state-of-the-union.ece

  8. Princess Stargirl says:

    There is an idea in some (mostly ancap) circles that you should try to get on jury duty and vote Acquit regardless of the evidence presented. As even if the evidence seems convincing it might be doctored. Maybe they have a point (even though this sounds a bit crazy)?

    *Many people (including ancaps) take the position you should try to get on jury duty in order to nullify bad laws (such as drug laws). But not try to nullify every law. The block all convictions approach is a minority view even among people fond of jury nullification.

    • Irrelevant says:

      I can almost buy it. I make a similar argument for voting down the line “throw the bastards out”, in that no matter how much I think I know/like about the incumbent, the optimal choice is to counter the pro-incumbency bias instead.

    • Tarrou says:

      I’m a strong proponent of jury nullification, but this is way too far for me. Most crimes do have victims, and are not great mysteries. To vote to acquit an obvious murderer or rapist (absent some terrible government misconduct) is unsupportable morally, in my view.

      I’ve seen some crazy ancaps, but never seen this advocated. Not saying no one does, but even in my crazy libertarian corners of the intarwubs, this would be way the hell out on the fringes.

      • ryan says:

        I mostly agree with you, but if you are in a situation where a criminal trial is going forward before a jury one of a small number of things are going on:

        – It’s very easy for the prosecution to lose on technical grounds (the cop did not say the exact 15 things he’s required to testify to in securing a DUI conviction)

        – The crime was so heinous that the prosecutor would not offer a plea agreement which did not include very severe punishment

        – A guilty idiot refused a good plea deal despite the advice of their lawyer

        – The accused is actually completely innocent (rare but it happens)

        Jury nullification doesn’t seem net good from a utilitarian perspective in any of those cases except the 4th, and that’s really only a coincidence.

        So my view would be only nullify if you think the “crime” shouldn’t exist in the first place.

        So for example my cousin is a public defender in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In cases where her client is accused of mere marijuana possession, she asks prospective jurors if any of them would refuse to convict someone of possession even if they thought they were guilty. And then literally the entire jury pool raises their hand to say yes. Then she goes to the prosecutor and tells him/her to drop the charges.

        “But he’s clearly guilty.” “Uh, so what?” “OK, fine, we’ll drop the charges.”

        • Nornagest says:

          And then literally the entire jury pool raises their hand to say yes.

          That’s fairly astonishing to me. A lot of jurors, sure. Maybe even a majority of some jury pools. But IME, if you pick people at random and hold a referendum on anything, there’s going to be four to eight percent who pick the obviously stupid answer out of sheer contrarianism, and another ten to twenty who didn’t understand the question. In this case, I’d also expect a largeish fraction of people to still be nursing misinformation from their DARE classes in high school.

          • Randy M says:

            And I would expect people to be savy enough to know that jury nullification is frowned upon and they might not stay prospective jurors if they raise their hand. Probably a few start (maybe in order to get out of jury duty) then a few honest ones join in, then those falling asleep and noticing everyone else is raising their hands, then those who wouldn’t but don’t want to stand out…

          • speedwell says:

            In a jury pool I was in in Texas last year, the defendant was a sad little guy accused of his third strike under petty dealing charges (i.e. he probably had more on him than a simple “possession”). As best I remember, the prosecuting attorney described the minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines and then asked us who would agree to convict if the defendant was obviously guilty. I think only one person raised her hand. The lawyers called a halt and brokered a plea deal. Outside in the hallway, after we were excused, the mood was clearly “WTF is up with those ridiculous minimum sentencing guidelines”.

    • RCF says:

      Is this based on a general principle that everyone should vote to acquit, and the criminal justice system should be abolished, or is it based on the idea that at the margins, it would be better if people acquitted more often?

      I would definitely be very skeptical of evidentiary standards (have so-called “experts” actually been calibrated?), I wouldn’t treat confessions in general to be probative (what reason do we have for expecting P(confess|guilty) > P(confess|innocent)?), and I would consider anyone who claims that a DNA test has only a 1-in-a-billion chance of being wrong to not know what they’re talking about.

  9. James Picone says:

    A bot has won the Arimaa challenge: here.

    Not many details about it yet.

    EDIT: A brief forum post by the person behind the bot: here describing some features of its evaluation. You can also watch the games by clicking on the boards on this page.

    • zz says:

      The next step is, of course, the Hofstadter challenge: create a program that produces games that humans can beat computers at that’s better than humans at creating games that humans can beat computers at.

  10. Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

    The journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology bans the use of p-values in their publication.  Something about nobody knowing what it actually means.

  11. Tom Scharf says:

    “Maybe not Obamacare specifically, but the magnitude of increasing opposition to redistribution is surprising and disturbing.”

    Really? How so? Exactly how much redistribution would be necessary before you would declare it as excessive redistribution? We all draw lines differently, but this is basically a content free statement.

    Where do you suppose all this unequal income exists? Is it in underground bunkers on the estates of the rich and famous where it sits being unused, or is it being actively invested to create jobs and further growth?

    It all comes down to a basic question of who you want to control the wealth of the country. Warren Buffet and Google, or the government? I vote for letting the people who have proven that they can mange wealth…..manage the wealth. Give Warren $100B or give everyone in the US $300 and see which policy has better long term results for society in 25 years.

    This is not an absolutist position, there is a need for an adequate social safety net that is affordable and as effective as it can reasonably be.

    It is not “obvious” that things are out of balance and we need more redistribution. It would be interesting to find out where the left would really draw the redistribution lines if it had free reign to draw the lines wherever they wanted. My guess is not much would change. This is demonstrably empty populist propaganda to score political points.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Do you think that other 1st world democratic states are relevant parallel trials? And if so, do you accept that they have broadly better outcomes for their citizenry?

      If so, doesn’t this offer fairly convincing evidence in favor of increasing U.S. investment in broad social welfare programs?

      In addition, don’t the trajectories of the European economies post crash, which tried austerity, and the U.S., which tried stimulus, give you some sense that those who favor interventionist economic policies when warranted are not doing so for mere political reasons?

      • Richard says:

        adequate social safety net that is affordable and as effective as it can reasonably be.

        I suspect that a whole lot of it lies in that little caveat really. There seems to be a HUGE difference between different countries and how effective and efficient the public services are.

        It also seems like recovery time after the credit crunch is very strongly correlated with said efficiency.

        Also, I suspect that when people observe an efficient use of tax money, they are less inclined to be against taxation.

        • Lupis42 says:

          The first statement and the third statement are true.

          The second statement is true, but I think a common third cause (call it something like ‘good governance’) is the primary driver.

          But I suspect that “good governance” comes partly from having a relatively small and relatively homogenous electorate, and federalism doesn’t really solve that, because the good governance needs to apply at the money supply level, and the regulatory level, not just the social services level.

      • Lupis42 says:

        Do you think that other 1st world democratic states are relevant parallel trials? And if so, do you accept that they have broadly better outcomes for their citizenry?

        No, and no. On the first, most of those states have a variety of potentially relevant differences, and I think population size (where they have less, typically by at least around an order of magnitude) is a huge factor in how effective their governance is.
        On the second, Spain and France and Italy and Greece are just as valid examples as Germany and Denmark and Sweden and England.

        If so, doesn’t this offer fairly convincing evidence in favor of increasing U.S. investment in broad social welfare programs?
        It would be a significant point if there a comparably large, diverse, mostly free-market economy that achieved better than US outcomes and did significantly better outcomes (including economic growth). Since currently much of our distribution is from the less wealthy to the more wealthy, via Social Security, even simply doing better redistribution would be a good data point.
        Of course, one example on each side is still awfully small as a sample size, given the number of probable interacting causes.

        In addition, don’t the trajectories of the European economies post crash, which tried austerity, and the U.S., which tried stimulus, give you some sense that those who favor interventionist economic policies when warranted are not doing so for mere political reasons?
        Monetary stimulus worked. It worked so well that in 2013, when we went from stimulus to austerity so hard that all the Keynsians were certain recession was coming, our growth actually picked up. See Scott Summner for more and better data on this than will fit here.
        Short version: monetary policy beat fiscal policy so thoroughly that fiscal policy retired and moved to a farm in Nebraska.

        • vV_Vv says:

          and I think population size (where they have less, typically by at least around an order of magnitude) is a huge factor in how effective their governance is.

          Sweden, Portugal and Greece have roughly the same population size, the UK and France have roughly the same population size, with Italy having a little less and Germany somewhat more.
          Outside the 1st world, China does remarkably well for a country of 1.5 billion people.

          Spain and France and Italy and Greece are just as valid examples as Germany and Denmark and Sweden and England.

          AFAIK the UK doesn’t do much better than France, Greece is a mess and Italy and Spain are somewhere in between.

          • lupis42 says:

            China get’s around it’s large population by not letting them vote.
            (Which is another way of saying that I meant in Democraticish countries)

            I don’t mean that it’s the only factor, just that I remain highly suspicious that democracy scales well – Switzerland and Sweden have quite small populations and relatively efficient and effective governance, larger countries will tend to do worse, although how much worse varies based on a whole lot of other things.
            I raise them more as counters to the “European countries have better performance and that should be a data point towards the okness of social spending”

      • Tracy W says:

        On the other hand, the USA, being a rich country, spends a lot more money in terms of US$ ppp per head than most of the rest of the world. For example American government expenditure in 2006 was US$15,999 per capita, above Germany’s $14,478 per capita or Switzerland’s $12,867 per capita and not that far off the Netherlands’ $16,846 per capita or France’s $16,999 per capita. (Note this doesn’t include things like tax deductions for health insurance). (See linked excel file on the page, tab 4.2).

        So the US’s economic system supports large government spending and large private spending. It’s quite plausible that what the US needs is a rebalancing in its existing spending, not more spending.

        • vV_Vv says:

          For example American government expenditure in 2006 was US$15,999 per capita, above Germany’s $14,478 per capita or Switzerland’s $12,867 per capita and not that far off the Netherlands’ $16,846 per capita or France’s $16,999 per capita.

          If I understand correctly, these figures include military spending, which is clearly unusually large in the US.

          It could be argued that European countries benefit from the American military power, and if the US were to cut their military and focus primarily on internal defense rather than “power projection” European countries would have to increase their own military spending or be at the mercy of Russia.

          • Nornagest says:

            American military spending is large (as a share of peacetime GDP, it’s about 1.7x what France or Britain are spending, and that doesn’t include the loans we’re paying off for the Iraq War), but it’s not so large that you can squeeze funding for large entitlement programs out of it. We’re already spending substantially more on healthcare, or on Social Security insurance.

            On the other hand, Russia’s spending 4.2% of its GDP on its military (source: World Bank). That’s twice typical European expenditures, but Russia’s per-capita GDP is also a lot lower; on a dollar basis its spending isn’t much higher than France’s or Germany’s. Given the kind of money they must be spending on strategic and logistical forces, I think I’d give either of those countries the advantage in a straight conventional fight.

        • Anon256 says:

          The US actually has the most progressive (in income) tax system in the developed world, and reasonably high levels of per-capita government spending. The priority should indeed be “rebalancing” existing spending to be more redistributive and progressive; the revenue side if anything could do with being less progressive (in income).

          • Aaron says:

            I’m not sure which tax revenues that includes: federal income taxes are the most progressive part of the tax code, while state and local tax revenues are far less so. So if it excludes state or local revenues it may be overstating the case. Can’t tell from the link, though.

          • Anon256 says:

            I believe state and local taxes are included.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        When the Blue Tribe talks about the awesomeness of the European states, they remember the high taxes on the rich and the big welfare state, but they forget the high taxes on the poor- and middle-class, as well as the fierce enforcement of immigration.

        (The Red Tribe has similar blind spots. In fact, sometimes they believe the exact same myths that the Blue Tribe believes. It’s fascinating.)

        If you want an efficient government, it’s probably necessary to impose the tax pain on a large portion of the population. If “someone else is paying” you don’t really care about the efficiency of government.

        • Aaron says:

          The US also taxes the poor and middle class quite a bit, it’s just that most of that is hidden from the headline number and embedded in state and local law like gas taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, etc.

          • RCF says:

            Payroll taxes are mostly federal.

          • Anon256 says:

            US gas taxes are extremely low by developed world standards (and are a fixed number of cents per gallon that doesn’t rise with inflation, so no longer even cover highway maintenance). Most other developed countries charge around 20% VAT on most purchases, which contributes significantly to the tax burden of the poor; US sales taxes are in the 5%-9% range.

          • cassander says:

            payroll taxes are not nearly as regressive as is assumed. they are actually reasonably progressive for the vast majority of the population, just much less so than the income tax.

          • RCF says:

            As far as I know, there is nothing progressive about payroll taxes; they are a fixed rate, and they cut out above a certain income. The only way they are progressive is when taking into account the payouts that they finance. However, David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom (available for free) has an extensive argument that payroll taxes are regressive even taking payouts into account. If you disagree with that, feel free to provide a counter-argument.

          • Cassander says:

            Progressive just means the people who have more money pay more. If you make $100,000 you pay ten times as much as someone who makes 10 grand. That’s progressive.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Progressive taxation” conventionally means a higher tax rate, as a proportion of income, on higher-income individuals, and regressive taxation conversely means a lower one. For example, income taxes in the US are progressive, while a gas tax is de-facto regressive (since rich people proportionally spend less of their money on gas). Note that, as the last example might imply, a regressive tax scheme may under some circumstances serve progressive political goals, or a progressive tax scheme conservative ones: economists seem singularly bad at avoiding weird connotations in naming things.

            A flat tax, like the payroll tax we’ve been discussing in this subthread, is neither progressive nor regressive.

        • cassander says:

          >(The Red Tribe has similar blind spots. In fact, sometimes they believe the exact same myths that the Blue Tribe believes. It’s fascinating.)

          the best is Reagan. Both red and blue tribe attribute vastly more to him than he actually did. His deregulation got started by carter, and average taxes as a share of GDP from 1950-80 was identical to the figure from 1980-2010

      • Tom Scharf says:

        I see by the “1st world democratic states” caveat we have managed to exclude most heavy redistributive states such as Cuba, Venezuela, the ex Soviet Union, etc. that highlighted this feature as a core of their very existence. So yes, if you ignore all the glaring examples of failure, it sure looks better.

        You might also want to take a look at eastern Europe where redistribution was a central theme of government and compare the results with their next door neighbors in western Europe. Take the former E. Germany vs. W. Germany for example.

        Redistribution isn’t free. It has very real and demonstrated negative consequences. Where society draws this line is a proper debate to have, but the “we must do more” argument is empty without a coherent plan on how this knowingly poorly invested (in a strict financial sense) money is to be used and how this will improve results in the most efficient manner.

        Redistribution for redistribution’s sake falls flat with me, and typically the ones who shout these slogans are never advocating their own money be redistributed. Spending the money of others is easy, and pretending this wealth was achieved through ill gotten gains is the rationalization used to justify that their own money should not be touched.

        • RCF says:

          I’m having trouble seeing what your point is. Your third paragraph seems to quite clearly address your first. Redistribution has costs. There are some countries in which redistribution is particularly high, and the costs are particularly high. Rather than compare the US to those countries, the WP article compares the US to countries that are more closely similar. It’s like comparing the mileage of one SUV to other SUVs’; sure, there are other types of cars with much better mileage, but they’re not in the same class.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        “””Do you think that other 1st world democratic states are relevant parallel trials?”””

        No.

        “”” And if so, do you accept that they have broadly better outcomes for their citizenry?”””

        No.

      • cassander says:

        >Do you think that other 1st world democratic states are relevant parallel trials?

        I do think there are many reasons for this comparison to be suspect, but it’s worth pointing out the US has a higher post tax/transfer median income than almost all those other developed countries, and substantially so with when you take out the smaller countries.

    • Anon256 says:

      You equivocate between wealth and income in your post, but I think the actual target of redistribution should be neither of those, but consumption. The utility of a marginal dollar worth of consumption declines as a person’s total consumption increases (i.e. being able to spend an extra $1 per day is a much larger benefit for a poor person than a rich person), so given finite resources, average utility will be higher when consumption is more equal. Of course, there are Laffer curve issues (to put it mildly) with trying to make consumption anything close to exactly equal, but I think there’s a strong argument for using consumption taxes at close to the peak of the Laffer curve for redistribution (in the form of basic income or similar) to decrease inequality. This would have minimal impact on people like Buffet who invest their wealth (benefiting the economy as you note) and consume very little. Based on comparison with other developed countries I think the Laffer peak is significantly higher than the current US tax burden.

      • Hedonic Treader says:

        This is reasonable. My anti-redistribution intuitions may come from a differnt experience regarding the Laffer peak position (I’m from Germany and know both high welfare state levels and income and consumption taxes plus extra laws for supporting parents in need which are framed differently but have the incentive structure of huge additional marginal income and wealth taxes, if you have the “wrong” kind of parent).

        I also wonder how much equality talk is influenced by bad numbers. Dan Ariely has a TED talk that argues inequality is much higher than people think and want.

        But it uses wealth inequality as a basis, not consumption inequality. E.g. I have debt due from a phase of depression, but get welfare and don’t have to pay the debt back until I earn more again. That is, I have negative wealth, but more consumption than 85% of the world’s population (according to Giving What We Can calculator) (In my defense, I would volunteer to be euthanized and donate my organs, if only it were legal)

        This sort of thing, if not made explicit, is bound to distort the political debates almost to the point of meaninglessness.

        • Tracy W says:

          As for wealth inequality being much higher than income inequality, age has a chunk to do with that. Imagine a totally equal economy. Everyone starts off with no wealth, at age 20 everyone starts earning $20,000 a year. Everyone gets a 2% pay rise each year and saves 10% of their annual income, on which they earn a 5% annual interest rate. At age 65 they all retire, having earned $48,757 in retirement, put their money in ultra-safe 0% interest investments and draw a bit over $30,000 a year until they drop dead at age 80, having spent their last cent. The age distribution across the population is entirely uniform. Now, this is a pretty darn equal economy. No one ever gets too disabled to work or dies young, or inherits money, or loses their savings through bad luck.

          And yet if you calculate the percentile distribution of wealth, the wealthiest 20% of the working age population owns 62% of total wealth (75% of total wealth if you include people under 20). The richest 20% are people aged 59 to 69 years old). Average consumption however is much more equal: the 20 year olds consume $18,000 a year and the 65-year olds, who have the highest incomes, consume $43,881 a year, less than 2.5 times as much.

          • Hedonic Treader says:

            Good points.

            The investment parts also remind me of an argument that the communists could have enabled the proletariat to own their employers’ firms through a modest increase in saving rates and following buy-outs – much less costly for the workers themselves than any revolution.

            Not sure how accurate that was, but it says a lot about human nature that this sort of strategy is not salient in many pronounced human conflicts.

      • roystgnr says:

        I’ve seen this argument before, but never understood it. The investors obviously prefer invested wealth to consumption, otherwise they wouldn’t have invested it. Therefore someone who consumes $100K and invests $500K is better off than they would have been if they had consumed $600K and invested nothing. But under consumption-only accounting they’re worse off than someone who consumes $110K and invests nothing. For the same level of investment, consuming $600K is obviously better than consuming $110K, so by transitivity Q.E.D.

        In the “tax laws have never changed and will never change” case an income tax and a consumption tax can be made nearly equivalent: investing $500K but only being able to buy $400K worth of stuff after-consumption-tax is the same as investing the $400K you have left after-income-tax.

        So for a fixed tax rate, the only obvious reason to want to switch would be if you want to apply either a one-time-wealth-tax (by applying a consumption tax to savings that were previously taxed as income) or a one-time-wealth-tax-rebate (by removing a consumption tax from savings that weren’t previously taxed as income). Any kind of flip-flopping is likely to be incredibly regressive, as richer people are more likely to be able to defer consumption to years in which it is tax advantaged.

        • Anonymous says:

          Income and consumption taxes are only equivalent if you ignore compounding. If you only have one period of growth and one point of taxation, they are equivalent, but if you put your money in the bank for two years, they aren’t.

          Also, having 20% more to invest in a venture could have substantial effects on its viability. If you think of retail investors buying stocks, tax laws might not have much effect on the base of money available, but if you think of a small business reaching out to friends and families, it could make a large difference.

          • roystgnr says:

            Even with investment, my “20% income tax” and “25% consumption tax” examples are still identical, so long as you don’t treat capital gains as income.

            Suppose I invest my $400K-after-income-taxes for two years at 10% compounded; I then have $484K with which to buy stuff with it.

            Suppose I instead invest my untaxed-$500K for two years at 10% compounded; then I have $605K, which will be enough to pay for $484K of stuff plus $121K of sales tax.

            Similarly, having 25% more to invest in a venture should have exactly the same effect on its viability as having a venture cost 20% less. (this assumes that your consumption tax works something like a VAT; otherwise “20% less” will be an underestimate)

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure, if you massage things just right, you can make them equivalent. But you aren’t going to get there unless you think in terms of consumption. 256’s point was first that people are confused, second that you should target consumption, and only third that consumption taxes are the way to do it.

            The reason to tax consumption via direct consumption taxes, rather than complicated income taxes designed to mimic consumption taxes is that simpler systems work better. Complicated income taxes are subject to games around the edges, something that’s already true in the current system with the edge between earned income vs capital gains and would be worse if their tax rates were driven apart.

            But no one is suggesting switching to consumption tax from an income tax system already targeting consumption, because no one has such a system. The suggestion isn’t to switch to an equivalent system, but to a different system. Yes, switching from an income tax system to a consumption tax system would double-tax the rich, which is a political obstacle. But we aren’t in an income tax system exactly equivalent to a consumption tax system. The rich in the current system might be very happy to have that one-time double tax in return for removing the double taxation on compounding.

      • Tom Scharf says:

        I don’t really have any objection to a consumption tax on paper, but I have a huge emotional problem with handing the government a tax with a big dial that they can simply increase “just a little” whenever they feel it is necessary. I seem to have some trust issues with government taxation.

        The historical trajectory of most VAT taxes only goes in one direction. It may not be coincidence that those countries with these type of taxes also have some of the highest tax burdens.

        Consumption taxes tend to be regressive so it is always necessary to fix this through all manner of means to make them not look like consumption taxes any more.

      • RCF says:

        How do you define “consumption”, and how do you enforce a tax scheme on them? A sales tax is very hard to make progressive, and harder to enforce than an income tax.

        Also, income simply represents future consumption, so taxing income means taxing consumption.

        • Anon256 says:

          Consumption is income minus savings, so just tax income (including capital-sale income) but allow documented savings/investments to be deducted.

          To be honest taxing income the way most developed countries currently do is not a terrible approximation/proxy, but it’s useful to keep in mind that helping the lower end of the distribution increase their consumption (not taking “wealth” away from the likes of Buffet) is the actual goal of redistribution whatever proxies we use.

          • RCF says:

            So now you have to define “savings”. Is buying gold “savings”? Buying a house? Tuition?

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        Why is it even necessary to reduce “inequity”?

        What is wrong about some people being rich, and some people being poor, as long the level of “poor” we are talking about allows for reasonably comfortable living?

        We’d do a lot better by the bottom quintile if we stopped yelling about the rich need to be poorer and started worrying about how to may the poor richer in ways that didn’t involve stealing from the middle class and the rich.

        • Anon256 says:

          Did you read my post? There’s nothing /wrong/ with some people being rich, but if you take a dollar worth of consumption away from a rich person and give it to a poor person, you help the poor person more than you hurt the rich person, so on average people are better off. (It’s unfortunate that the rich person is slightly worse off, but worth it for the greater good.) You can only get away with doing this so much before you distort the market enough to negate the gains (e.g. by making the rich person quit their job), but the amount you can get away with is definitely more than zero and very likely more than the US currently does.

          Nobody should be yelling at anybody else. Inequality is not a problem per se, but suggests an opportunity to increase average utility through redistribution. Obviously this doesn’t preclude additionally trying to increase average utility by means other than redistribution as you suggest.

          • Julie K says:

            Does your analysis factor in that losses are felt more strongly than gains, such that if you took $100 from one person and gave $200 to another person (at the same economic level), the two actions are of equal intensity?

          • Anon256 says:

            @Julie K: Taxes are usually implemented by withholding from paychecks, and could be further obfuscated if necessary (like the “employer” half of US payroll tax), so I’m not convinced loss-aversion actually has much impact here.

    • Ano says:

      “Where do you suppose all this unequal income exists? Is it in underground bunkers on the estates of the rich and famous where it sits being unused, or is it being actively invested to create jobs and further growth?”

      Some of it is sealed in vaults, going unused. When unemployment skyrocketed, it was not for lack of money to invest in jobs and growth. The money was there, it was just being sat on. Sometimes in the form of cash, sometimes in the form of bonds or gilts. Indeed, the US Treasury poured hundreds of billions of dollars in cash into the economy and yet struggled to make a dent in unemployment.

      “It all comes down to a basic question of who you want to control the wealth of the country. Warren Buffet and Google, or the government?”

      Nobody should control the wealth of an entire country. As smart as Warren Buffet is, he doesn’t know what’s best for everyone any more than Barack Obama does. And I think it’s a dangerous notion that we should place an enormous amount of power (economic, political, or otherwise) in the hands of one person because that person knows best.

      • Tom Scharf says:

        Sometimes holding onto money in cash or bonds (which are investments) is the best possible path to take. Waiting for better opportunities. If the economic sector can offer nothing more than negative opportunities we have much bigger problems than inequality.

        The original point is that most of the inequality is actually just reinvested in the economy, which is almost always overlooked in talking points.

        I’m not making an argument for one person, I’m making an argument for those people who have demonstrated the ability to properly manage wealth. I wouldn’t give Obama $0.12 to manage of my income, but neither would I give it to virtually any politician. The best hope is they hire sound people to advise them, but I would submit that the government does not have the correct incentives to spend my tax money wisely. One of the only levers many taxpayers have is to elect those who wish to starve the beast.

      • Irrelevant says:

        “A hundred billion dollars? What do you possibly need a hundred billion dollars for?”

        “If I knew that, I’d have it instead of the hundred billion dollars.”

      • RCF says:

        If someone has a bond, then they must have given money to the bond issuer, in which case their money isn’t sitting unused; the bond issuer has it. And cash isn’t wealth, it’s merely a measure of wealth.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          This is what irritates the everylovindaylights out of me.

          People from simple millionaires to Warren Buffet invest in Municipal Bonds. These bonds are issued by Cities, Counties and other sorts of smaller political entities to raise capital to fund a variety of programs.

          The federal government has decided that many of the income from these bonds will not be charged federal taxes. We call these bonds “Tax Free Municipal Bonds”.

          This allows these Municipalities to issue bonds at a relatively lower interest rate, reducing the amount they need to repay to borrow the money. This benefits the people in that municipality (most of whom are poor[1]) by reducing (or at least not increasing[2]) property and sales tax rates–which hurt the poor more.

          The benefits to the bond holders are that they reduce uncertainty about yields v.s. taxes–since the bonds are untaxed at the federal level you don’t hae to worry about what tax bracket you’ll be in when they come due.

          This is a HUGE win for cities, yet the people who invest in them get called greedy and selfish.

          [1] Simply because there are more poor than rich, and the poor tend to wind up in the cities that tend to issue these sorts of bonds)

          [2] City taxes rarely go down.

    • grendelkhan says:

      Is it in underground bunkers on the estates of the rich and famous where it sits being unused, or is it being actively invested to create jobs and further growth?

      There’s at least a mainstream position that, at the margins, you help GDP more by giving money to poor people than to rich people, because it circulates more quickly, turning into business income, and more wages, etc.

      To turn your question around, is extra money sent to the poor sitting under mattresses being unused, or is it being actively plowed back into the economy via market allocation, i.e., buying stuff, to create jobs and further growth?

      Maybe Warren Buffet is excellent at wealth allocation (though, isn’t he an advocate of redistribution?), but is he really the modal case of a rich person?

      It is not “obvious” that things are out of balance and we need more redistribution.

      It seems at least straightforward to believe that inequality and a desire for redistribution would rise hand-in-hand; it seems odd for them to be anti-correlated.

      • Tom Scharf says:

        “It seems at least straightforward to believe that inequality and a desire for redistribution would rise hand-in-hand; it seems odd for them to be anti-correlated.”

        This gets into the basic equal opportunity vs equal outcomes argument. I advocate equal opportunity but am perfectly OK with unequal outcomes. Those in society who are unable to compete due to misfortune should be taken care of, but the definition of misfortune is different to different people.

        Those who make poor life choices such as failing to even acquire a free high school degree do not deserve to be “equal” to others who put out real effort to advance. Sorry. Society has a burden to try to keep everyone pointed in the right direction for the good of all, but for those who actively decide to disengage from being a productive member of society, their lot in life is going to be at society’s subsistence level.

        • John Schilling says:

          Those who make poor life choices such as failing to even acquire a free high school degree do not deserve to be “equal”

          “Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you were making when you were 14 years old.”
          John Scalzi

          I’m not entirely comfortable with “equal opportunity” being contingent on developing executive function by the age of 13, and we aren’t very good at reopening that door to people who miss it the first time around.

          • Irrelevant says:

            That’s why the same people tend to argue for traditionalism at the family level, so you have to try REALLY HARD to screw up at 14.

            Though of course, if that study on executive function is anywhere close to right, we should be working on gene therapy instead.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            A relative rebelled against the hard-working high-achieving tradition of his immediate family and blew off high school, just barely getting into college and ended up doing scut office work after graduation.

            After a few years he decided that sucked, so he applied to law school, got in. And now makes in the same band as other members of his family.

            He cost himself about a decade, but it’s quite possible to recover after pissing away your teenage years.

            I realize that this is relative. “Barely getting into college and then graduating” could be a huge win for some other family. The point is that he caught back up with his siblings who were being sedulous all along. There are some much more serious teenage decisions that are harder to recover from, like having a kid unmarried, or becoming a felon. (I have a few of those in my extended family and it sucks for them. If you are organizing a political campaign to make things easier to felons trying to re-integrate into society, let me know.)

            But it’s not just teenage mistakes. I see a lot of people past age 20, at a variety of SES levels, inflicting all sorts of harm on themselves through conscious choices, so it’s hard for me to buy into Scalzi’s “lol they’re just kids” shtick.

            *various edits*

          • Aaron says:

            Edward, that seems to be just as strong of evidence for the hypothesis that it’s hard to fall out of the SES band you were born into; since you have a bunch of connections and opportunities there you can always claw your way back after Jimming around.

          • Dain says:

            @JohnSchilling

            We used to be better at this. My dad stole cars as a teen and was sent to a Catholic school where he got into knife fights. He also battled alcoholism until he was in his 40s. Still, he became a successful salesman making six figures, or close to it, most years in the time since.

            Can you imagine this happening nowadays? Seems about impossible.

          • John Schilling says:

            We are still pretty good at keeping the doors of opportunity open to adults who have made stupid adult decisions. College dropouts, in particular, can still make good if they have sufficient ability, drive, and/or the wisdom to go back to school and say “may I please try again?”

            But there’s a world of difference between Scizorhands’ “past age 20” and Scalzi’s “at 14”. If you make it to 20 without a high school diploma, you might as well have ‘L’ for “Loser” branded into your forehead. A GED won’t make that go away, and I’m not sure anything really does.

            Likewise arriving at twenty with a five-year-old son and no husband, or in prison for robbery and drug dealing. And now signing on at 18 for a degree in Useless Studies at Prestigious U, gets you a twenty-year debt that you’ll never repay and can’t discharge in bankruptcy.

            It is perverse that we are more forgiving of the mistakes of adults than we are of children, but it seems to be so. To the extent that there are nigh-inescapable poverty traps in the modern American economy, they tend to snare teenagers.

          • Irrelevant says:

            It is perverse that we are more forgiving of the mistakes of adults than we are of children, but it seems to be so.

            I’m gonna say… maybe? If the distinction is “highschool dropout” vs. “college dropout”, that may be the system working rationally based on its understanding of how high a bar each of those actually is. Looking at the highschool graduation rate for women, I find it quite plausible that being a member of the 15% who don’t graduate requires a combination of defects that a few years of maturation should not and cannot be expected to fix. There obviously are still exceptions who manage to not graduate without being utter basket cases, but requiring them to prove it by finding a path forward on their own may not be unreasonable.

            How we deal with boys is a more fraught question, since male marginal cases seem twice as likely to drop out of highschool as female ones… but even with the massive declines in the category as a chunk of the total economy, men lacking formal education still have enough virtually male-exclusive fields open to them that it eats the difference when you’re looking at overall opportunity.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think I agree. People can flunk out of college because they are simply not smart enough, for reasons that aren’t going to change if they come back in ten or twenty years. You can’t flunk out of a modern American high school for not being smart enough. Pretty much the only way to not get a diploma is to do something massively unwise, usually on impulse. And impulse control is something that does get better with age.

            For girls, the biggest issue is probably pregnancy, and not just unwanted or accidental pregnancy. We could do with a good mechanism for taking over most of the child-raising work, doing it right, without actually taking the child away from the mother and/or terminating her parental rights – let her be as much of a mother as she can find the time for, while getting on with her life. Traditionally, we call this institution “grandma”, but we live in an increasingly non-traditional society.

            Boys, as you note, are a more complicated problem, and I don’t see any easy solution. But I don’t see your, “virtually male-exclusive fields open to them”, to be the answer either. Which male-dominated fields are you thinking still offer high school dropouts a path out of poverty? The Army won’t take them any more. Good union jobs on the docks, the mines, the assembly line, are increasingly scarce. Construction, maybe, in boom times, but when are we scheduled for the next construction boom? What are you seeing that I am missing?

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          There are always going to be a certain percentage of people who just flat f*k up and will not be redeemed.

          Not cannot, *will not*. I have a relative of a relative who is *probably* a sociopath. He comes from a badly broken family (his mother had 5 kids by 5 fathers over 15 years, 11 of those being married to my relative). Highschool dropout, refused to ride a bus to work because “That’s what N***** do.” (this job being working for another relative who’s *tried* to help). Wound up in jail for theft, fathered (FCVO) a child, grifted (no, not misspelled) from one helping hand to another.

          As to life choices–at 14 I had decided I was going into the Marine Corps. By 17 I had enlisted and spent my 18th birthday at MRCD San Diego. Most of my peers were smoking dope and matriculating into college. I was learning how to fire a rifle, throw gernades and etc.

          Scalzi is wrong in a lot of ways, but at least one is that if bad choices don’t have consequences *in proportion to their badness* then the lessons aren’t learned.

          I have a FoaF who does (or did) high risk personal security work in Afghanistan. His position was that the first mistake was generally free or low cost, and the *second* mistake was what was going to get you killed.

          The thing is that *generally* our society is pretty lenient on 14 year olds. Unless you commit some fairly serious crimes (rape, murder, offending a school official) it often will be expunged, or at least buried when you become a legal adult. You f*k up a second time and people start to see a trend. It’s MUCH harder to convince the judge you’ve just been stupid the second (and subsequent) times you’re in front of him.

          Heck, the father I mentioned above? Highschool dropout. Dropped out of the GED program first time around. Couldn’t hold a job–even after his first kid was born. Finally settled down (more or less), got a union gig and has done moderately well financially if you account for other stupid life choices (like having 2 kids in the house and deciding that he really needed to take up motorcycle racing). Bankruptcy, drunk driving conviction. But he still has a (moderately) well paying job with a (union) pension. He’s going to need it because he’s wrecking his body (both at work and with the bottle) and probably won’t be able to work another 20 years (he’s in his mid 40s).

          About a quarter of the ex- or former- military people you talk to will have a sob story about how the System Dun Them Wrong. Most of them, if you dig a little (and if you have experience with The System) will wind up telling you that while The System didn’t really help them, they didn’t exactly follow the rules, fill out the right papers or insist on the right assistance.

          I know *so* many kids that I went to school with who made bad life choices from drugs to stealing cars, and except for the one that fell off the cliff…and the one who rolled his car…and the one that got thrown out of the back of the pickup truck (Starting to sound like Jim Carroll)?

          Most of them eventually settled down and made a go of it. Well, the ones I know if. I suspect the twins from up the street are probably living next door to each other in a trailer park glad their kids are finally out of the singlewide (one of them was having sex with her mom’s boyfriend and CONVINCED they were going to get married soon. Had a Peter Pot Pusher poster on her bedroom wall. Bad choices at 14, mom and the nominal adults in her life weren’t helping).

          One of my friends (working class family) in High School stole a car off the dealers lot, drove it cross country and then turned himself in. Plea-bargined down to 1 felony, out on probation. F’ked that up, back to prison for a year. Got out, got married and (near as I can tell, we lost touch) wound up doing physical therapy.

          People who *want to* can turn their lives around, but they have to have incentive to want to live better, not live with their hands out.

      • @YoungEcon says:

        The multiplier effect you refer to is a short run fiscal multiplier. Its basis is that savings is a leakage from current spending, so if you can target government spending to people who will spend more there will be larger secondary effects. If you want big effects today, get the money to the people who will spend it. There are empirical studies that show those people with lower cash on hand will consume more out of additional income.

        However, in long run, the standard thought is higher savings promotes higher income, through a larger capital stock. See the standard Solow model. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solow%E2%80%93Swan_model

        Both are “mainstream”, though I would prefer standard or basic, and they say what is good in the short run is bad in the long run and vice versa. See the paradox of thrift: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_thrift

        There are some more specialized models that show inequality can negatively impact growth in the long run. They usually have to do with market imperfections. For example, society might be better off investing in low income students education rather than some physical capital project. This might not occur, absent government intervention, because of credit constraints for the poor. See Galor and Zeira 1993.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galor-Zeira_model. I believe this is also a good foundation for understanding the importance of microlending.

      • Mary says:

        “Maybe Warren Buffet is excellent at wealth allocation (though, isn’t he an advocate of redistribution?)”

        Nope, he’s an advocate of higher income taxes.

        Notice that he’s already wealthy and can structure his wealth to give him little income. It’s the people with high incomes and low wealth, who might rival him, who would be hit hard. For a lot of them, it would be enough to prevent their accumulating wealth like his.

        Also knowing as “pulling up the ladder after himself.”

      • Anthony says:

        The modal American millionaire is a 65-(ish-)year-old man, still married to his first wife, who started his own business about 30 years ago, which employs about 10 to 100 people.

  12. CaptainBooshi says:

    But Steve Sailer points out exactly the same giant gaping radioactive flaw that I noticed – he is basically just noticing that there is less social mobility between races than within them, and that therefore, places with high black populations appear to have less social mobility. Please tell me I’m misunderstanding something and he didn’t actually miss this.

    Well, I clicked through to Raj Chetty’s website, and based off the list at the bottom of the page, while there is some correlation between percentage of black population in a city (as taken from wikipedia) and upward mobility in a city, it definitely doesn’t seem to be the major contributing factor. For example, 2 of the cities in the top 10 (Washington, DC, and Newark, NJ) have significantly larger black populations than 7 of the cities in the bottom 10. The fact that 4 of the cities listed as the most mobile all have large populations of black people, and that even among the bottom 10, there’s no obvious correlation between their order and their black population, would indicate that the effect it has is limited compared to other variables.

    While I haven’t looked at the papers to see if he actually tries to control for race in any way, I would agree that if he doesn’t, that is a real failure. No matter what the cause (obviously, as a liberal, I would have different opinions on this than some of the others here), race has a real effect on economic and social mobility that will affect the data. However, it does look like it’s just one effect among many, definitely not the defining one that Steve claims.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Nah, Chetty’s map of the chance a child in the bottom 20% of income in 1996 is in the top 20% today, wherever, he has moved to, is basically one of where the blacks and Indian reservations are. The places that look like they have high social mobility to Chetty are low cost of living, low income white areas like West Virginia where the more ambitious white people move away to somewhere more high paying like Washington DC.

      If Newark looks like it had high social mobility since 1996, it’s because incomes in nearby NYC have gone up so stratospherically.

      http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/07/breakthrough-study-poor-blacks-tend-to.html

    • JK says:

      Chetty et al. do discuss (large PDF) race:

      Perhaps the most obvious pattern from the maps in Figure VI is that intergenerational mobility is lower in areas with larger African-American populations, such as the Southeast. Indeed, the unweighted correlation between upward mobility and the fraction of black residents in the CZ (based on the 2000 Census) is -0.580

      The main lesson of this analysis is that both blacks and whites living in areas with large African-American populations have lower rates of upward income mobility. There are many potential mechanisms for such a correlation, including differences in the institutions and industries that developed in areas with large African-American populations.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        No, Chetty is blowing smoke here. There is a huge amount of demand in recent years for rationalizations about why it’s not really about race, it’s about income or inequality or whatever (see Robert D. Putnam’s current book, for example), but, yeah, it’s really to a striking extent about race, as Chetty’s map shows.

        I shouldn’t be too hard on Chetty: he’s redone his work in 2014 to include my suggestion of using ACCRA data to account for cost of living differences. Unfortunately, the misimpressions caused by his 2013 map live on. It simply wasn’t ready for prime time, but, heck, how was he to know that? He’s only at Harvard so he can’t find a lot of honest explanations from his peers of what’s really going on in America.

        Professors should ask their wives how things really work. Like when people tell couples, “You need to spend a lot of money to buy a house in a school district with Good Schools,” the wives tend to understand that people are politely using Good Schools to refer to race, but the professors often miss the point.

        • Vaniver says:

          Professors should ask their wives how things really work. Like when people tell couples, “You need to spend a lot of money to buy a house in a school district with Good Schools,” the wives tend to understand that people are politely using Good Schools to refer to race, but the professors often miss the point.

          Does this mean I should be more worried about the number of double professor couples I know?

        • weareastrangemonkey says:

          Steve Sailer, Chetty is not blowing smoke.*

          To begin with he does not claim to have identified any causal mechanism. From the abstract of his 2014 paper.

          “While our descriptive analysis does not identify
          the causal mechanisms that determine upward mobility, the publicly available statistics on
          intergenerational mobility developed here can facilitate research on such mechanisms.”

          Second, region should become statistically insignificant once you include race and it hasn’t. This is for the obvious reason that race is not the unique determinant of income. Just put race in a multivariate regression and you will find a whole load of other factors matter for economic outcomes – or notice how low the R^2 is in a bivariate regression. You will also find that there is also significant intergenerational mobility in relatively ethnically homogeneous countries.

          You don’t seem to have any justification for the criticisms you make.

          *Also Chetty’s updating to include cost of living have minor effects and were not done at your suggestion as you implied.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I’ve looked some more at Chetty’s data. It’s a great data set and deserves to be analyzed better than it has been so far by its proprietor.

            “Second, region should become statistically insignificant once you include race and it hasn’t. This is for the obvious reason that race is not the unique determinant of income.”

            Duh. We’d have a more productive discussion if you didn’t impute simple-minded strawman beliefs to me. I’ve actually learned rather a lot about the topic of race in America over the 43 years I’ve been following it in the social science literature.

            Okay, I’ve looked at Chetty’s 743 or so Commuting Zones and sorted them in order of “Absolute Mobility” for zip codes that were at least 80 white in 2000. Absolute Mobility is what Chetty calls the increase in income percentile from kids’ family’s who were at the 25th percentile in 1996 to whatever percentile they are at as young adults a decade and a half later. Keep in mind that Chetty is using, somewhat bizarrely, where the young people were living in 1996, rather than where they’ve moved to at present.

            He doesn’t have data by race, so to answer Scott’s objection that his much publicized map sure looks a lot like a map of Where the Blacks Are, he breaks out Absolute Mobility for just the zip codes in the commuting zones that were 80% or more white in the 2000 Census.

            Looking at his database, it’s clear that the fracking / horizontal drilling energy boom that’s taking place in North Dakota, Texas, and Pennsylvania and a few other places is driving a lot of his results. For example, Chetty mentions that working class kids from Pennsylvania have done better than working class kids from Ohio over the last 15 years, but doesn’t seem to realize it’s due, in sizable part, to energy. Pennsylvania is where oil was discovered in 1859, so it has a lot of resources that can be extracted with the new technology, while Ohio is mostly dirt — good farmland, but not much oil and gas.

            The top five Commuting Zones for white zip codes in Absolute Mobility are all in North Dakota, places like Dickinson, Linton, and Williston at the heart of the fracking boom.

            The next 45 or so places are virtually all cold weather places within 800 or so miles of North Dakota, from which blue collar guys have been flocking to North Dakota for the high wages.

            Then you start to get into some Texas and Oklahoma locales, which also are benefiting from the new energy extraction technologies.

            Finally, in 88th place, you get to a big city, which just happens to be New York, New York. The people who grew up with lower incomes in predominantly white neighborhoods in the huge NYC commuting zone are doing very nicely these days relative to the country as a whole. The average person whose family lived in 1996 in a >80% white zip code in Greater New York and was at the national 25th percentile then is today at the 52nd percentile.

            The next big commuting zone in Absolute Mobility is Newark, NJ. This isn’t just the ‘hood, it’s a huge expanse (population over 5 million) of prosperous suburbia, including people who commute to Manhattan. (Downtown Newark is 12 miles from NYC city hall.) Incomes and housing costs in NYC have exploded, so, because Chetty doesn’t bother adjusting for the cost of living, white kids who were living in NYC/Newark in 1996 tend to look like they are doing really well today when comparing their incomes to the national averages.

            The next huge city where youngish people from white neighborhoods in 1996 are doing well relative to the national average is Chicago.

            Then comes Reading, PA (fracking) and Salt Lake City. SLC white kids might well be doing well today due to the conservative social virtues that Chetty’s research suggests are helpful to equality of opportunity.

            At the bottom of the list of upward mobility for 1990s residents of white neighborhoods are Honolulu (small sample size? how many overwhelmingly white zip codes are there in Honolulu?) and a bunch of heavily Mexican towns like Yuma, Corpus Christi, El Paso, and Brownsville that ambitious white families tend to avoid.

            Near the bottom are also a bunch of backwoods North Carolina burghs like Hickory that have been hammered by the collapse of the furniture industry.

            Like I said, this is an impressive database, and it deserves better analysis than it has gotten so far.

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            Steve Sailer, I looked at both of your articles. I don’t see how I was making a straw man of your position – so you might want to consider that you are not communicating your more nuanced point effectively. At the same time, I did feel like you were making a straw man of Chetty et al.’s position. Particularly given that in none of your articles did you give any discussion of the ‘race section’ in Chetty et al. 2014 (or the earlier working paper versions).

            As already noted they find that there is a strong negative correlation of -0.58 between fraction of black residents and mobility. He even states “the most obvious pattern from the maps in Figure VI is that intergenerational mobility is lower in areas with larger African American populations”. So that you impute him as ignoring race or missing that this is “just a map of who is black” is absurd.

            He most definitely takes into account that these areas have high proportions of black people. But, he also shows that even when you strip out most of the non-white zip codes you still get low mobility and you still get it in the areas that had the low mobility in the analysis that ignored race.

            They did miss a third possible explanation for low-mobility for people living in mostly black areas: families who have bad characteristics (cultural, genetic etc.) for promoting their children’s outcomes (conditional on the parent’s income) may tend to live in those areas. This seems to be a plausible possibility and Chetty et al. (2014) do not note that possibility or reject that possibility.

            If that is your actual critique (I have tried to make a steel man) then you should have written that in the first place rather than a stream of hyperbole and invective. But given that the main purpose of the paper is not to establish causality but to provide a good and detailed outline of mobility (defined as low correlation between parent and child income rankings) for the purpose of future researchers it seems like the scathing tone is completely unwarranted. I again refer you to the final line of the abstract “our descriptive analysis does not identify the causal mechanisms that determine upward mobility”.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        What Chetty has found is that being low income and white while growing up is okay as long as you are in a not terribly black commuting zone. He thus finds the most social mobility out on the Great Plains and Great Basin where there are almost no blacks.

        On the other hand, if you are low income and white in a heavily black metropolis, you better grow up to be Eminem. In general, low income white parents who let their kids grow up around a lot of low income blacks are not very good parents. La Griffe du Lion estimated that white students in public schools in the city of Baltimore (i.e., The Wire) have average IQs of 86. Basically, their parents are losers who aren’t very effective at taking care of them or they’d get them the hell out of Baltimore.

        Or low income white parents in heavily black metropolises like Atlanta or Detroit tend to be hicks from the sticks from the far exurbs, which probably isn’t good for their kids’ future earnings either. Chetty finds that long commutes negatively correlate with upward mobility among the low income.

        In general, white families who live around a lot of blacks need to be higher up the income scale in order to, like it says in Bonfire of the Vanities, “insulate, insulate, insulate.” So that puts some limits on potential social mobility because white parents need to be able to make some money to be in a neighborhood with “good schools.” As Chetty finds, if you are a low income white family you are best off raising your kids in a part of the country without many blacks.

        • Julie K says:

          “if you are a low income white family you are best off raising your kids in a part of the country without many blacks.”

          Correlation or causation? Earlier you said that low income whites who choose to live in a black neighborhood were losers to begin with.

          • Irrelevant says:

            I think he’s marking two categories out here:

            1. Low-ability “White Trash” who are stuck in dying urban areas, and are less mobile because everyone who could cut it somewhere else already moved a generation or two back.
            2. The bottom quartile of white strivers, who have taken the tradeoff of living in a worse, blacker community in order to have the careers they do, and who are less mobile because they have to invest resources in their community defensively instead of proactively.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            A third category might be exurbanites with very long commutes. Chetty finds commute times in a Commuting Zone correlating negatively with upward mobility.

            But I haven’t fully thought this through (and Chetty certainly hasn’t).

    • RCF says:

      “there is less social mobility between races than within them”

      What does this mean, and how does it mean that areas with more black people appear to have less social mobility?

      • Dale says:

        There are more whites than blacks, so national social mobility is a reasonable proxy for intra-white social mobility. However, this is not true for smaller racial groups.

        If you’re asking what ‘social mobility’ means, generally people use it to refer to the degree to which one’s financial situation (income or wealth) does *not* depend on one’s parents. There are of course many problems with such a measure – in particular, it confuses an ability (mobility) with an outcome (reshuffling). A world where everyone was randomly assigned a caste at birth would have high reshuffling but low mobility; a world where anyone could have any job they wanted, but people tended to choose the same jobs their parents had would have high mobility but low reshuffling. As such both of these worlds would be mis-classified by the statistic commonly refered to as ‘social mobility’

        • RCF says:

          My question is what “social mobility between races” means.

          • Irrelevant says:

            I think he’s saying that there is a larger gap in expected adult income between a white and black child of the same social class than there is two race-matched children of adjacent social classes. But in a linguistically tortured fashion.

          • RCF says:

            That would be a property of the granularity of the social class categorization, rather than of social mobility.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Eh, possibly but not necessarily. Where you put your divisions will have some effect on the result, but the data could always be chopped finer until you were looking at an arbitrarily good approximation of the real gradient instead of “class.” I think that’s beside the point though, and that Sailer’s just giving the wrong explanation of why regression to the mean matters here.

            The reason RttM is a major issue in measuring income mobility is much simpler: the minimum income is zero, at which point parental income stops being able to give us data about the difference in parental earning power. If two children make the same improvement in earning power relative to each of their long-term-unemployed parents, but there was a gap in the parent’s earning power which couldn’t be captured by measuring income, then that’s going to create a difference in income mobility.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        Given a black and a white student with similar socioeconomic background, we should expect the white person to have a higher eventual income on average because we are sampling from a distribution with a higher mean. Does that help?

        If not, basically we are treating their parents income as a statistical information for predicting their eventual income. But its not the only information we have, we also know what the distribution of incomes are for each of their races so our expected income for the white student is higher.

  13. Daniel says:

    Correction: ctenophores are not “an odd sub-branch of jellyfish”; most taxonomies show jellyfish (a member of the Cnidarian phylum, along with corals and sea anemone) and all Bilateria (including humans) share a common ancestor that ctenophores do not share. The article you cite gets this right.

    Thanks as always for the interesting link round-up!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      What I meant by that comment was that both ctenophores and cnidarians are part of the group commonly called “jellyfish”, making the ctenophores a subgroup. But for clarity I’ll rephrase that.

  14. Westward Ho! is in Devon, not Cornwall.

  15. Polling is weird.

    Yup, and most poll respondents don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.

    The definitive read on this is W. Russell Neuman’s The Paradox of Mass Politics.

    You can ask meaningless questions, and get quite definite answers from almost everyone.

    Or: you can ask meaningful questions, and then return to the exact same respondents three weeks later, and discover that their individual answers have a startlingly low correlation to the answers they gave the first time.

    Maybe the totals will be similar, but the individuals will have churned tremendously.

    Come back in another three weeks, and it will happen again.

    You might think that better-educated respondents aren’t subject to these phenomena, but you’d be wrong.

  16. Charlie says:

    Please tell me I’m misunderstanding something and he didn’t actually miss this.

    Well, it’s possible he missed this, and the map is vaguely similar to a map of where black people are, but the thing Chetty is mapping seems like it has a fair amount of hidden structure (how it handles the children moving, how it accounts for regional economic growth, etc), and Sailer’s arguments that it’s just directly race are pretty awful at explaining what’s going on. Before I argue, here, have an interactive dataset

    Take Sailer’s argument that children of rich black parents will end up regressing to the black mean, which will then “make Atlanta look bad.” This sounds like it has some sort of logic to it until you realize that the quantity being mapped in all the fancy pictures is only the outcomes for below median income kids – so these riches-to-rags kids Sailer is talking about aren’t even on the map, and to the extent they can influence the map it’s only by making poor kids look better by comparison.

    Okay, now seriously go open up the interactive processed data in another tab and play with it. You might notice some counties in e.g. South Dakota that look like some real mean places. These are native reservations. But look at what happens as you change the slider. The poor end up poorer than average… and the rich also end up poorer than average! We’re missing some people! And then you look over at the scale on the slider… and you click around the map… and you realize the scale isn’t changing… and you make a small “ffffuuuuuuu” noise as you realize that this map is not as useful as you thought it was.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Nah, you are missing the point. Regression toward different racial income means means that blacks in the lowest quintile are going to regress toward a lower mean than whites. So, in regions like the Southeast where most of the bottom 20% of kids in 1996 were black, they regress toward the black mean, while in regions like the Great Plains where most of the bottom 20% is white, they regress toward the white mean. Voila, Chetty finds that social mobility is highest in rural white places where young people leave.

      For example, Chetty’s methodology makes him think that there is poor social mobility in the Atlanta and Charlotte metropolitan areas, even though a simple reality check would show that lots of black people from expensive northeastern metropolises have been moving to Atlanta and Charlotte. Why? For a higher standard of living because the cost of living is so much lower. But a lower cost of living goes along with a lower income, all else being equal.

      Chetty’s original 2013 map was terribly hamtrung by these cost of living conundrums. I believe that in response to my critique in the NYT he did one later that tried to adjust for cost of living, although I think he understated that.

      A more general point is that it’s tough for an ambitious social observer, like Chetty, to move to the United States and grasp what’s really going on since much of the reality checks you ought to be doing are about race, and talking honestly about race is a good way to lose your job in modern America. It’s a problem, for example, Malcolm Gladwell has coming from Canada. There are a lot of things about America that Gladwell, like Chetty, just doesn’t get. You have to be as smart as Pinker to not get snagged by what you don’t know.

      • RCF says:

        “Nah, you are missing the point. Regression toward different racial income means means that blacks in the lowest quintile are going to regress toward a lower mean than whites.”

        So, is that using the lowest national quintile? If we look at white people in the lowest white quintile and black people in the lowest black quintile, I don’t see how what you’re saying makes sense. And I also don’t see how if you have different regions, and you use that region’s lowest quintile, this is explanatory.

        “highest in rural white places where young people leave.”

        Is that supposed to be “live”?

        • Steve Sailer says:

          No, Chetty found high upward mobility in places like western Nebraska and West Virginia. Those are low cost of housing, low wage white places. A lot of the more ambitious young people leave places like that and move to Denver or Washington DC metro area or wherever, where housing costs and salaries are much higher, boosting them up the national percentile rankings of income over that of their parents. If you grow up in a four bedroom house on a quarter acre in West Virginia that sells for $175,000 and now live in a two bedroom condo in Alexandria for which you paid $350,000 you may or may not have a higher standard of living, but you’ll definitely count toward West Virginia showing up as having fairly high upward mobility on Chetty’s celebrated map.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “Take Sailer’s argument that children of rich black parents will end up regressing to the black mean, which will then “make Atlanta look bad.””

      No, what Chetty is mapping is the % chance of somebody who was a kid with a family income in 1996 in the bottom quintile being in the top quintile today. (He’s mapping where the kids lived in 1996, not where the adults live today).

      Black children in the bottom 20% of the national income distribution regress toward the black mean (median income of $33k), while white children in the bottom 20% regress toward the white mean (median income of $57k). In other words, poor blacks tend to stay poor, black. Poor whites … not as much. A lot of whites who grew up in the bottom 20% of the national income distribution in 1996 were just down there because they lived in a low cost of living rural area and maybe had a broken family.

      http://isteve.blogspot.com/2014/01/atlantic-why-is-american-dream-dead-in.html

      • Charlie says:

        No,

        Ya. You really did say that silly thing. “In contrast, Atlanta attracts affluent college graduate black families. Their kids tend to regress part way back toward the black mean, so it makes Atlanta look bad under Chetty’s methodology.”

        But leaving that aside, your basic claim makes more sense than that peripheral claim. Certainly “poor blacks have tended to stay poor, black” is a true fact that influences Chetty’s map, and is one of many things it does not adequately explore >:(

        What will happen in the future given different interventions is a question about what causal factors have been at work to cause this fact.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Why do you believe that Sailer is incorrect? Regression to the mean is a thing and his usage of it here looks correct to me unless I missed something.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Here’s Chetty’s 2013 list of coefficients for his “commuting zones:” The negative coefficients are the ones that correlate with lower social mobility, such as % single mothers, high school dropout rate, share black, etc.

      Tax and other Correlations with Intergenerational Mobility
      Local Expenditure 0.215 (0.076)
      State Tax 0.199 (0.141)
      State EITC Rate 0.231 (0.109)
      Student Expenditure 0.251 (0.094)
      High-school Dropout Rate -0.639 (0.064)
      [Test] Score 0.557 (0.086)
      College Return -0.276 (0.137)
      College Tuition -0.003 (0.060)
      Colleges per capita 0.102 (0.042)
      Inc. at p75 – Inc. at p25 -0.475 (0.089)
      Share of Income of Top 1% 0.178 (0.068)
      Share Black -0.605 (0.065)
      Black Isolation -0.513 (0.065)
      Segregation of Poverty -0.405 (0.063)
      Migration Inflow -0.184 (0.075)
      Share Foreign Born -0.016 (0.060)
      Migration Outflow -0.098 (0.069)
      Mean Household Income 0.109 (0.075)
      Income Growth Rate 0.561 (0.066)
      Share Manufacturing -0.260 (0.081)
      Trade Shock -0.274 (0.124)
      Social Capital Index 0.617 (0.091)
      Religiosity 0.510 (0.087)
      Crime Rate -0.326 (0.101)
      Share Single Moms -0.763 (0.078)
      Share Single Moms (kids of married) -0.652 (0.094)
      Divorce Rate -0.688 (0.108)
      Teen birth Rate -0.550 (0.091)

      http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/07/breakthrough-study-poor-blacks-tend-to.html

      • PGD says:

        So in other words lots of non-racial factors have an independent effect even once you control for the percentage black?

        • Dale says:

          Look at the coefficient sizes and the t-stats. (I assume the things in brackets are t-stats). “Colleges per capita” has a better significance but not much else.

          Also I don’t think this is a list of independent variables for a multiple regression. This looks like is a list of variables used for a series of regressions. As such, the positive scores on the other variables doesn’t tell us whether they would survive controlling for race. Looking at the variables (things like teen birth rate) my guess is many of the effect sizes would be reduces by such a control.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Collinearity.

          Probably grape soda sales negatively correlate with upward mobility, too.

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            Collinearity with race is not what is driving those correlations (at least not all of them). Go and look at the multivariate regressions as well (pp 1618 for the QJE version): controlling for “fraction black” many other factors, such as commute distances, are large and statistically significant predictors of intergenerational mobility in the area.

            In fact, commute distance is more significant than fraction black. Partial correlation coefficient of 0.319 compared to 0.132 for fraction black. In some sense you are correct, collinearity was driving the high correlation between fraction black and intergenerational mobility – I think that is just in the opposite sense to which you meant it.

  17. Sniffnoy says:

    Tangentially related to the topic of the bogus hair matches — here’s an article I saw a while ago (H/T Watson Ladd) about how to defend against bogus expert testimony, with plenty of examples, almost all of which are of the form “We tested and found the following drugs” when, in fact, they did not. The examples are kind of funny in terms of things they got these expert witnesses to say, though they get repetitive after a while.

    I have little idea how effective this sort of technique is in convincing a jury, nor how widely it’s known. I’m not any sort of law person.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Why do you claim the experts were bogus, let alone that the tactic should be restricted to bogus witnesses?

      Since the paper mentions a DEA manual advising the experts to respond this way, it must be well-known that these responses are less damaging to their credibility with the jury than the line of questioning they would go down if they answered otherwise, but that does not answer the question of how effective the technique is in absolute terms. (But that just says that it’s well-known to the DEA, which might not mean that defense attorneys know it, since they are more fragmented.)

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Why do you claim the experts were bogus, let alone that the tactic should be restricted to bogus witnesses?

        Because I was being lazy, and it had been a while since I’d actually looked it over, and perhaps I foolishly found the lines of questioning in there convincing without really knowing enough to judge. 😛 Yes, this is probably a useful technique in general. To be clear, by “bogus expert witnesses” I meant expert witnesses making unsupported claims, not people who aren’t actually experts, or anything like that; I didn’t mean it as some sort of essentialist claim about the witnesses themselves. But yes you are right that this may well be useful regardless of that.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          You didn’t just use the word bogus, you said:

          almost all of which are of the form “We tested and found the following drugs” when, in fact, they did not

          And “unsupported claims” sounds like very little of the article.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            True, I guess we don’t really know whether they did or not. Same sort of sloppiness as above.

            Maybe I should just go back and edit my original comment.

            Edit: Oops, can’t now. Oh well. Please pay no heed to my original characterization of it, which was based in general sloppiness.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I highly recommend the article, by the way.

    • Anonymous says:

      I went through a couple phases while I was reading the link. At first I thought, “wow, a lot of evidence by government witnesses is apparently BS!” Then realized, “wow, this sort of questioning will make even a rigorous scientist sound like they are spouting BS! This is how a good defense lawyer gets a guilty defendent off! This is a manual for how to semi-dishonestly make anyone sound stupid and evil!” I guess, as the title indicates, the article is about how the effect cross-examination produces on the jury doesn’t necessarily correlate with the reliability of the witness.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Do you remember what gave you the bullshit reaction? Because that was never my reaction, but it seems to have been Sniffnoy’s. (The part where the experts abjure authority is bullshit, but I didn’t take it as impugning their evidence.)

        • Anonymous says:

          Some of the ones that made the witnesses sound stupid and/or evil and therefore hard to trust went like:

          Q: Where can I look up the spectra for X?
          A: I don’t know.

          Q: How can I check that the results match what you say?
          A: You can’t.

          Q: Can you tell me any true fact vaguely related to your work?
          A: No.

      • TeslaCoil says:

        I don’t know. I looked at the questions, and I feel that I would be able to answer the analogous questions for my own field honestly, without looking clueless or veil.

        In fact, if forensic chemistry is any different, then they really need to start writing authoritative textbooks, procedures and lab manuals.

    • Princess Stargirl says:

      I do not know how easy it is, in practice, for a cross examiner to make a witness look bad. Maybe its quite easy. However:

      You get to pick the textbook! This is an awfully fair question lol. honestly it does seem like you should stick to accepted “textbook” procedures if you are trying to prove someone guilty in a drug trial. I am mentally imagining me being cross examined about numerical analysis code I wrote. I do not always use practices that are supported directly by the textbooks I like. But in reasonable cases I could just follow “Norcedal and White” or something. Asking expert drug witnesses to follow standard procedures designed for outside the courtroom seems like a good idea.

  18. Ellen says:

    Hi, off-topic, but I remember having read a post here about the usefulness of extreme thought experiments or something like that, but can’t find it… does anyone remember its title?

  19. haggai says:

    That microwave article is misleading. From the abstract of the actual linked paper[1], we see that perytons, or “millisecond-duration transients of terrestrial origin”, can indeed be generated by opening a microwave door while it’s on and the telescope is pointed appropriately. However, the recently-observed fast radio bursts (FRBs) are shown NOT to be perytons, and the “FRBs are excellent candidates for genuine extragalactic transients”.

    [1] http://arxiv.org/abs/1504.02165

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Scott’s description is misleading, but the article he links is perfectly clear that perytons were always known to be terrestrial, it just took 4 years to figure out they were from ovens.

    • RCF says:

      I didn’t notice the r at first, and wondered at an astrophysics phenomenon having the same name as the Denver Broncos QB.

  20. Alex says:

    There was a link from a past links post that I wanted to find again but forgot its location. All I remember is that it was funny, showed many pictures about two kids, and there was one picture where the mom said she wanted to be an artist but couldn’t because she had kids. Anyone remember this?

  21. lmm says:

    > More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists?

    Dare I hope this is because the people who think there’s, like, a 20% chance that global warming exists think we should still regulate CO2 in case it does?

    • Richard says:

      Probably, or as stated by most people I hang with, who trend redder than this crowd seem to do:
      “”
      I don’t believe in this whole global warming thing, but pissing in the well is usually bad policy so less pollution is a good thing anyway.
      “”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        My belief is “You have to tax something — might as well tax CO2.” Best chance we have for a consumption tax.

      • roystgnr says:

        If they don’t believe in global warming, why do they believe CO2 is pollution? Ocean acidification? Confusion between CO2 and particulates/NOx/SO2?

        • Irrelevant says:

          I believe I’ve explained that a tick downwards: the question is being evaluated as an association test, not a logical argument.

    • Irrelevant says:

      I read it “More people believe black smoke plumes are ugly than believe in global warming.”

      • Godzillarissa says:

        Like “Beijing-like smog doesn’t need to warm the earth to be a really sucky thing to have in your lungs.”?

        • Irrelevant says:

          Yeah, but dumber. The question was “Should we regulate CO2 as a pollutant?” There’s nothing in that question that signals a need to kick things over to explicit reasoning, so it runs as a conceptual association test. Essentially, they said “Query linkage of [government law]-[chemical word]-[poison].” and got 74% “Makes sense”, 1% “Huh?”, and 25% “Fuck you.”

          My favorite bit about the concept chain query category of question is that they can verge into word salad while still being naturally understandable parts of the language. I once asked “Hiroyuki Imaishi splash image style reference deliberate?”, and didn’t draw so much as a pause.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            From the Yale site. Note that it says “Regulate CO2 as a pollutant”. Hell, my explict reasoning would vote for that just to get it regulated at all. (And for all the others below.)

            Fund research into renewable energy sources

            Regulate CO2 as a pollutant

            Set strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants

            Require utilities to produce 20% electricity from renewable

          • Deiseach says:

            “Hiroyuki Imaishi splash image style reference deliberate?”

            I suppose it depends if Imaishi acknowledges any influence by Roy Lichtenstein on their work 🙂

          • Irrelevant says:

            He does use some elements reminiscent of Lichtenstein, but I believe he picked them up through Go Nagai.

          • Cauê says:

            I understood it the same way (as Irrelevant).

            “More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists” becomes “more people answer that we should do something about uncontroversial-thing-that-sounds-bad than answer that blues are right and greens are wrong about controversial-topic”.

    • Besserwisser says:

      There’s also the view that I support to some extent that so many useful things can be made out of fossile fuels that it’s a waste to burn it.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        And more healthy to put it back in the ground via landfill, than into the air as smoke.

      • RCF says:

        Obviously the market disagrees with you.

        • Besserwisser says:

          The market isn’t generally interested in thinking longterm nor is it always right. We burnt mummies when we discovered lots of them because they were often cheaper than coal. Doesn’t mean it was right in any other way than quick material gain. Even in purely monetary points, mummies are probably worth a lot more than fossile fuels, even with the latter increasing in price.

          There are other ways you could argue against my assessment. For example, we can generate a lot the stuff we make out of fossile fuels in other ways. Some procedures which were known for a while become popular only now because of oil, gas and coal prices rising.

    • stillnotking says:

      Sort of. People compartmentalize. Ask them a politically loaded question like “Do you believe in global warming?” and they’ll say no, but pragmatic second-order questions like “Should we limit CO2 emissions?” are a different story. It engages a different part of the mind.

      It’s the same process that allows so many people to say they don’t believe in evolution, yet believe in (and happily fund) scientific research that depends on the validity of evolution.

      • Peter says:

        See also Nate Silver on how common libertarian views are. If you look for people who identify as “socially liberal but economically conservative” (or vice versa, for that matter), they’re hard to find – much rarer than people who identify as liberal both ways or conservative both ways. If you look for, say, people who are in favour of same-sex marriage but against income redistribution (again, or vice versa), then they’re reasonably common; a little rarer than people in favour of both, a little rarer than people in favour of neither, but not by much. Conclusion: people by-and-large like to label themselves on a single left-right axis but when you get to policies it’s a lot more complicated than that.

        • Irrelevant says:

          Missed opportunity there: the headline could have been “There are Twice as Many Libertarians as There are Libertarians”

        • RCF says:

          It’s amazing how many conservative Christians suddenly become libertarian when discussing laws against sexual orientation-based discrimination.

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            Most people are libertarian with the things they like and a fascist on almost everything else.

      • Julie K says:

        What types of scientific research depend on the validity of evolution? (As distinct from, e.g., depending on the existence of similarities between humans and other species.)

        • Jiro says:

          That’s a tricky question because it’s easy for a creationist to choose an unusual; but superficially plausible definition of “depends on” which makes almost nothing depend on anything. For instance, if evolution causes X to happen, and some branch of science depends on X, does that count as a branch of science depending on evolution?

          • Irrelevant says:

            Oh, it’s even more futile to try and nail them down on than that: recall that the refined form of Creationism accepts all the evolution you’re ever going to be able to demonstrate and just rejects its generalizability into the past as a life-origination process.

            At that point, all you can do is tell them they’re being bad positivists, and they agree because they never claimed to be positivists.

        • stillnotking says:

          Genetic algorithms, artificial selection/genetic engineering, tons of medical research (e.g. antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations and treatment/detection of genetic disorders), obviously biohistory itself.

          • Gbdub says:

            I’m not sure genetic modification counts, and genetic algorithms definitely don’t. The fact that I can make a computer optimization program that “evolves” has no bearing on whether that mechanism exists in nature, anymore than the existence of database software implies that wolves stalk their prey via SQL queries.

            As for genetic modification, the existence of intelligent design does not mean humans can’t tweak the knobs the designer built in. I can demonstrate that a LEGO kit is composed of individual modules. But the fact that I can assemble it differently does not imply that the kit/modules evolved organically (in fact we know them to be intelligently designed).

            Antibiotic resistance is probably the closest case to an applied science requiring evolution, but even there one could have a successful career searching for new antibiotics, or new methods of killing bacteria, without ever giving a damn about how your work came to be necessary.

          • Irrelevant says:

            If our sense of “depends on evolution” is “was only discovered due to prior knowledge of evolution”, then antibiotic resistance almost certainly is independent. In how many worlds does some guy guess how evolution works by staring at birds, versus the ones where they first say
            “Our germ-killer stopped working because it killed every germ that it could kill, so now we need to find a new germ-killer.” and only later extend this concept into what we’d recognize as evolutionary theory?

  22. > More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming
    > exists? Polling is weird.

    I’ve met many of these people, the reasoning is “well, I don’t really trust scientists who all want to fill our food with GMOs, so I’m not sure about this global warming story. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, who knows. I do know that pollution is bad and CO2 is a chemical, so we should regulate it.”

    • Gbdub says:

      Geez that’s even worse than I thought. I figured it was either a) people who figure the government ought to regulate everything and/or b) people who think that “global warming” isn’t real but “climate change” is.

      As an aside, for some reason I find creationists less annoying than anti-GMO / anti-vax Portlandia types. I don’t know why, and it’s probably not fair, but I guess I’m more forgiving of someone who gets their religion from a Baptist preacher than from Jenny McCarthy, who blames Satan for everything and not Monsanto.

      Maybe it’s like Dante’s virtuous pagans? The anti-vaxxers are more blameworthy because they should have all the tools to realize they are wrong?

      • Irrelevant says:

        The creationists aren’t making YOU look bad.

        • I agree with the sentiment wrt the anti-GMO crowd, but the anti-vaxxers are objectively more dangerous because the can breed diseases which infect even vaccinated people, so it becomes more than a matter of personal freedom/personal stupidity.

          In that sense, creationism/anti-GMOness are more alike: they can breed ignorance, but are not directly dangerous (I am not too negatively affected by your decision to only shop at Whole Foods).

          • Gbdub says:

            I don’t know, the Golden Rice fiasco alone probably caused as much or more suffering than the anti-vaxxers ever have.

  23. Richard says:

    Chris Blattman conducted a study in Liberia that finds that at-risk poor young men given cognitive behavioral therapy were involved in 20-50% less crime, drugs, and violence than a control group, with effects lasting at least a year. This sincerely surprises me. I would pay money to see what James Coyne thinks of this.

    Well, it seems to work for rich kids….

    I occasionally do some volunteer work with kids who are basically white young rich spoiled dopeheads (no poor people around here, one works with what one has…) and we use CBT as a standard practice. The theory goes: At age 12-16 (our target age), pre frontal lobe and thus executive function is not fully developed which makes the kids do stupid things. Training kids to use what little there is of the executive function helps them make smarter decisions.

    Also simply telling them about the neurology so that they know why they are making stupid decisions seems to help for quite a few, presumably some kids are capable of observing that they are doing stupid things, but less capable of changing it unless they know something about why.

    We seem to have better results than our ‘competitors’ who do not use CBT, both long and short term.

  24. Harald K says:

    Why are you surprised at the Liberia study? We are talking Liberia here. In recent years it’s been high up on my list of places I really, really wouldn’t want to live.

    In such a miserable place, never mind CBT. I think that just the Hawthorne effect would be enough to help a lot. A sincere and friendly white doctor guy actually appears to care, on a personal level, about how it goes with you? That works wonders even here, as any alternative medicine guy can tell you.

  25. Will says:

    Regarding Raj Chetty, see section VI.A of the study (the section conveniently titled “Race”) where he uses zip code to separate white areas from black areas (conveniently the areas with the lowest mobility also tend to have the highest racial segregation making this split a lot easier).

    Examining only predominantly white zip codes he finds the same patterns of mobility.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Basically, Chetty finds that for lower income white families, trying to raise their children near a lot of blacks doesn’t turn out as well as raising them in some much whiter part of the country.

      But he can’t really tell if it’s a treatment effect or a selection effect. For example, living in a not quite gentrified neighborhood is fine if you send your kids to private school, but if you can’t afford to get them out of public school, you’ve got problems. So if you let your white kid go to a black public school and he turns out a loser, is that because he went to a black school or because you are a loser who let his kid go to a black school?

      Tough question…

      • Will says:

        But first you painted it as an issue of regression to different means i.e. the effect Chetty was discovering was just “where do the blacks live.” But that doesn’t work, because even controlling for race as best he can the same patterns show up.

        Now you are saying it’s now a proximity effect to the black population + the less enterprising/dumber properties of southern whites. But that would mean that Chetty did see a real effect, i.e. even the whites in these regions are less mobile.

        Also, I don’t buy your proximity effect, because the large observed segregation mean that the children in the 95+% white zip codes probably go to 95+% white schools, and interact with mostly other white people,etc. I grew up in large, low mobility according to Chetty, Southern city and really never interacted with black people at all until I moved to New York City after college.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          “But that doesn’t work, because even controlling for race as best he can the same patterns show up.”

          But on a much less massive scale.

          Blacks account for 1/8th of the country’s population but they have such a massive effect on intergenerational mobility that Chetty’s celebrated map is, obviously, to a first order approximation a map of where blacks are and where they aren’t.

          Thus, even West Virginia looks pretty good on Chetty’s map because, despite its numerous problems, it’s an overwhelmingly white state. In contrast, Charlotte, North Carolina, a region that has been attracting lots of corporations and middle class newcomers, shows up as the absolute worst metro in the top 50 in Chetty’s analysis.

          Chetty’s map is very similar to a map of homicide rates. Blacks make up 1/8th of the population but 52% of the homicide offenders from 1980-2008 according to a 2011 Obama Administration report. So, a map of homicide rates across the country is, largely, a map of where the blacks are.

          Now, there are interesting subsidiary patterns you can tease out of a map of homicide rates that are pretty similar to the minor patterns you can tease out of Chetty’s data. Whites who live in the blackest region of the country, the Southeast, commit more homicides themselves than whites who live in, say, the North Central region.

          And these patterns are very interesting and moderately important, but, once again, secondary to gross racial factor that drives the Big Picture, much as with Chetty’s map.

          • Will says:

            Did you read the section on race in Chetty’s study? The same patterns hold even when he only looks at whites. So yes, it does look like a map of where blacks live, BUT the pattern holds up even for whites who live in those areas.

            You didn’t respond to what I said, you just restated your original thesis. If black and white differences were controlling the map, then controlling for race would create different, more random patterns.

            So there is some effect that holds down white mobility in the same areas where blacks live- it’s not simply a blacks vs whites difference.

            The frothing liberal might say that systems put in place to hold the black man down might also be holding down poor whites caught in proximity. You want to say that it’s because those whites coincidentally happen to be the dumber whites. Whatever the explanation, it is apparently an effect apart from race.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Chetty is playing games with you. There are a lot of things he could do to quantify how severe or faint this pattern is, but he won’t do most of them. If he was honest, would Hillary be consulting with him?

          • Steve Sailer says:

            According to Chetty’s data, the worst place in the country is Charlotte, NC, a metropolis that has largely grown up since the end of Jim Crow, while the best place in the country is Salt Lake City, a Mormon hub, or San Jose. Both Salt Lake City and San Jose have practically no blacks.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Chetty’s measures are largely of how kids from blue collar families in 1996 did in 2011. His regional results are heavily driven by opportunities in 2011 for blue collar workers.

            The big opportunities to make high wages in 2011, when there was little housing construction going on, were for blue collar guys from cold, empty places who could stand North Dakota winters to get in on the fracking boom. Chetty’s methodology made the cold Great Plains look like “the Land of Opportunity.”

            In contrast, blue collar guys who grew up in the Southeast and don’t like frigid weather didn’t cash in very well on North Dakota. They’ve traditionally made their money on things like home construction in the Sunbelt, but there wasn’t much of that in 2011.

            If Chetty had done his study comparing, say, 1981 to 1996, North Dakota probably would have looked bad for blue collar upward mobility and North Carolina would have looked good. These things go through cycles.

            Anyway, Chetty needs to hire some Americans who actually know something about America to help him analyze his impressive data set. It’s a shame that he seems pretty stumped by trying to make sense out of it.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            @Steve

            It looks like you are finally conceding that Chetty did take race into account*, but you don’t like the metrics he used to conclude that there is still a location dependent effect on social mobility. Well, feel free to do an analysis of your own using better criteria.

            *contrary to your initial claim that

            because he refuses to intelligently consider race in his analysis.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Alexander, there is nothing contrary between the two claims. That Steve doesn’t “like the metrics” is exactly the same as calling the analysis “unintelligent.”

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Another issue is that Southern whites (at least outside of Texas) are a little dumber and less enterprising than northern whites. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s definitely real. Daniel Patrick Moynihan came up with his Law of the Canadian Border which found a pretty correlation between how far a state is from the Canadian border and school test scores and a whole lot of other good measures. Most of that is percentage of black and Hispanic, of course, but northern tier whites with ancestral roots in Puritan New England tend to have more on the ball and be less trouble-making than more southerly whites.

      • Deiseach says:

        northern tier whites with ancestral roots in Puritan New England tend to have more on the ball and be less trouble-making than more southerly whites

        Seeing as how I’m given to understand that there’s a sizeable proportion of what you call Scots-Irish (and what I’d call Ulster Protestant) stock in the southern United States – sir! Are you traducing my nation and/or ancestral stock, both Scots and Irish taking our common Celtic heritage into account? Should I be making menacing references to pistols at dawn? I refer you to the source image for my icon 🙂

      • Tarrou says:

        Cultural implications. The southern way of life traditionally has an honor code, exalts both hard work and hard fun, and a large degree of disdain for written laws. Northern traditions are more legalistic, puritanical and guilt-based, in my experience. Basically, you want to work with northerners and play with southerners.

        • Irrelevant says:

          Cultural implications.

          Specifically, that weird type of “cultural implications” that somehow still carry over when you’re adopted at birth.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          “The southern way of life traditionally has an honor code, exalts both hard work and hard fun.”

          Generally my readings and experience with Southerners is that it’s more like “work as hard as the fun you want to have requires” which is why there’s a bunch of doublewides that have a nice bass boat and a F250 to pull it parked outside.

          • Tarrou says:

            I agree, but this may be the difference between a culture’s goals and outcomes. What people think about themselves and what they actually are can differ wildly. In this case, I think your comment is a pretty fair characterization of a broad swathe of the poor-to- lower-middle-class south.

  26. Good Burning Plastic says:

    19th century polymath Francis Galton was among the first to study the efficacy of prayer, noting among other things that despite all the people praying “God save the King” royals tended to die earlier than other upper-class individuals.

    The standard observation where I come from is that if curses actually worked, sports referees would be much, much shorter-lived than they are.

  27. Jack V says:

    And here’s me thinking Tazmanian Devil Face Cancer was the only infectious cancer 🙂

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

  28. Murphy says:

    I don’t know about the US but in london even as late as the 1960’s/70’s variations on “no blacks, no irish, no dogs” was a very real thing that my parents talked about running into themselves which limited where they could live.

    It was identical to the discrimination suffered by many other migrants at the time so they ended up living with a very nice indian couple.

    His sources for such signs never existing seems to be that they weren’t present in an exhibit and a couple of letters from people saying they didn’t find them looking in specific newspapers from some unspecified date range (ref 3)

    The author also makes concrete claims that may be more stereotype than real:
    “involved internal self-defeating factors, such as heavy alcoholism”

    http://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistory/comments/14wicq/wherewhen_did_the_irish_drunk_stereotype_come/c7h5f3t

    • Deiseach says:

      No Irish Need Apply: A Myth Of Victimization

      You dangle this bait in front of me and expect nothing to come of it? 🙂

      I would be prepared to accept that it was down to folklore; that a few instances became exaggerated in the communal memory into “there were signs saying ‘No Irish Need Apply’ posted up in public”, even if there was only one or very few actual examples of such.

      On the other hand, the historian undermines his own argument by going from “there were no such signs” to “they were non-existent or very few” – which is it? Non-existent, which to me implies “did not exist”, or very rare, which again to me implies “there were some”?

      It’s probably conflation of attitudes and verbal encounters, rather than official and public printed signs, and the much stronger English attitude that Murphy speaks of in his comment being carried with the immigrants to America. The “No dogs, no blacks, no Irish” signs allegedly on display in England may also be more a product of folklore and mythology, but there was a genuine attitude towards Irish (and other) immigrants that this folklore does reference.

      And while there may not have been “No Irish Need Apply” signs in print, there were attitudes in print that covered a broad range, not always out-and-out prejudice but with a certain view of the matter. The historian quoted mentions that Irishwomen were heavily represented in domestic service, and the stock figure or caricature of “Bridget the Irish maid” with her brogue and her dialogue written in dialect, her red face and hefty figure, untidy ways and tendency to tyrannise the more refined middle-class mistress, or needing to be disciplined by the robust Anglo-Saxon working-class landlady of the boarding house was a recognisable figure in novels, plays and magazines. Excerpt from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table”:

      Our Celtic Bridget, or Biddy, is not a foolish fat scullion to burst out crying for a sentiment. She is of the serviceable, red-handed, broad-and-high-shouldered type; one of those imported female servants who are known in public by their amorphous style of person, their stoop forwards, and a headlong and as it were precipitous walk,—the waist plunging downwards into the rocking pelvis at every heavy footfall. Bridget, constituted for action, not for emotion, was about to deposit a plate heaped with something upon the table, when I saw the coarse arm stretched by my shoulder arrested,—motionless as the arm of a terra-cotta caryatid; she couldn’t set the plate down while the old gentleman was speaking!

      • Murphy says:

        Right, had some time to do some proper searching. the song he references is indeed the top ngram viewer hit but there’s no shortage of the terms in books before 1862

        The New Monthly Magazine 1836:

        >”A gentleman who had a good deal of experience in domestic matters told me that he gave the preference to English female servants before all others Americans next but as for Irish or coloured people he would not admit them into his house I expressed surprise at this last information assuring him that there were excellent servants in Ireland particularly females That may be he replied but they soon get puffed up with a sense of their own importance when they come here the old drink and the young take to finery and ringlets and visiting and satin slippers and have a multitude of friends However I speak generally there are some good ones among them

        >This gentleman’s information I soon found confirmed Advertisements frequently run in these terms Wanted so and so No Irish need apply **But the usual phraseology is Wanted an English or American** “

        • Anonymous says:

          Maybe now that you’ve done your search you should go back and read the abstract of the article Scott cited and see if you agree or disagree with it.

    • veronica d says:

      There is a lot to be said about how we talk about prejudice. How frequent is it? What is its magnitude? These things are hard to measure.

      I find it pretty hard to accurately describe the prejudices I face and their magnitude. Which, I don’t encounter overt transphobia all that much; like maybe twice a day someone says something bigoted, or just gives me a clearly nasty look or something. Small stuff. Maybe once every couple weeks I encounter someone who gets in my face and talks shit, really tries to tear me down. But fuck them. It’s almost always a homeless person or a working class man. Which, it’s pretty easy to ignore people like that. I get overtly sexually harassed about that often. No big.

      I’ve only encountered a TERF once. I mean, I see them online a lot, but that is mostly because other trans folks constantly link to them in outrage. If I ignore the outrage, I don’t see them.

      Except for the one time I did. That time sucked. It was a writing group, run by a trans man believe it or not, but that was full of Michfest fans and at least one vocal TERFy-TERF.

      I did not feel like combining my writing with fighting trans politics, so I quit. That sucked. It’s the only cool queer writing group in my local area.

      Whatever.

      After the Leelah Alcorn suicide, someone pointed out that maybe we focus too much on our hardship, that so many young trans kids kinda assume they’ll be destroyed by prejudice, that they’ll get murdered first day out of the house, that a trans life is intolerable. They carry this shit and choose suicide over life.

      Which, sometimes it is that bad. It can suck boundlessly. We’re not lying about what happens to us. (Well, some of us lie, of course. We’re people. But on the whole we do face a fuckton of prejudice. It really sucks.)

      I try to give a balance. We face a ton of hard shit. I get messed with. People are sometimes terrible to me, certainly disproportionately compared to other people like-me-but-not-trans. On the other hand, it’s not all terrible all the time. We have wins along with our losses.

      On the whole, my life is pretty great.

      I think the reality is impossible to summarize. You can study this stuff for a lifetime and still have much to learn. Different people need to hear different parts at different times.

      #####

      I’m not sure how this compares with 19th century Irish people. The point is, I bet the reality was super complicated. The truth can support any narrative you want to share.

      • Murphy says:

        Don’t get me wrong: Nowdays it’s awsome to be irish in the UK. There’s a little racism but it’s utterly weaksauce and socially frowned upon compared to the inverse in ireland.

        Irish immigrants are such a large group now that even UKIP(the british “immigrants out” party for those not familiar with current british politics) don’t want to piss them off. (http://www.irishpost.co.uk/news/ukips-mark-reckless-on-the-partys-irish-policy)

        Historically though it’s pretty dark with a lot of war, slavery, ethnic cleansing, military and economic genocide, official discrimination etc

        I’m just relating my parents accounts and they’re not terribly inclined towards claims of victim-status.

      • Tarrou says:

        I’m extremely wary of claims of prejudice, mostly because of the self-serving bias. This of course doesn’t mean it isn’t real, but we as people aren’t that good at inferring it. We tend to do so in situations that make us look good or make us look less bad. I think that much prejudice goes unnoticed, because it was in our favor or had no effect. And much of what is called prejudice is not, because it is impossible to know motives for sure, and we all like to excuse our failures and judge others.

        Also, I am deeply skeptical that focusing on prejudice is all that helpful even for the true victims of it. Is it more useful to blame circumstance or to take responsibility for one’s situation? Bad luck and enemy action happen to us all, and in unequal quantities. But the internal locus of control always produces better outcomes across similar situations.

        • fwhagdsd says:

          “much of what is called prejudice is not, because it is impossible to know motives for sure” STFU WHO CARES

          “take responsibility for one’s situation” what are you even whinging about?

          “Bad luck and enemy action” HAHAHA you are wary of claims of prejudice, but those things are common? You sound like one of those whiny defensive neoreactionary fools. I mean really, how clueless do you have to be to use the phrase “enemy action” when talking about systemic racism? LOL do you actually know anything about human beings.

          • Nita says:

            You could have written a much more effective comment if you gave yourself a couple of seconds to cool down.

      • Dain says:

        “It’s almost always a homeless person or a working class man.”

        I’m not surprised by this. Years back in Sacramento a trans individual I met at an art gallery wanted a ride home via my car (I said yes), so as to avoid light rail, where she always took some shit. “I don’t wanna get bashed…”

      • veronica d says:

        @Tarrou — You neglect the fact that denial and error cut both ways. Certainly many prejudiced people will be hesitant to admit to prejudice. Likewise people being “fair,” by their own terms, can be operating according to unfair social prejudice. People are hesitant to address this. Few people enjoy having their prejudices examined.

        So yeah, the truth is hard to find in the middle. However, a stated bias toward not believing prejudice reveals much. I certainly face significant prejudice for my visible queerness and my gender.

        • Tarrou says:

          I don’t think I neglected that at all. Unfortunately, so much depends on definitions. What do we mean by “prejudiced”? There is a ton of equivocation here, and a lot of motte-and-bailey jumping between the two (see also “rape” and “sexual assault”).

          For instance, are we talking about people who think that Outgroup X are subhuman scum who should be executed and never encountered without rudeness or physical violence? I think you’d find rather little “prejudice” under this definition, though regrettably not zero.

          Or are we talking about people who for any reason treat two groups of people differently in any way? Here absolutely everyone is prejudiced, the insanely vast majority of which is completely harmless and perhaps justified! We don’t treat children the same as everyone, we take into account cultural considerations etc. Here is where we get the “microaggression” stuff, and women whinging about doors being opened for them. Then when challenged, they fall back on some terrible crime from the first category and try to link the two.

          This is a thorny problem, but the simple fact is that we’re all biased. We are all prejudiced, and there is no way to eradicate it. You can take the SJW route and dedicate yourself to sniffing out ever-more esoteric tiny unintended insults, and destroying people’s lives over them, or you can shrug some shit off and get on with your day. And if someone threatens actual imminent violence, kill them, prejudice or no.

  29. Besserwisser says:

    The point of men being more utilitarian doesn’t really surprise me. Boys are socialized more than girls to take responsibility for others, so they naturally extend their duties more. One simple example of young men being expected to work towards a greater good (as it is perceived anyway) is the draft.

  30. TeslaCoil says:

    The proposal of classifying cell lines as separate species is not new, jack-of-all-trades L. van Valen came up with the idea in 1991. The proposal never really caught on (van Valen’s misunderstanding of how taxonomy works is partially to blame), even though it would make HeLa cells the closest relative of Homo Sapiens.

  31. Irrelevant says:

    Nobody’s brought up the fertility decline chart yet? Because that tweet is badly failing to capture the variables of concern.

    “Fertility isn’t declining” there should read “fertility isn’t declining further.” It’s nice to know what the numbers are at the moment, but pitching it as “the straight-line prediction was wrong” isn’t real information. The straight-line prediction is always wrong, the question is why the line bent.

    • Kiya says:

      If we’re talking about the fertility graph, can someone explain the numbers on the y-axis? I don’t believe either that each woman has 2000 children or that there are a total of 2000 children born in the US in a year. (2 million might be halfway reasonable as a total number of children per year if I interpret “numbers in thousands” as indicating that one should multiply, but in that case why does “ever married” plus “never married” not equal “all”?)

      • stillnotking says:

        It’s number of children per 1000 women.

      • Deiseach says:

        I had to break that down to “something like 2 kids per married woman and 1 kid per unmarried woman” to make sense of it (I don’t think anyone has yet managed to have half-a-child, even if the slope of the graph was between whole numbers).

        I do think there has been a decline, perhaps not in fertility, but certainly in childbirth – going from something like 3 per married woman to 2 per married woman over the period. Given the increased access to contraception (and abortion), this probably means women are choosing not to have as many children. Even if fertility (ability to become pregnant and sustain a pregnancy to birth) isn’t changing, the birthrate (amount of “becoming pregnant/continuing pregnancy to birth”) is definitely declining by that graph.

  32. JayMan says:

    Individual Differences In Executive Function Are Almost Entirely Genetic In Origin. And when they say “almost entirely”, they mean “about 99%”. This doesn’t make sense to me – why should this be the only 99% genetic thing in a world full of cognitive skills that are about 50% genetic? Really looking forward to a replication attempt.

    Measurement error (tends to bias down heritability estimates).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So you think almost everything is 99% genetic, and these people were just the only ones who measured correctly?!

    • Cauê says:

      He focuses a lot on the proportion of faculty who are women, without seeming to realize that the question is why that is (and thus assuming the conclusion that a low % means discrimination).

      And:

      This kind of study is incredibly frustrating because it tells a story many of us would love to believe: that gender discrimination in academia is dying.

      This looks exactly wrong. When people are invested in fighting this or that Evil, few things will get a more negative response than telling them that hey, good news!, they were mistaken, things aren’t as bad as they thought!

  33. multiheaded says:

    Awww, sweet, a shoutout on SSC!

    ..Yep, maybe this is a sign I should assume/resume the position of a court jester around these parts. I will consider it.

    • James says:

      I thought that was deiseach’s job?

      • Deiseach says:

        I thought my job was to be annoying, cranky person with ill-thought out expressions of bias and prejudice masquerading as arguments?

        Also part of my duties: waving my stick and shouting at you kids to get off my lawn 🙂

    • geekethics says:

      I thought your job was “token communist trying to counterbalance the NRxers and so restore the center of gravity somewhere sane”?

  34. onyomi says:

    Given that the passage of Obamacare and growing opposition to wealth redistribution is just a correlation, I’d like to propose an alternative causation: Huge increases during the same period in numbers of food stamp recipients and people on social security disability-type programs. More people see their friends and neighbors, many of whom don’t seem to be *that* poor getting these kinds of benefits and think, “here I am working like a chump.” This is surely also behind the move to prevent people using food stamps to buy steak and lobster. Obviously it’s silly and useless, but reflects a growing sense that such programs are widely abused by people who aren’t really that poor.

    They may also see the negative effects. I have a very smart friend perfectly capable of doing any number of jobs but who is currently on disability due to relatively mild hearing loss and back pain. I am pretty sure that the disability is bad for him long-term in that it provides just enough to allow him to get by without working, but will be taken away if he starts working. So he remains in a slump of computer games and drinking when he could be working at or training for a new career. Seeing the effect on this person in the past couple of years has increased my opposition to wealth redistribution policies and I’m probably not alone.

    • Dain says:

      Yea, if he’s not even training, that’s bad. One perk of unemployment benefits is that they allow people to focus on getting hired at a place that suits their skill set and training, instead of sucking it up at Subway ™ and becoming demoralized.

      But disability benefits, well that’s another matter.

      • Dale says:

        Do you have a source for working at subway being more demoralizing than unemployment? My impression, both of the literature and my friends, is that nothing is worse than unemployment.

        And don’t be so harsh on subway! Working in food retail is a socially productive activity that people should not be ashamed off. What’s more, it can impart useful skills on the worker, like punctuality and reliability that are necessary for ‘better’ employment.

        • speedwell says:

          Yeah, having been a corporate software trainer for a multinational oil tools engineering company, responsible for instructional design, classroom training, and tech support on five continents… I really need that training in punctuality and reliability, now that I have been laid off. Wanker.

          • onyomi says:

            Just because you have nothing much to gain by working at Subway doesn’t mean that’s true of everyone.

            The type of abuse I’m talking about is people who stay on benefits long term, not because they are in-between jobs and need to look a little longer before they find something to match their qualifications, but because the benefits they receive are enough to deincentivize working (especially since you lose them as soon as you start working again–I think that unemployment benefits, for example, if we’re going to have them, should be a set amount for a fixed period that doesn’t decrease if you find employment before they run out and doesn’t extend if you don’t).

  35. Regarding https://twitter.com/familyunequal/status/585891414795558914/photo/1, I don’t read this as “Fertility isn’t declining” as much as “Fertility isn’t declining any more“. There’s an obvious decline up to about 1994, and then we sort of level off.

    Good news of a sort, I guess, though the number of births to never-married women continues to rise.

    • onyomi says:

      Good point. Also, isn’t the bigger concern in the past 50 years over declining sperm count? Of course, that would indirectly result in women having more trouble getting pregnant, but it isn’t an issue of “female fertility.” Or has female fertility declined too, independent from sperm count?

      • Irrelevant says:

        Also, isn’t the bigger concern in the past 50 years over declining sperm count?

        Huh? As I hear this discussed, lowered biological fertility is at most a distant secondary concern to deliberate family size reduction.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Measuring fertility on a per-female basis is the standard, and until some disaster radically alters the sex ratio, it works pretty well and can be compared across the years.

        How much this is impacted by sperm counts (my guess: not that much) is a relevant question, but it’s the bottom-line number that we ultimately care about. We’re not measuring the ease with which people get pregnant, we’re measuring whether they actually give birth.

    • simplicio says:

      When they have those children matters too. 2% annual rate is a lot different from 2% monthly rate, and 2 children at 23 is a lot different from 2 children at 35.

  36. haishan says:

    The linked CVS/naloxone article was published in August 2014, and says that Walgreens had been doing the same thing for a while. So is there any early data on effectiveness?

    • Addict says:

      Addict here with some anecdotal evidence.

      The kind of addict who is careful enough to keep a syringe of naloxone in the freezer is the kind of addict who already had a syringe of naloxone before it became legal. It’s incredibly easy to acquire naloxone considering you only need to keep one dose on hand. I bought a couple doses of naloxone on the internet about 4 months ago for a couple dollars; I didn’t know CVS sold it without a script, and I seriously doubt any other addicts know either.

      Making clean syringes available to addicts is far far more important. See my long rant below.

  37. Peter says:

    Gosh, the actual question on scientists’ belief in climate change – “Most scientists think climate change is happening” – is a very mild statement. Usually when people want to challenge the idea that there’s a consensus they dig up a few people, (in my experience, if I recall right, often engineers or doctors or other sort-of-science-types-who-aren’t-actually-scientists) and say “look, lack of unanimity!” and then there’s lots of wrangling over what “consensus” means. But that question short-circuits all that. If you’re being pedantic, with the question they ask you can count lukewarmers and the “it’s not anthropogenic” types among those who thing climate change is happening.

    Perhaps we need a list of scientists called Steve who think that climate change is happening.

    I was about to say that perhaps people don’t pay attention to the wording of questions like this, and self-deprecate for being literal minded and not rounding to the nearest cliche like real people do. But given the number of poll results that show very swingy results depending on differences in wording (eg. gay marriage vs homosexual marriage), perhaps real people don’t do this.

    • Irrelevant says:

      Perhaps we need a list of scientists called Steve who think that climate change is happening.

      Haha. If there’s anything this poll shows, it’s that you wouldn’t expect that to help.

    • Gbdub says:

      An engineer might be a sciencey-but-not-scientist person, but I fail to see why their opinion is any more or less relevant to climate change than a generic “scientist” (as opposed to a climate scientist). I mean, an engineer who spends their days dealing with simulations and control theory probably has more insight into climate research (much of which boils down to modeling a complicated system) than a paleontologist that does mostly field research, though the latter is a “scientist” and the former is not.

      Then again, the primary “scientists” the public references on climate change are a mechanical engineer and a cosmologist that hasn’t published a paper in 7 years…

  38. Ghatanathoah says:

    If the ctenophore thing is true it makes “neurons are hard to evolve” a less likely explanation for the Fermi Paradox.

  39. anon says:

    “fertility rate not declining” is precisely rubbish that twitter produces.

    i) the plot shown in the tweet is for women 40-44 who contribute less than 10% to total birth rate;
    ii) average age when westerners to have children has been increasing steadily. So a non-declining rate for 40-44 age group can easily be a consequence of women not having kids when they are younger;
    iii) turns out this precisely what is happening – women in a prime childbearing age group, 20-30, have a severely declining birth rate (plot linked in my handle). Even if rate is steady for 30-40 year olds, the total fertility rate is still dropping like there is no tomorrow.

  40. Anonymous says:

    The “bullying victimization” in the genetic study seems to have come from self-reports. What are the chances the kids are just already paranoid?

    • Tarrou says:

      Given the self-serving bias, 100%. Everyone thinks they were bullied, especially bullies. So everyone hates bullies, but 0% of the population thinks they are one. This is what makes “anti-bullying” so powerful, everyone can participate!

  41. “More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists? Polling is weird.”

    This isn’t irrational at all: it makes sense to hedge your bets, *especially* when you don’t know what’s going to happen. Chances are that person at the bar doesn’t have HIV, but you’d still wear protection.

  42. houseboatonstyx says:

    Question four: “Her slogan is (a) Ready for Hillary, (b) Resigned to Hillary, (c) Preparing for Chelsea, or (d) What Difference, At This Point, Does It Make?”

    Looking into some of the other questions there … how far into politics can we go? I guess those have some reverse form of Bulverism, citing facts not in evidence, yer honor.

    Should you choose to give equal time instead, I could supply one link to a funny pro-Hillary site rather than links to anti-Rubio, anti-Paul, anti-Cruz, anti-Bush, and anti-n.

  43. Sigivald says:

    More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists?

    No surprise to me.

    I remember people opposing “fossil fuels” as such for decades before global warming was A Thing.

    Regulating CO2 gives them a means to “stop fossil fuels”, so to speak; if “global warming” is a convenient excuse, so be it.

    (This is not meant to imply that they don’t honestly believe global warming from CO2 is a threat; I believe many/most/nearly all of them do sincerely hold that position. It’s just that it’s not the source of the old core anti-fossil-fuel contingent’s position.

    I strongly disagree with them on both the magnitude and probability of the threat, but that’s another matter, and not relevant.)

  44. Mary says:

    ‘It’s morally wrong to blame a victim’s actions for their own victimization. We should be blaming those victims’ genes. Or something. Not really sure what to do with this one.”

    Blame whatever you please and tell whoever blames you that it’s your genes.

    or whatever they are touting.

  45. Mary says:

    ” More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists? Polling is weird.”

    Pshaw. Bet you it’s a “ban dihydrogen monoxide” effect.

  46. J says:

    Lesser known trolley problem variations recently posted at McSweeny’s.

    My own addenda:

    An out of control trolley is speeding toward Eliezer Yudkowsky, who is sitting on the tracks inattentively thinking about trolley problems. You can pull a lever which will send the trolley off a cliff instead. The trolley is sentient, but thinks it’s a cow. You don’t know whether it’s friendly.

    A utility monster is driving a trolley and attempting to run over a group of orphans. Do you attempt to stop it?

    A trolley is careening out of control toward a starbucks filled with philosophers trying to order lattes.

    Scott Alexander is in the path of an out of control trolley. You try to warn him, but he only starts listing studies showing that trolleys are indistinguishable from placebo with respect to all-cause mortality. The trolley hits him before he can finish a pun about how the trolley studies were conducted and whether the researchers were on a tenure track.

    A trolley careens toward Robin Hanson. You shout at him to get out of the way, and as an eminent scholar of human signaling, he easily gets out of the way in time. They try to award you a medal for saving him, but he points out that you just did it to gain status.

    • These made me actually laugh out loud.

    • Bravo!

      Though the Scott Alexander one makes me want to say something about how you should treat your hosts more respectfully. Like, maybe next time only sacrifice a few of his limbs.

      (The Eliezer one you came up with is my favourite of the lot. Genuinely laughed out loud.)

    • InferentialDistance says:

      The trolley is sentient, but thinks it’s a cow. You don’t know whether it’s friendly.

      I’d send the trolley over the cliff, merely to mitigate the probability that it’s a self-improving grass minimizer.

    • DrBeat says:

      An out of control trolley is careening toward a turtle that you’ve placed on the tracks. It’s on its back, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t. You can pull a lever that will send the trolley onto a different, unoccupied track, but you aren’t pulling the lever. Why is that?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Moloch is driving a trolley through your out-group’s bailey. If you pull a lever, you’ll redirect the trolley into the motte, destroying it. You don’t actually want to destroy the out-group’s motte, but they’re inside constructing a superweapon against the trolley that could also be used against you. Is it braver to pull the lever or not to pull it?

    • A pendant notices a trolley careening out of control, and wonders how it is even possible to scrape the barnacles off a boat in an out of control way.

  47. simon says:

    Linking to Steve Sailer. Classy.

  48. Doug S. says:

    If being physically short is a risk factor factor for victimization (it’s a lot easier to beat up a person that’s smaller than you), it’s not surprising that victimization is heritable…

  49. Quixote says:

    Anyone know where to get a pro biotic mix equivalent to that used in those trials?

  50. TrivialGravitas says:

    “More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists?”

    This makes sense. One of the things I’ve never really gotten with denialists is why they’re so happy taking the risk of being wrong, given what being wrong will cost.

    • Gbdub says:

      Because being wrong in the other direction also has a cost, probably a pretty big one?

      I mean, there’s a chance there is a giant space monster lurking behind the moon plotting Earth’s destruction. We assume there isn’t, but if we’re wrong it would be disaster. Should we spend a significant portion of global wealth and enact sweeping, liberty-curtailing regulations in order to prepare anti-moon monster weaponry?

      [EDIT: I realize this example is snarky enough that it probably obscures my actual point, so here’s a more serious one: I recognize that I face a significant risk of dying in a car accident, and could completely eliminate that risk by staying at home, telecommuting, and ordering everything I need online. However, that’s a pretty huge cost – better than dying, but pretty bad. I’d need to be pretty certain that I was doomed to die in a wreck in order to go to such extreme measures. I am not a fan of the precautionary principle.]

      With mildly less snark, maybe the “denialists” are noting that the “believers” aren’t willing to support nuclear energy, give up private jet travel to climate summits in resort destinations, or really do anything other than drive a hybrid car they can be smug about or sell carbon offsets they can get rich off of, and come to the conclusion that if even they aren’t taking the threat seriously, what’s the point?

      • James Picone says:

        The probability of ECS >4c (i.e., we gambled and got extremely unlucky) are much higher than the probability that one instance of driving results in a serious car accident, and much, much higher than the probability that there’s a space monster hiding behind the moon.

        As for nuclear power, depends who you ask. IIRC the IPCC includes it in their low-emissions scenarios. I think you’re generalising from the crazy-environmentalist-hippy stereotype, which I don’t think is a central example of someone who thinks global warming is a problem.

        • RCF says:

          “The probability of ECS >4c (i.e., we gambled and got extremely unlucky)”

          That phrase requires speculation on what you mean on a rather large amount of points.

          And AGW denialists probably disagree with you on probabilities. As for nuclear power, no new plant has been built in the US since 1996, and there doesn’t seem to be much push for them.

          • James Picone says:

            Effective Climate Sensitivity, which is a measure of how much warming we should expect if we double CO2 content of the atmosphere. IPCC’s likely range is 1.5 Celsius to 4 Celsius, with a mode of 3 Celsius. Most of the remaining probability mass is in the range >4 Celsius, because ECS can’t be less than 1c (that’s the raw forcing from doubling CO2, and feedbacks won’t be negative). Values below 2 celsius are extremely hard to reconcile with paleoclimate, particularly glacial -> interglacial transitions.

            If we continue doing business-as-usual, and ECS turns out to be 2 Celsius, then great, it’s not as bad as we thought. If it turns out to be around 3 Celsisus, then it’s unpleasant. If we’re unlucky, and it ends up being in the ~5% probability mass above 4 Celsius, then it can be catastrophic, instead of merely unpleasant.

            So continuing on business-as-usual could be seen as gambling on the value of ECS, and getting above 4 Celsius would be unlucky.

            Does that sufficiently de-speculate?

            AGW lukewarmers probably do disagree with the IPCC on the probabilities (denialists definitely do, but I’m assuming everyone here agrees that the greenhouse effect exists, CO2 is a greenhouse gas providing ~3.7 W/m**2 of forcing for a doubling, and there exist net-positive feedbacks of uncertain magnitude). I don’t see any good reason to believe they’ve got it right, though, especially because, as I mentioned earlier, low sensitivities don’t mesh very well with anything we know about paleoclimate.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I wouldn’t agree that the feedbacks are necessarily net positive, though I’ll admit that I’d demand odds if I were betting against it.

            Most of the paleo-based ECS estimates cited in AR5 (fig. 10.20) have ranges that extend below 2C. The IPCC may be right to suspect that they’re underestimating the uncertainty.

          • James Picone says:

            AR5 fig 10.20.

            IIRC the part that’s hard to reconcile is glacial -> interglacial transitions and especially ice age -> greenhouse earth transitions. I’m not sure off the top of my head what the studies in that figure are looking at – some of them are probably looking at equilibrium climate conditions over some roughly-stable period, rather than trying to estimate it based on the difference between two stable periods in different overall climate states. Not sure what impact that has.

            They definitely do extend below 2c, though. It’s not impossible to reconcile, just hard – compare the probability mass below 2c with total probability mass.

            Not sure what’s up with the two dashed purple lines in that one. Probably have to look at the actual studies.

            Note that negative feedback corresponds to ECS <1c, which isn't a terribly popular position in any of those graphs. I'm curious what large negative feedback you think exists sufficient to cancel out water vapour, lapse rate, and albedo. Don't think any of the cloud feedback estimates go that negative.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Downloading the full chapter from AR5 will suffice to get the explanation of the dashed lines– they’re in the long footnote which your link to fig. 10-20 didn’t include, as well as in the body of the text. (Yes, it’s a mix of equilibrium studies from the last glacial maximum, very-long-term studies using earth-system models, and apparently one study based on your glacial-interglacial transition.) Schmittner et al (2012) broke out their land-only and ocean-only results out separately from the global, so that’s where the dashed purple lines come from.

            I’m not arguing that net feedback is at all likely to be negative– only that, given the uncertain magnitudes of the feedbacks we know about, and the lurking possibility of feedbacks we don’t know about, it’s premature to rule out the possibility entirely. Your remaining two propositions will do nicely to separate the true denialists from the rest of us skeptics.

          • James Picone says:

            Thanks for the explanations. My internet is capped at the moment, which makes general browsing and downloading PDFs sufficiently painful that I avoid doing it where possible.

            If you are arguing that ECS <1c is possible, do you expand the confidence interval on the other end? Do you think ECS 10c is possible in the same way, for example? This has always seemed to be the flaw with Curry-style arguments IMO – she focuses entirely on ways in which uncertainty can make GW less scary, while ignoring ways that uncertainty can make it more scary. Sure, ECS 10c is essentially unphysical, it would falsify a significant chunk of climate science if it were that high, but I'd argue the same applies to ECS greenhouse earth transitions impossible.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Sure, if someone were to say, e.g., “We can all agree that ECS certainly does not exceed 5C”, I’d dissent from that as well.

        • John Schilling says:

          IIRC the IPCC includes it in their low-emissions scenarios

          That’s setting the bar rather low, don’t you think? Greatly expanded use of nuclear power would do more for reducing humanity’s carbon footprint than any other politically viable plan I can see. It is something that the global-warming activist community and the climate science community would be ideally placed to support, in that they have the trust and respect of the traditional opponents to nuclear power. And it would earn the community a great deal of credibility among climate skeptics, by countering the suspicion that this is really just a bunch of Pastoralists and Gaians inventing yet another excuse for proclaiming industrial civilization to be Pure Evil, again.

          So where are the climate activists and climatologists actively lobbying for changing the regulatory regime to support widely expanded use of nuclear power? It’s not like you all are averse to demanding massive, costly, and highly disruptive regulatory regime change. Here’s one that’s plausible, inoffensive, and greatly beneficial to your cause, and all you can point to is some fine print in a report, one that nobody who matters reads past the executive summary of? James Hansen couldn’t get more than three other climatologists to sign his letter?

          Do you really understand how this sort of thing undermines your collective credibility?

          • Held In Escrow says:

            The problem with nuclear power is that it’s simply been stalled out, albeit for political reasons. At this point in time it’s probably more economical to invest the money that we would put into nuclear power research into storage research while moving towards a renewable + natural gas equilibrium until storage technology makes the latter unnecessary.

          • lupis42 says:

            @Held

            And Carbon Taxes &c aren’t held back for political reasons?

            The ‘people who hold back Nuclear Power’ are almost entirely a subset of the ‘people who view climate change as a serious threat’. If they don’t view ‘climate change’ as more of a threat than ‘nuclear power’, why shouldn’t I believe them?

            Talking about ‘renewables + storage’ as a serious alternative to ‘get the damn grid on nuclear power’ tells me that the advocates of ‘doing something about climate change’ are taking a Luddite/Gaian/anti-CapitalismIndustry position, towards which Climate Change is merely a convenient argument.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            I’m taking the opinion of renewables + storage as where we’re heading as someone who gets their paycheck being an industry analyst; the issue is that nuclear power being held back is basically a sunk cost. If it hadn’t, well, we might be seeing cheap and effective nuclear power today. But right now the RoI on storage and renewables, both in terms of economic goals and environmental goals, is looking a hell of a lot better than nuclear.

            Of course there are people out there who care more about politics or woo or what have you. That doesn’t actually matter when we’re talking about the theoretical best pathway forward. Were I able to wave my hand and have all our coal plants magically turn into nuclear plants I’d do so, but there’s damn good evidence to suggest that nuclear’s time to shine has passed. If this was the 70s I’d be all for nuclear, but it isn’t.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Escrow, it is not just a matter of ongoing research. German Greens did wave their hands and turn nuclear plants into coal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Escrow:

            I’m not sure I even understand the argument you are making, much less agree with it. You talk about nuclear power having “stalled out”, which is ill-defined but I surmise relates to the lack of nuclear power plant starts in the US in recent years. But this bit with nuclear power “being held back is basically a sunk cost”, I’m sorry, but that reads as gibberish to me. How do sunk costs hold back a mature technology?

            We know how to build nuclear reactors. GE and Westinghouse do so all the time, for the Navy and for export to places like China. The massive investments in prior years that let them do this, are sunk costs that make it cheaper to go forward with nuclear power if we choose to do so – we just need to pay the marginal cost of the new powerplants. By comparison, renewables face not only substantial costs still floating high above the waterline, but substantial technical risk regarding whether the storage technologies needed for base-load use can be developed to economic feasibility at all.

            As you note, the deciding factor is political. Are you postulating some linkage between sunk costs and politics? That needs to be spelled out. More importantly, it needs to be acknowledged that the politics are flexible. Douglas Knight has already pointed out massive, recent changes in the politics of nuclear power in other countries. And the whole point of this discussion, which is not a prediction or forecast of the future of nuclear power in the United States. is that the climate and environmental movements believe that they have the power to essentially rewrite the political and legal environment regarding energy economics and that we can maybe discern something of their motives from the regulations they propose.

            Give them that premise, for the sake of argument. They can pass a carbon-tax regime that will drive trillion-dollar industries into bankruptcy, and major political parties into oblivion. Whatever law or regulation they need to Save The World from Climate Armageddon, they can get.

            Why can they not get hundreds of nuclear power plants by changing the laws to favor nuclear over coal or natural gas? And if they can, or believe they can, why won’t they even try?

          • lupis42 says:

            @Held

            the issue is that nuclear power being held back is basically a sunk cost

            Nuclear power having been held back is a sunk cost, it still being held back is not.

            My theory is that, if nuclear power got the kind of subsidies, regulatory fast-laning and red-tape lifting that renewables are getting, we could replace coal with uranium in ~15 years.

            If we compare unblocked nuclear to subsidized and fast-laned renenwables, I’d bet on a wash, but will defer to your assessment.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            @Doug
            Germany is pretty much subsiding on imported nuclear power; it’s mainly a political thing over there, so I wouldn’t read too much into it. But yes, it’s possible to shut down your nuclear power and switch over to coal because coal plants are cheap ~50-60% of the cost of a nuclear plant to build, even less in O&M although the variable costs are slightly higher). You really shouldn’t want to though if you care about the environment.

            @John
            When I say “stalled out” I’m referring to advances in nuclear technology making it more economical to build the plants. Right now they constantly face huge cost overruns and it doesn’t even look like Yucca Mountain is a good place to store waste anymore. We’d have to spend a lot of money in R&D as well as construction to make nuclear a cost effective solution, money that would probably be better off spent on renewables or storage. Those two are just advancing so much faster that it makes sense to invest further into them.

            In regards to China, they’re actually an interesting case; the government over there is trying to figure out how to run its grid in such a manner that they can cut down on pollution (which is probably national security threat #1 to Beijing), and they’ve got GW of wind that’s not even hooked up to the grid. They’re throwing plans at the wall and seeing what sticks right now.

            Personally, I’m not against nuclear power at all. I just don’t think it really has a place in the power mix going forward unless storage technology completely stalls out. The best models I’ve seen show the optimal shift is towards renewables + NG peaker units while phasing out coal. If we take political considerations into effect, that only increases the cost of nuclear while giving more boons to renewables, storage, and gas. Politicians are perfectly happy to tell their constituents that they’re going to be putting out less pollutants and saving money on their energy bills, they’re not gong to want to hear that Chernobyl and Three Mile Island’s love child is coming to their backyard.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Escrow, it’s true that Germany imports nuclear power, but not that much. Maybe 10% of the amount that they produced at their peak, which is small compared to both how much they’ve cut and how much they still have.

            Which storage technologies do you mean?

          • Held In Escrow says:

            Oh, it’s nowhere near as much as they used at peak, but they’re still getting a decent chunk. Their total power use from nuclear plants really just went down by around 8%, all of which was basically shifted into coal in terms of their overall power production… but that’s as a percentage of the whole. What that doesn’t tell you is that Germany really was overcapacity somewhat, and thus shutting down the nuclear power plants didn’t actually affect them that much. Germany is trying to bleed off this excess capacity, and nuclear plants served as a good political target, while coal gets big subsidies.

            As for storage technologies, the West Coast is doing a pretty solid job in lithium-ion; I don’t really buy into the hype about household batteries using the technology (you’d have to see a largescale swap to Time of Use rates for that to be effective even if it was free), but SCE and PG&E are making strong bets on storage.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            A) I really doubt you can show the majority pushing for carbon reduction don’t like nuclear power once you account for people who are actually quite fine with nuclear power but think other options will be cheaper (either because or starry eyed views of the realism of massive wind farms or because they looked up what it costs to build a carbon capture plant and compared it to the nuclear price).

            B) Nuclear power has never been held back in the US, quite the opposite, we rushed ahead with nuclear power as a way to subsidize our nuclear weapons. New starts died out because the government stopped needing more weapon mat and the government subsidy on nuclear was REDUCED, not gone, reduced, we’re STILL pushing for it, just not hard enough to overcome the massive cost of nuclear plants, which is the real deterrent, not politics (you really think nuclear has more opposition than coal for example?).

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Right now they constantly face huge cost overruns and it doesn’t even look like Yucca Mountain is a good place to store waste anymore. We’d have to spend a lot of money in R&D as well as construction to make nuclear a cost effective solution, money that would probably be better off spent on renewables or storage.”

            No we don’t. We can just store the waste in concrete caskets and reuse it in breeder reactors.

            As for cost overruns, if you eliminate a bunch of the safety requirements, you can build it a lot cheaper- the cost of a plant is a political decision. Being able to survive a plane crashing into it certainly adds a large amount of cost after all.

            ” Politicians are perfectly happy to tell their constituents that they’re going to be putting out less pollutants and saving money on their energy bills, they’re not gong to want to hear that Chernobyl and Three Mile Island’s love child is coming to their backyard.”

            Three Mile Island didn’t kill anyone.

          • John Schilling says:

            Nit: The fraction of the waste that is Pu-239, you can use in breeder reactors. There’s a lot of highly radioactive daughter products that don’t really breed into anything useful, or even harmless, and will eventually throw the neutron budget of a breeder reactor out of whack. So, yes, Virginia, there is an irreducible amount of really obnoxious high-level waste you have to dispose of.

            This is not fundamentally any different than any other industrial process. Nuclear waste has a half-life of millions of years? Making solar cells involves arsenic waste, and that stuff has a half-life of about 10^34 years. We know how to deal with eternally highly toxic waste in a practical, economic manner. That we won’t do this when the word “nuclear” is involved, is political.

          • James Picone says:

            @John Schilling: I don’t know nearly as much about comparative power generation as I know about climate. I haven’t researched it. So I can’t give a strong opinion on nuclear power as a solution. I’m not opposed to it, in any meaningful sense – if I could magically convert all coal power plants to nuclear power plants like Held in Escrow brought up, sure I’d do that. But I’m not massively for it as a solution for the same reason I’m not massively for anything else as a power-generation solution – I don’t know, I’m not an expert.

            Revenue-neutral carbon taxes make all non-CO2-producing power more attractive, which might make nuclear power more feasible in the current regulatory environment? I don’t know what it’s like in the US, where I live it’s essentially banned. We have one nuclear reactor for research purposes and for generating medically-useful isotopes.

            I first-preference a party with an anti-global-warming and anti-nuclear stance, because no other party in my country is remotely serious about global warming (the one currently in power shut down the advisory group on climate because it cost too much, has reduced funding for sciences, and recently offered to fund a Bjorn Lomborg-headed think tank, which gives you a sense of their priorities), and nuclear power is an acceptable casualty – doesn’t completely sink the ability to deal with climate change, and we weren’t building nuclear reactors anyway. I don’t know what the situation in other countries is like.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “doesn’t completely sink the ability to deal with climate change,”

            You just admitted you haven’t checked out the power options. How do you know it isn’t a deal breaker? Remember the power choice has to

            -Produce little to no CO2
            -Be adoptable by China and industrializing countries (which means reasonably cost effective)
            -Be rapidly expandable
            -Have the growth potential to deal with the switch over to electric cars
            -Not prone to blackouts

            We know nuclear can pull those off. We don’t know if renewables can and in fact their advocates talk about thinks that have yet to be developed (namely a decent system for storing electrical power).

          • James Picone says:

            I’m less confident in the conclusion “CO2 emissions can be reduced without more nuclear power than presently exists” than in other conclusions, but fortunately it’s moot where I live – neither major party wants to build nukes. There’s only one minor party I can think of that would be in favour of changing the regulations around nuclear power – they’re a libertarian group, they won a single seat in the proportional house in one of the states last election, probably because their name was sufficiently similar to the name of one of the major parties, and they’re very much against anything that looks like dealing with global warming. I have no electoral options that 1) want to do something sensible about global warming and 2) want to reduce regulations on nuclear power. If I had one, it would definitely be a party I rated highly when voting.

            I suspect this is mostly because scientists don’t often go into politics, so people who care about environmental concerns and end up in politics come from the more radical, less intellectual end of environmental movements. Major parties will just do whatever looks electorally convenient, which is no-nukes, and token-GW-action.

            As far as I’m aware, CCS coal plants and natural gas plants produce more power-per-CO2 than coal plants alone, and are very much suitable for baseload in places that already have power infrastructure (if your country doesn’t have power infrastructure, arguably things like solar and wind power have serious advantages). They don’t reduce emissions to zero, where they have to get eventually, but cutting emissions gives civilisation more time to come up with technical solutions, so it’d help. Especially if it helps with the whole exponential-emissions-growth thing.

            EDIT: Actually I should explain more why I think the political landscape looks like that. Politicians in Australia are almost all people who studied law or business. Some of them may have worked as lawyers or businesspeople prior to becoming politicians. As far as I can tell, businesspeople and lawyers are likely to not take global warming very seriously, for whatever reason. Most of the minor parties are drawn from more ideological populations – the Nationals are mostly farmers, who have climate-affects-them tensions mixed with global-warming-looks-like-a-lefty-plot tensions, the Greens started from a movement against cutting down old-growth forests in Tasmania and so mostly consists of people who take global warming seriously but aren’t very good at coming up with policy to deal with it, and most of the people who both care and do have the relevant expertise to suggest revenue-neutral carbon taxes and allowing nuclear power and the like avoid politics like the plague. You do sometimes get breakthroughs of sanity – an election ago, our centre-left major party passed an emissions-trading scheme with a fixed-price leadin period and raised the tax-free threshold to try and make it revenue-neutral… and then the centre-right major party tore them to shreds, the media followed suit, and the new government after the election got rid of the scheme as the very first thing it did (and has since instituted a carbon-reduction reverse-auction thing where companies can be all “I will reduce emissions by n tonnes of CO2 for $x”, the government pays them $x, and they reduce their emissions. Politics: Where centre-right parties endorse central planning).

          • John Schilling says:

            I first-preference a party with an anti-global-warming and anti-nuclear stance, because no other party in my country is remotely serious about global warming

            This is pretty much the case everywhere. There may or may not be a pro-nuclear party, but the anti-global-warming party is always the anti-nuclear party. That’s a problem, and it’s an informative one.

            Any scientific inquiry into what, if anything, we ought to do about global warming / climate change / whatever, will come to the conclusion that we need something very much like what nuclear power advertises itself as – an abundant source of concentrated energy with 24/7 availability and no carbon emissions, that we can slot into our existing economic and industrial infrastructure without massive disruption. Nuclear powerplants unfortunately cannot be scaled down to automobile-engine size, but are otherwise exactly what the doctor (well. Ph.D. climatologist) ordered.

            And any scientific inquiry into what nuclear power is, will come to the conclusion that it likely can be what it advertises itself as – a safe, clean source of abundant, concentrated energy, available 24/7, with no carbon emissions, available right now, that can probably be economically competitive with fossil fuels if legal and political obstacles are removed (and certainly if given even half the subsidies and regulatory favoritism of solar). There’s room for intelligent people to dissent somewhat on the safety and economics issues. Certainly a rational anti-global-warming party would hedge its nuclear bets, and it’s possible that some groups would come to decide that nuclear power isn’t worth the trouble.

            But the uniformity with which anti-global-warming parties are not just hedging their bets but actively opposing nuclear power at every opportunity, tells me that this is not the result of rational inquiry into what we ought to do about global warming.

            And that approximately no climate scientists will do more than say, quietly and privately where nobody who matters is paying attention, that they don’t actively oppose nuclear power, that tells me that the climate science community has been largely captured by the political community.

          • James Picone says:

            AR5WGIII is pretty positive about nuclear power – just checked. The SPM notes that “Nuclear energy is a mature low-GHG emission source of baseload power, but its share of global electricity
            generation has been declining (since 1993). Nuclear energy could make an increasing contribution to low carbon energy supply, but a variety of barriers and risks exist”, and then notes the usual suspects – waste disposal, proliferation concerns, and public opinion. That’s about as far as WGIII goes towards advocating specific technologies (they talk a lot about CCS as well). The actual text talks about fast breeder reactors, thorium, passive cooling, small nuclear reactors, etc.. Inasmuch as there’s a Climate Science Czar, it doesn’t really advocate any particular pathway other than “less CO2”, but there’s a mix of technologies it highlights and nuclear is one of them.

            The incentives for individual scientists aren’t so great to talk about nuclear power. For one, they’re climate scientists – they’re not experts in the field of energy generation. If it’s a sin for scientists to get involved in politics, what is it if it’s on a topic they’re not even an expert in?

            I would expect that the energy-generation experts and economists who were behind WGIII would be very much in favour of nuclear.

            As for political parties, I think that’s very well understood as a result of politics stripping sanity. Major parties care about electability – nuclear power is not popular, doing something about global warming is popular, but only if it’s tokenistic and doesn’t actually hurt anyone. Minor parties are almost always ideological, and there’s not a large ideological group that’s both in favour of nuclear power and in favour of doing something about global warming.

        • Gbdub says:

          Is the Sierra Club crazy environmentalist hippy? I figured they were pretty mainstream as far as environmentalists go, and their emphatic anti-nuclear stance is the prime reason I don’t support them despite being in agreement with many of their core principles.

          You’re debating the probabilities but missing my core point. Even of the probability that “Earth gets warmer than optimal” is high, I would still say there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding precisely how much damage that will cause.

          I mean, you label 4c as “catastrophic”, which it may be, but I’d argue the sort of measures necessary to actually reduce human emissions to a non-damaging amount in the case that 4c is correct would also be catastrophic (also, the worse AGW really is, the more catastrophically expensive preventing it will be)

          So if >4c is 5% likely, the cost of simply dealing with the impact of whatever happens has to be many times greater than the cost of preventing it to make attempting to prevent it worthwhile. Because attempting prevention is a sunk cost whether the real number turns out to be 1c or 5c.

          So really the only point I’m trying to make is that there are certainly scenarios where the cost of preventing catastrophe is not worth it , and I think it’s reasonably arguable that there’s enough uncertainty regarding the true ratio of cost of AGW/ cost of avoiding AGW that you can’t simply invoke the precautionary principle as justification for the major disruptions of the global economy that would be necessary to meaningfully change the outcome.

          • James Picone says:

            I don’t know about the Sierra Club – I don’t actually tend to hang around environmentalist organisations. From the sounds of it they really only operate in the US as well. I’d heard of them, but don’t think I’ve ever really looked into their opinions or anything.

            Wikipedia links to this page for their nuke opinions, but there’s no text there whenever I load it – maybe something to do with my net being capped. Wikipedia says “The Sierra Club opposes building new nuclear reactors based on fission, until specific inherent safety risks are mitigated by conservationist political policies, and regulatory agencies are in place to enforce those policies”, which could mean anything from “No nukes unless they’re encased in giant blocks of lead” to “We don’t think they’ll follow sensible safety procedures without a strong regulatory environment”, which I consider at least a vaguely defensible position – nuclear plants have some unique safety challenges, and if you think the market, left to its own devices, will elide the relevant mitigation policies, then maybe you think nuclear plants are a bad idea.

            I think I spot the difference here – I don’t think reducing CO2 production will be catastrophic. It’ll probably be expensive, and a few sectors of the global economy will have drastically reduced profits, and the transport problem is nasty, sure. But there’s a lot of energy production technology out there that’s pretty much better than coal even before you consider CO2 emissions, and anything that reduces emissions gives us more time to work on the problem.

            The mirror problem of ‘the worse ECS is, the faster we need to reduce CO2 emissions’ is ‘the sooner we begin to reduce CO2 emissions, the less expensive and drastic it will be’.

          • Nornagest says:

            “The Sierra Club opposes building new nuclear reactors based on fission, until specific inherent safety risks are mitigated by conservationist political policies, and regulatory agencies are in place to enforce those policies”

            That sounds to me like “we’ll approve nukes if they’re buried under a deep enough pile of regulations that they’ll never get built anyway”. Roughly analogous to San Francisco’s attitude towards new housing.

    • Anthony says:

      There are two responses to this.

      First: nuclear power. Nuclear power generates no CO2 and releases less radiation into the environment than does burning coal. Yet many people who strongly advocate doing *something* about global warming strongly oppose expanding nuclear power. This makes it rational to believe that the something-advocate isn’t really concerned about global warming, and therefore the non-advocate needn’t be concerned, either.

      Second: economic growth. The most serious effects of global warming are far in the future (50 to 100 years out). Restricting economic growth now, in order to take actions which won’t actually do a whole lot to even slow warming, much less reverse it, will make our 50-to-100-year descendants that much less able to do anything useful when they really need to.

      • James Picone says:

        Or maybe they think there are problems with nuclear power that make it unsuitable (whether or not that’s a fully-evidenced-based position isn’t terribly relevant to explaining why you shouldn’t infer dishonesty on the global-warming position).

        On what basis do you claim that, say, revenue-neutral carbon taxes will do nothing to slow warming? The evidence from places that have instituted one (British Columbia, Australia for a few years) is that they do seem to reduce CO2 emissions. If you don’t think that CO2 emissions are terribly relevant for the recent warming, that’s the point of difference you should be arguing about.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “(whether or not that’s a fully-evidenced-based position isn’t terribly relevant to explaining why you shouldn’t infer dishonesty on the global-warming position)”

          If their attempts to find solutions miss very obvious evidence we shouldn’t think their efforts to discover if there was a problem in the first place were based on evidentiary lines.

          “The evidence from places that have instituted one (British Columbia, Australia for a few years) is that they do seem to reduce CO2 emissions. ”

          They reduce emissions in the area they were instituted. If that just moves emissions around, there isn’t a net benefit.

          • James Picone says:

            Keeping in mind, of course, that we’re not talking about climate scientists here, we’re talking about the kind of people who sign petitions against dihydrogen monoxide. I’m pretty sure the IPCC reports include nuclear power in all their low-emission scenarios. I’m not sure this is a central example of someone who cares about global warming.

            We don’t have any good evidence for what happens if revenue-neutral carbon taxes are instituted across large areas of the world for obvious reasons. We have some reason to believe that they work on the local scale. I don’t know why you’d conclude from that that it’s unlikely to reduce emissions if implemented near-globally – seems to me that when you make things more expensive, demand reduces.

            If the position is that revenue-neutral carbon taxes can’t be instituted near-globally, then why even care? Those pesky environmentalists can’t achieve anything, so don’t worry about it. Also historically it has been possible to get countries to coordinate on economy-affecting environmental problems – see CFC, for example – just we haven’t seen one on this scale yet.

  51. zz says:

    More people want to regulate CO2 than believe global warming exists? Polling is weird.

    You perhaps underestimate the stupidity of the average American. When I was in secondary school, I did a presentation on global warming. Step 1 was a survey to get a feel where the class was at; most people who didn’t just write “I don’t know” discussed the ozone layer, which is so off-base that you don’t even consider it as a plausible wrong answer if you, unlike most people, are the slightest bit informed.

    Remember, the first percentile here is the 85th among the general population.

    • Anon says:

      Sounds more like you have a beef with Americans.

      • zz says:

        Not as such.

        I believe Americans aren’t particularly smarter or stupider than any other population not selected for intelligence.

        I don’t believe that Americans are particularly more or less informed than any other population selected for informedness. Heavens knows, I’m an American and there’s all manner of issues I’m completely ignorant about.

        I don’t have take issue with people who are stupid or uninformed so much as I kind of just ignore them.

        I’ve read Mark Manson, who’s an advocate of travel because the culture you’re born into probably isn’t the culture that’s best for achieving your goals. Keeping this in mind, after quite some deliberation, I’ve chosen to stay here because I kind of like it and, even though I don’t get on with the vast majority of the population, that would be true anywhere. Despite all of America’s shortcomings (and they are many), I actually kinda like it here.

  52. g says:

    On redistribution: that article’s leading example is widespread opposition to Obamacare; isn’t an obvious explanation that there’s a lot of opposition to it because Obama’s political opponents have worked very hard to make there be a lot of opposition to it?

    • Tarrou says:

      On the other hand, isn’t an obvious answer that the Obama administration’s handling of the launch of the program has been one long clusterfuck of political miscalculation, public failure and exposed lying? And this with all the cover the media can slavishly supply?

  53. Irrelevant says:

    Not proper nominative determinism, but should still please its fans in the audience: DEA Director “Leonheart” lets her domain fall apart while preoccupied prosecuting needless crusade.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you collect opposite examples? like a lawyer named Lawless or a polyamorist named Loveless?

      • Irrelevant says:

        My own interest is closer to amusing headlines, either printed or potential, but that overlaps strongly with appropriate and ironic names, which Scott likes.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Best of these would be either the Filipino archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin, or two international footballers- the Italian striker Ciro Immobile, and the Dutch defender Daley Blind.

  54. RCF says:

    Two things that should not be in proper nouns: punctuation, and personal pronouns. Phrases such as “My MySpace page” are an abomination.

  55. Heroin Addict says:

    Fuck CVS.

    No, seriously, fuck CVS.

    CVS decided to stop selling clean rigs without prescription about 2 months ago, even in states where it’s legal.

    Consequently, about 6 weeks ago, my friend group and I ran out of clean syringes. Being the rationalist, lesswrongy, wireheady kind of heroin addict that I am, I’ve long owned a whetstone made specifically for sharpening needles, and my kit *always* includes a small vial of isopropyl alcohol for washing my used rigs out immediately after use. My friends, more of the homeless dopefiend style of addict, just kept using whatever rigs they had at the time. Since there was no warning of the policy change ahead of time, we were unable to stock up beforehand.

    Ask any heroin addict; you never really “run out” of rigs. You can always squeeze a few extra uses out of any given rig. But they start to acquire problems which quickly become incredibly dangerous.

    First, the numbers and tick marks denoting the quantity of solution get rubbed off. No big deal; the amount of water you use doesn’t really matter. Then the needle starts to get dull, and it takes more than one poke to penetrate a vein rather than just pushing it out of the way. Your track marks go from looking like mosquito bites to looking like a knife wound, all up and down your arms, following your veins. Then something weird happens with the friction of pulling and pushing the plunger; sometimes the rubber stopper attached to the plunger will pop off when pullong back, causing your heroin-blood-and-water solution to splatter all over the place (yum!). Eventually the needle will get slightly bent (from pushing your veins to the side rather than penetrating them), and you have the choice of trying to adjust to its slight angle or bending it back straight and weakening the needle at the base. Eventually you have to bend it back straight, though, or it will just keep bending more anyway.

    Then it will get clogged at some point, usually half-way through a shot so your blood is already mixed in with the solution. Then it’s a race against the clock to get the rig unclogged before your blood congeals. How does one unclog a rig, you ask? There are a multitude of techniques. Putting some ear wax into the reservoir and pushing it through the needle is the nuclear option (since it wastes whatever was already in the rig), but there’s also such lovely strategies as 1) holding a flame on the needle so it expands slightly (generally accompanied by a loud popping noise — don’t forget to wipe the charred ash off!), 2) getting air in the reservoir and then compressing it with the plunger until something gives (usually the needle, which shoots off as if fired from a nail gun, but occasionally the clog breaks up first), 3) pulling the plunger out of another syringe and trying to line them up for a transfer, plus a billion superstitions like “let it sit for a minute without touching it”.

    As more rigs get clogged (and subsequently broken in the repair attempt), the needles on the unclogged syringes will slowly get more and more bent. How much can a needle bend before it snaps off? Well, you eventually gets a feel for it, but what if all your needles are close to breaking? Are you gonna just not use? Lol.

    So you end up with a couple of needles that are clogged *and* have congealed blood in them from a previous score, plus a couple needles that have been bent so much they could break at any time. And you bring all of them with you when you go to pick up, so you have as many options as possible if your current designated ‘best rig’ ends up fucked.

    At this point, having needles break off in your arm, embedding the piece of metal inside your flesh, is a daily occurrence. After a bad situation where you had to drive home in such a state (usually with your now-needleless-syringe full of dope on the seat next to you), you add a small knife and some tweezers to your kit, but there’s not much else you can do.

    Then, one day, you’re out scoring with you’re friends, and you’re sitting there after a failed attempt to hit yourself, digging the needle out of the crook in your elbow with a pair of unsanitized tweezers, and you finally dig it out, and you spend a minute cleaning up the ridiculous amount of blood dripping down your arm, and you’re so sick you’re about to have diarrhea and your skin feels like its two sizes too small and your bones feel like they’re made of glass and grinding against each other, and you HAVE THE CURE, RIGHT THERE, you already finished the hard part of acquiring the heroin and now it’s just a matter of administering it, and so you open up your kit and start looking over your syringes, trying to decide whether to use a qtip to clean the blood out of a clogged one or risk another impromptu needle-ectomy… and you look over at your friend in the other seat.

    And his needle isn’t nearly as bad as any of yours. In fact, you can still kind of see some of the markings on it, it’s so new.

    And it’s still sharp; you can see that the point is still pointy rather than rounded off. You could hit yourself in less than a dozen tries with it, probably! You could get unsick in a couple minutes, rather than spending an hour sticking yourself in the arm fifty times only to probably lose the dope to a clogged needle anyway.

    And so you ask, ‘hey man can I use that when you’re done?’

    And maybe they say ‘Uh, are you sure? Cause I shared with that guy Robbie a while ago, and Robbie was fucking Sam, and didn’t we hear about how Sam had hepatitis?’ In which case you say ‘Well, according to wikipedia, needle-stick injuries only have a 17% chance of passing hepatitis, and gay sex only has a 20% chance of passing it, and .17 * .17 * .20 is really small’. Or you just say ‘shut the fuck up I’m so fucking sick and I’m done fucking with these wack ass rigs’.

    And once you’ve done it once, it’s so much easier to do it again. It becomes another cooperative task, where everyone in the group all uses the best needle anyone can come up with.

    And then you’re all HIV+.

    This happened to my friend group. Luckily, I had the conscientiousness to draw my line between ‘use IV heroin’ and ‘use IV heroin with other peoples’ needles’, instead of on the other side of it.

  56. Addict says:

    Fuck CVS.

    No, seriously, fuck CVS, and fuck their fucking naloxone.

    CVS decided to stop selling clean needles without prescription about 2 months ago, even in states where it’s legal.

    Consequently, about 6 weeks ago, my friend group and I ran out of clean syringes. Being the rationalist, lesswrongy, wireheady kind of heroin addict that I am, I’ve long owned a whetstone made specifically for sharpening needles, and my kit *always* includes a small vial of isopropyl alcohol for washing my used rigs out immediately after use. My friends, more of the homeless dopefiend style of addict, just kept using whatever rigs they had at the time. Since there was no warning of the policy change ahead of time, we were unable to stock up beforehand.

    Ask any heroin addict; you never really “run out” of rigs. You can always squeeze a few extra uses out of any given rig. But they start to acquire problems which quickly become incredibly dangerous.

    First, the numbers and tick marks denoting the quantity of solution get rubbed off. No big deal; the amount of water you use doesn’t really matter. Then the needle starts to get dull, and it takes more than one poke to penetrate a vein rather than just pushing it out of the way. Your track marks go from looking like mosquito bites to looking like a knife wound, all up and down your arms, following your veins. Then something weird happens with the friction of pulling and pushing the plunger; sometimes the rubber stopper attached to the plunger will pop off when pulling back, causing your heroin-blood-and-water solution to splatter all over the place (yum!). Eventually the needle will get slightly bent (from pushing your veins to the side rather than penetrating them), and you have the choice of trying to adjust your technique to its slight angle or bending it back straight and weakening the needle at the base. Eventually you have to bend it back straight, though, or it will just keep bending more anyway.

    Then it will get clogged at some point, usually half-way through a shot so your blood is already mixed in with the solution. Then it’s a race against the clock to get the rig unclogged before your blood congeals. How does one unclog a rig, you ask? There are a multitude of techniques. Putting some ear wax into the reservoir and pushing it through the needle is the nuclear option (since it wastes whatever was already in the rig), but there’s also such lovely strategies as 1) holding a flame on the needle so it expands slightly (generally accompanied by a loud popping noise — don’t forget to wipe the charred ash off!), 2) getting air in the reservoir and then compressing it with the plunger until something gives (usually the needle, which shoots off as if fired from a nail gun, but occasionally the clog breaks up first), 3) pulling the plunger out of another syringe and trying to line them up for a transfer, plus a billion superstitions like “let it sit for a minute without touching it”.

    As more rigs get clogged (and subsequently broken in the repair attempt), the needles on the unclogged syringes will slowly get more and more bent. How much can a needle bend before it snaps off? Well, you eventually gets a feel for it, but what if all your needles are close to breaking? Are you gonna just not use? Lol.

    So you end up with a couple of needles that are clogged *and* have congealed blood in them from a previous score, plus a couple needles that have been bent so much they could break at any time. And you bring all of them with you when you go to pick up, so you have as many options as possible if your current designated ‘best rig’ ends up fucked.

    At this point, having needles break off in your arm, embedding the piece of metal inside your flesh, is a daily occurrence. After a bad situation where you had to drive home in such a state (usually with your now-needleless-syringe full of dope on the seat next to you), you add a small knife and some tweezers to your kit, but there’s not much else you can do.

    Then, one day, you’re out scoring with you’re friends, and you’re sitting there after a failed attempt to hit yourself, digging the needle out of the crook in your elbow with a pair of unsanitized tweezers, and you finally dig it out, and you spend a minute cleaning up the ridiculous amount of blood dripping down your arm, and you’re so sick you’re about to have diarrhea and your skin feels like it’s two sizes too small and your bones feel like they’re made of glass and grinding against each other, and you HAVE THE CURE, RIGHT THERE, you already finished the hard part of acquiring the heroin and now it’s just a matter of administering it, and so you open up your kit and start looking over your syringes, trying to decide whether to use a q-tip to clean the blood out of a clogged one or risk another impromptu needle-ectomy… and you look over at your friend in the other seat.

    And his needle isn’t nearly as bad as any of yours. In fact, you can still kind of see some of the markings on it, it’s so new.

    And it’s still sharp; you can see that the point is still pointy rather than rounded off. You could hit yourself in less than a dozen tries with it, probably! You could get unsick in a couple minutes, rather than spending an hour sticking yourself in the arm fifty times only to probably lose the dope to a clogged needle anyway.

    And so you ask, ‘hey man can I use that when you’re done?’

    And maybe they say ‘Uh, are you sure? Cause I shared with that guy Robbie a while ago, and Robbie was fucking Sam, and didn’t we hear about how Sam had hepatitis?’ In which case you say ‘Well, according to wikipedia, needle-stick injuries only have a 17% chance of passing hepatitis, and gay sex only has a 20% chance of passing it, and .17 * .17 * .20 is really small’. Or you just say ‘shut the fuck up I’m so fucking sick and I’m done fucking with these wack ass rigs’.

    And once you’ve done it once, it’s so much easier to do it again. It becomes another cooperative task, where everyone in the group all uses the best needle anyone can come up with, just as everyone in the group buys from the best dealer anyone can come up with.

    And then you’re all HIV+.

    This happened to my friend group. Luckily, I had the conscientiousness to draw my line between ‘use IV heroin’ and ‘use IV heroin with other peoples’ needles’, instead of on the other side of it. But my friends weren’t that conscientiousness, and now their quality-of-life has gone from “homeless heroin addict” to “HIV+ homeless heroin addict”.

    How much of that shift is CVS to blame for? I don’t know. Very little. There’s always this problem of blame when it comes to addiction. Is it society’s fault? The addict’s fault? The government’s fault? The dealer’s fault?

    But I don’t blame them. I used to be impressed that, when all other pharmacies were pretty much giving up on harm prevention, CVS continued selling syringes to anyone who asked for them and was able to look respectable enough to not scare away other customers. (The unspoken agreement generally meant talking loudly about how your new puppy needs its immunizations whenever there were other customers nearby.) I can’t blame them for stopping; after all, heroin addicts aren’t good customers. If CVS feels like having all the heroin addicts near each store stop by constantly to buy needles $0.25 at a time is a bad thing, then they’re welcome to refuse us. Honestly, if I ran into some of my friends in the aisles at CVS, I’d probably leave, so it’s understandable.

    But… If the goal is to get the smackheads out of their stores, why pull this naloxone shit?

    Why sell the prescription drug ‘naloxone’ to addicts, encouraging them to bring their business to you, while at the same time ceasing the sale of legal, non-prescription syringes in order to keep the addicts out of your store?!

    Why act like easy access to Naloxone is such a big deal, such a compassionate act? ADDICTS ALREADY HAVE EASY ACCESS TO NALOXONE. EVERY SINGLE ADDICT I’VE EVER MET KEPT A STRIP OF SUBOXONE ON DECK. For times when getting unsick is an absolute emergency, like job interviews or thanksgiving dinner. They put Naloxone in suboxone, to discourage addicts from injecting it!

    And so it’s absolute common knowledge that when your buddy ODs, you dissolve a couple mg of suboxone in a spoon as if you were cooking it, then you inject him with it. He pops right back. EVERYONE knows this. I’ve brought people back this way before. I’ve BEEN BROUGHT BACK this way before. I’ve seen random people at random parties bringing people back this way before. ACCESS TO NALOXONE IS NOT NEARLY AS MUCH OF AN ISSUE AS ACCESS TO SAFE, CLEAN, SHARP, CHEAP, NEW SYRINGES.

    So fuck you and your screwed up fucking priorities, CVS.

    edit: sorry for the long-winded explanation, i wanted to preempt complaints of the “why would you share needles in any situation ever!” variety. complaints of the “why would you get addicted to heroin” variety are more welcome but ineffectual

    seriously though, write to CVS and tell them to please, if they’re gonna sell naloxone to addicts in the interest of harm prevention, they ought to go back to selling syringes too, especially since you’re supposed to need a prescription for naloxone and you don’t for needles.

    • nico says:

      Holy shit. Thanks for writing this out.

      I guess I’ll bite: why would you get addicted to heroin? Was it unanticipated?

      • Addict says:

        At school, I was recommended Adderall in the 8th grade for help studying for midterms. I was interested in this whole notion of altered states of consciousness, and it seemed like a safe first altered state. I took adderall, studied like a mofo, did well on the tests, but most importantly I no longer saw mind alteration as being seriously incredibly dangerous. I decided I wanted to try marijuana and/or alcohol.

        I found some marijuana, didn’t like it very much (it was very intense, for the first few times!), but the marijuana dealer I went through was also selling Vicodin (5mg hydrocodone, 325mg acetimenophine [tylenol]). I had seen House, so I knew Vicodin made you feel good, and I tried it. It was pretty good!

        The dealer became friends with my friend group. My parents would go out of town sometimes, and I’d have the whole gang over. The dealer started getting these pills called “Roxy 30’s”, Roxicodone, 30mg of pure oxycodone with no tylenol ‘cut’. These were the new ‘Oxycontin’ after OCs got abuse-prevention mechanisms which kept them from being crushable (they just kind of squish like an M&M instead). One Roxy 30 would *fuck you up*, it was the equivalent of taking 6 percocet, but without the liver damage from the tylenol. At these little weekend gatherings, we would all throw in like $10 and the dealer would come back with Roxies (having made quite a few free ones off of the profit from the sale) and we’d split them up amongst ourselves. I didn’t get into Roxies nearly as much as the rest of my friends; I was still new to marijuana and felt like smoking weed was enough of a crazy fun time that I’d rather spend my money on it.

        My best friend, though, he got it bad. He started purchasing a whole Roxy to himself at these gatherings. After a couple months of this, he decided that while yeah, one Roxy was nice, if he wanted to get REALLY fucked up he should get TWO roxies. And so all the sudden he was spending $60 per high.

        He started buying them outside of the parties. He and the dealer would both drive out of town to pick up a couple dozen of them, then they’d come back and sell them around town; the dealer made a deal where every four sales the friend lined up, the dealer would give him a roxy.

        Eventually the dealer started to feel less-than-peachy whenever he wasn’t on roxy. He started pushing the friend to make more sales, to buy more. I had a car at this point, so I ended up driving the friend around on a lot of sales. He’d usually give me a roxy for driving him around. Generally I would just sell it; I wasn’t into it like they were. I did enjoy making the runs, though; I liked playing GTA and generally would get hyped up at the idea of being a drug dealer.

        We started going to parties where everyone was older than us. We’d get everyone’s money together and go ride out to pick up the pills. We’d usually bring some of the girls at the party with us on these runs; they’d be all impressed that we had such good connects, that we were treated with respect by the gangstas out in the hood who were selling to us. Now, you gotta understand, I was a smart, rich, honor roll white kid. I had never had a girlfriend before, and all the sudden these girls a couple years older than me (22ish to my 17) were looking at me very differently from the way the girls at school looked at me.

        Then one day we were driving around waiting on our pill dealer, my friend told me he was sick, withdrawing. I knew he had been doing upwards of 3 or 4 roxies daily, but it never quite seemed real that he could become addicted. I was kinda stunned, and it shook me up; we talked about it and he agreed to start pulling back from the daily use in the future, but that he really needed something today. Our pill dealer wouldn’t pick up the phone. Finally, my friend said that his mom had a new boyfriend, and that this boyfriend used to be one of the leaders of a large gang in a nearby medium-sized town well-known for being a stop on the heroin trafficking route, and that if we wanted to make the hour-long drive, we could pick up some heroin. It would be really easy, no bullshit wait times like with these pill dealers, and it would be *cheap*. While a roxy 30 cost $20 to us at this time, the equivalent amount of heroin (in terms of potency) would only cost around $5, and other than that it all metabolizes into the same stuff anyway, so what’s the difference? Why pay $20 for something when you can get basically the same damn thing for $5? I agreed; we’d ride up north and at least check it out.

        We went up to meet the friend’s mom and new boyfriend. He lived in a tiny little trailer in the serious hood, in this town where the police can’t do jack about the gangsters because of an inconveniently drawn county border. He had a bunch of hundred thousand dollar cars in the yard in front of this little RV-sized trailer, but since his license was revoked he couldn’t drive them; instead he just used them as portable stereo systems. He was a real OG; a founding member of the local gang chapter, someone who demands true respect among the criminal community. The friend’s mom made us swear we were only buying this shit to sell, not to use, and away we rode with about $400 in heroin with absolutely no clientele lined up.

        There’s like a siren call, a little voice in the back of your head, when you’re doing roxies, which says, “you know, if you were just willing to give up your arbitrary rejection of an extremely similar drug (just because it has a scary name!), you could be getting like six times more fucked up for the same amount of money”. My friend gave into that call, and I tagged along.

        We snorted it (we made no pacts regarding never shooting up, like would be cliche, because the idea seemed so alien to us that we didn’t even consider it). It was all we thought it would be, and more. A much cleaner high than oxycodone, with less nausea and a stronger come-on. My friend had been used to paying like $80 for a high not as good as the one he just paid $20 for.

        We made it last over a week, selling it to some of our other roxy friends. When we ran out, we called up the original dealer, who we hadn’t been buying pills from for some time, and asked if he wanted to throw down some cash with us. He enthusiastically agreed; unbeknownst to us, he had been using heroin for a couple months already. He ended up bringing a couple thousand dollars with him. He already had tons of clientele lined up, clientele who were used to the kind of shit heroin you find on the streets, who were suddenly getting primo pure fresh-off-the-boat-from-afghanistan heroin. We were buying each individual ticket (a small stamped wax bag with about 30-70mg of heroin) for $5 and selling them for $20, and they were selling so fast sometimes we had to make two trips up north per day.

        We got introduced to members of the gang who, unlike the friends’ mom’s boyfriend, weren’t retired-due-to-bullet-lodged-in-lung. We started buying our heroin by mass instead of by ticket, then we started making our own tickets (if anyone has ever run across heroin stamped with ‘HPMOR’ and a lightning bolt… you’re welcome (; ).

        I started using every day. Why the hell not? And the same thing that happened to my friend with the roxies, happened to me with the heroin. As it started out, I could do a single ticket and get so high it was dangerous. After about a month of that, I decided to try 2 tickets at a time, to REALLY feel it. Etc.

        I moved out of my parents’ house, got emancipated, got an apartment with the friend and one of our lady friends. I found a girl who I could stand being around post-coitus and she eventually moved in with me. We were the exclusive dopeslingers for an area about 8 blocks on each side; we were making hundreds of dollars per day in profit and putting most of it up our noses. (The girl was clean; I made absolutely sure she never touched the shit, although she spent more of my money on weed than I spent on dope some days). Around this time, coincidentally, I started reading Overcoming Bias, and fell in love with EY’s thinking, but it was pretty much too late by then.

        One day, one of our friends got a seriously bad sinus infection, and when he went to the doctor the doctor told him basically that he was putting so much powder up his nose that it was damaging his olfactory glands. He had been complaining about the quality of the dope recently; turns out his nose was so screwed that it interfered with the dope’s ability to get up into the brain, or something. He went out and bought some syringes that very day. When he told us what it was like…

        Well, it was the same exact shit all over again. The little siren call in the back of your mind, telling you that if you could just get over your arbitrary, unjustified fear of this extremely effective route of administration, you could go back to getting high as hell off of $5 instead of needing to spend $30 or $40. No more of that disgusting powdery drip in the back of your throat. Oh, and, it’s a hell of a lot more potent.

        It took about two months before I graduated to IV league, but it was exactly the same as before; all the sudden I was getting satisfyingly high again.

        The first time I experienced withdrawal was probably about 6 months later. I would have experienced it much earlier, but I just literally always had excess dope on me. Even when I woke up in the mornings I was still a little buzzed from the night before. But this time, I remember, I woke up from having nodded out/passed out, it was the middle of the day, and I felt like shit. I had goosebumps all over my skin, the air felt freezing but I was drenched in sweat, my gut was making loud complaining noises, etc. It felt a lot like the comedown 12 hours after an amphetamine overdose, except I instead of feeling stimmy I felt drowsy.

        It took me like 30 seconds to realize what was going on. When I did, it was like a fucking kidney shot. I was an addict! I was a heroin addict, going through withdrawal, needing a fix! And indeed, the absolute certain knowledge that going and getting high would fix this problem, that in fact the problem *was* not being high, made it nearly impossible to not immediately go do a fat shot. I did so, cuddled up with my napping girlfriend, and bawled like a child.

        This has kinda gone on long enough, but we got to the climax of the story, and I think I answered the “how” and perhaps illuminated a bit of the “why”. I’ll briefly wrap up: the friend’s mom’s boyfriend ended up being abusive to the friend’s mom. We fell out amongst ourselves, the friend group, fighting over whether we should continue buying from the boyfriend’s people or try to find new connects. The dealer from the beginning of the story got shot and killed by some rival gang members in a drive-by while picking up. I decided to stop selling dope and got a job doing unix admin work ($3000/month feels like a LOT when you’re making it slinging drugs, but in hindsight considering I could have made the same amount without the jail and the life-ruining addiction, I feel kinda stupid).

        The friend died of an overdose. I broke up with the girlfriend and tried unsuccessfully to get clean. I got busted and spent some time in jail. Now I just hang out in my apartment, get dope delivered to the house almost every day, and work doing programming to pay the bills.

        • Irrelevant says:

          ($3000/month feels like a LOT when you’re making it slinging drugs, but in hindsight considering I could have made the same amount without the jail and the life-ruining addiction, I feel kinda stupid)

          Remember Kids, Crime Doesn’t Pay!*

          *significantly better than minimum wage

    • Anonymous says:

      Knowing nothing about the issue, is it not possible to purchase needles online?

      Or is it possible but not for homeless people or something?

      • Heroin Addict says:

        It’s not the easiest thing to do. You can purchase re-usable syringes without needles easily, but acquiring the snap-on needles is more difficult, and such syringes are by their very nature less sterile. Generally, insulin needles are the needles that work with heroin. Anything above 31g is too small for heroin to fit through, anything below 25g is too rough on your veins. While you can find intramuscular syringes on amazon, you can’t really find stuff designed for insulin, not without a prescription.

  57. Anr-X says:

    Instead, they have genes that are predicted to produce a slew of neural peptides, small proteins that can also act as chemical messengers

    Wait, so is this that thing the Super Happies have?

  58. Ross Levatter says:

    “A lot of the scrutiny around Ferguson focused on its corrupt police force as an example of white officials fleecing black citizens, and how this might be solved by mobilizing black voters to take control of the government. The Daily Beast has an interesting article on the town next to Ferguson – where black officials fleece black citizens about the same amount.”

    This was a major distinguisher between libertarians and non-libertarians soon after Ferguson. Libertarians saw it as an example of the Rise of the Warrior Cop we had been complaining about for years, the effects of police unions giving cops essentially complete legal immunity on how they use violence, the consequence of equipping police with military surplus via Federal grants, the use of police rather than tax collectors as a major source of raising municipal revenue, the consequences of the wars on drugs and terror, such that Mayberry has turned into Benghazi, such that citizens are looked at as ‘the other”. Meanwhile, non-libertarians looked at the same thing and just saw racism.

    • Tarrou says:

      Exactly, I was very vocal attempting to offer the libertarian narrative, but the whole thing collapsed into tribalism very quickly. It was such a shame. There was a real opportunity to get a sliver of beachhead in the Red Tribe through guys like Rand Paul and get some cross-cultural muscle behind demilitarizing the cops. But no, everything had to about racism, especially when there was exactly zero evidence of it. Then the tribal defenses go up, and the moment passes.

      I’ve said it many times, the blue tribe’s cultural home is Selma. They have no other framework to describe the world than evil white racism. Their narratives are thus incongruent with what is necessary to create a broad cultural consensus on real issues.

  59. Alsadius says:

    That erotica link is so utterly terrifying…Reminds me of the time I was foolish enough to read the Goku-Lytton Awards. (The intro is safe to read, and should give you a sense of how bad things are about to get. The actual awards, however, should be steered clear of by those who value their sanity. And needless to say, this is deeply NSFW).

  60. Anonymous says:

    At this point, it’s unlikely you’ll read this, but I figured I’d post it anyway. What do you think about this? I searched through your old posts, and the most relevant one I found was this one, where you said, “Pro-lifers are not consequentialists,” and that you were pro-life until you, “got a better understanding of noncentral fallacy and figured out better tools to use on the problem of fetuses’ moral value and went back to being pro-choice.”

    I’m really curious how that cashes out.

    • Cauê says:

      As far as I can tell Scott accepts the first of Caplan’s proposed “tempting routes”, as do many people around here.

      • Anonymous says:

        How would you distinguish between cutting short a fetus’ ability to gather utils and non-fetal creatures?

        • Cauê says:

          I… wouldn’t. But my position isn’t very popular (it’s not very far from Caplan’s point).

          People talked a lot about abortion here recently, on this thread. But have you seen the discussion on LessWrong that was linked from a comment on the post you mention? That was pretty good, and on topic.

          • Anonymous says:

            I… wouldn’t. But my position isn’t very popular (it’s not very far from Caplan’s point).

            I don’t follow. Also, I followed the abortion discussion on the old open thread here back when it happened… and read the LW thread before coming here. The former doesn’t really address this particular question. The latter is, well, typical LW (really missing the point in pretty spectacular fashion).

          • Cauê says:

            Perhaps you should try this again in the next open thread?

    • illuminati initiate says:

      Pro-life utilitarianism implies a moral duty to spam out as many people as possible (as was noted in the link). This is basically a variant of the repugnant conclusion.

    • Irrelevant says:

      I consider abortion generally immoral, occasionally obligatory, never worth using government force on, but I’d neither be considered properly utilitarian nor properly pro-life.

  61. Jazi Zilber says:

    That therapy works (the Liberia experiment) is not surprising at all

    Therapy works. this has been replicated multiple times for multiple aspects of psychologicla problems.

    The issue is another. That all kinds of therapy work to the same level of effectiveness. This shows that it is the meeting etc. and not the theory based content being used.

    http://www.amazon.com/Great-Psychotherapy-Debate-Evidence-Counseling/dp/0805857095/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430610921&sr=1-1&keywords=great+psychotherapy+debate