By the author of unsongbook.com

Links 2/16: N-Acetyl Selink

Famous books rewritten in the style of Donald Trump: Lord Of The Rings, Atlas Shrugged

Confucianism is newly popular in China after bouncing back from its Cultural Revolution-era ban. The government hopes to build up the philosophy as some kind of principled alternative to Western liberalism, although for now it still seems kind of forced. Bonus for people with too many stereotypes about the conformist East: one of the leaders of the Confucian revival decided to make his point by going around in old Confucian-style robes.

Eliezer Yudkowsky thinks AlphaGo’s victory is a pretty big sign.

Relevant to our interests: a new study on guns and homicide continues to find a correlation; goes part of the way to eliminating a reverse-causation hypothesis.

George R. R. Martin’s continent of Westeros is just Britain and an inverted Ireland mashed together.

After I complained about weighted blankets costing too much, Kate very kindly found one that only costs $90.

Can we really kill all mosquitos in the world to eliminate malaria? Obviously there are some risks here, but risks have to be weighed against benefits – if we don’t do it, mosquito-borne diseases keep killing one million people each year. Related: general staring in awe at the possibilities of CRISPR. Related: can gene drives mitigate wild animal suffering? Of course Brian Tomasik weighs in.

Y Combinator is interested in basic income.

A lot of talk recently on the persistency of ancestry-adjusted economic success – that is, the peoples who were doing more agriculture thousands of years ago are more modernized and prosperous today. Here’s Brian Caplan (with some extra recommendations) and Dietrich Vollrath, and an NBER paper on AfricaGarett Jones has also been talking about this a lot. “You can control your country’s future ancestors!” is the new motto for immigration skepticism.

China Channel is a Firefox add-on that puts you behind the Great Firewall of China. Useful for journalists and developers who want to know how (and if) Chinese people will view their site; interesting for other people who want to know what Chinese Internet users have to go through every day. Warning: you may be authentically kicked off various websites or the whole Internet and not be able to browse normally again until you turn this off.

“Shockingly” successful new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease in mice. Compound already has some medical uses and so might be prescribable off-label (though talk to a real neurologist first before you believe this).

If you ever wanted to know what Louis XIV, Mark Antony, and James Maxwell would look like if they were pretty anime girls, now you have moehistory dot tumblr dot com.

Plomin et al on Discontinuity in the genetic and environmental causes of the intellectual disability spectrum. Severely disabled people have specific disorders not related to normal intellectual variation; mildly disabled people just got the short end of the stick in the ordinary genetic lottery.

The Netherlands is training attack eagles to solve their drone problem. Next step: train attack pterodactyls to solve their eagle problem.

Redditors recollect the best Cards Against Humanity plays ever.

Spotted Toad discusses a paper about genetic confounds to value-added teacher pay. If I understand it right (uncertain; it’s pretty complicated) your genes affect not only how much you’ve already learned, but how much you will learn in each particular year. So if we paid teachers based on how much their students’ test scores improve, we might just be rewarding teachers who get genetically-lucky children. Also, the study doesn’t really make a big deal of this and I don’t trust myself to have definitely understood this correctly, but it looks like they might have calculated what percent of variation in test scores (corrected for past test scores) is due to the school environment and found it to be 4%? That would be…something.

Man hacks a bunch of drones together to create a functioning hoverboard, flies it over a lake, is slain by Dutch attack eagles.

A few years ago, some libertarians said they would move to New Hampshire if 20,000 other libertarians also agreed to move to New Hampshire. The theory was that New Hampshire was small and already pretty libertarian, and 20,000 people is a lot of people, so they would have a lot of influence to affect the state and build the sort of libertarian community they wanted. Now they’ve finally gotten their 20,000 and the move will be beginning soon. Needless to say this is a pretty creative way of doing activism. I generally support people branching off into legally isolated communities in order to let everyone achieve their goals simultaneously – but if I were a non-libertarian New Hampshirite right now I would be pretty upset.

The Brain Preservation Foundation’s $25,000 Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize has been won by a team who demonstrated “near perfect, long-term structural preservation of an intact mammalian brain” with obvious positive implications for cryonics. Next step is the conceptually similar Large Mammal Prize, which is offering $25,000 for a perfectly preserved pig brain – just in case any of you happen to have one lying around.

This week in accurate animal names: the alien head fish. This week in inaccurate animal names: the mountain chicken.

Impressive recent progress in US internet speed.

“Other people don’t use Twitter the way you do”: one random tweet selected from the website per click.

On the one hand, my theory of a vast conspiracy to replace success-based-on-merit with success-based-on-college-admissions plus college-admissions-based-on a-fuzzy-system-which-in-the-end-will-reduce-to-social-class-and-conformity was overly paranoid and politicized. On the other hand, this article.

Related: New study suggests that rise in college tuitions pretty much entirely from effects of increased subsidization. Ben Southwood’s commentary links my Tulip Subsidies post.

If Clinton wins the primary, will Sanders backers be too bitter to support her in the general? I’m betting ‘no’, but an interesting question and a parable on the dangers of being too quick to insult your opponents.

Study: Low resting heart rate is associated with violence in late adolescence. This isn’t the first time people have found this, either. My totally non-serious troll theory is that this is why stimulants decrease adolescent violence.

This week in academic intolerance: Christian college kicks out professor who says Christians and Muslims worship the same god. I didn’t even know that was up for debate!

Another top doctor in another top medical journal blasts the state of nutrition science – this time it’s cardiologist Steven Nissen in Annals of Internal Medicine. Obligatory denunciation of Ancel Keys is of course included. The Washington Post has a really good post-mortem with a survey of the arguments and counterarguments. Possible summary: “Everyone agrees nutrition science is hard, but nutrition scientists are trying their best, and maybe you could lay off them for a while and also stop reporting every single preliminary result of theirs on the front page of the newspaper”.

The effect of culture: German families who watched West German as opposed to East German TV had fewer children, maybe because the West German shows promoted a culture of smaller family sizes. I freely admit I would not have predicted this and will have to adjust a lot of my beliefs.

All you people who say you’re tolerant of everybody whether they’re white or black or purple, now is your time to shine.

Tyler Cowen’s unemployment bet with Bryan Caplan.

The US is finally starting to win Math Olympiads, and all it had to do was get a couple of bright kids out of the normal school system and into places that could cultivate their talents. With a shout-out to SPARC, which is (was?) affiliated by CFAR and MIRI.

Raptors (the birds, not the dinosaur) may be deliberately spreading fire. Next step: arm pterodactyls with AK-47s to solve the fire-wielding raptor problem.

Study: the more vengeful your god, the more cooperative your society.

Study: over the past decade, the black incarceration rate has gone way down.

This week in overly generic place names: Humansville, Missouri and Hart’s Location, New Hampshire.

This week in things that don’t replicate: some of the advantages of bilingualism. Bonus for suggested adversarial collaboration, malus for the adversary saying “no way”.

Can classical conditioning of the immune system partly replace normal immunosuppressant drugs?!

New study challenges the idea that Native Americans drink more, finds in self-report survey that Native Americans drink at the same rate (and the same amount) as various other groups. But as usual, read the r/science comments, and remember that hospital records, which are a lot more trustworthy than self-report surveys, treat Native Americans for alcohol-related complaints at four times the usual rate. I continue to be wary of self-report drug use surveys.

Old and boring: Markov chains. New and exciting: neural nets trained to predict texts. From Strunk & White: “The most useful kind of paragraph is the Possessive Jesus Of Composition And Publication. The Possessive Jesus Of Composition And Publication is a paragraph of two independent legs in which the reader will probably find a series of three thousand or more emphatic statements…this sentence cannot help himself by substituting a semicolon for a comma. Instead, the sentence will always do well to examine his brother the paragraph and to write twenty ideas that are related to the paragraphs. In spring summer or winter sentences should be avoided.”

More anti-bullying programs that seem to work.

The newest study on benzodiazepines says they do not in fact raise dementia risk. Take this alongside the latest studies on cannabis not in fact affecting IQ, and maybe we should be a little more careful with correlational drug side effect research.

Speaking of careful drug side effect research! Previous correlational studies have failed to really show any problems with light drinking in pregnancy, but might have been confounded by mostly healthy people drinking more. A new study (excellent summary by Vox here) uses “Mendelian randomization” – that is, it compares people with genes that predispose them to drink more versus people with genes that predispose them to drink less. Since genes are upstream from everything else, it’s harder to confound those than actual drinking habits (I was originally concerned about them finding inter-population differences, but they seem to have controlled appropriately). The new methodology finds that light drinking does indeed harm babies, and the CDC has updated its guidelines to suggest that any women who might be pregnant, even without knowing it, should avoid drinking.

Public Policy Polling’s new South Carolina report will tell you which candidates’ supporters are predominantly male versus female, or older vs. younger. It will also tell you less frequently polled questions, like which kind of barbeque sauce they like, who they think should have won the Civil War, and whether or not interning the Japanese during World War II was a good idea. Note that only Republicans got the fun questions, so the Very Liberal category has miniscule sample size and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Many chapters of the Koran began with mysterious combinations of letters. Theories include impenetrable divine secrets vs. the initials of the scribes who first recorded them.

A secret government AI called SKYNET is malfunctioning and sending its heavily armed robots to kill innocent people. This is not a drill.

This week’s best-titled physics blog post: The Universe Has A High (But Not Infinite) Sleep Number.

The American Enterprise Institute has determined that the average person would only get an extra $70/year if we stopped paying CEOs ridiculous salaries and gave it to the workers instead. Unfortunately, this is the American Enterprise Institute being very tricky. A commenter on r/economics points out the problems, re-does the analysis, and finds that the per capita bonus would actually be as high as $406/year. Still not going to single-handedly solve poverty, but starting to look a little more attractive.

You’ve probably already read the commentary on Scalia’s death, but did you know that there was a play about him and an opera about his friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Or that he helped push Obama to nominate (the very liberal) Elena Kagan to the Court?

Noah Smith: Some new evidence suggests, contra economic theory, that free trade with China has cost jobs without necessarily replacing them elsewhere. David Friedman, any thoughts?

Educational psychology’s omnipresent superstar theory of “grit” claims that success depends not on any innate ability but on a (teachable) passion for sticking to hard work in the face of difficulties. Now it’s been tested (abstract, news article), and…”grit” accounts for 0.5% of variation in academic achievement (compared to 40% for intelligence). To add insult to injury, “grit” turns out to be pretty much identical to plain old Conscientiousness, which like everything else is about half heritable and half non-shared environment. I assume the grit research community has sworn to diligently keep pushing on in the face of this hardship. Also, would somebody please use this methodology for growth mindset?

When the Chinese bureaucrats who invented the Three Represents, the Four Olds, and the Eight Honors get bored and stop taking pride in their work, you get the propaganda campaign in favor of the Two Whatevers.

For fans of HPMoR or Japanese light novels: Eliezer Yudkowsky has a new novella, A Girl Corrupted by the Internet is the Summoned Hero?! (sample of first few chapters available here)

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1,472 Responses to Links 2/16: N-Acetyl Selink

  1. You seem to not have the required bad Vox article, here you are.

    Can anyone explain how gene drive are possible with mechanics of evolution? Like I'd assume that gene drive genes would be most of genomes or we would have some resistance to them.

    Regarding the AI killing people, if you train it on anything slightly wrong it will magnify that. Like a robot was given a difficult task where all the images of one class were taken at night and so i just classified based on level of light.

    Edit: idk what is going on with the html here. the text highlights when mousing over?

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      • XG277 says:

        I actually got a change made to this article. I mean sure I spent my lunch hour writing a 750 word email to the author and both senior editors at Vox complaining about it and all I got was a ghost edit (no correction on the masthead) that just made it clear that they were parroting one of the bad statistics and that they didn’t generate it themselves, but that totally counts. Right guys? ….. Guys? …. anyway here is the email and their response if anyone is curious.

        To the Author and Editors,

        North Carolina’s drug welfare program may be unnecessary and created in bad faith, but either your article was written with the same kind of bad faith or you have demonstrated some laughable incompetence with statistics. In it you say that “150 people were referred for drug testing” and “21 tested positive” . The sane number to derive from that is that 14% (21/150) of public aid applicants who had been convicted of a felony within 3 years of applying to the program tested positive. Instead you compare the number tested positive to all 7600 people who applied for the program, including the 7450 of them who did not get testing. Do you seriously not see the flaw in assuming that of the 7450 individuals who did not get testing none of them were using drugs? You state literally sentences later that the rate of illicit drug use in NC is 8%. If this giant cohorts rate of drug use is supposedly 0% why are we not studying that as part of the war on drugs. Do you believe we should just have heroin addicts without felony convictions apply for the Work First Program in NC instead of sending them to rehab? Because apparently by virtue of being part of the cohort not referred for drug testing we can assume their drug use will drop to zero.

        Amazingly, it goes downhill from there. You mention a bit further in that actually that group of 150 that got referred that only 80 actually showed up. So the real lesson we get from this data is that when you try to drug test public aid applicants who had been convicted of a felony within 3 years of applying to the program, nearly half won’t bother showing up and of those that do will have a rate of drug use more than three times the general population (21/80 = 26.25%). Now let’s compare that to the title of your article: “North Carolina is the latest state to find welfare recipients rarely use illegal drugs” to what actually happened: North Carolina looked at welfare applicants who had been convicted of a felony within 3 years of applying to the program and found that they use illegal drugs at over three times what is accepted as the general population rate. Nothing seems incongruous to you? Clicking through your other links finds the same pattern of testing a small group from a pool of welfare applicants and then comparing the number of positives to the entire pool of applicants. The Tennessee program that found only 65 of 39,121? Here is a quote from the article that you linked “Since the law got started, 609 people have been asked to take a drug test: 544 tested negative and 65 tested positive”. 65 divided by 609 is 10.7% or slightly above the national average. The Arizona program that only found one only tested 19 people over the course of 5 years (from your link: “over the course of more than five years, 42 people have been asked to take a follow-up drug test and 19 actually took the test”). And the Utah one is not 12 out of 47,000 it was 12 out of 466 (this one is actually still quite low, not giving a full quote here its literally the second sentence of the HuffPo article you linked too).

        Here’s something that may surprise you based on this email so far, Victoria. We’re on the same side on this issue. I think the laws are bad for ideological reasons and beyond that I doubt how practically effective they would be in deterring drug use anyway, but your article is so bad it makes our side looks like its populated by blind partisans who can’t read a study. If you framed the numbers this way on purpose shame on you. Shame on you as a journalist for so badly abusing your platform to mislead people and shame on you as a partisan for being so bad at it. If you truly are this bad at statistics, maybe take a little break from writing about numbers until you have a chance to do some serious brushing up. As it stands I’ll be eyeing the numbers of every article published by Vox more closely knowing that they will allow, intentionally or not, articles like this to be published which abuse statistics so thoroughly,

        Regards,
        XG277’s name

        And the response:

        Hello XG277’s first name,

        I’m Victoria’s editor. Thanks for your note. We’re clarifying the language here to show that the department of health provided that .3% figure to reporters (and Victoria doubly confirmed the figure with the department this morning and we have an email saying as such). We quoted part of the email in the story; their rationale is that the sample size is indicative of the full population of 7600 people.

        Thank you for your concern and please let me know if there are any questions.

        Best,
        Michelle

        So yeah. All my concerns totally addressed /s

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Vox is not actually any more intellectually honest than Slate or Salon, they’re just selling a slightly different brand of ideology. I was hugely disappointed to realize this, but we’ve got to accept the reality of the situation.

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          • XG277 says:

            Fair enough. I mean we were warned. Their motto is ‘explain the news’ not ‘explain the news accurately’

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          • Jack V says:

            And Fox’s slogan is “Fair and Balanced”, not “Fair and Balanced and we actually mean that we’re not outright lying” 🙁

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          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >Vox is not actually any more intellectually honest than Slate or Salon, they’re just selling a slightly different brand of ideology.

            I’d say Vox and Slate are about equal. With Salon being noticeably worse.

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          • Held in Escrow says:

            Going to agree here, Vox and Slate both have some decent folk on their staff. The Vox articles recently on my field of expertise (renewable integration) where actually pretty spot on! I mean, they’re still a giant heartbreaker; I was so excited when Ezra Klein started Vox only to see my hopes crushed but I would not put it even close to the same level as Salon.

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        • Anon. says:

          >their rationale is that the sample size is indicative of the full population of 7600 people.

          wat

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        • Deiseach says:

          We’re clarifying the language here to show that the department of health provided that .3% figure to reporters

          That’s the big clue right there. A lot of “reporting” is no such thing, it’s rewriting press releases or turning a molehill into a mountain. Why recheck figures for yourself? Surely the party giving them to you got them right in the first place! After all, you’re a journalist not a mathematician. (And if the North Carolina Department of Health is that bad at statistics, then there’s a lot more to worry about).

          Seriously, at this stage, the only thing I’ll believe is correct in a newspaper or media outlet is the death notices and sports pages 🙂

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          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There has been a surge of GamerGate articles going around in the past day, and while I *really* *really* don’t want to get into which side is right here, one thing I noticed was that articles were talking about how the police departments were ignoring complaints of rape/death threats — with no attempt made to ask the police departments what the hold-up was. It’s like that was too much work, especially when you already have your 3000 words.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            Assuming the question was even asked, I would guess that a large part of the hold up is insufficient evidence.

            When I was still working EMS and responding to domestic violence calls on a semi-regular basis I must have overheard the following conversation at least once a month. Paraphrasing…

            Deputy: Had they threatened you before?
            Citizen: Yes they sent me all sorts of nasty messages saying they were going to ____ (beat, rape, kill, maim, etc…)
            Deputy: May I see them?
            Citizen: I deleted them, because they were so horrible
            Deputy: …
            Citizen: Well why are you just standing there aren’t you going to arrest his/her sorry ass?

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          I emailed some Vox higher-ups about this sort of thing once (I’m being deliberately vague because I’m not sure about the ethics of revealing private email conversations). They said that they are very committed to accuracy, that they sometimes make mistakes, and that when these are pointed out they are happy to correct them. They seemed to genuinely misunderstand certain points, and to have differing interpretations of others that I find questionable but which are within the range of what smart honest people might come up with.

          I know my links posts often contain a lot of really wrong stuff before all of you guys correct me, and I think maybe once you get to the point where you’re publishing twenty or thirty different things on topics you know next to nothing about, eventually it just becomes too hard to do it in a really virtuous manner and you stop worrying about it as much.

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          • keranih says:

            If your business is communicating facts, and if one of the things you don’t care about so much any more is that your headline rests on getting the size of the denominator wrong by four orders of magnitude, maybe you should get the F&^% out of that business.

            (you= vox, not scott)

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          • Nathan says:

            Being incorrect about complicated stuff is easy to do, and I don’t blame Vox for it. Pulling dramatic and far reaching conclusions out of studies you don’t really understand is a lot less defensible. And deliberately misrepresenting your opponents (such as Yglesias has done in claiming that Republicans say Bush was not President on 9/11) is really very poor form.

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          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, but Scott, you’re an amateur doing this as a hobby or adjunct to your day job. You are not representing yourself as an official media outlet that has (people will assume) the standards of accuracy and fact-checking of the traditional media (I pause here for you all to laugh) and you certainly are not making a living from it (unless ads for meal replacements really draw in the big bucks, in which case I want in, too).

            You are not, we your readers are led to assume, a digital media company with a selection of brands targeted at various demographics (“educated households with six-figure incomes and a head of house less than 35 years old” i.e. young, college-educated, middle-class with money to burn – the types that make our advertisers salivate as target market because they’ll buy expensive fripperies and novelties if sold to them as authentic, unique, cutting-edge, sophisticated, and not-part-of-the-herd experiences/kit), including one (Vox) set up to fulfil “the previously unmet demand for explanatory journalism”.

            If its purpose is to explain the news, then it lives or dies by its accuracy and the quickness of correcting misinformation or bad statistics.

            I will extend a lot more tolerance and leeway to a one-man-band providing free content than I will to a media outlet set up by professionals with extensive experience in the field as a for-profit business.

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        • trebawa says:

          So what’s not clear to me is how they determined who got “referred” for testing. If they made that determination based on some criterion which correlates with drug use (which seems likely, given that the language in the original article says “According to data supplied by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, out of about 7,600 cases reviewed from August to December, about 150 met the criteria to require a drug test.”.

          If that’s the case, what we’re really measuring is the probability that someone is using drugs, given that they meet the selection criteria.

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        • Outis says:

          I scrolled down to see what their commenters were saying, and it turns out that they have no comments section. Ridiculous.

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          • BBA says:

            The higher a news site’s traffic, the lower the quality of their comments section. Vox was founded by former Washington Post writers and given how awful WaPo comments are I don’t blame Vox for deciding it isn’t worth the trouble to have one.

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    • dk says:

      The Technology and Science of “Gene Drive” by Razib Khan at his GNXP blog. Be sure also to read the comments

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    • Montfort says:

      The last time the red text thing happened, it was an improperly closed link tag.

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    • Muga Sofer says:

      >Regarding the AI killing people, if you train it on anything slightly wrong it will magnify that.

      No, no, the seven people they trained it on were definitely related to terrorists in some way.

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  2. Lisa says:

    The link to the alien head fish doesn’t work.

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  3. but if I were a non-libertarian New Hampshirite right now I would be pretty upset.

    Okay, but aren’t you generally in favor of open-ish borders? Or have I misremembered? Anyway, if Mexicans can move to California then I see no principled way to object to libertarians moving to New Hampshire.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not 100% in favor of open borders, and I think if, say, twenty million Mexicans deliberately coordinated among themselves to move to California so that they could vote in laws saying everyone had to speak Spanish, a lot of people would view that a little differently than people slipping across the border to find work.

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      • Leonard says:

        A fairer comparison would be if ~600000 Mexicans coordinated a move to California. (pop of NH: 1.33m; 66x the 20000 FSPers. Pop of California: 39m.) And you know? It’s been done, minus the coordination. The illegal population in California is estimated at 2.4m.

        But I have to agree with La Dreapta. It’s the principle of the thing.

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        • Mary says:

          IIRC, the Mexican government has handed out directions on how to do it. Which would make it not only coordinated, but an attack of war (as an invasion).

          Report comment

          • Outis says:

            One of the most interesting features of the open borders project is that it makes war obsolete by virtue of automatic surrender. Who needs tanks and rifles when your people can just walk across the border unarmed?

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          • Anon says:

            The Mexican government has also paid for registration fees so its citizens living in the U.S. illegally can apply for DACA.

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          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Outis: This has already been done- in 1975 Morocco took control of what was then the Spanish Sahara (now the disputed territory of Western Sahara) by marching 350,000 unarmed Moroccan civilians, led by King Hassan II, across the border. There were Spanish troops present, but they didn’t fire.

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          • Aapje says:

            Stalin also used it as a military tactic to ‘pacify’ regions by moving ethnic groups in such a way that every region had a significant Russian minority who would oppose independence.

            China used the same tactic in Tibet:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinicization_of_Tibet

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          • eponymous says:

            Ironically, the US ended up getting Texas after the Mexican government opened the border and allowed mass immigration from the US.

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          • nil says:

            “One of the most interesting features of the open borders project is that it makes war obsolete by virtue of automatic surrender. Who needs tanks and rifles when your people can just walk across the border unarmed?”

            Unilaterally putting your citizens under the jurisdiction of a separate sovereign government seems like a funny way to win a war.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Fifth columning has a long and (in)glorious history.

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          • vV_Vv says:

            @Outis:

            Who needs tanks and rifles when your people can just walk across the border unarmed?

            Because violent conflict within a state never happens.

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            Here is your friendly monthly reminder that net illegal immigration has been zero for the past eight years. The fifth column attack of war which provoked an automatic surrender ended while you weren’t paying attention.

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          • Jiro says:

            It’s not as if they illegally immigrate and then disappear; the ones that have already illegally immigrated are still there and still affecting things.

            The same applies to Scott’s objection to libertarians moving to New Hampshire, of course. If they all moved there (which still makes them proportionately fewer than Mexicans in California) and stopped moving but the ones that had already moved there changed the laws and culture, a lot of people wouldn’t like it.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Unilaterally putting your citizens under the jurisdiction of a separate sovereign government seems like a funny way to win a war.

            If the separate sovereign government in question is a democracy, it may not be separate that much longer.

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            @Jiro

            Yes, but (1) the US population continues to grow apace, absorbing the illegal immigrants, and (2) the ones who are here assimilate over time. At their peak, illegal immigrants comprised 4.1% of the population, but this has already fallen to 3.6%.

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          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Earthly Knight,

            You’re asserting your conclusion as if it were evidence of itself.

            If illegal immigrants arrive, never leave, and their children are officially counted as US citizens that doesn’t mean that we have “absorbed” them and the problem is solved. It just means that we have given up on actually removing them.

            I have some sympathy for the principle of “Stadtluft macht frei” or the idea of the melting pot, and there is evidence that some immigrant communities are assimilating to mainstream American culture. At the same time, actually presenting that evidence or those ideas would be helpful especially since many of us they are unconvincing.

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            The point about absorption is simple and purely mathematical. If a subpopulation holds at the replacement rate, while the larger population of which it is a part continues to grow, the subpopulation will, over time, take up a smaller and smaller fraction of the population. If net illegal immigration stays at zero, in a decade only 2.5% of Americans will be illegal immigrants, and in two decades their share of the population will be negligible.

            This data on the characteristics and attitudes of second-generation immigrants might help to assuage your worries about assimilation. Some highlights:

            –While 33% of first-generation Hispanic immigrants think of themselves as Americans, 61% of second-generation immigrants do.

            –26% of married second-generation Hispanic immigrants have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity.

            –78% of second-generation Hispanic immigrants believe that you can get ahead if you work hard, compared to 58% of the general population.

            –A full 90% of second-generation Hispanic immigrants are proficient english speakers.

            This issue is a bit vexing for me, because while I (a) sympathize with concerns that a huge influx of immigrants might overwhelm public education and social services, and (b) value our culture and don’t want it radically altered by outsiders with a different way of life, I also think it’s pretty clear that the era of massive illegal immigration has ended, and don’t see a bunch of hardworking Catholics as aliens with irreconcilable values.

            For what it’s worth, I think of fears about immigration in Europe, where the immigrants do often hail from pre-enlightenment cultures, as a lot more real and pressing.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Earthly Knight:

            This issue is a bit vexing for me, because while I (a) sympathize with concerns that a huge influx of immigrants might overwhelm public education and social services, and (b) value our culture and don’t want it radically altered by outsiders with a different way of life, I also think it’s pretty clear that the era of massive illegal immigration has ended, and don’t see a bunch of hardworking Catholics as aliens with irreconcilable values.

            Exactly. The problem is people vastly exaggerating the costs while ignoring the benefits.

            Or, in fact, treating the benefits as costs by complaining that immigrants are “stealing jobs”.

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          • Jiro says:

            This data on the characteristics and attitudes of second-generation immigrants might help to assuage your worries about assimilation.

            First of all, that doesn’t distinguish illegal and legal immigrants!

            Next, it compares today’s first generation immigrants to the second generation that resulted from yesterday’s first generation immigrants. In other words, it is comparing apples and oranges. We don’t know that yesterday’s first generation had the same attitudes as today’s first generation to begin with, and we don’t know that the second generations will change in the same way (and I can think of a number of reasons why they might not).

            Furthermore, the way those questions are phrased is such that they ask almost nothing about the immigrants’ beliefs. “Do you consider yourself an American” is just an applause light and says nothing about what the immigrant actually thinks. If you look at the political party question, the second generation was actually more tilted towards the Democrats than the first generation. (And “Hispanics” includes non-Mexicans such as Cubans who are more likely to be Republican; I wonder what the result would have been for Mexicans only). And that’s just about the only question related to politics–what did either the first or second generation think about taxation, government spending, etc.?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            Why, oh why, might Hispanic immigrants (especially illegal immigrants) and their descendants dislike Republicans?

            Could it be that the Republicans want to deport (or “self-deport”) either them, their relatives, or their close acquaintances? You can’t keep calling to kick people out of the country and then act surprised when they support the party that doesn’t want to do so. Moreover, by driving them to that party, you aid in their indoctrination into the view that the solution for all their problems is more welfare and redistribution.

            It’s pretty much the same reason why there is a relative lack of blacks, gays, lesbians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists in the Republican party.

            Gay couples, especially, are perhaps the most natural Republican demographic from an economic standpoint. Double income, no kids. What possible reason could they have for not voting for Republican politicians who will lower taxes and cut welfare spending?

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          • Randy M says:

            @Earthly Knight
            I agree that Catholic Hispanics do less to change the culture of a Western nation than Muslim Arab/Syrian/etc. immigrants will.

            But when you say

            If net illegal immigration stays at zero, in a decade only 2.5% of Americans will be illegal immigrants, and in two decades their share of the population will be negligible.

            Why do you think the relevant group to look at is “Illegal Immigrant” rather than the population to which the Illegal Immigrants belong? Immigrants tend to have higher birthrates then the native population, so positing less influence as time passes seems to assume complete assimilation.

            @Vox: Could be because supporting smaller government (which republicans ostensibly do) is actually quite rare.
            What kinds of political parties were the immigrants supporting in their home countries?
            Republicans assumed Hispanics were natural conservatives because they were Catholic, I guess? And aren’t like the blue tribe much, maybe. But poor immigrants will be more drawn to economic issues than cultural ones.

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          • keranih says:

            @Vox –

            You may have said so before, but please remind me just what you think our government (or our citizens should tell our government) do regarding people who have broken immigration law?

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          • Outis says:

            Earthly:

            Here is your friendly monthly reminder that net illegal immigration has been zero for the past eight years.

            That graph does not show what you claim it shows. If the influx of new immigrants is balanced by existing immigrants being amnestied, then the number of illegal immigrants is stable, but net illegal immigration remains positive.

            Vox:

            Could it be that the Republicans want to deport (or “self-deport”) either them, their relatives, or their close acquaintances? You can’t keep calling to kick people out of the country and then act surprised when they support the party that doesn’t want to do so.

            Which disproves the claim of assimilation. They are American citizens and think themselves as Americans, but in practice they vote according to the interests of a non-American group. As usual, self-reporting is no substitute for observing actual behavior.

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          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Outis

            Do you think it is reasonable for someone to vote for their family to be deported?

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            @Outis

            Through 2013, the Obama administration granted legal status to a grand total of 250,000 illegal immigrants, or about 50,000 per year. This number is trivial, and will not affect the conclusion that net illegal immigration stands at zero.

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          • anonymous says:

            Why do you think the relevant group to look at is “Illegal Immigrant” rather than the population to which the Illegal Immigrants belong?

            Probably because he doesn’t share your … intuitions regarding the overwhelming importance of race and ethnicty.

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          • Randy M says:

            Forgive me for thinking genes and culture might affect behavior.
            I’ll just click my heals together three times and say “tabula rasa” and everything will be fine.

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          • Z says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            “If a subpopulation holds at the replacement rate, while the larger population of which it is a part continues to grow, the subpopulation will, over time, take up a smaller and smaller fraction of the population.”

            Does that actually apply, regarding the birth rates of immigrants vs. natives in the US? I thought the native US was holding at replacement rate and the overall population has only been growing due to immigration (legal or not).

            http://cis.org/ImmigrantBirthRates-FertilityUS

            http://cis.org/declining-fertility

            http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/mar/12/immigrants-birth-rates-tumble-effect-population-gr/

            “The birth rate of immigrant women of reproductive age dropped from 76 births per 1,000 women in 2013 to 62 births per 1,000 in 2008. By contrast, native-born women’s birth rate dropped from 54 per 1,000 to 50 — a much smaller decline.

            Immigrant women still have a higher fertility rate, but their average of 2.22 children expected during their lifetime is well below immigrants’ peak of 2.75 in 2008, said the report, written by Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler for the Center for Immigration Studies. By contrast, the native-born fertility rate was just 1.79 children per woman in 2013, for an average of 1.87 overall.”

            It would seem the evidence contradicts rather than supports your assertion, but if you have some primary source that caused you to believe that natives have a higher than replacement birth rate while immigrants hold at replacement rate, let’s see it.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ keranih:

            You may have said so before, but please remind me just what you think our government (or our citizens should tell our government) do regarding people who have broken immigration law?

            Give them amnesty. Preferably with little medals for having the courage to break an unjust law.

            @ Outis:

            Which disproves the claim of assimilation. They are American citizens and think themselves as Americans, but in practice they vote according to the interests of a non-American group. As usual, self-reporting is no substitute for observing actual behavior.

            They vote like Democrats. Who, last time I checked, were assimilated Americans.

            But sure, how can they fully assimilate and feel comfortable as “real Americans” while under the threat of deportation for themselves or their families?

            What I want is for immigrants to vote for small government and low taxes. Having the party ostensibly in favor of small government engage in race-baiting and immigrant-hating does not accomplish this goal.

            If I were the child of an illegal immigrant, would I say “Hmm, let me check out what the Republicans are saying on economic policy?” No, I would almost certainly hear one sentence from them on immigration and tune everything else out.

            It’s a vicious circle: take any group which doesn’t have much support for Republicans. Immigrants, for example (but it also applies to blacks, Jews, gays, atheists, etc.). Republicans want to form a coalition to, say, lower taxes. But say immigrants lean left just a little bit. So Republicans say: aw, it won’t hurt to try to combine anti-tax sentiment with anti-immigrant sentiment; the immigrants already are against us, and we can pick up a lot of xenophobic people in the bargain. Then, once immigrants see this, they start to lean much more left, and so the Republicans decide to intensify the anti-immigrant sentiment. This continues until they’ve completely alienated them.

            The “Sailer Strategy” is just to triple-down on appealing to white men, while alienating everyone else. Because hey, if you can get 90% of their vote, you don’t need other votes. I think this is unlikely to work.

            Moreover, if our goal is to promote small government and individual rights, immigration freedom, and the freedom to employ and associate with immigrants, is a major constituent of that. It is not a costless tradeoff, trading more immigration restrictions for lower taxes, even if you could get away with it.

            @ Z:

            It’s called “intermarriage”.

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            @Z

            I am talking about illegal immigrants, that is, foreigners who have entered the country illegally. The number of illegal immigrants in the country has been constant (actually, it’s fallen slightly) over the past eight years. You are talking about illegal immigrants + the descendants of illegal immigrants. American-born descendants of illegal immigrants are American citizens.

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          • Outis says:

            @sweeneyrod: I think it’s unreasonable to give someone voting rights when their own family remains involved in illegal immigration. I know that America has its hands partially tied by jus soli, but other countries should take heed.

            Of course, the whole point would be moot if both parties treated support for mass illegal immigration as beyond the pale, but alas.

            @Earthly: thanks. I still think it’s suspicious that we are not given data on actual flows (how many people are entering, how many are leaving), and I know that there is a large number of “sanctuary cities” that actively hinder collection of data on illegal immigration. But let’s assume it’s true that it has stopped. Do you have a theory of why? What makes you think that it will not resume?

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          • Jiro says:

            Vox:

            They vote like Democrats. Who, last time I checked, were assimilated Americans.

            While Democrats are Americans, they are a skewed subset of Americans. Mexican immigrants would have to vote like average Americans in order to not change the country. Voting like a skewed subset of Americans is not enough.

            EK:

            I am talking about illegal immigrants, that is, foreigners who have entered the country illegally. The number of illegal immigrants in the country has been constant (actually, it’s fallen slightly) over the past eight years.

            By that reasoning, if we legalized all illegal immigrants right now, you could say that the number of illegal immigrants dropped drastically to zero and illegal immigration has no effect whatsoever.

            When people worry about the effect of illegal immigration, they are comparing the situation that results if the immigrants don’t arrive and the situation that results if they do. The differences between these two situations include differences that are an indirect consequence of the illegal immigrants, as well as differences caused by the illegal immigrants directly doing things. The creation of more citizens whose ideological balance differs from the existing citizens is an indirect effect.

            (If we developed brain emulations and ems are considered citizens, and by some accident of history people only wanted to create ems who are Democrats, would you say that creating a few million ems doesn’t change anything because they’re all citizens anyway?)

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            While Democrats are Americans, they are a skewed subset of Americans. Mexican immigrants would have to vote like average Americans in order to not change the country. Voting like a skewed subset of Americans is not enough.

            So if they voted like Republicans, that would be a reason to keep them out?

            What I really mean is that the views they support are within the American mainstream. They are not radical ISIS-supporters coming to burn the place down.

            Of course, if a substantial number of people enter the country who vote like Democrats, that will push the country more toward the position favored by Democrats. That does not mean there is a “Stalin—Democrats—Republicans—Hitler” axis, and that this moves us toward Stalin.

            Moreover, as I say, the most important reason they support the Democrats’ economic proposals is because they correctly perceive the Republican worldview to be against them.

            It’s the same reason why Jews heavily lean Democratic. They are repelled by the Christian triumphalism within the Republican party, while with the Democrats they are a much better cultural fit.

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          • Nornagest says:

            Well, I wouldn’t say that the major Latino communities on the West Coast, at least, are a particularly good cultural fit to the Democratic core. They’re much more religious, for one thing — granted, Anglo Catholics historically voted Democratic, but that’s changing — a lot of them are rural, and they tend to show a lot of the sort of small-business entrepreneurialism that Republicans really like.

            Their alignment with the Democrats looks more pragmatic to me. The Republican establishment knows this, it’s why ¡Jeb! and Rubio and, before them, George W. Bush spent a lot of time trying to court the demographic. But the populist wing of the party doesn’t like it, and there’s enough nativist sentiment floating around in its base that I think the populists are going to win, for now.

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          • brad says:

            In NY around 40% of Hispanic people eligible to vote are of Puerto Rican descent and another 20% Dominican, Mexican descent is only around 7%. I don’t have numbers for just NYC but I suspect they’d be even more skewed.

            I think those intra-Hispanic demographics change the potential political calculus significantly as compared to say New Mexico or Illinois, even if at the moment everyone is voting Democratic.

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            When people worry about the effect of illegal immigration, they are comparing the situation that results if the immigrants don’t arrive and the situation that results if they do. The differences between these two situations include differences that are an indirect consequence of the illegal immigrants, as well as differences caused by the illegal immigrants directly doing things.

            This is not quite right. People who are worried about illegal immigration, if they are at all rational, are worried about the effects of current and future government policies. But no future government policy will have the power to strip birthright citizens already alive of their citizenship. So no matter your feelings about illegal immigration, the current population of American citizens who are descended from illegal immigrants is beside the point.

            Now, the future crop of birthright citizens is still on the table. But their numbers will be relatively small, because net illegal immigration has stood at zero for eight years.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nornagest:

            Well, I wouldn’t say that the major Latino communities on the West Coast, at least, are a particularly good cultural fit to the Democratic core. They’re much more religious, for one thing — granted, Anglo Catholics historically voted Democratic, but that’s changing — a lot of them are rural, and they tend to show a lot of the sort of small-business entrepreneurialism that Republicans really like.

            Their alignment with the Democrats looks more pragmatic to me. The Republican establishment knows this, it’s why ¡Jeb! and Rubio and, before them, George W. Bush spent a lot of time trying to court the demographic.

            I wouldn’t call it “pragmatic”. Sure, they have a lot in common with Republicans. That’s my whole point that they’re not the irredeemable reprobate doomed to follow the City of Roosevelt over the City of Reagan.

            The problem is that the immigration issue is much more salient to them. That pushes them away, so they start associating with the people in favor of letting them stay in the country. It just so happens that those people support things as varied as gay rights, abortion rights, and higher taxes on the rich, and they spin a coherent narrative of how it all fits together. Over time, that pushes them more towards the Democratic worldview in all respects.

            (A similar story can be told of how evangelicals, once apolitical, got pushed into the Republican party and changed their own views to cohere with it as the same time they influenced the Republicans to have a more religious message.)

            I think “courting” Hispanics is exactly what the Republicans should be doing. And it mostly is what the “donor” class of “business Republicans” want. The problem is, as you say, the nativist crowd.

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          • Outis says:

            EK:

            Now, the future crop of birthright citizens is still on the table. But their numbers will be relatively small, because net illegal immigration has stood at zero for eight years.

            But there are 11 million illegal immigrants still. You could, for instance, deport them all before they have more children. I think the effect of that would be relatively large.

            In any case, the country’s ability to defend its borders has been permanently damaged. When the next immigration wave hits, it will penetrate even more easily.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Outis:

            But there are 11 million illegal immigrants still. You could, for instance, deport them all before they have more children. I think the effect of that would be relatively large.

            Are you seriously advocating that the U.S. government should, or even has the ability to, round up 11 million people and throw them out of the country?

            Because it’s not going to happen. And it would be completely monstrous if it did happen.

            In any case, the country’s ability to defend its borders has been permanently damaged. When the next immigration wave hits, it will penetrate even more easily.

            If so, then good.

            But honestly, I don’t see how this affects “the country’s ability to defend its borders”. The only thing I see affected is the willingness to do so, i.e. a greater tolerance toward immigrants in some quarters. And even there, you could argue that it has increased other people’s “willingness to defend our borders” by a greater amount.

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          • Aapje says:

            @Vox

            What I really mean is that the views they support are within the American mainstream. They are not radical ISIS-supporters coming to burn the place down.

            That seems like a low standard. I’m pretty sure that many people are upset about behaviors/beliefs that fall far short of that.

            Some comments about things I am not going to bother to quote:

            – I think it’s pretty clear that culture plays a huge effect. There is an enormous difference in outcomes between Asian and non-Asian immigrants. This is not just a peculiarity of Asian immigrants to the US, you see similar high success rates for Asian immigrants in the EU and other places.

            Some other cultures do spectacularly bad. In the Netherlands there are two main groups of Muslim groups, Turks and Maroccans. The latter is doing quite a bit worse than the first and is much less capable of organizing than the first group.

            – There is a clear reduction in birth rates for the second and third generation in my country, getting very close to native rates. This makes the fear that natives are outborn by immigrants a false belief.

            – Nationality given to babies born inside the country is a US law, that my EU country doesn’t have, for which I am glad. It effectively breaks up families when parents can’t stay, but young children can. So you get situations where people are incentivized to leave their children behind, which is a perverse choice.

            – The ‘immigrants don’t cost any jobs’ argument ignores the issue that the jobs taken over by immigrants are initially the lower class jobs, while people who benefit are those who employ/hire gardeners, nannies, taxi drivers, etc. These tend to be the upper and upper middle class. Not surprisingly, the people who tend to be most anti-immigration are the lower class and those in favor are either immigrants themselves or the upper/middle class. Ironically, the first group is then called racist for defending their meager existence, while ‘progressives’ then claim the moral higher ground for advocating policies that benefit them financially (while they are already better off). As such, I see support for open borders on the left as a rather elitist position.

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          • Randy M says:

            “It effectively breaks up families when parents can’t stay, but young children can.”

            Someone explain this to me. Does Mexico et al not grant the children of citizens born elsewhere citizenship? Is there some legal reason why minor citizens cannot be kept with their foreign guardians who are being returned?

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          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t know exactly how Mexico does it, but I do know that the US is pretty unusual among first-world counties in granting jus soli citizenship.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Mexico grants citizenship to anyone born on Mexican soil or to at least one Mexican citizen parent abroad. Those children can go home with their parents unless there is an unwritten “…and of course the child must experience the benefit of being raised in the superior environment of the United States” at work.

            May not apply to all Latin American immigrants, of course.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Aapje:

            Weren’t you the guy saying that Israel should let all the Palestinians in, no questions asked? I find this difficult to square with your opposition to open borders. I mean, supporting open borders in general doesn’t mean you think Israel has to commit suicide in this way, but it doesn’t make too much sense the other way around.

            – The ‘immigrants don’t cost any jobs’ argument ignores the issue that the jobs taken over by immigrants are initially the lower class jobs, while people who benefit are those who employ/hire gardeners, nannies, taxi drivers, etc. These tend to be the upper and upper middle class. Not surprisingly, the people who tend to be most anti-immigration are the lower class and those in favor are either immigrants themselves or the upper/middle class. Ironically, the first group is then called racist for defending their meager existence, while ‘progressives’ then claim the moral higher ground for advocating policies that benefit them financially (while they are already better off). As such, I see support for open borders on the left as a rather elitist position.

            I agree that open borders is senseless as a left-wing position. Welfare “safety nets” are one of the main drivers for immigration restriction: if you turn the country into a private yacht club with special benefits for the members, then you’ve got to worry about too much riffraff coming in, ruining the ambiance, and eating all the hors d’oeuvres. And as you allude to, labor union protectionism was historically one of the major forces for closing borders in the first place.

            In that sense, open borders is a “Koch brothers idea”.

            Anyway, the fact that immigration benefits the upper and middle class doesn’t mean that it hurts the lower class. One major advantage that lower-class Americans have over most immigrants is that they speak fluent, unaccented English. So they will naturally tend to be placed into supervisory roles and those interacting with the public.

            On a wider scale, by being productive and lowering the cost of goods and services that natives buy, immigrants increase the real wages of lower-class natives, even if to some extent they decrease their nominal wages.

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          • Jiro says:

            So if they voted like Republicans, that would be a reason to keep them out?

            It would be reason to say “if we don’t keep them out, the country is going to change”. just like Scott fears for libertarians in New Hampshire.

            Moreover, as I say, the most important reason they support the Democrats’ economic proposals is because they correctly perceive the Republican worldview to be against them.

            That’s a very incomplete reason. George Bush supported Mexican immigration, but that didn’t make them become Republicans. And there are other reasons they support Democrats than the Republican stand on immigration, including their income level and use of social services as well as the tendency for Democrats to gain support by race-baiting and class-baiting.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            It would be reason to say “if we don’t keep them out, the country is going to change”. just like Scott fears for libertarians in New Hampshire.

            It will undoubtedly change. But the change in ideology is unlikely to be as radical when produced by economic migrants versus when it is produced by 20,000 coordinated and extremely committed libertarians.

            That’s a very incomplete reason. George Bush supported Mexican immigration, but that didn’t make them become Republicans. And there are other reasons they support Democrats than the Republican stand on immigration, including their income level and use of social services as well as the tendency for Democrats to gain support by race-baiting and class-baiting.

            George Bush did. But you may have noticed that he faced intense pushback in his own party, ultimately sinking his most important efforts to come up with some solution.

            And yes, there are other reasons why they tend to lean left. But e.g. under Reagan they didn’t lean extremely left. Under George W. Bush they supported him at 45%. When Republicans actually make an effort to appeal to them, they support Republicans in much greater numbers.

            One might hypothesize that stopped their hostility toward them altogether, they might change their ways entirely. But when they talk about “self-deportation”, it turns them away. When they hear that, they tune the Republicans out and don’t even hear the arguments for lower taxes or whatever. They just hear the Democratic story, which is that we need the government to solve all our problems.

            Sure, you can argue that Democrats engage in “race-baiting” and “class-baiting”. The thing is, it’s a lot more persuasive to say “vote for us because the other guys want to kick your family out of the country” when that’s actually true.

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          • Z says:

            EK and Vox:

            Your implied assertion that children of immigrants perfectly assimilate to equal the values, and thus voting behaviors of native citizens has already been addressed…by none other than EK:

            “–While 33% of first-generation Hispanic immigrants think of themselves as Americans, 61% of second-generation immigrants do.”

            61% is not 100%. You need to do better to convince anyone other than yourself that immigration is changing internal demographics enough to change US political outcomes, permanently.

            Their birth rates outpace natives, for at least a few generations. That is established until you can presented a primary source contradicting the one I presented.

            Immigrants and their descendants do not have the same values as the community they are entering, otherwise *at bare minimum* the figures you presented previously would have indicated perfect assimilation. They do not.

            Those are the facts presented thus far. Mental gymnastics doesn’t address the facts I presented, nor the points on second-order implications raised by others in the thread. Present new information or update your beliefs.

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          • Aapje says:

            @Randy

            The point is that the family now has to choose between breaking up the family, which gives the child access to a US education, etc; or keeping the family intact. They are given an impossible choice, IMO. Giving people a choice can be more cruel that not giving them that choice.

            @Vox

            I think that there is a huge difference between migrating to a new country vs migration to a country to which one has very strong connections. I would argue that a Palestinian has a connection to the land where his grandfather lived, which is not comparable to the connection that Mexicans have with the US (or Syrians with Germany).

            Secondly, I believe that Israel had a legal obligation to take back the refugees after the war and am strongly against the concept of ‘facts on the ground’ aka just ignoring legal obligations for a long time and then claiming that they are no longer relevant. It would incentivize bad behavior.

            Thirdly, I believe that people primarily have a duty to build up their own country. In the case of Palestinian refugees, the refugee camps are not a country, so they don’t have that option where they are right now. This is not true for most immigrants.

            One major advantage that lower-class Americans have over most immigrants is that they speak fluent, unaccented English. So they will naturally tend to be placed into supervisory roles and those interacting with the public.

            All lower class Americans speak ‘fluent, unaccented English’????? :O

            I’m just flabbergasted that someone would believe such a thing. Here is one example of how plenty in the lower class don’t speak middle/upper class English:

            http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/Thread-How-to-Speak-Hillbilly-Appalachian-English-Dialect

            African-Americans also tend to have speech patterns which are considered lower class/improper/etc.

            Finally, I think you underestimate the additional qualities that are necessary for a supervisory role, which many in the lower class don’t have. A good example is the ability to speak Spanish. If the supervisor can’t supervise because he can’t communicate with the Mexican workers, he is clearly worse as a supervisor than a Mexican with reasonable bilingual skills. Immigrants are also less ‘trouble’ (= they wont complain about abuse as easily). I could go on.

            On a wider scale, by being productive and lowering the cost of goods and services that natives buy, immigrants increase the real wages of lower-class natives, even if to some extent they decrease their nominal wages.

            A jobless native is objectively worse off with slightly cheaper goods and services than if he had a job and more costly goods. And again, the poorer people are, the fewer goods and services they can afford, so their gain is smaller.

            As a general rule, capitalist gains benefit the rich more than the poor and socialist gains (like welfare) benefit the poor more than the rich.

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            @Z

            I don’t know if you are addressing me, but if you are, let me be clear: in the quotation you first responded to, I was discussing illegal immigrants, not (citizen) descendants of illegal immigrants. Your original comment concerns the descendants of illegal immigrants, and consequently does not make contact with the section of my comment you quoted. I do not need to “update my beliefs” because you were confused about what was going on and started talking about something else.

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          • Nicholas says:

            @Doctor deal
            One of Scott’s links on this very page is about how 1/5 of immigrants’ grandchildren are so Americanized they self-identify as non-Hispanic.

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          • BBA says:

            Replying to statistics earlier in the thread: Not all illegal immigrants are Mexican. Only about half are, and their numbers are declining while the total number of illegal immigrants remains constant. The inflows from the rest of the world, mainly from other Latin American countries and Asia, offset the outflow to Mexico.

            Also, illegal immigrants are split about 50/50 between those who crossed the border illegally and those who entered legally but overstayed their visas. There’s something to the popular image of illegal immigration, but it increasingly doesn’t match the reality.

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          • Jiro says:

            in the quotation you first responded to, I was discussing illegal immigrants, not (citizen) descendants of illegal immigrants

            But the context is about the effect of illegal immigrants. Changing the political balance among the next generation of citizens is certainly an effect of illegal immigrants, even if the citizens are not illegal immigrants themselves.

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          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well, I wouldn’t say that the major Latino communities on the West Coast, at least, are a particularly good cultural fit to the Democratic core. They’re much more religious, for one thing — granted, Anglo Catholics historically voted Democratic, but that’s changing — a lot of them are rural, and they tend to show a lot of the sort of small-business entrepreneurialism that Republicans really like.

            Yeah, I don’t feel like a Red when objections to Mexican immigration come up. Entrepreneurial Christians are exactly the demographic I want to have more of.
            The only way I can make sense of it is that the Republicans are the Party of the native working class, for whom any increase in the supply of labor is a threat. Whereas Democrats are this weird pincer movement of the gentry and lumpenproletariat.

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          • NN says:

            It’s the same reason why Jews heavily lean Democratic. They are repelled by the Christian triumphalism within the Republican party, while with the Democrats they are a much better cultural fit.

            The most recent Pew US religion survey found that American Jews have very liberal/left-wing political views, in some cases more liberal than the religiously unaffiliated. Perhaps Christian triumphalism among Republicans is the reason why they ended up this way, but right now the most logical explanation for why Jews are overwhelmingly Democrats is because they largely agree with the political positions of the Democratic Party. Culturally, most American Jews have been assimilated into the Blue Tribe for a long time. So even if the Republicans were to drop all pretenses of Christian triumphalism tomorrow, they probably wouldn’t appeal to many American Jews, except perhaps for some of the highly religious Orthodox types (the same survey unsurprisingly found that most American Jews aren’t very religious).

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ NN:

            Exactly, it’s self-reinforcing and can’t be eliminated overnight. And before it was merely Christian triumphalism among Republicans, it was just plain anti-Semitism (in the 20s, etc.).

            Interestingly, as I recall, the only Jews who (on average) lean Republican are Russian Jews (who immigrated during or after the Soviet Era). Guess why?

            On the other hand, even Ayn Rand voted for FDR the first time around. For one, because as she said, she didn’t know much about politics. (Also, because he campaigned on the opposite economic platform he governed on: that Hoover was too interventionist, which was true.)

            But one of the main reasons was that FDR planned to repeal Prohibition, which was supported by WASP types and groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

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          • NN says:

            I don’t know exactly how Mexico does it, but I do know that the US is pretty unusual among first-world counties in granting jus soli citizenship.

            That may be true, but the US isn’t unusual among countries in the Americas, most of which grant jus soli citizenship. Jus soli is largely a New World thing. Framing it in terms of first world vs. third world is misleading.

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      • But what if the Mexicans coordinated to move to California to be the swing vote on a bunch of issues that the Californian population was divided 50-50 on? This is a better analogy. If the Free State Project succeeds, New Hampshire Democrats will get their way on a bunch of social issues and New Hampshire Republicans will get their way on a bunch of economic issues. Assuming they care about these issues roughly equally, they should feel neutral about the Free State Project.

        On the other hand, I don’t know if there’s a Fascist Party of New Hampshire, but they should be universally upset by this. Oh well, we can’t all win.

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      • keranih says:

        So, when umpteen thousand come across the border, to the point where one can’t find work in the service sector without speaking Spanish, that’s completely different?

        I agree – a different culture moving into your area is a different culture, and either it’s okay to be disquieted about it, or not.

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      • Deiseach says:

        twenty million Mexicans deliberately coordinated among themselves to move to California so that they could vote in laws saying everyone had to speak Spanish

        Would be defensible on the grounds that the first non-native language spoken in California was indeed Spanish, and that English as the de facto official language really only came in when (quick consult of Wikipedia) “California was acquired by the United States under the terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the defeat of Mexico in the Mexican–American War”.

        I mean, you might well be able to argue on grounds that since Spanish was the original tongue of colonised and settled California, then bi-lingualism or two official languages is not beyond the pale. If people are going to be consistent about “Speak English, you’re living in America!” then they really should translate all the Spanish names (such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, etc.) into English. I’m just surprised no organisation has demanded all the blatant religious names should be removed (there has been to-ing and fro-ing over the seal of Los Angeles county) 🙂

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        • Saint Fiasco says:

          I think it’s defensible if for whatever reason there happen to be a majority of Spanish speakers already there and they want to become a true bilingual state. It’s just common sense.

          However if lots of Spanish speaking people move in just for the purpose of making everyone speak Spanish it does not count because then there was no real need to become bilingual in the first place.

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        • TrivialGravitas says:

          Being Mexican territory does not necessarily mean that it was full of Mexicans and not Americans. Much of the territory acquired in that treaty was either majority American or majority Native American. Seems to be the latter in this case, I can’t find the 1850 census estimates for Native Americans but I figure less than 6000 Mexicans from it (about 7000 people who were native to California, about 1000 of those born in the last 2 years, mostly to the 80,000 or so people who had already shown up for the gold rush, including a lot of people born in some other part of Mexico).

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      • One possible rule of thumb (based on the US immigration rate in 1907): Immigration rates under 1.5% per year should be regarded as harmless.

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        • Jiro says:

          That doesn’t really make sense. It would be better to say “immigration rates that are under 1.5%, and when the government is similar to the government in 1907, should be regarded as harmless”.

          Even that probably isn’t good because immigration from different countries can be different. The ease of immigration from Mexico changes the character of immigration compared to immigration from overseas.

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        • Lesser Bull says:

          Immigration rates at 1.5% a year are regarded as harmless provided immigration laws as restrictive as the Immigration Act of 1924 are implemented within 17 years.

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    • Adam says:

      Of course, you can be in favor of people being allowed to do something and still be mad when they actually do it.

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    • I think the issue is that there is no frontier. Most open boarders advocates afaik want it to be reasonably easy to make your own country which would largely prevent people from moving to place to create their own community.

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      • Outis says:

        Wait, what? It seems to me that open borders makes it impossible to create, or even keep, your own country.

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        • hlynkacg says:

          Why would you assume that?

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          • Cichlimbar says:

            Is that a serious question?

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          • Wrong Species says:

            Because just like in Internet communities, you are liable to a massive overflow of newcomers who don’t respect your rules and in fact want to change them. The only way to deal with this is to give the old guard unprecedented powers to enforce newer and more strict rules.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            @ Cichlimbar.
            Yes, as there seems to be an inferential step missing. So long as your group has higher fertility or is just plane meaner than the “locals” or the “intruders” you can claim and keep whatever country you want.

            @Wrong Species:
            It’s not unprecedented at all, that’s why I’m asking.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            I am reminded of Joe Haldeman’s book Worlds Apart, in which the survivors of a nuclear war plan to launch a generation ship towards a nearby star system. Part of the surviving populace belongs to what is usually referred to as a Dominionist sect – they don’t believe in birth control, and purposefully try to have very large families, because of the command to be fruitful and multiply. They claim the right to be represented in the ship’s crew.

            It is calculated that if some very small number of them are included, and their beliefs are propagated, the ship is doomed because they will outbreed its capacity to support the crew before the ship arrives. Hilarity ensues.

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          • gbdub says:

            “So long as your group has higher fertility or is just plane meaner than the “locals” or the “intruders” you can claim and keep whatever country you want.”

            So in other words, the natives will have enforceable power over the newcomers, over a presumably defined geographic area? That sounds like borders.

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          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >So in other words, the natives will have enforceable power over the newcomers, over a presumably defined geographic area? That sounds like borders.

            It doesn’t seem obvious to me that “open borders” is the same as “no borders”. You can let everyone in who wants to, but have a law that forces them to wear a hat that says “stupid stinky immigrant” while they’re within them.

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          • Randy M says:

            In that sense it is impossible to have no borders. There will always be a place crossing which one changes jurisdiction, outside some global government that simple makes the upper atmosphere the border.

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          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >In that sense it is impossible to have no borders.

            Yes?

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          • Randy M says:

            and therefore I don’t think that’s what people mean by no borders, but that they intend the label to apply as a synonym for the open borders on immigration position.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            gbdub says: …That sounds like borders.

            Yes it does. That is why I am skeptical of Outis’ assertion that “open borders makes it impossible to create, or even keep, your own country.”

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          • Nobody in the open borders threads seems to have mentioned the fact that the U.S. had effectively open borders for most of its history. There were some limits on oriental immigration put in towards the end of the 19th century, but that was pretty much it until the 1920’s.

            Which makes it odd for so many people to believe that open border are not merely arguably suboptimal but an obviously terrible idea.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Well, I agree with you.

            But I find it’s not very persuasive because it just becomes “That was then, this is now. Back then, the quantity of ‘wretched refuse’ that could reach our shores was inherently limited by the cost of transportation. But now, we’d be overrun by fifth columnists who would destroy everything we hold dear.”

            Bonus points if is it argued that immigrants were in fact responsible for Progressivism and the New Deal.

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          • Frog Do says:

            Well, it also had a frontier, somewhere to escape from Back East.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            People prior to the 1920s also complained about the crime and violence of immigrants as well. I’m not sure telling people that things will be fine in 50 years after the adjustment period is a great sell.

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          • @Vox Imp:

            Despite the costs of transportation, in the early years of the 20th century the U.S. was receiving about a million immigrants a year. Relative to population, that’s three times the current rate of legal immigration.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Samuel Skinner:

            Alternative hypothesis: things were fine then, too, but people in the 20s had the same tendency to exaggerate the negatives of current immigration in comparison to past immigration.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            There are plenty of cases of immigrants doing horrible things; the New York Draft riots springs to mind as a particularly egregious example.

            If your position is about later immigrants, we did have gangsters during the prohibition that I believe were drawn disproportionately from the children of immigrants.

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          • Jiro says:

            Relative to population, that’s three times the current rate of legal immigration.

            It was impossible back then for immigrants to consume a lot of social services by our standards, because that level didn’t exist. It was also impossible for they or their citizen descendants to vote themselves social services or big government by our standards, because the Overton window for such things was drastically different.

            Also, the fact that they came from countries far away and the trip was one way affected their willingness to assimilate.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Samuel Skinner:

            There are plenty of cases of immigrants doing horrible things; the New York Draft riots springs to mind as a particularly egregious example.

            If your position is about later immigrants, we did have gangsters during the prohibition that I believe were drawn disproportionately from the children of immigrants.

            Yes, but did these problems outweigh the benefits of immigration to the United States? The conventional understanding is that they did not.

            @ Jiro:

            It was impossible back then for immigrants to consume a lot of social services by our standards, because that level didn’t exist. It was also impossible for they or their citizen descendants to vote themselves social services or big government by our standards, because the Overton window for such things was drastically different.

            They or their citizen descendants kinda did vote for the same big government we have now.

            Anyway, if you think the Overton Window is inevitably sliding leftward until we reach our inevitable socialistic doom, I don’t see much point in trying to do anything about it.

            If you don’t think that and think it’s actually possible for us to move toward greater freedom, then I think your concern is overblown.

            Letting a lot more immigrants in might shift the short-term Overton Window to a position somewhat less in favor of economic freedom. But as Bryan Caplan points out, these immigrants also shift the short-term Overton Window to be more in favor of immigration freedom, which is a major component of liberty.

            And there’s no particular reason why it should knock off-course the long-term movement of the Overton Window in favor of greater liberty. As I see it, this is driven by the opinions of intellectuals and not by the opinions of low-skilled immigrants.

            Anyway, what ticks me off about discussing this issue with “libertarians” who oppose immigration freedom is that, on this issue, they suddenly switch over to some kind of extreme version of the precautionary principle where if you can handwave any kind of potential danger from immigration, we have the government come in and stop it. While they don’t think this about anything else.

            On the contrary, I follow Caplan’s view that if the evidence is really clear that the consequences would be really bad, the government is justified in intervening against something. But it’s no more clear that we have to shut down mass immigration to save liberty than it is that we have to ban all fossil fuels to save the planet from climate change.

            The right’s “immigration alarmism” is exactly parallel to the left’s “climate alarmism”. (And that’s perhaps being more generous to “immigration alarmism” than it deserves.)

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          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve grown more sympathetic to the precautionary principle as I’ve gotten older and seen more plans fall apart for unpredicted reasons, but nine times of ten, even so, it reads more like a rationalization than a real objection.

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          • Jiro says:

            Anyway, if you think the Overton Window is inevitably sliding leftward until we reach our inevitable socialistic doom, I don’t see much point in trying to do anything about it.

            I wasn’t talking about the inevitability of changes in the window, just about the effect of the immigrants given the already known position of the window. Immigrants back many generations ago couldn’t have the type of influence that immigrants now can. This makes it a bad comparison to say “see, we had immigrants back then and it was okay, it should be okay now”.

            But as Bryan Caplan points out, these immigrants also shift the short-term Overton Window to be more in favor of immigration freedom, which is a major component of liberty.

            Sorry, I’m not an average utilitarian. I don’t want to increase average liberty at the cost of decreasing the liberty of people already here.

            And there’s no particular reason why it should knock off-course the long-term movement of the Overton Window in favor of greater liberty. As I see it, this is driven by the opinions of intellectuals and not by the opinions of low-skilled immigrants.

            If they or their descendants keep voting for Democrats, it certainly is driven by them. Just because they are low-skilled and aren’t publishing papers in journals doesn’t mean they have no influence.

            Anyway, what ticks me off about discussing this issue with “libertarians” who oppose immigration freedom is that

            Many problems from immigration happen because of the interaction with non-libertarian elements elsewhere in society. If the government was small and restricted in what it was allowed to do, immigrants (or anyone else) couldn’t vote for social services or big government, and private owners of roads, etc. would be able to exclude them if they were causing a crime problem.

            Edit: See your own comment below about primary and secondary regulations. Limiting immigration is a secondary regulation needed to mitigate the damage that is enabled by the primary regulation (having a big government)

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            I wasn’t talking about the inevitability of changes in the window, just about the effect of the immigrants given the already known position of the window. Immigrants back many generations ago couldn’t have the type of influence that immigrants now can. This makes it a bad comparison to say “see, we had immigrants back then and it was okay, it should be okay now”.

            Immigrants back then had at least as much influence as now. Are you familiar with the whole anti-Catholic scare? It happened because people were afraid of Catholic influence, which was real.

            Sorry, I’m not an average utilitarian. I don’t want to increase average liberty at the cost of decreasing the liberty of people already here.

            I’m not an average utilitarian, either. Or a utilitarian at all. (Actually, the view you are condemning is not average utilitarianism but total utilitarianism: the idea that what matters is the total utility of all people. You yourself are advocating a position equivalent to average utilitarianism: that the U.S. government should be concerned with the average utility of the people within its borders, not the total.)

            I think that immigration freedom—i.e. the freedom to associate with immigrants—is a major part of the liberty of Americans. And I think that Americans will benefit from immigration freedom.

            I do not believe that open borders will destroy the country but we have to do it anyway because we’re altruists. I think it will have some negative effects on our freedom, but more positive effects on our freedom and well-being.

            I think that everyone will benefit in the long run from immigration freedom, except perhaps natives who are both stupid and lazy. And I think the rest of us outnumber them, so too bad for them!

            If they or they descendants keep voting for Democrats, it certainly is driven by them. Just because they are low-skilled and aren’t publishing papers in journals doesn’t mean they have no influence.

            What makes you think that they will continue voting for Democrats indefinitely? Or, for that matter, that Democrats will continue to hold all the same positions?

            Many problems from immigration happen because of the interaction with non-libertarian elements elsewhere in society. If the government was small and restricted in what it was allowed to do, immigrants (or anyone else) couldn’t vote for social services or big government, and private owners of roads, etc. would be able to exclude them if they were causing a crime problem.

            So why, exactly, do you think the solution is to have closed borders until we establish libertopia?

            Especially not when immigration itself dissolves the sense that everyone is the country is part of the same family, and decreases support for the welfare state. The very fact that taxpayers don’t want to give welfare to Mexicans is a force against the welfare state. The U.S. already has heavy restrictions on the immigrants’ eligibility for welfare.

            The best outcome, I think, would be an “opt-out system”, where you get to immigrate on the condition that you “opt-out” from welfare and the taxes that pay for it. Such a system could lead to the collapse of the welfare state, as the most productive citizens would also clamor to “opt-out” from those taxes and benefits.

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          • Jiro says:

            Immigrants back then had at least as much influence as now.

            The kind of influence they had back then was different from now, and leads to different problems, making it a bad idea to compare then and now. Even looking at your own example of Catholic influence: Mexicans are usually Catholics, but hardly anyone thinks that Mexican immigration will cause problems because of that.

            What makes you think that they will continue voting for Democrats indefinitely?

            Well, look at the data EK linked to. He linked to it to show that Hispanic immigrants became more average, but in fact his own data shows that with respect to political party, they didn’t.

            So why, exactly, do you think the solution is to have closed borders until we establish libertopia?

            Quoting you: “The problem, of course, is that by “deregulating” just the tertiary or secondary level, you make the problems worse. It’s only if you deregulate the whole thing that you fix the problems and end up with something better than the combination of all three levels. The really big problem is: how do you “gradually” repeal and replace this system, when each gradual step toward making it better actually makes it worse?”

            Perhaps your answer there will apply here too, even if the answer is just “it’s really hard, and be really careful”.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            Your last point is correct and insightful, and yes, my answer is “It’s really hard and you have to be careful.”

            Otherwise, we could, for instance never repeal Obamacare and its individual mandate until The Day We Have the Libertarian Revolution.

            Edit: there’s also the general point that our immigration restrictions are a much worse limitation on liberty than the requirement to e.g. force people to buy health insurance. The latter isn’t really that bad.

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          • “Also, the fact that they came from countries far away and the trip was one way affected their willingness to assimilate.”

            Your other points (lack of a welfare system or immediate prospects of one) are correct. But I believe the evidence is that a substantial number of the early 20th century immigrants did return to their homelands, sometimes retiring back there with the money they had made here, sometimes going back to fetch family members who had not come on the initial trip.

            According to my parents’ autobiography, my mother’s father came to the U.S., returned to eastern Europe, then came back to the U.S.

            On a related point … . By sometime in the 18th century, a perceived problem with transportation as a criminal punishment in England was that it was becoming too easy for someone who had been transported to the New World to (illegally) come back.

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          • I suggest that one of the blind spots of most people in the first world is the belief that they will never be refugees. I’m not predicting any particular disaster, I just have a general belief that you can’t absolutely count on things to be stable and safe.

            I believe that it would be to the advantage of everyone to have a world where it isn’t a disaster to be a refugee.

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          • John Schilling says:

            I suggest that one of the blind spots of most people in the first world is the belief that they will never be refugees.

            I have always been aware of that possibility, and it has become particularly acute this campaign season. But I do not believe that the possibility of my becoming a refugee gives me the right to demand that someone else’s army fight to defend me, or that their honest civil servants (and a body of honest civil servants is no small thing to be taken for granted) should serve me. Absent these things, mere geographic access is meaningless; whatever it is I am fleeing will follow me to e.g. Canada as surely as it would to Wyoming.

            And really, what fraction of refugees anywhere are asking for anything less than the protection of the host nation’s army and police and the support of its civil service?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Moonbase 2016!

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      • Cichlimbar says:

        How would open borders prevent people from moving into your new country?

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    • Switzerland seems to be a good way ahead of everyone else of solving the problem of “how to prevent one organized plurality to use democratic means predatorily against other communities (especially in a context where the different communities are not segregated)?”

      Their answer is to grant a maximum amount of rights and self-governance to each recognized community, and only a minimal amount of power to the central government (diplomacy, defense, making sure every community respects what is considered basic human rights [the Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden was forced to allow women to vote in 1991, for instance]). This way even if a community is demographically dominant to the point of generally being in control of national affairs, this doesn’t give them enough legal power to be able to rob other communities of their rights.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, but how do you convince a powerful central government to cede their power?

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        • Moebius Street says:

          In fact, isn’t this supposed to be the design of the United States? So not only would it be difficult to roll back the centralized power, but it’s also a case study in how controls intended to keep power decentralized can fail in that objective.

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    • David Pinto says:

      I don’t think the Free State project will work. In the same time period, lots of people from Massachusetts and other New England states that lean left have been moving to New Hampshire to save money on taxes. My impression is that this migration moved NH somewhat leftward, and it will be difficult for the Free State Project to counter this leftward tilt. Note that the achievements so far have been on the liberal side of things. If they had gotten the 20,000 people there ten years ago, they might have made a difference.

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      • Wrong Species says:

        You underestimate what a group of ideologically motivated people can do. If the free staters are organized they can push a lot of their agenda through the government.

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      • Randy M says:

        When that process happens to western states like Colorado & Arizona, they call it “Californication.”

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        • I knew this had something to do with the adultery discussion!

          No, really. How important is it for people to maintain stable loyalties?

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          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure it has anything to do with loyalty. In this case, the perception is that people vote for programs they like, dislike the taxes that come with them more than the benefits when it ends up happening, then move to lower tax, lower benefit states and repeat the process without learning anything.

            Probably the California emigration has more to do with just getting more crowded, perhaps zoning laws, or different economic patterns, and is noticed when those most fitting the LA stereotypes clash in the new states.

            People don’t dislike newcomers because they perceive them as disloyal, but likely to change the surrounding culture in some undesirable way.

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          • John Schilling says:

            If they are going to be voting in your elections, pretty important. There will be many opportunities to vote on matters that trade short-term gain against long-term cost, and many more with high risks and high benefits. If a sizeable fraction of a state’s population is only planning to be there for a few years, or is only tentatively planning to stick around for the long haul and likely to pull out if the risks don’t pan out, they can cause real and lasting harm.

            That’s not too likely to be a problem in national elections yet, but interstate mobility in the US is high enough to matter politically. The old rule that one had to own land to vote was, for its faults, a somewhat effective safeguard here – even if you are planning to leave, you’ll want to sell your property without taking a loss and so won’t want to make the state a less desirable place to live in the long run. And probably you wouldn’t have bought land if you weren’t planning to stay.

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          • keranih says:

            Of possible interest – NYT article on The Principle of 2nd Home, 2nd vote.

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          • The Anonymouse says:

            people vote for programs they like, dislike the taxes that come with them more than the benefits when it ends up happening, then move to lower tax, lower benefit states and repeat the process without learning anything

            Having lived in various western states for the majority of my life, people in Arizona / Oregon / Nevada / Colorado don’t seem to mind Californians per se–they’re nice enough folks–but rather the pattern you mentioned that comes along with them. Californians flee the consequences of their votes, then turn around and try to implement all of the “good ideas” that led to those consequences in the first place.

            The analogy I’ve heard is that of leaving your town because it’s full of the plague, but conveniently bringing all of your fleas with you.

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          • Cichlimbar says:

            “The analogy I’ve heard is that of leaving your town because it’s full of the plague, but conveniently bringing all of your fleas with you.”

            I always preferred “rats fleeing a sinking ship”. You can get rid of your fleas. Much harder to get rid of your inner commiefornian.

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          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I always preferred “rats fleeing a sinking ship”

            Yeah but that sort of metaphor can get you in trouble around here. People will read it as calling people rats, and thus an excuse to play Six Degrees of Adolf Hitler, rather than getting your actual point.

            I’d avoid metaphors in general to be honest. It’s odd but people get really tangled up in them here.

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          • Moebius Street says:

            Here in the Austin TX area, this Californication pattern is very much a concern. I live in a town 20 miles west of the city, with about 2,200 population inside the limits, and about 30K within the “extra-territorial jurisdiction”. The influx of new people is incredible: there are 2K-3K new homes under construction right now (including 200 in what used to be woods just on the other side of my back yard).

            The enormous rate of population growth pretty much guarantees that the existing culture and policies will be swamped.

            On the town’s informal facebook page, people are now frequently complaining about people (assumed to be newcomers) showing poor manners as interpreted by those of us here already. But they’re always taking pains to say that “we all came here at some point, so we shouldn’t object to you. But please keep our town as charming as you found it when you moved in, rather than changing it to something else.”

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        • Taradino C. says:

          Huh, isn’t Californication what they call the stuff Hollywood sells? I thought that was understood.

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      • wysinwyg says:

        But they’re largely living in towns along the southern border that are essentially suburbs of Boston at this point. They’re probably not terribly involved in state level or even local level politics, whereas the idea behind the FSP was that participants would be involved at state and local level politics.

        If FSP isn’t going to “work” (which is going to vary based on your definition of “work”), I suspect it will more be due to differences of opinion between left and right libertarians. For example, there’s probably significant subsets of the FSP population, one of which supports environmental causes and another of which supports environmentally unfriendly factories being built wherever.

        Not all people who favor small government are anti-left. The assumption that the FSP is inherently right-wing isn’t valid.

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        • “Not all people who favor small government are anti-left. The assumption that the FSP is inherently right-wing isn’t valid.”

          “Right-wing” is ambiguous. But my impression is that the movement is by libertarians in the current American sense, people who believe in small or zero government and a society organized by private property and voluntary exchange.

          I’ve spoken at FSP events twice in recent years, once Porcfest, once the other annual event whose name I have forgotten. I didn’t see any obvious split between left libertarians and right libertarians.

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      • Anonymous says:

        What I think the best case outcome of the Free State Project would be is for a cultural hub to develop. A city, or a part of a city, that has its own personality and industry and culture, as Paul Graham describes. I think that if New Hampshire, or even just a bit of it, can become known for being a libertarian hub, the project will have worked, because you will see libertarian-affiliated people moving there separate from the Free State Project – doing so instead just because they think it seems like a nice place to live.

        I don’t know anything about New Hampshire so don’t know whether this is likely, or whether there is a city or location kinda like this already that might be a suitable candidate.

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    • Deiseach says:

      I wonder if these 20,000 libertarians are going to be co-ordinated or not. Are they all going to spread out across the state, in which case I imagine their influence will be diluted among the general population, or do they plan to cluster in certain areas?

      Will they all be voting one way on certain issues? Have they agreed on these issues? I notice a line about “They were instrumental in … legalizing same-sex marriage through the legislature in 2009” so that does seem to indicate some level of political organisation. On the other hand, were these activist-types who got legislation pushed through all libertarians working in the name of libertarianism, or were they simply broadly a coalition of the progressive?

      It will be interesting to see how it works out in practice – will all 20,000 stick together as a movement, or will they simply be the Jones family moving in next door and carrying on as ordinary, and ditto the rest of them?

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      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I am very suspicious of whether the full 20,000 are going to move.

        But a good number of libertarians have been “early movers” and have indeed concentrated in certain areas.

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      • I think there is an element of the FSP that people are missing.

        Immigrants tend to cluster–Irish in Boston, Poles in Chicago, Ashkenazi in New York. If moving to a new place, it helps if there are lots of people there with whom you have some sort of link.

        The same principle applies to non-geographical ethnicities such as folk dancers, SCA, rationalists, libertarians. When we arrived in California twenty some years ago, the two people who helped us unload the truck were SCA members. One was someone I knew, one not.

        The FSP may represent itself as a way of making New Hampshire more libertarian. But to a considerable extent it’s a way of giving libertarians a place to live where there are lots of their kind of people to interact with. I expect that if we moved to New Hampshire, there would be people we had never met before willing to help us unload the truck.

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  4. walpolo says:

    On the heart rate thing: perhaps a certain personality type is conducive to both violent behavior and regular exercise (which would tend to lower heart rate)?

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    • John Schilling says:

      People who don’t exercise regularly probably aren’t very good at violence, and people who aren’t very good at violence are probably going to go out of their way to avoid violence.

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    • Trey says:

      This was my first instinct. At the very least, high testosterone ==>more likely to play sports & high testosterone ==>more violent.

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    • nope says:

      It’s more likely due to the fact that heart rate is related to arousal level, which is going to be higher if you’re a more fearful person. Clinical psychopaths are said to have lower heart rates, which makes sense since they tend to lack fear of social punishment or anything at all, really. I’m not aware of testosterone being elevated in clinical psychopaths.

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    • 1212 says:

      As someone who had a really low blood pressure and was prone to violence (never attacked anyone but there were some really narrow misses. (I assure you they all deserved it, for what zero that’s worth to a reader)), here’s my ideas for why they might correlate, if they indeed do:

      (Actually, first, an important post-post predendum:

      Sorry if any of the manner of my wording is seems threatening, or just is objectively bad form: I’m basically reporting introspection on a (mostly past) pronounced tendency towards violence (and extrapolation of) so naturally there’s a risk of that. I tried to be careful but I’m quite tired right now so I apologise if the manner of this post was insensitive. If it helps, this is basically all from memory and I’m not here trying to signal that I can get away with discussing violence and, particularly, violent thoughts and inclinations, which would be a textbook form of intimidation. Yeah that probably was worth stating explicitly, come to think of it Actually, having considered that, I’ll have another look over the post, though I’m sure some stuff like “a desire to smash things and people” can’t really be rephrased, at least at my current level of consciousness, and all I can do is say I’m aware it’s problematic for civil conversation to be announcing having or having had such thoughts, but this seems like a case where it’s part of the signal. Sorry again if I fucked up on this front, I’m very tired right now, and that’s not an excuse, just a potential (hypothetical) explanation.)

      (having had a look at the post, I’ve decided to just leave it as it is, though (imo) it definitely falls somewhat afoul of what I said above. As the particular phrasing might be of anthropological interest, (I’m sure it will be to me tomorrow morning) -please think of it as being in close 3rd person tense or something.)

      :
      (sorry about this first one especially)
      Imo there’s nothing more frustrating than the thought of someone getting away with being deliberately shitty, and nothing more calming than the thought of using violence to solve said rift in reality’s order.

      It could also be that being risk-insensitive or outcome-insensitive leads to both calm and violence. Like how suicidal people can feel at peace and calm before they go, because they know there’s nothing to worry about soon (I mean that literally and only literally). Imo worrying is a large cause of restraint from violence, (as are planning ahead, considering things objectively, and determined self control, all of which probably produce stress) and engaging in violence generally involves a certain acceptance of risk, as in possibility of highly negative outcomes (or denial, I suppose, or sublimation, as in “legitimate denial”) on an existential (though not necessarily conscious and explicit) level.

      It could also be that violence is so stressful (however stressful that is in this case) that in order to engage in it one must be or make themselves resilient in certain ways, particular WRT control or nonstarter-ifying of anxiety/fear/similar emotions. Or in reverse, violence, perhaps even including violent thoughts (which I know isn’t part of the category), might be a low trauma or stress desensitiser. Kind of like how exposure to loud noise can make you end not hear sounds so loudly for a while, especially if the exposure is frequent or extreme.

      Then there’s also the possibility that being the kind of person who is prone to violence means that there’s a lot of kinds of petty shit you don’t have to deal with- if you give off that vibe. I assume petty and/or nasty and/or shitty people must have some way to estimate who is volatile, unless the prevlance of volatile people has been reduced wayyyyy too much by our slavish society. (which is why Is why I think a small minority of volatile people is not only positive but necessary- actually not just for harassment and other problems, but for threats also (and moreso), which there isn’t a hard line distinguishing from either hostile speech or violence.) Also, proneness to violence is likely significantly correlated to capacity for it -in fact it’s almost a prerequisite, as a physical attack from someone who is not (currently) physically dangerous is liable not to be classified as violence at all. So if proneness to violence is correlated to being dangerous in a physical sense as well as a(n otherwise) mental one, then people who are likely to be unusually violent are likely to also have the reassurance of knowing they can defend themselves.

      Also effective violence generally involves contracting certain muscles at 110% while keeping others, possibly even neighbouring ones, relatively loose: it’s generally about generating momentum rather than raw strength output (or CNS activation), though those are important too. Still, a certain kind of calm can be very beneficial for fluency of such movements and the avoidance of jerkiness, though imo it’s not strictly necessary more or less at all.

      Lastly if one is good at violence (possibly, imo likely, somewhat correlated to proneness to violence) then at least they are good at something. so- something something “self-esteem” something. I had other things I was good at but if I didn’t it sure would have been nice to have the memory of tearing a punchbag from its joists.

      Then there is of course the fitness angle (as seperate to other points)

      And people who are prone to extreme thinking might be prone to dismissing large classes of worries entirely, and, more straightforwardly- to violence. Like if you’re thinking about smashing people and things (and finding it to be a pleasant and/or sanity preserving diversion) then you’re probably not obsessing over what people think of your hair or falling into other such stress, and especially stress spirals.

      Anyway imo the possible factor that jumps out the most to me is that someone who is going to assault someone is just not that worried about their life: they don’t have way higher priorities that they’re willing to go through stress and/or humiliation (imagined or real, (or possessing of a more subtle ontology)) for, so in a sense they don’t have to be ready for extreme stress.

      There may also be a factor of violent people tending to be simple minded or more simple minded people being violent.

      (specifically, lol-) having said all that, it may be that narcissistic tendencies correlate with both violence and low-stress.

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      • onyomi says:

        I think it is a good, if somewhat disconcerting point to note that anxiety is, surprisingly likely a net preventer of violence, though it might seem superficially to be the opposite. I have a fairly bad temper, but also a very naturally anxious and conflict-averse temperament. I am also, to some extent, trained in the use of violence, having studied various martial arts for a long time.

        I can imagine that if I were otherwise the same but less anxious, I might actually be more likely to follow a violent impulse felt during a burst of anger, because it is normally anxiety about negative consequences which does at least some of the work to keep such things in check.

        Though I haven’t come close to employing violence out of anger (have only used martial arts in one “real life” situation, but that was more as a means to diffuse someone else’s violent outburst), perhaps in part because my own non-risk taking nature makes me avoid situations where violence is likely to occur in the first place, I can imagine it being more likely if I were less anxious (it may be useful here to distinguish between calm and level-headed and non-risk averse; the stereotype of the murderer is a psychopath who doesn’t feel empathy for the victim and who has a kind of cold, cruel attitude–it’s not that he doesn’t feel anger, it’s that the normal empathy and concern and worries about the future which would keep it in check are not present. This clearly cannot be confused with some kind of Zen equanimity, which would mean not getting angry so easily in the first place, or, at least, knowing how to view negative emotions from a place of dispassion).

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  5. God Damn John Jay says:

    The idea of people with low heart rate committing more violence makes me think of Hannibal Lecter killing a nurse while attached to a heart rate monitor and it never even fluctuating. I have heard it theorized that psychopaths are people who can only get excitement through extreme behavior.

    (Also, confession a while back someone was posting about how you can tell someone’s class by their shoes and I asked them what they would predict about a woman with a good bag and cheap shoes. I was making a reference to “You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash” from The Silence of the Lambs. I didn’t know how to reveal it without sounding like a dick)

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  6. E. Harding says:

    China channel seems to be unsigned, so I can’t install it. Also, it’s from 2008, so can anyone be sure it’s even installable, even if it was signed?

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    • voidfraction says:

      It sounds like it just redirects your requests via a server in China (not a VPN server, probably, I don’t think a browser extension could manage a VPN connection, but similar). This server may or may not be MITM’ing all your secure sessions and stealing your passwords, but let’s assume it’s not. Even if it is, it’d be cool to see what the public web looks like from China.

      The problem is, though, that servers require maintenance and cost money. If this app was published in 2008, the backing server might very well be dead.

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    • John Schilling says:

      If this app was published in 2008, the backing server might very well be dead.

      If the Chinese government doesn’t like the idea of foreigners understanding exactly how the Great Firewall of China works, the backing server might very well be dead even if it were installed last week.

      The Chinese government is fairly sophisticated at understanding what internet traffic is serving what purposes. The sites that can’t be accessed from China, can in many cases be accessed perfectly well from three- and four-star hotels serving the local elite and foreign visitors. Two blocks down the road, oops, no Facebook for you. Did you get your SIM card in China or abroad? Matters. They are happy for you as a Westerner to tunnel a VPN to your server in Europe or North America, but they know perfectly well that’s what they are doing and they can stop it if they want to.

      So I’m guessing China Channel is either defunct, or there’s a functionary somewhere in charge of deciding what sort of censorship China Channel is exhibiting to curious foreigners, not necessarily related to the censorship being imposed on the Chinese. At a minimum, I wouldn’t trust it unless verified by a boots-on-the-ground comparison – and I won’t likely be going back there this year unless North Korea does something monumentally stupid, or I might quietly volunteer to help with that.

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  7. voidfraction says:

    > New study challenges the idea that Native Americans drink more, finds in self-report survey that Native Americans drink at the same rate (and the same amount) as various other groups. But as usual, read the r/science comments, and remember that hospital records, which are a lot more trustworthy than self-report surveys, treat Native Americans for alcohol-related complaints at four times the usual rate. I continue to be wary of self-report drug use surveys.

    Couldn’t this be explained by Native Americans drinking at roughly the same rate as various other groups but being roughly four times as susceptible to alcohol-related issues? Is there any data on susceptibility to negative long term side effects of alcohol by group? (I almost said LD50, but that’s not the kind of study that clears the IRB)

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    • Mary says:

      Just as they are more susceptibility to measles. I don’t think the great length of white exposure to distilled liquor could cull the herd that much, but even beer, wine, etc. require a certain level of technology.

      (Some cultures did have alcoholic beverages — the Aztecs, for instance — but they may not have had them for so long.)

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      • TrivialGravitas says:

        Precolumbian alcohol consumption in America was ceremonial rather than recreational or the ‘people will die without this’ level some old world cultures took it to. So while they had alcohol they weren’t consuming much of it.

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        • Mary says:

          When spirits were introduced, the East Coast tribes tended to regard them as preferable because they treated alcohol as a mind-altering drug. You didn’t drink to get pleasantly warm, you drank to get DRUNK.

          This was not happy in its results.

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    • nil says:

      Yeah, and, relatedly, that study could be thrown off by failing to account for the degree of alcohol abuse. In my experience, which is anecdotal but fairly broad, the amount of non-drinking natives is comparable to the amount of non-drinking non-natives (although there’s a lot more dry-drunks and religious abstainers in the former than the latter), and I wouldn’t be surprised if comparable numbers met the definition of binge drinking and heavy drinking from, e.g., http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking. But there’s “5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days” and there’s “15 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 25 or more days in the past 30 days.” I’m guessing the rates THERE are not comparable, which would explain the contravening evidence in mentioned along with the link more-than-adequately.

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    • Deiseach says:

      Any genetics studies here? If they’re not drinking to excess but don’t have the genes to handle alcohol that could be one explanation.

      Probably though the answer is in under-reporting and under-estimation of alcohol consumption. Nobody ever thinks they drink too much and everyone, when asked by their doctor “how much and how often do you drink”, always edits it to “only socially and a few glasses of wine on special occasions”.

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      • nil says:

        Plus, that goes double or triple when the surveyed person is a member of a minority culture being asked, typically by a member of a majority culture, about something that implicates a well-known racial stereotype and which is often a sensitive topic in terms of culture and/or personal history.

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      • Mary says:

        “everyone, when asked by their doctor “how much and how often do you drink”, always edits it to “only socially and a few glasses of wine on special occasions”.”

        I drink sips of Communion wine on Sunday and nothing otherwise. 0:)

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    • Steve Sailer says:

      Also, American Indians are more likely to avoid alcohol altogether because they tend to have problems drinking in moderation. For example, I was impressed that of the two Indian tribe casinos I’ve been to, one (Barona) was completely dry and the other (San Miguel) downplayed drinking significantly. They probably give up a sizable amount of easy money that way.

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  8. Mary says:

    “Study: the more vengeful your god, the more cooperative your society.’

    Hmmm — that could go either way. After all, “you will be punished for this” is good incentive to cooperate, but also the more you expect cooperation, the more severely you judge non-cooperation, and therefore more severely you expect it to be treated.

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    • Cichlimbar says:

      That’s exactly the mechanism at work though, isn’t it?

      The more vengeful the people, the more vengeful the character of their culture (with the temperament of their gods as a representation/projection of it), the stricter and strictly enforced the punishment for defectors. Thus evolutionary psychology/sociobiology rears its ugly head again.

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  9. drethelin says:

    http://www.nature.com/news/behavioural-training-reduces-inflammation-1.15156 a related study about using mental techniques to control unconscious things your body does.

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  10. Nadja says:

    I don’t have strong opinions on whether light drinking in pregnancy is harmful. But what you wrote is inaccurate.

    CDC didn’t just tell pregnant women they “probably shouldn’t drink”. It told *all* sexually active women who stop using birth control to stop drinking. It also said “Alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). There is no known safe amount of alcohol – even beer or wine – that is safe for a woman to drink at any stage of pregnancy.”

    I also don’t have an opinion on how good that Vox article is. But you say the article’s summary of the new research is excellent, and the article says the new research links light drinking to a small IQ decrease, not to FASD. Also, most importantly, the article concludes that “for now, the preponderance of evidence suggests light drinking during pregnancy probably isn’t harmful.” So if the article you link to concludes that light drinking in pregnancy probably isn’t harmful, and if the new evidence doesn’t even link drinking to FASD, and if CDC tells all sexually active women who don’t use birth control to stop drinking because FASD, then don’t you think your ridiculing of those who “freaked out” over the CDC opinion is uncalled for?

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    • What’s CDC’s evidence for effects on an infant brain that doesn’t exist yet, when an infant has no blood circulating yet? I’m sure some things about the fetal environment suffer but surely the sensitivity varies over the course of a pregnancy. It’s a bit cruel to make people feel guilty for what happens before they know they’re pregnant (but on the other hand, if it *is* a relatively flat risk profile and even the first 6 weeks matter, then their advice is obviously correct; many unintentional pregnancies *do* become live births).

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      • John Schilling says:

        They have no evidence, which is why they can truthfully say things like “no known safe level”. Knowing nothing allows you to say anything if you toss in the right qualifiers.

        Knowing nothing would also explain how they could be so incredibly, unbelievably tone-deaf on this one, but that’s another matter.

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    • Aapje says:

      CDC didn’t just tell pregnant women they “probably shouldn’t drink”. It told *all* sexually active women who stop using birth control to stop drinking.

      For me, ‘sexually active women who don’t use birth control’ = women who are trying to get pregnant. I don’t see why it’s wrong to tell those women that they should refrain from doing things that will harm the fetus. Whether that is smoking, using cocaine or drinking. This is just an extension of the ‘pregnant women shouldn’t do this harmful thing’ advice, taking into consideration that it’s not immediately clear when a woman is pregnant. If light drinking harms the fetus, then she can’t just stop drinking when she stops having her period, because that would be too late.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        If you’re just going to kill the baby anyway, no point in stopping drinking.

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        • Aapje says:

          If you’re just going to kill the baby anyway, no point in stopping drinking.

          ….That’s not really a common situation, is it? In the West, sexually active women who don’t use b/c either want to get pregnant or are ignorant and/or in denial about the chance to get pregnant.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            Or are poor and lack health insurance — condoms are an effective form of birth control that can often be obtained very cheaply or even for free. Or probably a dozen other scenarios that neither of us have considered because (I assume here) neither of us are women.

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          • keranih says:

            wysinwyg – I’m not following you here.

            Are you saying that women who don’t use b/c are prevented from doing so by outside forces, or that women who don’t use b/c are making that choice themselves?

            Or some third thing?

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          • wysinwyg says:

            Aapje said:

            In the West, sexually active women who don’t use b/c either want to get pregnant or are ignorant and/or in denial about the chance to get pregnant.

            I state instead that there are probably women who don’t have health insurance or enough money to afford hormonal birth control or an IUD, and understand the possibility and likelihood of becoming pregnant, but use condoms or coitus interruptus as birth control instead.

            I also suggest that there may be other reasons that women may eschew birth control but remain sexually active even if they don’t want a pregnancy, and that several men may have some difficulty figuring out why because of the dreaded conceptual scourge which shall not be named in these hallowed halls.

            Implicit in this argument is that Aapje wasn’t counting condoms as birth control already, which may very well be an invalid assumption.

            Also, many women probably rely on their partner’s having had a vasectomy as a form of birth control.

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          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Or because they feel like they’re not the “sort of girl” who needs birth control and are thus too ashamed to actually go and get it.

            You will frequently run into this kind of girl in the wild, they’re the ones who say “I don’t usually do this…” right before you have sex. Often from traditional cultures or just a bit on the sheltered side. The kind who will swear up and down that they’re going to the college clinic tomorrow to get on the pill but then a month later they’re panicking that their periods are a day late.

            I don’t know how prevalent they are relative to the population, but it seems like self-image is a bigger issue than money for at least some women.

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          • keranih says:

            @ wysinwyg

            Thanks for the clarification. I did not equate b/c with “the pill” to the exclusion of condoms (I’m curious as to how often contraception = b/c = the pill) so I didn’t get your meaning at first.

            IMO, reasonable person who was female, fertile, and having sex would consider some sort of contraception to be required to prevent pregnancy. There are a number of non-reasonable people in the world, though.

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          • John Schilling says:

            There are also, heretical though it may seem to some, women who genuinely decide to leave pregnancy to fate. Such as married couples who intend to have 2-3 children and stop but don’t have a strong preference as to when. Sex w/o contraception until the mission is accomplished is less hassle and more fun than fussing around with contraception until the optimal time and then worrying why you aren’t pregnant yet. Older couples who figure children probably aren’t in the cards for them, aren’t going to bother with fertility treatments, but if it happens, so much the better. Religion and/or naturalism can also be powerful factors.

            Absent real evidence that light drinking in the first month of pregnancy poses significant risk, it is not realistic to expect that such women will become teetotalers and harmful to your credibility to command them otherwise.

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          • Nadja says:

            @ John

            Good point!

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          • Aapje says:

            @wysiwig

            Implicit in this argument is that Aapje wasn’t counting condoms as birth control already, which may very well be an invalid assumption.

            Perhaps this is a cultural issue, but I’m rather amazed why anyone would not consider condoms to be included if one speaks of birth control. Birth control is by definition a catch all term, which includes condoms, pills, spirals, tying tubes, vasectomy, only having sex when the woman is not fertile (rhythm method), etc, etc.

            If one meant to talk only about b/c pills, one would surely just say b/c pills. But perhaps I just care about accurate use of language too much.

            @Dr Feelgood

            Your example clearly falls in the category ‘ignorant and/or in denial’ IMO.

            @John Schilling

            I would argue that such a person is trying to get pregnant, but simply not stressing about it. A non-ignorant person who doesn’t use birth control for a long time knows that a pregnancy will almost invariably result, unless there is a fertility issue. If they don’t believe this, I would say that they are in denial, which was a category I named.

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          • Cadie says:

            Hormonal birth control isn’t a good choice for everyone. It carries a few risks and side effects vary – in some people, they’re pretty rough. So it’s not unusual for a woman to avoid hormonal birth control because the side effects are so bad for her that it’s not worth it. I only use condoms as birth control because the Pill is more expensive, makes me feel awful, and I’m not THAT concerned about pregnancy. It would be inconvenient and I’d prefer to wait awhile longer, but not a disaster.

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      • Nadja says:

        I’m not really disagreeing with what I think is your main point: if CDC believes light drinking is harmful to the fetus, it’s reasonable to warn women who potentially might get pregnant of the danger.

        The problem is that CDC doesn’t have good evidence that light drinking is harmful. In fact, according to the article Scott linked, the preponderance of evidence suggests that light drinking is not harmful.

        Also while I obviously agree that all sexually active women of child bearing age who don’t use birth control can potentially get pregnant, I don’t agree that’s the same as saying that they are trying to get pregnant. I personally don’t like being nannied by a government agency and told that I shouldn’t drink if I l’m the risk of getting pregnant, especially if evidence suggests light drinking is not harmful. CDC is making a judgement call on the basis of better safe than sorry. The problem with this sort of thinking is that it is plausible to believe that light drinking might actually be beneficial to your health for other reasons. I think if there’s no good evidence, the CDC should err on the side of staying out of people’s lives. And while I was already kind of used to CDC telling me what I should be doing while I’m pregnant, this new opinion expands the scope of when they think they have the right to make judgement calls on my lifestyle choices.

        (This is an objection based on principle. Personally, I actually seem to have one of those genes that make me unlikely to drink at all.)

        Another outrageous thing about the CDC opinion is that while the new evidence might suggest a small decrease in IQ, it does absolutely nothing to link light drinking to FASD. And they not so subtly imply that FASD is what is at stake.

        Also, have you seen the infographic?

        So, anyway, I think there’s no reason for Scott to distort what is actually happening, which I’m pretty sure he didn’t do on purpose. In fact, after a couple of comments, he decided to change his wording.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like Scott attacking the unreasonableness of much of what mainstream feminism is these days. I just think it’s best for his/our credibility if he’s very faithful to the facts. I do wish he kept the jab at the “fetishizing of the fetus” ridiculousness somewhere in there, but I guess there are more important battles to fight.

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        • Aapje says:

          The problem is that CDC doesn’t have good evidence that light drinking is harmful.

          AFAIK, a major reason why the ‘don’t drink at all’ advice is given is to prevent a slippery slope issue. Not drinking is always safe. ‘A little drinking is OK’ leads to the situation where some people will interpret a lot of drinking as ‘a little.’ Nowhere on the CDC page do I see them actually make the claim that a little drinking is bad for the fetus.

          There is an important difference between ‘give advice to not drink at all, so there is no misunderstanding’ and ‘give advice to not drink at all, because any amount of drinking is harmful.’

          Anyway, I’m not objecting to people who say that the evidence is poor, but people like this:

          https://www.romper.com/p/the-one-problem-with-the-cdcs-new-alcohol-guidelines-no-one-is-talking-about-5040

          who claim that such advice is sexist and anti-choice. I object to this kind of reasoning for the same reason I object to people who claim that climate change activists just want to take away our standard of life. It’s an argument that some things can’t be harmful to others, because if they were, it would complicate certain selfish desires. It’s anti-intellectual to just assume bad faith on the part of a person who tells us that our behavior is harmful.

          I personally don’t like being nannied by a government agency

          I understand the feeling, but it’s also a very conservative, selfish feeling. ‘I want this, who has the right to stop me’ is ultimately just an adolescent thought. People who don’t grow out of that to find a balance are generally horrible people.

          You have to admit that this is nothing more than a bit of advice. You are not being forced in any way. It’s a government sanctioned opinion, but it’s still just an opinion.

          The problem with this sort of thinking is that it is plausible to believe that light drinking might actually be beneficial to your health for other reasons.

          Hmmm, the evidence for that is very, very, very weak though. If any effect exists, it can’t be very large. It’s obviously something that a lot of people really want to be true, which makes me doubt the minimal effect being found (just like all those coffee and chocolate studies).

          this new opinion expands the scope of when they think they have the right to make judgement calls on my lifestyle choices.

          Let’s invert this: why do you think that they shouldn’t have the right to give advice?

          And another question: if the people who are most likely to drink during pregnancy are less rational and can only be influenced by messages without a lot of nuance, is your discomfort at this lack of nuance an acceptable consequence compared to the babies saved from FASD?

          In general, I have conflicting feelings about the nanny state for this exact reason. There is ample evidence that on average, people make some very bad choices about certain things. So a nanny state can improve overall happiness/health/etc by propaganda or forcing people to do certain things. It’s a difficult question to which point manipulation and/or a lack of freedom is acceptable for the greater good.

          And they not so subtly imply that FASD is what is at stake.

          Also, have you seen the infographic?

          I actually see no mention in the infographic that light drinking can cause FASD. At most you can complain that they aren’t clear about it, but any infographic has to simplify. If they would say ‘heavy drinking causes FASD’, you’d have people (legitimately) complain that this would cause people to judge their drinking as moderate (it’s a known issue that a lot of heavy drinkers don’t see themselves as such), resulting in more babies with FASD.

          Arguably, no health message is effective without the use of some propaganda. However, government agencies can definitely undermine their credibility when they go too far, but this is really not too bad, IMO. I really feel that people are looking for something to be offended about.

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          • Nadja says:

            Aapje, thank you for your fantastic, well reasoned comment. You’ve changed my mind. I now agree with you on what I think is the main point of this discussion: regardless of whether or not they are right in this particular case, people *are* just looking for things to get offended about. [Insert the requisite disclaimer that some, I assume, are good people.] Especially that those same people are not very likely to have the same sort of “nanny state” objections as I do.

            Excellent point about slippery slope. I haven’t considered it.

            As to CDC not claiming that light alcohol consumption is harmful, they do explicitly say this: “Alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). There is no known safe amount of alcohol – even beer or wine – that is safe for a woman to drink at any stage of pregnancy.” So while they are not exactly lying, they phrase it in such a way as to suggest that a little drinking is in fact bad for the fetus.

            > Anyway, I’m not objecting to people who say that the evidence is poor, but people like this […] who claim that such advice is sexist and anti-choice.

            Yes, good point, great paragraph. I agree.

            > I understand the feeling, but it’s also a very conservative, selfish feeling.

            Yes, that’s true. It is to a large extent selfish. In general, if I perceive a policy to harm me and my family even if it might do some good overall, I’ll oppose it for selfish reasons.

            > You have to admit that this is nothing more than a bit of advice.

            Yes, you’re right. I admit that. I don’t consider this particular piece of advice/policy particularly harmful at all.

            > Hmmm, the evidence for that is very, very, very weak though. If any effect exists, it can’t be very large. It’s obviously something that a lot of people really want to be true, which makes me doubt the minimal effect being found (just like all those coffee and chocolate studies).

            I couldn’t agree more on coffee/chocolate and wishful thinking!!! I do think there’s more reason to think moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial. It does appear to decrease the risk of dying of heart disease, to a much greater extent than the magic coffee/chocolate antioxidants do. There are also very plausible biological mechanisms that would explain why the decrease in risk could be happening. Anyway, I feel like this could be a subject for a separate debate. Overall, I don’t think the moderate alcohol/heart disease link is any weaker than the moderate alcohol/FASD link, but I think it’s reasonable if you disagree.

            > Let’s invert this: why do you think that they shouldn’t have the right to give advice?

            That’s an excellent question. The whole two paragraphs you write about your feelings about nanny state are excellent. Personally, I believe the government recommendations on many health matters have done more harm than good, so I think the society would benefit from the government erring on the side of giving less advice if the evidence is shaky, but I think it’s reasonable if you disagree. In any case, this also could be a subject for a separate debate.

            > I actually see no mention in the infographic that light drinking can cause FASD.

            Yes, you’re right, it’s not there. I meant these two points to be separate: 1) CDC bringing up FASD in their release, and 2) the infographic looking a little ridiculous to me. Of course you’re right in that infographics have to simplify, etc, so it’s hard to make them in such a way that they’re not a little ridiculous to some people.

            Anyway, thanks again for your comment. I really appreciated it.

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          • Aapje says:

            You’ve changed my mind.

            You are probably the only person on the entire Internet today who admitted such a thing 🙂 Let me return a compliment by thanking you for such a rare open mind.

            people *are* just looking for things to get offended about. [Insert the requisite disclaimer that some, I assume, are good people.]

            There is ample proof that all humans suffer from various cognitive and rationality deficiencies that cause us to behave like this (like confirmation bias). I wouldn’t disqualify anyone as ‘not good people’ for not being God-like, as it would disqualify myself as well (even though I try to recognize these deficiencies, they are too numerous and deeply ingrained in how the mind works for us to recognize and correct for them, especially since many work on the unconscious mind).

            As to CDC not claiming that light alcohol consumption is harmful, they do explicitly say this: “Alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause… “

            Your quote is not from the infographic page, so I missed it. You can argue that there is a lack of nuance, which centers around the interpretation of ‘can’ in that sentence. If you read it as ‘will’ it is too strong, if you read it as ‘may’ it is correct, but lacks clarity.

            On the other hand, my experience is that accurate writing is very lengthy and thus makes many people less likely to read it; while a ton of people lack the ability to properly read any text, no matter how accurate. So they will scan a text and interpret it based on their beliefs, rather than interpret what was written. As such, nitpicking of this sort feels a bit of an academic exercise to me.

            There is no known safe amount of alcohol – even beer or wine – that is safe for a woman to drink at any stage of pregnancy.”

            This is objectively true. A charitable reading of this paragraph is that they admit that there is clear evidence of a limit below which it is safe to drink. If they believe in the precautionary principle, it makes perfect sense for them to advise people not to drink at all.

            In the end, I think that the real disagreement is between people who believe in the precautionary principle and those who don’t feel that women should be limited so much over something which hasn’t been proven unsafe, just because it has not been proven safe.

            The rest of the arguments surrounding this issue feel more like rationalizations by people who have an unconscious objection to the precautionary principle, but can’t articulate it accurately.

            It does appear to decrease the risk of dying of heart disease, to a much greater extent than the magic coffee/chocolate antioxidants do. There are also very plausible biological mechanisms that would explain why the decrease in risk could be happening.

            AFAIK, a lot of studies claim that only red wine works (not alcohol in general). Supposedly there are compounds in red wine that are beneficial. However, I find it very suspicious that red wine is most popular in countries with a Mediterranean diet/lifestyle, while beer is more popular in countries where people have less healthy diets/lifestyles. This is a red flag that the studies may actually be measuring confounders.

            The fact that no one has been able to make a red wine pill and generate the same effect with a proper double blind experiment just increases my suspicion.

            I believe the government recommendations on many health matters have done more harm than good

            Well, I’m almost certainly in a different country, where the government gave & gives different advice, so we can both be right. My perception is that there has been some very bad food science in the past and silly advice as a result, but overall, this has not done much harm and quite a bit of good (as weakly ‘proven’ by the increase in life expectancy). The main lifestyle/food issues that threaten our health are a lack of exercise, smoking & the popularity of food that tastes good by being salty/fatty/sugar-filled/etc. AFAIK, for none of these issues has my government given really bad advice. The stupid advice has generally been harmless.

            If I were to blame anyone, it would primarily be businesses that took advantage of human weaknesses, to sell us harmful things without being honest about it (where big Tobacco takes the cake). The government organizations at least seem to try to help us*.

            * But again, my nationality may influence this. I’ve observed that most Americans have very little faith in the ability of their government to be effective, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as capable people are less willing to work for the government and the people accept a worse performing government, thinking that it can’t do better.

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          • @Aapje:

            Given your references to the precautionary principle, could you define it? And am I correct in believing that you approve of it?

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          • Aapje says:

            @Freidman

            My definition of the precautionary principle is that if the ‘suspected or the maximum possible risk x harm when it does come to pass’ outweighs the benefits of ignoring this risk, it is sensible to act as if the risk is there, until this is proven not to be the case (or research finds new data that alters one of the variables, changing the equation substantially).

            Personally, I think that the question of approval of this principle is a meaningless binary, as every sane person believes in this principle if if the formula is lopsided enough to one side and ignores it when it is lopsided to the other side. People with no knowledge of this principle do this automatically (and daily).

            My personal opinion is that the benefits of drinking are small and often even negative, even without the risk of damage to the fetus (but I enjoy alcohol less than most people, which probably influences this). So if I were a woman trying to get pregnant, I would refrain from alcohol.

            However, whether the CDC is doing the right thing depends on more variables, including the risk of losing their credibility, as well as the risk of misinterpretation of a more accurate message. I lack knowledge of various key facts to really judge if their stance is a good one.

            My main objection to the criticism is not that the CDC is objectively right, but rather that I consider it very likely that the reason for their stance is not the one being criticized. As such, the criticism is either an attack on a weak man or straw man.

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          • “My definition of the precautionary principle is that if the ‘suspected or the maximum possible risk x harm when it does come to pass’ outweighs the benefits of ignoring this risk, …”

            Thank you. What does “the maximum possible risk” mean?

            It is possible that the only thing preventing the end of the current interglacial is AGW. I don’t think it at all likely, but it’s possible. Indeed, it’s possible that the chance of it being true is 100%, since you can’t prove it isn’t true. Hence the maximum possible risk is 100%. The damage done—London and Chicago under half a mile of ice, sea level dropping something over a hundred feet leaving every port in the world high and dry—would be immense.

            Following out your definition of the principle, we shouldn’t do anything at all to reduce CO2 output–because the maximum possible risk times the harm if that risk happens is huge.

            I can understand the view that if the best estimate of the risk times the harm is greater than the harm from not doing something, you shouldn’t do it–that’s the Hand formula for negligence. But “maximum possible risk” makes no sense.

            The maximum possible risk from a nuclear reactor times the harm if it blows up is large–so the principle says you must ban reactors. But reactors are one way of holding down AGW, it’s possible that without them temperatures will go up and terrible things will happen, so the principle says you must not ban reactors.

            Doing something is a choice, not doing it is a choice.

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          • dust bunny says:

            I don’t see the problem or ‘selfishness’ in acknowledging that something is sexist and offensive while agreeing that, on the whole, it’s probably the best thing to do anyway. In fact, if something sexist and offensive needs to be done, imo it’s best we’re aware we’re making that compromise.

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          • Aapje says:

            I meant the upper bound. Statistical scientific methods based on p-values can by definition not prove that small effects exist or not exist, they can only ‘prove’ that the effect is below a certain level. Using the upper bound in a risk calculation is often useful, especially to decide when the precautionary principle is not applicable.

            As for Global Climate Change, you are talking about different risks, so you could apply the precautionary principle in multiple possible ways. However, the general idea is that humans are causing change at a rate far faster than what nature normally does (aside from rare events such as the Chicxulub meteorite), so our influence is of a much larger magnitude than the natural ice age cycles. As most climate scientists believe that it has been proven that this human influence is much larger, the risks on the short term would primarily come from human influences, so the precautionary principle would suggest minimizing human influence on the global climate. Although one can argue that we now have so much evidence and the models are so good that intervening would not be precautionary, but is simply necessary to prevent a predictable outcome (within a certain band of uncertainty).

            The maximum possible risk from a nuclear reactor times the harm if it blows up is large–so the principle says you must ban reactors. But reactors are one way of holding down AGW, it’s possible that without them temperatures will go up and terrible things will happen, so the principle says you must not ban reactors.

            Or you sidestep this dilemma by creating reactors that are inherently safe from cooling failures. I generally prefer win-win scenario’s.

            Historically, uranium reactors were pursued for military reasons. The disadvantages are immense (limited fuel supply, dangerous, only a small percentage of the fuel in the rods can be used, allows the creation of military grade uranium/plutonium by people who own such a reactor). I am quite fond of liquid thorium reactors, which should solve most of these problems, but they need a lot more R&D.

            That said, ‘clean’ technology like solar is rapidly getting cheaper, so reactors may lose economic viability in the next few decades. In fact, nuclear has never been particularly viable from an economic standpoint, as evidenced by a total lack of plants built by private companies. Recent developments such as liberalization of electricity markets, greater uncertainty about long term electricity prices and the aforementioned possibility of being out competed by clean tech, makes it unlikely that nuclear can play a large role in the transition to (other) clean alternatives.

            BTW. Requiring all new nuclear plants to be financed by private investors and maintain sufficient reserves to dismantle the reactor and safely store the spent fuel/radioactive reactor components would effectively be the same as banning them.

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          • Jiro says:

            I don’t see the problem or ‘selfishness’ in acknowledging that something is sexist and offensive while agreeing that, on the whole, it’s probably the best thing to do anyway.

            Maybe you don’t, but the people who police sexism don’t agree with you.

            Outside of rational blogs, being sexist means there are no excuses. You can either obey, or hope the accuser doesn’t have enough power to do bad things to you for being sexist. “It’s sexist but necessary” won’t help you–nobody will ever let you treat sexism as necessary.

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          • Aapje says:

            The entire charge of sexism is generally silly in the context of pregnancy/birth/abortion issues, IMO.

            If anyone is sexist, it is nature which gave only women the ability to get pregnant. The biological differences between men and women mean that it is absurdly unreasonable to argue that men and women should face the same consequences. ‘People who are pregnant shouldn’t drink (too much)’ is perfectly gender neutrally written, but in practice, it only applies to women. If you wanted to make men face the same consequences, like forbidding them from drinking when their partner is pregnant, it would be nothing more than revanchism. It has no basis in logic.

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          • “I meant the upper bound. Statistical scientific methods based on p-values can by definition not prove that small effects exist or not exist, they can only ‘prove’ that the effect is below a certain level. ”

            p values don’t give you the probability that something is true, they only give you the probability that the evidence for it would be as strong as it is if it were false in a particular way.

            And I do not know what the “upper bound” for the probability of an event means.

            You hand me a coin. I flip it ten times, without first examining it. What is the upper bound for the probability that I get ten heads?

            If it’s a fair coin, the probability of ten heads is 1/1024. But I don’t know that it’s a fair coin. It’s possible that you gave me a two headed coin as a joke. If you did, the probability of ten heads is 1. Does that mean that the upper bound of the probability of ten heads is 1?

            So far as the reactor question, my point wasn’t about whether reactors should or should not be built. It was that the precautionary principle is incoherent, since deciding not to do something is also a choice, and it’s easy to imagine cases where both doing something and not doing it could have very bad effects, hence both alternatives are ruled out by the principle as usually expressed.

            Can you construct an example, analogous to my coin flipping example, that makes clear the distinction between the probability of an event and the upper bound on the probability of an event?

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          • nyccine says:

            In fact, nuclear has never been particularly viable from an economic standpoint, as evidenced by a total lack of plants built by private companies.

            Full disclosure: I work for one of the larger electric utility providers in America.

            You’re gonna want to take another look at the numbers. America has privately-built nuclear power plants. Lots of ’em. Keep in mind that not every electric utility is state-run – I’m actually hard-pressed to think of any that are.

            Nuclear plants aren’t getting built for a number of reasons, exactly none of which are “they aren’t viable”, “they’re not efficient enough”, or “renewables like solar are going to make them obsolete.”

            To start with, solar cells can drop in price all they want, they cannot be relied on for a grid. Quite aside from issues of reliability due to weather, you can’t get around the problem of solar being a dc power source. HVDC transmission lines are only useful for looooooong range transmission, you simply cannot use them for feeding businesses and homes – you have to convert to AC and you can’t avoid massive energy losses when you do that.

            Nuclear isn’t any less cost-efficient than existing fossil fuel sources, and we sell plenty on interchange markets.

            If it were up to just the engineers, they’d do away with everything but nuclear power. The reasons why you can’t are:

            1- The regulatory environment. general NIMBY-ism, as well as paranoia over anything related to the word “nuclear” makes approval of new plants difficult, though not impossible. This has only gotten worse with the rise of Islamic terrorism and fears of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands.

            2- The financiers. The people who are going to decide what kind of new plants we’re going to try and build hear “let’s move everything to nuclear!” their eyes glaze over, and they start repeating “can’t put all our eggs in one basket.” Risk-aversion is too high, even though the fuel markets would have to go insanely, implausibly, out of whack for a very long time to make nuclear less cost-efficient. It’s also a much greater initial capital investment, even though it pays off and then some in the long-term.

            3-The public, and the government, want environmentally friendly energy sources. The push for renewables is largely garbage, but it’s good publicity, and lots of subsidies are available to make token investments -but not much greater – worth it. If you ask me, this is basically corporate welfare, but if you’re just giving money away, the board of directors is more than happy to take it.

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          • Protagoras says:

            A quick web search claimed that DC to AC conversion is around 95% efficient, which doesn’t sound like a “massive” loss to me; it rather sounds like all it means is that solar would have to drop in cost only around another 5% further past what it would have needed to if it produced AC power for it to be at the same level of competitiveness. Has the web misled me, or is there some reason I’m missing why DC to AC conversion is a bigger problem than it appears to be?

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          • Is there really no way to convert DC to AC with reasonable efficiency, say 95% or better? I mean, it seems it ought to be straightforward enough. Is it a question of the quality of the waveforms, or something?

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          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            You hand me a coin. I flip it ten times, without first examining it. What is the upper bound for the probability that I get ten heads?

            That is not the question you would/should be asking. The proper question is: what is the chance that the coin is fair? Or alternatively, what is the maximum unfairness that the coin can have, with 9x% probability?

            Of course, 10 flips is too low for meaningful conclusions, but if you flip it 10,000 times and get close to a 50/50 split, you can make statements about the likelihood that the coin is fair. On the other hand, if you would get a 75/25 split, you can be fairly confident that the coin is unfair and state with a certain likelihood that the unfairness is in a certain range.

            Similarly, if you do a decent study and find only a minimal or no effect of drinking during early pregnancy, you can draw the conclusion that there is a high likelihood that the maximum effect is in the vicinity of 0%, not in the vicinity of 100%. However, even if studies find no effect on drinking, you can never state that drinking during early pregnancy never causes FASD, since there is always an interval of uncertainty.

            That’s why the most reasonable way to apply the precautionary principle not to require proof of safety, but rather evidence that the actual risk is sufficiently low (with high likelihood).

            It was that the precautionary principle is incoherent, since deciding not to do something is also a choice, and it’s easy to imagine cases where both doing something and not doing it could have very bad effects, hence both alternatives are ruled out by the principle as usually expressed

            It’s only incoherent if you apply it in an absolutist way, which is not what my definition suggests should be done, nor what I believe.

            You are simply describing a situation where there is no perfect choice, but which instead requires judging different options relative to each other. This just requires you to compare the choices to each other and pick the best option. If there are two different ways that you could apply the precautionary principle, you pick the one where the comparison of risk x harm to the benefits not trying to prevent that risk has a better expected outcome. This is really just basic decision making.

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          • Aapje says:

            @nyccine

            You’re gonna want to take another look at the numbers. America has privately-built nuclear power plants. Lots of ’em.

            You are right, I made too strong a claim due to misreading a source. What I should have said: there have been no unsubsidized nuclear plants. For example, in the US the Energy Policy Act 2005 subsidizes the first 6,000 MWe, gives nuclear liability protection and loan guarantees. AFAIK, no nuclear plants have been built without extensive government support.

            To start with, solar cells can drop in price all they want, they cannot be relied on for a grid.

            Technically, you could, with storage. Currently, aside from hydro solutions (which is only viable in certain places), there is a lack of commercially viable storage solutions. People are working on that, though.

            you have to convert to AC and you can’t avoid massive energy losses when you do that.

            As Protagoras said, the typical loss is ~5% for industrial converters and a little higher for consumer variants, which is hardly massive. Once solar becomes cheap enough, it’s no problem to add 5% more solar panels to compensate for this.

            Also keep in mind that people don’t want nuclear near their homes, which is why the plants are usually in remote areas, requiring long transmission lines (which may require DC/AC/DC conversions, so you end up with converter losses in addition to leakage). In contrast, I have a solar system on my roof with a 93.5% efficient AC/DC converter. Assuming that much of that electricity is used by me or my neighbors, that is really rather efficient.

            Nuclear isn’t any less cost-efficient than existing fossil fuel sources

            If we would price in externalities properly, fossil would already be out-competed, that is true.

            If it were up to just the engineers, they’d do away with everything but nuclear power. The reasons why you can’t are:

            You forgot the problem of scaling to demand, which nuclear can’t do. It’s impossible to use only nuclear unless you solve the same problem that is required to switch to 100% solar: cheap storage.

            Risk-aversion is too high, even though the fuel markets would have to go insanely, implausibly, out of whack for a very long time to make nuclear less cost-efficient.

            The fuel market is ‘implausibly’ out of whack right now. Remember how people kept saying that oil would bounce back up….I’m still waiting.

            PS. I’m not actually suggesting we switch 100% to solar in the short term, but it’s hardly implausible that this can happen in the next few decades (before any new nuclear plants would be written off). You just need the price declines in solar to continue and for someone to find a solution for efficient and cheap electricity storage.

            PS2. Some solar plants are already commercially viable with no subsidies, even with the current low electricity prices.

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          • “you pick the one where the comparison of risk x harm to the benefits not trying to prevent that risk has a better expected outcome. This is really just basic decision making.”

            That’s fine. But “risk” and “maximum possible risk” are very different things, for the reason I have been trying to explain. It was the latter that went into your definition of the principle.

            “The proper question is: what is the chance that the coin is fair? Or alternatively, what is the maximum unfairness that the coin can have, with 9x% probability?”

            You were not defining the principle by “the chance that” but “the maximum possible risk.” It is possible that the probability of the coin being very unfair is high—someone might have slipped you a two headed coin.

            I think, by the way, that you are misunderstanding my coin flip example, which isn’t about calculating something after the coin has been flipped but calculating the probability of an outcome (ten heads) before it has been flipped.

            “but if you flip it 10,000 times and get close to a 50/50 split, you can make statements about the likelihood that the coin is fair.”

            I think you are misunderstanding the meaning of a p statistic in classical statistics. It doesn’t tell you the likelihood that the coin is fair. It tells you the likelihood of getting the outcome you got if the coin is unfair in a particular way.

            Are you familiar with the difference between classical and Bayesian statistics?

            My standard example to make the point:

            You pull a coin from your pocket and, without looking at it, flip it twice, getting heads each time. The probability of that result with a fair coin is only .25. Do you conclude that there is only one chance in four that it is a fair coin, a .75 chance that it is double headed?

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          • nyccine says:

            @Protagoras:

            Has the web misled me, or is there some reason I’m missing why DC to AC conversion is a bigger problem than it appears to be?

            You’re missing something. Efficiency of conversion for a home, or small solar farm, is not the same thing as conversion for major transmission lines; this is exacerbated by the fact that you’d have to take a hit for each step-down. HVDC is only “better” than AC at very high voltages, at long distances (or underwater); when you start talking about distribution voltages and distribution, where you have to deal with multiple voltages, all much lower than what you need to justify HVDC cables, then you’re wasting money.

            @Aapje :

            What I should have said: there have been no unsubsidized nuclear plants. For example, in the US the Energy Policy Act 2005 subsidizes the first 6,000 MWe, gives nuclear liability protection and loan guarantees. AFAIK, no nuclear plants have been built without extensive government support.

            We wouldn’t dream of touching solar if it weren’t for government (federal and state) subsidies. You’re not rebutting anything with this claim.

            Technically, you could, with storage. Currently, aside from hydro solutions (which is only viable in certain places), there is a lack of commercially viable storage solutions. People are working on that, though.

            Man-made hydro isn’t for “storage”; storage isn’t a thing done at the generation and transmission level. Electricity has to be produced “on demand.” Man-made hydro is done to help offset peak demand, and can’t be done at more than marginal levels or the inherent inefficiencies of pumping water back into the lake you built will wreck you financially.

            …requiring long transmission lines (which may require DC/AC/DC conversions, so you end up with converter losses in addition to leakage)…

            Not in the US it doesn’t; we don’t use HVDC (there’s like 3 or 4 places where some has been installed, mostly for underwater cables iirc but it’s not the case that we build a new plant far away and use HVDC; we’re still using A/C transmission lines). And again, we’re going to be dealing with issues of distribution, where multiple such conversions will need to take place.

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          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            You pull a coin from your pocket and, without looking at it, flip it twice, getting heads each time. The probability of that result with a fair coin is only .25. Do you conclude that there is only one chance in four that it is a fair coin, a .75 chance that it is double headed?

            You could conclude that, but only with a very low level of confidence.

            You can confidently conclude that the coin will not always show tails and also be 99% confident that the coin is not weighted so that it will land on tails 99.9% of the time. If you do more flips and still keep getting only heads, you can start make stronger claims within that 99% confidence level. So then you can start to claim that you have 99% confidence that the coin is not weighted to land on tails 75% of the time. Do more flips, and then you can be confident that the coin is not weighed neutrally. Then do more flips and you can conclude with 99% confidence that the coin is weighed to land on heads at least 75% of the time. Do a billion flips and you can state confidently that the coin must be at least 99% weighed. However, you can never claim that the coin will always land on heads, absent an infinite number of flips.

            So let’s say that I would be asked to stake my life against a billion dollars on that coin flip (where I keep my life and the money on heads). If I only knew that the coin landed on heads twice, I couldn’t be very sure of winning if I played the game. Yet if I had a billion flips that showed heads, I would be quite confident of winning.

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          • Aapje says:

            @nyccine

            We wouldn’t dream of touching solar if it weren’t for government (federal and state) subsidies. You’re not rebutting anything with this claim.

            Yes, I am. Solar is rapidly getting cheaper and the subsidies can thus be assumed to be a temporary measure to allow for the necessary R&D to become competitive with fossil. In contrast, nuclear is not (rapidly) getting cheaper and thus we can assume that the current subsidies for nuclear fuel will be necessary in the future as well.

            You are missing the point that I was talking about solar becoming competitive in the future. The fact that solar requires subsidies today in no way proves that solar will not be competitive in the future. The latter requires analysis of trends, which I did (and which you didn’t rebut).

            Man-made hydro isn’t for “storage”; storage isn’t a thing done at the generation and transmission level. Electricity has to be produced “on demand.” Man-made hydro is done to help offset peak demand

            I think we may be using different definitions of storage here. Any energy that is not used right away, but can be tapped when desired, is ‘stored.’ Off-setting peak demand by turning electricity into gravitational potential energy at peak production and/or low demand, and driving a generator with that ‘falling’ water when there is low production and/or high demand, is a perfect example of bridging demand/supply gaps by storage.

            You might might have meant to say that it is unsuitable for storing energy for use in the winter, which is probably true, but I explicitly said that we need better storage technology, so I’m not disagreeing with you there.

            and can’t be done at more than marginal levels

            Wikipedia tells me that the storage capacity of pumped hydro is currently 740 TWh, which seems significant. If doing that will ‘wreck you financially,’ then there are a lot of silly governments in the world….or you are wrong and they are right.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Solar is rapidly getting cheaper and the subsidies can thus be assumed to be a temporary measure to allow for the necessary R&D to become competitive with fossil.”

            Becoming competitive with fossil fuels requires storage issues to be solved. Not only do you have to be as efficient as fossil fuels, you have to be more efficient to cancel out the losses going into and out of storage. Otherwise you still run the fossil fuel plants because you need to build them for the night.

            “You might might have meant to say that it is unsuitable for storing energy for use in the winter, which is probably true, but I explicitly said that we need better storage technology, so I’m not disagreeing with you there.”

            What makes you think we can get a storage system that is cheap enough to make renewables competitive with fossil fuels? It seems to me you’d need a large amount of backup capacity not just for the night, but for winter.

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          • nyccine says:

            @Aapje:

            The latter requires analysis of trends, which I did (and which you didn’t rebut).

            You didn’t go analysis. You didn’t do anything but browse wikipedia, then make completely unfounded assertions. Every power plant built gets subsidies, not because they’re worthless, but because governments (fed and state) see fit to promote growth of infrastructure, and to promote job growth. The plants – except renewables which aren’t worth it – would be built if they had to be, but of course we’re gonna go begging for as many handouts as we can get.

            Off-setting peak demand by turning electricity into gravitational potential energy at peak production and/or low demand, and driving a generator with that ‘falling’ water when there is low production and/or high demand, is a perfect example of bridging demand/supply gaps by storage.

            No, it isn’t. First off, you aren’t pumping water at peak production, because there isn’t peak production, you’re pumping it when there’s low demand, at night. Let me reiterate that point for you – we are pumping water to man-made hydro at night, at which point it should be dawning on you why solar isn’t going to work at the generation level.

            There is no “peak production” at power stations – those rotors can’t be turned off and on like a switch, it takes days to shut them down and then turn them back on. If you tried to cut production off and on like that, the rotors would literally tear themselves apart, and probably kill a bunch of people unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. We build the fewest plants possible to meet needs, supplement with small generations sources that can be shut off (man-made hydo, diesel turbines) to account for peak demand periods, and carefully structure wholesale of electricity to neighboring markets to ensure we waste as little current generated as possible.

            The fuel market is ‘implausibly’ out of whack right now. Remember how people kept saying that oil would bounce back up….I’m still waiting.

            We don’t use oil for electricity, for exactly this reason. When we say “fuel” we mean coal, natural gas, and uranium. Oil, to electricity, is in the form of diesel for standby generation – a completely minor factor.

            Wikipedia tells me that the storage capacity of pumped hydro is currently 740 TWh, which seems significant.

            Because you have no idea what that means. We don’t even measure loads in watt-hours – that’s a figure made up for billing purposes, to measure demand over time – we measure it by watts, which is why every power station you read about will discuss its production in Megawatts, not how many watt-hours can be consumed (which is practically infinite). A watt-hour figure all by itself doesn’t tell you much of anything about the actual usage, but no matter how you slice that number – whether that’s a significant load for a very short period of time (not significant), or a very low load for a somewhat longer period of time (also not significant) – it’s insignificant.

            Even if you compared sorta-apples to kinda-apples (and assuming that 740TWh figure reflects how much could released at once) that number isn’t even 4% of what was consumed in the same year wikipedia is using – 20,900 TWh were used in 2012. Note that watt-hour consumption does not capture what is lost via rkva, which is substantial.

            If doing that will ‘wreck you financially,’ then there are a lot of silly governments in the world….or you are wrong and they are right.

            Because governments can’t be silly. They don’t do stupid, unproductive things.

            But actually, they aren’t doing silly things. They’re doing what everyone does with man-made hydro: using them to offset peak demand, instead of having to overbuild facilities and waste even more. Now, if they are in fact building man-made hydro to prepare for the glorious solar-powered future, then yes, they are very much behaving in a silly manner. And if they’re doing it to fleece the government, by giving kickbacks to donors, or just lining their own pockets, then they’re behaving in a corrupt manner.

            It’s still a loss though, hence my statement about it wrecking you if you now have to rely on these man-made hydro stations to not just pick up the slack during peak demand periods, but also provide service when your solar plant isn’t even working.

            To elaborate on what I referenced above, unlike fossil-fuel sources, which are producing electricity constantly, solar production is going to vary depending on how much light you’re actually getting. The thing is, peak demands are typically when solar is working its hardest – in other words, to pump water for use in offsetting peak demand, you actually have to overbuild production to do so. Now, I’m also going to have to overbuild both production *and* storage to account for evening usage, to say nothing of extended periods of overcast? I can’t possibly make that work; you’re no more going to solve that problem via increased efficiency than Congress is going to fix the budget deficit by eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse. Please keep in mind that solar production is going to have a bigger footprint than a normal power station, for equal MW production.

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          • Theo Jones says:

            “nuclear is not (rapidly) getting cheaper”
            This is in large part because current regulations on nuclear are so over harsh as to be a de facto ban on new construction.Additionally, the U.S regulatory system encourages nuclear plants to be designed in one-off ways with no two plants sharing the same design. When nuclear is constructed properly, ie. with a large number of similarly designed plants, and the core parts mass produced, the costs will fall.

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  11. tcheasdfjkl says:

    I think you’re being unfair to Internet feminists and misrepresenting what the CDC said. Note that they said not “don’t drink while you’re pregnant” but basically “don’t drink when you’re fertile” (of childbearing age and not using birth control), which does in fact boil down to presuming that any woman of childbearing age would be interested in bearing a child right now and should be making her decisions based on the hypothetical future child. It would have been reasonable to say “don’t drink if you’re trying to get pregnant or would be interested in bearing a child soon & it’s reasonably likely that you might”. Not reasonable to assume that’s the case for all women of a certain age.

    Also, a lot of the outrage was about an infographic by the CDC which claimed that for any woman, alcohol leads to injuries/violence, STDs, and unintended pregnancy, which is pretty perplexing.

    There was also some bad reporting which made it sound like you shouldn’t drink if you’re not “on birth control” (which sounds like it specifically means meds) while the original said “using birth control” (which can include condoms and such). That wasn’t exactly the CDC’s fault but maybe a failure of messaging.

    Also, not drinking ever in one’s twenties is such a drastic step in this culture that you need really clear evidence and a really good reason to take that step, and we don’t really have that, and the CDC didn’t really acknowledge that.

    So yes, there were some reactions that went overboard. But you make it sound like the CDC was completely reasonable and feminism was completely unreasonable, and that’s really not fair at all.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve updated the link, but if you read the articles their complaints aren’t really what you’re talking about.

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      • tcheasdfjkl says:

        Thank you for correcting the factual error.

        I see you’ve also removed the part about feminists’ reactions, so I can’t go read the articles, but I completely believe you that they were as over-the-top and poorly reasoned as can be. My problem was that by basically steelmanning the CDC’s actual position into something more reasonable (without saying that’s what you were doing) while presenting what I assume were particularly poor specimens of feminism (I didn’t follow your links but I did see a lot of discussion about this issue with varying degrees of reasonableness) you were giving the impression that a reasonable feminist has nothing to complain about in this case (not true) and therefore all the feminist complaints about this issue were unreasonable.

        But anyway you’ve removed it, so thank you. (I’d be curious as to why, though – did you decide it was in fact unfair or just not want it to take over the comments? (If the latter, sorry for contributing…))

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    • J Mann says:

      I suppose at a certain level of precision, the CDC could have said “don’t drink if you might potentially become pregnant – i.e., if you are fertile, sexually active, and not using birth control – unless you are either (1) certain you will abort any resulting fetus or (2) prefer having children with avoidable negative consequences to giving up drinking,” but presumably people could infer those last two?

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    • Taradino C. says:

      Also, a lot of the outrage was about an infographic by the CDC which claimed that for any woman, alcohol leads to injuries/violence, STDs, and unintended pregnancy, which is pretty perplexing.

      IIRC, it said it increases the risk of those things, which is true, not that it necessarily leads to them.

      And although some people have objected to the phrase “any woman” — what about women marooned on desert islands without any men around to impregnate them, huh? — I think it’s fair to let the CDC speak in conversational English.

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  12. Douglas Knight says:

    Only 10% of species of mosquitoes prey on humans. Only 10% of those carry disease – it’s not easy for pathogens to jump hosts. Eliminating one species of mosquito seems to me ecologically quite safe – it will just be replaced by another species that also preys on humans.

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    • John Schilling says:

      And the diseases will be replaced by ones that like the new mosquitos, no? Microorganisms evolve faster than macro.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        You seem to be predicting that malaria has spread to all mosquitoes that prey on humans, but it hasn’t. It took malaria 3 million years to jump from chimps to humans. Changing definitive host is more difficult.

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      • Murphy says:

        Malaria is not exclusive. It doesn’t block other diseases so any microorganism which could evolve to be carried by those other species of mosquitos could already do so while malaria still exists. They’re not intelligent beings waiting to hitch a ride with a mosquito that will change hosts only if their old host becomes unavailable.

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  13. Emily says:

    The r/economics commenter is not doing the analysis correctly, they are doing the analysis differently. Which you could do in all sorts of ways. Perry did it in one way and was totally transparent about what he was doing, so that’s fine. The tone of the comment is unwarranted. Also, it is not the average person, it’s a subset of workers in both cases. Using per capita number would have been another valid choice, though, and one which would have brought down the number.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve changed the phrasing a little, but I think that redistributing from a small subset of CEOs to all workers, and saying that’s the effect of CEO wealth redistribution is very misleading. I could say that CEO wealth distribution would give workers only $0.00001 extra, if I meant only one very poorly paid CEO and all of the workers in the whole world. Or I could say it would give every worker a billion dollars, if by “every worker” I meant “every worker in a single small business”. There’s an expectation that you’re comparing comparable things.

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      • I don’t think either calculation is correct, but the critic seems closer to correct than the AEI. The problem is that he is implicitly assuming the ratio of CEO salary to number of workers is the same for the S&P 500 as for other firms.

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      • Emily says:

        He says in the title which CEOs he is referring to. Unless his readers might not know that there are other CEOs, he is doing a really bad job of being misleading. Again, there are all sorts of different ways you could do this. I don’t think Perry has a claim to the best possible analysis here. But there is no “gotcha!” here the way the respondent thinks there is.

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        • wysinwyg says:

          Study by a think tank = propaganda. Yes, they are being misleading on purpose. Because that is what they are paid to do. That is their job.

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          • Emily says:

            If you want to use a decision rule of “never believe what think tanks say”, go ahead. There are worse ones. But if we’re just evaluating on the basis of the context (think tank blog post vs. Reddit comment, or even upvoted Reddit comment), I don’t think the Reddit comment wins.

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      • bluto says:

        The redditor’s analysis presumes that non-S&P 500 CEOs have an equivalent multiple of their worker’s earnings as S&P 500 CEOs. It wouldn’t be that hard to look at S&P 400 or 600 (mid cap or small-cap companies) CEO pay (they’re all public too) to show that the CEO’s salary redistributed likely looks quite different for the smaller firms (and then extrapolate for the remaining non-public firms.

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      • Brian Donohue says:

        Don’t most CEOs already pay more than 40% of their income in taxes?

        If it was 1915, and there was no income tax, the conversation would be different.

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      • static says:

        The r/economics comment stats are missing one of the primary points as to why CEO pay has increased, many of the workers for the multinationals in the S&P 500 do not live in the US. In addition, they are typically companies that support an entire supply chain of smaller companies. Looking at anything other than CEO pay to revenue is sort of irrelevant.

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    • Of course, this analysis all ignores the incentive effects, and so greatly overstates the appeal of killing the [CEO] that lays the golden eggs.

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      • Aapje says:

        Of course, this analysis all ignores the incentive effects

        There is considerable evidence that higher financial incentives don’t actually motivate people very well/at all. It’s primarily higher relative income that makes people happier, which results in companies collectively wanting to pay more than average, which obviously leads to unsustainable growth in salaries.

        Simultaneously, you can just as easily turn the argument around and argue that the ever increasing gap between regular workers and top managers results in regular workers being disincentivized. What about the golden eggs laid by regular workers?

        and so greatly overstates the appeal of killing the [CEO] that lays the golden eggs.

        It’s a fallacy to think that good CEOs would suddenly disappear when salaries are considerably lowered across the board. Where would they go?

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        • wysinwyg says:

          What about the golden eggs laid by regular workers?

          This seems to be a much more pressing issue given all the signs of global deflation caused by stagnation of US worker wages and resulting slowing of consumption.

          And the stagnation of US worker wages is not under dispute, even if the AEI wants to float dubious white papers about how little redistribution would matter.

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          • arbitrary_greay says:

            The strength of redistribution grows over time. A majority of the CEO salary is unspent, while the majority of worker money is plugged right back into consumer spending. ($70 for a couple of extra nights out on the town) That’s putting a large amount in aggregate back into the economy, regardless of per-person distribution, and keeps feeding itself.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            CEOs don’t put their extra money in mattresses — they invest it, so their extra income tends to increase credit, which will grow the economy everything else being equal. But that credit corresponds to debt which needs to be repaid with interest, so you can’t just grow investment without also growing wages and consumption or you end up with a situation of too much money chasing too few investments, burgeoning debt, and slowing growth.

            No, wait, what am I saying…Ayn Rand was right about everything. Our current economic woes are all due to the poors and we should pay our heroic CEOs even higher so that they will be properly incentivized to save us unworthy peons from our inevitable decline into savagery.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ arbitrary_greay:

            The fact that the majority of the CEO salary is “unspent”, i.e. invested, is literally the reason why it’s good.

            The amount that the CEO keeps invested does not provide him with any special benefit at all. It provides a general benefit to everyone in the economy, by causing more wealth to be produced and lowering the price of goods and services.

            The only special benefit he gets is in consuming some of that wealth. The amount he consumes is a net negative to everyone else.

            So the idea that it’s somehow bad that the CEO is not spending 70% of his paycheck going “out on the town” is precisely backwards. They less they spend, the better.

            Even if they just literally hoard their money, it’s not bad. By hoarding your money, you’re effectively forfeiting the right to use the share of production to which the money entitles you. Which means the value of everyone else’s money goes up because a smaller amount of money is chasing the same quantity of goods. So by hoarding or setting your money on fire, you make everyone else richer.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            CEOs don’t put their extra money in mattresses — they invest it, so their extra income tends to increase credit, which will grow the economy everything else being equal. But that credit corresponds to debt which needs to be repaid with interest, so you can’t just grow investment without also growing wages and consumption or you end up with a situation of too much money chasing too few investments, burgeoning debt, and slowing growth.

            The credit and debt balance out. There is no problem of there being “too much” investment. Especially not “too much debt” created by investment.

            If “too much” is invested, the rate of profit goes down, and more people decide “Screw it, I’ll just buy my Mercedes now instead of waiting to buy it next year”, and consumption rises relative to investment until we’re back an an equilibrium.

            As the economic degree of capitalism grows and production chains become longer, the tendency is for the rate of profit to become lower and lower.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            @Vox IMperatoris:

            The credit and debt balance out. There is no problem of there being “too much” investment. Especially not “too much debt” created by investment.

            Yes, that’s true. That’s why the interest that I took care to mention in my comment is there. It’s important.

            You can’t systematically repay loans with interest without growth.

            If “too much” is invested, the rate of profit goes down, and more people decide “Screw it, I’ll just buy my Mercedes now instead of waiting to buy it next year”, and consumption rises relative to investment until we’re back an an equilibrium.

            That’s the theory, but since at least 2008 a lot of prominent economists and business analysts have argued that there’s too much money chasing too few assets. And empirically, it really does seem like there is too much debt in the world economy and that very little of it is likely to ever be repaid.

            I’m getting bored of this pattern where I make a claim about economics, and you say “Economic theory predicts otherwise therefore you are wrong.” Would you mind responding with empirical evidence instead of theoretical arguments in the future?

            (Also, it would be nice if you didn’t ignore really important parts of my argument in your efforts to prove me wrong. Or you can kindly explain how debt and credit can cancel each other out while still allowing lenders to make a profit from charging interest.)

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            Yes, that’s true. That’s why the interest that I took care to mention in my comment is there. It’s important.

            You can’t systematically repay loans with interest without growth.

            No, the debt plus interest is equal to the value of the credit. You are giving out money now, forsaking your ability to use it, in return for being paid back more money in the future.

            If there is no growth, what will be the market rate of interest? Zero. And then people will cut back on investment until the market rate is not zero.

            This is a self-solving problem.

            That’s the theory, but since at least 2008 a lot of prominent economists and business analysts have argued that there’s too much money chasing too few assets. And empirically, it really does seem like there is too much debt in the world economy and that very little of it is likely to ever be repaid.

            What exactly is “too much money chasing too few assets” supposed to mean? If there is too much investment relative to people’s desire for consumption, then investment will be cut back.

            This is totally separate from the question of governments or reckless consumers guided by government policy, taking on massive debt in order to fund consumption spending. If governments can’t pay their debts, the solution is to cut spending and divest themselves of assets. This may be painful, just as it is painful to go bankrupt, but it is not a problem. It is the solution to the previous problem of too much consumption spending.

            I’m getting bored of this pattern where I make a claim about economics, and you say “Economic theory predicts otherwise therefore you are wrong.” Would you mind responding with empirical evidence instead of theoretical arguments in the future?

            The reason this is happening is that I don’t largely disagree with you on the observable quantitative facts. I disagree on the interpretation and the causes.

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          • arbitrary_greay says:

            @Vox Imperatoris
            The growth is unbalanced wrt which sectors benefit and not trickling down. Same with if the CEO spent all of that money on luxury items and such.

            @wysinwyg
            Thanks for your explanation. I was kind of chasing that sense of how certain swathes of investing seem to do no work other than padding out rich peoples’ accounts, (something something stocks reflect shareholders’ confidence and not actually performance) but I didn’t have the knowledge of the mechanism.

            I mean, isn’t GiveDirectly one of the most effective forms of altruism? (Again, kind of a chasing the idea here, haven’t fully fleshed out the connections yet) How is bottom-driven growth not good?

            (Mind you, I’m not opposed to income inequality on principle. In times of prosperity, I believe the gap actually gets larger? It’s just that I don’t find the mechanisms of that gap increasing in the current situation to be beneficial. There’s no reverse causation.)

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          • Aapje says:

            @Vox

            There are different kinds of investment. Doing R&D is a totally different kind of investment than investing in a (housing or other) bubble or putting money in an offshore bank account.

            In the past, there was a very high tax rate and money couldn’t just be moved out of the country easily. So the best way to avoid paying tax was to reinvest it in R&D, business ventures, etc. So this is what businesses did: the good kind of investing.

            Furthermore, the higher taxes enabled a lot of fundamental research that is critical for major advances in the long term. Nowadays, R&D is much more short term and thus no longer transformative.

            Today, Apple has billions of dollars sitting in offshore accounts. They are actually disincentivized from bringing it back and investing it in speculative new technology. Ironically, the Mac could only be made due because of speculative research done by Bell Labs. Research that Apple itself refuses to do.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Aapje:

            Today, Apple has billions of dollars sitting in offshore accounts. They are actually disincentivized from bringing it back and investing it in speculative new technology. Ironically, the Mac could only be made due because of speculative research done by Bell Labs. Research that Apple itself refuses to do.

            Solution: stop taxing Apple’s profits and making them move them offshore.

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          • Nornagest says:

            Ironically, the Mac could only be made due because of speculative research done by Bell Labs. Research that Apple itself refuses to do.

            It’s only ironic if you misunderstand Apple’s business model; not all tech companies are trying to make money off R&D, and Apple isn’t really one of them. Their thing is good interfaces, good design, high build quality, and tons of work going into their corporate image/walled garden/hivemind/cult; they’re not trying to be cutting-edge on a technical level. You more or less can’t be, in fact, if you’re in the business of selling things that Just Work.

            There’s nothing wrong with this approach.

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          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            It is ironic that a company that is seen as innovative is actually being anti-innovation, taking advantage of companies that actually come up with new technology. If all business acted like Apple, they would be far less successful (and technological progress would stagnate).

            You more or less can’t be, in fact, if you’re in the business of selling things that Just Work.

            Businesses can be/do two things. Bells Labs did rather fundamental research, while AT & T built a solid phone system. These two activities were very different, yet they could coexist in the same corporation.

            There is no reason why Apple couldn’t use a portion of their huge income to set up a subsidiary that does fundamental and semi-fundamental research, aside from the perversity of the current incarnation of capitalism (note that I’m not against capitalism, but against the short-term, a/immoral cynical capitalism that we have today).

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          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Bells Labs did rather fundamental research…

            It’s worth noting that Bell Labs was only able to do that sort of speculative, fundamental research because AT&T had a national monopoly and could charge whatever they wanted for (fairly crappy) telephone service. After the monopoly was broken up and they actually had to compete for customers, they largely stopped doing fundamental research (you will find many of their former researchers in the E.E. departments of universities in New York and New Jersey, and if you ask they will speak wistfully of the freedom they had when they worked in Bell Labs).

            Regarding Apple, they do currently have a mountain of cash that they could use for fundamental research if they wanted, but their corporate history includes a long, profit-less period that they only survived because they had a mountain of cash saved up when they went into it. They are going to be averse to spending their current mountain if they don’t have to.

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          • Nornagest says:

            It is ironic that a company that is seen as innovative is actually being anti-innovation, taking advantage of companies that actually come up with new technology. If all business acted like Apple, they would be far less successful (and technological progress would stagnate).

            Okay, so Apple did capitalize on Bell Labs and Xerox PARC’s failure to exploit the technologies they developed back in the Sixties and Seventies. But so did every other surviving company in the PC space and a number outside of it. That doesn’t make Apple uniquely bad, nor anti-innovation — if an inventor isn’t the one to popularize their invention, is that the popularizer’s fault? Apple hadn’t taken over the world in those days and didn’t have much leverage against the likes of Bell, so nasty coercive tricks are out of the question.

            And it certainly doesn’t give it a responsibility to use its cash reserves to research cheaper SSDs or faster CPUs, much less the kind of blue-sky research that Bell and Xerox were doing. They are giving us new stuff that people want, as evidenced by all the people buying it.

            It just so happens that that doesn’t involve much basic research. Which is fine, and thinking otherwise betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the field. Tech companies don’t automatically have an interest in that type of innovation just because they’re in tech! There’s a huge number of different niches in the industry, capitalizing on all sorts of other stuff: design, scalability, and human interface problems, to name three.

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          • Aapje says:

            My objection is not to Apple specifically. They are just a good example, due to them hoarding all this cash and leeching on innovation by others.

            But my problem is with how we are doing less and less fundamental research. It’s not that I think that Apple should necessarily do that, but they shouldn’t be able to offshore all that money & avoid paying taxes. If they paid a fair share of taxes and then the government would use part of that money for fundamental R&D, that would be fine with me.

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          • “But my problem is with how we are doing less and less fundamental research. ”

            What is the evidence on which that claim is based?

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          • “Today, Apple has billions of dollars sitting in offshore accounts. They are actually disincentivized from bringing it back and investing it in speculative new technology.”

            Is there any reason why Apple can’t set up offshore research facility?

            As for whether it makes sense to say that too much money chasing too few opportunities for investment, I think one indicator would be whether investors turn out to be choosing a higher proportion of investments which turn out to not pay off.

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          It’s a fallacy to think that good CEOs would suddenly disappear when salaries are considerably lowered across the board. Where would they go?

          They would not go to the companies where they can be most efficient, but rather to companies which they prefer for other reasons.

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          • J Mann says:

            This is a thoughtful comment, and IMHO, anyone who disagrees with it without understanding its implications should think about it more.

            (It’s also, not coincidentally, what I was planning to say.)

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            To elaborate: maybe it’s true that CEOs are natural workaholics and would work 100 hours a week no matter what they were paid. But without market prices guiding them to serve the wishes of consumers, they might choose to spend their time, say, running a private foundation instead of running Wal-Mart.

            Also, the idea that CEO salaries are determined by zero-sum relative status-seeking is suspicious. The logical conclusion of that argument is that a company can be just as effective hiring the guy who will be CEO for $100,000 a year as hiring the guy who demands $5 million a year.

            But if that’s true, why are the shareholders wasting that much money? Is their “class solidarity” so strong that they are willing to give up money just to keep one of their own in the lap of luxury?

            If CEOs are not producing value equal to their salaries, then the solution is simple: companies can just pay them less. And if they were out to maximize profits, they would. As a result, we should not expect CEO salaries to be above CEO productivity, except where they are the actual owners.

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          • J Mann says:

            And it’s not just shareholders. IIRC, companies owned by private groups like Bain capital pay about the same as publicly held companies, so some of the smartest and greediest people in the world believe that they’re getting, on average, what they pay for.

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          • Vox’s answer is the correct one. CEO salaries are a good example of Chesterton’s fence. It’s easy to pronounce from the comfort of our armchairs that they’re too high, but when you’re actually on a corporate board making decisions about CEO compensation, it should become clear that these salaries serve a purpose.

            One theory I like is that the CEO’s salary isn’t entirely to attract and encourage the CEO himself but to serve as a prize for every other executive in the company. You pay the CEO $1 million more than his marginal product because the VPs will see that, and they’ll put in more effort in the hopes of one day being CEO, and that extra effort will add more than $1 million in expected revenue.

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          • alexp says:

            I think people are a bit to quick to roll out Chesterton’s Fence. Sometimes a stupid fence is just a stupid fence, especially when it’s really not that old of a fence.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Chesterton is right that fences do not spring from the ground like weeds, nor are they built by wandering madmen escaped from the local asylum. If it is “just a stupid fence”, then you as a presumed smart person with a well-developed theory of mind should have no difficulty explaining why other people felt it was a good idea to build it. Not just “they were stupid”, but how their stupid thought process actually led to that conclusion.

            This is a useful intellectual exercise, good practice for dealing with important problems, and it makes it much easier for you to convince us to go along with tearing down the fence.

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          • Nornagest says:

            Sometimes it turns out that the fence was built to keep out chupacabras, but in order to say that you need to go find the guy with a hammer and a herd of goats.

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          • SUT says:

            Garrett’s on the right track here. But it goes further…

            Quick SSC poll: Say you were making $500K for the last ten years (SVP money). Then you were asked to become CEO for a boost up to $750K. This will come with significantly less you-time, less family-time, and you might end up getting fired in the next year for something that’s not even in your control. Does anyone here really take the job? What salary multiplier does it take for you to accept the job?

            Astute readers will also notice what happens here when you increase top marginal tax rates. Hint – people don’t say “Oh well, it’s going to a good cause”

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          • The Nybbler says:

            Amusingly, we know one CEO’s answer to that question: (Dr. Evil pinkie gesture) One Million Dollars

            This would be Marissa Mayer, though I suspect in her case the money was secondary; what she wanted was the CEO title and position.

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          • brad says:

            The CEO title and position at a substantial size company alone is very valuable. Even if you get fired a year later for cause you are forever after in the CEO class will have your choice of soft landings.

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          • I think people are a bit to quick to roll out Chesterton’s Fence. Sometimes a stupid fence is just a stupid fence, especially when it’s really not that old of a fence.

            Sometimes a stupid fence is a stupid fence, but market prices are neither stupid nor arbitrary.

            Quick SSC poll: Say you were making $500K for the last ten years (SVP money). Then you were asked to become CEO for a boost up to $750K. This will come with significantly less you-time, less family-time, and you might end up getting fired in the next year for something that’s not even in your control. Does anyone here really take the job? What salary multiplier does it take for you to accept the job?

            Less family time? I’d need 2 million: one million for me, the other million to bribe my partner to let me stay at the office all the time.

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          • Aapje says:

            @Vox

            My opinion is that shareholders are irrational, believing in things that sound plausible, but are actually wrong*. History is littered with examples of mass delusions (and in fact, mainstream society suffers from several mass delusions right now, some of which the writer of this blog has addressed).

            Hold onto your hats, since I’m actually going to provide evidence for my claim:

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/06/16/the-highest-paid-ceos-are-the-worst-performers-new-study-says/

            * There may also be a social element, where shareholders are simply afraid to make CEOs unhappy and retaliate by lowering dividends, even if they believe the salaries are unwarranted and don’t make the CEO perform better.

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          • Aapje says:

            @SUT et al.

            Quick SSC poll: Say you were making $500K for the last ten years (SVP money). Then you were asked to become CEO for a boost up to $750K. This will come with significantly less you-time, less family-time, and you might end up getting fired in the next year for something that’s not even in your control. Does anyone here really take the job? What salary multiplier does it take for you to accept the job?

            CEOs are already disproportionally workaholics or otherwise people who place less value on family life. Judging whether CEOs would accept a lower salary by asking non-CEO’s, who do not have the same characteristics, is a sampling error. Unless all you guys are CEOs, of course.

            Secondly, basic demand/supply would result in the SVP salaries going down or people to become CEO even when preferring to be SVPs. There are only so many SVP jobs, so at a certain point, people have to compromise. Everyone has to compromise in their job choices. The idea that CEOs wouldn’t and would take their ball and go home, is a pure Ayn Rand fantasy.

            Finally, I’m not asking for communism, but rather a return to the wage distribution that we had in the past, when there was no problem finding good/enough CEOs. IMHO, it’s up to you guys to prove that/argue how something that worked in the past suddenly can’t work again.

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          • alexp says:

            http://www.businessinsider.com/ceo-compensation-chart-2014-6
            It’s not a very old fence. It’s been around only since the late 80’s and it’s construction is very well documented.

            There are a lot of possible explanations. One of the good ones I’ve heard is that since executive pay is publicly available data, every time a company hires a CEO, they essentially have to pay him more than average, since paying him less is almost like admitting that you’re hiring a worse than average CEO. This raises the average for the next CEO hired by a different company.

            It’s not the only factor. Off the top of my head, there’s also that corporations are getting larger and more globalized, more mergers, and the rise of stock options as compensation.

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          • My opinion is that shareholders are irrational, believing in things that sound plausible, but are actually wrong*. History is littered with examples of mass delusions (and in fact, mainstream society suffers from several mass delusions right now, some of which the writer of this blog has addressed).

            I’m skeptical of your theory, because it (and the research you cite) implies that stock prices are predictable based on a simple and publicly available metric. If true, then we really ought to start a fund that invests in companies with the lowest CEO pay; we’d beat the market and become billionaires. But that leads to the question, why hasn’t someone else already done this? Why hasn’t the author of the original research done this? He must realize that his theory implies he’s sitting on a gold mine.

            It’s not a very old fence. It’s been around only since the late 80’s and it’s construction is very well documented.

            Is high CEO pay the fence, or is freedom of contract the fence?

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          • Anon. says:

            While the theoretical corporate finance literature suggests there should be really big effects from bad governance, mis-aligned management incentives, etc. it’s extremely hard to find any significant factors in the empirical data.

            If we look at just CEO pay there does seem to be a negative effect on stock returns for high pay. But! The stocks don’t underperform directly because they give too much money to the CEO. The issue seems to be how pay affects their decision-making. Beating the market with this approach does not seem that far-fetched. The effect isn’t that big, and it probably isn’t very consistent either, and correlates with things you don’t want it to correlate to, which is why it might not be “exploited” entirely.

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          • Chalid says:

            If true, then we really ought to start a fund that invests in companies with the lowest CEO pay; we’d beat the market and become billionaires. But that leads to the question, why hasn’t someone else already done this? Why hasn’t the author of the original research done this? He must realize that his theory implies he’s sitting on a gold mine.

            Stock prices are (slightly) predictable based on many simple and publicly available metrics. Value and momentum stock return “anomalies” have been known for literally decades and the industry is only now really exploiting them fully (overexploiting them?) with the proliferation of “smart beta/strategic beta” products.

            There are many true facts about stock returns that you can’t build a trading strategy around – too much variance, too much of a pain to get the data in a timely way, transaction costs too high, liquidity, not enough diversification, prone to occasional huge drawdowns just when they’d hurt most, etc.

            Also – if someone *did* figure out a way to incorporate CEO pay into a trading strategy, they probably wouldn’t be telling everyone about it. It wouldn’t shock me if some secretive quant fund somewhere was incorportating CEO pay into some signal.

            I do know some investment companies use ratings of companies’ corporate governance as part of their process, though I’ve never been exposed to the details of that.

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          • alexp says:

            -Is high CEO pay the fence, or is freedom of contract the fence?

            Has there ever been complete freedom of contract? Maybe excessively high CEO pay is what happens when you start tearing down fences that prevent complete freedom of contract.

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          • voidfraction says:

            Chesterton’s fence doesn’t really work when the fence is built across a road with someone manning a tollbooth: in some cases, there’s a really clear incentive structure for someone to build a fence (institute a social norm of high pay for their social class) that can adequately explain the existence of said fence without reference to a hypothetical herd of bulls on the other side of it.

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          • Nornagest says:

            Unless they’re a Marxist, no one wakes up in the morning wanting to institute norms that lead to better pay for their social class. There is a kind of class bias floating around, but it operates at the level of norms and customs and instinctive aversions, not at the level of conscious optimization.

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        • Joshua Hanley says:

          New Hampshire!

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      • Deiseach says:

        this analysis all ignores the incentive effects

        And yet we had a comment in a different thread that paying workers more won’t increase productivity.

        I do wonder about this split, which I see quite often; we can’t increase pay for lower-paid workers because that’s not efficient, but you have to pay the going rate and more if you want to get the best management. Why not argue either that by paying the highest wages you get the best people all round, or else that if your management has to be bribed to do their jobs then they should all be fired?

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I do wonder about this split, which I see quite often; we can’t increase pay for lower-paid workers because that’s not efficient, but you have to pay the going rate and more if you want to get the best management. Why not argue either that by paying the highest wages you get the best people all round, or else that if your management has to be bribed to do their jobs then they should all be fired?

          There is no contradiction here.

          Low-wage workers are paid an efficient wage. As are CEOs.

          If low-wage workers were paid more, you would attract better people. But there’s only so many workers able to produce value equal to $15 an hour. If you make it illegal to hire below that, those workers won’t be hired.

          If CEOs were paid less, you would attract poorer-quality people to be CEOs. Just the same as what kind of what kind of investment bankers you’d get if you tried to pay them $15 an hour.

          Now, one common and ridiculous minimum-wage argument is that increasing wages from $8 an hour to $15 an hour will actually more than double worker productivity and pay for itself. But if this were the case, businesses would need no prompting from the government to do so. The argument presumes that the government knows better than Wal-Mart what is profitable for Wal-Mart.

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          • bbartlog says:

            It’s not clear that the CEO compensation is ‘efficient’ in any meaningful sense. As I recall, someone published a paper showing that CEO compensation and future stock price were negatively correlated. See http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/CEOperformance122509.pdf

            There are of course multiple possible explanations for this phenomenon, but in general it’s hard to prove that CEOs are producing value commensurate with their compensation – most people seem to want to make handwaving arguments in this direction based on the assumption of rational actors with some ability to accurately assess CEO competence, but it’s not clear that these assumptions are valid.

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          • Urstoff says:

            Right; CEO productivity is almost impossible to measure (unlike a low-level worker), so it’s hard to tell if they are being overpaid. Of course, that’s not really an argument for government intervention, either.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ bbartlog:

            I am not arguing that every CEO is paid the exact right amount.

            I am saying that if there were any demonstrable way to show CEO was too high in general, companies would pay them less. Unless you think large companies just don’t care very much about profits.

            The fact that CEO compensation is negatively correlated with stock price doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. It’s possibly quite like the correlation between weight and use of diet programs: fat people are more likely to be on diets, but that doesn’t mean diets make you fat.

            Similarly, companies doing poorly may be more likely to hire a hotshot CEO to turn things around. And it is one-hundred percent compatible with the data to suggest that they do provide that value, but not enough value to keep the stock price from declining.

            It’s like the Steven Kaas-ism: “Why waste time sitting and theorizing when we can JUST LOOK at the data and answer a superficially similar-sounding question SCIENTIFICALLY?”

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          • Chalid says:

            I am saying that if there were any demonstrable way to show CEO was too high in general, companies would pay them less. Unless you think large companies just don’t care very much about profits.

            What no this is crazy. CEO pay is practically the textbook definition of a principal-agent problem.

            I’m not familiar with the empirical literature on this but you can’t just invoke efficient markets here.

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          • anon says:

            CEO pay is definitely not a textbook example of the principal-agent problem. CEOs do not determine their own pay, in general; rather, their board does. While it is now quite common for CEOs to sit on, and sometimes even chair, the board, this does not in and of itself mean the board will fail to exercise its fiduciary obligation to look out for the interest of the shareholders. Unfortunately I think it’s not unheard of for that to happen. But (with the caveat that I am also not too familiar with the literature) I suspect it is less common than generally imagined.

            There is a separate strand of evidence suggesting that CEOs at the most successful companies (think Tim Cook and his ilk) are vastly underpaid, but are rich enough that they don’t care. The incentives are weird here, with compensation playing much more of a status-symbol role than in other sectors of the economy. This, I understand, was why when Steve Jobs stopped getting paid $1/year, he demanded such an outlandishly large pay package from Apple’s board.

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          • Chalid says:

            While it is now quite common for CEOs to sit on, and sometimes even chair, the board, this does not in and of itself mean the board will fail to exercise its fiduciary obligation to look out for the interest of the shareholders. Unfortunately I think it’s not unheard of for that to happen.

            The business press treats it as common for CEOs to dominate their boards. I don’t see any reason to doubt it.

            For CEOs being underpaid, I guess that’s possible too, you could probably come up with factors pushing in that direction. Point is there is really no reason to expect it to be the “correct” pay by any non-circular definition of “correct”, because there’s no reason to expect errors to cancel out here.

            (BTW, the arguments I’ve seen that CEOs are vastly underpaid look at the value they create. While perhaps interesting, this is not a correct metric. Almost everyone creates far more value than they capture as wages, so everyone is vastly underpaid by that measure.)

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          • Aapje says:

            @Vox

            Low-wage workers are paid an efficient wage. As are CEOs.

            The proportion of wages going to CEOs has rapidly increased over the last decades (which didn’t happen before). Does that mean that there is a shortage of good CEOs now, that didn’t exist in the past?

            How do you explain this? Did education become much worse? Was there a sudden explosion in the number of corporations and thus job openings?

            Note that during the same period, many more foreigners became CEOs in the US, which indicates that the CEO market became more global, which would normally increase the quality of the ‘supply.’ So you’d have to account for that and thus the cause of a reduction in supply of good American CEOs would have to be quite significant, to offset the globalization.

            PS. You exhibit the same belief system that I abhor most economists for: an absurd belief in the rationality of market actors, despite tons of evidence that people often act irrationally.

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          • Deiseach says:

            But Vox, a lot of places are paying $8 an hour wages and demanding $15 an hour productivity. If really-only-worth-$4 an hour workers are so bad, they’ll be let go easily (and you probably do get a lot of churn in very low paid jobs, which means you’ve a lot of people patching together incomes from part-time or full-time but badly paid jobs, government welfare, and perhaps minor criminality; that doesn’t solve much for society).

            Just as you find it hard to believe there is an inexhaustible supply of worth-$15 an hour-workers, I find it hard to believe each and every potential CEO is worth top dollar plus bonuses plus golden handcuffs plus gardening leave.

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          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            But Vox, a lot of places are paying $8 an hour wages and demanding $15 an hour productivity.

            I find that hard to believe. If there were lots of people with a productivity of $15 per hour only getting paid $8, why isn’t anyone making a fortune hiring all those underpaid people for 9 or 10 dollars per hour?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Moreover, productivity in the economic sense is not an innate quality of people. That is a common misconception.

            A worker at Starbucks today has a vastly higher productivity of labor than a seamstress 300 years ago. That’s not because the Starbucks barista is genetically superior, or works harder, or anything like that. It’s because the barista is part of a more capital-intensive production chain.

            It is certainly possible that, one day, everyone will have $15 an hour productivity. That will be brought about through technological improvement and capital intensification.

            But right now, in the current environment, the most valuable work some people can do is worth less than $15 an hour.

            ***

            And what makes wages go up is not improvements at one specific factory or even industry; it is economy-wide productivity of labor.

            Table-waiting technology has barely improved since the 1700s, but waiters today are paid far more. Why? Well, it’s because the workers who are waiters could also be factory workers or something where the technology has improved, and so the restaurant owners have to bid against the factory owners for the limited labor supply.

            The alternative options available to the waiters increase the economic value of their labor, which also causes restaurateurs to have to raise prices to reflect the fact that the tables are now being waited with more valuable labor.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            @Aapje
            “The proportion of wages going to CEOs has rapidly increased over the last decades (which didn’t happen before).
            Does that mean that there is a shortage of good CEOs now, that didn’t exist in the past?”

            CEOs received significant nonmonetary compensation in the 1950s.

            Also change in pay doesn’t mean a shortage; it could mean the benefit to having the best CEO has increased.

            “How do you explain this? Did education become much worse? Was there a sudden explosion in the number of corporations and thus job openings?”

            Globalization taking off again after the 1970s? Once you have a bigger pool, things become more winner take all.

            “Note that during the same period, many more foreigners became CEOs in the US, which indicates that the CEO market became more global, which would normally increase the quality of the ‘supply.’ ”

            Isn’t this two way? If American CEOs can run foreign companies, this means the US has to pay good CEOs more in order to get the best.

            “PS. You exhibit the same belief system that I abhor most economists for: an absurd belief in the rationality of market actors, despite tons of evidence that people often act irrationally.”

            Economics doesn’t require market actors to be rational. It just requires that not all market actors are irrational in the same way. That isn’t a high bar to meet.

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  14. BBA says:

    Re New Hampshire: there was also a “Free County Project” in which libertarians tried to take over Loving County, Texas, population 82. They weren’t exactly run out of town on a rail, but close enough.

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  15. reytes says:

    Regarding the CDC recommendations on drinking: from the (non-scientific, anecdotal selection of) feminists that I saw talking about it on the Internet, people were less angry about the suggestion that actually pregnant women should refrain from drinking, and more angry about the suggestion that any woman that could become pregnant – IE, any sexually active woman on birth control – should refrain from drinking.

    Now, I mean, agree or disagree with that, whatever, but I feel like it’s at least an important degree of separation.

    efb

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  16. Partisan says:

    Re: Y Combinator and basic income: Cowen’s second law says that there’s a literature on everything, and the literature on basic income is actually pretty interesting. EconLog has a lengthy summary (see website link).

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  17. Samuel Skinner says:

    “Noah Smith: Some new evidence suggests, contra economic theory, that free trade with China has cost jobs without necessarily compensating through greater benefits somewhere else. David Friedman, any thoughts?”

    The paper doesn’t claim ‘no greater benefits’; it merely claims employment wasn’t compensated for and that this is different from previous decades when workers did find higher paying work. This suggests either the magnitude of change is larger, the US economy is different from the past or that the US economy has barriers preventing adaption.

    Free trade theory doesn’t say that everyone will benefit, just there will be net benefits to both sides (usually in the form of cheaper goods and increased consumer surplus). You can have net unemployment gains from free trade.

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    • My response to this research was, “Oh no, the US economy is too rigid to respond to shocks! How can we make it less rigid?” If people think this justifies trade restrictions, they’re essentially saying, “Oh no, the US economy is too rigid to respond to shocks! How can we shelter it from shocks?”

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    • Adam says:

      China also counts as “somewhere else.”

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    • Swami says:

      Having read the paper, I agree with Samuel and Garrett. The key take-away is that the size and rapidity of entrance of China was a one-time event which overwhelmed the adaptiveness of the labor markets, with little likelihood that something of similar magnitude will occur in the future.

      This paper is extremely important as it:
      1). Helps explain the stagnation or lower growth rate in labor rates in the US over the past generation
      2). Helps explain the trends in inequality (capital and skilled labor were even more in demand during the transition)
      3). As Garrett notes it reveals the danger of market rigidities, potentially including those caused by our safety nets which kept those in affected industries in dieting communities rather than migrating to better opportunities.

      This is a really important paper and it points to a lot of errors in how people frame some important economic issues.

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  18. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    It’s a bit misleading to say that SPARC is run by CFAR, and fairly misleading to say that SPARC is run by MIRI (disclaimer: I am a SPARC instructor). CFAR donates people and curriculum, MIRI donates (donated? not sure) money, and both were important factors in getting SPARC off the ground, but SPARC is run by a separate group of volunteers centered around Paul Christiano.

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  19. Wrong Species says:

    The idea that subsidies raise the cost of college is so mind numbingly obvious that I’m forced to put on my tin foil hat and speculate why people still don’t acknowledge it. In your “paranoid rant”, you mentioned college as a way to indoctrinate students in supporting left wing beliefs. My theory is that progressives know that lowering the price of college is as easy as eliminating subsidies but they also know that fewer people would attend it. With less people attending university, that means less people getting indoctrinated in progressive thinking. Now their favorite solution is of course to make the government pay for all schooling but they would rather have students deep in student loan debt than give up control of society.

    Or maybe it’s because progressives don’t understand economics. Who knows?

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    • reytes says:

      I haven’t thought about the issue in much depth, nor have I talked to any other progressives about it, but if I were to sketch why it is, I would say:

      1) Progressives most likely think that, while tuition subsidies play a part, there are other factors that play an important role in rising tuition costs – in particular, funding being cut for political reasons in public universities and colleges, and a variety of other incentives and policies in private ones, and probably think that you can address rising tuition by addressing those problems.

      2) Progressives also most likely think that tuition subsidies play an important role in social mobility (really, absolutely sincerely believed, from what I can tell in others, fwiw) and think that’s a relevant, valuable trade-off for the role they play in rising tuition costs. They would therefore be extremely reluctant to cut tuition subsidies without some kind of mechanism to replace that effect.

      I will say that it’s disquieting to me seeing how much of the conversation on the left focuses on the “make education cheaper for students” piece as opposed to the “address the costs of higher education” piece, but nothing’s perfect, I guess.

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      • a definite beta guy says:

        I think it’s even simpler than this. The idea that subsidies increase prices is not mind-numbingly obvious to anyone. That’s why Professors drill the idea so hard in Econ 101 classes.

         

        However, anything taught in Econ 101 probably lacks staying power. Most of my fellow business students started supporting rent controls by their senior year, because they were now actually paying rent and didn’t like seeing their rent increase. This despite our required introductory classes all taught by a Canadian Libertarian who spent a LOT of time specifically hammering rent controls.

         

        Most Progressives probably intuitively think that college is expensive because:

        1. College is getting more expensive, just like everything else, but more so, because college is so much more important, and colleges are so much more technological and teaching more these days.

        2. There are more people in college.

        3. State legislatures have cut funds to colleges.

         

        To the extent they think about subsidies, they probably think subsidies just make college cheaper for people, and without the subsidies, practically no one would be able to afford college.

         

        They are almost certainly arguing for subsidies from good faith and do not realize the unintended consequences of their actions.

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        • HlynkaCG says:

          I suspect that you’re correct.

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        • SUT says:

          But what about that whole GI bill thing in the 40’s – 50’s? Wasn’t that a huge artificial injection of demand for higher ed?But college was still affordable on a part time job for the Greatest-Gen’s kids.

          The main difference today is how businesses treat a $50K/year degree. In times past, that would be seen as shameful, or wasteful at the very least (my impression as 29 y.o. correct me if I’m wrong). Today, it’s often difficult to get an interview without the prestigious and expensive degree.

          Along the same lines: if the nordic countries had a broad culture where “pimping out” your car gave you status, it would be difficult to continue their welfare state. That positional treadmill just eats up every dollar you throw at it, without increasing actual utility.

          The remedy does seem to exist though: it’s adopting a curmudgeonly I lived through the depression attitude to how you evaluate the college credential – “What do you need a rock climbing wall for? I thought you were studying music?” If everyone did that, we really could afford to send everyone to college.

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          • Good question, but we don’t have enough detail to evaluate that claim. So I can’t offer any answer to you that would be reasonable either.

            Hmmm, what does this paper say:
            http://www.nber.org/papers/w7452.pdf

            Our
            preferred specifications (columns (7) and (9) of Tables 6 and 7) suggest the effect of World War II
            service on years of college completed to between 0.23 and 0.28, while they suggest the effect on
            college completion rates to be between 5 and 6 percentage points

            The GI Bill was probably much smaller in affect than the current student loan regime, tbh. That’s my gut check, anyways.

            Regarding college indicator:
            I am also 29. I can tell you from the experiences of others that education requirements have increased massively.
            On the other hand, I also work in a mixed department of ages and education requirements, and this composition has changed year to year. There is no comparison between the average college grad and the average non-college grad. The average non-college grad (in my department) is pretty dumb and unwilling to learn. They are absolutely willing to do the same rote tasks over and over and over again, but don’t ask them to learn.

            The college grads are burdened with practically all knowledge-related work, and those that graduated with traditional degrees from traditional 4 year unis are much better equipped.

            To make an anecdote: I was once, while still a temp, requested to lead a seminar to the entire department, that essentially consisted of teaching unit conversions, IE: multiplication and division.

            This is not hard stuff, but practically all the non-college grads struggled MIGHTILY, and even the “Graduates” from the 2 year programs or “graduated later in the life” struggled

            My Wife recently ran into this problem at her job, when one of her technicians OD’d a patient. Because division is hard. I would strangle that dumbass to an inch of his life. You don’t know division and you are American? Go fuck yourself, you’re just lazy.

            That doesn’t mean the college experience made us smarter…obviously division is something any 4th grader should be able to do. But it is an amazing signal for employers.

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          • TrivialGravitas says:

            The problem I think is college is exactly that, a signal. 4 years of education to prove you can pass college algebra which is about 50% stuff you were supposed to learn in 4th grade. Having tutored college algebra I’m totally down with the observation that a terrifying number of adults don’t understand fractions, but it’s still horribly inefficient for employers to insist on 6 figures of debt and 4 years of lost wages to prove that somebody can follow that stuff.

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          • If you see a bunch of people struggle mightily to learn division, this suggests that not understanding division is not just a matter of laziness.

            It might be that the intelligence needed to make it reasonably easy just isn’t there. I don’t know if there’s something you have trouble with that most people don’t, but if there is, I suggest you think about the experience.

            It might be that they’ve been taught arithmetic so badly that they have misconceptions about how to do it.

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          • @TG
            I agree with you. The current does not make sense to me. It also does not make sense to a lot of smart people like Peter Thiel, which is why we are even having this discussion.
            The Overton Window is moving, just have some faith in the discussion process.

            @Nancy
            I disagree entirely with your apologist mind-set. Division is indeed hard to learn, for every primary school age student in the United States. Algebra is also hard to learn, for many junior high and high school students throughout the United States.
            Adults of the US should still be expected to know both. These are important mathematical skills that apply to daily life: setting budgets or purchasing things from stores come to mind instantly.
            Again, this experience of teaching adults division was at work. At work! My work force will pay for NO training and would never set a department-wide meeting unless it was absolutely necessary. It was absolutely necessary for these people to know division, they just hadn’t DONE it in their jobs for decades!
            And to parry your point it’s not essential since they hadn’t done it: no, disagree entirely, these people collectively cost tens of millions of dollars and no one closely supervised them.

            Again, my Wife had a technician OD a patient because she did not perform her calculations correctly, and she has learned through the grapevine that many of her technicians do not know division, multiplication, and unit conversions.
            They absolutely NEED to know it, they just have been passing off the work or using incorrect short-cuts for years and gotten away with it.

            Until now.

            I have little sympathy. I have an entire team in India that fails on almost observable metric our business has, but they can do freakin’ division. If they can do it, Americans who have all had 12+ years of formal education can do it.

            If they can’t, then I think our discussion should revolve around reducing education expenses, rather than sending these dullards to university and watering down yet another layer of American education. They won’t learn division in 4 years of college anymore than they did in 12 years of primary school, they’ll just get rubber-stamped diplomas so they can get “good jobs” where they expect to get lots of money despite not knowing division.

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          • With regards to education at the level of elementary school math:
            You can trivially find on the Internet a world’s worth of explanation, examples, practice problems, and background information, for free. You can also find people who, because they care enough to maintain these free resources, will gleefully point you in the direction of other resources.

            ADBG may not have phrased his statement politely, but I agree with the substance of it; the limiting reagent in the alchemy of education these days is by no means availability to educational materials.

            Anybody who has access to the Internet, the ability to read English at a high-school level, no major intellectual disability, and (the actual limiting reagents, IMHO) the drive to Google “How can I learn math?” and the dedication to stick with the independent lessons even when something more interesting, that their social group would reward them for following instead is demanding their attention.

            Getting an independent education is simple. It is also incredibly difficult, in the same way “I’m going to lose weight by cutting calories and exercising more!” is. Summarizing the failure to do so as laziness is simplistic, reductive, and not at all helpful for actually getting people to solve the problem, but it’s still more accurate than looking for an external limiting factor.

            But, to bring it back to the comment, just as people paid to haul several standard deviation’s worth of American out of a burning building really need to be fit and strong, people who are dispensing medicine really need to know how to divide, and be comfortable enough with division that when a decimal place slips its position, 200 / 50 = 40 looks immediately wrong and gets investigated and corrected immediately.

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          • Nita says:

            Nancy is right, although I would adjust the emphasis. A small minority of people are probably unable to learn division. But on the other hand, the teaching of basic maths in the USA kind of seems to be in a terrible state.

            I mean, there is some evidence that many of your teachers don’t understand division. Of course that makes it much harder for students to learn.

            And here’s an education professional saying that the choice is between useless rote learning and useful skills exactly sufficient to buy a Big Mac. (Literally, that’s the example he used.) Ahhhh!

            @ Robert Liguori

            How would these people know that:
            1. such resources exist;
            2. they would benefit from them?

            They’re thinking “I’m OK at division — I got a B- on that test 15 years ago”, or “yeah, math is hard for me, but math is just hard, you know? unless you’re some sort of genius.”

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          • Anonymous says:

            Nancy is right, although I would adjust the emphasis. A small minority of people are probably unable to learn division. But on the other hand, the teaching of basic maths in the USA kind of seems to be in a terrible state.

            In the USA, a larger-than-usual amount of people might be unable to learn division. OTOH, I don’t particularly see it that USA is particularly terrible at education.

            http://isteve.blogspot.no/2013/12/graph-of-2012-pisa-scores-for-65_4.html

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          • As for the first, I may just be in a bubble, but I’d assume knowledge of search engines has reached saturation. There are people who literally doesn’t know that they can type in “How can I learn math?” into http://www.google.com and get very salient results back, but I find it unlikely that the smartest person these people know doesn’t know this as well.

            For the second, well, in the case of the pharmacy tech, one would hope “So I don’t kill people.” would be a sufficient motivation, but clearly it isn’t.

            Plus, my argument wasn’t that most people wanted to learn math but couldn’t. Someone who saw no benefit to learning math will almost certainly not learn math, no matter what educational opportunities they are offered. I don’t personally study theology, despite there being a wealth of free resources, and despite knowing that there are quite a lot of people who judge me intellectually delinquent for not learning all about the god of their choice.

            But if the Grand Theoarchy of Those People is introduced and I’m put up against the wall for my heathenish ways, I have no business claiming that the reason for my theological influence was lack of teachers or educational material. If I cared, I could learn. I don’t care. Arguing “But you have no reason to care!” sounds very much agreement that it’s the caring that’s the missing portion to me.

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          • @ Nita
            I disagree that these workers receive no feed-back. Their jobs require division, and have required division for years.

            Similarly, I know that I suck at computer programming. I suck at macros and I suck at Access. At least the US taxpayer hasn’t shelled out hundreds of billions of dollars with the expectation I would know these things!

            My impression based on anecdata is that Corporate America slashed expenses over the past several decades and these workers can no longer pass off their division-work on other people.

            These people always knew they sucked at division, they just didn’t care much because they were not accountable for knowing division. This is indeed a failure of Corporate America and the Public Education system, but I refuse to acknowledge there is not a personal failing here as well.

            I also reject the notion that the solution to this is to subsidize more college education. Please stop wasting my money.

            EDIT: With respect to Rob (and I agree with him for the most part), I view this as a moral failing because these students were not expected to learn division by themselves. The United States has made a colossal commitment to educate all citizens, no matter how dull, and that included division.
            I do not assign a similar moral failing for people who fail to learn outside the education system, or cannot lose weight, or whatever.
            People need to take responsibility and need to take ownership of their choices, and stop expecting Bernie Sanders to fix their problems for them.

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          • Alex says:

            What does “division-work” even refer to?

            It can’t be the act of performing division because we have tools for that.

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          • Saint Fiasco says:

            Besides the act of performing division, “division work” also means knowing when you have to do division, which number should be the divisor and what the result should look like so you can notice obvious mistakes.

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          • Alex says:

            >Besides the act of performing division, “division work” also means knowing when you have to do division, which number should be the divisor and what the result should look like so you can notice obvious mistakes.

            Can we agree, if only for sake of semantics, that the ability one needs to do division-work is not division but rather (very basic) modelling.

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          • An example was provided: dosing a patient in a hospital.

            Here’s a retail example: a doctor writes a prescription for 40 units of insulin three times daily. How much insulin does the patient need for a 30 day supply? A 90 days supply? (Typical insulin is 100 units per mL and vials are typically dispensed in 10mL increments.

            I am constructing a floor. I need to budget 20% of waste. My house is 24 feet by 10 feet. How much wood do I need? What’s the expected price of using an oak floor vs. a laminate from home depot? How much should I budget for tax?

            I have $100 left in my bank account and I need to budget my food and gas for the week until my pay check comes in. How much ground beef can I afford? How much gas do I need to buy this week?

            Can we agree, if only for sake of semantics, that the ability one needs to do division-work is not division but rather (very basic) modelling

            To some extent. For the most part, people build fluency and it becomes rote. If you are constructing the same model every single time and your boss tells you to use the same model every single time, it ceases to rely on your own modeling skills.
            Either way, if you cannot do this, me paying your college bill is not going to fix your problems.

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          • TrivialGravitas says:

            I’m going to invoke my tutoring experience and say that the things you get from searching for math help are not in any way a solution for adults who need math help, they’re a solution for people who are going through a math topic for the first time, and unfortunately they are exactly the same solution that classrooms provide. They don’t help with retention problems, they don’t help with people who can successfully point to the circle that’s half shaded (because they have in fact used a measuring cup at some point in the last 30 years) but don’t understand that half and 1 divided by 2 are the same thing, they really really do not help with single mothers who are constantly distracted by their baby and need a babysitter more than a tutor.

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          • Definite Beta Guy, the specific point I disagree with you on is your claim that people don’t know division because they are lazy.

            I suspect the real reason they don’t know division is that they believe being able to do division is that being able to do division requires being a special sort of person (good at math) and they aren’t that sort of person. Admittedly, this belief encourages not making an effort, but I’m willing to bet at least some of those people are making considerable efforts in other parts of their lives.

            I believe part of what’s wrong with conventional schooling is that it teaches people that if they can’t learn a subject in school, they can’t learn it at all. And the teaching in school tends to be pretty bad, so there’s a lot of excessive despair.

            Meanwhile, I think your claim that people are lazy for not having learned things you think they should be able to learn is a lazy claim. It shields you from making an effort to find out what’s actually going on.

            I’m not denying that people would be better off if they knew division and that it’s very important for some jobs.

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          • Nancy,

            This is a rather black-and-white issue.
            1. These people have had division in their job responsibilities for years (decades, in some cases!)
            2. They don’t know how to do it.

            It is obvious that these job responsibilities have not been fulfilled at all, or they have been passed on to other people. If you don’t agree with my moral assessments, that’s fine, go ahead and ignore them. Or disagree. It’s not really that important to the overall point.

            My non-moral assessment is that they never cared to learn and never were held accountable, either by their work managers or their schools. The solution is to hold people accountable for their job responsibilities and for schools to actually test to confirm students actually have the required knowledge before rubber-stamping their diploma.

            Saying they have a self-limiting belief is a different spin on “Never cared to learn.”

            Wasting tens of billions of dollars on additional education isn’t going to change anything besides waste more money. We might as well pray to the Machine God for all the good it will do.

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          • anon says:

            >I suspect the real reason they don’t know division is that they believe being able to do division is that being able to do division requires being a special sort of person (good at math) and they aren’t that sort of person. Admittedly, this belief encourages not making an effort, but I’m willing to bet at least some of those people are making considerable efforts in other parts of their lives.

            So as long as they’ve put an effort into something in their lives, they’re not lazy? That type of definition for laziness puts it outside the scope of all humanity short of, idk, severe mental disorder?

            I’m lazy, yet I put in effort in a lot of things. I remember crying when I was learning division many many years ago, because I was by far the best student in my class yet I couldn’t get an intuitive understanding of it, the best I could do was look up stuff in a multiplication table in reverse or write out random multiplications until one of them matched. I got it after growing increasingly frustrated over the same afternoon. A lot of the reason I put in that effort wasn’t because of my inherent moral superiority and lack of laziness, but because my laziness was outweighed by my desire to maintain my reputation as the smartest.

            If people aren’t learning division because they believe they’re not in the class of people who can learn division, that’s the fault of the educational system for not doing a good job providing incentives to go through the anguish of learning division. By calling them lazy we’re adding to that incentive, same with punishing them for coming to work without knowing division. It would be cruel if they’re actually cognitively different enough to be unable to learn division except by ungodly effort, but asserting that has some far more serious implications..

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          • Is division explicitly listed as part of job responsibilities?

            Are the managers who haven’t insisted on having subordinates who know division lazy, too?

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          • “Algebra is also hard to learn, for many junior high and high school students throughout the United States.
            Adults of the US should still be expected to know both. These are important mathematical skills that apply to daily life”

            My guess is that a majority of high school graduates never use algebra and are never in a situation where algebra would be very useful. Do you disagree? Examples of daily life situations in which knowing algebra is important?

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          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Wouldn’t any word problem with arithmetic steps be algebra? But, I think most clever people could figure out agebraic problems without being able to devise a general theory of algebra (or being exposed to the idea of “unwrapping the package”).

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          • onyomi says:

            “Examples of daily life situations in which knowing algebra is important?”

            I’m in a job which requires no math skills whatsoever, yet I do find myself using very basic algebra from time to time in daily life when I want to know the answer to a question like “what would I have to multiply this number by in order to get this other number?” I guess someone more mathematically inclined might automatically know to divide the second number by the first, but remembering that what I am basically asking is (n1)x=(n2) and that I need to therefore divide n2 by n1 to find x makes the operation more intuitive for my brain, at least. But anything much more complicated than that and the daily life uses seem to be more few and far between for most people who aren’t engineers, etc.

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          • If you buy groceries, insurance, a mortgage, or…hell, if you buy things, you need algebra to work out what kind of deal you are getting.

            As for managerial laziness: Hell yes. Rejecting people is hard. Rejecting people for an ongoing problem that other managers have conspicuously ignored before you, and for which there is no popular consensus that it’s a problem worthy of losing your job, is incredibly difficult and can well blow up in the manager’s face.

            Having worked in a large corporation for a decade, my first instinct is that the reason that the presentation on division was given as a presentation and not as a “This skill is crucial, so we’re going to spend four weeks doing nothing but learning it, bring in expert tutors at company expense, then transfer or fire everyone who can’t demonstrate proficiency at the end of the month.” is solely so that if a screwup happens and something really bad results, the manager can point to the big, visible training and say “I tried! Not my fault!”

            Managerial badness is definitely its own bad thing, and is a force-multiplier on the badness of people administering drugs who can’t do basic math, but it’s also distinct from this subthread, I think.

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          • Managerial Laziness-excuse me, managerial “prioritization” is a real issue, but a different issue. Suffice to say, yes, the managers are at fault for not holding people accountable for not knowing division. Just as much as the public school teachers.

            I could spin stories for days about managers. For now, I’ll just say that our managers set up a “priority list” for year-end where 2/3 of the items were “high priority.” Since it’s ridiculous to list everything High, they went back and categorized half the high priority items as “Extremely High” priorities.

            This solved the problem in their minds.

            These are not the kind of people who want to deal with training people. They want to hire people who know everything right out of the box so they can hit the ground running, and can figure out problems by themselves.

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          • Matt C says:

            ADBG, it’s not just your management. Shuffling around priorities and setting most of them at the top of the scale feels fulfilling when you’re a manager, apparently.

            (I suspect it’s more about not wanting to admit a big chunk of what you meant to do isn’t getting done any time soon. Sure, this defeats the purpose of making the list in the first place. Paging Robin Hanson.)

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        • Aapje says:

          @Beta Guy

          I think it’s even simpler than this. The idea that subsidies increase prices is not mind-numbingly obvious to anyone. That’s why Professors drill the idea so hard in Econ 101 classes.

          Subsidies may affect the number of customers. If the market is saturated with suppliers, resulting in a price close to production costs, then subsidies would only increase the prices if the increase in customers would desaturate the market. If the market remains saturated with suppliers, the price would remain production costs + a little extra.

          Another possibility is that elasticity may be minimal or even zero, in which case the number of customers doesn’t increase (by much). Thus the prices would remain (almost) the same.

          Anyway, just correcting your misconceptions about markets in general. Of course, the education market is highly hierarchical (and quite elastic), where the objective quality of an education is often less important than appearing more educated than other people. This means that the prices could increase quite a bit, although it may depend on how the subsidies are granted. If there is an income limit to the subsidy and if the subsidy level is at community college level, rather than at Harvard level, the upward price effect may be very limited.

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          • Aapje,

            Yes, I would agree with that, but, like you said, the supply side of the education market isn’t structured like that. Education is hierarchical and class-oriented.
            There are only so many slots at Harvard.

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          • Aapje says:

            True, but most students don’t go to Harvard. Things get more complicated when you include less prestigious colleges.

            Furthermore, the US is rather unique in ‘your’ ability to create the most expensive systems (like education and health care) even though the results are not really better than in other 1st world countries. If the people you are criticizing don’t just want subsidies, but also limits on tuition fees (as is common in Europe), the equation changes completely. For instance, in my country there is no problem with tuition fee increases, despite subsidies which are much larger than available in the US.

            We have our own problems though, colleges are paid for each diploma, which puts downward pressure on the quality of education.

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        • “Subsidies may affect the number of customers. If the market is saturated with suppliers, resulting in a price close to production costs, then subsidies would only increase the prices if the increase in customers would desaturate the market.”

          I don’t know what you mean by “saturate” and “desaturate.” But if we assume that your saturated market represents the standard perfect competition model, your argument only holds if all inputs are available in perfectly elastic supply.

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          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I take his statement as meaning a perfectly elastic supply curve, at least for the relevant price points. Obviously college is not perfectly elastic.

            I also doubt most progressives have enough knowledge to think “oh, perfectly elastic supply,” but they probably can intuitively assume the “Supply” of college will increase over time.

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        • TrivialGravitas says:

          @David Friedman: I use algebra regularly when I actually get HVAC work though I know a lot of people manage without (seems like way more work). But also when I say college algebra I don’t mean just algebra, I mean division, fractions, percentages and decimals, which are all rolled into math 1050 ‘college algebra’. In short the ability to know how many Big Macs 10$ will buy.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            My impression of HVAC work is that there’s books of tables with the algebra (and calculus) already done and the installer has to fill in the numbers and do straight arithmetic, no “solve for x”?

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          • TrivialGravitas says:

            Not quite books (and no calculus, even the genuine engineers just use rough +/- 15% algebra approximations then tune the assembly till it works). But yeah, tables of different equations, or really the same equation in different shapes. It’s less work than learning algebra, but more work than if they had learned it in High School (given that they spend 2 years in math classes regardless of if they learned anything or not…).

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      • Adam says:

        I get the impression progressives, at least educated progressives, realize subsidies make things more expensive. Their goal isn’t to reduce the cost of college. It’s to reduce the cost directly imposed on students. If that results in a greater total cost, but most of it is transferred to the rest of the population, I doubt they’d object. I imagine most think the increase can be offset by other measures that reduce cost, but that’s a separate issue from the effect of just the subsidies.

        Of course, we’re getting a whole bunch of speculation here on other people’s thoughts. I’m sure there are people here who support subsidizing college tuition who can speak for themselves.

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        • 27chaos says:

          I find it odd that it’s the progressives favoring this approach, given that taxing all people so that upper middle class people can go to college more easily is regressive.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Isn’t it a common progressive goal that almost everybody should go to college?

            I don’t think they have thought that through, but they do seem to be consistent in wanting to tax everybody except the poor in order to provide a benefit to everybody including the poor. Which is the sort of economic redistributionism that most people instinctively and uncontroversially support (see e.g. state-funded primary and secondary education).

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Milton Friedman made a pretty compelling argument that college subsidies are essentially a middle-class welfare system, done at the expense of the poor. The same is true for Social Security.

            I don’t think it’s an intuitively obvious thing, though. It did not occur to me before I heard Friedman explain it.

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          • Adam says:

            Multiple goals. Again, any progressive feel free to chime in, but I believe what they actually want is for the population of college graduates to be drawn proportionately from all classes, not to be predominantly upper middle class. Not necessarily that everyone should attend and graduate, but the poor should have as good a chance if that’s what they want to do as anyone else. Accomplishing this would take a lot more than just price manipulation, but that’s why progressivism is an entire program, not a single isolated policy proposal.

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          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Adam
            Assuming that ability is distributed equally between classes, that is indeed the goal.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            Milton Friedman’s argument is a bait-and-switch that he explains right at the beginning.

            He claims college subsidies benefit the students who, even if they are from the lower income class, join the higher income class after graduation. To which a supporter of college subsidies would say “See, it helps the lower income classes.”; the supporter is considering their income class before the benefit, Friedman after it.

            Also, this was apparently from 1994. College subsidies and the distorting effect thereof have increased quite a bit. I’d argue nowadays that the main middle-class beneficiaries of college subsidies are college employees, and the effects of college loans are probably a greater drag on the middle class than the subsidies help them (compared to a low-subsidy world where college was much cheaper)

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          • For something a little blunter and more specific than what Milton Friedman said, social security is a way of transferring money from black men to white women.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @The Nybbler

            I’m not sure I understand the logic behind the progressive take on this. Person A goes to college, has it fully subsidized, then goes on to earn a high income. Person B does not do to college, goes on to earn a low income. Both people pay taxes that go towards college, but it is inevitable that since B is paying some college subsidy but has not been to college, low-income B must be subsidizing college for high-income A.

            How does the background of each person even come into it?

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    • Nadja says:

      Ooh, I love some good tinfoil hat speculation. How about this. The rich elites run everything. Paying for your kids’ college education has tax benefits. The more expensive college is, the more it hurts the middle class and the poor. The cost is negligible to the rich, so they come out relatively ahead of everyone else.

      (Disclaimer: I don’t really believe this.)

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      “In your “paranoid rant”, you mentioned college as a way to indoctrinate students in supporting left wing beliefs.”

      I don’t think I actually said that. I’m not saying it’s necessarily wrong, but it seems too simple and on the wrong level.

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      • Wrong Species says:

        You didn’t directly say it but it certainly seemed implied to me. Of course, I’m posting a paranoid rant based off your paranoid rant so nobody should be taking my comment too seriously.

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        • SUT says:

          I’m no history scholar, but I’ve noticed “students” are often on the front lines of the 20th century’s populist movements. Particularly the Iranian revolution and Chinese cultural revolution. Now I understand these were not today’s accounting major, but what were they…what was their society’s original role for them was / why were they such dry timber?

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    • The usual solution in this sort of situation is to make the subsidies subject to a cap – in this case, if you choose a college where the tuition fee is more than $X, you don’t get a subsidy. No doubt there’s a reason this wouldn’t work in the US.

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      • platzaps says:

        This seems like an obvious solution. Can someone explain the problems with it?

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        • keranih says:

          Because it works like every other ‘capped’ subsidy in the inventory – everyone who is interested in getting customers using the subsidy ups their price to just under the cap, and everyone who intends to discriminate against those using the subsidy up their price to just over the cap.

          Net result is a higher cost to the government, pricing non-subsidy users out of the market, and increasing discrimination.

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          • Hmmm. I don’t see why a capped subsidy would result in any higher price rises than an uncapped subsidy would – they’re still competing with one another, after all. Nor why anyone who wants to discriminate against subsidy-users couldn’t just say “no subsidy users”, or price themselves high enough that nobody who needs the subsidy can afford them anyway.

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          • Held in Escrow says:

            It makes it really easy for firms to collaborate in fixing prices when there’s a nice and easy Schelling Point for them to work with. It happened with credit card companies back when there was a mandatory max interest rate; everyone just hung out right under the cap. Get rid of the regulatory cap, interest rates dropped

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          • “Because people are irrational, and the people who run banks are people.” OK, I think I’ve got it. 🙂

            Our student fee caps haven’t had any dire effects (apart from leaving the Universities strapped for cash, but nothing new about that) but of course we’re in a different situation – very few of our Universities are private entities. (I’m not sure about the situation in rest of the tertiary sector.)

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    • Saint Fiasco says:

      It’s not that college is brainwashing people so they have leftist political beliefs, or any sort of specific political beliefs for that matter.

      The purpose of college, like all institutions, is to perpetuate itself. They would totally push for fascism if it would help them survive.

      It’s not that progressives fear less people will go to college leading to there being less progressives. It’s just colleges themselves that are defending themselves from irrelevance.

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    • wysinwyg says:

      The important thing is that your speculation implies that most people with political beliefs that are not the same as yours are arguing in bad faith and are actually involved in some insidious plot to (mumble mumble mumble) rather than achieve some set of goals that they sincerely desire for positive, humanistic reasons, even if they are somewhat misguided.

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    • Nonnamous says:

      House subsidies, in the form of mortgage tax deduction, also exist with the same predictable result, and it’s hard to imagine any liberal conspiracy effecting that.

      I think it’s simple, the voters want their college / house subsidized, end of story.

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      • The Nybbler says:

        I could respond to this, but IME the main purpose of calling the mortgage interest tax deduction a “subsidy” is to say “See, you’re subsidized too. That makes you no different than someone receiving an welfare check and public housing, so quit complaining about government redistribution efforts”

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        • anonymous says:

          No actual argument as to why you don’t consider the MITD a subsidy, and while in the process of not presenting any argument you took the opportunity to impugn Nonnamous’ motives in a way that even if it were true would be an irrelevant ad hominium.

          Fractally worthless.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            I could be extra snarky and point out that what is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Or I could point out that the mortgage-interest deduction is actually the remnant of the pre-1986 state of affairs where all loan interest was tax-deductible for individuals; it’s not that mortgage interest is now taxed less, it’s that other interest is now taxed more. Or I could note that considering a tax deduction a “subsidy” requires assuming the government somehow has a natural claim on a percentage of your gross income, so any downward adjustment of that represents the government giving money to you. None of those, however, would be convincing, and the last is obvious.

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          • rockroy mountdefort says:

            >considering a tax deduction a “subsidy” requires assuming the government somehow has a natural claim on a percentage of your gross income

            No it doesn’t. It just requires that the government have an enforceable claim, which it does.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ rockroy mountdefort:

            What exactly is “enforceable claim” supposed to mean in this context?

            If a tax deduction is written into the law, then they don’t have a legally enforceable claim to the money. If you just mean that they theoretically could rob you, well yes, but then every penny everyone keeps is a “subsidy”.

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          • anonymous says:

            So the jirga would be perfectly acceptable to you if it was implemented as a tax deduction for Muslmis rather than an additional tax for Christians and Jews?

            Please cut the crap. There’s no difference between a tax expenditure and sending a check.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Would such a tax deduction be distortionary? Yes.

            Would it be unfair and unconstitutional? Yes.

            But is it a subsidy? No. That’s just changing the meaning of the word “subsidy”. I mean, I don’t really care to dispute about definitions. If you want to call it a subsidy, fine. But it is not the same as what is traditionally called a subsidy.

            If you want to use the word “banana” to mean “human being”, fine. But then don’t talk about making banana bread.

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          • onyomi says:

            “There’s no difference between a tax expenditure and sending a check.”

            This is a very common conflation I hear coming from the likes of Nancy Pelosi and which always drives me crazy. “Taking less of your money” is different from “giving you money.” Does the government have an enforceable claim on all of everyone’s money? Well, yes, in the sense that if they decide to seize your bank account and 100% of your assets on some pretext no citizen could stop them; but they would at least need a pretext… for now.

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          • anonymous says:

            I guess it’s a formalist / realist divide.

            As actually practiced in the real world there’s very little difference in outcome between a government policy designed to favor a politically powerful interest group via giving them money vs via allowing them to pay less in taxes than a similarly situated person not in the favored interest group.

            But if you have an entire massive philosophy built around the notion that taxation is theft and your favorite reductio about 100% taxation always at hand and ready to go, then I guess they look very different. So cynical politicians frame their corrupt policies to have the correct magic words and that’s good enough.

            Thinking about it, why is jirga tax deduction scheme unfair? If houses 1,2, and 3 on a block got robbed you wouldn’t “that’s unfair, houses 5 and 6 should have been robbed too”. The taxation is theft crowd should be all for more people keeping their own money even if they happen to all be Muslim.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ anonymous:

            I am against distortionary tax deductions.

            At the same time, I am against eliminating them unless this comes along with lowering the general rate.

            Suppose I come in and say I’m going to punch everyone in the face, but I’ll let you off if you’re left-handed. That would be unfair. But it would be quite perverse for the left-handed people to say: “That’s not fair! Punch the right-handed people in the face, too!”

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          • onyomi says:

            “built around the notion that taxation is theft”

            Libertarianism isn’t built around the notion that taxation is theft, it’s built around the notion that what would be wrong for you or me to do remains wrong even if you are a king, noble, or democratically elected official.

            As for whether I would favor some special tax cut for Muslims even if nobody else could get the tax cut, I would. I want nobody to get punched in the face, but if the bully says “how about I punch everyone except those with red hair?” then I’ll say fine. It’s inferior to not punching anybody, but it’s superior to punching everybody, even if the determining factor is arbitrary or unfair.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s certainly true that when looked at right on the bottom line, a reduction in government income is the same as a government expenditure. But not anywhere before that point.

            If you call something a subsidy because it reduces the government income compared to some other state of affairs, you must have a state of affairs in mind where there is no subsidy. If the mortgage income tax deduction is a “subsidy”, then what about the business expense deduction (without which the income tax becomes a gross receipts tax)? How about the standard deduction and personal and dependent exemptions, are those subsidies as well? How about progressive taxation, is that a subsidy for those in lower tax brackets?

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            If, instead of the government letting you deduct the interest at the end of the year, they let you apply to receive a subsidy check at the end of the year for the same amount, would the effect change?

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          • The Nybbler says:

            The “effect” doesn’t change whether you call it a “refund” check or a “subsidy” check. But I’m still looking for the no-subsidy baseline condition. Which deductions do I have to forgo to be unsubsidized, and what makes them any different from other deductions?

            Do I have to structure my affairs so I’m liable for maximum tax (e.g. no tax free bonds, no employer-paid deductable fringe benefits)? If I have a business do I need to not deduct business expenses? Must I forgo deducting charitable contributions?

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:
            “Is progressive taxation a subsidy as well?”

            So, as to avoid the worst argument, let’s see if we can arrive at a common definition.

            I think this Merriam-Webster definition is the typical use of subsidy:
            “a grant by a government to a private person or company to assist an enterprise deemed advantageous to the public”

            Subsidies are generally aimed at specific behavior. The child deduction is intended to aide in the raising of children. The electric vehicle tax credit is intended to spur purchase of electric vehicles. Mortgage deductions encourage home ownership, etc.

            Deduction of some business expenses (in principal) is merely a recognition of your true income. Your W2 isn’t recognizing actual income. If you were being paid on 1099, those expenses wouldn’t have made it to the income in the first place.

            Progressive taxation could be seen as a subsidization of being poor(er), but I think that is a step to far. Broad income level isn’t a thing we are encouraging or discouraging. Perhaps you could say it is a condition we are helping with. The standard deduction is just a further means of making the tax code progressive, so it’s treatment is the same.

            Although, the Earned Income Tax Credit is certainly a subsidy to the poor. It is intended to encourage work. So we could say that progressive taxation in general is a subsidization to encourage work, even if it is less renumerative. This actually makes a certain amount of sense.

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          • onyomi says:

            “renumerative”

            Total irrelevant nitpick, but it’s “remunerative.” I only say this because I’ve seen and heard a lot of people doing this lately, probably because the word sounds like it shares an etymology with “numeral,” but it really shares one with “munificent.”

            This is still approximately ten-thousand times better than people who use “penultimate” to mean, “really, really ultimate.”

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Noted. I can’t spell. At all. It’s offal.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            HeelBearCub, you appear to be concentrating on the part of the definition about assisting an enterprise advantageous to the public. I’m concentrating on “grant”. Also note that while it’s commonly said that the mortgage interest tax deduction is intended to spur home ownership, it really isn’t, or wasn’t. The original deduction was of _all_ interest, and was basically a business expense deduction. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 repealed that deduction except for the mortgage interest deduction. This was probably because of the shock it would have delivered to the re-election prospects of politicians voting for such repeal — mortgage rates in the recently prior years were well over 10%, approaching 20% in some years, and the tax on that would be quite significant to many homeowners.

            As for the Worst Argument, I think calling the mortgage interest deduction a “subsidy” is a very abbreviated version of exactly that.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:
            First off, apologies, I was actually thinking of the post on disputing definitions and got my LW shorthand incorrect. I didn’t come here from there and I probably shouldn’t try and use LW short hand.

            If you are concentrating on the “grant” part, then I get back to my initial question. What’s the difference between applying for a check and deducting it from your tax bill?

            The “before” condition you are bringing up seems to have been to subsidize all interest charging debt, rather than merely mortgages. And interest paid on business loans appears to still be deductible from business income.

            Suppose we implemented GBI, would that be a subsidy? What if the government instructed businesses to reduce withholding by the amount of the GBI, and didn’t actually send money to people who had this happen. Would it cease to be a subsidy?

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          • The Nybbler says:

            There isn’t any difference based on a check and deducting it from my tax bill; certainly if the government gives everyone with a word in their handle that begins with “N” $1000 (a great idea by the way), and does it by putting it as a line on a tax form, it’s a subsidy.

            The difference is that a tax deduction is reducing the basis upon which I am taxed. Whereas a subsidy is a grant of funds. The difference doesn’t matter in the net, but if it didn’t matter at all we wouldn’t need two sides to a balance sheet. The fact that a tax deduction can’t reduce your tax liability below zero also argues for it not being a subsidy.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:
            That just changes how the amount of subsidy you are eligible for is calculated.

            A third party could come in and pay you a subsidy amount contingent on, and calculated based on, the income amount you reported to the IRS last year. In fact, many, many private organizations do this. Usually they increase the subsidy as you make less.

            Increasing the subsidy as your income rises doesn’t change the principal of the matter, though. It’s still calculating subsidy based on income.

            Edit:
            And frequently those third party organizations are scholarship funds associated with private schools. You don’t get the money free and clear. It’s just a reduction (perhaps to nothing) of your school bill. The school doesn’t make do with less money, they subsidize the tuition payment from a charitable fund. That should serve as a useful counterweight to the argument that not getting money free and clear (reducing taxes below zero) can’t be considered a subsidy.

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    • onyomi says:

      While we’re at it, can we address why no one blames medicare and medicaid for rising health care costs? Like college tuition, health care costs just seem to be this thing which magically gets super, super unaffordable over time. Lucky we have these massive government-backed loans and insurance programs or no one could go to college or get medical care, I guess!

      My best guess is 1. most people cannot connect the dots on even a basic economics issue 2. few people who could connect the dots have an incentive to do so (certainly not politicians, professors, or doctors), and third, and, I think, most importantly, medicare, medicaid, and student loans are “good” programs. They help people. To point out anything bad about them is simply in bad taste and makes us wonder who’s side you’re on.

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      • HlynkaCG says:

        3. People who do connect the dots tend to get shouted down as wreckers and crack-pots (granted, some of them are) so even if you do notice there’s a personal incentive to keep one’s mouth shut and conduct your medical business extra-nationally if able.

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      • John Schilling says:

        While we’re at it, can we address why no one blames medicare and medicaid for rising health care costs?

        Anyone who talks to doctors about this, quickly comes to the understanding that Medicare and Medicaid are the notorious cheapskates in the health-care business. It is the traditional employer-provided health care plans that have handed out most of the virtual blank checks that drive health care cost expansion.

        Yes, they are for-profit businesses with an economic incentive to minimize costs. Bad publicity and lawsuits are real costs.

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        • TrivialGravitas says:

          As are strikes and turnovers. I’ve had employer healthcare that was more cheapskate than medicare, average length of employment at that company was 4 months. There were other issues besides having been de facto lied to about getting health insurance but if they had been at all interested in spending money on employee retention negotiating a better healthcare deal would have been more efficient than higher wages.

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        • onyomi says:

          Well the weird thing is that decoupling health insurance from employment by eliminating tax subsidies for employer-provided plans would be politically much, much easier to do than eliminating or even cutting medicare or medicaid, and yet it never seems to gain any traction. This is one plus side to Obamacare (that it helps decouple employment and insurance), but that, to me, is just another case of “eliminating the bad government program that caused the problem in the first place is not an option, so let’s layer another government program on top of the old one to make it slightly less awful.”

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I wish I could remember the name of the original essay or author, but there’s some libertarian essay where the guy talks about (something like) “primary regulations” versus “secondary regulations”.

            The primary regulations are the thing that creates a problem in the first place. For example, the Wagner Act giving government-backed monopoly powers to labor unions.

            The secondary regulations are regulations-of-the-regulations, limiting the problems they cause. For instance, right-to-work laws making it illegal for unions and employers to agree on “closed shop” or “union shop” rules.

            The secondary regulations are restrictions on freedom that wouldn’t be necessary if the primary regulations didn’t exist. But given the existence of the primary regulations, libertarians may either be for the secondary regulations (“it makes a bad situation better”) or against them (“it heightens the contradictions”).

            This applies to Obamacare very clearly with the individual mandate. The steps:

            1) Primary regulation: the rules tying health insurance to employment. As a result, you lose your insurance when you lose your job.
            2) Secondary regulation: in order to solve the problem created by the primary regulation, we make it illegal for insurers to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. But this makes no economic sense, as you can’t buy fire insurance after your house burns down.
            3) Tertiary regulation: in order to solve the problem created by this secondary regulation, we force everyone to buy insurance.

            The problem, of course, is that by “deregulating” just the tertiary or secondary level, you make the problems worse. It’s only if you deregulate the whole thing that you fix the problems and end up with something better than the combination of all three levels.

            The really big problem is: how do you “gradually” repeal and replace this system, when each gradual step toward making it better actually makes it worse?

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          • onyomi says:

            Is there any good reason to do it gradually other than the political difficulties of doing it suddenly?

            Report comment

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            The political difficulties are the major problem, yes.

            But there’s also the “button question”, which is: if there were a button you could push to have laissez-faire tomorrow, would you push it? And there are many reasons not to push it, since this would be very disruptive. For instance, it’s one thing to eliminate Social Security gradually. But it’s another to eliminate it tomorrow and get rid of it for the 85-year-olds currently on it and who rationally planned on its existence.

            Also, in real life, revolutions are not a matter of pressing a button and usually screw things up worse.

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          • BBA says:

            I doubt it’d be that much easier. The so-called “Cadillac tax” provision of the ACA would effectively roll back the subsidies for the most expensive employer-provided plans (albeit in a stupid, indirect manner) and unlike the rest of the ACA, it’s gotten intense bipartisan opposition. So far there have been a couple of delays to its implementation, and it’s likely to be pushed off repeatedly and indefinitely, like various Medicare cuts.

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          • onyomi says:

            If there were two magic buttons that:

            1. slashed the government by say, 90% starting tomorrow, leaving basically some defense and law courts

            2. slashed the government by say, 90% over the course of 10 years

            I would press button 2.

            But if my only options were button 1 or leaving the status quo as it is, I’d press button 1 in a heart beat.

            I’m sure people would say “easy for you to say, you’re not 80 years old and dependent on medicare,” etc. but I have friends and family who are, and who would suffer immediate negative consequences, as my field of academia would likely suffer immediate negative consequences, so it’s not like I’m saying it from a total ivory tower, either. There would be pain, but the status quo creates tremendous pain right now, not only for us, but for many foreigners, so I would push it.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I agree with you. If it’s Button 1 vs. status quo, I’d push Button 1.

            On the other hand, in real life radical changes and extreme disruption might push people off of liberty altogether. Like the absolute chaos in Russia when they (of course, very corruptly) privatized everything overnight.

            The economist George Reisman talks about a similar problem in transitioning to a one-hundred percent reserve gold standard. Even if the end goal is good, we don’t want to kick off the new monetary regime by creating the greatest depression of all time. (Which is what would happen if you, for instance, restored the dollar to its old definition of 1/20th of an ounce of gold.) Like, not only is it not worth it, but everyone would then hate the gold standard.

            (He doesn’t think we should therefore abandon the goal, but he points it out in the context of having to think carefully about how to do it.)

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          • onyomi says:

            “Even if the end goal is good, we don’t want to kick off the new monetary regime by creating the greatest depression of all time.”

            Understandable, and a real problem when doing the right thing will generally involve transitory pain, but I think this consideration also has to be weighed against peoples’ ability to see cause and effect.

            Let’s say, for example, that President Ron Paul says “I’m cutting the federal government by 80% and putting us back on the gold standard by the end of the year; this will result in a nasty short-term depression and spike in unemployment, but within 1-2 years you’ll see the economy come roaring back, and things will be better than ever before by the end of my first term.”

            Assuming his predictions came to pass roughly as he said they would, I think most people would be able to suffer the shorterm pain so long as the promised good did materialize within relatively short order. The lesson learned would be that serious fiscal and monetary restraint, while painful in the short run, is very beneficial in the long run.

            Conversely, imagine newly elected President Paul says, “we will gradually cut the size of the federal government and move towards controlling inflation over the course of the next four years.” By the end of his first term we will probably just be reaching the trough of a depression and everyone will blame him for it. He will lose reelection and his free-spending successor will get all the credit for the latent beneficial effects of his gradualist “tough love” policies. The lesson learned will be “that’s what you get when you cut government spending!”

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      • Held in Escrow says:

        Medicaid not so much because it’s mainly done at a State level. States actually really care about their budgets. The Feds on the other hand, see Medicare as a jobs program and trying to do anything to combat rising costs there is an issue of loud interest groups.

        If the government wants to pull back on say, prescription drug coverage because the drug manufactures won’t give them a lower price, they’re going to get screamed at by the drug companies, the insurance companies, and the Medicare recipients. The average voter who has to pay for this is barely effected by this one program so they don’t really care. Thus the government caves and everyone else ends up paying for it.

        Basically the only time you’ll see Medicare payments cut is when you can directly score the savings and they’re being used to counteract a different jobs program of some sort. Anything which takes more than 1 easy step to do is dead in the water

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      • ThrustVectoring says:

        It’s not just the subsidies, although the subsidies certainly don’t help. There are some other very real economic reasons why health care, education, and housing have all gotten more expensive.

        First off is the whole “saving for retirement” thing. There’s very few things that people can do today in order to be taken care of thirty years from now when they’re old. This is especially true under market norms – the best option you have is to trade the fruits of your labor for a promise for the same later. Housing and education make a fantastic area to generate these promises, while healthcare has people over a barrel so they can be looted of their hoarded promises.

        Second is the increasing real productivity of the American worker. If it’s approximately as hard to make an iPhone as it is to visit a doctor for an hour, those two things will cost approximately the same amount. If it gets twice as easy to make an iPhone, and the dollar-denominated cost stays about the same, then the doctor visit should double in price. The real economy is more complicated, of course, but this basic relationship has been driving up the costs of services compared to the prices of manufactured goods. This force drives a huge chunk of the price increases in education and health care in particular, and also affects housing (mostly land prices).

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    • cassander says:

      Never blame conspiracy where idiocy is a sufficient explanation. People, by and large, are very good at confusing what is good for them with what is good for everyone else. And people, by and large, are bad at economics. Progressives, by and large, went to college. By and large, they enjoyed it. Combine those 4 things and you have a perfect explanation for why progressives like to subsidize college.

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  20. Wrong Species says:

    I’m not sure if I’m the only one who’s noticed but Caplan seems to only make safe bets. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but he does have some pretty strong beliefs on the empirical effects of things like open borders. Is he willing to make some kind of bet based off those beliefs?

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    • Wrong Species says:

      Also, commenting on the bet itself, in contrast to what Cowen says, I don’t think he learned anything. He made a ridiculous bet about the unemployment not going below 5% for 20 years and was promptly defeated after three. You would think he would update his beliefs but instead he just criticizes betting itself. And this is coming from the guy who said “betting is a tax on bullshit”!

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    • Caplan’s belief about open borders is an “if…then” kind of belief. He’d need some kind of natural experiment to bet on, and since no country is likely to throw open its borders any time soon, those might be hard to come by. However, he could make some kind of bet involving the small number of immigrants we have today. For instance, “Syrian refugees will not commit any terrorist attack killing more than 100 people in any country between now and January 1st, 2018.” It’s not really central to his open borders argument, though. Maybe “Syrian refugees accepted into Germany in 2015 and 2016 will collect less welfare payments per capita than the native-born German population in 2020.”

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      • Phil says:

        my intuition would be pretty similar to your, some measure of how Syrian refugees are integrating into Germany seems like a fruitful place to start

        of course, then the question comes to whether or not the measurements being bet on are actively being gamed (which seems to be the central question concerning the unemployment bet)

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    • Nathan says:

      I lost a lot of respect for Cowen from that post. An outcome occurred that he clearly regarded as extremely unlikely. He doesn’t seem to be updating his views nearly enough in response to that. Also he’s clearly signalling a reluctance to test any of his other views in such a way again. Very poor.

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      • wysinwyg says:

        He seems to have updated his believe on the importance of the unemployment rate as an economic indicator.

        That may not be the lesson that you wanted Tyler Cowen to learn, but you must concede that it is a lesson learned, and I would argue that it’s quite plausibly the correct lesson to learn.

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    • Phil says:

      I thought more than once that I should put some deep thought into thinking up good measurable bets around his open borders positions and then challenge him to either bet his beliefs or publically fail to bet his beliefs (not that I have any particularly impressive public platform to do so)

      as of right now, I’ve yet to do the deep thinking necessary to flush out what would be some good bets to challenge him on (so I guess score this round for him)

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  21. 0xx says:

    >compared to 40% for intelligence
    Could you provide the source?

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  22. Frog Do says:

    “This week in academic intolerance: Christian college kicks out professor who says Christians and Muslims worship the same god. I didn’t even know that was up for debate!”

    What was your previous understanding of this, if you don’t mind me asking?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      That Muslims obviously worship the same God as Christians and Jews, but have a different holy book and an extra prophet. Unless it’s a different guy who created the heavens and the earth and controls lots of angels and made Adam and Eve and appeared to Abraham and led the Israelites out of Egypt and guided David and Solomon and will one day judge the world and bring the righteous to heaven and the wicked to the eternal flame. I guess the idea that two different gods, totally by coincidence, did all of those things is more likely than that the name “El” is cognate with the name “Allah”.

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      • Your point is basically correct, but there is a complication. From the Muslim point of view, Christians are splitters, deniers of the unity of God. So one could argue that Muslims and Jews worship the same god, while Christians worship that god plus two extras.

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        • Rick Hull says:

          Are you referring to the holy trinity of the Catholic church? It seems to me that most reasonable people accept that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are Abrahamic faiths which share an Abrahamic deity, in the broadest sense.

          Is the doctrinaire muslim objection referring only to Catholicism? I had thought that the 3rd Christian extra was specific to Catholicism (and never heartily explained at that).

          Clearly Islam and Christianity diverge on the Muhammad / Jesus question. Is the deification of Muhammad that much different from the deification of Jesus?

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          • Anonymous says:

            The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, as well as most Protestants, are also Trinitarian. Or are you using ‘catholic’ in the broadest sense?

            Report comment

          • I was referring to the doctrine of the trinity as viewed by Muslims. I believe it is shared by most, although not all, Christian denominations.

            Report comment

          • Anonymous says:

            @David Friedman

            Technically, only Trinitarians are Christians. The rest may be Christian heretics, like the Cathars, but Christian they are not.

            Report comment

          • Rick Hull says:

            Huh, I am not myself a Christian, but I thought I had it fairly well understood. I was certain the Holy Ghost was peculiar to Catholics. Certainly the broad emphasis by non-Catholics (in my experience) is on Jesus primarily and then Jehovah. I honestly had no idea…

            And in response to Anonymous:

            I understand that there are “Christian” faiths which only essentially require you to “take Jesus into you heart” “as your personal savior” or some such. That’s what I’ve heard, though I may have been misled.

            Are unbaptized deathbed conversions heresy?

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Rick

            >Are unbaptized deathbed conversions heresy?

            That sounds like a contradiction in terms. Conversion is accomplished *with* baptism. It may count if baptism was intended, but the prospective convert died before it could have been carried out. (This ought to be fairly uncommon – in case of threat to life, anyone, even an unbeliever, is permitted to perform baptism.)

            >I am very certain that there are “Christian” faiths which only essentially require you to “take Jesus into you heart” “as your personal savior” or some such. That’s what I’ve heard, though I may have been misled.

            There are all kinds of vaguely Christianoid religions and cults out there, yes.

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          • DavidS says:

            @Rick, re: Trinitarianism

            “I understand that there are “Christian” faiths which only essentially require you to “take Jesus into you heart” “as your personal savior” or some such. That’s what I’ve heard, though I may have been misled.

            Are unbaptized deathbed conversions heresy?”

            I think there’s a distinction here between ‘Christian’ and ‘saved’. If you want to distinguish Christianity on any other basis than ‘calls self Christian’, the easiest place to do so is the Nicene Creed, which is definitely Trinitarian. But saying that the Nicene Creed is the shared core of Christian agreement doesn’t mean that you have to be able to recite it at the Pearly Gates, so to speak. I’m not sure any branch of Christianity says you have to understand the Trinity to be saved, which is just as well because the doctrine is pretty complex and almost every Christian I’ve talked to accidentally falls in to some heresy or other about it.

            The question of whether baptism is strictly needed for salvation I think depends on the church. My understanding is that the Catholic Church has said things on this (specifically in the context of people outside the church through no fault of their own, i.e. not exposed to it) that from the outside seem to contradict each other.

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          • I understand that there are “Christian” faiths which only essentially require you to “take Jesus into you heart” “as your personal savior” or some such. That’s what I’ve heard, though I may have been misled.

            That’s a reasonable summary of Evangelical soteriology, and given the prominence of Evangelicals in American religious consciousness I’m not surprised that you picked this up. But even Evangelicals profess the Trinity, even if they allow that you theoretically could be saved without it.

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          • Zakharov says:

            The university in question is evangelical protestant, and almost certainly trinitarian.

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          • antimule says:

            ” Technically, only Trinitarians are Christians. The rest may be Christian heretics, like the Cathars, but Christian they are not.”

            Only if you define Christians as “those who believe in trinity.” And since trinity didn’t even exist in the time of Jesus, that would make first Christians non-Christians which is a tad absurd.

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          • suntzuanime says:

            How could it not exist in the time of Jesus when he was 1/3 of it? And also all of it?

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          • antimule says:

            @suntzuanime
            “How could it not exist in the time of Jesus when he was 1/3 of it? And also all of it?”

            As I posted elsewhere, this is the overview of the “how” :
            https://www.quora.com/What-are-Tim-ONeills-specific-objections-to-the-Christian-belief-that-Jesus-is-God/answer/Tim-ONeill-1

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          • Anonymous says:

            @antimule

            >Only if you define Christians as “those who believe in trinity.”

            I define Christians as those who have received a valid Christian baptism, and have not since apostatized.

            >And since trinity didn’t even exist in the time of Jesus, that would make first Christians non-Christians which is a tad absurd.

            I suggest you read the Nicene Creed again. Christ exists before and after He is born.

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          • antimule says:

            “I suggest you read the Nicene Creed again. Christ exists before and after He is born.”

            Nicene Creed was much, much later and in totally different theological climate. Historical Jesus saw himself as a messiah and apocalypticist in he context of Second Temple Judaism. And in Judaism messiah was definitely not God (see book of Enoch). First hint that anyone thought that Jesus was (in some sense) God was in gJohn, written anywhere between 90-120.

            It then took centuries to hammer out the Trinity.

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          • Anonymous says:

            That’s like saying that before Newton came upon gravity, things fell up.

            Report comment

          • antimule says:

            “That’s like saying that before Newton came upon gravity, things fell up.”

            It is like saying that Newton knew that he was God, but somehow never gotten around to say that he was to anyone.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Christ explicitly asserts His Godhood.

            “I and the Father are one.”

            Report comment

          • antimule says:

            “Christ explicitly asserts His Godhood.”

            In synoptic gospels? No he didn’t. Where?

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          • Anonymous says:

            See my edit.

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          • antimule says:

            “I and the Father are one.”

            There are two problems with this.

            First of all that is in gJohn. Last and the least historically reliable Gospel. Chance that Jesus said anything there is slim, because his way of speaking is totally different there than in synoptics.

            Second, that particular statement can also be translated as “Father and I are of one mind.” As is used elsewhere as such.

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          • Deiseach says:

            I was certain the Holy Ghost was peculiar to Catholics.

            All the non-Unitarian Protestant churches, the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox might have an opinion on that one 🙂

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          • anonymous says:

            ” Is the deification of Muhammad that much different from the deification of Jesus?”

            Compare:
            “The is one God, Allah, and his prophet is Muhammad.”

            “I believe in God, the Father almighty,
            creator of heaven and earth.

            I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, …

            I believe in the Holy Spirit, …”

            “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

            It’s polite to say that Chistians are monotheists too, but I don’t think most religious Jews or Muslims actually think so.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Is the deification of Muhammad that much different from the deification of Jesus?

            Very different, since Muslims don’t deify Muhammed. They also consider deifying Christ a very big no-no, which is a pretty significant part of Christianity.

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          • keranih says:

            Not only is the theology of the deification of Jesus different than that of Mohammed, but the practice of the deification is not only widely different, but reversed.

            Jesus is the Son of God, yet Western Christianity is extremely tolerant of blasphemous mockery and irreverent depictions.

            (I call to mind an “Easter” celebration in SF where the first prize for the fancy dress costume went to a fellow dressed as ‘Jesus fucking Christ’. (To his credit, he said that his was only a silly shtick, and that Hunky Jesus was much better looking and should have won.))

            Mohammed is only the human mouthpiece for the word of Allah, yet mockery in word or print is verboten. *shrugs*

            Different strokes, man.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            Technically, only Trinitarians are Christians. The rest may be Christian heretics, like the Cathars, but Christian they are not.

            There are several branches of unitarian Christianity. John Adams would have considered himself Christian, I’m fairly certain, and he was not a trinitarian.

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          • DavidS says:

            This debate on what a Christian is is pretty much ‘if a tree falls in the forest’… the word Christian can obviously be used differently by different people.

            Nicene Creed is just an incredibly helpful point at which to draw the bar, perhaps the only compelling one apart from self-identity or ‘whatever I believe is the right sect’. And Nicene Creed is Trinitarian.

            In practical terms, the historical descendents of the early church are almost exclusively Nicene, at least nominally (although as I mentioned upthread, I think most Christians hit heresy quickly if asked to explain theology!)

            I say all this as a matter of historical reference, even though I personally think it is very unlikely that Jesus, his disciples or even Paul thought in terms of the Trinity. (Although I do think it’s a beautiful, intricate and compelling way to square a very difficult circle). So ‘Christian’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘what Christ taught’.

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          • Anonymous says:

            >There are several branches of unitarian Christianity.

            If they’re unitarian, then they’re not Christian.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            What do you get out of playing this definitional game?

            If “Christianity” is defined to be trinitarian, they’re not Christian.

            If “Christianity” is defined in a more reasonable manner, based on essential similarities in doctrine, they are.

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          • MichaelM says:

            Saying, “Any non-trinitarian is a non-Christian”, is absolutely, hilariously wrong from anything but a sectarian perspective. Defining Christianity on the Council of Nicaea is almost as ridiculous: Were there no Christians before 325?

            Christianity is indeed kind of hard to define in a broad but definitive way, but believing that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the God of Abraham is the One True God is probably a good start. You can bolt the Trinity onto this belief or not, but it allows for the broad range of non-Catholic Christian sects that existed in pre-Nicaean times and have existed since without falling into sectarian nonsense.

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          • Mary says:

            I was certain the Holy Ghost was peculiar to Catholics.

            blinks

            that is not only no, but HELL NO

            The Trinity is Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.

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          • Mary says:

            “I’m not sure any branch of Christianity says you have to understand the Trinity to be saved, ”

            The standard orthodox view is that if you think you understand the Trinity, you are wrong.

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          • Mary says:

            I define Christians as those who have received a valid Christian baptism, and have not since apostatized.

            And what is needed for a valid baptism?

            1. water
            2. the intent to perform the baptism that Jesus Christ instituted
            3. the formula, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

            See? Trinitarian.

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          • Mary says:

            Historical Jesus saw himself as a messiah and apocalypticist in he context of Second Temple Judaism.

            and how in blue blazes do you know that?

            First hint that anyone thought that Jesus was (in some sense) God was in John, written anywhere between 90-120.

            Nonsense. All the Gospels had Jesus claiming authority to forgive sins. Not sins against him personally, mind you. Sins. All sins. Which, as the Gospels also indicate, is God’s prerogative, hence the anger at Jesus’s claim.

            More to the point, do you have any evidence that they DIDN’T think it before then? (This is important because much of Christianity was orally taught.)

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          • Mary says:

            “Last and the least historically reliable Gospel. Chance that Jesus said anything there is slim, because his way of speaking is totally different there than in synoptics.”

            Much simpler explanation: the synoptics heavily covered his public speeches, and John focused on more personal interactions with the inner circle of apostles. One would expect a different style of speaking to two different groups.

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          • Mary says:

            “There are several branches of unitarian Christianity.”

            I’ve never heard a definition of Christianity that includes unitarians and does not render the term uselessly broad in meaning.

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          • MichaelM says:

            “I’ve never heard a definition of Christianity that includes unitarians and does not render the term uselessly broad in meaning.”

            I fail to see how a definition like, “A Christian believes that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures and the Son of God (in one meaning or another)”, is uselessly broad, unless you specifically define ‘uselessly broad’ to mean, “Does not contain a statement of trinitarianism”. Which is why I said this kind of thing is sectarian.

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          • Mary says:

            “I fail to see how a definition like, “A Christian believes that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures and the Son of God (in one meaning or another)”, is uselessly broad,”

            Because unless you hedge the “meaning” you are including meanings that are consistent with Hinduism and many other such religions. (Which, being the syncretistic type, could easily cope with the prophesies.)

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      • LHC says:

        It’s a pretty ancient and universal religious belief that the gods of other religions are actually demonic impostors. It says something about the success of secularism that this has recently become replaced with “other religions are mistaken in a way that has no supernatural origin”.

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        • This doesn’t seem correct to me—the Greeks and Romans famously interpreted the gods of the other polytheistic societies in their own terms, so for example, Herodotus considers Amun to be the Egyptian name of Zeus. And the Eastern religions are syncretic, so you have gods like Chhinnamasta which are recognized by both Hindus and Buddhists. I’m not an expert on the topic by any means, but my impression was that the idea that followers of other religions worship false gods was a specific innovation of Judaism, carried over to the Abrahamic religions (which is part of why Judea was such a troublesome province for the Romans, despite the Romans being tolerant of most other alternative religious practices).

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      • Eric says:

        I was always annoyed by this question back when I was a Christian, because it seemed to presume that God didn’t exist, as if “God” referred to something that comes into being by us worshipping him, not a pre-existing person.

        If we’re just talking about God as a concept, then yeah it makes sense to ask whether Christians and Muslims have roughly the same idea in mind. But if we’re talking about God as a being who exists independently, then asking whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God seems pretty weird, since they both agree there couldn’t be two of him.

        It’d be like if some people think President Obama was born in Hawaii and some people think he was born in Kenya, and then someone comes along and asks whether they’re talking about the same President Obama.

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        • smocc says:

          As a current Christian I am puzzled by the question in the same way, and that analogy expresses perfectly in what way it is puzzling. I was trying to come up with something similar but couldn’t find anything so satisfying.

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          • Muga Sofer says:

            While I agree that Muslims obviously worship the same God, compare to Mormons, who use the word God but are clearly talking about something else entirely (their “God” is humanoid and so on.)

            If someone believes Obama is a lizardman, or a computer, or a group of five actors all playing “Obama”, it’s not unreasonable to distinguish between their idea of Obama and the actual Obama.

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          • John Schilling says:

            While I agree that Muslims obviously worship the same God [as Christians]

            It is obvious to you that Muslims worship Jesus Christ?

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      • sconzey says:

        Muslims believe that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians. Christians do not believe that Muslims worship the same God as Christians, but believe that Muslims think that they do.

        Certainly a comparison of the character of YHWH, the Holy Trinity, and Allah as portrayed in their respective holy books bears this out.

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        • bluto says:

          This is what I’ve consistently hard expressed from evangelical Christian teachers.

          They believe Muslims worship the moon god, who would be a false god under evangelical Christian beliefs.

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        • Muga Sofer says:

          Ah, *some* Christians believe that.

          I’m not sure if it’s even a majority. It’s certainly not some sort of core doctrine, even if you ignore the debate above that anyone is a Christian if they believe it in their heart or something.

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      • Urstoff says:

        This was my general impression back when I was religious. OTOH, it wasn’t something commonly discussed in church, so I don’t know what the official stance of my church was (and I’m guessing most Christians don’t know either).

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      • Marc Whipple says:

        I don’t think any serious Christian theologian would dispute that it’s reasonable to believe the God of the Islamic religion is descended from/started out the same as/was inspired by/whatever the Christian God, or at least the God of the Old Testament.

        However, making the statement implies such a serious theological error that it is incorrect in principle, at least according to some Christian sects. To be Christian, at least to those sects, is to believe in the divinity of Christ, which means Christ is part of God. Muslims don’t believe in the divinity of Christ, so by definition, historical origins notwithstanding, they don’t worship the same God.

        To make a seriously oversimplified comparison, it’s like a Satanist claiming to be a Christian: after all, Satanists believe in the same God: they just think that the worshipping ought to be aimed differently. Or, if you want a really fun example, consider the Satanists of David Weber and John Ringo’s “Prince Roger” universe. They believe that God has been kidnapped/imprisoned/whatever by rebel angels and that Satan is leading the insurgency against His captors.

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        • Urstoff says:

          It all depends on how you individuate gods. I could deny that the Department of Agriculture is not a legitimate part of the United States Government, but that doesn’t entail that when I use the term “United States Government”, I am not referring to the actual United States Government. I’m sure an argument could be made that gods are individuated differently than governments, but given that the question hinges on a relatively arcane ontological question, I don’t think it’s obvious whether Muslims do or do not worship the same God (and most Christians probably don’t have a well thought-out belief on the matter; many protestant denominations probably don’t have an official position on it either).

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            Yeah, the identity conditions for non-existent objects falsely believed to exist are difficult to work out. To adapt a classic example, suppose that you and I both read in the Salem Times that there is a witch running amok through Eastern Mass. My mare dies, your crop fails, and we both blame the witch for our misfortune. Are we blaming the same witch? Which witch are we both blaming?

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          • Urstoff says:

            Right, but even if there were a God, I don’t think the individuation conditions would be obvious.

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            While the question of Christ’s divinity could be viewed as a relatively arcane ontological question, that does not diminish its importance in the view of people such as are being described.

            Just as one example the doctrine of apostolic poverty is considerably more arcane, and less central to the doctrine of the faith, than the question of Christ’s divinity, and look at all the trouble THAT caused.

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      • I can see Scott’s structural, from the outside, let’s find ways to get along, point of view, but I doubt that there’s any way to be sure any two people are praying to the same entity, and for that matter, you can’t prove that one person is praying to the same entity from one moment to another.

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        • keranih says:

          Exactly. In fact, it’s not unheard of for a person to petition the god of mercy in one breath (when speaking of themselves) and then with the next call on the god of justice (wrt their neighbor.)

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            “Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, and the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken.”

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      • seriously lol guys come on says:

        No they really don’t. YWHW and ALLAH are not the same god, they are different gods. Jews and Christians worship YWHW, while Muslims worship ALLAH

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      • Jaskologist says:

        This is actually a very difficult theological question. Good arguments could be made on either side. Here’s my crack at both from a Christian perspective (since we are talking about Wheaton):

        They’re the same God

        Muslims worship the God of Abraham and Moses, just as we do. They recognize Him as the all-powerful creator of heaven and earth. They reject the Trinity and Jesus, but so do the Jews, and we agree (are doctrinally obligated to agree) that the Jewish God is our God. Sure, Muslims have an impaired understanding of God, but the same could be said of many Christian denominations. Indeed, it’s not like any of us have a perfect understanding of God, or are even capable of such a thing.

        Allah is not Jesus

        Christians worship Jesus, but Muslims explicitly reject that Jesus is God, and they reject all of the Christian scriptures. This is not a minor point of disagreement. The analogy to the Jews elides too much. After all, Jesus himself accused the Jewish leaders of worshiping the Devil; obviously it is far from enough to claim to worship the God of Abraham. Earning your way into heaven is anathema to the Christian, yet this forms the core of Muslim practice. And let’s not ignore the way Muslims treat Christians who are under their power; by their fruits you will know them.

        Denouement

        Either of these arguments could carry the day, and while I’m not aware of many denominations having taken official stances, it wouldn’t surprise me to see different ones come down on different ends.

        But for people outside of Christianity to come in and tell them they are wrong for their stance? It would be like me bursting into a synagogue to tell the Hasids that they are wrong about whether or not it is allowed to flip a light switch on the Sabbath. Who are you to poke your nose into someone else’s doctrinal disputes?

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        • “and they reject all of the Christian scriptures. This is not a minor point of disagreement.”

          I’m not sure “reject” is the correct term. As I understand it, they regard the New Testament as the accounts of the companions of Issus Ibn Maryam. So in the same category as hadith based on accounts by companions of Mohammed.

          “And let’s not ignore the way Muslims treat Christians who are under their power; by their fruits you will know them.”

          Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.

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          • Frog Do says:

            “Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.”

            I remember this being very contestable, one obvious one being number of attacks on Christendom vs number of Crusades.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            I think “reject” is very much the correct term, in that they reject it as scripture, and consider what we have to be heavily corrupted accounts. Many Muslim countries also reject the Bible in even stronger ways, by limiting its production, or only allowing it to be printed in foreign languages or owned by foreigners.

            As for the historical treatment… I’m skeptical. Partly because the people I see make the claim are usually the same people who try to paper over the Muslim world’s current sorry state. But mostly because I live in the present, and in the present there is no question who treats whom worse.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I remember this being very contestable, one obvious one being number of attacks on Christendom vs number of Crusades.”

            That isn’t actually an argument. “Treatment of Christians” is different from “wants to conquer territory owned by Christians”. Given everything to the North and West of Islam’s starting point was Christian owned not attacking Christians wouldn’t leave them with many options.

            Additionally crusades weren’t the only wars fought by Christians against Muslim so it is odd to use them as a metric- for example Sicily (where the dependents of Vikings who settled in northern France were hired by Italians to kick out the arabs).

            “As for the historical treatment… I’m skeptical. Partly because the people I see make the claim are usually the same people who try to paper over the Muslim world’s current sorry state. But mostly because I live in the present, and in the present there is no question who treats whom worse.”

            That doesn’t follow either. For starters the worst offenders today are Islamic sects that didn’t exist before the 18th century (Wahhabism) or 20th century (Islamists).

            I’m also not seeing why you should be skeptical- letting people having the own religion and community but treating them as second class citizens and taxing them is incredibly common in human history.

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          • Frog Do says:

            @Samuel Skinner
            Well, it sort of gestures in the direction of an argument, which is what I was going for.

            The Muslims could have tried conversion not by military conquest, like, say, Christianity. And for the immediate counterargument of “yes, but the Christians conquered too”, the Muslims conquests are central to their narrative as a victorious religion, in the same way Christians go on and on about sacrifice and martyrdom.

            That is true, the metric isn’t perfect, but we also forget the warring against Asian Christianity at the time in our focus on the Europe vs the Middle East.

            “I’m also not seeing why you should be skeptical- letting people having the own religion and community but treating them as second class citizens and taxing them is incredibly common in human history.”

            I am always sceptical. “Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.” is making a claim with very obvious contemporary implications. I have no idea how you would come up with a metric of this-religion-is-better-than-this-religion-at-dealing-with-heathens-or-heretics, and I’m extremely sceptical of one which maps so neatly onto contemporary political concerns.

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          • @Frog Do:

            The question of whether Christians or Muslims were more aggressive may be contestable, but I was talking about how each treated members of the other religions under their rule. Muslim al-Andalus had a sizable population of Christians and Jews. They had to pay a tax that the Muslims did not have to pay but did not, I believe, have to pay the tax that the Muslims were obligated to pay. The law was biased in some ways in favor of Muslims, but the other Peoples of the Book were allowed to settle civil affairs in their own courts under their own law.

            After the reconquista was completed, all Muslims and Jews were required to convert or leave Spain.

            There were times and places, such as Southern Italy under Norman rule, where Christian rulers were as tolerant as Muslim rulers. But under Muslim law and Muslim rulers toleration, although not equality, was the norm. That was not the case under Christian rulers.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The Muslims could have tried conversion not by military conquest, like, say, Christianity”

            They did. Indonesia and Sub-Saharan Africa were converted by trade.

            “And for the immediate counterargument of “yes, but the Christians conquered too”, the Muslims conquests are central to their narrative as a victorious religion, in the same way Christians go on and on about sacrifice and martyrdom.”

            Uh, there was the part where Christians became the state religion and proceeded to crush the pagans that was sort of important. I’m not sure how that is less creepy than ‘Deus Volt, but arabic’.

            “That is true, the metric isn’t perfect, but we also forget the warring against Asian Christianity at the time in our focus on the Europe vs the Middle East.”

            Aside from the Eastern Roman Empire, who fits that category?

            “I have no idea how you would come up with a metric of this-religion-is-better-than-this-religion-at-dealing-with-heathens-or-heretics, and I’m extremely sceptical of one which maps so neatly onto contemporary political concerns.”

            Islam explicitly recognizes protection for ‘people of the book’. They are second class citizens and face discrimination, but there are still Christians in Egypt, Syria and much of the Arab world (although pretty much none in the peninsula).

            Meanwhile there aren’t any of the original Muslims in Spain, Portugal or Southern Italy.

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          • “Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.”

            That’s a fairly low standard. However, so far as I know, the recent habit of driving out Jews and Christians is something new.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            “Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.”

            Leaving aside whether or not this is true, is it even relevant?

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          • Frog Do says:

            @David Friedman
            A strange argument. The example of Spain during a certain time period implies Muslims are generally tolerant, the example of Italy under a certain time period is just a weird aberration and proves nothing.

            @Samuel Skinner
            You misunderstand my point, I think. Both religions conquered and converted by trade. One derives divine mandate in the narrative by sacrifice, the other by conquest. This is going to shape how both cultures see the world, as either a fallen world needing missionaries or a World at War.

            I was thinking of the Nestorians, in this case.

            And Christianity specifically recognizes love for all mankind and charity for the poor, yet the implementation of that leaves something to be desired.

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            I’m sure this is just one of those things that people do, in history.

            @hlynkacg
            Well, it’s a part of Jaskologist’s argument, which we are discussing.

            @everyone
            I’m not trying to win some sort of points scoring contest here, saying one is better than the other. I’m saying blanket statements like that are probably way too hard to measure, and trying to provide counterarguments for the argument that Islam treats Abrahamic religions better than Christianity. Islam has explicit legal protections for other Abrahamic faiths (since others existed when Islam became a thing, from an outside perspective), Christianity has explicit protections for Gentiles converting (since that was the major division of religion when Christianity became a thing), and Judaism … also has ways for Gentiles to convert, but it’s more complicated. I think rules-as-written is distracting from rules-as-implemented, here.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            When I make plans for my New Zealand vacation, I don’t worry about whether the Maori liked to eat outsiders 200 years ago. I care about whether they do so today.

            If you ask me about Muslim treatment of Christians, I am going to be care about what they do today.

            Those Christians in Egypt you pointed to? They are under frequent, violent assault, church burnings, and heavy governmental restrictions which don’t even let them repair church toilets without explicit permission from the government. The situation is a lot worse in other parts of the Middle East.

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          • hlynkacg, the reason changes in behavior are relevant is that pointing them out is an answer to people who talk as though religions have permanent natures.

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          • @Frog Do:

            Spain was a particularly striking example. But, outside of Norman southern Italy, how many areas under Christian rule had a significant population of tolerated Muslims? Pretty nearly every place under Muslim rule had a substantial population of tolerated Christians and Jews—the terms for the other tolerated religions were built into Islamic law.

            The case of Jews isn’t as striking, since there were substantial Jewish populations under Christian rule. But even there, the only case I can think of where Muslims deliberately drove out the local Jews is the neighborhood of Medina in the years immediately after the Hegira. Compare that to the multiple cases of Jews being expelled from countries under Christian rule. Not just Spain in 1492 but England in 1290, France 1182, … .

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ” One derives divine mandate in the narrative by sacrifice, the other by conquest. This is going to shape how both cultures see the world, as either a fallen world needing missionaries or a World at War.”

            I’m not sure what you mean here by divine mandate. Jesus dying and rising from the dead isn’t really connected with ‘fallen world needing missionaries’.

            “I was thinking of the Nestorians, in this case.”

            They didn’t have a country, but were a subject community under Muslim states. I’m not seeing any warring.

            “When I make plans for my New Zealand vacation, I don’t worry about whether the Maori liked to eat outsiders 200 years ago. I care about whether they do so today.”

            You argument was about whether or not Muslims worship the same God. Unless you are declaring that Muslims did until 200 years ago and then suddenly changed, behavior of Muslims in the past is relevant when you declare that Muslim behavior is relevant for judging such a claim.

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          • NN says:

            Whenever someone tries to argue that Islam was spread by the sword but Christianity wasn’t, I immediately think back to Columbus writing to the King of Spain that the “Indians” he had encountered on his voyages “would make good Christians.” And Cortez forcibly converting almost every Mexican village that he passed through on the way to Tenochtitlan. And Pizarro presenting the Incan Emperor with a Bible, then when Atahualpa rejected it (because his culture didn’t have writing, so he naturally had no idea what a book was), massacring the royal guard and taking him hostage.

            Suffice it to say that the process by which Latin America became Catholic involved far more than a bit of peaceful proselytizing. Which isn’t even bringing up the brutal persecution of Roman Pagans after Christians took power in the Roman Empire, the forced conversions of Muslims and Jews after the Spanish Reconquista, the forced conversion to Christianity of virtually all of the African slaves that were brought to the Americas, and the forced conversions of Muslims by Christian militias in the Central African Republic happening right now.

            And that only counts outright forced conversions. If we count incentivized conversion via proselytizing and discriminatory treatment after imperial conquest (which the vast majority of conversions to Islam under Muslim rule qualified as, since outright forced conversions were generally rare), then we can also toss in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and about half of Africa, among other places.

            Anyone belonging to a religion with this kind of history has no right to sit on a high horse about “spreading your faith by the sword.”

            But even there, the only case I can think of where Muslims deliberately drove out the local Jews is the neighborhood of Medina in the years immediately after the Hegira.

            There was also pretty much the entire Arab world in the 30 or so years after the 1948 establishment of Israel.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            @David Friedman
            But, outside of Norman southern Italy, how many areas under Christian rule had a significant population of tolerated Muslims? Pretty nearly every place under Muslim rule had a substantial population of tolerated Christians and Jews—the terms for the other tolerated religions were built into Islamic law.

            Surely it is relevant here that the reason there were so many Christian populations under Muslim rule is that Muslims conquered those Christian populations. The many areas under Christian rule without tolerated Muslims were simply areas Muslims had not conquered. It’s not like a bunch of people in Muslim lands converted to Christianity and were tolerated, while a bunch of people in Christian lands converted to Islam and were driven out.

            Spain would be an example of Christians conquering a (formerly Christian) Muslim country. But beyond that, you probably need to look into the colonial age for a good equivalent, and it seems Europeans mostly let Muslims keep their religion.

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          • HlynkaCG says:

            Frog Do says: Well, it’s a part of Jaskologist’s argument, which we are discussing.

            Is it? It seems to me that you’ve have all wandered off on David Friedman’s historical tangent.

            Nancy Lebovitz says: the reason changes in behavior are relevant is that pointing them out is an answer to people who talk as though religions have permanent natures.

            In that case, there seems to be a pernicious assumption that Christianity’s past sins invalidates any progress it has made since, just as Islam’s past virtue absolves it of today’s sins.

            While I can see the appeal of this framing, I doubt that it will be any comfort to those currently staring down a Wahhabi sword.

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          • Frog Do says:

            @Nancy Lebowitz
            It might be hard to believe, but there are even people who believe religions have permenant natures, too.

            @David Friedman
            Until we have some sort of systemic framework for discussing this, it’s just going to be anecdotes, which is my problem. Not setting up a systemic framework, but making grand claims about Muslims being more tolerant than Christians is political cheering, not an argument.

            @Samuel Skinner
            It’s integrally connected from within the Christian way-of-looking-at-the-world, the beliefs from the inside, and how they publically present themselves.

            Nestorians existed before Islam, which really shouldn’t be surprising a point.

            @NN
            Is anyone is making that argument? This reads like a lot of political cheering, which again, is my problem.

            @Jaskologist
            Thank you. There’s a big problem of path dependence here which I still think people just aren’t engaging with at all.

            @HlynkaCG
            This wild tangent is almost certainly my fault, I assume David’s perspective is extremely common and also (to me, at least) incoherant, which is why I wanted to talk about it.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Jaskologist
            “Surely it is relevant here that the reason there were so many Christian populations under Muslim rule is that Muslims conquered those Christian populations.”

            No, it is not relevant. In fact it is the opposite of relevant. The reason that you are in the gulag is irrelevant to the question ‘is the gulag shitty’. If you wanted to ask a different question you should not have asked ‘is the gulag shitty’.

            ” But beyond that, you probably need to look into the colonial age for a good equivalent, and it seems Europeans mostly let Muslims keep their religion.”

            The best time to see the fruits of Christianity is the time period when European states were becoming secular?

            Frog Do
            “Until we have some sort of systemic framework for discussing this, it’s just going to be anecdotes, which is my problem. Not setting up a systemic framework, but making grand claims about Muslims being more tolerant than Christians is political cheering, not an argument.”

            Lets look at what David actually said, shall we?
            —“And let’s not ignore the way Muslims treat Christians who are under their power; by their fruits you will know them.”

            Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.—

            Historically speaking, generally treated- these are not grand claims and the ‘antedotes’- you know the list of all the Muslim populations that went under Christian rule prior to the 16th century(?) certainly support it.

            “It’s integrally connected from within the Christian way-of-looking-at-the-world, the beliefs from the inside, and how they publically present themselves.””

            And? I’m not seeing a connection between ‘Jesus died on the cross’ and ‘we have to do lots of missionary work’. Either it is from other historical stuff (in which case pointing out the whole subversion of the Roman Empire is sort of relevant) or it is from whole cloth in which case pointing out Islam’s early history isn’t so useful for understanding their ideals. Because “Muhammad and friends conquered a lot of territory” does not tell you much about how they treated subjects.

            “Nestorians existed before Islam, which really shouldn’t be surprising a point.”

            Er
            “That is true, the metric isn’t perfect, but we also forget the warring against Asian Christianity at the time in our focus on the Europe vs the Middle East.”

            Again, what warring are you talking about? I’m not aware of a Nestorian state that was being conquered around the time of the Crusades.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Again, what warring are you talking about? I’m not aware of a Nestorian state that was being conquered around the time of the Crusades.

            According to Wikipedia:

            Tamerlane virtually exterminated the Church of the East, also known to Westerners as the Nestorian church, which had previously been a major branch of Christianity but afterwards was largely confined to certain parts of Iraq.

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          • Mary says:

            “It might be hard to believe, but there are even people who believe religions have permenant natures, too.”

            Ah, but what do those fundamental natures consist of? What they teach? Or what their followers do (in general, not in specifically religious practice)?

            I remember a discussion — here, IIRC — where someone was criticizing modern alleged Thor-worship by comparing it to of ancient times, someone else claiming both had equal claims, and other people that since the modern group was claiming continuity with the old one, it had best follow its practices, just as your mother’s meatloaf appears on your table only if you follow her recipe.

            And I had a rip-roaring discussion once (elsewhere) with a woman who claimed to be a Gnostic and then was furious when I assumed that she held the most basic tenets of Gnosticism, claiming that merely because that was the beliefs of Gnostics didn’t mean it was the beliefs now (followed up by some truly silly claims about Christian doctrine changing).

            But in both cases, what was at stake was, what was taught. True, one teaches “this is the proper way to honor the god” and one “this is the nature of the universe” but both beliefs.

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          • Mary says:

            “No, it is not relevant. In fact it is the opposite of relevant. ”

            It is completely relevant. The question of how the situation came about is entirely relevant when it is the explicitly and openly taught tenets of the religion that produced that oppressed second-class subject.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “According to Wikipedia:”

            … I don’t think we can blame Islam for the Mongols, even Mongols who converted to Islam.

            “It is completely relevant. The question of how the situation came about is entirely relevant when it is the explicitly and openly taught tenets of the religion that produced that oppressed second-class subject.”

            You have a premise, but you don’t have any link to the conclusion. At all. The issue was

            ///“And let’s not ignore the way Muslims treat Christians who are under their power; by their fruits you will know them.”

            Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.///

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          • TrivialGravitas says:

            I’m inclined to agree it’s relevant (nor am I super impressed by charging a tax on other religions). But as been pointed out toleration only happens after secularization, before that the only conquest was Spain (yes the Muslims conquered it first but more than half a millennium is over the time limit on revaunchism), which resulted in banning Islam.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Samuel Skinner & TrivialGravitas

            Even if I believed you, I still don’t see how it’s relevant. You seem to be arguing that Islam’s past virtue absolves muslims of any current or future wrong doing.

            Does the sacking of Jeuruselem 900 years ago really mean that the Copts and Yazidi of today “have it coming”? and would you be equally sanguine if the tables were turned?

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          • TrivialGravitas says:

            The point is that you can’t condemn Islam *as a whole* not the people actually doing things, but the whole of Islam, without also condemning the whole of Christianity (admittedly given local demographics that wouldn’t be surprising).

            RE Jews in 1930s Germany there’s a difference between trying to keep the Nazi’s out of your country and trying to keep Germans fleeing Germany out. If you want to talk about keeping out Islamist’s that’s a different matter (I’m inclined to point out a lot of Christians with equally crazy ideas still but they do seem a bit less likely to get violent about it if they lose the vote).

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          • Mary says:

            The issue was

            ///“And let’s not ignore the way Muslims treat Christians who are under their power; by their fruits you will know them.”

            Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.”

            Wrong! The issue at hand was the claim that the presence of subjugated, second-class Christians under Muslim was evidence of what you are claiming is the issue. The problem with that is that in order for it to be evidence, it would have to stem from Muslims’ better treatment of Christians. It is, of course, the very opposite, because those populations stem from worse treatment, namely conquest and subjugation.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “It is, of course, the very opposite, because those populations stem from worse treatment, namely conquest and subjugation.”

            So your position is “Muslims don’t worship the same God as Christians because Muslims conquered Christian territories”? Because that applies to Protestant and Catholics as well.

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          • Mary says:

            “So your position is “Muslims don’t worship the same God as Christians because Muslims conquered Christian territories”? ”

            Whom are you addressing this to?

            Certainly not me, since I was discussing the relative treatment.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ” It is, of course, the very opposite, because those populations stem from worse treatment, namely conquest and subjugation.”

            “Certainly not me, since I was discussing the relative treatment.”

            So your position is that Muslims don’t worship the same God as Christians because Muslims conquered more land from Christians than Christians did from Muslims, BUT Catholics and Protestants do even though the amount of land they conquered from each other is also not the same? Did Oliver Cromwell get deleted from history when I wasn’t looking?

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        • Frog Do says:

          @Samuel Skinner
          I really, really do not understand your objections here, but will reply as simply as I am able to understand, in order:

          I disagree, they are grand claims, grand precisely because they are vague! “[C]ertainly” “[I] know the list of all the Muslim populations that went under Christian rule prior to the 16th century(?)”. What am I supposed to be agreeing with here? What do all correctly-thinking-people know? This seems to me to be increasingly obvious political cheerleading.

          “I’m not seeing a connection between ‘Jesus died on the cross’ and ‘we have to do lots of missionary work’.” This is more or less the point of Christianity? More generally, do you genuniely think the stories people tell about themselves and their past don’t matter, don’t influence behavior at all? “Because “Muhammad and friends conquered a lot of territory” does not tell you much about how they treated subjects.” Well it does, trivially, they are subjects? Conquering a people implies some level of common treatment? This paragraph the one I understand the least.

          “Again, what warring are you talking about? I’m not aware of a Nestorian state that was being conquered around the time of the Crusades.” I suppose the Jews were never persecuted from the diaspora to 1947? Does war and persecution only happen to states? I was thinking of Persia and the surrounding territories, specifically.

          Are we dealing with some specific period of history here? “Historically speaking, Muslims have generally treated Christians and Jews better than Christians treated Muslims and Jews.” doesn’t really imply a timeline, it implies that someone, somewhere told you that Islamic Spain was relatively speaking a pretty great place once upon a time, and this somehow vaguely generalizes? Again, the fact that these vague generalizations can just be tossed out is really weird to me, at least in the comments of SSC. If this was just The Internet, I’d get it.

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          • “it implies that someone, somewhere told you that Islamic Spain was relatively speaking a pretty great place once upon a time, and this somehow vaguely generalizes?”

            And that the result of the
            Reconquista was the expulsion of all Muslims and Jews who didn’t convert, with continuing efforts to find and punish secret Muslims and Jews.

            And that I am reasonably familiar with fiqh, and all four schools of Sunni law have generally similar rules with regard to Christians and Jews, with differences of detail.

            And the contrast between what happened to the inhabitants of Jerusalem when the crusaders took it from the Muslims, in contrast to what happened when the Muslims took it back.

            And I have read a good deal of medieval Islamic literature, in which Christians and Jews routinely appear and are obviously not being driven out.

            What’s the basis for your views on the subject?

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          • Frog Do says:

            @David Friedman
            This is why the reply was @Samuel Skinner, I am aware of your impressive background on the subject, what with you being a public person and all. I do enjoy reading your work on Islamic law, which I find very interesting. However.

            We are still just comparing isolated incidents and using them to make general statements about all Muslims, and all Christians, throughout all history, ignoring any possible confounders and path dependence or really treating any of this as history. You still really aren’t addressing any of these objections, repeatedly stated. I acknowledge that you are more of an authority on the subject then me, and since it has come to the point where we are tossing out credentials then engaging with each other, I’m going to bow out as my judgement of “poltical cheering” is basically confirmed.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I disagree, they are grand claims, grand precisely because they are vague! ”

            That doesn’t follow at all.

            “What do all correctly-thinking-people know? This seems to me to be increasingly obvious political cheerleading.”

            Why are you declaring factual statements obvious political cheerleading? I said something that can be checked and quantified.

            “This is more or less the point of Christianity?”

            Jesus died on the cross and we need to do missionary work are two independent ideas. The fact they are the point of Christianity does not make them the same idea; you do not go from one to the other. Likewise Muhammad story and after his death are separate; if we consider the rise to power important (see below)

            “More generally, do you genuniely think the stories people tell about themselves and their past don’t matter, don’t influence behavior at all?”

            I do. I explicitly pointed out the Christian story (subvert Rome) is something people consider bad because Muslims are being accused of doing that to Europe.

            “Well it does, trivially, they are subjects? Conquering a people implies some level of common treatment? ”

            No, conquering people does not imply some level of common treatment. This is the 8th century; you can pull of conquests where the only thing the peasants notice is the faces on the coins have changed. Or you can stack pyramids of skulls. Or anything in between.

            “Are we dealing with some specific period of history here?”

            You claimed we should remember the Nestorian Church and not just focus on east versus west stuff (presumably the Crusades). What are you referring to?

            “We are still just comparing isolated incidents and using them to make general statements about all Muslims, and all Christians, throughout all history, ignoring any possible confounders and path dependence or really treating any of this as history.”

            First of all ‘prior to the 16th century’ is hardly ‘isolated incidents’. In additional it is not a general statement about al Muslims or all Christians; it is Jaskologist’s claim. You know; ‘by their fruits you will know them’ as grounds for saying they worship different Gods.

            Path dependence and all the other buzz words do not fact into this; Jask made an claim that relied upon Muslims and Christian behavior being constant through out history. If it isn’t, he is wrong.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Jask made an claim that relied upon Muslims and Christian behavior being constant through out history.

            Whoa there. I did no such thing. I actually specifically said that I don’t care how Muslims treated Christians historically. That is a complex topic which will vary depending on when and where you’re looking, and what standard you feel comfortably holding past peoples to. I care about what Muslims are doing today.

            Since the Maori analogy apparently didn’t take, I’m going to Godwin this ridiculous thread:

            If I am a Jew in 1930s Germany, asked about how Germans treat Jews, I’m not going to answer positively. You can tell me that the Jews have lived in Germany for over a thousand years. You can recount to me how Mainz, Speyer and Worms formed the center of Jewish life during the Medieval period, and the German bishops in the area protected the Jews. You can tell me that Nazism is a very recent movement, really. You can tell me that the majority of Germans didn’t vote for Hitler. All of that would be true, and none of it would be relevant. A Jew who relied on your historical report is very likely to end up dead.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ///Allah is not Jesus

            And let’s not ignore the way Muslims treat Christians who are under their power; by their fruits you will know them.///

            “All of that would be true, and none of it would be relevant. ”

            So the God Muslims worship was the same as the God Christians worshipped until recently when it changed? And it will go back to being the same in the near future? Do you not realize how crazy that sounds?

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          • The reason for mentioning that there was a time when Islam was better (assuming you care about tolerance) than Christianity is that there are people who believe that Christianity is always better than Islam. There are people who believe that harmless Muslim behavior like wearing a turban is grounds for a physical attack. Those people need to be reminded that terrorism isn’t the default for Muslims.

            I prefer bringing up Sufism as evidence that Islam isn’t intrinsically bad because there are a lot of Sufis now, and they’re working from the same Koran the Wahhabis are.

            You also need to be accurate about the particular Muslims you’re dealing with, some of whom– a very small minority– are terrorists. I believe that terrorism as a common tactic is fairly recent recent development, but I don’t have a timeline.

            I’m not sure what to do with Eric Raymond’s argument (I hope I have it right) that there’s so much bad in the Koran (and the bad is considered more authoritative than the better parts) that Muslims will always revert to violent expansionism.

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      • Doctor Mist says:

        That Muslims obviously worship the same God as Christians and Jews, but have a different holy book and an extra prophet. Unless it’s a different guy who created the heavens and the earth and controls lots of angels and…

        The obvious counter-narrative is that Christians (or Muslims) do in fact worship that guy but the Muslims (or Christians) worship a false idol that doesn’t really exist and anyway wasn’t even present at the creation, you got the wrong guy.

        In other words, is the other side heretics or pagans?

        I’m somewhat bemused to realize that I have no idea which narrative is the modern consensus, on either side, or even which narrative was the consensus a thousand years ago.

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        • hlynkacg says:

          Can’t speak for a thousand years ago but in regards to the last century or two the common consensus is roughly this…

          On the Christian side: Muslims are descendants of Abraham and thus worship the same God and are bound by the same covenant. However, their refusal to acknowledge the divine nature of Christ’s sacrifice and accept Salvation has put their souls in jeopardy. They’re basically in the same position as Jews, and just how screwed this makes them varies greatly from one denomination to another.

          On the Muslim side: Christians are heretics who deny the unity of Allah by ascribing divine agency and powers to a mere human prophet. Just how screwed this makes them varies from one denomination to another.

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      • Dan Olson says:

        It’s too complicated to be obvious… thinking about how to discern if any two given conceptions of God resolve to the same individual being makes my head hurt. What can I even compare it to? Conan-doyle Sherlock vs Cumberbatch Sherlock? How do you decide whether “they’re identified as the same” has more value than “they act completely differently”? Is there even a way to objectively say if the two characters have the same identity? Does it even matter?

        So I find this “same god” thing to be of little practical value except to conflate the individual doctrines of the two religions. Any institution that values doctrine will balk at it, and having attended one I’m quite sure evangelical universities value their doctrinal statements much more highly than silly things like tenure. Assuming that’s OK for the sake of argument, I find little to disagree with in their handling of the situation.

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    • Another approach: if God exists, that is, if the Universe has a unique creator, overseeing everything like a programmer, then anyone who claims to worship the creator is worshiping the creator, even if they do it in different ways, or even in ways that are vastly wrong compared to the true nature of the creator and what it should entails for proper worship of the creator.

      Claiming that someone who worships the creator is worshiping not just a wrong idea of the creator, but an imposter, implies that there’s something else than the creator that can be worshiped — which is in contradiction with the idea of monotheism.

      [of course this is a moot point because Abrahamic monotheism also admits the existence of Satan, demons and angels, so it’s not pure monotheism, but polytheism with a clever, elaborate makeover (to say nothing of the Trinity)]

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      • Anonymous says:

        >Claiming that someone who worships the creator is worshiping not just a wrong idea of the creator, but an imposter, implies that there’s something else than the creator that can be worshiped — which is in contradiction with the idea of monotheism.

        No? Anything can be worshipped. Not everything *should* be worshipped.

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      • eponymous says:

        Christians traditionally believe in many spiritual entities besides God (angels, demons). So you could worship those. Also, you could worship non-spiritual entities, like celestial bodies or idols.

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      • Jaskologist says:

        I believe in one President, and his name is Al Gore, elected in the year of our lord 2000.

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        • Randy M says:

          That’s a decent analogy. Say that a Canadian and an Englishman meet. Both share a drink in honor of the Queen of England, long may she live. The Canadian toasts, “To good Queen Susan, who will soon raise an army to put the Americans in their place.” The Englishman protests, “The Queen’s name isn’t Susan, it’s Elizabeth, and we get along alright with the Yankees these days.”
          The Canadian replies, “Well in any case, we both honor the same woman, so does it really matter?”

          There is and can only be one queen of England, only one person that is being referred to when that phrase is used. Is it then logically impossible for two people to both use the phrase and not be talking about the same person, no matter how fundamental the differences in understanding? I’m not sure if this is a question about logic, language, theology, or reality, which probably means it is a bad question.

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          • Doctor Mist says:

            Cf. John Byrom:

            God bless the King! (I mean our faith’s defender!)
            God bless! (No harm in blessing) the Pretender.
            But who Pretender is, and who is King,
            God bless us all! That’s quite another thing!

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    • Harkonnendog says:

      Pretty hard for a Christian to accept that someone who doesn’t worship Jesus Christ is worshipping Jesus Christ. You can argue about the trinity making it the same God but Jesus Christ is the central figure in a Christian’s life, more so than the Father or the Holy Spirit. That is why many Christians lol at the idea that Muslims worship the same God. Plus it is better to laugh than take offense.
      “You worship Jesus Christ and hey that Muslim doesn’t worship Jesus Christ but he worships the same God you do.” That one is easy, even obvious. (Of course I’m coming from a Christian perspective. My answer may be more about sharing how others feel than persuading people that it is correct.)

      Whether we worship the same God as the Jews… er… Well… No, because again Christ is the central figure. But this is not so easy. In the Jews rejection of Christ, no, Christ is our central figure, so how can He be the same God. But in our (Christian’s) acceptance of Christ, yes, we worship their/our/the God. So we worship the same God as the Jews but they do not quite worship the same God as us except they do, they just don’t know Him as well as we do. Except I think they do…

      Anyway the Muslim part is easy. Not the same. They are Mohammedans.
      Followers of Mohammed.

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      • “Anyway the Muslim part is easy. Not the same. They are Mohammedans.
        Followers of Mohammed.”

        They are Muslims. “Mohammedans” is a label applied to them by others. They very explicitly do not worship Muhammed.

        Abu Bakr speaking to the people outside Muhammed’s door, with Muhammed dead inside:

        “Lo! as for any who worshiped Muhammad, Muhammad is dead. But as for him who worshipeth God, God is the Living One and He dieth not.”

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        • Harkonnendog says:

          You’re right. Calling Muslims Mohammedans is hostile-aggressive. They certainly don’t consider themselves Mohammedans. I was speaking from a very Christian defensive perspective there. There was a point to it, which I utterly failed to make.
          Someone who claims Muslims worship the same God as Christians (Muslims or not) denies Jesus Christ is God because Muslims deny Christ, the central character in Christanity. This too is aggressive, or at least it is not neutral. If you deny Christ you deny Christianity.
          I suppose this is a distinction without a difference to atheists, but it is important to many Christians, certainly every Christian I know, just as I think it would be important to a Muslim not to be called a Mohammedan, for the reason Abu Bakr (good quote!) mentioned, and others.
          Very appropriate to discipline a professor for making such a claim, not just because it is rude or hostile to Christians & Jews, but because it shows an inability or lack of desire to understand the perspectives of different religious groups.
          It Is shocking to me that people would consider it not up for debate. Just shows how small the circle of people I discuss religion with is.

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          • Nita says:

            Wait, but God the Father still is God, right? So, perhaps Muslims are failing to worship all of God, but they still manage to target about a third?

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          • Frog Do says:

            No, that would imply Christians are polytheists. It is probably more accurate to say they are majorly heretical, being decieved by a false prophet.

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          • anonymous says:

            Christians *are* polytheists. Sure I wouldn’t say so at a dinner party, but there’s no need to beat around the bush here.

            Or maybe Zeus and Athena, Loki and Thor, Shiva and Vishnu are all consubstantial and everyone everywhere and everywhen has been monotheist.

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          • Harkonnendog says:

            The idea that Muslims worship the same God the Father is problematic because there conception of Him is markedly different than the Christian perspective of Him. For example, Muslims chastise Christians for referring to him as God, the Father. They don’t consider the relationship that way.

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          • For what it’s worth, my view on the central controversy is that both the claim that Muslims worship the same god and the claim that they don’t are defensible, hence Wheaton ought not to have acted against a professor for making the former claim unless there is something in Wheaton’s explicit religious position that it clearly contradicts.

            And I find the PR explanation someone offered plausible.

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      • Harkonnendog says:

        I agree both positions are defensible. I think it is appropriate to discipline the professor because this is an Evangelist college, and she forced the issue. Wearing the scarf for a month is almost a dare. “I disagree with Evangelists, I’m going to wear it on my sleeve (or head, literally) and what are you going to do about it?” She forced the college to make a choice.

        On the larger issue, after a little research I found this quote, which I think is excellent.

        “In contrast to Buddhism and Confucianism, for example, the Abrahamic faiths affirm God’s mercy expressed through his gifts in nature, human community, and scriptural wisdom and ethics and general guidance,” wrote Adeney. “Yet such mercy is a pale shadow of the shocking mercy that propelled Jesus to earth and to the cross. That radical mercy we call grace. If indeed the incarnation and death of Jesus are essential expressions of God’s nature, then Muslim and Christian understandings of God are truly very different.”

        Above and beyond that, Christians believe salvation only comes as a gift because of the sacrifice of the Son. It is absolutely central to the belief system. We tend to personalize this gift, the suffering, the pain, the humiliation. He did this for me? For me? Why? I’m not worthy of that! Thank you!

        Also, we tend to read the words Christ said, and use them as guides in our every day life. Or try to- as an example:

        “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
        “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

        To us, that is God talking, telling us who to be. It is a personal thing because it is a guide to how we should live our lives moment to moment. Denying that Christ is God denies us the most (to me at least) loving parts of the scripture, the parts that informs us on a day to day basis. We should love God because He exists, not because He is good, but the above quotation and their like makes it a LOT easier, and more relevant to our lives day to day. That is why Christ is central, integral to a Christian.
        For that professor to deny the centrality of Christ at an Evangelist college is kind of crazy. While Wheaton may not explicitly state their religious position I believe it is implied. It is kind of like George Constanza when he was caught having sexual relations at work and said if he had known that was frowned upon he wouldn’t have done it.

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  23. Bassicallyboss says:

    Re: Purpleface looks like blackface:

    When I was in marching band in high school, we did a video games-themed show, and one of the games we played music from was World of Warcraft. One of our drum majors dressed as a Night Elf, complete with purple makeup from the party store.

    After one show, the police came over and tried to arrest him. Apparently, wearing blackface is illegal in our town. They let him off the hook after the band director explained about night-elves and that it was purple. It was a near thing though. We decided he would be a regular daytime elf for any future performances in that town.

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      • eponymous says:

        The *actual* PC thought police showed up?

        What country is this!

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        • Anonymous says:

          I’m guessing USA. Few other places are so batshit insane about blacks.

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          • Poxie says:

            A) Might consider rephrasing that comment, unless you meant to inflame.
            B) Almost certainly not the US, unless there’s something major missing from the story (cops were wrong, arrest attempt was on some other charge, college campus, yadda yadda).

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          • Marc Whipple says:

            What Poxie said. A law against wearing blackface would not be enforceable in the United States. Doesn’t mean there isn’t one somewhere, but it seems very unlikely.

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          • TrivialGravitas says:

            Laws being unconstitutional doesn’t keep them from passing, it doesn’t even really slow them down. Nor do cops hesitate from trying to enforce them.

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          • Anonymous says:

            >Might consider rephrasing that comment, unless you meant to inflame.

            OK, that was somewhat inflammatory. Let me unpack:

            Based on the OP’s lack of endemic British phrasings or idioms, inclusion of at least one American idiom (“to let someone off the hook”), the prevalence of American vs non-American but natively fluent English-speakers, and the popularity of school marching bands in America, I would tentatively peg BassicallyBoss as likely American. Americans tend to live in the USA. So far, this is only a weak indication.

            However – a law against blackface mean that someone bothered to enact it. Further, that the police actually knew it existed, and tried to enforce it, possibly after someone reported it, means that blackface is actually a big deal where this happened. It can only be a big deal if the polity:
            a) has a substantial black minority,
            b) sees the black minority as a protected class.

            Countries that don’t have a substantial black minority, and never had, are extremely unlikely to care about them. Countries whose primary ethnicity is western-designated protected class itself is not going to care about awarding protected class status to such a minority, either. That leaves only a handful of states.

            Given a thriving video games subculture, kids doing marching band stuff, we can exclude third world countries, and just about everywhere second-world as well (doubly so because second-worlders tend to be unashamedly racist).

            Off-hand, that leaves places like USA, and poorer matches of the UK, France, Canada, Australia, and maybe some tiny states like the Netherlands. My bet is on USA.

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          • smocc says:

            Have you considered South Africa?

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          • Anonymous says:

            Yes – have considered the entire former British Empire, but SA struck me as a poor fit overall.

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          • Bassicallyboss says:

            How’d you all do?

            This incident happened in the USA.

            As Poxie and Marc Whipple said, there’s likely something missing from the story. I wasn’t personally involved in the conversation with law enforcement, so it’s possible that my friends who were misunderstood the police, or the cops were wrong about the existence of such a statute. For it’s worth, I couldn’t find any evidence of such a law existing when I went looking for it later.

            @Anonymous: I found your analysis particularly interesting, because the city actually has almost no black people. My (public) school at the time was about 0.5% black, and I’d be extremely surprised if the figure was over 2% for the city. I know you were thinking on the level of states, but the difference was still striking.

            (Amusing anecdote for perspective: I was upset as a child when I learned about slavery in school because I didn’t think it would be fair for my friend, [very Indian first name] [very Indian last name], to be a slave. I wasn’t sure if he would have counted, but I didn’t know anyone else with brown skin.)

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          • Poxie says:

            TrivialGravitas:
            Yes, cops don’t hesitate to enforce non-existent laws, such as “filming cops is illegal” and “I can just take your drugs to use/sell.” That is a problem, but it’s not a “we have unconstitutional laws against blackface” – or, generalizing, an “OMG thought police” problem.

            Anonymous:
            Forgive me for not seeing all your “where-did-this-happen” detective work in your initial post: “Few other places are so batshit insane about blacks.” I’m giving you the side-eye here. Yes, your statement was “somewhat” inflammatory. Maybe a bit more than somewhat, if you think about it.

            Basicallyboss:
            This anecdote doesn’t sound like it’s going to demonstrate much of anything about the legality of blackface anywhere, given your caveats, but I’d still be interested in more specific details if you are comfortable sharing them.

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          • TrivialGravitas says:

            @Poxie Let me be more explicit: Laws are passed banning racist speech (usually with some sort of excuse like ‘disturbing the peace’ or ‘fighting words’ phrased in a way where only racist speech is penalized) and people are arrested and then convicted for violating those laws in the US. Next Appeals courts strike those laws down, and after that constitutional law professors (why people thought that spoke well of Obama…) come up with a new loophole and we start the whole thing over.

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      • Morkyz says:

        lol “yikes” i’m a poltard white nationalist and even I know there’s nothing wrong with having a state that enforces social norms of behavior and morality

        when you say blackface should be legal in the US, you are aggressively signaling that you think people have no right to their public spaces and public life, it’s the worst thing about libertarianism

        that’s why people hate klan rallies and the WBC, their whole MO is reminding people in a very obnoxious and juvenile way their their public spaces don’t belong to them

        i’m racist, but it’s nonsense to say that people should tolerate something as bad as people think racism is, basically

        whining about the laxest social standards being enshrined in law ITT lmao

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        • Nornagest says:

          I’m having a hard time working out what “a right to public spaces and public life” hashes out to, operationally. You want to enforce public morals by placing limits on expression and association? Okay, that’s historically common — current interpretation of the 1st Amendment rules all but the narrowest limits out, but interpretations change, or maybe you’re not American. But it’s not a right — or, if it is, it’s a right that belongs to the state, not to the people.

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          • Morkyz says:

            Not having people revel in violating community standards of morality, decency, and behavioral standards, generally. Obviously ideally people would just ignore that sort of thing and wait until it goes away, but they aren’t obligated to, in my opinion.

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        • TrivialGravitas says:

          You’re really making a defense about obscenity standards. The jurisprudence here being flat out yes you can ban obscenity and instead arguing about what actually counts as obscene. That blackface is obscene is a perfectly defensible position. What violates the constitution, and the sacred values of people for who free speech is a sacred value, is a law that only bans obscenity with a specific type of message.

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    • Morkyz says:

      how degenerate do you have to be to not even be able to follow your own county’s state religion without incidents like this?

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  24. Jiro says:

    This week in academic intolerance: Christian college kicks out professor who says Christians and Muslims worship the same god. I didn’t even know that was up for debate!

    I don’t see why it wouldn’t be up for debate. If I insist that William Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays, but when pressed to describe the attributes of William Shakespeare I say that he has the name Roger Bacon, lived in Bacon’s time, etc., have I *really* said that Shakespeare wrote his own plays? If I don’t attribute to the writer the attributes that you associate with Shakespeare, in what sense am I actually claiming that Shakespeare is the writer?

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    • Samuel Skinner says:

      What properties are you referring to? Because the trinity isn’t a requirement to be a Christian, much less believe in the God of Abraham (who notably didn’t believe in the trinity).

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      • Jiro says:

        A whole bunch of different things down to “sent Mohammed as his prophet” or “divinely inspired the Bible” or “has a set of commands that fit into this cluster instead of that one”.

        There are probably secularized Christians and Muslims whose idea of God is vague enough that they don’t have conflicts of this sort, but they wouldn’t be typical.

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        • DavidS says:

          It feels to me though that the question of ‘is it the same God’ is more about whether people are pointing at the same thing than whether they are describing it the same way. Muslims and Christians agree on such large amounts about God’s actions as Scott has pointed out, that it seems to me that the argument is a dispute about a shared God rather than anything else.

          Christianity sees itself as the capstone on Judaism, Islam sees Muhammed as the ‘Seal of the Prophets’ (as in the OT prophets and Jesus)… in both cases the ‘newer’ religion very clearly identifies itself as talking about the same thing as the previous ones.

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          • Deiseach says:

            Do all Jews accept that Christians worship the same God as they do? There has been some acerbic comment on “Unsong” about “Judaeo-Christian values” that those values are all Christian and nothing Jewish, so plainly some Jews do not accept that Christians are co-believers.

            For the same reasons, some Muslims and some Christians don’t believe that Allah is the same as the Christian God. I don’t know the full story behind the Wheaton College professor, and it seems murky on all sides, but on the other side Malaysia, for one, has banned the use of “Allah” as a reference to God by any non-Muslims.

            My own view? Yes, you can legitimately talk about the Abrahamic religions as worshipping the same God, but I understand why some Muslims and some Jews and some Christians would object to that.

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          • Jiro says:

            Muslims and Christians agree on such large amounts about God’s actions as Scott has pointed out, that it seems to me that the argument is a dispute about a shared God rather than anything else.

            With the Shakespeare/Bacon analogy me and you agree on Shakespeare’s actions (writing the same plays), it’s just Shakespeare’s name, time and place of birth, etc. that we disagree on.

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          • brad says:

            A similar dispute actually exists: there are Stratfordian and Anti-Stratfordian. But even if the guy who wrote the plays wasn’t the guy who left his second best bed to his wife but was instead the Earl of Oxford, he was still in a quite relevant sense “Shakespeare”.

            An Oxfordian and a Stratfordian are both fans of the same playwright regardless of which one turns out to be correct about the details of his birth.

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          • Jiro says:

            People who believe that Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare also actually exist.

            But it would be absurd to say “they think the same guy wrote Shakespeare’s plays as you do, they just disagree on his name, place of birth, occupation, residence, appearance, etc.”

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          • DavidS says:

            @Deisach

            “There has been some acerbic comment on “Unsong” about “Judaeo-Christian values” that those values are all Christian and nothing Jewish, so plainly some Jews do not accept that Christians are co-believers.”

            Surely different values doesn’t mean different God? People argue about Catholic v. Protestant values (Protestants have a work ethic, dontcha know!) and I don’t think this means they’re arguing the two have different Gods!

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          • Earthly Knight says:

            It is Francis Bacon who some people put forward as the author of the plays traditionally attributed to Shakespeare. Roger Bacon lived three centuries too early and wrote in Latin.

            Question: when Jiro mistakenly identified Roger Bacon as a principal figure in the Shakespeare authorship controversy, was he referring to Roger Bacon, the man christened with that name, or Francis Bacon, the man who actually fits that description?

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Whoa whoa whoa. Let’s not just go assuming that Francis Bacon and Roger Bacon don’t refer to the same person.

            At the very least we should leave professors free to conflate them, for the sake of academic freedom.

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          • Jiro says:

            In defense of the Bacon mistake, I will have to invoke Science Made Stupid (I hope the link to a single page works).

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          • Douglas Knight says:

            That worked, but for posterity, it’s probably best to save to imgur.

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      • The Trinity is totally a requirement to be a Christian.

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