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Links 6/15: Everything But The Kitchen Link

Dogs’ reaction to magic tricks (EDIT: more at original source)

Automated theorem provers and the changing foundations of mathematics (does not require much math knowledge to read).

New American Statistical Association ‘premium’ membership plan will permit members to reject null hypotheses at alpha values > 0.05. Actually, the whole site is pretty good.

Some opponents of open borders argue that a lot of Third World countries (eg Afghanistan, Somalia) are kind of terrible, and worry that if we import many of their citizens here, then they might bring whatever factors made their country terrible to the First World and make our countries terrible. The open borders movement presents the start of a counterargument.

Canada passes a law saying they must eliminate one old regulation for every new regulation adopted. I didn’t realize libertarianism had a win condition, but I think Canada just reached it. Will be very interesting to watch.

National Review columnists debate the real primary contenders this election: Cthulhu versus the Sweet Meteor of Death.

Remember, “non-shared environment” doesn’t necessarily mean “sociology stuff” – Toddler temperament could be influenced by different types of gut bacteria.

Citizens of Baltimore living in (more) terror (than usual) as murders and all other types of crime skyrocket after Freddie Gray riots. Seems to be caused by the police not doing much policing. Dueling talking points are “recent media feeding frenzy has left police so scared of racism accusations that they won’t touch any majority-black area” versus “police are acting like toddlers and saying ‘well, if we can’t do policing with racism and brutality, then we’re just not going to do any policing at all, SO THERE”.

Old question “why does evolution allow homosexuality to exist when it decreases reproduction?” seems to have been solved, at least in fruit flies: the female relatives of gayer fruit flies have more children. Same thing appears to be true in humans. Unclear if lesbianism has a similar aetiology.

“Translating Finnegan’s Wake into Chinese” sounds like a bad joke or possibly a metaphor for life. It’s actually an unexpected bestseller.

If you’re not familiar with the Albion’s Seed hypothesis, Charles Murray does a decent job explaining it here, plus discussion of America’s multicultural past and future.

BoingBoing: Why Rickrolling Is Sexist

When I wrote a post calling the education system kind of useless (no, not that one, the other one) the first comment was Buck asking why developed countries with lots of education seemed to do better than developed countries with little education. A new study provides an answer: not because of education, because that seems to have no effect.

A novel but fascinating way of investigating gender discrimination in pay: do male-to-female transgender people take a pay cut? Do female-to-male transgender people get a pay raise? Obviously there’s a lot of trouble in adjusting for the effect of transgender itself on pay, but the study finds a 20% pay cut for M->Fs and a 10% pay raise (nonsignificant) for F->M, and concludes that this seems is likely more gender-related than transition-related. Probably should add this to my list of good social justice studies to replace some of the others that keep dropping like flies.

This is the most “we are living in the grim cyberpunk future” story I have ever seen: Russian billboard advertising contraband changes to a more innocuous advertisement when its computer vision system spots a police officer.

Back when I was writing about AI scientists who worried about AI risk, I somehow missed this great interview with Stuart Russell.

A mile-long machine is going to be deployed to the Tsushima Strait to clean it of floating garbage. If it works, there are plans to dispatch 1000 km (!) worth to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But actual ocean-garbage-ologists say it will never work and might be counterproductive.

Fake-Etymologies.com

Does Zoloft treat Ebola? Scientists decide to throw every existing drug at the Ebola virus to see if just by coincidence some of them work just by coincidence, and get some weird positives. But given how many drugs psychiatry has borrowed from infectious diseases, it’s about time we started giving some back.

The most important thing I’ve gotten out of this FIFA scandal is that being a complete loon is apparently no barrier to holding a very high position in the world’s most influential sporting body. Upon being arrested, vice-president Jack Warner promised: “Not even death will stop the avalanche that is coming” he said. “The die is cast. There can be no turning back. Let the chips fall where they fall.” About soccer negotiations. This is the same guy who cited the Onion article.

Latest hullaballoo: Curtis Yarvin (aka “Mencius Moldbug”) was invited to give a presentation on his new computer system Urbit to the Strange Loop tech conference. Then some of his ideological enemies (actually literal Communists) found out, objected to his political views, and he got banned from the conference. Article here, Hacker News thread here, impressively prescient Moldbug post here, demonstration of inevitable Streisand Effect here. I did consider not linking this since it’s so obviously toxoplasma, but I was convinced to do so by this letter where the conference organizer states he’s never read any Moldbug himself, but decided to cave to the ban request because otherwise politics overshadow the conference, which was supposed to be about tech. This kind of crystallizes a pattern I’ve been noticing recently where some social justice activists use a tactic along the lines of “Nice institution youse gots here, shame if somebody were to politicize it”. I sympathize with the desire to give into that to avoid trouble, but I think maybe the only way to avoid enshrining that kind of heckler’s veto always working is to make it clear that the choice to give in will also be politicized. Maybe if organizers know that banning all insufficiently-leftist-people and not banning all insufficiently-leftist-people will both result in politicization and Internet firestorms, they’ll say “screw it” and just follow their principles.

Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy For Depression Losing Its Efficacy? New meta-analysis across almost 40 years shows that “effects of CBT have declined linearly and steadily since its introduction” with high significance consistent across multiple different measurement modalities. Study theorizes that maybe therapy is getting worse as a lot of people who aren’t very good at it or don’t stick to the evidence-based principles jump on the CBT bandwagon. Also suggests maybe as it becomes less “the exciting new thing” there’s decreased placebo effect. I would add a possibility that CBT ideas have become so prevalent in our society already that there might be less left to teach, and that as depression diagnoses have skyrocketed we may be sending a different population to therapy (eg people who are less severely depressed and therefore can’t be helped as much). Somebody should also try to unify this result with the finding that antidepressant drug efficacy has been declining over the same period. There’s something very important hidden here, but I’m not totally sure what it is.

Dalai Lama says is considering reincarnating as a ‘mischievous blonde woman’.

The economics of art museums. The first half of this article is a terrible ramble that demonstrates some, uh, creative understanding of economics. The second half is much better, and describes the economic forces that lead most art museums to keep most of their art in basements where no one can see it forever, even though selling the tiniest fraction of that could allow them to (for example) make admission free forever.

We already sort of knew that exposure to cat parasite toxoplasma was a risk factor for schizophrenia. Now researchers take the next step and find that children in cat-owning families are at higher risk of schizophrenia across multiple different studies. Odds ratio not on abstract, but it’s about 1.5.

Technocracy Inc was a pro-technocracy movement of the 1930s which had over half a million members, who “painted their cars Official Technocracy Gray, wore a uniform consisting of a gray double-breasted suit, and saluted [leader] Scott when they encountered him in person. At their most extreme, some members replaced their names with numbers, such as 1x1809x56.”

CuddleBids is…I should probably avoid saying “Uber for cuddle prostitution”, but I’m not sure there’s another equally concise way to describe it. Notable as example of the kind of website I hate, with all the information carefully hidden away where it can’t interfere with the sleek design. Other than that I so in favor.

Cool graphs on my Twitter feed: effect sizes of preschool interventions (low and dropping), funnel plot of preschool interventions, not very encouraging at all. Poor sociology. There’s always time to get into the gut-bacteria-studying business.

Cute confirmation bias experiment: when an education plan was pitched as “the Democrats’ education plan”, Democrats supported it 75%-17%, and Republicans opposed it 13%-78%. When the exact same plan was pitched as “the Republicans’ education plan”, Democrats opposed it 80%-12% and Republicans supported it 70%-10%.

The first review of this light fixture.

“Crash blossoms” are complicated ambiguous headlines, like “Screenwriter Reveals He Tried To Commit Suicide During Awards Ceremony”. Language Log has nine whole pages of crash blossoms.

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1,177 Responses to Links 6/15: Everything But The Kitchen Link

  1. Steve Sailer says:

    “”Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy For Depression Losing Its Efficacy? … Somebody should also try to unify this result with the finding that antidepressant drug efficacy has been declining over the same period. There’s something very important hidden here, but I’m not totally sure what it is.”

    I don’t know what’s going on either, but I’m vaguely reminded of one of nonagenarian historian Jacques Barzun’s dozen lessons he learned from history:

    “A movement in thought or art produces its best work during the uphill fight to oust the enemy; that is, the previous thought or art. Victory brings on imitation and ultimately Boredom.”

    Maybe psychiatry is like art in that Boredom sets in?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The problem isn’t that older drugs/therapies are better than newer ones (or rather, that may be true, but it’s a different problem). The problem is that already invented things are failing to work as well. I can’t imagine why currents in the psychiatric intellectual world would make drugs suddenly stop working.

      • Deiseach says:

        I can’t speak to why drugs may not be working as well, but re: CBT – I was surprised when you put it that the reduction in therapy effectiveness might be down to “people who are less severely depressed and therefore can’t be helped as much”.

        My own view (which is why I’m avoiding going to counselling) is that it would work for mildly/moderately depressed people, the tactics that “get out of negative patterns of thinking, looking objectively at your situation you have more going for you than you think” do help because if there is a recent triggering event easily identified, then coping strategies and fresh outlook do help.

        Whereas for long term depression, or people who really are stuck in bad situations or don’t have options, a few pep-talk sessions about “turn that frown upside down!” aren’t going to cut it.

        I think perhaps it’s a combination of people have higher expectations nowadays (I don’t expect to feel happy if I got treatment, I’d settle for not feeling like bursting into tears every five minutes, but most people expect great improvements from feeling down to feeling as up and contented and fulfilled as social expectations tell them they should be feeling because PROGRESS and SCIENTIFIC MEDICINE and WE’RE NOT LIVING IN THE 19th CENTURY ANYMORE!) and that there may be more stresses nowadays re: work, relationships and the like. Thirty to fifty years ago, therapy was for the middle-class, and if you were middle-class there was a good chance if (for example) you were in a job that was making you unhappy, you could easily leave and get another as good or better. That’s not such an option nowadays for most people.

      • Shenpen says:

        Why, it could be simply depression being multicausal, one of the causal factors was not well treated anyway, and that factor got stronger.

        For example, it could have a dietary component and people today tend to eat worse than in the past.

      • FedeV says:

        The only plausible (non-psychological) explanation is that the early medical trials have a lot of financial pressure to prove the effectiveness of a given treatment, and we see a regression towards the mean as later trials have a smaller incentive?

      • Clockwork Marx says:

        I now have an idea for a story where depression starts to becomes drug-resistant. Humans eliminate the previously dominant strains of depression only to have other mutations flood in to fill the void. Depression isn’t tuberculosis, it’s influenza.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        You know, this notion that each of us have our own gut bacteria ecosystem that may be influencing us in various ways, and that gut bacteria are constantly evolving and drifting in inordinately complicated ways, which may not be wholly independent from what’s going on in other people’s guts … well, we now have a causal agent that might explain everything … or, equally likely, nothing.

    • The Barzun comment remind me of my rice Christian theory of political cycles.

      http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2012/06/rice-christian-cycle.html

      • Adam says:

        That blog post seems to be drastically overestimating the extent to which it was impossible to gain respect and power as a conservative in the 60s or a liberal in the 80s. Even Reagan himself was governor of a liberal state before the Reagan revolution. American political cycles are 10-15% of normally undecideds leaning in a slightly different direction that winner-take-all election systems make seem like major watershed moments, followed by a backlash where the same voters that brought in new legislators say “wait a sec, guys, this isn’t what we meant.”

  2. Banananon says:

    > when an education plan was pitched as “the Democrats’ education plan”, Democrats supported it 75%-17%, and Republicans opposed it 13%-78%. When the exact same plan was pitched as “the Republicans’ education plan”, Democrats supported it 80%-12% and Republicans opposed it 70%-10%.

    A first reading made this sound like there wasn’t any partisan shift. This should be: Democrats supported, Republicans opposed, Democrats opposed, Republicans supported.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks, fixed.

      • RCF says:

        I would like to reiterate my opinion that when you write a blog post that contains an error, and someone posts a correction, and you edit the original blog post accordingly, you should make a note of that editing in the blog post. I often see people quoting passages from a blog post, go back to the blog post to find them, can’t find them, only to realize that the error has been edited out.

    • Jiro says:

      If you think that political party X is more likely to use principles you agree with than political party Y, the fact that a position is supported by X is Bayseian evidence that the position is based on principles you agree with, and is a legitimate reason to have a larger prior in favor of that position.

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        I’m not sure why you’d need Bayesian evidence for that. I mean…maybe this sounds naive, but can’t you just look at the position and decide for yourself whether it supports principles you agree with? Don’t most people have the ability to do that?

        Maybe in some cases an issue is really complicated and people don’t feel confident in their ability to fully understand it. Fair enough. But using the approach of “whatever most people in my party agree with” to determine whether something supports your principles only makes sense if you assume that most people in your party are smarter than you.

        • ento says:

          TL;DR: Basically what you said. People are actually not bad at judging ideas based on their merits, but occasionally which side is better isn’t clear and then people just go with their tribe.

          Here’s the survey they gave, for reference.

          http://bipartisanpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/default/files/BPC%20Polarization%20Toplines.pdf

          The questions everyone’s making a big deal about are (7a) and (7b), at the top of the fourth page.

          There are a lot of studies out there on what happens when you change policy content *and* which tribe supports the policy, whether people are approving of your policies or your party. They’re split pretty much 50/50 on which is more important*. Experimenters usually have trouble tricking Democrats into supporting abortion restrictions, or Republicans into supporting gun control, but on issues that are complicated or where most people aren’t very educated, people base their decisions more on the political information because they have less to work with.

          This suggests a less cynical narrative where people make a genuine attempt to judge policies based on their merits, and only if they’re totally lost do they just stick with their tribe.

          If you’ve never been on welfare and someone tells you “here’s the welfare policy devised by party X, do you approve of it?”, what do you do? You don’t know how much assistance poor people need to get by, especially if you’re just a sophomore sociology major. So if you’re a Democrat and this is something the Republicans are apparently in favor of, you figure that this policy is probably pretty stingy and the Democrats want to offer more.

          FWIW, of the four options listed (“reduce class sizes”, “teach the basics”, “raise teacher pay”, “make it easier to fire bad teachers”) I only identify “make it easier to fire bad teachers” as something that’s believably partisan. (In this case, I think teachers’ unions don’t want teachers to get fired and Democrats like unions, so my guess is this is a genuine “Republican” stance.) “Teach the basics” in particular seems like a meaningless platitude that either side could co-opt.

          They also all sound like pretty good ideas to me. So I’m willing to believe that people got to this question, asked their brains what the better idea was, and their brains said “yeah, this is hard, but you’re usually a Democrat so guess them.”

          *It’s late and I don’t want to dig up citations, but ask and ye shall receive.

          • Cauê says:

            FWIW, of the four options listed (“reduce class sizes”, “teach the basics”, “raise teacher pay”, “make it easier to fire bad teachers”) I only identify “make it easier to fire bad teachers” as something that’s believably partisan. (In this case, I think teachers’ unions don’t want teachers to get fired and Democrats like unions, so my guess is this is a genuine “Republican” stance.)

            I find it amusing that when this one is on the “wrong” side, apparently 10% of Republicans choose to answer “don’t know/no opinion” rather than either going against it or supporting it as a Democratic proposal.

          • Nicholas says:

            As a teacher, all of the options are actually partisan. Increasing teacher pay and decreasing class size are Democrat talking points because on average the teaching profession is more Liberal and thus more likely to vote Democrat than their state/class average. (You have to hire more teachers to decrease class size).
            “Teach the basics” is code for “cut technology, art, and humanities departments” and because those are blue-coded behaviors in much of the US, is a Republican talking point.

          • Adam says:

            Increasing teacher pay and decreasing class size are Democrat talking points because on average the teaching profession is more Liberal and thus more likely to vote Democrat than their state/class average. (You have to hire more teachers to decrease class size).

            I don’t see how it follows from the fact that the teaching profession is more liberal than average that hiring more teachers would create more liberals, unless becoming a teacher when you used to do something else can actually turn a conservative into a liberal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hiring more teachers would create more jobs for liberals. This is something liberals are likely to favor even if it doesn’t mean creating more liberals.

          • Linch says:

            Adam: Thank of it this way. Most politicians want to pander to their base. Teachers afraid of losing their jobs/want easier jobs would prefer an environment where the demand for teachers are greater. Thus, all else being equal, you would expect teachers to be in favor of hiring more teachers, and if there are more liberal teachers than conservative teachers, a policy of “hire more teachers” would disproportionately benefit liberals over conservatives.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Also, simply, it requires more spending.

          • ento says:

            Nicholas, it’s interesting to hear that they’re all partisan after all. “Pay teachers more” and “reduce class sizes” both seem like direct consequences of economics and/or math to me, neither of which belongs to a single party, and I didn’t read the subtext of “teach the basics” correctly. (“No, don’t teach the basics! Algebra before multiplication! Calculus before algebra!”)

  3. Jake says:

    > Cool graphs on my Twitter feed: effect sizes of preschool interventions (low and dropping), funnel plot of preschool interventions

    The links are broken – looks like you have an extraneous break tag in them.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      GAH! IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING!

      • Elizabeth E. says:

        Here ya go. http://www.drlinkcheck.com/ It’s free.

        Also, that cat-schizophrenia link: it’s just for outdoor cats, right? I read somewhere else that indoor cats don’t carry Toxoplasma gondii, but the abstract doesn’t say.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Thank you! I’ve been looking for something like that!

          (I’m not sure about the cats and I don’t have the article in front of me anymore. Anyone else?)

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m fairly sure cat-lovers will immediately be up in arms about that – how dare you say Precious Pusskins might possibly not be good for the baby?

            In my day (back when the glaciers were still visible in the hills), the old wives’ tales about cats stealing the breath of babies were still current enough that no responsible adult would have dreamed of letting a cat near a baby’s cot. Nowadays I’m seeing “cute” photos plastered all over social media of cats (and dogs) cuddled up to, sleeping on top of, licking and otherwise ALL OVER babies and small children.

            I’m horrified by this but I imagine I’d be scolded about disgust reactions are irrational and that it’s my conservative bias meaning I’m overly concerned about “purity” that has me going “Possibility of disease!” 🙂

          • Vorkon says:

            I’m fairly sure cat-lovers will immediately be up in arms about that – how dare you say Precious Pusskins might possibly not be good for the baby?

            They MIGHT even be hearing the voice of Precious Pusskins in their heads, telling them not to allow such a terrible opinion to stand… >_>

          • onyomi says:

            Lately I’ve been wondering whether I should get tested for T Gondii, since my family had multiple outdoor cats who pooped in our sandbox when I was a kid, and I have had mental health problems like OCD, anxiety, and panic attacks. Does the latent infection continue to affect one for decades so long as it is untreated? I’m probably just being paranoid, but maybe that’s the fault of the T Gondii as well?

          • Deiseach says:

            They MIGHT even be hearing the voice of Precious Pusskins in their heads

            My youngest brother is a militant vegan/animal rights type (goes on protests and everything) and has a houseful of cats.

            Coincidence? I think not! 🙂

        • Julia says:

          I was wondering about that. Given that they only shed the virus for about a month, it seemed surprising that indoor cats would have much effect even if they’d been infected in kittenhood.

  4. Eggo says:

    > the female relatives of gayer fruit flies have more children.

    I’ve always been nervous about the “it’s genetic” thing, because it has the potential to backfire very badly. This article makes us sound like the defective byproducts of one of those awkward sexual dimorphism processes that have a lot of dysgenic tradeoffs…

    Russell Bonduriansky at the U NSW evo bio lab has been doing some fascinating work on the subject of sexual selection and sexual dimorphism, and it sounds like it’s rather a hot topic right now.
    Anyone have links to good studies on the subject?

    I wonder if this sort of research will finally put the “everything is socially constructed” nonsense to rest, or if we’ll see it accused of being “the product of a sexed ideology”, like relativity was.

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      I’ve always been nervous about the “it’s genetic” thing, because it has the potential to backfire very badly.

      This doesn’t make sense to me. Either it’s true or it isn’t. We don’t actually have the agency to pick the outcome that might be more rhetorically convenient.

      • Randy M says:

        He said “nervous” not “doubtful.” Plenty of true things can cause worry, such as “these equations suggest that splitting an atom gives off one hell of a lot of energy.”

      • Eggo says:

        Like Randy said, my concern is with the social narrative we’ve been pushing, and the potential blowback if “it’s genetic” doesn’t turn out to be the positive “helpful gay uncle” scenario we’ve been hoping for.

        You’re right that the truth itself doesn’t change. Facts are like bombs: they don’t care if you believe in them, but handling them carelessly makes them blow up in your face.
        And we’ve been waving this one around for years.

        • Deiseach says:

          It might be an explanation for the “mother’s brother” role as the main adult male in a child’s life in some cultures; if reproductive strategy means a daughter has more children at the expense of a brother, and this means childless adult males who are blood relations who can put the resources into helping raise the children (because the blood relationship means they have a genetic stake), then that would help explain why uncle rather than father is considered nearer kinship.

          • Alraune says:

            Wouldn’t the simpler explanation be that a child has exactly one father but likely at least 2 uncles, and it is therefore more likely for their one father to die than all of their uncles? Therefore structure your families to establish uncles as providers.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Alraune

            Also, you don’t need to be particularly wise to know who your uncles are.

          • John Schilling says:

            In a steady-state population, reproducing at replacement rate, the average child has one each of mother, father, aunt, and uncle – each parent has an average of one sibling surviving to adulthood.

            Uncles as stand-ins for absent fathers is obviously a good hedge, but not due to any great surplus of uncles and I don’t think it is evolutionarily optimal to shift any number of males from the “father” to the “uncle only” group.

            Seems more likely that the whole “wants to have sex with males” thing is a complex enough bit of neurobiology that evolution hasn’t yet figured out how to put a 100% effective off switch on the Y chromosome.

          • Anonymous` says:

            In a steady-state population, reproducing at replacement rate, the average child has one each of mother, father, aunt, and uncle – each parent has an average of one sibling surviving to adulthood.

            But replacement really involves some individuals failing to reproduce and others reproducing extra. P(individual has living brother|individual lived to reproduce) should be higher than the prior for P(individual has living brother); the siblings lived in similar conditions.

          • Deiseach says:

            According to the Wikipedia article:

            At avunculate time the maternal family is already headed by a man, a father or a brother of the woman given into another’s family or clan. The matrilocal spousal residence is replaced with patrilocal one, the man does not move any more into the house of his wife, but just the opposite, in marriage he takes her into his house. At the same time a wife and her children retain their affiliation with the former maternal family and clan. In such system the factual father of the child, instead of the blood father, is the uncle on the maternal side. And while a mother remains in the husband’s house, her children (sons) “return home”. The blood father and his relatives are obligated to turn the child over to his uncle, “return” him to his family. M.O. Kosven called this order “return of the children”. The nephews are all-powerful and have exclusive privileges in the family of the uncle on the maternal side.

            Consider how, in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, Théoden refers to Eomer and Eowyn as “sister-son” and “sister-daughter”. What I’m saying is that, if it was sufficiently common that male sibling or siblings of a female had no children themselves, then social customs and structures reinforcing the genetic dominance (the male children are part of the mother’s family line, either by her father or her brother(s) taking on responsibility as ‘father’ than the blood father) of the female’s lineage would happen. And childless males who are blood-related and who help take on the burden of raising her children are going to help the reproducing female optimise her reproductive capacity; the only competition for these resources she faces is from any sisters she has, and since they’re blood-relatives as well, the common genetic inheritance holds sway. You’re not “giving away” children to a rival bloodline, you’re keeping them in your own family line, and the gay uncles are not having children of their own to compete with your own children for caretaking and raising.

      • ryan says:

        I believe it’s the following:

        The really obvious explanation for a genetic factor in homosexuality, as born out by this fruit fly and I believe some human studies, is that some X-chromosome polymorphism(s) simultaneously increase fertility in females and play a factor in whatever causes male homosexuality. The effect of the former is of greater magnitude, so people with the polymorphism(s) will have more great grand children down the line.

        Perfectly typical sort of trade off in genetic mutations. Not dying from malaria increases your chances of reproducing. Potentially having sickle cell anemia reduces them. As long as there are enough mosquitoes around the effect of the first outweighs the second and the mutation sticks around.

        The rest of the thought process is straightforward. Researchers theorize that mutation X functionally leads to homosexuality via an inadequate response to testosterone in the third trimester. They establish a clinical trial where 100 pregnant women with the mutation are followed into adulthood. Children of the 50 mothers given third TM testosterone injections are (OR 0.3, p<.02) less likely to report same sex attraction or homosexual behavior at age 20. Geneticists then start consulting pregnant women with the mutation that 3rd TM testosterone injections are an option for reducing the likelihood of homosexuality.

        Or whatever. The specific mechanism and method of treatment isn't the issue. What scares the living daylights out of people is that some day the mechanism is discovered, treatments are created, utilized, and rates of male homosexuality go down throughout society.

        • Eggo says:

          ^This. I STILL can’t find the study, but coding for sexual dimorphism is a really messy business. It’s not just a matter of “guy stuff goes on the Y chromosome”.

        • Careless says:

          It would have to have one whopping great increase in female fecundity to counter effective sterility in males. Anyway, the identical twin concordance is so low, it’s obviously not a simple genetic mechanism.

          • ryan says:

            There are a few other factors. First the mutation(s) need not always lead to homosexuality. If it increases odds by like 4% then it’s much easier for increased female reproduction to outweigh. Less important is that gay men aren’t actually sterile and many have and do father children.

            But yes, obviously it’s not a simple genetic mechanism.

          • Shenpen says:

            Excuse me? About 40% of males managed to reproduce at all, suggesting polygamy and the majority of men going thirsty. Sperm is cheap. If those guys who would find it really hard to find a girlfriend anyway are sterile it makes hardly a difference.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is that before or after infant mortality, Shenpen? Honest question, but the difference would not be small.

          • Jaskologist says:

            About 40% of males managed to reproduce at all, suggesting polygamy and the majority of men going thirsty.

            I’ve seen this number bandied about many times, but never with a real source. I’m very skeptical that it is true, and I suspect that a lot of it comes from confusing “passed on the Y chromosome” (requiring an unbroken line of male descendants) with “passed on genes.”

      • bbartlog says:

        Well, it isn’t that black and white. A lot of things are fairly heritable, but there are things (of which being gay is one) that have a low but non-zero heritability. Anyway, it’s true that examining the causal links can have different moral implications depending on the worldviews people have, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to figure out what’s going on.

      • Aneesh Mulye says:

        Kuciwalker?!

        Wow. It’s a small world.

        (Is there something about people who do play (or have played) Civilization that draws them together? Scott himself was an avid Civver back in the day. I remembered your avatar from ‘poly.)

    • Deiseach says:

      How on earth do you establish a fruit fly is gay? It marches (flies?) in Pride Parades?

      • Anonymous says:

        This is pretty critical. I have often asked for a test to determine whether an individual is a homosexual, because this will be a crucial step in establishing good, falsifiable science in the area.

        …I don’t usually get many responses.

        • Toggle says:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penile_plethysmograph + porn is the usual method, if you have a reason not to rely on self-reporting.

          I mean, not for fruit flies obviously. Or women for that matter. But for male humans it works okay.

          • Anonymous says:

            My understanding is that the APA disavows PPG. However, if you think it is the correct method, then I have a couple more questions. First, would you say that this method can also identify pedophilia in human males?

          • Alraune says:

            For a definition of pedophilia that is notably distinct from “child rapist”, yes.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ok. Now, if the hypothesis is something along the lines of, “Pedophilia can be changed,” would you accept an experimental design as follows:

            1) PPG test to establish pedophilia via penile response to child pornography.
            2) Intervention.
            3) PPG test to establish diminished pedophilia via penile response to child pornography.

            The null hypothesis is that interventions would provide no difference in response.

          • Deiseach says:

            You see, I think terms such as “homosexuality” are meaningless when we’re talking about animals, and especially when it comes to fruit flies. How do you establish “this fly has a preference for mating with flies of its own gender” from “this fly would mate with a scrap of banana peel because it hasn’t enough neurons to have a preference? So if it gets it on with same-gender flies, it neither knows nor cares, it has fulfilled the biological imperative to mate, which it can’t even think about, much less have a preference as to what gets it turned on.”

          • Glomerulus says:

            “1) PPG test to establish pedophilia via penile response to child pornography.”

            a) You’d need to have a control group with a dummy intervention. Can’t trust it wouldn’t just be placebo effect.

            b) You’re likely to only get people who don’t know they’re pedophiles, or people who’ve already been outed as them. Not many would trust the meager confidentiality of research with a secret as damaging as that.

          • RCF says:

            @Deiseach

            Unless you’re positing that fruit fly mating behavior consists of mounting anything that looks remotely fruit-fly like, and it’s simply pure chance that any particular mounting is of a female fruit fly, male fruit flies tend to have a general preference for female fruit flies. I find the idea that a fruit fly brain is too small to distinguish, at least probabilistically, between female fruit flies and not-female-fruit to be completely unsupported.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Beetles have been caught in the act of “mating” with beer bottles. It’s not that hard to throw off insect brains.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Glomerulus

            a) Of course.

            b) Possibly, but this is likely the case for almost all research on sexual attitudes/desires/activity that is socially frowned upon.

            The real question that a lot of people I converse with struggle with is whether there is any sequence of events which could possibly demonstrate a change in sexual orientation, especially when we apply it to homosexuality. If we follow the above path, the idea is to see if it’s even possible for one person to change. Then, we could do controlled experiments to gauge usefulness of various interventions… but many people seem to cling to the idea that it’s flatly impossible to change, and thus we don’t even get to the point of considering placebos, because the placebo effect is assumed to be zero.

            Coupled with the above is interesting wrangling with the concept of bisexuality. Generally, when I construct a sequence like this for homo/heterosexuality (penile response (or whatever measure) to one class of stimulus at time 1; response to the other class of stimulus at time 2), a lot of people jump straight to, “Maybe that person is just bisexual. Aren’t you just an idiot, thinking that bisexuality isn’t a thing?” However, I think this kind of move makes the idea that sexuality can’t change unfalsifiable. Moreover, it seems to be a weird special case; we don’t have a label for ‘bipedosexual’.

            I really just want to be clear about what our categories mean and how it would be possible to test some of the things we say when we discuss sexuality. To this point, most of what we say seems utterly unscientific and rather politically motivated.

          • Lenoxus says:

            Anonymous:

            If we follow the above path, the idea is to see if it’s even possible for one person to change. Then, we could do controlled experiments to gauge usefulness of various interventions…

            Would I correctly assume that you are picturing “interventions” as only going in one direction, homosexual to heterosexual? Or do you instead think it would be just as good an idea to perfect interventions to turn people gay, for the sake of additional scientific knowledge? If what you imagine is the former scenario and not the latter, then this is more of the “politically motivated” thinking that you warn against in your last paragraph; we should be neutral about the preferability of any orientation.

            “Maybe that person is just bisexual. Aren’t you just an idiot, thinking that bisexuality isn’t a thing?” However, I think this kind of move makes the idea that sexuality can’t change unfalsifiable. Moreover, it seems to be a weird special case; we don’t have a label for ‘bipedosexual’.

            We don’t talk about hetero- or homo-pedosexuals either (if by “pedo” you’re referring to attraction to children — it’s a little unclear in context).

            The question of whether bisexuality raises fallibility issues regarding the changeability of sexuality is interesting, but doesn’t have bearing on whether bisexuality (non-trivially) exists. Further, it’s really only a problem if we lack a reliable way to determine the sex(es) to which someone is attracted, and if we can’t then the whole conversation is moot. If we can, then just test for each possible attraction before and after the intervention, done.

          • Anonymous says:

            Obviously, you would want to test both stimuli at both time 1 and time 2.

            And the term you’re looking for is “nonexclusive pedophile”.

          • Anonymous says:

            it would be just as good an idea to perfect interventions to turn people gay, for the sake of additional scientific knowledge

            Yep! Let’s figure out what is actually going on inside people’s heads/bodies. We should also create some extra pedophiles, too.

            it’s really only a problem if we lack a reliable way to determine the sex(es) to which someone is attracted

            This is precisely the point of this line of inquiry. Can we do this? If not, then we should be a lot more hesitant to make some of the very strong statements that are popularly bandied about, because they’re simply unscientific.

            “nonexclusive pedophile”

            This is a weird term, because they’re defined by the attraction to children regardless of ratio. If a woman is predominantly attracted to females, but sometimes males as well, the main descriptor is bisexual. Occasionally, there is a qualifier added to it, but the analog to “nonexclusive pedophile” would be “nonexclusive lesbian”.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            ‘Nonexclusive’ makes sense in context: pedophilia as a technical term refers to sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children, rather than just to anyone under the local age of consent. At those ages there isn’t much to distinguish boys and girls, relative to adults anyway.

            As for interventions to induce a paraphilia, that’s one of those things that might make for an interesting experiment but is usually banned by scientific ethics. It’s the difference between studying Phineas Gage and surgically removing someone’s frontal lobe. Though if someone wanted to perform such experiments on non-human primates I think most people would be ok with it.

          • Anonymous says:

            At those ages there isn’t much to distinguish boys and girls

            I think we misunderstand one another. Suppose someone is attracted to pre-pubescent children as well as adults. That seems more ‘bi’ than ‘non-exclusive’.

            banned by scientific ethics

            This seems to be only because we disapprove of pedophilia, while we approve of homosexuality. This is the reason, after all, why Lenoxus insisted that we try to convert people to homosexuality. We wouldn’t want our scientific inquiry to be hamstrung by messy moralistic priors.

        • Creutzer says:

          I heard once that you can actually see which gender someone is attracted to in an fMRI, but don’t remember any specifics. I’m just offering this is a starting point if you want to research it.

          • Anonymous says:

            My understanding of fMRI work is that it’s basically the upstream version of PPG. We can probably see that you’re aroused. Do you think there’s a reason to treat fMRI differently from PPG (or some other physiological method of determining arousal in females)?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            You can also use fMRI to read emotions. fMRI of a dead salmon.

          • Creutzer says:

            The way I understood what I was told is that you don’t really need a state of physiological arousal for the stuff to show up in the fMRI, but I didn’t double-check that. I may have gotten a wrong impression.

          • Anonymous says:

            If you can find any literature to this effect, I’d love to see it. My understanding is that if we try to invoke arousal, we can see it. Otherwise, gender differences are rather small. Interestingly enough, language-processing is one of the most gendered items in fMRI studies. I shudder to think what type of conclusions people will make from this.

      • Anonymous` says:

        Fruit flies have a complex mating ritual that male flies initiate. Usually, male flies learn that only unfertilized mature females are receptive to mating (corollary: usually male flies are unreceptive to other males’ advances).

        • Randy M says:

          This is interesting but does little to reassure as to the applicability to humans.

        • Vorkon says:

          It sounds like that may have a lot more to do with the flies being stupid than with them being gay.

          Either way, I find it unlikely that it maps to human sexual behavior in any meaningful way.

        • Deiseach says:

          So a male fruit fly mating advances can be refused by:

          (a) another male fly
          (b) an immature female
          (c) a mature but fertilised female

          Yeah – that’s still not telling me that if it attempts to mate with an unreceptive partner, that it is ‘gay’ in any meaningful sense of the word. Unless we mean that the male fly which responds to the other male’s mating advances is the gay fly, and that is going to involve invoking tropes of, e.g. Classical paederasty (the lover and the beloved and the difference in roles and activity) that is opening up a whole minefield.

          I really don’t see it being very applicable to humans other than “sometimes the wiring is joined up wrong” which, you know, gets us back to telos and the whole argument over the purpose of sexuality.

          If ‘studies of gay fruitflies’ show that yeah, sometimes, the wiring is joined up wrong, I would hate to be the researcher who tries (a) announcing that result (b) saying it has any application to human sexuality, because the amount of vituperation and accusations of homophobia and being a secret right-wing Republican-voting anti-choicer het cis White Christian hater bigot – !

    • JayMan says:

      I’ve always been nervous about the “it’s genetic” thing, because it has the potential to backfire very badly. This article makes us sound like the defective byproducts of one of those awkward sexual dimorphism processes that have a lot of dysgenic tradeoffs…

      Well, it’s not (very) genetic, because the heritability of homosexuality in men is very low, less than 22%. Let me restate: identical twins are discordant for sexual orientation over 75% of the time.

      (Obligate male) homosexuality is a disorder – indeed, a Darwinian disease. See my comment below for much more. (Note, before you ask questions, read the material linked in the said location. Not going to engage if you don’t.)

      • RCF says:

        “Let me restate: identical twins are discordant for sexual orientation over 75% of the time.”

        Unless I misunderstand what “discordant” means, that means that pairs of identical twins who are both straight make up less than 25% of all pairs of identical twins.

        “(Note, before you ask questions, read the material linked in the said location. Not going to engage if you don’t.)”

        You’re not my teacher, and you don’t get to assign me reading. But as long as we’re doing argument by link, http://lesswrong.com/lw/2as/diseased_thinking_dissolving_questions_about/

  5. Sniffnoy says:

    The “dogs react to magic” gif is taken from this video. There’s a second part here.

    Edit: And dog reactions to a different trick here.

  6. Randy M says:

    “Old question “why does evolution allow homosexuality to exist when it decreases reproduction?” seems to have been solved, at least in fruit flies: the female relatives of gayer fruit flies have more children. Same thing appears to be true in humans. Unclear if lesbianism has a similar aetiology.”

    I have only limited experience with fruit flies, and moreso on the killing end than the breeding end, but I find it highly unlikely that all the “gay uncle” fruit flies are busy caring for the offspring of their sisters like is often hypothesized was what allowed homosexuality to persist over the generations in humans.

    This seems to indicate that it is something akin to sickle-cell anemia/malaria resistance, wherein an occasionally useful gene has deleterious effects in combination with itself or with some other genes.

    Also, imagine the researcher tracking fruit flies to try to categorize them as “gayer” and, conversely, less gay. Correctly identify both the genders of the fruit flies involved in the sexual acts, and ascertain when they are doing the fruit fly equivalent of homosexual acts rather than getting that bit of banana stuck to the other’s wing. Also, making sure not to mix up which ones relations had more children, without subsequently mixing them up. I think there is a fair amount of margin of error here.

    • Eggo says:

      Yep. I think people were always hoping for a comfortable group selection narrative, where having gay people around just made everything more fabulous.
      Unfortunately, at least ten years ago people were finding out just how many trade-offs are involved in sex-specific genetic inheritance, which opened the possibility of homosexuality simply being an “acceptable cost” for a positive trait in your other offspring.

      Fortunately my country’s appalling science education means that none of the people who’d advocate throwing us off cliffs would ever make it past the abstracts…

    • Jaskologist says:

      Has anybody ever calculated what kinds of safety margins evolution considers acceptable? I’m not sure a phenotype that pops up 2-3% of the time really needs all that much explanation, especially since until recently society would have mitigated it by encouraging them to get married and have kids anyway.

      • Mary says:

        Cultural evolution has done a lot to mitigate the genes’ effects. Of course, culture is changing in a way that brings out the biological evolution.

        It’s amazing how many people don’t believe in evolution when you point out that it’s selecting for people who want to have children right now.

      • Yes, it’s often forgotten that obligate homosexuality wasn’t actually a barrier to reproductive success for most of civilized human history. I don’t think that we know enough to say whether it hurt much in the EAA, but I have read (somewhere here in a SSC comment thread, in fact) that hunter-gatherers have very low reported levels of homosexuality anyway.

        Of course, now that we have social justice, homosexuals take themselves out of the gene pool much more effectively than before.

        • Daniel Armak says:

          Most of the world doesn’t have social justice, so do you expect Western homosexuality rates to decline in the next generation relative to non-Western ones?

      • Brett says:

        2-3% is too high, ridiculously too high. For anything which reduces fertility as much as obligate homosexuality to be genetically driven, it would have to be continually reintroduced by de novo mutations which are then selected against, and thus lost within a few generations. At best, that would give us rates around 100-1000 times lower than we actually see. (The mutation rate isn’t that high.) There has to be something else going on.

        • Mary says:

          2-3% includes all bisexual and indeed, homosexuals who are not, in fact, obligate. (Witness that most homosexuals with children had them the usual way.)

        • Irenist says:

          Brett,

          What else might be going on besides sexually antagonistic selection?

          Are you proposing an infectious agent? (I have seen that proposed elsewhere online.)

          It couldn’t be culture, b/c we’re talking about fruit flies, sheep, etc. And of course, as has been mentioned, the “benevolent gay uncle” theory doesn’t work for r-selected species like fruit flies without much (if any) parental investment.

          Some epigenetic thing triggered by …?

          Related:

          All these “gay animals” studies are pretty recent, right? Do we have any studies (or at least more-than-anecodotal) observations of the phenomenon from the decades and centuries before we started dumping possibly endocrine-disrupting chemicals into the water supply? Would this fruit fly lab have been using distilled water or tap water–what’s the norm in biological research?

          IOW, do we actually KNOW that gay animals are the product of millennia of evolution, and not just a side effect of industrial pollution in the Anthropocene? We know gay behavior is ancient in humans, but humans could be subject to culture, or “good gay uncle” genetic selection.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, it’s possible that homosexuality is the result of recent the environment. But it has substantial heritability, substantial fitness loss, and at least a century’s history. You can propose that the genes were inactive up until they encountered environmental hormones in 1900, but that still leaves several generations of selection. This would seem to require that it was substantially more common a century ago.

            Some epigenetic thing triggered by …?

            That isn’t an explanation.

          • Irenist says:

            Douglas Knight,

            I’m not really “proposing” anything. Just thinking out loud because I was wondering what Brett was getting at. Sorry I wasn’t clear about that.

          • Daniel Armak says:

            @Douglas Knight: why “at least a century”? Homosexual behavior has been widely documented basically since the start of recorded history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_homosexuality). But *obligate* homosexuality might be more modern, is that what you meant?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Mainly I misread Irenist. I thought that he was proposing that homosexuality might be new, due to industrial pollution. I was taking that as given and saying that it’s still old enough to be pose an evolutionary issue. But he was just talking about sheep, where we probably don’t have measurements of heritability.

            Yes, there are lots of ways that ancient and modern homosexuality differ. And many more ways that they might differ, but we can’t tell. In particular, it is hard to notice obligate homosexuals in (written accounts of) a setting where homosexual behavior is common. There certainly are examples, but it is not possible to compute a rate.

          • Brett says:

            I don’t know what the correct explanation is, but I know that lots of the commonly given explanations (group selection, gay uncles helping their nephews, sexually antagonistic selection) can’t be true because the math doesn’t work out. Obligate homosexuality is just too deleterious to reproduction to be easily explained by evolutionary models like that. The infectious agent hypothesis is at least plausible, although as far as I know there’s no evidence for it and a little bit (we’ve seen no immune system things pop out of GWAS for homosexuality) against it.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Sure. Here’s a calculation. Let’s say that there is a mutation that is spontaneously created in 1 in 10,000, that it has a 10% chance of producing a homosexual phenotype and that the phenotype has 0.9 fitness, that is, yields an average of 1.8 children. Then the fitness of the gene in 0.99. So in equilibrium, the gene only reproduces itself 99%, so the remaining 1% must be made up by the spontaneous mutation. That is, the prevalence is 100x the spontaneous mutation rate. The prevalence is 1% of the population, of which 0.99% inherit the gene and 0.01% spontaneously acquire it. That’s a genotypic prevalence of 1%. The phenotypic prevalence is 0.1%.

        I think 1 in 10,000 is the standard rule of thumb mutation rate. For example, achondroplasia (dwarfism) has a spontaneous mutation rate of 3 in 100,000 and an inherited rate of 1 in 100,000. Apparently dwarfs have about 1/4 of replacement fertility. (The fatality of homozygous achondroplasia complicates the situation. The gene definitely has a fitness of 1/4, but if dwarfs only marry dwarfs, the fitness of the people would be 3/8, I think.)

        • John Schilling says:

          So, on the order of 0.1% prevalence of homosexuality, assuming homosexuality can be caused by a single point mutation.

          W/re male homosexuality, homo sapiens obviously has the encoding for “you will want to have sex with males”, which may be complex beyond the scope of any single mutation but is necessarily encoded on chromosomes that males get copies of. So, crudely, there’s an off switch for that on the Y chromosome. Could plausibly get broken by a single mutation. But that gives you roughly half-strength desire for sex with men, probably bisexuality rather than homosexuality, and 0.1% for male homosexuality and bisexuality combined is implausibly low.

          If instead of a crude off switch we have an s/male/female routine on the Y chromosome, that could probably get broken in several places with differing results, adding up to a percent or so of homosexuality, bisexualty, and asexuality among men. Still a bit low, but plausible.

          But it’s difficult to explain female homosexuality in this manner. Have to ponder this some more.

          • Anonymous says:

            Or, you know, read a textbook.

          • Deiseach says:

            You see, I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as “you will want to have sex with males”. I think it’s more like “you can be aroused by your own and other genders”.

            The idea of “purely attracted to own-gender” is a recent (19th century sexologist) categorisation. I think the proportion of obligate homosexuals (i.e. only sexually aroused by their own gender) was always a very small proportion, but that there was a greater proportion of those capable of being aroused by various genders and so within different cultural expressions, this was permissible: you married and had children to fulfil your duty to the family line, but you could have sexual partners outside of marriage, and older males/younger males pairings were accepted.

            The idea that you’re rigidly gay or rigidly straight is modern; that if you experience same-sex attraction, that’s it (even if you’re previously married and have children), you must come out as gay and nothing else (see the notion of “bisexual erasure”). It’s political as much as anything.

          • Troy says:

            Plato discusses sexual orientation of a sort in the Symposium, through the voice of Aristophanes. Aristophanes tells a myth about everyone having initially been part of a union of two (half-)persons, such that “the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two…”

            He then recounts how the gods split these primordial humans in half, and says:

            “Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saving. When they reach manhood they are loves of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children,-if at all, they do so only in obedience to the law; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded; and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him.”

    • RCF says:

      It’s possible that homosexuality may turn out to have a comprehensible genetic origin, but I think we need to accept the fact that, sometimes, the working of Azathoth are beyond human ken. If there is a genetic component to homosexuality, t’s quite possible that the answer to question of “Why?” is “Because of a complex interaction of phenomena that simply can’t be reduced to a form both comprehensible to the human mind and reasonably approximating the actual mechanism.”

  7. Deploying oceangoing resources from Northwestern Europe to the Tsushima Strait doesn’t always turn out very well.

  8. maxikov says:

    I’d feel less safe with the guy whose ideology led to the murder of a hundred million people than with the guy whose ideology led to a bunch of 10,000 word essays grumbling about the French Revolution

    No, NO, NO! We either apply the worst argument in the worlds to both some random modern communist and Mencius, or we don’t. If modern Western communists are responsible for the actions of the Soviets, Mencius is responsible at least for colonialism and its consequences. If Mencius is responsible only for his own actions, writing, and its consequences, then so are the communists. You can’t have half of this, and half of that.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Fair point, removed.

      • Randy M says:

        Well, if the question is the participants personal safety, communists were much more well known for killing their fellow citizens than colonialists, so I think the original point stands even with all the sins of their ideological kin piled on their shoulders, which was merely an ironic tangent to the observation of the continuing death of political civility.

        • Gene Marsh says:

          “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.”
          -Borges

          • efnre says:

            You should probably take your own advice.

          • randy m says:

            I don’t see why this comment was singled out for that. Care to elaborate?

          • Gene Marsh says:

            “I don’t see why this comment was singled out for that. Care to elaborate?”

            Scott graciously conceded a point. The exchange of views came to a natural end.

            This is where the Beginner’s Guides to Political Civility counsels “letting go” of your compulsion to break that equilibrium with petty point-scoring.

            “You should probably take your own advice.”

            That would make sense if the saying “silence is golden” inferred one should refrain from ever saying “silence is golden”.

          • Randy M says:

            Grace demands the host acquiesce when shouted at, perhaps, but not that others do not come to his defense.

            I feel the relative pettiness of the point scoring is a rather subjective measurement, with novicecivility allowing enough give for a discussion in polilte, measured tones. (But for all I, an apparent beginner in civility, know, this defense is surely a faux paux as well. Alas, I am not overly intuitive, and beg pardon if so. )

          • RCF says:

            “The verb ‘demand’ takes as its object a clause in the subjunctive mood. In the subjunctive mood, non-auxiliary verbs can be negated and thus the dummy auxiliary verb ‘do’ is superfluous.”

            -an actual petty argument

        • DanielLC says:

          I care about people equally regardless of if they’re my fellow citizens.

          • Randy M says:

            But wasn’t the objection that the conference “wasn’t safe” with him there? I was simply pointing out that it doesn’t make a lot of sense in this case to use such a (phony) complaint.

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      If modern Western communists don’t want to be associated with the Soviet Union they shouldn’t self-describe or identify as communists.

      • Eggo says:

        And put bloody hammers and sickles on everything. It’s like they want us to purge them.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s why they generally prefer “revolutionary leftist.”

        • social justice warlock says:

          No, “communist” is much more common. “Revolutionary leftist” is mostly an ecumenical thing directed towards anarchists, not liberals.

          • Nathan Cook says:

            The HN monster thread had someone claiming “my ultimate allegiance is to Deleuze”… it took me considerable willpower not to crack out the old “oh yeah? you know who else was a Deleuzian?”

        • Wrong Species says:

          And by revolution, they usually allude to the French Revolution. You know, the peaceful one. Robespierre put it so perfectly: “No one loves armed missionaries”.

          As much as I hate communism though, I have to agree with the original point. If all communists are lumped in with Stalin, then its only fair to link Moldbug with reactionary dictators.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            In that case, count the corpses and you’ll find that you’re still safer with Moldbug than with the people purging him.

          • Viliam Búr says:

            In addition to “what people they associate with did” we should also look at what they did, personally.

            The people opposing Moldbug prevented him from participating at a conference, because of things unrelated to conference.

            Moldbug… wrote a blog.

            Assuming Rawlsian “veil of ignorance” (you don’t know which one of them you agree politically with), which one of them seems more dangerous?

          • RCF says:

            How far does this extend? If all Neo-Nazis are lumped in with Hitler, must all environmentalist be lumped in with Ted Kaczynski? Is there no principled way of distinguishing between the two situations?

    • Orb says:

      Does Mencius advocate colonizing other countries? Based on what I’ve seen, “neocolonial” is an extremely broad brush used by leftists to paint people who never actually said anything about colonization.

      (I agree blog posts are the wrong reference point for Moldbug. I haven’t read much of him, but perhaps a better reference point would be early 1900s America, back before WWI when the US government was just a single-digit percentage of our GDP–incidentally, a time when the US was a rising star, not a falling star, on the world stage.)

      • Nornagest says:

        I doubt modern communists advocate starving millions of peasants to death with ill-advised modernization schemes. Moldbug (I’d say “Mencius”, but that makes my inner historian squirm) has not to my knowledge advocated pith-hats-and-gunboats colonization in the modern day, but he’s as close to an unreserved advocate of it in the colonial era as I’ve seen.

        (Well, I’ve met one sixty-year-old paleocon that might give him a run for his money, but that’s dark-matter-universe territory for most of the people around here.)

        • Mary says:

          No Communists advocate starving millions of peasants to death with ill-advised modernization schemes.

          They merely didn’t care whether they did so.

        • SUT says:

          Actually the New Left wouldn’t mind getting rid of a few Billion people. Here’ s a pretty run of the mill quote on yesterday’s NYT Room for debate[0]:
          M NYC 18 hours ago

          Well maybe not a “a new regime of coercive “population control”, but certainly a a new regime of coercive consumption control will be necessary. But try convincing republicans in this country that socialism is ultimately necessary as they are hell-bent on the ever-expanding, always-a-new-frontier-somewhere ethos of greater consumption and wealth accumulation. Right up until the point of collapse. 10Recommend

          The subject is: What did we learn from Paul Erlich’s false apocalyptic prediction? Apparently the lesson for every opinionist and commenter seems to be: we need population control even worse, and we need to highlight more apocalyptic predictions to justify it.

          [0] http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/06/08/is-overpopulation-a-legitimate-threat-to-humanity-and-the-planet

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not getting “getting rid of a few billion people” from that, merely “forcing a few billion people into living in a state of what a penniless Afghani bricklayer might consider prosperity, and/or keeping them from having more kids than we think are appropriate”. Which still strikes me as pretty vile, but doesn’t amount to genocide.

          • Mary says:

            Of course it’s genocide. Merely taking children from a group to be adopted elsewhere is genocide. Compulsory contraception and/or abortion would therefore also be genocide.

            For those of you going HUH? that’s “international law” not common usage. That is because genocide was pretty much defined as “bad stuff Nazis did,” so the attempt to Germanize allegedly ethnically German Polish children was thrown in.

          • Nornagest says:

            International law is rarely intuitive, sometimes incoherent, and almost always toothless, so I feel justified in ignoring it here. But I haven’t heard many genocide accusations regarding e.g. China’s One Child policy, which seems close to the implication upthread. Plenty of complaints on other human-rights grounds, and rightly so, but not the G word.

            I have heard genocide accusations around taking children from one group to be raised by another — sometimes couched as “cultural genocide”, sometimes not. I think we can sum common usage up by saying that “genocide” refers to either “systematically killing a whole lot of people” or “trying to eradicate a demographic group”, but not to bad stuff that happens to living people as long as no one’s trying to eradicate them or their culture.

          • RCF says:

            Doesn’t the concept of genocide imply that the perpetrator and victim be of identifiably different groups? Can China commit genocide against China?

          • Mary says:

            You’re right, which is one of the problems with the concept of genocide.

            Why is the Holodomor not genocide? Because no one’s found the smoking gun of someone saying it was because they were Ukrainians. Except that no one sane would say that finding the smoking gun would make the Holodomor that much worse.

        • Gene Marsh says:

          “As the King begins the transition from democracy, however, he sees at once that many Californians – certainly millions – are financial liabilities. These are unproductive citizens. Their place on the balance sheet is on the right. To put it crudely, a ten-cent bullet in the nape of each neck would send California’s market capitalization soaring – often by a cool million per neck….Imagine the garden that a population of ten or twenty million – all the most human of humanity – could make of the earth. Would they miss the six billion? Not a chance. Would the planet seem empty and boring without the favelas of Rio, the projects of Baltimore, the huge human warrens of Lagos? Not a chance. Nor, if your taste runs to Gaia, would the Earth. And if the few can figure out how to preserve the organs of the many, this new nobility can live for millennia!
          Anyway. I am not actually making this Swiftian proposal. On the contrary! As I’ve said, I oppose it. Nonetheless, it is important to present it, because the attraction is real.”
          – Moldbug

          Swiftian proposals are by definition not attractive to the proposer. Yet claiming so offers all the plausible deniablility you’ll need to acquit your savvy sweetheart of normalizing genocidal fantasies. Little by little these new ways of thinking of, speaking about and organizing for the future disposal of unwanted humans becomes routinely incorporated into everyday chit chat. Does anyone relate?

          • nydwracu says:

            The Republic has no need of savants.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’d point and laugh, except that anti-natalists are indeed a thing and that the notion that humanity is a disease and scourge that should kill itself off so as to leave the planet to be reclaimed by the innocent and happy animals and plants is a real opinion.

            Indeed, drastic population reduction was the premise of the plot for Channel 4’s short-lived series Utopia.

          • Alan says:

            Delseach: to be fair, the Voluntariy Human Extinction movement is exactly that: voluntary. The mechanism through which humanity will be extinguished is through lack of reproduction, rather than any more direct genocide. And for what it’s worth, they know they’ll fail. They just hold that it’s deeply unethical to reproduce and (supposedly) hold themselves to it.

          • Nathan Cook says:

            The proposal is Swiftian insofar as it resembles A Modest Proposal. Whether one is attracted to the idea of using people for their organs or not, one must recognise that it is firmly in Swift’s ambit.

            “[T]he attraction is real” – but to whom? And for that matter, what is the attraction? The latter question is simple: increasing wealth. Then the former question becomes simple too: more or less everyone is attracted by the idea of increasing wealth. So Moldbug is saying that he, you and I will all feel, even if suppressed, some attraction to killing the unproductive. This is hardly incompatible with also being repulsed by the notion.

            It might help you understand what is going on here if you think of this final solution to the incapacity problem as being a sin. People feel urges to commit sins. They shouldn’t act on them. Your response is the moral equivalent of saying “eww! how could anyone even think of making someone have sex! why is he talking about making people have sex! he wants everyone to be thinking and talking about it, so that one day he can make people have sex with him!

            See also his post on the Holocaust. I was dimly aware that the methods of killing whole ethnic groups were developed by tests on the mentally handicapped, but it did snap into focus for me how the decision to kill one group, based on a reprehensible but utilitarian analysis, inevitably led to the decision to kill others, based on insane nonsense.

        • Urstoff says:

          What do modern communists advocate?

      • haishan says:

        The answer to your question is “yes, more or less.” Google “From Cromer to Romer” to read the man himself on the subject. (But be warned that it’s very Moldbuggy; e.g. it literally starts “My n****z,” except not censored.)

        (Also, Scott, does the comment system filter out posts with links to UR? I’ve tried a couple of times to post a link directly but it’s getting et.)

        • Sniffnoy says:

          That links to Unqualified Reservations get caught in the spam filter has at least been observed by other commenters before, IIRC.

        • RCF says:

          There are simple ways to post links regardless of whether they are being filtered, albeit in such a way that they are not clickable. I’m not sure I should discuss what they are, however.

      • Alraune says:

        Does Mencius advocate colonizing other countries?

        He thinks the British Empire was a better ruler than the post-Imperial governments, and that the East India Company was a better ruler than the British Empire. So, he advocates whatever we call that thing Chinese businessmen are doing.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      FWIW, Moldbug pretty explicitly bites that bullet, and claims that colonialism was a huge net positive.

      His arguments sure look convincing (very, very brief summary: governance and living standards, _for the colonized_, fall off a cliff as soon as the colonialists leave power), but I’m unequipped to double check them.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m not familiar with Moldbug specifically, but in theory, you can argue that even something that was morally wrong and had some unfortunate consequences was still a “net positive” in economic terms.

        A conservative radio host I used to listen to once got in trouble for suggesting that American black decedents of slaves should be thankful that their ancestors were enslaved, because otherwise they would have been born over in Africa, and who wants to live there?

        While on the face of it that seems pretty ridiculous, and while the vast majority of people would not claim this “justifies” slavery in any way, his primary point seems to have some legitimacy to it. While it was probably terrible for the ancestors, many of their decedents probably ARE in fact, better off for it.

        • Adam says:

          Almost all people who exist today are better off than their distant ancestors. This seems completely unrelated to whether or not we should adopt the policies of our distance ancestors.

          As for “thankful,” I mean, come on. I can kidnap 40 random girls from Afghanistan and flay their parents while they watch, bring them back to Texas with me, rape them to get them pregnant, then send the new kids into foster care and murder the girls I took. Arguably, those new kids would still be better off than if they had been born in Afghanistan. In what reasonable world does a person say they should thank me for this, though?

          • Randy M says:

            I doubt it has anything to be with being grateful TO the slave traders or buyers for their cruel actions, but rather looking at the standards of living of the two places at the moment and thinking that some good came from the evil, even if only personally.

            And I didn’t see ay suggestion that we should then implement those policies.

          • Adam says:

            Fair enough. I don’t know which conservative radio host Matt was referring to or what policies he advocates, but something like this same argument seems to come up with people who actually do explicitly advocate some form of return to aristocracy and exclusively white rule.

          • Randy M says:

            Dennis PRager has mentioned the book “Out of Africa” iirc, making a broadly similar point.

        • J. Quinton says:

          Most American blacks have about 15 – 25% European DNA. So they wouldn’t have been born in Africa had their ancestors not been enslaved. They wouldn’t exist.

          • Jiro says:

            So they wouldn’t have been born in Africa had their ancestors not been enslaved. They wouldn’t exist

            Those are only better off because off the non-identity problem, which doesn’t apply to the original claim that compares American and African blacks.

          • J. Quinton says:

            My comment is pointing out that the original claim comparing African Americans (who are 25% European Americans) with Africans is a non-sequitur. It follows just as much as if we said that, had Africans not been enslaved, current African-Americans would be living in Europe.

            For example, take hypothetical person Pat. Pat’s mother is from Bari, Italy and Pat’s dad is from Sao Paolo, Brazil. If Pat’s parents hadn’t met, where would Pat be living?

        • sweeneyrod says:

          If their ancestors hadn’t been enslaved, the descendants wouldn’t be living in Africa, they just wouldn’t have been born, since presumably different people had children together as a result of slavery. I think this is the problem with that argument.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        If that’s really the meat of the argument– colonized peoples’ living standards got much worse off after the collapse of colonialism, therefore colonialism was a good idea– that’s really dumb. Totalitarian systems of all stripes are notorious for leaving wreckage in the wake of their collapses. After the Soviet Union collapsed, for example, Russians’ average living standard went way down by many measures, and polls showed large percentages believing– no doubt some reasonably– that they had been better off under the Soviet regime. It does not follow that the establishment of the Soviet Union was a good idea!

        • Alraune says:

          The meat of his argument is “people’s living standards get much better when they are ruled by ambivalent foreign merchant princes.”

          • onyomi says:

            I think it would be good if, in general, people got over the fetish for being ruled by people “like them” (though I can think of strong historical reasons for that mentality). I would rather have my government run by competent foreigners than by corrupt, incompetent people who happen to have been born within the same geographic territory as myself.

          • nydwracu says:

            It depends on the extent to which the foreigners’ interests align with the natives’. It’s never going to be a total alignment, of course — not even close.

            If the foreigners don’t live in the country and there’s a lot of value locked in natural resources… well, developing the country beyond what’s necessary to tap those resources is a lot of effort. It’s easier to just run a huge slave plantation with cheap, disposable labor and get all the rubber.

            If the foreigners live in the country, it’s likely that there are too many of them for them to be able to turn it into their personal wealth-generating machine, but few enough of them that they have to worry about a revolt. If the foreigners can go back to their homeland, that changes things — more so if they retain strong ties with the homeland, and more so if the homeland has need of the country’s resources, and is willing to extract them cheaply. They might develop some parts of the country enough for their taste, but if they’re there for cheap resources… well, the British prioritize the British over the Indians, so you get famines in the Raj.

            If they don’t have strong ties with the homeland, on the other hand, they might want to develop the country — they have nowhere else to go. And presumably, since they managed to conquer the country, they’re capable of maintaining order and so on. They’ll preserve their own elite position, which is going to sting, but replacing them is likely to mean concentrating power in few enough hands that the leaders can use the country as their personal wealth-generating machine. I don’t know how much money Ian Smith had, but I’d be surprised if it turned out to be even a tenth of the lowest estimate of Mugabe’s net worth.

            If replacing them isn’t likely to create a Mugabe, if the natives are capable of providing a similar quality of governance, that changes matters again: if the natives can retake power cleanly, they stand to gain by kicking out the foreigners. If you follow Benedict Anderson’s interpretation of the nationalist revolutions in the New World, that’s what happened: the American offspring of the British were of the same stock and had the same culture and so on, so the capacity for stable and functional governance was likely about equal (of course, Anderson doesn’t say any of that), and it stung the Americans like hell that they were lower in the hierarchy than the British. So they kicked the British out.

            The point of Moldbug’s Fnargl thought experiment is that the interests of the foreigners will align perfectly with the interests of the natives, but, you know, homo economicus. And even then, you have the Belgian Congo. Which Moldbug chalks up to lack of stability… but then you have the famines in the British Raj.

            On the one hand, it’s clear by now that the destruction of Rhodesia was a mistake, and it will probably become clear in a decade or two that regime change in South Africa was a mistake. (How does Thabo Mbeki compare to Mussolini? The >300,000 deaths caused by Mbeki’s ban on antiretroviral drugs were all people with HIV, so they would’ve died anyway, just later… but most of the deaths Mussolini was responsible for were casualties of war, and those tend not to get weighted anywhere near as heavily as peacetime deaths… but who knows how many HIV cases the ANC’s thoroughly fucked handling of that crisis was responsible for… and then there’s the violent crime issue. I’m not sure how the two compare. Which itself proves a point: regime change was supposed to be vastly, unambiguously better than literal Fascism, but, uh, well.) On the other hand, there’s the Belgian Congo and possibly the British Raj. On the third hand, Benedict Anderson has written in a manner that can’t exactly be characterized as unfavorable about Dutch colonialism in Indonesia, and he’s supposed to be playing the character of a Marxist, which, by the Grand Mosque principle*, suggests that the Dutch were alright.

            It’s best not to expect one position to hold for all instances of colonialism. Think of it like democracy: it clearly works in Switzerland, has a mixed record in America, totally fucked up in Zimbabwe, Iraq, etc., and killed Jesus.

            * When the Grand Mosque was seized, the Saudi government didn’t have time to get approval to retake it from all of the relevant religious authorities, so they called up the authorities of the most hard-line sect there was, figuring that, if they approved it, so would everyone else. This didn’t work out well for the Saudis, but the principle still stands: if a hard-line anti-Xer can’t bring himself to condemn a particular instance of X, that’s evidence in favor of X.

        • Protagoras says:

          Yes, I’ve definitely encountered plausible arguments that the reason for at least some of the political chaos after decolonization was divide and conquer strategies used by the colonizers which exacerbated tribal divisions and made formation of any kind of stable post-colonial order more difficult. It might be more useful to compare the colonized to the uncolonized, but the latter are rare, and there are likely to be confounding factors in the reasons why the uncolonized were so. Still, since Japan stands out as an instance of the never colonized, it is clearly at least possible for an uncolonized non-western country to acquire the benefits of westernization and do much better than colonized countries, suggesting that it’s possible that there may be some costs to this colonization thing after all.

          • Nornagest says:

            Japan is sort of a weird case; it did some small-scale colonization of its own as early as the late Sengoku period, has held onto its historical colonies of Hokkaido and Okinawa, and has shown an unusual cultural facility for appropriating useful institutions from other, larger civilizations. Before the 1800s that mostly meant China; after, Prussia, Britain, and the US.

            Other nations that were never colonized by Western powers include Thailand, Mongolia and Tibet (note that these two share a complicated political legacy with China), and Iran. A number of countries also remained relatively independent despite brief periods of foreign rule or substantial influence, including Ethiopia, Bhutan, and Nepal.

          • nydwracu says:

            Mongolia may have technically never been colonized, but it was a Soviet puppet state for most of the 20th century.

            As for divide-and-conquer strategies: yes. An instructive example here is Burma. Britain administered both what is now Burma and what is now Bangladesh, and encouraged migration from the latter into the former — specifically, Rakhine State, which you may have heard of before. (Fun fact: the Rohingya language is closely related to Chittagonian. Another fun fact: the Burmese government considers the Rohingya to be descendants of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and given that they don’t have jus soli… yeah, that’s what that’s about. Can you guess who the British favored enough to arm in their WW2 retreat from Burma? And can you guess how that turned out?)

            It’s not hard to see the motivation for a colonial power to allow that sort of immigration. It’s been remarked upon before: if you bring in a population, they owe their presence to you, and they know it, and your presence will be much better for them than your absence, and they know that as well.

          • Nicholas says:

            Whether the 15 years leading up to the 1960s counts as a very short colonization of Japan by the United States is, as I understand it, something of an open question in Japan.

          • Nornagest says:

            Eh. It seems to me that any definition of colonization that includes a postwar occupation government is too extensive a one.

            Though now that I think about it, that’d probably bump Ethiopia up into the ranks of those countries never colonized by the West, for all that Mussolini’s Italy called it a colony (for a few years during and shortly before WWII).

      • multiheaded says:

        …fall off a cliff as soon as the colonialists leave power

        For a good while now I have wondered as to why in the hell *that* is taken as a point in favour of colonialism. I’d understand if, say, people defended huge conquering empires by pointing to their long-lasting legacy, like the Roman law

        – but the European colonialists really often did that awful thing like in Rwanda and Syria and Nigeria, trading off increased control through their favoured ethnic/cultural group for enormous fragility once said group is left to fend for itself and must either rally around a dictator (Syria) or fall (Rwanda), plus in any case the general poor development of local institutions + old grievances result in a mess (Nigeria).

        Edit: oo-er, the point about divide and conquer colonialism has already been made above.

        Re: Nigeria – see the War Nerd

        The British crushed the Northern caliphates early in the 20th Century, but found that they liked the North best of the three heads this Nigerian monster had. The second sons who were booted out of England to run the colonies always got on best with aristocratic, warlike desert people. They took to the Hausa-Fulani, with their cataphracts and caste system, like they were an unguarded tray of cucumber sandwiches. Most of all, the Empire appreciated the ease with which all of Northern Nigeria could be bought. Thanks to the strict, militarized hierarchy of the North, all the local British agent had to do was buy the Sultan and the whole people would fall into line.

        • nydwracu says:

          It’s going to happen in any multiethnic country anyway.

          And there have been studies about that — apparently British colonies did turn out better than other countries’ colonies. Given that Moldbug doesn’t care about anything outside the Anglosphere…

          • RCF says:

            I read on article that colonies run by Protestant countries did better than ones run by Catholics. Assuming that’s true, I don’t know whether it was a general trend, or whether it’s attributable solely to Britain.

    • ryan says:

      I always wondered why either side of the coin didn’t simply own up to their ideology’s track record. Mencius actually would probably be fine with responsibility for colonialism. He has several posts on why at the least ending it was a very bad thing for everyone. And the communists didn’t just kill millions of people for shits and giggles (unlike many true demons of human history). They turned the Russian empire into an industrial superpower from an agrarian shit hole.

      Communists didn’t used to be afraid of this. All through the 20’s and 30’s in the US apologetics was common place. Sure comrade Stalin throws priests in Gulags where they’re tortured and murdered. But it’s all in the name of the revolution!

      • Izaak Weiss says:

        Because, in my experience, most modern communists don’t actually think that industrial superpowers are worth the deaths of millions. They tend to think that that was a failure of communism that we can fix.

        • nydwracu says:

          Maybe they did in the ’70s — “I continue to admire the goals of the Khmer Rouge, but I admit that I don’t particularly like the way they’re going about it” and all that, once the stories started to break (of course, some of them doubled down instead) — but communists these days aren’t exactly allergic to writing off entire races as counterrevolutionary and talking about how mass murder would actually be really cool and good.

      • “They turned the Russian empire into an industrial superpower from an agrarian shit hole. ”

        Actually, they didn’t. I think if you compare Russian economic development after the communist revolution to development in the decades immediately before WWI, the latter looks rather better.

        The USSR was never an “industrial superpower.” It was a third world country with a first world military and elite. And good PR.

        For an even cleaner comparison, try Taiwan and Mainland China. Mao killed a very large number of people—the estimate for the Great Leap Forward famine alone is thirty to forty million. When he died, Taiwan was a developed society, China still desperately poor. From Mao’s death to 2010, per capita GNP in China went up twenty fold.

  9. Brett says:

    When your “counterargument” for the position that open borders will cause problems via importing broken institutions from Third World countries involves bribing stupid Americans to give up their citizenship and leave (and hey, they’re stupid! How hard can it be!) then you might have some problems selling it. For one thing, stupid Americans are literally our brothers and sisters (in my case, my uncle, who’s retarded) and pushing plans to kick them out of the country makes me personally rather furious.

    • Randy M says:

      What would be the point of trading morons around, other than spite and pointless xenofetishism, anyway?

    • Aaron Brown says:

      bribing stupid Americans to give up their citizenship and leave

      He is not recommending this proposal, he is saying that if “[c]ritics of open borders from a hive mind angle” wish to be consistent, they should recommend it.

  10. Daniel Speyer says:

    Apparently the museums have a policy that they can’t sell art except to buy other art.

    I wonder if they can rent it.

    They’d write the policies for their own convenience. Renters need to be inspected and approved for ability to keep the art safe. The art is recallable on two weeks’ notice if the museum suddenly wants to display it, with prorated refunds or a replacement art option. Only works that would otherwise sit in a basement are for rent. The people who decide what to display don’t even look at the rental data.

    It might not be quite as much revenue as selling the art and investing in index funds, but it also might. And it keeps the art safeguarded properly for future generations.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Museums rent art all the time, mainly to other museums. Occasionally I see stories about a collector dying and his heir repossessing artwork that was rented to a museum decades earlier.

    • Urstoff says:

      The author was interviewed on Econtalk the other day. It sounds like the Museum Curator Association (or whatever it is) has a bunch of dumb rules that make museums actively worse.

  11. social justice warlock says:

    SSC link roundups continue their trend towards being indistinguishable from Chaos Patch.

    • Eggo says:

      Those filthy neo-reactionary sad puppies think they’re entitled to those dog treats, because their privileged STEM worldviews can’t account for the mystical arts!

      Thanks for pointing me to an interesting site though.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Part of me wants to say something like “There’s only one explicitly rightist link up there, the one about Moldbug being banned from the conference, and there’s also one explicitly leftist link up there, the one about gender pay disparity, so you’re yet another person who accuses me of being far-right if I attempt to be balanced instead of 100% leftist.”

      But I hate the fact that I have to keep defending myself, all the time, against vague nod wink nudge accusations. This the same day that people are sending asks to my ex-girlfriend “DID YOU BREAK UP WITH HIM BECAUSE HE’S RACIST?” I’m sick of this, and I feel like your comment is obviously heckling with no attempt to debate or argue against anything I’m doing.

      But it’s effective heckling with an undertone of threat, because it’s saying “You don’t want to look like you’re on the far-right, do you?” and given what obviously happens to people who get viewed as far-right (see above) no I don’t, but it’s hard to feel like you’re intending this in a spirit of friendly warning.

      Can I please ask for fewer comments like this in the future?

      • Eggo says:

        Sorry to be flippant, but… they’re a social justice witch.
        Asking a witch to stop muttering hexes at you is like asking a cyborg killbot not to kill you: it negates their one purpose in life/agonizing-mechanical-unlife.

        • Fifth Edition says:

          Warlocks make pacts with Fae, Fiends or Old Ones. I wonder which this one did…

          Fae keep their scales balanced, so that’s out. For Fiends vs. Old Ones… let’s look at the spell list: Burning Hands vs Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. More mockery, less flaming, so I think we’ve got a cultist of the Old Ones here.

          Not too surprising, if you think about whom Scott plans to kill. Last time he wrote about a fiend the creature came off pretty well.

          • randy m says:

            Well, I’m told Cthullu swims left, but the NRO pundits seem open to voting for him, so I guess the jury is still out about where he falls on our parochialpoliticalscales.

          • Mary says:

            Yes, but who told you? I always get it from the Ministry of Truth.

        • Gene Marsh says:

          If you’d stop grinding your axe for a second you might acknowledge what I suspect you admit when not busy working the refs: Things are more complex than that.
          When the subject turns to to politics, the level of discourse here drops to dittohead depths. I don’t know how far you’d have to go back in the SSC vaults to find a post that isnt followed by trains of smug libertarian messaging blind to its indistinguishability from the agenda of movement conservatism. It seems important for many here to construct a definition of the left that’s merely congruent with identity politics, since throwing a perpetual resentment fiesta, means never having to acknowledge your freakish proto-elderly approval of the vicious, winner-take-all economic policy you hope to profit from when Peter Thiel rings you in your demented dreams.
          Or are things more complex than that?

          • Ever An Anon says:

            You are absolutely right about the level of discourse, but there’s an element of hypocrisy in pointing that out in a comment consisting almost entirely of fnords.

            Libertarians can, and do, have productive intelligent discussions among thenselves. Ditto for Progressives. And they are capable of debating with one another intelligently as well. After all, those two groups and their overlap form the core OB-LW-SSC commentariat.

            The issue here is, as you pointed out, a tribal one. When we have a common banner then even disagreements about core values seem unimportant but absent that any small aesthetic difference is grounds for a holy war. I think a more reasonable solution to flamewars is to reinforce the group identity of “people who value intellectual discussion for its own sake and admit when they’re wrong without shame” rather than purging one group or another.

          • Sylocat says:

            It’s not even “smug libertarian messaging.” Libertarianism isn’t incompatible with social justice.

            I think a more reasonable solution to flamewars is to reinforce the group identity of “people who value intellectual discussion for its own sake and admit when they’re wrong without shame” rather than purging one group or another.

            The problem is, you can identify as a member of that group all you want, and it doesn’t necessarily make you one. In fact, frequently people identify as members of that group solely to signal themselves as more reasonable when it’s convenient to scoring rhetorical victories and rationalizing axe-grinding.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >In fact, frequently people identify as members of that group solely to signal themselves as more reasonable when it’s convenient to scoring rhetorical victories and rationalizing axe-grinding.

            While this may be true, I feel like this way of thinking can only lead to more ax-grinding an exponentially more ax-grinding accusations.

          • onyomi says:

            Can you give some examples of these “trains of smug libertarian messaging blind to its indistinguishability from the agenda of movement conservatism”?

            I notice that almost every comment section now includes a complaint that the comment audience is becoming too libertarian, but with no examples of how that fact is lowering the level of discourse.

            I also strongly suspect that these complaints are not disinterested, given that they probably come from non-libertarians.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >Can you give some examples of these “trains of smug libertarian messaging blind to its indistinguishability from the agenda of movement conservatism”?

            I can’t (and I’ll add them to my list of things to record if/when they happen, together with sjw’s complaints about microaggressions), but I’m fairly certain that it happens. It’s mostly a lot of going for the “easy jab”, and then people piling up to add similar sentimients/jokes. I’m not put off by it, because I’m not a SJey person, but I do already get my fix elsewhere.

            For the record, I am mostly libertarianish.

          • Nornagest says:

            When the subject turns to to politics, the level of discourse here drops to dittohead depths.

            Which is, of course, why we need the increasingly inevitable SJ circlejerk about libertarian circlejerking. Forward the revolution!

          • Lesser Bull says:

            You are writing almost complete nonsense. I am an actual real-life conservative and believe me, these threads are not what actual conservative love-fest comboxes look like. Not even close. I’m not sure how best to categorize the weird wonderful alchemy here, but I’m certain that calling it a dittohead tribal hoot-in is AUs from the truth.

          • nydwracu says:

            Sure, and Barack Obama is a Stalinist.

          • Eggo says:

            Huh. I had to look up what “working the refs” even meant. Did you rip it right from The American Prospect?

            I was going to pull nydwracu’s “fnording” trick on your comment, just to be catty, but realized I didn’t have to cut out _anything_.

            If the standards of discourse really are dropping, I suspect we should all be looking in the mirror for the reason why.

          • Gene Marsh says:

            “If the standards of discourse really are dropping, I suspect we should all be looking in the mirror for the reason why.”
            “I was going to pull nydwracu’s “fnording” trick on your comment”.

            Thank you. I haven’t had Nydwracu’s “fnording” trick pulled on me since my raccoon-coat wearing, jalopy joyriding days at State U.

            “You are absolutely right about the level of discourse, but there’s an element of hypocrisy in pointing that out in a comment consisting almost entirely of fnords.”

            What? am I the only red state Jew in this bitch?

          • RCF says:

            “Huh. I had to look up what “working the refs” even meant.”

            Really? I mean, I wasn’t aware of American Prospect’s particular meaning, but the general sense seems rather transparent to me. Were you unaware that “ref” is an abbreviation of “referee”?

          • Gene Marsh says:

            Years ago, Republican party chair Rich Bond explained that conservatives’ frequent denunciations of “liberal bias” in the media were part of “a strategy” (Washington Post, 8/20/92). Comparing journalists to referees in a sports match, Bond explained: “If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is ‘work the refs.’ Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack next time.”

      • social justice warlock says:

        It’s mockery, not threat, and mockery only legible to those who would consider it a compliment anyway (see the other replies here.) Of course if you find this annoying, you can just ban me, obviously.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Those who harp on microaggressions can’t claim mockery is innocent. Mockery is a threat. It’s saying, “we’re going to exclude you from the protection of the tribe, and you know how we treat outsiders.”

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >Those who harp on microaggressions

            Since >we don’t do that here, it might be best to just let it go.

          • Gene Marsh says:

            Isolated rigour trigger: Those who ceaselessly storify the trauma of that guy who got fired, can’t claim there arent people getting fired every day in every municipality for the flimsiest reasons imaginable.

            http://crookedtimber.org/2012/07/01/let-it-bleed-libertarianism-and-the-workplace/

          • Ben says:

            Its entirely intellectually/philosophically coherent to believe both of these statements are true:
            1) Companies should have the right to fire people for outside of work, unrelated to job function, political speech.
            2) It would be better for all of us if companies didn’t fire people for outside of work, unrelated to job function, political speech.

          • social justice warlock says:

            Find me an instance of me harping on microaggressions and I will upload a video of my eating my hat to YouTube.

          • I actually support warlock’s complaint, here. I dislike it when people are tarred for misbehaviors of others within their tribe. We should stop that.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’d still like a confirmation that the hat exists, just in case said harping ever occurs.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’ll cop to being guilty of addressing you-as-tribe rather than you-as-individual. It just seems to me that SJ doesn’t have much left if it concedes that mockery/shaming/bullying is no big deal.

          • social justice warlock says:

            Mockery qua mockery is an entirely normal and healthy thing. Of course with Scott being particularly sensitive on this topic (we all have something like that) then perhaps my behavior was culpable. But an anti-mockery-in-general position strikes me as stronger than you wanted to make.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mockery qua mockery is an entirely normal and healthy thing

            Well, it’s a very effective way of enforcing ingroup/outgroup distinctions, yes. But that’s not the sort of thing I’m here for.

            Assuming our host were OK with it, what beneficial purpose do you imagine would be served by mockery here? Even if true, could it ever be necessary or kind?

          • Lesser Bull says:

            @Mai La Dreapta,
            calling yourself an SJW is explicitly identifying yourself with those members of the tribe who behave badly. It would be like a righty complaining that not all conservatives are homophobes when his adopted handle is Gaybasher.

          • Nicholas says:

            I am fairly sure that calling oneself Social Justice *Warlock* can be interpreted as a satire of SJW in general. As I had understood the handle to belong to a mocking conservative up until this conversation.

          • multiheaded says:

            Senpai’s handle goes back to one of Scott’s SJ essays – “Living by the Sword”, iirc – where he called Arthur Chu or another of his ilk a Chaotic Evil Social Justice Death Knight Warlock. Senpai was all like, \m/ fuck yeah!

          • nydwracu says:

            Hahahaha oh lord. No. He’s from LF.

          • multiheaded says:

            Of course he is, yeah; and his handle here was “Oligopsony” before he stole such a metal title from a post by Scott.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            What’s SF?

          • social justice warlock says:

            It’s a bit of column A, a bit of column B. I mostly adopted the handle out of antagonism, since Scott and the community have generally constructed the “Social Justice Warrior” as a general figure of anti-Niceness, anti-Community, anti-Civilization leftism that I think to be a broadly correct stance. I don’t endorse every idea and reflex associated with the prhase – my roots are very much in the Old Left, and I think the concern with symbolism, microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and so on is frivolous – but I’m happy to wear the name as a death mask to offend nerds. I suppose this is neither true nor kind and I should switch back or something.

            SF is a physical place that a lot of dumb ideas come from, but to be fair not only dumb ideas. LF is a metaphorical place where a lot of dumb ideas come from, but to be fair not only dumb ideas, and me.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @warlock
            my roots are very much in the Old Left, and I think the concern with symbolism, microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and so on is frivolous

            Right on.

          • AJD says:

            I’m happy to wear the name as a death mask to offend nerds

            I wish people would stop saying ‘nerds’ as metonymy for ‘sexists’ or whatever.

          • multiheaded says:

            The only people who say that with any regularity are nerds themselves, fighting tooth and claw for what they perceive to be limited resources. Nerd-bashing internet communists of the sort senpai is friends with, or geek feminists like Veronica, can be safely predicted to be the *biggest* nerds, because outsiders wouldn’t care so much. People like gamergators or moldbuggers are huge nerds too, of different kinds.

          • Nornagest says:

            How does that E.B. White joke go?

            To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
            To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
            To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
            To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
            To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
            And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.

            Well, to people who don’t, a nerd is someone who owns a computer; to computer users, a nerd is someone who uses it for more than work and Facebook; to them, a nerd is someone who has a blog; to bloggers, a nerd is someone with a Reddit account; to Redditors, a nerd is someone from 4Chan; for channers, a nerd is a /b/tard; for /b/tards, a nerd is a fa/tg/uy; and for fa/tg/uys, a nerd is someone who owns a body pillow with a naked picture of Farseer Taldeer on it.

            That being said, you can legitimately draw lines around various things and call them “nerd culture”, and some of them are pretty dysfunctional. Though I don’t think sexism is as central as some seem to.

          • oligopsony says:

            The real answer here is that using “nerds” in a derogatory way, in my experience, generally only offends the nerds worth offending. It’s a picoagression of the sort Scott mentions in Fearful Symmetry; and as multi notes I’ve only ever seen it used by people who also self-identify as nerds. I play D&D and MtG, I am posting here, &c.

            “Fighting tooth and claw” is probably a romantic exaggeration, though.

            It is not a metonymy for sexists because, as noted, not all nerds are sexists (except in the boring trivial ways all everyone is,) and because non-nerd sexists aren’t particularly easy to offend.

          • multiheaded says:

            Ain’t nothing wrong with a body pillow. Why make it an explicit one when you can have it more cuddly, though?

        • Deiseach says:

          Is not mockery bullying, and have we not been told bullying ruins lives?

          Look, if Scott finds it painful and unfair to be told he’s right-wing when he’s not self-identified as right-wing, I think that his preferences should be respected (a) given that this is his sandbox and we’re all simply invited to play in it (b) given that there are lectures on respecting people’s self-identifications when it comes to all other categories (c) given that he may look more to the right if you’re more to the left, but for those of us who are more to the right, he is centrist/moderate.

          This is not a “Yes, I’m Republican and to hell with what you think about that” blog. And not everyone who reads and comments on here slots neatly into the American Republican versus Democrat categories; even those of us more to the right (e.g. I’d consider myself a ‘Republican’, but in the Irish context that has a very different meaning and indeed could get me accused of supporting terrorism).

          • Brett says:

            Fun story – I (an American) – put up a facebook post complaining about princess fantasy stuff, in particular the repeated description of my little girl as a Princess. It rubs me the wrong way! We’re a republican nation, damn it! Generally supposed to be light-hearted. I, however, have Northern Irish relatives (my wife’s family), and apparently I hit a nerve, because some of them got rather upset with me. Context is important!

          • Nornagest says:

            Whoever came up with the names for the American political parties did a smashing job of making them non-indicative, didn’t they?

            (Since I seem to get bitten every time I make a joke which relies on missing information or a non-literal reading of something: the names of both parties come, by different paths, from Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party of 1791, which favored decentralized government in opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s Federalists. And now I feel like an even wetter blanket than usual.)

          • merzbot says:

            No, mockery isn’t bullying. Bullying is harassment.

            But more on topic, Scott gets called right-wing because he’s more okay with white male supremacist neoreactionaries than even the average conservative is, has several 10k+ word posts brutally excoriating leftists, and has dropped enough hints that it’s pretty safe to assume that he supports HBD. Does anyone not notice this?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >because he’s more okay with white male supremacist neoreactionaries than even the average conservative is

            “white male supremacist neoreactionary” sounds more like a /pol/ caricature than someone he actually interacts with. But, how I see it, is that Scott is OK with those people as long as they’re not directly harming others and generally being assholes. I doubt Scott is OK with Vox Day the same way he’s ok with Steve Sailer.

            >and has dropped enough hints that it’s pretty safe to assume that he supports HBD

            While I don’t have the knowledge to debate inter and intra group diversity and whoever’s fallacy, HBD is either correct or not, but I don’t think believing it makes one right wing. Hell, it goes against some pretty core American conservative values.

            Unless you mean these are things that make him seem right wing, which I guess I can agree with.

          • Cauê says:

            (@merzbot)
            OK, so it’s not about his positions or the policies he supports, but that he doesn’t hate right-wingers enough, and writes not only against the right but also against the left?

          • undefined in this scope says:

            @merzbot

            Left-Right is the wrong axis to describe why NRx thrives here. LessWrong and this comment section is overwhelmingly utilitarian and NRx is a natural conclusion of utilitarianism if you believe:

            1. Intelligence (aka your ability to optimize your happiness) is genetically determined.
            2. Individual freedom is not necessary for human happiness.

            From the last Friendly AI thread it seems that a significant number of commenters (Scott included) believe both of these to some degree, but they’re waiting for a post-human level intelligence before they’re willing to embrace the monarchy.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “1. Intelligence (aka your ability to optimize your happiness) is genetically determined.
            2. Individual freedom is not necessary for human happiness.”

            Most people here don’t think intelligence is the ability to optimize your happiness. And they think it has a genetic component (this is important; it means you can get smarter Africans by feeding them a better diet).

            2 is also worded oddly. I think a better way is to they don’t consider public consent or approval a necessary feature of finding the best decision- they embrace the technocratic mentality of solving problems with experts.

            “From the last Friendly AI thread it seems that a significant number of commenters (Scott included) believe both of these to some degree, but they’re waiting for a post-human level intelligence before they’re willing to embrace the monarchy.”

            I’m not sure if an immortal computer program can be considered a monarch. How the consort or royal family work?

          • 1 should along the lines of “…genetically determined in a way that would make a caste based way of allocating people to roles optimal”

          • undefined in this scope says:

            > Most people here don’t think intelligence is the ability to optimize your happiness.

            The fundamental tenet of Rationalism is that reasoned analysis allows you to make better decisions about ordering your life and the world. Is the idea that being smart makes you better at reasoned analysis really in question? I will concede I don’t know what percentage of the commenters consider themselves rationalist but it’s significant and seems to include Scott.

            > And they think it has a genetic component (this is important; it means you can get smarter Africans by feeding them a better diet).

            Calling it “a component” is weasel words. I can’t speak for what you believe but Scott certainly believes that more than 50% of your IQ is determined by genetics; and that barring radical biotech there is no way to convert a low intelligence human (IQ ~80) into a high intelligence human (IQ ~140).

            > I think a better way is to they don’t consider public consent or approval a necessary feature of finding the best decision- they embrace the technocratic mentality of solving problems with experts.

            How about “consent of the governed”? Given that the super-intelligent AI really & truly knows what maximizes human happiness there was a strong majority in the FAI post that supports implementing that by force. The NRx advocates that argue here really & truly believe that the low intelligence population would be better off if they were controlled by the highest intelligence humans. If you’re willing to accept the AI’s utilitarian imperative then the only moral failure of the NRx imperative is that they aren’t smart enough to be worthy yet.

          • Jiro says:

            Is the idea that being smart makes you better at reasoned analysis really in question?

            The idea that being smart leads you to maximize happiness is in question.

            Maximizing happiness and utility are not the same thing, and trying to maximize happiness leads to wireheading and blissfulk ignorance.

          • multiheaded says:

            Mr. Yarvin would certainly raise an eyebrow at the charge of promoting “human happiness”, and quote more of his beloved Carlyle.

          • undefined in this scope says:

            @Jiro
            But does changing which virtue you think is the proper target of optimization have any bearing on the logic?

            @multiheaded
            I will fully admit that I am only attempting to address NRx as I have seen it defended/argued on SSC, and to the best of my knowledge Moldbug doesn’t post here. I don’t actually care about the broader NRx movement, “Why does SSC & the Rationalist community generate/attract NRx?” is the interesting question.

          • Jiro says:

            But does changing which virtue you think is the proper target of optimization have any bearing on the logic?

            Yes. The original statement to which it applied was “Individual freedom is not necessary for human happiness.” If you don’t want to optimize human happiness, this becomes irrelevant. You’d have to argue “individual freedom is not necessary to implement coherent extrapolated volition”, and that’s quite a bit harder.

          • undefined in this scope says:

            @Jiro
            That’s fair and I would probably try to deflect by arguing that haven’t seen any evidence that quantifying a CEV is plausible. Most of my arguments here would be weak though as I haven’t given it enough thought.

            But, I have only seen CEV used as the basis for utilitarianism by a very small number of FAI-proponent-utilitarians. All utilitarians I’ve met in physical space argued on the basis of maximizing human happiness (in the broad sense) and maybe minimizing suffering. That basis seems to encompass Scott and most utilitarian SSC posters (do you think that’s an inaccurate assessment?).

            EDIT: On further reading, what definition of “individual freedom” could you use that would make you free under the CEV AI? All your actions are still dictated by the AI, it just knows that you’ll like them. This seems like a complete embrace of point #2 and still compatible with human authoritarianism.

          • Deiseach says:

            it’s pretty safe to assume that he supports HBD.

            Well, if someone insists on having a favourite haemoglobin protein, I suppose it may as well be HBD.

            I had to Google the acronym to understand what you were talking about. I don’t think Scott is a white racist, which is what you seem to be accusing him of; I do think he approaches things from the angle of “science is objective and factual and real, and by talking about the data we can get to truth”. I think he’s still young, and lived mainly in places where everyone was mostly civil and mostly nerdy, and is only now getting to experience the joys of free and frank exchange of views where you can be Insufficiently Progressive even if you’re a moderate liberal.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I posted the objection about happiness because it isn’t clear what happiness correlates to; happiness survey’s don’t give good clues. We do know that people can get used to nearly anything (quadriplegics reported happiness normalizes after some time) so that doesn’t tell us much.

            The only clear improvements are “not dying” (since being alive is a requirement) and wire heading.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think, ironically, because Scott is generally a nicer, more even-handed person (or at least tries to be: see the Principle of Charity), then it’s harder for him when he gets castigated for being insufficiently liberal.

          Whereas I am not a nice person, and hold personal views both social and religious which would get me tarred as five degrees worse than the Devil in Hell should I freely express them, so I don’t generally mind a bit of name-calling (by this stage, getting personally blamed for THE CRUSADES THE INQUISITION WITCH BURNING OPPRESSING WOMEN FACILITATING SLAVERY AND GENOCIDE OF NATIVE PEOPLES and whatever you’re having yourself because YOU’RE A CATHOLIC UNLESS YOU REPENT AND IMMEDIATELY SAY THE CHURCH IS AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN WRONG YOU ARE PERSONALLY TO BLAME has sufficiently toughened my skin in some regards).

          Scott, on the other hand, has been brought up with the requisite ‘right thinking person’s’ values, lived and learned/worked in a progressive/liberal enclave, and even is connected to unconventional/non-mainstream groups (e.g. polyamory).

          So being lumped in with the knuckle-draggers is going to feel like a very wounding personal attack on him 🙂

          • Psmith says:

            You know, this explains a whole lot.

          • nydwracu says:

            Yeah, there’s a cultural difference here. In certain parts of America (the most powerful parts, incidentally), not being completely on board with progressivism is… I believe “a way to find out who your real friends are” is the euphemism for cases like these. Or perhaps “not a good career move”. In some cases, it’s seen as literally worse than murder. #freemumia #dornerdidnothingwrong

          • FJ says:

            Deiseach, you forgot IN FAVOR OF CHILD MOLESTATION as one of the many, many alleged sins of Catholics. I carry a little bullet-pointed list in my wallet so I can keep track. 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh, FJ, I thought that went without saying! Didn’t Peter Tatchell use, as part of his apologia for “So why did you contribute an essay to a collection published by an advocate for paedophilia” with “At least I’m not the Pope!” 🙂

            Score card: we hate
            – women
            -children
            – LGBT+
            – fun
            – people getting married because sex
            – people not getting married because no sex so no children
            – science (of course!)
            – anyone not Catholic
            – anyone Catholic who does not kiss the Pope’s toe
            – anyone not white and European (or do I mean North American? I get so confused)
            – the great and glorious British Empire
            – the great and glorious American Republic (see what I mean about getting confused as to whether I’m supposed to hate or love Americans?)
            – capitalism and the free market
            – communism and the triumph of the proletariat
            – free thought
            – free love
            – free choice
            – sex
            – not having sex because no babies without sex (see above)
            – free lunches
            – the Jews
            – the Muslims
            – the pagans
            – the Protestants
            – probably the Hindus, Buddhists, animists, etc. if we don’t already lump them in with pagans

            We love:
            – power
            – money
            – oppressing people (which makes it tricky, since as a single, never-married, childless, asexual woman, I should be oppressing myself)
            – slavery, genocide, rape, murder, witch-burning and probably illegal home-taping of music/file-sharing/piracy of video games
            – every woman being a nun
            – every woman being married and having thirty babies at a minimum
            – old white men in dresses (the dresses thing is very important; bonus points if the person pointing this out mentions lace. You can’t say these are robes, or would you say the Dalai Lama wears a dress? Because only Catholic clergy wear dresses, every other religious garment is okay)

            If you can think of anything I’ve left out, please upload it to the Vatican Mind Control Satellite and of course it will immediately be downloaded to the implanted Mind Control Chip which we all receive from the bishop during the ceremony of Confirmation 🙂

          • FJ says:

            Wait a second… I like power and money…

            IT’S ALL TRUE

        • Nornagest says:

          mockery only legible to those who would consider it a compliment anyway

          I suspect you’re (badly) underestimating the number of non-NRx people here who’ve absorbed enough NRx culture through osmosis to get the gist. Not to mention the number of people willing and able to use Google if they’re confused.

        • Eggo says:

          It’s legible to Scott, and he clearly doesn’t see it as a compliment.

      • “Suffice it to say that the general flow of the progressive social graph is “no enemies to the left, no friends to the right,” and the general flow of the conservative social graph is – exactly the same. Who operates under the rule “no enemies to the right, no friends to the left?” Answer: basically, no one. If you doubt me on this, this one is worth investigating.”
        — Mencius Moldbug (June 18, 2009)

        Many people become reactionaries not merely because of their own reflective judgement, but are pushed into it due to exactly the experience you’re having here, repeated a thousandfold. It goes something like they: they disagree with the progressive narrative (I apologise for using such an imprecise term, but I have none better) on something small, like a matter of detail regarding an important sacred topic – say, about the statistical accuracy of certain claims – and find themselves subject to what you find yourself subject to now. Moldbug did not spring into this world fully-formed, like Venus Anadyomene; he got there in bits and pieces, in small rightward nudges and a few giant, beyond-the-Overton-window leaps.

        To answer your question: yes, you may ask for fewer comments like this in the future. No, I expect you will not be granted them – because of the discourse norm Moldbug described. By writing something like ‘Untitled’ (which, FWIW, I agree with you on), and by being actually balanced, you crossed over to the other side (again, not by my standards, but in the eyes of SJW above and his ilk). From them, expect no quarter.

        (It is because ‘the left’ imposes this sort of choice – to acquiesce completely, or to be punished for heresy for the slightest disagreement – that makes many reactionary. Might as well commit the murder for which you’re going to be hanged; in for a penny, in for a pound. (This obviously isn’t sound reasoning on its own, but it’s often how it plays out.)

        I think that this dynamic is unsustainable, and that the consensus gets away with it only because it’s dominant. When a ‘system’ like this cracks, it cracks hard; because it cannot crack halfway – again, for the reason Moldbug described.)

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          I don’t think it has to do with the Left/Right axis (if there even is one). Back then, it was “the right” which imposed an ever harsher morality code and punished you for deviating. Nowadays, what us interpret people interpret as THE moral code is controlled by the left. As always, most people want to just be left alone to live their lives.

          The differences come from differences in technology and society, today’s punishments are significantly less dangerous than they used to be, but far more invasive and repetitive.

          • I agree with the first paragraph.

            But not the second. Brandon Eich could probably afford to get fired; most people cannot.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Back then, it was “the right” which imposed an ever harsher morality code and punished you for deviating.

            You are implying that Puritans are rightists. Moldbug argues that they are the ideological ancestors of modern leftists. Jim, who models the process of memetic drift as one of leftist signalling spirals, puts it as follows:

            Puritans went from holier than thou, (monochrome clothing, giving rise to the business suit, war on Christmas, war on marriage, forbidding entertainment) to holier than Jesus (prohibition, female emancipation, and abolition of slavery), to unitarian, to militant atheist – yet despite being militant atheist, are still holier than thou.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >You are implying that Puritans are rightists.
            I don’t even know what I’m implying anymore, because it’s becoming increasingly hard for me to meaningfully distinguish what entails “right” and “left” outside its original conception without getting partisan.
            That being said, I’m talking about a much closer timeframe than puritans.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @jamie:

            My goodness, as if holier-than-thou could be confined to one tribe.

          • Nornagest says:

            The modern business suit evolved from British formal dress of the Victorian and Regency periods, not from Puritan “plain clothes” — those diverged some two centuries earlier, and in any case weren’t normally monochrome (though they were somber). I don’t expect the rest of that progression to be any more accurate.

          • James Picone says:

            @jaime

            It’s almost like when you define ‘left’ as ‘someone who is holier than thou’, the left is always holier than thou!

          • RCF says:

            “Brandon Eich could probably afford to get fired; most people cannot.”

            But it is precisely because Eich was in such a prominent position (and, therefore, presumably financially secure) that his political contribution received so much attention.

        • Alexp says:

          That doesn’t track with my experiences at all. Conservatives hate liberals just as much as liberals hate conservatives.

      • veronica d says:

        @Scott — The thing for me is, I like your blog, I basically like you (insofar as I can like a person who I have never met), so I’m not attacking you the way I’d attack “an enemy” (whatever that means in this context). But I do think you can get pretty messy on SJ issues.

        Which fine, you’ve had some bad experiences and I respect that. I still think the broad sweep of SJ thinking is correct, and because politics is the mind killer, you’ve been recruited onto the anti-SJ side.

        Like, I’m not saying you did this. I’m saying it happened.

        So I dunno. I don’t think “balanced” can really be a stable position for very long. Nor do I think one can step outside the conflict and be a pure observer. It doesn’t work that way. Everything is meta in every way. Everything feeds back. There is no “outside.”

        Which, a lot of people really wish they could speak from the outside, and they might try very hard, but they’ll get pulled in.

        The key is to understand this, and then decide how and where you get pulled in.

        If I can use a stale metaphor: You’re like ship in a storm. We all are. We can choose some things, but not others. And the storm gonna take us where it will take us.

        Anyway, blah blah blah. I often feel a lot of hostility from your comments section — not from you, but from the community you’ve attracted. Like, I might want to talk dispassionately about SJ stuff, but if I do I’m gonna be attacked hard —

        And I can play the attack/counter attack game as well as anyone, but it’s draining.

        Anyway, it’s easy enough to (mostly) avoid the comments section. But still, something gets lost.

        (And yes I realize the irony of making a comment in the comments section about how I don’t like the comments section and I can avoid it. There is no need to point that out.)

        • Alraune says:

          I don’t think “balanced” can really be a stable position for very long.

          True, but only because the positions are moving targets and anyone who doesn’t constantly change their mind to keep up with the latest ideological fads is declared rightist.

          • Nicholas says:

            Or more accurately: Because defending the status quo/ changing the status quo are, outside anything else, already political positions even if the reasoning for supporting that position is ultimately not considered political. SJ isn’t a question of making decisions political, it’s a question of pointing out that political decisions are being made, and proving opposition in what was already a political sphere. A sphere that only seemed non-political because there wasn’t any contest.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            That is essentially declaring everything political. If you aren’t embracing the 5 year plan when you are selling toothpaste to customers you are reactionary upholding the status quo.

            Needless to say most people consider a significant sphere of their life nonpolitical and would prefer not to have them considered ground for politics. Because politics (like religion and sex) is socially corrosive.

          • Adam says:

            Not everything, but come on, it’s worth considering and being aware of the impact your positions and decisions have on other people even if you aren’t taking positions and making decisions for politically-motivated reasons.

        • Irenist says:

          @veronica d:

          Your comment is gracious and thoughtful, which makes me trust you, despite being not really SJ-aligned. In what ways is Scott’s position “messy,” and what would be some good sites to read for a thoughtful corrective?

          (I ask this not b/c I want to see Scott critiqued, but b/c I usually nod along with him, and I want to find out if I myself am wrong about something important.)

          Thanks!

        • The Anonymouse says:

          My problem is, the comments section is more impoverished without you. And that isn’t because I agree with you and I want to hear more things I agree with; generally the opposite, in fact. SSC is valuable to me because it brings a diversity of opinion that’s tough to get elsewhere. It has brought you and SJW and Multi into my life, as well as various breeds of NRx, and all sorts of other people. My life is broader because of all of it.

          If, as a community, we’re going to lose members on the basis of “oh, I can’t post there, how can I be guaranteed that everyone already agrees with me?”, can it at least be the less-thoughtful folks? If I wanted a community where I could be certain that everything said was already vetted, policed, and pre-agreed with, well… there’s a whole internet for that.

          • Cauê says:

            I would have phrased this differently, but I agree.

            One of the selling points of this place used to be that, through some sort of forbidden sorcery, Scott had managed to get SJ folks, communists, liberals, libertarians, catholics, neoractionaries, etc. under one roof, and the result was (often!) civil debate, not WW3.

            It’s still somewhat true (better than the rest of the internet, for sure), but not as much. But the way to get back to that (and this isn’t directed to Veronica, I’m just taking the opportunity) would be folks getting back to the discussion, instead of complaining that there are so many non-liberals saying so many non-liberal things.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cauê:

            This place is still better than most places I have found, so there is that. If you notice my posting trend, I clearly lean left, and I am currently quite active in the comments section, so I am trying to do my part on the discussion side.

            But the overall tone of the comments section seems to be dominated by libertarians. With Scott recently saying that he tracks traffic and gets positive utility from seeing more traffic, things like talking up Mr. Sailer start to seem like Ron Paul’s “marriage” to certain organizations.

            And why am I being elliptical here? Because I know the backlash that may result from what I might be hinting at. The idea that this backlash is uniquely a feature of the left is hardly anything like true.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            From my experience, in a war of attrition between blue and red community members (that is, where the moderation doesn’t favor either side), the reds usually outlast the blues.

            My theory is that there is simply a larger supply of blue internet communities, so the option of simply leaving a place with people with views that they find distasteful is more viable to them.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            I’ve got a few theories, but I think there are two big issues.

            First off, Ozy stopped doing her Race and Gender Open Topics that coincide with SSC. They provided a good vent for social justice related issues in a more SJ friendly area. This made the community more welcoming to those of a SJ bent while keeping the discussion out of the more libertarian SSC comment section.

            The second reason piggybacks off WHtA’s point about attrition; blues (in my personal experience and in the greatest data point of all, my half remembered findings from a study about facebook political leanings) are far more likely to take their ball and go home from a community if they can’t dominate the discourse. I’m pretty blue myself and plenty of the blue message boards and communities I’m in have a few reds that just hang around like missionary’s that slept with a mob boss’ wife, refusing to leave despite nobody wanting them around. On the other hand, when I check out more red sites there’s a noticeable absence of blues, with not even a convenient scapegoat hanging on.

            Overall I think we could do with a nice infusion of blues here; I’ve gotten tarred for SJWiness for statements that would get me attacked for the exact opposite reason on only moderately SJ leaning boards, which I think is a good indicator that we’ve skewed too hard to one side.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Any indication of how far to one side or another a community is skewed that only references the skew of other communities and not ground truths is a recipe for insanity in the name of balance. It’s like those jokes about how “reality has a well-known liberal bias”.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, what if SSC comments tend to become more libertarian over time because libertarianism is the correct view and rational people having discussions tend to zero in on the correct view over time? As a libertarian myself, this is, of course, how I tend to think, but a leftist could make the same argument about why, for example, academia skews so hard left. If the representation of various views stayed roughly the same for a long time that would actually tend to indicate the fruitlessness of discussion, no?

            If anything, if the comments on any given board were evenly balanced between the current interpretations of left and right in the US, then that would tend to count against their truth value, because, wouldn’t it be a nice coincidence if the correct position on everything just happened to be located right in the middle of the two currently dominant American worldviews?

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes, what if SSC comments tend to become more libertarian over time because libertarianism is the correct view and rational people having discussions tend to zero in on the correct view over time?

            Frankly, I don’t think we’re awesome enough to zero in on the correct view over time, and I say that as someone with substantial libertarian sympathies (though I wouldn’t call myself a libertarian).

            I definitely don’t think social science/humanities academia is that awesome.

          • onyomi says:

            You don’t think commenters on SSC are awesome enough to, over time, come closer to the truth than they would have otherwise?

            I think my own positions are at least a little better justified and/or nuanced by virtue of having had discussions here, and I’ve only been commenting for six months or so (and I certainly think my worldview is richer and slightly more accurate for having read Scott and Eliezer’s actual posts).

          • Nornagest says:

            Individual commenters, maybe. The community as a whole, no.

            A culture being able to get its common models recursively closer to reality is really an astonishingly high bar to clear; the scientific/technical traditions of a handful of cultures managed it, but only haltingly and with the help of a subject matter that’s inherently hard to politicize. The greater rationalist community was meant to improve on that, and it was a good try, but at this point I’m pretty much out of faith in it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I don’t think any change in the aggregate political opinions of this comment section comes from us having truthtracking discussions in it. I think most of the change is not due to commentors changing their political opinions at all, but due to different types of commentators joining, leaving, or varying their comment frequency. If there is a truthseeking effect, it likely comes from Scott himself narrowing in on the truth and this being more or less acceptable to commentors in proportion to how well they accept the truth. (It’s likely that Scott has at least some persuasive effect as well, but I suspect it’s outweighed by change in community membership/engagement.)

            But even if the shift in aggregate political opinion doesn’t arise from any truth-seeking process, it still could move closer to the truth by pure accident, and mere reference to other communities does not show that it hasn’t unless you can show those communities did in fact do a good job of seeking truth.

          • Cauê says:

            (Edit: ninja’d)
            If onyomi’s theory were true we’d be seeing people changing their minds and becoming more libertarian, rather than a change in [active] population, which doesn’t seem to be the case.

          • onyomi says:

            To add to what I said about perfect balance among viewpoints tending to indicate distance from, rather than proximity to, the truth:

            There probably still is a good reason to aim for some balance, albeit not at the expense of truth, and that is that partisan leanings are one of the biggest cognitive biases to which human minds are err. Therefore, I hope Scott will not censor himself by thinking “well, can’t post that or I’ll exceed my quota for right wing ideas this week,” but I also appreciate his efforts to always give ample consideration to both sides of a debate.

          • onyomi says:

            Theoretically, and I’m not claiming this is happening here, but a community could gradually become “less wrong” simply by virtue of gradually repelling people who are wrong and attracting people who are right, no?

            Re. individual changes, I think political views in particular do tend to be very rigid, but may appear more rigid than they really are because changes tend to be subtle and people don’t usually care to advertise their former wrongness.

            Like, if you looked at Onyomi posts from 6 months ago and Onyomi posts from today you’d probably be hard-pressed to detect any change in my views on anything. But that doesn’t mean my views haven’t subtly shifted in various ways only I’m aware of.

            That is, if individual posters are getting “less wrong,” it probably will not usually be nearly so obvious as someone actually posting “I was a liberal, but am now a libertarian” or vice versa. I think we are more likely to occasionally witness changing views on particular issues, and that may actually be better since, presumably neither tribe gets everything exactly right.

          • Nornagest says:

            Theoretically, and I’m not claiming this is happening here, but a community could gradually become “less wrong” simply by virtue of gradually repelling people who are wrong and attracting people who are right, no?

            Sure, that’s theoretically possible. The trouble is finding out when it’s actually happening, since the fraction of politicized groups that think it’s happening approaches 100% and obviously most of them are wrong.

            Similarly, just about everyone thinks they’re living in the reality-based community.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t think any change in the aggregate political opinions of this comment section comes from us having truthtracking discussions in it. I think most of the change is … due to different types of commentators joining, leaving, or varying their comment frequency.

            It is possible for both of these to be true. Imagine that discussion shifts towards the truth, and then people stay or leave depending on something that is correlated with the truth. For instance, imagine that people tend to leave when faced with criticism that they can’t rebut. Providing that there is a certain percentage of people with correct ideas, people with wrong ideas will be preferentially driven away, so the ones left behind will be more correct.

          • suntzuanime says:

            In a conversation of the form “I suggest X has happened” -> “I suggest that X was caused by Y” -> “I suggest that in fact Y has not happened and X was caused by Z”, I don’t think it’s a relevant next step to say “but Z does not preclude Y”, because the claim was not that Z therefore not Y, the claim was that not Y, and the X that Y was introduced to explain could be explained by Z.

          • Randy M says:

            “missionary’s that slept with a mob boss’ wife”

            Are you mixing metaphors or is this a particular reference?

          • Alraune says:

            Libertarians have virtually zero agreement on what truth actually looks like, so we can safely rule out convergence to the truth.

            “I’m a libertarian” is one part vague philosophical declaration that we should have somewhere between 5% and 105% less laws than we have now, one part political signalling that you’re not an Evangelical Conservative or New England Democrat, and two parts personality signalling that economic models and explicit verbal reasoning make sense to you.

          • suntzuanime says:

            We can’t rule out convergence to the truth on that basis because even if libertarianism doesn’t lead to truth, truth might lead to libertarianism. Your description of libertarianism contains a number of positive claims; if those claims are true, then finding truth brings one closer to libertarianism.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            Here’s a simple model.

            1. Continued rational discussion does produce more accurate information over time

            2. However, continued rational discussion does not affect core assumptions or premises.

            3. Core assumptions or premises tend to be clustered.

            Given those three assumptions, it could be true that continued rational discussion does converge on truth *and* communities of discourse tend to sort ideologically without the sort reflecting on the inherent truth of the underlying assumptions. Discussion would become less fruitful over time for those who don’t share the more common core assumptions. Meanwhile, those who remain would be converging on better models of reality than people who share their core assumptions but who don’t participate in the rational discussion.

          • “If onyomi’s theory were true we’d be seeing people changing their minds and becoming more libertarian”

            Note that it doesn’t require libertarianism to be correct, just for it to be more defensible than most people in the conversation initially believed. My rather casual impression is that libertarians are more familiar with the arguments against libertarianism than anti-libertarians are with the arguments for it, so that isn’t all that implausible.

          • onyomi says:

            A good point, and I think accurate.

            Although it’s much better than when I first became a libertarian (when most people had never even heard the word), it’s still true that most people don’t have a good grasp of what libertarians even think, beyond “government boo!” much less the stronger arguments for it. Therefore, if libertarians’ presence in a group seems to push the group more in that direction, it could be a “low hanging fruit” phenomenon.

        • Esquire says:

          I mean… isn’t saying that there is no “outside” view in any conflict basically taking a stand that rationality is impossible or incoherent?

          I really really like Scott’s writing even when I disagree with him because I can tell that he’s committed to knowing *the truth*.

          People like Scott are my escape from the hell of “everything is meta in every way”. It really actually isn’t!

          • veronica d says:

            I mean… isn’t saying that there is no “outside” view in any conflict basically taking a stand that rationality is impossible or incoherent?

            Well, actually sometimes it is indeed impossible, because the discourse shapes the reality.

            An example: imagine if the CEO of a company has done a good internal analysis, and she sees a reasonably high probability that the company will not last through the next quarter. It’s not a high probability of failure, just maybe in the 20% range.

            If her company folds, customers with outstanding orders would be left high and dry. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that no one will insure this risk.

            Let us add that “the market” has not yet figured it out. Perhaps they won’t. They cannot see her numbers.

            Okay, so now imagine that the CEO desires to make an honest public statement about her company’s chances.

            But she cannot. If she publicly says, “The company has a 20% change of failing over the next quarter, which would leave our customers in a lurch…”

            Well, I bet you that by saying that the probability of failure would suddenly become over 20%. What customer will place a new, uninsured order?

            Okay, so let us suppose she really wants to be totally open and honest. (Which would probably get her sued. But whatever. Let’s pretend.) Well, mathematically speaking, there is probably a fixed point solution of P(failure | current-state ^ public release of this information), but that seems quite a bit harder to compute than just the P(failure | current-state ^ no public release of information).

            Thus she is limited in how honestly rational she can be.

            Does that make sense? It is one thing to compute a first-order probability. It gets much harder to compute its second-order effects.

            For example, perhaps the action “Scott gives his unvarnished opinion” has the effect “his blog becomes more popular with people to the right of him” and thus “less popular with people to the left,” which causes “Scott gets more flak from the left,” which causes “more people from the right support Scott and encourage him.”

            And if Scott is perfectly resistant to all social pressure, then fine. He actually seems a pretty solid guy. But the community changes. But more, he is part of that community, and I suspect it will (to some degree) change him. I might not like the changes that happen.

            I’m not saying this is good or bad, but it’s a think that seems to happen.

            Whatever else, I totally trust Scott’s good faith. That matters.

          • Nornagest says:

            @veronica —

            I’m not seeing the contradiction here. If the CEO wants her company to succeed, the winning move is to spin or shut up as hard as she can. If she wants to be honest, she can do that too, but it carries consequences that she’s perfectly capable of seeing in foresight and taking into account. Where’s the irrationality?

            Well, I suppose it proves rationality is impossible or incoherent if you equate rationality with the sort of radical honesty policies that some people around here seem to advocate, but I’ve never been super thrilled with those.

          • Nicholas says:

            There is always meta. It’s that the meta can often be re-framed in terms of your values, which only seem meta if you’re in the presence of someone with different values. For example, there is an underlying statement about gender essentialism in putting in male and female bathrooms. This political statement about gender always exists, but until you have genderfluid people in your building it won’t seem political.

          • veronica d says:

            @Nornagest — It’s the “20%” that she cannot express. The facts are, a good faith estimate gave a probability of 20%, but that is based on conditions that exclude her sharing the information.

            There is no “contradiction” per se. Reality remains consistent (if it is consistent; I dunno). Nor is it that she cannot say true things. Instead, it’s that she cannot say this one true thing and have it remain true.

            Like I said, there is a fixed point, where she finds a percentage of failure that will match the percentage of failure after that number is released to the public. But that number will be harder to compute.

            In math terms, say F is the computed chance of failure, and say P(x) is the new chance of failure if the CEO publicly states that x is the chance of failure. Solve for F:

            F = P(F)

            (Of course I’m kinda skimming over the formalities of probability here and assuming that we can make them more precise than perhaps we should. But still.)

            (Also note that the fixed point could be .99999999…, which would suck for the company.)

            (Also note, such equations are usually solved iteratively. More on that below.)

            You are correct that in real life the CEO smiles to the camera and shuts her mouth.

            Anyway, this is why I don’t get too upset when company executives and politicians lie to the public, at least when it seems as if their lie is less self-serving and more in the interest of their company/country.

            I find this unfortunate, by the way, and indeed I understand it’s failure modes, but the failure modes of “be completely honest all the time” seem worse —

            for people like political leaders and such. It’s perhaps different for you and me.

            Anyway, my point about SCC is, discourse changes a community, and in ways that may be at odds with the object-level meaning of the discourse. These effects are dynamic, and the space is (if I can get super-mathy) “non convex” — that’s kind of a metaphor, but I think it’s an apt metaphor.

            Anyway, observe and iterate. Fine a stable-ish place you are happy with. (Or embrace the chaos, if that’s how you roll.)

            But notice trends. I hope Scott is watching the trends.

            (Which actually, I suspect he is. I also suspect he might be making a decision I won’t like. Anyway, his house, his rules.)

          • Esquire says:

            Veronica:

            a) I feel like I understand your “fixed point” reasoning and agree with your math and think your thinking here is cool and interesting.

            b) Once again, and I’m sorry if this is a little rude, I feel like you are using an irrelevant very-low-probability theoretical point to rationalize. Scott’s writing is not really analogous to your example… yes he causally affects his commenter community but he (sadly) does not causally affect the larger world in nearly a strong enough way to create this kind of feedback loop. To the extent that “SJ” consists of factual statements, he is free to judge their truth value and write about them without worrying about epistemologically complex effects.

            c) I guess maybe I am being unfair, because there is something epistemologically feedbacky about Scott’s parent comment specifically saying “can I please not get comments like this”, but…….. is that REALLY what we are talking about?

        • Anonymous says:

          It is interesting that you say:
          “I often feel a lot of hostility from your comments section — not from you, but from the community you’ve attracted. Like, I might want to talk dispassionately about SJ stuff, but if I do I’m gonna be attacked hard —”

          You often post very high quality stuff. However you are also a very aggresive and unfriendly poster. Which is fine, not everyone is as insightful as you, even though most people are nicer than you.

          To your credit I think you are being pretty unbiased in your hostility. For example you are rude to “SJ protected classes” and people who seem to be your friends. Explicitly you are not very charitable to nice (on thingofthings) and multi-headed (both trans and multi seems like your friend to some extent).

        • Randy M says:

          I value the diversity of the comments section here, and the civility, but the honesty, to the point of bluntness often, moreso. I’d rather have people from both sides say what they mean and why (within the wide norms of the blog guidelines) than politely dance around ten feet inside the edge of the overton window.

          Also, I’d like everyone to keep in mind that “disagrees with me” is not tantamount to “was mean to me,” even if your sentiments were heartfelt and you were in the minority position.

        • Elissa says:

          Assuming bad faith and declaring that this is typical for members of [reference class] is pretty rude. I would feel attacked if someone said that about me.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Mark:

          Isn’t the start of this discussion premised on the idea that those on the left disagree with someone and express their antipathy forcefully? In other words, how can you really frame this as “your side does it” thing?

        • Sylocat says:

          Well, sure, passive-aggressively-worded insults and denying someone’s frame of reality based on their political affiliation do not necessarily qualify as “attacking hard.”

          You’re still proving her point, though, Mark.

        • Cauê says:

          I genuinely don’t understand what “denying someone’s frame of reality” means.

        • Randy M says:

          I think its like when your wife says you “aren’t validating her feelings”, and you say “Well, that’s because your feelings are invalid” and the next thing she says to you is “good morning”, not necessarily the very next day.

          (Or is that just me?)

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think “denying one’s frame of reality” in this context is a reference to summarily dismissing one’s perception of being attacked as “being disagreed with.”

          If the some of the counters use mostly ad-hominem arguments, straw-men, and/or rely mostly on snark and emotion instead of reason, these might be fairly categorized as “attacks” rather than disagreements. I’m sure there are other properties of arguments that could be put in the “attack” category. Broadly speaking, I think there are arguments that anyone could categorize as attacks.

          Given that Mark does not attempt to determine whether Veronica has been attacked (by any definition, let alone one that is mutually disagreeable) this is an assumption that Veronica’s perceptions are simply invalid.

        • Publius Varinius says:

          Like, I might want to talk dispassionately about SJ stuff, but if I do I’m gonna be attacked hard —

          Have you considered that reading dispassionate talk about SJ stuff triggers some people? As such, is it possible that they feel “attacked” too?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I feel like you’re kind of doing a fallacy of grey here. “No one can be perfectly balanced and apolitical” – okay. But some people can be closer to that than others, and that’s often good. The guy who makes an honest effort to consider both sides, even if he never quite removes his own bias, is doing something different than the fascist stormtrooper. I worry that “no one can be perfectly balanced and apolitical” is eliding that difference and making it difficult to implement norms that favor the former rather than the latter.

          • Nicholas says:

            I’m not sure that the argument from grey is the right reference. As I understand it, the general SJ premise in play here is “all decisions that take place in public have political dimensions. There’s no such thing as more or less political, because what is a political consideration depends on context. It doesn’t seem politically charged to say “Zeus is a fictional character” in a Christian church or rationality meetup, but it is definitely political in a Hellenistic Pagan Temple.” My reference of choice here is “Non-political is how some decisions feel from the inside, because whether or not a thing seems political says nothing about the thing, and everything about you.”

          • Nornagest says:

            It doesn’t seem politically charged to say “Zeus is a fictional character” in a Christian church…

            It does to me, although not as politically charged as the equivalent accusation of Jesus would be. “Fictional character” and “pagan god” are denotationally equivalent in a Christian context, but there is a connotational difference, and a lot of it consists of respect for religion as a category.

          • walpolo says:

            >There’s no such thing as more or less political, because what is a political consideration depends on context.

            Lots of things depend on context which are nonetheless objective categories. What counts as “tall” depends on whether you’re among midgets or NBA players, but still there is such a thing as more or less tall. And there is such a thing, objectively, as tall-in-your-context.

            So objectively, it *is* not political to say that Zeus is a fictional character if you say it in the setting of contemporary America. Because in contemporary America, the Olympian gods are almost never worshiped.

          • Cauê says:

            I think some people are using “political” as something like”likely to trigger tribalist sentiment and reactions”, and others are using it as something like “likely or intending to benefit a particular political position”.

          • Peter says:

            With height, it’s particularly clear. Whether or not I count as short or tall may vary from context to context, but in all contexts, I’m taller than a 5’6″ person and shorter than a 6’6″ person, and indeed slightly more than twice as tall as a 2’11” child. Also, if I said I was sitting on a chair with my feet on the floor, you were to guess at where my head was and where my feet were, the error bars on your guesses would overlap very severely – but it wouldn’t stop you having a pretty good guess as to how far my head is from my feet.

            The “because” bit in Nicholas’s take on the SJ premise is a non-sequitur, as far as I can tell.

          • walpolo says:

            >>I think some people are using “political” as something like”likely to trigger tribalist sentiment and reactions”, and others are using it as something like “likely or intending to benefit a particular political position”.

            Right, but “Zeus is fictional” won’t count as political by either of these definitions (it isn’t likely to trigger any sentiment at all among present-day tribes, and it isn’t likely/intended to benefit any political position that anyone in the present-day world actually occupies).

            Unless something should count as political if [it would serve some political purpose if people were very different than they actually are], but that seems like a strange definition.

          • Nicholas says:

            In defense of the because non-sequiter. The point is something like “political as an adjective is not like tall, it’s like taller. You can’t say ‘He is taller.” as a complete sentence, you have to be taller than something. You can’t say “This statement is not political.” you can only say “This statement is less political than [x].”
            An observation RE Hellenistic Pagan Tribe: I apparently know more Hellenistic Pagans than average and succumbed to availability, but it’s also interesting to note that one of the large Hellenistic political groups in Greece has asked the government to please give them their churches back. The government said no.
            And the widest possible schelling point for defining political is “an action is political if it affects proximately another sapient being.”

          • Peter says:

            Nicholas:

            Finding a “than” is pretty easy, especially if we’re looking at Scott’s remarks. “X’s statement is less political.” (note full stop) is not meaningful, I’ll give you that, however, “X’s statement is less political than it would have been if X had not made an honest effort to consider both sides.”

            Or even, “If you make an honest effort to consider both sides, your statements will be less political.” This is I think is OK as the “than they would otherwise have been” is implicit.

        • Sylocat says:

          I thought “Frame of Reality” was part of the official LW/Rationalist lingo for interpreting informational input. Sorry the thread got derailed.

        • Cauê says:

          HBC, I was with you until “this is an assumption that Veronica’s perceptions are simply invalid”, which again just seemed to… lack meaning.

          I get the reaction to the tone, but is disputing the framing somehow morally wrong?

          (The interesting thing to notice, in my opinion, is that some seem to be arguing that “an ‘attack’ was perceived” and others that “no ‘attack’ was meant”, for maybe different values of “attack”. And hey, maybe we can agree on both things. If true, understanding this from both sides would probably be a good thing for several reasons)

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Cauê:

          Mark does not attempt to argue that sometimes strong disagreement can be perceived as attack and that perhaps this is the case here . Go back and re-read his comment.

          Rather he simply states that she (and all other SJWs) say they have been attacked when the moderator won’t ban opposing viewpoints.

          He could have simply asked “How do you discriminate between disagreement and attack?” He doesn’t even come close to framing that question.

        • Cauê says:

          Mark does not attempt to argue that sometimes strong disagreement can be perceived as attack and that perhaps this is the case here . Go back and re-read his comment.

          He says that, in this case, disagreement has been framed as attacks (also added that this is “standard SJ modality of engagement”).

          (my last paragraph wasn’t an attempt to “explain” his post. Maybe an attempt to steelman the position, while arguing for a better one)

          He could have simply asked “How do you discriminate between disagreement and attack?” He doesn’t even come close to framing that question.

          This would be more civil and productive, but I don’t think that disputing the framing by merely asserting a different one is unusual or particularly remarkable (tone aside).

        • Sylocat says:

          but I don’t think that disputing the framing by merely asserting a different one is unusual or particularly remarkable (tone aside).

          You’re right, that is not unusual or remarkable by itself. Which is why that is not what people are criticizing Mark for doing.

        • Cauê says:

          No, it’s just the part of the criticism that I didn’t understand.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          “But I do think you can get pretty messy on SJ issues.”

          If you’re curious about why you get a hostile reaction in comments sections, phraseology like this is a good example. Statements like this don’t map to “you’re wrong, because X” or even “you’re wrong, you idiot,” they map to “you’re wrong, in the same way a child who writes on the wall with a permanent marker is wrong; I will now educate you in how to behave properly.” You aren’t attempting to convince someone, an action which acknowledges multiple points of view, even if you believe they are wrong. You are attempting to instruct someone, an action which admits of no other valid points of view whatsoever.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Or you could interpret that statement charitably, and interpret that as a claim that Scott is sloppy in his argumentation when it comes to issues within the SJ sphere.

            You could ask for citations of what constitutes sloppiness/messiness.

            You could even point out that this a sloppy/messy argument to make, as it is not very precise (which I agree with, generally).

            But straw-manning the statement isn’t particularly helpful.

          • RCF says:

            There is a similar issue with “check your privilege”. The message sent is “You should see whether you’re coming from a position of privilege. And if you decide that you’re not, then you’re wrong and should perform the evaluation again.” An evaluation where the “correct” answer has already been determined isn’t “checking”. Saying “check your privilege” is just a passive aggressive way of saying “you’re privileged”. If you really think that it’s important to communicate to someone that you think they’re privileged, you should just say “I think you’re privileged”.

            @HeelBearCub:

            Telling someone how their phraseology is interpreted is not straw-manning.

          • Nornagest says:

            I always parsed the “check” in that phrase as meaning something similar to “halt” or “curb”, not “inspect”.

            Less passive-aggressive but a lot more condescending: the message is “your thinking is so corrupted by social forces that you’re not worth talking to seriously until you’ve seen the Matrix accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior grown some class consciousness.”

            Neoreactionaries have their own version of this meme, but they call it “pwning”.

          • AJD says:

            A third possible interpretation is “check” = ‘set aside’ (as in “check your coat at the front desk”).

          • Cauê says:

            This third interpretation was how I initially understood it, but now I’m pretty sure they’d say that’s not possible.

          • AJD says:

            It’s semantically a very strange case!—the one word can have three different meanings, but which meaning the word actually has doesn’t really matter, since the phrase has essentially the same pragmatic meaning either way.

            That is, ‘be aware of your privilege’, ‘restrain your privilege’, and ‘set aside your privilege’ all basically share the same communicative force (‘don’t be guided by your privilege’) in slightly different metaphorical ways.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Cauê:

          Veronica’s comment is a self-report of her subjective experience in the comments section. The words “attacked hard” are simply the end-point of a statement of why she doesn’t want to discuss SJ issues here. Mark’s comment isn’t designed to engage her in debate. It’s not framed in a way that recognizes that her subjective experience might be accurately reported.

          So, to get to your point about reframing, a way to reframe her argument without denying her subjective experience would be:

          “Is it that you are being attacked, or are others arguing forcefully against the idea, and perhaps rejecting the premise of the questions?”

          That is the meat of his reframe, isn’t it?

        • veronica d says:

          Let me clarify.

          (Which won’t address the meta conversation about tone and stuff. But whatever.)

          It’s this: I think that “privilege” exists and is important, and that “check your privilege” is really good advice sometimes. I think “mansplaining” is really a thing, and it has much to do with how status plays out in conversation and who, according to the terms of sexism, is supposed to have status —

          alongside how unhappy some people get when those status roles are challenged.

          Anyway, I am well aware that this stuff is hard to talk about. It’s unstable, in the sense of community dynamics, and thus leads to really ugly spaces where people say, “Go check your privilege you mansplainy shitlord!”

          And yeah, that’s maybe less than helpful.

          But I would still like to discuss how privilege works, and how “mansplaining” works and other things that women/minorities/queers/etc. have to deal with.

          And also stuff that weird, autistic nerds have to deal with. So yeah!

          I want to talk about how discourse reflects power, and how it shapes power, and how so much politics happens according to what is not said, and who is allowed to speak when, and who gets heard, and who pays the price for nonsense.

          Cuz to me that topic is as important as map/territory disputes. Cuz most people here understand that the Overton Window shapes our world as much as base material reality, and that just talking about an ethical system can have effects that might be at odds with the tenets of the ethical system [1].

          That seems important.

          For me, what people say and think about transsexuality is profoundly important to my quality of life, and cis people who say dumb, hurtful things often pay little cost, but I pay much cost, and that’s the way it is. Of course I’m gonna fight over that topic. I only get one life.

          #####

          Anyway, back to my main point. I can’t really bring up these topics around here without immediately getting slammed by “OMG SJWs are sooooo terrible!”

          (I’m exaggerating. A little bit.)

          And that is a useless conversation, which I can hear endlessly on Tumblr if I want. (And don’t assume the SJWs are the only shrill people on
          Tumblr. The anti-SJW brigade has some rather loathsome elements. If you want to find the most stupid and petty arguments possible, they’re easy to find. It doesn’t always take two sides, but in this case two sides are readily present.)

          But anyway, these topic are worth discussing in a non-tribal way, on their own terms, based on whether they describe true things or false things. How they play out in discourse communities is a separate topic.

          That latter topic is also worth discussing, but it seems like I cannot discuss the prior topic without endless derailment to the second. This, I think, is at odds with the spirit of rational discourse. YMMV.

          (Plus, let me add, it can be pretty hard to be the “lone voice” on a topic, when surrounded by people who really don’t like your position. It’s unpleasant.)

          #####

          [1] Consider this, under a capitalist global economy, just talking about relaxing intellectual property law for anti-retroviral drugs, to treat the AIDS epidemic, could end up hurting victims more than it helps, at least over the long term. This might happen because investors steer away from anti-retroviral research, as they fear a change in policy could destroy their profits. Thus such talk increases the general sense of risk around that type of research, which under capitalism can hinder such research.

          I don’t know if this argument is true, but it seem plausible. I’m not sure if I trust economists to measure something so subtle.

          But anyway, maybe. I still think we should provide anti-retroviral drugs for free. I guess. But it’s a gamble.

          (I wonder if just saying what I just said could, over the long term, if it gets repeated, end up hurting AIDS sufferers more than it helps, because it bolsters arguments against free drugs. Hmmm.)

        • nydwracu says:

          For me, what people say and think about transsexuality is profoundly important to my quality of life, and cis people who say dumb, hurtful things often pay little cost, but I pay much cost, and that’s the way it is. Of course I’m gonna fight over that topic. I only get one life.

          What people around you say and think. What happens in Afghanistan doesn’t make any difference to you.

          But USG made the name of the country take singular agreement and then wiped out the major language barrier, and now everyone thinks what happens on the other side of the country affects them, so there’s nothing for it but to try to take the whole thing over. So you can’t just take over Portland or Oakland or whatever — you have to take over the whole country.

          Ideally, I wouldn’t have reason to go northeast of Pennsylvania, south of Maryland, or west of the Dakotas, and probably wouldn’t have all that great a command of English, so I wouldn’t have to worry about what y’all get up to in Portland or Oakland, or what nonsense some journalists in Brooklyn are trying to push on the Anglosphere that I wouldn’t be a goddamn part of. Memes don’t spread so readily across language barriers. And the federal government would be a handful of diplomats and the post office. But after the political consequences of three major wars, America is effectively a multiethnic empire ruled by a specific sort of person in a specific set of geographical locations, and that setup never works well for anyone outside it. Or anyone inside it, since they’re stuck having to civilize the hated savages.

        • Ever An Anon says:

          @Veronica,

          If you just want to speak about your personal experiences or your opinions, you should feel free to do so (within the rules of the blog, obviously). After all, that’s exactly what all of us are doing.

          The point where people are disagreeing isn’t that you should be allowed to speak but that everyone else has to ‘shut up and listen’ as some delightful folks have put it. Much less unskeptically accept said experiences/opinions by never expressing doubt or requesting evidence.

          Again, that doesn’t mean you or anyone else should have to deal with personal attacks. But it seems like, as the parent said, a refusal to privilege the discussion in favor of SJ viewpoints is in-and-of-itself seen as an attack. That is incompatible with rational debate.

          We all take our lumps for unpopular opinions: I was treated like a weird alien and had my sanity questioned for expressing my dislike of Ian Banks’ Culture to cite a particularly trivial example. But by that same measure I’m equally free to criticize views I think are poorly thought out. Giving anyone immunity to criticism turns the comments section from a boxing match into curb-stomping.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          What people around you say and think.

          But in this context, “around you” is the SSC comments section.

        • Cauê says:

          @HeelBearCub

          So, to get to your point about reframing, a way to reframe her argument without denying her subjective experience would be:

          “Is it that you are being attacked, or are others arguing forcefully against the idea, and perhaps rejecting the premise of the questions?”

          That is the meat of his reframe, isn’t it?

          Yes, or close enough. But isn’t the difference just tone? If he thinks her framing does not accurately describe what happened, that’s a valid point of discussion.

          @Veronica:

          (Plus, let me add, it can be pretty hard to be the “lone voice” on a topic, when surrounded by people who really don’t like your position. It’s unpleasant.)

          You introduced too many topics at once for me to feel like engaging, but I’ll comment on this one, only to say that I know quite well what it feels like. In my academic life our places would have been inverted (it feels even worse in actual physical crowds, as you may know). Although things occasionally got ugly and personal, I always managed to have good discussions, and make and keep friends across the battle lines. I think this looks perfectly possible here as well.

        • John Schilling says:

          [1] Consider this, under a capitalist global economy, just talking about relaxing intellectual property law for anti-retroviral drugs, to treat the AIDS epidemic, could end up hurting victims more than it helps, at least over the long term. This might happen because investors steer away from anti-retroviral research…

          OK, but as with the other examples of harmful speech put forward here, that is harmful only to the extent that it leads to tangible action. Words turning into sticks and stones. I’m pretty sure that neither Moldbug nor Yarvin has any significant chance of implementing a neoreactionary regime, or any intention of trying. And I’m skeptical of the argument that anyone is justified in taking action against a speaker on the slightest, vaguest possibility that their speech might lead to future action.

          Are there any credible examples anyone would like to put forward of speech being harmful enough to justify suppression even without the possibility of action?

          Because if we are talking about speech leading to harmful action, the law has two very specific standards to apply. Speech leading to explicit agreement on action, and at least one actual overt action, can constitute criminal conspiracy. Speech intended or reasonably likely to result in immediate, specific harmful action – a stampede in a crowded theater, the actual audience of the speech lynching the guy the speaker is pointing at – can be blocked. Any less direct connection between the speech and the feared action, and you have to let the speech stand.

          These standards aren’t legally binding on private actors, of course. But they are very good ideas, developed through centuries of careful thought by concerned experts in the field. Organizing private retaliation for speech on the basis of any lesser standard, even if legal, is IMO a very bad idea.

        • veronica d says:

          @John Schilling —

          OK, but as with the other examples of harmful speech put forward here, that is harmful only to the extent that it leads to tangible action. Words turning into sticks and stones. I’m pretty sure that neither Moldbug nor Yarvin has any significant chance of implementing a neoreactionary regime, or any intention of trying.

          Right, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to Moldbug, nor have his ideas get broad play in any subculture I am part of. Furthermore, words can hurt, and semantic clusters and meme-structures and all the other social preconceptions of who I am affect my life in big ways.

          It’s not just that person calling me a “faggot.” Sure that sucks, but that’s not the big deal. It’s way more subtle than that.

          And I’m skeptical of the argument that anyone is justified in taking action against a speaker on the slightest, vaguest possibility that their speech might lead to future action.

          But what does “take action” mean?

          Which is to say, if someone asked their manager why his wife’s vagina smelled so bad all the time, they’d likely lose their job. Do you object to that?

          But why, such a comment is unlikely to lead to “tangible action”?

          When someone expresses contempt for me, that’s not okay. I’m not going to just sit by and let that pass.

          I mean, I might. I get to choose my battles, but the psychological effects of being a broadly misunderstood and marginalized person are very real. It’s a weight I carry in my day to day.

          In any case, the notions of free speech that arise from the model of idealistic colonials publishing pamphlets critical of the British crown — well that misses much about how people express power through speech, and the kinds of effects such power has.

          The overwhelming majority of social power is not governmental. Most oppressive structures are not maintained by the police.

        • Cauê says:

          In any case, the notions of free speech that arise from the model of idealistic colonials publishing pamphlets critical of the British crown — well that misses much about how people express power through speech, and the kinds of effects such power has.

          The overwhelming majority of social power is not governmental. Most oppressive structures are not maintained by the police.

          …which means that government constraints on speech shouldn’t be the only ones we should be worried about.

          If free speech is desirable, that is.

        • John Schilling says:

          Right, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to Moldbug, nor have his ideas get broad play in any subculture I am part of. Furthermore, words can hurt, and semantic clusters and meme-structures and all the other social preconceptions of who I am affect my life in big ways.

          Yes, words can hurt. The words and ideas of other SJWs drove me out of a subculture that was one of the few places I felt at home, and I can see signs of the same strain here. Less so from you personally, to your credit, and I hope that’s something you keep consciously aware of.

          But the hurt caused by words alone, we either have to suck up and bear it, or isolate ourselves from the speaker – and it’s a rare case where that is legitimately accomplished by making the speaker go away. If we find it necessary to meet hurtful words with other hurtful words, we need to try and at least marginally de-escalate at each step.

          Because everyone’s words, beyond the trivial and banal, can be hurtful to someone. And unless I am missing something, the only alternative to tolerance for hurtful words is to privilege some words above others, some opinions, some points of view. Some hurts.

          If we’re going to play that game, I’m going to use all of the power at my disposal to ensure that my opinions and my point of view are privileged, that hurting me is the thing that’s not allowed, and I’m going to share that privilege with people like me, people I agree with. You imagine I have great power on account of being a cis-hetero white male geek with money. If we play the no-hurtful-words game, this is how I will use that power.

          Let’s play a different game.

        • ” I don’t think “balanced” can really be a stable position for very long. Nor do I think one can step outside the conflict and be a pure observer.”

          I disagree. One can try to evaluate arguments and evidence on their own merits, not on whether they lead to conclusions you like.

          To take a recent minor example … . I sometimes post on FB in a climate group, usually criticizing the orthodox CAGW position (C for “catastrophic,” that being the part I mostly criticize). But my recent comments have included a long series defending Margaret Sanger against a variety of fraudulent and slanderous claims, a comment explaining how the greenhouse effect works (something most people on both sides of the argument don’t understand), and an explanation of how it might be possible to provide good evidence that current warming is anthropogenic (as it happens I think it is, but my point was only that showing it was would not be impossible).

          Part of what irritates me about political argument—less here than most places—is the unwillingness of participants to evaluate facts and arguments on their merits instead of on which side they support. The less you are willing to do that, the less reason you have to think you have chosen the right team to cheer for.

          • RCF says:

            Being able to identify statements that are blatantly false and purely inconsistent with clear fact, and oppose them, is, while a disturbing rare virtue, quite different from there being an objective manner of evaluating more subjective issue. Is the time that you spend presenting arguments that go against your position equal to the time that you spend presenting argument that favor it? Is there even an objective meaning of “equal time”?

          • I spend more time presenting arguments for conclusions I agree with. But I don’t present arguments that I do not believe are correct, or deny the correctness of correct arguments for conclusions I disagree with. Avoiding those things is what I mean by being balanced–and one of the features I enjoy in Scot’s posts.

          • Gene Marsh says:

            What about negative capability? Do rationalists rule it out? Is it too woo? Is it something only artists need attend to?

          • RCF says:

            Scott’s use of “balance” seems to be “presenting arguments marked ‘Blue Tribe’ roughly as commonly as arguments marked ‘Red Tribe'”.

          • I don’t think so. I think his idea of balance is presenting good arguments and critiquing bad, whichever tribe they come from.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            It’s the difference between bipartisan and nonpartisan. A bipartisan, if they found out that their last ruling was a mistake in favor of the Reds, will make their next ruling in favor of the Blues to balance it out. A nonpartisan will do their best not to make that error again.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @John Schilling:

          Can’t we try an play the “find non-hurtful ways to express ideas powerfully” game instead?

          I understand that “no hurtful words, ever” is essentially (well, should be) a non-starter. But I don’t think the only alternative to that is “any words are perfectly fine”.

          Engage in spirited debate by steel-manning the ideas you are in debate with. Avoid mocking peoples positions as a general rule. Don’t mock the person.

          If you want to have exchange of ideas, this is is a far better model than “I will bathe in the figurative blood of my enemies”.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Cauê:

          I think there is more than just a difference in tone. Mark rejects the premise that Veronica actually feels attacked and states that she is merely framing it that way for rhetorical gain.

          This is a different position than accepting the premise of feeling attacked and disputing whether the subjective feeling aligns with objective reality.

          I even think you could have awful tone, while accepting the premise. “You only feel attacked because you are too weak and immature to handle being challenged” would be a statement that has horrible tone, but accepts the premise.

        • John Schilling says:

          Where words are concerned, “non-hurtful” and “powerful” are, if not mutually contradictory, aligned at about 135 degrees to one another.

          So if “non-hurtful” is the rule, everyone is pretty much down to the most tepid version of their ideas. Or, more likely, someone figures out that they can use powerful words to drive away the people who would be hurt by them, and then we’re right back where we started.

          Tolerating at least the unintentional hurt, or deploying power against enemies.

        • Cauê says:

          @HBC

          If it was just a jargony way to object to his implication that she was being dishonest, ok, I get that.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Cauê:

          Yeah, that is probably what it it reduces to. Although I think even the simple statement “I think you are lying about feeling attacked.” would feel somehow less objectionable to me.

        • Cauê says:

          She didn’t say “feeling attacked”, though. We are reading it like that. Mark denied that she was attacked.

          Which gets me back to my impression that there seems to be some low-hanging fruit to gather here – it seems that simple application of the principle of charity could significantly improve our understanding of what’s happening.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Caue:

          it seems that simple application of the principle of charity could significantly improve our understanding of what’s happening

          Yes. Agree completely. I was trying to get at this with my response to John above.

      • Anonymous says:

        To completely nitpick, the link to commmag could have just gone to the hill, which is where I ended up anyway.

    • haishan says:

      As someone who is a good bit right of Scott politically, I don’t really see it. Leaving aside the Moldbug thing, the rightist links here are to National Review and Charles Murray. Rather different beasts than Free Northerner and Spandrell, I think. Unless pas d’amis a droit means there’s no distinction at all a droit, of course.

      • Emile says:

        By the way it’s “a droite” (meaning right-hand, or right-wing) not “a droit” (“droit” is pronounced “drrwa” and means “straight”, or “right” as in “right to bear arms”).

      • Gene Marsh says:

        Breitbart, the National Review and the Daily Caller are “house organs” of the GOP. Along with Fox and multitudinous AM talk radio hosts, their news agenda changes day to day in precise lockstep with the demands of the RNC. [bracing for torrent of “both sides do it” bullshit].

        Whosoever believes the uncritically repeated truism that Cthulu always swims left has been taken for a ride in the looking glass.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/02/this-astonishing-chart-shows-how-republicans-are-an-endangered-species/

        • haishan says:

          I… don’t see how this is relevant to what I said? Free Northerner is certainly not a “house organ of the GOP,” regardless of whether those other institutions are. (Nor is Charles Murray, for that matter. You don’t see Jeb Bush pushing for a guaranteed minimum income.)

          I mean, maybe you can’t see it, but there are in fact differences between Silicon Valley tech-libertarianism, Republican God-n-guns conservatism, and neoreaction. I promise you that I have no love in my heart for the GOP.

          • nydwracu says:

            As I said above, I think this community has lost sight of the existence of outgroup homogeneity bias.

            Granted, progressivism has a great deal of excuses for why outgroup homogeneity bias is actually right when they do it (see: Corey Robin), but we ought to be suspicious of things that come out saying “this well-known cognitive bias is actually right when we do it”, no?

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        >As someone who is a good bit right of Scott politically, I don’t really see it

        Of course you don’t, you’re to his right.

        • Randy M says:

          The point was that he sees a few different variations on “right”, and the one that this thread could best be matched to is not a NRx version.

          Kind of like how the leftists here used to complain that right wingers would lump everyone from European socialists to Lenin into the “communist” clade.

          • Gene Marsh says:

            Jonah Goldberg upped that ante with “Liberal Fascism”. The book was highly influential in my neighborhood where Gore/Kerry/Obama sign-putter-uppers were semi-goodnaturedly regarded as both Nazi and Communist.

            I fly an American flag all year round now. Things got scary circa 2001-04. My truck tires were slashed and sidepanel “keyed” with what must have been clipping shears. I even got an anonymous letter filled with baby powder during the anthrax scare in response to a letter i’d written to the Tennessean mildly critical of some vocal bullying Charlie Daniels and Hank Jr. were engaging in round wartime. Of course I didn’t know it was baby powder and I quickly had three firemen in moonsuits heavy-breathing around the house while I was restricted (sans moonsuit) from leaving for 8 hours. I was allowed to stand on the porch, though it was so hot I decided to take my chances and just hang out inside.

            Things are great now. It’s a regular Knots Landing. And I’m glad to still be flying the flag. A fresh one every flag day. Just bought my 14th.

        • “Right” is an ambiguous term. I’m closer to a hard core libertarian than Scott.

          I haven’t been here long enough or paid close enough attention to know whether the commenting community has gotten more libertarian, but it wouldn’t surprise me. At least three high profile online libertarians that I know of have commented enthusiastically about this blog, with links, which would tend to pull in people who read them.

          In addition, there is the point an earlier commenter made—that red tribe (and in this context, although not all, I think that includes libertarians) members are more willing to participate in conversations that include many who disagree with them than blue tribe members. From my standpoint, the fact that this blog has civil conversations with people who disagree with my views in a variety of ways is an important asset. I’m not sure to how many SJ/progressive/… people the same is true, although obviously it is to some.

          • RCF says:

            “I’m closer to a hard core libertarian than Scott.”

            than to Scott, or than Scott is?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Presumably “than to” too, since by most measures you are a “hardcore libertarian”.

            It wouldn’t have been a very useful statement, though.

          • Gene Marsh says:

            “In addition, there is the point an earlier commenter made—that red tribe (and in this context, although not all, I think that includes libertarians) members are more willing to participate in conversations that include many who disagree with them than blue tribe members.”

            This seems plausible if you’re restricting your analysis to internet conversations, but what about IRL?

          • “but what about IRL?”

            I think it’s true in the academic world, in part because it is so heavily blue and one wants to talk to someone. I’m not sure if it is true more generally.

    • suntzuanime says:

      You can’t just give a blog recommendation and not provide a link.

  12. Daniel Speyer says:

    I am highly skeptical that anything in fruit fly behavior applies to humans. Neocortexes are a big deal. If it were mice, I’d consider taking it seriously.

    • Eggo says:

      This looks to me like an experiment to test evo-bio theories about selection mechanics. I don’t think it necessarily needs to apply to human biology specifically, as it’s supposed to be a theory that applies to everything with genes.
      They’re not proposing an actual mechanism (or at least weren’t in ’04–the subject’s received a lot of attention since). They’re just talking about sex-specific trait selection in general.

    • Vamair says:

      It’s a really interesting experiment about gay fruit flies. Why should everything be about humans?

      • Deiseach says:

        Because the genetic argument was invoked to respond to statements that homosexuality was unnatural. Look at all the gay animals who aren’t human! Look at the gay penguins and fruit flies and lions! Gay behaviour is perfectly natural!

        The fact that non-human animals cannot be considered to “fall in love” or choose their methods of sexual expression in the same way as humans (unless you’ve over-dosed on Disney movie anthropomorphised animals) was an inconvenient fact to be discarded. Awww, look at the cute penguin gay dads instead! I’ve seen photos tagged “lesbian cats” on Tumblr because two female cats share raising kittens, and I’m not sure how much of that is tongue-in-cheek and how much is dead serious.

        It has to be all about humans because we’re engaged in fighting over the culture. If it’s genetic, you cannot disapprove, and if you object to any element of sexual liberation for all, then it’s because you’re a bigot and a hater. There’s an Irish saying “What’s natural can’t be wrong” (of course it can; murder is as natural as anything else) and that’s the idea here: if there are gay fruitflies, then it’s as natural – and as good – for there to be gay humans.

        • MawBTS says:

          When people talk about homosexuality being unnatural, they mean preferential homosexuality – being exclusively attracted to the same sex.

          Sure, male bonobos jack each other off for fun and profit, but those males would probably also mate with a female if given the chance. But the idea of 3% of males not being interested in females at all…that’s very peculiar, and very hard to explain through Darwinian means.

          As far as I know, only two mammals exhibit this behavior: sheep, and us.

          • Deiseach says:

            But MawBTS – the gay penguin dads! How can you be so cruel as to deny the reality of their love it is so special? Don’t confuse me with facts 🙂

          • nydwracu says:

            Is male obligate homosexuality even a human universal in the first place? As far as I can tell, it’s just assumed that a concept that didn’t even exist until recently must exist everywhere and therefore be biologically determined. I haven’t seen any references to it having been demonstrated. Now, maybe it has been and I just haven’t noticed, but if it hasn’t, there’s a simple explanation that no one is looking into.

          • Svejk says:

            Field researchers working with the Hadza in Tanzania have claimed that adult homosexuality is unknown there – although same-sex play among children has been observed and appears to be considered non-problematic – and that this is unlikely to be due to social pressure.

          • nydwracu says:

            Yeah, that’s about what I figured.

            I wish I could find those goddamn papers I read a few years ago — someone actually did the anthropological survey, and it turns out that it’s unheard of in some cultures and common in others.

            (The most recent one I saw speculated that homosexuality was more common in contexts where births need to be limited. Which is interesting, no? Blues certainly think births need to be limited…)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ nydwracu
            (The most recent one I saw speculated that homosexuality was more common in contexts where births need to be limited. Which is interesting, no? Blues certainly think births need to be limited…)

            I’ve often seen that idea; search terms might be ‘cities of the plain’ and ‘fleshpots’, or ‘survive vs thrive’. That is, a group in danger of dying out by lions and/or ‘native’ raids, need to produce as many babies as possible, and to keep everyone focused on real, practical survival stuff; none of that silly art and philosophy. Otoh, cities in the plain are in danger from over-crowding which breeds disease, shortages, and riots.

            As for other things we Blues favor. Giving Universal Basic Bread to stoned beatniks performing at open mics, keeps them off the streets and is cheaper than circuses or riot police, is a policy of Lord Vetinari the Patrician, who does not himself indulge.

          • RCF says:

            “Is male obligate homosexuality even a human universal in the first place? As far as I can tell, it’s just assumed that a concept that didn’t even exist until recently must exist everywhere and therefore be biologically determined.”

            Wow, that’s a rather blatant abuse of the use/mention distinction. If you’re operating under use, then it is not true that homosexuality didn’t exist until recently. If you’re operating under mention, then no one I know of is claiming that it exists everywhere, or that it is biologically determined.

            “if it hasn’t, there’s a simple explanation that no one is looking into.”

            And what would that be?

        • Elissa says:

          Since it’s useful to everyone to hear that Other People aren’t always like they imagine: It didn’t occur to me to interpret the Drosophila study politically at all; I think it would be fine to be gay even if it were unnatural. But I’ve heard of the hypothesis that homosexual attraction might persist due to sexually antagonistic selection, and I thought it was interesting per se. I just actually think evolution is cool!

          • Brett says:

            I don’t think the numbers work out for sexually antagonistic selection. There would have to be a really ridiculously strong effect in females to compensate. I’ll see if I can run some simulations to see exactly how big it would have to be.

          • RCF says:

            @Brett

            That depends on in what percentage of individuals the propensity-towards-homosexuality gene actually results in homosexuality, and how much of a survival cost homosexuality confers. If gap people get married and have children, or provide for their kin, then the effect is mitigated.

          • Adam says:

            This is something I never really got about the politicization of the investigation, either. What does it really matter if being gay is genetically caused or “natural?” Rape, murder, genocide, infanticide, brutal subjugation of female sex slaves are all natural behaviors we observe in other animals. That hardly makes them morally acceptable practices for humans to engage in. If someone just arbitrarily decides they’d rather have sex with people who have the same genitals, free of any coercion by genes effect, what difference does it make? It’s not like the human race is in any danger of going extinct because we’re not reproducing enough.

        • RCF says:

          So, according to you, the exchange goes like this:

          Red Tribe: Homosexuality is unnatural!
          Blue Tribe: Actually, homosexuality occurs quite frequently in nature.
          Red Tribe: The question of whether homosexuality is natural is meaningless! You’re being intellectually dishonest by pretending otherwise!

          “The fact that non-human animals cannot … choose their methods of sexual expression … was an inconvenient fact to be discarded.”

          I see. So the Blue Tribe arguments against the Red Tribe position that homosexuality is a choice are defective, because they fail to take into account the fact that non-human animals can’t make choices, and therefore can’t be gay. Because homosexuality is a choice.

          “if you object to any element of sexual liberation for all, then it’s because you’re a bigot and a hater.”

          That sounds a lot like “I’m really tired of being called a bigot when I make bigoted comments, so I’m going to present a sarcastic straw man.”

          • Deiseach says:

            RCF, I still maintain that claiming animals engage in homosexuality is meaningless if we’re trying to make correspondences between human and animal behaviour, because humans engage in a lot more voluntary, willed, and explicit sexual choice than animals do.

            A male lion may mate with other male lions, and may even do this preferentially (that is, will mate with a male rather than a female lion, all else being equal). I still don’t think you can say this lion is “gay” the same way you can say that Elton John is “gay”.

            Unless you are willing to uphold that animals can suffer from gender dysphoria, can identify as trans or non-binary, and would engage in BDSM as a lifestyle choice, then don’t scoff at me about animals not choosing how they express themselves sexually. Unless you want to get into “Don’t coercively designate at birth your puppies and kittens as male or female, that may not be their chosen gender identity” (as is argued for humans), then saying animals are LGBT in the same manner as humans are does not hold water.

            No chimpanzee is ever likely to produce a simian version of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, a fact for which we should all be grateful.

          • Jaskologist says:

            When homosexuality is called “unnatural,” it is Natural Law that is being referred to, not “the things you catch dogs doing.”

            This is all beside the point anyway. Within living memory, it was the left which was arguing that homosexuality was a lifestyle choice, and should be respected as such.

            (Spoilers: it’s going to turn out to be some combination of genetic predispositions, cultural conditioning, imprinting, and environmental factors, just like everything else.)

  13. 27chaos says:

    Canada’s new law is terrible, what are you even thinking?

  14. Wrong Species says:

    Maybe infertility is also a genetic adaptation. After all, a gay guy could still get a girl pregnant. But with infertility, there is absolutely no chance of that so they would have to spend all of their time raising other peoples children. /s

    • Cadie says:

      I see the /s tag, but hey, you never know. “Heterozygous advantage” exists for some genes – one copy of the mutant gene is better than no copies (which means the gene is selected for if the advantage is big enough), but two copies is worse than one AND worse than none. The mutant trait is beneficial in small amounts and bad in excess.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if someday we find out there are a few genes like that relevant to fertility. One copy of each gene variant, normal/original and the mutated variant, makes you more fertile or just more likely to make use of it (better survival, stronger attraction to the opposite sex, whatever) but two copies of the mutant type ends up going overboard and reducing sperm count / making menstrual cycles highly irregular / something else that’s not good for reproduction.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Huge difference between something being a useful adaptation and something being an unexpected side effect of a useful adaptation. I could believe the latter but the gay uncle theory defies rationality.

        • DanielLC says:

          I figured the fruitfly thing was also an unexpected side effect of a useful adaptation.

    • ckp says:

      Isn’t this just what eusociality is?

      • Nornagest says:

        Most eusocial animals have odd chromosomal arrangements that make the effective degree of relation closer than we’re used to. Still, there are a few that don’t.

    • Daniel Armak says:

      Do infertile people actually exert less effort trying to conceive children? Anecdotally, some of them devote their lives to finding a way to have children.

  15. Zach Pruckowski says:

    I realize that this is me being a political asshole, but I think there might be something logical there. Let’s step back and look at “Obamacare” vs the “90s Republican healthcare plan” and then move a bit broader.

    These plans are sometimes considered to be broadly similar – both involve individual mandates, pre-existing-condition protections, and the creation of purchaser pools as core components, for instance. But Obamacare expands Medicaid, enacts strong minimum policy requirements, and offers more subsidies while the 90s Republican plan(s) included tort reform and Medicaid voucherization. So while both plans could largely be described the same way in brief, there are clear if subtle policy distinctions that reflect the ostensible aims of both parties.

    I would expect that this can be extrapolated to other issues to the point where I think there’s some merit to a heuristic where you expect the party whose values you align with most to put together a bill generally more amenable to you and the party whose values you least align with probably has some less-visible parts of their bill that you might take issue with.

    • AJD says:

      Yes, I was going to say something very similar. And indeed, more broadly, “I don’t really understand healthcare policy, but if a plan is endorsed by people who both (1) have access to experts in healthcare policy and (2) share my overall values, it’s likely that I should support it” isn’t an obviously awful heuristic.

    • Jos says:

      There’s also the factor of who’s in charge. Back in the early days of the Iraq war run-up, some of my neoliberal friends ended up at the position of: “Unseating Saddam Hussein and engaging in a project of Middle East nationbuilding might theoretically be a worthwhile project, but I don’t trust W to get it right.”

    • Walter says:

      Its important to keep in mind that American parties are a frustrating mix of similarities (insofar as they both optimize for the same things, winning elections), and opposites (insofar as they harness opposite passions.).

      Your rule treats them the same, but I don’t think that this is one of the axes on which the parties are similar. Rather, I think on this one they are more opposite.

      The Left -> Democrat connection is comfortable, casual. The Democratic party is the Left’s eyeglasses, slipped on every morning. On by default. Even if it wasn’t optimal the Left would have an official group.

      The Right -> Republican connection is acutely uncomfortable. Its like a ridiculous Samurai mask. “The Party of Small Government” is exactly as much of a contradiction in terms as it sounds like.

      I think the correct way to state your rule is “If you are on the Left you can trust bills on the Left to align with your values, but must read carefully those on the Right. If you are on the Right, you must read every bill carefully.”

      • Irenist says:

        I love the imagery of the glasses and the samurai mask, but I don’t think the conclusion is quite right. I think activist groups in any political party have to be wary that some other lobby in their party hasn’t gotten one over on them. The problem isn’t unique to people on the economic or cultural right. It’s just part of coalition politics.

        Counter-examples to your claim: A person on the left during my more attentive political years (i.e., the Clinton Admin through the present) could not trust the Democratic Party not to favor/permit things like welfare reform, NAFTA, Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, Glass-Steagall repeal, the Iraq War, the PATRIOT Act, drone warfare, the Libyan War, the present ISIS War, etc. In particular, I think anyone on the economic left always has to watch anything that comes from Democrats in Congress or in the Treasury Department quite carefully to try to counter the influence of the i-banks.

        • Deiseach says:

          You’ve got a second-term Democrat president. You still have Guantanamo Bay and drone warfare. Please tell me again how it’s all the fault of those horrible Republicans (particularly when for things like taking out Bin Laden they were very careful to release PR images of The President being all “on the spot in the War Room with his cabinet fully in charge and attentive”).

          Look, I’m third-generation Fianna Fáil. Whatever our equivalent of a “yellow dog Democrat” is, I would have been it. I have been severely disappointed in my party. I would still choke rather than vote for the Blueshirts. Labour have sold their soul for a mess of pottage in order to get into and retain power as part of a coalition government, and have been more interested in the usual internal party purges that go along with the history of melding Trotskyites/Stalinites/Marxist-Leninsts/old-fashioned Socialists under one umbrella to actually worry about the working class.

          That means, realistically, if I vote in our upcoming (sometime in 2016) election, my only choice is pretty much Sinn Féin. Which is not unproblematic.

          Unless someone like the Monster Raving Loony Party runs. I miss the Natural Law Party – at least they were a reliably loopy choice to waste a protest vote on.

          So yes, I’m damn cynical about politics and politicians of whatever stripe. If you got to see local parish pump politics in action, as (alas!) I have and do see in my last and current job, you’d be cynical too. There is no one Horrible Evil party and no one Lovely Nice party. There are parties who want to get into power. That’s it.

          • bartlebyshop says:

            In the case of Guantanamo, the president is not a king. He needs Congress’ approval to move people out of the prison and close it, in particular to move them to other prisons in states represented by Congresspeople, or to send them home to Wherever. Congresspeople don’t tend to want prisoners their constituents view as Extremely Dangerous Terrorists in their state. Sending them back to the countries we took them from is also unpalatable for a variety of reasons.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            a person on the left during my more attentive political years … could not trust the Democratic Party not to favor… things like … drone warfare,

            You’ve got a second-term Democrat president. You still have Guantanamo Bay and drone warfare. Please tell me again how it’s all the fault of those horrible Republicans

            I think you read the comment backwards from Irenist’s intended meaning.

          • Irenist says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Thanks! I was a bit puzzled by Deiseach’s reading, too.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, apologies, I should explain. I wasn’t replying to a specific comment, I was referencing “Campaign promises before getting into power” versus “Actions while in power”.

            A lot of people did a lot of embarrassing fawning over first-term Obama would be something even better than the Second Coming, and when he didn’t pull all the rabbits out of the hat, it was “Oh, those horrible Republicans in Congress are blocking him every chance they get” and “Well, one term isn’t long enough to get all the changes through”.

            Well, he’s well into his second term. I have no doubt that the reality on the ground means he has no chance, or that politically it makes more sense, to keep up drone warfare (for one thing). He’s a politician, not the Messiah. I didn’t expect him to be anything other than what he is (me not being American probably helped in that regard).

            But tribal party loyalty mean that Our Guy (whatever party Our Guy belongs to) is a hero only being held back by the Evil And Stupid Other Guys who have managed to cling onto enough power to stymie Our Guy is the explanation constantly trotted out, not the consideration that (a) campaign promises are like children’s bedtime fairytales (b) politicans are politicians not divine saviours (c) big complex clunky systems like government and bureaucracy are not that easy to turn around or disentangle.

          • RCF says:

            Did Obama make any campaign promises regarding drone strikes?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            The funny thing is that on Guantanamo he did try and shut it down, but didn’t get the backing of members of his own party. It’s pretty hard to go it completely alone on that front.

            And on many other fronts he mostly did what he said he would do. On drones, he didn’t make a campaign promise to stop using drones (well, I don’t recall any). He said he was going to get out of Iraq and focus on Afghanistan, which is exactly what he did.

            See this PolitFact article for one example of a claim that Obama said he would stop using a particular type of drone strike that shows Obama did not make that claim

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I picture the negotiations as going something like this:

            Obama: I don’t see the use of this prison; let us clear it away.

            Democrats: If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

        • Gene Marsh says:

          ” Corporations and their trade associations now spend about $2.6 billion a year in reported [US] lobbying. … That … is about 34 times the total lobbying spending for all labor unions and groups representing public and consumer interests”
          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/opinion/a-better-way-to-rein-in-lobbying.html?_r=0

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Walter
        I think the correct way to state your rule is “If you are on the Left you can trust bills on the Left to align with your values, but must read carefully those on the Right. If you are on the Right, you must read every bill carefully.”

        In the US, y’all on the Right have more voters willing and able to read every bill carefully; we on the Left are lucky if our voters even bother to vote. So it’s worthwhile labeling a pro-Business bill as pro-Environment or pro-Diversity or whatever; our masses will be attracted by the label, but yours will know more about what’s in the fine print.

        • Nornagest says:

          Amazing how the Republican Party can manage simultaneously to be full of diabolical masterminds and illiterate backwoods yokels.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That charge cuts both ways and you know it.

          • Nornagest says:

            Why yes, I do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So, why not state it that way instead of being snarky about it?

            Snark is really the mind-killer, or something.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m having more fun this way.

          • Eggo says:

            Honestly? I really don’t see where you got that from. They were offering a _compliment_.
            It just seems off to jump down their throat about it.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Eggo
            Honestly? I really don’t see where you got that from. They were offering a _compliment_.

            Yes, I was complimenting y’all’s Republican voters and insulting our Democratic voters. But suggesting someone should reread a comment, is too often snark.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyx:

            But suggesting someone should reread a comment, is too often snark.

            Was that directed at me? I ask because no one seems to have done that here, but I did do it somewhere else in these comments. I wasn’t trying to be snarky though.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ HeelBearCub
            Was that directed at me? I ask because no one seems to have done that here

            No, it wasn’t, and no, they haven’t. I didn’t either, because I thought it might sound snarky.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyx:

            Ah, yes, now I understand.

        • Eggo says:

          Our “trust them as far as we can throw them” attitude towards politicians stops us feeling betrayed, sure, but it also stops us getting powerful people into DC politics.
          Which is probably why we always seem to end up electing diabolical yokels, rather than backwoods masterminds…

          • Deiseach says:

            Powerful people don’t want to go into politics. Powerful people can exert their power by buying contributing to political parties’ campaign funds and getting the politicians to do things in the national interest that just happen to advantage the powerful people also.

            And it matters little whether we’re talking about powerful people in business, or in the unions (both Left and Right have been beholden to large blocs holding the pursestrings and capable of getting out the vote both in America and in the U.K., and Ireland to a lesser extent).

    • Alraune says:

      I would expect that this can be extrapolated to other issues to the point where I think there’s some merit to a heuristic where you expect the party whose values you align with most to put together a bill generally more amenable to you and the party whose values you least align with probably has some less-visible parts of their bill that you might take issue with.

      A related rule here is to dismiss all political attacks of the form “did not vote for Obvious Good Thing Law” because Obvious Good Thing Law quite probably had horrendous subclauses, regulatory implementation, etc.

      • Nornagest says:

        At this point, I think I trust laws with obvious feel-good names less.

        • nydwracu says:

          A few years ago, I said something along the lines of “the lowest-hanging fruit in DC politics would be to enact a law saying that laws have to have boring and utterly emotional names, and cannot be so much as referred to by any other name, on pain of flogging”. Probably without the flogging part.

          That would be a roaring violation of the First Amendment, but it’s only a matter of time until someone figures out how to take that out behind the barn anyway.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think we could get away with a law saying that laws must be referred to by number (or otherwise nonindicatively, but by number would be easiest) internally, or in government publications, or on TV or radio programs receiving public money. The First Amendment protects private speech; it doesn’t prevent the government from restricting itself.

            There’d be nothing preventing media or the political parties from coming up with their own clever names, but the manipulation there would be transparent, and at least bills wouldn’t come packaged with idiotic acronyms evoking safety or nostalgia or patriotism.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            The thing is, the fact that politicians can benefit from naming laws things like the CUTEPUPPYUSA Act seems like a much much bigger problem than whether or not they are allowed to.

            Given a populace stupid and/or lazy enough to fall for cheap tricks like that, what possible good is banning any single trick?

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t know, but I do know which can be fixed. It’s hard, the incentives point the wrong way, but on the other hand I wouldn’t even begin to know how to create a population that isn’t susceptible to that kind of manipulation on the margins, short of throwing out this “universal franchise” business altogether.

            Playing whack-a-mole often feels unrewarding, but that’s mainly because we can’t know what the mole population would look like if we didn’t.

          • nydwracu says:

            Hence “a few years ago”. These days I think the lowest-hanging fruit would be to pray very hard for God to smite Brooklyn to ashes or zap Gawker HQ until Denton’s microscopic balls boil off. Or just annex America to Liechtenstein.

          • Deiseach says:

            I wish to creation such a law would be enacted; I get headaches seeing terms such as the DREAM Act. I think the legislation is well-intended and could be beneficial, but the cutesie-poo name, trying to get it passed by playing on sympathies and national associations – “the American Dream” – make me ill and I greatly fear this kind of naming will make its way into Irish politics 🙁

          • RCF says:

            “That would be a roaring violation of the First Amendment, but it’s only a matter of time until someone figures out how to take that out behind the barn anyway.”

            Godel would also probably have something to say about that, and mathematics is a bit more inviolable than the First Amendment.

  16. AJD says:

    The Albion’s Seed account is also relevant to the dialect geography of the US. The boundary between Yankee-settled and Scotch-Irish–settled regions in Ohio, for example, is to this day a major accent boundary as well.

  17. Daniel Speyer says:

    Is it just me, or is the least-squares-model-fit the transgender study used an unnecessarily complicated approach? It makes me wonder if they tried different tests until they found the results they wanted.

    • From a quick skim, the statistical choices they made look reasonable. Breaking the symmetry in their model between trans men and trans women (Equation 3) seems like the sort of thing they might have done after having looked at the data, but I can’t get too upset since; why should the effect of transition be analogous in the two populations?

      The biggest thing I would have done differently involves the fuzziness in when the transition is considered to occur:

      Second, we have included (but for notational convenience not reported) separate transition year dummies for the two years preceding the year of the administrative gender change. As we already mentioned, there is some uncertainty about when the actual gender transition takes place. We argue that the gender transition is a gradual process which takes about two years up to year of renewed gender registration. In our baseline regression models we therefore added these two pre-transition year dummies, so that the earnings observed for these years do not influence our transsexual estimates of interest.

      I’d consider throwing out the data from the ambiguous years. Potentially, the reduction in model parameters and misspecification might more than offset the decrease in the number of observations.

      (People who dislike the term “cissexual” might do well to consider how clunky the repeated use of “non-transsexual” is in the paper.)

    • Randy M says:

      People who object to “cis-sexual” do it because it puts trans and cis on equal footing, although I doubt there is so much objection to its use in technical papers, in everyday useage “normal” seems like it should work well enough.

      • Deiseach says:

        Randy M., you know very well you cannot use judgemental and prescriptive terms like “normal”. That would imply that trans-sexism is “abnormal” and cis-sexism is the default.

        I surely don’t have to point out to you the terrible, awful, horrible, “so you want to burn transsexuals at the stake, do you?” implications arising out of such cisnormative language, do I? 🙂

  18. Orb says:

    Two simple arguments against open borders:

    1) The revealed preferences argument. If you’re an American, real estate is probably one of your top expenses. And if you’re reading this blog, you are probably paying a premium to live in a relatively safe area with lots of other smart people like San Francisco or New York. Empirically, there are tons of people who pay lots of money to live in nice neighborhoods away from loud, criminally inclined poor people. It’s not socially desirable to say that you want to live far away from poor people, but there seems to be a tremendous revealed preference for this and this revealed preference shouldn’t be dismissed IMO.

    2) The nuclear weapons argument. Let’s say the US gets a bunch of immigrants from the Third World. After they’ve lived here for a while, they start to demand voting rights. It’s not socially desirable to restrict voting rights for immigrants, and anyone who says it might be a bad idea is labelled as a “bigot” in the press. So they get them. Immigrants continue streaming in. The immigrants are less intelligent, more clannish, and more violence-prone than existing natives. They elect politicians who share those characteristics. The US becomes a more belligerent world power and a few decades later World War III starts. (Remember, our current peace is anomalous.)

    Another question for open borders advocates: what causal factors lead to the US having higher-quality institutions in the first place? My answer: To run a great company, you need great people. Companies that succeed like Google are extremely selective in who they hire. Running a great country is the same way. If your country is full of great people, you’ll have great institutions, great companies, great social norms, etc. If it’s full of lousy people you get the opposite. Laws and institutions are entangled with culture at a deep level.

    Arguably one of the best things about the US is we have these highly prestigious universities that elevate the status of smart people and put them in positions of power even though most of the citizenry isn’t very smart. (If you don’t believe me that this is an issue, just look at how smart people who don’t have fancy degrees, like Eliezer Yudkowsky, get treated in the press and by the population at large.)

    Open Borders advocates often use the rhetorical tactic of saying “well if great people are so valuable, then it makes sense to deport the lousy people already in the US, and clearly we don’t want to do that, right?” But this is a social desirability wedge. It’s not considered socially acceptable to say the US would be better off if high-crime, low-productivity populations were deported to Africa. But it might be true.

    We should expect that anti-open-borders people will stay quieter than pro-open-borders people because most of the anti-open-borders arguments don’t sound socially desirable. For example, I would hesitate before writing this stuff under my real name.

    I’m also annoyed by the motte-and-bailey tactic of advocating totally open borders but then retreating to just more skilled immigration if questioned. I’m in favor of admitting highly skilled, peaceful, friendly immigrants. I’m not in favor of open borders. They’re totally different and it’s dishonest to pretend that if the first is a good idea, the second is a good idea too.

    Personally, I’m willing to bite most of the bullets Open Borders advocates lay out. For example, I’m completely in favor of all us rationalists packing our bags, heading to an island somewhere, and only letting people in if they’re super-smart like us. It seems like common sense: in the same way it makes sense to be selective about your housemates and coworkers, why not your neighbors, political leaders, etc.?

    • Wrong Species says:

      I would be willing to have open borders but only if freedom of association was taken more seriously and people stopped trying to give welfare to everyone who enters the country. America had that policy in the 19th century and it seemed to work pretty well.

      • Freedom of association is the right to join political parties and hold political meetings , and you have it. What you think isnt being taken seriously needs to be called by another name.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Wikipedia tells me that freedom of association is “the right to join or leave groups of a person’s own choosing, and for the group to take collective action to pursue the interests of members.” I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that it only refers to political parties.

          • In what way is it not being taken seriously?

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @AncientGeek: It is illegal.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            I can’t tell if you’re joking or not but employers are not allowed to discriminate on race/age/religion/etc. Businesses get in trouble by not catering to gay weddings. What I’m saying is that as long as people can get sued for discrimination, I think open borders is probably a bad idea.

          • It…freedom of association…isnt illegal. Discrimination is illegal. “Freedom of association” is not a synonym for discrimination.

            You see, you have got into the habit of using FoA to mean discrimination, because saying “bring back discrimination” sounds unacceptable.

            But exclusionary practices like discrimination were never part of FoA. FoA, as it is actually defined, is considered a humans right because it is a prerequisitffective engagement in politics.

            Discrimination, on the other hand, is inimical to the rights to work, accommodation, etc. So there is nk way that someone who is promoting FoA as part of a human rights agenda is going to define it in a way that embraces discrimination.

          • FJ says:

            @TheAncientGeek: you are not entirely correct. Freedom of association does include the right to discriminate on the basis of protected characteristics. See BSA v. Dale..

            SCOTUS has said that this freedom may be limited under certain circumstances, especially when the group in question is not an “expressive association” (and thus has no real need to discriminate). But to declare that “exclusionary practices like discrimination were never part of FoA” is empirically incorrect for at least the past 15 years.

          • Cauê says:

            You see, you have got into the habit of using FoA to mean discrimination, because saying “bring back discrimination” sounds unacceptable.

            This is a “pro-life”/”pro-choice” (as opposed to “anti/pro abortion”) kind of fight, over assigning positive or negative affect to a position before (or instead of) dealing with substantive arguments.

            We could try to leave these for the rest of the internet.

          • DB says:

            @TheAncientGeek:

            Freedom of association is the freedom to exclude. It’s a mathematical identity.

            I am not opposed to some prohibitions on types of discrimination, but I am not under the illusion that such prohibitions don’t reduce freedom of association on the margins. Suggesting that ALL discrimination is bad indicates that you don’t understand what the word “discrimination” actually means.

          • Anonymous says:

            @DB

            Technically it’s not an identity in the sense you’re thinking, it’s at best a dual (inclusion/exclusion). You could probably work it into some symmetric structure as an identity, but it really doesn’t matter because discrimination as the lawyer flies tends to entail a collectively enforced exclusion of a class for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, not anything quite so simple as the freedom to not associate.

          • DB says:

            @Anonymous:

            Yes, it’s common for people to sloppily use the word “discrimination” to refer only to discrimination against protected classes, e.g. racial discrimination. But “discrimination” without a preceding adjective means any classification of a set of things into two or more categories. My “identity” statement does not hold when three or more categories are involved, but we were discussing the binary choice of associating or not associating with someone in a given context; it does hold there.

            Again, I do not oppose a few limits to freedom of association. For instance, compelling employers to do their best to judge job applicants by their merit instead of using shortcuts like disqualifying candidates based on race or gender, even if the latter may be more efficient in some contexts, leads to better societies (from my perspective, anyway) than the alternative, and this remains true for e.g. current type I and type II error levels in US enforcement of this. But such restrictions need to be considered and implemented carefully; it isn’t hard to imagine horrible implementations of the same basic idea that would destroy the competitiveness of many of America’s most innovative companies.

          • RCF says:

            Businesses are not associations. It is perfectly legal to discriminate as to with whom you engage in social activities. It is not legal to discriminate as to with whom you do business. If the BSA were to acquire a primarily commercial character, its discrimination would be almost certainly be found illegal. In Dale, it was found that the BSA has little commercial character, and that that character is outweighed by its expressive character.

            I’m not clear on what bearing discrimination has on immigration. Are you saying that you would be okay with having no restrictions on Mexicans immigrating, as long as people are allowed to discriminate against Mexicans? If so, I think that current immigrants from Mexicans would disagree with you as to how much of a solution that is.

          • “For instance, compelling employers to do their best to judge job applicants by their merit ”

            Think about what that means in practice. Merit isn’t a simple, objective, easily observed measure. So what it really means is “compelling employers to hire people that the court thinks they ought to hire, rather than the people they would choose to hire.”

            Does that version look as attractive?

          • “Businesses are not associations. It is perfectly legal to discriminate as to with whom you engage in social activities. It is not legal to discriminate as to with whom you do business. ”

            And some of us think that is unjust and that the distinction makes no sense. If I hire you to mow my lawn or teach my child, we are engaged in a voluntary association for mutual benefit. But under your rules, it isn’t voluntary, since I can be compelled to hire you if the relevant court or regulatory agency thinks I should—that my reason not to is one it disapproves of.

          • DB says:

            @RCF:

            The line is blurry. Tech conferences clearly have “commercial character”, but most of Curtis Yarvin’s defenders concede that Alex Miller is within his rights to disinvite Yarvin for noncommercial reasons.

            “Wrong Species” is the one who wrote “I would be willing to have open borders but only if freedom of association was taken more seriously”; hopefully s/he will respond to your main question. (My position on open borders is a bit different.)

          • onyomi says:

            That this distinction has never made sense to me is one of the main reasons I’m a libertarian.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @ TheAncientGreek

            Fine, then. I will be more clear. I think people should have the right to discriminate, even by race. I’m anonymous and won’t be tarred for expressing somewhat racist thoughts on this blog so there isn’t any reason to sugar coat what I’m saying. I honestly didn’t try to use freedom of association as a euphemism.

            @RCF

            How could it not be relevant to immigration? If people could discriminate, then they wouldn’t ever have to deal with “undesirables”. But many would love the cheap labor. So while immigrants would be able to get jobs and build a better life for themselves, people who don’t like immigrants wouldn’t have to live with them, hire them, go to school with them or deal with possible crime. You get the best of both worlds.

            That said, I’m not an absolutist on the issue. If discrimination had sufficiently bad outcomes, then I might consider specific limits on it(just like there are specific limits on free speech). I just hate that the general idea is under attack.

          • DB says:

            @David Friedman:

            Think about what that means in practice. Merit isn’t a simple, objective, easily observed measure. So what it really means is “compelling employers to hire people that the court thinks they ought to hire, rather than the people they would choose to hire.”

            Does that version look as attractive?

            I agree that it is dangerous, and I explicitly stated that it isn’t difficult to imagine a horrible implementation of the same idea.

            However, I don’t see a silver bullet here. Discrimination based on race, gender, etc. appears to be an efficient strategy in enough contexts to significantly reduce the set of opportunities available to women and non-Asian minorities if it were explicitly allowed. Such a lack of opportunity might be on the economically efficient frontier (if the superstars are disproportionately white and Asian males, there may be essentially no opportunity to win big with a Becker-inspired contrary hiring strategy), but it is not quite the kind of society I prefer to live in; I am willing to accept slightly slower innovation in exchange for “greater than equilibrium” opportunity for members of groups with below-average performance.

            Lots of Americans I know have similar preferences, hence the law is what it is. The US is still generally accepted as the most innovative country. I don’t rule out the possibility that one can do much better with an aggressively laissez-faire approach, and I want to see more other countries experimenting with that, but as ugly as parts of the US sausage look, its better systems still seem remarkably hard to beat in a scalable way.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            I am willing to accept slightly slower innovation in exchange for “greater than equilibrium” opportunity for members of groups with below-average performance.

            Lots of Americans I know have similar preferences, hence the law is what it is.

            I think you vastly overestimate the sophistication of voters. For most of them, their thought process is probably little more complex than “Racism is bad, so it shouldn’t be allowed.”

          • “Discrimination based on race, gender, etc. appears to be an efficient strategy in enough contexts to significantly reduce the set of opportunities available to women and non-Asian minorities if it were explicitly allowed. ”

            Possible, although I’m not at all confident.

            But the same is true if it isn’t explicitly allowed. Suppose an employer believes that race has a weak negative correlation with ability. The obvious policy is to hire based on other information, in the knowledge that if an employee turns out poorly, he can always be fired. Arguing that you were fired for racial reasons is a good deal easier than arguing that you were not hired for racial reasons, so anti-discrimination laws provide a perverse incentive not to hire members of the disfavored group.

            Or suppose the pattern you imagine exists, with the result that blacks are willing to accept lower wages than equally well qualified whites. It then pays a employer who believes blacks are on average less qualified to hire them. But not if discrimination is illegal. In apartheid South Africa, it was the Nationalist Party that pushed for laws requiring equal pay—because doing so prevented blacks from competing with whites by offering to work for less.

          • DB says:

            @Jon Gunnarsson:

            Well, I don’t claim that the median person I know is representative of the median voter.

            But, while the level of sophistication may differ, the basic sentiment seems very common. Coherent extrapolated volition applies here, it’s not just for AI safety researchers.

            @David Friedman:

            Again, I don’t rule out the possibility that the right laissez-faire policy could work much better. Or that our own system is destined to become sclerotic over time. For both of these reasons, I want other countries to try different systems, when their populations consent. And it would be nice if it were easier to create new countries to experiment with this sort of thing (I understand that your oldest son has worked on this; really hard problem, though).

            But I don’t think Americans want to turn back the clock on this, at least for now. This isn’t an issue like switching to an all-volunteer military, where there already was a huge amount of resentment toward the status quo.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            @DB:
            I don’t doubt that the median voter you know is quite different from the median voter, but you made the claim that lots of Americans having similar preferences to you is the reason for the law being the way it is. That would indeed require a far higher sophistication among the general voting population than actually exists.

            Regarding your latest reply to David Friedman, I take issue with you characterising full freedom of association as “turn[ing] back the clock”. That phrase implies that freedom of accociation was tried in the United States in the past and then abandoned. What actually happened was a switch from compulsory segregation to compulsory de-segregation.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It may be gauche to say so, but compulsory desegregation was for the poor only. It is still very possible to segregate oneself using money, which is precisely what those who have it do.

          • DB says:

            @Jon Gunnarsson:

            I don’t doubt that the median voter you know is quite different from the median voter, but you made the claim that lots of Americans having similar preferences to you is the reason for the law being the way it is. That would indeed require a far higher sophistication among the general voting population than actually exists.

            Okay, my initial statement was incomplete. To be more precise, I am making the following two claims:

            1. Median opinion among people I know regarding hiring discrimination laws is substantially closer to the nuanced position I described than it is to the pure libertarian position.
            2. This is also true for the overall likely US voter population. Patri Friedman’s Beyond Folk Activism essay remarks that “at most 16% of people have libertarian beliefs”. Most of the other 84+% are driving politicians in the general direction of the position I described. (With the caveat that typical voters and politicians are MORE statist than I am.)

            Regarding your latest reply to David Friedman, I take issue with you characterising full freedom of association as “turn[ing] back the clock”. That phrase implies that freedom of accociation was tried in the United States in the past and then abandoned. What actually happened was a switch from compulsory segregation to compulsory de-segregation.

            Not true for some Northern states; Jim Crow laws were only universal in the South. Maybe it actually isn’t possible for blacks to have a better place in society than they had in those Northern states in the mid-20th century, but Americans nevertheless have the right to try to do better. “The common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard”; if you don’t accept that, other countries are more compatible with your political ideas than the US.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @DB-

            Discrimination based on race, gender, etc. appears to be an efficient strategy in enough contexts to significantly reduce the set of opportunities available to women and non-Asian minorities if it were explicitly allowed.

            I don’t mean to straw-man you here, but think carefully about what you’re saying. The free-market argument is that by arbitrarily excluding certain classes of employee you are missing out on good employees that your less discriminatory competitor will be able to snap up. It sounds like you’re saying that there is no competitive disadvantage to being discriminatory.

            That would seem to imply that, say, the pool of potential female employees is inferior to the pool of potential male employees, or that the pool of blacks is inferior to the pool of whites.

            This is not something people usually want to say, so I wonder if you meant something different from what you said.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The free-market argument is that by arbitrarily excluding certain classes of employee you are missing out on good employees that your less discriminatory competitor will be able to snap up. ”

            He is talking about non-arbitrary discrimination. For example women tend to have kids. If you exclude women you’ll miss out on good female employees… but the male employees you hire are less likely to suddenly leave when you need them because of pregnancy.

            Rational racial discrimination requires the metrics are not as useful for minorities (for example if blacks with GREs are likely to have gotten them in prison or there are different cultural norms for work effort so having the same level of education is only half the story).

            They can be snapped up by the competition, but under statistical discrimination they would start off in slightly worse positions equal to their expected value which would improve if they were discovered to be good (under this model women over 40 and minorities with a solid work history shouldn’t face any discrimination- it is getting there that is the issue).

          • DB says:

            @Doctor Mist:

            Yes, it’s reasonable to double-check the writer’s intention when you see a statement like that. If you continue reading that comment and the subsequent discussion, though, it’s very clear that I am in fact saying something that isn’t always safe to say out loud, at least in the West.

            But why isn’t it safe to say it? As Paul Graham notes, “No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.”

            Actually, the example of women in the workplace is obviously valid, even if we set aside the issue of relatively low interest in STEM (and I will grant that, after matching for interest level, the aptitude gap seems to be negligible). There’s something called “pregnancy” which imposes significant costs on the employer, but is frequently beneficial to both the person and society at large, and which younger women but not younger men are likely to experience. (Edit: Looks like Samuel Skinner beat me to this.) It’s not clear to me what the best solution is, but asking companies with more than 50 employees to bear their share of the burden doesn’t seem totally unreasonable.

            And as for race, consider Malaysia, which expelled Singapore and set up a comprehensive system of preferences for the underperforming ethnic Malay (“bumiputra”) majority after race riots in 1964 and 1969. The Singaporean Chinese have clearly done better by exiting from Malaysia than they could have done by remaining in the country. Simultaneously, the bumiputra are also doing much better than they were in 1969; on top of a generally larger pie, they now control close to 20% of the economy instead of 3%, and popular opinion is now open to rollback of some of the preferences. It’s far from clear to me that laissez-faire policies wouldn’t have been much worse for the bumiputra. The Chinese and Indians who stayed in Malaysia when Singapore left didn’t get a great deal, but they did have the right to leave the country at any later time, and about a million have done so.

            Someday, the entire human race may be in a position similar to the bumiputra, as AIs and/or cyborgs become more capable. Perhaps you are fine with just letting the human race die off at that point. But most people seem to prefer an outcome where humans still have a space to do their own thing, perhaps planet Earth or the solar system, while their successors expand across the rest of the galaxy. I’m not going to go all Roko’s Basilisk on you and claim that you have to support gender and racial preferences today to avoid being annihilated by an AI tomorrow. However, I am suggesting that it’s better to allow governments to enforce such preferences when they’re in line with popular will than to try to stamp them out everywhere, as long as right of exit is preserved.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @DB- OK , I understand. I’m not convinced by your argument even neglecting the Basilisk, but I have to grant you internal consistency, and apologize for thinking I had caught you in a contradiction.

            I have to admit, though, that (assuming I’m not still misunderstanding you) you are the first person I have encountered who is willing to say that affirmative action is necessary and important precisely because the protected class is on average inferior. Is it your contention that it will over time make them less inferior? Or is affirmative action something we must do forever?

          • DB says:

            @Doctor Mist:

            I have to admit, though, that (assuming I’m not still misunderstanding you) you are the first person I have encountered who is willing to say that affirmative action is necessary and important precisely because the protected class is on average inferior. Is it your contention that it will over time make them less inferior? Or is affirmative action something we must do forever?

            Note that I’m not 100% sure affirmative action is necessary.

            But as long as a majority of the people in a democratic country want it for reasons that are resistant to e.g. typical libertarian counterarguments, they should be allowed to get what they want, good and hard. I prefer to see this sort of thing resolved at the state level, but unfortunately that’s pretty much what happened after the Civil War, and too many Americans now want to ensure that the South can’t try anything faintly resembling “separate but equal” again. So, it’s best to demonstrate the superiority of an affirmative-actionless policy suite in another country without America’s historical baggage.

            As for long-term inferiority, we can divide this into two components, cultural and genetic. Judicious use of affirmative action can help an “obsolete” culture adapt to the modern world; I don’t see how the bumiputra would have had a chance if they were still locked out of 97% of their own economy, even though such a lockout may be “meritocratic”. And with any luck, new technology will be able to address any problematic genetic differences; the relevant differences that remain will increasingly be due to conscious choice. Affirmative action doesn’t have much of a place in that world; instead, groups of people “inferior” by choice can be left alone, like we do with the Amish today.

          • Anonymous says:

            DB, Mencken’s formula is factually wrong. Americans do not know what they want. Whether they support affirmative action depends on how you phrase the question. In particular, your claim that they have nuanced reasons for their non-beliefs is absurd.

            In California, the residents did vote on a ballot initiative to end affirmative action in college admissions. Do you support direct democracy, or do you support the college administrators who defy the law? Do you support other states having referenda?

          • DB says:

            I explicitly stated that the sophistication of the positions held by voters varies greatly. I also don’t claim that every specific preference in place is wanted by voters; as you note, Proposition 209 is an excellent example where government institutions had gone further than the populace wanted. I’m fine with other states having referenda of that sort; when you see other situations where the voters are actually on your side, by all means take advantage of the opportunity.

            But your assertion that Mencken can be totally ignored is not just wrong, but dangerous; that’s often used as a pretext for completely screwing over an unliked majority. There is a range of policies that the public is willing to support, and I don’t think a return to a pre-1965-Northern-state scenario is in that range. (I will grant that your Proposition 209 example has made me reconsider the possibility that the popular support actually does exist and elites are preventing the public from getting what it wants, though.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Prop 209 was not about affirmative action having “gone farther” than the public wanted. It was not about nuance. It demanded the complete end of all use of race by CA.

            Most social issues are decided by elites, in opposition to the masses. I believe that gay marriage has passed only a single referendum (Maine).

          • DB says:

            Elites try to change things in their favor while in the minority, yes, but the American political system is still functioning well enough despite its age that they’ve frequently been stopped. Immigration policy provides the most prominent recent examples of this, with Dave Brat’s historic primary upset and the thwarting of the Obama administration’s attempt at unaccountable executive action. (Hillary may end up being elected and then proceed to do roughly the same thing as Obama attempted, but voters have fair warning in her case.)

            As for Prop 209, experience is a substitute for foresight. Many University of California campuses are close to half-Asian today. Many non-Asian taxpayers aren’t entirely comfortable with this state of affairs, and have more nuanced opinions on affirmative action today than they did in 1996. The two major political causes Ron Unz has advocated for over the last few years have been a higher minimum wage and a reduction of Ivy League anti-Asian discrimination; the former has caught fire, but the latter has met a more ambivalent response. I really don’t think that an elite is suppressing the masses there today, though I’ll grant that that may have been the case earlier.

            I’ll also grant that gay marriage may qualify as a modern-day example of successful suppression of the masses, but I suspect that it’s starting to succeed mostly because it isn’t very consequential. “If it matters that much to you, FINE.”

    • Zslastman says:

      And they called it…. San Francisco!

      • Orb says:

        If SF was all techies, maybe the laws would be semi-sensible and it would be legal to build more housing.

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, I’m going off no more knowledge of San Francisco than what I’ve seen on the telly, but isn’t part of the problem (a) very steep terrain in some parts (b) earthquakes?

          So there’s only limited places you can reasonably build and expect your buildings to stay standing and the people not to need mountaineering gear to get there, and that means if you let anyone build as much as they like in those desirable areas, you’ll have huge density with the resultant problems about services and provision of things like sufficient water?

          Of course, if by “San Francisco” is meant “including satellite towns and the commuter belt up to a hundred miles away”, that would be a different thing.

          • ddreytes says:

            Nah, those aren’t really the issues – I mean, earthquake safety is an issue, but there are ways of building things to make sure that they’re safe. And while the terrain is very steep, that doesn’t actually stop people from building there; there are some places you just have to accept that you’re going to be hiking to your house.

            I think what Orb is referring to is regulation & legislation that prevents people from building – for instance the proposed moratorium on building housing in the Mission – based on certain political attitudes about urban planning and development, and NIMBYs, and neighborhood groups, and things like that.

            However, I’m not sure how true that actually is. I think it certainly used to be very true, and it is still true to some extent. But while there are still plenty of NIMBYs and lots of regulations and unnecessary red tape and neighborhood activists and things of that nature, I think most of the political mainstream in the city is firmly behind development, and I think the value of building housing is such that people are doing it despite all of those problems. It could certainly be EASIER to build housing, but I think a lot of the problems with housing come from some combination (A) San Francisco is just a quite small city in terms of land area (B) the complexities and inefficiencies of the market generally (C) an aftereffect of the like 40 years of planning policy that WAS probably anti-development (D) the insane amount of demand.

          • Nornagest says:

            isn’t part of the problem [in San Francisco] (a) very steep terrain in some parts (b) earthquakes?

            Nah. They both make building somewhat more expensive than it would be in, say, Sacramento, but neither one justifies the observed costs or low densities. And the largest flat parts of the city (the Richmond, the Sunset) are also the least dense; it’s really just the Financial District, eastern SoMA, and parts of the Market corridor that are both flat and densely built.

            The hilly parts of the city actually take less expensive earthquake mitigation, because the hilly parts are solid rock and the flat parts tend to lie over unstable infill or Bay mud.

          • thedufer says:

            The thing blocking new buildings in SF isn’t finding places to build – there are plenty of empty/abandoned lots that aren’t being built on for political reasons. Largely, its homeowners who vote driving housing prices up.

            It would be pretty hard to imagine it being a physical space issue – Manhattan, as an example, has 4x the population density and continues to build at a per-capita rate faster than SF. I think it would be hard to imagine that hills (most of which have plenty of buildings on them) and earthquakes could cut the sustainable population density by more than 1/4.

            In fact, if you’re willing to go abroad, Manila has a population density 6x SF. Although I worry a bit about building codes in places like that.

          • memeticengineer says:

            San Francisco could easily be built much denser even with the hilly terrain and earthquake issues. There’s large parts of the city that are entirely single-family homes. A lot more of the city could easily be mid-rise or high-rise condos or apartment buildings. Quite a few multi unit buildings have been built recently, but it’s slow going, in large part due to politics.

          • Nornagest says:

            In fact, if you’re willing to go abroad, Manila has a population density 6x SF. Although I worry a bit about building codes in places like that.

            It really depends what part of Manila. Places like Makati or Fort Bonifacio could easily pass as neighborhoods of Los Angeles (but with terrifyingly chaotic traffic that makes already-pretty-bad LA look like a quiet country road in Ohio). But the city’s not short on informally built slums without building codes or much in the way of services, either. I expect the latter drive density about as much as the former do.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, tell me about NIMBYs. Right now we have a councillor complaining about a plan to build (very much needed) social housing in a particular area.

            It’s planned to build 20 houses on 2 acres. First, our councillor (allegedly speaking for the people of the area) doesn’t want any social housing because of the risks of anti-social behaviour; secondly our councillor thinks a density of 5-6 houses (maybe up as much as 12) on the site is the maximum limit.

            At the same time, we have another councillor from a different area complaining because we’re not building houses in his area. One sees potential riff-raff being dumped onto nice private home-owners, another sees potential jobs and money in construction not being fairly shared out.

            The fact that people want to live in Area 1 and not so much in Area 2, of course, along with other facts that we don’t have land in Area 2 and haven’t either money or permission to buy land there are not taken into consideration.

            Talk about “you can’t please all of the people all of the time!”

          • For the Bay Area as a whole, I have seen the claim that between eighty and ninety percent of the land cannot be built on due to legal restrictions of one sort or another. I suspect it is true, since I have seen the same figure from people who think it is a bad thing and people who think it a good thing.

          • Tracy W says:

            In Wellington, New Zealand, I lived in a flat that was in a building of 6 flats, 1 flat per floor, 4 flats on ground level, and the top-most flat, although not at ground level, was below street level.

          • Nornagest says:

            Steep hill.

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      The immigrants also have revealed preferences – to immigrate. So if you want yours to supersede theirs, it’s only fair to force you to actually put your money where your mouth is, rather than use the legal system.

      • Orb says:

        I mention these revealed preferences because I don’t see open borders advocates trying to understand or account for them.

        “force you to actually put your money where your mouth is” – huh?

        See the thing is if open borders happened, I can easily imagine going off and buying a bunch of land and forming a city where only people who don’t commit crimes live, and only leasing land to people who seem like they don’t commit crimes. And at that point I’m basically forming my own country-within-a-country. If I was to do that, I would take some time to try to rethink US institutions in my city and better optimize them for citizens’ welfare. (I’m sure you can think of a few improvements.) At that point, I get a bunch of open borders advocates telling me that I have a moral obligation to let a bunch of immigrants in to the better-run city-state I’ve created were people don’t commit crimes and institutions run smoothly…?

        I’m basically a utilitarian, but I still believe in enforcing property rights because in the long run property rights lead to greater utility. And even if open borders lead to more short-run utility, in the long term the risk of institutional collapse means that open borders are a bad idea. That’s why I defend, say, the right of the Japanese to be xenophobic and make it difficult for foreigners to become citizens. Yes, this prevents some would-be Japanese immigrants from becoming better off. But in the long run, a homogoneous open-borders global monoculture is a bad idea for the human race. It’s like putting all of our eggs in a single societal basket. (And yes, consistent with this, I’m somewhat worried about globalization.)

        Or let me put it this way. We can already weakly predict that immigrants to the US are not going to vote for and operate within functional US-style institutions. Why? Because they haven’t copied US-style institutions in their home country. Instead of respecting the rule of law and property rights, they nationalize companies when they get too profitable, etc. (I’m not an expert on politics and I probably shouldn’t be talking about this stuff at all, but anyway, I think this is referred to as the “privatization/nationalization cycle”.)

        Warren Buffet says US institutions are the best in the world and thinks the US will continue to outperform in the global stock market. So why don’t foreign countries just copy US-style institutions, practices, customs, etc.? I don’t know. It seems like some (South Korea) do and others (Argentina) don’t. But I would like more investigation in to this question before we open our borders, because it *might* have something to do with their people and their culture.

        Here is a paper I found that suggests that it does:

        …the postcolonial nations of the developing world are deeply divided along ethnic and economic lines. Second, free-market policies in these countries have historically resulted in the disproportionate prosperity of particular, ethnically identifiable groups. Third, on behalf of the disadvantaged majorities, ethnically charged-and therefore extremely potent nationalist movements have repeatedly succeeded in overturning regimes championing private enterprise. The privatization-nationalization cycle cannot be understood without recognizing this fundamental tension between the forces of the marketplace and the forces of ethnic division

        Under open borders, we’d have a flood of 3rd world immigrants pointed at whichever country had the best set of institutions at any given time… which might result in no country ever having very good institutions again.

        Couldn’t we just let immigrants in to the US and, if our institutions get destroyed, fix them? Well if we could do that it’d be easy for people in foreign countries to fix *their* institutions so they’d be like ours. Institutions are difficult to fix once broken. That’s why it makes sense to play it safe. Call me back when you’ve replaced all the corrupt government officials in Russia and then we’ll talk.

        • Alex Godofsky says:

          “force you to actually put your money where your mouth is” – huh?

          You don’t own my employer. You don’t own the apartment complex a hypothetical immigrant employee of my firm would live in. Why should you get to tell the firm, or the apartment owner, who gets to work or live there?

          If you want a say, buy the firm or buy the land.

          • DB says:

            You, the firm, and the apartment owner are all subject to the laws of your country. If the laws include some restrictions on immigration, as is the case in practically every functional country on the planet right now, the firm and the apartment owner must abide by them or relocate to a country with laws they like better.

            If the firm/apartment owner are prevented from relocating, sure, that’s a problem and I’m guessing we’d agree that the exit barrier should be removed. But the exit barriers in the West are minimal; only the entry barriers are meaningful. This is a healthy framework.

          • Jiro says:

            If the immigrant could come to your apartment or your company without voting, changing the political discourse, using social services, increasing the cost of social services, or anything else with effects outside your apartment and company, you may have a point. Not many people are concerned about what immigrants do in the privacy of your own home.

            Insofar as the country belongs to anyone, it belongs to all of us. As a part-owner, I don’t want it to be affected by unlimited immigration.

        • ” Warren Buffet says US institutions are the best in the wor.ld”

          Best for whom or what? The US education, health and criminal justice systems are not widely admired. Otoh, the US may well be a great place for investors and entrepreneurs. I think you’ll find that other countries aren’t stupidly failing to implementing a blueprint for creating paradise on earth, they are wisely trying to retain the best of their existing systems…and the best of both worlds is.nt an easy target to hit.

        • Tab Atkins says:

          See the thing is if open borders happened, I can easily imagine going off and buying a bunch of land and forming a city where only people who don’t commit crimes live, and only leasing land to people who seem like they don’t commit crimes. And at that point I’m basically forming my own country-within-a-country. If I was to do that, I would take some time to try to rethink US institutions in my city and better optimize them for citizens’ welfare. (I’m sure you can think of a few improvements.) At that point, I get a bunch of open borders advocates telling me that I have a moral obligation to let a bunch of immigrants in to the better-run city-state I’ve created were people don’t commit crimes and institutions run smoothly…?

          But this doesn’t work, and that’s the point of the article’s thought experiment at the end.

          We already have a lot of examples of these “intentional communities” – communes of all types. Ignoring the ones that fail quickly (list most small businesses), we find that intentional communities actually tend to be pretty well. Like-minded people have a good time together and live happy lives, who could have guessed?

          But almost all intentional communities hit a hard wall and break up almost exactly one generation later, because children born into the community don’t necessarily support the community’s values. Trying to build a “crime-free community” has the exact same problem – dirtbag teenager’s’ll fuck up your shit.

          And that’s the point the article is making, except with countries and immigration.

          • drethelin says:

            The Amish, The Hutterites, Orthodox Jews, and probably some other groups all seem to be doing well as separate communities within communities for multiple generations. In a sense, the entirety of Hong Kong is an intentional community: It was founded on a useless swamp.

      • DB says:

        And plenty of people have a revealed preference to work for Google. Practically nobody believes that means it’s efficient for Google to employ all of them.

        • Alex Godofsky says:

          So, to continue the analogy, we should think it’s a good thing if all of the current Google employees banded together and coerced Google into never hiring anyone else?

          • DB says:

            Nice strawman. Most Google employees want Google to maintain a high hiring bar, without stopping hiring altogether. Most citizens of Western countries want some restrictions on immigration, without reducing it to zero.

          • Charlie says:

            When the citizens coerce the nation, who are they “coercing?”

          • nydwracu says:

            To continue the analogy, we should think it’s a good thing if all of the current Google employees banded together and coerced Google into not hiring people with an IQ of 70 or people fanatically loyal to Facebook or Microsoft or Apple, yes — except Google doesn’t need to be coerced into that, and in fact would have to be coerced into doing anything else.

    • Ever An Anon says:

      An even more beligerant US government would be a sight to see. I’m not exactly pro-immigration myself but that seems like a weak argument given how frequently Washington antagonizes other nuclear powers today.

      As for the rest, it seems like the issue is more that we need to remember there’s no foreign policy equivilent to the 14th ammendment guaranteeing all nations equal treatment by the law. Open borders with Honduras or Somalia is poor policy, but open borders with Switzerland or Korea is more sensible.

      High barriers to immigration from low human capital countries means that we can filter out the best applicants, the way brain drain already works today. Low barriers to immigration from high human capital countries means a higher absolute number of satisfactory applicants. This sort of policy isn’t even a new idea, similar immigration rules were the norm less than a century agp.

      In terms of diversity having a negative impact on trust a la Putnam, it seems likely that this is a based on people’s day-to-day experiences rather than from reading census statistics. If people were allowed to aggregate in semi-autonomous ethnic neighborhoods that could minimize the “surface area” for culture clashes the same way national homogeneity would. And the Swiss cantons show that you can scale that system at least to the size of a small state. A more federal US government could probably afford higher levels of immigration by virtue of moving visible policy decisions to the state and municipal levels which are necessarily more homogeneous.

      • gbdub says:

        You seriously can’t imagine a more belligerent USA? I say you lack imagination. Look at what Putin is doing (and getting away with) and then imagine the same thing with a several-fold factor of military effectiveness and economic confidence.

        Just for a start, I could see the US fortifying the bejeebus out of Ukraine, Poland, etc. as well as Taiwan, to leash our two major geopolitical rivals. Israel would not be just a close ally but a bustling base of operations in the Middle East, daring Iran to do a thing about it. Sure the Chinese and Russians would rattle sabers, but that only works because we choose to give a damn.

        Honestly the only limit on American adventurism is the (probably healthy) unease the American public currently has with it. There is no nation, or realistic coalition of nations, that could currently hope to succeed in a true total war with the United States. Even China is forced to rely on a military strategy of cause-attrition-and-hope-America-chickens-out. They would have more or less zero hope of successfully waging offensive war against the US.

        • What about taking chunks of Canada and Mexico?

        • kernly says:

          Look at what Putin is doing (and getting away with) and then imagine the same thing with a several-fold factor of military effectiveness and economic confidence.

          Our “military effectiveness” relative to Russia really isn’t that overwhelming. Sure, we’re superior – but not that superior. Our confidence is much, much higher, which leads to us getting into fights much further abroad. With pretty terrible results, actually…

          Just for a start, I could see the US fortifying the bejeebus out of Ukraine

          The RF attacks. And wins handily, because it has complete escalation dominance in its own backyard. Even if you believed in the propaganda about magic invincible US planes, when push comes to shove the US can’t go nuclear within an overseas altercation, while the RF can go nuclear within an altercation next to it.

          Taiwan

          Again you decide to go up against a nuclear power right where it is strongest. Again you’re up against complete escalation dominance. At the end of the day, the US HAS to fold when faced with all-out attack, because the cost of a nuclear exchange even with China is orders of magnitude too high to be borne for anything other than dealing with imminent destruction.

          Sure the Chinese and Russians would rattle sabers, but that only works because we choose to give a damn.

          We have to give a damn because of the incredible damage either country can do. Russia could practically annihilate us with a one-two punch of nukes and smallpox/anthrax/God knows what, but even China can do too much damage with their small arsenal of nukes.

          They would have more or less zero hope of successfully waging offensive war against the US.

          Eurasian countries the size of Russia and China only have to have the ability to wage war in their backyards to be able to wage war everywhere they could possibly need to. If they feel like weakening our hold on the world, they don’t have to reach out to do it. We’re engaging them right where they are strongest.

          • John Schilling says:

            when push comes to shove the US can’t go nuclear within an overseas altercation

            The United States spent two generations convincing itself, the Russians, the Germans, and everyone else, that the United States would go nuclear in an overseas altercation involving a Russian invasion of Germany. This conviction was never tested, but was never widely doubted and seems to have been sincere.

            You are truly certain that the United States cannot be similarly persuasive now, w/re Ukraine or Taiwan, against adversaries that are absolutely and relatively inferior to those it faced at the height of the Cold War? What, in your opinion, caused this change?

          • Evan Þ says:

            What, in your opinion, caused this change?

            Perhaps the conviction that, unlike the Soviet Union, modern Russia and China are not an existential threat to the United States if not provoked by America’s going nuclear? What’s more, it seems to me that conviction is correct.

          • John Schilling says:

            There were plenty of people in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s who didn’t see the Soviet Union as an existential threat. And there are people now who believe that it is, or may become so. The conviction that you speak of, however certain you may be that it is correct, is far from universal.

            So, again, are you truly certain that everyone agrees with you in this matter, and always will?

          • Anonymous says:

            smallpox/anthrax/God knows what

            Tularemia is Russia’s favorite biological weapon.

          • Evan Þ says:

            (Note that I’m different from kernly.)

            No, I’m certain that not everyone agrees with me on this difference. But I think enough people do to make a large difference. I’d say the people who didn’t see the Soviet Union as an existential threat were, by and large, the same people who wanted to rachet down the Cold War.

          • Gbdub says:

            Why would China or Russia be any more likely than the U.S. to go nuclear over non-existential threats? Anything China can do to us, we can do to them, but more so. We wield the bigger nuclear stick in that scenario. Russia has nuclear parity (superiority in some cases) but we have sufficient second strike capability in our SSBNs alone to render any nuclear strike on the US suicidal.

            I question your objectivity if you see the US as substantially more confident/aggressive than the RF. The RF has been on all sorts of adventures of similar magnitude. Closer geographically to Russia yes, but that’s a second order concern (especially when logistics and cash are precisely where the U.S. has the greatest advantage).

            And the struggles of the American military are largely because of the missions we send them on – low intensity nation building / anti-insurgency / win hearts and minds stuff. When and if we go high intensity, blow shit up and damn the consequences, we’re very, very formidable. And that’s my point. A fully belligerent US would be very scary, and we’re nowhere close to that despite recent adventurism.

          • kernly says:

            This conviction was never tested, but was never widely doubted and seems to have been sincere.

            Depends how you define “go nuclear.” Use tactical nukes, or strategic-sized nukes in a tactical manner, to destroy invading forces? For sure. Initiate a full thermonuclear exchange with the USSR, by nuking strategic targets inside the USSR? No. For SURE, no. That was never credible.

            against adversaries that are absolutely and relatively inferior to those it faced at the height of the Cold War?

            The balance of power in terms of weapons of mass destruction isn’t that tilted. RF nuclear and biological capabilities are immense.

            As far as persuasion goes, here’s the problem. Our willingness to fight can be gauged quite well from who we do and don’t attack. Stipulating sanity: it is not credible that the US would be willing to attack Russia for Ukraine but not China for its actions in the South China Sea, not credible that we would attack China but not Iran, not credible that we would attack Iran now but not Iran back when its program was more vulnerable and its military less capable, and not credible that we would attack Iran period but not Assad in Syria.

            So when we topple Assad, Iran can get worried, when we topple the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un can sweat, when we topple him China has cause for concern, and when we bitchslap China Putin needs to give us a second look. But we balked at toppling Assad. Even after we talked a big game about red lines and had our red lines crossed. Our bark cannot matter to sane players anymore – we’ll have to bite before it matters again. And that has costs.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @kernly, John Schilling

            I’m not sure you two are actually in disagreement. Schilling is right that US certainly could go nuclear in an overseas altercation. Kernly is right that the US does not currently have the spine to do so, and bad actors are free to act badly.

            But spines can regrow just the same as they can go wobbly. It was only a decade or two ago that US assurances of protection were credible enough that Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons in exchange for it.

          • Protagoras says:

            @kernly, My understanding from reading people who have studied international relations is that past behavior in seemingly similar incidents is both a poor predictor of future behavior (because circumstances are constantly changing) and, importantly, not generally given much credence by decision makers trying to predict future behavior.

            On the former, engaging in aggressive behavior can sap resources needed for future aggressive behavior, making the next aggressive move less likely, and of course refraining from aggressive behavior can have domestic political consequences, either causing a change to a more aggressive government, or just causing a different government policy when the existing government sees what their last move did to the polls. And there are many other forces at work.

            On the second, I believe the biggest heuristic actually used by leaders for predicting whether another state is at risk of being aggressive is how much military power that state has. Obviously, on this heuristic, governments do expect aggressive action from the U.S. (and based on recent history, reasonably so; the U.S. has spent most of its time involved in one war or another for a while now).

            So nobody should conclude from the failure of the U.S. to topple Assad that the U.S. would or would not intervene in any other vaguely similar circumstance in the future (different cases are different; maybe we just didn’t care about Assad, or maybe even preferred him to the alternatives but were talking tough as a strategy for manipulating him, or any number of other things, and anyway whatever made us do it could change before the next situation). And the evidence is that leaders do not in fact draw such faulty conclusions, instead using other heuristics to decide what to be concerned about.

          • kernly says:

            past behavior in seemingly similar incidents is both a poor predictor of future behavior

            If you flipped a coin to predict whether a given country would get into a war in the next few decades, you’d do a lot worse than if looked at how frequently that country has gone to war in the past. Obviously past behavior is an excellent predictor of future behavior – compared to anything else. Perhaps you can improve from it using it as a foundation, but I am doubtful that this has been done. And I am dead certain that you have to use past behavior as your foundation for predicting future behavior no matter what.

            engaging in aggressive behavior can sap resources needed for future aggressive behavior

            Possible. The recent activities of the US and Russia put hard limits on how important that can be, though. If anything a better way to sum up their behavior is “wars are like potato chips – hard to have just one.”

            So nobody should conclude from the failure of the U.S. to topple Assad that the U.S. would or would not intervene in any other vaguely similar circumstance in the future

            Um, yes you should. You shouldn’t act as if it is set in stone, obviously, but you if the circumstances really are similar you should think “hmm, they didn’t do it last time – I’ve got to estimate that the probability of them doing it this time is <50%." Or you could try and fudge it based on other factors, but that's dangerous – I think in the long run you're outperformed by someone who just estimates based on the past.

            Of course, no two situations are the same. But the places we might attack that aren't Syria are much much MUCH harder to deal with than Syria was. So the chance we'll attack them has to be estimated as <<50%, assuming our affront at their misdeeds is broadly similar to our affront at the Syrian regime using chemical weapons after we warned them not to.

            Whether <<50% is low enough for you depends on your risk tolerance. It does not tell you anything on its own about whether you "should" antagonize the US.

            maybe we just didn’t care about Assad, or maybe even preferred him to the alternatives but were talking tough as a strategy for manipulating him

            My argument is that you shouldn’t engage in this sort of tea-leaf reading in the first place if the circumstances really are similar to those encountered in the past. But I gotta ding your tea-leaf reading technique. We certainly cared about Assad. We certainly did not, and do not, prefer him to the alternatives, or we would not arm those rebelling against him. We put a lot of effort into seeing him destroyed, stymied by the counter-efforts of Hezbollah and Russia.

            The only way you could conclude that we actually “preferred him to the alternatives” is if you thought that our government was both putting tremendous effort into lying, and totally insane. And had for some reason flipped away from the school of thought that had very recently driven them to topple Gaddafi.

          • Protagoras says:

            @kernly, I can see that you’re very confident in your understanding of situations that experts routinely misjudge. There have, however, been a considerable amount of huge wars started because country A figured country B wouldn’t intervene, since they didn’t last time, and, again, international relations experts who have examined the empirical evidence have concluded that most countries are either aware of this, or for other reasons make decisions based more on the perceived capabilities and dispositions of opposed forces than on nebulous reputations. Starting wars to “look tough” is a vast waste of resources; you look tougher by holding on to the resources and just making sure everybody knows you have them.

          • kernly says:

            I can see that you’re very confident in your understanding of situations that experts routinely misjudge.

            I am confident that I don’t know what the US is going to do years out, and I am confident that nobody can know. I also know that you HAVE to act on the assumption that past US actions are a guide to future US actions. A guide with a huge uncertainty factor, but also the ONLY guide.

            Because no two situations are identical, you have to try to account for the changing variables, but your baseline always is and always must be past action.

            And despite the fact that you will never achieve anything like perfect prediction, you have to base your actions on very loose predictions because there is nothing else to base them on. If you act like “probably won’t happen” means “definitely won’t happen” sooner or later you will have a bad time. On the other hand if you let the possibility of disaster stymie your every move you are doomed anyway.

            There have, however, been a considerable amount of huge wars started because country A figured country B wouldn’t intervene, since they didn’t last time

            Name them. The only war I can think of that would have clearly been stopped if the initiator knew a certain country would step in is the Gulf War. And it has nothing to do with your assertion, because there was no “last time” in that situation. There was, however, a certain incompetent US who gave exactly the wrong impression.

            international relations experts who have examined the empirical evidence have concluded that most countries are either aware of this

            There’s not much use making reference to nameless “experts.” That’s even worse than claiming that some named expert agrees with you without providing a quote. If you have experts supporting your POV, then either rephrase their actual arguments or quote them, in order to actually serve the discussion!

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Name them. The only war I can think of that would have clearly been stopped if the initiator knew a certain country would step in is the Gulf War. And it has nothing to do with your assertion, because there was no “last time” in that situation. There was, however, a certain incompetent US who gave exactly the wrong impression.

            Er, well, actually there are quite a few. I’ll limit myself to wars since the Congress of Vienna, mostly because cataloguing the various 18th century wars would grow tiresome and I’m pressed for time.

            Anyway: The Second World War started based largely on a miscalculation by Hitler that the Western democracies would not intervene in his annexation of Poland. The West had backed down at Munich, had it not, and why should millions of British or French men die for Poland? You can find many accounts by Nazi leaders published at the time, expressing confidence that the Polish campaign would be an incident similar to the Rhineland, Anschluss, or Sudetenland, not the Great War (who would risk another Great War?).

            Speaking of, the Great War started in large part because of misunderstandings between the great Powers – and again, fundamentally, a German conviction that Britain would not intervene over Belgium – or, if she did, certainly not to the point of sending an army to the Continent! Faced with creditable evidence of Britain’s intention to defend Belgian neutrality, it is possible – though of course by no means certain – that Germany (and with it the Habsburg empire) backs down.

            In Korea, we didn’t start a war, true – but we did press on into North Korea towards the Yalu based in large part on MacArthur’s conviction that China would not enter the war, or, if she did, that her contribution would not be sufficient to defeat the army of the United Nations.

            And North Korea, of course, only invaded the South because they believed that the US would not intervene to save Korea (some discussion of errant remarks by the State Department would be apt here).

            This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I recognize that I have neglected much of the groundwork, but the idea that countries can and do launch wars based on the expected response of potential adversaries absolutely has support. Their calculations on those expected responses, in turn, are based, among other things, on the country’s behavior in the past.

            Anyway, back to you guys’ debate, I am having great fun reading it. I just wanted to step in for a second.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Second World War started in 1941 based largely on a miscalculation by Hitler that the Western democracies would not intervene, etc.

            Once we were able to read all their notes, and talk to their surviving officials, it is I think uncontroversial that the Nazis expected Britain and France to intervene against Nazi wars of aggression, but that this would occur in about 1944 when the Nazis were invading places far more significant than Poland. Hitler & company believed that Germany needed to expand or die, correctly understood that their planned expansion would be intolerable to the Western allies, and planned to win the ensuing war.

            Giving the Nazis perfect knowledge of the actual threshold of Franco-British interventionism, doesn’t change any of those three fundamentals, it just saves them from making a quantitative error in assessing one or two of them. Probably they split the difference, spend another couple of years rearming, and launch a preemptive version of Fall Gelb in 1942 before swinging east.

            The British and French, and the Russians, are also rearming, so this doesn’t necessarily change the outcome. It almost certainly doesn’t change the bit where World War II happens. And there’s a really interesting alternate history somebody needs to write where the British and French, with big armies and a quiet Germany, intervene against Russia in Finland in 1940…

            World War I, as noted, is a different matter.

          • kernly says:

            Issue in question was:

            There have, however, been a considerable amount of huge wars started because country A figured country B wouldn’t intervene, since they didn’t last time

            I think this is a fairly high bar – in order to pass it, I think we have to be able to assert that the folks who started the wars knew that intervention would end in disaster for them. Just because it did end in disaster doesn’t mean that it was crystal clear that that intervention would make that outcome inevitable.

            There have been many who stood stalwart in the face of greatly superior foes, and some even came out ahead for it. You wouldn’t expect non-nuclear countries would stand up to the US direct intervention during the Cold War, but those conflicts often weren’t unambiguous US victories.

            Those “little guys” had big allies, though. That’s what was missing in the Gulf War, and that’s why I think that that war does cross the first hurdle, but not the second (“since they didn’t last time.”)

            Anyway: The Second World War started based largely on a miscalculation by Hitler that the Western democracies would not intervene in his annexation of Poland.

            I think it is fairly absurd to assert that Hitler would have backed down if only he knew that the western democracies that he so feared (lol) would declare war on him. Especially given that he later invaded the freakin’ USSR instead of totally focusing on them.

            Faced with creditable evidence of Britain’s intention to defend Belgian neutrality, it is possible – though of course by no means certain – that Germany (and with it the Habsburg empire) backs down.

            I don’t take issue with that. “Possible but by no means certain” is not quite the bar I would want to cross if I was to assert that a given war started “because” of something.

            And North Korea, of course, only invaded the South because they believed that the US would not intervene to save Korea

            Granting for the moment that this is a Gulf War style situation – which I don’t think is the case, because NK had China and Saddam had nobody – we’re back to what I said about that war. It simply doesn’t fit the bill of something that was started because someone erroneously believed that past behavior would predict future behavior. It was something that was started because someone put faith in misleading signals sent by the other side.

            But let’s look at what actually happened in the Korean War. War started, US intervened, China intervened, NK ended up basically where it started. It is pretty clear that the north was not, in fact, fucked Saddam-style if the US intervened. If we presume they had a good read on what would happen if the US intervened, then not invading is a negative “expected value” move – if the US does not intervene, you get everything, if the US does, you draw. If there’s a possibility the US won’t intervene, you’re “supposed” to go for it, from an EV perspective. This isn’t how world leaders actually think, of course, but I think it’s a useful analysis to do, to see if some course of action really is totally insane.

            In light of that, I think it’s kind of crazy to call that a war “only” happened because the NKs thought the US probably wouldn’t intervene. For sure, that was a factor pushing for war – but does it overwhelmingly swamp all the other stuff that pushed the north towards starting a war, sooner or later, with the south?

    • Matt M says:

      Regarding the preferences – this is only true to a certain extent. We don’t want homeless people sleeping on the curb in front of our house, but at the same time, everyone wants to live somewhat close to a grocery store and restaurants and have nearby public transportation, all of which require you to have poor people around. So you don’t want poor people right next door, but you don’t want them halfway around the world either.

      Regarding the company analogy – Is Google really selective about who they hire to cook the food and take out the trash? The problem with only hiring the best janitors is that at some point, they don’t feel like being janitors anymore, and then they become a threat to the established white-collar workers. In this way, a low-skilled foreigner is probably better for a middling white-collar worker than a low-skilled native, as the native is more likely to end up competing for his job (for a wide variety of reasons).

      • Alraune says:

        Normal solution to that is you have the cheap houses out in the suburbs/favelas/whatever and a bus service. America doesn’t do this because… bizarrely bad urban planning.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. But my overall point was that rich people would not see their utility improved if we rounded up everyone making less than six figures and deported them all to Africa.

          Rich people want poor people out of sight, but prefer that their labor still be easily accessible. Heck, you might even bring one onto your own property if you need some cleaning, gardening, or child-raising done!

          • DB says:

            This is almost irrelevant on the current margin. The US, in particular, already has multiple underclasses that it cannot deport without breaking international laws. (Interestingly, Lincoln did seriously consider sending former slaves back to Africa en masse. But most blacks weren’t really interested in returning.)

            The one country it might apply to is Japan. They appear to have collectively decided that robots are a better solution to the menial labor problem. As far as I can tell, their math is correct given what their preferences are.

          • Adam says:

            Japan is a collection of islands with zero mineral and energy resources that already has some of the world’s highest population density. Importing laborers probably isn’t a tenable option.

          • DB says:

            @Adam:

            Indeed. But that doesn’t stop New York Times opinion columnists and the like from trying to browbeat the Japanese anyway.

            There is a silver lining here: anyone who is on the record claiming that Japan must increase low-skill immigration, and who doesn’t both retract the claim when confronted and avoid ever making it again, can be safely assumed to be acting in bad faith. (Strictly speaking, a valid counterargument would also work, but I’ve never seen one in twenty years; Japan is a pretty darn clear-cut case.) This lets truth-seekers efficiently filter out a lot of crap.

          • “Japan is a collection of islands with zero mineral and energy resources that already has some of the world’s highest population density.”

            Number 40 on the Wikipedia table. About 1/20th the density of Singapore. About 1/50th that of Monaco, which seems to hold the record for independent states (Macao is even higher).

          • Nornagest says:

            Seems outside the spirit of the question to include microstates like Monaco, and Singapore could fairly be called a city-state. But Japan is ranked below a number of small to medium-sized countries including some first-world ones, and also below India and the Philippines; it’s a dense country, but I wouldn’t call it one of the densest.

          • Adam says:

            To be honest, I’m working from the basic assumption that importing a labor class would require that labor to live reasonably near the cities full of Japanese people they’d be laboring for, which are quite a bit denser than Japan as a whole, not on one of the remote outlying forest islands with no people on it.

          • Adam says:

            Seems outside the spirit of the question to include microstates like Monaco, and Singapore could fairly be called a city-state.

            Also, Monaco only allows people to become citizens by marrying citizens of Monaco, Singapore requires employers to pay and you can only bring your family if you earn at least $4,000 a month, they don’t grant citizenship by naturalization, and India and the Philippines don’t seem like the sort of places Japan wants to become.

          • Nornagest says:

            I mentioned India and the Philippines because they’re large countries, not because I’d expect Japan to be particularly interested in their population policy.

          • Adam says:

            Hmm. I actually got the impression you agreed with me and I was just adding information, not intending to argue.

          • Nornagest says:

            Ah, sorry. Carry on, then.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        > Regarding the company analogy – Is Google really selective about who they hire to cook the food and take out the trash? The problem with only hiring the best janitors is that at some point, they don’t feel like being janitors anymore, and then they become a threat to the established white-collar workers.

        I may be taking the metaphor to seriously here, but the “threat” dynamic just isn’t there. I know one Googler who moved from Admin to Project Manager. She was qualified, so everyone welcomed her.

        A healthy community doesn’t have a fixed supply of white collar positions such that every new person wanting one competes with established people. It creates those positions as it finds people who can handle them.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. The analogy isn’t great and I almost didn’t post it. I just think yours isn’t exactly perfect either.

          Google is able to succeed by hiring “only the best” because they are able to out-source a lot of the “dirty” jobs that “the best” wouldn’t be willing to do. I suppose that’s my overall point here. Google wouldn’t run nearly as smoothly if it only hired ridiculously smart and accomplished people from top universities, and then was required to use these people to perform ALL tasks (including things like cooking, cleaning, garbage collection) necessary for the company to operate. They’d have a full-scale revolt on their hands in a manner of days…

          • kernly says:

            I dunno. I imagine that they’d start coming up with really clever ways to automate garbage collection, cooking, etc. I don’t think it’s impossible to make it nearly entirely automated, and I am certain that there are lots of gains to be made in terms of making it easier.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Orb, I want to live in a super-nice, fancy house with a hot tub and a two-car garage, and a low-income family as my neighbors. Where do I buy?

    • “If you don’t believe me that this is an issue, just look at how smart people who don’t have fancy degrees, like Eliezer Yudkowsky, get treated in the press and by the population at large.)”

      Smart unqualified people who make an undoubted contribution, and refrain from sneering at others, can be lionised, eg Edison, Ramanujan.

      • kernly says:

        LOL! That goes way beyond just being an “undoubted contribution.” Might as well just say “well it’s OK if you don’t have a degree as long as you get a Nobel Prize…. And don’t sneer at others.” You’re actually pushing CRAZY hard for the perspective of the guy you seem to disagree with..

  19. anon85 says:

    The fruit fly thing can’t explain homosexuality. No matter how many genes you find that cause homosexuality in males but are beneficial in females, the question remains: why didn’t evolution come up with a simple if-statement (if female, activate the gene, otherwise don’t)? Such an if-statement would be *tremendously* advantageous, and evolution had a billion years to figure it out.

    • Eggo says:

      “The evolution of condition dependent sexual dimorphism” from this university might be a good place to start looking.

      The TL;DR is that genomic imprinting has costs, and it’s actually surprisingly difficult for peacocks to pass on large, colourful tail feathers to their sons without it affecting their daughters.
      Genetics is hard, and evolution isn’t a wizard, basically.

      • anon85 says:

        Sure, but the whole point is to explain why it’s hard. Saying “the genes for gayness are beneficial in other ways” gives essentially zero information; what’s interesting here is why evolution can’t route around this with a simple if-statement or something.

        Evolution may not be a wizard, but if the prevalence of homosexuality reaches single digit percentages is most species, persisting for a billion years, that seems like a *huge* design flaw, and explaining it seems nontrivial to me.

        Think about it: eliminating homosexuality gives you a free ~5% reproduction advantage. Not only that, but this has held true for millions or billions of years in your ancestral environment. This should easily trump things like “slightly better eyesight”, which evolution successfully selects for. The only explanation I can think of is that getting sexual dimorphism consistently right is *extremely* difficult – harder than any problem evolution ever had to solve.

        What I would like is an explanation of why sexual dimorphism is so difficult. The fruit fly thing is irrelevant.

        • Eggo says:

          The answer is in one or more of those papers I linked above. They have _some_ understanding of the mechanisms that govern gene expression, and it’s fascinating to see the trade-offs involved in stuff like genomic imprinting.
          The costs of restricting gene expression can include birth defects, cancer, etc. So in a lot of cases it’s easier to tolerate traits that reduce fitness.

          I’ll try to find the one with the best high level explanation–can’t remember the title.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          if the prevalence of homosexuality reaches single digit percentages is most species

          if.

          • anon85 says:

            That “if” seems pretty true to me:

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

            but feel free to explain why you disagree.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I don’t see many numbers in that article; mostly it is “has been observed.” Moreover, there is a big difference between “homosexual behavior” and a strong preference that is evolutionarily problematic.

            Humans and sheep are the only mammals where a substantial number of males exhibit a strong preference for mating with males over females.

            I think that there are a fair number of bird species that form long-term households in which a a substantial number of pairings are male-male. But not most species.

          • anon85 says:

            So homosexuality is prevalent in humans, sheep, some birds, and fruit flies, and homosexual acts are common in many other animals, but you don’t view this as puzzling?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The puzzle of it putatively persisting for billions of years is rather different from the puzzle of it persisting for a century or ten millennia. The resolution of the first puzzle is that it isn’t true.

          • anon85 says:

            I see, so I take it homosexuality separately evolved in humans, sheep, birds, and fruit flies, right?

            Can we at least agree that homosexual acts go back a billion years, since most animals engage in them? And supposing that’s true, why are we assuming that homosexuality is a relatively recent phenomenon?

          • Adam says:

            Sexual reproduction at all only developed about a billion years ago, and animals only appeared 600 million years ago.

          • anon85 says:

            @Adam you’re right, I should have said half a billion instead of a billion. I was rounding to the nearest order of magnitude.

        • John Schilling says:

          eliminating homosexuality gives you a free ~5% reproduction advantage

          How does that work? I’ll spot you 5% outright homosexuality, though I’m pretty sure that’s about half an order of magnitude high.

          So 5% of lesbians are Kinsey-6 homosexual. For almost all of human history, that has about zero effect on their fertility; they’re going to be pregnant every few years from menarche to menopause or death, they’re just not going to enjoy getting there. And they’re not going to have as stable a bond with the father, which will probably have some effect on overall reproductive fitness but not 5%.

          And 5% of men are Kinsey-6 as well, but even if we don’t force or shame them into marriage, so what? They pair up and go away, the rest of the male population looks at the effective 1.05 gender ratio and says (pick one):

          A: “Such a tragedy; 5% of women will go unloved!”

          B: “Now we don’t need to rape all the lesbians, and everything will balance!”

          C: “More women in the harems of the Alphas, and slightly better odds for the Betas!”

          At the individual level, yes, male homosexuality at least is a substantial evolutionary disadvantage and always has been. At the societal level, not so much. If the fundamental unit of human evolution is the tribe rather than the individual, then I’m not seeing the strong pressure to exclude every last trace of gayness that might be floating around the gene pool.

          • anon85 says:

            The fundamental unit of evolution *is* the individual: most evolutionary biologists that I respect argue against group selection.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            + on several points

            If the fundamental unit of human evolution is the tribe rather than the individual, then I’m not seeing the strong pressure to exclude every last trace of gayness that might be floating around the gene pool.

            If the unit of /whatever/ is the tribe, and most mothers have a husband to help with her children while gay uncles spend their time in monasteries and universities or trekking to see what’s over the mountain — then the more gay males the better. Up to some limit, which would be interesting to think about.

          • onyomi says:

            This would be especially true if homosexuality were more common in men than in women, since you don’t actually need all that many heterosexual men to keep women reproducing at their maximum possible rate.

            But I don’t think that is the case (I think female homosexuality is just as common as male?). Then again, lesbians’ preferences about whether or not to have sex with men were probably even less respected, historically, than men’s preferences about whether or not to have sex with women, so it may not matter too much.

          • Alraune says:

            The positive correlation between number of older brothers and homosexuality (assuming that hasn’t been refuted?) suggests that the relevant unit of selection in this particular case is The Y-Chromosome, acting in a fashion that’s optimized for life in a defaults-to-cousin-marrying society where every male is heavily related to every other male and the Y’s primary survival constraint is that you not get into a disastrous war with your own brothers.

          • Mary says:

            “And they’re not going to have as stable a bond with the father, which will probably have some effect on overall reproductive fitness but not 5%. ”

            Arguable. You do have to remember that he will have greater paternal confidence, which will help.

          • Mary says:

            “most evolutionary biologists that I respect argue against group selection.”

            Group selection has been observed in action. By breeding hens from the best laying coop, not the individual best breeders, they got a lot of nasty behaviors (such as hens killing other hens) down.

          • Adam says:

            The fundamental unit of selection is the gene, not the individual. If a particular gene is found in both males and females, and prevents males from reproducing but not females, it will still propagate.

          • anon85 says:

            @Adam Yes, the fundamental unit is the gene. But a gene that prevents homosexuality would give a huge evolutionary benefit.

            In addition, if gene A causes homosexuality in males but is beneficial in females, then first of all, it better be *really* beneficial in females (because it is devastating for the gene in males), and secondly, any gene B that adds an if-statement that says “if female, activate gene A; otherwise don’t” would be a hugely beneficial gene. So there’s still a puzzle here: why doesn’t B exist?

          • Adam says:

            How do we know these don’t exist? A gene’s existence doesn’t imply it’s universality. The overwhelming majority of people are not homosexual, presumably because of the overwhelming reproductive advantage due to not being homosexual. Look at all the other bad things that genes do. It’s very hard to completely remove any and all detrimental genes from an entire species.

          • anon85 says:

            @Adam, these other bad things don’t have a prevalence of 5% of the population. Many of them hardly affect the pre-reproduction age population at all (e.g. most cancers). 5% non-reproduction is huge! It’s so enormous that I can’t imagine any positive advantage that can outweigh it.

            Think about it this way: suppose there was a gene that caused people to kill themselves before they reproduce. And suppose that 5% of the population had this gene. Further, suppose that this behavior existed in many other animals, and indeed it might be hundreds of millions of years old. Would this not strike you as surprising?

          • Adam says:

            I don’t think it’s the case throughout animal evolutionary history that homosexuals had 0% probability of reproducing, and heterosexuals 100% probability. No doubt there is some difference between the two numbers, but clearly not enough to completely eliminate the behavior. I just don’t think it’s quite the drastically huge disadvantage you think it is. Plenty of gay people still have kids, especially gay women.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Group selection has been observed in action. By breeding hens from the best laying coop, not the individual best breeders, they got a lot of nasty behaviors (such as hens killing other hens) down.

            The argument against group selection is not that it is impossible in principle, but that the conditions necessary for it to work are so strict that they almost never arise in nature. It requires mutations to confer a ridiculously high ratio of rewards to the group versus damage to the individual, and minimal to no exchange of individuals between groups. Humans, of course, can artificially create an environment in which group selection happens. See Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “The Tragedy of Group Selectionism”.

            The fundamental unit of selection is the gene, not the individual.

            This.

          • anon85 says:

            Even if the disadvantage was 1% instead of 5%, that’s still too large for the gene to survive for long.

          • Careless says:

            @Adam: if they existed. the enormous benefit of the gene in females would make A spread to the whole population, basically, which would make B spread to the whole population. So you still wouldn’t see the situation we have now

        • Anonymous says:

          What I would like is an explanation of why sexual dimorphism is so difficult.

          A lot of things are difficult. Evolving an eye without a bass-ackward retina was difficult. Evolving testicles that could be stored inside the body cavity was difficult (though elephants have managed it). I’m not sure what’s informing your expectations here.

          • anon85 says:

            Putting the testicles inside the body, or getting the eye to not have a stupid blindspot, seem like nice advantages. But they can’t be solved using a simple if-statement. And they probably don’t give you a survival disadvantage that’s as high as 5% or even 1% (unless you believe that 1 in 20 chimpanzees in the wild get castrated by blows to the testes).

            I think there’s still a legitimate question about why the prevalence of homosexuality is as high as 5%, while the prevalence of other sexual dimorphism problems (e.g. intersex people) is generally 1% or less.

          • @anon85: last time I paid attention, the leading theory said that whether you were heterosexual or homosexual was determined by hormone levels in the mother at certain critical periods. It isn’t clear to me how that could be fixed without at least potentially messing up a whole lot of other stuff.

          • anon85 says:

            Well, the fruit fly article linked in OP suggested there was a gene that caused homosexuality in males but was beneficial in females. If that were the case in humans, that could indeed be solved by an if-statement (if female, activate gene).

          • But is “if female” actually straightforward to implement genetically? I mean, it’s not like a digital computer.

            How do genes activate and deactivate one another anyway? (I doubt it’s as simple as you’re suggesting.)

          • Adam says:

            Genes can do that, but I believe it’s mostly very early in the developmental process before sex is even established.

          • @Adam: I would vaguely suppose that it might be possible for a gene on the Y chromosome to deactivate the gene that (hypothetically) causes male homosexuality. But I strongly suspect that it isn’t that simple. 🙂

            (The most obvious problem: how does a gene that deactivates another gene identify the target? It can’t very well say “deactivate the 581st gene on the fourth chromosome”, so there must be some mechanism that links the two genes. Does the wrong gene sometimes get deactivated, or conversely, does it sometimes not deactivate anything? Does this mechanism only work for certain target genes, because of something about their structure?)

          • John Schilling says:

            We’re talking about chunks of neurobiology far too complex to be coded in single genes, of course. But if it takes a thousand genes to code for the proteins that will nudge an embryonic brain into building what puberty will later activate as a male-oriented sex drive, it may take only one gene to code for a protein that might throw a spanner in the works, blocking or competing for resources with one of the thousand.

            Put that protein on the Y chromosome, and Mr. XY gets a 99.9%-complete male-directed sex drive, as functional as e.g. an internal combustion engine that has every part perfectly placed save an undersized ignition coil. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, maybe it coughs and sputters intermittently, depending on how undersized the coil is, depending in turn on fine details of gene expression during fetal development.

            And, evolution being efficient but imperfect, there will also be genes (maybe the same genes) on the Y chromosome that retask most but not all of that now-idle machinery to make a female-directed sex drive. Depending on which genes get “broken”, when and to what extent their broken-ness manifests, you wind up with obligate homosexuality, bisexuality, partial or total asexuality.

            Maybe also some reproductively beneficial effect as well, but I don’t think anyone has found the smoking-gun candidate for that.

          • Adam says:

            @Harry,

            Embarrassingly enough, I used to originally be a biology major a lot time ago as an undergrad, and I should know this, but I completely forgot how it works. Someone here must actually be a biologist. I found a brief explanation from the NIH.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            As someone working with transcription factors (I’m on the bus to my lab as I write this), gene expression is a really poorly understood and complex system. We know more now than at any previous point in human history, and we do know quite a bit in absolute terms, but there is still more darkness than light total.

            The gist is that there are very few simple ‘switches’ involved. Each individual TF regulates dozens to tens of thousands of genes, and they tend to operate in concert with other transcription factors to form large complexes which do the real work. For extra fun, they are themselves transcriptionally regulated so there’s a hierarchy of factors, and related factors can sometimes substitute for one another if the one stops working even if their normal functions are different.

            That’s not to say there’s no rhyme or reason to it, quite the opposite, but it’s a complex and highly redundant system. There are probably several different paths to roughly the same endpoint, each with their own quirks, rather than a singular “gay gene” or even a “gay enhancer region.”

    • Harald K says:

      My suggestion for anyone inclined to speculate about evolutionary whys and why-nots still stands: Go out there and play with a genetic algorithm, and you’ll see soon enough how perverse they can be about not doing the “obvious” thing.

      • anon85 says:

        I’ve coded genetic algorithms before, thanks.

        I think this homosexuality issue still demands an explanation. If we just say “evolution doesn’t do the obvious thing, so don’t worry about it”, then the theory of evolution loses a lot of explanatory power. If we overuse antibiotics, will bacteria develop resistance? Well, you could say that “evolution doesn’t do the obvious thing”, so maybe not. This isn’t very useful though.

        • Harald K says:

          Then you know how much depends on your choice of representation! A simple if/then switch need not be simple at all.

          For antibiotics, we know bacteria develop resistance, because we’ve seen it. But there are also a lot of things, which from a naïve point of view might seem like similar threats, which bacteria are not good at developing resistance against (such as bleach).

          The point is that we can’t say very much without experimentation, or pretty knowledge of the genetic mechanisms involved.

          • anon85 says:

            Genetic algorithms can suck at certain things. But evolution in nature seems to suck less, which is why it can produce things that genetic algorithms can’t (such as intelligence). Even if for some reason evolution couldn’t come up with a solution to homosexuality, that would demand an explanation (for example, we have an explanation for why bacteria are vulnerable to bleach).

            The bleach example isn’t even that convincing: if you use low enough concentrations of bleach, so that 95% of bacteria survive in each generation, and if you did it for a hundred million generations, I fully expect some creative solutions on the bacteria’s behalf, even if full resistance to bleach is impossible.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            We have reason to think that nature can come up with a solution, since so many mammal species, including close kin, don’t have obligate male homosexuality.

          • How much obligate male homosexuality is there?

            I’m defining it as a strong dislike of sex with women. It seems to me that homosexual men who find sex with women less satisfying than sex with men, or not especially fun but not awful are much more common than those who’d actively avoid it.

            This also means that in societies where there is strong social pressure to have children (probably just about all of them until recently), there’s going to be less selective pressure against male homosexuality of all sorts.

  20. Daniel Speyer says:

    I suddenly had a desire to go back to this comment and leave a reply about gingerbread made with almond flour, but SSC blocks commenting on old threads, so I have to make do with leaving this comment.

  21. Orb says:

    Yeah, I would ban both Moldbug and the communists who complained from the conference.

    • Godzillarissa says:

      Not sure how many people you’d have to kick out, but watering down the bill with politically acceptable “experts” and has-beens might not be your best bet.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      +

      It might be more efficient to ban anyone who objects to any qualified speaker because of any political reasons. If a speaker is qualified, zie has probably put zis energy into real accomplishments — though if zie has involved zirself in political flaps, zie may need a second look at zis common sense or zis interest in the field.

      • Belabored Yearning says:

        (to rephrase it):

        Ban attendees who have proposed banning attendees who haven’t themselves proposed banning attendees.

        It reminds me of Kantian style arguments that it’s irrational and immoral to tolerate the intolerant.

        • John Schilling says:

          “Ban the first person who calls for a banning”, seems to me little different than “shoot the first person who draws a gun”. If you want your gatherings to be as civil as possible, these are policies worth considering.

    • Gbdub says:

      Except that it sounds like Moldbug has something of value to give to the conference (a presentation on Urbit). Do his communist detractors have similar value to add? Seems that should be relevant on who to ban.

      • Viliam Búr says:

        Also, even if some of the communists do care about the conference and have something of value to add, they could simply select as their speaker someone who doesn’t. So the speaker gets banned, but doesn’t mind it.

        This is the advantage of numbers, and of having enough pawns to sacrifice.

    • Anonymous says:

      That supposes that the communists were actually planning to attend the conference.

  22. DrBeat says:

    I think Rickrolling really lost its impact when they monetized that video. It’s just not the same when you click a link and start hearing a Grey Goose vodka ad, instead of Never Gonna Give You Up’s distinctive opening.

    Truly, a tragedy of capitalism.

    • Eggo says:

      Wait, some people see ads on youtube? When did this start happening?

      • bartlebyshop says:

        After AdBlock came into existence. AdBlock updated to block Youtube ads extremely quickly once they started, because they are extremely annoying. I’m guessing you’ve had AB/NoScript installed for a long time?

  23. suntzuanime says:

    People are more willing to eat an unfamiliar dish if they’re told it comes from their favorite restaurant than if they’re given the exact same dish and told it comes from a cabal of evil poisoners. This is a shocking example of confirmation bias.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think the point is more to do with the narrative you see floating about that Republicans block perfectly reasonable Democrat-inspired bills simply because they are Evil and want non-hetero cis straight old rich white Christian males to suffer, while Democrats are reasonable and nice and vote on the merits.

      Seeing actual politics in action is not a surprise to any of us over the age of fourteen, but for some people who believe “My side is the nice side and those over there are the nasty ones”, maybe it may shake loose some fixed notions?

      • Gene Marsh says:

        “We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party…..The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition….The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.”
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lets-just-say-it-the-republicans-are-the-problem/2012/04/27/gIQAxCVUlT_story.html

        • From the same article:

          And Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican congressional staffer, wrote an anguished diatribe last year about why he was ending his career on the Hill after nearly three decades. “The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe,” he wrote on the Truthout Web site.

          Shortly before Rep. West went off the rails with his accusations of communism in the Democratic Party […]

          Consider how the parallel(?) accusations of being a Nazi and being a Communist are treated.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yep. Mr Lofgren says the Republicans are behaving like Fascists – perfectly fair comment.

            Mr West says the Democrats are behaving like Communists – clear sign he’s nuts with his crazy conspiracy loon talk!

          • social justice warlock says:

            They’re both accusations of being a communist; “one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of the 20th century” is a standard liberal way of grouping together Nazis, Communists, and anyone else who isn’t a liberal.

          • Gene Marsh says:

            Lofgren made an unflattering comparison.

            West made a batshit accusation:
            “Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party”.

            You made an equivocating wisecrack.

          • cthulhu delenda est says:

            30 seconds of googling leads to:

            West: “It’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. … It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

            On Facebook, West elaborated: “I stand by the point of my comments. The press wants to write gotcha stories and talk semantics, but just look at the words and actions of the Progressive Caucus. You can call them socialist, Marxist, communist or whatever you want, but the point is, they oppose free markets and individual economic freedom, they want to redistribute wealth, and they want to see the nation fundamentally transformed. Their policies are destructive and I will stand up to them regardless of the critics. Members of this Caucus lavished praise on Fidel Castro following a 2009 visit, just to name one example. The Communist Party USA claims the Progressive Caucus as its ‘ally.’”

            So Gene, dishonesty or motivated ignorance?

          • Gene Marsh says:

            “So Gene, dishonesty or motivated ignorance?”

            http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2012/apr/11/allen-west/allen-west-says-about-80-house-democrats-are-membe/

            Here’s rundown on non whig, federalists, dems or repubs. who’ve served in congress.

            Adams Democrat – 1 (House)
            American Laborite – 2 (House)
            American Party – 40 (House)
            Anti-Jacksonian – 44 (House)
            Anti-Mason – 30 (House)
            Conservative – 9 (8 House, 1 Senate)
            Conservative Republican – 2 (House, Delegate)
            Constitutional Unionist – 2 (House)
            Democrat Farmer Labor – 3 (House)
            Farmer Laborite – 13 (House)
            Free Silver – 1 (House, Delegate)
            Free Soil – 11 (5 House, 6 Senate)
            Greenbacker – 12 (House)
            Independent (unaffiliated) – 24 (20 House, 4 Senate)
            Independent Democrat – 27 (26 House, 1 Senate)
            Independent Radical – 1 (House)
            Independent Republican – 15 (14 House, 1 Senate)
            Independent Whig – 1 (House)
            Jackson Democrat – 1 (House)
            Jacksonian – A couple hundred, I’m not going to count them
            Law and Order – 1 (House)
            Liberal – 1 (House)
            Liberal Republican – 9 (6 House, 3 Senate)
            Non partisan – 1 (House)
            Nullifier – 13 (10 House, 4 Senate; one was in both)
            Oppostion – 14 (House)
            Populist – 45 (39 House, 6 Senate)
            Progressive – 23 (22 House, 1 Senate)
            Progressive Republican – 3 (House)
            Prohibitionist – 1 (House)
            Readjustor – 7 (5 House, 2 Senate)
            Silver Republican – 6 (4 House, 2 Senate)
            Socialist – 2 (House)
            State Rights Democrat – 2 (House)
            Unconditional Unionist – 24 (18 House, 6 Senate)
            Union Democrat – 2 (House)
            Union Laborite – 2 (House)
            Union Republican – 4 (House)
            Unionist – 51 (40 House, 11 Senate)

          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, for fuck’s sake. If Cthulhu’s quote is accurate, then in context West obviously means that as a rhetorical condemnation of the Progressive Caucus, not an accusation that its members are or have ever been literal members of the Communist Party of the US (whom I’ve never heard anything from, even when I was going to college at the hippest of hippie schools).

            I don’t, as it happens, agree with him — old-school communism is quite a different animal from the present-day American Left, even the parts of it that call themselves Communist but especially those that have seats in Congress, and I don’t think old-school Red-baiting has factual or rhetorical legs. But I can see what he’s trying to do.

            I realize that this commentiariat has pretty much thrown out nonpartisanship as a norm, but can we at least dial back the quote-mining? That shit’s worthy of Gawker.

        • Cauê says:

          Yes, this is a good example of Deiseach’s point.

          • Gene Marsh says:

            That point being “both sides do it”? Because if you like that insight you’ll love the centrist fan fiction of David Brooks, George Stephanopoulous, and Bob Schieffer.

          • Cauê says:

            I’d normally try to be less blunt, but… Gene, I don’t think you’re making your side look good here.

            But ok, maybe you don’t really think tribalism is something only the other tribe does (as it’s looking like). Can you give some examples of tribalism by liberals, so we can better understand each other?

          • Gene Marsh says:

            I went to grad school at UMASS in the nineties. While I didnt strictly object to identity politics, I was furious that the left abandoned labor in favor of it. I slowly came to see that corporations had no problem with identity politics and that’s what i understood neo-liberalism to be. Socially liberal fiscal corporatism that attends to photogenic tokenism but gives fuck-all about the people I identity with: disenfranchised underdogs of every demographic. Growing up in the early eighties hardcore scene I never shook the antagonism for the powerful and priveleged.
            In truth I’ve never met an SJW (i’ve read some Judith Butler?) and I don’t even know where to find them on the internet (I’m 48.) I’ve never been clear on what tumblr is. Could I get a link?
            From what I can tell it sounds like the NRx/Libertarians and Feminist/SJW share my least favorite traits. Utter certainty and rush to closure. Also no sense of humor. Humor and ambiguity is my bread and butter.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “While I didnt strictly object to identity politics, I was furious that the left abandoned labor in favor of it.”

            That is all the left has left. Communism, central planning, nationalization- they have all been shown as failures. Strong social safety nets are all that is left but they aren’t compatible with relatively open borders.

            I mean just look at Bernie Sanders. Here are the 12 issues he thinks are important enough to list

            http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/recent-business/an-economic-agenda-for-america-12-steps-forward

            His glorious plan to improve the position of workers is doubling the minimum wage and cutting back on international trade. That is all that is left wing economic to improve people’s lives on his goals. They are both pretty loopy (he explicitly calls out NAFTA and CAFTA- exactly what does he think will happen if the factories shut down in Mexico and the wages double in the US).

            ” I slowly came to see that corporations had no problem with identity politics and that’s what i understand neo-liberalism to be. ”

            Sort of. The present is like the 1880s. The substantive issues about how society should be (slave vs free, planned vs market) are over, one side was totally eliminated and so tribalism filled the gap.

            “I’ve never met an SJW and I don;t know where to find them on the internet. For all the talk of them on this site there’s never a link.”

            Atheism Plus? You can also try Occupy Wallstreet’s progressive stack (where under privileged can override normal queue order)

            “But from what I can tell it sounds like the NRx/Libertarians and Feminist/SJW share my least favorite traits. Utter certainty and rush to closure.”

            Neoreactionaries are just people who have a big idea that explains everything. Unlike other versions of the grand idea (which seeks to solve politics) it declares the problem is not solvable in foreseeable future. Seriously, they don’t have concrete policy outlines for what their despot should do when they get into power- they are like Plato or Marx talking about the ideal/future state.

            Libertarians is so broad you can’t really make a blanket statement about them. People agree with libertarians until the moment they start disagreeing (see freedom of speech). Feminists have no defined definition. Even the MRA’s who think Western Feminism is poisonous because of its ideological underpinnings have no objection to the idea of women’s issues.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Samuel Skinner:

            I don’t think your summary of Sanders’s viewpoint is fair. He’s not just proposing to double minimal wage, he’s proposing to:

            1). Improve roads and some other infrastructure
            2). Reverse climate change
            3). Make it easier to create worker-owned co-operatives
            4). Make it easier to create unions
            5). Raise minimum wage (he doesn’t say by how much)
            6). Raise the income of women (he doesn’t say how)
            7). Reduce outsourcing
            8). Cut college costs
            9). Break up big banks
            10). Create a single-payer health care system
            11). Expand social safety net programs
            12). Stop corporate tax evasion

            Of these, points #3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 are aimed at directly supporting workers; the other points are aimed at supporting everyone, workers included.

            You might argue that some or all of these points are either impossible to implement or outright harmful, but that’s not the same thing as claiming that they are nonexistent.

          • Deiseach says:

            I was furious that the left abandoned labor in favor of it. I slowly came to see that corporations had no problem with identity politics

            Gene, I can certainly shake your hand in agreement on that. My own political views are that (up to really recently), I’d vote straight Fianna Fáil in every election and give the rest of my preferences to Labour.

            My own party have made such an ignoble steaming heap of cronyism, incompetence and greed out of being in power that I am rendered physically ill by the notion of voting them back into power in next year’s election, even after a chastening period in exile. So that’s out.

            I am not voting Fine Gael.

            Labour have more and more abandoned their roots as ‘the party of the working class’ (ironically as they absorbed/were taken over by – which it is depends on your view – more ideologically rigorous parties such as the remnants of The Workers’ Party).

            They have no problems with pushing a progressive, ‘identity politics’ agenda (the former Minister for Education in our current government and the former Tanáiste-cumMinister for Foreign Affairs, who is now the ex-leader of the party, were both out about being atheists and wanting to drag Ireland out of its backwards, priest-ridden past). As they have seen their working-class vote migrate to Sinn Féin, they keep chasing the undecided middle-class vote, and this in turn means they keep shedding working-class urban voters who perceive them as running to the centre.

            Campaigns such as the recent same-sex marriage referendum were the perfect expression for this; it was an easy, feel-good victory. Things like standing up to the senior partner in power on cuts to social welfare and the austerity budgets? Big talk before the election, rolling over and caving in afterwards.

            As you say, corporations have no problem with identity politics – indeed, one of the points urging voters to vote “Yes” in the referendum made by our Taoiseach was that if we wanted to attract multinationals, we needed to show we were a progressive society. The idea that big, foreign corporations should influence how our society was shaped, or the decisions the people took on national questions, slipped by unquestioned or unremarked upon – certainly not by Labour!

            So I’m probably going to reluctantly vote Sinn Féin – or more likely, any Independent candidates.

          • nydwracu says:

            I slowly came to see that corporations had no problem with identity politics and that’s what i understood neo-liberalism to be.

            Exactly.

            Anyone who agrees that this is a problem should go read this and the book quoted here. Capitalism isn’t pushing atomization out of the goodness of its heart.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I don’t think your summary of Sanders’s viewpoint is fair. He’s not just proposing to double minimal wage, he’s proposing to:”

            I only selected left wing policies. There are policies that have been done by both American political parties

            1 and 12

            Policies agreed upon by all Democrats

            2

            Policy declarations that are nonsensical

            4 (the requirement to form a union is 30% of workers), 6 (gender is already a protected category), 9 (The US financial industry’s relative size is smaller than many European countries in the categories he mentions)

            Policy’s that preferentially help the better off

            8, 11

            That leaves 3, 5, 7, 10

            I accidentally skimmed over 3; however it is not a program that would have a large impact (if the problem is workers don’t have a lot of money, making it easier for them to buy companies doesn’t help).

            He states the amount he wanted for 5 elsewhere
            http://cnsnews.com/news/article/ali-meyer/sen-sanders-touts-15-minimum-wage-says-employment-states-higher-wages

            I left out 10 because it isn’t clear how it differs from what Obama has provided

            And you are understating 7. It isn’t “ending outsourcing”
            “We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. ”

            He openly states we need to eliminate our trade policies.

            “Of these, points #3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 are aimed at directly supporting workers;”

            4 and 6 are already law- it is no more helping workers that arguing for women’s suffrage in 2015 is helping women.

            I missed 3, however the laws are already pretty favorable to syndicalism. It is leftist, but it doesn’t state any actual policies.

            5 and 7 I gave him as actual left wing economic plans. The state a novel policy and are aimed at improving specifically the position of workers. They happen to be nuts, but the question was “what policies are the left putting forth” and unique policy positions that differ from the right and neoliberal left are what he would be interested in.

        • randy m says:

          Was that a rebuttal or an example?

      • suntzuanime says:

        This result is perfectly compatible with that model, though. How do people know a bill will hurt non-SCWMs? Because it’s promoted by the Republican Party. How do people know a bill is nice and meritorious? Because it’s promoted by the Democratic Party.

        • Gene Marsh says:

          “How do people know a bill will hurt non-SCWMs? Because it’s promoted by the Republican Party. How do people know a bill is nice and meritorious? Because it’s promoted by the Democratic Party.”

          The first time I read that i thought you were being evenhanded.

  24. haishan says:

    Shameless derailment, but I hope this is interesting enough that it doesn’t matter: Tumblr user xhxhxhx has had some very good economic history posts of late, including one about how the Great Depression was the most technologically innovative period in US history. Anyway, they stopped doing it (maybe?) because of low response, so I’m shamelessly plugging it here hoping that it is enough to get it started again.

  25. ilzolende says:

    If you’re going to link to two-year-old stuff that’s been republished on a list people expect to consist of recent things, would you also consider starting Amazing Breakthrough Day?

  26. DavidS says:

    We’ve had that Canada “One in, One out” rule in the UK for about 4 years. Though here it’s based on cutting equal costs to the costs you impose rather than just counting regulations by number. Quite a few places have or are introducing that sort of rule, from my understanding.

  27. Shenpen says:

    >why developed countries with lots of education seemed to do better than developed countries with little education.

    Education is an expensive consumer good and thus richer people/nations tend to buy more of it. This doesn’t necessarily make them richer. Let’s call this “The BMW Theory Of Education”.

  28. Jasonium says:

    There is no apostrophe in the book title Finnegans Wake.

  29. Peter says:

    That Democratic/Republican policy proposal thing: reminds me of the way I believed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs right up until Bush Jr. said he had them, and then I stopped believing he had them. You (you-plural) may make whatever remarks about epistemic standards and stopped watches you see fit.

    • 27chaos says:

      Maybe you can keep that kind of sometimes useful skepticism, but apply it more broadly, to both parties.

  30. Technocracy Inc is totally the early 20th century predecessor to grey tribe politics (or post-politics or apolitics). Everyone grey-o-sphere thinker should definitely read up on it. It’s a really quirky interesting movement and its shortcomings (odd economics) are well worth chewing on for a bit if you’re a post-politics rationalist type. They’re plan for post-scarcity economy with energy credits and the like is basically the direct ancestor of the similar chatter in /r/futurology and its related crowds.

  31. Ever An Anon says:

    So is Joyce more or less comprehensible in Chinese?

    If the translation went a more literal route it should produce complete gibberish (I will resist the cheap joke) which makes me think they tried to translate the symbolism instead. In that case I could see the text becoming much less opaque since it would be drawing from a more unified ‘symbolic alphabet’ as it were.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have to admit, I’m fascinated to know what the title translates as (or rather, what choice the translator made) because it’s a pun: is it the imperative of “wake, awaken, wake up” – “Finnegans, wake up now!” – because the novel is the collective dreaming of the Finnegan family; is it describing the moment of awakening – the Finnegans wake (up) – or is it “wake” as in the funeral celebration and ballad? Is there a practice in China analogous to a wake?

      • Anonymous says:

        From what little Chinese I know, “Fenningen de Shouying Ye” seems to be a pretty literal translation of “Finnegan’s Wake”.

        I’m guessing the translator probably toned down Joyce’s writing style a lot to make it readable in Chinese – still experimental and avant-garde to an extent, but probably more like Naked Lunch or something along those lines than the original work.

  32. Deiseach says:

    Instead of arguing about politics and religion, I think I’ll provide an excerpt of Doctors What Can’t Write Or Spell Good (arising out of what Scott said about the difference in Irish and American medical education and what I see at work).

    From a self-typed letter by a G.P. (I know it’s self-typed as if you handed up these errors in a assignment on a secretarial course, your class tutor would lambaste you), misspellings of: practice, persistent, asthma, haemorrhoids, investigation, depression and oesophagitis (twice, two different misspellings).

    From a hand-written letter by a consultant psychiatrist (in this case, it’s not so much the handwriting was bad as that it was full of flourishes which rendered it practically impossible to read): it started with something I managed to make out about “the patient is resistant to taking meds” and then the rest I could not interpret; the ending looked like saying something about trying the meds again if “elbow is persistent”, but I’m fairly sure that was not the proper meaning 🙂

    • speedwell says:

      I worked for a year and a half as a proofreader and copy editor at a small typesetting firm years ago. We did a lot of work for medical and psychiatric journals. If spelling accuracy was considered as important as relevant knowledge in medicine generally, not only would we have been out of jobs, but so would all of the medical professionals, bless them.

      • nydwracu says:

        Yeah, skill with words doesn’t correlate with expertise and so on anywhere near as much as Blues might think. Ever seen a mailing list full of tech professionals?

        • Deiseach says:

          I have no idea why half the country isn’t dead due to chemists handing out the wrong prescriptions due to bad handwriting or spelling on the part of doctors 🙂

          This is why I’ve said I have experience in translating Techie into English. It’s also why, as someone engaged in clerical work, I get really hopping mad a little bit miffed when people make sniffy remarks about so-and-so is “only” a secretary, or that lower white-collar/pink-collar work isn’t particularly skilled, so it’s the niche of the less intelligent (those who couldn’t get into college).

          There are so many managers and bosses out there who can’t write a legible sentence in English to save their lives, and it’s the PAs and clerical staff who turn out documents (salvaged from what Mr Boss has provided) that present a professional image of the business or organisation. It’s particularly ironic given that “communication” is a perennial business buzzword and the importance of good communication is always being emphasised.

    • “two different misspellings”

      One of my and my wife’s hobbies is medieval cooking. She likes to point people at a 14th century recipe in which the main ingredient appears four times, with four different spellings.

      So things may be improving. Slowly.

      • Nick says:

        I wonder, is there any actual advantage conferred by prescribing (heh) a single spelling of a word, if all the spellings of words correspond about as well to the pronunciation of the word as prescribed spellings do?

        • I think there is.

          The obvious example is the case of two words that sound identical, such as “sea” and “see.” Further, individuals vary somewhat in how they pronounce words, so the spelling that worked for one reader would mislead another.

          • Nick says:

            Well, most of the time we can already pick out which word is meant by context. So it seems to me that words that are phonetically identical could about as easily be spelled identically. But I think you’re right about pronunciations differing. Actually, given that there was much more variation in the past, just to what extent were English spellings even comprehensible from one region to another? I don’t know how to take it if many words had three or four spellings but everyone more or less always understood. Unless they didn’t, I don’t know the history of these things.

          • AJD says:

            there was much more variation in the past

            [citation needed]

        • nydwracu says:

          We could switch to a 1-1 writing system for English, but, having occasionally tried to use one, you’d just get more variation there.

          (How do you write unstressed vowels? With the letter for /ə/ or the letter for /ɪ/? Do the two contrast? I have no idea. This is probably more of a problem for Shavian than for Deseret; in Deseret, you’re supposed to write unstressed vowels with their stressed values (which introduces its own bag of worms, since, in a lot of cases, you can’t know their stressed values any other way than Latin spelling), and you can use any letter to represent the name of the letter in addition to the sound the letter represents, so /əm ən əl ər/ can usually be written /m n l r/.)

        • switchnode says:

          Interregional comprehensibility is one reason; it’s already been mentioned. (Standardization picks up with the printing press. Economies of scale!)

          Another is the handling of words as data. Lexical ordering, recordkeeping, tokenization… pretty much all automated or otherwise algorithmic ways of dealing with written text depend on having a consistent symbolic representation.

          How do you look something up in a dictionary if it doesn’t have a consistent spelling? (How do you write a dictionary?) The same goes for card catalogs, documentation, et cetera; anywhere you might want to look up a certain record or subject in a corpus will benefit from standard spellings.

          This becomes even more relevant, of course, when dealing with computers—finding a given string in a body of text is very easy and very useful, but mechanizing phonemic English is a hard problem. Databases, search engines, etc. etc. etc.

          (And computational linguistics. You can quibble about its immediate usefulness, but natural language processing is at the very least interesting, and it’s hard to imagine inconsistent spelling not complicating the problem.)

          • Peter says:

            natural language processing is at the very least interesting, and it’s hard to imagine inconsistent spelling not complicating the problem

            Indeed. NLP stuff at the very least attracts paying customers, and one of the things I had the joy of working on in a previous job was making sure our software could cope with the various spellings of “haemorrhagic septicaemia”. As well as the various spelling mistakes there’s a US/UK difference – nominally they write “hemorrhagic septicemia” on their side of the pond, but it turns out that mid-Atlantic spellings are pretty common. The problem grows exponentially with every part of the term that isn’t the same everywhere.

            So abandoning standardized spelling really would complicate things massively.

          • Nick says:

            The words as data point is an excellent one. Re dictionaries, it’s worth pointing to e.g. Noah Webster’s spelling reforms.

  33. Besserwisser says:

    The obvious counterpoint to the difference in pay being caused by non-trans discrimination is that transwomen adapt typically female behaviour and if women’s choices tend to decrease their wage so will transwomen’s choices. This will increase after transition because they will need to unlearn male behaviour patterns they’ve been teached because they were treated as men.

    Remember, few if any disagree with numbers showing women earning less than average. The argument is that women would make as much as men if they acted more like men. And when thinking of women trying to act like men, transwomen are among the last I will think of.

    • Ever An Anon says:

      That’s not necessarily the case, at least not for modern transsexuals.

      From what I understand, transwomen generally fall into two cultural camps: gay men who transition into straight transwomen and straight men who transition into lesbian transwomen. The former apparently behave more like South Asian “third gender” folks and make a great effort to pass, while the latter are more aggressive and politically active. Depending on prevalence, which one dominates (and which the study samples more of) is going to determine whether they behave in a stereotypically feminine or masculine way.

      Of course this whole idea is pretty goofy even for a social science paper. It’s introducing a huge number of confounders from lack of a menstrual cycle (and correspondingly non-cyclical hormone levels) and maternity to skill at passing and local attitudes on LGBT, which common sense indicates will overwhelm any effect they are looking for.

      • Jiro says:

        The study didn’t try to distinguish the two camps, so any effect it shows would be the weighted average of those two camps. So your “that;’s not necessarily the case” doesn’t apply; it being the case half of the time is enough for the effect to show up, if the other half’s effect is merely neutral.

      • Leo says:

        Estrogen and progesterone levels tend to fall into cyclic patterns even with regular doses, though not to as high a degree.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I would have expected the majority of the male-female difference to be due to:

      1. Studying different subjects in school
      2. Women getting pregnant and raising families more
      3. Biology

      The transgender study suggests none of these are a major option (well, you could make a stretch case for biology, but to a first approximation, no)

      • anon says:

        One possible cofounder:

        It is much easier for transmen to “pass” than transwomen. I would not be surprised if visibly trans people get paid less on average, was this controlled for in any way?

        • Gbdub says:

          I had the same thought. Seems the study is trying to prove gender bias while assuming there is no bias regarding trans people. Which is an odd set of priors to believe.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “It is much easier for transmen to “pass” than transwomen.”

          Well, one question there might be “why”? Another question might be, what affect does that this have on on cis-gendered women who are not conventional looking?

          In other words, I’m not sure that simply saying “they aren’t passing” is a good enough explanation even if it is true.

          • Nornagest says:

            “It is much easier for transmen to “pass” than transwomen.”

            Well, one question there might be “why”?

            You’re probably trying to point to something about beauty standards, but judging from the transpeople I’ve known, the answer is actually “because biological men come in a wide range of heights and bone structure, and if they’re unlucky enough to get the more stereotypically male versions, then that’s hard to change surgically”.

            We see a comparable range in female secondary sex characteristics: a (cis) woman with small breasts is in about the same boat as a man with a weak chin and no Adam’s apple, viz. they might be seen as a little boyish (effeminate) but they’re in little danger of being misgendered. The difference is that there’s less chance for a transman to have something he can’t leave behind, aside from a few less-obvious bits like the hipbones.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You’re probably trying to point to something about beauty standard

            Hmm, no, not really. Really just conventional vs. non-conventional. My prior is that non-conventional looking males are perceived differently than non-conventional looking females. The males aren’t judged as handsome, it’s just that their lack of handsomeness is not perceived as a particular negative.

            Maybe you could say this a different beauty standard, but I would rephrase to say that there is no expectation that a man be handsome to be acceptable in the work place.

          • Alraune says:

            Well, one question there might be “why”?

            If you pull members of the population at random, men look less like other men than women look like other women. We know this, and parse sex by assuming anyone that is not identifiably female is male. There’s also a major evolutionary bonus in there, since it means our snap assessments of physical danger are rigged towards androgyny returning false positives instead of false negatives.

            non-conventional looking males are perceived differently than non-conventional looking females.

            Different standard deviations. Non-conventional-looking males are substantially less non-conventional-looking. (Now, you might be right even when you adjust for that, but that needs something like actual data.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you pull members of the population at random, men look less like other men than women look like other women.

            Non-conventional-looking males are substantially less non-conventional-looking.

            Depending on how you mean it, those statements are opposite each other. But I think I get your gist. You are asserting that because males have more “natural” variation in looks that you have to be really out there to look unconventional, because conventional is already so broad.

            Do you have some citation that this is true biologically, and not simply socially constructed?

          • Alraune says:

            Do you have some citation that this is true biologically, and not simply socially constructed?

            Not sure what you’re referring to by “this” but the general principle of higher male variances is a straight up XX vs. XY thing. Men must express one X-chromosome fully while women express a mediation of their two, which gives men a broader SD on virtually everything, including appearance.

            You are asserting that because males have more “natural” variation in looks that you have to be really out there to look unconventional, because conventional is already so broad.

            Right. “What the hell is wrong with that cat?” vs. “Hey look, a poodle!”

          • anon says:

            “Another question might be, what affect does that this have on on cis-gendered women who are not conventional looking?

            In other words, I’m not sure that simply saying “they aren’t passing” is a good enough explanation even if it is true.”

            You seem to have missed the point. I am not saying that it has to do with attraction at all. I am merely saying that being seen as Trans can itself lead to lower wages, and FTM are less likely to be identified as trans.

            If not accounted for, this effect explains away the study, as the passablity of trans people has 0 to do with ciswomens wages.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anon: It would in no way explain the trans-men’s wages going up, so there is that (although it seems that effect may not have been measured as significant.)

            @Alraune: This post on height calculates the SD of males as 7 CM and females as 6 CM.

            Now, you are absolutely right that that is a bigger SD. But it isn’t anything like cats vs. dogs different. What you are saying isn’t a bad theory, but I would want something more than what are relatively subtle differences in amount of variation within the sex. In addition, from a trans perspective, it might be worthwhile to note that sexual dimorphism may be more important than variation within the sex.

            For instance, as an average size male I am likely to take notice of a female taller than me, but not a male. As a female, I might take more notice of a male shorter than me, but not a female. Given a workplace environment where male supervision is still more prevalent (citation needed, I’m not sure how true this is) then the trans-woman may stick out more simply because she is taller. But in a world dominated by female supervisors, the trans-man might stick out more.

            I am not advocating this theory, mind you. Just mostly spit-balling.

          • Besserwisser says:

            I’ll have to look it up and somehow but I heard about studies examining the effect of attractiveness of people to their wages that men’s wages are more influenced by their appearences.

            Also, in addition to the rise in pay being non-significant, I would expect wages to go up anyway, which is why I mostly focussed on the transwomen so far. Granted, this just makes the decline of their pay all the more significant.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Besserweiser:

            That is a good point re: wages going up. Really though, it would be good to compare them vs. a reference class (if they are a programmer, what did programmer wages do during the period, etc.)

            I don’t know if the study controlled for job description, which would actually be a big confounder, especially if the period studied included 2008.

          • Anonymous says:

            My prior is that non-conventional looking males are perceived differently than non-conventional looking females. The males aren’t judged as handsome, it’s just that their lack of handsomeness is not perceived as a particular negative.

            Maybe you could say this a different beauty standard, but I would rephrase to say that there is no expectation that a man be handsome to be acceptable in the work place.

            A problem with this is that you’re assuming that male attractiveness and female attractiveness both derive from apperance by an equal amount, when it seems to me that there is overwhelming evidence that that’s untrue: that a woman’s attractiveness is determined by her appearance to a far greater extent than a man’s. And therefore that it’s inaccurate to correlate appearance and attractiveness like this when comparing men and women.

          • Deiseach says:

            men look less like other men than women look like other women

            What? I am having genuine difficulty understanding that statement, unless you mean something akin to the Disney Model of Female Faces: female characters are drawn according to a standard template but more variety is acceptable in male characters.

            This whole topic is very tangled; social pressures about what is deemed attractive plus what is deemed acceptable behaviour and appearance for women probably does exert a lot of influence on “I have to wear heels and makeup and fit this dress size and dye my hair blonde” so making women en masse on the surface seem more similar – but I’m not sure.

          • rsaarelm says:

            This whole topic is very tangled; social pressures about what is deemed attractive plus what is deemed acceptable behaviour and appearance for women probably does exert a lot of influence on “I have to wear heels and makeup and fit this dress size and dye my hair blonde” so making women en masse on the surface seem more similar – but I’m not sure.

            You could test this mechanically. Just scan in a bunch of male and female faces, tag the positions of various facial features on every face, and see if the facial feature positions in the male faces will have bigger variance between each other than the positions in the female faces.

        • memeticengineer says:

          Besides the passing effect, there are many indications that transfeminine people face greater prejudice. They are more likely to be seen as ridiculous, gross, or hypersexualized. “Woman in a dress” is seen as a joke, but few would think twice about the reverse. A lot more trans women get murdered than trans men, even relative to their populations. Some theorists thus refer to “transmisogyny” rather than just plain transphobia.

          • onyomi says:

            It’s funny–I think many might view this as a reflection of society’s devaluation of women–that men who become women are treated worse than the reverse.

            But I actually see it as the opposite–that men suffer more from rigid gender expectations and face violence when they fail to live up to them. And, of course, cis men are far more often murdered than cis women, so if transwomen are more often murdered than transmen, then that probably means that much of society sees still sees them as men. And if there’s one better target for violence than a man, it’s a non-gender conforming man. You wouldn’t hit a girl, after all?

          • memeticengineer says:

            I wonder about this myself. Julia Serrano argues that there’s two separate but related phenomena: a force that tries to keep people within their prescribed gender roles and a force that portrays the female gender role as worse. You could interpret things instead as separation of gender roles plus stricter enforcement of the boundaries of the male gender role. I am not sure this alternative explains all the phenomena I mentioned though, for example fetishistic hypersexualization of trans women doesn’t seem to align with this. Alternately, you could synthesize the two views: perhaps the male gender role is more strictly enforced precisely because femaleness is devalued (and thus moving away from femininity would be seen understandable, while moving towards it would be seen as perverse). I am not sure what to think of all this stuff in terms of causes, but I do think it’s a real phenomenon that transfeminine people generally have it worse than transmasculine people.

          • onyomi says:

            Or maybe it’s because femininity is *more* valued that its boundaries must be strictly policed?

            A very conservative friend recently posted on Facebook: “Caitlyn Jenner will never have the same status as my wife or mother!”

          • Besserwisser says:

            On the one hand, I wouldn’t expect the gender which is valued more to also be killed more. On the other hand, maybe men are valued more precisely because their numbers are going down. I’ve heard people in areas where many men died due to war or genocide respect the surviving men much more.

            Another explanation I’ve heard is that because bearing children is such an integral part of the female gender role, transwomen remain inable to fully fulfill this. Meanwhile, transmen can fulfill most of the male gender role since getting women pregnant is a much smaller part of it (one man can get several women pregnant anyway). I don’t necessarily agree with this but it’s food for thought.

            Personally, I just think the kind of people who would attack transsexuals for being trans are also likely to assign sex based on genitals and enforce gender roles, thus attacking the more acceptable target, the ones they see as men even if they are equally disgusted with transmen. It could also be about female hypoagency and male hyperagency, where people blame transmen transitioning on external factors while transwomen are seen as men who make anything out for their own reasons.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            I don’t think it’s half as complicated as all that.

            The use of the word “trap” kind of sums it up: the idea that some small percentage of women are secretly disguised men (not endorsing just explaining) is a disgusting and infuriating thought. Moreover it hints at a predatory motive, after all why disguise oneself at all if you’re not trying to trick someone?

            This could also underlie the popularity of the autogynophilia theory, since it’s basically a more cerebral version of the same idea. Transwomen are, according to that theory, recruiting unwilling bystanders as part of their sexual roleplay whenever they try to pass in public.

            Add the castration angle on top of that and I don’t see any reason to resort to complex theorizing as to why transwomen catch most of the violence.

          • Cauê says: