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

Open Thread 51.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

(remember, we have a three-day moratorium on politicizing tragedies)

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760 Responses to Open Thread 51.5

  1. The original Mr. X says:

    What do SSC readers think about Brexit? Will the UK vote to leave the EU, should the UK vote to leave the EU, and what would be the ramifications of either result?

    ETA: Also, first!

    • Chrysophylax says:

      1. According to the prediction and betting markets, probably not.

      2. HELL no, it’s economically and geopolitically insane. The standard answer to the question “What do almost all economists think is a really good as-yet-unimplemented policy idea?” is “Free trade!”. This is because the arguments are really, *really* one-sided.

      A useful tool for a lot of debates is “finding the real null hypothesis”. If everything follows the usual rules, what would you expect? This is linked to looking for deep causal generalisations rather than surface generalisations caused by them (see https://arbital.com/p/extraordinary_claims/). For example, anthropogenic climate change seems at first glance to be an extraordinary claim that requires strong evidence, because the global temperature has been within a certain range for a long time; but in fact it’s the default thing you ought to expect based on how cardon dioxide behaves. You would need to make a special argument for why temperatures *wouldn’t* rise.

      Similarly, we can see that if the normal rules about economics and pliticvs hold true, leaving the world’s largest market and a major world power is a terrible idea. We ought to require that the evidence be strongly in favour of Brexit before we expect it to not be a disaster.

      3. In: an awful lot of grumbling from the Out side, money starts flowing back into the UK, political fallout uncertain. Out: probably a recession, general long-term decline of the UK as a political and economic power, probable damage to the integrity of Europe, possibly another Scottish independence referendum, very uncertain impact on the Conservative Party. Either way, internal politics will get shaken up; a career or two will probably end.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The EU’s actually quite protectionist with everybody outside itself, so the free trade argument is less clear-cut than point no. 2 implies.

      • “The standard answer to the question “What do almost all economists think is a really good as-yet-unimplemented policy idea?” is “Free trade!”.”

        That would be an argument against leaving a free trade zone, but the E.U. has gone a long way past that in the direction of becoming the United States of Europe. Insofar as economics has anything to say on the topic, it would suggest that there is something to be said for having multiple governments competing with each other.

        In addition, being in the EU provides free trade with other members but tariff barriers against countries not in the EU. If the U.K. left the E.U. and abolished all its tariffs (not likely), that would be a shift in the direction of free trade. As best I recall, one of the issues when the U.K. originally joined was that doing so required it to erect barriers against Commonwealth countries.

        A big issue is free migration. Economics suggest that that is a good thing, provided immigrants come to work rather than to free ride on the welfare system. There seems to be some question on to what degree the U.K. can insist on that within the E.U.

        And here again, migration is free within the E.U. but not from countries elsewhere. A recent news story claimed that curry chefs in England were in favor of Brexit, because they thought it would make it easier for them to import labor, presumably from India and Pakistan and Bangla Desh.

        • Tibor says:

          However, as far as I can say the sentiment in the UK today is generally rather anti-immigration.

          The UK also has a lot of exempts from the EU rules (in fact many countries do to various degrees), so that for example now the EU is discussing quotas for asylum seekers (so that they would be redistributed among the member countries…how that could possibly work together with Schengen and accepting people with no documents on them I don’t know but anyway) but regardless of the final decision, the UK is not involved as it is not a part of the Schengen Zone. Also it can (this was the latest concession in order to convince them not to leave), postpone welfare payments to citizens of other member countries.

          But it is true that it probably would not be possible to negotiate a deal where the UK could have its own tariff policy while staying in the EU.

        • Ano says:

          2% is pretty damn big (it’s the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of jobs) and a shock that large could depress the economy for a while.

    • Ruprect says:

      Anyone with half a brain-cell supports in – leaving the EU would be a disaster – the Germans would certainly punish the UK if we tried to leave (no more trade for us) otherwise it could lead to the collapse of the entire EU project. I think it’s time for the “little Englanders” to realise just how little England is – we can’t do anything on our own, and we can’t stand up to a hostile Germany.
      I think the vote will be for IN because there is just no way Britain can leave.

      • “Anyone with half a brain-cell supports in”

        Anyone who starts his comment on some controversial policy question that way probably doesn’t understand the arguments on the other side.

        Do you really believe that there are no intelligent people who support Brexit?

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          Part of what makes the debate difficult is that all the prominent individuals who support Brexit do appear stupid. On the right, there is Farage and Boris Johnson, on the left is George Galloway and (although they don’t admit it publicly) the new hard-left leaders of the Labour party. The only pro-Brexit celebrity I can think of is Katie Hopkins. Of course, this doesn’t mean Brexit is wrong. But it does make it seem like no-one intelligent supports it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Boris Johnson certainly isn’t stupid, his public persona notwithstanding. Michael Gove doesn’t seem notably dim either.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            I agree, and I don’t think Farage is particularly stupid either. But Boris certainly appears it.

          • Matt M says:

            When you define “intelligent” as “supports leftist policies” then yeah, this sort of thing tends to happen. The overwhelming majority of American celebrities are also pro global government and anti national sovereignty.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @Matt M
            Are you suggesting that there are intelligent pro-Brexit celebrities I’m ignoring? I’m not defining anything, just stating facts as I see them.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t know enough about Brexit or British celebrities to make that judgment.

            But I do know that if you decided political issues in America based on polling celebrities, the most leftist option would win 100% of the time.

            That does not strike as evidence that leftist positions are superior.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            “Of course, this doesn’t mean Brexit is wrong”
            I’m not claiming that celebrity endorsement makes Bremaining the right decision, just explaining why someone might think” no intelligent people support Brexit”.

          • PedroS says:

            Sweeney Rod said:

            “I’m not claiming that celebrity endorsement makes Bremaining the right decision, just explaining why someone might think” no intelligent people support Brexit”.”

            Why would celebrity endorsement of a position lead someone to think that there are intelligent people supporting that position? There is no causal relation between someone’s high intelligence and their celebrity status: if anything I would expect most celebrities to be people of median intelligence and average run-of-the-mill opinions. Crowds of every era are known to take a strong dislike to innovative opinions, and to resent being “lectured” by people of acknowledged high intelligence: “intellectual” and “egghead” are, after all, pejorative words for many people.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @PedroS

            For one thing, many famous British comedians and actors are Oxbridge educated.

        • Ruprect says:

          Well, I suppose it’s a bit like global warming deniers – you may well find a few intelligent people who’ll get a thrill from advocating a mad cause – I’m sure that there are intelligent racists – but their minds are slaves to squalid, irrational, causes. To all intents and purposes they have chosen to make themselves fools.

          And, yes, I’m sure some evil genius could tell me that (a+bn)/n=x, and therefore brexit – and I wouldn’t be able to counter it – but we can all see that the Prime Minister, Chancellor, the Bank of England, IMF, the vast majority of experts are saying that it would be a disaster. In such a situation, any (normal) person who doesn’t agree is just ignoring the evidence (probably because they don’t like foreigners).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, time was when the experts (many of them the same people) were predicting that Britain would get frozen out of the EU trading bloc and spiral into economic decline unless it adopted the Euro. I wonder how that prediction’s working out?

          • Ruprect says:

            As rationalists, even if we make the wrong decision, we should aim to do so for the right reasons.
            Making the right decision for the wrong reasons, with no evidence, is irrational.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If somebody’s predictions about similar topics have been wrong in the past, there’s nothing irrational about taking their current predictions with a grain of salt.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            The Prime Minister only supports Bremaining by a quirk of circumstance, in that it is pretty arbitrary that he is leader of the Conservatives rather than Boris or Gove. The Chancellor is not an economic expert, he has history degree.

            The article I could find (from the FT) had 76 of 100 economists saying leaving would have negative effects in the medium term (no details on how negative). I wouldn’t call that an overwhelming majority, it’s not the classic 97% of scientists who believe in climate change. In any case, predicting economic effects is really hard. Those statistics don’t convince me that Brexit would have major negative effects (it might, my position is that no-one knows).

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Ruprect – “…but we can all see that the Prime Minister, Chancellor, the Bank of England, IMF, the vast majority of experts are saying that it would be a disaster. ”

            And in your experience, are the predictions of Prime Ministers, Chancellors, Bankers, the IMF, and “the vast majority of experts” on any given politically fraught topic likely to be more accurate than throwing darts at a dictionary?

          • I don’t know how defensible your point about global warming deniers is, because I don’t know what claim one has to deny to be a global warming denier. Here is a short list:

            1. Average global temperature has been trending up for about the past century.

            2. A substantial part of the cause is the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels.

            3. The net result of continued warming will clearly be to make humans substantially worse off.

            4. There are clearly things worth doing to reduce warming which are worth their cost.

            5. If nothing is done, the result of warming will be not merely negative but catastrophic, something between hundreds of millions of people dead and the elimination of the human race.

            I believe there are experts in the field who deny that we can be sure of 2, argue that we don’t know enough about the subject to be confident that humans are one of the main causes. I believe the current IPCC claim is only that humans are the main cause from about the middle of the 20th century on, which leaves out almost half of the warming since 1911.

            I would deny everything from 3 on. I put “clearly” in at several points because my view is not that we know warming won’t have net negative effects but that we have no good reason to be confident it will. I’ve discussed the question at some length on my blog if you are curious.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Ruprect: I don’t give a damn what reasons you have, so long as you make the right decision.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Obviously leaving would be a disaster, does anyone remember what a third world shithole the UK was before 2000?

            Oh. Right. Nevermind.

          • nydwracu says:

            As rationalists, even if we make the wrong decision, we should aim to do so for the right reasons.
            Making the right decision for the wrong reasons, with no evidence, is irrational.

            If you make the wrong decision, you’re wrong. If you make the right decision, you’re right. Reasons don’t matter except insofar as having the right reasons helps you make the right decisions.

          • Nydwracu:

            If you make the wrong decision, you’re wrong. If you make the right decision, you’re right. Reasons don’t matter except insofar as having the right reasons helps you make the right decisions.

            Unless you understand reasons properly, you’re likely to evaluate your decisions badly. One example is what poker players call being “results-oriented”: deciding to call a raise on the river isn’t a good decision if 90% of the time he’s not bluffing, even if this time he had air.

          • Anonymous says:

            Rationality is about winning, not about losing the right way.

          • Frog Do says:

            @Andrew Hunter

            This is the key difference between rationalists and post-rationalists. Rationalists take all the literature on cognitive biases, probability and statistics, and sociology. Then, they place a high degree of confidence in their ability to understand the world. Post-rationalists look at the same information, and place a low degree of confidence in their ability to understand the world.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        [The UK] can’t stand up to a hostile Germany.

        Could’ve fooled me. You seemed to do fine the last two times.

        More seriously, if Britian is really that dependent on the mainland to the extent that those sorts of threats carry weight… wouldn’t that be all the more reason to leave? Why let a foreign country have that much power over you?

        • Winfried says:

          If they have an intolerable amount of power over you, the answer is to bind yourself even closer.

        • Galle says:

          Because leaving won’t solve the issue. The reason the EU has so much power over Britain isn’t that Britain just lets it, it’s that the EU is the local power in the region and splendid isolation stopped being an option when we moved the capital of the British Empire to D.C.

      • Tibor says:

        I don’t think the threats Schäuble made about the Brexit are very credible. Setting up tariffs on goods from Britain would be costly for both sides. There are countries in the EU today who already have quite big economic problems (not just Greece but the much bigger France, Spain is also not doing so great with its 22% unemployment rate). In any case, a “retaliation” such as this only makes sense in order to demotivate other countries from leaving the EU. But it is a double edged sword, not just because it is costly but also because people usually don’t like to be threatened, especially if the anti-EU sentiment is already quite high in many countries. Of course Schäuble says this mostly a) to convince people in Britain to vote against leaving the EU, b) to get a hardliner image at home. But I call it a bluff.

        What I find very irritating and what the IN people tend to ignore is that staying out does not necessarily mean no trade with the continent, in fact I would be surprised if there were any actual trade barriers imposed by either side.

        • TD says:

          There’s a lot of double-speak going on of the “Britain is too small and unimportant to survive outside of the EU” – “Britain is too big and important to leave the EU” variety, so I’m pretty sure that trade deals will be negotiated in very short order in the event of a Brexit.

          • Matt M says:

            I also like the notion that the responsibility for whatever punitive economic measures the EU might take against the UK should they leave rests solely on the UK, and not on the remaining EU nations.

            Like, we just take it as a given that the rest of the EU will increase its tariffs to “punish” the UK, but rather than say, “Hey Europe, that sounds like kind of a jerk thing to do – so how about not doing it?” we say “Man the British are so stupid don’t they realize this will mess up their economy!”

        • Jiro says:

          What are the two sides of the policy question of teaching creationism as science in schools?

          • Frog Do says:

            “But there is no reason for complex actions with many consequences to exhibit this onesidedness property. Why do people seem to want their policy debates to be one-sided?”

            Support your assertion that “teaching creationism as science” is a complicated, complex issue with nonobvious consequences.

            Edit: I forgot, one is not supposed to feed trolls.

          • The argument for offering both creationism and evolution is that kids learn better when they are interested, and getting them to argue one side or another of an issue is one way of getting them interested.

            That wouldn’t be an argument for teaching only creationism, of course, but it would be an argument for offering arguments for both positions, ideally made in each case by someone who believes them. And evaluating the kids not by what conclusion they reach but by how well they can explain and respond to arguments on each side.

            That would be likely to be more educational than giving them a scientifically accurate account of the evidence for evolution (not something I would count on in most schools) and expecting them to memorize enough of it to pass the final then forget it. The ability to understand and evaluate arguments is likely to be more useful to them than correct beliefs about evolution.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @David Friedman:

            Should creationism be taught as bare facts, or in a “religious studies” sort of context? Additionally, whose creation myths do we use?

          • Pku says:

            @David Friedman: I agree with the idea, but I don’t think creationism v. evolution is a good place to implement it – it’s too politicized to make a good place for abstract arguments (especially if the teacher has strong political convictions). I’d go with something like offering different theories of gravity, or phlogiston or something.

          • Chalid says:

            @David Friedman Do you think that that is “the” argument, or are you steelmanning here? I don’t think that your statement effectively characterizes the “pro-creationism in schools” arguments that I’ve encountered but I haven’t paid very much attention to that debate in a long time.

          • bean says:

            The argument for offering both creationism and evolution is that kids learn better when they are interested, and getting them to argue one side or another of an issue is one way of getting them interested.
            I was given an interesting paper a couple years ago on this. (No, I don’t have a copy. It was paper, and I think I lost it.) A professor somewhere had done a study on student attitudes towards evolution and creationism before and after freshman biology classes at his university, which were taught slightly differently. One class was pretty basic, one had a strong focus on evolution, and one actually engaged with ID/creationism. The really interesting thing was that students moved most towards evolution in the ID/creationism class, and moved least in the strong evolution class. I’m not sure what it did on comprehension, but it was more effective in teaching evolution attitudes.
            The infuriating thing is that I was given this by the guy teaching the absolutely appalling class on evolution at my church (I’m agnostic on what actually happened re evolution, but he did a horrible job of ‘debunking’ evolution, and they’d shut down all other classes for the summer). He said it was about how they were trying to convert students in college, and totally missed the fact that it at least strongly indicated that both sides are advocating for policies that benefit each other.
            I wish I’d written down the name of that paper.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @Frog Do
            Well, that’s kind of the entire reason people have political arguments. I could equally say that gun control isn’t a complex issue and therefore I am justified in making one-sided claims about it. It’s the same for any political issue.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @ Pku,

            I think the controversial nature of the question is precisely why it should be debated. Schools tell kids that science is great because it gives us methods for objectively evaluating truth claims. And then as soon as a live issue comes up, we turn tail and run away. What does this end up teaching kids about science?

          • Pku says:

            @Jaskologist: That’s a good point. Qualms I still have, though:

            a) We say that to kids, but we don’t really teach it to them at any point – physics class just teaches the correct theory, not how to reach it. There should probably be a move towards teaching kids how to find the correct theory over just quoting it (the science equivalent of Lockhart’s lament), but I’m not sure if controversial topics are the best place to start – the advantage is that it’s more likely to interest them, but the disadvantage is that they’re more likely to come in with a preexisting bias. Which is fine eventually but not where I’d want to start.

            b) This also depends on teacher quality. Can you trust most teachers to present it as a scientific issue and not get emotionally caught up themselves? If so it’s great, but if not you risk it becoming a “look how stupid the outgroup is to believe this ridiculous theory” class. At least if you teach evolution as a purely scientific theory you can sort of avoid that.

          • Jiro says:

            The point of the creationism question is that there aren’t two sides to teaching it as science. It’s a policy question which is one-sided because the policy question depends on a factual question (is it science) and the factual question is one-sided (it’s not science).

            It seems like a lot of people responding to this missed the “teach as science”. Yes, you could use it for teaching about science. Yes, you could use it in teaching to let the kids find out for themselves whether it can be supported scientifically. But that really wasn’t what I was asking. “Should you teach creationism in public schools in the same way that you teach that the planet Saturn has rings and that air contains oxygen” is a policy question that has only one side: “No.”

          • Jill says:

            If you should teach creationism in science class, you should also teach the theory that the Flying Spaghetti monster created the world, plus all other religious theories of creation. I guess you wouldn’t have time for any other classes besides science, if you were going to teach all that though.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The problem with teaching creationism in science class is that, if it doesn correctly (in a “less wrong” kind of way) it’s going to end up shitting all over the creation myth of anyone who seriously believes in creation myths.

            And if you tell me that you can teach evolution alongside creationism and come out neutral on which is correct, then I am going to tell you have stopped teaching science.

            So, in any place where the whole issue is a going concern, if I come in and teach your kids “evolution vs. creationism” you are going to end up being very pissed off and right letters of complaint and try and get me fired, etc. It will not have solved the problem that people here want it to solve.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Hello there, Jill from this fractional Open Thread. Allow me to introduce you to Jill from the previous fractional arguing against the dangers of believing evolution applies to humans.

          • Frog Do says:

            @Sweeneyrod
            This is more or less a corollary of Godwin’s Law. Jiro did not bring up teaching creationism as science in order to discuss politics in a nuanced way, he picked a tribal signifier and phrased it as a tribal signifier to indicate his belief that politics is simple.

            You can say gun control isn’t a complex issue, and you’d be wrong. You can say teaching creationism in schools, whether “as science (he meant to say orthodoxy, of course)” is a simple issue, and you’d still be wrong. If there’s one thing that should be obvious, it’s that politics is hard. Saying any policy is simple in a liberal society is a stupid dominance play that translates to “my tribe should rule”.

          • “Should creationism be taught as bare facts, or in a “religious studies” sort of context? ”

            To begin with I didn’t say it should be taught, I said there was an argument for teaching it, and offered one.

            In the context I gave, it should be taught as “here is the view some people have of how the living things we observe came to be, here is the different view other people have, here are arguments for each side.”

            I’m dubious about K-12 teachers teaching “bare facts” if that means facts that they assert are indisputably true, given how much I was taught in a very good private high school that was false.

          • “I’d go with something like offering different theories of gravity, or phlogiston or something.”

            I think the fact that it is a politically live issue is an argument in favor. First, it makes it more likely that the kids will be interested. Second, it means you may be able to find articulate defenders of both sides. Anyone defending phlogiston theory is almost certain to be someone who doesn’t believe it and is doing it for a game, probably badly. That teaches the wrong lesson.

          • “Do you think that that is “the” argument, or are you steelmanning here? ”

            I assume that most people arguing for creationism in schools believe it’s true and would prefer that evolution not be taught. I was trying to demonstrate that there was a reasonable argument that could be made for teaching both.

          • “Can you trust most teachers to present it as a scientific issue and not get emotionally caught up themselves?”

            No. That’s why I’m arguing that you should try to get each side presented by someone reasonably competent who believes it.

          • “If you should teach creationism in science class, you should also teach the theory that the Flying Spaghetti monster created the world”

            There’s a limited amount of time. If belief in the flying spaghetti monster is common enough so that some of the kids will be on each side, and if there are intelligent and articulate supporters of that belief, then maybe you should use it instead of creationism. My point isn’t that you have to teach creationism because some people believe in it. It’s that evolution vs creationism could be used as part of education–where reaching the correct view on that question isn’t the central point. Other things could be used that way too.

          • “And if you tell me that you can teach evolution alongside creationism and come out neutral on which is correct, then I am going to tell you have stopped teaching science.”

            You can teach that the controversy exists, make it clear that you are not neutral, give someone on the other side an opportunity to make his arguments and, ideally, the kids opportunities to argue with both of you and each other.

          • Jill says:

            In an ideal world, where schools are functioning pretty well, and teachers are obviously up to taking on an extra responsibility, I would love to see this happen. In the one we have now, it seems like it would be adding extra responsibilities into a system that isn’t functioning very well to begin with.

            Or maybe this could happen in Debate class. Maybe that teacher would be up to it.

          • Let me step back from the creationism issue to say something about the basis for my general point about the educational value of argument.

            In high school, my social studies teacher was a liberal. A nice, tolerant one who had no objection to being argued with. It was perhaps a little unfair, since part of what we were arguing about involved the origins of the Great Depression and I had immediate access to one of the world’s leading experts on the subject—on the other hand the textbook was on his side, which gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that it was not merely biased but dishonest.

            But I expect we argued about other things too. I found it both enjoyable and educational, my guess is that at least some of the other students did too although I, being a self-centered fifteen year old, was probably paying very little attention to their reactions.

            At about the same time I was arguing politics with one of my best friends, also liberal, and recreating in somewhat simpler form some of what Nozick presented in Anarchy, State and Utopia. Since then I’ve argued with a lot of people about a lot of things, both online and in real space. It gives you an incentive to look up facts, to find holes in your arguments and try to fix them, to shift away from positions you find you can’t defend, … .

            Learning to think is more important than learning whether evolution is or is not correct.

          • Jill says:

            “Learning to think is more important than learning whether evolution is or is not correct.”

            That certainly makes sense. I suppose schools and/or teachers could decide on an individual basis whether they were up to the task of doing this or not. It seems like a good idea for those who can. Your high school experience sounds great.

          • Richard says:

            @ David Friedman

            I have some limited experience with teaching, and I suspected your high-school teacher dreaded waking up in the morning.

            Which leads me to my 2 cents on this issue: Around here, we’ve been trying for a while to introduce something based closely on the IB Theory of Knowledge course in regular high schools. We have run up against a couple of unexpected problems:

            * It seems a large minority of teachers are incapable of understanding the concept of epistemology.
            * An even larger minority don’t believe in objective truth at all
            * A third minority don’t see why such a thing should take time away from test-prep for standardised tests.

            Together they form a majority of teachers which makes the whole project difficult.

            I suspect we need a different kind of teacher in order to boot-strap something that would allow teaching people to think using live controversies.

          • Jiro says:

            You can teach that the controversy exists, make it clear that you are not neutral, give someone on the other side an opportunity to make his arguments and, ideally, the kids opportunities to argue with both of you and each other.

            You could do those things, but they are different than the question I asked. If the policy question is “should you teach creationism in public schools as science”, the answer is “no”. Eliezer is wrong; I have identified a policy question that is one-sided. The fact that you can make it two sided by answering a slightly different question than the one I asked doesn’t change this.

            And I picked creationism as an example because since there are people actually trying to get it taught as science, you can’t fight the hypothetical on it. I could equally ask “should homeopathy be taught in public schools as science”. That would also be a one-sided policy question, but if I tried that, everyone would say “well, nobody’s trying to get it taught as science”.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David Friedman
            I think the fact that Creationism is a politically live issue is an argument in favor.

            Yes. I agree with everything in this comment.

            AGW might fit your requirements even better. Serious proponents on both sides, and symmetrical bodies of evidence: it’s all modern science, measurements and math and such.

            If that makes it too dry for some students, there are more accessible side-issues, such as your idea of a ‘net positive’ effect. Thank you for the material on beef in Siberia. No time to go into it lately … but imo it is adequately debatable.

          • Matt M says:

            Jiro,

            How about this:

            You should teach evolution as science in school because a very large amount of the people paying for the school want you to do so.

            Representative democracy, blah blah blah…

          • The Nybbler says:

            David Friedman, I think the biggest problem with your educational ideas is you assume the students are at least almost as bright as David Friedman. Unfortunately, most people aren’t going to be learning advanced math from their own lecture notes, nor plotting publishable novels in their head just as a method to go to sleep. Most students (like most people) are basically unintelligent, and most of the rest aren’t much brighter; forget debates about science, a lot of them are still struggling with fractions in high school.

            So even if you could solve the teacher problem Richard brings up, there’s still the student problem.

          • onyomi says:

            “In an ideal world, where schools are functioning pretty well, and teachers are obviously up to taking on an extra responsibility”

            I definitely think we’d be better off if every teacher were John Taylor Gatto, but we currently don’t train teachers nor enable them to be anything like that.

            I personally realized, after becoming a university teacher, that being a TA had been very insufficient preparation for teaching effectively, and that was even for fairly advantaged, older students. How much more challenging must it be to effectively teach poorer, younger students?

            Activities like structured debates, discussion groups, invited guests, etc. are definitely much more effective than just bland lectures on facts, in my experience. Problem is, they are also a lot more work for the teacher to come up with, to organize, etc.

            But there are probably ways to make it easier for teachers both to learn and execute this sort of thing.

          • Tibor says:

            @The Nybbler: I think the problem is more (although not solely) on the side of the teachers. The pattern where you basically recite the textbook to the students is much easier for the teacher. True, it is also much more boring. But I think most teachers prefer that to actually being more active, perhaps save for issues that interest them personally. A solution would be to have people teach things they actually are interested in. Say in a history class you don’t really need the same teacher for the whole course, you could have people teach the parts they like. My mother is a primary school teacher. I know she’s already quite tired of her work and not very enthusiastic about doing much extra. But when she teaches holocaust, she is, because she finds the topic important (I would say close to being obsessed with it…quite a few of her Jewish relatives died in the concentration camps…but she gives me the same feeling of living in the past as the state of Israel does 🙂 ). I am not present at the lectures but from what she tells me I get the impression that the students are more interested as well. Yes, people are lazy. But someone who can present something in a sufficiently interesting way or better yet, a topic the people are themselves interested in (IMO one of the strongest arguments for unschooling is that people learn much more effectively it is something they are genuinely interested in and that far than outweighs the possible later start – with a foreign language for example) can be an incredible motivation to do stuff. When this is combined with “peer pressure” (if I don’t do the research those who disagree with me in the class on the given topic will be able to argue much better than me) I think that suddenly most students won’t be lazy. I am not going to say none. I think there are people who just are not intellectually interested in anything, but I would say there are a minority. The fact that many people associate learning with boredom has more to do with how learning is presented at school than with them being stupid or uninterested about the world.

            I don’t think you can do too much within the traditional schooling system though, especially as it is very resistant to any change (an evidence of which is among other things that the curriculum of today is conspicuously similar to that of the 19th century, at least in Europe, despite the fact that society has changed quite a lot since then, not to mention technology…the idea of somehow using the technology in the education usually means introducing expensive useless toys such as interactive blackboards or tablets to the classroom).

            EDIT: Note that when I say Europe I usually mean continental Europe, even more specifically central Europe and I am only very confident about the Czech, Slovakian, Austrian and German schooling all of which come from the same schooling tradition.

          • “I have some limited experience with teaching, and I suspected your high-school teacher dreaded waking up in the morning.”

            It’s possible, but I saw no evidence of it. And I also have some experience with teaching.

            I was a minor problem for my chemistry teacher (also a nice guy), because he had a standard way of solving problems and I preferred to invent an ingenious way of looking at each one. We got the same answer, but of course when he asked the class “did anyone solve this in a different way” I always put up my hand.

            He was very happy when, on an exam, I did every problem his way because it was faster, although less fun, than my way.

            I was at least sufficiently observant to spot that, so I suspect I would have noticed if being argued with was bothering my social studies teacher.

          • @ Nybbler:

            You have a legitimate point–I’ve lived my life mostly in a high intelligence bubble, which surely biases my views. The high school where I was describing my experiences was the same one to which Obama, many years later, sent his children–run by the University of Chicago, with quite a lot of faculty kids attending.

            On the other hand, participating as I do in climate arguments on Facebook, I’ve seen an awful lot of not very smart people put time and effort into trying to argue for their ideology/tribe/or whatever.

            And “believe whatever your teacher and textbook tell you” is a very bad lesson to teach.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @HeelBearCub – “The problem with teaching creationism in science class is that, if it doesn correctly (in a “less wrong” kind of way) it’s going to end up shitting all over the creation myth of anyone who seriously believes in creation myths.”

          I’m not familiar with the less-wrongian way, but off the top of my head…

          Drake’s equation/The Great Filter, various issues with the likelihood of life arising at all, etc etc are the best counter-arguments I’m aware of to the consensus “origins of life” story. Point out that while life originating from non-life seems improbable, maybe even highly improbable, it’s not impossible and it is an explanation that restricts itself to known science. Other possible explanations, such as creation via deity or universal-simulation-programmer, are not and so Science (though not necessarily scientists) stick with the former.

          Objections?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Evolution has little to nothing to say about abiogenesis, and that isn’t the “creation story” we are talking about.

            If you want to teach evolution the way the Catholics do, or at least they all used to, then you won’t have to teach creation at all. Catholics basically just say, “the evidence for evolution means God must have decided evolution was the way he wanted the diversity of life to arise”. And they sort of mumble “non-overlapping magisteria” and they don’t try and bring creationism in to evolution at all.

            But the going issue on teaching creation vs. evolution is YEC (young earth creationism) which springs right from Genesis and believes the world to be 6 to 10 thousand years old, depending on who is doing the counting. That version is not compatible with science.

        • Jill says:

          Jaskologist

          Congratulations, your interpretation of what I said on that previous thread wins the Misinterpretation prize of the week. I said nothing like what you claim I did.

          • Anonymous says:

            Would you like to explain how believing in evolution is compatible with not believing in HBD?

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            As discussed previously, disbelievers n HBD aren’t disbeleveing in the scientific horse, they are disagreeing with the political soldiers hidden inside it.

          • Anonymous says:

            They sure talk as if the horse did not exist, though.

            Do you think JayMan – who is definitely pro-HBD, vociferously so – is politically behind HBD as imagined by the disbelievers?

          • Jaskologist says:

            That the issue was being used to corrupt the morals of the children is the argument William Jennings Bryan used as well. In that case, he was working to keep out a textbook which literally said that the negro type was inferior to the rest, and we should really figure out how to eliminate them. For this, my public school education taught me that he was bad, and everybody on his side should feel bad.

            I don’t see any substantial difference between his argument and the anti-HBD crowd, except that he used more Bible verses. If it is dangerous to teach that natural selection applies to humans, it’s probably dangerous to teach natural selection at all. At least Bryan cut it off at a more self-consistent point.

          • Chalid says:

            Ugh, this sort of lazy gotcha is the reason we get overrun with anonymii.

            C’mon, Jaskologist, you see *no way* to reconcile those posts? If not you’re working pretty hard at being uncharitable.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            If people like JayMan and HBDchick are just apolitical scientists, why aren’t they quacking like scientists, and publishing quietly in journals? Why are they publishing loudly on the interwebs? They might not be as right wing as some….but saying the HBD movement is apolitical is hardly credible.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe because they are offended by the blatant lies promulgated by mainstream politics relating to their field of expertise? “Do your science and publish quietly” might work for some people – maybe publishing post-humously with the appropriate pieties paid to the authorities – but some people will be just “no, fuck you, the Earth orbits the Sun, not the other way around”, even if they don’t have fully demonstrable proof.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Oh dear, comparing other people to Galileo.

            Before you posted, I was just lacking evidence that HBD was science. Now I am lacking evidence of the Conspiracy to Suppress the Truth.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Before you posted, I was just lacking evidence that HBD was science.

            Type in “jayman”. Now click on “HBD fundamentals”.

      • Ano says:

        > Anyone with half a brain-cell supports in – leaving the EU would be a disaster – the Germans would certainly punish the UK if we tried to leave (no more trade for us) otherwise it could lead to the collapse of the entire EU project.

        I think that’s uncharitable, there are rational reasons to support Brexit even if I think that Remain has a stronger case. It’s also hard to judge exactly how the UK will relate to the EU post-Brexit. The EU needs to trade with us as much as we need to trade with them, after all.

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      I don’t know what we will do any better than the polls. Most but by no means all of the people I know want to remain, but they are certainly not a representative sample of the population at large.

      Obvious things I like about the EU are the single market, freedom of movement, a big central government that can do things like have a space agency and impose useful regulation, and the way it gives us a bigger impact in international affairs. Less obvious things are the way it has contributed to peace and democracy in Eastern Europe.

      Things I don’t like about it: tariffs it imposes on international trade, its tendency to slowly make Europe politically homogeneous, its seeming lack of democracy, and the general disadvantages of centralised government it possesses. I think given the option of staying vs leaving and having a government that doesn’t impose tariffs or majorly restrict immigration, I would choose to leave. But that isn’t the choice, so I’m not sure.

      • Deiseach says:

        The irony of people who still get misty-eyed over the British Empire complaining that “We’re losing our autonomy to Brussels! A foreign body can impose its laws over our own national parliament!” is not lost on this Irish person.

        I don’t know if the UK will vote to leave. I can see why people might want to do so (e.g. to piss off the Tories) and there is a certain amount of nostalgia over “We were a world power once, we can do just fine on our own”. Particularly since Mrs Thatcher’s time, there has been the impression that the UK was paying in more to the EU than it was getting back (I think they’ll get a shock if farm subsidies are lost if they leave, but that’s a different matter).

        Especially when the UK doesn’t have the euro (which is really a pain in the backside trying to purchase stuff from UK websites and the rest, though they are happy to quote prices in euro and charge you in euro which is then converted back into sterling when it comes to the bank payment) so I think they feel that they have their own currency, outside of the EU they have Australia/New Zealand/Canada for cheap agricultural imports, they can do better making their own deals as a separate entity.

        I don’t think it would be good for the UK (it might benefit the economy in certain sectors, but a slice of the financial markets making a killing won’t trickle down to jobs in the former industrialised regions) as a whole, but I can see why some people would think it a good idea.

        And of course, with the UK being our largest trading partner, if they pull out of the EU it would have a huge knock-on effect on Ireland.

        • Alliteration says:

          “The irony of people who still get misty-eyed over the British Empire complaining that “We’re losing our autonomy to Brussels! A foreign body can impose its laws over our own national parliament!” is not lost on this Irish person.”
          Could this be because the EU prevents the British from reinvigorating the Commonwealth to a certain extent?

          (Though, I am from Canada and still feel misty-eyed over the British Empire. I can’t justify it’s existence on practical grounds though. I suspect my emotional reaction might be a combination of anti-Americanism and liking big things.)

          • Tibor says:

            This is exactly the kind of sentiment I mentioned in another thread here…why are people so enchanted by Empires? I kind of like reading about the Roman Empire but I am glad that that state does not exist any more. In terms of what I could feel emotionally bounded to, it would be a rather very small region where I live or small pockets of places I have lived – a city and its surroundings. That is a level on which I can sort of understand nationalism or patriotism but mostly people get emotionally connected with much larger structures they have no actual personal connection with. In other words, I can sort of emotionally understand the nationalism of individual Greek city states, but not that of the moderns.

          • Galle says:

            As a fellow Canadian, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that, from a certain point of view, the British Empire still exists, and is much less evil than it used to be. The bad news is that it’s run by the US.

      • Tibor says:

        Peace in Eastern Europe? I don’t know, I see the opposite. The current war in Ukraine is in a sense a result of a bad EU policy towards the country. The EU vaguely promised a closer cooperation but was unwilling to go much further than that. The country split because of this among other things. That the Russians used the opportunity to annex a part of the country and cause more chaos in another is obviously also important, in a sense more, but the EU did not help here.

        Also, Turkey (mostly not technically Europe but anyway) is not a good example either. Erdogan, because he feels like the EU needs him and therefore won’t do much against him, is tightening his power in the country and his position of a de facto if not de jure dictator is the same as that of Putin in Russia. It is not clear how the EU could prevent or mitigate this but it is currently rather doing the opposite.

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          I left a comma out, I really meant “peace, and democracy in Eastern Europe”. I still think it has quite possibly contributed to peace in Eastern Europe — the reason the Crimea was annexed and Poland hasn’t been is largely down to the fact that one is in the EU and one isn’t. But my main point about peace was intended to be about Western Europe; I think the EU can take a lot of credit for the record length of time France and Germany have gone without a war etc.

          • Tibor says:

            I think that Poland’s membership in NATO is a much stronger reason. Also, there are many Russians living in Crimea, it used to be a part of Russia historically, so it provides some pretext. Note that Norway is not a EU-member but a NATO member and shares a border with Russia.

            As for Germany vs. France, you cannot properly speak of the EU until November 1993. There was the ECC before that, but that was more or less just a common market zone. At the same time, Europe was economically very much connected before WW1, so much that many people dismissed the possibility of a war simply because nobody would profit from it (not that they were wrong about that). I think that the EU cannot be credited for peace in Europe. Europe was a very different place 100 years ago, ruled largely by monarchs and imperialism was something to be proud of. And the WW2 is in many respects a product of WW1 – from the way the Austrian Empire was divided to the drastic sanctions imposed on Germany (compare that to the Marshall plan after WW2). Also, I would like to think that experiencing the consequences of two of the most collectivist (individualism does not tend to inspire warlike sentiments) and totalitarian ideologies firsthand, Europeans are less likely to wage wars in general. Actually, I think there is hardly a more pacifist country in Europe today than Germany and it has very little to do with the EU.

    • The Nybbler says:

      As an American, I support Brexit. Europe has been trying to promote the Euro as a global currency (in competition with the USD), with some success; Brexit would definitely cripple those efforts.

      • erenold says:

        As an American, are you not concerned by the possibility of your closest and best ally emasculating itself for a generation or more? Does the preeminence of USD really outweigh that?

        Your President seems to share these concerns, though his intervention was ill-thought out and largely counterproductive.

        (And on that note, a conspiracy theory just occurred to me…)

        • The Nybbler says:

          1) The UK is only “emasculating itself” if the EU remains together and strong after Brexit. I suspect that if Brexit happens, the Euro will be weakened and probably fall apart within a generation, and the EU probably slowly fall apart as well.

          2) If not, the US can always do bilateral free trade deals with the UK (or trilateral including Canada), creating a transatlantic anglosphere. (We’ll not insist they rename themselves Airstrip One.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            TBH I suspect the Euro will fall apart regardless, as soon as Germany loses patience with propping up the Greek finances.

        • Deiseach says:

          Do you really believe in the “special relationship” bushwah, erenold? I find it as convincing as the Irish politicians’ performance every Paddy’s Day when presenting shamrock at the White House; they try and spin this as “Ireland and the USA have a great relationship!” when it’s about as meaningful in real terms as the Presidential Turkey Pardon.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            How dare you malign the Turkey pardon?! It is a key diplomatic tool In keeping human-meleagridine relations good!

          • erenold says:

            I’ll start off by noting that I’m neither British nor American, though I’ve studied in both countries, so I hope that people who are either will correct me if my reading of the situation is egregiously wrong.

            What’s the greatest political fact of the modern age?

            … well, I mean, fucked if I know, but Otto von Bismarck at least thought it was the fact that “the North American countries speak English.” That factoid has retained its currency mainly because, obviously, he was shortly proven right.

            I’m given to understand that even now, British-American security cooperation (particularly in the field of intelligence) is extremely close and vital, trade is booming and so on. These are the ‘hard’ facts. The ‘soft’ fact underpinning this is that, to my mind, there genuinely is – cliched or not – a political amity made only possible by the fact that there is a cultural amity between the two nations; the composition of Five Eyes is not random, but reflects this as well: a shared series of inherited cultural values, beliefs, and ideals that make this possible in a way that an US-Swedish partnership, for instance, will never be. Americans will never have a better spokesperson for their free-trading, free-speeching, and generally more individualistic ideals inside the EU than the UK. In my brief time spent studying in both countries, I’ve always felt that the closest thing in the world to a Blue Tribe American is probably a Brit.

            I think it’s important here again to repeat that I’m completely talking out of my ass based on my limited experiences in both countries, so I hope that people who disagree can chime in.

            Oh and by the way, the Irish-American ‘special relationship’ being so much exaggerated rubbish seems rather explicable by the fact that Irish-Americans are and remain a large political constituency in America. There not being a comparable British-American political constituency (despite the fact that Americans of British ancestry, I would imagine, quite outnumber the former) means that we have to look deeper than the surface-level explanation.

          • Deiseach says:

            erenold, you make the cogent point which is what I was referring to – Paddy’s Day isn’t about relations with Ireland, it’s about keeping a hand in with the Irish-American vote.

            The UK likes to talk about the special relationship, but it’s not one of equals (as the English would like to portray it); whether you think the USA is the tail wagging the dog (post the demise of the Empire) or not, the fact is that generally it’s the USA making the running and the Brits agreeing to whatever they want.

            The common feeling that you describe has always been there, but we’ve come a long way from the romantic views of Arthur Conan Doyle as put into the mouth of Sherlock Holmes (where the older, wiser British Empire would guide and direct brash, young, vigorous America under its leadership and influence under a combined Empire/American sphere of influence – who is influencing whom nowadays, do you think?):

            It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.

          • brad says:

            It may not be a relationship of equals, but the British Prime Minister can pick up the phone, call the President of the United States and at least get a respectful hearing for whatever he has to say. Moreso than any other allied leader in the world. By any objective measure that shouldn’t be the case — it should be Canada or Germany probably.

          • erenold says:

            @Deiseach,

            My principal let me handle my first ever case in court recently, some shitty little pro bono affair which the firm requires him to handle a certain number of per year. The chap was a first-time burglar who had already indicated his intention to plead guilty. As you’d put it, verdict and sentence was always going to be whatever the judge decided, and I’d just have to go along, but I’d like to think that our relationship wasn’t an entirely farcical one, either. I was able to earnestly but respectfully make the points that if it please your Honour, the defendant was a genuine family man, whose family would be the ones most hurt by a custodial sentence, that it was undisputed that he didn’t actually mean to hurt the security guard when he pushed him over trying to escape, etc etc. (Result: pretty hefty community service + probation.)

            Something like that happens between Britain and America. Yes, when Obama finally lays down the law, Cameron – like everyone else – has to ask “how high?”. As Cersei Lannister puts it, “power is power.” But when the House of Commons votes against bombing Syria, Obama gets second thoughts; when Britain looks like it may leave the EU and deprive the US of their man on the inside, Obama comes over personally; hell, even when Reagan tries dissuade Thatcher from the Falklands, she gets to tell him to do one with no repercussions. That’s access, which is a kind of power in its own regard. It’s a more “special” relationship than any other country has and its one based entirely on non-objective factors, as brad rightly points out.

          • Yehoshua K says:

            I’ll argue that there are some objective geopolitical facts which lead to Britain’s special standing in American foreign policy thinking.

            First, Britain is a large island country bordering on Europe, a fact which has been of critical importance during two major ways of the last hundred years, and which would have been of critical importance had full-scale war ever erupted between the American and Soviet blocs.

            Second, it still has at least some degree of influence over the nations of the British Empire, now Commonwealth.

            Third, the British population, while not of the same size as the American, is enough to enable Britain to field very significant military forces, and the British economy is adequate to support those forces.

            Fourth, the British state is still one of only a handful that has nuclear weapons.

            The last two distinctions it shares, admittedly, with France; the first two are unique to it, and, in my opinion, fully justify the “special relationship” on geopolitical grounds.

          • John Schilling says:

            Fifth, the British population speaks a passable dialect of American.

            Britain’s cultural positioning is as important as the geographic one in this context.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’ve been wondering, actually, how close Britain, in particular England, and the US actually are culturally if you leave language (and the legal system) aside. If they spoke a mutually incomprehensible language, would British and American culture really appear to us any more related than, say, French and German culture?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Language itself is usually considered a pretty major part of culture, though, so what your question essentially amounts to is “If we made British and American culture significantly more different to each other, would we still think they were culturally similar?”

          • Creutzer says:

            I find this an odd perspective. Culture encompasses all sorts of practices, attitudes, and beliefs that are quite independent of language. Especially English. Lots of people speak English these days; that alone does not make them any more culturally similar to Americans or Englishmen.

        • dimestoreinjun says:

          Was it counterproductive? I thought it was relatively measured and made a huge amount of sense.

          I’d think the genuinely racist response article by Boris Johnson was the only thing that could be said to be counterproductive to any side in that.

          • erenold says:

            With the caveat as my personal position above – to my mind at least, the evidence is very, very strong that it was counterproductive. I offer to you three pieces of evidence for this.

            1), on which I place the highest personal epistemic confidence but on which I imagine will have the least probative value to everyone else: I am a very passionate British football (soccer) fan and post on and monitor several leading British football fora very frequently (I have two open in my tabs right now). British football fans are by nature very left-wing, because of, and exacerbated by, working-class status and northern regional distribution, yet they do represent a reasonable cross-stratum of British society. The contemporaneous response to Obama’s intervention was very negative, even (possibly especially?) by Bremainers. (Bear in mind that Obama is generally seen positively by these same individuals, yet “go do one” was the prevalent sentiment.)

            2) Coincidentally, Obama’s intervention took place at a time when the British Labour Party was performing focus-group polls on neutral swing voters in places like Nuneaton, analogous to Ohio as in that such places represent “middle Britain” and ordinary voters. Again, bear in mind that your President is generally well-thought-of abroad, and you can see that from the quotes, which have been condensed, below:

            (In discussing what they considered to be qualities the ideal Labour Party candidate going forward would possess)

            “[Ze would be] quite modern and quite charming as well. Charismatic… almost like Barack Obama. I’ve seen him on the Ellen DeGeneres show and it’s just like… you could watch him all day…

            The way [Barack Obama] just come[s] across lovely… Charming… well-groomed… real family man he comes across as.”

            So these are not people who already had a chip on their shoulder regarding your President, it’s clear. Yet, when discussing his intervention, these exact same focus-group participants:

            (on Boris Johnson)

            “He stood up to Barack Obama the other day… he basically turned round to the President of the United States and told him to do one. It’s none of his business what input he has in whether we’re in the EU or not… People are saying that, People are like – Joe Public are saying that – so [Boris Johnson]’s saying what people are saying… whereas David Cameron’s not.”

            A different focus-group:

            “What do you think of the Obama thing?”

            “Very clever… obviously it’s well-orchestrated isn’t it, the government obviously knew what was going to happen, they arranged for him to come over… it might be a bit of a double-edged sword that though, because I think it might backfire in the sense that it seems to have caused more outrage than people agreeing with it.

            “That’s true… you see there’s been almost like an instant response – not many people are agreeing with what he’s saying or the way he’s gone about it. So it’s not necessarily about the content, it’s more about how he’s gone about doing it.”

            “But the likes of America are getting a bit twitchy because if we come out of the EU and we start making deals with China and all that again… is it competition for them? So is that why he’s saying ‘stay in’. You don’t know do you?”

            “People want to look into it and make their own mind up instead of getting bullied… when you’re getting someone as big as Obama telling you… you wouldn’t ever get David Cameron saying [that] to Americans. You wouldn’t go over to teh US and say ‘stay out of Cuba’ or Mexico… Exactly.”

            There’s a lot more where that came from if you’d like to check it out. Again, the focus-group was selected to represent politically-neutral, undecided, middle Britain, so these aren’t butthurt Brexiters here.

            3), post hoc warning – but Obama’s intervention almost exactly coincided with the moment Out blasted into the lead and then some. Going off the top of my head, In was six points up in the poll of polls when Obama showed up; Out is now leading by about ten points. (The latest poll has a jaw-dropping Out up by 19 points – but I suspect that is baloney.)

            Again with the caveat that I am not either British or American – that Obama made things worse for Remain: 95% confidence; that Obama made things a lot worse for Remain: 50% confidence.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Since UK doesn’t use the euro, what does it matter?

        I can imagine a couple of possibilities. One is that you think that the UK will adopt the euro if it stays. it is certainly is more likely than if it leaves, but it is so unlikely I think that other aspects of brexit matter more.

        The other possibility is that you think that a UK that is a member of the EU will promote the euro despite not using it, perhaps through putting pressure on its banks.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I think the UK leaving the EU will hurt the Euro even though the UK doesn’t use it. I also think they will eventually adopt it if they remain in; the current mostly-in situation doesn’t seem all that stable, though it could persist for quite a while.

      • Jill says:

        I’m an American so I’m not over there. But I expect Britain to stay in. The reasons is that I think staying in would be good in the short run but bad in the long run. And that leaving would be vice versa. And humans everywhere seem to focus more at the short term than on the long term.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I know this is a ha-ha-only-serious kind of comment you just made, but… I hear people saying, sarcastically or not, that the United States will heartlessly take advantage of various international situations for its own profit and power, and I just have to wonder what United States these people are referring to, because it’s not the one I live in.

        First of all, the United States I live in considers it racist and evil to do anything for its own benefit, to the extent that it extensively funds hostile regimes that despise it and kill its citizens. (And this in particular isn’t an Obama slam; we were just as bad under George W. Bush, he was simply better at putting a nationalistic coat of paint on top.)

        Second of all, the United States I live in is run by desperately incompetent and stupid people. Even if they were inclined to make some hay out of Brexit I’m sure it would turn into an embarrassing disaster for them. The only thing they’re good at is somehow keeping their phoney-baloney jobs despite the endless trail of wreckage they leave behind them; cf. our next President.

        Maybe these two things combine to make it look like we’re heartless yet brilliant manipulators? We try to do things against our own best interests, fuck them up royally, and it ends up looking like we were trying and succeeding in doing the opposite? I dunno, that’s a bit much to hope for.

        • James Picone says:

          …to the extent that it extensively funds hostile regimes that despise it and kill its citizens. (And this in particular isn’t an Obama slam; we were just as bad under George W. Bush, he was simply better at putting a nationalistic coat of paint on top.)

          I was under the impression that the reason the US props up dictators is because they think a dictator is better than ISIS. That is, it is funding a regime that despises the US, but because they think the alternative is worse.

          Unless you were referring to something else.

          • Nornagest says:

            ISIS has only been around for a few years, and for most of those few years American policy towards regional dictators has been ambiguous at best — USG has not taken any overt action against Bashar al-Assad, but it’d clearly be happy to see him gone (as long as he’s not definitely going to end up replaced by Islamists), and it did participate in Gadaffi’s overthrow (leaving a power vacuum that ISIS moved in on, although its Libyan holdings aren’t very large).

            It’s probably fair to say that policy during the Cold War looked a lot like that, just with a different enemy, but there was a couple decades there with no international communism and no ISIS.

          • James Picone says:

            @Nornagest:
            I meant ISIS metonymically. For example, I was under the impression Egypt was US-supported to some extent because the US government didn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood in power (and also because the Egyptians would helpfully torture people for the US government).

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I was referring to outfits like Pakistan or the Palestinian Authority. These nations certainly have every right to hate the United States if they wish, but it’s a bit rich that we’re expected to pay them for the privilege.

            I would like to think that at least there’s a realpolitik argument that it’s either these guys or ISIS. But we’ve been funding these folks for a lot longer than ISIS has been around, and the argument for continuing to do so despite little things like, oh, protecting Osama bin Laden tends to be framed in incoherent moralism when we get an explanation at all.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Subsidies to Pakistan isn’t the US being woefully stupid about doling out support, it’s instead the US’ way of trying to keep its nuclear arsenal out of the hands of people who aren’t just evil and corrupt, but also willing to use said weapons. The tradeoff where a country’s people hate you but they don’t start a nuclear war seems worth it, apparently.

            What is a hilarious joke is the following:

            First of all, the United States I live in considers it racist and evil to do anything for its own benefit

            I’m sorry, have the blue-haired types on tumblr hurt you that much? Called you all sorts of mean names? Go pull yourself together. The world extends very far beyond the blogs and articles you may read, and shrill regressive leftists have no place in it. If the sorts of people you’re referring to had their way at all, the Occupy movement would never have been cleared up, the TPP would have been unthinkable, North Carolina couldn’t have dreamt of passing anti-gay legislation, and the people mentioned in the Panama papers would’ve been lynched right in the streets. Since all of this doesn’t in fact seem to be the case, it follows that the US in fact does have people out for their own self interest, and pretending otherwise is a ridiculous strawman at best.

          • Jiro says:

            If the sorts of people you’re referring to had their way at all, the Occupy movement would never have been cleared up, the TPP would have been unthinkable, North Carolina couldn’t have dreamt of passing anti-gay legislation, and the people mentioned in the Panama papers would’ve been lynched right in the streets.

            Most of these aren’t foreign policy. TPP is foreign policy, but it’s also promoted by special interests. The US can simultaneously do things for special interests and not do things for the United States in general.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            They don’t need to be foreign policy. If you want to assert that the US is run by the sorts of people who think self interest is racist, you’ve got a whole lot of things to prove. The same goes for arguing that the US somehow seems to fund its enemies while getting nothing of value in return(it doesn’t).

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The tradeoff where a country’s people hate you but they don’t start a nuclear war seems worth it, apparently.

            That tradeoff with Pakistan got us a couple of craters in lower Manhattan, and if you’re worried about nuclear weapons, those jackasses still drive their warheads around the streets in unmarked vehicles to “protect” them. There’s got to be an alternative to this.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            The US could have tried turning Pakistan into Syria, Iraq, or Libya, sure. Just what is this better alternative you speak of? What does it look like?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I have no idea what the alternative is, and I shouldn’t be required to have one. I’m simply saying this: as a citizen of this democratic nation, I think our current policy, where we pay Pakistan vast amounts of money and in return they attack New York and Washington (not to mention, oh, Mumbai!) and drive unsecured nuclear weapons around terrorist-infested cities in unmarked vans, sucks.

            You don’t have to be a fireman to be allowed to complain about your house being on fire.

          • John Schilling says:

            @ThirteenthLetter: The United States paid Pakistan almost nothing at allfrom 1990-2002, the only period in which they can possibly have been said to “attack New York and Washington”. And really, casting 9/11 as a Pakistani attack is a bit of a stretch for something done by nineteen non-Pakistani citizens following a non-Pakistani leader operating out of a base in Not Pakistan. But if you are going to play that absurd game, well, whatever we’ve been doing since 2002 has kept them from attacking New York and Washington again, so why not keep doing what has been working the past decade-plus?

            …drive unsecured nuclear weapons around terrorist-infested cities in unmarked vans

            You’d prefer they drive them around marked in vans labeled “Nuclear weapons inside: Please do not Steal”?

            The “unsecured” and “terrorist-infested cities” parts of your claim are unsupported, and yes, I’ve read the same articles you have.

          • Jiro says:

            If you want to assert that the US is run by the sorts of people who think self interest is racist, you’ve got a whole lot of things to prove.

            Nobody in charge of the US thinks their own self-interest is racist. Many such people think that the self-interest of the masses is racist.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            And really, casting 9/11 as a Pakistani attack is a bit of a stretch

            I won’t deny I’m being a bit inflammatory, and I’ll happily agree that there are a number of influential Saudis who really need to be at the receiving end of a drone strike, but Afghanistan was a client state of Pakistan and its intelligence service, and they were protecting Osama bin Laden after the attacks as well as giving the Taliban a safe haven in their own territory. Their hands are not clean, but instead of addressing that we’ve been paying them off.

            What this policy ultimately does is give every bad actor in the world a foolproof way of blackmailing the West. As long as you’ve ensured there are some slightly more awful people roaming around the hinterlands of your nation, you can demand endless funding and a pass for all your misbehavior because who knows what’ll happen if those guys get into power, you need us!

            You’d prefer they drive them around marked in vans labeled “Nuclear weapons inside: Please do not Steal”?

            M-maybe not drive them around in vans at all…?

          • Pku says:

            You’re stretching things a bit by contracting “the pakistanis” into one point, so that giving some pakistanis money for one thing and having some pakistanis help shelter Bin Laden can both be labeled under “the pakistanis”. This isn’t necessarily false, but do you have an argument that giving the first group money helped the second group? (Or alternatively that both were the same group, and that giving them the money helped/encouraged them)?

          • John Schilling says:

            M-maybe not drive them around in vans at all…?

            The French once drove one of their atom bombs through a terrorist-infested desert in an unmarked Citroen 2CV, and I don’t hear you complaining.

            Seriously, if a nation has nuclear weapons, it will from time to time need to transport them about in motor vehicles of one sort or another. The Pakistanis have made the decision that the security of these operations is best done by maintaining a low profile. I have not seen, and I doubt that you have seen, any reliable information to support claims that Pakistan’s nuclear transport procedures are inadequately secure and/or that the weapons are actually transported through cities (terrorist-infested or otherwise). While these things are all possible, what I have actually seen is so obviously low-grade muckracking as to make me believe that people looking for evidence of recklessness, couldn’t find any.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The French once drove one of their atom bombs through a terrorist-infested desert in an unmarked Citroen 2CV, and I don’t hear you complaining.

            Well, for one thing I’d never heard of that fascinating story before! But there’s a difference between “uh oh, there’s a coup going on in the nation where we already brought the bomb for our nuclear test, we’ve got to improvise something” and “here’s standard policy for how we are going to handle our nuclear weapons.”

            Anyway, the article I and, I suspect, you read suggested that Pakistan was moving nuclear weapons about in unmarked and lightly guarded vehicles on a regular basis in order to prevent the United States from seizing them. If you’re telling me that they aren’t doing that, and in fact the nuclear weapons are being kept in highly secure locations to the extent that such a thing is possible in Pakistan, that would be slightly less alarming.

            …Slightly, of course, because the nation that puppeteered the Taliban, protected bin Laden, and whose pet terror groups carried out the Mumbai massacre as well as countless other atrocities shouldn’t be allowed to even exist, never mind have the Bomb. But there we are, I suppose. Just the price we pay for peace.

          • John Schilling says:

            Anyway, the article I and, I suspect, you read suggested that Pakistan was moving nuclear weapons about in unmarked and lightly guarded vehicles on a regular basis in order to prevent the United States from seizing them.

            If it’s this article, then yes, it “suggested” those things, in the sort of conspicuously vague and weasel-worded way that ought to be a warning sign to reject the suggestion.

            For example, it did not actually describe the transport vehicles as “lightly guarded”, it said that there were no “noticeable defenses” and had a “modest security profile”. But having decided to transport the weapons inconspicuously, what were you expecting – a tank company with an unmarked van sandwiched between the second and third platoon? Obviously the guards are going to keep a low profile and ideally not be noticed. The bit where the guards are inadequate, that’s wholly unsupported – we’re supposed to believe that “sources” all agree that the guards are inadequate, but the language to that effect is all the authors’ and not that of the vaguely-defined sources.

            The bit about “mated” weapons is almost certainly wrong, possibly a misunderstanding. The warheads are probably sealed-pit devices where the fissile material cannot be removed from the warhead. But the smallest Pakistani nuclear delivery system is the Haft-9 “Nasr”, which is not going to fit in any vehicle that could be mistaken for a civilian van.

            Bottom line: Whatever the Pakistanis need to do to secure their nuclear arsenal from local terrorists, is going to strongly overlap with what they need to do to secure it from American commandos. And the measures that protect them from US cruise missiles, protect them from Indian preemptive strikes as well. I’d rather the Pakistanis not have nuclear weapons (and the same for India). Insofar as they do, it seems pointlessly disingenuous to say, “…and how extra-specially reckless and evil of you that you don’t make your nuclear arsenal easy for potential adversaries to capture or destroy!” Particularly insofar as we are one of the obvious potential adversaries.

            If there’s evidence that the Pakistanis are doing anything particularly dangerous beyond having a credibly useful nuclear arsenal in the first place, Goldberg et al have done little to argue that case.

        • Galle says:

          Can we trade realities? I do technically have American citizenship, and your US sounds like one I could actually be proud of.

    • Tibor says:

      I think that if the UK remains in the EU it will be good for all the other EU countries but that the UK might be better off outside of it. The reason is that the UK is traditionally very skeptical to the increasing centralization of the union and tries to block it. There are other countries which support that but France and Germany are usually not and when France and Germany agree on something then they basically cannot be outvoted, definitely not without the UK.

      It is probably better for the UK itself, since the EU seems to be on a path either to a dissolution or an increasing centralization (I don’t think that a serious reform is likely at this point). Personally, I think the dissolution is more likely, followed (hopefully) by a different organization which preserves its good features (no-tariff and labour barrier zone) and steers away from the bad, i.e. centralization and redistribution (a lot of which actually amounts to corporate welfare where private enterprises such as hotels or golf courts are co-financed from the EU funds). The reason why I think dissolution is more likely is that despite a rising popular dissatisfaction with the increasing centralization, now even in places like Germany, the European politicians’ response seems to be to double down on the centralization efforts (e.g. replacing the unanimous vote by the majority vote on some issues). But this discrepancy won’t continue forever and it increases the support of political parties who want to leave the EU. Unfortunately, most of these parties are not exactly pro-free trade, they tend to be nationalistic and to a varying degree protectionist, so if the EU dissolves, it might just go back to imposing tariffs and movement of labour barriers amongst its former members. In the other scenario where the EU basically becomes a federal republic (I find this very unlikely…but there are politicians in the EU whose explicit goal is the establishment of the US of E), given that it would be a republic largely influenced by France with its horrible labour and business regulations and extremely high taxation and given that even now the French called for a “tax harmonization” of the member countries, it would definitely be better to stay out (probably this would still be true even without the French influence).

      One big problem other than the centralization efforts is that the EU has a tendency to ignore its own rules. That happened most notably with the bailing out of banks and Greece (well, theoretically it was a “loan”…or rather several of them, an actual bailout could have in fact been a bit better, letting them go bankrupt would have been the best for Greece but politically it would mean admitting that there are problems with the Euro) which went directly against previous agreements. Similarly with the refugee crisis (arguably the Dublin agreement is quite nonsensical, but it was and theoretically still is the binding rule) It seems that the EU today simply goes with what seems to be momentarily politically the most profitable for the EU politicians who currently have the most influence.

      So in each case it seems to me that Britain will be better off outside of the union especially since in spite of what Schäuble (the German finance minister) said about the UK leaving I don’t believe that the EU would actually impose tariffs on Britain if it left the union. It would be just as costly for the EU as it would be for the UK and the only sensible reason would be to prevent other countries from leaving too. I am not sure how efficient that policy would be though, the UK is already quite a big market and nothing would spark anti-EU sentiment in the member countries than something that basically says “look what happens if you leave”. Also, if a few big enough countries left, they could either create a common market between themselves or simply join the EFTA (the European Free Trade Association, currently only Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members).

      There is a sense where the UK leaving the EU could be good for other countries – it could start a cascade and cause the EU to collapse. That might be a good or a bad thing. Good, if the EU is headed towards becoming a federal republic otherwise, bad if it happens mostly because of nationalist and protectionist sentiments and results not in everyone joining the EFTA but in everyone reverting back to protectionist economic policies.

      • What I find interesting about the EU situation is to what extent the problems were inevitable. It’s nice to imagine a free trade/free labor mobility region without any regional authority imposing regulations, but I’m not sure it is possible. Given the political pressure for trade barriers–if that didn’t exist the problem would be solved by every country unilaterally abolishing its tariffs–in a world with extensive government regulation there are always going to be ways to cheat on a free trade agreement. To prevent that you need to shift the regulations to the regional level, at least to the extent of extensive restrictions on national regulation.

        • Tibor says:

          True, but to set up extensive restriction on national regulation you should be fine with a document which specifies the restrictions, possible agreed upon penalties and an arbiter to judge the case in case there is a disagreement between two member countries. You don’t need the EU commission, the EU parliament etc. I think that the EU that we have today is a result of quite complicated negotiations where not all parties were interested in an actual free-trade zone. Thus you have things like farming subsidies and country (maximum) production quotas, which are essentially a form of protectionism. They also require a much more extensive regulatory body. And this, as most bureaucracies, tends to grow. Of course, there has always been a significant minority of people whose goal was not a free trade but the United States of Europe, mostly for ideological reasons (many people like empires for some reason, I don’t quite understand why).

      • Anonymous says:

        I was pretty much going to write this post, bu now I don’t have to. Thanks, Tibor!

        I’ll just add that I’m an EU immigrant to Britain and I still think they should leave; I’d vote leave if I had the vote. The ideal would be for the EU to crumble entirely and be replaced by two voluntary treaties: one on free trade, one on free movement. Britain would pretty clearly join the first but not the second; other countries could make their own decisions in the same way.

        All the redistribution and (especially) the waste disgusts me. Moving the whole Parliament to Strasbourg is probably the biggest willful burning of money that I know of, and it’s just to placate French egos. Hate it.

        • Anonymous says:

          This.

          I very much like the freedom of movement – but it obviously should be restricted to nations who can use it responsibly. NOT “we’ll send you migrant waves if you don’t extend our credit” Greece, for instance.

          I quite like the freedom of trade/employment – being a foreign worker myself – but that doesn’t require there being a central government! I mean, Norway has pretty much the best idea – stay out of the federal union, have freedoms of movement and trade, disregard 90% of Brussels legislation.

          • Tibor says:

            Switzerland has basically the same deal. True, they have to conform to some EU regulations if they want to export and import from the EU and they do not have a say in the EU decisions, but they get to pick and choose which EU stuff is worth the trade-off and which isn’t. That is much more powerful than having a few votes (even though the votes are biased towards the smaller countries somewhat, in reality if you get France and Germany to agree on something it is really hard to outvote them). They also can stay clear of the subsidies, quotas etc.

            I am not sure Greece actually threatened like this with sending asylum seekers to other countries if it does not get money (Erdogan uses them as a threat though a lot…but he only has this position because of Merkel who sort of manipulated herself into this bad deal). And it is not realistic to expect Greece to keep everyone who comes there (also, most of those people do not seem to want to stay in Greece anyway, they want to go to Germany where they get better welfare) either, despite the fact that this is more or less what the Dublin treaty would suggest (but the only country which tried to uphold that was ironically Hungary, despite the many issues of its prime minister and his somewhat authoritarian tendencies…then they kind of gave up).

          • Anonymous says:

            >I am not sure Greece actually threatened like this with sending asylum seekers to other countries if it does not get money

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11459675/Greeces-defence-minister-threatens-to-send-migrants-including-jihadists-to-Western-Europe.html

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          I’m a remainer on the whole, but I’d also like to see extensive reform. We should accommodate the fact that different nations want different things from it. But I’m not sure whether leaving or remaining would prompt reform more.

      • Jill says:

        It seems like the relevant questions here are
        — What will happen to Britain short term and long term, if they exit vs. stay?
        –Where is the EU going long term? If it’s going to h__ in a hand basket because the economic practices and habits of these countries are so different that they will not be able to get along with one another in the long run– well, why go with them? Even if there is a short term bump in the road immediately, why not just weather on through that and be better off in the long run?

        • Hlynkacg says:

          This is essentially my view as well.

        • Tom Womack says:

          It is wildly non-obvious to me that Bulgaria is more different from the Netherlands than Alabama is from Minnesota; the US is, unsurprisingly, a reasonable demonstration that you can have united states and they basically kind of work.

          There are some debts which will have to be forgiven; there are the kind of persistent differences that come from Greece being made of deep valleys between mountains of bare sandstone rock and much of Poland of a flat plain of the kind of soil where if you plant your sandwich tomatoes will spring up, but the difference in hospitability is less than that between the Idaho Badlands and the California Central Valley.

    • keranih says:

      What do SSC readers think about Brexit?

      Not my monkeys. Not my circus. They’re a free people, they can make their own choices.

    • Anonymous says:

      All for it, if it starts bringing down the Fourth Reich. Probably won’t happen this time around, though.

    • Peter says:

      I linked this article before, but it’s obviously relevant here: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21693223-britains-great-european-divide-really-about-education-and-class-tale-two-cities It feeds into some themes that people have been talking about on SSC with regards to American politics. It’s interesting how the EU issue cuts across the British left/right axis, such that both Labour and the Tories are divided on the issue – if we see the right as an alliance of business/the rich and populism/nationalism and the left as the working class/redistributionism/etc and liberalism/internationalism, then the referendum pairs up the business interests and the internationalists, and the nationalists with the worried-about-their-jobs. This gives me a twinge of “maybe I should give Brexit the time of day” but see later.

      I’m from Cambridge, the article’s example for rampant pro-In support, and I’m no exception here. Cambridge can be a bit of a bubble at times, and it’s hard to find anyone who makes an appealing case for Brexit, even to the extent of getting me to take their claims seriously. At risk – OK, more than risk – of getting ad hominem, pro-Brexit, there’s… UKIP, the parts of the Tory party that have been doing horrible things to the NHS and disability benefits, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen.

      Rupert Murdoch (big newspaper baron, his empire loves to publish BS stories about supposed bonkers EU regulations and suchlike) hasn’t voiced an opinion on the referendum but the following quote gets mentioned reason to stay in:

      I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. ‘That’s easy,’ he replied. ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.’

      One issue is “if Brexit, then what?”. Maybe we could cut a Norway/Switzerland style deal that lets us into the EU market on equal terms… but that means accepting freedom of movement (and a whole bunch of other things that people don’t like), and worries about immigration seems to be what’s driving a lot of Brexit. So the people from Peterborough who are worried about Lithuanian potato-pickers taking their jobs – Brexit may well not deliver the goods, and if it does, the economic hit will likely knock out a bunch of other jobs. So it’s not a policy I can get behind.

      (Incidentally, there’s a fun example of “The Ideology is not the Movement” to be had. Polls (eg here which break down Brexit support by party often find a few anti-Brexit UKIP supporters. Maybe this is the lizardman thing, maybe this is just people who like everything about the UKIP movement except the rallying flag.)

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        I can’t find a link, but I think there is a group of Ukipers who want to remain in the EU. Not sure how that works.

    • Murphy says:

      I have the right to vote on this later this month.

      The little part of me that just wants to watch the world burn glories in the idea of the chaos that will be caused trying to sort out the hundreds of thousands of workers in the UK and the rest of the EU with jobs, property, families (and children who may or may not be citizens of the UK and/or the other countries etc) and all the british companies that have lots of EU citizens in various roles and what the hell is going to happen if all the british xpats suddently have to move home or face sudden problems with property/residence/pensions/medical costs.

      The part of me that just wants stability and for tomorrow to be pretty much ok and similar to yesterday and reasonably predictable is against brexit for pretty much the same reasons.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        “There will be chaos if we undo it” is an important factor, and it needs to be repeatedly brought up whenever someone is proposing a new system.

        • Ano says:

          As was pointed out, even though the primary impetus for Brexit is from the Conservatives, Brexit is itself, not very conservative. Tearing down the existing order in the vague hope that whatever replaces it will be an improvement? What would Chesterton say?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Well what do you do when you try a new idea and it doesn’t work then?

            A conservative isn’t obligated to oppose changes which roll back recent inventions in favor of tried and true arrangements. After all, they’re supposed to be conserving a particular set of traditions not just mindlessly fixing in place whatever arrangement happens to exist at that instant.

            By conservative principles, the difficulty of disentangling with Europe should be counted against the original hasty entry into the Union.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, kind of bizarre to appeal to the deep and rich tradition of the EU to a country that still flies the Union Jack and sings God Save The Queen…

          • Murphy says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            How far back do you go?

            Many of the voters in this are people younger than the EU. It’s not like it happened last year and turned out to obviously be a bad idea.

            Most of the entanglements are the kind of thing that happens long term. Families, pensions, people putting down roots etc.

            Are there american conservatives still trying to roll back the Louisiana Purchase? Trying to kick Hawaii back out?

            both of those would probably hit many of the same issues.

    • Ano says:

      I intend to vote in. To me, it seems there are arguments both for and against:

      FOR BREXIT

      The European Union is a sclerotic, bureaucratic and wasteful organization. The CAP is bad, it’s another gang of politicians, and it behaved, in my opinion, quite badly over the Greek economic crisis, electing to completely destroy an entire country’s economy just to keep German inflation low. The EU claims to stand up for peace and democracy but has proved itself totally impotent to respond to the rise of far-right parties across Europe. Like the ill-fated League of Nations, it is made of paper. EU regulation is often ill-judged and goes too far (like the TPD). I don’t think there’s much advantage to an extra layer of government that seems to do nothing but regulate things and give money to farmers. The EU also seems to facilitate tax evasion on the part of corporations and the wealthy. In addition, British sovereignty is important to me.

      AGAINST BREXIT

      Leaving the EU would be a large disruption to the economy, and while many on the Leave campaign claim that better trade deals can be struck elsewhere, Britain has no experience in negotiating such deals and there’s no guarantee that the country won’t be left permanently poorer. For all the criticism it gets, I like the robust stance the ECHR takes on human rights and worker’s rights. I’m a little bit cynical on immigration (overall a net positive when there isn’t a large gap in terms of cultural and political norms), but I think immigration from Europeans themselves is fine. Being able to travel and work freely in Europe is great. In the short term, we would also be left with the current Conservative government, which (in my opinion), is both incompetent and callous. Leaving the EU would also cause Scotland to leave the UK, which I think would be a loss.

      There’s also the obvious point that the UK could always hold another referendum. Indeed, if the result is a close Remain, I expect there to be another opportunity to vote within ten years (as is happening in Scotland). Whereas if we vote Leave, that’s it, there’s no chance to change one’s mind.

      • Matt M says:

        “Whereas if we vote Leave, that’s it, there’s no chance to change one’s mind.”

        Why? This strikes me as non-obvious.

        • Ano says:

          It takes many years to renegotiate that sort of thing. Hungary, for example, started EU negotiations in 1998 and didn’t join until 2004. In fact, a big part of the debate is how difficult renegotiating various foreign agreements would be; it is more difficult to negotiate trade deals and so on than to break them.

          I also have a hunch that politically speaking, Cameron et al. are less invested in the EU than Farage et al. are invested in leaving the EU. I speak politically, in the sense that if Farage were to give up on the idea after losing the referendum, he’d be out of a job, just as Nicole Sturgeon needs to continue to push the independence referendum to keep her job.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        One factual point: the ECHR (whether you mean the Court or the Convention) is not related to the EU, it is a creation of the older Council of Europe. You can support Brexit and membership of the ECHR simultaneously, or (like Theresa May) oppose both.

        • Ano says:

          Many Brexit campaigners seem to take it as a given that we will also leave the ECHR in the event of a Leave vote, and I don’t see why a vote for Leave couldn’t also be construed as a mandate to leave the ECHR.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Those Brexit campaigners are wrong. A vote for Leave could be construed as a vote for leaving NATO inasmuch as it is a big international thing and therefore kind of like the EU. Just because it could be construed as something doesn’t mean it is that thing.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        In the short term, we would also be left with the current Conservative government, which (in my opinion), is both incompetent and callous.

        I’m not a particular fan of the current government, but it’s worth noting here that in many respects British workers’ rights (in terms of maternity leave, health and safety standards, etc.) are higher than the EU-mandated minimum, so the Conservatives already have plenty of scope for reducing these things if they want to. That they haven’t suggests that they don’t actually want to.

    • phisheep says:

      I am voting to Remain in the EU. This is mostly because regardless of the (debatable) economic benefits either way, and regardless of the (debatable) impacts on immigration, a vote to leave in this referendum would trigger considerable political turmoil over the 5-10 years it would take to effect an exit.

      If the Leave campaign had any coherent policy for what happens next, for what negotiations need to be undertaken, and for how a candidate government would be formed and how it would get into power then I might consider it more deeply. As it is though, they are all over the place – with fundamental disagreements over whether the post-Brexit UK would be a Libertarian paradise or a Socialist Workers paradise, with no Parliamentary majority, with no leader and no policies.

      That strikes me as being very high risk.

      It’s not as if we actually *need* a referendum to exit the EU anyway – a perfectly ordinary General Election would do the trick, so we can revisit this when and if there’s a pro-Brexit government.

      • Ano says:

        “As it is though, they are all over the place – with fundamental disagreements over whether the post-Brexit UK would be a Libertarian paradise or a Socialist Workers paradise, with no Parliamentary majority, with no leader and no policies.”

        I don’t see that as such a bad thing. Whether we end up as a more left or a more right wing nation, at least that will be our choice rather than being obliged to follow the bland centrism of the EU. That’s why I think British sovereignty is valuable.

  2. How much can be done to make jets quieter? It seems to me that the misery of plane flight (not counting security theater) is a result of limited numbers of flights, and that’s a result of concerns about noise pollution.

    • John Schilling says:

      We’ve already reduced aircraft noise levels enormously, from 105 dB for an early Boeing 707 to 82 dB for a 787. I believe those figures are at 1000′ lateral from the runway at takeoff; they are in any event from an FAA circular(*) using a common standard. Or if you’d prefer to hear it for yourself, Youtube has got you covered. The FAA, unlike Youtube, has the authority to say that you can’t fly the noisy old airplanes into airports in populated areas any more, and they have done so.

      Much of these gains correlate with efficiency gains; noise, generally speaking, is a loss term. More specifically, almost all of the noise comes from the high-velocity jet exhaust interacting with the stationary ambient air, and it is energetically more efficient as well as quieter to accelerate lots of air to relatively low velocity than a little bit to high velocity. One thing to look for on the 707 vs 787 video is the size of the engine air intakes.

      But we’ve already done that, about as far as we can. There are people with some interesting ideas, but they aren’t likely to get more than 3 dB for aircraft of conventional configuration or 6 dB if we go to flying wings or the like.

      But at this point, I doubt it matters. At this point, I think people complain about airplane noise not because it is the loudest noise in the environment but because it is unmistakably airplane noise and some people are primed to just plain not like (other people’s) airplanes.

      The biggest limitation on traffic volume at major airports is I believe the frequency with which aircraft can take off or land while sharing the same runway, roughly once per minute. You could maybe extend operating hours 24/7, and noise may be a factor in that, but there’s also the bit where people really don’t want to take a 2:00 AM flight to anywhere. Or you could build more runways, but that gets you far more public opposition than anything to do with noise. Build the runways out beyond the suburbs but with a high-speed rail link to downtown, maybe, if existing land use hasn’t blocked out any such rail link.

      * My own 1976 Grumman isn’t listed, but a Piper PA-28 with the same engine and propeller comes in at 73 dB.

      • Anonymous says:

        Isn’t opposition to new runways nominally phrased in terms of noise in the neighborhoods they fly over?

    • Matt M says:

      Would airlines really offer a lot more flights if they could? I thought the economics were such that the plane has to be almost entirely full to be profitable (hence overbooking). If we assume that currently, there isn’t some huge unmet demand for air travel – then there wouldn’t seem to be a market for more flights in general.

    • BBA says:

      A big part of the misery of air travel comes from most travelers only looking for the lowest nominal price of an air ticket when they book their trips. Hence the Ryanair/Spirit model of imposing surcharges for what used to be included in the base price and reducing the price by less than the typical traveler will pay in surcharges will get more travelers in seats and generate more revenue than the traditional model, so every airline is forced to move in that direction to stay competitive.

      Increasing the number of flights won’t bring back the old norms.

      • “and reducing the price by less than the typical traveler will pay in surcharges will get more travelers in seats and generate more revenue than the traditional model, so every airline is forced to move in that direction to stay competitive.”

        Southwest, which is one of the most successful U.S. airlines, follows the opposite policy–they advertise that the first two bags fly free. I’m dubious about your claim that the total cost ends up higher, perhaps because I have a higher opinion than you do of other people’s intelligence. But I don’t have data for the particular airlines you mention.

        • BBA says:

          Southwest is playing a different game from the other airlines, and has been since it started as an intra-Texas service to be outside the reach of the CAB.

          • Urstoff says:

            I really wonder how much they save compared with other airlines simply by only using one model of plane (although different variants/generations of that model).

          • bean says:

            I really wonder how much they save compared with other airlines simply by only using one model of plane
            That’s standard among any carrier who is serious about being low-cost. They may have pioneered it, but everybody else who has risen in imitation has done the same. (I’m genuinely unsure as to why the legacy carriers operate both A320s and 737s. Widebodies are another matter.) I don’t have precise figures, but only having 1.5 sets of manuals, tools, and the like is going to be a big savings, as well as having operational benefits.

          • Urstoff says:

            That’s standard among any carrier who is serious about being low-cost.

            And they all buy 737s (or A320s, I guess).

          • bean says:

            And they all buy 737s (or A320s, I guess).
            Yes, because those are the planes that fit the market they’re going for. Low-cost carriers always focus on short-range routes (if you’re from the US, we can just call them domestic). And the vast majority of short-range routes are best served by small narrowbodies. And for the few that a low-cost carrier might try to compete on that can support bigger planes (NYC-LAX, for instance), it’s just not worth operating a type of plane specifically for that route. As for the choice of A320 or 737, those are pretty much the only planes in class these days. DC-9/MD-80/90 is also in that class, but it’s a much older design, with consequently higher operating costs. There are a couple of hopeful entrants to the market, but a new airline is unlikely to go for any of them for several reasons (they tend to buy used, and don’t want to have to switch types if the new one doesn’t make it), and established low-cost airlines have substantial lock-in with their existing fleets.

      • Tibor says:

        If you fly within Europe (unless you fly from Greece to Scotland or something like that), it usually takes less time then on a medium-distance bus or train. I don’t need a lunch on-board and often I am just fine with a small backpack, so I don’t need to pay for the luggage either.

        Besides, nowadays you have these clever webapps which find the best deal given your specification, so if someone lists a really low price which is actually much higher with the luggage or with the meal, it will be listed below the better offers if you specify that you want those. I think that most people actually use services like this to buy flight tickets nowadays.

        On average, airplane travel has become more like bus travel and really there is no reason it should be treated as anything else if your flight takes 3 hours or so.

    • ChristianKl says:

      Start by taxing the noise that jets produce and let the market do it’s magic.

  3. nope says:

    Anyone had any success dealing with moderately bad insomnia? Specifically insomnia of the type “can’t make my goddamn brain shut up for five seconds”, which doesn’t seem to have been helped much by sleep hygiene practices and neato apps like f.lux. I’m particularly interested in clonidine, so mention any experience with that if you’ve used it.

    • TheTrotters says:

      You could try:

      1. Melatonin
      2. Sleep restriction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_restriction)
      3. Obvious stuff: turn off TV, phone, computer in the evening; exercise; limit caffeine etc.

      I’ve had trouble with sleeping for years. It’s manageable when I’m in a rhythm, but if for some reason I have a couple of bad nights I fall into a vicious cycle: I’m tired, so I don’t exercise/go out, I eat a lot of sugar and drink a lot of coffee and so on. Sleep restriction helps in these situations but there’s a lot of short-term pain involved so I don’t always follow through.

      • nope says:

        Actually, you’re right about sleep restriction, it’s probably pretty great. Every time I’ve tried it I’ve given up on it because I can’t function when sleep deprived and had to get to an extreme deprivation state before my cycle budged at all, but from the wiki you linked it looked like that’ll sort itself out within a few weeks. I’ll look into that more, thanks!

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is your problem getting to sleep, or waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep, or both? I’ve had success with 1mg time-release melatonin and 250mg magnesium an hour before I intend to go to sleep. I used to have awful insomnia, of both kinds: getting to sleep was hard, and I would wake up in the night and not be able to get back to sleep, usually with similar reasons to you.

    • Anon says:

      I’ve been able to go from taking 1.5 -2 hours to fall asleep while in bed to about 30 – 45 minutes and from averaging 6 hours of sleep a night to about 7 hours of sleep per night. This was done by multiple habit changes the most effective one being having a set wake up period of 7:00 am every day and using multiple alarm clocks with various requirements to turn off in order to prevent going back into bed in the morning.

      I also used moderate sleep restriction by basically only going to bed if I feel tired. Early on this would occasionally cause me to only get 3 hours of time in bed. However after about a month my sleeping schedule became very consistent.

    • The problem with daydreaming is that you are the hero, which keeps you awake. My solution, many years ago, was to plot novels in my head. That gave me enough distance from my thoughts to let me fall asleep.

      And produced my first novel.

      • Anonymous says:

        How did you solve the problem of always starting from the same place every night and forgetting what you’d plotted the previous night?

        That’s why I don’t have a novel…

        • I didn’t always start from the same place. I plotted out different pieces.

          What I did do was to plot multiple novels with somewhat similar plots. Eventually I got down to one, and had a sketch of all of it.

          House rules were that when I put one of the kids to bed I had to make up and tell three stories. I mentioned to my daughter that I had a novel in my head and she suggested I tell her that instead, so I did.

          The problem with telling stories to my daughter was that she remembered them better than I did. So this time, every evening after telling a chunk of the story I wrote the outline of that chunk on my computer. When I got near the end I decided to try writing the final scene. I liked it. Over the next month or two I went back and wrote the whole first draft from the outline.

          I think it’s currently available for free on the Baen free library, and at a low price from Amazon. Also for free as podcasts linked to the book web page.

    • Practice meditation in which you strive to have no internal dialog for increasing lengths of time.

    • TPC says:

      Benadryl+ reading print books at night, only stuff that is not intellectually stimulating to you.

      • Peter says:

        Indeed, anything with diphenhydramine in; this seems not to be recommended for long-term use. I have a pack of Nytol which I keep beside my bed and expect to get through about eight tablets a year.

        On the leaflet they give you with diphenhydramine products, they tell you not to mix with alcohol. I discovered this when I had some cough syrup then went to the pub for a couple of pints, and ended up feeling very drowsy… then I read the leaflet. Ooops.

        There were later some times when the thoughts were racing so hard, I ended up settling on diphenhydramine + whisky as an emergency “no, I’d really appreciate getting some sleep tonight” measure. I haven’t felt the need for such in years. This is probably not recommended as I don’t know what this does to e.g. your liver.

        • TPC says:

          I’m a nursing mother, I haven’t been told near-daily use is a problem by medical professionals. It is effective for me at children’s dosages, though.

        • Psmith says:

          Chronic usage of anticholinergics (of which Benadryl is one) has been plausibly linked to dementia. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25621434

          • TPC says:

            Um, that’s for people over age 65 taking it. It also doesn’t give the dosages they were taking, or how often they were taking it.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          On the leaflet they give you with diphenhydramine products, they tell you not to mix with alcohol. I discovered this when I had some cough syrup then went to the pub for a couple of pints, and ended up feeling very drowsy… then I read the leaflet. Ooops.

          Taking depressants and alcohol together are rarely a good idea.

    • JayT says:

      It’s kind of a silly thing, but my wife tends to get insomnia of the type you are describing. On the days she’s having issues I turn on the “Sleep With Me” podcast, which is just a silly bedtime story narrated by a guy with the most boring voice imaginable. It knocks her out in just a few minutes.
      https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sleep-me-helps-you-fall-asleep/id740675898?mt=2

    • onyomi says:

      Fasting helps me. But I had to have practice with 72+ hours of no calories before it did so. Now 36 hours is usually enough to get sleep back on track.

      Meditation helps too. It allows space for the stray thoughts to come up and run their course during the day.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @nope:
      Here is something that works for me, although insomnia has never been a terrible problem for me.

      The first time I broke 80 on the golf course, it was very memorable for me. I can remember every single hole in enough detail that I can replay the round in my head. If I really concentrate on doing that, thinking about each swing, how it felt, what the ball fight was, where the ball ended up, I am usually asleep by hole 5.

      So, if you have anything memorable like that, something that isn’t novel, but that you can use to occupy your whole thought process, it might help let your brain turn off.

    • James Picone says:

      Melatonin solved that issue for me. 0.5 mg ~two hours before bedtime, daily.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If by “can’t make my goddamn brain shut up for five seconds” you mean you’re anxious and worrying about stuff, consider evaluating for and treating underlying anxiety disorder.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        Can’t speak for him, but what I get that I’d describe as “can’t make my goddamn brain shut up for five seconds” usually involves pure *thinking*, not anxiety. Especially good creative ideas and engaging debates tend to trigger it most often.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Yeah, my brain is like a chatterbox.

          Melatonin helped for a few years, but recently it’s getting harder to deal with.

          Not getting enough exercise is a big problem. I’ll have a good routine, where I get up, be active, have my normal day, and then go to sleep. But like someone else said, once you get off that, and are “too tired to exercise,” then you get stuck in that new cycle.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What I’ve found helps is putting myself in a position where it’s easier to exercise than not, at a given point. I might be “too tired to work out”, but am I too tired to go to the gym? Once I’m there I might as well work out.

    • jam_brand says:

      My partner has had a decent amount of success using http://kk.org/cooltools/my-sleep-button/ (at least, when remembering *to* use it)

    • Callum G says:

      I’ve heard that cognitive behavioral therapy in an effective treatment for insomnia. Otherwise if you want to try something a little more hardcore try researching ‘polyphasic sleep’.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why and how did Germany vote to recognize the Armenian genocide? Presumably because a lot of members of the Bundestag wanted to. But Merkel skipped the vote. Does that mean that she didn’t want it to happen? Could she have stopped it? Could the cabinet, as a whole, have stopped it? Was this a conflict between Merkel and the cabinet or the cabinet and the coalition? Or was the whole show exactly what everyone wanted? The bill was put forward by the leader of the opposition. Is it normal for opposition parties to be able to put forward bills in parliamentary systems? Or is this a farce for the purpose of laundering responsibility?

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Merkel knows she is on the way out and wants to get a cushy EU post where she can spend the rest of her life getting compliments and giving speeches.

    • Anonymous says:

      The whole vote was a thumb in the eye to Merkel and to Erdogan over the comedian accused of offending a foreign state or whatever that statute was: Erdogan for prosecuting it and Merkel for letting him. Merkel laying herself flat for Erdogan and effectively sacrificing a German citizen out of political expediency because she needs Turkey as a barrier for migrants has been incredibly unpopular.

      Is it normal for opposition parties to be able to put forward bills in parliamentary systems?

      Yes.

    • Tom Womack says:

      Turkey is absolutely essential to the future of Europe; it would be better for Turkey and for the EU to have Turkey in the EU in the mid- and long-term; Erdogan is a bastard.

      I am worried that a lot of anti-Erdogan action has been framed as anti-Turkish (“Turkey might join the EU” coming as a line from Brexit campaigners; whilst Turkey won’t join the EU unless it accepts the acquis communautaire, and Turkey with the acquis communautaire would not be headed by Erdogan).

      • Anonymous says:

        Turkey, with Erdogan or without, should very definitely not join the EU. We hardly need any more migrants from those parts.

        • Tom Womack says:

          The EU’s demographics are really not good in the long term; it needs hefty immigration, and as immigrants go the offspring of the Anatolian Economic Miracle will probably get on pretty well with the offspring of the Bavarian Economic Miracle. Conservative Protestant medium business owners and conservative Muslim medium business owners have an awful lot in common.

          • Tibor says:

            Most Bavarians are actually catholic. Other than that I don’t see why the current population numbers are worse or better than different numbers. I am far from being against immigration (as long as it is decoupled from the welfare state I am probably more for open borders than most people on either the left or the right) but I don’t see how the fact that Europe’s population is declining is necessarily bad. Sure, it creates problem for the Ponzi scheme called the pension system, but Europe can simply switch to the Australian model where people pay for their own retirement and it will probably have to do it one way or another. Other than that, I can’t see how a population decline is a bad thing that has to be prevented at all costs.

            As for the Turks, I’ve been to the country 3 times as a kid, always just as a tourist and only for a week or two, so I don’t know it so well, but I noticed one thing. The differences between the countryside and the cities are much more pronounced than in other countries. In the cities I felt like in southern Europe (also the Turks look more or less the same as Greeks, at least I am unable to tell the difference most of the time…possibly the people in Eastern Turkey look a bit different already). On the countryside I felt suddenly like in the middle east. I am pretty sure that Erdogan recruits most of his supporters outside of the cities. And even though 20% of the population lives in Istanbul, they countryside still probably outweighs the cities in terms of voting. But it is definitely very inaccurate to see the Turks the same as Afghan villagers or something like that. The fact is that the country is a strange mixture of rather modern and (southern) European-like cities and a rather traditional and Middle-east-like countryside.

          • Anonymous says:

            The EU’s demographics are really not good in the long term; it needs hefty immigration

            No, it needs to start breeding again. Replacement by aliens is not the solution.

      • Matt M says:

        I think it’s far more likely that the EU lets Turkey in (with Erdogan in power) than it is that Erdogan will step down, or be removed by the Turks themselves. He isn’t going anywhere without some sort of MASSIVE military intervention by western powers.

        • Tom Womack says:

          On the timescale on which Turkey is likely to comply with the acquis communautaire and enter the EU, Erdogan is mortal; he’s 62 and has had a stressful career, if he’s still president-for-life in 2035 I’ll be surprised. He’s not a Saddam Hussein, he’s not even half-way to being a Putin, the model I’d use for comparison is one of the very long-serving south-east Asian autocrats.

          • Tibor says:

            The question is what happens when Erdogan is gone (also I do not live in Turkey but my impression is that he is currently on the same level with Putin in terms of consolidating local power). Actually, I am not sure what happens in Russia when Putin is gone either (but he is younger than Erdogan so it will take longer).

            Also, on that timescale I would expect the EU to either be very different from the EU of today or not to exist anymore.

          • Matt M says:

            “he’s not even half-way to being a Putin”

            It’s not so much about where he is as it is what direction he’s moving. He’s a LOT closer to Putin today than he was three years ago. The recent situation with ISIS and the refugees has done nothing but help him consolidate power – both domestically and in regards to the EU.

            You seem to take it as a given that the EU will remain consistent with its requirements for entry – I’m not so sure. If the refugee situation gets bad enough and he offers to “solve” the problem, they will acquiesce to whatever demands he comes up with.

  5. Not Using My Normal Handle For This One says:

    So has anyone here had experience suddenly having their testosterone level increase? Whether by hormone therapy, steroid use, correction of an endocrine disorder, or whatever. I’m asking specifically for anecdotes from non-transsexual men.

    I’m a guy in my mid twenties who recently found out that I have extremely low testosterone, probably due to a pituitary prolactinoma. I wouldn’t have guessed it: in terms of my appearance and behavior I’m stereotypically masculine, to the point where the few people I’ve told literally don’t believe me. But looking at the symptoms in retrospect it’s likely my testosterone level has been low at least for the last decade.

    Supposedly these tumors are very responsive to drugs, so relatively soon I should start seeing my serum testosterone climb. I’m not actually sure what to expect and would really appreciate knowing what other people have noticed.

    • Siah Sargus says:

      I guess since you’re getting trt, I’ll have to ask how and at what dose, because the effects of testosterone have an… interesting dose curve.

      This is from the perspective of a gym buddy, I haven’t used any anabolic-androgenic steroids yet myself. You won’t see a huge change in personality. You might get a bit cockier, more assertive, bolder, but nothing absurd. The biggest change you’ll notice will be a boost to libido, and not just sexual libido, but energy in general. I think at trt doses these effects would be less pronounced.

      Also, due to high levels of prolactin production caused by that tumor, have you developed gynocomastia? Is that being treated with other drugs?

      • Not Using My Normal Handle For This One says:

        Thanks for the response, I appreciate the info.

        I guess since you’re getting trt, I’ll have to ask how and at what dose, because the effects of testosterone have an… interesting dose curve.

        So far my endocrinologist hasn’t given me specifics, but my guess is the dose would depend on how much my testosterone production increases without a tumor pressing on those cells. I still need to jump through some more hoops with my insurance too.

        Either way I highly doubt I’d get a prescription high enough to push me above the normal range. I’m going to insist on not staying at the bottom of it though: it would be kind of silly to increase it just enough so as to be in the low range of a healthy 40 year old and then stop. I want levels more typical for someone my age.

        Also, due to high levels of prolactin production caused by that tumor, have you developed gynocomastia? Is that being treated with other drugs?

        As a kid. I had them reduced surgically a long time ago. One of the things which probably should have been a tip-off at the time.

        • Siah Sargus says:

          Testosterone Replacement Therapy won’t increase your testosterone production – it suppresses it, then replaces it. From the new exogenous (foreign) testosterone your hypothalamus detects high levels of testosterone in the blood and greatly reduces the production of endogenous (self-made) testosterone. For the duration of exogenous testosterone administration, your body will be making even less testosterone than it did before, or shut down testosterone production completely. In your case, with a pituitary tumor, this might be a good thing, because the down regulation of a major sex hormone like testosterone often leads to reduction of blood levels of LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone) and other hormones produced by the pituitary gland.

    • ReluctantEngineer says:

      Not related to your problem, but you seem to have hit upon the same fake email address I use. I congratulate you on your creativity and good taste.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:
      • I was going to write about my experience here, but it turns out my past self already did it. Quoting from that thread:

        I too produce no natural testosterone. I noticed something was off around age 16 and started getting injections at age 17, I think. My pubertal development was more gradual, probably taking about a year and half or so. I noticed no significant personality changes during that time or since (other than being horny all the time, of course), and definitely no increase in aggression (I started as a very passive person if you want a baseline). I don’t think my physique changed that much (I was very skinny before taking testosterone and I still am), but I had a significant growth spurt. I got the occasional pimple, but no acne. Honestly the whole transition was very smooth and didn’t cause me any trouble whatsoever – leading me to theorize at the time that late teens might actually be a better time to go through puberty, because one is cognitively more able to handle the abrupt changes. The above seems to argue against that though.

        Incidentally, my testosterone dose at the moment gives me a peak level that’s on the high end of normal. So I don’t think it’s a case of me not getting “enough” testosterone to make me aggressive, unless the effect only shows up for extremely high levels.

        I don’t think past me was quite right about the peak level, though. IIRC testosterone injections typically result in a peak testosterone level that’s well above the normal range, which occurs two days or so after the injection. After that there’s a gradual decline back to baseline. I currently get injections every two weeks, with the dosage chosen based on the testosterone level it produces one week after the injection. Last checkup my one-week level was around 21 nmol/L, which I think is slightly towards the higher end of the normal range. I assume my peak levels are well above that.

        I notice very minor changes in energy over the course of a two-week cycle, and moderate changes in libido.

  6. Elimelech says:

    As the Dean of a tiny independent high school (64 students) I am wargaming the creation of a house system for 7th-12th grade.

    [status: fear and trembling because this could turn out to be a horrible idea.]

    Here are the quirky facts and restrictions on the system. The school only meets three days a week (the other two days are for homework, parent-guided learning, and extra-curricular activities). There cannot be new time commitments on the day for either teachers or students, meaning the system needs to be elegant enough that one man (myself) can run it and explain it to my fellow faculty.

    The purpose of the house system is to increase buy-in to the school’s model, to promote academic self-discipline (not to be confused with grit) and accomplishment by awarding them some form of ESTEEM, to provide some sense of identity to these students who among other issues, don’t even know how to describe their school to other kids (maybe that’s beside the point).

    I think three houses should do the trick.

    What I have come up with so far is a big brother, big sister idea such that older kids are encouraged to encourage younger kids to excel in their studies. I am not exactly sure if this part is even a good idea, but I am thinking older students two grades or more above a younger student should choose a younger student to befriend (or at least be on cordial speaking terms with) so that lunch time can be slightly de-cliqued and being a nerd isn’t a social stigma.

    My other idea is to wed the house system to school wide and class wide academic competitions that happen every year. In this way, point allocations within the system are determined in advance and don’t seem biased and arbitrary. There are no new entities created by doing this and the points are based on real aivities that happen anyway.

    The reward structure is ESTEEM POINTS (framed in a way yet to be determined) from administration/faculty, which cascades down, I deeply hope, into tribe comraderie. At the end of the year, there will be a party for everyone in honor of the winning house.

    Bias alert: I have been reading a lot Gabor Mate and Neufeld, and especially his book Hold On To Your Kids. There is a lot of relationship theory and attachment theory in these works, and its epistemic status is fairly unknown to me (I’d be very interested if Scott had any opinions on this matter). But it rings true, and since it rings true, I can’t help but be extremely partial to their emphatic claim that attachment to one’s peers in youth is ultimately deleterious to maturation. This, again, may be corroborated by Scott’s idyllic graduation speech. All that to say, I am trying to create a system designed so that the students take their cues from those who are more emotionally and intellectually mature, and whatever else there is, than themselves. Kids don’t need to fall into the trap of lusting for peer approval. It’s just no good.

    Final historical note: Last year, I employed a Quirrel Points system in my 9th grade class (chose that group since they were larger and more energetic), designed to reward homework completion and academic accomplishment. The purpose was to get disaffected students to participate the classroom. There was a 70% increase in participation and on average 94% of the kids completed their homework assignments. Obviously, that’s still not that good. But we’re getting somewhere. The issue with the Quirrel system is I can’t foresee it working with 11th graders. They will recognize it as a gimmick, lame, or adults-trying-too-hard.

    The absolute key for all these things is to avoid being gimmicky and to wed points to a real foundation, such that students can gain a sense of personal accomplishment and contribution.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      One important lesson from the Harry Potter books is that the more arbitrariness, caprice, and favoritism you can work into the scoring, the more the kids’ll be into it.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Incidentally, though this was purely meant as a joke when I posted it, on reflection it’s worth taking semi-seriously. When your staff rig the competition, they’re sending the signal to the kids that it’s important enough to be worth rigging.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        Could be. I think it was at the end of HP1 that the accurate adding up of points gathered over the months, would give the Cup to Slytherin — so Dumbledore blatantly awarded some more points to Harry’s house. In Stalky & Co, iirc often the authorities would be unfairly favorable to those three. *

        So your unfairness had better favor the same side that the audience favors. A problem in real life.

        * Or notably the opposite. DF will have the reference in hand.

      • Elimelech says:

        Ha! A dark and twisted part of me agrees.

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      With 64 students, I don’t think you could implement a house system as I understand them. As far as I know, in UK private schools with hundreds of students, the point of a house is that it combines students from different years who otherwise wouldn’t know each other, which doesn’t really apply with far fewer students. Not to say it wouldn’t work, just that it would be a completely different thing if each house only had 3 people per year.

      I think older students mentoring younger ones is generally very successful. I think you might actually be better of not letting mentors choose their mentees though.

      • Elimelech says:

        @Sweeneyrod

        I agree this wouldn’t be much like the UK system, which requires lots of students who are also boarders living in a house. We’re just stealing some of the trappings. Each house would have 30 students in this case. But you’re right, this is not a *real* house system.

    • Julian R. says:

      I agree with Sweeneyrod that 64 students seems a little too few to have a house system.
      I think at that size inter-school competitions will be more useful in promoting a school-wide sense of identity. (In my experience winning inter-school competitions is the best for ESTEEM, though unfortunately your school has the disadvantage of a tiny talent pool.)
      Assuming, of course, you live somewhere inter-school competitions are common.

      Where I live, sports tournaments are run by the government, quizzes and spelling bees are hosted by individual schools and singing and art competitions are a mix of both.

      I think three houses should do the trick.

      I’ve never come across a school that doesn’t use four houses. I wonder why.

      I assume you’re not actually going to call them ESTEEM POINTS. House Points should work fine.

      Speaking of HPMOR points systems, it was certainly the case that in my school most people on cared about academic house points only because they added on to the Sports Day totals where the House Cup was awarded. (To be fair, academic house points were very very irregularly given, by only some teachers, all with widely differing scales and reasons.)

      Anyway, good luck!

      • Elimelech says:

        @Julian R.

        To your last point, that is exactly what I experienced in my boarding days and resented it. How academic points will be given and when, I think, should be nailed down before the school year begines (or at least on the first day). Academics taking the back seat to Sports spoils my digestion.

        Also, you are right being a tiny school and uniquely structured gives us a disadvantaged when it comes to coordinating competitions against other schools.

      • Andrew G. says:

        I’ve never come across a school that doesn’t use four houses. I wonder why.

        My (English state) secondary school had 6.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Four is I think the lowest number that lets you have sensible inter-house competitions (for instance, two randomly chosen pairs play against each other, winners play each other to determine the winner, losers may also play to determine 3rd). So it’s the number usually chosen if you’re deciding to import the system for the purpose of intramural competition.

        Boarding schools with a house system which actually functions as a house system will have many more houses in order to keep them at a sensible size (around 15 students per house per year)- for instance, my school had eleven. Often, this system evolved over time- where I was at school, originally the entire school consisted of the “College”, now one of the houses. Others either began as external boarding-houses for pupils whose parents lived too far away from the school for them to live at home, or were added later as the school expanded (I think the newest was less than 20 years old).

        To bring in the obligatory Harry Potter comparison, Rowling gets the size of a year and a house in a boarding school about right, but gets the number of houses wrong- hence fans having to explain the disproportion between the size of Harry’s year in Gryffindor and the number of students in the school either by making Harry’s year unusually small due to the effects of the war and having the dormitories magically change size, or by making Hufflepuff much larger than the other houses.

        • Anonymous says:

          making Hufflepuff much larger than the other houses

          Is that necessary? Wouldn’t it be enough just to make Gryffindor smaller than the others? It is Protagonist House, after all; it necessarily can’t have too many people in it.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m tempted to ask have you ever read Tom Brown’s Schooldays which is the fictionalised account of someone who attended Rugby School back in the 19th century.

      The eponymous hero attends the school both before and during the headmastership of the reforming Dr Thomas Arnold (headmaster from 1828-1841) who (if the account is anyway true) elevated it from an unruly system of bullying and academic underachievment (not to mention drinking, gambling, and using the younger boys as de facto servants – called fags – by the older students) into a much improved and reputable school.

      It’s been years since I read it, and I was probably a tween myself at the time, but it’s also unfortunately true that pre-reform Rugby is way more fun than post-reform Rugby, and the sickly piety of the relationship between Tom and George Arthur turned me off (even though I was inclined to the scholarly and indeed pious in my childhood). Dr Arnold was very much into Muscular Christianity as character-building 🙂

      (The dormitory prayer scene was hilariously taken off in Terry Pratchett’s “Pyramids”).

      Sample quote:

      The youth was seized, and dragged, struggling, out of the quadrangle into the School-house hall. He was one of the miserable little pretty white-handed, curly-headed boys, petted and pampered by some of the big fellows, who wrote their verses for them, taught them to drink and use bad language, and did all they could to spoil them for everything * in this world and the next. One of the avocations in which these young gentlemen took particular delight was in going about and getting fags for their protectors, when those heroes were playing any game. They carried about pencil and paper with them, putting down the names of all the boys they sent, always sending five times as many as were wanted, and getting all those thrashed who didn’t go. The present youth belonged to a house which was very jealous of the School-house, and always picked out School-house fags when he could find them. However, this time he’d got the wrong sow by the ear. His captors slammed the great door of the hall, and East put his back against it, while Tom gave the prisoner a shake up, took away his list, and stood him up on the floor, while he proceeded leisurely to examine that document.

      * A kind and wise critic, an old Rugboean, notes here in the margin: “The small friend system was not so utterly bad from 1841-1847.” Before that, too, there were many noble friendships between big and little boys; but I can’t strike out the passage. Many boys will know why it is left in.

      • Elimelech says:

        @Deiseach

        I’ll have to check that book out; my roommate told me about it too. When you say “Muscular Christianity,” I think: RAH RAH SUFFERING AND RAH RAH SACRIFICE. WE ARE THE BEST AND SECOND WON’T SUFFICE. (oh, old high school days…)

        • Deiseach says:

          I must be unregenerate; I very much preferred the first half, where Tom and East are being scamps (and getting the better of Flashman) to the second, where George Arthur’s Good Example makes Tom start saying his prayers again and the like 🙂

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      The issue with the Quirrel system is I can’t foresee it working with 11th graders. They will recognize it as a gimmick, lame, or adults-trying-too-hard.

      As for your social goals (mentor etc), 11th graders might respond better to some features of US college fraternities/sororities, than to HP or even British customs.

    • Charlie says:

      The points system should involve comeback mechanics – the simplest being some big events that take place near the end of the school year (or perhaps end of the school semester, if you want to break up the reward a little more). Or you might give some ways to allow the two trailing houses to gang up on the leading house – although preferably in a way that doesn’t encourage bad blood, and not too impactfully or else it’s hard to get a clear winner.

      • Elimelech says:

        Charlie, a gang – up on the leader mechanic would be great. However, I’m not sure what possibilities there are in that vein, when you don’t have an offensive strategy.

        Perhaps, we could do something where one house can target another house and steal points from them. For example, a member of house A challenges House B to a knowledge duel of some type… I still don’t know how that would work.

  7. Why do gamblers smoke?

    From time to time I visit a casino in order to eat in one of the restaurants, usually in Reno or Wendover, which are on our summer trip to Pennsic. Almost always they are smoky. Most restaurants and motels, in contrast, seem to be non-smoking.

    Why the difference?

    • Flame says:

      Maybe gamblers are people susceptible to addiction more broadly?

      Maybe casinos have found pumping smoke in to the air makes people gamble more? Do you actually see people smoking?

    • Tibor says:

      I don’t know if this holds for the US too, but I would say that the people who gamble usually tend to be lower-class (lower than average) and those same people also are more likely to be smokers nowadays. Hotels and restaurants don’t skew to that demographic as much (depends on the restaurant of course) and also many people don’t like to eat in a room full of smoke even if they smoke themselves.

      As for the hotels – I had to have my room changed recently in a hotel in Bochum where they gave me a room which used to be for smokers. You could still smell it in, well, everything there and it was quite disgusting, I had trouble falling asleep there (and I am no radical anti-smoking activist, I am ok with going to a smoking bar with friends who smoke, even though I prefer not to otherwise). So I guess people, save for heavy smokers who also smoke in their own living rooms, probably don’t want their bedrooms to smell of cigarettes either.

    • Maybe smoking is legal in casinos, but not elsewhere?

    • BBA says:

      The literal answer is that most states, including Nevada, have a law banning smoking in workplaces (including restaurants and bars) with a specific exemption for casinos. Without getting into the desirability of such laws, I will note that I’d gotten so used to smoke-free restaurants that it was a minor shock when I visited a state without a no-smoking law and was asked “smoking or non-smoking?” for the first time in years.

      This, of course, answers nothing about why smokers make up so much of a casino’s clientele that the casinos would lobby for and win an exemption from the no-smoking law.

    • Urstoff says:

      My guess is because they can. Around here, all of the casinos are Indian casinos, so smoking is legal in them unlike in restaurant/bars/venues in the rest of the state. That and the type of people likely to go to casinos are those that are more likely to smoke.

    • JayT says:

      I am not a smoker, but when I go to Las Vegas I will light up from time to time. I think part of it is just the novelty of smoking indoors, which you can’t do in California, and the fact that it’s just kind of tradition. I know a lot of people that are the same as me.

    • Lysenko says:

      Prefatory disclaimer: I’ve been working at a smoking, non-Tribal casino for nearly four years now.

      There’s definitely a positive correlation between smoking and gambling, and the correlation appears to be stronger for smoking and problem gambling.

      That said, a quick survey of the studies on the subject seem to ascribe that correlation to everything from ‘addictive personalities gonna get addicted to stuff’ to ‘self-medication for the emotional highs, lows, and anxiety of gaming’ to smoking and gambling being ‘complementary trance-inducing rituals’. Sadly, a lot of these are behind paywalls I can’t cross now that I’m no longer a student bumming off university access, so past that all I have is anecdote and personal experience.

      The experience is why I feel comfortable taking the studies noting a positive correlation at face value. I can’t speak for error bars, but I now live and work in an area with notably more smokers per capita than the national average or the last few regions I lived in, and the casino has notably more smokers per capita than the regional population.

      Our region includes at least one other state where the no-smoking-in-public-places law includes casinos, and there are definitely guests who are willing to drive 2-3x further in order to come to the casinos in this state where smoking is still on the table, so perhaps that’s skewing my personal sample.

      Whatever the reason, yes, more Gamblers are smokers, and that motivates casinos to be smoke-friendly as a competitive advantage. I guarantee that when the city I live in has another No Smoking measure come up, the casino I work for will be joining in with all the local bar owners in lobbying against it. It probably wouldn’t be as big a deal out west where I get the impression traditional pack-of-marlboros-a-day smoking has become all but extinct, but here it’s still very much an accepted part of the cultural mainstream.

      And yes, I had the same jarring moment of deja vu when I ate at a restaurant after moving to this part of the country. “Smoking or Non-Smoking? Wait, is that even still a THING?”

      EDIT: Oh! Demographic note: Gamblers skew -older-. Another possible cause for correlation.

      • Thank you for coming in with specific information.

        • Lysenko says:

          Ehhh, most of what I brought to the table was anecdote, fortified with a minimum of google scholar poking at abstracts and various Casino Industry Association and Addiction Medicine fact sheets.

          I didn’t give exact figures because I don’t want to quote any study’s numbers unless I can actually Read The Whole Thing and assess it and between limited free time, limited funds, and not being a student anymore I can’t do that at the moment.

          Still, thanks. It’s nice to be able to contribute something helpful after discovering SSC, loving both the posts AND the comment threads (and how rare is THAT on the internet?) and lurking for some time.

    • Vegas, as specifically opposed to Reno, is much better about this. There’s still indoor smoking, but the nicer casinos are starting to ban it (and nearly all poker rooms have banned it by general request of the players.) Smoking is a slot machine player thing.

      And honestly that’s my answer to why “gamblers” smoke: filter (heh) bubbles. You mostly hang out with Coastal Cultural Elite people, almost none of whom smoke, but a huge fraction of the country does, and casino floors are the great leveler.

    • Randy M says:

      Both activities select for the statistically illiterate and/or susceptibility to addiction.

  8. Jaskologist says:

    Picking up an earlier thread, I have another proposal for Key Conservative Insight, although this one is rarely expressed:

    All consequences, good and bad, should be visited as closely as possible to the point of decision.

    In fiscal conservatism this is done by letting individuals get rich or go broke based on how well they serve the market. In social conservatism, stigma is used to take consequences that would either be far in the future or hit society in general, and bring them forward in time to when and by whom the bad choice is made.

    • Jill says:

      Interesting idea. But the difficult part is how do you make that happen without a ton of unintended negative consequences on various other people or society as a whole.

      • Jill says:

        “take consequences that would either be far in the future or hit society in general, and bring them forward in time to when and by whom the bad choice is made.”

        Also, where do you find your clairvoyant person who knows with certainty what consequences are going to occur far in the future or hit society in general?

        Many people have ideologies that tell them with certainty what will occur in certain economic circumstances, despite the fact that such circumstances have occurred frequently, and the expected consequences have seldom or never happened that way.

        If you get one of those folks making the decision, then you will be bringing imaginary consequences forward in time, rather than real ones.

      • Nornagest says:

        Funny, that’s exactly what conservatives say about most interventions.

        • Bone Man with Shiny Hat says:

          Pretty sure I can sketch a close-up of my palm from memory at this point….

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      I think this is just a function of the maxim of non-interference. Conservatives do not support hitting poluting companies with taxes and such, although it’s those companies who are creating negative consequences but do not have to deal with them themselves.

      • They *should* support hitting corporations with pollution taxes, though. Social conservativism and environmentalism stem from the same essential impulse, and I’m probably not the only person who supports them both for basically the same reasons.

        (At some point I’ll elaborate on this at length.)

    • Pku says:

      In CS terms, this seems analogous to using a greedy algorithm (you make one decision at the key point to maximize things locally). In these terms, I’d say that liberalism is based on noting that greedy algorithms can occasionally break down under worst-case scenarios, and the libertarian counterpoint is the classic “premature optimization is the root of all evil” – that avoiding greedy algorithms in favour of something more elegant can easily lead to crippling overcomplication in practice, even when it should work better in theory.

    • Charlie says:

      When I hear reasoning like this, I’m immediately worried that you might be over-seeing a pattern. Can we find the same pattern in the exact opposite policies?

      After all, in fiscal liberalism, regulation is used to take consequences that would either be far in the future or hit society in general, and bring them forward in time to when and by whom the bad choice is made. And in social liberalism, there is an assumption that we can improve peoples’ lives by letting them have good or bad personal lives based on their own decisions.

      Note that in both “liberal” and “conservative” madlibs versions, the political philosophy presented is limited and unrealistic – which is precisely why your idea might be a useful lens to view politics through; there’s no point to a map the size of the country it depicts. But because the madlibs can be filled in so many different ways, if one is willing to be creative, this principle is not particularly good as an explanation.

  9. Siah Sargus says:

    Edited away. Understood. It’d be better not to say anything just yet.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      one of the rules is a three-day moratorium on politicizing tragedies. Past the obvious that it was a monstrous act and a horrifying tragedy, anything else to be said would almost certainly be political.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        If only there was some sort of “Comments” page on the blog where rules like this could be helpfully listed. But that way lies the madness of people understanding what is and isn’t permitted for them to do.

        Although the only remark I have to contribute is “BRB: getting back in my ISIS-proof closet with a rifle and a colander on my head”.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          check the OP, it has been helpfully updated. I will say that I had forgotten that rule myself and was more or less ready to roll on the debate. On reflection, I’m actually really glad the rule is there. I’m pretty sure the conversation would have been net-negative for everyone involved.

          Also, closet = garbage tier, tub 4 lyfe.

    • keranih says:

      In addition to the concern over politicizing tragedy, and/or speaking in haste so that regret could be savored at leisure, I think that declining to comment until we have more/more accurate information is best.

      Some years back I was hiking in [a country in Europe] along a postal road connecting two quasi-neighboring villages in a mountainous area. In ages past, the royal post ran to one town, but not to the other, so that in order to check mail, people had to walk (this was not a road one could take ponies over) about nine miles over terrain that was constantly rising and falling. Oh, and the mail only came once a week to the one town.

      In this era, a person from the town could be nine weeks by wagon west of St Louis, Missouri, from which a steamboat could take a package downriver to Nar’lins, and from there a clipper (still the fastest way to cross the Atlantic) to a major European port, and from there travel perhaps by rail, perhaps by slower means, and then be sorted into bags, and taken, once a week, by coach, to the town on the post route.

      Where it might sit a month or more.

      As I was walking this road, the drama over the Easter AmazonFail (*) was fresh in my memory, when a clerical error the day before Easter was not addressed in a manner timely enough to mollify the offended parties.

      In many ways, instant access to information has been a boon to all mankind. But not in every way.

      (*) Yes, that’s a link to Whatever. On occasion, Scalzi says sensible things.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are saying

        • keranih says:

          Crouch here a while and lurk.

          It may come to you.

          • Soumynona says:

            A rude way to respond to a request for clarification.

            You’re failing at trying to sound wise.

          • Anonymous says:

            Somehow, I don’t think the post was supposed to make sense.

          • Keranih says:

            My apologies. I was trying to make a Shakespeare joke about pausing in the face of uncertainty. Evidently I misjudged the boarders of the reference pool.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Evidently I misjudged the boarders of the reference pool.

            I don’t think any of us is paying rent here, despite wanting to have our ideas do so. 😉

          • Keranih says:

            Okay, THAT one I’m blaming on the flipping autocorrect.

            Also on not closely proofreading, but mostly autocorrect.

            I meant ‘borders’ as in, didn’t speak to my audience. M’bad.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            I can throw no stones at all when it comes to spelling.

            I swear I misspell all homonyms at worse than average chance rate…

          • Urstoff says:

            I just assumed you were referencing Diablo’s “Stay awhile and listen”.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I thought it was a fancier way of saying “lurk moar”

        • Aegeus says:

          “In the good old days, news traveled slowly, and waiting months for news to cross the continent was no big deal. Therefore, waiting three days to get the full story on a recent news story shouldn’t be a big deal either.”

      • http://angrylittletree.com/2009/04/amazon-fail-internet-fail.html

        Amazon Easter Fail was a thing that actually happened, and some of it was people jumping to conclusions.

        And I do think that in general– and especially here– requests for information should be answered politely.

  10. If the U.S. outlaws encryption and to be sent all emails have to pass some computer test proving that they are not encrypted, how hard would it be for terrorists to fool this system and still communicate using encrypted emails?

    • Outis says:

      Do terrorists actually communicate using encrypted emails now?

      • Siah Sargus says:

        It wouldn’t really matter if they did. Do terrorists lock their trucks at night? Normal people do as well. Outlawing encryption on electronic communication is like outlawing sealed envelopes in the mail. It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of encryption, or malicious intent.

        • Outis says:

          Agreed, but it may matter if they did not. It’s possible that we are fretting about keeping terrorists from doing something that they are not even doing.

    • The Nybbler says:

      1) They could skip email and communicate via couriers, carrier pigeon, burner phones (or falsely-registered phones), or the like.

      2) They could use word codes instead of computer encryption.

      3) Computer steganography should be fairly simple, provided the amount of information they want to transfer is fairly small.

    • Jaskologist says:

      It would be easier for them to just send encrypted emails using their own servers without passing it through whatever system is supposed to mark it as unencrypted. Trivially easy.

      • John Schilling says:

        Please explain. I grant you that ISIS central can have a server in the basement of wherever, and their agents in the US and Europe can have private servers set up in their safehouses, but there isn’t going to be fiber directly connecting the two. In order for the message to get from Syria to Syracuse, it will almost certainly pass through systems controlled by Sprint or AT&T or whatnot, large US corporations that we know will roll over and do whatever the NSA tells them to. If the NSA tells them to run an algorithm that checks every single packet to see if it looks like an encrypted email, how does ISIS “trivially” avoid this?

        Arranging for their encrypted email to look like something other than encrypted email, yes, that’s pretty straightforward and they’ll probably win if they have smart people setting up the system for it. But not ever passing through an AT&T node? I’m not seeing that.

        • fubarobfusco says:

          Email is only one of many, many ways to send arbitrary messages from here to there. It has some pretty big compatibility advantages, but there are plenty of other systems that work reasonably well if you need them.

        • Anonymous says:

          If the NSA tells them to run an algorithm that checks every single packet to see if it looks like an encrypted email, how does ISIS “trivially” avoid this?

          Is that actually even possible?

          To my recollection of basic telecom protocols, you’d have to run a very expensive algorithm on every single packet – to unpack it and check if the string of ones and zeroes looks sort of like one of the many ways you can encrypt data (and not one of the many ways to merely encode it). Most devices on the network don’t do that – they can’t do that, because their hardware is not designed for it; in fact, unless there’s processing happening, transmission is often nearly at the speed of light (check out the 500 km email limit story). Attempting such a thing by routing all traffic through encryption detecting servers would be practically impossible, and definitely undesirable for anyone who likes their internet to work faster than early dial-up.

          It’d be theoretically possible, sure, but in practice – highly unreliable, unacceptably slow and exorbitantly expensive.

          You’d probably have better luck forcing Microsoft to package Outlook with “it looks like you’re in the US and using PGP, let me help you unencrypt that because it’s illegal”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is that actually even possible?

            Not to 100% accuracy, but the cheap way to get a reasonable hit rate would be to run statistical tests on the data. Even a basic Shannon entropy estimate would work pretty well; I’ve used this to find encryption keys in a binary, a similar problem. The more random it looks, the more likely it is to be encrypted.

            This would have false positives on some types of compressed data, though — compression is deeply related to encryption and you’re looking for some of the same mathematical properties in the output — so you’d probably have to do some whitelisting, and then you’d be blind to anything wrapped in compression. You could decompress and recompress anything that comes your way, but that would be a lot more computationally expensive.

            It is not impossible to do that without incurring unacceptable latency — the company I work for does it all the time. It is, however, expensive if you’re doing it over a lot of traffic.

          • Anonymous says:

            Is it illegal to send a locked ZIP file in the US?

          • John Schilling says:

            To my recollection of basic telecom protocols, you’d have to run a very expensive algorithm on every single packet

            Most packets aren’t part of any email at all, so you’d start with the very simple algorithm that says “Is this even an email?”. Most email that is compressed in a way that sort of looks encrypted is going to be large file attachments, because those are the ones that are worth compressing, so stage 2 of the algorithm is “Hey, isn’t this the 3512th packet of that thing we already decided was a legit compressed email?”. Only after that do you actually try to sort out what is or is not encrypted.

            This is certainly possible, and I think it is feasible if you’re willing to live with a modest latency hit and error rate. But that’s gut-feel “think”, not I’ve-done-the-math “think”. And if the latency or false positive rates are problematic to some users, well, email is more tolerant of latency than most internet applications, and that would just discourage people from sending the sort of big compressed files that make the NSA’s job tougher.

            As fubarobfusco notes, clever and skilled terrorists will be routing around this sort of thing from day one. Might be useful against amateurs. Or against domestic political nonconformists who imagine that they are living in a free country and can use the internet to coordinate their pro-Trump/Sanders/whomever activity, not that Congress and the NSA would ever join forces to such nefarious ends, perish the thought.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I did not read the OP correctly. That posited complete banning of encryption, which seemed so absurd to me that I changed it to “just banning encrypted email.” Once you have SSL, you’ve lost the ability to distinguish between messages much beyond “big” and “small,” so it’s easy to send emails on your own even if the government says you shouldn’t. You don’t need a special server to send or even receive mail; any computer is capable of that.

          If we somehow “ban” encryption, I think it’s still easy enough to hide encrypted messages inside other messages, as detailed by others. Text messages are about as tiny as can be, so easy to hide. And even if we get good at scanning SMTP, it’s pretty easy to dash off an ad-hoc protocol for sending text, which you could probably make look some other traffic (streaming audio, for example) with very little extra effort.

      • ChristianKl says:

        @Jaskologist: Great. Then the CIA can simply look at who connects to the server and knows who happens to be a terrorist.

    • brad says:

      It would be very very difficult to write a good generalized steganography detector (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steganography#Countermeasures_and_detection) and fairly easy to defeat a bad one.

    • Nornagest says:

      Outlawing encryption would be so profoundly stupid that I have a hard time believing it’d get through all the hurdles it needs to get through. In 1995, maybe. Not today.

    • Izaak Weiss says:

      Very easy. First we take the message we want to send. Then we encrypt it like normal, but we can’t send this data over an email, because of the filter, which we can’t get around. So we use a method called stegonagraphy, which hides the message instead of encrypting it. Usually you would encrypt it and then steganography it just in case. Then we take the encrypted data and modify text or pixels in an image. For instance, I’ve hidden a message in the periods and commas of this comment. Each comma is a 1, and each period is a 0. They spell out a short ascii message. I have to end this comment with a comma,

    • Murphy says:

      I’ve looked into digital image forensics research extensively and if such a system was in place or I suspected as much and I had something to say that I wanted to hide then I’d just hide it inside cat memes.

      I’d set it up like me and my mates are trading emails with cats making silly faces covered in captions and then in the least significant bits of 1 in every 100 pixels I’d encode an encrypted volume containing the messages. Could probably whip together a script to do it over a weekend.

      If you’re not greedy with volume you can become unbelievably hard to detect.

      Even with billions of dollars worth of compute trying to pick out something like that would be basically impossible.

      Messages could be “OMG THSI CAT IS SO CRAZY” while the real message is bomb schematics and nobody is realistically going to detect that.

      At least in the Paris attack the attackers didn’t bother with encryption, they communicated in plaintext and one of their members was featured in ISIS’s propaganda magazine as ,basically, terrorist of the month talking about his plans to attack. It’s like a blackadder script

      Blackadder: So, you say that you had no way of knowing who the terrorists were?

      Melchitt: None whatsoever, those nefarious blackguards covered their tracks too well.

      Blackadder: But it says here that they planned their attacks out in the open, using their real names and documents, without any encryption whatsoever.

      Melchitt: Yes, you see that’s the most dastardly bit of all. Everyone knows that terrorists use false identities and super-spy encryption. Of course we wouldn’t suspect them.

      Blackadder: I see. And when the ringleader was featured as “Terrorist of the Month” on the front cover of “Terrorists Monthly”, with a big speech caption above his head saying “I am a big terrorist and I’m going to commit terrorism very soon now”, that didn’t sound any alarm bells?

      Melchitt: Bah! We can’t trouble ourselves with tabloid tittle-tattle Blackadder, we have serious counter-terrorism work to do. Now, hand me my golf clubs will you?

      Baldrick: If I may sirs, I have a cunning plan to catch the terrrrisms.

      Blackadder: Shut up Baldrick, or I’ll have you waterboarded with your own emissions. *smack*

      (https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?sid=10895&cid=270173)

      • Hlynkacg says:

        I really want a fifth Blackadder with Edmund and Baldrick as low-ranking state department staffers now.

        • Alsadius says:

          It feels like you might just do better to watch Yes Minister for that sort of thing.

  11. Outis says:

    If a group is the victim of some injustice, and someone form that group is fighting that injustice, they could be fighting for justice, or they could simply be fighting for their in-group. The glorification of such people in our public discourse, as ethical exemplars to be admired by everyone (and not just by their in-group), implies that we see them as fighters for universal justice. But it seems to me that in many cases, they are much more likely to simply be fighting for their in-group.

    I think that makes a lot of difference. Yes, an act of justice should be supported, irrespective of the motivations of those who made it. But the approval granted to the people themselves tends to stick. Then we end up excusing all sorts of evil acts because we have decided that person is fighting for the greater good. But what if they were really fighting for their own good? Would we be as understanding then?

    And when the battle for justice is won, but the people keep fighting to get more and more for their in-group, does that not suggest that what they cared about all along was to benefit their in-group, rather than any universal notion of justice? Or perhaps the people change, but the group sticks around. Still, if most people are in it for tribal reasons now, does that not suggest that it was the same way before?

    More abstractly, does the ethical standing of a person depend on their motivations? If you just want to fight for your in-group, but due to historical accidents your in-group is disadvantaged, you are a hero. But if you end up living at a different turn of history, when your in-group is advantaged, you are a villain. Does that really make sense? I’m not saying you should not be supported in the former case, and opposed in the latter. But are you not the same person, made of the same moral fiber?

    • Jill says:

      Well, maybe we should just decide if we think a cause is just, and support it if it is. Because determining someone’s motivations is difficult. And people can certainly lie about those. And people often have mixed motives, or even have limited awareness of what their own motives are. Everyone wants to believe they are a good person, and some of us believe we’re better than we actually are.

      But perhaps this is less about what causes to support than about who should be a hero to society. We’re doing pretty badly in that department now, as many people worship vacuous movie stars.

      • Outis says:

        Yes, this is not about which causes to support, except for the point that we should be careful about supporting causes just because we have decided that the people advancing them are righteous. The main point, or rather the main question, is about the evaluation of the person. I am more interested in an ethical angle than a political one.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Your point is valid, but fighting for your in-group does not mean fighting for your own good. Many individuals of a disadvantaged group can lead a comfortable live in the current system which they often sacrifice to help their own community. Take Muhammed Ali: He could have kept his mouth shut, taken a PR role in the army and thus prevent being striped from his title. Instead he chose to constantly speak out against what he perceived to be injustice towards his people and fought against it at great cost for himself, namely the risk of never being able to box again.

  12. Tibor says:

    Since the topic of the EU was brought up here in another thread – there are people, a minority but not an insignificant one (especially among politicians), whose explicit long-term goal is forming the United States of Europe. I don’t quite understand why anyone would want to do that safe for the vague idea of being able to feel like “we are an empire!”. Those people often argue that for Europe to play a major role in the modern globalised world, it needs to be unified and speak with one voice. But even if politically this might be true, I am not sure why exactly it is so good to be an important world power. From the perspective of the prime minister or a president of such a state it probably makes sense, from the perspective of an ordinary citizen, I don’t really see any benefits, again save for the “we are an empire” feeling, which I don’t really understand.

    But some people generally do like this idea of their country being important worldwide and all the anti-nationalism ethos of the EU notwithstanding, I think that somehow this is just a translation of the same old thing to a modern setting.

    That reminds me that I once suggested to a Russian that perhaps it would be good for the country to split to a few dozens smaller states because they could be government more efficiently and some of them probably would be governed better. She was quite horrified by the idea and literally said it was good to be an empire (she did not say why exactly and I did not ask). While this is something that people would probably find stereotypically Russian, I don’t see much of a difference in motivation between this and the EU-federalists.

    • Matt M says:

      Uniquely Russian? That sounds like the same response you get from most people when you explain the “Six Californias” proposal to them.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I imagine that at least some of the people who want more European integration think that it will further reduce the chances of another European war.

      • Tibor says:

        That might be the case. However, it seems to me that more centralization leads to more tensions and they can fuel the kind of sentiment which starts wars. Yugoslavia definitely did not profit from being a single country. Since different countries in Europe have fairly different views on many policies, I would be afraid that a European federation would actually increase the probability of another war in Europe. But yeah, good point, I believe that some people actually do believe this.

        • Matt M says:

          Agreed.

          The very existence of the EU has prompted the debate: “Should Germany be forced to bail out Greece or not?”

          The prospect of the entire rest of the EU minus Germany voting that yes, this must happen, seems to me to be the most likely scenario that may lead to large-scale war in continental Europe.

          • Lightman says:

            How would this lead to war? At worst, it could bring up the breakup of the EU – but who is going to send in the tanks?

        • dndnrsn says:

          The degree to which European integration prevents war is, indeed, questionable: before WWI, some pundits were talking about how the links of international trade and so forth meant that no European country would go to war against each other, and if a European war did break out, the resulting trade problems would shut everyone’s war economy down quickly.

          Regarding the former Yugoslavia, I’m no expert, but as I understand it, several ethnic groups that did not like each other much ended up with serious disagreements over who was pulling their weight and who wasn’t. The latter seems like the major problem in modern Europe: Greece and Germany may not have a history of ethnic hatred, but as I understand it the Greeks resent the Germans as a bunch of penny-pinching bankers who forced a unified currency on everyone, lent out a bunch of money, and are now telling people what to do, while the Germans see the Greeks as a bunch of layabout bums who borrow money and never pay it back.

          • Tibor says:

            More or less, at least when you are talking about an average Greek and an average German. The south (Italy has been running on a huge permanent debt for decades) has a very different monetary policy than the north. The south includes France in this (and most policy questions actually). Thus with Mario Draghi running the ECB now, printing as much money as possible and now even starting to buy private company bonds (until recently this was quite unthinkable), many in the north are quite annoyed by this monetary policy. But I guess it comes natural to an Italian. The lira was a weak currency and having a lot of saved money in the banks is probably not quite an Italian thing, so it would not bother people that much.

            I think that the east of the EU is somewhat closer to the north in this. At least the Czechs are, in fact they tend to be very conservative about investing their savings and usually just put it to a bank savings account. But Poland and Hungary are not eligible for Euro yet and the Czechs strongly oppose it, so only Slovakia has it (I see this as one of the benefits of splitting Czechoslovakia, otherwise we’d have a lot of argument between the two federal countries whether to introduce euro or not). Even so, Slovaks were pretty annoyed about having to participate in the bailing out of /”lending money to” Greece. I know their PM said something like “why does poor Slovakia have to subsidize the rich Greeks?”. That is not exactly right, since right now Greece is in real terms probably slightly poorer than Slovakia, but many people don’t actually do a comparison (after all, even some 10 years ago Greece would be the richer country) and then they are even more outraged. Also Slovenia has euro, but they are geographically rather the south, although in mentality they appear to me close to Czechs or Austrians.

            So in the euro question you have at least two camps which oppose each other quite a lot and then each country has its own motivations to defect here and there (I think that it is actually not good for Germany to bail out Greece, but it is good for the political establishment, at least in the short term and Merkel is exactly the prototype of a politician who only thinks about how improve her short term political position, she changes her views so often that I think she does not really have any). This definitely does not help to create a harmonious Europe. The EU advocates usually say that this kind of working out of differences is a lot better than fighting, implying that this would happen were it not for the EU but the arguments are actually almost exclusively about things that would not exists were it not for the union (or were it run in a less centralized way), so I don’t find that very convincing.

          • Italian says:

            having a lot of saved money in the banks is probably not quite an Italian thing

            As an Italian I’m dismayed that people believe this of us, because it’s the opposite of truth.

            Italy stands out for having relatively high private savings. These high private savings counterbalance the high public debt.
            If you look around for data you will find confirmations of this (even though the bad times in recent years may have put a dent in savings).

            Italians have a big cultural propension to save, save, save – but only when they are doing it for themselves and their own family.
            When they are in power, they become irresponsible, it seems.
            Or maybe it isn’t irresponsibility and there is a decent reason to this behavior. I can’t tell.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      All the talk I have seen about something like a United States of Europe emphasizes the disadvantages of monetary union if you do not have fiscal union. But that is over on “this side of the pond”. Obviously, I don’t know what the average German or Italian news outlet has to say about it.

      • Outis says:

        But states in the US also have very different fiscal policies. State income tax ranges from 0% to over 12%. State sales tax ranges from 0% to 7.5% (and with city taxes it can get to 11%). This is not quite as large as the variance in income and sales tax across EU states, but it does not seem qualitatively different. So why is this not a problem for the US?

        • Tibor says:

          I think that there is a fundamental difference between the rather homogeneous (compared to Europe) American states and the countries of the EU. For example, Spain has a 22% unemployment rate today, Germany has something like 5% and is quite a bit richer. And even though you don’t need working visas or anything, you don’t see Spaniards moving to Germany en masse. In the US there does not seem to be such a thing. If there are no good jobs in one part of the country, many people move elsewhere. Few thousand kilometers is nothing in the US, in Europe it means moving to a possibly quite different culture with a different language and I think that Europeans generally tend to be more rooted. Even within individual countries there is less migration, so you can have big disparities. Most notable is the case of Italy where Sicily is economically on the level of Poland whereas the north is comparable to Austria.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Outis:
          Those differences in fiscal policy at the state level are marginal, though. Federal spending plus federal grants to states ensures a floor.

          But, more importantly, states do need to balance their budget in a way that the fed does not. And this is the issue you see in Europe with Greece.

          When the US hits a recession and Unemployment outlays need to go up significantly, it’s done at the Fed level for a reason. If each individual state had to do it, it would create similar problems.

      • Tibor says:

        This is an argument you hear sometimes, but I don’t think this is the main reason why some people are convinced eurofederalists. After all, another solution to this problem is to dissolve the monetary union (many countries are not a part of it anyway and at least in the case of the UK, Denmark, Sweden and the Czech republic it is because there is not enough support of it there).

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      There’s the argument that a Europe which is in little pieces would be more easily swallowed up, bit by bit, by hostile encroaching forces, than a Europe which is all one nation — if Russia invaded the state of Poland, the United States of Europe would have a very hard time not responding, whereas if Russia invaded the independent nation of Poland all the other nations could and probably would find excuses to not do anything. In 1995 this argument would have seemed silly. In 2016, less so.

      (Counterpoint to that argument: the EU hasn’t exactly been a mighty bulwark against Putin’s expansionism so far.)

      • Anonymous says:

        The NATO is a better guarantee against external encroachment than the EU ever was.

      • Tibor says:

        As pointed out, most EU countries are also members of NATO or surrounded by NATO members (Austria) with the exception of Finland which borders Russia and is not a NATO member. However they are now considering joining the alliance because they feel increasingly insecure about Russia. Needless to say, Russia is not very happy about that).

        Still, I think there is a good case for a European military alliance or something like that, because I have doubts about the willingness of the US to finance the defense of Europe forever.

        I doubt Russia would risk attacking a NATO country and I doubt that NATO would find an excuse not to defend it. It would destroy the alliance’s credibility completely.

    • sohois says:

      I have a quite simple reason for supporting a United States of Europe: I struggle to think of any benefits that nationalism and nation states bring to the world, and thus every step that can be taken to eliminate the concept is one I would support until eventually the entire world can be united.

      Possible objections I can think of to this include the risk of a dictator seizing control of a world government and plunging the world into totalitarianism; to this I would argue that the damage of wars and risks of nuclear annihilation far outweigh this. Further, no doubt there is a major issue with having a massive centralized bureaucracy that is terrible at adapting to the massive variety of local cultures and languages. The natural argument to this is to propose a heavily federalized system, whereby a handful of functions are centralized, like only one USE defence force, whilst the rest is left up to regions. However, I myself do not like this counter argument – any arrangement of government will work well if you have theoretically perfect politics, but in practice it never works out like that. The USE will inevitably end up very bureaucratic and inefficient because that’s what systems do. I don’t have a counter argument to this point save for the fact that I think overall the benefits will still outweigh the costs.

      • Matt M says:

        “I struggle to think of any benefits that nationalism and nation states bring to the world, and thus every step that can be taken to eliminate the concept is one I would support until eventually the entire world can be united.”

        I agree with this, but disagree that consolidation is the answer.

        Look at the size and scale of the USA. Is it more, or less, nationalistic than Germany? What about the USSR or the British Empire at its heyday?

        If you want to end nationalism, the key is to go smaller, not larger. You know who doesn’t strike me as dangerously nationalist? Lichtenstein.

        Which has the potential to be a bigger threat to global stability? A United States of Europe, a European Union, Spain, or Catalonia? But why stop there – Catalonia itself should break up into several smaller pieces.

        • TD says:

          Economies of scale mean that if you decentralize too far you’ll end up less efficient at producing or doing things in general. Technology can change where economies of scale will lie, of course, or even make you so efficient that it doesn’t really matter if you are operating below them, so in the future countries may be able to be split up with less pain.

          As for now, splitting Spain into 1000 different countries would lead to economic collapse I’d imagine.

          • Matt M says:

            What “things” will be harder for the government to produce? Standing armies? Massive surveillance systems? Welfare entitlements?

            I see this as a feature, not a bug.

            To the extent that a small state has a good idea, other states are free to adopt it. You could work out voluntary treaties to unify on specific areas where unification made sense.

            People seem to take it as a given that political separation will automatically result in massively different policies in every individual locale – but this seems unlikely to me. To the extent that it does harm, states will simply choose not to do it. Sure, if you split Spain up into 1000 different countries and every one of them adopted their own currency and tariff policy and safety standards that were all entirely unique – that would probably cause a depression. But why would they do that?

          • Tibor says:

            I agree that at a certain point hit the (dis)economies of scale will hit you quite hard. But I think that this point is way below most of the size of modern states. Switzerland, with its population of 6 million, is divided into I think 26 cantons (the number may be +-5 off) which are about as independent as the US federal states and even there you have communal government which is more independent than communal government of most countries. It seems to work pretty well. Even if we take Switzerland as a lower bound, Spain could split into some 10 countries which could each split into some 20 federal states. Germany, with its 80 million residents, could split into 14-15 countries (actually this would roughly coincide with the number of federal states Germany has today, which is 16). Even rather small countries like the Netherlands or the Czech republic could split into two.

            And those separate countries could have a common currency, would not need to have trade and movement of labour barriers, could cooperate in defence and so on.

      • Tibor says:

        I don’t care much for nationalism and as far as I am concerned, the states do not have to be nation-states (in a sense Switzerland is not a nation-state). But I do care a lot about the size of the countries the same way people are concerned about the size of corporations. I am actually more concerned with the size of countries since I believe there are quite good mechanisms that keep the size and power of corporations at bay, assuming that they do not get support from the state (which sadly happens a lot but then the cause of the problem is too much state power, too much corporate power is just a symptom). I think there are mechanisms that keep the size of countries at bay as well, but they are much weaker and also much worse in the way they work. Also, when larger countries break into smaller ones, it tends to end up in wars. In fact, the only example from recent history of a completely peaceful split I can think of was the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. If Scotland or Catalonia end up being independent it is likely to be in a peaceful manner as well, but historical examples are overwhelmingly on the side of war.

        I think that the competition far outweighs the need to have multiple bureaucracies. It was considered inefficient to have 10 car making companies, why not have one central company which does that instead? The utter failure of communism shows that it is not a very good idea and the state is basically nothing else than a local monopoly on certain services.

        There are of course good reasons for international cooperation. Removing trade barriers is a very good thing. It might also make sense for armed forces of a relatively homogeneous region with relatively common interests (at least in terms of protection against those who might attack the region, which in Europe basically means Russia) to be closely coordinated. But you do not need a federal government to implement those things.

        Honestly, even though I find the european federation rather unlikely, I find the idea genuinely scary. Not for nationalist reasons (as should hopefully be clear by now) but because even the level of centralisation of the US would be too much and I expect it would actually end up being more centralised than that (given for example the proposals of unified taxation already in the existing EU). That would likely lead to stagnation, a lot of tension between the parts of the EF (already in the current EU, especially in the more unified eurozone, there are these tensions because different parts of the eurozone would like to run the currency differently), eventually probably to a civil war.

        Of course there is the risk that you mention, but it is not a discrete distribution. You don’t either get a well-running and efficient superstate or a world/european dictatorship. You can get something in between. And in the absence of local competition (not everyone can emigrate to Switzerland), the government is much less limited in its expansion, therefore likely to be worse than the average government in the same region with inter-government competition.

        As for federalism, note that the US federal government started with consuming something like 2% of the GDP, now it is something like 20%. Since in Europe there is much less knee-jerk reaction against centralisation, this would probably proceed even faster.

      • ” I struggle to think of any benefits that nationalism and nation states bring to the world”

        That sounds like an argument for anarchy, not world government.

      • szopeno says:

        Well, it;s quite simple. I am Polish and one of axioms of my morality is that “it’s a good thing that Polish nation exists”. From my point of view trying to get rid of nationalism is evil thing and nationalism preserves the existence of Polish nation, so it is good. And you are evil, evil person.

  13. BBA says:

    From the “fun with intellectual property” department: One of my coworkers is a Canadian and a smoker. Some time ago I noticed that the Health Canada warning labels were so large they crowded the name “Marlboro” off the box. Today I learned that isn’t what happened at all, and the story is more interesting.

    It seems that back in 1930, when Marlboro was still a “women’s cigarette” with relatively low sales, Philip Morris sold off the Canadian rights to the brand to a competitor, Imperial Tobacco Canada. In the ’50s when filtered cigarettes became popular, Marlboro was rebranded with the famous cowboy campaign and rapidly became the #1 cigarette in the world, except for Canada, where ITC used its own “Marlboro Canadian” branding. For a number of years PM sold cigarettes in Canada using the name “Matador” and the rooftop logo, but in 2006 they moved to selling cigarettes with just the logo and no name. And in 2011 a court found that PM’s no-name cigarettes violated ITC’s trademark on “Marlboro” even though ITC never used the logo and PM never used the name because of vague “idea” associations. Normally I’d say this was nonsense, but I mentally filled in the “Marlboro” name on the box myself, so I think the court got it right.

    Just to add to the confusion, Imperial Tobacco Canada isn’t owned by Imperial Tobacco but by British American. And “no name” is itself a brand name in Canada, though not for cigarettes.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      For a number of years PM sold cigarettes in Canada using the name “Matador”

      Given the etymology of the word, that’s an awesome example of unintentional truth in advertising 🙂

      • The Nybbler says:

        You underestimate tobacco marketing people. They likely knew this and were snig-gering among themselves for slipping it past their bosses (who likely also knew but weren’t letting on).

  14. Jaskologist says:

    The arguments I found most compelling in the anti-death-eater FAQ were those attempting to prove statistically that life has been improving.

    Now, news is finally coming out that we have accomplished the rather difficult feat of reducing life expectancy for whites since 2012. How long does that sort of trend need to continue before we’re forced to admit that Moldbug was right?

    • Don't make me say it again: I'm a cleaner says:

      It helps that it’s only really falling among categories of whites the users in this blog don’t typically belong to.

    • Frog Do says:

      I find statistical arguments to be very unconvincing in general. They are mostly used to disguise basic assumptions which seem to be to be very contestable, a la Pinker. They shouldn’t be convincing either way.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Well isn’t that more “admitting Jim Donald was right” in this case?

      Moldbug’s argument was that technological progress was (imperfectly) masking social decay. Such as that statistic about advances in emergency medicine reducing the number of deadly assaults by a factor of five, while the murder rate only drops slightly over the same time period. Life expectancy continuing to increase would just be seen as more evidence that technology was continuing to outrun degeneracy.

      This fits more with Jim’s narrative of stagnation hidden from the comfortable by propaganda and distance. He would probably liken it to the Great Leap Forward, with us the ‘urban hùkǒu’ as it were eating our fill while those in the rural areas quietly die. Life expectancy falling slightly in the official figures would be a sign to him that the real number had fallen much much lower, and earlier, than reported.

      (Describing, not endorsing.)

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        If you’re not endorsing, do you have any counter-arguments against either of those theories? They’re obviously very difficult to falsify, but seem pretty compelling.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Sadly, compelling unfalsifiable theories have kind of a poor track record. But as for brief counterarguments / warnings:

          Moldbug highlights some real problems, but it’s unclear whether the scale justifies the massive changes he’s suggesting. And his proposed solutions are utter nonsense: they rely on technology and organizational structures which, while certainly not impossible, are very implausible in the form he imagines them.

          Jim makes a lot of highly specific claims about how things are, both in the present and historically, to justify his claims of stagnation. In those cases where I have domain knowledge, he seems to be better informed than the average person but prone to hyperbole. By the Gell-Mann method, I take anything he says on other topics with a large grain of salt until I can get a reliable second opinion.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Dr Dealgood: Do you mean to write “murders have dropped but assaults have stayed the same”? As I understand it, the argument goes like this: “better emergency medicine means someone shot/stabbed is less likely to die, reducing a murder to an attempted murder or an assault”.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          It came out a bit incoherently, yeah.

          What I meant to say was that the argument is since improvements in emergency medicine turn most of what would have been murders into assaults, the fact that the murder rate only dipped slightly rather than dropping precipitously over that period implies that the total amount of violence actually increased greatly over that period. Which is not really reflected in measures other kinds of violent crime, but that gets us into an endless rabbit hole of crime statistics which I’d rather avoid.

          • Pku says:

            Conjecture: There are a certain number of people who commit violent crime, and they used to just die off, but now that we have emergency medicine they each survive to commit several crimes until they kill each other, thus artificially inflating the crime rate.

            This should be provable/disprovable by trying to see if the number of people committing assault rises, rather than just the number of assaults (assuming that rate rises at all).

        • Skivverus says:

          Only for one city, but quite possibly relevant:

          http://davidsimon.com/omalley-bad-math/

          There were three possible explanations:

          1) Baltimore assaults had become 25 percent more lethal between 2002 and 2003 and stayed that way, with the city’s criminals becoming more dangerous shots with better weapons, more savage with straight blades, or more furious with lead pipes. Alas, no medical examiners seemed to notice any overt trend in the severity of the wound patterns.

          2) The medical community in the city, largely represented by its trauma units, were now losing 25 percent more bleeders than before. In 2003, suddenly, John Hopkins and the UM trauma units were going backwards to the dark ages in terms of emergency care. But no, they were saving as many of the wounded that came through the E.R. doors.

          Or:

          3) Unable to make the murders disappear as promised, and with the fledgling effort to reduce that benchmark stalled and now, in 2003, actually going the wrong way, the O’Malley administration made many of the assaults disappear. Robberies, too. Rapes as well. They began juking stats.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Isn’t obesity a significant contributor to the drop? That doesn’t really fit with long term decay since people in the past simply didn’t have access to cheap and plentiful enough food to have that be an issue.

      • Ptoliporthos says:

        I thought the drop in life expectancy began in the last 15 years, and that the specific category of death that explains the decline is poisoning, which includes drug overdoses. I just assumed that it had to do with heroin getting cheap in the US after the Taliban were removed from Afghanistan. Has anyone investigated this?

        • John Schilling says:

          According to the CDC as reported by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, heroin overdose deaths have increased from ~2000/yr to ~11000/year since 2001. Yay Taliban. But prescription drug overdose deaths have gone from ~9000/yr to ~26000/yr. Illicit drugs overall, ~6000/yr to ~17000/yr. Heroin was then and is now a small part of the problem, though it is now the largest part of the illicit drug overdose death problem.

          Something other than Afghanistan is causing Americans to kill themselves by drug overdose at roughly three times the rate they did at the turn of the century. Yay progress.

          • anon says:

            “Something other than Afghanistan”

            Although it would be interesting to see the comparable statistics for returning veterans. I understand their rates of drug addiction and overdose are substantially higher than the national average. That said, since such a small fraction of the population serves in the military, the literal (direct) contribution of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the drug problem is probably quite small.

            I also really don’t understand the diplomatic calculus that has prevented the military from directly destroying the opium poppy fields. I think I read somewhere that it boils down to not wanting to piss off certain Afghani allies who are economically dependent on heroin exports (even if ideologically opposed to the Taliban). But like most Americans (including, I suspect, virtually all the civilian leadership in Washington) I really have no idea how things work in Afghanistan, even though my country has been rubble-izing the place in one way or another since before I was born.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Something other than Afghanistan is causing Americans to kill themselves by drug overdose at roughly three times the rate they did at the turn of the century.

            One factor may be, that when a drug is made illegal, there are no instructions on the label for safe use (and no quality control, and a user who gets in trouble fears medical attention. etc).

          • Tom Womack says:

            I think the CDC asserts with some credibility that the new heroin overdoses are substantially among people who discovered that a prescription-opiate habit is more expensive to maintain than a heroin one and switched.

            “Since 2000 the amount of prescription opioid sold in the US has quadrupled” (I quote the CDC directly); it seems not entirely impossible that physicians have been subject to perverse incentives to do with opiate prescription. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/95eebdcc-95f7-11e4-be7d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz4BTUgywGq (sorry for opaque URL) is a really worrying article by Douglas Coupland about nearly falling into that hole.

          • John Schilling says:

            One factor may be, that when a drug is made illegal, there are no instructions on the label for safe use (and no quality control, and a user who gets in trouble fears medical attention. etc).

            Agreed that this is true and important, and vice versa, but we’re talking about the threefold rise in overdoses since ~2000. I don’t think there have been any important (ODwise) drugs that have been made illegal in the US in the past sixteen years.

          • Tom Womack says:

            I don’t think illegality is quite the issue here; oxycontin was introduced in May 1996, though the acetaminophen-and-opiate combos percocet and vicodin have been around much longer (Percocet since 1970, Vicodin since 1984 or so)

        • Psmith says:

          Cheap heroin comes from Mexico these days, not Afghanistan. Especially in smaller towns. Sam Quinones’s Dreamland is a good overview.

    • Anonymous says:

      Now, news is finally coming out that we have accomplished the rather difficult feat of reducing life expectancy for whites since 2012. How long does that sort of trend need to continue before we’re forced to admit that Moldbug was right?

      These things tend to be the sort that only get decided through the unpredictable course of human history. As long as there’s a political reason to deny that something is the case, it will definitely be denied, very likely a day longer than it’s tenable to deny it.

    • Yakimi says:

      Now, news is finally coming out that we have accomplished the rather difficult feat of reducing life expectancy for whites since 2012. How long does that sort of trend need to continue before we’re forced to admit that Moldbug was right?

      Life expectancy also managed to decline in the last decade of the Soviet Union’s existence.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Russian life expectancy declined from 1960 to 1985. It went up a lot under Gorbachev. See page 34.

        Still, the comparison between alcohol and opiates is reasonable.

    • onyomi says:

      As with a comment above beginning “anyone with half a brain cell,” I am instantly turned off by an article with a title or opening statement to the effect of “everyone knows…” If I agree with the statement, I am probably more charitable than I should be, though I tend to assume it’s going to be a polemic preaching to the choir of which I’m already a part, and so therefore I probably don’t need to read it. If I disagree with the statement, then I know from the beginning the writer is not going to be charitable to opposing viewpoints, so, again, I’m not going to read it.

      I don’t think I’m alone in this, so beginning any article or comment with “everybody who isn’t dumb knows…” seems to be a very bad way to convince anyone, though it may be a good way to preach to the choir.

      Re. the content, it’s obviously wrong; a great many Trump supporters obviously do think he’s qualified to be president.

      If we interpret it as “everyone in the intelligentsia who pays close attention to politics knows Trump is not qualified” then it’s more likely, but still, I think wrong.

      I, for example (no philosopher or political scientist, but I have a PhD and pay more attention to politics than the average citizen), have a pretty strong suspicion that no one is qualified to be president because I think most people voting for president overestimate how much one person can do (both due to the limits of the position and more importantly, due to the limits of human knowledge and ability).

      And to the extent I think anyone is qualified to be president, I’m honestly not sure whether Donald Trump is qualified to be president, both because my knowledge of Donald Trump is lacking and because my knowledge of what actually makes a good president is lacking. I submit that while there are definitely many people out there who know better than me what is required of a president, I’m also almost certain that most people greatly overestimate their ability to predict a would-be president’s success on the basis of personality, background, or any other factor.

      I’d say, rather, to the extent our previous presidents have been qualified, HRC is also probably pretty qualified. As for Donald Trump, he may or may not be qualified. I don’t know. But I don’t think Terry Tao knows he’s not. Evidence like “stupid tweets=stupid person” seems obviously insufficient.

      A more defensible statement might be: “if you’re looking for someone ‘qualified,’ in the sense of ‘knows how politics usually works and how to get things done within the current system and what is or isn’t reasonable to attempt,’ then HRC is clearly the safer bet.” We know she’s qualified; Trump may or may not be qualified. Question is, is “qualified” in the traditional sense all we’re looking for in a president right now? Or are we willing to take a risk on more of a wild card this time because we are really unhappy with the status quo?

      I am voting for Gary Johnson, but I’d rather Trump win than HRC. Not because I think he’s clearly more “qualified,” but because I’m very unhappy with the status quo and would sooner take a chance.

      Also, haven’t all the intellegentsia already been yelling about how Trump is obviously unqualified from the beginning?

      • TPC says:

        HRC hasn’t shown signs of being able to get legislation through in the current system, though, and she’s also mishandled the legal duties of her non-legislative position (SecState). Nancy Pelosi is a better example of someone qualified to be President by virtue of getting complex, embattled legislation pushed through. Or on the R side of the aisle, Scott Walker being able to accomplish legislative goals and weather multiple uses of the current system to oust him.

        As a natalist, I support Trump because he might actually be open to natalist legislation, while HRC is straight up anti-natal in terms of her policy prescriptions.

        • Mongeese says:

          What specifically do you have in mind with “natalist legislation” and “straight up anti-natal in terms of her policy prescriptions”?

          • TPC says:

            Removing the penalties against marriage for poor people, such as the ones in the EITC and in ACA, for starters. Married women continue to have more children than unmarried women and this is still relatively true though not as strongly for men. So simply taking away huge financial incentives against marriage will help women desire to have and have more children at the margins.

            Trump is making a lot of appeals to employ working class men. Marriage for the working class is also correlated with more kids and better outcomes for them.

            HRC is anti-natalist because having all the women in the workforce doesn’t get you very many kids and most of them are born very late in life. This leaves a poor reserve for elder care and a poor reserve for taxpaying. Immigration doesn’t solve this because immigrants adopt the norms of their new nation and then you’re at the same place but worse since there’s even more people having only one kid at 37.

            It’s astonishingly difficult to have children in America and there is nothing I’ve seen from HRC that would come close to dealing with the huge anti-natal obstacles within this culture. At least from Trump it’s “I’ll find some jobs for the working class so working class guys are marriageable again.” This is a 5% chance of happening, but as I already said, that is non-zero and that’s worth the risk.

          • Mongeese says:

            Thanks.

          • caethan says:

            It really, really isn’t “astonishingly difficult” to have children in America. It’s difficult to have children if you want to maintain the stupid middle-class lifestyle lots of people want. My uncle has 10 kids, with a stay-at-home wife and is starting to get grandkids from the older children. The basics are:
            1. Have a decent reliable job and savings/support to get you through hard times (he’s in IT at the local university). This is the hardest part for lots of men, and I’d be glad to see some support for it.
            2. Kids get to pay for their own college (the older kids have all either gone to cheapish colleges (BYU or local community colleges), gotten married or found a job). Still perfectly possible!
            3. Vacations are driving to visit family, food is cheap stuff cooked at home, and clothes/toys/furniture are hand-me-downs and thrift store buys.

            Basically: one parent needs to have a reliable if not high source of income, one parent needs to maintain the household, and the family needs to spend a lot lot less on stuff than your neighbors expect you to.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            It would have been helpful to lead with the Mormon part rather than burying it in the middle.

            One of the bits that makes it so hard is the prevalence divorce. Growing up in a broken household does a great one-two punch of making you more skittish about getting married in the first place and ensuring you don’t have the proper skills to maintain a marriage. And, outside of Utah, most of us do.

            So there’s a vital Step 0 you’re missing: find a spouse from a culture / religion with a strong family tradition, and enmesh yourself in that culture / religion as much as possible to try and pick up the values ASAP. Otherwise your 10 children will be by four to five different women and you’ll have bailiffs chasing you for child support far in excess of the amount required for hand-me-down clothes.

          • smocc says:

            Thankfully we’ve got cheerful kids with white shirts and ties and name badges to help with Step 0. : )

          • Chris says:

            > It really, really isn’t “astonishingly difficult” to have children in America.

            I kind of disagree with this. It’s one thing if you’re already in a committed relationship with someone who definitely also wants kids, in which case all the hard problems have already been overcome, but another if you’re just a young single person starting out who finds it desirable.

            It may just be my social circles, but most of the women I’ve known were opposed to having kids before their mid to late thirties, if ever. Kids are seen as a burden rather than an investment, detracting from things like career or travel. On top of that, most of them seem to consider it unattractive or socially unacceptable for the father to be the stay-at-home parent or neglect his career in favor of children, so taking on that role yourself is unlikely to be an easy option.

            That all results in a small pool of partners for someone wanting kids to choose from. So you end up with mostly what I’ve seen – parents are either single mothers collecting child support from unwilling fathers, or couples in their mid-to-late-thirties with one or two kids.

            The birth rate statistics and “demographic collapse” for industrialized countries seem to make caethan’s uncle an extreme outlier. But all these responses seem to agree that the root cause is opportunity costs, whether its due to a lower-income lifestyle, lack of incentives, focus on career, or whatever. If you’re already starting with a willing partner who values children over other stuff, or sees them as a better long-term investment, sure you can have kids. But saying “it’s easy if you’re willing to make sacrifices” basically just reinforces the point that people lack incentives to have children, to the point where relatively few people are bothering, and if you’re a natalist that would seem to be a problem.

          • caethan says:

            My cousin just started his mission in Oakland if anyone needs a referral in the Bay Area.

          • caethan says:

            Sure, I agree that it’s broadly cultural rather than financial obstacles to having more kids in America. That was part of the point. The other part of the point is that financial incentives like the ones TPC was proposing aren’t actually going to make much of a difference. The major financial obstacle to marriage & kids isn’t a high income (low-middle income is sufficient for a couple of kids), it’s a reliable income.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            “the family needs to spend a lot lot less on stuff than your neighbors expect you to.”

            I would really love to read anything at all on how mormons avoid the “Keeping up with the Joneses” trap of middle class overspending. If there’s a secret to it, it needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

          • Anonymous says:

            They don’t. It’s just what they try to keep up with is number of children.

          • “I would really love to read anything at all on how mormons avoid the “Keeping up with the Joneses” trap of middle class overspending.”

            Like a lot of accounts of conventional culture, this seems alien to me. My father was a professor at a top university–and when I was growing up always bought his car second hand.

            Is it clear how universal “keeping up with the Joneses” is? I think of it as a cliché, am not sure how real it is. Ten percent of couples or ninety percent?

          • caethan says:

            Well, it’s been ~10 years since I was at all active in the Church, but there’s a couple of things that are relevant:

            * Most Mormon men do a few years missionary work, mostly in pretty poor areas. Spend some time in the slums of Rio, or Oakland ghettos, or Manila, etc., and you get a pretty good perspective on how important a slightly nicer car is to your general happiness (it’s not).
            * Your church community is (outside of Utah) drawn from a much broader spectrum of the local community. Including and especially the low-level church leadership. My father’s a professor, and the church leaders I remember most fondly from my childhood were respectively a doctor (my Scoutmaster), a carpenter (Young Mens leader & bishop’s assistant), an auto mechanic (Young Mens leader), and a CPA (Young Mens leader).
            * Status is about status within the Church, not financial status. Obviously money still lets you buy nice things, but there’s less of buying nice things because your neighbors have them, both because that’s considered rude to the poorer folks in the ward who can’t afford it and because most of your neighbors don’t have the nice things either. There’s also a lot of concern about how conspicuous consumption affects your kids as they grow up which discourages it.
            * The Church runs its own, pretty effective, welfare system, with disbursements controlled by the local bishop.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Thanks Caet–don’t have time for a substantive response now, but that’s good info to think about.

            “when I was growing up always bought his car second hand.”
            It might be that bubble thing again? I mean, it’s even an inside joke that econ professors buy second hand cars, clip coupons, etc. long past the point where search costs overwhelm any marginal value.

            It might also be similar to mormons in that status within the Church Cathedral academia provides a substitute for signalling with conspicuous consumption.
            When you’ve got a Nobel hanging in the office, nobody’s going to care if you come to work in a beat-up pickup rather than a Porsche.

            Plus there’s the impulsivity factor. I know a woman in serious debt who just bought a massive new television without meaning to, because her friend’s looked so fancy, and the nice man in the store told her it was a very good deal for the price…

          • TPC says:

            Making it easier for two working parents to be married at 50k combined household income instead of cohabiting or living separately and splitting custody various ways would improve natality at the margin and the margin is the place to start working towards critical mass. Right now I see more and more conscientious types try to cohabit and it doesn’t last as long as marriage, but marriage is so financially penalized at that heading-up-from-poverty level that it’s hard to take the financial hit to do so without religiosity.

            As for caethan’s uncle, 10 kids is so far outside the fertility data it’s not even a good example for his point. Mormons are down to three kids instead of five or six, so their culture is not resistant enough against the general anti-natal structure of society, of which car seats are my go-to, but they are hardly the only thing. And his uncle had his huge family before car seats were a major problem in carting a large family around.

          • caethan says:

            Amusingly, my father is also an economics professor.

      • Matt M says:

        We actually have a clearly defined list of what makes someone “qualified” to be President spelled out for us:

        “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

        As far as I can tell, Trump and Hillary are both qualified.

        • efoifjeoi says:

          You know what’s always a fun way to troll? Pretend that you don’t understand how others are using words. Keep up the good work!

          • Matt M says:

            Not trolling. I understand what they mean, I just reject their premise.

            The premise is that the Presidency should be reserved for someone with extensive experience in politics. My point here is that if that was the intent of our system – the people who wrote the rules had every opportunity to explicitly include it. Perhaps there’s a very good reason they didn’t.

            Call Trump stupid if you want. Compare him to Hitler. Beat up his supporters. Whatever. But given that we have a list of carefully considered qualifications and that he meets them, he is not “unqualified.”

          • Matt M says:

            And maybe you’re dumb enough to not realize the author is playing a rhetorical trick – whereby he is trying to frame his subjective opinion (Trump is bad and shouldn’t be President) in a manner to suggest it’s actually an objective fact (Trump is not qualified for this office).

            Every appeal to “qualification” is exactly this. It was this when the Republicans did it with Obama in 2008, and it’s this now. Qualifications are what they are – they are spelled out objectively. Both candidates meet them, therefore both are qualified.

          • efoifjeoi says:

            Would claiming that someone in a coma was unqualified to be President also give you the prescriptivist vapors or are they more selective than that?

          • Anonymous says:

            Would claiming that someone in a coma was unqualified to be President also give you the prescriptivist vapors or are they more selective than that?

            Someone in a coma would be incapable of taking the oath, I think. Even if they somehow did – perhaps sleeptalking – then they would be incapable of discharging of the powers and duties of the office, and their VP would become Acting President. They’d still be qualified to be elected President, though.

            IANAL.

        • Hlynkacg says:

          Being in a coma would seem to prevent one from being sworn in or otherwise performing the duties of president. As such the question of “is someone in a coma qualified to be president?” requires us to know who the coma patient’s VP is.

      • Anonymous says:

        because I’m very unhappy with the status quo and would sooner take a chance.

        My mental model for this statement, given that it is being expressed on SCC and what that means about the likely class and economic characteristics of the person saying it:

        1) The person saying it is unusually selfless — willing to take on significant personal risk because s/he perceives that the status quo is terrible for other people.

        2) The person saying it is unreasonably optimistic — believes that the downside risks are not all that bad. Perhaps because government doesn’t make much of a difference or because problems at the top are unlikely to effect the deep state or something similar.

        3) The person saying it has a very strange utility function such that the difference between a first world lifestyle and third world lifestyle isn’t that great and instead the first order contributors to utility are some sort of abstract “living in a society where …”

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Do you honestly believe that a Trump presidency would reduce us to a third world standard of living?

          Because that’s not the gamble as I see it. A president’s power to affect the prosperity of America is relatively small, and mostly symbolic. Unless Hillary is right and he does start a nuclear war, the worst case scenario still leaves us as a remarkably well-off first world nation.

          • Anonymous says:

            IMO that puts you in category #2.

            Mind you I don’t think it’s more likely than not, or anything like that, that a Trump presidency would destroy our way of life, but I think it is a non-trivial possibility. That risk includes nuclear war, but isn’t limited to it. Normalizing military coups might well do it — even if it took a few decades to realize it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            What you seem to be ignoring is that there is a non-trivial possibility, that Clinton will do the same, if not worse.

            At the very least, her presidency would represent a massive, blow to government accountability and the first, second, and fifth amendments.

          • Anonymous says:

            @hlynkacg
            As to the first paragraph, I don’t ignore that possibility, the argument only depends on the gap between the two probabilities being non-trivial (and of course the order).

            As to the second paragraph, I simply disagree. Clinton is not much different from her husband and Obama, and the first and second amendments look as strong or stronger today than they’ve ever been (the fifth is a mixed bag depending on the clause, for example it is true that the institution of the grand jury is in decline). Also, aside from any factual dispute the implicit normative claims seem to shade into my category 3 above.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Normalizing military coups might well do it

            Wait, what?! How is Trump going to do that?

          • Anonymous says:

            Order the military to do something blatantly illegal and immoral. Either they obey (bad) or they don’t obey (bad).

            An example of how this plays out is Turkey– since Ataturk died the military has been the guarantor of secularism. Secularism is good but normalized coups are not.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            That these amendments look stronger today, is mostly because Clinton and Obama keep loosing their court battles. A lot of those decisions were a lot closer than I’m comfortable with and I’d rather not give her 8 more years to nominate judges who’ll give her a more “favorable” outcome in future battles.

            I also think it’s silly to assume that Trump is somehow more likely than Clinton to trigger a test of the old 3% theory at this point. And in either case I think that an outbreak of “Irish Democracy” is far more likely than 1st MEF crossing the Potamac

            “I’m afraid we wont be able to comply sir, we’re all out of prop-wash and blinker fluid for our Blackhawks, and all our trucks have flat tires.”

          • Matt M says:

            Has Trump proposed the military do anything that they haven’t already done in the very recent past?

            Being ordered to do “illegal” things is par for the course for militaries…

          • Nornagest says:

            “Irish Democracy”

            In my line of work, we call that the engineer’s veto.

          • Anonymous says:

            Has Trump proposed the military do anything that they haven’t already done in the very recent past?

            Yes. Deliberately targeting and killing the families of terrorists.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            If Bush / Obama / Clinton’s drone strikes haven’t triggered a widespread command crisis, why do you expect Trump’s to?

          • Matt M says:

            Killing the families of terrorists has already been done.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdulrahman_al-Awlaki

            It is probably still being done, as we speak.

          • Anonymous says:

            Supposedly he wasn’t targeted. In any event, if your argument is that the military hierarchy will do any crazy thing the President wants without blinking an eye, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            Before they would agree to torture people they insisted on legal cover up the wazoo.

          • “In my line of work, we call that the engineer’s veto.”

            “The King’s word is law. But if he tells us to dig a pit in the middle of the list field, it may take us four months to find a shovel.”

            (SCA West Kingdom, medieval historical recreation. Reigns last for four months).

          • Jill says:

            hlynkacg, you think a Clinton presidency might destroy our way of life?

            Interesting. Maybe not surprising. The press has been bashing her constantly for decades, and many people do believe the stuff they read about her.

            The way I see it, the worst a Hillary presidency could be would be to be equivalent to Obama’s 3rd term. Which wouldn’t be perfect for me, as there are things I don’t like about Obama.

            But that’s better, to me, than a Trump presidency, where I think the best we could realistically hope for (rather than fantasize through wild optimism) would be a repeat of W’s reign– where Trump wins the presidency and then hands control over to some Cheney-like figure, who is actually interested in government and actually knows something about government policy– if not about ethics.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “The way I see it, the worst a Hillary presidency could be would be to be equivalent to Obama’s 3rd term. Which wouldn’t be perfect for me, as there are things I don’t like about Obama.”

            Not him, but I both agree with you, and see that as destroying the country. My impression is that we are currently locked into long-term decline, and a vote for Hillary is just kicking the can down the road. We need something other than the consensus of the last two decades. The fact that Trump is winning looks like evidence that we’re better taking a gamble on risky change now than in another 4, 8 or 12 years when the situation is more desperate.

          • onyomi says:

            I agree that I don’t see a Clinton presidency “destroying” the country in any rapid, precipitous fashion (nor do I see how a Trump presidency would do so), but I also agree with FacelessCraven in seeing the country declining and falling apart in slow motion, and Obama not doing anything to stop that (and arguably doing some things to worsen it).

            I also see HRC as roughly equivalent to Obama term 3 (and closer to GW Bush term 5 than most Republicans would admit). Another 8 years is a long time to deal with watching things decline and fall apart in slow motion. Long enough that I’d rather take a risk on a somewhat more unorthodox candidate.

            To my mind, the worst likely scenario (I agree there’s a non-zero chance Trump will get us into a nuclear war, but I’m not sure it’s a higher non-zero chance than Hillary) is that Trump turns out to be basically GW Bush term 5. But GW Bush term 5 is the most likely scenario for HRC.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            hlynkacg, do you think a Clinton presidency might destroy our way of life?

            I would say that “it is possible, but highly improbable” which is pretty much what I would say about the odds a Trump presidency “destroying our way of life”.

            What I do think is that Clinton has demonstrated both through actions and words a great deal hostility towards aspects of our culture that I value. Things like public accountability and disclosure, the Bill of Rights, etc… and if made president she will continue to flout and undermine them wherever she can with the assistance of her friends in both government and the media.

            On the flip-side, I think that Trump’s ability to cause lasting damage is largely mediated by the fact that he wont have Clinton’s preexisting influence and allies helping him along.

            I don’t like Trump. I think that he is a grand-standing opportunistic blowhard. But I like the idea of sitting quietly and pretending that I accept the status quo, “kicking the can down the road” as FacelessCraven put it, even less.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Onyomi
            But GW Bush term 5 is the most likely scenario for HRC.

            More likely than Billary term 3?

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          I wonder how far back their ‘status quo’ extends.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          The person saying it has a very strange utility function such that the difference between a first world lifestyle and third world lifestyle isn’t that great

          Depends on your profession/class/skills, this is very much the case, better in some ways too.

          Unless your definition of Third World is restricted to sub-saharan Africa.

          Still, I’d say I’m solidly in camp B. The idea that Trump is going to bring the downfall of the US way of life seems silly.

        • Jill says:

          I wish I could remember the article where I read this recently. I will link it if I find it. But it said that research on decision making shows that people who feel like they are losing (Things aren’t going well) or who are faced with a risk of losing, are more likely to take big risks.

          Voting for Trump would make sense in that context.

          E.g. when people are given the choice of taking $500, or else having a chance of either gaining $1000 or else gaining nothing, they take the $500, to avoid any possibility of loss.

          But when the choice is either losing $500 or taking a chance of either losing $1000 or losing nothing, they will choose to take the chance.

          I hope I am remembering the examples somewhat correctly here.

          Anyway, people don’t take risks when they are looking at rewards. But when they are looking at possible or real losses, then they will take a wild risk.

          In our fear based political campaigning system, even people who have lost little or nothing do often feel like “losers” who want to “make American great and a winner) again.”

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Scott linked this article in “Three Great Articles On Poverty” and I’m pretty sure the author would take issue with the assertion that the people being discussed have lost “little or nothing”. I know I do.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Hlynkacg
            Are you saying onyomi is unnecessariat? That’s certainly not the impression I get from his posts.

          • J Quenff says:

            I imagine this is the article you’re thinking of – http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/06/losers-for-trump

            Also, while I’m here talking about the new yorker, I really really enjoyed this — http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/06/zarif-khans-tamales-and-the-muslims-of-sheridan-wyoming

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Are you saying onyomi is unnecessariat?

            No, I am agreeing with this part…

            Anyway, people don’t take risks when they are looking at rewards. But when they are looking at possible or real losses, then they will take a wild risk.

            while disagreeing with this part…

            In our fear based political campaigning system, even people who have lost little or nothing do often feel like “losers”

            I may not be in the unnecessariat myself, but I have lost a fair number of friends down that hole and find myself thinking “There but for the grace of God go I”.

            As such my sympathies are with those who feel like they are facing possible or real loss. Even if I think that their “wild risk” is a grand-standing opportunist who won’t actually fix anything.

            I suspect that Onyomi would say something similar.

          • Jill says:

            J Quenff, thanks for the 2 articles. Yes, I think the 1st one was the one I was thinking of.

          • onyomi says:

            “There but for the grace of God go I”

            Those are exactly the words that came to mind when someone asked whether I identify as unnecessariat.

        • Jill says:

          Faceless, interesting that you see 4 more years of an Obama like presidency as destroying the country. And you see a Trump presidency as being better than that.

          Trump certainly has the advantage of never having been in public office. So he can promise anything and he has no record to contradict him. And he can pretend that he can get anything he wants through Congress, even though that’s not how it is. The president is not a king.

          If Obama had been able to get more stimulus bills through Congress, the economic recovery would be a lot further along than it is now.

          • TPC says:

            That is an open question. The economy is going pretty well for people who work in various regulatory and administrative portions of the government. And there’s a huge black market economy, so people have a lot of cash income that is not reflected in the moribund employment statistics and earnings data.

            I remain confused by the idea that Trump might not deliver on campaign promises when this is a staple of politicians running for office of both R and D persuasions. It’s unusual for a politician to keep any campaign promises whatsoever. So why this idea that there is something unique about Trump’s promises? If anything, he is more likely to keep them or attempt to keep them precisely to distinguish himself as an outsider who could come in and fulfill promises unlike the usual political campaign dance.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “Faceless, interesting that you see 4 more years of an Obama like presidency as destroying the country.”

            Other people have said it much better in these threads, but Obama was GWB II, who was Clinton II, who arguably was Bush II. The current consensus dates back to the early 90s or even the late 80s, and for a variety of reasons I think it’s starting to come apart at the seams. The situation isn’t desperate yet, but it appears to be worsening, which means it’s probably a better idea to try and break the autopilot now than in another four or eight years. Hillary *is* the autopilot; Trump has a fair chance at breaking it, so better to vote Trump now. A lot of the obvious failure modes of a Trump presidency seem like they might be survivable and have good results long-term; a successful presidential impeachment, for example, would be a good thing in my opinion.

            “The president is not a king.”

            Getting closer to being one with each successive administration, though. One of those long-term trends that needs to be corrected, IMO. A grudge match between Trump and congress would be a good thing, I think.

            “If Obama had been able to get more stimulus bills through Congress, the economic recovery would be a lot further along than it is now.”

            I have pretty much zero confidence that this is true.

          • Jill says:

            TPC, you said

            “I remain confused by the idea that Trump might not deliver on campaign promises when this is a staple of politicians running for office of both R and D persuasions. It’s unusual for a politician to keep any campaign promises whatsoever. So why this idea that there is something unique about Trump’s promises?”

            I was assuming you were willing to take a risk with a wild card like Trump who has no government experience, who changes his mind frequently, who doesn’t know the difference between facts and crazy stuff he reads on the Internet, who does not understand political issues and his own party admits that, and who alienates large groups of people frequently– because he promises things you like. Is that not the case? Is there some other reason you support him?

            FacelessCraven, you said “a successful presidential impeachment, for example, would be a good thing in my opinion.”

            FacelessCraven. Run that scenario by us, please. How could that turn out to be a positive? I suppose if the VP were absolutely wonderful, things would eventually be good. But neither candidate has picked a VP yet, so that can’t be your reason for thinking this.

          • Matt M says:

            Putting a stick in the eye of the office of the President would be good, in general, regardless of who the President or the Vice President is.

            There’s a fair argument that Watergate was an overwhelmingly good turn of events for America because it accomplished just that – made people more suspicious of the executive branch and (admittedly very temporarily) halted the march towards increasing executive power.

          • Jill says:

            “Putting a stick in the eye of the office of the President would be good, in general, regardless of who the President or the Vice President is.”

            That’s certainly assuming that the president was doing a bad job. And that the things he or she did not accomplish were due to his or her own failings– not to being blocked by Congress or other parts of government.

            It seems that our culture is full of government bashing– wanting to destroy or harm government or people in government. This is like the very air we breathe, and it has been for decades now.

            It concerns me because it is such a negative focus– destructive, not productive, not about problem solving or improving matters.

            It also makes it very easy for someone to get elected simply by bashing the people already in government– even though they may not have anything better to offer.

            The main reason politicians don’t give the people what we want is because Big Money controls politics. If we got the Big Money out of politics, that would pave the way to elect public servant type people instead of Fund Raiser Special Interest Caterer type people.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “I was assuming you were willing to take a risk with a wild card like Trump who has no government experience,”

            A net positive if you don’t like the current political establishment.

            “…who changes his mind frequently…”

            I can’t remember changing his mind about much on the issues that are driving people to support him, even when met with overwhelming opposition from powerful groups and large chunks of the country.

            “…who doesn’t know the difference between facts and crazy stuff he reads on the Internet…”

            I have no idea what this is refering to, but the immediate rebuttal that comes to mind is still under the three-day-no-exploiting-tragedy rule, though. cite?

            “…who does not understand political issues and his own party admits that…”

            The party leaders he ran roughshod over to secure the nomination, maybe. I don’t think his core supporters would agree. In any case, I suspect “understands political issues” here means “is part of the current consensus”.

            “…and who alienates large groups of people frequently…”

            Any political leader alienates huge groups of people, usually on behalf of other huge groups of people. What’s novel about Trump is who he’s willing to alienate and who he’s willing to stand up for.

            “Craven. Run that scenario by us, please. How could that turn out to be a positive?”

            Congress has grown too weak relative to the executive and judicial branches. Think W’s signing statements. The government as a whole is overgrown, and internal conflict is one of the only short-term solutions to hold it in check.

            [Edit] ninja’d.

          • Matt M says:

            “That’s certainly assuming that the president was doing a bad job.”

            No it isn’t.

            Excess executive power is a danger even if the person currently occupying the white house is a brilliant saint.

            As the neocons who spent the past two decades clamoring for it and are now faced with the prospect of handing it over to Trump are beginning to realize….

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “It seems that our culture is full of government bashing– wanting to destroy or harm government or people in government. This is like the very air we breathe, and it has been for decades now.”

            The government is not on my side. It does not appear to be of much use, and much of what it does seems actively harmful. To the extent that this idea is pervasive, maybe it’s an example of similar experience resulting in similar conclusions?

            Obama ran promising “Change”. I voted for him for that reason, and I don’t feel that he delivered. Hillary isn’t even paying lip-service to the idea of change. So now I’m voting for Trump. If he fails, if things haven’t taken a turn for the better four years from now, I’ll vote for the next demagogue.

            “It also makes it very easy for someone to get elected simply by bashing the people already in government– even though they may not have anything better to offer.”

            Better to roll the dice on a chance for change rather than vote explicitly for no change at all.

          • Jill says:

            We live in a representative democracy. The government is us– or at least is the people we have elected. If the government is not on our side, then we are not on our own side.

            It seems to me that if we don’t like the government the way it is, we should change the rules, by overturning Citizens United by Constitutional amendment.

            If we just elect anybody who can say “Government bad, me good” for president, we are going to get a lot of idiots in there. And even if a good person gets in by some accident, Congress will not support them because Congress is bought and paid for– due to the pay-to- play system that we voters have allowed to remain in place.

          • BBA says:

            For such strong anticommunists, you all seem pretty keen on heightening the contradictions.

            Not criticizing, just observing.

          • Jill says:

            In a normal system, excess executive power is a problem. But we have a system right now where Congress does almost nothing except collect their paycheck. If there is any emergency, someone has to do something, and the only one willing apparently would be the president.

            Congress does so little that the situation leads to humor pieces like this one:

            http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/obama-signs-executive-order-closing-congress

          • Urstoff says:

            Is Andy Borowitz the least funny humorist on the planet?

            (rhetorical question, because he is)

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Jill,

            I’m not trying to pile on you here, because I think you’re broadly sensible.

            (One of the non-great parts of the local Slate Star Codex / Less Wrong / Overcoming Bias culture is that people generally pipe up to disagree, rather than to express agreement. So it’s easy to get dogpiles even with fairly uncontroversial positions, since the people with arguments against them are the main ones who speak up.)

            Anyway, you’re right that the government broadly represents the people who elected them. And that they, special interests aside, do work towards the interests of those people as they understand them.

            The problem is, the people who elect the representatives are very often not my people and their interests are not my interests.

            For a good example that I know very intimately, look at the ongoing situation right now in Rockland County (upstate New York) between the Hasidic Jewish and African American communities. The article I linked is from 2013 but the process of hollowing out the neighborhood and embezzling tens of millions of dollars from the state and federal governments is ongoing, and has been going on since I was born.

            This sort of thing happens all the time, to greater or lesser degrees, on the local state and federal levels. One group profiting at the expense of the broader community is the norm. So why should I support the system which enables that parasitism?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @BBA – The worse the better, right?

            I do not feel invested in the current system, and I think that sort of idea comes naturally to those feel similarly. If I start ranting about the virtues of terror, though, feel free to proceed with the last duty of friendship.

            @Jill – “We live in a representative democracy.”

            Do we? One of my biggest reasons for voting for W. was his promise not to engage in nation-building, after the negative examples I’d seen of that under Clinton. Another of the big reasons was not liking Clinton’s expansion of police powers and general encroachment on the bill of rights. Would Gore have been better? Did Obama fix things? Will Hillary?

            I do not feel that the government represents me or cares at all about my interests. I see a political system for which much of the agenda never changes regardless of who wins the elections. That is not me, and other than the fact that I voted for politicians who then broke their promises, I struggle to see how it’s my fault.

            “It seems to me that if we don’t like the government the way it is, we should change the rules, by overturning Citizens United by Constitutional amendment.”

            Constitutional amendments are not going to happen, and given the current climate I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing. I’m not supremely confident the Second Amendment would survive. Nor Am I confident the first would. Nor would I expect any real upside, since the constitution in practice means what the Supremes decide it means, no more and no less. If we can get the current situation out of the interstate commerce clause, I have little faith in new amendments fixing all our problems.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            At 8:12 pm Big Money controlled politics. At 8:39 pm, the government was us. What happened in between?

          • Matt M says:

            Who is the last person who won a national election on a platform of government bashing? Reagan? That was like 30 years ago. And after winning, he immediately sold out on those ideas and started a constant series of endless “compromises.”

            Since then, EVERY major candidate (until now with Trump) has essentially run on a campaign of “the government is generally good but that other party isn’t running it optimally”

          • John Schilling says:

            Hillary *is* the autopilot; Trump has a fair chance at breaking it, so better to vote Trump now

            If you want to break the autopilot, I want to see someone who’s flown some sort of airplane standing ready to take over. You’ve got a blowhard NASCAR driver saying “how hard can it be, and I’m the winningest race car driver ever!”

            Get back to me in four years with something slightly less terrifying.

          • Matt M says:

            Also, if money decided elections, Jeb Bush would be the GOP nominee right now. He raised and outspent far more than anyone else prior to his drop into irrelevancy.

            The success of Trump is pretty clear evidence that money CAN’T buy success and that repealing Citizens United is completely and totally unnecessary.

          • Matt M says:

            John Schilling,

            Can you conceive of someone “less terrifying” that would also be considered to be an “outsider” who might “break the system?”

            They seem to be mutually exclusive concepts. Anyone tame enough to not be “scary” also wouldn’t be trusted to be sufficiently willing to muck things up to the extent some of us believe is necessary.

            Keep in mind a whole lot of the #NeverTrump Republicans object to Trump primarily because they think he’s lying about being an outsider and that in actuality his views are completely lock-step in-line with Hillary…

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            On my screen, the words “autopilot”, “airplane”, and “blowhard” in John Schilling’s last were stacked neatly on top of each other, making me wonder whether Julie Hagerty’s available to run for VP.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “Get back to me in four years with something slightly less terrifying.”

            We’ve gone round on this before and I don’t expect to change your mind, but in four years the choices may be worse, not better.

            More generally, our problem does not seem to be a lack of competent administrators, but rather a consensus among those administrators that the status quo is fine. If the status quo were fine, Trump would not have gotten as far as he has. smashing the autopilot might take us from -100 feet/minute to -1000 feet/minute, but if that’s what it takes to get some of the 50 pilots on board to interrupt their communal coffee break and actually start looking at the instrument panel, so be it.

          • Anonymous says:

            @FacelessCraven
            Dude, you make video games for a living (IIRC). You have access to the internet and enough time, energy, and intelligence to bullshit on it with the rest of us. I’m guessing you have food to eat, you aren’t regularly shot at, and you’ve got a roof over your head.

            Things could be a fuckton worse is what I’m saying.

            If you were some fundamentalist christian I could understand the doom and gloom — because you might think God’s punishment for inequity was nigh or something, but I don’t remember seeing anything like that from you.

            I’m not sure it will make one iota of difference, but if some anonymous (not even pseduoanonymous) stranger on the internet’s opinion is at all useful for calibration, your views seem pessimistic beyond the point of reasonability to me.

          • Chris says:

            > Who is the last person who won a national election on a platform of government bashing? Reagan? That was like 30 years ago.

            In the Presidency, yes. Congress is another story, since that’s been basically the entire GOP strategy since Newt Gingrich in the 80s. The Tea Party is just the new iteration. The ongoing cycle is for some “outsider” conservative to get elected on a platform of “throw the bums out,” then by the next cycle they’ve become just another Washington insider themselves, with the new “throw the bums out” candidate running as the new outsider. Rinse and repeat.

            Cruz is probably the best example, having gone in only six years from Tea Party everyman (despite somehow graduating from Princeton and Harvard and being married to a Goldman-Sachs exec) to being the GOP’s last hope against Trump, after Bush and Rubio flunked out.

            See the famous Mike Lofgren quote (though everyone may already be familiar):

            “A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Anonymous, you and other defenders of the current regime always try to claim way too much credit for our ability to feed and clothe ourselves. Yeah, we’ve got some nice things, but you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

          • Matt M says:

            Chris,

            That’s fair – but Jill’s comments seemed to imply that the nation as a whole was anti-government and that one could win elections nation-wide with an anti-government platform.

            Pointing to solidly red congressional districts and saying “well it works there” doesn’t seem to prove that point.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Jaskologist
            Speaking of poorly calibrated, weren’t you the guy that claimed that if Washington D.C. were nuked it would have no impact on your life?

          • onyomi says:

            Related, I think it’s pretty presumptuous in general to tell anyone on a board with this level of anonymity (even for people like me using a consistent avatar and talking somewhat about my own life) that they are or are not right to be dissatisfied with things, either in their own lives, or in the lives they see around them.

            Sure, we’re all doing great by the standards of human history, but unless you can make a plausible case that Trump stands a non-negligible chance of sending us back to the Stone Age, this is not really the relevant point of comparison.

            The relevant questions are things like: are things better in the past decade or two, or worse? Are things moving in a positive or negative direction? Does this generation of young people have more or fewer opportunities for a fulfilling life?

            For example, if we imagine in the 33rd century that all the older people remember a time when everyone lived to 400 and had a private teleporter, but now everyone’s dying at 300 and has to rely on self-driving cars, would those people not be right to be concerned about the status quo? Perhaps worried enough to take a risk? It would be odd to tell those people whose friends are all dying at 200, “hey, you’ve still got it pretty darn good! You could live in the 21st century.”

            It’s actually an incredibly conservative viewpoint for Hillary voters/supporters (who, by and large, I guess, identify as “liberal”) to say, in essence, “things may not be perfect, and may even be moving in a bad direction, but they could be a lot worse, so let’s just stay the course” (I’m sure many Hillary voters think she can do better than just “not going in the wrong direction too fast,” but I’m not seeing much of that argument here).

            And yes, I agree with Jaskologist that we presume far too much that “things are pretty good right now=system of government we have right now must be pretty good.”

          • onyomi says:

            “@Jaskologist Speaking of poorly calibrated, weren’t you the guy that claimed that if Washington D.C. were nuked it would have no impact on your life?”

            I’m beginning now to see a little better why anon@gmail worried about people dragging up old statements.

            Which is not to say I think we have to forget, every time we read a David Friedman post, for example, that David Friedman is a prominent libertarian, but I think it is pretty poor form and not likely to be productive to try to zing people with this kind of decontextualized thing, as for example, with the recent Robin Hanson snafu.

            And I find it especially poor form when an anonymous poster does it. It’s too asymmetrical. Though at least green anon seems to have been one consistent green anon lately.

          • Anonymous says:

            Related, I think it’s pretty presumptuous in general to tell anyone on a board with this level of anonymity (even for people like me using a consistent avatar and talking somewhat about my own life) that they are or are not right to be dissatisfied with things, either in their own lives, or in the lives they see around them.

            It’s perfectly reasonable to point these things out when the proposed ‘burning the fucker to the ground’ is going to leave me homeless as well.

          • onyomi says:

            “It’s perfectly reasonable to point these things out when the proposed ‘burning the fucker to the ground’ is going to leave me homeless as well.”

            You’re burning a strawman to the ground, since no one is saying “Trump may destroy Western Civilization, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

          • TPC says:

            I posted in another subthread that I support Trump because I’m natalist and he’s got a non-zero chance of implementing natalist policy while HRC has a zero percent chance of doing so and will continue many of the current anti-natal policies in place.

            I also support Trump because I’m not a frontier-American (which is closest to what Scott’s called the Red Tribe) and they’ve dominated the R party for decades, going back pre-WW2. A change of ideological pace is worth something, too.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – “I’m not sure it will make one iota of difference, but if some anonymous (not even pseduoanonymous) stranger on the internet’s opinion is at all useful for calibration, your views seem pessimistic beyond the point of reasonability to me.”

            That’s a useful observation, I think. I have a history of pessimism and a sizable contrarian bias, and I have been (massively, overwhelmingly, humiliatingly) wrong before. I am less interested in getting people to agree with me on Trump than I am in giving them as clear a version of my views as possible, which as a bonus gets me good counter-arguments to ponder rather than bad ones to drive me further into existing positions. I could very well be wrong, and everything’s fine.

            On the other hand, the fact that Trump is the Republican nominee is by itself an indication that things are not going so hot. Ditto the troubles in Europe, where crazy unspeakable people are achieving unprecedented political success. Those flat wages since the 70s don’t look so good. The economy in general doesn’t look so good. Education looks downright terrible. We’ve started having race riots again. The idea of mob violence against political opponents is being publicly toyed with from a number of angles. The terrorists actually appear to be starting to show up for the war on terror, and the Pax Americana appears to be crumbling. From where I sit, we got to this point via two-plus decades of the Clinton/Bush consensus, and I am worried what another decade or two of that looks like.

            Are we better this year than we were ten years ago? Do we expect to be better ten years from now? What should we be doing to try to improve things? Those are the questions that matter. Trump isn’t an answer, but he might be the start of one. People are latching to him because they feel like they must do something and this is something. If you want them to stop, convincing them that we are not actually in crisis would be a good start. Unfortunately, that goes against the narratives of both political parties, and would require credibility that they’ve squandered.

            “That’s what I responded to, it’s not a strawman.”

            I guess my response would be that while our government has many problems, excessive fragility does not appear to be one of them. Smashing the autopilot is not the same as smashing the manual controls. I do not take arguments that Trump will destroy our nation and way of life seriously; they seem to involve an overestimate of Trump’s malice and the power of the presidency, and an underestimate of how bad the current situation is. Again, I could be wrong on this, but the arguments I’ve seen over the past year haven’t persuaded me.

          • Matt M says:

            onyomi,

            I agree with your previous analysis.

            I would also add that the “things could be worse!” logic seems to also ignore the equal possibility that, under different government, things could be equally better.

            Putting the issue of Trump aside for a moment, the whole point of taking a large risk is to gain a large reward. As you say, the whole “things are pretty good so why risk it” logic is remarkably… conservative.

            It’s also worth noting that Scott Adams, as a large part of his analysis, is depending on the fact that many Americans do NOT see things as pretty good. That they are generally dissatisfied and therefore want to adopt a “risky” candidate like Trump (which means that Hillary’s attacks on Trump as “too risky” are a poor strategy on her part and are playing directly into his hand)

          • Jiro says:

            I’m beginning now to see a little better why anon@gmail worried about people dragging up old statements.

            On the other hand, it may be a bad idea to never bring up embarassing statements at all. Sometimes people conceal extreme beliefs and those beliefs only get revealed when they make the occasional slipup that shows that their typical arguments are being made in bad faith.

            I would also suggest that there’s a difference between
            1) I said that, but I no longer believe it
            2) I said that, but it was out of context
            3) Saying contradictory things depending on the audience or depending on what is convenient at the time (also related to motte and bailey)

          • onyomi says:

            “P.S. love the substantive stealth edits. Classy!”

            Are you talking to me? I wouldn’t call adding a clause, one minute later, explaining what I meant by strawman in this case, to be a “substantive stealth edit.”

            If anyone cares, I changed “You’re burning a strawman to the ground.” to “You’re burning a strawman to the ground, since no one is saying “Trump may destroy Western Civilization, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.””

            I was actually trying to be more polite by changing a short, slightly snarky statement, into something with a little specification, and I didn’t see any new posts before I made the edit.

          • Jill says:

            “At 8:12 pm Big Money controlled politics. At 8:39 pm, the government was us. What happened in between?”

            Nothing. They both were true at both times. We the people could change the fact that we have allowed Big Money to control politics, by no longer allowing it. We have been electing their candidates. We could repeal Citizens United and stop electing Big Money’s candidates.

            ———————-
            To say Citizens United is unnecessary because Trump got the Republican nomination before Hillary won in a landslide does not mean that money does not rule politics. And people are too focused on the presidency anyway. Congress makes the laws.

          • Jill says:

            ———–
            W did say he was going to shrink government. It’s just that he didn’t do that, once he got into office. Just about everyone who says they hate or will shrink government drastically gets elected. But that doesn’t mean they won’t spend like a drunken sailor, once in office.

            W was one more “gubmint bad, me good” campaigner.

            http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/oct/19/big-government-gets-bigger/

          • Jill says:

            Dr. Dealgood, there must be something that can be done to change the situation. Situations go on for a long time, until they don’t– until we do something to solve the problem.

          • Jaskologist says:

            That’s somewhat out of context, but as I recall, I retracted that thought experiment/statement in the same thread.

          • onyomi says:

            “Sometimes people conceal extreme beliefs and those beliefs only get revealed when they make the occasional slipup that shows that their typical arguments are being made in bad faith.”

            I don’t much like the idea that, if an argument would seem reasonable in a vacuum, we should dismiss it if it’s coming from the lips of a Known Radical.

          • hlynkacg says:

            no one is saying “Trump may destroy Western Civilization, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

            To be fair, I could see how my own comments above might be interpreted that way.

            I would say that “it is possible, but highly improbable” which is pretty much what I would say about the odds a Trump presidency “destroying our way of life”.

            I don’t like Trump. I think that he is a grand-standing opportunistic blowhard. But I like the idea of sitting quietly and pretending that I accept the status quo, “kicking the can down the road” as FacelessCraven put it, even less.

          • Jiro says:

            if an argument would seem reasonable in a vacuum, we should dismiss it if it’s coming from the lips of a Known Radical.

            By that reasoning you should never care about bad faith at all.

            Actual argument, as opposed to the kind of argument that theoretically exists but usually doesn’t, requires trusting the other guy to not keep throwing things at you without caring whether they are addressed; it’s always possible for someone to make claims faster than you can refute them, if he’s not listening to you or doesn’t care about consistency. It also requires a certain amount of direct trust when he claims to invoke personal experience. and trust that he’s not omitting material facts or fudging his references. This may be less of a problem when the argument is purely a chain of syllogisms, but in practice, almost any argument requires some trust.

          • onyomi says:

            “By that reasoning you should never care about bad faith at all.”

            I rarely do, to be honest.

            Ironically, I find most accusations of bad faith tend to be kind of made in… bad faith.

            Not that I can’t theoretically see it being a problem, but the problem of people claiming, essentially “you shouldn’t make that argument because of [your known sympathies] [personal background] [tax bracket]” seems much bigger to me, especially online.

          • “It seems to me that if we don’t like the government the way it is, we should change the rules, by overturning Citizens United by Constitutional amendment.”

            Citizens United meant that organizations, such as corporations and labor unions, could spend money on politics. It had no effect on the ability of wealthy individuals to do so. And what it ruled against was itself very recent legislation. The U.S. went through almost all of its history with the same legal situation created by that decision.

            Is it your view that there is something terribly wrong with the U.S. political situation and has been throughout the history of the country, with the exception of a couple of years just before Citizens United?

            If you prefer not to answer loaded questions, could you explain why you believe Citizens United had a large bad effect on U.S. politics, which seems to be what you are saying?

          • James Picone says:

            “…who doesn’t know the difference between facts and crazy stuff he reads on the Internet…”

            I have no idea what this is refering to, but the immediate rebuttal that comes to mind is still under the three-day-no-exploiting-tragedy rule, though. cite?

            “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

            https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/265895292191248385?lang=en

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re burning a strawman to the ground, since no one is saying “Trump may destroy Western Civilization, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

            Matt M just said that he wants a President who will “break the system”.
            Not that this is a risk he’s willing to take, but a demand that he affirmatively makes.

            If Matt M is of the belief that Western Civilization is indifferent to the current US system of government, or guaranteed resilient against its being broken, that’s a hard argument that he’s going to have to explicitly support. Otherwise, I look at comments like that and I see people who just want to break things and aren’t real clear on the consequences other than that their enemies will suffer.

            Which, I guess, makes me one of their enemies. Not sure how that’s a winning strategy.

          • Matt M says:

            “or guaranteed resilient against its being broken”

            Guaranteed? No – nothing is guaranteed.

            Including the notion that “breaking the system” wouldn’t be a dramatic improvement to civilization.

          • onyomi says:

            I will agree that those, myself included, who’d like to see a shakeup in the status quo, may, myself included, engage in some degree of easily misinterpreted hyperbole. Perhaps we should endeavor to specify more clearly what, exactly, we mean, even if it’s less emotionally satisfying than saying “smash the system!”

            In my case, for example (not speaking for anyone else), I would like to “shake up” or disrupt the US political system by, for example, making it difficult to conduct “business as usual,” especially with respect to new legislation, but this is in no small part predicated on my belief that the US society and economy largely run in spite of, not because of, the government.

            But for someone who believes that the US economy and society is heavily dependent on various government agencies’ continued functioning, I can see how someone saying “let’s make it difficult for the government to function as usual” could be interpreted as saying “let’s totally disrupt the economy and society.”

          • Anonymous says:

            I would also add that the “things could be worse!” logic seems to also ignore the equal possibility that, under different government, things could be equally better.

            Perhaps. But a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. If things are pretty good why take such a huge risk?

            Putting the issue of Trump aside for a moment, the whole point of taking a large risk is to gain a large reward. As you say, the whole “things are pretty good so why risk it” logic is remarkably… conservative.

            And therefore … ? I’ve been reading on here for months about Chesterston’s fence. That’s the same sort of Burkean conservatism I suggest here.

            It’s also worth noting that Scott Adams,

            The magic hypnotism guy?

            as a large part of his analysis, is depending on the fact that many Americans do NOT see things as pretty good. That they are generally dissatisfied and therefore want to adopt a “risky” candidate like Trump (which means that Hillary’s attacks on Trump as “too risky” are a poor strategy on her part and are playing directly into his hand)

            I can understand that from people whose life doesn’t seem very good. But accusations of presumptuousness notwithstanding, I don’t understand from people whose life does seem pretty good. Hence my original comment, an attempt at coming to an understanding.

            Including the notion that “breaking the system” wouldn’t be a dramatic improvement to civilization.

            Places with shitty governments have shitty living conditions. And vice versa. The fantasies of anarchists about the glories of pure capitalism would be a lot more convincing if they could point to a few examples.

          • John Schilling says:

            @MattM: Can you conceive of someone “less terrifying” that would also be considered to be an “outsider” who might “break the system?”

            At present, Gary Johnson or Bernie Sanders are your best bets, for the softer defininitions of “break the system”.

            Looking forward, if you really can’t come up with a better idea than “maybe that famous celebrity from TV can do it!”, then the path you need to take is get your celebrity elected governor of a state, a la Reagan, Schwarzenegger, or Ventura. Or maybe mayor of a large city, a la Bloomberg. Let the rest of us get a feel for exactly what sort of system-breaking we can expect. Hell, figure it out for yourself, because most of those celebrity governors turned out to be a big disappointment for their fans.

            @onyomi: You and Matt M need to get together and figure out exactly how much of the state you all plan to smash. And then you need to get together with Donald Trump and figure out where he stands on the issue. Because this whole, “Trust us, we’re going to smash exactly the right amount of the state” bit, wasn’t terribly convincing even when it was just one of you.

          • Nornagest says:

            nothing is guaranteed.

            Including the notion that “breaking the system” wouldn’t be a dramatic improvement to civilization.

            Sure, it’s possible. But most ideas are bad ones, most interventions make things worse, because of transaction costs if nothing else. Isn’t this a core conservative/libertarian insight?

            I don’t like HRC. I mean, I really, really don’t like her. But if it’s her or a blind jump into the depths of configuration space, I might take her. Things aren’t so bad that they can’t easily be made worse, which is what it would take for me to accept that argument.

            (I’m not, however, convinced that this is an accurate statement of the choice we’re faced with.)

          • Jill says:

            People in the U.S. seem addicted to government bashing. It’s no wonder that smashing the state has been a winning strategy for Trump to get the GOP nomination.

            For many Americans, for emotional reasons, no amount of state smashing can be too much.

          • Anonymous says:

            @FC
            Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful reply. I had a sort of fisking written out, but I don’t think it is very fruitful at this point in the open thread. Suffice to say that I don’t think the things in your third paragraph are as bad as you make them out, and in response to your fourth paragraph I do think things are better today than they were ten years ago and, given roughly the status quo, will be better still in ten more.

            Best of luck to us all.

          • Nornagest says:

            People in the U.S. seem addicted to government bashing. It’s no wonder that smashing the state has been a winning strategy for Trump to get the GOP nomination. For many Americans, for emotional reasons, no amount of state smashing can be too much.

            I might note that almost all the tangible proposals Trump’s put out there involve the active exercise of state power.

            State power that’s being actively exercised in highly unusual ways, granted. We could call that breaking down the system, insofar as by “the system” we mean the government’s traditional aims and limits. But I can’t call it “smashing the state” with a straight face.

            Even voting for Trump with the hope of impeachment proceedings somewhere in the future wouldn’t qualify, since that requires exercising the powers of one branch over another. About the only thing that would is voting for Trump in the hopes of a wholesale collapse of civilization and the rise of Mad Max style survivalism, but, wild imaginings aside, I’m pretty sure the number of people voting for him with that in mind is approximately zero.

          • “The fantasies of anarchists about the glories of pure capitalism would be a lot more convincing if they could point to a few examples.”

            To point to the successes of pure capitalism we first need some pure capitalism. Hong Kong in the postwar period was, I think, closer than any other polity of the time. Population density was about ten times that of the most densely populated country in the world. A continuous inflow of poor migrants. Resources so poor (aside from a good harbor) that they imported water.

            It took three or four decades (working by memory) for per capita income to pass that of the U.K.

          • Anonymous says:

            I suggest we try this radical experiment in a small country rather than the fourth largest by population and the first or second by economic size (depending on metric). That looks to me like simple prudence.

            FWIW, I said the exact same thing about the $15 minimum wage, let Delaware try it first and see how it goes, not California.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think the $15 minimum wage is very likely a bad idea, but Delaware might be a little too small. Very little of it is more than twenty miles or so from another state, well within commute range in a car and pretty doable on public transit; if the proposal displaces jobs outside the state’s borders, it’ll be hard to tell from statistics on its residents. (Compare the handful of cities that have already done it.)

            A geographically large but low-population state, like Wyoming, might work better. Or an isolated one like Hawaii.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anon – I woulda liked to read your fisking, but yeah, this thread’s getting pretty played out. Maybe some other time. Thanks again for the interesting replies!

      • Buckyballas says:

        Have you considered the “long tail” risk argument for a Clinton vote?

        tl;dr: The worst case scenario for Clinton is status quo plus a stupid war. The worst case scenario for Trump is nuclear proliferation plus a stupid war. The increased risk demands a significantly increased average return.

        • Matt M says:

          The Trump “nuclear proliferation” thing strikes me as weird.

          Isn’t Trump’s position that we should stop providing free military services for countries we defeated 70 years ago?

          To me, that doesn’t necessarily mean “nuclear proliferation.” The Hillary campaign commercial position on this is obviously “lol Trump wants Saudi Arabia to have its own nukes what an idiot” which strongly implies “more nukes in the universe = more risk of nuclear war = bad.”

          But consider a position like “we can take the nukes we were currently using to protect Japan and offer them for sale to the Japanese to handle themselves.” This would result in the same net amount of nuclear weapons on Earth, just distributed more widely. Does that count as “nuclear proliferation”? Is there any non-racist argument that we can be trusted with nukes, but Japan can’t? (If anything, I would suggest that wider dispersion of who holds the nukes = less likely for any one party to use, but that’s pure conjecture on my part)

          Meanwhile, the country with the second-most nukes to the U.S. is Russia, is it not? Clinton is constantly attacking and criticizing Russia, whereas Trump is making great effort to not do so. If you are voting based solely on wanting to avoid nuclear war, I think there’s a strong argument to be made that Trump is a better pick.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Meanwhile, the country with the second-most nukes to the U.S. is Russia, is it not?

            It’s the other way around, actually (Russia has more nukes than the U.S.).

          • Tom Womack says:

            Yes, selling nuclear weapons to non-nuclear powers is nuclear proliferation in the absolute basic sense.

            It makes really quite a lot of sense not to have a market in nuclear weapons, to oblige any country who wants atom bombs to do the expensive business of making them themselves using inputs which are subject to international control and sanctions.

          • Tom Womack says:

            The first rule of nukes: Nobody can be trusted with nukes.

            For regrettable reasons of historical geopolitics, some countries have them, and, despite having made treaty commitments to this end, they are not devoting their full efforts to decommissioning them.

          • bean says:

            It’s the other way around, actually (Russia has more nukes than the U.S.).
            Russia’s nuclear arsenal is in terrible shape. AIUI, the reason they’re in such a flap about our ABM efforts is that even though they’re no real threat to the theoretical size of their arsenal, they are a real threat to the actual size of their arsenal.
            So though they may have the warheads on paper, in practical terms they have significantly fewer than the US.

          • Matt M says:

            “The first rule of nukes: Nobody can be trusted with nukes.”

            But if 50 nukes exist in the world, I see no particular reason that “the U.S. has control over all 50” is more safe than “the U.S. has control over 40 and Japan has control over 10”

          • Matt M says:

            You might even theorize that, although having to build your own nuclear program from scratch is very expensive – we’re better off selling nukes to the Japanese specifically so that they DON’T do that.

            We’d be giving them fish, rather than motivating them to learn how to fish, as it were.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Matt M – “But if 50 nukes exist in the world, I see no particular reason that “the U.S. has control over all 50” is more safe than “the U.S. has control over 40 and Japan has control over 10””

            I’m pro-trump, and this seems like nonsense. More countries having nukes obviously leads to a greater chance of conflict involving nukes. further, national policy without nukes is unlikely to be the same as national policy with nukes, so you can’t entirely rely on pre-aquisition assessment to judge whether you can trust the recipient.

          • Matt M says:

            So what EXACTLY is your theory here?

            That if the U.S. stops defending Japan, they will start their own nuclear program, acquire a bunch of nukes, and then what? Re-crown their Emperor and begin a renewed quest for military subjugation of the entire Pacific region?

            Freaking Pakistan has had nukes for some time and hasn’t launched some crazy war for no reason. I have a hard time being terrified of Japan doing so…

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We don’t know how many countries you can have with nuclear weapons before a tipping point is reached and MAD no longer works.

            Maybe it’s 196, but I suspect it is not.

          • Matt M says:

            And Trump isn’t talking about making nukes available to any country in the world who may want them.

            He’s talking about telling Japan and Germany and Korea to deal with their own problems. This MAY result in these highly stable, developed, allied, countries developing their own nuclear arsenals, but it’s hardly a guarantee…

          • John Schilling says:

            [US sells Japan surplus nukes] Does that count as “nuclear proliferation”?

            Yes. In the legal sense of the word, that counts as nuclear proliferation. And if done the way you literally describe, it violates international law and treaty that we are as a nation sworn to uphold, and destroys a really, really important international norm.

            In the practical sense, it increases the number of leaders who can start megadeath wars at the push of a button, and it does so by adding to the list leaders who are in the most precarious positions in that they believe themselves to be facing existential threats without reliable allies.

            No nuclear war is going to completely deplete the world’s nuclear arsenals; generals don’t do things that way. And even if they did, diminishing marginal returns apply to nuclear weapons. The first hundred nukes matter far more than the last.

            So if you give me a plan that reduces the world’s total nuclear arsenal by a thousand weapons by removing seven hundred each from the US and Russian arsenals but giving one hundred nukes each to e.g. Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, I’d be moving the minute hand of my personal doomsday clock several ticks towards midnight.

          • Dahlen says:

            @Matt M: 50 nukes, LOL. You sweet summer child.

            Nine countries together possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.

            source

          • Matt M says:

            That was (I thought obviously) not meant as an estimation of the actual amount of nuclear weapons – but for purposes of analogy only.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Dahlen – then again, on balance, the more nukes someone wants, the less you need to worry about them.

            Nukes are a pretty good proxy for power. people who want nukes want power. People who have acquired enough power to get to the nukes stage, and who still want more are very unlikely to have a vested interest in the TEOTWAWKI. It seems like getting enough power to make acquiring nukes possible filters most of the truly crazy people in the world.

            I’m not sure I’m confidant enough in the filter to normalize selling nukes or otherwise ramping up proliferation in a serious way, though.

        • Chris says:

          Imo there is an increased average return (not sure how “significant”) if Trump wins:

          A Clinton win reinforces the “status quo” in that it’s treated as a public mandate supporting the Bush-Obama-Clinton policies, marginalizes the huge portion of the country strongly dissatisfied with both parties and most of the U.S. government, and the Republicans claim Trump lost because he wasn’t a true conservative, then go back to running Rubio, Bush, Cruz, etc type candidates for the next n election cycles.

          A Trump win punishes the Democrats for refusing to acknowledge a huge portion of their base (i.e. Sanders, Lessig supporters) and running the Goldman-Sachs imperialist candidate despite her having a smaller chance of winning and being the most disliked candidate in modern history (w/ the exception of Trump himself). Trump’s win also helps take control of the GOP away from religious evangelicals and corporate welfare elites, with at least a chance of some kind of long-term reform of the GOP or at least throwing it into disarray long enough for Democrats to make progress on issues that have been held back for two decades by GOP obstructionism.

          They’re both truly awful choices to be faced with, but if you have to pick a lesser evil, I think there’s a decent argument (summarized above) that it isn’t going to be HRC…

          • Jill says:

            You said
            “Trump’s win also helps take control of the GOP away from religious evangelicals and corporate welfare elites, with at least a chance of some kind of long-term reform of the GOP or at least throwing it into disarray long enough for Democrats to make progress on issues that have been held back for two decades by GOP obstructionism.”

            That sounds like the absolute best of all possible outcomes to me. This is what Trump sort of advertises he will do. But there is little reason to believe he will do it. He’s a great salesman, but the delivery might be like the delivery of business knowledge to Trump University students was.

            The more likely result of a Trump presidency would be W all over again– Trump giving the job of governing to someone else like W did to Cheney. Trump’s fellow Republicans seem to be ready for that.

            Mitch McConnell is mixed up: He admits Donald Trump “doesn’t know a lot about the issues,” but says he should be president
            http://www.salon.com/2016/06/13/mitch_mcconnell_is_mixed_up_he_admits_donald_trump_doesnt_know_a_lot_about_the_issues_but_says_he_should_be_president/

            If that happens, it would be the same old establishment ruling, with their crony capitalists, and trying to retain their religious fundamentalist voters, as well as any others that will put up with them.

            And of course the worse case scenario would be a nuclear war, or other disastrous occurrences resulting from the fact that Trump gets F minus grades in diplomacy, knowledge of political issues, interest in political issues and knowledge of the difference between facts and crazy statement he reads on the Internet.

            BTW, what you said here reminds me of this article.

            Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie

            http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/democrats-will-learn-all-the-wrong-lessons-from-brush-with-bernie-20160609

          • Buckyballas says:

            Maybe this is dumb, but I kind of like the “status quo” and am loathe to overturn it too violently. As Scott mentioned in the Anti-Reactionary FAQ, despite all our hand wringing, mostly things are getting better and not worse. Yes, I know, Jaskologist pointed towards the recent decrease in life expectancy in this very open thread, but that decrease is dwarfed by the overall trend towards lower mortality. Now I don’t necessarily think that x politician had a whole lot to do with any societal improvement, but the risk that Trump (or Bernie for that matter) would knock off this equilibrium with radical policy (or lack thereof) is something worth considering.

            I guess this could be just my loss aversion (btw Jill, this is the phenomonon you were referring to in another thread and it’s based on the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky) talking, but, despite my reservations about HRC, I’m with her (unless one of you geniuses changes my mind).

          • Chris says:

            @Jill and @Buckyballas:

            Re: potential nuclear war and violently overturning the status quo, the potential long-tail dangers of Trump seem greatly overstated too. The absolute worst case scenarios would likely be mitigated by opposition from the rest of government (Congress and SCOTUS). That actually seems another potential advantage of Trump over HRC: Trump will likely get much more opposition from the existing bureaucracy, especially after having alienated a large portion of entrenched politicians and their constituencies.

            At the risk of people disagreeing with my assessment: during the Bush years many liberals were conspicuously opposed to warrantless wiretapping and wars in the mid-east, but as soon as Obama came into office many of the same people were, all of the sudden, fine with extrajudicial executions and an NSA surveillance apparatus that dwarfed anything we explicitly knew about during the Bush administration. My hypothesis is that the rest of government will be far more likely to reign in those kinds of programs if Trump is elected. The same people who will gladly defend Clinton’s right to limitless executive authority will want to put checks on Trump’s power, even where their policies are identical. Of course the Trump-tribe will experience the opposite effect and support most any program Trump suggests just because he’s Our Guy (TM), but I’m hypothesizing the overall results will be less extreme under Trump than Clinton.

            @Buckyballas:

            Re: status quo and things getting better, it’s hard to refute that broad of a statement. On a global scale that trend seems obvious, on a national one it’s more debatable (falling real wages, poor social programs, infrastructure, national debt, etc), but there are additional questions about whether it continues in spite of the mainstream U.S. establishment (government and corporate, since Clinton basically represents both). There seems to be an unfathomable waste of resources going on with regards to the whole “Enlightenment Project” (for lack of a better way to describe it – the global improvement of people’s general welfare), due to large-scale coordination failures that are most easily described as “dumb shit the government does.” It seems defeatist to just accept the status quo as “good enough” when there are so many clear(?) and obvious(?) interventions that could increase the rate of those trends.

            I suppose I see the tail-risks of Trump as being not much greater than the tail-risks of Clinton, while there’s a lot of room for gains in the rate of positive change by breaking up what has become (imo) an unhealthy and toxic government and corporate establishment, which essentially leeches off the gains for humanity that are being provided by other communities and institutions (e.g. SF tech people, scientists, effective altruists, etc).

            Don’t get me wrong, Trump seems reasonably likely to be as bad or worse than Clinton – why I won’t be voting for either – but I can’t see much upside to a Clinton win whereas I can at least imagine it with a Clinton defeat.

          • Jill says:

            Thanks, Buckyballas, for finding the loss aversion info I was partly remembering.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Jill
            The more likely result of a Trump presidency would be W all over again– Trump giving the job of governing to someone else like W did to Cheney.

            Very sensible prediction.

            If Trump wins, it would be the same old establishment ruling, with their crony capitalists, and trying to retain their religious fundamentalist voters, as well as any others that will put up with them.

            Hm. Cheney has been a White House power since the mid-70s, and doubtless the same crowd are still around, whether controlling the White House officially or just Congress. Pulling the strings of dotty actor Reagan, and W who played video games in the basement, and nullifying Obama who spent his time on the golf course. So they’ve had it all (or mostly) their way, except for the 90s with a POTUS and FLOTUS who stayed in their offices and wonked. Congress mostly blocked Billary’s projects, and the few that got past them had the GOP Insider filter marks.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So if Trump is going to turn the job of governing over to someone else, it’s probably a good idea to find out who before passing judgement. Ivanka? Omarosa? Chris Christie?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:
            His choice of campaign staff leaves me underwhelmed, and that is putting it mildly.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            TN,
            Good question.

            HBC,
            Managers of a short, fun project — ie campaigning — may not be comparable to managers of a longterm, burdensome job like actually being President.

          • Matt M says:

            HBC,

            Underwhelming in the “I don’t know who these people are” sense, or in the “I know these people and they are bad” sense?

            I remember when he announced a lot of his staff and advisors, the New York Times and Washington Post ran a bunch of “lol we’ve never even heard of these people!” type articles… which to me, was as big of an endorsement as they could possibly give.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyxb:

            Campaigns for President aren’t particularly short, nor are they particularly fun. Clinton has had campaign staff for the last 16 years or so.

            @Matt M:
            Underwhelmed in terms of how well they perform. You could point to the fact that Trump won the primary as evidence against this position, but in my opinion Trump has gotten where he has gotten on his own strengths, not by relying on his staff.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      This came up on the subreddit, as I recall.

      My immediate reaction is that Tao is a mathematician, not a historian or a political scientist. He might (or might not) be right about Trump’s qualifications, but all by itself his area of expertise doesn’t make him any more of an authority than any other random Joe Shmoe ranting from a barstool.

      • Frog Do says:

        I thought it was funny because he’s making a political-correctness-style argument: everybody knows [x], but it’s considered rude to say [x], so we need people to stand up and say [x].

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Heh, I can’t imagine on what planet people are too polite to point out what a douche Trump is. His supporters are getting beaten in the streets to rapturous applause from the media; it’s far more of a social faux pas to not loudly and publicly despise him.

          That aside, that’s a pretty good parallel with a common anti-PC argument. Interesting to see it deployed in that particular direction.

        • Deiseach says:

          The problem is that the terms of opprobrium have been so misused, calling Trump and his supporters “fascists” has lost all meaning except “bad guys” and saying “He’s the next Hitler!” means only “I think he’s a really bad guy”.

          Freddie de Boer, for instance, has a post up where amongst the verdant swathes of lush prose, he lets himself indulge in such orotundity as “the future is the fascism of the HR department”.

          How can you construct any kind of meaningful criticism of anything when “fascism” can be applied equally to Mussolini, Trump, and the people reading your CV to decide if you should be called for interview? Oh no, The Donald will be as bad for America and the world as Bill the personnel manager in Wilson’s Widgets plc!

          Is it any surprise people tune out the “No, honestly, Trump would be a terrible president” pontificating after the likes of this usage has been knocking around for ten or fifteen or twenty years? It’s not a case of “mutual knowledge versus common knowledge”, it’s a case of wearing something out by overuse so that it breaks in your hand when you really, really need it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Funny how sometimes a higher IQ means you are better at everything and sometimes it is completely irrelevant.

    • Psmith says:

      Common knowledge plays a role here, but it’s not anti-Trump.

      He says what everyone else is thinking but is too afraid to say.

  15. TD says:

    Does anyone understand the socialist calculation problem? I’m totally stumped as to why it was such a big deal that socialists took it seriously. I only have high school level economics knowledge, so I think there’s some University level jargon I’m missing out on to understand this.

    I read the pamphlet Mises wrote in 1920 and as far as I can tell the argument is that without private property and a market in the means or production, you won’t be able to tell which combination of inputs is best for producing the desired combination of products, and then it just repeats this in other words with “rational” and “efficient” substituted for “best”. What exactly does it even mean for a “rational” price to be obtained for capital goods? The real important distinction between it and other critiques of state socialism is that it’s supposed to be inherent to a lack of a market in production, and not solvable even with increasingly powerful computers. I don’t understand this at all.

    I understand that in a market with money and private property each individual company is deciding how to maximize profit by comparing the marginal cost of inputs with marginal revenue. I understand that taking the market as a whole prices help match supply to demand, because for example; high prices for goods attract businesses hoping to make a profit, increasing supply against demand and lowering prices, and then the price hovers around a short term “equilibrium” because the price can’t be too low or it would be unprofitable. What I don’t understand is why the lack of this sort of “calculation” is a deathblow to socialism.

    The lack of price signals implies that socialism will be inefficient at meeting consumer demand, but socialism isn’t concerned with consumer demand to begin with; it’s concerned with “needs” (as defined by whoever is in charge). All the socialist bureaucracy has to do is supply everyone with the same standardized 2500 calorie nutritionally complete diet and no one will starve, meaning that the only issue is supply. All you have to do is calculate how much grain and meat and so on that will require, and so how much land, and then set your industrial/agricultural armies to work carrying out the well established agricultural techniques. This society may not be nice to live in, since it can’t adapt to taste, but everyone’s alive, and equal™, and that was the whole point to begin with, right? Why didn’t the socialists just chuckle at Mises and say he doesn’t get it with his preoccupation with “bourgeois freedoms”?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      The lack of price signals implies that socialism will be inefficient at meeting consumer demand, but socialism isn’t concerned with consumer demand to begin with; it’s concerned with “needs” (as defined by whoever is in charge). All the socialist bureaucracy has to do is supply everyone with the same standardized 2500 calorie nutritionally complete diet and no one will starve, meaning that the only issue is supply. All you have to do is calculate how much grain and meat and so on that will require, and so how much land, and then set your industrial/agricultural armies to work carrying out the well established agricultural techniques. This society may not be nice to live in, since it can’t adapt to taste, but everyone’s alive, and equal™, and that was the whole point to begin with, right? Why didn’t the socialists just chuckle at Mises and say he doesn’t get it with his preoccupation with “bourgeois freedoms”?

      Highlighted for emphasis.

      The problem is at that step. How do you properly allocate how many miles of barbed wire is produced every year for each of several thousand ranches? How many more tons of manure should a farm in one region be allocated than another? What metric do you use to determine whether a factory has produced the appropriate amount of farm machinery?

      Price contains a vast amount of information about local conditions, far more than you could possibly hope to collect and compute. Eliminating the price signal means that at every stage of production you will have less feedback, and less efficiency, to a potentially catastrophic degree.

      • TD says:

        How do you properly allocate how many miles of barbed wire is produced every year for each of several thousand ranches?

        How many more tons of manure should a farm in one region be allocated than another?

        What metric do you use to determine whether a factory has produced the appropriate amount of farm machinery?

        Standardize farms so each farm has the same amount of cattle and is the same size (perhaps by joining up small farms), making calculation easier and allowing a standard amount of barbed wire to fit 99% of ranches. Re-purpose everything to farming, food distribution and military and screw everything else. Allow complaints about shortages to get through (using the modern internet) to deal with the odd unequal farms to assist the process of resizing farms and redistributing cattle. Any odd remainders that can’t be equalized due to shortages of fertile land in that location or lack of space or whatever will be grouped apart and have a special bureau to deal with them and apply the small (hopefully) amount of non-standard equipment needed. Use supercomputers.

        Price contains a vast amount of information about local conditions, far more than you could possibly hope to collect and compute. Eliminating the price signal means that at every stage of production you will have less feedback, and less efficiency, to a potentially catastrophic degree.

        I’m beginning to understand, but I think there’s something extra to the calculation problem that’s supposed to make the calculations not just really difficult but genuinely unsolvable even with ridiculous amounts of computing power, so we must be talking a really vast amount of absolutely relevant information. This seems apparent, but not all the data is necessary. We don’t need to know every local variation, only enough to maintain an appropriate margin of success.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Standardize farms so each farm has the same amount of cattle and is the same size (perhaps by joining up small farms), making calculation easier and allowing a standard amount of barbed wire to fit 99% of ranches. Re-purpose everything to farming, food distribution and military and screw everything else. Allow complaints about shortages to get through (using the modern internet) to deal with the odd unequal farms to assist the process of resizing farms and redistributing cattle. Any odd remainders that can’t be equalized due to shortages of fertile land in that location or lack of space or whatever will be grouped apart and have a special bureau to deal with them and apply the small (hopefully) amount of non-standard equipment needed. Use supercomputers.

          Have you seen Scott’s review of Red Plenty?

          That’s pretty much exactly what the Soviet Union ended up trying. Minus the internet, and with much more primitive computers.

          It crashed and burned, hard, because that local variation is actually really really vital. Not having the price system meant that the faults in any metric they employed in its place wouldn’t become apparent until the problems had gotten out of control, and every metric available had faults.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Re-purpose everything to farming, food distribution and military and screw everything else.

          Well we need to build tractors, refrigerators, railroads and the rest so that doesn’t help to much. Might make things worse since there isn’t any slack.

          Allow complaints about shortages to get through (using the modern internet) to deal with the odd unequal farms to assist the process of resizing farms and redistributing cattle.

          At this point every farm complains of shortages.

          Any odd remainders that can’t be equalized due to shortages of fertile land in that location or lack of space or whatever will be grouped apart and have a special bureau to deal with them and apply the small (hopefully) amount of non-standard equipment needed.

          This makes it sound like you are advocating monocroping for an entire country. Like Ireland but more extreme with a similar failure state.

          Let me give an example of a change that simply wouldn’t be possible in this system. In the 1970s and 1980s the Japanese pioneers a change in manufacturing involving cutting down the amount of inventory being held at any one time. This made the firms more profitable since less of their capital was being held up and made the economy as a whole run better since resources were being deployed faster.

          It was hard for companies to make that transition. It would be insanely hard to do that for an entire economy.

          • Nornagest says:

            At this point every farm complains of shortages.

            “Can all petitioners be heard? No, for all cry together. Who, then, shall be heard—is it those who cry loudest? No, for all cry loudly. Those who cry longest shall be heard, and justice shall be done to them.”

            At which point you’ve replaced a market denominated in money with one denominated in time — and political favor.

        • Anonymous says:

          Standardize farms so each farm has the same amount of cattle and is the same size

          I seem to recall one of the Asian communist states went ahead with standardizing farms aggressively – to the point of making rice plots square and stuff – and the result was mass starvation (as is usual with communist attempts to mess with things they arrogantly think they can arrange better than individual peasants who live or die by the results can).

        • Deiseach says:

          Standardize farms so each farm has the same amount of cattle and is the same size (perhaps by joining up small farms), making calculation easier and allowing a standard amount of barbed wire to fit 99% of ranches.

          Which would work fine if the geography of the Earth were like Minecraft and you had even, level, limitless stretches of similar flat ground.

          But in the real world, some land will be on the plain, some on boggy or marshy ground, some will be mountainside, some will be scrub, some will be premium grazing. You can give everyone twenty acres to make every farm the same size, and some farms will have twenty acres of good land that will raise cattle, and some will have three acres of fair land and seventeen acres of bogland.

          If you give everyone the same amount of cattle, then you have to give people with worse land more of it in order for them to rear the same cattle as someone with a farm of good land.

        • suntzuanime says:

          It is obviously not impossible to calculate resource allocations for an economy; capitalism does it. The problem of getting accurate information to input into the calculation is more intractable: if I tell you my farm needs 3000 yards of wire for fencing, am I telling the truth, or do I need only 2500 and I’m overestimating so that my life will be easier and I won’t have to worry about running out, or do I only need 1000 and I’m planning to sell the rest on the black market? With a responsive price system I can have as much wire as I’m willing to pay for, and I’m incentivized to only buy as much as I actually need, and so the true information gets put into the economic calculations.

      • Anonymous says:

        The problem is at that step.

        Not just at that step. That step would be the main problem if the actors running the show were altruist angels – but with human fallibility in being able to predict the future, calculate and make mistakes.

        But there is another problem when the system is being run by actual human beings, who will tend to defect in prisoner’s dilemmas if it benefits them – corruption. The bureaucrats running the show will, without fail, show some degree of corruption. And they will show rather more corruption the less market-efficient the system is. The less possible it is to live under the system while following its rules, the stronger the black market economy will get, and the more people will get in on it. Bribery for access to scarce resources becomes rampant. Nothing works the way it’s supposed to, because it can’t – people would have to willingly starve in order to prop the system up, and few are that committed.

      • John Schilling says:

        Standardize farms so each farm has the same amount of cattle and is the same size (perhaps by joining up small farms),

        Even the North Korean regime has by now figured out, like the Chinese and the Russians before them, that the way to actually prevent mass starvation is exactly the opposite of this. “Psst, hey you, peasant family over there. We’re still officially communist, but that little plot of land over there? We’re not going to tell you what to do with it. Knock yourself out, official bread ration is still 400g/day.”

        As others have pointed out, local variation really matters quite a bit, in ways that aren’t visible from 30,000 feet.

        Also not visible from 30,000 feet, exactly who is lying about what when those “complaints about shortages” are sent to the National Farm Planning Committee (using the modern internet). By absolutely everyone, because incentives matter and you’re incentivizing everyone to tell you whatever lies will get them the most stuff for the least effort. Farms like mine here will totally be the most productive ever if you can only give us more barbed wire (which we’ll barter on the black market for booze), but since we had that barbed wire shortfall this year (not really), we’re going to need an extra bread ration (to make buns for the burgers we’re cooking with the cows we said ran away).

        Microeconomics has to be decentralized, because the information you need is local and the people you need to incentivize are local. The central committee not only faces a computationally intractable problem, but has to find real solutions using bogus data.

        • Tom Womack says:

          Microeconomics has to be decentralized, because the information you need is local and the people you need to incentivize are local. The central committee not only faces a computationally intractable problem, but has to find real solutions using bogus data.

          Why doesn’t the same argument assert that Facebook has to be decentralized? The relevant matrices in both cases are sparse enough for the problem not to be in fact computationally intractable with today’s computers, and the social cost of putting bogus data on Facebook is high enough that mostly people don’t do it.

          • JayT says:

            Facebook is decentralized though. I’m an admin for some groups and I have control over who can join and who can stay in the group. I have control over the content in those groups.

          • CatCube says:

            “…the social cost of putting bogus data on Facebook is high enough that mostly people don’t do it.”

            You must be using a different Facebook than me. The amount of stupid nonsense on Facebook has convinced me that it’s literally the tool of the Devil: it’s his biggest tool for spreading hate and discontent.

          • TD says:

            There’s a sort of mutualist Kevin Carsony type argument here that big companies are just islands of calculation chaos.

          • Aegeus says:

            the social cost of putting bogus data on Facebook is high enough that mostly people don’t do it.

            That’s a decentralized mechanism – other people in your social network remembering your bullshit and calling you on it.

            Also, what does Facebook “calculate” or “incentivize”? It’s a communications tool. It doesn’t spit out recommendations for the economy. You just post messages and other people see them.

    • James Picone says:

      (not an economist, maybe just wait for one of the actual economists)

      As I understand it, the idea is that people getting what they want makes them happy, so to maximise happiness we want to allocate resources such that the maximum number of people get the maximum number of things that they want. Obviously the things that people want conflict with each other – time spent producing 2500-calorie nutritionally-complete foods is time not spent making shoes. So it’s an optimisation problem, with rather a lot of variables.

      As it happens, under a very particular set of assumptions (perfectly rational actors with complete information etc. etc.), the market solves that optimisation problem. Which is nice, because everyone then gets what they want.

      I think there’s an extension that it’s practically impossible for some kind of central computer to solve the problem, both because you need information about the desires of everybody which is rather hard to collect and which presumably they know much better than you, and because big optimisation problems are computationally difficult.

    • Skivverus says:

      It’s analogous to the programming problem of “why not just make all your variables/functions/etc. global?”
      Sure, you could, and your program might even compile. But when it comes to debugging or maintenance – any time you want to tweak existing behavior, or add new behavior – each and every global variable at least doubles the amount of time you have to spend figuring out what’s wrong.

    • Frog Do says:

      Seeing Like A State is also a pretty good book for this.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Project Cybersyn

      That is all.

      • Outis says:

        during the presidency of Salvador Allende […] ideals of Chilean socialism […]
        The system was most useful in October 1972, when about 40,000 striking truck drivers blocked the access streets that converged towards Santiago. […] using the system’s telex machines, the government was able to guarantee the transport of food into the city with only about 200 trucks driven by strike-breakers, recouping the shortages caused by 40,000 striking truck drivers.[3]

        Ha. Ha ha ha. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH

      • Anonymous says:

        That looks a lot like production and transport planning systems used in factories and related enterprises.

        • Anonymous says:

          Can you recommend sources where I can read more about these? I’m really interested in this topic, but most of the books I’ve found purporting to explain “systems design” have turned out to be ‘baby calculus for managers’.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wikipedia is a start. I’ve learned – and subsequently forgot – this stuff as part of my university education; this was on the intersection between computer science and economics.

    • Matt M says:

      “This society may not be nice to live in, since it can’t adapt to taste, but everyone’s alive, and equal”

      And some large percentage of them will be constantly trying to flee your country to go somewhere that is nicer. And some percentage will be sabotaging your factories and plotting to overthrow you, etc. etc.

      Incentives matter. Arbitrarily imposing ones personal values on millions in a way that results in large-scale discontent will, in and of itself, make your economy less efficient because your workers are less motivated to work hard.

      Why do American corporations provide a bunch of fancy perks to their white-collar employees? Not because they particularly care about employee happiness as its own end, but because happy employees work harder, are more productive, and generate increased profit.

      • Ruprect says:

        “Incentives matter.”

        That is a different issue. People respond to incentives – yes – but the question of what constitutes an effective incentive can’t be separated from the broader social/cultural environment. And people generally do (and want) what society tells them to do (and want).

        I think, regarding the calculation problem – you would have to have a “price” of some kind in order to calculate the most effective way of doing something – it wouldn’t have to be monetary, though. Just calculate the energy inputs.
        Problem is, this is kind of anti-Marxist, in that Marx believed that the fundamental measure of cost was how much time a person must give to create something – could you solve the calculation problem by having a price based upon time-worked?

        • Nornagest says:

          could you solve the calculation problem by having a price based upon time-worked?

          Among other issues, this would systematically undervalue scarce resources and capital-intensive operations. Even Marx was aware of this problem, at least on the capital side — he talked about capital in terms of “dead labor” (“fossilized” or “crystallized” would perhaps be a better way of putting it), as opposed to the “live labor” of actual present-day workers.

          Of course, there’s no need for us to reinvent the wheel here.

        • Matt M says:

          “And people generally do (and want) what society tells them to do (and want).”

          A certain amount do, sure. But a certain amount don’t.

          The cool thing about a capitalist system is that both such people can lead rich, fulfilling lives. The son of a minister can become a minister to carry on the tradition of the family faith. Someone who wants to serve society in a secular way can become a teacher or some such thing.

          And the people who love rebellion and flaunting convention can become exotic dancers or what have you.

          Someone who wants to be an exotic dancer will probably be a better exotic dancer than they will a plumber. Forcing them to be a plumber anyway will then lower the average quality of the plumbing profession as a whole.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      It strikes me as a problem that socialists solved in 1917 – it’s a problem with central planning from some bureaucrat is Moscow, but *not* one which applies to a worker-managed economic democracy where people can regularly vote on what the commune needs. “All power to the Soviets” and all.

      They then unsolved it in 1921.

    • Dahlen says:

      Logically, conceivably, you need communication from consumers to producers to get anything done in an economic system. And you need for it to not pass through a filter of fear, bad incentives, apparatchik intimidation, and other such distortions, which is a criterion that Communist states completely fail. You need those producers to listen to consumers’ freely-stated demands. If you only have reasonably clear communication from the central planning committee to producers while the former pretend to speak with the voice of consumers while in fact dictating to people what they need, it’s going to crash and burn really hard. I don’t even know all that high falutin’ economics and can tell that.

      Any given group of bureaucrats knows very little about the nuts and bolts of affairs all over the country. (To which my inner Grumpy Cat says “GOOD”.) Even in non-totalitarian states, any attempt to collect that information, especially when it comes to people’s property and productivity, is going to make some people somewhere tremble in their boots when faced with officials and try to defend their side in whatever conflict of interests they have with what the state wants, which generally means lying to those officials, at least a little. Totalitarianism is the op-amp to this process. Every economic process in a totalitarian Communist country is accompanied by the attempt to eschew the guillotine of the system. Nobody, not even (or probably especially not) the party officials themselves, know whether they’ll be the ones to take a nice trip to the gulags next week. So everybody is distorting economic signals all of the time in an attempt to survive.

      And that’s probably not even the argument made by von Mises, but a relevant one nonetheless.

      Now. As for your standardised 2500 calorie/day nutritionally complete diet. You tried to pick a simple and available example, food, and then basically appended an “etc.” to your argument — the reader’s imagination can fill in the blanks for all the other classes of goods, right? Not only is the economic reality for most classes of goods orders of magnitude more complicated than that, but even food is more complicated than that. Nutritional needs, in kcal/day, are a function of age, gender, body size, activity level, and other factors that influence metabolism, such as thyroid disease. Half the population, i.e. women, has a daily calorie need somewhat below 2500 kcal, assuming they do sedentary work, and some very physically active and large men have a calorie need above that. (How many? How do you know?) Then you need to take into account that some % of food everywhere is going to be wasted (spilled, spoiled, lost, eaten by rodents, infested with salmonella, whatever), and you need to produce in excess of strictly what is needed for your calculation. Then. An extremely easy and poor way to satisfy a daily calorie requirement is with sugar and oil. (Most Communist stores had sugar and sunflower oil available on a good day.) But you said “nutritionally complete”. So you deliver a basketful of wholesome, specially state-selected vegetables at every doorstep. Maybe your people (and especially the kids) don’t like the vegetables much. Or maybe they like some other vegetables, or foodstuffs. So they let their vegetables spoil (you know how quickly they spoil? Sometimes in a couple of days. Less if it’s in the summer and you decide to cut their electricity, including for the fridge, to save energy). And then go hungry and micronutrient-deficient. Heck, I can’t rationally plan a week’s worth of diet for myself without significant waste, and have the economic freedom to do so, and know my desires (almost) in full, and it’s just one person. Or maybe you’re sending too much sugar-rich foodstuffs to diabetics. And this is only on the distribution level. We haven’t even talked about how you get to distribution from production. There are so, so many ways in which it can go wrong.

      Even less ambitious state programs suffer from that. When we were little, there was a state program to deliver a baguette of stale, unappetising bread and a pyramidal carton of milk to every elementary-school child, in classrooms. You know what we did with them? We used the baguettes (they were wrapped in plastic) as toy weapons to bludgeon each other with during recess, and the milk cartons as bombs to throw at passersby from the second floor of the school. Fun times. Some people even made a silly little song about the failure of the program.

      The lesson: You can’t even plan something as simple as food. There’s a fundamental asymmetry of information between state agents and every economic agent in an economy, and the state just can’t handle it all. All of the instruments it has are few and blunt, and unsuited for such a complex task, and the structure of the communication and exchange taking place (hierarchical rather than network-based) is inferior to the market solution.

      (And I even say all this as someone who’s rather partial to descentralised communism, but every time I’ve ever mentioned that in a non-exclusively-leftist space there’s been dogpiling and I’m tired of that shit, so no, not answering any questions about this.)

      • Dahlen says:

        So what did I say about how, every time I mentioned it, everybody just seemed to forget everything else I had written and focused on that? Getting a deja vu from an old LessWrong conversation. Write 1k words arguing against the usual pitfalls of communism, and one little paragraph about the one case in which I generally approve of it, and poof! those 1k words vanish into invisibility. Better keep my damn mouth shut next time and get back into the closet.

        Sorry if the defensiveness seems overblown, I’m tired and in a hurry.

        • No, keep talking and writing! I very much enjoyed the well constructed and well laid out reasoning stating why central planning won’t work. I also appreciated the last paragraph putting things in perspective, and this is from someone who on a given day may lean more an-cap or more an-mut (anarcho-mutualist shortening?). Even when I do disagree with the left side of the anarchist spectrum, I still mostly find the arguments worthwhile and interesting.

          Back on point though, I think the main reasons why you might see people latch onto that last bit is because the rest of your writing is concise (for the amount of material it covers), clear, and convincing. It incentives bad writing that people are more likely to comment on bad examples or the weakest argument without congratulating or seeming to pay attention to the good parts.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        The fact that corporations run on central planning is quite the elephant n the room. Does it mean central planning actually works? Does it mean corporations die when they reach a certain size? Does it mean something else compensates for the inefficiency?

        • onyomi says:

          Coordination does become more and more difficult the bigger a corporation gets. But this is compensated for, to some degree, by economies of scale.

          But I think the really large, really successful corporations like say, Starbucks, McDonalds, and Wal Mart depend a lot on more local level decision making by franchisees.

          In a certain sense, “Starbucks” becomes less just one entity and almost like a repeatable model for people to subscribe to and use in opening their own coffee shop.

          An especially interesting case study is cheap Chinese takeout in the US. There is no “cheap Chinese takeout megacorp,” yet most of these restaurants use literally the same menus, the same recipes, the same fortune cookies, etc. In a decentralized way Chinese immigrants across the US all hit upon this is a successful business model, sort of like one imagines Irish people all going into the police force in the early 20th c.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d recommend the Netflix documentary “The Search for General Tso” that provides a high-level overview of Chinese restaurants integrating into mainstream U.S. culture.

            Apparently most cities had something of a “Chinese immigrants association” where the already successful/assimilated would help out recent immigrants, up to and including assigning them their own various geographic areas “like, here’s a small town with no Chinese restaurant yet, we will give you a loan and instruct you on how to make food that Americans like to eat.”

            It wasn’t organized in the strictest sense that we would recognize as westerners, but it was more organized than people think…

          • onyomi says:

            Interestingly, there is a very long and continuing history of this sort of thing within China itself. So-called “native place societies” help people people from a certain town or region.

            Grocery stores in China, for example, are disproportionately likely to be run by people from Wenzhou.

          • Psmith says:

            See also: Tocumbo paletas (incidentally, same guy who wrote Dreamland, about a similar effect among Mexican heroin suppliers), the Cambodian donut king

          • bluto says:

            I know at Wal-Mart they allow department level managers (ie someone overseeing 3-4 people) to do daily ordering and had daily sales totals for every product in the store (going back at least a year).

        • Matt M says:

          Recent theory in organizational design actually rejects this framework – and proposes that most corporations are a lot more decentralized than we may think.

          CEOs set high-level policy and strategy guidelines, but most of the relevant day-to-day decisionmaking happens several layers of management below them.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I think what people may forget when they get mad at Starbucks for destroying Mom and Pop Coffee Shop and Wal Mart for destroying Mom and Pop dry goods store is that Mom and Pop may now own a Starbucks.

          • BBA says:

            Not literally – Starbucks doesn’t franchise. (They have some “licensed” locations, operated by the likes of Kroger and HMSHost within their respective supermarkets and airport terminals, but these are exclusively other megacorps, not Mom and Pop. Your neighborhood Starbucks is almost certainly 100% owned and operated by the Starbucks Corporation.)

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            ‘Recent theory in organizational design actually rejects this framework – and proposes that most corporations are a lot more decentralized with than we may think.’

            Great. Does that mean socialism can work if suffiently decentralised? Should we be bracketting the everything-run-from-the-Kremlin veesion with the worker-run-cooperative version?

          • Psmith says:

            Does that mean socialism can work if suffiently decentralised?

            Sure. It’s usually called a free market.

          • Sivaas says:

            What does decentralized socialism actually look like?

            Central-planning socialism is starting from a concept of everyone should have equal access to resources, and using the top-down power of the central authority to redistribute from those that have more resources to those that have less, right?

            Where does the power come from if you remove that central authority? Who decides that Group A has 10% more stuff than Group B, and who enforces the transition of that stuff away from Group A?

          • Anonymous says:

            What does decentralized socialism actually look like?

            Like any society composed of families. The family is a microcommunism that actually works (the problem with communism is the scale).

            Central-planning socialism is starting from a concept of everyone should have equal access to resources, and using the top-down power of the central authority to redistribute from those that have more resources to those that have less, right?

            No, the central planning is based on the concept that if it’s all directed from the top, you won’t get wasteful competition (because all are working towards a common goal), and instead get cooperation, improving efficiency of resource use. Not everyone is supposed to have equal resources – just what they *need*.

            Where does the power come from if you remove that central authority? Who decides that Group A has 10% more stuff than Group B, and who enforces the transition of that stuff away from Group A?

            The power goes to the local authorities, who get to compete with one another as on every other such stage.

          • Sivaas says:

            Thanks, blue Anonymous. Apologies for my errors in describing socialism, I agree that your definitions are better than mine.

            So you’re really looking at small regions working together like families do (I’m not sure I can accurately describe how families work together yet, but I have an idea of the basic concept), then engaging in capitalist-style competition with other regions?

            I guess we’d need some pre-existing societal architecture to get people to care about the well-being of all their neighbors instead of just their immediate family: presumably this is doable, since it’s kind of a “tribe” concept that has been done before in history.

            Would you still have a central authority with a monopoly on force? I’m really interested how law enforcement and stuff like that works, since every person (including law enforcement personnel) should have some tribal identity and that would seem to have some dangers for an unbiased judicial system.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          This is a good starting point for getting answers to your questions, if you don’t mind wading through 17 pages of PDF.

        • BBA says:

          A few years ago Sears was reorganized to run on market forces internally. It did not go well.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The fact that corporations run on central planning is quite the elephant n the room. Does it mean central planning actually works?

          Corporations only have to deal with a limited range of products. Trying to centrally plan an entire economy is several orders of magnitude more complicated.

          • Corporations get pretty immediate feedback. If they are making a serious mistake the lose money and either change what they are doing or go broke.

            And they have market prices to signal costs of their inputs and value of their output.

            The classic article is “The Theory of the Firm” by Coase. There is a tradeoff between transaction costs of transactions on the market and inefficiencies due to the problems of hierarchical coordination in a firm. If transaction costs were zero, the equilibrium would be a pure market system, everyone self employed and trading with each other. With positive transaction costs, firms grow to the size at which, if they got a little bigger, additional inefficiencies due to the internal coordination problem would just balance additional efficiencies due to fewer transaction costs dealing outside the firm.

            Markets and Hierarchies by Mancur Olsen is a pretty good discussion, including interesting historical stuff.

        • Anonymous says:

          90s Krugman is always relevant.

    • Ryan Beren says:

      The argument as it is often encountered in libertarian circles is nonsense because it invalidly assumes that prices must be monetary. Money is very efficient at communicating prices, but there are other ways. A spectacularly inefficient way is to have a totalitarian system where the only price that can be paid is a chance of losing your life, i.e. “do this task or we’ll maybe kill you” – but that’s still technically a price system. A communist-anarchist system of worker-managed enterprises could communicate price information by vote. It’s unclear (i.e. not sufficiently validated by experiment – I don’t give an expletive about ideologically-driven theory) how efficient that would be.

      • Skivverus says:

        The “do this task or we’ll maybe kill you” is spectacularly inefficient, but it’s also system-agnostic.

        Separately, though, let’s go the other direction for this:
        Suppose we want to reward people for doing good for other people.
        We’ll want someone who does large amounts of good for someone else to be rewarded more than someone who does small amounts.
        We’ll want someone who does good for large numbers of people to be rewarded more than someone who does the same amount of good for small numbers of people.
        We’ll want the reward to come from the person who was helped.
        And so on.

        These “we’ll want” criteria tend to add up into something that looks an awful lot like money. On the other hand, money-rewarded often doesn’t increase at the same rate human intuition says the reward should (for instance when “number of people helped” is a factor, I don’t think it feels like “giving two people cars” is exactly twice as good as “giving one person a car”).

        • Ryan Beren says:

          Yes, all that makes good sense.

          > We’ll want the reward to come from the person who was helped.

          A monetary system as a solution breaks down badly at this point if the people most in need of help are least able to provide that reward. A more complete solution would need to fix that flaw. FWIW, common proposals include (1) a universal basic income, (2) guaranteed employment for anyone willing to work, (3) a mutualist/distributist system of ownership that guarantees everyone access to capital and opportunity to use it productively.

  16. onyomi says:

    I think a lot of people, maybe even some on the left, would tend to agree there is a general tendency for legislators to overlegislate. Given this, is there any good reason not to have stronger mandated sunset clauses attached to all laws? If something is really important and working well, it will get renewed.

    The best reason I can think of other than “politicians want their favorite legislation to last forever,” is there may be some things which we want to be hard to get rid of, and making getting rid of them the default might be a bad thing.

    But I, at least, can’t bet behind that, because I’m always in favor of erring on the side of not coercing whenever possible, so I think laws which are iffy should default go away, not default remain.

    • TPC says:

      The core problem is that subsidiarity is best. That is, too much of daily life requires politics to get someone to come help you. A great immediate example is the career of Mia Love in Utah. She went into politics because the development company that built her subdivision refused to perform essential pest control and until she went through the political system nothing could be done between her and her neighbors going to the developers.

      That’s pretty far gone, there has to be some other approach that doesn’t involve having to secure a political office to get basic maintenance done in your neighborhood.

    • James Picone says:

      I think a lot of people, maybe even some on the left, would tend to agree there is a general tendency for legislators to overlegislate. Given this, is there any good reason not to have stronger mandated sunset clauses attached to all laws? If something is really important and working well, it will get renewed.

      And now every important law is an opportunity for political brinkmanship. I don’t want the Right to refuse to extend environmental regulations until the government passes a law against abortion, and the Right doesn’t want the Left to refuse to extend laws allowing religious objections to selling contraception until the government passes environmental regulations.

      • Jiro says:

        A law allowing religious objections against contraception is really a law saying “the government can tell you what to sell”, plus a second law saying “we’ll make an exception to the first law for contraception”.

        Or more generally, the sunset clause should apply to prohibitions and requirements. If the presence of the law means you can do more things than in the absence of the law, then the actual law that needs to sunset is the one that takes effect in the absence of the first law.

        (Besides, if you don’t do it that way there’s an easy exploit. Just characterize the existing laws as “you get to keep 2/3 of your money rather than paying it all in taxes”, “you get an exemption from the government’s ability to jail you if you refrain from doing X, Y, and Z”, etc. Then nobody in the government has to worry about sunsetting because making the laws sunset just increases the government’s power.)

        • James Picone says:

          I was finding it difficult to come up with an equivalent. Laws against abortion, where applicable, I guess.

      • onyomi says:

        I think that Meia Love law attempting to limit laws to one thing (can’t attach your pet cause to renewal of veteran’s benefits, etc.) would be a good pairing to a law requiring sunset clauses. This would reduce the tendency to use it for brinkmanship on important things. If the argument is that there some laws the sunseting of which would result in disaster (personally, I don’t think there are many, but…), then one could make it apply only to new laws (without which we obviously can survive), at least for the time being.

        What I don’t think is fair is erring on the side of “laws stay in force” rather than the reverse, because I think coercive law is a necessary evil at best (of course, this relates to my libertarian priors, but it seems broadly ethically justifiable to me).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The problem is that you are setting the default setting to anarchy, and then imposing a high cost to keeping laws in force. You will protest that the cost is not high, but seriously, you try reinstating every single statute one at a time, with appropriate parliamentary procedure.

          And no you are going to protest that you did not mean every single statute had to be done one at a time, but I don’t know who you are going to determine what laws are “related” to each other.

          • onyomi says:

            “setting the default setting to anarchy…”

            I do think the default setting for coerce/don’t coerce should be “don’t coerce.”

          • John Schilling says:

            I do think the default setting for coerce/don’t coerce should be “don’t coerce.”

            Anarchy doesn’t mean “no coercion”, it means replacing all of the coercion the government wants to engage in, with all of the coercion that everybody who isn’t the government wants to engage in. This is likely to be more coercion, not less.

          • I don’t know if that necessarily follows. Private coercion has the extremely steep downside of not being easy to outsource to someone who isn’t you. A private coercer would have to pay for others to be risking life and limb, which gets riskier the higher the value of the thing being coerced.

            Public coercion gets to use an already in place mechanism where other people (police, military, judiciary, etc.) do the coercing and absorb the risk while the politician/crony gets the benefits. Not to mention that public coercion is less risky because it is seen as legitimate and won’t be fought or retaliated against as viciously. Unless the coercion target is very valuable, the inherent risk isn’t worth it for private actors in general. Poor risk management, different time preferences, or recklessness contribute to currently existing private coercion that I imagine would stay the same or go down when people could contract for protection services that seek to defend rather than enforce laws as their primary aim.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know if that necessarily follows. Private coercion has the extremely steep downside of not being easy to outsource to someone who isn’t you.

            I can literally pick up a phone book and find people advertising the service of violently coercing strangers in all the ways presently legal for non-governments in North America and maybe a little bit beyond. I’m pretty certain I could afford their rates, if my demands weren’t too extreme. And were I what the redpillers et al call an “Alpha”, I probably wouldn’t have to pay, because that and not the sexual perks is the core of true Alpha-ness.

            You really think governments are the one and only mechanism by which the human race has figured out how to organize or outsource violence?

          • Please define your usage of coercion. I was under the assumption we were talking about thinks like theft, murder, initiating violence, or even some versions of fraud. I don’t see those things being advertised in the yellow pages.

            Also, what do you intend to get with that coercion you can hire? What about when your intended victim defends themselves from these thugs or seeks retribution on them or you? Do the thugs now come after you or do you pay them off? What if the thugs just keep their ill-gotten goods and flip you the bird? You will, at some point, have to become acquainted with violence yourself and you would be no better than any of todays common criminals or criminal organizations. Which, despite the government’s laws (or perhaps in collusion with its corrupt members) they continue to exist.

            I never said government was the only violence initiating organization. You were the one that claimed that without governments, private coercion would increase. I gave a reason why it isn’t generally profitable or smart to use coercion. This translates directly to how much coercion everyone who isn’t the government actually wants to engage in, private coercion is more expensive than public coercion for the people engaging in it. That doesn’t mean private coercion has an infinite cost though.
            I also stated that private police would focus on protection rather than enforcement, which would tend to limit private coercion. You’ve given no reason other than the typical anarchy = chaos smear for why getting government out of justice/policing/law enforcement/protection would increase the total amount/per capita of coercion nor the total amount/per capita private coercion.

          • John Schilling says:

            Please define your usage of coercion. I was under the assumption we were talking about thinks like theft, murder, initiating violence, or even some versions of fraud. I don’t see those things being advertised in the yellow pages.

            None of those things are presently legal, which you will recall was one of the qualifiers. Hiring private security guards to forcibly eject people from my property is quite legal, and openly advertised. And really, I can hire people to do things that would be theft if not sanctified by the legal paperwork that makes it “repossession”.

            Is it really your contention that if there were no laws regarding e.g. murder, murder would not be openly advertised as a service for hire?

          • I apologize, I was working under the coercion = initiating aggression paradigm. It was unfair to assume that you were too. Your qualifier (apologies for the hostility) is what threw me for a loop as I was working under the above assumption and couldn’t fathom what sorts of things would fit that bill of being in the yellow pages, being coercion (initiating aggression), and not be legal. Your working definitions make much more sense now.

            I don’t see a problem with hiring people to coerce in those ways, and wouldn’t have a problem with that sort of thing increasing per capita/total without a state. I suspect they would if we are including a broader category of ‘forcing people to do things they don’t want to’, then yes, there could be an increase in private coercion without government, because people will still not want to pay up on their bills or vacate land/homes they are trespassing into. I suspect the numbers would drop in terms of ‘coercion = initiating violence’ because that sort of coercion has little payoff and is risky.

            Regarding the lack of laws against murder, there is quite a bit of literature that anarchy means without rulers not without rules. To summarize briefly so you don’t have to go read wikis or if you have so you can understand how I see that particular problem: Private law has existed in various forms throughout history to various extents that decentralized laws, usually working on the premise that people bind themselves willingly to various jurisdictions in return for protection under those rules. My estate after I’m dead would have a claim against a similarly signed-up-for-protection person who killed me (or in the case of no estate, the protection service would do so to discourage the practice of murdering their clients). Unaligned people would generally be untrustworthy in regular society so they wouldn’t be able to do business or enter property generally unless they pay a higher premium for the extra risk they bring. Same thing for people aligned with protectors that don’t punish them for murdering other people’s clients. Without laws against murders, they would certainly increase, but anarchy will not be free of laws against murder. Under anarchy, people will be free to decentralize and support different law, justice, and protection suppliers.

            I can suggest good sources that lay this out much better than I, sources that talk about the moral/philosophical groundings of such a system, or we can keep chatting here.

    • BBA says:

      There are some laws for which sunset creates further problems. If the Business Corporation Act sunsets, are all corporations instantly dissolved, or is it just that no new ones may be created? If we sunset the laws specifying that land is transferred by recording a deed at the county courthouse, etc., does land become nontransferable? Do we go back to the bad old days of coverture if the Married Women’s Property Act is allowed to expire? You get the idea, and I haven’t even gotten to the penal code.

      I figure that in practice, a hard sunset requirement just turns into an omnibus “renew everything that’s about to expire” bill passing every year.

      • DavidS says:

        As someone who’s worked near these questions of sunsetting etc: this is totally right. Sunset clauses are great ideas for very well-defined distinct laws of the type people imagine laws are. But in practice, most laws do things like move functions between bodies etc. that can’t be simply reversed/cancelled.

        Also to note that the significance of sunsetting massively depends on your system of legislation.
        – In the US, presumably strong sunsetting is mighty and powerful as you need both houses and the president to reaffirm something
        – In the UK it’s somewhat effective as it gets round the fact it’s difficult for non-government people to get parliamentary time to change laws (govt controls what gets voted on most of the time, so can uphold status quo easier than change things)
        – In countries where any member of parliament/congress can start legislative processes and that don’t have multi-house locks on law, sunset clauses are mostly just a way of raising awareness.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      For laws that are controversial enough, and impactful enough to justify it, a requirement that an independent review be carried out of the law’s impact after X years, and published, may be worth doing.

      For my own money, drug policy reform is an area of particular interest – I am very confident that the default prohibition with criminal penalties for users and sellers is, in the case of pretty much every drug that non-trivial numbers of people actually want to use, a bad idea at best, disastrous at worst. But I am also sympathetic to the idea that an unrestricted free market in many of those drugs would also be disastrous. I’d like to see cautious, incremental reform, with criminal sanctions lifted against users, and regulations put in place over legal producers and sellers to try to minimise health risks, and it would be great if governments could state in advance what criteria a policy change will be judged by; what they would consider a success, a failure or neutral, with an independent review to take place, say, 10 years down the line. The government at that time would still be entitled to discontinue the law even if the review counts it a success, or vice-versa, but they’d risk making themselves look like unreasonable ideologues.

      Of course in this particular case there is a real clash of harm-reductionists vs puritans (and also a further clash vs libertarians, I guess), and one group might see an increase in rates of drug use a failure, with another considering it fully compatible with success if the increase in use goes hand in hand with a reduction in total harms (eg, fatal overdoses and drug-associated acquisitive crime are down even when the total number of users is up, an outcome which I would consider plausible for legally regulated heroin). I guess it would be a good idea for laws which have such conditions attached to make sure that opposition parties get a say in defining the success-or-failure criteria.

      And extrapolate for any other policy questions that are amenable to meaningful impact assessments.
      No idea how to get to the point that that would ever be a societal norm though.

      • DavidS says:

        This is a good point too! If every new law had to say what it was aiming to do, how much it expected to cost or what knock on effects would be, how its success would be judged and measured etc. that would create a VERY interesting environment for legislation. Lawmakers couldn’t just extol the virtues of the system, because then when all the ‘unforseen’ problems emerged and the benefits were smaller it would all be very visible.

        But this relies on politicians/media/people having long attention spans and thinking about how effective the policy from 5 years ago was rather than moving on to the next big thing.

    • Chalid says:

      In general, uncertainty about regulation can be worse than bad regulation. What you propose would greatly increase uncertainty about what future regulations will look like.

    • Jill says:

      I think the gigantic problem with the law at present is the amount of Big Money in politics. Legislators do not exactly legislate. They should not even be called legislators. We should change the name to Fund Raisers and Special Interest Caterers.

      Until we get Big Money out of politics, starting with a Constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United ruling, our Fund Raisers and Special Interest Caterers are not going to be interested in any kind of legislation that might benefit the general public, as opposed to Special Interest Groups.

      It’s not really their fault either that they are Fund Raisers and Special Interest Caterers. That’s the way their job is set up in our current system, that we are allowing to sit there in place. If they do not function in that way, they don’t get re-elected and someone who does function that way gets in, instead.

      • TPC says:

        Big Money doesn’t govern local politics, which exist precisely because there’s no social-community bonds that can be relied on to resolve issues. It’s all alderman stuff and that’s not optimal or even the right solution, but it’s where most of the real difficulties with politics lie for average people.

        • Jill says:

          Perhaps some social-community bonds can be created that can be relied upon to resolve issues.

          Alderman stuff? Some kind of county council? What do you think governs/determines/influences that kind of politics?

          • The Nybbler says:

            > Alderman stuff? Some kind of county council? What do you think governs/determines/influences that kind of politics?

            Local corruption, at least IME (but my experience is living in NJ and near Philadelphia)

          • Jill says:

            Isn’t there some exchange of money? How do the corrupt officials win elections?

          • TPC says:

            You started with “Big Money” and you can feel free to explain to me how any cash at all= “Big Money”.

            It’s not “Big Money” that forces people to run for city council to get a pothole filled. It’s the idea that everything is up for political grabs and there’s no broad base of civic mindedness for small jurisdictions to aim for. It’s an atomistic viewpoint.

            Blacks in the South didn’t have to run for political office to get roads built pre-CRA but post WW2. They couldn’t get access to such offices in the first place, so they went other routes that were less explicitly political but were social-communitarian. And they got their roads.

          • Skivverus says:

            Corruption doesn’t necessarily involve money at its endpoint – though to be sure something gets exchanged. The corporate version would be called “externalities”, I believe.

          • Jill says:

            TPC, if people can change the system better through non-political methods, I’m fine with that. I just think we should try to solve problems, rather than just giving up.

  17. James Bond says:

    Continuing of my previous question on advice for college, what majors would you guys recommend and why?

    • Frog Do says:

      If STEM, electrical engineering, if social sciences, economics with a focus on econometrics, otherwise Great Books of the Western Canon. As far as I’ve seen they’re the relative best in their fields. For minors, pick up foreign languages.

      As for me, I did math. I should have done EE, but I goofed off the first two years of college (this was a very stupid mistake) and didn’t pick a major until my junior year.

      • Julian R. says:

        Frog Do, why do you prefer EE over math?
        I’m also starting college in a couple of months, and I’m considering majoring in math.

        • Frog Do says:

          EE has probably the same basic rigor as math, assuming that you do a math minor, and has more practical uses if you don’t go into academia.

          Edit: That said, doing an engineering strongly increases the risk of a toxic engineering mindset, which math mostly doesn’t have.

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree that on the education side an EE degree is somewhat more potentially useful than a math degree. However, on the signaling side a math degree signals a higher level of intelligence while an EE degree signals a somewhat higher level of grit.

            Unless you are sure you actually want to be an electrical engineer, the math degree is likely to open more doors. A math degree, especially from a prestigious school, is like having a certified off the charts IQ except not illegal (as a practical matter) to use in employment decisions.

          • Matt M says:

            Agree with anon.

            I’ve met math majors with all sorts of different careers. It seems to be the one degree you can get which nobody will ever quibble with in the “yes you’re smart but you have no practical experience with our specific function over here,” manner. They assume you’re smart enough that they can hire you and you’ll catch on to whatever it is they’re doing really quick.

          • Frog Do says:

            As far as a bachelors goes, it is my experience that an EE degree is a better signal. If you’re in an prestigious school, you should naturally do more traditional academic programs instead of more modern ones, because prestige implies tradition is the correct choice. At a lesser school, engineering is probably better.

          • Anonymous says:

            If my school is top 10 in math, and top 15 in econ, while only beiing top 30 is CS. Is it best to major is Math/Econ or CS/Econ for job prospects. I like economics however I want to add a more hardcore science degree on the side to make myself more competitive to employers after I leave college. Salary , growth potential, and chances at a top tier MBA are my major criteria for a job( Overall school is semi prestigious) it has a well known name but it isnt an ivy or something.

          • Anonymous says:

            It sounds like you’d ideally like to get out of school and go work as an analyst for an investment bank (e.g. Goldman) or maybe one of the major consultancies (e.g. McKinsey).

            It’ll be tough out of a “semi-prestigious” school, but possible. Network early and often, that’s your best bet for a summer analyst position. In terms of major, math / econ would be the way to go. CS is a back office degree.

          • Matt M says:

            Top tier MBA cares very little about your major. The top programs will regularly admit music and theatre majors just to prove how “diverse” their class is.

            Your work experience and GPA are much more important. Pick the major that has better job prospects and/or will be easier to keep your GPA up in.

            Source: Recently graduated from a Top 20 (well, by some rankings, we’ve fallen out in some others…) MBA program. Was admitted to a couple top 10s. Did a ton of research on admissions criteria.

          • Julian R. says:

            Thanks for the responses, everyone.

            In any case, my program doesn’t have an EE major. (It’s a kinda unusual course)

            @Frog Do
            What is the engineering mindset and why would it be a bad thing?

          • Frog Do says:

            That is my own personal term for a very vague phenomenon that is going to be impossible for me to describe in a completely nice way, but here goes: it’s a weird combination of extreme disrespect for immediate authority combined with a general fundamentalism (in the religious sense). They have an unwarrantedly high opinion of themselves and their work and are thus very difficult to teach, they tend to have strong personal beliefs and do not appreciate their own ignorance. It’s not really a surprise to anyone teaching in a STEM field that many engineers are the bedrock of Islamic fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, New Atheism, etc. They have that fundamentalist religious mindset plus usually Aspergerish behavior, but about literally everything.

            Does this help in describing it?

            Edit: Milder versions of this mindset are often extremely useful, a reasonably high opinion of themselves leads people to take risks and achieve, strong personal beliefs mean they are very motivated to learn. It’s all these traits in narcissistic excess that start to cause problems

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            The engineering mindset reminds me of Dilbert.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Aaaaaand James A Donald is an engineer….

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            What’s with these threads and James Donald?

          • Frog Do says:

            Everybody ingroup needs a devil, and Jim was the first person banned here. Along with multiheaded, who basically gets an eternal pass for the same behavior because she has the right friends. Social groups 101.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Hilariously he’s someone I would never have considered reading (or even heard of) if it weren’t for the screeching negative endorsements of our friendly tumblr communists.
            I mean, I still haven’t read him because of time constraints, but he’s on the low priority to-read list now.

          • Jim is an intelligent person who likes saying things that offend people. I’ve generally found him interesting.

          • Garrett says:

            As someone with an engineering degree:
            An engineering degree involves a lot of difficult courses for the primary purpose of making you suffer, or so I like to think. The general curriculum (not specialized to discipline) includes a lot of fancy math to prove to you that I-beams (and T-beams, and whatever) work.

            You work with a lot of smart people and are inculcated with the ethos that if you screw up, lots of people will die. And then you have to take a few token humanities classes with people who don’t understand basic science concepts so they tend to develop a distaste for people who don’t have science degrees.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        EE means wildly different things at different schools.

        • Frog Do says:

          Do you have some examples?

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            “E.E.” can mean everything from power engineering to information theory to semiconductor physics. Different schools focus on different things (source: throughout my graduate career, I had to repeatedly explain to people that even though I didn’t do anything with circuits, my work still fell under the heading “electrical engineering”).

          • Frog Do says:

            Is the curriculum of the bachelors degree wildly different? I don’t deny it’s a very broad field, that’s partly why I recommend it.

    • CatCube says:

      That’s very difficult to recommend without knowing your abilities and interests. Engineering is a good one to start, but different varieties of engineering can be very different in both working environment and required abilities and temperament.

      For example, you can do electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering (picked because they’re all within the section I work in). Within electrical, for example, you can work on power transmission systems, which are large industrial systems that tend to work with products picked from a catalog and systems that have a wide degree of tolerance, or you can be designing computer circuits with more opportunity for “creativity” but have much tighter tolerances on what will work. Mechanical systems can encompass everything from cranes and hoists to HVAC, or smaller robotic systems. In civil engineering you’ve got geotechnical, which is pretty much witchcraft to everybody who isn’t a geotechnical engineer, structural engineering, where you’re sizing structural systems for bridges, dams, or buildings which all have very different constraints and systems used to handle loads. You’ve also got the “pure” civil engineering, which is determining the layouts and grades of a site to ensure access and drainage. Another subfield of civil is construction engineering, which is focused on the actual construction of a project.

      All of these have different philosophies driven by their own constraints, and will have different working environments. An electrical engineer working on microcircuits is pretty much going to be in an office (or lab) full time, structural engineers will spend most of their time in an office with some visits to the field, while construction engineers can expect to be out on project sites most of their day (though probably a good portion of that in the trailer.) Each of these will sound hellish to somebody, and awesome to somebody else.

      The biggest piece is choosing something that will set you up for a career, and something you’re interested in. You won’t really know what a job is like until you’re well into college (and you’ve seen the work as part of an internship), so you want to eliminate things that seem boring already. Recommendations around here are going to tend towards scientific fields, but that might not be for you.

      Remember, you get one life, and you probably want to avoid hating getting up every day.

    • Jill says:

      There are occupational interest tests. Maybe your school counseling center or psychology department has them. They compare your interests to those of the average person in particular occupations. Take one of these tests. And also explore other ways of finding out what feels most interesting to you when you are doing it or studying it. If you think you might like a field, take a class or 2 in it and see if you are bored or interested.

  18. Hofmannsthal says:

    I remember at some point a while ago seeing a couple of reading recommendations around anti-democratic political / anti-capitalistic systems.

    Appreciate this covers a large array of books – Any recommendations from readers here on where to start?

  19. onyomi says:

    GoT spoiler warning:

    Nalbar ryfr uhtryl qvfnccbvagrq va ubj Neln’f Ubhfr bs Oynpx naq Juvgr nep vf cnaavat bhg? Vg unf nyfb qviretrq sebz gur obbxf n terng qrny, bs pbhefr. Gur vagreargf unq nyy xvaqf bs gurbevrf: Glyre Qheqra, Neln jnf gur jnvs naq gur jnvs jnf Neln. Pna jr rkcrpg TEE qb fbzrguvat orggre?

    V jnf qvfnccbvagrq orpnhfr gur cuvybfbcul bs gur Ubhfr bs OaJ jnf vagrerfgvat, nf jnf gur genvavat; V qvqa’g guvax bs gur Jnvs nf n gehr ivyynva; whfg fbzrbar gurer gb grfg ure. Gura, qrfcvgr orybatvat gb gur ab-crefbanyvgl phyg, fur pyrneyl gheaf bhg gb unir n crefbany tehqtr ntnvafg Neln, jub, frrzvatyl, unf yrnearq abguvat, fvapr fur jnf pbzcyrgryl hacercnerq sbe gur snpryrff zra’f zbfg boivbhf tnzovg…

    Bar cbffvoyr erqrrzvat dhnyvgl: jura fur gryyf Wndra fur vf abg ab bar, ur frrzf zvyqyl cyrnfrq (gubhtu ur nyjnlf ybbxf yvxr gung), nf vs znlor trggvat ure gb ernyvmr fbzrguvat nobhg ure vqragvgl nf Neln Fgnex jnf gur tbny nyy nybat. Ohg V znl tvivat gurz gbb zhpu perqvg?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Garf ntirbl htlik xrotli. Zdfle splfw “Zvv jqsdfg kos” mnder.

      …fbeel, ohg ebg13 ohtf gur uryy bhg bs zr. Frrvat oybpxf bs vapbzceruafvoyr tvoorevfu grkg vf znqqravat.

      • onyomi says:

        I can’t decode your first sentence. I’m not a huge fan of it either, but I’m also not a fan of spoilers, so I’m not sure if there’s a better option, other than just not discussing it.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Spoiler tags?

          • onyomi says:

            What works on Facebook is starting reply threads which one needs to click on to continue reading.

            Problem here is that anyone just skimming along might accidentally see something they didn’t want to know.

    • dndnrsn says:

      V pna’g rira erzrzore jul gur Jnvs ungrf ure fb zhpu. Naq gur Ubhfr bs Oynpx naq Juvgr nep va gur fubj ornef n ybg va pbzzba jvgu gur ceboyrzf gung cbc hc va gur 4gu naq 5gu obbxf, naq va gur yngre frevrf: qvterffvbaf gung qba’g ernyyl tb naljurer. Va gur obbxf, Oevraar naq Cbq ohzoyvat nebhaq qbvat abguvat zhpu juvyr gur ernqre xabjf gurl pna’g pbzcyrgr gurve dhrfg. Va gur fubj, Fnz naq Tvyyl fubjvat hc ng uvf snzvyl’f cynpr, uvf qnq vf n wrex, cebonoyl 10 zvahgrf bs gur rcvfbqr ner fcrag ba guvf, naq gura Fnz qrpvqrf gurl’er yrnivat.

      Gur Ubhfr bs Oynpx naq Juvgr vf rfcrpvnyyl rtertvbhf va gur fubj. Jr trg raqyrff genvavat zbagntrf, n jubyr arj punenpgre vagebqhprq jub whfg trgf bssrq, naq gura Neln vf onpx jurer fur fgnegrq, rkprcg abj fur pna svtug va gur qnex, naq rivqragyl unf vzcerffvir novyvgvrf gb erpbire sebz znwbe noqbzvany betna qnzntr.

      Gur obbxf naq gur GI fubj xvaq bs snyy ncneg nsgre gur 3eq obbx naq frnfba, ernyyl.

    • Anon. says:

      D&D are hack frauds.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Abg qvfnccbvagrq, ab: guvf ragver fhocybg oberq zr ab raq va gur obbxf, naq V’z whfg tynq gb frr gung vg’f nccneragyl bire. Bar jbeel: vs Neln tbrf onpx gb Jrfgrebf, vf rirelbar tbvat gb gnxr gheaf pncghevat ure ntnva?

  20. Any thoughts about the ethics of being law-abiding?

    It strikes me as a complicated question, especially if you don’t go with a simple “of course you should obey laws”, but I haven’t seen this discussed much, especially if it’s a matter of breaking laws for convenience rather than to get political change.

    • Keranih says:

      I think the source of the laws matter. Disregarding the rules passed by a dictator or monarch or distant oligarchy which I can never be part of is one thing.

      But deciding that I alone of my community don’t need to follow the rules that we’ve expressly worked out by democratic process is bad. It’s even more bad if I am not allowing the same privilege of picking and choosing to my fellow citizens.

      • If there’s a consensus about breaking a law (Ameircans and highway speed limits), it would be a different matter?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think assessing “law abiding” as if the answer was a boolean is incorrect.

          The law does not only describe required and forbidden behaviors, it also describes punishments for acting in a manner that is inconsistent with these behaviors. It also provides resources for enforcement and internal policies in the enforcement bodies based on those resources.

          So, if I get pulled over for, say, going straight through an intersection in a “right turn only during the hours of 7-9 AM” lane (which has happened to me), to say I am “not a law abiding” (full stop) is sort of a non-sequitur. I expect to pay a small fine and perhaps have to suffer the inconvenience of having to go to the courthouse to resolve the matter. Perhaps, I didn’t even know that the lane was right-turn only.

          It’s in the repeated and flagrant disregard for small punishment laws in addition to violating established local norms where you begin to see something that looks like truly unethical behavior, but this is emergent, not bright-line. Obviously violating those kinds of laws that have severe punishments usually constitutes unethical behavior, even if it is just one time, but that isn’t what I think you are getting at.

        • Keranih says:

          I think HBC is onto something with the expected consequences thing.

          For instance, a person participating in civil disobedience isn’t necessarily not law abiding – if they accept the consequences of breaking that law (ie plead guilty pay the fine or go to jail.)

          I draw the distinction between the sort of person who – having been popped for speeding etc- rants about what assholes the cops are, vs the sort that admits they were breaking the law and it was a fair stop.

          There is room for objecting to misbehavior on the part of legislation and police, but that is not the same as insisting that no one else is the boss of you and they can’t make you follow the rules – nor is it their place to punish you if you do break the law.

        • brad says:

          If there’s a consensus about breaking a law (Ameircans and highway speed limits), it would be a different matter?

          I think this goes back the question of governmental legitimacy. The continued existence of a law that there’s a consensus against in a democracy looks like a bit of a contradiction to me. Some possibilities are: there isn’t actually a consensus against it, the government in question isn’t very democratic, or perhaps it is just such a low salience issue that no one cares much.

          A combination of the second and third is a fairly common occurrence — think about a stop sign that everyone hates except the person that lives in the house near it. While everyone might hate it, they don’t hate it enough to do anything about it, whereas the person that lives there cared enough to get it put in place. One can claim this is a failure of democracy or can see it as a feature rather than a bug.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That the government isn’t very democratic seems like the best explanation. It’s a representative democracy; we get maybe a dozen votes to choose among a few dozen candidates, yet there are countless issues the winners decide on. If most or all of the candidates at a certain level of government are for an unpopular law (e.g. in the case of the national maximum speed limit, because it gets them campaign funds), it stands regardless of what the voters want.

      • “But deciding that I alone of my community don’t need to follow the rules that we’ve expressly worked out by democratic process is bad.”

        What you mean we?

        A majority of Congress votes for a law and the President signs it. Why does that make me morally obligated to obey it?

        “Democratic process” seems to be functioning as a magical phrase.

        • Teal says:

          Why am I morally obligated to respect your property claims? I don’t recall ever agreeing to do so.

          • Winfried says:

            Do you ask others to respect your property?

          • Jill says:

            Some people don’t ask that. They just have a gun and a mean guard dog. And if you don’t have the same, they may feel free to take your property.

            Just depends on how lawless Wild West a person wants to be. Aren’t there some anarchists here?

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a huge amount of variation among anarchist perspectives, but almost all share a belief that, assuming a stable transition, their style of anarchism won’t degenerate into Wild West lawlessness.

            Beyond that, however, they seemed to be in a welter of ideological disagreement. Gradually, he began to identify the conflicting positions expressed: the individualist-anarchists, who sounded like right-wing Republicans (except that they wanted to get rid of all functions of government); the anarcho-syndicalists and Wobblies, who sounded like Marxists (except that they wanted to get rid of all functions of government); the anarcho-pacifists, who sounded like Gandhi and Martin Luther King (except that they wanted to get rid of all functions of government); and a group who were dubbed, rather affectionately, “the Crazies”—whose position was utterly unintelligible. Simon was among the Crazies.

            – Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, Illuminatus!. Not a novel to get your political theory from, but entertaining and pretty good as anthropology of weird politics.

            I could actually add a few to that list. Anarcho-primitivists, for one, who talk like they’ve seen Fight Club too many times (though the philosophy predates the book).

          • Matt M says:

            We could also point out that the “wild west” was actually not nearly as bad as it is portrayed in fiction, and had crime rates well below that which we observe in many modern American cities.

          • Nornagest says:

            Depends where you’re talking about. The plains and intermountain region were usually pretty safe while they were being settled, occasional famous gunfights notwithstanding — crime-wise, at least, you’d still need to deal with crop failure and disease and accidents. But the boomtowns of the early California gold rush had homicide rates one or two orders of magnitude above what we see now. San Francisco was one of its safer towns, and it was still twice as dangerous then as Compton is today.

            (Early California also had one of American history’s more actively hostile policies toward its native population — most of the local tribes around the goldfields were wiped out or nearly so. These deaths were generally not recorded.)

          • John Schilling says:

            And the actual response of the people who settled the “Wild West” was basically to decide on how best to organize their vigilantes to protect their property in as government-like a manner as possible while they went around getting a proper government to take care of it.

            The major difference with the Civilized East is that drifters who just wanted to fight one another without trying to claim some settler’s property were left to do so, so long as they didn’t greatly endanger the women and children.

        • ReluctantEngineer says:

          A majority of Congress votes for a law and the President signs it. Why does that make me morally obligated to obey it?

          I assume that there is an implication that you accept the process that created the law as fundamentally legitimate. If you believe that 1) we need to have laws and people must obey them, and 2) the best way to decide on what laws to have is via a democratic process, then I think you have some moral obligation to obey laws produced by a democratic process even when you disagree with them.

          As I understand it, though, you (David Friedman) don’t necessarily believe either of those things (forgive me if I’m misrepresenting your views).

          • “their style of anarchism won’t degenerate into Wild West lawlessness.”

            Why should it? The Wild West didn’t.

          • “I assume that there is an implication that you accept the process that created the law as fundamentally legitimate.”

            Why would you assume that?

            I did at one time believe that, in order for a society to work reasonably well, people had to feel obliged to obey laws. But I eventually noticed that people didn’t feel obliged to obey laws, judged by their behavior, and the society continued to function.

            And no, I don’t think democratic politics are the best way of generating law. You can find my views on the subject in print.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Why would you assume that?

            I meant that Keranih’s original statement probably included that assumption. Obviously, the idea that you are obligated to obey laws because they are laws sort of falls apart if you don’t believe in laws in the first place.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            You can argue that the Wild West wasnt hopelessly lawless , and I can argue that that is an example of nature abhoring a power vacuum, not of anarchy working.


            I did at one time believe that, in order for a society to work reasonably well, people had to feel obliged to obey laws. But I eventually noticed that people didn’t feel obliged to obey laws, judged by their behavior, and the society continued to function.

            People are not good at actually following the rules they feel they ought to , but have come with a solution in the form of coercion. They generally see the use of coercion as morally justified, which means they must see the rules being coercively enforced as morally valid.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          There are any number of moral theories according to which you are not morally obliged to follow law of the land because you are morally obliged to follow some other, conflicting, laws, such as the pronouncements of various prophets and deities. These moral theories tend not to be very rationally defensible, because they contain arbitrary and supernatural elements.

          There is also a moral theory accordng to which moral obligation arises out of the need to follow rules, the following of which leads to desirable consequences in terms of peoples values and preferences. This is a rarionally defensible moral theory in that it does not contain arbitrary and supernatural elements. And it predicts that in a correctly functioning democracy the law of the land will tend to coincide with moral law, because the preferences of the people should guide the formulation of the law of the land.

          So, under one the more defensible construals of ethics, you are morally obliged to follow the law of the land, providing certain conditions are met.

          • Fahundo says:

            And it predicts that in a correctly functioning democracy the law of the land will tend to coincide with moral law

            I agree that if both of these conditions were met, following the law would be a moral imperative. If.

          • “And it predicts that in a correctly functioning democracy the law of the land will tend to coincide with moral law, because the preferences of the people should guide the formulation of the law of the land.”

            You are assuming your conclusion–that there is such a thing as a correctly functioning democracy and that in it state law tends to coincide with moral law.

            And it doesn’t even follow from “the preferences of the people should guide … .” People have preferences for lots of things other than acting morally–if they didn’t there would be no thieves and murderers for the law to deter. So even if we accept the idea of a democracy whose laws coincide with the preferences of the people (not, I think, a meaningful concept given lots of people with different preferences, but I’ll let that pass), those preferences might be for unjustly benefiting some people at the expense of others.

            Suppose we translate your claim as “coincide with the preferences of the majority.” Those might be, pretty clearly at some times and places were, to enslave the minority.

            Finally, I note your “tends to.” Suppose your whole claim was true and meaningful. Mostly the law gets it right, sometimes it doesn’t. Am I obliged to obey the laws that are wrong? Why?

          • Teal says:

            I’m still wondering why I am morally obligated to respect private property but not the laws of the society I was born into, when I didn’t agree to do either.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Teal — It should be trivially obvious that you can construct an ethos to support one, the other, both, or neither. This is neither surprising nor very useful.

            The question is, what does each of those choices lead us to?

          • @Teal:

            Are you similarly puzzled as to why someone would believe you were obligated to not murder people, even though you didn’t consent to that either?

            Agreement is one basis for moral obligation. It’s not the only possible basis.

            If you find that other people’s beliefs make no sense to you at all, perhaps the reason is that you are not trying to understand them.

          • Teal says:

            To make the point explicitly, since apparently I was being obscure, I think your entire post here:

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/06/12/open-thread-51-5/#comment-371709

            is an isolated demand for rigor.

            You are fully aware of the various arguments made for the moral bindingness of democratically enacted law. You just don’t agree with them. Pretending to be ignorant and asking in blog comments section for someone to recite what would take at least hundreds of pages, which effort you would then reject anyway, is obnoxious.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            and that in it state law tends to coincide with moral law.

            As I pointed out, there are number of possible moral systems, and if I had been just said “pick the moral system that happens to coincide with the law of the land”, I would have been assuming what I needed to prove, and my comment would have been much shorter. What I was actually doing was something much harder: showing that some systems of law are morally defensible by a systems of morality which is itself rationally defensible.

            You are assuming your conclusion–that there is such a thing as a correctly functioning democracy

            If I had come out with o