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Testimonials for SSC

[Content note: various slurs and insults]

I.

Last post I thanked some of the people who have contributed to this blog. But I forgot some of the most important contributors: the many readers whose give valuable feedback on everything I write.

So here’s a short sample of some of the feedback I’ve gotten over the past three years. I’m avoiding names and links to avoid pile-ons, but you can probably find most of these if you Google them.

II.

“It’s like someone tried to make fivethirtyeight as uninteresting as possible.”

“Slate Star Codex: 20,000 words on ‘feminism is bad’ and ‘Tom Swifties are the funniest shit I’ve ever seen'”

“Mark Atwood spent a month on the SSC registry of bans. It is my belief that Scott uses his toolbox of psychiatric techniques to manage the range of comment allowable on his blog. This may be justified in order to minimize flaming and trolling, but it is also a stifling form of censorship.”

“Go read the comment section on Slate Star Codex for a week and report back if you think LessWrongism is acceptable. It’s a place for broken people to be shielded from ever hearing that they’re broken and for developing better and better rationalizations for why they’re not broken and shouldn’t do the work needed to fix themselves. And SSC is miles better than lesswrong itself which is a weird cult centered around gnome in charge Eliezer Yudkowski. Just read the post where Scott let ozymandius post about all the ways that Roissy is wrong. The information there permanently disqualifies anyone associated with it from from having anything to do with building a functioning society.”

“Scott Alexander’s blog used to be good, but now he has been terrorized out of politics. Therefore boring. The problem was he purged all frequent commentors to the right of him out of the comments, which means that he had only enemies in his comments. And, being the rightmost, was persecuted. He has stopped posting on politics, I assume as a result of this persecution.”

“it’s by a stuttering aspie with expertise in nothing at all”

“a mentally-ill beta male who literally admitted that he wished he could become an asexual.”

“He is a fairly smart guy who makes well reasoned arguments. (He is also a literal cuckold.)”

“never forget for one fucking second that its author (who is ‘asexual’) and his most avid readers engage in ‘cuddle puddles’ irl, often bringing stuffed animals, and that he recommends this because it ‘increases credence’ in the other cuddlers’ statements.”

“his arguments only seem well-reasoned to people with NO knowledge of the subject matter (like him), and thus his main effect (just like that of his mentor, Eliezer Yudkowsky) is to keep smart people from learning things”

“oh what an expert in psychiatry! he’s a fucking med student in IRELAND. not to mention he uses yudkowsky’s lingo and called Less Wrong “revelatory” or something like that. you are dealing with a 110 IQ reddit type in SSC.”

“here is a series of a few posts (1, 2, 3) about how he is basically a conspiracy theorist, and in these posts he gets completely owned by the guy who cucked him with his tranny ex.”

“Merciful $DEITY. If I had any inclination to participate [on SSC], that [Guns and States] comment thread would have turned me completely off of it. How much more SJW-feminist-entitled can you get?…Extreme? No. Hard-line SJW enough that I’ve got better things to do than try to engage them? Yes. SJW-feminist-entitled? Yes.”

“SSC skews toward highly intelligent discourse, but Scott is very protective of his liberal homies. He will ban you if you stray too far from PC rigor.”

“I’d always got a whiff of fedora from this guy, so I feel gratified in my judgment at seeing him come out as one.”

“Faggot blocked me for calling out some recent bit of his retarded bullshit. Fuck ‘im.”

“Reading Slate Star Codex, I feel like I’m finally strarting to understand how postmodernism happened. First, there’s the whole thing of looking at your friends and a few books you happened to have read recently, and jumping to grand conclusions about all of society throughout all of history. Second, there’s the thing of him writing lengthy posts elaborating at great length on something that might be either boring and obviously true or bold and innovative but also completely wrong.”

“Aargh!! I read that entire Scott Alexander piece…well 65% of it…in earnest with the expectation that there was going to be a POINT to it. Some sort of payoff for my investment of time and attention. But there was nothing. It was just a bunch of bloviation with no purpose.”

“Scott Alexander is the story of a functioning pattern-recognition module trapped in a progressive brain. It would make a great story of its truth-seeking brain blob could eventually break free and rewire his brain to be a born-again reactionary. Not gonna happen though. The prog morality police has a hard, thick grasp on his brain, and all his friends and pseudosexual partners are the leftiest hacks this side of Lenin; so it’s an endless futile battle to square the circle. No wonder he went into psychiatry.”

“I retain great hopes for Scott, he’ll come around. When he does he’ll bring a high level of rigor with him. He is a caterpillar and will become a beautiful reactionary butterfly someday.”

“slatestarcodex is a great example of the difference between ‘knowing how to type’ and ‘knowing how to write'”

“You aren’t reading it right. Scott’s ability to completely identify the problem but still, quite sincerely, ritually abase himself to it at the same time, makes him worthy of connoisseurship. It takes a once in a generation talent to write long sincere *thoughtful* screeds pointing out that baby sacrifice is lowering the birth rate and causing family trauma, though of course he fully understands and endorses that Lord Moloch must be sated with the only food acceptable unto him.”

“Scott Alexander reminds me of some too-nice beta (nominally played by Joseph Gordon Leavitt or a JGL-alike) from some rom-com who’s trying to find his way and get the girl, while painfully oblivious to the fact that he just needs to stop being a too-nice beta and rip out somebody’s jugular. Ostracize someone for their beliefs? Me? Never. Golly gee.”

“seems like these guys are incapable of being dismissive of anything and have to objectively analyze everything.”

“Slate Star Codex is 140 IQ discussion about 105 IQ issues”

“He is sharp and makes good points but is way too fucking verbose. I dont need parts I II III and IV just fucking write concisely and stop vomiting words on your wordpress blog ”

“it’s basically a fish trap for aspies. people who can’t grasp nuance or understand basic human behavior, but are nonetheless obsessed with details and complex systems will inevitably gravitate toward this kind of horseshit. ultimately it’s a bunch of STEM-inclined dudes on the autism spectrum sitting around attempting to unpack societal problems like it was all a game of fucking sim city.”

“I would add that something like Slate Star Codex is also a clinic in the aspie tendency to miss the forest for the trees, except in this case it’s more like closely examining the bark on the trees for no goddamn reason whatsoever.”

“doesn’t this guy have a dayjob as like a doctor or something? why the fuck does he spend hours each day on a blog?” [to which another person on the same forum responded “why the fuck do you spend hours each day posting here?”]

“a blog populated by 99th percentile aspergers/IQ “rationalist” millennials who converse in an abnormally abstract style, and whose concrete cultural experience is drawn mainly from a bunch of weird nerd shit.”

“Its weird brand of reductionism and bizarre, arbitrary specificity plays to the types of spergy assholes and dumb know-it-all teenagers who don’t care about that anyway, or at least that’s how it seems to me. I mean, the ideas themselves seem like they’d be as much of a turn-off to regular people as their proponents’ personalities are, even if in a different way.”

“Oh, hey, the King of the Race Realist Misogynist Libertarian Nerds has Clever Things to say about vaccination.”

“yet another confirmation that: psychiatrists are crazier than their patients. polyamorous, diarrhea of the mouth/pen, math challenged, … i had no idea what an utter piece of shit you were.”

“He keeps his head down for fear of insulting permanently insulted people. He tries hard to be polite to people who hate him and consider him but a dog, unless they need him – and until they need him no longer. It is a waste of intellect, and debasement of character.”

“What makes me sad about Scott is just how close he is. I won’t give up hope on him yet. If only there was some way to secretly inject this guy with testosterone.”

“I wonder if he’s had bloodwork done to check his T count. I have to assume that if someone is an “asexual heteroromantic” as he puts it, that he’s interested in women from some abstract standpoint, and just needs some additional hormones to be thoroughly normal.”

“I literally want to see you kill yourself. I’m serious. You, and everyone else like you, are fucking disgusting wastes of space that are causing the decay of decency in the human race. I’m not going to argue with you, or say that it’s just my opinion or that it’s even up for debate.”

“is it some sort of special ‘Talk Like a Vulcan Day’ over there? Or are they always like that?”

“ssc spends a significant amount of time talking about stuff like how tables and chairs can be genders. he keeps a pretty unhinged tumblr”

“He’s definitely a beta orbiting cuckold.”

“that article seemed like a return ticket to obviousville with eight-hour layovers everywhere”

“That blog is very boring, and I didn’t manage to read long enough to find out what it was about. I hit Page Down a couple of times, and it seemed like it was on an entirely new topic each time.”

“I am thankful that I have never had any desire to seek psychiatric help. I have always had the impression, rightly or wrongly, that folks who pursue psychiatry as a career may themselves be the ones most in need of such therapy. Go to the mountains and look. Get up early and see the sunrise. Stop anywhere and take a minute to look at the beauty of nature all around you. We are a small piece in the universe, but still a part. The plan is good. You are fine. You will succeed if you try hard enough. Everything you need spiritually is inside you and has always been there. Stop complaining.”

“Also that ‘heteronormative asexual’ Scott Alexander. What a bizarre kike. He recently wrote that he’s incapable of not writing. LOL so kikish.”

“I thought it was a blog about science methodology until that post with the talking cactus.”

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1,573 Responses to Testimonials for SSC

  1. drethelin says:

    “Mark Atwood spent a month on the SSC registry of bans. It is my belief that Scott uses his toolbox of psychiatric techniques to manage the range of comment allowable on his blog. This may be justified in order to minimize flaming and trolling, but it is also a stifling form of censorship.”

    I want this one to be true. If we could manage a practical psychohistory even for just comment sections that would be a huge step forward

    • Deiseach says:

      So the Reign of Terror is merely cunning misdirection in order so that we won’t notice we are the lab rats and he is the psychologist conducting experiments upon us?

      The fiendish cleverness of it all! 🙂

  2. Aaron says:

    I thought it was a blog about talking cacti except the cacti won’t shut up about growth mindset.

  3. Nornagest says:

    I’m not gonna say this wasn’t entertaining reading, but the optics here are, uh, questionable.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t understand what you mean by “optics” here.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m basically saying it’d look bad from an outside perspective. You’re spending weirdness points by posting this.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Scott already used up his weirdness points and is deeply in debt.

        • Lady Catherine Buttington, Ph.D says:

          It takes weirdness points to make weirdness points.

        • Jared says:

          Really? My expectation is that this would look mostly like normal self-deprecating humor. That is, it seems normal to say, “But I forgot some of the most important contributors: the many readers whose give valuable feedback on everything I write,” and then give a pile of insults. With hundreds of comments on each post, there’s nothing surprising about the ability to collect this volume of insults.

          Is it the content of the insults? As an outsider, I think I would get the impression that some weird variant of conservative don’t like Scott. Certainly, I might get the impression that the asexuality might be true, which is weirdness points, but I’m pretty sure Scott’s already said so. I would definitely see the common theme that SSC is seen as overly analytical, but that’s not really weirdness points.

          • rossry says:

            The optics are pretty wonky for an outsider, but as a long-time and SSC-positive reader, this list made me literally laugh out loud in parts. For (some) long-time and SSC-negative readers, this might be the final straw that makes them give up.

            Blogging isn’t all outward-facing, and sometimes things like this have an indirect role in filtering your commentariat.

        • nil says:

          I think it does the opposite. Taking abuse from alt-right douchebags is a badge of honor to anyone who isn’t an alt-right douchebag (or, I suppose, an alt-right non-douchebag, although I’m pretty sure all ten of them are already regular commenters), and certainly not any kind of barrier to mainstream acceptability.

          (and granted, some of them aren’t from the ‘beta male cuckold’ perspective–but what little effect the ‘hurr he’s a libertarian shitlord’ ones would have is completely mitigated by the fact that they float in a sea of quasifascist hatred)

          • Alex says:

            Twelve, there’s twelve of them, I counted.

          • Outis says:

            I think calling someone a beta cuckold is more disgust than hatred. The only one who wished for his death seemed to come from the other side (but I could be wrong).

          • Virbie says:

            @Outis

            That’s the general impression I got too. The complaints from the right seemed to be more disgust/pity/hope that he’d see the light (“he’s so close!”), and those from the left just derision and unmitigated rage-vomit. Then again, that’s just a general impression from a single read-through, and it’s entirely possible I was unconsciously bucketing criticism into from-the-left and from-the-right based on their tone.

          • The Rightest Kid U'Know says:

            I’d like to think that I’m not a douchebag. . .

            I don’t think I’ve ever commented before, but I read everything on SSC. I’d have to give Scott the very honest compliment that he’s actually changed my mind a few times, and that even when I disagree with him, his ideas are worth serious consideration.

          • I'll pick a nickname later says:

            Another rightist long-time reader here. I wonder if this post (or a least this discussion thread) was a ploy to get us to start commenting.

          • Anonymous says:

            I wanted to object, but I probably am a douchebag.

        • LCL says:

          Seemed like a bad idea to me also.

          What good can possibly come from letting the internet know you notice trolling, and are sensitive about it? Sensitive enough to collect the rudest trolling, at least, and post about it.

          “Posting it to dismiss it” or such gambit is about as convincing as a teenager’s “I don’t care what you think!!” protests. In either case the main effect is to reveal sensitivity to rudeness. Which again, is not a helpful thing to reveal on the internet (or in high school).

          The winning move is to pretend, as convincingly as possible, that you don’t even notice that stuff.

          • nil says:

            I don’t think this blog is resigned to the idea that all human or even online interactions can be boiled down to high-school style bullying and counterbullying. Nor should it be.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Everyone already knows Scott is a sensitive person. I thought that has his main sales pitch: “Like Yudowsky, but mushier. Also, his site’s not dead”.

          • LCL says:

            Seems a clear case of “feeding the trolls” to me.

            The reason not to do that isn’t about philosophy of human interaction, or what kind of person you are emotionally.

            It’s just a simple practicality: you don’t feed trolls, because if you feed them they multiply. And they’re a negative externality for the rest of the community.

          • Andrew says:

            I dunno. I feel like the main message is that he finds some or most of that vitrolic shit to be so harmless that he’s willing to post it here to provide us with laughs (because some of those are pretty damn funny) and to gain credibility (which is twofold – people don’t viciously attack a nobody for any length of time, and showing said attacks come from both sides, each utterly convinced you’re obviously a lapdog of the other)

          • Error says:

            @Andrew: I know that last is the part *I* find funniest about it.

          • Adam says:

            As a semi-outsider, I came to say exactly this.

            nil’s reply that ‘ha, we’re ABOVE being ‘reduced”…. really isn’t helping my impression of this blog.

        • Outis says:

          Some of those comments are actually pretty persuasive, IMHO.

          • Virbie says:

            Which ones? I’m not saying I disagree that any are valid, but I’m curious about what direction of criticism resonates with (at least one) SSC commenter.

          • LW_Reader says:

            @Virbie: Personally, I agree with the criticisms that Scott is often excessively verbose and meandering — e.g., I personally couldn’t, and still can’t, bring myself to finish “Meditations on Moloch” or any of his SJW-related posts; sometimes extrapolates too much from the scant material that he has read on a given subject; and has a noticeable inclination towards having “140 IQ discussion[s] about 105 IQ issues” (once again, SJW-related posts come to mind). I also agree that Ozy’s posts were banal and subpar, and was surprised when Scott allowed her to write on SSC.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            I can’t imagine you would find any of them persuasive if you didn’t already agree (or maybe didn’t realize you agreed and were waiting for the criticism to be formalized).

          • Aapje says:

            I can’t imagine you would find any of them persuasive if you didn’t already agree

            That’s generally the case, isn’t it? How often do you read something that drastically changes your views? It’s much more common to have someone state something you already felt, but couldn’t articulate well.

          • Virbie says:

            @Alexander Stanislaw

            You don’t need to find any persuasive to be interested in what others think and find their points valid. Scott’s verbosity was one of the main things that first attracted me to the blog (I hate the feeling when you read something well written and insightful and it ends too soon), but I’m not incapable of finding other opinions about his verbosity to be reasonable.

            Also, hearing other people make a case for certain points can push you over the fence in certain cases.

            Lastly, even if I were looking to have my mind changed, it’s certainly not the first time that an SSC comment has done so.

        • Patrick Spens says:

          Just so we are clear, publicly fretting about “spending weirdness points” is way weirder than this post.

          • honestlymellowstarlight says:

            Always been confused if this is supposed to be a currency or a “man as game character” metaphor, I sorta suspect the latter and am against it for all the usual reasons.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I’m more partial to the expression “Revealing your powerlevel”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, the metaphor’s silly. But when in Rome…

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            Seriously, although I suppose the goal was to get Scott to delete the post along with the comment (which would have correct imo).

            I think that the idea of “weirdness points” is a pretty classic example of what some people mean by “140 IQ discussion about 105 IQ issues” and are annoyed by. If I were to put the objection as firmly but politely as I can, the pattern goes like this:

            First step: take a concept that (normal) people understand intuitively – it’s not socially desirable to be weird (playing guitar is cool, making armpit noise music as an adult is weird), however standards of weirdness are dependent on whether you already have credibility or popularity.

            Next step: dress it up in pseudo mathematical language and debate intensely about the details of the model (how many weirdness points am I spending), with the tone that you’ve discovered something revelatory.

            Optional step: miss out on some important features of reality because you are so focused on the details of the model (no one’s guilty of this here, but I think its a common mistake).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Alexander Stanislaw:

            I think you’re on to something. I especially find the pseudo-mathematical language kind of annoying.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t understand why discussing “spending weirdness points” is off-putting. It’s perfectly mainstream to talk about “spending political capital” which is a very similar metaphor for a very similar concept.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t understand why discussing “spending weirdness points” is off-putting. It’s perfectly mainstream to talk about “spending political capital” which is a very similar metaphor for a very similar concept.

            Guessing that it’s because it’s a gaming metaphor rather than an economics metaphor. Even if the math behind it is the same, the undertones aren’t.

            That or it’s just a zinger.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            To me, it’s pseudo-sophistication. Like many uses of “political capital” outside an actually rigorous context.

            I could say the same of a good deal of LessWrong speak.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            The problem is that there is no math, just a veneer of mathiness, used to

            1) Give the illusion of rigor and precision where there is none.
            2) Create an in-group identity via jargon filled language. (while also giving off the impression – “look how cool we are for figuring all this stuff out” – I don’t think its actually that bad, but it can easily look like that to someone not in the community)

            Political capital might be guilty of 1, but not 2. And I’m not sure it even is guilty of 1, people don’t seem to take it as literally and as seriously as rationalists seem to take their ideas and concepts. There is also the issue of quantity. the community has generated a lot of pseudo-rigorous concepts.

          • Nita says:

            @ Alexander Stanislaw

            Pseudo-rigor may be annoying, but in-depth reasoning without any rigor is even worse. At least you can explicitly point out whatever the toy model fails to reflect.

            it’s not socially desirable to be weird, however standards of weirdness are dependent on whether you already have credibility or popularity

            This misses the main point of the “weirdness points” metaphor. The idea is that you have to “act normal” more than you naturally would in order to make your serious, but unusual ideas easier for other people to accept.

            It’s not “don’t be weird, unless you can afford to”, it’s “important thing X is perceived as weird, therefore silly thing Y has to go”.

            (And obviously only people who are aware that the ideas they want to spread are weird would be thinking about this in the first place, so no wonder there isn’t a perfect match in “common sense” beliefs.)

    • Jason says:

      Optics look like a classic humblebrag to me!

      Show me a public intellectual without haters and I’ll show you someone nobody cares about.

      • JRM says:

        This.

        One should be judged by their enemies as well as their friends.

        I feel kind of bad, though, that I didn’t contribute any of these insults, and it’s because of lack of trying. It would take some time to top these. I know some internet rock stars avoid reading comments because the 12,000 friendly comments get emotionally run over by the 50 unpleasant idiots, but I’m glad Scott has entertained us.

        Let me try: “Scott is nerdy and Jewish, who is center-left with some unpopular political views!”

        OK, that would have been better, but SSC has obviously made me dumber. I’m suing.

    • Oligopsony says:

      The back cover of Ian Banks’ “The Wasp Factory” alternated between glowing reviews and outraged ones. The book itself turned out to be good-but-not-great IMO, but the marketing tactic totally worked on me.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Speaking of dead-tree editions of SSC, the back cover could alternate between these quotes and quotes from Scott’s supporters.

      • Areal says:

        Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams went with straight negative quotes on some of their work too, and Stewart Lee has used some downright hateful comments on his tour posters. When I began reading this it felt like another bit of evidence for a trend I have noticed where if someone is willing to laugh at criticism I will enjoy their work.

  4. Carinthium says:

    I don’t really have much intelligent to say here, since I’m not really sure how to interpret the post (I have Aspergers Syndrome). It looks most likely Scott Alexander talking about how a lot of people have abused him, and for what it’s worth I agree that what they’re saying seems very unfair.

    Could somebody please clarify what this post is meant to be, though? I’m not sure.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I thought it was funny.

      • Evan Þ says:

        For what it’s worth, I think it is too.

        • Randy M says:

          I liked the last one, “I thought it was a blog about science methodology until that post with the talking cactus.”
          Talking Cacti–making random musings randomer since 2015.

          • Peffern says:

            It’s funny, I got linked to SSC about a year ago from an anti-SJW community* but now I stay for the science methodology and talking cacti.

            *of which I am no longer a member.

          • Nomghost says:

            Ah yes, I now read the cactus one and the Jewish Whale one.

      • Carinthium says:

        Never mind then. Thanks for clarifying.

      • anonymous says:

        You were right

      • nope says:

        It was funny, but it kind of made me want to vomit. Seeing people you like a lot get abused is viscerally unpleasant.

        • Seth says:

          I had a similar reaction, in part because it includes personal attacks that could just as easily be directed at me. I’m glad Scott is able to take this shit with a smile.

          • Izaak Weiss says:

            “in part because it includes personal attacks that could just as easily be directed at me”

            This is the exact reason why I really liked this post. If someone I look up to gets insults like this, I must not suck when I get insults like this. (Not that I’m famous enough to get insults like this, but still.)

        • Nebfocus says:

          Huh? They’re just words. People disagree. Some react like jerks. Nothing to get upset about.

          • tcheasdfjkl says:

            …do you never get upset about something somebody says? If so, congratulations, you are in approximately the 1% by emotional stability. (I made up that number, sorry.)

          • Doug S. says:

            Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words cause permanent damage.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it”.
            XKCD 1216, on one of Randall’s better days.

            If posting this makes Scott feel less like he deserves any of it, that is more than sufficient reason.

          • Anonymous says:

            People who think that way about the “stick and stones” thing usually were never at risk of getting stick and stones and underestimate how much of a problem they are compared to words.

          • keranih says:

            People who think that way about the “stick and stones” thing usually were never at risk of getting stick and stones and underestimate how much of a problem they are compared to words.

            True. But how can we fix that, aside from re-introducing sticks and stones into the discourse?

            “Over-reaction to the discouraging word” is a predictable outcome of “no shooting or beating” to react to, but that doesn’t make “no shooting or beating” a bad thing.

        • Berna says:

          I feel exactly the same.

      • Anaxagoras says:

        I think I’m with Carinthium here. Somewhat amusing, somewhat interesting for the range of directions the attacks come from and what they do agree on, but not much of a point. I was expecting a III section with actually nice things.

      • roystgnr says:

        That’s a relief. It wouldn’t be a good idea to wallow in this muck unless you were actually having a blast making mud pies.

      • rossry says:

        I, for one, am disappointed that at no point are whales mentioned.

      • My immediate impression is that it was supposed to be a counterexample to the claim that one gets hate from the internet right in direct proportion to how left and how oppressed one is. (Not all of the hate is from the right, but a lot of it is.)

        I have no idea how well the post accomplishes this (if it was even intended to); presumably the content of the hate would have been different if you were (say) female and/or more left, and you may be high-profile enough that hate of any subtype could be selected as though it were more representative than it were. (No idea if that’s true, but it would be fairly obvious as an objection.)

        I’m mostly saying this because I suspect this post will be interpreted this way by some people besides just me.

      • anon says:

        It was *really* funny. A lot of these were so creative. Thanks for sharing, Scott.

        I actually even found a lot of these insightful, they really reveal a lot about various different perspectives people have on the world.

  5. Anonymous Anonymizer says:

    “a blog populated by 99th percentile aspergers/IQ “rationalist” millennials who converse in an abnormally abstract style, and whose concrete cultural experience is drawn mainly from a bunch of weird nerd shit.”

    blog: yep
    99th percentile IQ: If standardized tests correlate with IQ, then this is at least true for me. Of course, they don’t completely correlate, but it’s a good indicator. I also know that a number of people here are smarter than me. So yes, this is at least partially true.
    Asperger’s: I don’t have it according to people that do have it and two therapists. Most of the rest of the people here don’t seem to have it, but I’m not someone that can diagnose other people with a strong degree of certainty.
    “rationalist”: Yep, a lot of people here call themselves rationalists.
    Millennials: Nope, I’m a millennial but I’ve seen many non-millennials here.
    Converse: Yes, that is generally what one does in the comment section of a blog.
    Abnormally abstract style: As in, we use funky words that aren’t normally used by the majority of the population, like Bayesian. So yes.
    Weird nerd shit: Is that a negative? What makes nerdy stuff any less acceptable than any other kind of “concrete cultural experience”?

    • Guy says:

      Weird nerd shit uses ciment fondu rather than Portland cement, so it’s not really concrete.

      • CatCube says:

        Concrete is aggregate held together with a binder. In popular terminology, “concrete” refers only to portland cement concrete. In specialized literature, “asphalt” is called asphaltic concrete, which is aggregate held together with an asphalt binder.

        For inconsistency, though, drawings will usually use “concrete” for portland cement concrete (matching popular terminology), and “AC” for asphaltic concrete.

    • Decius says:

      Accurate descriptions are the best descriptions.

    • Nicholas says:

      Basically the criticism is that because the community’s experiences are not central, the discourse has no bearing on the aggregate reality.

  6. gwern says:

    Goodness, I thought I had drawn a lot of hate and insults over the years, but that list definitely beats any I could’ve compiled about me.

  7. Inifnite Light says:

    This one was hilarious!

    “I thought it was a blog about science methodology until that post with the talking cactus.”

    (and it does not really seem mean)

    • Held in Escrow says:

      I read that in the old man Scooby Doo villain voice. “And I would have understood it too, if it wasn’t for you dang kids and your talking cactus!”

    • Galle says:

      The best part about that one is that that post WAS about science methodology, at least tangentially.

  8. kirbymatkatamiba says:

    The last one is the best.

  9. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Amusing. Do you keep this stuff on a text fie?

  10. Izaak Weiss says:

    It’s days like today when I’m glad I have the millennial -> snake person plugin installed.

    • Nornagest says:

      “Millennial” is starting to be one of those words that connotes “I have nothing worth saying” louder than anything it could possibly denote.

      • onyomi says:

        I think it’s the older generation’s way of consoling themselves about leaving us with a much worse economy than they came of age in.

      • Guy says:

        @norn

        Much like “Gen X” or “Greatest Generation” before it. “Boomer”, as with the boomers themselves, is used in diverse contexts and so might mean just about anything.

    • Thank you for mentioning that plugin. I just installed it, and it is the most amazing thing.

    • inconsistentidentity says:

      “the snake person -> snake person plugin”

  11. blacktrance says:

    Your reactionary and SJ critics should get together and decide which side you’re secretly on.

    • rofl_waffle_zzz says:

      He conveniently switches to further his own clandestine agenda! He’s the most pragmatic (read: dangerous) flip-flopper ever to have lived…

      But seriously, I find it interesting that the things we tend to value as rationalists are directly opposed to what the public claims to want from elected officials. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to remind people that it’s a GOOD THING when politicians assess the evidence and are able to go on record as changing their minds.

      Pretty sure I’ve seen that discussed somewhere, but I don’t remember where or when.

      • blacktrance says:

        To mildly steelman what the public wants, they don’t want a politician that doesn’t update on evidence, they want someone who will stick to their principles and won’t betray them when politically convenient. For example, if I elect a politician who promises to shrink government and they change their minds and decide that growing it is better, even if that weren’t opportunistic I’d still have reason to be displeased. I put them in office to enact my agenda (with some leeway given to them to decide how to do it most effectively), not to decide the agenda for me.

        • roystgnr says:

          I’d be thrilled to see politicians update on evidence, if only the updates looked like “I should stop supporting X, because study Y shows it to be untrue”, rather than “I can stop supporting X, because the voters who do so already cast their ballots and now I don’t need them anymore”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Exactly. I wouldn’t even be that angry if a politician honestly changed his mind. Disappointed if I thought he was wrong, but I’d hardly expect him to do what he was elected on instead of what he thought was right.

            The problem is that the evidence they update on is the latest polls of public opinion. It’s updating on the acceptability of beliefs, not their truth.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I wouldn’t be so angry either if a politician changed his mind… if I believed he’d honestly changed it, rather than shifted to match public opinion and pretended he’d changed his mind.

            I think I can name two, maybe three, times in all modern politics when I trust the change of mind to have been genuine.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Evan Þ:

            No disagreement from me.

        • Stuart Armstrong says:

          When a politician promises to do X and then doesn’t carry through, this is moderately good evidence that X is a bad idea or very difficult to do. The more popular X is and the less the politician does, the stronger this evidence. After all, politicians love and need to be popular; not taking the popular decision is very informative.

          • “bad idea” could mean many different things. It might mean “will result in his getting fewer campaign contributions from the interest group opposed to doing it.” It might mean “will reduce the politician’s ability to reward supporters and punish opponents.”

            Your way of putting it seems to take it for granted an identity between the interest of the politician and the interest of the people his decisions affect.

          • Stuart Armstrong says:

            >Your way of putting it seems to take it for granted an identity between the interest of the politician and the interest of the people his decisions affect.

            I don’t in fact. I’m basing this on the purest cynicism ^_^ If you see how much vapid empty stuff politicians put up with just to get a few good headlines (and avoid a few bad one), then anything the politicians do/don’t do that is unpopular deserves careful scrutiny.

            “Shrinking the size of government” seems an excellent example. Lots of US politicians have promised this, few deliver. Why? Well, the politicians’ reluctance seems to confirm my suspicion that this is really hard to do. As in, there is little that you can cut for free, and substantial cuts will piss off large or powerful sections of society. I think it’s pretty clear that US leaders are convinced (rightly or wrongly) that the NSA surveillance apparatus really does keep terrorism down. Tepid steps towards free trade are another example – these are unpopular in general, so it seems likely that politicians (or their advisors) really believe they will have positive impact.

            Your examples of “will result in his getting fewer campaign contributions from the interest group opposed to doing it” and “will reduce the politician’s ability to reward supporters and punish opponents” are relevant, but politicians do both all the time – if there’s enough to gain from doing so (I also suspect that idealism explains a lot more of politician’s behaviour than is generally accepted, but that’s another debate).

            Tracking politicians making unpopular decisions can be very revealing.

          • Tracy W says:

            But decisions are not equal. Let’s say the public wants low government deficits (aka a country that doesn’t have to go cap-in-hand to Goldman Sachs).

            It’s easy for a politician to promise that. But low deficits require either limiting public spending or raising taxes.

            Raising taxes is hard outside of World Wars.

            Limiting public spending runs up against a public choice problem: generally the potential beneficiaries of public spending are vocal and well-organised, and the cost to an individual tax payer is minimal. The easiest response for a politician is to say yes, the government will help (and of course the beneficiaries have every incentive to emphasis to the politician how much they need that help.) It’s only when you add up all those little costs that you get to something that has voters outraged.

            So, given the pressures politicians are under to spend, spend, spend, anyone who cares about government deficits does wind up putting a lot of weight on inflexibility in this area.

            A similar argument applies to regulation – a lot of the harm of regulations comes not from any individual one but the whole web.

          • Deiseach says:

            From personal experience as a low-level minion in the public service, I can also attest that “shrinking the government” sounds great when it’s a campaign promise: all those lazy civil servants sitting around drinking tea and gossiping! We’ll cut the numbers and bring in private-sector expertise and efficiency!

            Except that government is not a business so you can’t run it on the same lines as private sector businesses. And when you cut staff numbers (as with the recruitment embargo in the public sector that has been in place for the last few years here in Ireland) what that means is (a) no new jobs (b) reducing numbers by ‘natural wastage’ means no replacements (c) means fewer staff to cope with increased volume of demand.

            So you get waiting lists, delays in service, and things like people forgetting that teachers, nurses, etc. are also public sector employees and then being outraged when little Johnny is in a class of forty kids and not getting the attention he needs, or that the new ward in the hospital isn’t open because they haven’t the staff to run it. Had to waste all your lunch hour queuing at the post office and wondering why the hell they don’t just open another window instead of having one person serving during the rush hour? Public sector embargo! No hiring on new staff! So that means one person left to cover the lunch time rush.

            There’s also not that huge gain in efficiency and profitability by privatising services; as I said, government is not a business. Private operators will bid on the profitable routes for things like bus services and won’t take the unprofitable ones, so government is left with either maintaining rural bus routes for social purposes and taking the loss, or shutting them down (and then facing public backlash over old age pensioners with no transport being stuck in their homes unable to get into town to buy groceries, visit the doctor, and have necessary social contact).

            There really isn’t a huge amount of trimming numbers you can do with the grassroots staff unless you’re going to shut down a lot of services, and with new programmes being announced every five minutes when politicans see a bandwagon to leap on, that is not happening. There probably is a fair amount of trimming that can be done off the top, but ministers tend to be terribly fond of their special advisors etc. and don’t want to part with them (or offend the permanent high ranking civil servants by trying to give them the boot).

          • @ Deiseach

            On cutting government:

            Your comments assume a fixed set of services government is responsible for. In the U.S. at present, quite a lot of mail delivery is done by private firms, such as UPS. They can’t deliver first class mail because there is a law against their doing so.

            Abolishing the Post Office (and the Private Express Statutes that give it a monopoly on First Class mail) wouldn’t mean that the mail didn’t get delivered.

            More generally, the U.S. and the U.K. in the 19th century had total government expenditure of about 10% of national income, compared to current figures of about thirty to forty percent—and, at least for the U.S., almost all of that was at the state and local level, with the Federal government the smallest of the three measured by expenditures.

            On the general question of the relation between work to be done and number of employees, you might enjoy _Parkinson’s Law_ if you haven’t already read it. After stating the law (“Work expands to fill the time available” or, alternative statement, “The number of people employed by a bureaucracy increases at a constant rate independent of whether the work to be done increases, decreases, or there is any work at all,” which sounds like a joke), he gives some data.

            Number of employees of the British admiralty on shore establishment, from the point when Britain had the largest navy in the world to the point when it was barely able to defeat Argentina.

            Number of employees of the Colonial Office during the period when the British Empire went from the largest empire in history to its present state.

            Both of them are steadily increasing graphs.

            Note also that one way of cutting government is to stop doing things that ought not to be done. From the standpoint of some of us that includes the War on Drugs and all tariffs, the Export/Import bank and all other corporate welfare, as well as much else.

          • Stuart Armstrong says:

            I think Deiseach and David Friedman are not strongly disagreeing – the main point of both is that, if you really want to cut government, you have to cut what it’s doing (David seems more open to “cutting waste and fraud”, but his main point is still about cutting programs). I’d guess they disagree over what is good to cut, but that’s another issue 🙂

            >From the standpoint of some of us that includes the War on Drugs and all tariffs, the Export/Import bank and all other corporate welfare, as well as much else.

            I have to say, my rule of thumb is that “if someone isn’t mentioning social security, medicare, or the military, then then they aren’t serious about cutting government”. I agree on all you mention, but it’s cutting some of the functions of government, not cutting its size in any meaningful way.

      • I’m a little startled at the jump to elected officials, being one myself.

        As far as I know, Scott has expressed no interest in becoming a candidate, so it seems odd to measure him by that particular yardstick.

      • Deiseach says:

        Too often with politicians it comes across not as “New evidence has been presented to me, and after mature consideration I have decided that my former opinion was mistaken” but rather “The polls show that now people want Purple rather than Ochre, so forget all my past speeches in favour of Ochre, I am now – and have always been – solidly pro-Purple!”

        Not alone does this come across as “Of course I have principles – just tell me what ones you would like me to have, and I’ll have them!” but also “I think you, the public, are so dumb you’ll never remember what I said in opposition/before this position became popular”.

        • onyomi says:

          “I think you, the public, are so dumb you’ll never remember what I said in opposition/before this position became popular”.”

          This generally proves to be a safe assumption.

    • Psmith says:

      Yeah, I feel like we could get a pretty good game of “Metafilter or Jim’s blog comments?” going here.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Nah, it’s sadly pretty easy to tell. Even if you ignore the fact that the reactionaries are pretty much begging Scott to join them, their criticism is the one with the cruder insults but a generally ambivalent tone (“Scott’s pretty smart, but…”), the blues’ insults are much more clever, but are pretty much just insults.

      • Murphy says:

        I think the game is traditionally called “Stormfront or SJW”.

        https://www.reddit.com/r/StormfrontorSJW/

        Strip out a few of the keywords and then try to guess which side a comment is from.

    • I’m pretty surprised to find that he gets more right-wing hate than left-wing hate. Or maybe that’s just the selection that he chose to put up.

      • Nita says:

        I think the interesting aspect here is the amount of attention Scott’s alt-right haters pay to his personal life, not the relative lack of attention from “Tumblerenas”.

        That’s what makes the right-side comments look more bizarre (and thus, more amusing).

        • nil says:

          The alt-right really is just the mostly-white incel male variant of standard Tumblr-style identity politics. In both places the key dynamic isn’t really anything ideological, but more that splicing self-help and politics together naturally attracts damaged people, and the ad-hoc and amateur nature of the “self-help” component isn’t sufficient to undamage said people.

        • Simon says:

          A good deal of the contemporary far right *in general* can be accurately be described as “identity politics for low-status white people”.

        • Outis says:

          Is that really so bizarre? The notion that all lifestyles are equally respectable, especially in the sexual sphere, is a (recent) left-wing idea. And still, if Scott had other personality traits, he may get more attacks on his personal life from the left.

          In any case, I think that it may be a good thing to find Scott hard to respect as a man. It makes it easier to take his arguments exclusively on their own merits.

        • Nita says:

          @ Outis

          If I recall, the comments we are discussing did not say, “the author’s lifestyle is not respectable, especially in the sexual sphere”.

          Or else, we should also be reading “he’s a sperg racist shitlord” as “I find the gentleman’s approach overly reductive, and the ethical impact of the implications of some of his statements may be a cause for concern”.

          Moreover, some of you-know-who’s insults imply a high familiarity with Scott’s personal history, while most of the other side’s is the sort lazy dismissal that comes with low familiarity. Obsessive haters exist in all sorts of groups, of course, but the sheer amount of vitriol is surprising.

          I also enjoyed Mark’s suggestion that failing to persistently stalk and bad-mouth someone you disagree with is a fault (apparently, because it means you’re “too incoherent” to remember to do it).

    • ThrustVectoring says:

      Horseshoe theory. They’re both on the side that cares about leveraging whatever instrumental power they can get their hands on in order to further their goals, while SSC is secretly on the side of civilization and human decency.

    • Alex says:

      I just read http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/04/22/right-is-the-new-left/ which was linked in the classes post the other day and is frightingly on-topic in the light of the current “where does the criticism come from” discussion.

      Sadly, I have to conclude, that the critics have a point. The piece reads very differently, depending on whether you imagine the author to be a “genius of human nature” (The other Scott A. on Scott A. here: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2537) or an angsty nerd desperately trying to figure out an inner conflict of ingrained values vs. rational insight by adding meta-rationality. Note that the latter is basically the authors self-description in that piece.

      So what does this mean? It is very rare that peaople make their process of rationalization transparent to themselves, let alone others. I think we have to applaud our host for that. But when he then goes on to misrepresent his own rationalizations for actual rationality, who is he trying to fool?

      Mind you I do not mean this as an offense. On reflection I like “struggling to figure things out”-Scott much better than “rational”-Scott, and maybe the former is all he ever intended to be on his blog. What do I know.

  12. JDG1980 says:

    “it’s basically a fish trap for aspies. people who can’t grasp nuance or understand basic human behavior, but are nonetheless obsessed with details and complex systems will inevitably gravitate toward this kind of horseshit. ultimately it’s a bunch of STEM-inclined dudes on the autism spectrum sitting around attempting to unpack societal problems like it was all a game of fucking sim city.”

    So, we should instead try to understand societal problems on the basis of… what? Whim? Intuition?

    • Nornagest says:

      Shit just, like, happens, bro.

    • Rocket says:

      I wonder if there’s maybe a steelman-able point to be made there about the problems with a demographic who traditionally has lots of trouble fitting in with other people attempting to understand and solve all of society’s problems.

      On reflection, though, given how many problems basically reduce to economics or biology it’s probably fine. Or at least unavoidable, which is almost like fine.

      • 27chaos says:

        I expect they would reject the claim that many problems basically reduce to economics or biology. They would, of course, be wrong.

        • Guy says:

          …given how many problems basically reduce to economics or biology…

          The word “reduce” is doing a lot of work in that statement. That said, I think the most-steelmanable point is “Problems are hard, yo, don’t think you’ve solved them because your model can predict the past.”

          This is, of course, not something I think the person who wrote the “fish trap” comment was aware of.

          • H.E. Pennypacker says:

            Economics at its best can build models that predict what has already happened. But some of is is nothing more than “Just So” fables:

            A: “Right guys, we’re economists so we have to be able to explain the evolution of money and how people distributed goods and services before we had it.”

            B: “Well what would we do right now if there was no money?”

            A: “I guess we’d have to do everything through barter, like swap a chicken for a sack of potatoes.”

            B: “That must be it then! We had barter but it was inconvenient so we invented money.”

            C: “Should we check what contemporary societies that don’t have money do? Or maybe the historical/archaeological record? Just to make sure we’ve got it right?

            A+B: “Nah, let’s not bother.”

            A few years pass

            C: “Oh hey, guys, it turns out that anthropologists went to a whole bunch of societies that have never had money, and it seems that most exchange isn’t done through barter. In fact there’s literally zero evidence of barter being the primary form of transaction in any society that hadn’t previously used money for transactions. Should we change our story?”

            A+B: “Nah, let’s just ignore them, it’ll be way easier.”

          • Muga Sofer says:

            I’m not sure if we’re actively prognosticating Fish Trap’s intentions, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t all true.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ H.E. Pennypacker:

            But the story of the how the use of money would evolve from barter is not supposed to be a true historical story. It illustrates the purposes money serves: it solves the problem of the double coincidence of wants.

          • nil says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris

            Some would say that it obstutificates the purpose money serves: a formalization of the socioeconomic credit held by given individual in relation to their community.

          • H.E. Pennypacker says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            “But the story of the how the use of money would evolve from barter is not supposed to be a true historical story.”

            Because trying to tell an accurate story wouldn’t be great for the “science” of economics.

            “It illustrates the purposes money serves: it solves the problem of the double coincidence of wants.”

            And here’s the problem with a discipline based on Just So stories. “The problem of the double coincidence of wants” is a problem invented by economists projecting a very simplistic understanding of human nature and social relations onto a mythical past.

            If I lived in a society without money I wouldn’t go around thinking “Oh gee! I really want Bill’s chicken but I only have a sack of potatoes to trade and Bill doesn’t want potatoes”. It would totally depend on who Bill was. If he was my son-in-law maybe he would be obliged to give it to me. If he was my good friend I’d probably just go an say “Oh wow, Bill! What a nice chicken!” and he’d insist I take it. If he was an acquaintance he might insist I take it but remember that I owe him one, and so on and so forth.

          • LeeEsq says:

            I was always partial to money was originally a unit of abstract value that symbolized debt theory. Certain economists do not like this because it suggests that the economic rules might not be as innate and akin to natural forces as they would like.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            And here’s the problem with a discipline based on Just So stories. “The problem of the double coincidence of wants” is a problem invented by economists projecting a very simplistic understanding of human nature and social relations onto a mythical past.

            Of course it’s a simplistic assumption. That’s the point: you have to really understand the fundamentals before you can understand the more complex factors of the real world.

            This is equivalent to saying: physics is bullshit! They have all these assumptions about frictionless spheres, but that isn’t how the real world is. No shit. Though that is the sort of argument that postmodernists use to invalidate physics.

            @ nil:

            Some would say that it obstutificates the purpose money serves: a formalization of the socioeconomic credit held by given individual in relation to their community.

            Those people would be wrong.

            Even if you are held in very low regard by a community, your money is still as good as anyone else’s. Americans don’t think much of Saudi Arabia and their royal family. But since they’ve got money, there will be people willing to accommodate them.

            For instance, the university I attended, which is owned by the Catholic Church, established some kind of “Center for Islamic-Christian Understanding” in no small part because they were given a lot of Saudi money to do it.

            This is a big part of the reason why capitalism is a force for globalization: no matter how much they hate foreigners, a lot of people are going to decide they like their money more.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Very relevant: Don Boudreaux’s “Most of What You Learn in Econ 101 is Right”. From one of the linked articles:

            This thought – that serious discussions of real-world policies often require more than knowledge of a freshman-level economics course – can be interpreted to be trivially true. If we’re interested in understanding, explaining, and predicting many of the details of how people will react to changes in policy – and in tracing out the details of the consequences of these likely reactions – then of course knowledge of economics beyond that which is conveyed in an intro-econ course is necessary, as is knowledge of other disciplines and of particular institutions. Similarly, if we want to understand more fully many observed business practices – for example, the reason that automobile dealerships so often locate nearby each other, or the reason that so many fast-food restaurants are franchisees – then knowledge beyond principles-of-economics is necessary. No one can doubt the usefulness of such more-advanced knowledge.

            But it does not follow – from the above rather trite, if true, concession – that a knowledge of only principles of economics is “dangerous.” My strong sense, from having carefully observed public-policy making and public-policy discussion for nearly 40 years now, is that what is dangerous is a lack of knowledge of principles of economics. The problem is not that most politicians and pundits take economic principles too literally; the problem is that most politicians and pundits are utterly ignorant even of these principles.

            […]

            It’s called economic “principles” for a good reason: what is taught in a good economic-principles course are the principles of the operation of an economy guided by market prices. These principles are just that – principles – because they describe the underlying logic of market economies and, as such, are a reliable guide for understanding the economy (and government interventions into the economy) in most real-world cases. It’s true that reality sometimes serves up unusual combinations of events that render a knowledge only of economic principles misleading. But economic principles would be anti-principles if they did not on most occasions – as a rule – as a matter of course – with a solid, if rebuttal, presumption – give reliable and useful insight into how real-world economies actually operate.

          • nil says:

            “Even if you are held in very low regard by a community, your money is still as good as anyone else’s. Americans don’t think much of Saudi Arabia and their royal family. But since they’ve got money, there will be people willing to accommodate them.”

            Well, that’s why it’s a formalization (or perhaps better stated, the reification) of social credit, not the original actual thing. It’s a social credit stripped of it’s social meaning and context to facilitate transfers between societies (where, unlike in intrasocietal transactions, it DID replace barter).

            Which for most purposes is a distinction without a difference, but IMO can be relevant in some high-level policy contexts.

          • wysinwyg says:

            This is equivalent to saying: physics is bullshit! They have all these assumptions about frictionless spheres, but that isn’t how the real world is. No shit.

            You’re kind of right, but there’s a lot of differences between physics and economics that could make this argument relevant in economics where it is not so relevant in physics.

            The most salient difference would be the fact that planets and stars in the interstellar medium act a whole fucking lot like frictionless spheres, making these assumptions useful in physics in ways that similar assumptions simply may not be so useful in economics.

            We can see this from the fact that the outcome of economics studies are usually so much more equivocal than the outcomes of physics studies. In both domains, a naive application of the most abstract laws will either succeed or fail to predict a particular phenomenon. In economics, it seems about 50/50 — the evidence for minimum wage increases also increasing unemployment, for example, is incredibly equivocal.

            More of what is important about economics is in the particulars, so it makes more sense to downgrade the utility of abstract theories in economics on the basis that they’re based on unrealistic assumptions than is the case in physics where we’re mostly concerned with contrived experiments that isolate as few interacting variables as possible. Physics as currently practiced is inherently reductive, but economics cannot be purely reductive and still provide any useful guide to its content.

            Though that is the sort of argument that postmodernists use to invalidate physics.

            It’s not really, actually. The pomo arguments are more like Feyerabend’s arguments against privileging scientific knowledge in “Against Method”. Basically, the argument is that science is like the drunk searching for keys under a streetlight, and that there is a bunch of stuff that is important to human beings beyond the range of the streetlight, and that privileging scientific knowledge tends to divert focus from these quite important things.

            This won’t be convincing to rationalists; in the analogy, a rationalist is someone who insists that illumination via streetlight is a necessary condition of existence.

          • 27chaos says:

            FWIW I was partly kidding, speaking tongue in cheek.

          • Urstoff says:

            As unpredictive as some parts of economics may be (parts of macro being the obvious ones), it’s still the only economics you’ve got. If someone has come up with a more predictive model, please let us know. If not, then we’re basically in the position that we know our models aren’t very good, but they’re better than nothing. And that’s no justification for using whatever ideological belief about how the world works as a basis for policy rather than the flawed models.

            And, of course, there are plenty of models that do make fairly good predictions.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            We can see this from the fact that the outcome of economics studies are usually so much more equivocal than the outcomes of physics studies. In both domains, a naive application of the most abstract laws will either succeed or fail to predict a particular phenomenon. In economics, it seems about 50/50 — the evidence for minimum wage increases also increasing unemployment, for example, is incredibly equivocal.

            But the principles of economics are highly illustrative in this case. They don’t mislead. Economics says that, all else being equal, employers will have to fire employees.

            If they are not going to fire employees, then they have to do something to make them cost less. Such as working the employees they have harder, or making their working conditions worse. Moreover, while there are fixed costs to firing in the short run, in the long run they will hire fewer employees.

            If they can pay their employees more without cutting costs, then they would have to have a lot of “monopsony power”, which is a completely implausible assumption because monopsony power would imply a lot of other things that aren’t true. And even if it were true, it wouldn’t be enough to make the minimum wage a good idea. As Boudreaux writes:

            [E]ven if there incontestably is incontestable monopsony power in the market for low-skilled labor, for a minimum wage to not reduce the employment options of low-skilled workers it must also be true that there is monopoly power in output markets. The reason is that only if there also is monopoly power in output markets will the prices of outputs remain above costs so as to ensure that the costs to employers of a higher minimum wage are paid out of these excess profits. Put differently, in order for a minimum wage not to shrink low-skilled workers’ employment options, employers must consistently reap excess profits – which will be reaped from monopsony power over labor inputs only if those employers also can avoid competing the prices of their outputs down to their costs.

            What economics shows is that there is no magical way to have the government raise real wages, and that is absolutely true. And yet most people have no understanding even of the principles of economics and support the minimum wage on that basis, not the monopsony power arguments, as Boudreaux explains in this excellent post.

            Moreover, another fallacy in these types of experiments to determine whether the minimum wage causes unemployment is given in his example of the “swimming pool”. Imagine a large swimming pool. Physics tells you that if you drop a brick in it, the water level is going to rise. But if you just drop one brick, the rise is probably going to be so small as to be immeasurable, and it could be cancelled out by other factors like evaporation.

            The way these arguments go is: we’ve done 100 studies on whether dropping a brick in a swimming pool raised the water level, and it came out 50-50. Therefore, there’s a good likelihood that dropping 10,000 bricks in the pool won’t raise the water level, either.

            That is, they look at the “experimental results” from tiny changes in the minimum wage and conclude that nothing bad will happen if you raise it by 50%.

            It’s not really, actually. The pomo arguments are more like Feyerabend’s arguments against privileging scientific knowledge in “Against Method”. Basically, the argument is that science is like the drunk searching for keys under a streetlight, and that there is a bunch of stuff that is important to human beings beyond the range of the streetlight, and that privileging scientific knowledge tends to divert focus from these quite important things.

            This won’t be convincing to rationalists; in the analogy, a rationalist is someone who insists that illumination via streetlight is a necessary condition of existence.

            You’re right. They argue that reason distracts from other modes of knowledge.

            But in order to do that, you have to argue that reason is flawed or doesn’t work. Which is where the attacks on reason come in: that it oversimplifies and “murders in order to dissect”.

            In other words, they have to point to some areas that are not lit up by the streetlight.

          • wysinwyg says:

            @Urstoff:

            If not, then we’re basically in the position that we know our models aren’t very good, but they’re better than nothing.

            Another possibility: our models are actually actively misleading and therefore worse than nothing.

            I’m not arguing this is true for economic theory, but I would argue it’s true of, e.g., any major news outlet.

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            Moreover, another fallacy in these types of experiments to determine whether the minimum wage causes unemployment is given in his example of the “swimming pool”. Imagine a large swimming pool. Physics tells you that if you drop a brick in it, the water level is going to rise. But if you just drop one brick, the rise is probably going to be so small as to be immeasurable, and it could be cancelled out by other factors like evaporation.

            The way these arguments go is: we’ve done 100 studies on whether dropping a brick in a swimming pool raised the water level, and it came out 50-50. Therefore, there’s a good likelihood that dropping 10,000 bricks in the pool won’t raise the water level, either.

            Interesting discussion, but this is the only part that’s relevant to my argument. My point was that economic theory is not so good at determining what factors will be “bricks” with negligible impact on “water level” and what factors will be “Cadillac Escalades” with significant impact on “water level”, but that this is exactly what we’d want from an economic theory.

            I think there are other considerations, too, though:

            If they are not going to fire employees, then they have to do something to make them cost less. Such as working the employees they have harder, or making their working conditions worse. Moreover, while there are fixed costs to firing in the short run, in the long run they will hire fewer employees.

            I’m not so sure. I can certainly imagine a state of affairs where increasing the wages of everyone in a particular locale would generate enough excess demand to actually increase the total number of jobs and amount of hiring. Maybe that’s not technically possible for some tricky reasons, but it’s not at all obvious it’s not possible.

            And my point is that we want to know whether increasing minimum wage is a good idea right now in a particular situation, not in some abstract global sense. If it’s possible for minimum wage increases to increase demand in such a way that spurs growth and actually decreases unemployment in some situations, it would be really good to be able to recognize those situations and act accordingly instead of adopting the rule that really just applies to the abstract global case.

            Which is the crux of my complaint about economic theory — it ignores particularities when particularities are what we’re most interested in.

            In other words, they have to point to some areas that are not lit up by the streetlight.

            That’s easily enough done. The hard part is getting the rationalist to actually look.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            Interesting discussion, but this is the only part that’s relevant to my argument. My point was that economic theory is not so good at determining what factors will be “bricks” with negligible impact on “water level” and what factors will be “Cadillac Escalades” with significant impact on “water level”, but that this is exactly what we’d want from an economic theory.

            The point is not what’s measurable. The point is that economic theory tells us that minimum wage is not magic. If it raises wages, it’s got to be doing something else, too.

            The “something else” that many people have in mind is that it takes excess profits from employers and transfers them to workers. But this is what economic theory shows to be impossible under realistic conditions.

            What economic theory shows is, regardless of how much the minimum wage increases unemployment, it won’t do anything good.

            I’m not so sure. I can certainly imagine a state of affairs where increasing the wages of everyone in a particular locale would generate enough excess demand to actually increase the total number of jobs and amount of hiring. Maybe that’s not technically possible for some tricky reasons, but it’s not at all obvious it’s not possible.

            This is just silly. There is a reason the “Keynesian stimulus argument” for the minimum wage is not popular among left-wing economists.

            For one, the stimulus argument is inherently a cyclical argument. If the government should sometimes force wages to rise to boost demand, then at other times it should force wages to fall. That’s why there is no Keynesian argument for a minimum interest rate.

            Another commenter somewhere else sums up the other problem:

            And this is on top of the fact that if you try to do some basic quantification, the “multiplier effect” from paying higher minimum wages would be tiny anyway. Think about it: what fraction of the marginal earnings of minimum-wage workers goes to buying from businesses that employ minimum-wage labor, and what fraction of those sales actually accrues to the minimum-wage laborers. It’s not a very big number and can’t conceivably be enough to offset any sizable disemployment response. (Moreover, if you’re tempted to counterfactually claim that it’s a big number, remember that this is also a downside to the minimum wage: to the extent that higher minimum wages feed disproportionately into the prices of the consumption bundle purchased by low wage workers, those workers are hurt.)

            Finally, you say:

            That’s easily enough done. The hard part is getting the rationalist to actually look.

            Examples of where it has been “easily enough done”?

            I take this to be a major point of Scott’s “catus person” post. The cactus person tells him to just get out of the car and says it’s so easy, but it never actually tells him how.

            Also, all arguments for mysticism are vulnerable to Leonard Peikoff’s “fifth sense argument”. Why is there no controversy among blind people that others have a mysterious “fifth sense”? The answer is that other people can make predictions with the fifth sense that are verifiable to the blind, and which the blind people could not have known. For instance, you say “There’s a car coming,” and a few seconds later the blind person hears the car and feels the wind rush past him.

            With the “sixth sense” of mysticism, people never claim anything useful, or to have knowledge of this world. They claim to have seen above and beyond this petty world and into the nature of true reality, which is radically different.

            (Compare this to Scott’s example of the cactus person who refuses to factor the large numbers he gives in order to verify the reality of the experience.)

            If you tried to tell a blind person this sort of thing about your fifth sense, he would say: “I may be blind, but I’m not crazy.”

            Until I’ve got one of the revelations myself, I’m going to persist in not believing the mystics. And I’m not going to waste my time in the apparently-fruitless task of trying to achieve a mystic vision. If, by all outer signs, it’s indistinguishable from “shit doesn’t work”, I’m going to assume “shit doesn’t work” rather than “shit does work but appears exactly as if it doesn’t in order to fool people”.

          • “the evidence for minimum wage increases also increasing unemployment, for example, is incredibly equivocal.”

            Two points:

            1. The prediction is that increasing the minimum wage will increase the unemployment rate of those now receiving the minimum wage. Minimum wage workers are about four percent of hourly wage workers, about two percent of the labor force. So even quite a substantial increase in their unemployment rate will have an invisibly small effect on the overall unemployment rate. The relevant test is to look at some relevant subset, such as teenage workers, and see what happens to their employment.

            2. I’m not sure you are allowing for the effect of social pressure. Academic economists are academics, which means that they are in an overwhelmingly blue tribe environment, which makes it costly to support positions that the blue tribe strongly disapproves of.

            A perhaps relevant story:

            Leo Rosten was a writer (_Captain Newman M.D._, _The Education of Hyman Kaplan_, _The Joys of Yiddish_) and a friend of my parents from graduate school. On one occasion he happened to be talking with one of the M.I.T. economists and asked him what the view of economists was on minimum wage laws. He got the usual response—that they increased unemployment among low skilled workers by pricing them out of the market.

            Leo asked if that was the usual view of economists, was told that it was. He pointed out that it wasn’t the popular view of the subject and asked why the economists didn’t make a point of correcting the public misunderstanding of the subject.

            Response: “I think we’re afraid of sounding as if we agree with Milton Friedman.”

            That was the story as Leo told it, filtered through my memory.

            If there are strong social pressures against a conclusion and half the people in the field support it in spite of those pressures, that suggests that the arguments for that conclusion within that field are much stronger than the arguments against.

            With regard to the sim city comments in the thread, I don’t think of econometric modeling as part of the core of economic theory. It’s a mixture of economics, statistics, and witchcraft designed to create models of a very complicated reality that are simple enough to be usable but somehow preserve enough of the essential features to provide useful predictions about what they model.

            The core is price theory, which provides good reasons to expect an increase in the minimum wage to reduce the employment prospects of unskilled workers (but doesn’t tell us by how much), good reasons to expect tariffs to, on net, make the inhabitants of the countries that impose them worse off.

            “Good reasons” doesn’t mean “rigorous proof.” There are few if any real world implications of economics for which a sufficiently clever theorist couldn’t think up a logically possible situation for which they would not hold. That’s one reason why, in using economics to make sense of the world, you construct conjectures on the basis of theory, use them to generate testable predictions, and test them.

            One could describe that as modeling, but not in the econometric sense. You are making simplifying assumptions, but you aren’t trying to model a particular economy but rather a particular issue.

            And, at a considerable tangent, an old post about a sufficiently clever theorist:

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2013/09/economics-ideas-vs-politics.html

          • H.E. Pennypacker says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            “Of course it’s a simplistic assumption. That’s the point: you have to really understand the fundamentals before you can understand the more complex factors of the real world.”

            Of course what’s a simplistic assumption? My point was that economics has a very simplistic understanding of human actors and social relations. I don’t see what this has to do with understanding fundamentals. My point was that economics reduces an incredibly complex and messy reality to an extraordinarily simplified model of how humans behave to then build incredibly complex mathematical models on top*.

            “This is equivalent to saying: physics is bullshit! They have all these assumptions about frictionless spheres, but that isn’t how the real world is. No shit. Though that is the sort of argument that postmodernists use to invalidate physics.”

            As a side point “postmodernists” is often a convenient way of dismissing critiques of science because a lot of scholars wrote a lot of rubbish that can be related to postmodernism (although I note it’s a term used by the critics much more than those they are criticising). There are plenty of critiques of science that are very well thought out but those who see it as their role to defend science often seem to have a hard time distinguishing between good thinking on the subject and “E=MC2 is a sexist equation” nonsense.

            More crucially, though, you’re wrong here. Physics has proved incredibly good at predicting how the world works. Economics has proven itself unable even to assess the value of financial instruments that were created by people who’d studied economics.

            *From my own anecdotal experience, the people making the really complex models aren’t even economists because you need people who are better at maths than most economists. My dad works for a company that makes financial software and all the maths guys are astrophysics or pure maths PhDs who are fully aware of the fact that they are making models which have very little basis in reality but they’re getting paid huge amounts to mess around doing something they find fun so they don’t complain.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ H.E. Pennypacker:

            Of course what’s a simplistic assumption? My point was that economics has a very simplistic understanding of human actors and social relations. I don’t see what this has to do with understanding fundamentals. My point was that economics reduces an incredibly complex and messy reality to an extraordinarily simplified model of how humans behave to then build incredibly complex mathematical models on top*. […]

            More crucially, though, you’re wrong here. Physics has proved incredibly good at predicting how the world works. Economics has proven itself unable even to assess the value of financial instruments that were created by people who’d studied economics.

            I don’t adhere to the “incredibly complex mathematical models” school of economics. I think these models are misguided precisely because they are dressing up a lot of hidden assumptions in an obfuscating layer of mathematics. As George Reisman writes in his book Capitalism:

            Third, mathematical economics has come to serve as a mechanism for the erection of a sort of exclusive “Scholars’ Guild,” which, as was the case in the Middle Ages, seeks to shut out all who do not first translate their thoughts into its esoteric language. Higher mathematics is no more necessary to the discussion or clarification of economic phenomena than was Latin or Greek to the discussion of matters of scientific interest in previous centuries. One can, for example, say that the amount of bread people will buy at any given price of bread depends both on the price of bread and on the prices of all other goods in the economic system. Or one can say that the quantity demanded of bread is a mathematical function of all prices in the economic system, and then write out a nonspecific mathematical function using symbolic terminology.

            If one merely writes such an equation and stops at this point, all that has taken place is an act of intellectual pretentiousness and snobbery—a translation into a present-day equivalent of Greek or Latin. If, however, one goes further, and believes one can actually formulate a specific equation—that, for example, the quantity demanded of bread equals ten thousand divided by half the square of the price of bread minus the price of butter and the average age of grocers, then one is led into major errors. This is so because no such equation can possibly hold up in the face of changes in the fundamental economic data. New goods are introduced. People’s ideas and valuations change. Their real incomes change. Population changes. The belief that an equation could be constructed that would take such changes into account is totally opposed to reality. It is tantamount to a belief in fatalistic determinism and implies, in effect, that a mathematical economist can gain access to a book in which all things past, present, and future are written and then derive from it the corresponding equation. Whatever it may be, such a view is definitely not within the scientific spirit.

            And I don’t see that the purpose of economics is to predict the economic future. Especially not in any kind of detail on the level of “what is the value of these financial instruments”.

            I think that the main purpose of economics is, as it was originally called, political economy: to understand the broad strokes of how the economy works in order to tell people what political stance they ought to take toward the economy. And I think the main lesson of economics in that respect is: under a regime of clearly defined private property rights, the free-market, capitalist system naturally works to the benefit of everyone. But at the same time, it teaches that the economy is far too complex for any one person or small group of people to predict; that it works on the basis of distributed knowledge; that you shouldn’t try to guide, control, or manipulate it. Reisman again:

            I define economics as the science that studies the production of wealth under a system of division of labor, that is, under a system in which the individual lives by producing, or helping to produce, just one thing or at most a very few things, and is supplied by the labor of others for the far greater part of his needs. […]

            What makes the science of economics necessary and important is the fact that while human life and well-being depend on the production of wealth, and the production of wealth depends on the division of labor, the division of labor does not exist or function automatically. Its functioning crucially depends on the laws and institutions countries adopt. A country can adopt laws and institutions that make it possible for the division of labor to grow and flourish, as the United States did in the late eighteenth century. Or it can adopt laws and institutions that prevent the division of labor from growing and flourishing, as is the case in most of the world today, and as was the case everywhere for most of history. Indeed, a country can adopt laws and institutions that cause the division of labor to decline and practically cease to exist. The leading historical example of this occurred under the Roman Empire in the third and fourth centuries of the Christian era. The result was that the relatively advanced economic system of the ancient world, which had achieved a significant degree of division of labor, was replaced by feudalism, an economic system characterized by the self-sufficiency of small territories.

            And I think the main value economics has to individuals is not insofar as it helps them make money on the stock market (though a certain knowledge of economics is necessary to do that), but insofar as it allows them to understand history and its development; allows them to understand their place in society and the wider significance of their work; and allows them to appreciate the nature of their relationship to others (as fundamentally cooperative, not adversarial).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Higher mathematics is no more necessary to the discussion or clarification of economic phenomena than was Latin or Greek to the discussion of matters of scientific interest in previous centuries.

            I’ve got to take issue with this. Having a common scholarly language is immensely useful in sharing ideas, and there’s no reason why mediaeval authors writing in Latin was any more pretentious than non-Anglophone authors today writing in English.

            (And, yes, I’m aware that a greater proportion of the world population today can read English than could read Latin in the middle ages. But that’s a result of increased access to education rather than decreased pretentiousness or what-have-you.)

      • If that’s a problem, it’s a problem that LW has much, much worse.

    • Seth says:

      Experience and study of the humanities canon. Speaking as someone who resembles that remark (i.e. “unpack societal problems like it was … sim city”), the basic criticism is that the theories built are superficially plausible to the builders, but go awry by being disconnected from empirical testing. Of course, many writers know this in the abstract. They’ve heard it before. But still, there’s a sort of dont-know-what-you-dont-know problem. If your model is poorly constructed, but you’re unaware of it, there’s still a tendency to debate it extensively – even if it when asked, you’d reply that of course you know it’s just a model and it could be flawed, etc. etc.

      • Emile says:

        the theories built are superficially plausible to the builders, but go awry by being disconnected from empirical testing

        But but but … for me the answer to that is Sim City! Well, not Sim City itself, but something like it. My position on a lot of issues like minimum wage, immigration, urban zoning, healthcare finance, monetary policy is basically “I don’t really know, and I’m suspending judgement until I can build a simulated model of the economy / the society etc. in which I can test the idea”. And that seems much closer to empirical testing than anything else I could do. Predicting the behavior of complex dynamic systems is hard, I’d like to see more Sim City (open sourced, with assumptions made explicit), and less anecdotes and speculation.

        • >Predicting the behavior of complex dynamic systems is hard

          This is why the anti-minimum-wage, immigration etc. libertarian-conservativish camp tends to say “so don’t mess with it”.

          Then again of course one could raise the argument why political messing is the only messing, and also that refusing to govern does not mean governing well.

          Ultimately my position would be to not mess with it ideologically or moralistically because it ignores consequences and these days 95% of the cases it is how it happens, minimum wage morality crusades etc.

          I would accept messing with it on a pattern-matching level, a common-sense level which is precisely how complex systems can be cheaply modelled.

          • Lady Catherine Buttington, Ph.D says:

            Opposing immigration is absolutely NOT a libertarian tenet — quite the opposite in fact. And “don’t mess with systems we don’t understand” is very much a conservative rather than a libertarian idea; its libertarian false cognate is more along the lines of “don’t mess with systems that we DO understand, because we understand them so well we know that not messing with them is optimal.” You’re lumping in two groups who typically hate each other.

            Someone who actually took this “complex dynamic systems” view to heart would more likely end up being socially center-right, economically center-left, and really REALLY freaked out about climate change.

          • Emile says:

            On one side you have people making vague and “common sense” arguments that obviously change X will improve things, on the other you have people making vague and “common sense” arguments that changes to complex dynamic systems are hard to predict, and often changes to something that works will make it worse.

            I don’t trust either side, and I’d rather avoid taking a side (lest my brain makes me identify with it), and wait until I get the change to analyze that more formally.

          • FeepingCreature says:

            “Don’t mess with it” helps if and only if not messing with it makes the system easier to predict. I don’t think that’s established.

          • Lady Catherine Buttington, Ph.D says:

            FeepingCreature, if something has been around for a long time, like the climate, it’s probably in some type of equilibrium. It’s not going to spontaneously do something really crazy, but if you poke it too hard, it COULD. I hope it doesn’t.

            You can construct your preferred comparison to immigration policy however you’d like.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s not going to spontaneously do something really crazy

            Except it did in the past. Ice ages happened. For economics, we regularly have system meltdowns (recessions). Arguably, the economy is constantly unbalanced, we go from boom to bust.

        • BD Sixsmith says:

          When it comes to war, immigration, education and other matters our elites have essentially used the world as a grand realisation of Sim City and there is no “off” button.

        • 27chaos says:

          This is what economists generally do. One problem is that there are many different plausible ways to program Sim City’s rules.

          • Emile says:

            Sure, though comparing the models, or comparing how various ideas work in different models, is likely to bring more understanding than the original debate was.

        • Anonymous says:

          That kind of modeling is what economic theory is already. It’s not just people guessing in either direction, there are formal models involved. I’m not sure what you expect to gain by framing this as a software simulation rather than a mathematical model, when the former is little more than an implementation of the latter.

          • Emile says:

            I’m not “expecting to gain anything”, mathematical models would also be a valid way of analyzing those problems. I prefer computer simulations because I personally find them easier to implement (I’m a somewhat mathy game/robot programmer), but I don’t think it’s *better* on the absolute.

    • Patrick says:

      I don’t know what the writer of that comment was thinking, but there is DEFINITELY a rationalist slash “neuro atypical self help-y people” trend of trying to work out your own copious problems, making some progress maybe, and deciding that the insights you’ve gained in the process mean that you’ve unlocked the key to reforming your entire culture, if only the fools would listen to you.

      Its like a self help book reading therapy attending version of super villainy.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        I think you just described the ages old sin that is vanity.

        • phantasmoon says:

          Correct.

          Scott is very painstaking about providing context on the issues he discusses and trying to show different points of view, often writing open-ended conclusions that read like “this is a complex issue, but hopefully now you’re better prepared to think about it.” I don’t remember reading intellectually-arrogant “I have the solution to everything and this is it” diatribes here.

          What’s most amusing is not that the claim of SSC doing “other-optimising” is off the mark, but that many of the complaints seem to be asking for exactly that. It’s hard for me to interpret “there’s no point to any of this” or “this is useless and verbose” as anything but “please give me the TL;DR and tell me what I should believe at the end of the article.”

          • Patrick says:

            Yeah, I should clarify- I don’t actually think SSC does this. Just that its rather endemic among the sorts of bloggers who use words like “neuro-atypical.”

      • Chrysophylax says:

        The rationalist term for this is “other-optimising”. Unsurprisingly, Eliezer Yudkoswy has a post explaining why you shouldn’t presume that the one weird trick that worked for you will also work for everyone else.

        • FeepingCreature says:

          Yeah but on the other hand side, it seems equally implausible that the one weird trick will work for no-one else, so sharing it can still be valuable.

    • “So, we should instead try to understand societal problems on the basis of… what? Whim? Intuition?”
      Normal people already understand basic human behavior. They come with understanding pre-installed. (or at least think they do) So they don’t spend time thinking about it, and think it is weird for other people to spend time thinking about it.

      • Space Ghost says:

        Citing fictional characters to prove a point kind of undermines the point you were trying to make. Your best example is a made-up person?

        • Guy says:

          The division between normal and abnormal in this conversation seems fake.

        • Space Ghost says:

          I don’t have any examples, because everyone I know who does that is either so good at it that I can’t even tell they’re doing it, or (I suspect this is more common, sadly) really bad at it, and seems to think they have some deep insight into human nature, but they really just come across as some sort of uncanny valley robot.

    • To be fair, there is actually the thing that people on the autistic spectrum lack the intuitive understanding of other minds and thus have to rely on theoretization. On one hand this is good because the theories, models are reusable and basically build up a science, on the other hand it can be quite facepalmy when people over-analyze the obvious and get it wrong, too.

      But no problem, I think since everybody understands how important is the status motive and how oblivious we tend to be to it, how strongly our brain tends to hide it, we can now bring Aspie and neurotypical behavior closer as there is basically one major difference:

      Neurotypicals grok the status motive in people and themselves although they are embarrassed to talk about openly and consciously. Once Aspies figure that neurotypicals do everything for either real status gains or feeling good about themselves (subjective status gains) they have a simple, not overanalysed, not “spergy” and pretty usable model.

      I mean like Dale Carnegie in How To Make Friends And Influence People. The basic idea is that people love to be made feel important. That is status. Aspies read this book. Neurotypicals read this book. Both tend to find it immensely useful. And it is NOT COMPLICATED. It ain’t spergy.

      So I say we are close to collapsing oblivious Neurotypical behavior and Aspie over-analysis into one basic simple status theory. Carnegie’s book is fairly close, if old and outdated in many aspects.

      • BD Sixsmith says:

        The status model can be wildly overvalued. At the risk of being asked for srcs pls I’ve seen people imply or outright assert that human motives from love to friendship to professional ambition are entirely reducible to status-seeking. A danger of overanalysation is that one can obsess about factor X and miss factor Y.

        • Professional ambition, as ambition, LITERALLY means status: the desire to not do something big but also to gain renown for it. Or even when not externally recognized, still have this warm glow inside that you bested them all. Internalized status. Ambition plain simply literally means status-seeking, albeit often internalized. The evidence for this internal warm glow is internalized status is that it manifests as pride. You don’t tell anyone you ran a marathon or something, but still feel pride inside for it. Where could it come from if not from actual pride, which is the reaction to social praise and prestige?

          True friendship is not, but many “friendships” are just to be seen hanging wit the cool crowd.

          True love is not, but many “affairs” are, beyond genital desire, the desire to be seen with someone hot.

          My opinion is that status gets undervalued even if these circles, it is something far bigger: everything that can make you feel proud or embarrassed is related to that. Morality. Health choices. etc.

      • I’m inclined to think that normal people don’t understand other *minds* intuitively– normal people have a good intuitive understanding of the social signals that normal people use. Since normal people are the large majority, this is enough to produce an illusion of understanding other minds.

        I realized this when it occurred to me that autistic Temple Grandin’s normal mother didn’t have an intuitive understanding of Temple Grandin.

      • anonymous says:

        I think since everybody understands how important is the status motive and how oblivious we tend to be to it, how strongly our brain tends to hide it,

        on the other hand it can be quite facepalmy when people over-analyze the obvious and get it wrong

        Quite.

      • noge_sako says:

        I think all of this is utterly overblown, the supposed systemizing autistic trait. A major problem of autism is that 7 different disorders are lumped under it in practice. Language deficits, nervous system disorders. Its almost meaningless now. Did it ever *have* a great deal of meaning? A big issue is that guys and girls are being compared with the same tests. Both genders average equal verbal reasoning ability, with differing spatial abilities. A few guys are then going to be quite a bit below average verbally and above average spatially when combining two moderately different mental populations, simply due to the “glitch” of averaging both populations together.

        Another (this time offensive) observation I have is that OL, quite a few people who claim autism have the “lack” of traits that bestow social success in High School and many colleges. Or lacked it when young. Namely, poor at sports and below average physical attractiveness. I think if you combine those two traits with really sub-optimal parenting, social behaviors so poor one would believe autism is a culprit can develop.

        • Your “seven different disorders” (rather than something like “a number of disorders”) suggests that you have a list in mind. If so, could you go into more detail?

          • noge_sako says:

            Ah, 7 is simply a natural number.

            One issue with a “subtype” of autism is those considered to have language deficits with high spatial skills. Its simply an unlikely, but entirely normal aspect of a multi-dimensional Gaussian distribution
            with reading comprehension being only somewhat correlated with spatial intelligence. Averaging both populations of men and women in the same distribution gives much different “normal” ranges then not. I believe I have read that women have about a general 1/5th SD advantage over men in overall reading comprehension, while guys have about a 2/3rds SD over women in spatial manipulation. A significant female advantage is emotional recognition, where I believe women have about a 1/3rd SD advantage in that trait. I’m not sure that combining both populations together is the best idea for diagnosing a disorder, though that might fundamentally be an issue with diagnostic semantics.

            Though, that can easily explain away, right then and there, the 1:10 ratio of guys to girls, simple multi-dimensional gaussians occupying a certain range of function.

            I know a person who has once been diagnosed, or a psychologist suggested it, when that person clearly would have simply been diagnosed as somewhat dull. I know them personally. It seems to be a sort of professional euphemism in that case. It agrees with what seems to be a growing suspicion amongst the casual crowd.

            There’s neurotic introverts. I read those cases from a psychologist I like reading online, who entirely disagrees with other diagnosis.

            There’s simply the great rate of professional disagreements in the field of psychology. It leaves a good bit of leeway in abnormal behavior.

            There is the cynical observation that if a male lacks athletic ability, and is lower then average on facial aesthetics that at least in HS, a rather critical time of social development, he may simply decide the sphere isn’t worth it. Social deficits that many young males have won’t be corrected. And video games are the next obvious hobby.

            And I have a simple personal annoyance with the trend to casually diagnose any young boy, or grown adult, who has a preoccupation with certain topics as having a version of aspergers. That same disorder is never(rarely) mentioned if the person has that obsession with something like football, where its simply considered natural…though I do suppose that by somewhat suspicious reasoning an obsession in a field that doesn’t directly lead to some versions of social status is a trait of the socially lacking.

    • Helldalgo says:

      I am too excited about being in a fish trap.

    • stillnotking says:

      So, we should instead try to understand societal problems on the basis of… what? Whim? Intuition?

      No, we should deal with societal problems using BRUTE STRENGTH.

    • Maware says:

      If you can’t grasp basic human behavior, you have no right to try and fix it. Dolphins shouldn’t tell birds how to fly.

      • arbitrary_greay says:

        But humans can tell birds how to fly. Birds can’t tell humans how to fly. Deferring to the birds doesn’t seem like a good solution, either.

      • cbhacking says:

        If you can’t *intuitively* grasp human behavior, and therefore study it sufficiently to gain an understanding of the topic far beyond what intuition supplies and un-marred by incorrect intuitions, you have every right to try and fix it.

        Did you read the standard biases posts on LW, or any other exploration of the myriad ways in which people are routinely wrong on stuff about human behavior? Better yet, did you do both? If so, and you consider yourself neurotypical, did nothing in that research surprise you? Intuition is frequently useful, but its failures are a source of many societal ills.

        We (and I mean all humanity, not any particular subset thereof) can do better.

        • Maware says:

          You’ll fail, because you have no feel for what you are fixing. This leads to very smart people doing very dumb things like “rationally” trying to redesign marriage or food or education or what have you, and history is full of examples of this. If you are non-neurotypical, you don’t “get” how neuros act at a base level and you think “rationality” is just trying to apply your own thought processes in order for them to obey. Then you get shocked at how they don’t obey them.

          There needs to be a lot of humilty, experience, and understanding in something to change it. Once you really know something, you realize how hard it is to do so.

      • rockroy mountdefort says:

        What if the dolphins are correct?

        • Maware says:

          I have never driven a car in my life, but I know more about driving than you do. Am I likely to be correct? Probably not.

  13. Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

    Hey, I remember a bunch of those!

  14. Xeno of Citium says:

    You’ve got plenty of valuable feedback from the right, but a surprising lack of it from the left. I think you need to expand your reach. You know, in order to get more balanced voices from your faithful readers.

    • Biller says:

      I think it’s funny that about half the comments from the right are “The left is going to be mad at Scott despite how careful he’s being,” and half the comments from the left are them being mad at Scott despite how careful he’s being.

      • 27chaos says:

        I noticed this too, as someone on the left.

        • Pku says:

          You’re taking the worst critics on the left as representative of the left, which is somewhat unfair.

        • Andrew says:

          The other issue, as someone on the left, is that those of us on the left who can acknowledge this are relatively unlikely to be participating members of the left communities that need guidance. If I “walked into the den of the lion”, they’d have no way of knowing that I wasn’t secretly a fascist come to trick them. (for example)

        • stillnotking says:

          I used to try this. It produces nothing but accusations of “concern trolling” — the left has a strange belief that right-wing operatives are constantly attempting to undermine their convictions. I even got banned from Daily Kos, back in the day, after being (falsely) accused of sock puppetry.

          I don’t know how unusual a distinction it is to have been banned from both Redstate and DKos, but I have.

        • Virbie says:

          @stillnotking

          I remember how baffled I was the first time I got called a crypto-Communist and a cold-hearted libertarian Randtard in _the same day_ in similar communities (both on Reddit). My best guess at the time was that those people were so simple-minded that they had to reduce the dimensionality of my political views into a binary one (left/right). I still don’t have any better theory for what they would be thinking.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Virbie/@stillnotking:

          Isn’t that the essence of tribalism?

          If you aren’t with us, you are against us.

  15. Whenever a guy says “beta male”, I want to pat him on the head and say, “Aw, what a bwave widdle awpha male you are!” Real men, like real women, don’t need to compare themselves to other people because they’re confident their deeds speak for them.

    • TheNybbler says:

      “Those people who think their deeds speak for them will inevitably be outshone by those who speak incessantly about their deeds.”
      — Donald Trump

      • Desertopa says:

        The cleverness of this quote betrays the fact that it is not actually attributable to Donald Trump, although if it were it would definitely force me to raise my estimation of him.

        • E. Harding says:

          I certainly didn’t think it was authentic. But it’s good at showing the big reason for the unexpected success of the Trump campaign.

          • TheNybbler says:

            Of course it’s bogus, but if I may toot my own horn, I think it captures both Trump’s pompousness and his complete lack of attention to meter.

          • Brad says:

            It’s too complex for a Trump quote. You are supposed to be aiming for a fourth grade reading level.

        • mobile says:

          “Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.”

          — Abraham Lincoln

      • Anonymous says:

        i,e,: The best lack all conviction, while the worst
        are full of passionate intensity.

        • hlynkacg says:

          somewhere in sands of the desert, a shape with lion body and the head of a man slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

          • Guy says:

            Jesus was a sphinx in the future?

          • Evan Þ says:

            According to Yeats… um, that’s one possible interpretation?

          • To fill in the missing chunk:

            A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
            A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
            Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
            Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

            The darkness drops again but now I know
            That twenty centuries of stony sleep
            Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
            And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
            Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

          • brad says:

            Just barely in the public domain BTW. If it had been written 5 years later it might not be.

          • keranih says:

            Still, it’s one of the poems I would really expect to be in Western Canon, and am puzzled at the phrase not being recognized.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @keranih, I’d pin that on the overthrow of anything like a Western Canon that most people would be aware of. I’d never have encountered the poem if it wasn’t for one lengthy fanfic structured around it.

          • As best I can tell, poetry is not something that people, even educated people, in the modern world are likely to be familiar with. They might remember something they read because it was assigned in a course at some point in the past, but also might not, given that a common response to such classes is to learn what you need to pass the final and then forget it as rapidly as possible.

            People who actually know lots of poetry and like it exist, but they are not very common.

          • brad says:

            @keranih
            Same here. I would have expected most people to have read the poem in high school and at least have it vaguely tickle a memory. I’m 35 FWIW.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’d never have encountered [Yeats’ The Second Coming] if it wasn’t for one lengthy fanfic structured around it

            For me it was “Revelations”, Babylon 5, 2nd season. Delivered by the incomparable Andreas Katsulas.

            YMMV; it’s a powerful bit of poetry and no doubt shows up in quite a few memorable places. But I agree that we are probably beyond being able to realistically expect everyone to recognize it. Too many good poets for that.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yeah, I was ninja’d: was just about to say “or who watched Babylon 5“.

          • Tibor says:

            @David (and other people who enjoy poetry): How do you actually read poetry? Like you say, most of my experience with poetry comes from the high school, then a little bit of the 19. century French poetes maudits which we found kind of cool when we were 16 and listened to black metal (although I find that poetry quite kitschy today) and the one time when I tried reading Faust (when I was 15 I think). I also had a book of poetry by Bukowski, some if it was kind of interesting, but I did not like the fact that it didn’t rhyme. I really liked one poem by Kundera (I also like his prose a lot, although the last time I read something from him was when I was about 19 or 20, so I don’t know whether I would still like it as much as then) which was strong emotionally, had an interesting point, did rhyme and generally I felt like it fit the format well, i.e. that it was a good choice to write that as a poem rather than a short story (maybe I was too young then to appreciate it, but when reading Faust I always though that there was not much point to the format and that prose would work just as well).

            So my question is to all of you – what poems/poets do you like and why?

          • HlynkaCG says:

            @Tibor

            For me, kicking back on the patio with a drink and a book (be it history, poetry, or fiction) is basically my ideal “lazy weekend”. Having writers/poets who’s work I know I enjoy, and keeping a few books of theirs on hand is conducive to the above.

            While I enjoy spoken verse, I have to be honest and say that 99% of it is crap, so again the trick is to find a few poets or performers that you know you enjoy and follow that.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Tibor

            A lot of things that we would put in prose, were once customarily done in (rather dull imo) verse. Lewis’s _A Preface to Paradise Lost_ goes into this. So don’t expect the same kind of concentrated effect we get from short, modern poems.

            Imo with any genre, it’s good to start with the more recent stuff you already like, and work back from there.

          • Tibor says:

            @houseboat:

            I don’t know. I consider maybe 80% of modern art (as in modern visual art) as either bad or pretentious (usually both). I like art to have an artisan quality as well. To me, visual art should come hand in hand with craftsmanship. There are artists today who also show a technical skill (and also those who show nothing else, like the hyper-realistic paintings which are impressive but also kind of dull, photography is more interesting in that case) but there are many more of them among the 18th century artists for example. So if I wanted to go from modern art back, I’d conclude that I just don’t like it, but there are many paintings that I like prior to Andy Warhol. I am almost surely oversimplifying because I am not all that interested in visual arts but it is my impression that the vast majority of modern art (at least the stuff you can see in a modern art gallery) is copying Warhol or Jackson Pollock (who themselves had a good idea which they then repeated too many times). But like I said, I find a lot of strange music interesting that people would not like, probably because they don’t see (or rather hear) the details I do and people who are more interested in paintings probably also see much more in them than me.

            And judging from the very limited amount of poetry that I’ve read, I don’t like the very modern poetry which does not rhyme, at least in a whole book of poems by Bukowski I found maybe one or two interesting and I read them simply like very short stories anyway. At the same time, I don’t like epic poems either (but again, the only experience I have with those comes from reading Faust and the few exerts in school books from ancient epic poetry like the epic of Gilgamesh or the Iliad and Odyssey – I really like the latter and learned it by heart as a kid but I read it rewritten in prose). To me, epic poetry is a strange hybrid genre which fits the age when most people could not write and had to remember the stories by heart – and it is easier to do so when they rhyme. I kind of like this poem, although it is probably slightly kitchy. It is a story, but it is very lyrical, the story itself is actually not all that interesting. I don’t know if I prefer the original or the English translation. English has a very different rhythm than Czech where all words have the accent on the first syllable…Which, I think, makes it actually harder to write good sounding song lyrics or poems in Czech than in English or in other languages where the accents vary.

          • Tibor asks what poems/poets I like.

            My favorite poet is Kipling. Others that I like include Chesterton, Millay, Hopkins, Yeats, Donne, Frost … .

            Particular poems …

            I mentioned “The Mary Gloster,” which is a Browning monolog and I think better than any of Browning’s. I like to argue that Kipling is more of a modern poet than most modern poets, because he uses contemporary technology as poetic material. The best example is “Hymn to Breaking Strain,” in which the underlying metaphor is the table of breaking strains in an engineering handbook. But there are lots of others.

            For story poems by Kipling, I like “The Ballad of East and West,” “The Last Suttee,” “Akbar’s Bridge.” By Chesterton, “The Ballad of the White Horse” is very long but also very good. I’ve written a couple of narrative poems about William Marshall that I’m fond of, but I admit prejudice.

            One poem I’m fond of by someone whose other work I really don’t know: “They flee from me that sometime did me seek.”

            Hope that helps.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I’m not a huge person for poetry, but I studied Russian in college, and I like a fair amount of Russian poetry I’ve looked at (mostly by Pushkin), as well as Russian songs.

            When I studied abroad there, I had to pick one short poem to memorize and recite as part of a “phonetics” class, and I picked this one from Pushkin:

            Узник

            Сижу за решеткой в темнице сырой.
            Вскормленный в неволе орел молодой,
            Мой грустный товарищ, махая крылом,
            Кровавую пищу клюет под окном,

            Клюет, и бросает, и смотрит в окно,
            Как будто со мною задумал одно.
            Зовет меня взглядом и криком своим
            И вымолвить хочет: “Давай улетим!

            Мы вольные птицы; пора, брат, пора!
            Туда, где за тучей белеет гора,
            Туда, где синеют морские края,
            Туда, где гуляем лишь ветер… да я!..”

            А reading of it can be found here (amateur, but better than some of the professional versions I found).

            Here is a passable metrical translation:

            Prisoner

            I’m sitting by bars in the damp blackened cell —
            The juvenile eagle, who’s bred by the jail,
            My mournful friend, with his wings stretching wide,
            Is picking at bloody food right by my side.

            He’s picking and looking at me through the bars,
            Like having a thought that is common to us,
            Like calling to me with a glance and a sight,
            And wanting to say, “Let us fly outside!

            We’re free proud birds; it is time for the friends
            To fly to the white of the rock in a haze,
            To fly to the blue of the sea and the sky,
            Where evenly dwell only tempests … and I!”

            What I like about it is pretty clear, I suppose: it has a very strong metrical “beat” and a forceful tempo. Every single line goes:

            da DA da da DA da da DA da da DA

            And it has a simple rhyme scheme, as well. One thing I don’t like about English poetry is that it’s hard to construct a long series of sentences that rhyme consistently in English and not sound forced or “twee”. Especially if you’re trying to go above the lyrical level of pop songs. Part of it, I’m sure, is my lack of familiarity with Russian, but I think it is simply easier to make things rhyme in a natural way.

            Another one I really like is a “lyric poem” by Mikhail Matusovsky that was later adapted into a song in the Soviet period, and which (I gather) remains a popular “standard” today:

            Московские Окна

            Вот опять небес темнеет высь,
            Вот и окна в сумраке зажглись.
            Здесь живут мои друзья, и, дыханье затая,
            В ночные окна вглядываюсь я.

            Я могу под окнами мечтать,
            Я могу, как книги, их читать,
            И, заветный свет храня, и волнуя, и маня,
            Они, как люди, смотрят на меня.

            Я, как в годы прежние, опять
            Под окном твоим готов стоять.
            И на свет его лучей я всегда спешу быстрей,
            Как на свиданье с юностью моей.

            Я любуюсь вами по ночам,
            Я желаю, окна, счастья вам…
            Он мне дорог с давних лет, – и его яснее нет –
            Московских окон негасимый свет.

            It is performed excellently here my the singer Muslim Magomaev.

            My own translation, non-metrical:

            Moscow Windows

            There again the height of the sky darkens,
            And there windows are lighted in the dusk,
            Here live my friends, and, with bated breath,
            I gaze into the windows of the night.

            I can dream under the windows,
            I can, like books, read them,
            And, the precious light of preserving, and fermenting, and enticing,
            They, like people, look at me.

            I, as in previous years, again,
            Am ready to stand under your window,
            And to the light of its rays I always hurry faster,
            As to an encounter with my youth.

            I admire you in the night,
            I wish, windows, happiness to you…
            It is dear to me across these many years,—and there is nothing brighter than it—
            The never-ending light of Moscow’s windows.

            The Magomaev version is one of my favorite songs, though it has been covered by other groups like the pop group Блестящие (sometimes described as the “Russian Spice Girls”), which was actually where I originally heard it.

            ***

            I thought to was interesting to include a little snippet (in the original not-quite-perfect English) from the website I got the lyrics from, sovmusic.ru. It shows you how the true Soviet nostalgics see things, and how in many ways the Soviet Union was a very “conservative” place:

            A few words to the foreign visitor:

            You are browsing a resource which is devoted first of all to the history and culture of the Soviet Union, the country which the West for a long time usually named as “The Empire of Evil”, the country to which some people in the West perceive as “something big and snowy”.

            I offer you to try to look outside the frames of usual stereotypes, to try to understand life of a unique country, with its interesting history, beautiful culture and miraculous relations between people.

            The music submitted on this site – is an evident sample of a totally new culture, which completely differs from all that, with what Hollywood and MTV supply us so much. This culture, being free from the cult of money, platitude, violence and sex, was urged to not indulge low bents of a human soul but to help the person to become culturally enriched and to grow above himself.

            Cheerful and optimistically by its nature, the Soviet music was spreading a cult of friendship, collectivism, mutual assistance and respect to the working people. Not all songs appeared to be praiseworthy; also some unsuccessful things came alone. But nevertheless it is possible to tell with confidence, that the purposes, which were set upon the Soviet culture, namely spiritual education of the new, Soviet person, were achieved in much ways.

            I would like to appeal individually to those young russian people who were raised and educated during the course of the last ten years by completely different values than those of their fathers.

            The contents of this web page may seem to you to be, as they say “old rubbish” or else simply nonsense. Please don’t be hasty to abuse this site with harsh words and then go off to a favourite porn site. No one attempts to bind you with his/her views or persuasions. This site only serves as a reminder of a past epoch, of a country, which independently and heroically attempted to build a “bright future”. This site reminds us, as well, of its people.

            Please listen to the music, read deeply into the song lyrics and try to understand, what people lived with during that time: what did they breathe, and what did they strive for?

          • Arbitrary_greay says:

            I don’t suppose this would be a good time to discuss if there’s a meaningful differentiation between poetry and certain forms of music lyrics, especially rap?

            Because my instinctual reaction to the question”What poems/poets do you like and why? How do you actually read poetry?” keeps being “Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Comden/Green, Lorenz Hart. Also, go read the lyrics for critics’ top rap songs.”

            (I mean, the word contortions and clever plays that the likes of Weird Al and Gerard Alessandrini go through to make their parody lyrics fit have me going “Ooooooohhhhhhh” about as often as Sondheim does. Speaking of which, ugh, those little turns of phrase in the second-to-last verse of “Any Moment” always has me with a shit-eating grin. “best to take the moment present/as a present/for the moment” UGH SONDHEIM)

          • onyomi says:

            Song lyrics are a subset of poetry.

          • Anonymous says:

            For clever turn of phrase, I’m with MC Paul Barman: “My dandy voice / Makes the most anti-choice grannies’ panties moist.”

            If you’re going to boast, boast well.

          • Tibor says:

            @Vox: Yeah, the fact that communists are conservative does not really surprise me. Czechoslovakia under communism, except for the brief period of Prague Spring in ’68 before the Russian invasion, was quite a socially conservative place. You have to realize who the communists were. There was a small group of Noam Chomsky-like intellectuals (Trocky would probably fit that description), then a large group of quite poorly educated workers (and in Russia, probably not educated at all) and than another small group of sociopaths who ended up running the show. But since the sociopaths also usually recruited from the “proletariat”, they were not exactly your socially liberal “hippies” either. So for example, the student dormitories in the communist Czechoslovakia were divided to those for male and those for female students, so they would either be in a different building or at least a different floor. The communist morals were actually quite puritan, not exactly like the Orwellian anti-sex youth, but not all that far. Actually, although this divisions was of course long gone by the time I started studying, there were some remnants visible. There is one dormitory in Prague where I lived during the first semester in my bachelor (then I moved away because it was very expensive only because it was in the centre and otherwise worse than other dormitories) where they have showers not in every room but on each floor and there is always a designated female shower room on even floors (or maybe odd, doesn’t matter) and a male shower room on odd floors (there were I think some 4 floors in total). So when I moved and the male bathroom was on the same floor as my bedroom, I naturally assumed there to be men there only. But one time, when I was in the bathroom and left the shower, a girl came there also to take a shower – I was standing there completely naked and also surprised. She explained to me that since it would be a great nuisance for the people who do not live on the floor where their bathroom matches their gender to always go take a shower up- or downstairs, everyone simply uses the showers on their floor. When they set the building up as a student dormitory, they had only women or only men on each floor, so it was not a problem. But now the result is unisex bathrooms which are however not properly labeled as unisex 🙂

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Tibor:

            Interesting story.

            The communist morals were actually quite puritan, not exactly like the Orwellian anti-sex youth, but not all that far.

            There was a famous quote where a Soviet actress (looking it up, it was Lyudmila Ivanova) was interviewed as saying “There is no sex in the Soviet Union!” (She meant no sexual references on television programs, unlike in America.)

    • Jason says:

      Layers within layers here.

      You want to belittle the alpha male, and you also compare him unfavourably to someone who doesn’t compare themselves to others?

      • Real men and women don’t start fights, but once one has begun, they may try to end it. One way to do that is to try to expose the pettiness of the people who first offer insults.

        And to be clear here, I”m not belittling “the alpha male” because there are none. It’s a notion loved by insecure people who have appropriated an idea that’s not true of wolves or men. Google “the myth of alpha-male dominance” if you doubt me.

      • Viliam says:

        It’s the classical “Outside the Box” Box applied to masculinity.

        You are supposed to get rid of your gender role by exactly following the rules this ideology provides for your gender. Otherwise, you fail as a man, and you will be socially punished.

      • Murphy says:

        This feels like rhetoric to me.
        Satisfying rhetoric with just enough true things mixed in to get cheers from one side of the room but my first thought reading that was

        “hmm… to say that so definitely you’d need far more than 2 examples of top-tier male feminists”

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the comment but it speeds down a too-long and fragile chain of inference to get to it’s main point.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          There’s also that guy from NSWATM, Charles Clymer and (arguably) Jian Ghomeshi… probably a bunch more.

          I’m not convinced by the argument either, but there is something there to look at. Probably best left to the people who care about that stuff, though, like Ozy and pals.

          • Murphy says:

            I agree though the nature of how it’s posed will tend to make us think of examples which confirm it. to do it honestly we might have to find someone who’s not read the shibarilynx-funereal-disease link, ask them to make a list of influencial contemporary male feminists so that we can’t bias it by only selecting the most “alpha” ones then get them to pick a list of influencial contemporary male [something neutral, say composers or authors] then for each attempt to find any details on some list of publicly known “alpha” traits to see if high-profile male feminists are more likely to have them.

            Confounders: if feminists are more likely to call out male feminists publicly for “alpha” traits then that screws it up.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >ask them to make a list of influencial contemporary male feminists

            Ayyyy

            EDIT: More seriously, though, I’ve mentioned before (and seen mentioned by other people, most notably an old post from Thing of Things), that there’s a lot (a lot more than you’d expect, at least) of cases of abusive personalties in leadership positions among SJ people.

            Why I’m not sure about this explanation is that, while it fits part of the data, it ignores that it’s also pretty common among female SJ people as well.

          • stillnotking says:

            there’s a lot (a lot more than you’d expect, at least) of cases of abusive personalties in leadership positions among SJ people

            I would expect a huge number of abusive personalities in a movement that assigns status largely on the ability to say the right things. That’s a sociopath’s dream scenario; they practice saying the right things insincerely for their entire lives.

          • Arbitrary_greay says:

            This is also confounded by the fact that most of SJ are only in it casually, as the current most shiny way to analyze pop culture. As such, you get variously fandoms praising celebrities’ feminist cred, a la the Emma Watson thing a few posts ago.

            For male celebrities, notable names off of the top of my head would include Tom Hiddleston, Joss Whedon, Poe Dameron, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Reynolds, Alan Rickman, and Ryan Gosling.
            Most of your regular SJ aren’t going to know the names of the dudes in Feminist Frequency, but they sure as hell will remember Tom wearing that “this is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt.

      • Nita says:

        the Fragile Masculinity Discourse is about policing who’s a “Real Man” and who isn’t.

        To me, Fragile Masculinity Discourse is about saying something like this —

        “You think that if you do X, Y and Z, you will feel confident and strong, safe and in control of your life. That’s not true. The ideal exists to keep you reaching, struggling, pushing other people down to reaffirm your worth.

        The threat of falling from the pedestal of manliness will always control you, as long as you believe that you must be Real Man (TM) to be a worthy human being.

        The promise of inner strength through masculinity is a lie. There is only the facade of strength that you will feel compelled to maintain till the end of your days, even if it hurts you or your loved ones.”

        But phrasing it as mockery seems to be counterproductive, for sure.

        This is another instance of conflating venting/backlash (you think you’re better than me because you X, Y and Z? well, my friends all agree that X, Y and Z are dumb, so there!) with earnest discussion, and making a mess of the latter.

        • stillnotking says:

          The ideal exists to keep you reaching, struggling, pushing other people down to reaffirm your worth.

          How would such an ideal have been created, by whom, and to what end?

          Arguments about gender roles tend to devolve into conspiracy-theory territory. Surely the null hypothesis here is that men act in ways they perceive as attractive to women and vice versa. The perceptions must be largely correct, or Darwin has a lot of explaining to do.

          • nil says:

            At the very least, military culture/training is in the picture (especially historically) as an organized effort to define masculinity for purposes that are completely orthogonal to attracting women.

            More generally/arguably, cultures take on a life of their own and self-propagate accordingly.

          • stillnotking says:

            @nil: Women’s fondness for men in uniform tends to undercut that “completely orthogonal” part. Besides, a major historical purpose of military action was to capture women. Perhaps I should amend my statement: men act in ways that make them more likely to breed, normally with a willing partner, but not necessarily.

            Cultures take on lives of their own, yes, but some things don’t change much (e.g. combat soldiers, again, are near 100% male in all times and places), and the things that are arbitrary follow the Schelling pattern. It doesn’t matter which side of the road we drive on, but it very much matters that we all drive on the same side.

          • nil says:

            If women find men in uniform attractive, it’s basically coincidental, as there is no aspect of military training that has “attracting barflies” as a goal.

            But I guess I’d need to know exactly what we are talking about here. If you’re zoomed way out, then, yeah, I think you can rest on Darwin to explain “chicks dig confidence.” But to me the post you replied to a sort of stiff upper lip buttoned stoicism that I think was very significantly influenced by Renaissance/Enlightenment era Western-style infantry warfare/training and propagated in large part by intra-male social conditioning (and, later, advertising), none of which were particularly motivated by attracting (or attaining) women.

            Plus, we’re talking about times and places where partner selection was done very early in people’s lives and from a very limited pool, and was not infrequently made by women’s’ fathers rather than the women themselves.

          • Soumynona says:

            How would such an ideal have been created, by whom, and to what end?

            Moloch.

            I think Darwin would throw up his arms and complain that our world is not anywhere close to the ancestral environment, we’re all crazy people and he’s outta here.

          • Nornagest says:

            a major historical purpose of military action was to capture women.

            A major historical purpose of warfare was to capture women, among other things, but the cultures that build themselves around that kind of raiding don’t usually have a military. Or at least not the kind of military that has uniforms and recruits and a culture of its own.

          • wysinwyg says:

            How would such an ideal have been created, by whom, and to what end?

            How did someone create the English language? Who? To what end? Or how about the Hellenic Bacchanals? The sport of cricket?

            Surely the null hypothesis here is that men act in ways they perceive as attractive to women and vice versa.

            Are you kidding? Very few men go out of their way to determine what is perceived as attractive by women, and those who make an honest effort by asking women are usually regarded as particularly unmanly.

            And yes, you will no doubt argue that men don’t ask women because women don’t know/women always lie/bitches be crazy, but then the whole premise that men know what they want and act in ways that are likely to achieve their goals is shot through because we’re already assuming that’s false for women, and there’s precious little reason to suspect women are special in this regard.

          • Nornagest says:

            And yes, you will no doubt argue that men don’t ask women because women don’t know/women always lie/bitches be crazy

            The main problem with asking people what they’re attracted to — and this works for men as well as women — isn’t that they don’t know, or are lying etc., but that the answers you get aren’t likely to come on a level that’s helpful. Sometimes they’re physical preferences that you can’t do anything about (maybe your friend likes tall and you’re short, or vice versa), or that you can do something about but which don’t generalize well enough to be worth the effort (maybe your friend likes back muscles; doesn’t make it a good idea to spend an hour a day on deadlifts). Sometimes they’re personality preferences, but trying to fake a personality trait directly tends to come off as creepy, especially if you’re doing it to get into someone’s pants. Sometimes they’re just too vague to be useful.

            To put it another way, optimizing for any particular person’s preferences is almost always a losing game, and the answers you get are always going to be highly particular. People — whoever they are, whatever they’re into — know what’s unusual about their preferences, but not what’s typical about them.

          • Deiseach says:

            Women like men in uniform for much the same reason female birds like male birds that put a lot of effort into looking pretty, like peacocks with their extravagant tails and similar efforts by other species.

            Uniforms used to be very ornate. A handsome man in a flashy uniform looked very pretty 🙂

          • Drew says:

            At the very least, military culture/training is in the picture (especially historically) as an organized effort to define masculinity for purposes that are completely orthogonal to attracting women.

            Military training seems to spend a huge amount of time teaching recruits to look impressive.

            Take the gentleman at the end of this commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n0SCScSFYI . He’s clearly spent hours learning to make precise salutes with a ceremonial sword.

            The sword, like the extensively-detailed parade uniform, isn’t there for any combat application. They exist to help recruitment and internal morale via making soldiers look good.

            So, successful militaries have optimized for “looking good” even if that’s not their terminal value.

            (Admittedly, I’m not sure how this point would tie back to the core argument)

          • nil says:

            @Drew-I think you’re underestimating the degree to which that kind of stuff facilitates military discipline, and the degree to which that same discipline (i.e., staying in formation and not routing) has historically been the killer app of European infantry.

            Posturing and intimidation used to be a critical part of the military skillset–but soldiers defeat warriors pretty reliably.

          • Deiseach says:

            I should have thought of this, but it only popped up in memory later. Okay, so I’m going to assume you all know “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars” and if you don’t, here it is:

            Richard Lovelace. 1618–1658

            To Lucasta, going to the Wars

            Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
            That from the nunnery
            Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
            To war and arms I fly.

            True, a new mistress now I chase,
            The first foe in the field;
            And with a stronger faith embrace
            A sword, a horse, a shield.

            Yet this inconstancy is such
            As thou too shalt adore;
            I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
            Loved I not Honour more.

            Here’s Chesterton’s riposte on behalf of the lady:

            Lucasta Replies to Lovelace

            by G. K. Chesterton

            Tell me not, friend, you are unkind,
            If ink and books laid by,
            You turn up in a uniform
            Looking all smart and spry.

            I thought your ink one horrid smudge,
            Your books one pile of trash,
            And with less fear of smear embrace
            A sword, a belt, a sash.

            Yet this inconstancy forgive,
            Though gold lace I adore,
            I could not love the lace so much
            Loved I not Lovelace more.

    • Does criticizing something in others automatically means comparing oneself? To be fair, often yes, there is always a certain sense of a relative status game. But sometimes you really just want to roll your eyes and point out behavior you find ridiculous and it is not a self-comparison or status game. I mean, recently a guy on Reddit asked how to politely and diplomatically tell her wife she got fat. That is really so beta and it is really not comparing oneself to point it out. It is just that any relationship where you cannot call each other a hippo but have to walk on diplomatic eggshells to avoid offense is not a good, honest, trusting relationship so why so afraid of losing it through giving accidental offense? It is not self-comparison to be annoyed by cowardice in men in situations not warranted for.

      • Nicholas says:

        “But sometimes you really just want to roll your eyes and point out behavior you find ridiculous and it is not a self-comparison or status game. ”
        This post is an example of itself. And that’s pretty neat.

    • Urstoff says:

      It’s a weird totalizing theory of the hyper-defensive, “masculine” (alt?) right and related bros. And also an obvious way of making ad hominem attacks instead of arguments. If you’re calling someone a beta, you’ve already lost.

    • Cypher says:

      That’s just alternate Real Manning.

      The real undermining factor is that apparently the wolf research was inaccurate, and wolves don’t really behave that way in the wild. It’s been a while since I saw that, so I would have to double check, though.

  16. Where can I find some good 105 IQ discussions about 140 IQ issues?

      • 105 seems generous.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I may have mentioned this before, but Sheldon’s admiration of Wesley is legitimately pretty clever.

        • Oldman says:

          Care to explain? I’ve not heard you mention it before.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I could have sworn I made a reference to this before on this site, but Wesley was a know it all and famously derided as a mary sue. It is just kind of clever (on a show that often goes for the surface level gag) that they decided a character as obnoxious as Sheldon conceived of Wesley as a hero.

            Obviously its not Shakespeare, but in terms of thinking through characterization, I thought it was funny. (I have always been a fan of shows going for the less obvious gags).

          • gbdub says:

            I think you might be giving the show writers too much credit. I like your interpretation, but I suspect it was more a case of “Wesley Crusher was a child prodigy! On a spaceship! Of COURSE little Shelly would love him!”

            But maybe. They do write Sheldon as terrible at social cues and liable to take things at face value.

    • Directed Acyclic Wrath says:

      Oooh! You should read my treaty that demonstrates that Gôdel’s Incompleteness Theories prove that Laughter Curves aren’t real and the Australians are out to a free lunch! (Or alternatively: that disprove the Efficient Marketing Hypothesis because of the indecisiveness of P = NP (what with the death of traveling salesmen and such)!)

    • Encyclopedia Dramatica.

    • Andrew says:

      Probably most talk news qualifies- topics include national and international economics, major technological development, social ramifications of complicated political policy, etc., read by people who have their jobs because they have great hair and don’t stutter on camera.

  17. daronson says:

    That first one is awesome. I approve of this tradition.

  18. A_S00 says:

    gr8 h8 m8.

  19. Well, I have to admit: I did find these comments funnier than most of the atom Swifties I’ve read.

  20. Edd says:

    “I thought it was a blog about science methodology until that post with the talking cactus.”

    Remark from a reader, or self-criticism?

  21. Anon. says:

    >Slate Star Codex is 140 IQ discussion about 105 IQ issues

    Not entirely inaccurate.

    • Nomghost says:

      I’m kind of wondering what would constitute a 140 IQ issue. Does the commenter imagine rooms full of people in mutual psychic flux, having transcended the need to discuss boring mundane issues like mass-media dynamics or politics or talking cacti?

      • ediguls says:

        Perhaps they want us to focus on high-energy and quantum physics, advanced mathematics, quantitative finance and similar topics? You know, let the nerds do their weird stuff?

  22. Carlos says:

    For what it’s worth, I think you are a beautiful human being. I hope that amount of hatred never gets to you.

    • Donnie says:

      Totally agree with you. I’ve always felt that Scott is one of the best representatives for rationality today. Along with his tremendous insight, exquisite ability to weave a narrative that shocks you into seeing the other side and top-notch rationality and statistical rigor, I’ve always admired his deep empathy, even (especially?) for people who disagree with him.

      Much <3 Scott, never get jaded, please.

  23. reytes says:

    Well, hell, Scott, they can say it’s a homosexual Jewish Stalinist circlejerk, but damn if it’s not the *nicest* homosexual Jewish Stalinist circlejerk I’ve ever seen

  24. rofl_waffle_zzz says:

    I’m not sure I could write a blog if people were saying those kinds of things about me/it. I don’t always agree with you, but you’re rigorous and (almost) never seem to argue in bad faith. Just trying to do my part to balance out the hate and let you know that your work is appreciated.

  25. honestlymellowstarlight says:

    Clearly have to step up my game, now that I’ve stopped lurking.

    IMHO “It’s like someone tried to make fivethirtyeight as uninteresting as possible.” simply IS the sickest burn, but I bet there are better lurking in the hearts of men.

    • tcd says:

      That one made me smile. Fivethirtyeight is already intensely uninteresting, so Scott must be pushing up against some theoretical limit.

  26. mingyuan says:

    I… I feel so personally attacked

  27. Nathan says:

    I’m not sure what “105 IQ issues” means exactly, but given that people of average intelligence are pretty much definitionally going to make up the biggest chunk of the population, addressing their issues seems like a pretty worthwhile thing to do.

    • Daniel Keys says:

      Though a post which boils down to, ‘We could reconcile theism with the evidence if we added Truman Show-level effective solipsism,’ does not address anything anywhere.

  28. Pku says:

    I just kept remembering this: http://nerdist.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Last-Week-Tonight-Poster-John-Oliver.jpg

    (Also, as a mathematician I’ve always been impressed by your ability to handle mathematics-ish things like quantum computing and statistics despite not being mathematically inclined).

  29. Plumpi says:

    “I retain great hopes for Scott, he’ll come around. When he does he’ll bring a high level of rigor with him. He is a caterpillar and will become a beautiful reactionary butterfly someday.”

    lol

    “Slate Star Codex is 140 IQ discussion about 105 IQ issues”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    “I would add that something like Slate Star Codex is also a clinic in the aspie tendency to miss the forest for the trees, except in this case it’s more like closely examining the bark on the trees for no goddamn reason whatsoever.”

    lol

    “a blog populated by 99th percentile aspergers/IQ “rationalist” millennials who converse in an abnormally abstract style, and whose concrete cultural experience is drawn mainly from a bunch of weird nerd shit.”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    “What makes me sad about Scott is just how close he is. I won’t give up hope on him yet. If only there was some way to secretly inject this guy with testosterone.”

    lol

  30. Wrong Species says:

    “I would add that something like Slate Star Codex is also a clinic in the aspie tendency to miss the forest for the trees, except in this case it’s more like closely examining the bark on the trees for no goddamn reason whatsoever.”

    My favorite.

  31. Jacobian says:

    “It’s like someone tried to make fivethirtyeight as uninteresting as possible.”

    That’s exactly what I’m going for as well!

  32. Scudamour says:

    Well, dude, don’t want to be a dick or nothing, but you’re fucked up. You talk like a fag and your shit’s all retarded. Don’t worry scro. There are plenty of ‘tards out there living really kick ass lives. My first wife was ‘tarded. She’s a pilot now.

    • weaver says:

      Enjoy your ban.

      • onyomi says:

        Not sure, but I think the above was a parody of the types of comments listed above.

      • roystgnr says:

        It’s an Idiocracy quote, but I think the satire would be detectable even if Scott didn’t get the reference.

        Actually, no, I take that back. In the context of this post Poe’s Law clearly applies.

      • Murphy says:

        For context, in the scene the quote is from in the film Idiocracy the speaker is talking to someone who is , unknown to him, at that point the smartest person in the world but the speaker isn’t mentally equipped to tell the difference between that and being mentally disabled.

  33. ThirteenthLetter says:

    “that article seemed like a return ticket to obviousville with eight-hour layovers everywhere”

    Actually, that one’s pretty clever.

    • Guy says:

      I mean, if you want to spend time in everywhere and still eventually get to obviousville, that seems like a pretty good deal.

  34. Sniffnoy says:

    Why a fish trap, of all things?

    • Levi Aul says:

      I think they meant a lobster trap, which is one of those evocative images that gets used totally out-of-context all the time—probably because of the completely-unintended association with lobsters dragging one-another back into a boiling pot.

      • Space Ghost says:

        Look up ghost lobster traps (that’s ghost lobster-traps), I think that’s what that person was going for.

    • 27chaos says:

      They mean it in the same sense one might refer to a roach motel. You can enter any time you like, but you can never leave.

    • eh says:

      I assumed the commenter meant this thing, as in “the people who read SSC float past the seemingly harmless bars of Scott’s rhetorical framing until they are trapped against an inescapable intellectual dead end, where they are metaphorically devoured”, and it’s disappointing this was likely not the intention.

  35. Levi Aul says:

    I feel like most of these can be summarized as “it’s not right that the people here aren’t yelling at one another, and I’m going to yell at them until they start.”

    • Well… on the other hand I respect Multi more since (pronoun dodged) gave me the finger. Dispassionate analysis is all fine and sorely missing from most websites, but ultimately too much robotic grayness can get too much and too much dispassion and politeness could easily lead to what I call the Indian spiritual debate problem: revolving forever around unresolvable differences in sweet language. Like you can never get Maharishi to tell you he thinks Osho is full of shit, he’ll just always be like “he is saying the same as I do just in different words”. I never liked this, some confrontations are better not avoided. The same way it is more honest and direct for people to tell each other some X is for them not up for debate but basically something dear enough to get the knives out for, and that is what strong language suggests. Drawing the lines, the boundaries. Agreeing to disagree, but show some _teeth_ first, or why would anyone? Show that you would be willing to take and dish out some hurt in defense of something that matters to you. Be a properly territorial animal and bare your incisors when your territory is threatened. I respect this more than polite analysis badly hiding disguised contempt.

      • Lady Catherine Buttington, Ph.D says:

        Yeah, perpetual circumlocution is bullshit. You have to be conciliatory in communication with others, but you also have to say what you mean. That means not walking around on tiptoes as if you’re terrified you’ll break something with an off-the-cuff remark. Think before you speak, but don’t unpack every word down to pure anodyne abstraction.

        It can be difficult for meek people to learn to express themselves effectively, because it entails a certain assertion of one’s status, and a basic confidence that one has the right to “take up space” in the conversation in this way.

        • And there are multiple strategies. One is to start big. Assert yourself big in a space, then when others do the same and bump into you, then deflate and retreat a bit. They do the same and you end up with equal space, because everybody demonstrated to each other they are not to be screwed with. You probably seen this at parties and whatnot, a few guys initially behave as if they owned the place, bump into each other, cut down each other to size a bit, then behave normally. This all in body language basically, an intricate pantomime. This is a strategy for equilibrium, even equity, for people who are naturally dominant, start big but don’t be reluctant to retreat if you bump.

          Then there are people with the opposite strategy, naturally submissive people who start small, and expect others to be small, and then grow cautiously so much, all together, until they gently touch.

          I wonder that is part of why Occupy Wall Street did not work. For precisely these reasons, they generally had the rule to let the people of underprivileged gender, sexual orientation etc. speak up first precisely because they may be more naturally timid, less used to assert themselves. Achieved maybe about equal voice between the dominant and submissive or strong and weak. But this obviously weakens the group as the whole – this is why historically this was never done! Bending over backwards to include weaker voices weakens the collective voice of the group. Back in 1968 it was the other way around, the loudest, most confident, most aggressive voices the most heard, which is the natural state of things and this student revolution stuff quickly became an signalling arms race of high-T aggressive young men about Che-type bravery and antagonizing the system. And yes, it caused quite a bang.

          • Galle says:

            I’m still pretty sure that the reason Occupy Wall Street didn’t work was because they didn’t actually WANT it to work, at least if we define “work” as “reduce income inequality”. The point was to be as righteous as possible, not to actually achieve meaningful social change, and the latter was actively avoided because it inevitably meant dealing with the Hated Enemy. I watched a lot of Occupy discussions at the time and it was astonishing how hard they would swerve if it looked like they had a chance of accidental success.

          • onyomi says:

            “The point was to be as righteous as possible, not to actually achieve meaningful social change.”

            I get the same feeling from a lot of Marxist cultural critiques and the like, as well as from the sorts of usually academic leftists who are really into the writings of people like Adorno. The goal is to show how smart and nuanced you are as a thinker by weaving an ever more complex web of problems. Solutions are bourgeois.

          • Eh says:

            I arrived at the local Occupy offshoot with several Trotskyist “comrades”, and the first thing they did was get a banner saying “no more lefty hacks, no more unions bureaucrats” taken down. They then proceeded to dominate the voting by virtue of having called in everyone affiliated with them, and within three days they’d driven off anyone not on the far left, in addition to pretty much everyone from the working class leaving since they couldn’t afford to burn time and money camping in a park.

            I think it’s misleading to say that an amorphous “they” didn’t want it to succeed because they were busy signalling. In my n=1 anecdotal experience in a city that wasn’t NY and a country not on either American continent, all the people who wanted to create realistic change were either forced to leave or couldn’t stay, and the movement was taken over by people who thought they were in the first days of the revolution. Fighting a revolution has totally different requirements compared to lowering income inequality, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that the movement was pushed toward pointless violent encounters, that it delivered unrealistic demands whenever it had a chance of compromise, or that it pushed for strikes from sympathetic unions. At the end it was run by literal communists, who knew no tactics other than those they’d previously employed at ignored protests and futile marches.

          • onyomi says:

            “local Occupy offshoot”

            I didn’t even know it spread beyond the US. Was it still called “Occupy Wall Street,” or was it just a similar protest group created in sympathy with that movement?

          • onyomi says:

            The US news media doesn’t report on anything happening outside the US unless we happen to be bombing that place or hope to soon be bombing that place at the time.

        • LCL says:

          Careful of typical mind fallacy here.

          As a generally wordy and non-incisive writer, my experience isn’t that I’m too meek to say what I think. It’s that I don’t necessarily *know* what I think, at least not with certainty, and I’m trying to work through the angles by writing about it.

      • Deiseach says:

        TheDividualist, you sound (in Enneagram terms, and I’m not recommending this as anything other than an amusing online test – you would not believe the Jesuit-inspired fad for this system of personality-typing amongst clergy and religious novice masters in the 80s) like a typical Eight – Eights are the type who believe that true motives, character and intentions are revealed only when all the “polite bullshit” is peeled away, so they often deliberately let themselves get angry, or push others to be angry, in order to provoke “authentic” reactions. Also, they like it when people stand up to them and push back.

        I’m a Five, by contrast: one of those who hate direct and interpersonal conflict and prefer to act with civility and in accord with acceptable social mores; we only resort to showing our emotions, particularly anger, as a very last resort and take it very seriously, which leads to bad misunderstandings with Eights (they think we are hypocritical push-overs who can’t think for ourselves and are mushy in the middle; we think they are violent, brainless, barbarians who try to get their way by shouting and foot-stamping and intimidation).

        • I did those tests a decade ago and got inconclusive results. I don’t even remember what my own result was, but just like with horoscopes or Myers-Briggs, almost everything there sounded like something everybody does occasionally. The problem is that ultimately ALL types in such tests sound, how to put it, likeable, desirable. No type tells you you suck. So it is easy to nod for every question… all sounds good. All sounds desirable. And of course it is very easy to guess what a question drives at.

          This is why I invented mine. I think Scott will fall over laughing but anyway: my personality typology is that disorders and mental illnesses are just stronger versions of normal personality types.

          On this, I would characterize myself as a schizoid type. Not as strongly as to have this disorder, but a weaker version, as a personality. My wife is a depressive type, again, not depressed, no disorder, but too often questioning her worth and so on, so she can kind of borrow my detachment and indifference when I tell her stuff like “if your boss does not care about running the place right, don’t be emotionally invested in doing your job right”.

          The advantage of my test is that all disorders are obviously inglorious. Who likes to call himself or herself a schizoid or narcissist or something? So I think if we analyse ourselves these ways, we are going to be more honest. We don’t get to pick from various likable traits and types i.e. questions that obviously lead to them, we have a menu card of stuff that all sucks, and we must decide which kind of suck to embrace.

          You look like the same depressive type as my wife, or my mother too, I think this is why I like you, I feel protective with women who are open and honest about their vulnerability. I don’t like this in men, though, don’t make good trenchmates.

          Putting it in a more glorious way, I associate my schizoid type with the stiff upper lip, cool under fire, stoic, no damn given attitudes. But I may be entirely wrong. The problem for my type is that as people who matter keep dying on us, we get more and more detached and indifferent, eventually crossing into actual schizoid disorder. This is why having kids is absolutely crucial for my type.

          • Leit says:

            Ever read Clans of the Alphane Moon? Sounds a bit like your classification system.

          • nil says:

            Seems extremely reasonable to me, and definitely jives with how I tend to think about myself and others.

          • Deiseach says:

            You look like the same depressive type as my wife, or my mother too, I think this is why I like you, I feel protective with women who are open and honest about their vulnerability.

            Why, TheDividualist, that is so sweet. Thank you! Be careful there, you don’t want to let down your tough “One time I fought a bear and it ripped my guts open so I had to walk fifty miles in a howling blizzard dragging its carcass behind me until I reached an abandoned half-ruined hovel where I could stitch myself up with fishing line and a rusty hook” facade 🙂

          • Peffern says:

            Please say more about your classification system. It sounds a lot like my mental model and I want to know what’s going through your head.

          • You’re being unfair to the Enneagram– or at least the version I read. The idea was that there are good and bad versions of the personality types, and it was people’s job to cultivate their compulsion until it was reliably good.

            I’m inclined to think I’m an Enneagram 1 (perfectionist) with a 9 (peaceful) wing– in other words, why won’t you goddamn people get it right and be peaceful?

      • Dirdle says:

        Some confrontations are better not avoided? Agreed. But you’re pushing for conversational norms that will favour your own style over that more common among those you most disagree with. Yes, if everyone were like you the world would be well to everyone’s liking, but they’re not. What actually happens when everyone is confrontational is, well, a whole bunch of confrontations. It doesn’t produce good discourse. It just produces a lot of satisfying feelings for those who enjoy confrontation and a lot of unsatisfying ones for those who don’t.

        And yeah, I get it. Having just polite conversation seems to you like it produces nothing but satisfying feelings for those insufferable smug elitists and unsatisfying ones for the real manly men-of-the-world. There just is no solution that lets both groups of people be happy in the same space. And agitating for a shift towards your own preferences should be treated with suspicion, even if you really do think things would be more “honest” that way.

        • I have a pet theory that everything is BDSM or in other words BDSM is just the over-fetishized version of everything. Don’t even take it seriously, it probably says more about me than about the world, but anyway, if this place tends to favor a “tell culture” anyway, there could be Reddit-like flairs that say what you are. Not necessarily implemented here, but just a general idea of online flairs and offline badges. One cute idea from kindergarten – have an animal as your chosen symbol, basically totem. So there is a discussion topic and the tigers and lions and bears jump at it and express loud opinions, then the owls and eagles could say hey leave some breathing room for the hares and cats and guinea pigs. I don’t go to rationalist meetups or any other kind, but testing this animal totem badges would be totally cool I think. How would it change the dynamics of a group discussion.

          Or for example when people are asked to form small groups of 4-5 to make a plan or something, work something out, we did this at postgrad and then of course the tigers and lions (again: badges) would grab group leadership and the others will probably understand why they want it so much and if they are good enough at letting the hares and the cats speak up it is okay, if not, maybe put all the tigers into one group and see what happens. Could be interesting.

          (furry jokes gonna be met with fury)

          • Dirdle says:

            (furry jokes gonna be met with fury)

            Look, I’m no judge of souls, but maybe when you start off talking about BDSM, move on to saying people should have animal-styled internet personas, and then put yourself to lengths to emphasize how you’re definitely not a furry! Definitely! – maybe this is the point where you should take a moment, relax with a beer, buy yourself a fursuit and accept that you’re no less of a big strong man for also wanting to be a big strong wolf/human hybrid.

            okay. Irresistible bait aside. It’s a good idea, but suffers from a tendency to drag apart communities and create echo-chambers. People with similar personalities also tend to have similar views. I’ll also note I’ve spent a little time on communities with tags based on various personality-tests in the past (see Deiseach’s post above), and it didn’t seem to help much. It was like seeing the tag just primed people to expect a comment they wouldn’t like, and then they picked up on every element of it as being twice as “characteristic” of that personality type as was actually the case. Though, my own life online has left me with a great distaste for “GTKY” content, so I’m biased here.

          • Vaniver says:

            (furry jokes gonna be met with fury)

            Which suggests the policy of responding to fury with furry jokes.

          • Deiseach says:

            I bags the three-toed sloth as my totem animal!

      • Virbie says:

        > ultimately too much robotic grayness can get too much and too much dispassion and politeness could easily lead to what I call the Indian spiritual debate problem: revolving forever around unresolvable differences in sweet language.

        I may be misunderstanding your post, but it sounds like you’re conflating “refusing to take a firm stance” with “being civil”. I don’t see why the latter would be necessary, despite my strong agreement that lack of the former just leads the conversation in circles until everybody is too drained to continue.

        For example, this comment could’ve been phrased (e.g.) as “That’s retarded, being rude and being firm are not the same thing. what the fuck are you even saying?”. What would that add to the conversation? The idea that I _really_ disagree with you?

        > The same way it is more honest and direct for people to tell each other some X is for them not up for debate but basically something dear enough to get the knives out for, and that is what strong language suggests.

        Seriously, why not just use grown-up words like “unequivocally” instead of using “strong language” (by which I assume you mean insulting language, given the rest of your comment).

  36. anon says:

    FWIW, of the people I have met personally who have commented on SSC directly (myself included), none are Millennials even by the loosest definition. I guess I do know one or two “Millennials” who reads SSC, but they’re all within the age range that some folks put in Gen X, so not really the youth that folks are whining about.

    (edit: this comment is *intentionally* missing the point; I am well aware that “Millennials” is shorthand for “the hated other tribe”)

    • E. Harding says:

      I’m definitely a millennial who reads SSC.

    • rational_rob says:

      I’m 15 and I read SSC, but I’m definitely in the minority.

      • Mammon says:

        >rational_rob

        That’s how we know you’re <16

        • Wrong Species says:

          Right. He should have made it Logical Lawrence.

        • Translation for Rob’s sake: younger people signal status harder and simpler. It’s saying “I am smart” in a bit too obvious way. As people get older they both relax it a bit and signal more subtly. For example, putting a pun into a username. One level even higher is making up a real sounding name that does not endanger your privacy. That sounds professional, you look like talking like an expert not some random nickname – our host does just that. If someone comments as John T. Sylvan that automatically looks more respectable to me than some smart fellow with a Weevil Empire type pun – even if it is a made up name.

          • Muga Sofer says:

            Mine is a real name, but I don’t get points for it because it’s a name nobody seems to have heard of.

            … God, I’ve completely lost track of what level of signalling I’m on with this comment.

          • Murphy says:

            Mine’s a real name but I made the choice that I don’t mind this part of my online presence to be linkable to my real life.

            Also it’s basically ungooglable.

          • Huh.

            Where is “Uses your real name, has stopped giving fucks about being googled and doxxed” in the hierarchy?

          • honestlymellowstarlight says:

            Very high status, in a “no one can hurt me” sort of way.

          • nil says:

            Or, potentially, very low status, in a “I’m not employed in a position wherein anyone gives a shit about my views” sense.

          • rational_rob (Robert Barlow) says:

            More like, I had an anonymous alias at one point, but I feel like I trust the comments section here more than I would, say, the comment section of reddit. Also, most of the other names were taken, and I mean, when do you get this opportunity for alliteration?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >More like, I had an anonymous alias at one point, but I feel like I trust the comments section here more than I would, say, the comment section of reddit.

            It’s not the commenters you should be worried about, but the silent readers.

            I mean, you probably shouldn’t be worried about most anything (Except Hostile AI takeover, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT), but it’s not the active members of the community that are going to dox you/get you expelled/whatever

          • nil says:

            Also, the internet is forever. You don’t have anything to worry about now, and you probably don’t have anything to worry about in five years… but in ten? Fifteen? Who knows. At this point in your life, I’d say that it’s not worth the risk to put your real name anywhere remotely controversial, including this blog. Not because the risk is high, because it’s not–but when a risk is > zero and the cost of mitigation = 0, there’s no reason not to CYA.

          • Bassicallyboss says:

            Did somebody say that young people like to put puns in usernames?

            (I’m 23, which makes me Millennial by my understanding.)

          • Also, the internet is forever. You don’t have anything to worry about now, and you probably don’t have anything to worry about in five years… but in ten? Fifteen? Who knows.

            In fifteen years, if am lucky enough to live longer than my parents and three of my four grandparents, I will be 75 years old. I doubt that anybody is going to bother me with past SSC comments at that point.

          • Calculating costs and benefits around epsilon levels is hard, I think. I definitely derive benefit from my real name; I can easily context-switch and bring up, e.g., stuff I wrote on my LiveJournal way back when to my real-life friends.

            And as for the risk, well, I think the marginal risk of Saying Things On The Internet is very, very low. It does happen that someone says the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way and bad things happen, but this is overwhelmingly the exception. And furthermore, it is frankly impossible to know what will be the wrong thing, especially if you become a person of record.

            And on top of that, it’s not like it’s difficult to de-anonymize people if you ever do get a target painted on your back.

            I’m pretty sure the optimal strategy is “Name yourself whatever the hell you want to be named, and let risk-mitigation and status-posturing go hang.” But I am quite capable of being convinced otherwise with evidence to the contrary.

          • I also, obviously, post under my real name. Perhaps less of a problem for me than for some, since I also publish books and give public lectures under my real name, so posting anonymously wouldn’t conceal my various unconventional views.

            My wife has occasionally worried that someone I argue with online will some day heave a brick through our window. But I’ve been doing it for thirty years or so and that hasn’t happened yet.

            What is or isn’t prudent for other people under other circumstances I can’t say.

        • rational_rob (Robert Barlow) says:

          Don’t be mean, man. I couldn’t come up with anything better.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            It’s a perfectly fine name. Don’t let them make you change it.

          • Nomghost says:

            They’re just messing with you man, it’s all good 🙂

          • Gall says:

            Don’t worry we actually love you. I would stop using your real name though. I def wish I could take back the stuff I wrote on the ‘net under my real name when I was 15. (I honestly wonder to what degree politics is dynastic because politicians will keep their kids from doing dumb stuff that could be dug up.)

      • E. Harding says:

        I would be doing so, too at your age, were I born a while later than I actually was.

      • Brad says:

        If you are 15, doesn’t that make you a generation-after-millennial?

    • I am well aware that “Millennials” is shorthand for “the hated other tribe”)

      What? That is news to me. Are age cohorts at war with each other?

      I mean, sure, Baby Boomers have been a favored punching bag among every group born since 1960, because there were so many of us that we supposedly took all the jobs, but most of the actual Boomers just roll their eyes, if they even notice it at all.

      If you want to see things in shades of Red, Blue, and Gray, I’m sure all three colors are well represented among Millennials.

      • anon says:

        I’m talking about the term itself. Which is why there is the Millennials to Snake People plugin — to mock the lazy use of the term as a shorthand for “vaguely young people we don’t like”.

      • JB says:

        In the last presidential election, the voting gap between men and women (in terms of who they voted for, not turnout) was 7 points, while the gap between the oldest and youngest age cohorts was 16 points. Make of that what you will.
        http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/results/president/exit-polls

        “Millennials” seems to be like the word “Americans” with its different political meaning. Sometimes it refers to any person born after 1980, and other times it refers to a young member of the Blue Tribe.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        “Millennial” is certainly a dirty word among the middle managers I sometimes socialized with. Or at least, was. Perhaps these managers changed their tune since Millennials will make up 50% of the work force in the not-distant future.

        Boiler-plate arguments. Entitlement. Narcissism. Need for constant feed-back.

        Eventually I stopped associating with these kind, wise, sage-tastic managers.

    • onyomi says:

      I’m somewhere between gen x and millennial.

      • Nathan says:

        Isn’t that gen Y?

        • onyomi says:

          Is that a thing? I mean, I’ve heard it, but very rarely. I never see news articles saying “Gen Y does this” or “Gen Y is like that.” I think we tend to get lumped in with millennials now.

          • nil says:

            Yeah, I think Y is mostly understood as a synonym for Millennial. Nathan’s not the first person I’ve seen who tried to carve it out for people born from, say, 82-87, to reflect the fact that we’re the only “Millennials” who really remember the pre-internet and pre-911 worlds. I think it’s a worthy aspiration to reflect a genuinely important distinction, but I don’t think anyone else cares.

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      “Millennial” here, and I found this blog through other “Millenials” (though I dislike that word because it usually connotes some kind of Essence of Millenialism which mostly consists of having no discipline or respect for anyone).

    • Lisa says:

      Another milennial who reads this blog checking in. I’m 19.

    • I’m 20, so I’m pretty sure I count as a millennial by any definition, and I’ve been reading SSC since it started (when I was 17). My 18-year old brother reads it too.

  37. Wow, I would definitely not be cut out for any kind of internet fame. Reading these made me feel awful and I wasn’t even the person being criticized. I don’t know how Scott deals with it.

    Serious question for SSC readers: how does one become less averse to criticism? I feel like I spend most of my time either trying to avoid criticism or trying to avoid embarrassment, and it’s becoming more and more clear that this is not the best way to live my life.

    (I mean, it kind of works in that I’m rarely criticized and I don’t do embarrassing things that often, but it’s for sure holding me back)

    • Bugmaster says:

      EDIT: basically, what jsmith said, below.

      It’s weird, because I had the totally opposite reaction; after reading these, ah, testimonials, I wished that I could one day write something that elicits the same kind of passion in people… Well, except for the “I hope you die” guy and the random insult guy, their passions are already permanently inflamed just like their brains.

      I used to be really sensitive to negative feedback, and I don’t know how I stopped. I guess one way to do it is to read the feedback, and attempt to figure out what your detractor’s point is. If he is building up a coherent argument against your point, then he’s worth listening to, even if his argument is swathed in layers of snark. On the other hand, if all he can say is “haha you suck lol”, then clearly he is beneath you, so why waste your attention on him ?

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      Same thing they do in boxing class: line everybody up, tell them to drop their guard, and punch them in the face. You learn getting punched in the face really isn’t that bad (the bad thing is getting punched in the face repeatedly over long periods of time), and also if you’re cut out for boxing.

      • nope says:

        You’re more or less advocating exposure therapy. I almost posted advocating the same, but thought better of it, because I don’t know that it’s actually very solid advice in this situation. It has a good track record for anxiety, but this doesn’t sound like *just* an issue of anxiety, but also of sensitivity. I don’t think we should necessarily be advocating that highly sensitive people expose themselves to unnecessary harm to “build character” (as many people like to say), because while it’s true that some wounds heal to make you stronger than you were before, it’s also true that some will just leave you sort of permanently worse off and a bit “broken”. Some people will be better at recovery than others, just like some people won’t develop PTSD from a prisoner of war camp. Social abuse is one of those things that humans are *really* not good at handling, and if OP wants to go the exposure route, it’s likeliest to not result in permanent damage if it’s undertaken with the help of a therapist.

        • honestlymellowstarlight says:

          Oh, people can do what they want, but if they want to box, they should probably get used to getting punched in the face. I, personally, think avoiding criticism and embarassment is a Very Bad Thing in the same way that AIDS is a no-good disease (this is a deliberate comparison for all the easily offended in the audience), but I hear you can live a long time with both, now.

          • hlynkacg says:

            On the contrary,

            People underestimate the clarity and peace that can come from ringing ears, blood in your nose, and a song of wrath in your heart.

          • Guy says:

            As someone who enjoys boxing I would like to make clear that starlight is not describing boxing, he is describing the results of changing one’s name to Punchy McFace.

          • honestlymellowstarlight says:

            I’m pretty sure Punchy McFace is pretty great, actually.

      • Guy says:

        That’s not actually how fighting classes work. At least not good ones. When you’re sparring, you start by drilling specific attack and defense routines, taking turns with each position. Then later you actually have short sparring matches where you apply what you’ve learned. Some individual people have trouble aiming at each other, so their partner or the instructor will tell them they’re doing it wrong and make them try again. People not wanting to get punched in the face is essentially never a problem – it is, in fact, a quality to be desired, because if you want to not get punched in the face you will learn how to block and dodge, and thus become a better boxer.

        In fact, the sole time I recall being told to just not defend myself in my ten years of martial arts was when the instructor got frustrated because people were not learning how to block a particular technique correctly. They weren’t learning because nobody was attacking properly, and this became a feedback loop that was harming everyone. (to be clear, the harm was that it was limiting skill development, not that it was causing injuries)

        What you describe does sound like a good way to get brain damage, though.

        (I leave to the reader the construction of the equivalent process in the world of discourse, as opposed to pugilism)

        • honestlymellowstarlight says:

          We have different definitions of good fighting classes, I guess.

        • alexp says:

          I disagree. Too many people, including me, have a tendency to flinch away when they see a fist in the vicinity of their face, which is pretty much the worst way to defend against it. Proper defense depends not only on actively assessing your opponents movements, but also in offering a credible threat of counterattack.

          In addition, in order to get good at boxing or kickboxing, you have to spar, and it’s almost impossible to avoid getting hit at all while sparring unless you’re already really good. And you only get really good by sparring.

      • They never did this to me, but this may be a difference between teaching recreational adults as opposed to young hopefuls. In the first case they probably think if some of us figure out this after 6 months when we are allowed to spar first, that is probably still 6 months more of regular exercise than some of us would otherwise get.

        I have to recalibrate this in my mind that a word like “boxing” can me two completely radically different thing in different age cohorts. At 12 it can be driving them hard because some of them may become the champion in 10 years and thus a stance an inch wrong is WRONG, while at say 42 it is more like OK you fat bald manager you will never ever compete of course but it is a good workout and even light sparring could make you feel you rediscovered your manhood, so it is a cutting a lot of slack.

        Should we have different words, different vocabulary for these things? Recreational vs. sports for example?

    • Wrong Species says:

      It’s simple. You simply look down on those people. I doubt Scott is really worried about the opinion of someone who says “Faggot blocked me for calling out some recent bit of his retarded bullshit. Fuck ‘im”.

      • (responding to this comment, but other people said essentially the same thing)

        Yeah, I agree this is a thing I need to do. My brain doesn’t easily let me do it though. There’s a part of me that a) treats almost anything written confidently on the internet as true or at least worth considering (because it was written by “someone else” rather than me, and believing something that someone else claimed just seems way more defensible to my dumb brain than believing something that I came up with) and b) won’t allow myself to have self-charitable opinions, because I don’t feel like I could defend those opinions to skeptical critics (this would include things like “It’s okay to write off certain people’s opinions and look down on them” – how would that sound to a hostile or skeptical party?). So I end up finding it really hard to ignore criticism of me or things I believe.

        It’s like a weird combination of…I don’t know what to call it, epistemic scrupulosity and humility? I mean, it’s obviously not something I feel 100% of the time, because I’d be fine ignoring criticism from someone I was sure was wrong, like a young-earth creationist or something. But it’s there a lot of the time.

        (Needless to say, I don’t endorse these feelings)

        Related: a LW post I wrote on gullibility, a way-too-long blog post on humility I’m semi-embarrassed to link to, and Scott’s old post on learned helplessness.

        • Chrysophylax says:

          Ozy of Thing of Things has posted a great big sequence of posts on DBT, a way to hack such feelings out of your brain. The parts of it I looked at looked pretty good.

        • BBA says:

          I tend to have exactly the same feelings. It reminds me of impostor syndrome, and the joke about being too open-minded to take your own side of an argument, but it’s neither of those, and I’m glad somebody put it into words. Thanks!

      • John Nerst says:

        I don’t think “simply looking down on them” is really enough. Just looking down on someone yourself does nothing, you need to feel that other people look down on them as well. Insults work by threatening your status, and can only really be ignored if you can feel confident that they won’t be successful at that.

        My reaction to reading these was to get a bit upset, I’m not used to reading things like this and it just felt absurd. The mean-spiritedness of it is just alien. Who are these people? Scott must have much thicker skin than me to find this funny, I can’t imagine what it’s like to read stuff like this about yourself.

        It may be easier for Scott to shrug it off since I assume he read these in context, and therefore can more easily infer that the people who wrote them don’t need to be taken seriously, and aren’t being taken seriously by others. It’s probably worse seeing these things decontextualized here than on, say, Jim’s blog.

        • Agronomous says:

          Well, part of the exercise of this post is that 99% of Scott’s readership are going to look down on the sources of these quotes. The fact that Scott left the names off can be interpreted as him being nice to those critics quoted, or as signaling that they matter so little there’s no point in naming them individually.

          Note also that Scott’s in the middle of a psych residency, so he’s probably had actual, literal shit flung at him; this stuff is a pale imitation.

          None of this applies to that last one, about the cactus: that’s funny because it’s true.

    • jsmith says:

      As someone who has been on the internet forever, my best advice is to just imagine that everyone else is some 13 year old called xXD34thS3ph1r0thXx who is mad that he lost while trying to PK you.

      • Shieldfoss says:

        Yup, this exact thing. I used to spend a lot of time on 4chan and nothing deflates criticism received on there like the realization that the guy who wrote it is a 4channer.

      • Guy says:

        I would say “imagine they’re saying it in their underwear”, but they almost certainly are.

      • Translation: in order to avoid losing internal, subjective status (self-esteem) from the “you are low status” messages sent by others, imagine they themselves are low-status.

    • E. Harding says:

      You worry too much. I didn’t come out of this craving such attention, but I certainly wasn’t majorly put off by it. Most of these people don’t intend for the intended recipient of the criticism to change his mind, anyway, so I see no point in feeling awful about them.

      BTW, I get criticized a lot for various things. I don’t let it worry me too much.

    • Viliam says:

      Two things that help to me:

      1) Aggregating the stupid criticism. Seeing the whole set at the same time makes it less painful that looking at the individual comments. Different critics often contradict each other; one hates you for “being too X”, the other hates you for “not being X enough”. Seeing both reactions next to each other makes you realize there is nothing you can do to make everyone happy, so you can simply ignore them both. You don’t even feel the need to defend yourself because ironically each of these haters kinda defends you from the opposing kind.

      2) Talking with smart people. Because ignoring the noise it not the same as hearing the signal. There are thousands of internet nobodies who try to push their opinion on me, but the proper reaction is not to block all feedback. It is to get a higher-quality feedback. Opinions of the people you respect. You usually have to actively ask them, because they are less likely to give you unsolicited feedback.

      Some people would object that this strategy may lead to “echo chambers”. Well, the risk is obviously big if you filter your friends by having the same political or religious opinions as you do — but I don’t do this. The “voice of mob” is usually even worse source of information. There are always some people in the mob screaming louder than most, and those people are not selected for being smart or being right; it’s most likely the other way round. The mob doesn’t represent all opinions in a balanced way; it has its own obvious biases. In most cases you could replace the whole mob by two or three stupid people and you would get the same range of opinions.

      The key is to realize that the person criticizing you does not represent the whole population, even if you are getting 99% of feedback from this specific person. It only means such person is really pushy.

    • Nathan says:

      Do you care what a random person thinks about, say, Jim Carrey?

      So why should their opinion start mattering when it becomes about you?

    • Emile says:

      As an extra data point: reading those didn’t make me feel awful at all (despite being very much a Scott fanboy), I found them somewhat amusing, and an extra data point for “whatever the subject, you’ll find a crowd of haters”. Maybe I’ve been exposed to enough internet to be desensitized. I *might* feel differently if I was the target, but I’d like to believe I’d find it just as easy to ignore

    • Chrysophylax says:

      A lot of people above seem to be saying variants on “lower the status you give the critic”. My advice is to identify less with the things being criticised.

      Think about people getting angry enough to kill about insults to their chariot team. It seems to me to be obvious that watching sports is basically superstimulus for the tribal loyalty parts of your brain. A huge number of people (far more than would live in an EEA tribe) get together, dress up in a distinctive way, and bellow their approval for their tribe and their hatred of the other tribe while watching heroes of their tribe battle the other tribe’s champions. When the tribe wins, they laugh and cry and hug strangers.

      I also find it plausible that there’s a single status-tracking module in your brain, and the more you identify with something, the more it counts as part of you for status purposes. Think about a Buddhist monk getting mistreated and not seeming cross about it. It’s not that he has amazing control of his temper, it’s that he doesn’t feel angry when people push him and spit on him, because he no longer strongly identifies with himself.

      The best ways that I can think of to cultivate this are to honestly critique yourself and to practice the Litany of Tarski. If you get used to saying “that essay was great!” and “that essay was mediocre” (for *specific, concrete reasons*), it will hurt less when someone says “I hated your essay”. If you honestly want to believe true things rather than keeping your treasured beliefs, it will hurt less when someone proves you wrong in public.

    • Nornagest says:

      how does one become less averse to criticism?

      Once you get called Hitler a few times, it starts to lose its sting.

      And anyone who’s the least bit Internet famous gets called Hitler or the equivalent. Scott — judging from his Tumblr — seems more sensitive to this than I was when I spent more time in the kinds of positions that attract it, but even so I’ll bet he’s stopped caring much about his less pointed criticisms.

  38. Stefan Drinic says:

    Jesus Christ, people. Good lord.

  39. anon says:

    Cactus one was my favorite. Good job saving it for the very end.

  40. ssc sux says:

    Well, the pattern plays out all over the place, it seems. I’d just unsubscribe from the feed, but it’s not really a bad blog? It’s only the circlejerk that’s bad. You’re kind of a Randall Munroe figure – sure, his comic is aggressively hateable, but it’s the tropes, not the man. His “what if?” feature, or, as we used to call it (before it existed!) on xkcd haters IRC, “the illustrated picto-blog” (that we all wished he would do instead of comics), is a great use of his talents.

    Maybe you should try your hand at a format that plays to your strengths. Like Swifties.

    • rational_rob says:

      Circlejerk? xkcd? SSC?

      It’s nice to see some criticism now and then, but when you make a point like that you have to elaborate. What quality in specific do you find objectionable? The denial of spiritualism? The cold, objective analysis of trivial things? Or do you not like anything because you are out of the loop?

      We need to know what direction you’re coming from in order to change anything about our behavior. Or, more likely, we need to know what you object to, so we can tell you why we do it, and come to a compromise.

      • Soumynona says:

        We need to know what direction you’re coming from in order to change anything about our behavior. Or, more likely, we need to know what you object to, so we can tell you why we do it, and come to a compromise.

        You’re responding to someone who hangs out on haters’ IRC channels. Just let it go…

      • ssc sux says:

        With respect, I don’t think you are very good at reading sentences that don’t express thoughts already firmly lodged in your mind.

    • Oligopsony says:

      Maybe you should try your hand at a format that plays to your strengths. Like Swifties.

      Unsong.

      • ssc sux says:

        Is it full of terrible wordplay? I have a very low tolerance for nerd web novels these days, after I seriously contemplated printing out and binding Ra just to hurl it at the wall in fury when that appallingly retarded genre swerve happened, but I love a good bad wordplay.

        • nightpool says:

          You know, you’re in luck. The main character made approximately 15 puns in the first few chapters, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

  41. Blue says:

    So actually the comical mirror of accusations from MRA’s/SJW’s accusing Scott of being a typical example of the other side, is not at all surprising. Both ideological trends are obsessed less with their honest opponents, and much more with finding infiltrators and spies. Their weapons are currently focused on people who claim to agree with them, while secretly wanting to indulge their evil desires. So they cannot see Scott as “someone who disagrees with us” but rather “another traitor who is trying to infiltrate our ranks”. So they ring the bell declaring him an enemy spy, like all the other enemy spies (ie, anyone in their political movement who has disagreed with them.) Their only term for spy, of course, is “member of the group we hate the most and suspect of constantly trying to infiltrate us.”

    They think Scott is an all-powerful evil genius who is close to corrupting their pure movement, and feel that others must be warned. They can not see that he is just a human being.

    • rational_rob says:

      This comes dangerously close to being too defensive. It’s great that you give Scott and his objectors this kind of credit, but for the most part these are a select few of the funniest reactions Scott found – most of them are deliciously paranoid because he chose them, because they are funny sounding. I’d take a solid bet that most MRA’s and SJW’s are against him in a more typical way.

      • 27chaos says:

        No way you’re <16, I call shenanigans.

        • Guy says:

          He’s totally a teenager, he wrote “the denial of spiritualism” in a serious context right above this subthread.

        • Gall says:

          I think it’s hard to be calibrated about what typical behavior is for a particular age group unless you spend a lot of time around that age group.

    • Also funny: both SJWs and White Nationalists hate Rhoosh for blogging about having sex with white women.

      And Scott is hated by both sides for not blogging about having sex with lots of women?

      Man, you can’t win in this world.

    • Viliam says:

      My model of political battles is that there are always at least two different wars fighted in parallel. One front is the obvious one: left vs right, red vs blue, feminists vs patriarchy, whatever is currently the fashion. But there is also the other, less visible front that doesn’t have a name, but whose one side is “niceness and civilization”, and the other side is something like “the greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters”. So there are four factions, each of them with their own goals.

      The “uncivilized” side has the advantage of greater freedom of action, and ability to use stupidity and mass hysteria for their support. The “civilized” side is at majority, which is probably necessary because a civilization built mostly from the former would quickly fall apart. The “civilized” factions would prefer if their “uncivilized” partners would disappear, but sometimes they accept them as a necessary evil, hoping that it will be only temporary. The “uncivilized” factions knows they have to keep the war going on forever, because when the war ends, the majority will turn against them.

      Imagine what would happen if people from the opposing side could just sit down, have a friendly talk, explain all misunderstandings, and then create a mutually satisfying solution, something like: “okay, so these things are most important for us, these things are most important for you; I guess if we arrange the society this way then we could all get the things which are most important for each of us, which would be strictly better than the situation we have now; and by the way, each side will agree to keep their own predators under control so they doesn’t create another conflict between us in the future.” How would the poor predators get their power in such world? How could they live without the power?

      This is why the predators (the soldiers of Moloch) have to insist that anyone tempted by “niceness and civilization” is a traitor that should be executed first.

      • John Nerst says:

        +1

        Remarkable explanatory power for such a simple model. It gets the whole motte-and-bailey/weakmanning/equivocation/outgroup-homogeneity/closing-ranks dynamic down.

        • Guy says:

          Trouble is, it fails to provide a course of action when (or acknowledge the possibility of) the main sides have a genuine irreconcilable values difference – my preferred solution is to have an arbitrarily large “frontier” to which groups with irreconcilable values can go, but this isn’t practical in certain technological bands (like our present one).

          • John Nerst says:

            Well “compromise” could be that course of action. It does require two things:

            1. That they understand each other’s wants. (Actively sabotaged by the behaviour of the “uncivilized” wings.)

            2. That they don’t try to “win”. (Actively sabotaged by the behaviour of the “uncivilized” wings.)

            So what needs to be done, and what it seems like Scott is trying to do with most of his political posts, is to get the civilized people to understand which conflict is the important one and stop seeing the uncivilized part of the other camp as defining it.

          • CatCube says:

            @John Nerst

            Compromise can be difficult if the goals are truly mutually exclusive. For example, how does a pro-lifer come to a compromise? “OK, as long as you only kill 35% of the babies you do now, we’ll be cool with that.”? Pro-choice obviously has the inverse problem. The values underlying each of their positions are totally opposite.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Trying to steelman John’s views, perhaps the compromise could be the pro-choice side saying, “Okay, we see that life is more important to you than an immediate choice is to us; we’ll outlaw abortion” – and the pro-life side saying, “Okay, we see choice is important to you; we’ll fund mass contraceptive distribution, make adoption very easy, and provide a whole lot of government support for pregnant women since they’re denied choice.”

            And then both sides go work on inventing artificial wombs.

            (As a pro-life person myself, I’d be very open to this compromise.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Evan Þ:

            Yes, but that’s the kind of compromise you make with a burglar trying to steal all your stuff. If you have to, you’ll say “Please, let me keep half my stuff,” and if he doesn’t want to fight, you’ll have a “deal”.

            But if you have a gun, you just shoot him.

            There are two types of compromise: the first type says “better half a loaf than no loaf at all”, and that’s undoubtedly true; the second views compromise as an end in itself, and this is very dubious. If you accept the “half a loaf” view, it’s as a temporary deal; you’re still trying to get the whole loaf.

            If I’m pro-choice, I see no reason to compromise in the way you describe with the pro-lifers and ban abortion. I say: I’m right; you’re wrong. If you want to fight, I’ll win.

            In any case, though, I don’t think abortion is a difference on “values” which is supposed to be separate from facts. I think both sides have different opinion on the facts, not different terminal values. Such as: does God exist, and is abortion contrary to his will? Obviously a factual question.

          • Error says:

            @Evan: From the pro-choice side…I think I might actually agree to some permutation of that compromise. Perhaps if the widespread birth control were in the form of IUDs, and encouraged for anyone physically old enough to get pregnant.

            In thinking about this, and speaking only for myself, I think the dividing line is “I could accept compromises that forbid abortion if the system is set up in such a way that getting pregnant without explicit intention is extremely unlikely” — then the choice still exists, it’s just earlier in the process. I’d be pretty okay with that.

            Of course, having written that, I can come up with edge cases that would still fuck it up…also any such compromise is never going to work in the real world because most people who are against abortion are also against contraception. But, well, the thought experiment is interesting and a good way of getting at true rejections; “what’s the minimum that would have to change for me to change my mind?”

          • Nornagest says:

            most people who are against abortion are also against contraception

            I’m not so sure about that. Certainly it’s the party line on the left, and it seems to actually be true for groups like the Catholic Church hierarchy. But the Church has weird incentives to deal with, and I have a hard time believing that rank-and-file pro-lifers would be opposed to contraception on anything like the level that they’re opposed to abortion.

            At least per se. They might (reasonably enough) object to a mandatory long-term contraception plan on the grounds of it being an unacceptable level of government interference in people’s private lives.

          • Evan Þ says:

            “most people who are against abortion are also against contraception”

            Considering both my personal experience, the polls showing that even the vast majority of Roman Catholic laypeople (!) support and use contraception, and the absence of any official opposition from any other denomination, I disagree with this claim.

            About the nature of compromise, I was steelmanning “these things are most important for us, these things are most important for you” to say that both sides would recognize when the opposition holds a value more important and then give in on it. Of course, in practice, this’d provoke an arms race of sacredness… but in theory, it’s an attractive idea, and it might even work sometimes if implemented on multiple issues at once. For instance, in my example, a libertarian pro-lifer would see that his defeat on government-funded contraceptives has bought him a victory on abortion.

          • keranih says:

            @Error –

            In thinking about this, and speaking only for myself, I think the dividing line is “I could accept compromises that forbid abortion if the system is set up in such a way that getting pregnant without explicit intention is extremely unlikely” — then the choice still exists, it’s just earlier in the process. I’d be pretty okay with that.

            Thing is, I (as an anti-abortion person) already truly believe (and think that this holds up factually) that the system is already set up this way (specifically in the USA and the rest of the West) – it’s damn near impossible to get pregnant without undertaking a series of actions that everyone and their brother has told you is likely to get you pregnant. The “earlier choice” you describe is already in play.

          • At a tangent concerning the Catholic position on contraception.

            The two main reasons to want to use contraception are to control the number of children that a married (or equivalent) couple produces and to permit sex outside of marriage without any significant risk of pregnancy.

            People who attack the Catholic position on contraception tend to focus on the former purpose, arguing that that position produces lots of unwanted children and overpopulation in poor countries. That attack is, I think, weaker than it seems. Catholic doctrine permits the use of the rhythm method. I did some calculations a while ago, and concluded that the rhythm method was probably sufficient to hold down the birth rate in a poor country to a level that would result in slow or zero population growth.

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-rhythm-method-and-population-growth.html

            On the other hand, in a society where there are large social costs to pregnancy for unmarried women, the rhythm method is not sufficient to make regular sex outside of marriage safe. Which raises the possibility that the real objective of the Catholic position is to permit birth control adequate for purposes of family planning but inadequate for facilitating non-marital sex.

            Comments?

          • JohnMcG says:

            I’d add that the licit forms of family planning n Catholicism are a but more sophisticated than “rhythm method” would suggest. (e.g https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiMibfk–vKAhUF62MKHa3nBs0QFggcMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.creightonmodel.com%2F&usg=AFQjCNGK3sNUaLzyIRp09iWZYl7oTpJQxg&sig2=WpEaz6mvhj4cnRJLQ_l3UQ)

            But, to the point, they are more suited to a marriage, or at least a long-term committed relationship, than they would be to one night stands.

            I would also say that the Church’s opposition to contraception is of a different category than its opposition to abortion.

            Abortion is seen as the killing of innocents, and must be opposed for anyone, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

            Contraception is opposed as practice for Catholics. While the Church may not be excited about its cultural saturation, it is lower on the list of priorities.

            Muddying the waters a bit is that the Church (controversially to many) considers some forms of birth control to be abortificient, in that one of their methods is to prevent implantation.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            People who attack the Catholic position on contraception tend to focus on the former purpose, arguing that that position produces lots of unwanted children and overpopulation in poor countries.

            There’s also the “Papist conspiracy” argument, which is that they do it in order to produce more Catholic children and therefore take over the world. But that’s pretty discredited; I associate it with the 1960s and the kind of people who thought JFK would take secret orders from the Vatican.

            However, when you said “to control the number of children that a married (or equivalent) couple produces”, that was my first thought before I read the rest of your comment.

            Anyway, I think your comment is a fair rationalization, but what is your opinion of the face value message: that the reason they prohibit it is that it undermines the “natural purpose” of sex as they see it? Sex is supposed to be “inherently generative” and therefore every sexual act must be “open” to pregnancy. That is why I think they do it. (Of course, this implies that old people shouldn’t be allowed to have sex, which is inconsistent.)

            The cynical reading that the “real purpose” is to discourage premarital sex has a major flaw: how much does it actually discourage it? It seems more likely to discourage people from being faithful Catholics.

            There’s also the Ayn-Rand type of cynical reading: that the “real purpose” of all the Catholic commandments about sex is to ensure they are broken and to make people feel guilty, so that they are more easily cowed and led to support the Church and its teaching that all men require redemption through Christ. Which I doubt is actually their conscious purpose. But the position has its merits.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih
            The “earlier choice” you describe is already in play.

            Have you a source for a poll of abortion seekers with a question like: “Were you using contraception during that period? If so, what kind and what went wrong? If not, why not?”

            A while back, you posted a lead to a chart showing why women dropped particular forms of contraception, which could account for some “skip it just temporarily” pregnancies. I found it interesting as a list of flaws in current methods, which indicates need for developing better methods.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @keranih

            “I didn’t know I could get pregnant from having sex” ranks right up there with “I didn’t know smoking was bad for me” for things people say when try to avoid looking bad for the results of their chosen actions. It’s possible, sure, but given the cultural penetration of the preventative knowledge, the rebuttable presumption should be “yup, everyone knows that.”

            What is more common, rather, is that people know the possible consequences of their behaviors, but enjoy that behavior, and think they can get away with it one more time . . . until they don’t.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ The Anonymouse
            What is more common, rather, is that people know the possible consequences of their behaviors, but enjoy that behavior, and think they can get away with it one more time . . . until they don’t.

            Possible … but how likely? Let’s apply some relative probability here. Everyone knows that sex sometimes gets you pregnant and sometimes not. Taking chances in traffic sometimes gets you injured and sometimes not. I don’t support withholding medical care for someone who got injured carelessly … just because someone else has a belief about a fetus being whatever.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @houseboatonstyx

            I don’t support withholding medical care for someone who got injured carelessly

            Nor do I (of course).

            But in your example, the term “medical care” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Someone who is injured in a traffic accident necessarily has suffered an injury, and injuries often require treatment to heal. Someone who has carelessly had sex and become pregnant has not suffered an injury, and the “medical care” required to remedy an unwanted pregnancy is not of the healing sort.

          • John Nerst says:

            @CatCube, Evan, VI

            Things are getting complicated now, so only some short thoughts…

            In the face of truly irreconcilable differences, I guess there needs to be a vote. That’s what voting is for, basically.

            The ideal I’m after kind of presupposes that there can be no truly sacred values. If people disagree about terminal values, others are pretty much required to accept that and work with it. If something is dependent on some empirical fact, the decision should wait until all the available evidence have been gathered and evaluated.

            Ideal, I know. Religion being a real force in politics really throws things off. Luckily that’s not really the case where I live.

            I think the burglar analogy is critically different in that you and the burglar are not a society/community. If there were only those two people, disagreeing about who should have what would make more sense. It’s a question that would have to be dealt with, at the very least.

            And reality isn’t as different from that as one might think. You may not share your stuff with a burglar to buy him off, but you do pay taxes to fund a social support system aimed to reduce crime. Modern welfare states being created as a compromise when revolution seemed a real possibility is pretty much the same.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris
            Yes, but that’s the kind of compromise you make with a burglar trying to steal all your stuff. If you have to, you’ll say “Please, let me keep half my stuff,” and if he doesn’t want to fight, you’ll have a “deal”.

            Yep. At the moment we pro-choice people have a choice that reaches all the way to 20 months or whatever. Any such compromise will take away part of that period (and support for the pregnancy/baby is not a substitute for choice).

            Otho, better and more available contraceptives would reduce the need for abortion till (almost) the whole problem would wither away. Just don’t ask us to give up part or all of the choice period till that has actually been accomplished. Then you won’t have to ask us; we won’t be wanting abortion anyway. (You don’t have to ask us to agree to developing better contraceptives; you can do that unilaterally.)

            Hm, to fit this with the burglar analogy…. “Okay, you can have my silverware _after_ you bring me a gold set.”

          • “At the moment we pro-choice people have a choice that reaches all the way to 20 months or whatever. ”

            They made infanticide legal up to almost a year? I didn’t know that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            In continental Europe infanticide by the mother is not formally a crime. It is not handled by the criminal justice system.

            In America and Britain (and, I suspect, most places) if the mother appears distraught, the death will almost always be classified as accidental. In America infanticide is formally murder. In Britain, infanticide up to a year by the mother is not murder. It is a separate crime that was created as a result of jury nullification. The crime was created to allow the mother to plead insanity before that was an option for any other crime. Sentences are almost always suspended. There was a recent case where the mother refused to plead insanity and was tried for murder.

            In much of Europe the mother is not even given the option of not pleading insanity, but is handed directly to psychiatrists. Again, that is only if the death was not classified accidental.

            (I assume “20 months” was intended to be “20 weeks.”)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman

            LOL. And just now I somehow read your comment as referencing 20 years.

            Clearly, more coffee is needed.

          • keranih says:

            @ houseboatonstyx –

            Otho, better and more available contraceptives would reduce the need for abortion till (almost) the whole problem would wither away. Just don’t ask us to give up part or all of the choice period till that has actually been accomplished.

            …I find it very difficult to believe – based on the conversations we’ve had here – that there would *ever* be contraception that effective enough or wide spread enough to satisfy those who hold that killing the baby is the undisputed right of the pregnant woman.

            If I’m wrong, please lay out your standards for contraception efficacy and social penitration that you think would justify reducing the “legally permissive period for killing a child” down to, say, 12 weeks of gestation.

            When I’ve presented (as you mention above) evidence that women’s failure to use contraception is not due to lack of access or funds, but instead a personal choice to put more emphasis on immediate gratification instead of consideration of long term effects – you responded by calling for “better contraception”.

            We already have exceptional contraception. Conception and pregnancy are extremely tricky biological processes, and have – apparently – in humans evolved to operate around our conscious desire to limit those processes. Stopping fertility in women in a reliable and reversible manner is quite difficult, and instead of whining about how we haven’t already completely re-drawn human women from the cellular level up, we should be very pleased with what we *have* accomplished.

            Relatedly – I am also wary of viewing contraception as the whole-hearted good that many seem to see it as – anti-pregnancy-only methods have been directly linked to the spread of life-threatening disease, and the longterm social impact of “consequence-free sex” has not been such a great thing. Good for a particular person? Perhaps. It certainly helps facilitate satisfying short-term desires while decreasing some consequences. Good for society? I’d hold that at best, it’s of dubious value, if not outright negative.

          • brad says:

            @keranih

            I find it very difficult to believe – based on the conversations we’ve had here – that there would *ever* be contraception that effective enough or wide spread enough to satisfy those who hold that killing the baby is the undisputed right of the pregnant woman.

            Suppose the technology existed to render everyone in the country infertile, but the effect could be reversed with a once daily pill but each person had to have a pill designed for him or herself.

            Also suppose that in such a universe there was a proposal to use this technology but make the antidote available for free in monthly allotments by presenting yourself (and only yourself, no third party orders) at your nearest post office.

            Which of our current ideological groups would be in favor or opposed to such a proposal? I think libertarians would clearly be opposed and the alt-right be in favor. I suspect most of the left would be opposed, with the exception perhaps of some of the greener parts. But what about the traditional / religious right? Would it tip the balance if it came with a ban on most abortions?

            @Douglas Knight
            Every once in a while you come up against something that smacks you in the face with the fact that Europe really is foreign. This is one of those for me. A little bit of discretion for the people involved to say it was totally an accident is way different to my mind than a policy that says it is not even criminal to begin with.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @keranih

            I suspect there is no amount of access to contraception that would satisfy your interlocutors. Admitting such would undercut their other policy goals. We could air-drop literal pallets of condoms and birth control pills onto every street corner, with dollar bills taped to the packages, and you would hear counterarguments about some weird sympathetic corner case.

            You can ride that asymptote as close to zero as you like, but convincing your opponents that enough “access” has been provided is a fool’s errand. All the incentives lie the other way.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ The Anonymouse:

            I suspect there is no amount of access to contraception that would satisfy your interlocutors.

            There certainly wouldn’t be for me. It’s just a weird and irrelevant idea, in my opinion.

            It’s like saying: “What amount of other dessert alternatives would convince you to agree to ban cheesecake?” My answer is: “No amount!”

            I don’t think a fetus has rights, certainly not before the point of viability, and I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with abortion. So I am not going to agree to ban it, except as a grudging compromise made under threat of force.

            Accessibility of contraception does not “remove the need” for abortion. For one, people are often careless and make bad sexual decisions in the heat of passion. This is unfortunate, but even if they could easily have avoided getting pregnant, it doesn’t mean they ought to be forced to carry a baby to term.

            Moreover, situations can change: maybe a woman is planning on having a baby and gets pregnant on purpose, but then her husband divorces her.

            And this is leaving out completely considerations like: what if the fetus has Down’s syndrome or some other kind of genetic disorder? I think that sort of thing is the most defensible case for abortion, which the issue of contraception does nothing to touch.

            There’s also, of course, rape, but that’s such a rare cause of pregnancy that it’s stupid how much emphasis it gets. In any case, the logic for banning abortion on the basis of a fetus’s “right to life” obviously implies no rape exception. The only logic that would make this exception is one that sees anti-abortion laws as a way to punish loose women…hmm.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih et al

            No one likes having an abortion. It’s painful and expensive and inconvenient. But some women sometimes take the chance of needing abortion, rather than the certainty of what the side effects of common bc pills etc have proved to be for them. (And/or the expense and hassle and discomfort of getting the less common methods, such as IUDs.)

            Do you have a link handy to that useful chart of what problems women had with methods they dropped? Many cited side effects of one kind or another, or their doctor’s advice to drop it.

            Maybe we should distinguish actual numbers of abortions performed, from having the legal right still on the books (hopefully as a fossil, but available as a back-up). Note that as demand falls, so would supply.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih

            please lay out your standards for contraception efficacy and social penitration that you think would justify reducing the “legally permissive period for killing a child” down to, say, 12 weeks of gestation.

            We can’t predict what factors will bring about the outcome of a neglible number of abortion requests, but we can work on all possible factors till that outcome happens. (Even then, I’d be leery of taking that right off the law books.)

            We already have exceptional contraception. Conception and pregnancy are extremely tricky biological processes, and have – apparently – in humans evolved to operate around our conscious desire to limit those processes. Stopping fertility in women in a reliable and reversible manner is quite difficult [….]

            So, there is plenty of room for improvement — to reduce the side effects of the ‘stopping fertility’ approach, or develop better approaches.

            Fortunately for the cause of preventing abortions, this is incremental. A small upgrade in BC Pill X to cause less nausea, will keep Y number of women using it more consistently, thus a small reduction in abortion requests.

            For some women, the need may be for better dellvery: something that works for months or longer wiithout further attention.

            ETA: If you think we’ve already reached the limit of how effective/safe/convenient contraception methods can ever be … well, I see no reason to believe that.

          • CatCube says:

            @houseboatonthestyx

            And to go back to the original point about compromise, for those of us who think that there’s morally no daylight between late(ish*) abortion and waiting until the woman has the kid, then picking it up by the legs and bashing it’s head against the wall. This is one of those things that people have different values on. For someone like Vox, who thinks that a fetus has no rights, there’s absolutely no problem with abortion and there’s little anybody can do to talk him into it

            *I’m not convinced that life begins at conception, but by induction the line must be there somewhere. Since we’re talking about at what point you’re murdering a baby, I think the line ought to be drawn well on the safe side. Kerinah’s 12 weeks might be early enough, but I’ve not put a lot of thought into it because we’re so far on the bad side of the line that almost anything would be an improvement.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih

            I found the link that led to your Table 5.
            http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr062.pdf

            Here is what I could pull out of it and massage to make it WordPress friendly. Exactly what each number is measuring is obscure (have to study the fine print), and iirc it surveyed all the women who used any form of contraceptive even once in several decades, so I guess it would slant toward worse side effects from the early versions.

            I added two flags: $ for cost, and M for obvious medical problems, though really everything on the list could be improved by medical advance.

            $ – 2.6..Insurance did not cover it
            $ – 3.4 .. Too expensive
            2.4..Too difficult to obtain
            0.4..Too messy
            1.2..Your partner did not like it
            1.8..The method did not protect against disease
            10.0..Too difficult to use
            10.9..Other
            2.6..You worried the method would not work
            M – 11.3..The method failed, you became pregnant
            M – 11.5..Did not like changes to menstrual cycle
            M – 11.8..You were worried you might have side effects
            M – 5.1..Decreased your sexual pleasure
            M – 5.7..Doctor told you not to use the method again
            M – 62.9..You had side effects

          • Anonymous says:

            @brad

            Suppose the technology existed to render everyone in the country infertile, but the effect could be reversed with a once daily pill but each person had to have a pill designed for him or herself.

            Also suppose that in such a universe there was a proposal to use this technology but make the antidote available for free in monthly allotments by presenting yourself (and only yourself, no third party orders) at your nearest post office.

            In such a world, I would immediately leave for any country that did not practice this totalitarian control over reproduction. If precluded from leaving, or every country in the world followed this practice, I would immediately join the inevitable widespread rebellion instead. I would seriously consider the merits of a nuclear holocaust, literally nuking humanity back into the stone age, in this scenario.

            Which of our current ideological groups would be in favor or opposed to such a proposal? I think libertarians would clearly be opposed and the alt-right be in favor. I suspect most of the left would be opposed, with the exception perhaps of some of the greener parts. But what about the traditional / religious right? Would it tip the balance if it came with a ban on most abortions?

            The alt-right is to a large extent also religious, and even among the non-religious, there are many those who would view this particular scenario as worse than North Korea levels of totalitarian leftism.

          • Nita says:

            @ keranih

            What long-term social impact of “consequence-free sex” could possibly be worse than (what you consider to be) mass murder of innocent babies? I don’t know, perhaps murder is not such a big deal to people who believe in immortal souls? I’m struggling to understand your priorities here.

            Contraceptives have been getting better over the years, and abortions have been getting less frequent*. Like houseboatonstyx, I see no reason to think that there’s no more room for improvement.

            * but not in poor women, so either socioeconomic or genetic factors do have an effect, or the poor must be morally inferior somehow

            it’s damn near impossible to get pregnant without undertaking a series of actions that everyone and their brother has told you is likely to get you pregnant

            The most common reason given by women who had had an unintended birth after not using contraception was that they “did not think they could get pregnant”. This answer was much more common in women with high-school education or less (42%) than women with any amount of college education (26%). Out of Hispanic/Latina women, 49% gave this answer.

            @ Yellow-green Anonymous (below)

            It was a multiple choice question. Perhaps “couldn’t” was the closest option to “wouldn’t”, or perhaps they had major misconceptions about human biology. Or both.

          • Anonymous says:

            Why would they think they couldn’t get pregnant? Wouldn’t I would buy, since per-intercourse chances are low.

          • Leit says:

            @Anonymous:

            The current president of South Africa famously stated that he couldn’t get AIDS because he had taken a shower after… biblically knowing an infected woman.

            The president.

            Now, take similar folk beliefs like “we do it standing up”, “he finished on my back/stomach”, “I was on my period”, “I drank [insert traditional remedy here]” and extrapolate.

            In one spectacular anecdote from an acquaintance, “but we only did anal!” – which raises some troubling questions about hygiene.

            Never underestimate the overconfidence of the undereducated.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Leit

            I recall now with fondness the advice we got in Sex Ed (not called that): Never have sex unless you are prepared to make her pregnant.

          • Leit says:

            @Anonymous

            But you see, part of the reason for the approach taken in that anecdote I noted was that it wasn’t sex sex.

            Now, the odds were indeed formidable in that particular case. But are you going to tell me there do not exist some number of young folks who are willing to justify their satisfactions the same way according to, say, the criteria that he didn’t ejaculate inside?

          • Anonymous says:

            Of course I believe in the existence of stupid people.

          • Nita says:

            Hmm, since we’re on the topic, I might as well dump more statistics…

            In the USA:

            In 2012, the majority (65.8%) of abortions were performed by ≤8 weeks’ gestation, and nearly all (91.4%) were performed by ≤13 weeks’ gestation.

            From 2003 to 2012, the percentage of all abortions performed at ≤8 weeks’ gestation increased 7%

            Similarly, in England and Wales, where abortion law is also quite permissive:

            91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation

            77% were at under 10 weeks, compared to 78% in 2011 and 57% in 2002

            The most common gestational age at abortion seems to be 8-9 weeks (i.e., around 6-7 weeks from conception), when the embryo weighs about 2 grams.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ CatCube:

            And to go back to the original point about compromise, for those of us who think that there’s morally no daylight between late(ish*) abortion and waiting until the woman has the kid, then picking it up by the legs and bashing it’s head against the wall. This is one of those things that people have different values on. For someone like Vox, who thinks that a fetus has no rights, there’s absolutely no problem with abortion and there’s little anybody can do to talk him into it

            *I’m not convinced that life begins at conception, but by induction the line must be there somewhere. Since we’re talking about at what point you’re murdering a baby, I think the line ought to be drawn well on the safe side. Kerinah’s 12 weeks might be early enough, but I’ve not put a lot of thought into it because we’re so far on the bad side of the line that almost anything would be an improvement.

            I don’t believe in what I mockingly call the “minuteman” position: that there’s nothing nothing wrong with killing the baby a minute before it’s born.

            I believe that the line ought to be drawn around the point of viability. Or rather, that the mother has the right to remove the embryo or fetus from her womb at any time, but that she is not entitled to kill it in the process after the point where it is capable of surviving outside her body. The point where the fetus is capable of performing the biological actions to sustain its life outside the mother’s body is the point at which it becomes a separate living thing.

            I think abortions should only be permitted after the point of viability if induced pregnancy would present a serious threat to the woman’s life or health.

            For what it’s worth, this is pretty much the exact position of the U.S. Supreme Court, starting in Roe v. Wade:

            The United States Supreme Court stated in Roe v. Wade (1973) that viability (i.e., the “interim point at which the fetus becomes … potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid”[6]) “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”[6] The 28-week definition became part of the “trimester framework” marking the point at which the “compelling state interest” (under the doctrine of strict scrutiny) in preserving potential life became possibly controlling, permitting states to freely regulate and even ban abortion after the 28th week.[6] The subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) modified the “trimester framework,” permitting the states to regulate abortion in ways not posing an “undue burden” on the right of the mother to an abortion at any point before viability; on account of technological developments between 1973 and 1992, viability itself was legally dissociated from the hard line of 28 weeks, leaving the point at which “undue burdens” were permissible variable depending on the technology of the time and the judgment of the state legislatures.

            (My only disagreement with the Court is that I am skeptical that “technological developments” have much to do with the question. Even if you could grow a fetus from conception in an artificial womb, I would say whoever owns that artificial womb has the right to remove the fetus from it, since it is not an independent lifeform until it is capable of self-sustaining biological function.)

            Moreover, almost no abortions occur in the third trimester (after 28 weeks), and the ones that almost always occur for compelling medical reasons. I am not actually aware of any specific exceptions, but if there are a few, I condemn them.

            And yes, this is a difference in values, but I think it is a difference in values based on a difference of opinion about facts—i.e. not a difference in terminal values. As I said above, one of those factual differences is over the truth of certain religious dogmas. Another one is over whether there are such principles as natural rights and, if so, what is their basis in fact.

          • brad says:

            @anonymous
            Your reaction is about what I’d expect from anyone with significant libertarian impulses, but I think you somewhat overestimate the prevalence of that.

            Also:

            The alt-right is to a large extent also religious

            I don’t buy it at all. I can’t imagine there’s a non-trivial number of ministers, pastors, or priests that are okay with their parishioners sitting around calling each other fag, strategizing about how to build harems, calling people cucks, and otherwise acting like horny, irreverent teenage boys.

          • Anonymous says:

            Your reaction is about what I’d expect from anyone with significant libertarian impulses, but I think you somewhat overestimate the prevalence of that.

            It’s not about libertarianism. It’s about taking away people’s ability to have children. In the scenario, the government would have total control of that, and I would sincerely expect it to use that to punish dissent. Most will submit, intimidated into acquiescence, but many will not. I’d expect a thriving black market in illegal conceptives to spring up overnight, much like black market activity in communist countries.

            I don’t buy it at all. I can’t imagine there’s a non-trivial number of ministers, pastors, or priests that are okay with their parishioners sitting around calling each other fag, strategizing about how to build harems, calling people cucks, and otherwise acting like horny, irreverent teenage boys.

            1) Just because the actual priests aren’t okay with being crass, doesn’t mean that a steelmanned, SSC’d version of the argument won’t actually be what they support. Last I checked, orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews are against practicing homosexuality, divorce, female independence, etc. They obviously won’t be supporting fornication and adultery, but there’s surprising amounts of overlap on the “how the world actually works” between Roosh V and the Catholic Church, even if they don’t quite agree on “how the world should work”.

            2) Have you actually looked at the attitudes in East Europe? The nationalists have a strong tendency to be for God, Honour and Fatherland. Are they not alt-right?

            3) One of the three major faction groups within the Death Eaters is religious, and many express wanting to be religious, but being unable to alter their base assumptions about the supernatural that way.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Your reaction is about what I’d expect from anyone with significant libertarian impulses, but I think you somewhat overestimate the prevalence of that.

            I’m so old, I remember when “keep the government out of our bedrooms” was a rallying cry of the left.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih

            Though I posted an excerpt from the Table 5 (at cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr062.pdf)
            which you had originally brought up, I don’t endorse it or your conclusions from it. That report has several problems for our purposes: sample selection and time range are too large, numbers are obscure, etc.

            On affordability of contraceptives, here are some costs as of April 24, 2015 from University Health Service at the University of Michigan, https://www.uhs.umich.edu/contraception-cost.

            UHS Cost without Insurance
            Diaphragm: Device $66 Fitting $91
            Implant (Nexplanon): Device $834 Insertion $211
            Intrauterine Device (IUD): Device $799 Insertion $79
            Patch $173
            Ring (NuvaRing) $110
            Shot (DepoProvera): Medication $54 Injection *$27
            Pills $76 per pack
            [At Planned Parenthood some pills may be free but all require a prescription, Pap smear, and possible pelvic exam costing up to $250.]

            Note the high initial costs, which will be a deal breaker for women on a budget, even if the longterm cost would amortize to something affordable. The initial or refill cost incentivizes procrastination “for just a month or two”, during which time, Boom!

          • brad says:

            @Jaskologist
            Read more, sneer less.
            I suspect most of the left would be opposed, with the exception perhaps of some of the greener parts.

            @Anonymous (greenish-blue this time instead of mustard)

            Just because the actual priests aren’t okay with being crass, doesn’t mean that a steelmanned, SSC’d version of the argument won’t actually be what they support.

            No one believes a steel-manned anything. That misunderstands what steelmanning is about. In any event the claim is that the crass (putting it very mildly) people are themselves religious. Not that religious people somewhere deep in their hearts believe something sort of akin to what the crass people are saying out loud.

            2) Have you actually looked at the attitudes in East Europe? The nationalists have a strong tendency to be for God, Honour and Fatherland. Are they not alt-right?

            What’s with online movements and delusions of grandeur? Of course I don’t think Eastern European nationalists are alt-right. They existed first and will exist long after.

            3) One of the three major faction groups within the Death Eaters is religious, and many express wanting to be religious, but being unable to alter their base assumptions about the supernatural that way.

            I understand the death eaters to be: a) tiny in number and b) not a strict subset of the alt-right.

          • John Schilling says:

            @brad:

            Your reaction is about what I’d expect from anyone with significant libertarian impulses, but I think you somewhat overestimate the prevalence of that.

            Who else have you run this idea past?

            It’s not going to be just libertarians. Anyone who isn’t confident that their tribe will dominate politics for the next two generations, is going to be uncomfortable with the idea of handing the government a monopoly on childbirth. There is a substantial minority of Blue Tribe that believes Cthulhu’s inevitable leftward swim will be fast and steady enough that they don’t have to worry about a decade when only conservatives or the obediently apolitical are allowed to have babies, and maybe that’s where you are hanging out and finding approval for this proposal, but it’s not going to be enough.

            Try this anywhere in the real world, and there will be both a Trump on the right and a Sanders on the left running on the platform of “Don’t let the government take away your children’s right to give you grandchildren”. And they will win. Because, if you haven’t noticed yet, the majority of people who actually vote when they have a choice in the matter, have no higher terminal value than happy grandchildren.

          • brad says:

            Who else have you run this idea past?

            No one. It’s a pure thought experiment about the limits of effective birth control and how that would impact the acceptability of banning abortion. I certainly wouldn’t support it.

            The intended key sentences was: “Would it tip the balance if it came with a ban on most abortions?”

            Also no one I know has any beliefs about Cthulhu’s swimming habits.

          • Re “couldn’t get pregnant” …

            Is it possible the women believed for some reason that they were infertile?

          • Anonymous says:

            No one believes a steel-manned anything. That misunderstands what steelmanning is about.

            Have you never encountered someone who was convinced that the steelman was actually right, even though they initially thought the strawman to be wrong? It is not inconceivable that if you improve an argument enough, it will become supportable.

            In any event the claim is that the crass (putting it very mildly) people are themselves religious.

            Not all of them, no. Some of them surely are.

            Not that religious people somewhere deep in their hearts believe something sort of akin to what the crass people are saying out loud.

            Some – many, I think – do.

            What’s with online movements and delusions of grandeur? Of course I don’t think Eastern European nationalists are alt-right. They existed first and will exist long after.

            By that line of thought, the Death Eaters aren’t alt-right at all, because they were obviously here before just about everyone else.

            I understand the death eaters to be: a) tiny in number and b) not a strict subset of the alt-right.

            I no longer have a clue what you mean by “alt-right”. I was operating under the assumption that it meant “non-mainstream right-wingers”, like the tradcaths, monarchists, Death Eaters, white nationalists, etc, etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            I no longer have a clue what you mean by “alt-right”. I was operating under the assumption that it meant “non-mainstream right-wingers”, like the tradcaths, monarchists, Death Eaters, white nationalists, etc, etc.

            I’m not Brad, but when I hear “alt-right”, I take it to mean recently founded identitarian rightist movements not associated with the mainstream, and usually reacting against it in some way. So the Death Eaters, yes, /pol/, and some of the national populist sentiment that’s crystallized around Trump, but not traditionalist Catholics (they’ve been around too long) or old-school monarchists (if you can find one).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ brad
            Also no one I know has any beliefs about Cthulhu’s swimming habits.

            I am recently disillusioned. I thought Cthulhu was some ancient power with His hands in all our threads ever since at least Moses and the stone tablets that said ‘an eye for an eye’ instead of ‘kill all their tribe’, and the right-wingers were objecting to His extending mercy to their outgroup. But in fact Moldbug was just referring to FDR’s New Deal. Sigh.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Nita

            [I fondly hope I’m misfiguring this in some way.]

            Just to get the ballparks on the same page, the initial cost of getting on to major contraceptives looks like this (from the umich info I posted above).

            device / insertion / total
            Diaphragm 66 91 157
            Implant 834 211 1045
            IUD 799 79 878
            Patch 173 0 173
            Ring 110 0 110
            Shot 54 27 81
            BC Pill 76 300 376 (including pelvic exam, Pap smear, etc)
            average 402.85 initial cost

            A Federal Poverty Guideline for a single woman living alone is about $1,100/monthly.

            A cost of living estimate for a single woman living alone in Silverdale, WA is $2,315/monthly.

            So here’s a woman who is already trying to live on half of normal income, presented with a lump requirement of at least $81, or ~$300, or more. That’s incentive to procrastinate.

          • Interruptus and rhythm are both free. Combine them and the odds of getting pregnant are pretty low.

            Alternatively, insist on your partner using a condom.

          • Nita says:

            @ David Friedman

            Yes, those methods are free. They also happen to be some of the least effective methods, especially with “typical” use (perhaps because they require persistent conscientiousness and self-control from both partners at all times, as well favourable biological conditions — e.g., a regular cycle).

            Approximately half of all unintended pregnancies occur during a period of — presumably “typical” — contraceptive use.

            (And good luck with the condoms when apparently even a seemingly intelligent guy like Julian Assange will sneak up on you without one while you’re sleeping.)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Nita

            I can’t imagine anyone, male or female, putting up with a condom. There’s a need for better barrier contraceptive devices — perhaps developed from spray on bandages, other medical membranes, etc.

            Costs of FDA approval of such things might be too much for any one commercial manufacturer; thus a need for subsidising development.

            (Personally long past such needs and never pregnant.)

            ETA – On the initial costs, the method with the cheapest initial option, $81 for the shot, has to be done every 3 months. The next cheapest initial cost is $110 for the rings (which last about one month each); dunno how many rings you get with the $110, or how much refills of the prescription will cost. ( See https://www.uhs.umich.edu/contraception-cost )

          • John Schilling says:

            Just to get the ballparks on the same page, the initial cost of getting on to major contraceptives looks like this (from the umich info I posted above).

            If the argument is that birth control is too expensive for poor women (and abstinence is unthinkable) so we need to keep abortion legal as an alternative, shouldn’t the cost of the abortions be on that chart as well?

            Also, you’re comparing average costs with poverty-level incomes. If we’re playing that game, birth control is irrelevant, all of the poor people are going to starve to death in <9 months anyway. The free-market price for cheap oral contraceptives seems to be nine dollars per month, or 0.8% of a poverty-level income (and I saw what you did with the pap smear there).

          • Error says:

            @keranih

            The “earlier choice” you describe is already in play.

            The intended operative phrase in my comment was ‘explicit intention.’ i.e. something like “I want to have a baby, and therefore I am going to go off birth control.” Wheras I think what you’re thinking of is “I don’t want a kid, but I really want to get laid right now so I’m going to take the chance.”

            Humans are human. It is not enough for me that people be able to prevent pregnancy; non-pregnancy must be the default, the thing you must undergo trivial inconvenience to overcome, before I would be willing to compromise on abortion. That’s why I used IUD’s as an example; once in place, it’s hard to screw up without trying to screw it up.

            Yes, that’s asking a lot; but, hey, no one said compromise was easy. I’ll at least acknowledge that there is some hypothetical middle to meet you at, which is further than most of these sorts of discussions get.

            In the spirit of the somewhat orwellian government-pills hypothetical someone mentioned above, here’s another one: Implant everyone with a long-term IUD when they reach the age where they can get pregnant. They can have it out whenever they like (possibly only after the age of majority). Someone who had one and took it out voluntarily can reasonably be assumed to be intentionally aiming to have kids; I wouldn’t necessarily support forbidding abortions in that case, but I don’t think I would fight it terribly hard either.

            (Yes, I know this is wildly unrealistic. Also, someone is going to point out that universal IUDs would be expensive, assuming anyone is still watching this thread. I answer that it is probably less expensive than raising unwanted children on welfare)

            (full disclosure, I have in the past paid for a friend’s abortion; not because I had anything to do with it, but in the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ error et al

            If opt-out contraceptives ever became that cheap and medically safe, then you wouldn’t need to dystopia them.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling

            In haste.

            >>Just to get the ballparks on the same page, the initial cost of getting on to major contraceptives looks like this (from the umich info I posted above).

            >If the argument is that birth control is too expensive for poor women (and abstinence is unthinkable) so we need to keep abortion legal as an alternative, shouldn’t the cost of the abortions be on that chart as well?

            Then we’d need a probability factor as well. The initial $81 cost (for a Shot) is a for-sure, the ‘might need an abortion later’ is a maybe, the ‘my electricity will be turned off next week if I don’t pay it’ is a for-sure — so ‘okay, muddle along till I can afford the $81’ is a rational choice at the time.

            >The free-market price for cheap oral contraceptives seems to be nine dollars per month,

            With the initial cost amortized, I assume? I’m looking at initial cost without amortizing.

            > (and I saw what you did with the pap smear there).

            Ya, the pap smear/pelvic exam part was unclear in my shallow sources (umich/Planned Parenthood) so I left it unclear. Those are services that PP or some other prescription provider can do cheap or free (or skip) if they wish. What I wanted was initial cost of using the method without PP or other help.

            ‘$81 for a Shot and have to do it again in three months … or for the Pill, make an appointment for some sort of interview and/or exam to see how many other exams they will want and how much those wlll cost (free market value of the biggest exam being around $250) … hell, imma pay the electric bill.’

            My argument is not just about people under the Poverty Line. People already making enough for the normal cost of living, still have such considerations. Especially if the people have time pressures making each visit to the prescription-provider (whether free-market or PP etc) difficult.

          • John Schilling says:

            @houseboat: If a woman is engaging in recreational sex at any significant frequency without using any sort of birth control, the probability that they will need an abortion is close enough to 100% as makes no economically significant difference. Or more precisely the probability that they will become pregnant. They may then chose not to have an abortion, but that is several orders of magnitude more expensive still.

            As for the “initial cost” of oral contraception, aside from the $9 or so for the pills themselves it is zero for most women. If you are talking specifically about the US regulatory environment and in particular about changes to the US regulatory environment – we did get into this with a discussion of how abortion might be ideally regulated – then the elephant that you seem to be imagining is a natural furnishing of the room is that $400 pelvic exam. Which the medical community has basically admitted has nothing to do with contraception, and is mostly just a way for doctors to use their monopoly over prescription drug access to charge a $400/year rent on sexually active women.

            Also, disturbingly, a way for the worst sort of feminists to score points in several already-ugly political battles that shouldn’t have anything to do with pelvic exams. Fortunately, the better sorts of feminists have been able to work with the better sort of Republicans to do something about the whole mess.

          • Error says:

            If opt-out contraceptives ever became that cheap and medically safe, then you wouldn’t need to dystopia them.

            I wish I’d thought of phrasing it that way. Opt-out birth control is exactly what I’m getting at, and much more concise. That’s what I’d need to compromise on the abortion issue.

            I’m not sure you wouldn’t need to dystopia it. If nothing else, people tend to be physically old enough to breed before they’re mentally old enough to make or even think about those calls. But then, I’m not seriously proposing that dystopia, either; I was looking for a hypothetical world in which I wouldn’t oppose anti-abortion laws (much), and that’s what I came up with.

          • Error says:

            Also, since a couple people mentioned it, I’m updating on the anti-abortion->anti-birth-control thing. On reconsideration I don’t have much to back the belief outside what I’ve heard of Catholic dogma, and I find the objections reasonable.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I’ve been researching some more facts on abortion.

            I didn’t know that only four doctors in the entire United States perform third-trimester abortions. There were five until George Tiller was assassinated in 2009.

            You can look at one of the doctors’ websites here, the website of Dr. Warren Hern.

            In Colorado, where he practices, abortion is available outpatient until 26 weeks (two weeks before the third trimester). It is available until 34 weeks (8.5 months) “for conditions such as fetal anomalies, genetic disorder, fetal demise and/or or severe medical problems.”

            Based on some comments in previous threads, one with a person calling himself “pro-life” because he doesn’t support elective abortion post-viability, and others that seemed to exaggerate the numbers of third-trimester abortions, I suspect that general knowledge on the subject of late-term abortions is not particularly extensive.

            From a fairly old (but, as far as I can determine, still medically accurate) Slate article about fetal viability:

            Most hospitals will only perform abortions through the 22nd week of pregnancy.

            But no baby has ever been successfully delivered before the middle of the 22nd week. Babies delivered during the 22nd and 23rd weeks weigh just over a pound. Their lungs have barely formed and their airways are not developed enough to inhale. Circulation depends on the use of ventilators and injections of hormones. A baby born during the 22nd week has a 14.8 percent chance of survival. And about half of these survivors are brain-damaged, either by lack of oxygen (from poor initial respiration) or too much oxygen (from the ventilator). Neonatologists predict that no baby will ever be viable before the 22nd week, because before then the lungs are not fully formed.

            Probability of survival increases for babies born later in pregnancy: 25 percent in the 23rd week, 42 percent in the 24th week, 57 percent in 25th week. By the 30th week, when a newborn doesn’t require a ventilator to breathe, it has a 90 percent chance of survival. And only after the 30th week do the risks of long-term brain damage begin to substantially subside. Because premature babies depend on technology, survival rates vary based on access to that technology. For instance, in rural communities, which commonly lack expensive infant intensive-care units, survival rates in these early weeks are much lower.

            ***

            Additional conclusion: those out there who are convinced that abortion is murder might take heed of the fact that a single vigilante with decent planning could personally kill every single third-trimester abortionist with relative ease.

            Of course, I think such a person would be the real murderer and would deserve what he gets, but it does show that you have little excuse for not acting on your beliefs.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling

            Thanks for encouraging news:

            http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/11/over_the_counter_birth_control_in_california_and_oregon.html
            Nancy Stanwood, chairwoman of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health, told the Times that the research doesn’t support the argument that contraception is necessary to bring women in for Pap smears and other important gynecological care. “We were holding pregnancy prevention hostage to cancer screening,” she said.

            Your link to http://ocsotc.org/wp-content/uploads/worldmap/worldmap.html color codes the US and other Commenwealth nations as outliers that are “RX only”. The http://ocsotc.org/ page links to several other sources on their efforts to make BC pills (effectively) OTC in the US etc. If that were done, the US cost might come in line with a worldwide cost of around $9/mo. (That would be in line with my shallow info from PP and Umich.)

            In so far as your argument is that medical advance is less necessary than cutting regulations and unnecessary exams, that too is encouraging — for the future. If you can get that cut, then more women will use BC pills and there will be fewer requests for abortion. Cutting these regulation-related expenses is something both sides can support.

      • Anonymous says:

        Which side is the payday loan industry on?

      • The other problem for the civilized factions is that they don’t necessarily have effective resources for controlling the uncivilized factions, especially in the short run.

      • blacktrance says:

        An alternative model is that on each side there are the nasty people, the actively civilized, and the mostly apathetic. The first two groups are small, but the balance is on the side of civilization because it takes effort to be nasty and most people don’t care enough and so they end up being passively civilized. The actively civilized are more likely to engage their counterparts on the other side and to have a negative view of their own side’s nasty people, but the apathetic care more about the “my side vs their side” conflict without much consideration of tactics and may not think of their side having this kind of division.

  42. manbrohip says:

    Super worried about the manic guy.

    Followed the quote to its origin. Prognosis is grim =(.

    • Jon says:

      Like…why? He knows he’s mentally ill, he understands what that means, and he discloses it quite clearly so you can take him on his own merits. That’s like…the epitome of people you don’t need to worry about. Unless you want to, in which case knock yourself out I guess lol.

  43. TK-421 says:

    Gosh, Scott, I didn’t know you were an SJW and a reactionary. That’s like the 7-10 split of internet politics.

  44. E. Harding says:

    Scott, I view you as one of the three great S.S.-initialed social intellectuals of our time, the others being Scott Sumner and Steve Sailer. All have their flaws, all are great minds which have not been put to waste. I truly admire this blog’s blogposts, especially those from 2013, for being brilliant expositions of the errors of tribalism and Yarvin-Landism. I also view your personal life as a mess, and your anti-libertarian FAQ is godawful. I could write a better one, though I probably won’t, as there would be no point in me doing so. I am also jealous of your ability to successfully leverage social media to the advantage of your blog’s viewership.

  45. Wow. Scott, I think you have a few blind spots, but you have some truly fucked up critics. I hope you don’t let them stop you from writing.

  46. yeah what says:

    A someone with their ‘accessory to adultery’ merit ribbon with bronze oak leaf cluster, I have to say that the author of this site has never particularly reminded me of any of the men I’ve cuckolded.

    Also, most of them were decent fellows for whatever that’s worth.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Wait, “accessory” ? How does that work ? There’s an old Russian phrase, that people use when someone asks then about their friends’ sex lives: “I don’t know, I wasn’t standing there with a candle to light their way”; is it something like that ?

    • Gall says:

      What do you guys think of the ethics of having sex with someone who you know is in an exclusive monogamous relationship? I’ve always assumed it was a screwed up thing to do, but I’ve had friends who say “if they don’t cheat with you, they’ll cheat with someone else”, etc. And does the amount of persuading one does in order to be successful get counted as an input?

      • Emile says:

        I’d say it’s pretty bad, but how bad depends of the specifics (is this “exclusive monogamous relationship” eighteen-year-olds who have been dating for a few weeks, or a married couple with children? Is the cheated-upon partner a huge asshole? Do they cheat?)

      • suntzuanime says:

        If they’re coming on to you it’s a jerk move, but you didn’t sign anything and you don’t have any actual obligation to refuse. If you’re coming on to them you’re a real piece of work, go fuck yourself, that shit used to be a tort.

      • Anon says:

        I see it as being a really bad thing to do, but I’m not sure how much of that emotional response is simply related to the fact that I am an extremely monogamous individual and can’t understand (on an “alief” level) why anyone would ever cheat or have a non-monogamous relationship.*

        To me, the idea of facilitating someone else’s cheating seems essentially the same as helping someone do any other immoral action (though it’s obviously less bad than, say, helping someone murder another person). To me it sort of makes you…vaguely guilty by association, in the same way that the lookout person during a bank heist is guilty of bank robbing, even if he never actually touched any of the money or threatened anyone at the bank and was simply there to alert his companions if the cops show up.

        I don’t think I’d count the amount of persuading one does in order to be successful as an input. By this you mean the amount of persuading the aspiring cheater has to do to convince you to enter a relationship with them when you know they are already in a monogamous relationship, right? If so, I wouldn’t add it. I think the harder the aspiring cheater tries to cheat, the worse (morally) they are, but the amount of persuading it takes you to accept seems kind of irrelevant. All I would count is whether you eventually accepted or not.

        I’m not exactly a utilitarian (though I mostly agree with them), but I’d guess they’d say that if the aspiring cheater’s utility + your utility goes up by a larger amount than the decline in utility the cheater’s monogamous spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend will experience when they find out they’ve been cheated on, then it’s morally acceptable.

        *(Note that I am not saying there’s anything objectively wrong with polyamorous relationships, which I know are popular around SSC. I’m just saying I don’t understand the desire to have one, on an emotional/instinctual level, and that may be affecting my instinctual response to the question of whether it’s wrong to help someone cheat.)

      • Deiseach says:

        People who say “If they don’t cheat with me, they’ll only cheat with someone else” are trying to justify being assholes. Imagine someone saying “Hey, if I didn’t take the money out of your wallet, some random mugger would just do it instead”. Would you accept that as a reason to let them put their hand in your pocket?

        If you’re tempted by what seems like free, easy, no-strings-attached sex, consider this: is it no strings attached? What happens if their partner finds out (you might be risking a punch in the face at the very least)? You could get a rep as a home-wrecker – do you want that? Suppose one or the other of you develops feelings beyond “Let’s screw” – how would that work out? If you did enter into a relationship with them, would you ever quite trust them (or they trust you); after all, both of you have shown that you’re willing to ignore the fact of someone being in a committed relationship when it comes to having sex.

        My own opinion: it’s too much hassle. If the relationship is on the rocks anyway, you don’t want to get into the middle of the drama. If it’s not yet at that point, do you want to risk getting caught up in whatever is going on?

        If you like drama and intrigue, and the notion of forbidden love and sneaking around (rather than the sex on offer) is what turns you on, that’s a different matter. You might want the drama and the chance of violence or recrimination in that case.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          >People who say “If they don’t cheat with me, they’ll only cheat with someone else” are trying to justify being assholes. Imagine someone saying “Hey, if I didn’t take the money out of your wallet, some random mugger would just do it instead”. Would you accept that as a reason to let them put their hand in your pocket?

          Wallets distinclty lack personal agency.

          • nyccine says:

            “Wallets distinctly lack personal agency.”
            True, but agency is not the same thing as “superhuman will.” There walks no-one who is capable of not succumbing to temptation if it is presented well enough, and/or often enough. Anyone can be persuaded to commit infidelity, no matter how much they love the one they’re with. What one needs to say or do, and just how much effort one must put into the enterprise, will vary based on an almost uncountable number of circumstances, and it may be that things never line up such that cheating happens, but it’s always, always a possibility.

      • onyomi says:

        In theory it sounds really bad, but I have to admit I’ve done it more than once and don’t really feel bad about it. Reasons I don’t feel bad:

        1. If it is bad, I don’t consider it nearly as bad as being the cheater. That is, while I’ve had sex with women who were in relationships at the time, I’ve never had sex with another woman while I was in a committed relationship. To me, this is a very important distinction, because I’m not breaking any promises or being dishonest to anyone, though, admittedly, I’m facilitating someone else being dishonest with someone else. But doesn’t this mean I’m having sex with bad people? Well, see 2.

        2. Many, if not most very attractive women are almost never single. This is because women tend to be in the position of receiving and accepting or rejecting offers of sex/romance. The men come after them whether they seek them out or not. And especially if they’re unusually attractive. Unusually attractive women are constantly being hit on by men; this makes it almost an act of willpower for them to remain single. Being in a relationship of some sort becomes the default for many of them, and, as a result, not a few of them feel very insecure with the idea of ever being single for any significant period.

        Thus, attractive women, very often develop an attitude towards relationships similar to Tarzan looking for a new vine to grab before he lets go of the old one, or a person with strong job prospects waiting to quit job A before she has a firm offer from superior company B. In other words, being an attractive woman is like being an insecure rock star: implicit offers of sex are constantly coming fast and furious, yet you still don’t want to (and don’t have to) risk ever being alone.

        Thus, cheating is, sadly, a way for many women to end their current relationship–by testing out a new model. All the women who’ve ever cheated with me ended their relationships not too long after–either ending up with me or else someone else, but not the person they cheated on. So, as a man, if you are unwilling to sleep with a woman in a relationship of any kind–even a dysfunctional relationship that is clearly not working out–then you are, at least in my experience, limiting yourself rather severely, since, as stated above, really attractive women are rarely truly single.

        This may sound unscrupulous or not very “bros before hos” of me, and some might say that I’m just a sneaky jerk who can’t get hot women to sleep with him honestly or something. Maybe so? I just know that at a certain point I realized that nearly all the women I was attracted to were nearly always already in a relationship, and that I wasn’t going to let that stop me if they wanted to come to me (in my defense, I never pursued any of these women very proactively).

        As for married women; that would give me much greater pause, and I doubt I’d do it.

        • The Anonymouse says:

          Awww man. Why’d you have to go and post that? I liked you so much more before you did. 🙂

          Cheating with someone in a monogamous relationship is like hearing that a kid is going to go rob a bank, and lending him a gun in exchange for a cut of the loot. That he might get the gun from someone else if not from you is the thinnest of justifications. You might not be the most culpable guy in the mess, but you’re still pretty darn culpable.

          Arguing that “hey, what am I going to do? all the really hot girls are in relationships!” is little different than arguing “b-b-b-but what am I supposed to do? most of the money is in the bank drawers!”

          • onyomi says:

            “Arguing that “hey, what am I going to do? all the really hot girls are in relationships!” is little different than arguing “b-b-b-but what am I supposed to do? most of the money is in the bank drawers!””

            Again with the comparison of sleeping with women in relationships to stealing someone else’s possessions. Are the problems with this not obvious?

          • stillnotking says:

            Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I was raised to regard a man who’d sleep with another man’s girlfriend as extremely dishonorable. The old school version of “bros before hos”, sort of. I honestly don’t know to what extent those rules still apply, given the very different sexual ethics of young people in 2016.

            The accepted protocol used to be that you left a note under his shaving cream if you didn’t find out until it was too late.

          • onyomi says:

            “Maybe it’s a generational thing…

            The accepted protocol used to be that you left a note under his shaving cream if you didn’t find out until it was too late.”

            I find this last thing very cute, and it is, indeed, very “bros before hos.”

            I feel like the mating market has become way too defect-defect in game theoretical terms for this sort of thing anymore, along with what I perceive as a positive development in terms of women’s perceived autonomy.

            For example, it used to be that if you came home and found someone sleeping with your wife, you wanted to beat up the man. To me, if I found someone sleeping with my wife, especially if I didn’t know the man, almost all of my anger would be directed at my wife, not him. She’s the one who’s betrayed me.

            I remember some sort of litmus test: a man comes home to find his wife sleeping with a stranger (or his best friend in some versions, maybe); he says “I’m going to kill you!” Who is he talking to? I think women more often assumed he meant the woman, where men more often assumed he meant the man. I think the latter is the more “old fashioned” way of thinking which is, imo, the wrong one in this case.

            But I think part of the problem is that, by old fashioned standards, women are just well, a lot more promiscuous now than they used to be (and I don’t mean to attach any negative judgment to my use of that term). It is just way more likely that any given woman will have some sort of man she’s sleeping with at any given time from the age of 18 (or younger) on. So unless you’re dating teenagers, any given woman in her twenties, say, is very, very likely already to be sleeping with someone else.

            Given this state of affairs, I just don’t understand what exactly the good alternative is: follow people around like in a crowded parking lot waiting for people who show signs of brake lights moving and then jump in as soon as the spot is available? Is this really much better than just sleeping with the woman whose relationship is on the rocks and going to end soon anyway?

            In my further defense, I never slept with any woman whose boyfriend I knew or had even met.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            Would you like my analogy better if the comparison were, rather, “cold-caller on behalf of Bernie Madoff”? Or “press agent for Andrew Wakefield”? Or “knowing publisher of a plagiarist”? The point is not the benefit gained, but rather knowingly facilitating a betrayal of trust. Moloch smiles every time the community defects, and there is never a scarcity of rationalization for doing so; I simply prefer cooperators.

            We both know I wasn’t saying that women are chattels; neither you nor I are SJWs, so let us not act like them.

          • stillnotking says:

            @onyomi: Well, to pull out another old-school aphorism, the single piece of romantic advice my mother ever gave me was “If she’ll cheat with you, she’ll cheat on you.” Is that not something that concerns you, if you intend to start a relationship with your co-cheater, as you implied you might? Do you regard the risk as inevitable given the prevailing “defect-defect” ethos?

          • Protagoras says:

            @onyomi, I don’t know if hating the person your partner cheated with is something heterosexual men do because they think of their female partners as lacking agency. I think more of it is that it is something people do because they prefer not to think ill of someone they love, and so prefer to blame someone else if at all possible.

          • Alex says:

            The Anonymouse:

            I don’t get it. How is the behaviour of the “unbound” partner defective? Are you implying that the potential emotional harm done to the person cheated upon is a harm done to socienty?

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @Alex

            The primary harm I see is in the undermining of the bonds of trust, commitment, and cooperation that cheating produces (by both the “bound” and “unbound” members of the illicit relationship). I’d rather live in a high-trust society than a low-trust society. As I mentioned, I judge the “bound” cheater more harshly than the “unbound” one, but if it weren’t for people running around society trying to get laid with married people, married people couldn’t cheat.

            My preferred situation would be that if people in monogamous relationships wish to have sex outside of their relationship, they honestly end that relationship first (or make a fully informed arrangement with their otherwise-deceived partner).

            Maybe I’m with stillnotking, and just old-fashioned, and everyone really is cheating on everyone else all the time, and we all have to defect to get the “very attractive women.” But I hope not, and that’s not what I see in my daily life.

            NB: If I seem unduly harsh to onyomi, it’s because he’s one of my favorite and otherwise-agreeable commenters here. As the parents like to say, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”

          • onyomi says:

            “if it weren’t for people running around society trying to get laid with married people, married people couldn’t cheat.”

            Well, for one thing, note I specifically said I would have serious qualms about sleeping with a married woman. At that point I do get more of a sense that I am somehow doing a subtle damage to society by helping someone else betray a very public, supposedly lifelong sort of commitment. I also could never imagine myself in the “leave a note under his shaving cream” situation, because I never slept with a woman who was living with her boyfriend at the time and would certainly feel super uncomfortable doing so in their shared living space, if only for the risk of him coming home, to say nothing of the betrayal of using somebody else’s space for that.

            The “attached” women I’ve slept with mostly had bad long-distance relationships which were clearly not working out, but which they had remained in due to habit or sentiment or fear of abandonment. And as I said, I didn’t really pursue them. They pursued me. So I do think that’s a pretty far cry from me actively trying to sleep with married women (some people get off on such things, no doubt, but that is very much not the case for me–I did feel sort of bad about it… though not bad enough, apparently!).

            I don’t think “go ahead and sleep with cheating women” is a static equilibrium or a desirable state of affairs, but I also think it may not be bad advice to give to a young man in this dating market.

            I mean, if you had asked 18 year old me whether I’d ever sleep with a woman in a relationship I’d have said “no, of course not! that seems dishonorable!” But several years of frustration at nearly every woman I liked being stuck to her crummy high school or college boyfriend whom she didn’t really like that much anyway but stayed with out of habit and some of those women showing signs of being interested in me, I basically started to feel like a chump: in essence, “the only thing this guy has on me is the luck of having met her first.” In such a situation it can be hard to say no, and I don’t think I should have had to.

            Not an ideal state of affairs, though I’m not sure of the alternative: go back to a more traditional mating game where women wait to have sex or get attached until they are very serious or married? Tell women to stop being such weenies and break up with the crummy boyfriends they want to cheat on? Date ugly chicks (no, I am, of course, not saying that only ugly women are single; I am saying that attractive women are much less likely to be single)?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            To be blunt, I think onyomi‘s position here is absolutely disgusting and inexcusable.

            If you want to date someone, let alone sleep with them, tell them to break up with their partner first. Fucking period.

          • Alex says:

            The Anonymouse:

            Thank you for the clarification. I do think your view is self perpetuating though. The connection of sexual exclusiveness with trust seems to be a largely arbitrary one stemming from a society without working contraceptives and paternity tests. If it weren’t for old wise men and women telling future generations that there is such a connection and it should be honoured, it might as well vanish from modern society.

            Incidentally the c-word much discussed in this very thread seems to be another facet of the same problem.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @onyomi

            Thank you for the extended and thoughtful response. I feel like I understand you better now.

          • onyomi says:

            “To be blunt, I think onyomi‘s position here is absolutely disgusting and inexcusable.

            If you want to date someone, let alone sleep with them, tell them to break up with their partner first. Fucking period.”

            You would say that. Have fun in Ayn Rand’s world of perfect rationality. I hope you find a nice old lady who loves you for your virtue.

          • Psmith says:

            You know, Houellebecq’s novels are supposed to be dystopian, not instructional.

            Welp, brb, converting to Wahhabism.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Psmith:

            I don’t know if I’m misinterpreting you, but are you saying that refusing to sleep with someone behind their partner’s back is a form of puritanism equivalent to Wahhabism?

          • Psmith ibn Psmith al-California says:

            Vox, no, that was an expression of amused horror at onyomi’s stated position ITT. Edited for clarity.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ onyomi

            >>”If you want to date someone, let alone sleep with them, tell them to break up with their partner first. Fucking period.”

            >You would say that. Have fun in Ayn Rand’s world of perfect rationality. I hope you find a nice old lady who loves you for your virtue.

            Rand’s world? That doesn’t fit with her fiction.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Rand actually did that in real life, she and Nicholas Branden informed their spouses they wanted to have an affair, and did so.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ houseboatonstyx:

            The fiction is sort of a mixed case. In Atlas Shrugged, Hank Rearden’s wife Lillian is some kind of absolute shrew. It’s clear that she hates him and he hates her, but he puts up with this out of some kind of sense of duty, until he ends up falling for (the unmarried) Dagny Taggart and sleeping with her. He feels guilty about this, but Rand’s clear message is that he shouldn’t have.

            He ends up agreeing to some kind of blackmail to “save Dagny’s reputation”, but after that he calls up his lawyer and tells him to “Get me a divorce” by whatever means necessary. (This was, of course, back in the time when divorce was at-fault only.)

            So I think Rand would say ideally he shouldn’t have cheated, but really he shouldn’t have been married to that woman in the first place. Given that he was married to her, cheating was the better option. Better than to compound his past mistakes by pushing Dagny away. I suppose you can also read it as an argument for no-fault divorce.

            Really, in my opinion, the characterization of Hank Rearden is a little weak. He’s supposed to be the archetypal American businessman who is rational in his business decisions but mixes this in an unintegrated way with conventional duty-based religious ethics in his personal life. But this doesn’t really come through except in that he feels obligated to keep supporting Lillian and her horrible relatives for no expressed reason. And why he fell in love with her in the first place is touched on, but still not clear.

            Anyway, if you want my opinion, it’s still wrong to cheat and not break up first, at least in the modern context. But if your partner is that horrible of a person, it’s a serious mitigating factor. “He/she drove me to it!”: it’s not as if you couldn’t have done otherwise, but you had a lot more legitimate pressure in that direction.

            @ God Damn John Jay:

            That’s true. But it was also not a particularly healthy relationship.

            You are, however, right that Rand was part of the “rationalist polyamorist community”. 🙂

            She was not open about this during her life (it was the 50s and 60s, after all), but she did write some articles answering questions about marital fidelity. And she generally said that monogamy was good, but that there were situations where she could imagine exceptions. One she gave was (in her typical melodramatic way), a woman who thinks that her husband has died in a war or something and gets remarried, only to find out years later that he is alive after all. In that case, she said the woman is not obligated to stick with one and “dump” the other.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Again with the comparison of sleeping with women in relationships to stealing someone else’s possessions. Are the problems with this not obvious?

            Indeed! The comparison is thoroughly inadequate. After all, men care about women far more than they care about mere possessions, and pursue material wealth chiefly as a method of attracting women. Therefore, transgressions violating a man’s woman should be punished far more harshly than transgressions against his things.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Psmith ibn Psmith al-California

            It is a sad reflection on our Roman society, when the barbarians’ sexual morality is the superior one.

          • JDG1980 says:

            There are fairly strong secular reasons to believe that monogamous marriage is good for society. Thus, a decent argument can be made that even an unmarried man who sleeps with a married woman (for instance) is doing something morally wrong, since he is weakening not only that specific marriage but the institution of marriage in general, and that is a bad thing. And, indeed, most societies did disapprove of men who seduced other men’s wives, and either punished them at law or tacitly allowed the cuckolded husbands to handle the issue privately.

            But it’s a lot harder to defend the “sanctity” of shacking up. We already have a widespread, readily available, socially acceptable means of declaring lifelong sexual dedication to one partner. If someone chooses *not* to avail themselves of that method, then what right does either party have to expect something that was never promised? Onyomi said he doesn’t seduce married women and it would give him “much greater pause” to do so. I think there’s a sound ethical reason for that distinction, and you don’t have to be religious to believe this.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vox

            Rearden is supposed to be objectivist-leaning in his business, but not in personal matters (till Dagny and others push him otherwise). Otho, Roark, an ideal objectivist hero, has no problem ‘cuckolding’ his best friend (Wynand) with Dominique, and laughs when Dominique makes it pubic to insult Wynand. (Why, it’s almost like he considers Dominique free to make her own decisions, which are none of his business.)

            Dagny pretty formally broke up with Francisco because she did not approve of his playboy behavior, well before she met Rearden. When Galt turned up, she dropped Rearden without formality or thought, iirc. And they all continued friends, allies. (Again, almost as though they all saw Dagny as free to make her own choices. There was also something, perhaps from Dagny, about continuing to be ‘on the open market’ rather than bound to any previous choice.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ houseboatsonstyx:

            I didn’t consider the case with Roark.

            Anyway, it’s hardly as if I agree with everything Rand said on gender and sexuality. A lot of it is unrealistic and/or actively harmful.

          • rockroy mountdefort says:

            >Are the problems with this not obvious?

            I don’t care much about the ethics complaints of people who fuck other people’s girlfriends

        • Nita says:

          Thus, cheating is, sadly, a way for many women to end their current relationship–by testing out a new model.

          That doesn’t seem entirely plausible. You can tell whether there is, ahem, “chemistry” without actually having sex, and good sex is not sufficient for a good relationship. What they might actually be testing is their own commitment to the current partner — if they can go through with cheating, the relationship must have been a mistake.

          Personally, I wouldn’t want to sleep with someone who does that kind of thing, let alone become attached to them.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I mean, I feel like this is great in theory, but is also the sort of standard that effectively eliminates a very, very high percentage of the population.

            I’m not sure it’s as high a percentage of the population as you think. Selection bias and all.

            If you insist on only dating women who are consistent moral paragons, well… let’s just say you may be looking a while.

            Well, considering the quantity and severity of harm that’s caused to people by dyfunctional romantic relationships, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            I mean, I feel like this is great in theory, but is also the sort of standard that effectively eliminates a very, very high percentage of the population.

            Just as cowards think all men are cowards, and liars think all men lie, so I suspect most cheaters think everyone cheats. My experience is otherwise.

          • onyomi says:

            Since I have recently been searching for a job in a very, very difficult job market in my field, and since I’ve always thought that there are rather striking parallels between dating and job seeking, I’ll offer another comparison:

            Right now, in my field, the competition is extremely intense because the number of desirable jobs is very few and the number of qualified candidates is very many. As a result, people on both sides behave, frankly abominably, quite often. To some extent it may be pure carelessness, but to some extent it is just a result of the mismatch of supply and demand. Everyone is super cutthroat and looking out for number one. Loyalty is not rewarded.

            This is a bad state of affairs, to be sure, and I certainly don’t excuse those who behave abominably. But, if a job seeker in this situation asked me for advice, as OP was asking for advice, I’d say “don’t be mean or dishonest or intentionally deceptive, but also put your own interests first.” In other words, in a situation of widespread defect-defect, the best advice for any given individual is “defect,” even if the best advice for society is “cooperate.”

            Note, I don’t mean to compare cheating to “defect” and remaining faithful to “cooperate” in this comparison. Rather, I am comparing “adamantly insisting on sleeping only with single women” to “cooperate” and “being okay with sleeping with theoretically attached women under certain circumstances” to “defect.”

            That is, if we lived in a world of no cheating, or if we lived in a more traditional society where there was basically only “courting” (very casual, uncommitted) and “marriage” (very serious, very public commitment), then maybe this advice wouldn’t be necessary. But we don’t live in that world. So I think the best individual advice is “defect.”

            And sure, you could say “break up with your boyfriend first,” but I think this is an unrealistic picture of how actual romance, in my experience, develops nowadays. One doesn’t say “madam, may I court you?”

            One is hanging out with someone and things get cuddly and then you kiss the person, and maybe it goes further, or maybe not. But I can tell you how most women will react if, when they start to unzip your pants you say “hold on there, you are in a relationship and I would never do anything with a woman in a relationship–you better just break up with your boyfriend first.” It’s not good.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I think the situations are very different. But that’s partly because you haven’t specified what kind of unethical job-hunting behaviors you’re talking about.

            Anyway, you’re either just looking for sex, or you’re looking for someone who is an upstanding, moral person who will not cheat on you down the road. If you’re just looking for sex: go ahead! On that premise, there is nothing wrong with going after every kind of disreputable woman and engaging in every sleazy practice.

            But if you’re looking for a decent partner, it seems counter-productive.

            One is hanging out with someone and things get cuddly and then you kiss the person, and maybe it goes further, or maybe not. But I can tell you how most women will react if, when they start to unzip your pants you say “hold on there, you are in a relationship and I would never do anything with a woman in a relationship–you better just break up with your boyfriend first.” It’s not good.

            I can quite well imagine that the kind of women who would unzip your pants in that situation would react poorly to being called out as immoral cheaters, which is effectively what you would be doing. The question is why you’re going after those kinds of women. But maybe cheaters and the people who will cheat with them deserve one another.

          • onyomi says:

            Further down in a thread on polyamory, Dr Dealgood says something that I think could just as well been a response to this thread:

            “If offered a choice they would have settled down with a high school sweetheart and been a reliable (if boring) husband. But that wasn’t in the cards, so they adapted as best they could to the new order.

            So I can see them being angry that the same crappy situation that they were reacting to is getting crappier, even while they’re playing their role in accelerating it.”

          • onyomi says:

            “But if you’re looking for a decent partner, it seems counter-productive.”

            I could agree with that. But as I stated in the comment which I deleted because I thought it was too flippant, but which then everyone quoted anyway, there are things I care about in a partner other than perfect ethical rectitude and consistency.

            Right now I am engaged and intend only to have sex with this one woman the rest of my life. If for some unfortunate reason it didn’t work out, I would, because of where I am in my life and career, be looking for someone serious who wanted to have children, etc. For that reason, and because maybe my hormones now are less raging than they were in my twenties, I would be more likely to just take the hard line you describe, because I’m not interested in casual sex and willingness to cheat is, indeed an undesirable quality in a longterm life partner.

            But the OP sounded rather like a younger person considering some casual sex which might or might not have led to something more. For that person in that situation, it’s hard for me to be as judgmental, partially, yes, because I’ve done it myself, but partially also because of all the other factors I’ve described.

            I will also note here that I find it amusing, in a comment thread for a post in which many people criticize Scott and his commenters for being “Vulcans,” “aspies,” etc. I suddenly find myself feeling like the only human in a room full of Vulcans. Yes, the neat and tidy picture you describe seems ideal to me too, and the Vulcan position is often the right one, or at least, the one easiest to logically defend (almost a tautology there); I’m just not sure it’s realistic advice for a young man on today’s dating market.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I will also note here that I find it amusing, in a comment thread for a post in which many people criticize Scott and his commenters for being “Vulcans,” “aspies,” etc. I suddenly find myself feeling like the only human in a room full of Vulcans. Yes, the neat and tidy picture you describe seems ideal to me too, and the Vulcan position is often the right one, or at least, the one easiest to logically defend (almost a tautology there); I’m just not sure it’s realistic advice for a young man on today’s dating market.

            See, to me it seems like the opposite. I’m feeling outraged and saying “Dammit, Jim, you can’t sleep with the green-skinned alien woman: she’s got a boyfriend!” And you’re trying to coolly rationalize it.

            But I guess the way you’re seeing it is that you’re saying “I just want to let my passions run free!” And we’re the preachy Victorians saying: “No, morality!”

          • onyomi says:

            “But I guess the way you’re seeing it is that you’re saying “I just want to let my passions run free!” And we’re the preachy Victorians saying: “No, morality!””

            It’s not so much that I want to let my passions run free, but that I found trying to hold myself to an abstract, theoretical standard in the face of a real life situation to which it felt inapplicable was making me unhappy. So I adjusted my standards.

            I think it would be a more obvious case of ex post facto justification if I had first slept with a woman in a relationship out of sheer temptation and then attempted to retrofit my ethical view to suit that; that wasn’t, in my case, at least, how it went. Rather, having previously ignored signs of interest on the part of other attached women, I finally said, ‘this sucks and isn’t doing anyone any good!’ (arguably not even the boyfriend, who in each case, was in a relationship with a woman who wasn’t happy with him, a fact of which he was oblivious until she broke up with him) and so decided I would stop treating “marriage jr” as if it were marriage.

          • onyomi says:

            Also, what could be more human than coming up with nice-sounding logical justifications for what your penis wanted to do in the first place? 🙂

        • Max says:

          Spot on! Attractive women are practically never single unless they are virgins. And in the west they are never virgins by the time they reach legal age.

          A lot of good looking smart women hang around somebody (sometimes you cant even call them men), and it takes someone better to open their eyes on their relationship. Women need a lead and this is the queue for them. Women will not cheat unless she wants it herself.
          Today dating market is strangers vs strangers. Not neighbor seducing neighbors wife

        • lvlln says:

          FWIW, onyomi, I find your honest perspective on this refreshing and something I largely agree with. Like you, at 18 I probably would have considered such actions dishonorable, and like you as I grew I discovered that holding such a value was hurting more than helping.

          There’s a high probability that I’m just rationalizing, but I too see little reason to condemn the unattached partner. We’re not talking about the attached partner being coerced or manipulated; the attached partner has free will and is making the choice to break the promise that they made with their partner. Nor are we talking about being aid to robbing someone or killing children; we’re talking about being aid to breaking a promise between 2 individuals.

          Maybe it’s bad to go around helping people to break their promises, so perhaps the case can be made that someone who deliberately goes around trying to cause people to willingly cheat with them is bad behavior. At the same time, if an individual willingly decided that they value something more than keeping their promise, it seems a little arrogant to tell them that no, their values are wrong and my values are right.

          Unfortunately, sexual relationships are complicated. I imagine a lot of no-longer-relevant hangups about cheating exist that have hung around from the more patriarchal and less contraceptive-available past, and I also imagine a lot of motivated reasoning exist done by people who just really want to get laid.

      • Protagoras says:

        I tend to think that being the cheater is much worse than being the person cheated with; most of what’s wrong with being the person cheated with seems to me to be prudential rather than moral (you’re not breaking any commitments you’ve made, but you are inviting massive drama on yourself). But I do think the amount of persuading you do does get counted; manipulating someone into doing a bad thing is itself a bad thing.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I used to be more against this, but now I think too much weight is given to “exclusive monogamous relationships.” If they are married, then it is downright evil to have sex with them. But if they aren’t, then they have deliberately avoided making any real commitment with the other person, so there is no real commitment to break. It seems mildly scuzzy at worst to aid somebody in “breaking” a commitment they never really made. Leaving a note for the SO may even be doing them a net favor.

        “If they don’t cheat with you, they’ll cheat with someone else” is just a rationalization in all cases, though.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Is marriage the only commitment, though? I mean, any couple where they have spoken and said they’re exclusive has an agreement going not to break that commitment.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Do they? Would you really expect an “exclusive” couple never to break up? If one of them broke up with the other would you think that they had done something deplorable?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jaskologist:

            I think you are misinterpreting.

            The agreement is not that they will never, ever break up. The agreement is that they will not interact romantically with anyone else until and unless they break up. And that they will make a reasonable effort to stay together.

            Which is also quite similar to the modern view of marriage itself, with the difference being that the stakes are higher and the “reasonable effort” is much greater.

            For instance, moving across the country because you’ve got an amazing job opportunity is considered a fair reason to break up with a girlfriend/boyfriend, if the other one is not prepared to move out with you. But it’s not considered a fair reason to get divorced.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Vox Imperatoris is basically saying what I mean. An LTR is now treated as “marriage jr”. Or, a marriage is treated as “LTR+”.

            The difference is of degree more than kind, these days.

          • Jaskologist says:

            dndnrsn, I think you got at the basic issue below with “marriage is now more easily ended than it once was” and “An LTR is now treated as “marriage jr”. Or, a marriage is treated as “LTR+”.” I don’t think this is a stable equilibrium, partly because I’ve witnessed how much dating norms have eroded in just the past 10 years.

            A dating relationship fundamentally includes the clause “unless something better comes along.” Marriage explicitly excludes that. Now that we’ve broken down that central marital norm, people are trying to import it into the dating world, but that doesn’t work long term. The very fact that there is such a continuum between “committed” and “not” makes it very easy for one party to think things are much less serious than the other. How much of that is after-the-fact rationalization hardly matters; the situation inherently rewards defection and does not reward cooperation.

            Does the difference between morally and immorally leaving your current boyfriend for somebody really boil down to giving two weeks notice first?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jaskologist:

            Does the difference between morally and immorally leaving your current boyfriend for somebody really boil down to giving two weeks notice first?

            Yes?

            Your idea of commitment is strange to me. You seem to be saying it consists of: I commit to stay with you even if someone better comes along. But my interpretation of it is: I commit to stay with you because I think you are the best partner for me, and no one better will come along.

            If you happened to be wrong in that judgment, well, that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean you should throw good money after bad.

            Giving “two weeks’ notice” is the way of letting the other person down easy, in the way that will hurt them least, out of respect for them. Rather than having them find out eventually and be emotionally devastated as their trust is betrayed. But ultimately you’re telling them that there are serious flaws in your relationship (otherwise, why break up?) and that you think the two of you would be better off going your separate ways.

          • onyomi says:

            “I commit to stay with you because I think you are the best partner for me, and no one better will come along.”

            But then why not just propose?

          • onyomi says:

            “A dating relationship fundamentally includes the clause ‘unless something better comes along.’ Marriage explicitly excludes that.”

            Exactly. In some sense, the disappearance of “dating” might be the unavoidable result of the disappearance of “marriage” (as a lifelong long commitment with no escape clause typically entered into fairly young and before sex, certainly before cohabitation).

            So from my perspective, the women who cheated with me were “dating,” but because dating has now become “marriage jr.,” I now become “homewrecker jr.” or “adulterer jr.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            If your partner were relying on simply being the best all the time, why would you even need to commit? Of course you wouldn’t trade up; there’s no up to trade to. Commitment is meaningless if it doesn’t layer something on top of whatever already would have happened.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            But then why not just propose?

            Once you’re sure of that, that is the point where you propose. The long-term relationship level is for when you find it pretty plausible, but you’re not sure.

            @ Jaskologist:

            If your partner were relying on simply being the best all the time, why would you even need to commit? Of course you wouldn’t trade up; there’s no up to trade to. Commitment is meaningless if it doesn’t layer something on top of whatever already would have happened.

            Again, that sounds completely bizarre to me.

            It’s not “Baby, you’re far from the best for me, but I won’t trade up because I signed a contract with ya.” It’s: “I love you so much, and I am so sure that we are right for each other that I am willing to share my life and wealth equally with you.”

            It’s not a slavery contract. You’re not revoking your right to break it if it turns out you’re wrong. But you’re so sure that you’re right that you are willing to join your households together—exposing yourself to significant risk—for the purpose of more effectually living as a permanent couple.

            And of course, once you’ve done this, you’ve put in the investment, and when thinking about “trading up” you have to consider not “would it have been better to be married to this other person from the start?” but “is this person so much better than it’s worth breaking up this marriage to be with him or her?”

            To use an economic example, the difference between a long-term relationship and a marriage is like the difference between a prototype and a full production run. You don’t order a prototype unless you’re pretty sure it’s a good idea, but it’s only a small investment of resources. If the prototype fails, you discard it at low cost. But if it works, you scale it up to a full production run. Now if there’s some fatal flaw in the production run, you throw it out and eat the cost. But the expectation is that you will try not to do that—you will think carefully before committing—and you won’t redo the whole run for a tiny marginal improvement.

          • onyomi says:

            “when thinking about “trading up” you have to consider not “would it have been better to be married to this other person from the start?” but “is this person so much better than it’s worth breaking up this marriage to be with him or her?””

            Now this is a Vulcan way of looking at it! 😉 I don’t think the intent of marriage is just to increase the cost of a breakup so that the person you leave your spouse for has to be *really* super awesome in order to offset the expected disutility of the divorce.

            I think it is, rather as Jaskologist put it, a commitment that says, in effect, not “I’m now willing to publicly declare that you’re the best person I could ever hope to find” (what people think it is), but rather the less romantic-sounding but arguably more significant, “I agree not to leave you even if someone more desirable comes along if you agree to do the same.” That’s what all that “for richer and for poorer…” stuff is about.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            Now this is a Vulcan way of looking at it! ? I don’t think the intent of marriage is just to increase the cost of a breakup so that the person you leave your spouse for has to be *really* super awesome in order to offset the expected disutility of the divorce.

            The increased cost of a breakup is not the point. That’s a side-effect. For that matter, it’s a negative side-effect.

            The point is both to publicly signal the seriousness of your relationship and to make it more convenient to live as “partners-for-life”.

            Now, if you separate out every aspect of marriage, such as cohabitation, agreeing to joint custody of children, spending almost all your time with one another, going on vacations together, bringing them into your family gatherings as a welcomed equal, sharing finances, including one another in your wills, filing taxes together, buying family insurance plans together, signing powers of attorney, and so on, and ask what’s the difference between all of those things together and marriage, the answer is: nothing. A word.

            I think it is, rather as Jaskologist put it, a commitment that says, in effect, not “I’m now willing to publicly declare that you’re the best person I could ever hope to find” (what people think it is), but rather the less romantic-sounding but arguably more significant, “I agree not to leave you even if someone more desirable comes along if you agree to do the same.” That’s what all that “for richer and for poorer…” stuff is about.

            Maybe that’s some people’s idea of marriage, but it’s certainly not my idea, and I’m not sure it’s the prevailing idea.

            “For richer and for poorer” doesn’t necessarily mean—and certainly doesn’t obviously mean—I won’t leave you even if someone richer whom I love more comes along. No, it’s: no amount of material riches could outweigh the love I have for you.

            Maybe at one point marriage was just a loveless contract entered into for security and economic efficiency. But I don’t think it means that in the contemporary age. And I think it’s a significant improvement. People can now afford not to be married; it’s not a necessity. So the idea that you need some kind of absolute guarantee not to break it even if it sucks is just weird.

            In the modern understanding, it’s a vice, not a virtue, to try to sustain a loveless marriage by “faking it”. You don’t want your spouse to pretend to love you, or to stay married to you even if he or she hates you. You want him or her to actually love you, or else leave you. The second alternative is not preferable, but it leaves you free to try again.

            In other words, marriage is supposed to be a means of living more effectively as a couple, not of trapping yourselves in a suboptimal equilibrium you can’t break out of.

        • onyomi says:

          I think this is part of what led me to basically change my position: my realization that many young adults in their teens and twenties acted like they were married (having sex, sometimes cohabiting, celebrating “anniversaries,” etc.) when in fact they were still very much testing the waters. In the old days, these people would have either gotten actually married or to have been only in some kind of courtship phase. To sleep with a man’s wife is a sin, then and now. But to woo a woman whom other men are currently courting seems like much less of a problem. Thing is, “courting” now tends to look surprisingly similar to marriage.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It is true that there are a lot of relationships treated as “marriage lite”. Like a marriage, except extremely easily ended.

            However, marriage is now more easily ended than it once was, and is a later “stage” in adulthood than it once was: I gather it used to be normal for people to be engaged or even married while still attending university, but I only knew a few people who were engaged while in school (including grad school), and the only married people I met were older students.

            So, saying “well, we’re all 21 and nobody’s married, so cheating’s OK” misses some things.

            Additionally, beyond the nature of the relationship, a promise is still being broken. “We’re not going to have sex with anyone else” might not have a wedding attached, and lawyers are less likely to get involved, but it’s still an agreement between two people.

          • onyomi says:

            I feel like part of the problem may be the lingering cultural baggage which says that a woman who has sex outside of a marriage or, now, outside of a committed relationship, is a slut and/or is being taken advantage of. This may lead women who don’t really feel committed, but who do want sex to prematurely commit to an exclusivity that maybe neither partner actually desires.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            For those who know more logic or Latin than I do: is there a technical term of art for “argument from the fact that my dick is hard”? 🙂 🙂

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Argumentum ad baculum? 😉

          • onyomi says:

            Can we count seeing that as my adequate punishment?

        • Svejk says:

          I agree with Jaskologist. Now that everyone is free to enter into marriage – the universally understood exclusive monogamous relationship – with the partner of their choice, I see no reason to see anything less than an engagement as a bar to flirtation. Marriage as a public partnering and pre-commitment mechanism predates both the state and modern religion, and I see no point in muddying the waters with various intermediate idiosyncratic commitments.
          I do not condone dishonesty – the non-single individual should ideally break it off with their partner before becoming involved with someone else, and at the very least should break it off immediately afterward. But I think the culpability of unmarried persons abruptly leaving one partner for another is limited, and that the liminal state of unmarried cohabitation should not be considered equivalent to marriage. If you like it then you better put a ring on it. On the other hand, I think cheating on ones’ spouse is in most cases evil, and the decision to divorce should be taken very seriously.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I do not condone dishonesty – the non-single individual should ideally break it off with their partner before becoming involved with someone else, and at the very least should break it off immediately afterward. But I think the culpability of unmarried persons abruptly leaving one partner for another is limited, and that the liminal state of unmarried cohabitation should not be considered equivalent to marriage.

            But that’s all I’m saying, and I think it’s all anyone here is saying.

            I don’t condone dishonesty—so you shouldn’t cheat on your partner, married or not. And the “culpability of unmarried persons abruptly leaving one partner for another is limited” but not zero. If you “dump” your partner in a hurtful way without cause, that’s still immoral. But the threshold of “good cause” is a lot less than it it takes to file for a divorce.

          • Svejk says:

            I also think the external party to an unmarried couple bears little-to-no responsibility for interfering in their relationship (except for cases where doing so betrays a friendship or other non-ronantic relationship with the couple). In fact I think in many cases expressing interest in a coupled-but-not-engaged person is a positive good, even if one knows they are not single. I think boyfriend/girlfriend/SO status has become a bit over-powered.

      • I strongly disapprove.

      • My Alt says:

        Ethically, there isn’t much of a justification. On the micro scale you’re taking advantage of someone else’s weakness for your own gain, and at the macro scale you’re weakening the trust which society relies on. And the magnitudes are incomparable in both cases: balancing an orgasm against a breakup or even a malicious rumor is silly.

        That said, I’ve done it before and don’t particularly regret it. Ethics ultimately yields to pragmatism: if someone is going to be taken advantage of, I’d much rather be the one taking. If I see that a friend or stranger is weak enough not to respond to me having sex with his girlfriend / fiance then it’s an obvious choice.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          What do you take “ethics” to mean?

          As I see it, ethical injunctions are supposed to be a useful guide telling you how to live. If you say “ethics yields to pragmatism”, that merely means you reject the conventional ethics as false and accept some kind of predatory view of “grab what you can before someone else gets it”.

          Or maybe you accept the Sophistic view that this is the “secret knowledge”, but you should put on an outward appearance of conventional virtue, thus enjoying the benefits of both.

          Not that I endorse either of these views.

          • My Alt says:

            As I see it, ethical injunctions are supposed to be a useful guide telling you how to live.

            I would agree with this definition, with one change. Ethical injunctions are a useful guide telling people how to live. Overall people are better off following them than not, but you in particular may find yourself worse off for following a given injunction.

            For example, in the lab it is unethical to sacrifice a mouse without knocking it out with some CO2 first. But if you found mice in your home you would have no qualms about performing unanesthetized cervical dislocations via mousetrap.

            That said, I explicitly said there is no ethical defense of it. I’m not going to do apologetics for cheaters even if that includes myself.

          • Esquire says:

            Surely you can’t define “ethics” as guidelines for achieving maximum personal utility.

            Any formulation of ethics I know would endorse personal sacrifice for the benefit of others, generally.

            The “pragmatism” My Alt is invoking, is probably a synonym for “selfishness”. Do you not acknowledge any possible tension between enlightened self interest and ethical behavior?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Esquire:

            Do you not acknowledge any possible tension between enlightened self interest and ethical behavior?

            As an advocate of the view that enlightened self-interest is the correct moral theory, I do not.

            But supposing there were, the whole idea then is that there is some reason binding on you to follow something other than your enlightened self-interest. And therefore, you should do that thing and not try to do what is “pragmatic”. If the “pragmatic” option were better, all things considered, then it would be the ethical option.

            @ My Alt:

            For example, in the lab it is unethical to sacrifice a mouse without knocking it out with some CO2 first. But if you found mice in your home you would have no qualms about performing unanesthetized cervical dislocations via mousetrap.

            Maybe that shows that the laboratory ethics here stands on dubious grounds.

            I would agree with this definition, with one change. Ethical injunctions are a useful guide telling people how to live. Overall people are better off following them than not, but you in particular may find yourself worse off for following a given injunction.

            This is silly to me. Why is ethics supposed to be concerned only with the general and not with the specific? As James Fitzjames Stephen writes:

            Why should A. B. do a specific right action when it happens to be opposed to his interest?

            The answer usually given is not very satisfactory. It is to the effect that the utilitarian standard is not the greatest happiness of one man, but the greatest happiness of men in general; and that the rule of conduct which the whole system supplies is that men ought to act upon those rules which are found to produce general happiness, and not that they ought in particular cases to calculate the specific consequences to themselves of their own actions. This answer is incomplete rather than untrue, for, after all, it leads to the further question, Why should a man consult the general happiness of mankind? Why should he prefer obedience to a rule to a specific calculation in a specific case, when, after all, the only reason for obeying the rule is the advantage to be got by it, which by the hypothesis is not an advantage, but a loss in the particular case? A given road may be the direct way from one place to another, but that fact is no reason for following the road when you are offered a short cut. It may be a good general rule not to seek for more than 5 per cent in investments, but if it so happens that you can invest at 10 per cent with perfect safety, would not a man who refused to do so be a fool?

            The rest of the essay is pretty interesting, and Fitzjames Stephen was in fact a defender of ethical egoism.

            His answer to this question:

            ‘You ought not to assassinate [someone in order to receive a large inheritance],’ means if you do assassinate God will damn you, man will hang you if he can catch you, and hate you if he cannot, and you yourself will hate yourself, and be pursued by remorse and self-contempt all the days of your life. If a man is under none of these obligations, if his state of mind is such that no one of these considerations forms a tie upon him, all that can be said is that it is exceedingly natural that the rest of the world should regard him as a public enemy to be knocked on the head like a mad dog if an opportunity offers, and that for the very reason that he is under no obligations, that he is bound by none of the ties which connect men with each other, that he ought to lie, and steal, and murder whenever his immediate interests prompt him to do so.

            To regard such a conclusion as immoral is to say that to analyse morality is to destroy it; that to enumerate its sanctions specifically is to take them away; that to say that a weight is upheld by four different ropes, and to own that if each of them were cut the weight would fall, is equivalent to cutting the ropes. No doubt, if all religion, all law, all benevolence, all conscience, all regard for popular opinion were taken away, there would be no assignable reason why men should do right rather than wrong; but the possibility which is implied in these ‘ifs’ is too remote to require practical attention.

          • My Alt says:

            As much as I liked that quotation the first few times, you should really just start linking to it rather than copy pasting the whole block every time.

            Anyway I’m not really feeling like a debate on Objectivism specifically or egoism generally so I’m not going to get into that.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            In my defense, the first one was a different quotation. And the second was only part of the one I linked before.

            But: point taken. However, not everyone reads every thread, and just linking a long essay without pulling any quotations is unlikely to be very effective.

          • My Alt says:

            I get that, and I do unironically like the quote. Not trying to be a dismissive dick.

          • Esquire says:

            This is interesting to me. I am not sure how to parse a claim that enlightened self-interest is the correct moral theory.

            I mean, I have sympathy for the notion that folk morality is basically incoherent and there is no particularly great reason to act for goals other than enlightened self interest.

            BUT… that seems to me like a rejection of moral realism than anything else.

            AND in a quotidian sense if I say “ethical reasoning led me to jump in front of a bullet to save a stranger,” and you say “actually that was not an ethical action due to X Y Z”, I think people will assume you are just defining ethics in a weird nonstandard way.

            No? I am not a great philosopher and I would love to hear your take.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Esquire:

            This is interesting to me. I am not sure how to parse a claim that enlightened self-interest is the correct moral theory.

            It’s not exactly a rare theory in the history of philosophy. For instance, almost all the Greek philosophers were egoists of one sort or another. Now, they had very different ideas about what it meant to live the best life. But they argued that doing so would bring the most personal fulfillment.

            Even under Christianity, there’s a strong tendency to believe that what’s morally best is also what’s best for you in the long run—everyone has an interest in making sure his soul is saved, after all. Of course, many Christians deny that self-interest should be the reason you act morally, but the two don’t come apart. Many of the first modern proponents of enlightened self-interest were Christians.

            It’s not until Immanuel Kant that moral goodness is positively opposed to happiness, and that you should be moral despite the fact that it will make you miserable. (And even he, of course, has the Christian element, so it’s really the atheistic post-Kantians who do this most consistently). Part of this is because these people wanted to take the idea that you should serve God and turn it into serving Society. But Society can’t give you an eternal reward.

            Even John Stuart Mill was not only an ethical egoist but a psychological egoist (the view, which I do not hold, that people can do nothing but act to advance their own interests). He just held the very dubious view that, as a person became more “advanced”, he would see that acting in the interest of humanity as a whole was identical to acting in his own interest. (I don’t think the two are radically opposed, but they are obviously not the same. That’s the point Fitzjames Stephen attacks in the first quote I pulled from him)

            I mean, I have sympathy for the notion that folk morality is basically incoherent and there is no particularly great reason to act for goals other than enlightened self interest.

            BUT… that seems to me like a rejection of moral realism than anything else.

            Well, my theory is a revisionist theory of ethics, but it’s not an eliminativist theory of ethics. I say that there is no real coherency to the way people commonly use the word “good”—but that I propose to revise the term and transfer its connotations to the meaning of “enlightened self-interest”.

            But ultimately, if you really want to stick to the charge of “you’re just using the word to mean something different”, that’s pretty much what revisionism is. However, it’s not something arbitrarily different, but something with a lot of commonalities.

            AND in a quotidian sense if I say “ethical reasoning led me to jump in front of a bullet to save a stranger,” and you say “actually that was not an ethical action due to X Y Z”, I think people will assume you are just defining ethics in a weird nonstandard way.

            There is a difference between “I was using ethical reasoning” and “I was using correct ethical reasoning.” It’s not incoherent (though it may be unusual) for someone to say: “Yes, jumped out to take a bullet for a stranger, but he really ought to have considered the people who really matter more to him: his wife, his children, his friends, and all the happy experiences he could have had with them in the future. And if he had, he would have seen that he had more reason to preserve his life than to sacrifice it.”

            People do often say that the kind of “effective altruist” behavior where you give 50% of your income to charity is not right, as it neglects the obligations closer to you. (But because they also accept the altruist morality on some level, they have to package-deal this with the claim that the charity money is really ineffective, that it’s a foolish fantasy of hyper rational deviants, etc.)

            ***

            Anyway, I addressed it in more detail in this comment in the same thread.

        • dndnrsn says:

          That doesn’t follow, though. You taking advantage doesn’t protect from you being taken advantage of, and they aren’t necessarily connected.

          If Al’s girlfriend is going to cheat, and you get the feeling that Bill will sleep with her if you don’t – what happens is that Bill sleeps with her if you don’t. There’s no negative consequence to you save not getting laid.

          EDIT: I think I misread the post, actually. See below.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I think his view is precisely the zero-sum view of “lays”.

            If Bill gets more “lays”, you get fewer “lays”, since there’s only so many to go around. Therefore, it follows that, if you want to maximize “lays”, you should be as unscrupulous as you can and use every means possible to beat out Bill.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I misread the post, I think.

            Precise words were “if someone is going to be taken advantage of, I’d much rather be the one taking.”

            For some reason, I read “than being taken advantage of” onto the end. Not sure why.

          • My Alt says:

            You didn’t misread, I edited the post. Not for any sneaky reason so much as wanting it to flow better.

            And you’re right, obviously, that I doesn’t really help prevent other guys from trying to get with your girl (aside from knowing what to expect). It’s more of a half psychological half game theoretic thing. You still come out net negative on defect / defect but it’s not as bad as cooperating and doesn’t leave you feeling like as much of a chump.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I would argue that it would make it more likely that you would yourself be cheated on.

            First, if somebody’s partner finds out they cheated, they are presumably more likely to justify cheating to themselves.

            Second, presumably the time you are cheating is time you are not spending with your partner.

            And if you’re starting from the assumption that the other person is probably going to defect, why bother with a relationship? Plus, a relationship would be an iterated prisoner’s dilemma, and those see more cooperation, don’t they?

          • My Alt says:

            In this context, the PD is with other men in society not within your relationship.

            As for the rest, I don’t generally cheat on my own girlfriends (once in a long distance relationship, ended up confessing it soon after) so much as go after women indifferently as to their relationship status. There’s not much chance of those guys doing anything in response, otherwise I would have avoided their girlfriends to begin with.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            I would argue that it would make it more likely that you would yourself be cheated on.

            First, if somebody’s partner finds out they cheated, they are presumably more likely to justify cheating to themselves.

            Second, presumably the time you are cheating is time you are not spending with your partner.

            I agree with your basic point. But your first consideration is not valid. The effect is negligible. Unless you live in a very small social world, you always have to ignore for selfish purposes the amount that your action is going to “erode social norms” in general.

            This applies in many other fields. It’s the “what if everyone else did that?” argument. And it’s a bad argument because the fact that you do it is not going to make everyone else do it, or even a large enough portion of them as to outweigh whatever ostensible gains you get.

            Your second consideration is valid, and it’s what I would go with.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            I mean it not in an “eroding social norms” sense.

            I mean that if Alice finds out Bob cheated on her with Carol, and doesn’t end the relationship, Alice is still less likely to be faithful to Bob in future. If she ends up having a cigarette with David on the back porch at a party, and he’s actually pretty cute, screw Bob, he cheated on her!

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            But what we are considering in this discussion is the ethics of being “Carol”, not of being “Bob”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If Carol is also in a relationship, with Ed, finding out that Carol cheated is more likely to cause Ed to cheat with Francine.

            And let’s not even talk about George.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            The situation is being Carol and single. If Carol is in a relationship, then she is simply in the position of “Bob”.

            The initial question was about the ethics of being what used to be called a “homewrecker”—someone who sleeps with a person already in a relationship—not about being a cheater yourself.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Oh, in that case, I’ve misunderstood. In my view, Carol is bad, but not as bad as Bob. She’s not breaking a promise. Unless, of course, she had promised Alice that she wouldn’t have sex with Bob.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            I agree with you. Carol is bad, but not as bad as Bob.

            The question was whether Carol is bad at all, or whether “all’s fair in love and war”.

      • blacktrance says:

        A monogamous relationship involves the promise of exclusivity by the people in it. But someone outside it isn’t bound by that agreement and wouldn’t be breaking any promises by sleeping with a monogamous partner.
        The justification of “if they don’t cheat with you, they’ll cheat with someone else” isn’t quite right, though. If someone really wants to cheat but never gets a chance to, that seems to me to be as bad as actually cheating, so providing the opportunity doesn’t make much of a difference. In that respect, it’s different from bank robbery (and other crimes) because having the motive (or disposition) is the real problem.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          The blame does not come from breaking promises. The blame comes from aiding and abetting the breaking of promises.

          Using meth is immoral. But so is selling it.

          • blacktrance says:

            I don’t think this kind of aiding and abetting is wrong, as I’m under no obligation to minimize others’ promise-breaking. Whether they choose to do it remains entirely up to them, even if I make it easier, so there’s no wrongdoing on my part. The same applies in the meth case.

          • honestlymellowstarlight says:

            Now this is individualism.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Of course it’s up to them.

            The immoral action on your part is not causing the promise-breaking. It’s being the sort of person who would aid and abet a promise-breaker. It’s contrary to the virtue of justice on your part, since the proper way to treat a promise-breaker would be to reject and condemn him, not let him into your life as a romantic partner. It’s the abrogation of proper judgment on your part. And this is partly captured by the “cheats with you, cheats on you” aphorism.

            And it also displays a callousness and lack of benevolence toward the cheater’s partner, in whose being-harmed you are assisting. That’s going to encourage both a negative, adversarial attitude in you yourself, and invite other people validly to judge you as an inconsiderate person who won’t think twice about harming them in a similar situation.

            The case of selling meth is similar. It implies dealing with irrational, impulsive people, which is a danger in itself. It means giving existential aid to the continuance of their self-destructive habit, which is contrary to justice and benevolence.

            And since you know that the measure of your success is the measure of human harm and misery you enable, by any rational standard you won’t be able to feel any pride or satisfaction in your work.

            So no, I don’t think it’s right to sell meth, either. Or cigarettes, for that matter.

          • honestlymellowstarlight says:

            What level of harm prevention makes an action immoral, then , Vox Imperatoris? Selling unhealthy food? Are cigarettes and meth Universally Bad, or are there exceptions? How do people act in this system?

          • blacktrance says:

            Obtaining the benefits of possessing the virtue of justice merely requires me to not act unjustly myself, not to restrain others from doing so – and helping someone break this kind of promise isn’t unjust. Nor is it callous, because I’m not the one harming their partner, the cheater is, by choosing to break their promise, betray their trust, show a lack of expected consideration for their interests, etc. There’s no adversarial attitude on my part because I’m not trying to harm anyone, but merely taking advantage of an existing bad situation.

            As for the case of meth, all of those considerations only mean that selling it is prima facie bad (e.g. if you were selling a kilogram for a penny). The danger and the fact that people harm themselves with it count as reasons against it, but they’re not necessarily decisive.

            the proper way to treat a promise-breaker would be to reject and condemn him, not let him into your life as a romantic partner

            The original question was about having sex with them, not about letting them into your life as a romantic partner. It’s likely that someone who cheats would be untrustworthy romantically (though there may be mitigating circumstances), but the bar for being a sexual partner is lower.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ honestlymellowstarlight:

            Selling unhealthy food? Are cigarettes and meth Universally Bad, or are there exceptions? How do people act in this system?

            There could theoretically be exceptions (maybe if cigarettes prevented schizophenia?), but I don’t think there are in reality. Of course, there are degrees of association. It’s one thing to be the executive of a tobacco company. It’s another thing to stock the shelves at a convenience store that sells them as one of its many products.

            Besides, people can sell electronic cigarettes.

            Unhealthy food is a different sort of case because it’s a matter of moderation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a candy bar. The problem is when you eat 50 a day. You shouldn’t knowingly encourage people to eat 50 a day, but if you run the Snickers company, it’s not your job to investigate every user, so long as you are reasonably confident that the benefits of your product outweigh the harms.

            The same thing goes with alcohol. It’s fine in moderation, and it’s not wrong to run a liquor store. But to sell to the alcoholic who comes in at opening time every day is, in my opinion, unethical, yes.

            Maybe you could justify it (perhaps with cigarettes and meth, too?) if you genuinely, seriously tried to direct them to ways to stop their habit. I don’t have much of an opinion on that. It could be a good idea, but it stinks of rationalization.

          • Nornagest says:

            Alcohol’s actually pretty damn addictive, if that’s the distinction you’re trying to make. It’s not in heroin territory, but it’s in the middle of the pack compared to illegal drugs, tending high. And isn’t much less risky.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ blacktrance:

            Obtaining the benefits of possessing the virtue of justice merely requires me to not act unjustly myself, not to restrain others from doing so – and helping someone break this kind of promise isn’t unjust. Nor is it callous, because I’m not the one harming their partner, the cheater is, by choosing to break their promise, betray their trust, show a lack of expected consideration for their interests, etc. There’s no adversarial attitude on my part because I’m not trying to harm anyone, but merely taking advantage of an existing bad situation.

            This is absurd. Yes, the main way you are being unjust is in treating this person as an acceptable sexual partner—but you apparently have very low standards for that.

            But you are being unjust and callous and contributing to the harm. You are not the primary cause of the cheating, but you are a contributing cause. This is the point of the example of robbing a bank. If you sell a man a gun, knowing he is going to use it to rob a bank, you are an accessory to the crime. You helped caused it. You have a funny idea of causation if you think otherwise.

            The fact that, if you hadn’t sold him the gun, some other person would, is irrelevant. That’s the standard collaborator’s rationalization: “if I didn’t help the invaders, then someone else would have.” Maybe so, but you actually did, and you’re the one who’s going to be shot. If the other person had done it, he would be the one getting shot.

            You are not solely responsible for breaking the partner’s trust, etc. But you are a knowing accessory to it, and therefore you are a partial cause of it.

            The adversarial attitude is implied very simply, as you say you are willing to “take advantage of a bad situation”. People rightly have a low opinion of individuals of that nature. It shows you don’t have any human sympathy for the partner being victimized. It’s like seeing a thief steal a cellphone and then buying the phone from the thief at a bargain price because “Hey, I didn’t steal it.”

            @ Nornagest:

            Alcohol’s actually pretty damn addictive, if that’s the distinction you’re trying to make. It’s not in heroin territory, but it’s in the middle of the pack compared to illegal drugs, tending high. And isn’t much less dangerous.

            Yes, but alcohol is also much more commonly used in moderation, in which case it is perfectly fine and produces pleasure and happiness for the people who use it.

            The idea that you can’t produce fine champagne because someone could theoretically get drunk on it and harm themselves is silly. On the other hand, the producers of Mogen David 20/20 are on shakier ground.

            I don’t see anything wrong with selling people cocaine, if it’s in the tiny and harmless quantities found in coca tea (a common legal drink in Peru) or in the original formula of Coca-Cola.

            Moreover, I don’t think people are obligated to go by the utilitarian net harm or benefit of the product. The question is whether it has a morally acceptable use—and whether you know any particular use will be immoral. For instance, even if guns are a net negative, it is not immoral to sell them because many people use them for innocent pleasure or self-defense. But if your particular customers come in wearing gang colors and buy cheap pistols every week, then things are much more dubious.

          • honestlymellowstarlight says:

            @Vox Imperatoris
            That’s the problem I have with a lot of these rigid moral systems, especially around popularly-considered-to-be-pure-negatives, like cigarettes and meth. It’s all moderation. And breaking strangers of their addictions requires an impossibly high Obligation to Strangers standard that I don’t think is really enforceable in a workable way.

            @blacktrance
            Updating towards libertarianism being a rationalization to free ride, as if I needed more confirmation.

          • blacktrance says:

            Vox Imperatoris:
            It’s usually a bad idea to have a former cheater as a romantic partner because they’ve proven themselves untrustworthy in that context, and it’s important for a romantic partner to be trustworthy because you’re relying on them significantly, opening yourself up to them, and otherwise putting them in a situation in which they could do a great deal of harm if they wanted to. In contrast, a mere sexual partner has much less opportunity to harm you, especially if you take a few precautions, so trust isn’t as important. That’s not to say that my personal standards are low, only that if the limiting factor is trust, it makes sense to require less from sexual partners.

            As for “the collaborator’s rationalization”, I explicitly rejected that justification in this comment. I’m not contributing to the harm. The harm has already been inflicted by the would-be cheater having the desire or disposition to cheat, and my opportunity is just an expression of that. It’s not “if not me, it’ll be someone else”, but “the bad thing has already happened, might as well take advantage of it”.

            The adversarial attitude is implied very simply, as you say you are willing to “take advantage of a bad situation”. People rightly have a low opinion of individuals of that nature.

            Taking advantage of a bad situation isn’t adversarial, no more than it’s adversarial for a store to charge more for water during a natural disaster. The attitude that taking advantage of a bad situation is bad is what gets us complaints about Uber’s surge pricing, most opposition to sweatshops, etc. It’s the Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics, and I’m surprised to see an egoist libertarian subscribing to it.

            honestlymellowstarlight:
            What am I free riding on?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ honestlymellowstarlight:

            That’s the problem I have with a lot of these rigid moral systems, especially around popularly-considered-to-be-pure-negatives, like cigarettes and meth. It’s all moderation.

            I don’t think cigarettes are a pure negative. I think they have benefits and harms. But if the marginal harm of cigarettes outweighs the marginal benefit at all levels of use, then they are not good, even in “moderation”. Certainly not in the context of alternatives like electronic cigarettes.

            @ blacktrance:

            It’s usually a bad idea to have a former cheater as a romantic partner because they’ve proven themselves untrustworthy in that context, and it’s important for a romantic partner to be trustworthy because you’re relying on them significantly, opening yourself up to them, and otherwise putting them in a situation in which they could do a great deal of harm if they wanted to. In contrast, a mere sexual partner has much less opportunity to harm you, especially if you take a few precautions, so trust isn’t as important. That’s not to say that my personal standards are low, only that if the limiting factor is trust, it makes sense to require less from sexual partners.

            That’s assuming that a casual attitude toward sexual partners, separating them from romantic partners, is appropriate. But I don’t really want to get into that.

            As for “the collaborator’s rationalization”, I explicitly rejected that justification in this comment. I’m not contributing to the harm. The harm has already been inflicted by the would-be cheater having the desire or disposition to cheat, and my opportunity is just an expression of that. It’s not “if not me, it’ll be someone else”, but “the bad thing has already happened, might as well take advantage of it”.

            And this is specious reasoning. Having the desire to cheat is a negative, but by far the larger harm comes when it is actually carried out in practice.

            The reasoning you’re describing would be fine after the couple broke up. But not when you are directly participating in an act that going to cause great emotional harm and betrayal of trust.

            Taking advantage of a bad situation isn’t adversarial, no more than it’s adversarial for a store to charge more for water during a natural disaster. The attitude that taking advantage of a bad situation is bad is what gets us complaints about Uber’s surge pricing, most opposition to sweatshops, etc. It’s the Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics, and I’m surprised to see an egoist libertarian subscribing to it.

            This is a fair enough criticism. I was thinking of it myself, and perhaps I was not entirely clear.

            There is a difference between personally benefiting while helping to address a social problem, which is what sweatshop owners and Uber do, and engaging in actions that perpetuate that problem, or collaborating with the people who caused it. The latter is what, for instance, “crony capitalist” companies do. Or, for instance, Pepsi signing an exclusive deal to be the only Western soft drink sold in the Soviet Union.

            Of course, the left-wing misunderstanding with Uber and sweatshops is that they are perpetuating their respective problems instead of alleviating them. Under that premise, their condemnation is reasonable.

            To go back to the cellphone example, there is nothing wrong with charging people money in order to protect them from thieves, even though in some sense you are “taking advantage of the situation”. But there is something wrong with buying the stolen cellphones from the thieves and selling them back to their owners at a markup.

            What am I free riding on?

            I don’t think it’s free-riding. It’s just plain predation.

          • blacktrance says:

            Vox Imperatoris:

            Having the desire to cheat is a negative, but by far the larger harm comes when it is actually carried out in practice.

            Cheating is bad because it displays a lack of caring and regard for the other partner, reveals oneself as untrustworthy, and so on. But then it’s not the physical act of cheating itself that’s bad, but the attitudes/motives that cause it, and those can be present without the opportunity for the act. If my partner doesn’t care about me, it’s no comfort if she hasn’t yet acted differently because of it. It’s similar to (but more credible than) your partner just telling you about those negative qualities.

            I also don’t agree that collaborating with people who do something wrong is bad if you don’t do any of the actually wrong parts yourself. It’s wrong to steal, but the guilt is entirely on the thief – I’m not stealing from anyone by buying a stolen cellphone. The only act that makes people worse off is the theft itself, for which the thief is responsible, and it would be no better or worse if the thief instead chose to keep or destroy the cellphone instead of selling it to me.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ blacktrance:

            Cheating is bad because it displays a lack of caring and regard for the other partner, reveals oneself as untrustworthy, and so on. But then it’s not the physical act of cheating itself that’s bad, but the attitudes/motives that cause it, and those can be present without the opportunity for the act. If my partner doesn’t care about me, it’s no comfort if she hasn’t yet acted differently because of it. It’s similar to (but more credible than) your partner just telling you about those negative qualities.

            The immorality is the act in combination with the attitude.

            If you somehow have sleepwalk-sex with another person, that’s the “physical act of cheating” I guess. And you’re right that it is not condemned.

            And if you just contemplate cheating but don’t carry it out, that is condemned but not as much.

            More contemptible is contemplating it and actually doing it, and that is the act you are assisting. That causes a greater harm than merely contemplating cheating but not carrying it out.

            You might as well say that it’s not the physical act of rape that’s bad, but the attitudes/motives that cause it, and those can be present without the opportunity for the act. Yes, the physical act is not immoral without the attitudes and motives. And the attitudes and motives are wrong in themselves. But the physical act in combination with the attitudes and motives is the cause of by far the greater harm than the attitudes and motives alone.

            (Obviously, the difference between cheating and rape is that rape is a moral wrong that is also a violation of rights and a crime. While cheating is just a moral wrong.)

            I also don’t agree that collaborating with people who do something wrong is bad if you don’t do any of the actually wrong parts yourself. It’s wrong to steal, but the guilt is entirely on the thief – I’m not stealing from anyone by buying a stolen cellphone. The only act that makes people worse off is the theft itself, for which the thief is responsible, and it would be no better or worse if the thief instead chose to keep or destroy the cellphone instead of selling it to me.

            You can’t be serious.

            Obviously it’s still wrong if you don’t do any of the bad parts yourself. Or rather, to rephrase that more accurately, knowingly collaborating with a thief and enabling his theft is itself wrong. Again, if you sell him a gun knowing he is going to use to mug people, you are in the wrong.

            Buying the cellphones rewards the thief and incentivizes him to commit more thefts. That’s why it’s wrong. I’m surprised I have to spell it out.

            Not to mention that, you know, your responsibility is to turn him in to the police to face justice.

          • blacktrance says:

            Vox Imperatoris:
            Contemplating cheating and actively desiring it to the degree that you’d actually do involve differences in the would-be cheater’s motivations. If I consider it but ultimately decide against it, it’s right that it’s condemned less than actual cheating, because it doesn’t display the same attitudes/motives (or at least not to the same degree).
            Consider the following scenarios:
            1. Alice considers cheating on her boyfriend, but decides against it, recognizing that her relationship has some problems and chooses to work on them (or end the relationship).
            2. Bob wants to cheat in his girlfriend, and he begins to drive to his would-be lover’s house, but on the way his car breaks down and he takes a taxi home, and the woman he’d have cheated with moves away the next day, so he never gets an opportunity to try again.
            3. Same as 2, except Bob’s car doesn’t break down and he successfully has a one-night stand.
            1 would (and should) be condemned to a much lesser degree than 3. But 2 seems to be as bad as 3, even though no physical act occurred. This is because Bob’s attitude towards his partner is the same in both 2 and 3, and is different from Alice’s in 1.

            Buying the cellphones rewards the thief and incentivizes him to commit more thefts.

            The incentives don’t remove the thief’s free will, and don’t by themselves cause anyone to lose their phones, which is the objectionable aspect – only the actual theft does that. This principle extends even further: if I pay you to steal someone’s cellphone, I am still not responsible for it, because paying you doesn’t cause anyone to lose their cellphone, only your theft does.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ blacktrance:

            The incentives don’t remove the thief’s free will, and don’t by themselves cause anyone to lose their phones, which is the objectionable aspect – only the actual theft does that. This principle extends even further: if I pay you to steal someone’s cellphone, I am still not responsible for it, because paying you doesn’t cause anyone to lose their cellphone, only your theft does.

            Are you fucking kidding me? (Sing it to the tune.)

            Seriously, am I being trolled here?

            So if I’m a mob boss and tell one of my henchmen to “knock someone off”, that’s an innocent act? I’m not to blame? I shouldn’t be punished?

            But alright, if you want my honest take on this, here goes. There is no such thing as “the cause” of the theft, as if there were just one. There are many causes of the theft, each of which apply in varying degrees. One of those causes is the thief’s free choice to steal (which, as I recall, you don’t believe in, since you are a determinist). That is an ultimate cause of the theft, but it’s not the only cause.

            To another extent, the thief is only a proximate cause of the theft, whose ultimate causes extend beyond him. A major one of those causes is the reason for which he steals: to obtain money. By giving him money to steal, you are providing that cause. Therefore, your choice to pay him is one of the causes. Your choice to pay him is an ultimate cause of his being the proximate cause of a theft. And since you knew this, you are to blame. Therefore, we send your ass to jail.

            1 would (and should) be condemned to a much lesser degree than 3. But 2 seems to be as bad as 3, even though no physical act occurred. This is because Bob’s attitude towards his partner is the same in both 2 and 3, and is different from Alice’s in 1.

            No, this is fallacious, as David Kelley explains:

            Since the fundamental choice is whether to think or not, whether to use our capacity for reason, we must judge people by how they make this choice. In judging an action, therefore, we are concerned not only with its consequences, measured by the standard of life, but also with its source in the person’s motives, as measured by the standard of rationality. […]

            If we consider only the consequences, we may still evaluate an action in the same way we evaluate a natural occurrence like a hurricane. To pass a moral judgment, however, we must consider the motives that inspired the action. There’s obviously a moral difference between a person who kills someone accidentally, while playing with a loaded gun, and a cold-blooded killer who shoots his victim deliberately. The consequences are the same, but not the moral status of the agents. The first may be blamed for negligence, for evading the risks of a loaded weapon, and to that extent he is responsible for what happened. But he does not bear the same degree of guilt, morally or legally, as the murderer who consciously intended to bring about the consequence, and who had to evade on a much larger scale in order to have such an intention. When we judge an action morally, in other words, we cannot consider the effects in isolation from the person’s volitional control over them.

            Nor should we make the opposite error of judging the inner element of choice in isolation from the action it produces. A long line of thinkers, of whom Immanuel Kant is the clearest instance, argued that if we can judge an action only in virtue of its volitional character, then the act of volition itself is the real object of judgment; we may evaluate the action and its effects, but morally speaking it is only the motive that counts. This is fallacious. It is like the epistemological fallacy of assuming that if we perceive an object only in virtue of the way it appears to us, then strictly speaking it is only the appearance, not the object itself, that we perceive. In fact, what we perceive is the object-as-it-appears, and what we judge is the action-as-it-was-chosen. If we divorce the inner choice from the outer action, then we divorce the standard of rationality from the standard of life. But rationality is a means to an end, not an end in itself. If reason did not help us pursue and maintain our lives—if it made no difference whether we thought well, or poorly, or not at all—then rationality would not be a virtue nor a standard of judgment. In moral judgment, as in any other type of evaluation, life is the fundamental and all-encompassing standard.

            We blame people not for “thinking bad thoughts” in isolation but for thinking bad thoughts which result in bad actions. If there’s no harm, there’s no foul.

            When the thoughts are just in the mind, they are wrong to a certain extent in themselves, such as to the extent they reflect a lack of honesty towards one’s partner. But when they are actually brought into practice, they cause a great deal more harm. When the car breaks down and the thoughts are not brought into practice, this harm is prevented and the full extent of the blame does not accrue.

          • blacktrance says:

            Vox Imperatoris:
            I promise you I’m not trolling. I recognize that this is one of my most controversial positions, seeing how even you react to it.
            I am the cause (or one of them) of the thief having the incentive to steal. But creating an incentive to do X is not doing X. Creating an incentive to steal doesn’t cause anyone to lose anything – if no one responds to the incentive, nothing happens. If I don’t create the incentive and the thief steals anyway, then there’s a loss. So the theft is the cause of the loss, and since the thief’s decision is the cause of the theft, it’s all on them. Of course, there are reasons why the thief makes those decisions, and I am a cause in those, but not in a harm-causing way, because the output is just incentives.
            Also, I believe in free will, as I’m a compatibilist.

            We blame people not for “thinking bad thoughts” in isolation but for thinking bad thoughts which result in bad actions. If there’s no harm, there’s no foul.

            Normally, there is the intent to cause a bad action, but only the action itself causes the harm – this is the case in theft, murder, rape, etc. For instance, me wanting to not be murdered means that I don’t want people to try to murder me, not that I don’t want them to not want to murder me (beyond the degree to which it’s necessary to prevent attempts). But cheating is different and unusual in this respect. There, the negative consequence is having a partner who would be willing to cheat given the opportunity, because you care about what they want and whether they care about you. It’s similar to what you wrote here: if someone wants to cheat on you but doesn’t, it’s small comfort if the only reason they didn’t is because they got unlucky.
            With murder, the action is the harm and the intention is only relevant because it causes it. With cheating, the intention entails a certain attitude towards you that is bad for you and is itself a negative consequence, and the act of cheating merely reveals that attitude (and thus does no additional harm).

          • “The harm has already been inflicted by the would-be cheater having the desire or disposition to cheat”

            Sounds reasonable, but does not fit the way human moral intuitions work. We judge people by what they have done far more than by what they have a disposition to do.

            This comes down to the problem of moral luck. My favorite discussion is by Adam Smith in _The Theory of Moral Sentiments_. His example of the problem with the apparently reasonable policy of judging people by the inside of their heads rather than by what they actually do is that all good English Protestants know that a Catholic would try to kill the King if the Pope told him to. So they are all as guilty as if they had tried to kill the king, so we are entitled to execute them all.

            Or in other words, because we are not competent to judge people by the inside of their heads, we have an apparently irrational disposition—Smith regards it as wisely given us by God—to judge them by their actions instead.

            However much sense your position appears to make, it does not describe the way humans actually respond. Having your wife be unfaithful to you is much worse than knowing that under some possible circumstance she would have been unfaithful to you.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ blacktrance:

            I am the cause (or one of them) of the thief having the incentive to steal. But creating an incentive to do X is not doing X. Creating an incentive to steal doesn’t cause anyone to lose anything – if no one responds to the incentive, nothing happens. If I don’t create the incentive and the thief steals anyway, then there’s a loss. So the theft is the cause of the loss, and since the thief’s decision is the cause of the theft, it’s all on them. Of course, there are reasons why the thief makes those decisions, and I am a cause in those, but not in a harm-causing way, because the output is just incentives.

            Again, you have a funny idea of causation.

            The fact that the thief has an incentive to steal is a partial cause of the fact that he steals. True, the thief is the sole proximate (efficient) cause of the theft. But in providing the incentive, you become an ultimate cause of the theft.

            To the extent that the thief was motivated by the desire to earn his reward from you, you are to blame.

            Under your theory, no one could ever be charged with murder by shooting someone with a gun. After all, it wasn’t your willing that killed the victim; it was the bullet. Guns sometimes misfire, don’t they? If you pull the trigger and nothing happens, no harm no foul. If you don’t pull the trigger and the gun randomly fires because of shoddy construction, neither are you to blame. So how can you send a man to jail just for pulling a little trigger? The harm is caused by the bullet, not the trigger-pull.

            And since you didn’t respond to the mob-boss example, I’m going to assume you agree that they can’t be charged with murder for telling a henchman to go commit a murder. I suppose, then, Hitler ought to be left off the hook, since he never invaded Poland or killed any Jews himself.

            But cheating is different and unusual in this respect. There, the negative consequence is having a partner who would be willing to cheat given the opportunity, because you care about what they want and whether they care about you. It’s similar to what you wrote here: if someone wants to cheat on you but doesn’t, it’s small comfort if the only reason they didn’t is because they got unlucky.

            When I said that I was talking about divorce, not cheating. If marriage is supposed to be based on love, then neither partner wants to be fooled and married to a spouse who has no love for them. Divorce is not in itself a harm but a solution to a bad situation.

            On the other hand, cheating is an act that it is itself wrong, dishonest, and harmful.

            If a woman were to learn that her husband had attempted to cheat on her, she would feel bad. She might feel bad enough to divorce him on that grounds alone. But if she learned that he had attempted to cheat and actually succeeded, she would no doubt feel worse.

            In the first case, he has merely been dishonest toward her in regard to his feelings. In the second case, he has compounded that dishonest by actually going ahead and betraying the agreement and trust of their marriage.

            Also, I believe in free will, as I’m a compatibilist.

            My fundamental disagreement with you here is that, given determinism, it is obvious to me that neither the cheater nor the “homewrecker” is morally blameworthy because they simply acted as they had to act.

            You can say that their actions had negative consequences, and you can even say that they ought to be “negatively reinforced” to stop them from repeating the behavior. But to act like it’s their fault or to hold them morally blameworthy is just as absurd as getting mad a dog for pissing on the carpet.

            They were simply the proximate causes of their actions, and the ultimate causes were society, genetics, and (in the furthest analysis) physics. If there were a god who created the physical world, he would be the run responsible (presuming he also didn’t operate deterministically). Otherwise, there simply is no responsibility anywhere in the cosmos.

            @ David Friedman:

            This comes down to the problem of moral luck. My favorite discussion is by Adam Smith in _The Theory of Moral Sentiments_. His example of the problem with the apparently reasonable policy of judging people by the inside of their heads rather than by what they actually do is that all good English Protestants know that a Catholic would try to kill the King if the Pope told him to. So they are all as guilty as if they had tried to kill the king, so we are entitled to execute them all.

            Or in other words, because we are not competent to judge people by the inside of their heads, we have an apparently irrational disposition—Smith regards it as wisely given us by God—to judge them by their actions instead.

            Again, I think this misses the point of morally judging people. We don’t judge people just for the hell of it. We judge them as the rational response to the fact their immoral behavior causes harm.

            If Catholics want to kill the king but don’t, what harm is there, for which we need to accord blame? Maybe there is some harm: for instance, they don’t feel as inclined to respect the laws in general. Or perhaps they say terrible things about him to other Catholics, some of whom then go out and try to kill the king. But then that is what they are blamed for, not killing the king.

          • blacktrance says:

            David Friedman:
            Often, it’s just the action itself that’s objectionable (as Vox Imperatoris said), so their dispositions/thoughts/etc only matter to the degree that they cause those actions. In such a case, it’s not irrational to judge actions directly. Also, people’s actions reflect their dispositions, and they’re often better than words at providing information about what’s going on inside their heads. So even when what we ultimately care about is what they’re thinking, it still makes sense to give a lot of weight to their actions. But here it’s not because of the harm of the action itself, but because of what it reveals about the person who performed it – it’s an effective signal. By cheating, they reveal themselves to not care much about their partner (or something similar).

            Vox Imperatoris:
            You misrepresent my theory. A gun has no free will, and thus doesn’t choose to fire itself at someone. A properly functioning gun will only do what its user wants, and it’s reasonable to expect a gun to function at least that well. In contrast, a thief chooses to steal, and can refuse to do so even if I give them the incentive.
            As for compatibilism, all of that (physics, society, genetics) and free will are different lenses through which one’s actions are explained. They’re not incompatible – physics determines that I will type this sentence, but it determines it through my will. I can choose to do whatever I want, it would just be caused by physics.
            And in the case of Hitler, it’s not like German soldiers were free to say “You know what? I think I won’t invade Poland”. There was a draft, so in a sense they’re victims too. But that does bring up the good point that soldiers in a volunteer military aren’t held nearly responsible enough for their misdeeds.

            When I said that I was talking about divorce, not cheating. If marriage is supposed to be based on love, then neither partner wants to be fooled and married to a spouse who has no love for them.

            Yes, and cheating is similar. If you have a partner who wants to cheat so seriously that they’d be willing to do it given the opportunity, that is already a betrayal of trust – the trust that they won’t be in such a state. But someone who successfully cheats is more likely to have this kind of objectionable mental state than someone who fails, so it’s still reasonable to judge based on the physical act – not because the act itself is harmful, but because of the information it gives you about the cheater. It’s more credible than merely saying “I want to cheat” – and in the case in which someone really tries to cheat and fails because of unlucky circumstances, they reveal themselves anyway (if their partner finds out), and that would be as bad as actually cheating.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ blacktrance:

            You misrepresent my theory. A gun has no free will, and thus doesn’t choose to fire itself at someone. A properly functioning gun will only do what its user wants, and it’s reasonable to expect a gun to function at least that well. In contrast, a thief chooses to steal, and can refuse to do so even if I give them the incentive.

            Sure, the thief can choose to take your money and still not steal. But just as when you pull the trigger, you reasonably expect the gun to fire a bullet, when you give the thief the money, you reasonably expect him to commit the theft.

            The money is a partial but very significant factor determining the thief to steal.

            Moreover, the thief is not responsible for the fact that someone is willing to pay him a lot of money to steal. That’s why, if an undercover police officer offers to pay you $1 million to steal a cellphone, it’s entrapment: a reasonable person would have done the same thing. They effectively made you do it; it’s not your fault.

            As for compatibilism, all of that (physics, society, genetics) and free will are different lenses through which one’s actions are explained. They’re not incompatible – physics determines that I will type this sentence, but it determines it through my will. I can choose to do whatever I want, it would just be caused by physics.

            It determines it through your will, but if so your will is by definition not a “free will”. It is an unfree will that does not move itself actively but rather moves passively as a result of forces acting upon it.

            There is no actual, factual dispute between the compatibilists and the hard determinists. It is a verbal / terminological dispute only.

            And in the case of Hitler, it’s not like German soldiers were free to say “You know what? I think I won’t invade Poland”. There was a draft, so in a sense they’re victims too.

            I agree that they are victims.

            But sure, in the metaphysical sense, they were perfectly free to say “I won’t invade Poland”. The consequence is that they would have been sent to a concentration camp, but they were free to choose that consequence. The only difference between the thief who takes the money to steal and the soldier who invades Poland under threat of imprisonment is that Hitler applied a stronger incentive, in a way that violated the soldier’s rights, and one that in my view excuses the soldier’s actions assuming he had no better alternative. And if it does not excuse, it’s a mitigating factor.

            But the difference is not that one had free will and the other didn’t. That is confusing free will (a metaphysical question) with political freedom. Which is the original confusion imparted by David Hume in this very type of debate.

            If you have a partner who wants to cheat so seriously that they’d be willing to do it given the opportunity, that is already a betrayal of trust – the trust that they won’t be in such a state.

            Not telling your partner you’re in a state of mind such as to want to cheat is a form of dishonesty, yes. But it’s a far greater betrayal to actually go out and have sex with someone else, as I have said repeatedly.

          • blacktrance says:

            I’ll be bowing out of this discussion, but I want to make one final point.

            But sure, in the metaphysical sense, they were perfectly free to say “I won’t invade Poland”. The consequences is that they would have been sent to a concentration camp, but they were free to choose that consequence.