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OT52: Once Open A Time

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Many comments worthy of highlighting this week. First this thread on why banning encryption won’t prevent terrorism, since sufficiently smart terrorists could use steganography – especially Izaak’s demonstration of such. Second, baconbacon discusses different ways people he knows do or don’t save money, but see also Jeysiec notes that all of this discussion savings can be moot when poor people don’t get significant amounts of money in the first place. Finally, Patjab gives more details on the background of Ken Livingstone and British anti-Semitism, and Dan Simon has an unusual theory of scandal.

2. There is a new ad on the sidebar this week: apply to work for Qualia. Or maybe you already work for Qualia and don’t know it yet. Maybe you have no private knowledge about whether you work for Qualia or not. Maybe you think that all of your friends work for Qualia, but they don’t work for Qualia at all and only say that they do. Maybe there is no difference even in principle between working for Qualia and not working for Qualia. Maybe working for Qualia is just a complicated way of describing the fact that you work for certain mechanical and biology companies – or was that information processing companies? I don’t know. Perhaps checking out their jobs page will shed light on some of these mysteries.

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1,080 Responses to OT52: Once Open A Time

  1. Evan Þ says:

    If I don’t work for Qualia, but I pretend I do, would anyone be able to tell?

    • NoSuchPlace says:

      If there is no way to in principle tell that you don’t work for Qualia, you work for Qualia.

      • benito says:

        I think John Searle explains that if you are doing the same work as someone who works for qualia, then of course you don’t work for qualia!

        I mean why should anyone think that you work for qualia, you just seem exactly as though you do. But if you have a few arbitrary characteristics similar to those that currently work for qualia, like the same colour hair, then you work for qualia.

        There’s not a very principled explanation for why those characteristics are the right ones, but they’re definitely the right ones.

  2. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #18
    This week we are discussing “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum.
    Next time we will discuss “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      “A Martian Odyssey” is primitive by modern standards, yet historically interesting as a developmental milestone in the science fiction genre. Tweel may not be as well developed as later fictional aliens whose entire psychologies were extrapolated from alternate evolutionary histories, but he is an early attempt to write something other than a human in a funny suit. Atomic-powered rockets on Mars seem a lot more impressive and imaginative when you realize they were written before Hiroshima, Sputnik, or Apollo 11. Overall, a very interesting story if you are reading science fiction backwards.

      Apparently, “A Martian Odyssey” is part of a larger cycle called The Planetary Series which includes a direct sequel, but I have not read any of the other stories.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        At first I couldn’t get why Tweel was supposed to be groundbreaking. He was just like a human with whom we can’t communicate due to language, which surely existed already.

        I guess it’s communication through simile, like that “Darmok” episode of TNG.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Every time I answer a friend request on FB I like to say “We are v-r-r-riends. Ouch!”

    • Urstoff says:

      Why did so much of early SF use frame stories? It’s really quite an annoying literary device when used for no real reason, like here or in John Campbell’s “Twilight”. Was it just common in all fiction in the 1930’s, or was it just an SF affectation? It certainly was more popular in the past than it is today (see, e.g., Heart of Darkness, Frankenstein, lots of ancient/medieval literature).

      • Matt M says:

        This is a complete ass-pull on my part, but perhaps back in the early days when literature was still developing, the distinction between fiction and non-fiction was somewhat blurry – and the audience would not necessarily be expected to know whether the author was stating “this is an actual thing that happened” or “this is a neat story I made up,” in which case the purpose of the framing device would be to make it very clear that it is a made up story rather than a literal account that is presented as some actual happening.

        • Creutzer says:

          It’s been argued that this used to be the case, but it was over centuries before SF was invented. It would be virtuous for me to dig up the reference, but I can’t muster the energy right now.

        • Urstoff says:

          I understand that in the context of ancient/medieval literature, but by the 1930’s fiction was well-established. Maybe it’s just a new-genre thing: they didn’t want people to mistake these things for “science articles”, but in venues like Amazing Stories, it’s not clear why that would be seen as a risk.

          My guess would be that it’s just related to amateurism: early SF writers were not professional fiction writers in any serious sense. Thus (for some reason), they used some older conventions that were not up to speed with their contemporaries in literary fiction (although I don’t know how common frame stories were in literary magazines).

          • ChetC3 says:

            My guess would be that it’s just related to amateurism: early SF writers were not professional fiction writers in any serious sense. Thus (for some reason), they used some older conventions that were not up to speed with their contemporaries in literary fiction (although I don’t know how common frame stories were in literary magazines).

            Then why the leap from personal distaste to a grand Whig theory of literary history? The simplest explanation is that it’s just another narrative device that is subject to the whims of fashion, and your dislike of it is just another opinion.

          • Urstoff says:

            I don’t think it’s controversial to say that early SF authors were amateurs. And amateurs can have a tendency to gimmickry.

          • Wilj says:

            Is it gimmicky, though? I love framing stories. I guess it can be used poorly, but I can’t think of any time I thought “that detracts from the work” when reading one.

          • ChetC3 says:

            I don’t think it’s controversial to say that early SF authors were amateurs.

            This is one of those times when semantic drift can be a pain, because it was more the other way around. Early SF authors were more likely than literary authors (or modern SF authors) to need the money from selling to magazines, and thus, were more professional in the older sense of the term. Which reminds me of a great all-purpose explanation for weird tropes common in golden age SF – John W. Campbell liked it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Your asspull is a popular idea, but pretty thoroughly belied by period literature. The Castle of Otranto had a very quote-unquote “modern-looking” first publication as being unvarnished truth (Edit: I correct myself at once, it was presented as really being a found manuscript, not that the giant helmet etc. were supposed to have really happened. This phrasing was a real fumble on my part), furnished with a fake author presented as real and so on; Tristram Shandy is full of metafictional shenanigans, notably “deliberately wasting the reader’s time for comedic effect”. Dumas, who was one of the most-read and in all senses popular writers of the 19th century, very much the common man’s bread, uses third-person omniscient narrative voice exclusively or near-exclusively in his novels. Sometimes he says he found the stories in old memoirs and is just rewriting them, but that’s more a question of him mainly writing historical novels and wanting (contra the hypotheses elsewhere in this subthread) to give them the glow of authenticity.

          Moreover, there are quite solid data-analysis studies showing that the average reader of the past had more tolerance for longer sentences, complex constructions, etc. etc. than does the present reader.

          In short, I think the evidence is that devices like framing stories, epistolary narration and similar are examples of the greater variety and differentiation of past literature as compared to relatively formulaic modern literature. It seems likely to me that if it appears as though “old writers always do this” or “it was really popular” it’s because your mind flags it as unusual since one doesn’t see it much anymore, not really because it was the standard at one time.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        As you note, it’s an old fiction thing, not specific to science fiction. The explanation I have always heard is the similar to Matt M’s; early readers were not quite used to the idea of novels and short stories, and framing devices helped them to suspend disbelief. I have no idea whether that’s true, though.

        • Matt M says:

          Depending on how far “back in the day” you go, there might also be some VERY good reasons that a specific individual author would want to make it VERY clear they are not ACTUALLY claiming to have spoken with space aliens or to have witnessed someone resurrect the dead…

      • Nicholas says:

        A simple answer that occurs to me is that, in the style of the time, the omniscient third person narrative stance is not commonly used. Also most stories (as benefits their length) have only one or two characters in them. Thus sometimes you need to relate some information that would in the modern era be handled by third person narration, but don’t want to swerve from your dedication to a monologue driven narrative.
        One elegant way to do this is to actually tell the story of someone telling your story, and have the person they’re telling ask all these stupid questions, giving them the opportunity to digress in their narrative to provide the exposition.

      • Vorkon says:

        I have a feeling that the other ideas presented so far, (i.e. amateurism and/or making it easier for an audience less familiar with fiction, etc.) are a bit closer to the truth, but I can’t help but wonder if it was sort of the modern (at the time) equivalent of Homer invoking the Muses. Basically, the author’s way of saying, “okay folks, put your preconceived notions about the world aside, it’s time to go for a wild ride!”

        I don’t think it’s necessarily that they were afraid their audience wouldn’t be ABLE to tell fact from fiction, so much as the fact that they weren’t as inundated with fiction as we are today, and were less used to putting themselves in the kind of escapist frame of mind required to really enjoy fantasy fiction. I’d have to imagine that if you aren’t used to that, invoking something that says, “it’s okay to put the real world aside for a moment” would help a lot in getting you into that mindset. Since our entertainment-rich culture keeps us in that mindset more or less all the time, it mostly reads as extraneous fluff to us, but I can see how it might be appreciated by a more serious, down-to-earth culture.

        That said, I think that by the time we’re talking about, it had a lot more to do with sheer laziness than anything else: Everybody else was using framing stories, so it just struck the author as the Thing To Do. But I don’t think the difference in mindset should be discounted.

  3. BillG says:

    Is there any good place to go to review research on techniques like meditation, visualisation, chanting, etc?

    Long story short, I’ve had a life long interest in the esoteric/occult. Maybe more than anything because I’m not myself a believer in much of anything spiritual or supernatural, but am fascinated by behaviors that seem based on these beliefs. Many modern occult practitioners couch their beliefs in the idea that, while there may not actually be a Nylarthothep to summon, the belief is enough to enact positive changes. Has this been researched?

    • anonymous says:

      Very poorly. Almost everyone involved in the field has axes to grind about this or that tradition/guru/practice methods. There is some dry academic stuff, but only covering a small fraction. There are hundreds if not thousands of techniques out there in many different schools of thought. The best succinct, secular, non-dogmatic summary I’ve seen is Shinzen Young.

    • caethan says:

      I don’t think I should expect believing in Nyarlathotep to enact positive changes.

    • Keketchine says:

      google://cochrane+evidence+meditation
      google://pubmed+meditation

    • Nicholas says:

      The problem is not that the research has not been done, and the problem is not that that research has not been aggregated. The problem is that anyone motivated to do that aggregation also has a plausible motive to cherry-pick that research in a Man of One Study kind of a way.

  4. Guyzerz says:

    I’m curious about this community’s take on the presidential election.

    No good options, why bother?

    Stoked about having a female president–HRC all the way?

    Trump is dangerous/racist/misogynist so I’ll stick with HRC as the lesser evil?

    On board with Scott Adams’ Master Persuader thesis and riding the Trump Train?

    Holding out hope that Sanders pulls off some sort of miracle?

    Some other take?

    • suntzuanime says:

      You don’t have to think Scott Adams isn’t a joke to want to make America great again.

    • Acedia says:

      As a foreign leftist, the most troubling trend I’ve observed this election and over the past 5 years in general is the way economic leftism and social leftism have become totally decoupled, with an explosion in the number of people who consider themselves to be on the left, who say all the right things about race and gender and queer issues, but don’t really care about (or at best pay lip service to without any real feeling) economic justice. Basically people who are leftist on identity politics only, and in no other way.

      People who care a lot about personal rights and fairness but don’t give a shit about the poor used to be easy to identify, because they called themselves libertarians. But these days I’m increasingly meeting them among those who self-identify as leftist or progressive and adeptly use leftist jargon and shibboleths. It’s baffling, and quite worrying.

      • Virbie says:

        The story of this election seems to be coalitions breaking down and reforming to some extent. Many, many people determine positions they don’t care about based on the rest of their coalition, since fundamentally their position comes down to “I am on team B for certain policy reasons and thus accept the bulk of their policies”.

        The reaction you’re describing makes sense to me in this light: I live in sf and work in tech so I’ve been surrounded by people who think that racial/gender/sexuality issues are the highest good for a long, long time. Many of these people never gave a shit about poverty, and the fact that Bernie Sanders is running on an economic justice platform against a woman candidate means that shitting on the poor has become more acceptable (this is even more driven by the fact that Trump supporters are perceived as largely poor white people as well).

        • Julie K says:

          I live in sf and work in tech so I’ve been surrounded by people who think that racial/gender/sexuality issues are the highest good for a long, long time.

          San Francisco has had that reputation for a long time, but how did these issues get linked to tech?

          • Tom Womack says:

            Because tech is a field where pretty much everyone is adequately rich but where it’s very clear that the gender and ethnicity balance of the office does not match the outside population?

          • Jiro says:

            Tech is also too meritocratic. You can BS your way into a good position a lot less if your computer program doesn’t run or your bridge falls down.

            Notice how tech sections of universities aren’t politically correct like the political and literary departments?

          • Julie K says:

            Jiro: Your “not politically correct” claim seems to be the opposite of what Virbie said about tech.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s also a lot of transgender people in tech, and this has been true since before anyone openly talked about it.

            As for being meritocratic… this basically creates a lot of tension between the politics and the reality on the ground, and a lot of discord as well. Because if you believe the politics, the politics and reality are the same. In reality, they aren’t, and despite trying every diversity measure that isn’t blatantly “just hire the disadvantaged people and fire a bunch of cis white dudes”, the demographics remain out of step with the population. The SJ answer is to scapegoat white men some more… and to scream “la la la I can’t hear your microaggressions” if you try to discuss things rationally. I suspect (and obviously I’m biased) this is partly due to some serious cognitive dissonance.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Just comparing tech’s demographics to general population doesn’t tell you much. It could be the case that other professional fields (law, medicine, etc.) or related academic fields (math, chemistry, etc.) are similarly unlike gen pop, more like gen pop, or less like gen pop. And maybe unsimilar academic fields and job types are also different from gen pop. Unless you know those things, just knowing that tech is disproportionately [white, male, whatever] doesn’t tell you anything about tech in particular.

          • Nicholas says:

            There is a narrative, particularly among white women, that looks back to the start of tech, when most calculators and many coders were women, then looks at the present time, when calculator is no longer a job and most coders are men, and suggests that what happened is that women were mostly coders when coder was a job with no prestige that payed poorly, then through meritocratic efforts the field rose to be relevant to almost everything and thus quite prestigious, and then the generation between the Righteous Founding Mothers and Now was driven out of tech in a variety of ways, and that it is now women’s Sacred Crusade to retake the field that their precedents built from the ground up from the men who stole it.

      • Yakimi says:

        There’s a reason why identity politics has proven so adaptively successful in Western societies. As De Jouvenal would say, the Minotaur redirects dissident energies away from itself, and against its own enemies. In the United States, and increasingly in its Western European colonies, the result of this mechanism is that leftists, educated in the finest government seminaries, have devoted all their political energies to pummeling not the the people in power, but their powerless scapegoats: the colonized, domestic population of indigenous conservative peasants. (Yes, colonized. It is not a coincidence that progressives resort to the language of nineteenth-century imperialism to describe their efforts to civilize the backwards, barbarian proles.) I’m not sure how long it will take leftists to notice that antiracism, antisexism, etc. are only useful for berating the masses, not the elite. But why even notice, when one can be profitably employed in agitating for such generous, selfless causes?

        “Economic justice” is not the only radical commitment that leftism has abandoned like a used condom. Look no further than nationalism. Nationalism began as a leftist movement against transnational aristocrats and empires. Every successful revolution in history, with the sole exceptions of the Russian and German (for reasons obvious but unmentionable) were nationalist revolutions. Communism was often little more than an auxiliary to a nationalist movement.

        Today, the Left, perfidious as always, is violently allergic to even the slightest hint of First World nationalism. Instead, they demand the destruction of all borders, nations, and national feeling, a goal which is not in any way opposed and is in fact salubrious to the interests of global capital and the unaccountable transnational bureaucracies that have returned in progressive form. Bolshevism always begets Brezhnev. The same leftists who recruit reactionary foreigners as a Janissary caste, and who dispense the words fascist and racist as generously as the Mansa dispensed gold on his way to Mecca, are baffled—baffled!—when the indigenous proles flock to the likes of a Donald Trump and an Enoch Powell (the latter, by the way, created the nearest thing Britain has ever had to a general proletarian uprising, helpfully pacified by the Left). And the same leftists who fashion themselves critics of American imperialism are not even slightly cognizant of how the total eradication of national attachments is both a cause and effect of American hegemony, as Powell was. I mean, where do you think Europeans got the idea that they, too, have to make their countries “diverse”, if not their American conquerors? The European Union is as European as the Warsaw Pact was Polish.

        Here’s a tip to all the leftists out there: if you want to revive economic leftism, revive nationalism.

        • Sir Gawain says:

          There’s a reason why identity politics has proven so adaptively successful in Western societies.

          This seems completely untrue. Defining “identities” ever more expansively seems to have been adaptive, as liberal globalism has replaced nationalism, which replaced tribalism, which replaced extended kinship groups. In every era, it seems to have been (on net, over the long run) maladaptive to form a political community based on a more limited ideal of citizenship compared to a more expansive one.

          Alt-righters like Richard Spencer or Ramzpaul seem to like to claim that the “bluepill” political conflict is over political economy and the “redpill” political conflict is globalism vs. nationalism. I’d suggest the “purple pill” is understanding that everyone of every political ideology accepts some form of globalism. Donald Trump’s conception of “real” white American identity, for example, includes and is supported in part by Irish- and Italian-Americans, who would have been ethno-cultural outsiders in a previous era. In the 1920s, being an American nationalist would have meant excluding Italian immigrants to preserve the Anglo-Saxon heritage of the U.S.

          More broadly, “nationalism” is not some pure, organic, Aphrodite-rising-from-the-foam organizing force of human societies. Many modern nation states, like Germany and Italy, are less than two centuries old and were created through violent, elite driven projects that were the equivalent of what “nationalists” today rail against. In the creation of every nation state, the same process of local identities being overwhelmed and subsumed into some new amalgam that rightists despise today was in full force.

          • Yakimi says:

            This seems completely untrue.

            If it was completely untrue, the United States would not be drenched in idpol, now would it?

            Your interpretation of what I was referring to is rather ungenerous. My hypothesis, shared even by some on the Left, was that idpol prevailed as the dominant strain of leftism under the auspices of liberal universalism because it is conducive to the interests of liberal power.

            Look at it in political, not anthropological, terms. Liberal universalism is clearly in charge, but liberal universalists have no problem with creating and supporting various particularisms to create a coalition of supporters directed against their domestic political opponents, just as, on an international scale, they will suddenly rediscover their commitment to national self-determination when it can be used to dismember a reactionary empire. What’s a few unprincipled exceptions on the way to the universal fraternity of man?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Defining “identities” ever more expansively seems to have been adaptive, as liberal globalism has replaced nationalism, which replaced tribalism, which replaced extended kinship groups.

            OTOH, people in the Middle Ages often identified with Christendom as a whole; the switch to nationalism arguably resulted in a narrowing of identification rather than a broadening.

      • Wrong Species says:

        No offense but they just might be better at economics than you. Being pro-market doesn’t mean you want the poor to suffer. Another thing might be a difference in values. Old school leftists seem to be more friendly to some sort of nationalism. That’s why the effects of tariffs and national borders on the global poor don’t seem as concerning to them. But the typical “neoliberal” sees improving the lives of the poorest people in the world as a more important priority than mitigating the relative poor of the developed world.

        • Sir Gawain says:

          Seconded. Why is it that leftists of the Jacobin strain so frequently proclaim left-neoliberals to have (unstated) anti-poor motives instead of presuming that they genuinely believe their (or, our) preferred policies will be more effective?

          Here’s a relevant Yglesias post: http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/01/17/199655/pas-dennemi-a-gauche/

          • Yehoshua K says:

            Natural human tendencies to not take seriously the arguments of your opponents, rather impugning their motivations. Also, it’s a lot easier than making an argument.

        • Acedia says:

          No offense taken. People who feel strongly about poverty but disagree with me about the best economic approach to solving it are a different crowd, and not who I meant. The people I’m talking about just don’t think about poverty, at all.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I can’t speak from your personal experience but I do know that a lot of “neoliberals” like Matt Yglesias are accused of not caring about the poor by others on the left. But I do think your general point is correct. There does seem to be a growing divide on whether economic issues or social issues should be the main focus.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think MY is a good example of the phenomenon. He talks about issues that matter to the poor. You might disagree with his approach, but that’s different from people who just seem not to care about economic issues at all. Like the people whose number one issue is passing laws or regulations that require people to use their preferred pronouns. Or want employer paid maternity leave rather than a state provided program because they are worried a state provided program would be a low fixed amount and what they really care about is maternity leave for $200k/year corporate lawyers.

      • Matthias says:

        What kind of leftisms are you talking about?

        In any case, the mood seems to have swung against free trade. Isn’t that a major leftist goal?

        • Gravitas Shortfall says:

          Anti free trade is certainly the agenda of some leftists, but I think none of them are really considering the consequences of that position. The more sensible leftist position is that globalism and free trade are both good, but only when coupled with government and private interventions to ameliorate the harmful side effects for the people that get left behind.
          I’m also infuriated that holding this position gets me and others declared “anti-poor” by the leftist circular firing squad.

          • Matthias says:

            Alas, lots of people seem to believe that one man’s gain is necessarily another man’s loss.

            If you hold that position, then you don’t even think about how to increase the size of the pie.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        I have observed the same thing, and as another foreign leftist, it saddened me, too. In the same vein, it seems that environmentalism is by far not fought for with the same fervor as identity politics.

        My pet theory as to why many people of my bubble (college students) engage in these identity politics as opposed to economic policy is that being a SJW is much more fun.

        With poverty there is not a singe person responsible, therefore you cannot publicly find a person to shame to signal your virtue. When I still used to go to environment-protests, I could not help feeling extremely bored. Long marches, anger not directed at anybody, no rewarding experiences of success don’t make for long engagement.

        However, every time you make a nerdy scientist collectively cry over his sexist shirt, or make a guy lose his job for a stupid joke, you feel victorious and virtuous, which is positive reinforcement to come back for more.

        • Zorgon says:

          This is pretty much it in a nutshell, along with the inconvenient reality that most “leftist” activists are themselves very comfortably middle class or above.

          At the heart of all this is fashion, and fashion is dominated by the upper middle class, as they have the spare financial and temporal capital to spend on it. Everyone else is just copying along. And why would the upper middle class ever want to bring the pitchforks to their own door?

        • Kevin C. says:

          @ SolipsisticUtilitarian

          However, every time you make a nerdy scientist collectively cry over his sexist shirt, or make a guy lose his job for a stupid joke, you feel victorious and virtuous, which is positive reinforcement to come back for more.

          There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.’

          • suntzuanime says:

            That part always rang really false to me, because as much as it might be an accurate description of the motivations of the people, once you came to admit that was your motivation, you wouldn’t be able to keep it up. The words coming out of his mouth are the words of a demon, not a human being.

          • Directed Acyclic Wrath says:

            suntzuanime: That’s kinda the central conceit of doublethink isn’t it—that O’Brien can simultaneously understand that he works toward monstrous ends but not care to change? I think there’s a part in an early chapter where Winston remarks to himself that even O’Brien shares a sense of awareness—that even if O’Brien is an enemy, he’d at least understand Wiston’s view before he annihilated him.

            Honestly, after hearing enough people diagnose their own hypocrisy but then explain to me that it’s okay for them to be hypocrites because they’re self-aware, I’m pretty sure people are capable of this type of twisted thinking even if they usually don’t express it so intensely.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        At least some online hard-leftists (I’m talking actual Communists and whatnot, such as Freddie de Boer) have been saying that for a while: that identity politics is a deliberate scheme to redirect leftists’ energy away from fighting capitalism, and discharge it harmlessly in endless arguments over transgender bathrooms and such. I don’t think it’s an actual conspiracy — if the last several years have taught us anything, people are more than capable of being idiots entirely on their own volition, without being manipulated into it — but it’s hard to picture what would be different if it was.

        • Magicman says:

          I have much sympathy for this argument but it seems to me that the group surrounding de Boer’s falls victim to a not dissimilar trap*. As a Twitter communist taking the most extreme position means always occupying the highest moral ground, never having to make compromises etc. Similarly this group is rightfully critical of certain identity politics practices (abuse, call outs, tone policing etc) and yet they themselves deploy the same underlying basic tactics against left/centre left.
          *assuming of course that we are not on the verge of a communist revolution

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah. It’s odd to see condemnations of liberals for identity politics by leftists who go on to condemn liberals as spoiled, privileged, effete dilettantes for, say, not approving of aggressive political violence.

        • Gravitas Shortfall says:

          On the other hand, when you talk like this, the people whose identities we’re talking about when we talk “identity politics” tend to look at you cockeyed and question your motives. They in turn may think that the economic leftists railing against identity politics are privileged white straight cisgendered men. This is especially a hazard on the internet, where we have no idea who the people behind the names are unless they’re using their Facebook account to post; so they might assume that it’s always a white straight cisgendered man making that statement. Which isn’t necessarily true at all! But it’s the perception, and if you want it not to be that way, you have to make a good faith effort to care about those social justice issues while articulating that the economic fight may be more important. And you still may not convince them, because to them changing society so they are not treated like garbage for aspects outside their control is more important than fighting for economic equality. Or you could just not care, and pretend sexism, heterosexism, and racism are not huge systemic issues.

      • Brian Slesinsky says:

        When you say people don’t really care, do you mean by showing sympathy, taking political action, helping local needy people, or something else?

        Where would rational altruism fall under your rating system? How about thinking and saying that basic income would be a great idea, but not doing anything concrete about it?

      • Dan T. says:

        The way libertarians usually put it is that it is the traditional left and right which decouple the different sorts of liberties, with leftists traditionally favoring personal liberty (free lifestyles) and opposing economic liberty (free markets), while right-wingers have the opposite position, and libertarians are at the top corner of the diamond-shaped Nolan Chart with a score of 100% on both sorts of liberty.

        By this standard, the modern left is even worse (despite your laments about them being less economic-focused, which means they aren’t emphasizing the parts of their views that were traditionally the most anti-libertarian) because the sorts of “social issues” they now focus on aren’t the individualist ones of lifestyle freedom that earlier generations of leftists favored, but collectivist identity politics.

        • TD says:

          This is a good point. A quick check on how big the changes in the mainstream left are is that the shorthand way of identifying as a libertarian being “fiscally conservative, and socially liberal” no longer makes any sense. I don’t think people would know what you meant now, whereas this phrase was still in vogue in 2008. The post-2012 era is a different country altogether.

          • Matt M says:

            And yet, the current libertarian presidential candidate is still trying to run as if this were a meaningful term that people will find appealing 🙁

        • Doctor Mist says:

          the sorts of “social issues” they now focus on aren’t the individualist ones of lifestyle freedom that earlier generations of leftists favored, but collectivist identity politics.

          Yes! I still have a libertarian T shirt from the 80s (alas, it seems to be many sizes too small now), with donkey and elephant each aiming a gun at you, with the caption “Your money or your rights”. These days it’s hard to remember that the leftist mantra used to be “do your own thing”.

          Now the leftists think my money belongs to them and they want to tell me how to live my life.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And the rightists still want to tell you how to live your life and they regret the necessity of taking all that money but it has to be done.

        • Gravitas Shortfall says:

          I’m a leftist that identifies with both economic and identity politics (so I consider the people on both sides who think the two MUST be at loggerheads possibly the most malignant because they’re the most active participants in the leftist circular firing squad). I think American society is too individualistic, but needs not collectivism, but communitarianism that fosters the development of strong local communities of people that support and care about each other. I think modern capitalism has eroded much of the American communitarian spirit.

          • Agronomous says:

            I think modern capitalism has eroded much of the American communitarian spirit.

            Other suspects (higher) on my list:
            • Growth of government
            • Decline in participation in religious communities
            • Television (seriously)
            • Economic prosperity making us depend less (or less frequently) on others for basic survival

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        A lot of people who consider themselves “on the left” in America consider that capitalism has proven itself superior. They may still want a bigger welfare state but they want it constructed in a way that doesn’t kneecap the economy.

        Some who disagree with them try to No-True-Scotsman them by saying “you aren’t REALLY on the left” but this typically gets ignored, as it should be.

      • LTP says:

        In fairness, the supposed representative of this shift, Hillary Clinton, is pushing economic leftism (especially after Bernie gained traction) such as paid parental leave and the minimum wage. The poor are still a huge part of the Democratic coalition, after all. This may be moderate compared to the left in other countries, but the US left has been more moderate on those issues for generations at this point.

        The issue is that the media focuses much more on the identity politics side of things because it is juicier, so you don’t hear about it as much when Democrats talk about economic issues.

        I do agree that it is worrying that there is a rising latte/tech liberal class that claims to be of the left but doesn’t seem to care about poverty at all.

    • herenow says:

      So — Bernie Sanders had an issue, right? He cared about financial inequality; he wanted to tax corporations, make college free, be super tough on Wall Street, etc.

      Trump also has an issue. He wants to “build a wall”. If we’re generous about assuming he’s speaking metaphorically about that (and we probably shouldn’t be), we could round his position off to wanting a lot of protectionist trade barriers so that US corporations stop outsourcing jobs elsewhere.

      Hillary Clinton: what’s her issue? I go to her website and I see a bunch of policy statements but I don’t see a First Thing she wants to do when she gets elected.

      I guess I could read this generously: maybe being president is super complicated and it’s wrong to round the job off to one big thing. Maybe she basically agrees with Obama about most things, and she wants to mostly do more of the same, so there’s not a flagship issue in that sense. Or maybe she’s just not getting the same sort of media coverage, and she’s made some clear statements about what she wants to do once elected and I just haven’t seen them.

      I’m voting for her anyway, because she’s not Trump, and I appreciate that in a candidate. But I’d really like to have a positive argument for her, something stronger than “she’s really experienced” and “having a woman president would be super historic”.

      • E. Harding says:

        Her big thing (as far as I’ve been able to tell): Make Me The First President With A Uterus.

        She didn’t really have a message after Orlando except gun bans for those on the no-fly list (which is probably a fifth amendment violation). No major Orlando tweet of hers was re-tweeted as much as Trump’s Orlando tweets were.

        Policy disagreements were sparse in the debates -if anything, they each tried their hardest to be perceived as orthodox progressive. Very much unlike the GOP debates, where policy disagreements flew.

        “But I’d really like to have a positive argument for her, something stronger than “she’s really experienced” and “having a woman president would be super historic”.”

        -Third Black President?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “Her big thing (as far as I’ve been able to tell): Make Me The First President With A Uterus.”

          Why? Why say it in this way? Why do people think this particular signal is a good signal to send in this comment section?

          One of my enduring confusions about SSC comments.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Why? Why say it in this way? Why do people think this particular signal is a good signal to send in this comment section?”

            -Why not? Is it false?

          • Acedia says:

            I agree with it and I don’t think I’m trying to “signal” anything by saying that, it’s just true. Her campaign is going to make this election a referendum on whether you want a woman in the white house, because it’s the only interesting thing she’s got. Everything else about her is pure status quo.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “First female president” is the way people who aren’t trying to signal their enmity towards various groups would say it.

            When you say it as you said it, you do it for a reason.

            And yes, it’s part of her appeal, but it’s by no means the only one. Roughly, her platform is “keep the legislative successes of Obama and add some additional social-welfare spending”. Given that the Republicans are mostly running on “reverse the legislative gains of Obama and cut the top tax rate” there is actually a pretty stark contrast in policy agendas between pretty much any Republican and any Democrat.

          • Sir Gawain says:

            Acedia says:
            June 19, 2016 at 10:34 pm ~new~
            I agree with it and I don’t think I’m trying to “signal” anything by saying that, it’s just true. Her campaign is going to make this election a referendum on whether you want a woman in the white house, because it’s the only interesting thing she’s got. Everything else about her is pure status quo.

            Report comment

            Wow, imagine if Carly Fiorina had won the Republican primary. Clinton would probably have self-destructed, because she’d have had to give up the “woman card” for the “major substantive policy differences” card.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Wow, imagine if Carly Fiorina had won the Republican primary. Clinton would probably have self-destructed, because she’d have had to give up the “woman card” for the “major substantive policy differences” card.”

            -Exactly. Seriously, Carly wouldn’t just be leading in the polls, but doing so by at least three points, mostly due to Hillary’s total inability to play the woman card.

            Hillary has been terrible at communicating the “major substantive policy differences” card. She didn’t even win the White vote in the recent primaries (which she did in a landslide in 2008), and I don’t think the typical Black primary voter could tell you a single “major substantive policy difference” between Hillary and Bernie.

          • Z says:

            E. Harding says:

            Her big thing (as far as I’ve been able to tell): Make Me The First President With A Uterus.

            HeelBearCub says:

            First female president” is the way people who aren’t trying to signal their enmity towards various groups would say it.

            I don’t want to put words in E. Harding’s mouth, but the way I read a statement like that is that he’s trying to underscore that the principle difference between men and women is the presence or absence of a uterus. Consequently there’s no special benefit to having a female candidate. That is to say, men and women are essentially the same for the purpose of being president and ought to be judged on something other than their gender.

            The only group that this signals an obvious enmity to are sexists of one flavor or another.

          • Anonymous says:

            There are two kinds of people in this world.

            The first group believes that the difference between men and women is trivial. It is unimportant, and hardly worthy of mention. Being a woman doesn’t make you more suitable for presidency, nor does being a man.

            The second group believes that being a woman is very important to the way you will perform as a president, thus can be an important argument for whether Clinton should or should not become president.

            This commenter was pointing out how trivial the difference is between men and women. The main difference is that women have uteruses (uteropodes? uteri?), and men don’t, which obviously has no impact on their presidential bonafides (bonafodes? bonafidi?). Therefore, this commenter belongs to the first group, that believes men and women are equal.

          • EH says:

            The reverse Voltaire for a 3.2 degree of difficulty: “I agree with everything you say but I will deny to the death (or mild social disapprobation) your right to say it”

          • Julie K says:

            > Why say it in this way?

            I assume to satirize the basic feminist doctrine that men and women are pretty much the same and it would be wrong to treat people differently based on something like the presence or absence of a uterus.

          • Zorgon says:

            Also important to note that making a uterus does not make you a woman

            A large contingent of Hillary’s support would strongly disagree with you about this, whether they admit it or not. Gender essentialism is an insidious thing that creeps in everywhere when you’re not looking.

          • Aegeus says:

            Her campaign is going to make this election a referendum on whether you want a woman in the white house, because it’s the only interesting thing she’s got. Everything else about her is pure status quo.

            If you think that Obama did a pretty good job, “pure status quo” is a solid platform to run on. It’s only if you’re trying to burn down the establishment (Trump, Sanders) that you have an obvious “one interesting thing” to run on.

            What was Obama’s “one interesting thing”? I don’t recall anyone complaining that “The only interesting thing about him is that he’s black.” Ending the Iraq War was one of his things, but also every Democrat’s thing. The ACA is what he’s famous for now, but I don’t recall that being the core issue that everyone rallied around.

            What was GWB’s “one interesting thing?” He wound up being famous for the War on Terror, but he sure didn’t plan on that. Was No Child Left Behind a big part of his campaign?

            Why is everyone here putting so much stock in the “one interesting thing” a candidate has? The President will do a lot of things in their campaign. Politifact is tracking over 500 promises that Obama made – which one is his “one interesting thing”, and which are just “a bunch of policy statements” that @herenow will ignore?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The reasons he does it are because

            • It annoys you

            (But I’m not that charitable towards E Harding so consider me biased.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            Obama’s theme was “hope and change,” with an emphasis on reaching across the aisle and increasing government transparency. It’s gauche to remember that, though.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Obama had 5 heavily emphasized campaign promises, two of which were reactions to the financial crisis:
            1) A fiscal stimulus bill. He had a laundry list of proposals to be included, but the broad promise was to pass a big stimulus bill. The American Recovery and Investment Act passed.
            2) Financial market regulation. Dodd-Frank passed.
            3) Pass a universal healthcare bill. ACA passed.
            4) End the war in Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan. This occurred (whether or not you think it was wise or successful.)
            5) Raise taxes on those making over $250,000, but not on anyone below that. He compromised on over $450K (IIRC) as part of the deal to prevent the entirety of the Bush tax cuts from expiring.

            He also has had a whole bunch of other specific things he talked about doing which he accomplished. Nuclear talks with Iran, passing a new START treaty, investing in renewable energy, ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, etc.

          • Gbdub says:

            One of Obama’s “interesting things” was that he would build a diplomatic rapport with our global adversaries (e.g. Iran, Russia) rather than treating them as pure enemies. And to a large extent he’s followed this.

            Personally I think it’s been rather a disaster, giving a lot without gaining much other than the ability to say you struck a deal, and often at the expense of our allies (e.g. cancelling Polish deployment of missile defense interceptors, which Polish politicians had stuck there necks out for, with apparently no matching concessions from Russia).

            But you can’t say he didn’t try.

          • RiverC says:

            I think I got stupider just trying to parse this thread.

            The presidential office is just a plaything of the brahmin elite at this point, who are in consternation that they cannot signal the path forward for the International Community by getting the first lesbian woman president !!!

            Anyway, how much success has LGBT had really if both Obama and Hillary have to stay in the closet still?

            “What is one trying to signal” indeed. Women are not the same as men and are, Thatcherian and Elizabethian types excepted, not fit for leadership at all. And those types will rise regardless (they always do) – this nonsense is all about giving mediocre harridans the right to punch down like their daddies did.

            That being said, her big thing is only an appeal to the brahmin and is not intended for the mass of Americans who, strangely, many moons ago these same peoples’ ancestors vested with the power of the vote, only to try to take it away by media manipulation. Now they are scared because for a moment, form and function might align and they’ve been afraid of that since the Reign of Terror.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            That’s not fair. Near as I can tell what she is promising is “8 more years of what Obama gave the nation”. And also, first woman president. But mostly, she’s just running as the status quo candidate. She isn’t talking about her policies because her policies are to not change anything.

        • Sir Gawain says:

          Her big thing (as far as I’ve been able to tell): Make Me The First President With A Uterus.

          https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/

          Well, all I can see there is a “MAKE ME THE FIRST WOMYN PRESIDENT” section, so you have a point. Definitely no detailed policy plans to combat climate change, improve financial regulation or expand health care reform or anything.

          She didn’t really have a message after Orlando except gun bans for those on the no-fly list (which is probably a fifth amendment violation). No major Orlando tweet of hers was re-tweeted as much as Trump’s Orlando tweets were.

          Except for her message after Orlando, she didn’t have a message after Orlando.

          • Evan Þ says:

            So her message after Orlando is to throw away the Constitution, including due process rights. Sounds reassuring indeed.

          • Sir Gawain says:

            Evan Þ says:
            June 19, 2016 at 11:40 pm
            So her message after Orlando is to throw away the Constitution, including due process rights. Sounds reassuring indeed.

            My point in that comment wasn’t that her message was good; it was that she had a message. (As it happens, I am generally sympathetic to that message and would dispute your characterization of it. But that’s irrelevant: I think Trump’s message post-Orlando was terrible, but I wouldn’t deny that he had a message.)

          • herenow says:

            I did see that issues page, and I agree that there’s some substantive stuff there. But there are 31 bullet points on that list, and I don’t think any president is capable of pushing 31 separate initiatives through Congress. For example, [my perception is] when Obama got elected, he had enough political capital to create Obamacare, and that was about it.

            I’m reading that list as sort of an ideal-case scenario: when she says “$2 billion a year in Alzheimer’s funding”, that means she’ll politely ask Congress to pass a law about that, but if Congress doesn’t feel like doing that, she’ll have to prioritize.

            So I guess my question is: which of those 31 initiatives is going to be the number one priority?

          • Sir Gawain says:

            herenow says:
            June 20, 2016 at 12:14 am ~new~
            I did see that issues page, and I agree that there’s some substantive stuff there. But there are 31 bullet points on that list, and I don’t think any president is capable of pushing 31 separate initiatives through Congress. For example, [my perception is] when Obama got elected, he had enough political capital to create Obamacare, and that was about it.

            Yeah, strongly agree. (With the qualification that Obama also got the ARRA and Dodd-Frank through during the 2009-2011 legislative session.)

            In my view, the problem with the American political system is that there are too many damn veto points.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Is that a bug, or a feature? “There is no problem so bad, so desperately in need of a solution, that it cannot be made worse by squandering limited resources on a plan that cannot work.”

            (Not a rhetorical question – I lean toward the conservative view, but I can see some situations where quicker action really would be needed.)

          • E. Harding says:

            “Definitely no detailed policy plans to combat climate change, improve financial regulation or expand health care reform or anything.”

            -Three little questions: is the guy in the White House doing this stuff right now? If not, why? And why would it be possible for Her to do anything on this front, as the prospects for a Congress under the control of a different party than the President appear very strong for the next few years?

          • Subbak says:

            So her message after Orlando is to throw away the Constitution, including due process rights. Sounds reassuring indeed.

            So I get it that some people revere the US constitution like crazy even though the context in which the second amendment was written does not apply today.
            But what is this thing about due process clause? The no fly list is already a horrible monster of no due process, it seems to me than banning people on it from having guns would be a minuscule problem compared to, something that basically prevents them from traveling long distances (while you might use trains and coaches and private cars in the US, go and try to cross an ocean without flying. I hope you have a lot of time to spare).

            Or maybe are you criticizing her for not wanting to burn the no-fly list forever? If so, you were kind of unclear.

          • Gbdub says:

            Would you be okay with banning people on the no-fly list from voting? They are clearly opposed to US interests, and after all not voting has much less direct impact on your life than not being able to fly.

            (I do consider the democrats hypocritical on this issue, as there was much hem and haw about the no-fly list from a due process perspective back when Ted Kennedy got denied from a flight – I actually agree with the “burn it down” proposition, but think the NRA proposal (3 day waiting period, gov’t need to prove probable cause to deny in that time) is the most coherent compromise, both for guns and flights)

          • Subbak says:

            @Gbdub: I’m not okay with banning felons from voting, so no. I don’t think there should be anything that makes you lose your voting rights (eligibility rights are obviously a different problem), because the fraction of people for whom removing voting rights would be justified is going to be small anyway and once you allow a government to disenfranchise people you get an obvious abuse potential.

            But you made your point that from the point of view of someone who strongly believes it is a fundamental right to own a gun, similar to voting rights or freedom of expression or right to private property and whatnot, then I guess it makes sense to be strongly opposed to the expansion of the no-fly list to it, even if you already hate the no-fly list. I just have a hard time putting myself in such a person’s mind.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            the context in which the second amendment was written does not apply today.

            Umm, elaborate please? What is that context and why is it no longer applicable?

            (Unless this is just the tired old chestnut about having the right to flintlocks but not handguns, in which case never mind.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            I read a long, convincing seeming argument, referencing ancillary documents of the time (IIRC) that argued that second amendment was added at the request of the slave states to ensure that their slave patrols would continue to be able to operate unimpeded.

            I have no idea if that is what Subbak is referring to, though. I might see if I can find it again.

          • Nornagest says:

            @HBC — How convenient.

          • Lysenko says:

            @HBC
            Please do try and find that, since that would be completely inconsistent with not only everything I’ve read from constitutional law scholars and historians, but everything from CRITICs of the 2nd Amendment, and I’ve made a concerted effort to be thorough (read every amicus brief and every case and journal article cited in DC v Heller, for starters).

            I would be curious to see the primary sources on that, given that somehow we’ve managed to debate the 2nd Amendment’s historical context for decades without that coming up.

            EDIT: The best historical case against the 2nd Amendment, and for some time the consensus one (though less out of primary sourcing than a lack of anyone with academic credentials wanting to pick a fight on the “settled” issue) was that it was a sop to the Anti-Federalists who feared that the Federalists would strip the state governments of the ability to raise and organize state militias. This required ignoring a lot of primary source material and a reading of ‘the people’ inconsistent with the other original Bill Of Rights amendments, but it was still the ‘consensus’ among academics for some time.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            Huh?

            @Lysenko:
            I think I found the source for whatever it was that I read. A Univ. of California Law Review article from 1998.

            Roughly, the argument is that since the Constitution gave the federal government control of the militias, and these militias were actually empowered and required in the slave states to do various duties to prevent insurrection, that Patrick Henry argued that the Constitution would give the federal government the power to end slavery simply by disarming or removing their militias.

            Here is a shorter version at truthout.

            Here is a Minnestota Post article.

            Here is a link to the abstract of the paper. Note: The paper itself is free to download. Might require registration, though.

            Of course, the guy is actually one Professor Carl Bogus, so maybe I should beware of nominative determinism.

          • Nornagest says:

            Huh?

            I’m saying that trips all sorts of bullshit alarms for me, mainly because of how neatly it fits into a modern narrative.

            Lysenko is clearly more familiar with the source material than I am — really, about all I’ve read of it beyond the Constitution itself is the Federalist Papers, and while they at least appear to take a relatively standard individual-right line, I know very well that they represent one side of a fairly acrimonious debate. So I’ll leave the academic side of this to them. But just on priors, I’d be willing to say that if there’s a strong causal link there, I’ll publicly eat a copy of the Constitution.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            But why accuse me of disingenuousness?

            Also, if you look at the PDF on what would be page 349 of the journal article, there is a direct quote from Patrick Henry stating outright that the constitution (as proposed) would bar the state’s from responding to slave insurrections, as only Congress has the power to call forth the militia.

            Assuming that quote is accurate, it seems pretty good evidence that the argument holds some water, at the very least.

          • Nornagest says:

            But why accuse me of disingenuousness?

            I’m not, I’m suspecting the originators of the argument of disingenuousness. More likely in the form of motivated reasoning than deliberate falsehood.

          • Lysenko says:

            @ HBC
            Aahhhh, ok, I’m familiar with Bogus’ book, where he pushes the “2nd Amendment protects state militias” angle, but not this added “…which were created to put down slave rebellions” claim.

            To try and give both counterweights for and broader context to Bogus’ article, I highly recommend both The Embarrassing Second Amendment, as well as to a lesser extent DB Kates’ “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment” and David Vandercoy’s “The History Of The Second Amendment”.

            If you’re interested in 2A and the gun control debate in general, then I highly recommend reading as many of the Amicus briefs on both sides of DC v Heller as you can. SCOTUSBlog maintains links to all the amici briefs as well as the decision. They represent a pretty thorough overview of the best and/or most popular evidence both sides were able to muster as of 2008.

            Anyway, I read Bogus’ article (no registration is required), and am….less than convinced. To start with, he opens with a lot of poisoning the well against what he characterizes as a “small band” of “true believers” whose views are “paranoiac, anarchistic, and anti-democratic”, and whom he refers to throughout the paper as the “insurrectionist school”. Oh yeah, here’s a disinterested scholar. No signalling going on here at all.

            He moves on to suggest that Madison rewrote the bill of rights as a quid pro quo to ensure the critical ratification of the constitution by Virginia. The problem with this is:

            -The people he’s supposed to have struck this deal with never changed their minds or behavior. They voted against ratification and lost. They further were not present for the drafting and debate over the bill of rights in the continental congress. In short, there was no secret deal, Madison’s side simply won.

            -The idea of a secret safeguard for slavery in the bill of rights is undermined by the fact that slavery is in fact specifically referenced and supported by other portions of the constitution (for example, Article I, Clause 9 and Article IV, Clause 3). The 1808 guarantee is an excellent example of a very OPEN promise to protect slavery.

            -He conflates slave patrols with state militias. Virginia in SOME cases selected SOME elements of their slave patrols from the state militia, but it and South Carolina were the only states to do so, and the slave patrols derived their authority from the states’ police power, NOT from the states’ authority to form militias or provide for the common defense.

            -Contra his claims, the Stono rebellion was at that time the only major organized slave rebellion in colonial history. To get to the “hundreds” number he has to count pretty much every publicized case of a slave or slaves being punished for resistance/disobediance as “a rebellion”.

            I’m stopping myself now before I start digging into my old sources to try and fisk the whole article, so I’ll conclude with the point that taken in toto, what Bogus repeatedly suggests is that many of the key public writings and speeches on record at the time were in fact disingenuous as to the real thoughts and motivations regarding the right to keep and bear arms. That there was a secret agenda, advanced behind closed doors, but that Bogus has been able to reveal this previously “Hidden History”.

            Let’s see, does this formulation sound at ALL familiar, maybe like something discussed elsewhere on this very blog?

            Hell, Bogus is SO bad that even other legal scholars who argue the collective right view of the second amendment and are explicitly pro gun control take issue with his characterization of the history.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            Sure, that’s fair.

            @Lysenko:
            Thanks for the references. I’ll try to work through them.

            That Finkleman article seems to be arguing against a straw man of Bogus’ arguments though. For instance he attacks the position that Henry and Madison are secret allies, which isn’t what Hartmann or Bogus say. Assuming the quotes are article are accurate, the case is being made that it was a going concern at the time that Congress could disarm the militias, or march them away and (here is where the motivated reasoning would come in) the main reason this was feared was due to fear of slave rebellion.

            I assume that when I work through the other material, there will be a wealth of other reasoning for wanting to keep the state militias out from under control of congress. But it seems that at least one reason that was offered for it was slave insurrection, which ain’t nothing.

          • William Newman says:

            “Of course, the guy is actually one Professor Carl Bogus, so maybe I should beware of nominative determinism.”

            I don’t know whether nominative determinism might specifically fit the paper you cite, but the _Arming America_ debacle can be a useful first stop in a check for an advocate’s bogusness in that era, and Prof. Bogus does not disappoint, so score one for general nominative determinism.

          • Anonymous says:

            If you’re interested in 2A and the gun control debate in general, then I highly recommend reading as many of the Amicus briefs on both sides of DC v Heller as you can. SCOTUSBlog maintains links to all the amici briefs as well as the decision. They represent a pretty thorough overview of the best and/or most popular evidence both sides were able to muster as of 2008.

            I have no dog in this fight, but in general you should strongly prefer history by historians to what is deservedly derogatorily called law-office history.

            Lawyers are unequiped by their educations to treat historical texts with a properly critical eye.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Anonymous

            Note that Bogus is a law professor, not a historian.

          • William Newman says:

            “I have no dog in this fight, but in general you should strongly prefer history by historians to what is deservedly derogatorily called law-office history.

            Lawyers are unequiped by their educations to treat historical texts with a properly critical eye.”

            It seems to be central to your thesis that historians are well equipped to treat historical texts with a properly critical eye. Are you familiar with the Yale Law Journal article that I linked above?

          • Lysenko says:

            @HBC

            A disarming the state militias -was- a concern. The problem comes when you try to make the claim about why (especially the idea of it being all about slavery), or that this was the primary driving force rather than one of several overlapping ones.

            Additionally, there’s the difference between ‘the state militias’ and ‘The Militia’ in terms of the rhetoric and legal language of the time, but the briefs and articles will go into that in more detail.

            @anonymous
            That’s the interesting thing about those Amicus briefs, Anon. Though in most cases a lawyer was the final editor, those Amicus briefs are not JUST from lawyers. They represent the arguments put forward by physicians, police officials, lawywers, politicians (but I already said lawyers, didn’t I?), historians, other academics, and retired general officers.

            As I said, Heller was a big enough case that just about everybody took their turn to try and get their personal take on the issue in front of the bench.

            Also, unfortunately the only ‘pure’ historian I am aware of in recent memory to have written a book on the subject is Bellisles, and the short version of that is he was caught in gross misrepresentation and falsification of sources.

            That said, I’m not sure I agree that Lawyers, people whose training rests upon a centuries long history of people trying to advance personal agendas using written and spoken argument and claims, are going to be more credulous than historians when it comes to the possible biases baked into primary sources.

            They might be less able to place writings into the proper historical/cultural context due to lack of familiarity with the life of the writer or the time from which he or she sprang, but that depends on which law prof you’re comparing to which historian, and to be totally honest I am not particularly impressed with historians and their ability to critically assess the legitimacy of sources in any area of history which is politically hot. From what I’ve read and seen, they do about as well or badly as any other professional academic group, which is to say middling at best.

          • Anonymous says:

            I wasn’t, no. As I said this particular historical question is of no interest to me.

            Having very briefly looked into it, it appears that you are referring to a historian that committed academic fraud. It was in no way implied by my argument that every historian is either honest or competent. Unfortunately we’ve seen both fraud and incompetence across a range of academic fields including the so-called hard sciences. I think it is a serious mistake to conclude from these incidents that there’s no such thing as expertise or any value in the methods and traditions of academic disciplines.

            Law-office history is and was an early predecessor of a unfortunate phenomenon that is reaching epic proportions in the age of “Imma spend twenty minutes on google and become a subject matter expert.”

            @Lysenko
            Lawyers, like theologians and for much the same reason, are strongly biased towards internal exegesis of their texts. This isn’t a problem in their own fields, but it is when they try to step out of their domains.

          • Teal says:

            The way this discussion invariably goes shows how incoherent origianlism is as a legal philosophy (or alternatively how hypocritical it’s proponents are).

            If 1791 controls the meaning of the second amendment then 1868 must control the meaning of the fourteenth amendment. Yet both Alito’s and Thomas’ opinions in McDonald give the RKBA the exact same content in 2nd amendment context as in the 14th amendment context.

            Where are all the originalists railing against incorporation (and no thinking that the doctrine should be moved in toto from the due process clause to the privileges or immunities clause doesn’t count)?

          • William Newman says:

            “Having very briefly looked into it, it appears that you are referring to a historian that committed academic fraud.”

            Well, I did not flesh out the points that I thought were implicit in my question, ’tis true. So lessee.

            I was referring to a historian that committed academic fraud and who, among other things, received awards for it. (See e.g. the 5th page of the Lindgren article: “They awarded the article the prize for the best article published in the JAH that year.” But it doesn’t stop there.) Whose fraud was praised in the NY Times Review of Books by a Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian specializing (sez Wikipedia) in American history, politics, and religion. (Also praised elsewhere, but I don’t know how much of the praise came from historians.) Whose politically-delicious fraud enjoyed these honors despite some surprisingly silly bits thrown in, apparently not *intentionally* eliminating non-alarming explanations for the enthusiastic reception of the fraud (in the spirit of the Sokal hoax), but nonetheless cruelly effectively helping to eliminate non-alarming explanations. (One shouldn’t need to be trained to a professional level of historical knowledge to have one’s ears perk up at the book’s specific claim about axes, or to wonder how the general thesis could be consistent with military history or with even bits of knowledge of some enduringly-popular primary sources like Benjamin Franklin and Alexis de Tocqueville. And conversely, one would hope that in a better world, we wouldn’t be arguing from the historical authority of a profession that is apparently unqualified to notice that kind of thing.)

            (There might be another point or so if I thought about it — Lindgren carpet-bombs the issue for dozens of pages without seeming to run too desperately short of material — but those points seem like a good start.)

            So is it fair to judge historians harshly — harshly enough, let’s say, that we sneer derisively at your derisive sneer that “you should strongly prefer history by historians to what is deservedly derogatorily called law-office history” — based merely on laughably bad work that historians themselves chose to honor? Based merely on an event that evidently fans of historians don’t find significant enough to consider a cautionary tale, even in the specific context of historical controversies about guns in the US? You be the judge.:-|

          • Lysenko says:

            @Anon
            Apparently I’m slow today. Could you amplify/expand on how that is a problem when it comes to approaching historical documents on law and philosophy?

          • Hlynkacg says:

            @Teal
            You seem to be ignoring the fundamental distinction between a Constitutional Amendment, and a bill that the President signs into law.

            The 14th Amendment amended the meaning of the constitution, expanding the previously existing set of people who were entitled to “the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” I don’t see how you can reasonably argue that the original Bill of Rights isn’t included among said privileges or immunities.

            As such the context of the 2nd amendment changed only in so much as the set of who it applies to changed, and that’s not really germane to a discussion of it’s “original meaning” is it? In fact it seems far less legally coherent to suggest that it is.

            Edit To clarify:
            What exactly do you find “incoherent” about going from “Rule A applies in Case X” to “Rule A applies in Cases X and Y”? It’s not like anyone is arguing that A equals not-A.

          • Teal says:

            The 14th Amendment amended the meaning of the constitution, expanding the sub-set of people who were entitled to “the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” I don’t see how you can reasonably argue that the original Bill of Rights isn’t included among those privileges or immunities.

            The context of the 2nd amendment changed only in so much as the number of people to whom it applied changed, and that’s not really germane to it’s “original meaning” is it?

            No, this is all wrong. Incorporation has nothing to do with who is protected and everything to do with what government(s) they are protected against. The bill of rights on their own terms only bind the federal government. The incorporation doctrine (of various flavors) claims that the fourteenth amendment requires states to follow the bill of rights too.

            However the question is — which bill of rights? Under the living constitution approach a unified rule for the bill of rights as applied to both the federal government state government makes sense. On the other hand such a unification makes no sense at all under originalism.

            A principled and consistent originalist should consider the fourteenth amendment to have applied against the states the public meaning of the bill of rights as of 1868 rather than as of 1791. The only way to save a unified approach is to claim that in 1868 everyone was not only an originalists but they were all infallible originialists.

            A concrete example: if in 1791 the publicly understood meaning of arms included cannons but in 1868 the publicly understood meaning of “privileges … of citizens of the United States” did not include the right to own cannons, then it follows directly that under an originalist interpretation of the constitution the federal government ought to be prohibited from banning the ownership of cannons but the state governments ought to be free to ban them. N.B. I’m not arguing this specific case but rather pointing out the fact that the question doesn’t even come up, which is quite telling.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            That doesn’t make any sense. The Originalist answer to “which bill of rights?” Is naturally “the one ratified in 1791”.

            Likewise, a principled and consistent Originalist doesn’t need to interpret 1868’s interpretation of 1791. That’s the very “Living Document” sort of thinking they reject. They just need to know whether or not the framers of the 14th Amendment intended to expand the Bill of Rights’ scope to include both the Federal and State governments. Thanks to the debate surrounding it’s ratification, we can be pretty sure that they did.

            The fact that the question doesn’t even come up is quite telling.

            It is, but not in the way you think.

            I would suggest that you only expect it to come up because you already take the “Living Document” thesis as a given.

            In my previous example, the Bill of Rights is “Rule A” and the 14th Amendment is the transition from “Rule A applies in Case X” to “Rule A applies in Cases X and Y”. “Rule A” isn’t changing so there’s no reason for the question to come up.

          • Teal says:

            That interpretation totally ignores the ratifiers of the 14th amendments understanding of what they were ratifying. In what sense is that originalist?

            I suppose in addition to arguing that the ratifiers were infalliable originalists one could also argue that the ratifiers were completely agnostic as to what it was they were applying to the states, but the linked wikipedia article is insufficient to make that case (to put it mildly).

          • Hlynkacg says:

            That interpretation totally ignores the ratifiers of the 14th amendments understanding of what they were ratifying. In what sense is that originalist?

            In what sense is it not?

            Bingham did not write the Bill of rights or vote on it’s ratification. So as far as a principled and consistent Originalist is concerned Bingham’s interpretation of the Bill of rights must take a back seat to the interpretation of those that did. Just as Bingham’s interpretation of the 14th would trump that of anyone living today.

            This isn’t a game of telephone. If anything we’re passing notes.

            The core Orginalist conceit is that “The Meaning of ‘A’ remains constant unless explicitly changed”.

            Maybe it’s just the math geek in me but this seems like a far stronger foundation for building a coherent legal philosophy than ‘A’ being a “Living Document” that means whatever the popular kids want it to mean at the time.

          • Teal says:

            Fuck the goddamn filter eating my posts. I’m done for a while. Sorry Hlynkacg.

          • Agronomous says:

            I think we can all agree that the filter’s Living Document approach is annoying, and we’d rather it go by Scott’s Original Intent.

        • ChristianKl says:

          Given that’s a straight fifth amendment violation, it would be interesting to see the resulting Supreme Court case. With a bit of luck the whole no-fly list is gone.

          • Matt M says:

            I think it’s an interesting gambit for Trump (and the NRA) to cave on this.

            Allows them to be seen as “willing to negotiate on common sense solution” while at the same time, picking a “common sense solution” that will almost certainly NOT survive a serious legal challenge.

            It increases their political capital without really sacrificing much of anything at all.

          • CatCube says:

            For an NRA member data point: after the Obergefell legerdemain, I have zero faith that the Supreme Court will rule in accordance with the Constitution. I’m not inclined to support the NRA leadership in something like this.

          • RiverC says:

            If anything, Obamacare tells us that Justice Roberts will save the day by finding a penumbra. Do not trust this method of ‘allowing it to come to a legal challenge that will fail’. These days, the Supreme Court has survived mostly as a rubber stamp for Progressive Policies that aren’t Too Extremely Progressive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t think the NRAs strategy is a court challenge. Rather, the judicial review with a maximum 3-day delay for being on the terrorist list accomplishes most of their goals. It prevents the list from just denying people guns arbitrarily or indiscriminately. The key feature is, like the “instant background check”, is there’s a hard deadline. Without that the system can just become an effective denial by delay.

          • Matt M says:

            I totally agree with being very suspicious that the Supreme Court will rule the “correct” way. I guess I’m basing my theory on the fact that I’ve read a lot of legal blogs, even from people very far to the left who uncritically parrot the “it’s obvious the second amendment applies exclusively to the army and was NEVER meant to apply to individuals” nonsense 24/7, and even THEY agree that this whole “deny guns to people on the no-fly list” thing is a complete and total non-starter.

        • Gravitas Shortfall says:

          nah, her message is basically “Obama was a great president, really, and I will continue his policies and go further.” She’s running for basically a third Obama term, which I don’t think is a terrible argument, though she would’ve run into trouble against Jeb or Rubio or Kasich had they managed to get through the primary.

      • Pku says:

        I prefer having a president with no issue. Unlike some people here I think things are reasonably okay (well, except for climate change), and a consolidation president seems like a good way to go.

        • E. Harding says:

          I think things are bad, especially in the Middle East, in matters of immigration (both legal and illegal), lack of control of Muslim entry into the U.S., and in relations with Russia. Also, productivity is really weak, and job growth is weaker than it should be (though the unemployment rate is below historical average). I’m not too worried about climate change.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            I assume the concern of lack of control of Muslim immigration is with regards to safety. If so, I find that hard to justify based on the recent (and not so recent) attacks. Omar Mateen (Pulse), Syed Rizwan Farook (of the San Bernardino couple), Nidal Hasan (Fort Hood) were all born in the US. Many of their parents would have been caught by a moratorium on Muslim immigration, but that means this will only be a solution a very long time down the road. Having it 15 years ago might have stopped the Tsarnaevs from getting in the country. So the cost/benefit ratio here seems pretty suspect. The effectiveness is reduced even more by the fact that it would likely be illegal to directly restrict Muslim immigration; Trump seems to have realized this and is now only talking about halting immigration from Muslim dominated countries.

            I agree legal immigration is a mess (in particular the H-1B), but I think downsizing it is the wrong solution. The issue is that a few big IT services companies (Infosys, Tata, etc.) game the system to get workers from India to replace US workers indirectly through support contracts with other companies. Refocusing the H-1B program (e.g. with an adjustable points system) on industries that are actually facing jobs shortages (e.g. tech, but not low level IT) seems like it could be a real help, but I haven’t seen Trump (or anyone else) push that this election. Just cutting the pool size will likely hurt the businesses for whom gaming the H-1B is not a core strategy more than it will bother Infosys and friends. I’m not sure that’s what Trump wants to do; he’s said a few different things about immigration visas that don’t seem to fit into a consistent picture.

            As far as the economy, I must say I’ve read the concrete stuff Trump has shown (tax plan, etc.) and been unimpressed. How do you feel these measures will solve productivity and job growth?

          • E. Harding says:

            “Many of their parents would have been caught by a moratorium on Muslim immigration, but that means this will only be a solution a very long time down the road.”

            -Agreed.

            “The effectiveness is reduced even more by the fact that it would likely be illegal to directly restrict Muslim immigration”

            -I don’t see the illegality.

            “How do you feel these measures will solve productivity and job growth?”

            -I didn’t say Trump would solve it; I said things are bad.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            It’s unconstitutional, because the people in charge of interpreting the Constitution want to be on the right side of history.

            There is plenty of precedent, even if you wanted to extend the ban to US citizens. Korematsu is the most obvious one but any halfway competent conlaw lawyer could make the case for it. But precedent only matters to the extent that the court agrees with it.

            Actually implementing a ban, even a toothless one, would mean ignoring the court’s inevitable ruling. Which again is not without precedent but technically illegal.

          • BBA says:

            If you’re talking about banning “Muslims”, it’s an Establishment Clause violation for the government to determine who is and isn’t a Muslim.

          • Clockwork Arachnid says:

            @BBA

            While I think banning the entry of Muslims into the United States would be a bad idea, it is not clearly unconstitutional– constitutional scholars appear somewhat divided on this issue. (see Eugene Volokh’s take on it from last year, for example).

          • Julie K says:

            One could argue that immigrant imams are radicalizing American-born Muslims, though I don’t know how accurate that is.

          • Anonymous says:

            We definitely need to do something about toxic Russian and Peruvian immigrants.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Cute.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Agreed. I’m not necessarily a fan of Obama but he’s not the worst president in the world and the state of current affairs is reasonably ok. The most concerning thing to me is not her “evilness”, it’s her ability to put someone on the Supreme Court. It’s pretty much the only aspect of Trump that I think would be better.

          • E. Harding says:

            “and the state of current affairs is reasonably ok”

            -What would a bad state of affairs look like?

            I think Trump would be better on pretty much everything. Except maybe trade.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @E. Harding

            Russia

          • Wrong Species says:

            Hyperinflation, hyper deflation, increasingly higher crime rates, constant economic depression, Soviet style communism, Somalian anarchy or nuclear apocalypse. If you can’t imagine the current state of affairs being worse than it is then you are not very imaginative.

          • Chalid says:

            The US eight years ago was a bad state of affairs, and things have been improving steadily since then.

          • Gbdub says:

            @Chalid – I agree, I’m just not sure either president had much of an impact on that. My main gripe with Obama on that front is he didn’t make the recovery spending as infrastructure-focused as I’d have liked, but I doubt that had much effect on the overall economy.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Trump’s wall is literal, he’s clear about that; he wants to stop people, not products. He’s against immigration, not outsourcing. The only thing I see on his site (at a quick skim) about trade talks about getting China to stop subsidizing exports and violating US intellectual property (which is an absolutely mainstream position; that’s a large part of what the TPP is all about, though if Disney thinks China will actually follow it they’re Goofy)

      • Chalid says:

        But I’d really like to have a positive argument for her

        I feel like I see this complaint every four years. But really, the main argument being made by both sides in almost every presidential selection is “you need to vote for me because the other candidate/party is terrible.” Positive reasons are secondary.

        That said, I think you’ve pretty much got it when you say “she basically agrees with Obama about most things, and she wants to mostly do more of the same”. Take a look at her stump speeches and you won’t see much that you couldn’t imagine Obama saying. Which makes sense when you consider that Obama is at 53/43 approve/disapprove.

      • Sandy says:

        Her issue is pretty much whatever you want it to be. People keep saying she’s running to be Obama’s third term, and they’re not wrong about that — a lot of people had very little idea what Obama actually stood for and essentially just projected various leftist fantasies onto him. And that’s basically 2016 Hillary, because she’s a wind sock and will advocate for whatever’s trendy, but many of her supporters don’t care. They’ve just been told over and over again that electing the first female President will be the Pivotal Moment that Changes Everything, much like electing the first black President was.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Is anyone actually excited for Clinton? Because that’s certainly not the impression I get. For Democrats she’s more like 2012 Obama than 2008.

          • Virbie says:

            I know quite a few people who are planning to vote for her almost entirely because she’ll be the first woman president, and are quite excited to do so. I’m not projecting: most of the people I’m thinking of have been very explicit about exactly that.

            Are there people particularly excited by her policies? Probably not, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing to position oneself as a competent candidate with nothing particularly radical in your agenda.

          • Gravitas Shortfall says:

            I’m sort of excited now, if only because Republicans hate her so much it’s going to be hilarious having her be president, because a certain percentage of the population will TOTALLY LOSE THEIR MIND. I’m in it for the delicious meltdowns. Conservative media has been building her up as this borderline Satanic figure since the early 90’s, so seeing her elected president will be at the very least a magnificent troll on the people that bought into that narrative.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Gravitas Shortfall:

            Do you want a President Trump?

            Because that’s how you get a President Trump.

            (We had a long, not-always-productive thread about this in the context of the UK leaving the EU.)

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I don’t like Clinton (see my previous comments talking about why the email isn’t a non-issue and why it’s so insulting to me to insist that), but not having A Theme is a positive, not a negative.

      • Yehoshua K says:

        As far as I can tell, her platform actually is “I would be the first woman president.”

        Yes, I know she has other things on her web site. I’m referring to her statements in interviews, which seem to have a strong focus on reminding us that she’s female.

        • Gravitas Shortfall says:

          And this is somehow a bad thing, for reasons. I mean, look at the gender of every previous president. Look at Clinton’s gender. What was she going to do, not make a big deal of it? I can’t understand this griping as anything other than thinly veiled sexism.

    • Watercressed says:

      殺殺殺殺殺殺殺

    • The Nybbler says:

      Trump, because I have a preference for the devil we don’t know. He might break some things; some of them might need breaking. The country is far too stable for him to be that disastrous. The current path, represented by Hillary, results in ever-increasing authoritarianism.

      • Wrong Species says:

        “The country is far too stable for him to be that disastrous.”

        It can always get worse. And in the grand scheme of things, we’re doing ok. It’s not ideal but I don’t think people are going to look back at this time as the dark ages.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It can always get worse. It will get worse. In Hillary’s case, we’re going to see more regulation (I can’t even fly my toy helicopter in my backyard without committing a Federal crime now; thanks Obama), higher taxes, more government support of identity politics, and more gun control. With Trump? Aside from immigration restrictions, who knows?

      • Diadem says:

        I feel like you’re significantly underestimating the ability of US presidents to break things.

        George W. Bush pretty much broke the Middle East. Kennedy and Johnson broke Vietnam (plus a lot of US lives). Hell, Kennedy very nearly broke the world for no reason other than pride. Saying that Trump won’t disastrously break things is saying he will be the best post-war US president by a fair margin.

        Also, are you with a straight face going to say that you vote Trump because you’re worried about authoritarianism? How does that make any sense? You can say many things about Trump, good or bad, but not that he’s not authoritarian. Heck his authoritarianism is the reason his supporters support him.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s not that Trump isn’t authoritarian. It’s that his authoritarianism is less aligned with the current direction of the government than Hillary’s is.

        • neonwattagelimit says:

          Yeah, seconding this. How on earth could fear of *authoritarianism* be a reason to vote for Trump? That’s a new one.

          You don’t like Hillary/the status quo and you fear authoritarianism, fine, vote for Gary Johnson. But Trump? The guy who encourages violence against protestors, hints at jailing journalists, and has openly stated multiple times that he intends to vastly expand executive power? Really?

          • Sandy says:

            How on earth could fear of *authoritarianism* be a reason to vote for Trump?

            Obama has on several occasions sought to vastly expand executive power, and on several occasions he has succeeded at doing so. He had the Justice Department create a legal justification that would allow him to execute American citizens without a trial on the basis of national security. He promised the most transparent administration in history and then oversaw America’s slide down the press freedom rankings because of his administration hunting down whistleblowers relentlessly. I would call these things fairly authoritarian. Some of the usual suspects like Glenn Greenwald call them authoritarian too. Most don’t, because the message has been driven in that criticizing this President on such grounds is disrespectful, possibly racist and might even be treasonous.

            Trump is authoritarian beyond the shadow of a doubt. But he is also a right-wing white male Republican. A lot more people will suddenly stand up for Our Cherished Constitutional Rights with such a person in office.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Seconding Sandy’s argument.

            Likewise Hillary is at least as bad as Obama and we have a fair bit of evidence that she might be a damn sight worse.

            As such the general election is not between authoritarian and less authoritarian its between authoritarian that the media/pundit class will defend and support vs an authoritarian that will be opposed and ridiculed.

          • Urstoff says:

            What makes you think that Trump is a Republican in any traditional sense of the term?

          • Sandy says:

            Oh, I don’t think he’s a Republican in any traditional sense of the term. I think he’s a Republican in terms of the letter next to his name on the ballot, and that’s damning enough for a lot of people.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I don’t

          • neonwattagelimit says:

            Nobody really addressed this part of my post:

            You don’t like Hillary/the status quo and you fear authoritarianism, fine, vote for Gary Johnson.

            I was not arguing that you should vote *for* Hillary if you fear authoritarianism; nor was I making any comment on Obama’s policies. I was arguing that “ever-increasing authoritarianism” is a poor reason to support Trump, a candidate who has, many times, demonstrated authoritarian tendencies, and even praised authoritarian governance.

            Even if you believe that Hillary will be unacceptably authoritarian, all available evidence points to the idea that that Trump will even more authoritarian than that. So why vote for him, and not Gary Johnson?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Gary Johnson has no shot of course, and in any realistic scenario the Libertarian vote will be ignored; it might not even be reported. There isn’t really much of a constituency for libertarianism nowadays; most everyone wants authoritarianism of one type or another.

            So the question is who is likely to be less effectively authoritarian, and that’s Trump. Whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress, they’re against him. And he’s got a big distracting project that’s expensive but not all that harmful (the wall…. chance of getting any significant part built in 4 years, pretty much zero).

          • Sandy says:

            So why vote for him, and not Gary Johnson?

            Because Johnson has no chance of winning. It’s a waste of time. Considering libertarianism is now seen as a right-wing thing, the best possible Johnson performance would result in a Clinton presidency anyway.

            And as far as fear of authoritarianism goes, my point is that the people with the power to oppose it will be far more likely to oppose Trump on that count than they would be to oppose Hillary, simply because of who they are and who the brokers of power in America are.

          • neonwattagelimit says:

            So the question is who is likely to be less effectively authoritarian, and that’s Trump. Whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress, they’re against him. And he’s got a big distracting project that’s expensive but not all that harmful (the wall…. chance of getting any significant part built in 4 years, pretty much zero).

            So your argument is that Trump is likely to be less effective than HRC and, therefore, less authoritarian?

          • Sandy says:

            So your argument is that Trump is likely to be less effective than HRC and, therefore, less authoritarian?

            Hitler was only dangerous because he had armies and political support. Without that, he’s just a failed artist ranting about der Juden. A caged tyrant is not something I would worry about.

            Yes, yes, Godwin, but it’s what came to mind.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            This is probably the pettiest nitpick I’ve ever posted, but the plural of Jew is “die Juden.” Der is singular.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Dr Dealgood,

            Somehow it gives me the warm fuzzies that a check of Stormfront shows they often get it wrong. I mean, seriously, outside “Hogan’s Heroes” and other comedy, who ever heard of a sloppy Nazi?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Pedantry:

            Anti-Semites often talk about plural Jews in the singular (not a new thing, either), and Nazi Germany was actually a complete disaster as far as effective organization goes.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because Johnson has no chance of winning.

            Come election day, Trump will have either no chance of winning or a 100% chance of winning. Does your ignorance of which, matter? If so, why?

          • onyomi says:

            “Because Johnson has no chance of winning. It’s a waste of time.”

            I don’t understand this notion that voting for someone without a chance of winning is a “waste of time.” Voting in general is largely a waste of time for the individual, anyway. To the extent you want your vote to have some impact on the real world, a single marginal vote for an unpopular candidate makes a bigger difference than a single marginal vote for a popular candidate.

            “Libertarian Party/Green Party wildly exceeds expectations” is arguably a bigger story in longterm political history than either “Trump wins” or “Hillary wins.”

          • William Newman says:

            “I mean, seriously, outside “Hogan’s Heroes” and other comedy, who ever heard of a sloppy Nazi?”

            Nerds significantly nerdier than the average SSC nerd?

            https://www.nsa.gov/news-features/declassified-documents/tech-journals/assets/files/der-fall-wicher.pdf

          • Nornagest says:

            The security lesson would appear to be that in SIGINT, where the user’s confidence in a system is a priceless asset, any decrypts should always be attributed to a target system which is known to be unsolvable, so that if a leak occurs, the target cryptographers will concentrate their security improvements and changes on the wrong system.

            I wonder.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @ William Newman: See also the case of the British being able to deduce the way the German Wotan radio navigation system worked, and develop countermeasures, based purely on its codename.

          • Matthias says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            You forgot about cases! Eg,

            “wegen der Juden” == “because of the jews”

            In this case, for `about’ it would indeed be ‘die Juden’, because that’s accusative case. (Nominative would also be ‘die Juden’.)

        • Evan Þ says:

          I’m seriously considering voting for Trump out of fear of authoritarianism. Yes, he’ll be authoritarian, just like every President since Reagan. But, the vast majority of the political class is set against him and ready to stop any misadventures on his part. We might even (hope and change!) see a reining in of the whole imperial Presidency.

      • Skef says:

        “The country is far too stable for him to be that disastrous.”

        This is how institutions lose their stability.

        • The Nybbler says:

          They can only lose their stability through structural decay or a very large perturbation. Trump isn’t a large enough perturbation.

          • Diadem says:

            Again, what makes you think the US is so stable to begin with. Your last major war happened less than a decade ago. You’re going through a phase of only-once-precendented polarization. You have a two party system where everybody hates both parties. How is the US stable?

            Again, let’s go through post-war US presidents. I don’t have much to say about Eisenhower or Truman, but Kennedy started the Vietnam war, killing millions, and nearly destroyed the world. Johnson escalated the Vietnam war, killing millions. By comparison, Nixon seems to have been pretty decent, the genocides and coups he sponsored probably only killed a few hundred thousand people. A significant improvement over his immediate predecessors. Ford was pretty similar to Nixon in that regard, sponsoring a few wars and coups, killing a few hundred thousand people. Pretty average stuff.

            I admit I know very little about Carter, but he actually seems to have been a decent person, which is probably why he wasn’t reelected.

            Next is Reagan. He’s rather refreshing, because his aim was mostly to screw with Americans, instead of foreigners, starting the war on drugs and other similar fun pastimes.

            G.W. Bush and Clinton again seem to have been somewhat decent human beings. The former lost the first gulf war, and the latter started mass incarceration, but I’m willing to chalk that up to human error instead of deliberate malice.

            The final two presidents are recent enough that not much needs to be said about them. Bush started wars killing millions, and Obama enthusiastically continued with that policy.

            So out of 12 post-war US presidents, only 5 were not raving mass murdering despots.

            So again I ask: How is the US too stable for their president to do anything disastrous? Earlier I said that “Saying that Trump won’t disastrously break things is saying he will be the best post-war US president by a fair margin”. That turns out to have been hyperbole. It would only make him slightly above average.

          • Sandy says:

            By comparison, Nixon seems to have been pretty decent, the genocides and coups he sponsored probably only killed a few hundred thousand people.

            No thanks to Nixon. He was perfectly willing to stand back and watch the Pakistani army rape its way across Bangladesh in 1971; it was only Indira Gandhi who stopped that from happening.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Our last major war, from the perspective of our own stability, was in 1865. Neither WWI nor WWII nor Korea nor even Vietnam threatened US stability. The Iraq and Afghan wars certainly did not. The Cuban Missile Crisis certainly threatened world stability; prospect of global thermonuclear war will do that. But that’s unlikely to happen now.

            Both domestically and in terms of foreign policy, Carter was a disaster. It’s odd you’d say Reagan didn’t screw with foreigners, seeing as he intervened on both sides of the Iran-Iraq war, intervened in Afghanistan, and also Grenada and Panama. But your obvious glee at “screwing with” Americans makes me think your objections to Trump are not that he would destabilize the US, but rather that he’d actually succeed in terms of “Making America Great Again”.

            (as for unprecedented polarization… not even close.)

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Saying Reagan didn’t screw with foreigners isn’t half as odd as saying Reagan started the war on drugs.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Reagan didn’t start the war on drugs, but he did escalate it and his administration is associated with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, so I can understand that one.

        • Anonymous says:

          Americans are strange when it comes to thier political system. On the one hand the politicians from the other party are awful, terrible, no good people who are terribly dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the levers of power. On the other hand they fervently believe coups, mass political violence, or dictators could never happen there — “we have the constitution dontcha know”.

          • Skef says:

            Yeah. The cheap and easy way to see there was a housing bubble in the 2000s was the simultaneous messages of “The housing market can’t collapse, just look at its history!” and “Better buy a house now, prices are just going to keep going up!” In other words, look to the past to see how everything will continue being fundamentally different.

            The U.S. Senate has had a filibuster for a long time, but the 60% cut-off for every vote is a recent development. So is the alignment of polarization and the political parties. And so, frankly, is the over-confidence. The early history of the U.S. included a constant worry the system could fail. These days, why not bet the kid’s college fund at the craps table?

        • Alonso says:

          I am pretty sure the US invasion on our soil(Panama) was overseen by Bush Sr. not Reagan.

      • Gravitas Shortfall says:

        Accelerationism is pretty much the most childish political philosophy there is, and I’ve only ever seen two groups of people advocate for it.
        1. Upper class/upper middle class young men 18-30
        2. schizophrenics

        Wanting the world to burn down because things aren’t heading in the direction you’d like is pretty damn awful, because you’re not considering the human toll, or making a grave miscalculation about which alternative would be worse.

        • Agronomous says:

          @GravShort: (not stalking you, cross my heart)

          Accelerationism works great in contexts where the stakes are smaller: e.g. people leaving an organization, or getting thrown out of it (also known as “getting fired” in organizations that employ people). This would be analogous to burning down the barn, as opposed to the world.

          Maybe people who use the tactic repeatedly in smaller-stakes games are just reflexively reaching for it in higher-stakes contexts, without recognizing the shift in stakes and the accompanying increase in both the expected costs and the costs should the downside come to pass.

          You can test this by seeing whether focusing on the high stakes actually makes them abandon (or give less support to) accelerationism.

          Hey, Scott-and-all-the-other-mental-health-professionals-here, can’t some family therapy approaches be semi-fairly described as accelerationism? Basically getting people into a big argument in the therapist’s office (where it’s safe) so as to demonstrate how the existing dynamic just can’t go on?

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Vote third party. #feelthejohnson

      • Diadem says:

        I don’t understand this sentiment. As an average citizen you have precious few opportunities to have any influence over who rules the country. Why waste them?

        • Psmith says:

          As an average citizen you have precious few opportunities to have any influence over who rules the country.

          None, really. Which answers your question.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You need an incredibly specific definition of “waste.”

          (Ignoring the Electoral College for simplicly,) if Clinton beats Trump by 500,000 votes, a vote for Clinton is just as “wasted” as a vote for Trump.

        • TD says:

          Because the majority matters. If you are a political minority (a political minority), then you are inevitably marginalized, and for most elections that means that whichever party gets in power it’s a garbage outcome for you.

          The only time that’s not so is if you can make a special case that this particular election is the one where one of the candidates is the Devil and will destroy the country. You need to make a lesser evil argument for your candidate in order to establish this narrative, but every election people make this argument, and it has become overused. Every election is the final battle between good and evil, so you can’t vote third party and let the evil one win.

          The very people who play this game then complain about there being no change in politics and how their views are marginalized by candidates who automatically have their vote. The only way to get change is to vote for a third party, regardless of whether you throw away your vote, because what you are engaging in is a form of investment. Unfortunately, you have to take the risk that Satan will get into power if you don’t want politics to devolve into a lever pulling duty. Voting third party may be throwing your vote away, but that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy as an argument against it, since voting third party will always be throwing your vote away unless you get early adopters who risk today for tomorrow.

          • Aegeus says:

            This argument only works if you think that all the viable candidates are garbage, not just “not your favorite.” If you’d prefer the third-party candidate but don’t think that the establishment candidates are literally Satan, then it’s not as clear. You’re trading off a large chance of a small gain now for a small chance of a large gain in the future.

            Like, if you think that the only good outcome is a worker’s revolution and anything else is just feeding the capitalist machine, then sure, vote for the Communist party. But if you’re less of a firebrand, and you think that the Democrats would be mildly good for workers and the Republicans would be mildly bad, then just hold your nose and vote for the Democrat. You’ll probably get better results that way.

            To make a lesser-of-two-evils argument, a candidate doesn’t have to argue that the other guy is Satan. He just has to argue that he would actually provide some benefit to your side and the other guy wouldn’t.

            People are arguing that the other guy is Satan this year, but that’s because this election is fucking nuts, not because that’s the only way to get third-party support for your candidate.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            I think the argument still works, because your vote will not affect the general election anyway. Again, particularly if you are not in a swing state.

          • DrBeat says:

            I do in fact think both viable candidates are garbage, so voting third party makes perfect sense to me!

            Both candidates are garbage, in part, because people are tactical voters, only looking at the desired result of this election and not what future behavior it incentivizes. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate because for decades, the Democratic leadership has known it doesn’t have to provide a candidate that its voters want, so long as it can say the other candidate hates women and minorities and will be the end of all good things if elected. Donald Trump is the Republican candidate because the republican leadership has been doing the same thing, only with “hates guns and freedom” as their go-to demonization, and Republican voters got fed up with it and now Republican leadership found they were so disconnected from their voters they could not longer influence their decisions, even to influence them away from really bad ones, because they had burnt out all of their trust.

            The dismal prospects for this election are a result of how people could be counted on to always vote for the lesser of two evils, and the fact that if you will vote for the lesser of two evils, nobody needs to care about what you want so long as they can say the other guy is evil. If there is a large turnout for a third party, and this is likely in this election, then the parties can see “Hey, there’s a bunch of people who refused to vote for us because we didn’t provide what they wanted and just told them they were obligated to vote for us. If we provide what they want, we can get a lot of votes and beat the other party!”

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          The chance of my one vote effecting anything–particularly when I don’t live in a swing state–is effectively 0. I think voting Libertarian will actually have a bigger impact, at least long-term; the LP is finally starting to attract attention in the news and from pollsters. And I would say that a vote for the candidate you dislike least is more wasted than a principled vote anyway.

        • eccdogg says:

          I think a vote for Johnson has a higher chance of changing the country for the better than a vote for Hillary or Trump. But both options have a very tiny chance overall.

          Given the Electoral College unless you live in a swing state you have pretty much zero chance of changing the result. And even then not all swing states are the same. Take my state of North Carolina which is considered a purple state. NC is very unlikely to be the tipping point state that pushes the election to one side or the other. See the last two elections where NC flipped from Obama 2008(14k vote margin) to Romney 2012 (100k vote margin) but Obama still won both times.

          If I vote it is almost entirely for symbolism and attaching my vote to a set of ideas that I believe in not about influencing the election. Hopefully this will show that there is a constituency for libertarianism or lead to further growth of the libertarian party. I think in the long run this (tiny) impact is more valuable than the (tiny) impact of making sure Turd Sandwich (Hillary) beats Giant Douche (Trump).

        • Yrro says:

          My argument is that if you make a big enough fuss that the major parties might start noticing you.

          As long as they can assume they’ll get your vote regardless, they’ll pay a little lip service and then go back to whatever it is they were doing.

          I’d consider it a huge victory if we can even get Johnson into a debate, and get some of his issues into the spotlight.

          • RiverC says:

            Democracy is literally insane, people. You’re trying to make sense of an insane thing, which is why all of the epicycles.

            The biggest change you could make in the world – most positive – is by not voting. It’s like having sex with an HIV-Positive person – abstinence is the Change You Want To See In The World.

            Then again, maybe you like drug cocktails. I sure love REGULAR cocktails – in moderation, natch. Maybe you understand progress as a motion towards death, as Heidegger might have said? Do you like your future living on a walled compound, with that Mexican Lazarus outside your gate? Is the flame ever quenched? These questions cannot be answered, only asked of the void. The answer is the silence following the question.

            The Wire-Pullers will, as always, decide this election. None of us are wire-pullers, and haven’t the capacity or money to be. We can, however, do the elitist thing and flip the bird to populist pretensions of the machinations of power – we are not another headcount in your cattle drive, Mr. Soros! We are free(ish) men(maybe not biologically.)

            Who here is with me!

          • Aegeus says:

            “Democracy is the worst political system, except for all the other ones that have been tried.”

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Aegeus

            Tell that to Hong kong

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            We don’t have a democracy. We never had a democracy. We were never intended to have a democracy. The Founders of the US realized that a majority could easily oppress a minority in such a system; to quote a clergyman from the time, “Which is better – to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?”

            That is why the Constitution is so hard to change–some rights are supposed to be protected for individuals even in the face of *everyone else* thinking they should not have that right.

          • Aegeus says:

            Yes, yes, I know that we’re a republic, not a direct democracy. But if it’s close enough for Winston Churchill it’s close enough for me.

            And more crucially, the guy I was replying to called it a democracy. I’m not going to start a fight over definitions when both I and RiverC know that he’s referring to the system of government that the US uses.

          • Gravitas Shortfall says:

            to be honest, speaking as a leftist, I’m really hoping Johnson ends up getting on the debate stage. Not because I like his ideas, but because I’m sick of the two party system because I don’t feel like it adequately represents people, and is basically two Frankenstein’s monster coalitions.
            but I doubt Johnson’s the right guy to disrupt that. He’s not flashy enough.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I don’t understand this sentiment.

          I’m honestly surprised at how so many people have chimed in, and yet none have taken seriously what seemed to me the likeliest answer – that Zavoluk wasn’t making a serious proposal, merely taking the opportunity to make a dick joke 😛

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            No, I was being serious, as well as making a dick joke.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            You get to make a dick joke, make fun of the Bernie campaign and display your support for your favorite candidate all with a simple hashtag. If that’s not effective communication, I don’t know what is.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      Clintonista all the way, since ’92. It will be great to have Billary back in the White House.

    • blacktrance says:

      Trump is the worst major candidate in decades – not only does he have a number of objectionable policy positions (protectionism, immigration restrictionism), his admiration for Putin is worrying, and is generally a volatile choice. Clinton would roughly maintain the status quo, which would normally be a strong argument against her, but Trump shows that it could be worse.

      I’m supporting Gary Johnson, because he’s actually good and not the lesser of the two evils.

    • onyomi says:

      Going to vote for Johnson. Mildly prefer Trump to HRC due to displeasure with status quo and hatred of political correctness, though he does worry me a bit. Not sure how good his chances are. He’s certainly exceeded expectations so far, but the case of Romney shows that wishful thinking doesn’t overcome polls and fundamentals. Then again, he’s much more charismatic than Romney, and I agree with Adams that people mostly vote based on emotion, so that will see him in better stead than Romney’s superior command of facts.

      Really, I think it’s too early. The first debate will be a big tell I think. Trump needs to dominate psychologically/optically. A draw=Trump loss.

      • Hlynkacg says:

        Aside from the fact that I will probably be voting for Trump, this is my take as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m curious about this community’s take on the presidential election.

      It’s good circus. Won’t be voting, though, because voting is wrong (and I’m not a US citizen).

    • Nornagest says:

      At this point, I’m torn between voting for Immortan Joe and the Sweet Meteor O’Death.

    • Yakimi says:

      As a foreigner, my sympathies are with Trump. For one thing, I can not help but cheer as America’s thoroughly abused peasants rise up against their unctuous liberal masters and cretinous “conservative” traitors. For another, I find his foreign policy a refreshing break from the triumphalist globalism of the post–Cold War years. Enough of the transparently imperial cant about “global democracy”, “global markets”, and “international community”. America needs a break from the world just as much as the world needs a break from it. If Trump erects tariffs and charges for military defense, my hope is that my own country will finally emerge from its postwar stupor, snip the umbilical cord that binds it to the rapidly degenerating carcass of Weimerica, and once again become an independent sovereign nation and not an Americanized parody of one.

      A Clinton presidency is frightening to contemplate. Under Bush, the State Department started spreading “diversity” propaganda to France, as if it didn’t have enough. Lord knows what Clinton has in store. Once the State Department has one of their own as President, all inhibitions will be cast aside as its budgets and offices expand towards infinity. No corner of the Earth will escape its messianic missionary meddling: the export of “social justice” will become a foreign policy objective, border controls will be lowered through international conventions, populist governments will be brought down through exported revolutions, etc., etc. Or so I imagine.

      My only problem with a Trump presidency is that the same people who turned Bush, a man who would not have looked at all out of place in the Kennedy administration, into “Bushitler” will crank up their noise machine up a million notches and never turn it down. Liberals will, once again, present themselves as the marginalized voices of sanity desperately holding back the deep, dark, fascist hordes that are threatening to overrun the planet, while “world opinion” laughs at the stoopid mericans desperately in need of a civilizing mission to exterminate their medieval ignorance. The effect of a Trump presidency, then, might be to regalvanize progressive fanaticism all the world over, and that might be just what progressivism needs, in which case, the mediocrity of a Clinton administration might be preferable.

      Anyways, America is not my country, but I wish its people the best. Their liberation is ultimately our liberation. A luta continua!

      • Virbie says:

        > If Trump erects tariffs and charges for military defense, my hope is that my own country will finally emerge from its postwar stupor, snip the umbilical cord that binds it to the rapidly degenerating carcass of Weimerica, and once again become an independent sovereign nation and not an Americanized parody of one.

        Color me intrigued: do you mind if I ask what country you’re from? I’m not planning to dispute your point or save it for an _ad hominem_, but feel free not to answer.

        • erenold says:

          I’m very curious, too.

          I vote… Japan, or otherwise somewhere East Asian. The rhetoric fits, though not the tone (?), somehow.

        • Yakimi says:

          (erenold: very perceptive!)

          Japan.

          Which is funny, because the impression of Japan that exists in the West among both leftists and rightists is that Japan is either a museum of unreconstructed prewar fascism, or an admirably confident nationalist paradise.

          The reality is that Japan is a New Deal colony. Yes, it is less liberal in many respects than most First World countries, but that is no reason to mistake it as being right-wing. (And no, Abe is not a reactionary, but a liberal internationalist.) The prevailing moral fashion is a liberal universalism. There are obnoxious liberal intellectuals in Japan just as there are in America, who go on about how Japan is “backwards” and “behind” for not enthusiastically adopting the West’s latest experiments in morality. Every year, clothing grows sloppier and the people fatter. Television is rife with xenophilia. My neighborhood is plastered with communist party propaganda, and I walked past a Mao Zedong–themed restaurant the other day.

          Fortunately, the country is not a total disaster. There are parts that can be salvaged, perhaps even restored. But that requires freedom from liberalism, which I identify with the American world order.

          • erenold says:

            Whoo, right in one!

            My country is in… a somewhat similar position to yours, though I’m a bit more paranoid about opsec. Thanks for taking the time to reply, Yakimi.

          • J Quenff says:

            Did you grow up there?

          • Yakimi says:

            J Quenff,

            The grasp of English gives it away, doesn’t it? I had a transnational upbringing divided between three continents, a third of which was spent in Japan. So, sort of. It was instructive as a lesson in what might be called comparative anthropology.

          • J Quenff says:

            The grasp of English gives it away, doesn’t it?

            Just a general ‘vibe’.

      • Diadem says:

        As a foreigner, I do not understand how any foreigner can be for Trump.

        If Clinton made a public pledge to, as president, invade a random country and kill 1 million of its citizens, I would still feel much safer with her as president, and prefer Americans to vote for her.

        Trump is dangerous. Not in the “He may harm the economy” way. Not in the “He may screw over group X” way. He is dangerous because he has a huge ego and almost no self-control. He will needlessly escalate international conflicts. He will destabilise the world. This may not be a huge issue to the average American, but it’s a major issue for us non-Americans.

        I’m not saying Trump will start wars. Even I think it’s unlikely. But ‘unlikely’ just isn’t good enough when you are talking potentially destroying the world.

        • Bryan Hann says:

          “I do not understand how any foreigner can be for Trump.”

          Because we look forward to your claims being proved wrong?

          • Diadem says:

            Well that’s a problem. A claim of the type “There is a small chance X will happen under conditions Y” is impossible to disprove if Y only happens once.

            I admit that’s a major weakness of those kind of claims. It’s rather easy to make claims that can’t be disproved.

            Anyway, Trump is extremely unpopular outside the US, so the majority at least agrees with me.

          • Bryan Hann says:

            Since the nesting depth has been plumbed, I want to thank Diadem here for the polite and thoughtful response.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          As a foreigner, I do not understand how any foreigner can be for Trump.

          Nationalists of the world, unite!

        • Matt M says:

          What about the Japanese and Koreans who desperately want the U.S. military out of their countries? Trump is pretty much their only hope of getting what they want.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            But if not for over there and in Germany and Kosovo and wherever the hell else, where else do you station all these people?

          • Sandy says:

            But if not for over there and in Germany and Kosovo and wherever the hell else, where else do you station all these people?

            Why are American soldiers stationed in Germany, anyway?

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            1. It is a truism amongst historians that generals always want to win the previous war, and for both WW2 and Cold War reasons stationing them in Germany makes sense.

            2. There are many people who would argue that the EU outsourcing its home defence to the US is a better status quo than balance of power games becoming a thing again.

            3. Inertia is a bitch, and moving them from Germany to any other European country is likely to cause a lot of annoyed people and political wrangling and other troubles that won’t all happen if they just stay in place.

          • Matt M says:

            “Why are American soldiers stationed in Germany, anyway?”

            So they don’t remilitarize and attempt to conquer Europe again.

            I mean, that was the reason in the 1940s and we haven’t seemed to have ever gotten around to re-evaluating the situation.

          • Matt M says:

            “But if not for over there and in Germany and Kosovo and wherever the hell else, where else do you station all these people?”

            Real answer: nowhere. You reduce force.

            Likely Trump answer: On patrol of the Mexican border.

          • dndnrsn says:

            US military infrastructure set up during the Cold War gets used in US military operations closer to Germany than to the US. Best example is the hospital complex at Landstuhl.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I think the point was that there’s no point in having American troops in Germany, because the Germans aren’t exactly incapable of fielding a modern army of their own.

            Playing world policeman hasn’t been a winning proposition for the American people, even if it has served the interests of the US government. All that force projection is great if you’re a neocon trying to “make the world safe for democracy” or feel like throwing a color revolution to export some new social justice fad, but the American citizen gets very little in that exchange.

            A nation with nuclear ICBMs and no serious enemies in the same hemisphere shouldn’t have to rely on such a massive defense state to protect itself. A much more modest force dedicated to protecting America itself, with other NATO members picking up some of the slack in their own regions, would save thousands of American lives and tens of billions of dollars without leaving America any more at risk of attack or invasion.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What % of the US troops in Germany are combat troops, versus support troops, like the medical personnel at Landstuhl?

            It definitely is true that a lot of US allies take advantage of the fact that they can save on their military.

            While a willingness to provide overseas bases might not benefit individual US citizens or the US public in general, it presumably provides the US government with a bargaining chip – “if you let us keep these airbases and hospitals, we’ll provide some defence so you can save on your own military”. Of course, the interests of the various branches of the military, defence contractors, etc get involved too.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Playing world policeman hasn’t been a winning proposition for the American people

            It doesn’t seem that bad.

            I give America-being-the world-cop about a 20% chance of stopping another World War. And given how expensive a World War is, that’s probably a good price.

          • Sandy says:

            I give America-being-the world-cop about a 20% chance of stopping another World War.

            What’s the odds on America-being-the-world-cop aggravating another World War, given that World Cop duties include planting a ring of “defensive” missiles around Russia and attempting to isolate China from the rest of Asia?

          • John Schilling says:

            America not being the World Cop just means that the defensive containment is practiced elsewhere. Europe is tough to call and sort of outside my area of expertise, but I’m pretty sure the risk of nuclear war in East Asia goes up dramatically when South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan all develop their own nuclear arsenals.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the point was that there’s no point in having American troops in Germany, because the Germans aren’t exactly incapable of fielding a modern army of their own.

            That’s not entirely clear; German military readiness has fallen dramatically since the end of the Cold War, for reasons which may be cultural and difficult to reverse.

            More generally, and as others have already alluded: It is useful to Western Civilization to have a military force capable of rapid and decisive intervention anyplace within a C-130’s flight of Western Europe. For historic reasons, a huge part of that requirement has traditionally been met by American troops stationed in Germany. Moving or duplicating all that concrete would be a mostly-pointless waste. Building the culture for Europe to do decisive military interventions on its own would probably be even harder.

          • Matt M says:

            “That’s not entirely clear; German military readiness has fallen dramatically since the end of the Cold War, for reasons which may be cultural and difficult to reverse.”

            Yeah I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that America has publicly committed to defending them for free.

          • Sandy says:

            That’s not entirely clear; German military readiness has fallen dramatically since the end of the Cold War, for reasons which may be cultural and difficult to reverse.

            1) America’s doing the job for them

            2) The rest of Europe doesn’t like the idea of a militarized Germany —- that was basically the reason the EU was founded

            3) Demographic crash means there’s not going to be enough men to serve

          • Lysenko says:

            For admittedly irrational and petty reasons, I have to admit that part of me really wants to see what would happen if the US unilaterally repudiated NATO and went back to bi-lateral mutual defense treaties, and those only based on parity of commitment to defense (By % of Total Annual Government Spending, NOT GDP).

            I don’t know that it would be better for the US in the long run, really, (certainly not diplomatically), but I have heard a LOT of people say in all seriousness that the US’ de facto security guarantee could vanish overnight and it wouldn’t impact the EU’s geopolitical fortunes at all. Their argument goes:

            -We all know Russia would never REALLY invade western Europe. I mean, maybe they’d take over -little- countries, or ones like Belarus they already have such a huge stake in, but they’re never going to even try to retake Poland, the Czech Republic, or Hungary.

            -The Middle East is a basket case that could never threaten anyone with actual military power and terrorists are only a threat because of America and Israel anyway. Without American militarism to prop it up, Israel would have to moderate its stances and or face extinction, forcing it to come to a reasonable settlement with the Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East.

            -China will never be any sort of strategic threat to western Europe, and North Korea is just a joke and everyone knows it.

            Q.E.D.: Really, get rid of the American soldiers, axe NATO, and while you’re at it axe SAFE entirely and phase out the old armies. If you must have -something-, a beefed up and expanded EUGENDFOR could handily handle any of the -real- threats in today’s world.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          I probably have more faith in the “Checks and Balances” within the US government than you, especially with a POTUS that is hated by all of the political class.

          Not that I support Trump, Johnson is much better than any of what the main parties are offering, but I’m not worried about President Trump.

        • Yakimi says:

          Diadem,

          The people most likely to destabilize the world, and have long been destabilizing the world, are the messianic neo-Jacobin zealots that the foreign policy establishment is filled to the brim with. Remind me, who was it that set the Middle East and Ukraine on fire, and for what reason? Who was it that starts wars to spread democracy and sponsors revolutions that accomplish nothing but death and destruction?

          Incidentally, these are the same people who say Trump is dangerous. Well, he is dangerous, to them, because a retreat from globalism means that they are out a job.

          Who is more likely to escalate a conflict with Russia: Trump or Clinton? Trump has given every indication of getting along with Putin. Meanwhile, the foreign policy establishment seems awfully eager to restart a Cold War, with Russia as the embattled conservative power defending itself from a megalomanical missionary state which insists on the universality of its increasingly insane moral priorities. Or does “human rights imperialism” not count as destabilization in your mind?

      • Yehoshua K says:

        If you don’t mind my asking, which is your country?

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Not casting a Presidential ballot (unless the GOP finds their reproductive organs in time to boot Trump off the ballot at the convention, which they won’t, because they’re the GOP.) There is no honor in this election and every vote you cast for one of these clowns is a stain on your soul you will spend years trying to scrub off. In the future, when people ask who you voted for in 2016, you will cough, laugh nervously, claim you don’t remember, and change the subject.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Why not vote third party, then, to at least make a statement and show that you disliked both major candidates instead of being too lazy to vote?

        • Matt M says:

          Not voting is not necessarily “too lazy.”

          The best way to make a statement that you reject the whole system and want nothing to do with it is to not vote.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            How do you distinguish “too lazy” from “rejecting the system”?

            Wouldn’t filing a ballot with a write-in for “I PROTEST THIS VERY SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT” signal that better?

          • Amanda says:

            Do they keep voting stats that indicate, “Hey, a whole bunch of people came out and voted in every contest on the ballot except the presidential one”?

          • John Schilling says:

            @Matt: This leaves the system to the people who do want something to do with it. They will predictably A: keep the system intact and B: use it the way they want without the slightest regard to what you want. They might notice that you are discontent; if so they will also note that you are impotent and probably consider both of those to be features.

          • RiverC says:

            @John not necessarily. It is not as though you voting was going to change that fact. Do you shout at the sun every day because it is too hot? Do you think that people who do not shout at the sun due to its overbearing heat are merely lazy, or are they just wearing large-brimmed hats and going about their business quietly?

            Meanwhile, if you have keys to any of the major networks, pls respond, maybe we can make a deal

          • John Schilling says:

            @River: There’s a difference between not voting because you don’t think there’s any chance of your voice being heard, and not voting because the message you want to send is “I don’t care”.

      • Gravitas Shortfall says:

        I respect that, if you don’t like your options, but don’t think it matters to vote a third party. So long as you continue voting on the downticket. People that get dispirited by the presidential race and then decide not to vote AT ALL, forgetting that there are other races to vote on, are dopes. Your vote damn well does count in, say, local races like mayor, or education board, or school levies.

    • TD says:

      Trump is certainly the chaos candidate, but I do find it amusing how Hillary Clinton is seen as the stability candidate. She’s all in for the destructive Neoconservative agenda on foreign policy. Helping to turf out Gadaffi has collapsed Libya into chaos, and funding “moderate rebels” in Syria has helped ISIS. Both these things have contributed to the European migration crisis which is destabilizing the continent by provoking the rise of far-right elements.

      Trump: Destruction.
      Clinton: Destruction with applause lights.

      T-take your pick, America!

    • Urstoff says:

      Voting for Gary Johnson, obviously. Trump, besides being a boor, crybaby, and bully, doesn’t really have any actual policies. HRC is much more professional and respectable, but I’m not a big fan of her policies (except for her support of TPP, which will probably re-emerge when she’s in office and the Sandersnistas aren’t hounding her about Wall Street 24/7). I agree with Johnson on much, much more. And he’ll be on the ballot in all 50 states.

    • My current positiion is anti-Trump. I will probably be voting for Hillary. (Other possibilities: If Republicans run another candidate, I’ll take a serious look at that candidate. If Pennsylvania looks like it’s solidly anti-Trump, I’ll vote for Johnson.)

      I don’t like Trump’s xenophobia. I hate that he’s a chaotic. If he’s president, people will take what he says seriously, but he doesn’t take what he says seriously. I could be wrong, but I think he could get the US into a war with Mexico. It’s not as though Mexico is a military threat, but a war will be very expensive and destructive.

      He’s pro-torture. Explicitly, overtly pro-torture.

      He’s a con man. If you deal with him, you’ve got a noticeable chance of being worse off.

      I’m not enthusiastic about Hillary. I don’t care about having a woman president. However, she seems to be a normal politician.

      As for the “Trump will shake things up” contingent, I’ve become much less sympathetic to the idea of tear it down and see what happens. The collapse of the Soviet Union wasn’t as clear a win as I hoped, and the Arab spring hasn’t worked out well.

      • BBA says:

        I’d rather vote for your namesake. If there has to be a jackboot on my neck, I’d prefer it belong to a penguin calling me “dood.”

    • John Schilling says:

      Still waiting to see what happens in Philadelphia and Cleveland, but there’s a good chance this will be the election where the Libertarians are the party of boringly competent moderation. I’m sure that’s a sign of the apocalypse somehow. I can live with that.

    • neonwattagelimit says:

      HRC, both because she is the lesser evil and because her center-leftism is the closest analogue for my own politics, even though I dislike her personally and find the SJW-ish tone of some of her supporters annoying.

      Also, her message is not “make me the first woman president,” at least not primarily. It’s more like “let’s protect and expand on (but mostly protect) the gains of the past eight years, oh, and having the first woman in the Oval Office would be pretty cool, too.” She trots out the first-woman-President thing when it appears politically expedient to do so, but it is not her main raison d’etre.

    • Rob K says:

      A set of expectations from…let’s call it the “near left”:

      I’m cautiously optimistic about Clinton, after voting for her in the primaries mostly because I thought Bernie wasn’t up to handling the job description.

      My read is that the presidency is three jobs. There’s a public relations/legislative gig that I realistically expect her to be fairly bad at. She has a bad relationship with republican politicians, and isn’t a great communicator. As far as legislation it’ll depend a lot on legislative elections, but maybe a 40% shot at a minimum wage hike to $12/hr and weaker chances at repairing the VRA, doing some sort of financial transactions tax to fund a childcare program, and comprehensive immigration reform on the line of recent Democratic proposals.

      There’s foreign policy, where I don’t love her hawkishness. I would guess she’ll do an okay but not great job managing existing crisis spots, overreact to one new crisis, and do a pretty good job at the rest (asserting US interests in non-crisis situations).

      Then there’s a policy and management job involving the operation of the federal government. Presidents take a while to get up to speed on this, which is unshocking given that it involves leading the world’s largest organization. Obama, for instance, has really only hit his stride since ~2013. His climate plan, the recent overtime rule, the HUD rule on fair housing, the patch-up of the clean water act – these are serious and, in my eyes, very good stuff. I suspect we’ll see more in this vein from Clinton, with the real wild card being a big move of some sort or another to make unionization easier. You need to be a policy obsessive and have contacts and loyalists all up and down the federal bureaucracy to lead the government effectively, and I think Clinton will be good at this.

      Realistically, she will be less effective and popular than Obama (who I think will settle in as a fairly ecumenically-liked ex-president with very positive evaluations from historians; liberals and moderates will remember him as one of the best presidents of the modern era and conservatives will range between hating him and redeeming him as “the good liberal we could work with” in the way that Democrats have GHW Bush and Republicans did Clinton for a period ca. 2008-2012). I’d be kinda surprised if she won two terms, but I think her odds are quite good – say 75% – of winning this year.

      I suspect Rubio or near equivalent would have beaten her, but my read is that Trump appeals strongly to ~30% of the electorate, weakly to another ~10%, and really turns off the rest. Basically looks to me like his supporters got really jazzed about someone who appealed to them stylistically and in his assertion of something like nativism, and missed that the country as a whole is not on board that train. I’d give maybe a 10% chance that it turns into enough of a bloodbath that the Democrats actually have some legislative runway at the federal and state levels, though if that happens it’ll get clawed back fast in 2018.

      If Trump wins I don’t really know what to expect; presumably Obamacare repeal, large-scale deportations, a wall, moves against civil liberties for muslims, and I’m guessing a major crisis over something like proposing to repudiate the national debt or starting a trade war. I would expect a gnarly recession to result (although either way there’s a pretty decent chance we get a recession in the next 4 years and everyone dislikes the president as a result).

      • neonwattagelimit says:

        Good analysis. I tend to think HRC has sort of a high floor and a low ceiling. You pretty much know what you are getting with her, for better and for worse.

        A couple of add-ons:

        -HRC’s best shot at winning a second term is probably some sort of Republican Party crack-up. I don’t think this is likely, but there is a non-trival (maybe 10-20%) chance that the GOP will, if not split outright, then thrown into enough chaos by the Trump candidacy and its aftermath that it will be unable to mount an organized national campaign with broad popular support.

        -I have no clue what happens if Trump wins. I suspect there is a good chance that he will be so incompetent that he won’t be able to push through most of his policies. If so, I’d say he’ll wind up vacillating between rubber-stamping the Republican Congress and proposing crazy shit that never quite goes anywhere. But that’s the upside scenario. The downside scenario is very, very scary (trade wars, deportations, descent into quasi-fascism).

      • cassander says:

        >There’s foreign policy, where I don’t love her hawkishness. I would guess she’ll do an okay but not great job managing existing crisis spots, overreact to one new crisis, and do a pretty good job at the rest (asserting US interests in non-crisis situations).

        Why do you suspect this? Her record, as far as it goes, is pretty terrible in this regard. Libya and Syria are both catastrophes. The former she is almost entirely responsible for, the latter is more mixed.

        >I suspect we’ll see more in this vein from Clinton, with the real wild card being a big move of some sort or another to make unionization easier. You need to be a policy obsessive and have contacts and loyalists all up and down the federal bureaucracy to lead the government effectively, and I think Clinton will be good at this.

        Again, she’s been around for decades, and has never demonstrated that she was any good at this sort of bureaucratic jujitsu. Not as first lady, not as senator, and not as secretary.

        >Realistically, she will be less effective and popular than Obama (who I think will settle in as a fairly ecumenically-liked ex-president with very positive evaluations from historians; liberals and moderates will remember him as one of the best presidents of the modern era and conservatives will range between hating him and redeeming him as “the good liberal we could work with”

        This is an exceptionally rose colored view of Obama. It’s far more likely he will be remembered as the first black (something everyone will applaud), the ACA (left will applaud and the right will condemn), and, depending on how bad things get in Syria, possibly syria, but probably not. His failures, whatever you think they are, will be blamed on the republicans and I can’t imagine conservatives thinking someone so openly contemptuous of them was someone the could work with.

        • neonwattagelimit says:

          I can’t imagine conservatives thinking someone so openly contemptuous of them was someone the could work with.

          Obama was not initially openly contemptuous of conservatives. He praised Reagan, fairly often, during the 2008 campaign. His signature policy achievement, the ACA, was based on a framework first proposed by a conservative think tank. He repeatedly showed himself willing to enact major concessions on budget cuts and social welfare spending during the various debt ceiling crises during his first term (an error, in my view, but one that hardly qualifies as “contemptuous of conservatives” considering that he was openly willing to consider their stated policy goals).

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            His signature policy achievement, the ACA, was based on a framework first proposed by a conservative think tank

            Oh, come on. Because a conservative think tank once proposed something similar decades ago, does that mean the GOP is required to meekly accede to its political opponents’ health care policies until the end of time? That’s like saying Democrats shouldn’t have complained about the Iraq war, because Clinton had hawkish policies towards Iraq too.

          • cassander says:

            >Obama was not initially openly contemptuous of conservatives

            “Elections have consequences, I won” Obama three days after inauguration, telling Eric cantor his ideas about tax reform could go to hell.

            > His signature policy achievement, the ACA, was based on a framework first proposed by a conservative think tank.

            No it wasn’t. It was based on what the mass. Legislature passed over Mitt Romney’s veto. The conservative think tank proposed no new spending, no new taxes, no illusory cuts to Medicare to balance the books, no employer mandate. the aca spends 100 billion a year and does have all those things and more.

            > He repeatedly showed himself willing to enact major concessions on budget cuts and social welfare spending during the various debt ceiling crises during his first term

            What? No he wasn’t, he substantially increased welfare spending. He pointedly refused to even consider the recommendations of his own spending cutting commission. He was forced into very minor cuts in 2011, by a process he called blackmail.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Obama was not initially openly contemptuous of conservatives.

            You and I remember Budapest very differently.

        • Rob K says:

          Again, she’s been around for decades, and has never demonstrated that she was any good at this sort of bureaucratic jujitsu. Not as first lady, not as senator, and not as secretary.

          Only a senator and a secretary really have the opportunity. As senator her staff’s reputation for efficacy and expertise was excellent(up there with Ted Kennedy as the Democrat with the competent team; Mike Lee would be an example of someone with that kind of rep in the current senate), which meant they were dealt in on any legislative work that people on her side wanted done well.

          As secretary my read is that she didn’t always do stuff I agreed with but was very effective at operating the state dept for her aims. See, for instance, mobilizing the international coalition for Iran sanctions, which was a tricky bit of work carried off successfully.

          This is an exceptionally rose colored view of Obama.

          Obama’s approval rating in the Gallup poll is currently 53%. That’s a bit below Clinton and Eisenhower at comparable points in their presidencies, and slightly above Reagan. To me, that points in the direction of becoming a widely-acclaimed president after his presidency, who the other side will want to partially rehabilitate if only to contrast with their current opponents (Dems even do this some with Reagan – “Reagan compromised/raised taxes” – with whom they had more than a little mutual antipathy when he was in office).

          • cassander says:

            >Only a senator and a secretary really have the opportunity.

            She was given the opportunity as first lady, she failed.

            >As senator her staff’s reputation for efficacy and expertise was excellent(up there with Ted Kennedy as the Democrat with the competent team;

            And her accomplishments were zero. She was popular at the state department for the same reason, that doesn’t mean she accomplished anything there, besides the destruction of libya.

            >very effective at operating the state dept for her aims.

            No, she wasn’t. Like most recent secretaries, she did not make running the department a priority, and stuck to her more high profile jobs as presidential advisor and roving ambassador.

            >See, for instance, mobilizing the international coalition for Iran sanctions, which was a tricky bit of work carried off successfully.

            No, she didn’t. the heavy lifting was done before she got there, and the final agreement was made after she left. She presided over a process that she left zero impact on.

            >Obama’s approval rating in the Gallup poll is currently 53%.

            The less he’s in the news, the more people like him, particularly in comparison to his two potential successors. But I didn’t dispute that the man would be considered popular after he left office, I just said he wouldn’t be popular for the reasons you said.

    • drethelin says:

      Gary Johnson is the only “major” candidate who has stated he wants to end the war on drugs. Almost everything else the candidates talk about is a tiny irrelevancy in comparison. The War on Drugs is one of the biggest evils perpetrated by our government both on Americans and against large parts of the rest of the world.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      A vote for either presumptive nominee is a vote for imperialist war abroad and authoritarian, pro-oligarchic policies at home.

      I’m voting either SEP or Green.

    • ChetC3 says:

      I am still amazed at the people expressing outrage at the media not taking Donald Trump seriously. How did they manage to miss the last thirty years of Donald Trump being a celebrity buffoon? Give me a break, they knew what they were getting when they chose to support him.

    • Lysenko says:

      Johnson, assuming he makes it on the ballot here. Others have pretty much covered my reasoning behind voting third party in the absence of an acceptable Republican or Democratic candidate.

      I can hold my nose and vote for Johnson. Everyone else is so far away from my personal political preferences that they are indistinguishable from one another in that the negatives outweigh any positives to such a degree that the positives are irrelevant.

      I don’t consider the probability of catastrophic government collapse, nuclear war, coup, a second Great Depression, etc etc to be high enough with any possible election outcome to change my options.

      I will be happy if Johnson gets enough votes to increase Libertarian Party ballot access across the States.

      • Matt M says:

        IIRC the LP already has ballot access in all 50 states this time around, at least

        • Lysenko says:

          33+DC as of last month. The big ones (10+ electoral college votes) they’re currently missing are NY, MN, WA, IL, and VA, and they’re still working on VA and IL.

    • At the moment, I think the least bad plausible outcome is that Hilary gets elected but the Republicans keep control of the House and Senate.

      It’s unclear what Trump’s real views are or what he would do as President, since what he has said so far represents what he thought would get him the nomination. Insofar as I can guess, he seems to be center left–and would be more likely to get cooperation from Congress in that direction than Hilary would with a Republican congress. That’s aside from worries that he might do dangerous or damaging things due to his own personality.

      There are worse things than gridlock.

  5. Douglas Knight says:

    Why is Trump doing well? How do you test the hypotheses (1) that he is a “master persuader” against (2) that he gives the public what it wants, perhaps (2a) anti-immigration or (2b) anti-PC?

    Is it possible to isolate (2b) in a way that does not depend on (1)? But (2a) seems like a meaningful hypothesis: that any politician could have chosen to run on this platform. In particular, Pat Buchanan did well. But not as well as Trump. That could have been a different time, but it probably means that the answer is not 100% (2a). But how much?

    • Trump is way down in the polls now so if, as Scott Adams predicts, Trump ends up winning in a landslide than it must be because Trump is a master persuader in part because Republican primary voters and general election voters want different things.

      • BBA says:

        To reiterate: Trump is behind in the general election polls. He did well in the primaries, but the primaries are over.

        Unless you mean he’s doing well in the same sense that Bernie Sanders was doing well – i.e., much better than predicted, and more visible in the press than his opponent. But that can only take you so far.

        • Chalid says:

          I wonder how many months of Trump trailing in the polls it will take before it will sink in that he’s not doing particularly well for a Republican nominee. I’m guessing never, and that we’ll get some touched-up version of 2012’s “unskewed-polls” movement which will keep Trump fans in denial through the election.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I guess, but what is the base rate for reversals of this size? And what if he loses? I think that the question of how he won the primary still stands.

        I suppose that if Trump pivots on issues, that shows that he thinks issues are important, whereas, if he pivots on tone, tone. But I think that he has been choosing issues with an eye towards the general election the whole time, shrugging off many litmus tests.

    • suntzuanime says:

      “Master persuader” is a dumb way of putting it. What Trump has is charisma, which is powerful but not especially unique. Our past three presidents have had it. Trump’s primary opponents didn’t have it, by and large. That’s the core reason why Trump’s been doing well.

      • Coors and Lemonade says:

        Scott Adams’ label of “Master Persuader” is meaningful. In a nutshell, Adams claims Trump is exercising master-level abilities in mass-persuasion. Adams made several predictions about Trump’s success that came true even though most other commentators made different or opposite predictions, and used these predictions to say that his claims about Trump were valid. You can read more at his blog (blog.dilbert.com). I’m not sure where would be a good place to begin; he started writing about Trump about a year ago (back then he called Trump a “master wizard”) and continued to write about Trump just about every day.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I’ve read everything Scott Adams has written about Trump and I don’t count it as more than one prediction about the campaign.

          • Coors and Lemonade says:

            “I’ve read everything Scott Adams has written about Trump”

            I think I have too. I’ve gotten more insight into Trump from Adams than anywhere else. The next best thing was Scott Alexander’s review of “Art of the Deal,” which I also thought gave me a better picture of Trump. By comparison, all other commentary seems like it’s from people who just fell for Trump’s schtick one way or the other.

        • Sir Gawain says:

          Trump’s immense persuasion skills allowed him to capture a good ~48% of the popular vote in his own party’s primary (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/republican_vote_count.html.)

          I’m sure Hispanics, blacks and college-educated white women will be so overwhelmed by Trump’s charisma that he’ll do better with them than Romney did in 2012.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        OK, maybe I should prefer an old word to a new phrase. But that word is still pretty much a black box, so it doesn’t help. How can I tell who has charisma? I don’t think W had charisma. I don’t think that there is a consensus on the question.

        • Matt M says:

          I thought “charisma” was the working theory for how GWB won?

          Isn’t that the election where we famously deride the people for voting for the guy they “wanted to have a beer with”?

          • Coors and Lemonade says:

            For me, Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary “Journeys with George” pretty much answered the question of why GWB won. He’s just absolutely magnetic.

            It also made me wish that GWB had his own “California’s Gold”-style reality show.

        • onyomi says:

          “Charisma” strikes me as a black box, but Adams has given a lot of examples of what he means by “persuasion,” no? Maybe a big part of what we colloquially call “charisma” is actually just having an intuitive grasp of the sorts of principles Adams describes? To put it charitably, knowing how to get people to like you; to put a more negative spin, knowing how to manipulate people.*

          Perhaps what Adams is describing is the rough equivalent of “game” for people to whom seducing women doesn’t come naturally–that is, an attempt to systematize and imitate a previously vague and ineffable skill which comes naturally to some.

          *I think there tends to be some overlap between politician-type personality, unusually charming, and psychopath, no? Which is not to say that any one characteristic always implies the other, but that there is overlap: psychopaths have a reputation for being charming because they are good at playing the “Chessboard” aspect of social interaction without being encumbered by feelings like guilt; those who are natural at getting people to like them tend to gravitate toward politician-type roles, etc.

    • BillG says:

      I think by and large Trump’s success is a result of him having a better grasp of the fundamental anger of much of the electorate than the media does. And that what is often viewed as boorish, stupid, dishonest or simple by that media/much of the left, is in fact usually coded language to show them that understanding.

      Which is not to say he’s good or desirable. But for me, accepting any other viewpoint requires me to take a dangerously paternalistic viewpoint that a large number of Americans don’t know what they’re listening to and are easily persuaded by a transparent con man.

    • Sir Gawain says:

      He’s such a Master Persuader (TM) that ~61% of Americans have an unfavorable view of him (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/trump_favorableunfavorable-5493.html), making him the least popular American presidential candidate in (polling) history. You can’t beat charisma like that!

      • Subbak says:

        To be honest, to be elected president you just need to win the plurality of the vote in states that cover more than half the electoral college. I do not believe Trump is a “master wizard”, but the fact that a lot of people hate him does not preclude his winning. In fact, the mere fact that he got so far with so many people hating him could in fact suggest that he’s min-maxing his support. It doesn’t matter how much people who were not voting for him hate him, so long as he gets enough votes from the others.
        However the relative success of xenophobic and populist parties (some of which almost won but failed in the second round when all the other parties rallied against them, some of which won) all over Europe these past years would tend to indicate that Trump is nothing special. Otherwise, you’d have to consider Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán, Norbert Hofer, etc… to all be master wizards, and then factor in that apart from Orbán none of them quite managed to get the job they wanted.

      • Fctho1e says:

        The fact that 61% of Americans have an unfavorable view of him has literally nothing to do with the owners of the media being people whose power is threatened by Trump.

    • Theo Jones says:

      I don’t think Trump is either. As others noted Trump is doing very poorly in general election polling. My explanation for why Trump did well in the primary is the following: every politician who wants to win needs to get past both the primary and the general election. However, there are tradeoffs between primary success and general election success, and some tactics that will get you through the primary will be repellant to general election voters. Normal candidates sacrifice some primary election success at the expense of being better general election candidates. Trump is a candidate that is perfectly optimized to win in primaries, but who is very weak in the general election. He did things that no other candidates would do, because those things are suicidal in the general election. This means he could be predicted to trounce mixed strategy candidates in the primary, but will do poorly in the general election.

      • Matt M says:

        I know that this is common knowledge – but I’m not sure it’s true. Consider that recently winners of the GOP primary process were guys like John McCain and Mitt Romney – basically among the most “liberal” nominees, perfectly optimized to do well in the general, which they then failed to do, despite fairly easily winning their primaries.

        If primaries are optimized for niche, hyper-partisan positions, then why didn’t Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum do better? What changed in the past four years such that the GOP electorate, which seemed completely on board with the “vote for me because I’m a moderate who will do well in the general election” messaging, suddenly decided to abandon that strategy? (Keep in mind that the most “generally electable” guy in this field was Jeb Bush – who was one of the first to get destroyed, and that Trump’s most serious challenger was ALSO a hyper-partisan who wouldn’t be expected to do that well in a general election)

        • birdboy2000 says:

          Santorum & Huckabee weren’t just “Hyper-partisan” – they were religious fundamentalists. A secular candidate like Trump can win primaries in blue states; they couldn’t.

    • ChristianKl says:

      Trump managed to built a position that where if you invite a focus group and show them a video of what’s bad about Trump, they were more likely to vote Trump.

      That’s not something that’s achievable by simply being anti-immigration or anti-PC.

      As a result nobody made a big deal about the fact that Trump’s ex-wive said at a time that he raped her or generally dug up other skeletons. It wouldn’t have helped because Trump built a position where that didn’t reduce his changes of getting elected.

      • Matt M says:

        “As a result nobody made a big deal about the fact that Trump’s ex-wive said at a time that he raped her or generally dug up other skeletons.”

        They’ve tried to do this actually – but quickly abandoned it when it became clear it wasn’t working.

    • Shion Arita says:

      I think it’s the mere fact that he’s able to effectively draw attention to himself. Positive attention, negative attention, whatever. I think both actually help him.

  6. richard_reitz says:

    I recently published a thing on LW about how to effectively write collaboratively. If anyone here would like me to go over something they’re publishing in the LW or a diaspora publication, please email me at zookayence [at] [where you’d expect] (or pm me on LW) with a link to a Google Doc, and I’ll help as much as I can.

  7. I just published an article in Business Insider called “Genetically enhancing our children could raise interest rates.” I’m interested in writing more on the future implications of genetic engineering so I would be grateful for any feedback, especially if you think I made a technical mistake.

    • Pku says:

      You wrote “CRISPER” instead of CRISPR at one point. Aside from that, could there also be an effect of some people saving more instead of less, since they believe they’ll lose their jobs next generation?

      • Thanks. It’s not clear if this would result in many people losing their jobs. The analogy would be if a country took in lots of high skilled immigrants, not if we got cheap, intelligence robots.

    • Coors and Lemonade says:

      I apologize in advance…the technical feedback is probably more valuable, but I have only the much cheaper (more abundant) kind, which is concept-related feedback.

      The “early adopters” of intelligence-focused genetic engineering will be the sort of people who are very intelligent, and who would already normally have very few kids but put a lot of effort into raising and providing for them. This would complicate our ability to gauge how effective the genetic engineering really is. The early adopter period will trail on for a while, like the Tesla car. It will just be too expensive for a huge, fast surge in the use of genetic engineering. Also, having kids the old fashioned way is good enough for most people (half of whom are below-average intelligence!).

      Conservatives, I think, are likely to oppose whatever stance liberals take. Each side could find their own way to argue for or against genetic engineering. In this case, conservatives are likely to invoke a “meddling with God’s handiwork” type of argument. I happen to agree that liberals are likely to support more genetic engineering, though. Which will be funny because they’re also the ones who tend to argue that IQ doesn’t exist, isn’t heritable, etc.

      As for your inflation theory, you can test it by comparing whether governments borrow based on their anticipation of immigration patterns. When they’re seeing/expecting lots of immigrants from India and China do they borrow more? Do they borrow less when there’s lots of immigration from sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America? Etc.

      I’m very interested in “future implications of [technology that gets a lot of cheerleading today]” topics but I have to admit, macroeconomics has the same effect on me it does on most people. Still, I’m glad to see you’re thinking about those kinds of things. Are there other related topics you’re thinking of writing about?

      BTW, how did you come to write for Business Insider? Can anyone submit and publish there?

      • Zombielicious says:

        Re: conservative vs liberal opposition, imo genetic engineering and embryo selection probably has a hard path ahead of it because of both groups.

        My hypothesis is that both groups have sanctity/purity triggers that get tripped into opposition mode by certain new technologies. Conservatives are more focused on sanctity of the body – they oppose things like abortion, stem-cell research, drug legalization, etc. Genetic enhancement qualifies.

        Liberals are focused on the sanctity of nature. They oppose things that modify nature and the environment – GMOs, fracking, pollution, climate change, overpopulation, etc. Genetic enhancement probably also qualifies, though maybe not the same extent.

        There doesn’t seem to be a ton of overlap between the two. Messing with nature’s purity doesn’t seem to bother conservatives much, is even appropriated as tribal symbolism, while the situation is reversed for liberals. But since genetic enhancement stands a good chance of hitting the triggers for both groups (too similar to abortion and stem-cell stuff on the right, too similar to GMOs on the left), I’m expecting to see lots of knee-jerk regulations trying to restrict it, probably to their own detriment.

        • The early “killer app” will be in eliminating the chance of a kid having some really nasty gene that one of the parents has and I doubt, in the U.S. at least, that there will be much political objection to this. And, of course, it’s a slippery slope between this and genetic enhancements.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Good point, but I’m still skeptical, due to the current opposition to stuff like Down syndrome abortions, vaccinations, stem-cell research, savior siblings, etc. Saving lives is apparently important, but not too important.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @James D. Miller

            You haven’t met the people I have who make arguments to the effect of “eliminating “nasty” or “negative” genes from the next generation… that’s what the Nazis were trying to do!” For many people I’ve talked to, eugenics is eugenics is eugenics, and genetic engineering to remove, say, cystic fibrosis, is morally equivalent to Dachau. And I’ve also met many of both the anti-GMO purity types and the “playing in God’s domain” religious types Zombielicious notes. And note the number of countries that have already banned human germline engineering. So add me as very skeptical as well. (I’m expecting violent conflict to arise from this issue, at the very least some group along the lines of Blue Cosmos.)

          • Zombielicious,

            There is opposition to all of this stuff, but in the U.S. most Down syndrome babies are aborted (I’m not claiming this is a good thing), most kids get vaccinated, and we have stem-cell research. Furthermore, imagine the push-back if some state tried to forbid children from getting vaccinated.

      • “The “early adopters” of intelligence-focused genetic engineering will be the sort of people who are very intelligent, and who would already normally have very few kids but put a lot of effort into raising and providing for them.” Probably true for people who could otherwise have healthy babies. But many early adopters will be couples who go to a fertility clinic for infertility or genetic problems and the clinic will offer them enhancing services.
        I’m considering pitching an article to Business Insider on how fertility clinics might be the next “big thing”. A few years ago Business Insider experimented with taking content from lots of people and I got something published and so made myself known to them.

        • Coors and Lemonade says:

          “But many early adopters will be couples who go to a fertility clinic for infertility or genetic problems and the clinic will offer them enhancing services.”

          The complications of measuring the effectiveness of the genetic engineering are still there though. Also, your article seemed to focus on the application of enhancing intelligence, not of eliminating disorders/diseases.

          My prediction: fertility clinics will be the “next big thing” just as much as electric chargers at the end of parking spaces.

    • Econopunk says:

      Have there been studies in the past that looked at how real interest rates change after a positive bump to human capital? For example, a sudden increase in the quality of healthcare for kids, or education or technical training, or something as stark as a change in government/economic laws or war/peace status or treaty (for the better)? I suppose as long as something causes real GDP/capita to suddenly rise, real interest rates rise as well?

    • Cheese says:

      With regards to the technical stuff, I don’t see any glaring mistakes beyond the CRISPER. I have sort of a bee in my bonnet about ‘CRISPR’ being the name for this technology rather than, say, ‘cas9/cpf1 mediated genome editing’. But I concede that even in the scientific literature ‘CRISPR’ is now the shorthand for ‘everything involving proteins vaguely associated with this bacterial immunity mechanism’.

      I tend to disagree with Hsu and Khan on the timelines. I think we’re looking at around double the 5-10 years estimate that they give you. Although the phrasing ‘might well have the ability’ is probably true. There’s a few factors which I think play in to this.

      The first is the general trend for everyone in molecular biology to say a particular technology is 5-10 years away from having a significant impact on daily life, which pretty much never happens. Cas9 is particularly impressive in how far it has come on since discovery ~3 years ago, however we’ve only really just started now (as in mid-2016) to get stuff like this: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v533/n7603/full/nature17946.html. HDR is still a bit error-prone as far as I understand it (I don’t use cas9 for that purpose so my understanding might not be current). I think we’re going to go through a pretty long period of research into fidelity and efficiency refinements before we can reliably say “if you give me a bunch of early stage embryos I can reliably introduce these 5 SNPs/variants you’re after and not potentially stuff up some other stuff that may prove important later”.

      The second is the sheer cost involved. IVF is pretty fucking expensive as it stands today. AFAIK in my country (Australia, so partially subsidised) it costs around $4000 a cycle? The costs involved in doing what currently looks like it would be a lot of mol biol legwork to edit a few specific loci would be pretty significant I would think. Once a company has it down to a kind of ‘edit in traits X, Y and Z for $XXX’ package it’s going to be a lot more streamlined. But there’s still going to be a fair amount of testing and discarding work involved, which is fairly labourious. Ultimately the cost won’t be insignificant to a lot of people. I think your point about government subsidies is fairly well made.

      Finally I wonder to what extent there’s going to be a bit of a self-policing effort in the molecular biology community with regards to modifying human embryo’s for positive traits. Rather than just repair of deleterious mutations. Because there’s already a fair amount of noise being made about it in a lot of commentary and papers. I think it’s pretty likely someone (i.e. the Chinese) will probably go ahead and do it anyway. But it’s more the path from 1st publication (you can probably count Liang et al 2015 as that and I won’t argue) to clinic that I see the obstacles being put up. It took one death to set back gene therapy pretty significantly and I see more minor off target effects being a significant roadblock in this case, given the politically/socially/emotionally charged nature of it.

      As a disclaimer here i’m not actively involved in using cas9/cpf1/whatever for HDR in mammalian cells, let alone embryos. I do use it for some other stuff so I have a passing familiarity with it. I’m sure someone with more specific expertise could quite happily point out why everything i’ve said is silly and wrong. But that’s the risk when you give an opinion on a rapidly developing and highly technical field.

      I sort of fundamentally disagree with the economic and political consequences that you see coming from the advent of such a technology – but you have the expertise there and I do not so I don’t really have any specific criticisms. More of a I find it hard to see the direct connections between the rather long sequences of cause->effect->…effect you have listed. Seems a bit hand-wavey. However, not my area, feel free to call me an idiot.

    • My first thought was, shouldn’t having more intelligent people *lower* interest rates? I thought that wealthier society have longer chains of production, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read Man, Economy, and State. Or is the idea that there will be a bump interest rates as the tech is shown to work, but this is temporary?

      “Anticipating genetically enhanced workers would cause firms to want to invest more now in new equipment and buildings” I bet most of that will turn out to be wasted– too hard to anticipate what a smarter future will want.

      • You might well be right once we get the more intelligent workers. But I think interest rates will go up during the period after we learn that the workers are coming but before the genetically enhanced people are old enough to enter the workforce.

    • gwern says:

      If Chinese workers, scientists, and soldiers had, say, a thirty IQ point advantage over their American counterparts the best America could hope for would be to have something like Hong Kong’s international status.

      I’m not sure this is a plausible amount; you’re also being too vague about what technologies you see being used at what points in your scenarios. You know that regular SNP-based embryo selection has a ceiling at ~9 IQ points. To get more than 3 times as much (even assuming universal adoption, which would require exponential expansion of fertility infrastructure and doing millions of embyro selections a year), you will need either a lot of CRISPR edits, a breakthrough in gametogenesis so you can do selection from hundreds of eggs (around 253), or fullblown iterated embryo selection / genome synthesis (in which case it would be more like 50+ points).

      Imagine it’s 2021 and fertility clinics successfully create babies that experts believe will grow up to have fifteen IQ points (one standard deviation) more than they would have without the clinics’ assistance. Experts further agree that within ten years clinics will be regularly adding another fifty IQ points to their clients’ progenies by which time the clinics will also be editing in other useful traits such as increased work ethic, disease resistance, and higher emotional intelligence. Most everyone thinks that these enhanced children eventually will become extremely productive workers who make the world vastly richer.

      (Those additional traits will already be selected/edited for from the start of embryo selection because otherwise you are throwing away a lot of the benefits of doing embryo selection: the cost is upfront and doesn’t depend on how many polygenic scores you use.)

      I’m not sure the numbers work here. Looking at my tables, a gain of 12 points here, with a base-rate of 1% of the population (current IVF use) will only get you up to a 6% increase of the >130IQ population . To the extent that economic growth is driven by the >130IQ population, this doesn’t imply a large change in Chinese economic growth, much less one that will affect global interest rates noticeably. This doesn’t seem like strong enough effects to make a difference that one could trade on (surely such an inference would be fair outweighed by anything in the steady trickle of information about whether the Chinese debt bomb is going to explode or not?) Plus, IQ130 is not particularly prodigal, so instead of the 10-14 year lag until first major contribution you might expect of someone like Weiner or von Neumann educated appropriately, they’re going to take the full 20+ years to start contributing, which must be discounted. So the direct effect seems small.

      What about the indirect effect? I’m not clear how you get from a scenario in which embryo selection gives +15 (are you using that as the ceiling on SNP-based embryo selection?) to one with 50+; that’s going to require different technologies and a step-change. Embryo selection already exists and just requires bigger GWASes to produce better polygenic scores; but CRISPR requires either further breakthroughs in cost/efficacy or a solution to the causal allele problem like finemapping, and gametogenesis, iterated embryo selection, and genome synthesis simply require a lot of breakthroughs to become usable. Which may or may not happen but on what timescales? It won’t simply follow that regular embryo selection is perfected and then a predictable number of years later, one of the gamechangers will follow. They could wind up happening fast and superseding regular embryo selection before it’s even gone into wide usage, or they could take decades to perfect as many things in biology do.

      Coors:

      The “early adopters” of intelligence-focused genetic engineering will be the sort of people who are very intelligent, and who would already normally have very few kids but put a lot of effort into raising and providing for them. This would complicate our ability to gauge how effective the genetic engineering really is. The early adopter period will trail on for a while, like the Tesla car. It will just be too expensive for a huge, fast surge in the use of genetic engineering. Also, having kids the old fashioned way is good enough for most people (half of whom are below-average intelligence!).

      Actually, IVF users are surprisingly normal in IQ. (I was surprised because I had expected that the cost of IVF alone would ensure a higher mean IQ, but no, apparently not.) In any case, there’s not really any need to verify it, but if one had to, within-family comparisons would easily control for any hypotheses about high IQ parents providing confoundingly good childhoods.

      The early “killer app” will be in eliminating the chance of a kid having some really nasty gene that one of the parents has

      Yes, that’s what PGD is currently used for.

      Cheese:

      The second is the sheer cost involved. IVF is pretty fucking expensive as it stands today. AFAIK in my country (Australia, so partially subsidised) it costs around $4000 a cycle? The costs involved in doing what currently looks like it would be a lot of mol biol legwork to edit a few specific loci would be pretty significant I would think

      Yes, the upfront cost is brutal. $4k a cycle is understated since many people will have to do multiple cycles. This is one reason I expect IVF usage to remain ~1% until the interventions become huge (like, +15 IQ points). However, if you’re already doing IVF, PGD/embryo selection is actually not that bad. Public price estimates say that it’s around $1k to do the biopsy, and then UK Biobank has shown that you can do SNP arrays for $50, so if you get 5 viable embryos, then it only costs you $1k+$250 to get the SNP genotyping for each embryo; now you can apply polygenic scores until the cows come home to pick what order you want to implant the embryos in.

      Nancy:

      Or is the idea that there will be a bump interest rates as the tech is shown to work, but this is temporary?

      Not a macro estimate, but I think it can be considered a slow shock to a new equilibrium. As the hyperintelligent get to work, they will start saving themselves and everyone else will start saving as well; savings=investment, so it will tend to stabilize or push down interest rates as all that capital floods into the markets. However, if you saw it coming, you have an investment opportunity. (Suppose an oracle told you that North Korea was growing at 15% exactly 20 years from now; what do you do? You run out and buy South Korean indices, of course.)

      • I agree that to get 30 IQ points you need to go beyond ordinary embryo selection but I think that the rapid advance of CRISPR makes this likely although not certain. If China had a 30 IQ point advantage over the U.S. much of the military benefit to China, I think, would come from Chinese people several standard deviations above the Chinese mean having the ability to design weapons that could only get built by lots of 145+ IQ workers and only operated by 145+ IQ soldiers.

        • gwern says:

          I am still figuring it out, but the more I look at it, particularly at the causal allele problem, I’ve become a lot less enthusiastic about CRISPR prospects. Let me sketch out the problem.

          In the latest paper, Okbay et al 2016, the total number of genome-wide hits was 162. The top hit would be something like 0.2 IQ points, decreasing smoothly; let’s say the mean is 0.1 IQ points for those 162. The average frequency is 0.5, so for any particular embryo you consider, about 81 of those hits will be irrelevant because the embryo already has the good variant, leaving another 81 hits. (I assume that we might already be doing embryo selection, in which case we know which SNPs don’t need to be flipped.) Of those 81 hits, how many will actually be causal and not just in linkage disequilibrium with a causal variant and proxying for it? Okbay’s in depth analysis suggests that perhaps 12% are; this is consistent with the trans-racial GWASes to African populations and other finemapping estimates. So of those 81 hits which you could edit, only 10 will actually increase intelligence – but you don’t know which 10, so you have to edit all 81. (The most anyone has ever edited one cell or embryo in any way is ~60 times AFAIK: the Church lab’s porcine virus multiplexing.) While off-target mutation rates are now effectively zero, the successful mutation rate is still only around 60% (although at least this will surely improve). So combining it all, if you edit an embryo with a budget of 81 edits, you can expect to get an increase of: 81 * 0.1 * 0.12 * 0.6 = 0.58 IQ points. Or… about what you would get right now with regular embryo selection and better polygenic scores.

          You see the problem. If someone does the finemapping on ~1200 variants to figure out 162 definitely causal alleles, and then if we could do 81 CRISPR edits, we’d boost it to 4.86 IQ points gain. But still not impressive. Progress in CRISPR to make editing as reliable as the off-target mutation rate would then boost it to 8.1 IQ points. Average IQ per allele can’t be boosted, and likewise frequencies will only go up with genetic engineering, so those can’t be affected. So after optimizing everything else, that leaves only the option of increasing the total number CRISPR edits: to reach +15 here, we’d need to be able to do >150 CRISPR edits, and +50 would require 500 and so on.

          Will we ever do 100 edits at a time safely on an embryo? Never mind 500+? Biology isn’t computing, it doesn’t even usually follow something like a Moore’s law. GWASes and SNP costs and polygenic scores, these can be safely extrapolated because sequencing costs keep dropping and have done so for decades, but CRISPR editing? It continually improves in cost and safety, but multiplexing hasn’t followed any exponential curve I’ve seen: everyone continues doing 1, maybe 2, edits at a time. Some of the methods are definitely questionable in terms of safety of repeated applications scores or hundreds of times, like the viral vectors.

          So I increasingly see CRISPR’s role as an adjunct to one of the other methods. Parents might get embryo selection plus some additional CRISPR. Or it might be used to repair mutations in a batch of cells undergoing multiple generations of iterated embryo selection up to IQ+100. Or it might be used to finish a synthesized genome after its parts get assembled. By the time CRISPR editing is refined to the point of hundreds of edits, it will probably have become superseded.

          • gwern, thanks a very impressive analysis. What would happen if we started with the DNA of an extremely smart person, say John von Neumann, somehow turned the DNA into an embryo (I have no idea how hard this would be) and did some CRISPR edits on this embryo. I’m sure that the historical von Neumann had positive luck boosting his intelligence, but perhaps the new one with the benefit of the CRISPR edits and the Flynn effect could with high probability reach the old one’s level of intelligence. I bet at least a few dozen women a year would be willing to have such an embryo implanted into them, especially if, say, there they were paid by their governments to do so.

          • gwern says:

            happen if we started with the DNA of an extremely smart person, say John von Neumann, somehow turned the DNA into an embryo (I have no idea how hard this would be) and did some CRISPR edits on this embryo. I’m sure that the historical von Neumann had positive luck boosting his intelligence,

            I dunno how hard it would be but it would require genome synthesis to succeed. Then you could go start grave robbing for ancient DNA. Anyway, such an embryo would be equivalent to an identical twin (separated by a century), but with a different shared environment (eg http://arthurjensen.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/IQ%E2%80%99s-of-Identical-Twins-Reared-Apart-1973-by-Arthur-Robert-Jensen.pdf ), so they would share the same 80% of variance which is genetics and same mean IQ. However, that is only in the general case; you’re right about regression to the mean. The von Neumann family, while gifted, did not birth any other John von Neumanns that I know of. (Similarly, Terence Tao’s brothers, while smart, are not geniuses.) von Neumann is selected in this example for having been extremely intelligent; any clones/twins will regress to the population mean. If we put von Neumann at an IQ of, say, 170 (+4.6SDs), then his identical-twin/embryos would regress to the mean of 4.6*0.8=3.68 or IQ 155. (His siblings would’ve been lower still than this, of course, as they would only be 50% related even if they did have the same shared-environment.) So this embryo would be much more helpful than feasible CRISPR editing.

            As far as further CRISPR editing goes, it would be the same thing as before: the frequency of the good variants will be ~50%, so out of 162 SNP candidates, etc etc. This is because von Neumann’s genetic advantage is caused by only a handful of net extra genes over the thousands of variants. Those 55 IQ points could be accounted for by >211 beneficial variants, but there are probably thousands of them – Hsu’s 10k rule of thumb looks good to me. So if you think of it like that, then (5000+211)/10000 = 52%. It very slightly diminishes the embryo selection that can be done. This is why Hsu talks about hundreds of standard deviations: since existing differences in intelligence are driven so much by the effects of thousands of variants, the CLT/standard deviation of a binomial/gamma distribution implies that those differences represent a net difference of only a few extra variants, as almost everyone has 4990 or 5001 or 4970 or 5020 good variants and no one has extremes like 9000 or 3000 variants, so anyone who does get 9000 variants somehow will be many many SDs beyond what we see. Even a von Neumann only had slightly better genes than everyone else.

          • Two comments:

            1. I don’t think you need to recreate the DNA of a dead genius, just find a live one to clone.

            2. Nobody so far seems to be considering Heinlein’s ingenious approach to eugenics, which doesn’t (in his version) involve any editing, just selection, but could be made stronger with editing.

            Instead of working on the fertilized egg, work on egg and sperm separately. In his (fictional) version you identify the genes of each individual egg or sperm by doing the final stage of the process that produces it in vitro, destructively analyzing the products that don’t end up as egg or sperm, and subtracting from the full genotype. You thus produce the best child that couple could produce (or as close as you can get depending on how many eggs and sperm you are selecting from).

    • SUT says:

      The Genes->Intelligence->PoliticalEconomy model is way too shallow for explaining the current comparative economics, and also a poor choice for explaining the future.

      Genes->Intelligence: as others have pointed out, the recipe for high-IQ babies remains elusive after multiple N=BIG datasets. There’s also reason to be pessimistic about our long term progress on this front: Consciousness and a high quality intellect is the most emergent property ever studied from a simple system. Unless we rebuild the brain and genes responsible for it from the ground up, we might be stuck with hacks which can be unreliable and/or have significant trade-offs with other positive traits.

      Intelligence->Economy: Even though there’s a lot of high IQ people on this board, how many have kids? Could it actually be that at a certain point IQ impairs your likelihood to have kids. Here’s my question for the economist: which is better for the GDP the bachelor of science, or a man with a mortgage and a minivan? Which is the true threat to secular stagnation in the First world – people are just too stupid to do the STEM we need or below replacement fertility levels?

      Once you get past the cliche resort to IQ, I think there are interesting social and economic developments that will come from widespread use of designer babies. The main goal will be longevity in my mind, which at first will look like what the organic crowd considers health, and a tradeoff away from high metabolism towards the slow burn. It’s funny to think, the design in the babies might not even become apparent until decades into the future. If this can scale sufficiently, all economics and finance will need to be rethought – reliably being able to work on your 200th birthday? Does adolescent move out to 100, if so how do you pay for that, or does retirement become multiple lengths of a working life, if so how do that work in our state run ponzi schemes? Anyways I think these are changes which are 1. more possible to engineer for, and 2. have far greater social consequences than your scenario.

      • gwern says:

        explaining the current comparative economics, and also a poor choice for explaining the future.

        It actually explains a large fraction of variance in GDP, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. If intelligence differences between countries get even larger, it’ll explain more.

        as others have pointed out, the recipe for high-IQ babies remains elusive after multiple N=BIG datasets.

        Not really. We’ve identified with high posterior probability a great many relevant variants. The reason the polygenic score variance explained is so low is that randomized assortments of variants tend to cancel out. (Let me try a metaphor: you may know with high confidence which sides of a coin is heads, but when you flip a few hundred coins, your expected value of the total is still 0.5 and you will have a hard time predicting much variance in the total by knowing which side each coin came up. If, however, you were allowed to set each coin to the side you estimate is heads, the total will look very difference…) I discuss this in more detail in my http://www.gwern.net/Embryo%20selection analysis, which you should really read.

        we might be stuck with hacks which can be unreliable and/or have significant trade-offs with other positive traits.

        Highly unlikely. Almost everything intelligence correlates with genetically is better health. As well, if you look into studies of high IQ children or adults such as Hunter, they are healthier than average. Empirically, the trade-offs don’t exist.

        Could it actually be that at a certain point IQ impairs your likelihood to have kids.

        Sure does, because you’re too busy getting an education, having a career, and accomplishing stuff. But who cares? Dysgenics is real but embryo selection and more advanced methods will fix it.

        which is better for the GDP the bachelor of science

        The bachelor of science. His work is now and will compound. Kids are irrelevant for the next 20+ years, and while they may be eugenic, it won’t make a difference.

        The main goal will be longevity in my mind

        Meh. Longevity is not that heritable, and by definition, will take something like 80 years to start paying off. (Discount that at a few percent…) If having kids who live longer is the goal, selecting for intelligence will probably be even more effective on an individual level because of downstream effects on bodily integrity, education, and income, and much more effective on a group level because of faster economic growth and science/technology.

        the design in the babies won’t pay a dividend until many decades later

        In contrast, moderate intelligence improvements like +30 being paying off in ~20 years, and extreme intelligence improvements like +100 might begin paying off in 10 or less.

        what if someones will be reliably able to work on their 200th birthday?

        You scoff at the idea of increasing intelligence by 3 SDs, well within commonly observed, and then propose increasing lifespan by something like 50 SDs which literally no one has ever in the history of humanity lived to or even come within 70 years of?

      • I didn’t discuss this in the article, but I think that the ability to genetically engineer babies will increase peoples’ desire to have children because the children will be more fun to raise. This will be especially true of smart parents. Because of regression to the mean most smart parents have kids who are not as bright as them. But with genetic engineering, a couple could expect to produce a kid much smarter than them, something that I think will greatly appeal to STEM parents.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I don’t think a kid smarter than oneself, particuarly when one is already pretty smart, is going to be “fun to raise” at all, except in the sarcastic sense. Better a kid who falls well within the fat area of the curve for your particular area, so there’s a support system for handling them.

          Of course, if every kid is that smart, the system will have to handle it. Shouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 generations.

          • I speak from experience here. My only child has a significantly higher IQ than I do.

          • Zorgon says:

            I am intrigued and would like to hear more.

          • Zorgon, my son is 11 and has a tested IQ well above mine. (I haven’t told him his IQ so I’m not going to reveal it here.) He has read much of the sequences on LessWrong, recently finished Worm, and we are currently doing the pre-calculus material on Khan Academy. He picks things up far faster than I do. We can have great discussions on topics like infinity and why people believe in God. The main problem (apart from school) with him being so smart is that he doesn’t intuitively understand that when we both are exposed to new material he will pick it up faster than I will. For example, I got the game Overwatch recently and we took turns playing. He got impatient with me for sometimes forgetting which button did which for the different characters. Although I know that the evidence is that parenting doesn’t much matter for kids’ life outcomes, my son’s huge potential does motivate me to put in lots of time with him. I think to myself that the marginal social value of my helping him do more math is far greater than if I spent this time on writing another article.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “For example, I got the game Overwatch recently and we took turns playing. He got impatient with me for sometimes forgetting which button did which for the different characters.”

            Well, that’s not an IQ thing, that’s a young gamer thing.

            Some kids aren’t remotely “High IQ” but will pick up most any video game and completely destroy you.

          • Zorgon says:

            Very interesting, thank you.

            My own daughter is clever, certainly more so than her peers and beyond her age-appropriate developmental stage, but not brilliant. Which is a mixture of fun and annoying – she picks up things very quickly, but she has strong opinions about what she finds interesting, and she doesn’t necessarily have the insight to understand that some things contain hidden depth (or to care enough to pursue it, at least not yet).

            The main problem with having an above-average intelligence child so far has been her ability to construct reasons as to why adult-imposed rules are clearly not intended to apply to this situation (whatever said situation may be). I mean, in a few years puberty will hit and she’ll just ignore me anyway, but I’d liked to have had a few years of being able to persuade her to see things my way.

          • Zorgon “The main problem with having an above-average intelligence child so far has been her ability to construct reasons as to why adult-imposed rules are clearly not intended to apply to this situation” My son does this to a massive extent, sometimes drawing on what he learned at LessWrong, but I try to make it a learning experience where he has to argue for what he wants. Of course, this often breaks down when I just can’t handle a 20 minute discussion on something like why I don’t want him to have any more candy today.

          • Julie K says:

            I’d like to test my kids’ IQ. Any recommendations?

          • Anonymous says:

            I’d like to test my kids’ IQ. Any recommendations?

            MENSA?

          • Julie K,

            You should see a child psychologist in your area. Your school might have a referral list. IQ tests are not released to the public.

          • “I mean, in a few years puberty will hit and she’ll just ignore me anyway”

            Not my experience, having been involved in rearing three very bright children. Nor my experience of my own youth.

        • SUT says:

          Now _this_ is a very interesting premise. If names serve as markers for values that parents hope their children embody, I wonder if we’ll see more Chastity’s and Prudence’s?

          Overall theme might be that designer babies in certain cultures might be setup for docility, conformity, and agreeableness. Which makes what I consider an even more intriguing showdown between the designed vs. the “wild-types” pun intended.

  8. Pku says:

    Economically-minded people: Any ideas for designing a simple but realistic-ish economic system for Civilizations?

    I was playing last week when I got into debt last week, which crippled my economy and scientific output. As I understand it though, it’s commonly believed among economists that (some level of) government debt is good for the economy. Any idea of how to design an economic system that could reflect this (or other consensus economic principles), while still keeping it simple?

    • Protagoras says:

      I doubt you could do that and keep it simple, since one of the benefits of government debt is to provide safe assets that people can invest in and use as collateral to back riskier investment activities, and any economic system that modeled that much of investment behavior would be pretty complex. But it is true that a lot of these games are far too punitive about debt; governments have a long history of borrowing and defaulting and generally getting away with it (in many cases straight up defaults, never mind the stealth default of encouraging inflation to reduce the real value of the debt). The economic effects of that aren’t too different from the government just taxing more, really. So the effects of unpaid debt in the game should be comparable to the effects of having higher taxes, they shouldn’t be (as they often are in games) much harsher. Building inflation into the game would be a big step in the direction of making more realistic possibilities available.

    • Anonymous says:

      As I understand it though, it’s commonly believed among economists that (some level of) government debt is good for the economy.

      That amount of debt is the amount of debt you can make a profit on by investing. Debt that isn’t going into investments is just bad.

    • Econopunk says:

      I like this idea. In history, you always hear about nations having to get into debt or cause inflation to finance an army. You don’t really get those sort of “Oh my god, my civilization is in such fiscal trouble” moments in Civ. It’s more just like, “Argh, my economy sucks. Better jack my ‘tax’ rate up and sacrifice science and culture for the time being.”

      I’m thinking:

      1. You can issue bonds or print new money (the latter explained below in 2.D). The interest rate on the bonds depends on how much money you’re earning every turn (the more you earn, the lower the interest rate) and your past record (if you’ve defaulted in the past, recently had a revolution/civics change, recently had a war or currently in one, recently had major city revolts or currently have one, or if you’ve resorted to printing new money to pay for costs – anything that would make an investor nervous that you cannot pay back the bond in the future).

      2. How do you pay back the bonds and interest? A.) You have a good economy so you can simply afford to pay it back by accumulating gold every turn. B.) If you’re running out of money, you resort to “austerity” – however, this is actually already part of the game. You do this buy just deleting military units that are costing you money every turn or “selling/scrapping” city improvements that are costing you money. C.) Default. Your interest rate on borrowing skyrockets for some number of terms – perhaps decreases very, very slowly unless you make civics changes “to show that a new government is now in place.” If there were foreign creditors, a nation representing those creditors may declare war on you to try to get their money back (so there’s an additional complication/game mechanic – whether your creditors are domestic or foreign. You can get away with prolonging your debt to domestic investors with just some unhappiness across your civ. With foreign investors, faster increases to interest rates and bad relations/war with other civs). D.) Allow the government to print more money, causing inflation. Temporarily, you can pay for more stuff with your newly created money. But every turn after that, your economy suffers (like a -x% effect on your total commerce) for some number of turns due to the disorder that inflation causes. A simple example with made up numbers would be, if on Year 1 you print money equal to 10% of your total commerce in a year, for the next 10 turns, your commerce suffers a -2% effect. You could print money year after year, financing some huge army while you’re finishing up a conquest, causing high inflation. Once you’ve finished your conquest, disband your army and deal with a long period of economic malaise, but hey, you were able to complete your conquest and expand your land, so it’s up to you if that was worth it.

      Printing money would require that there is an exchange rate with some gold standard (at least until fiat money comes into play). Every time you print money, of course, the value of your currency decreases with respect to gold. (In early times, I suppose what you’re doing is debasing your coins rather than printing new money.) So trading with other civs in gold effectively becomes more expensive because your money is worth less.

      A game transition from the gold standard to fiat currency might get too complicated for a game like Civ where sometimes you just want to conquer. But anyway, you could just give some sort of +x% bonus to commerce for fiat currencies to simulate the lack of need to maintain a gold reserve. Fiat would let the government more easily print money. You could time the availability of a fiat civic with the availability of more modern financial city improvements like banks and stock markets that give an immediate +50% boost to city tax revenue. A fiat civic in that and later eras would allow you to more easily print money and rush-buy a bunch of markets, banks, and stock markets, which could be enough to offset the negative effects of inflation in the next 10 turns or whatever. Just like when you discover gunpowder there’s a rush to upgrade your entire army so that you get an advantage and you avoid a situation where everyone else has gunpowder units and you don’t, in this case, when you discover the required techs in this fiat currency/capitalist era, there’s a rush to rush-buy banks and stock markets or else you get left behind by your enemies that will also be rushing to attain much better economies financed by their fiat currency civic and banks/stock markets.

      Also, while in the gold standard, civs with access to gold and silver resources should get a huge boost to money. Basically the gold/silver resource should give those cities in civs with the gold standard a big boost to money for working that tile.

      An additional possible new civic would be “central bank independence,” but I’m not sure if this would work (too uselessly complicated and with ambiguous effects). Perhaps your ability to issue bonds and print money is greatly decreased (a lot of it has to be automated?) but in return, you get some bonus to commerce.

    • Matthias says:

      Do you want something realistic or something fun?

      Realistically, interestingly enough the US managed to avoid taking on a huge pile of debt for the first world war. They financed most of it from property / land taxes, as an aftermath of the Georgist movement.

      By the time WWII rolled around, they had largely switched to relying on income taxes.

      In any case, just re-interpret the Civilization game in a more abstract way. You are not just playing as the government, you are playing as the whole civilization. (That’s why you decide where to build a marketplace or a bank, too.)

      A government can go into debt, and it’s not too much of a problem if that domestic debt—ie held by citizens. Perhaps reinterpret the debt in Civ. as debt owed to various foreigners?

    • Ruprect says:

      The production/monetary systems in 4x games are always absolutely terrible – I mean… you can “buy” production? What could that possibly mean? Who actually makes this money?

      I think the best thing would be to have an “influence” attribute – if influence falls below a certain level, units/populations simply won’t do what you say/ revolt.
      You could have different groups in your society depending on the technological level/ culture who are influenced to do things at different rates by different things. For example, early game you have lots of serfs who are influenced to do what you say by the presence of units in your cities. Your units could be aristocracy who are influenced to do things by special privileges. Those special privileges might have costs associated with them.
      Later you might discover coinage, (which you would actually have to make) and be influenced by payments in coinage to different extents depending on conditions of your coinage, cultural values of different groups, etc. You could use this to gain influence over other nations citizens/units if they had the right values.
      I’d be interested to see if some tax-driven theory of money could be implemented.
      Merchant class influenced by the ability to create debt – you could have the foundation of the national debt event which would boost your influence over a highly productive merchant class, increase their growth rate.

      • Matthias says:

        > I mean… you can “buy” production? What could that possibly mean? Who actually makes this money?

        There’s a few things. A society can live down its capital, as Germany did with their rail system in the first world war—the had a famously well functioning system before going into the war, and could stand a few years of neglect and still run, just much much worse.

        Saving up your ‘money’ in the 4X could just mean that you build up these buffers to run down later.

        Similarly, assume that normally the player does not control all the output of their civilization. Some goes to consumption for the citizens. But that amount is variable. The Soviet Union had great rates of growth in the 50s, even under a crazy communist system, because they just re-invested most of their GDP. High savings, much like the Asian miracles a generation later, only they fared better later because their economies were more market based.

        • Ruprect says:

          Yeah… that makes sense. So the “production” is the stuff that is centrally controlled, while the “money” is the proportion of the private (invisible in-game) economy that you control (through taxation).
          I still don’t think its a particularly good idea to be able to instantly complete production by paying for things though – I’d rather that the real life mechanism that this might represent was made a bit more explicit – you can’t eat tomorrow’s sandwich today and all that.

          Though maybe I lean more towards wanting to play 4 x as a simulation in comparison to most people.

          Then… what could debt possibly represent? A weakening of central power? If you represent the central power it makes sense for debt to be entirely negative.

          • Matthias says:

            Look at the original Master of Orion. It handles these issues much better than the Civilization derived games.

            In MoO you can at most double the production per turn of a `city’ with buying.

            I also like their research system and the level of abstraction.

            Make sure to apply the latest fan patch, if you want to give it a try.

            It’s still one of the best games ever.

    • Murphy says:

      I remember being a little annoyed playing Democracy because while I built up significant reserves and paid off all debt there was no mechanism for making income from those reserves or getting any advantage at all once you have enough to cover costs during recovery from stock market crashes.

      I wanted to be able to build up a Sovereign wealth fund like Norway’s and get even some trivial kind of return but no. The game does not allow that.

      You’re basically stuck with being the national equivalent to somebody who puts all their money in a pillow case.

    • cassander says:

      Civilization is about running a massive literally communist command society. You can’t have even vaguely plausible economics if you’re going to do that.

      • Anonymous says:

        This, Civ is very nearly a board game in terms of abstractions.

        For a more in-depth economic simulation you might be better served moving to a grand strategy game like Victoria II or Supreme Ruler.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Don’t actually play those. Victoria is a decent simulator (it actually models an entire and functional world economy), but not a very strong game.

          • Zorgon says:

            Don’t listen to this man, both of those titles are excellent (albeit Supreme Ruler is more of a military-industrial complex simulation than a world economic simulation).

            Victoria 2 is considered one of the finest Grand Strategy-type games ever made purely because no other game sustains sufficient fidelity to permit the degree of economic strategy that Victoria 2 can allow.

            (Or to put it another way – Victoria 2 is to running a globalist super-capitalist empire as Crusader Kings 2 is to running a late medieval noble house.)

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The issue with Victoria 2 is there is very little way to interact with its economic model and get feedback to see what you are doing. Not to mention the economy does not function how you’d think it would; for example people buy from the home country first so tariffs have zero benefits (well, aside from income) but also zero economic inefficiency.

            So economic strategy is very weak to nonsexist.

    • “As I understand it though, it’s commonly believed among economists that (some level of) government debt is good for the economy.”

      I can’t speak for other economists, but I don’t believe that. So far as I can see, the basic argument for a well run government is the same as for an individual household. If your return on capital is higher than the market interest rate you should borrow, if lower lend.

      So far as the idea that government debt provides a safe form of savings, that obviously depends on the government and the relevant debt isn’t that of your own government but of whatever government in the world can most be trusted to pay off on its bonds.

  9. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    In “Economic Treadmill”, Scott notes that America “has about 1.3x the per capita GDP now as it did in the 90s” and wonders why “if we’re about 1.3x as rich, why do we feel so much poorer?”

    I think part of the puzzle is a sort of diminishing marginal utility of widgets and internet services. A Kindle isn’t that much better than a library card and a book store, an iPod isn’t that much better than a Discman, a personal cellphone isn’t that much better than a family landline, Blu-Ray isn’t that much better than VHS, Netflix and Redbox aren’t that much better than Blockbuster, Amazon isn’t that much better than a mall, etc… even if they are all cheaper and better than what they replaced, their quality of life improvements were very minimal compared to what already existed.

    By contrast, look at all that was lost. Most of the jobs are gone, and most of the ones that remain are unpleasant, part-time, low-paid, low-status, and/or temporary. Most of the few remaining good jobs require ever-increasing portions of life and money spent in universities and unpaid internships to stand a reasonable chance of getting hired. Young people can’t afford to move out of mom and dad’s house. Can’t get married. Can’t have children and start families. And the ones that do manage to marry cannot afford to have the wife stay at home because the two-income trap keeps getting worse.

    I guess what I’m saying is… this was a really bad deal.

    • Your comment is self-refuting. You complain that “most of the jobs are gone”, but if that were true we wouldn’t be 30% richer than before. We’d be poorer.

      The unemployment rate is 4.7%, i.e. very low: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/UNRATE

      Real compensation (i.e. accounting for inflation) per hour has never been higher: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/COMPRNFB

      Young people can get married, have children and start families. They’ll have a higher standard of living than anyone in the past did. It’s just that the goalposts they measure themselves by are moving faster than standard of living.

      (Incidentally, if you carefully read the two-income trap, you realize the actual issue is taxes. However the author – politician Elizabeth Warren – hides it well by presenting tax numbers in a completely different way than all other numbers. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB118705537958296783 )

      • Pku says:

        Why would taxes be an issue? Taxed money generally still goes to things that help people live (unless it goes to the military, but military spending isn’t quite high enough to account for this). The main complaint is that high taxation leads to lower production, which you say wasn’t the problem here.

        • The book in question is about the financial problems faced by a wealthy two-income couple who is trying to keep up with the Joneses.

          Their tax money is taken and redistributed to zero-income households, and it’s done at a much higher rate today than in the past. That’s fine, it might be a good idea, but it doesn’t help their financial situation. (Which is what jaimeastorga2000 was complaining about.)

          • Pku says:

            Thanks. So as I understand it, the original claim is that what offset the wealth gains of double income was primarily higher taxes rather than keeping up with the Joneses?
            I’ve only read Scott’s summary of the book, and while I can believe that taxes had more of an effect than Warren was willing to admit, her primary claim was that keeping up with the Joneses was a rat race that would only end when everyone maximized their income (up to reasonability). If you remove the higher taxes, is there any reason why the race wouldn’t just keep going until it swallowed up that difference too?

          • Right – the point I’m making is that keeping up with the Joneses is, in fact, 30% more awesome than not.

            According to Warren, the hypothetical two-income couple has 2 cars (which costs 50% more than 1 car), a bigger house in a more high status location, and a variety of other consumer goods that the one-income couple didn’t have.

            The higher taxes act as a way to reduce investment, and to shift consumption from productive people (e.g. 2 income couples) to unproductive ones (0 income couples). If you had lower taxes, then investment/savings would be higher, and also the two-income couples would gain a larger fraction of total consumption.

            (But of course Warren would again treat that increase in consumption as a cost to be saddened by rather than a benefit to be celebrated.)

        • Zombielicious says:

          unless it goes to the military, but military spending isn’t quite high enough to account for this

          Controversial at best. The military budget is complicated by what you consider “military,” and it fluctuates from year to year (it has been dropping lately, thank god), but it’s a lot bigger than a cursory glance might make it appear. Depending on the year you’re looking at around 30-50% of total spending (the 50% was from peak spending during Iraq and Afghanistan). DoD by itself is only around 16% of the annual budget, but on top that you have veteran’s affairs, DHS, and military programs all over the rest of the administrations: energy, treasury, state dept, etc. A large portion of NASAs budget (~0.25% total spending, iirc) is for military applications, for example. Just Iraq + Afghanistan + the F-35 alone get you to at least $3 trillion.

          People complain a lot about social security and healthcare, but total defense spending is easily the largest single portion of the U.S. budget (those other two follow it at around 24% each). There was even a GAO audit of the DoD in 2011 that failed because they found them to be “unauditable” due to mismanagement.

          This is probably the biggest reason I’m deeply opposed to Clinton (as well as the entire Republican party). But regardless of that, while I’m not sure how much it accounts for what Warren describes, it’s (imo) the biggest single mistake this country has been continually making since Eisenhower warned about it all the way back in 1961.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Its worse than that, procurement get all the press, but it’s a comparatively small portion of the budget. 20% give or take.

            If you really want to shrink the budget you’d need people to start dying and dying fast. Some people, more cynical than I, (difficult I know) have suggested that this is why the current “VA suicide crisis” isn’t being treated as a crisis and the VA hospital scandal before it wasn’t treated as a serious scandal. It also explains why mercenaries can be cheaper in the long run despite being so expensive. You don’t have to pay for their pensions or medical care.

          • Gbdub says:

            Are you talking total spending or discretionary spending?

            Anyway it’s wrong to say that military spending doesn’t help anyone live – certainly the military itself gets paid, gets health care, etc. And defense contractors (and defense research funds) are directly or indirectly responsible for a ton of high paying jobs in the STEM fields. We can argue about the efficiency of that, but defense spending does benefit the economy.

          • brad says:

            I’m not sure why anyone other than a Congressman and their aides cares about discretionary versus non-discretionary spending. It literally is nothing more than an obscure detail of the legislative and budgeting practice.

            More specifically it non-discretionary is not the same thing as vested or accrued in either the legal or moral sense.

            Some legislative or executive agency should put together an accrual based set of books for the federal government. That would allow us to make statements about new military spending versus military spending that we’ve already done we just haven’t gotten all the bills for yet. But it would be a large and politically inconvenient exercise, so I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime.

          • Gbdub says:

            @brad – I really don’t care about the distinction, except that, because various buckets of US federal spending have different blends of discretionary vs non discretionary, using figures without noting the difference can give a warped view of the true relative size of the buckets.

          • cassander says:

            >oD by itself is only around 16% of the annual budget, but on top that you have veteran’s affairs, DHS, and military programs all over the rest of the administrations: energy, treasury, state dept, etc. A large portion of NASAs budget (~0.25% total spending, iirc) is for military applications, for example. Just Iraq + Afghanistan + the F-35 alone get you to at least $3 trillion.

            This is misleading. the Department of defense includes 3 subordinate departments of the army, navy, and air force. Together, these constitute the standard definition of defense spending. which together account for over 90% of military spending. the DOD figure you quote is the share of money spent by the department of defense proper, not its subordinate departments.

            DHS is not defense spending. Some NASA research is, but not much. neither is the state department or treasury spending. the biggest non-DOD defense spending, if you don’t count intelligence, is energy department handling a lot of nuclear work. BUt as I said, all of this pales in comparison to the defense budget (DoD plus the services) proper.

            >ut total defense spending is easily the largest single portion of the U.S. budget

            No, it isn’t. It’s not even close. Both SS and medicare/caid are much larger. SS is almost twice as much these days.

            >There was even a GAO audit of the DoD in 2011 that failed because they found them to be “unauditable” due to mismanagement.

            the same is true of any US department. None is run well.

          • Matt M says:

            “I’m not sure why anyone other than a Congressman and their aides cares about discretionary versus non-discretionary spending.”

            Because it helps you make the argument you need for your tribe.

            If you’re red-tribe and you want less medicare and more military, you look at overall spending. If you’re blue tribe and you want more medicare and less military, you look at discretionary only.

          • Lysenko says:

            You are jumping back and forth with your numbers quite a bit there. For the most recent year I have data for (last year) the best estimates are that the military accounts for about 50% of all discretionary spending, which in turn is less than 50% of all federal expenditures. Right now, all Military PLUS DHS/Federal Law Enforcement concerned with “Homeland Security”/Counterterrorism comes to about 16% of the federal budget, mandatory and discretionary combined.

            This is down from the post-2000 high of 20-24% depending on how you defined “military spending”, which is still lower than pre-“peace dividend” levels of the 1950s-80s.

          • Zombielicious says:

            No, it isn’t. It’s not even close. Both SS and medicare/caid are much larger. SS is almost twice as much these days.

            It’s extremely difficult to work out these kinds of disagreements, mainly because it’s extremely time consuming digging through all the numbers, and in the end comes down to what someone wants to consider defense spending or not. But I have no idea how anyone comes to this conclusion unless they’re just sticking with the simple number of “official defense spending,” i.e. $620 billion in 2014 (easier to find good numbers for than 2015+) for 16.9% of the $3.65 trillion total federal budget.

            Social Security is $857 billion, 23.5% of the total U.S. federal budget ($3.65 trillion). Medicare + Medicaid is the same, $831 billion or 22.7%.

            Sure, if you just stop right there at “defense spending” then you only get 16.9%. But that’s basically cheating, since you then have, as previously mentioned, Veteran’s Affairs (4.1%), pensions through the Treasury Department (?), interest on the national debt (6.1% but only a portion, maybe 2%, due to defense spending), all of the NatSec agencies (hence, DHS) – CIA, Coast Guard, Secret Service, Border Patrol, FBI counter-terrorism stuff, Nuclear Detection Office, etc) to which it’s only playing with semantics to not consider it military or defense. Then you still have DoE, State Dept working alongside the CIA, etc.

            So yeah, depending on how conservative you want to be in your estimate, you’re looking at 16-30% of the total federal budget on military/NatSec even when there are no major wars going on. Count as much as you can or look at the peak war years and you’re in the 30-50% range.

            Wikipedia keeps separate articles on federal spending and military spending, and most departments have budget summaries online, if anyone really wants to work out the details for themselves (e.g. DHS, DoE). But either way, it’s a damn lot of money. And if you look at the totality of defense + NatSec spending, not just the official allocation for “national defense,” it’s on par with or easily surpasses the other largest programs.

            Which is another major part of my complaint: no one talks about the elephant in the room because a large portion of our military and NatSec spending is hidden behind these budgetary slights of hand, e.g. mandatory vs discretionary vs non-defense discretionary, year to year changes, cuts to spending vs cuts to projected spending, programs with unknown and classified budgets (e.g. CIA), requested budgets vs enacted budgets, etc…

          • Zombielicious says:

            This is down from the post-2000 high of 20-24% depending on how you defined “military spending”, which is still lower than pre-“peace dividend” levels of the 1950s-80s.

            @Lysenko
            Most of the spending for the Iraq and Afghan wars was budgeted separately from the primary federal budget through supplementary bills, at least up to 2010, and so didn’t appear as part of the defense spending allocation. That’s how you go from your 20-24% numbers to the upper-end 50+% estimates.

          • Lysenko says:

            By the absolute broadest definition of “Defense Spending” I can come up (NASA defense spending, DoE defense spending, debt service on defense related loans, and being overly generous by counting VA and pension spending as 100% “defense” and 0% “social welfare, and all National Defense/CounterTerrorism Federal Law Enforcement spending EDIT: which is not an all-inclusive list of everything I added in), I was able to get the number up to 1.35 Trillion out of a total 3.8 Trillion for FY2015.

            That’s in line with the LOW end of your “30-50%” range, but only by being as generous as possible. I cannot, even for the peak years, to include all the supplemental spending bills, come up with a figure that approaches the upper end of your range.

            Also, if you consider the difference between an Infantryman delivering a 40mm grenade through the window of a building in Mosul during a firefight with insurgents, various USIC agencies coordinating to deliver the talking points and acceptable final positions for the next round of trade negotiations to our ambassador to China to give us a dominant advantage, and the FBI tapping the phone of the founder of the New God Fearing Texans For The Restoration Of The Lone Star Republic to be so functionally, morally, and practically identical as to be “just semantic” distinctions, then I don’t think you and I can agree on very much at all in the way of shared reality, much less the exact figures for line items in the US government’s budget.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Lysenko
            “Playing with semantics” meant disregarding the NatSec budget as not-military-spending. I hadn’t even seen your reply when I posted the first response.

            I’m not arguing that 100% of defense spending (as I loosely define it) is pointless and should be cut, especially when you start including stuff like VA, interest on the debt, DHS programs, etc. Just that it’s the largest portion of the budget and there’s a lot of room for downsizing. Not that every dollar spent on anything remotely military is equivalent and should therefore be eliminated, which is how you seem to be interpreting me.

            54% was actually totally wrong, I misremembered that from the portion of discretionary spending, not the portion of the total federal budget. Sorry. I actually can’t find a good total estimate atm, other than an unsourced 28-38% claim for the 2010 numbers (the first year Iraq + Afghan supplementary spending was lumped in with the rest). In any case, 16% DoD + 4% VA + ~2% (1/3rd of) debt interest + 1%(1/2 of) DHS + 1% other = 24%, same as SS or healthcare. If I’m missing anything it goes higher, if you want to take any of those out it goes lower, and again these are 2014 numbers, lower than most of the past 10-15 years.

          • cassander says:

            @Zombielicious says:

            >Most of the spending for the Iraq and Afghan wars was budgeted separately from the primary federal budget through supplementary bills, at least up to 2010, and so didn’t appear as part of the defense spending allocation. That’s how you go from your 20-24% numbers to the upper-end 50+% estimates.

            It’s true that iraq and afghan spending was outside the regular budget process but it is NOT true that it wasn’t included in the defense spending tabulations published by the likes of OMB. It was included, it was always included, and the much cited line that the bush administration kept war spending “off the books” is simply wrong. Upper end of 50 is completely ludicrous, getting above 30% is difficult.

          • brad says:

            If you want to know what we spent on “defense” in 2016 you shouldn’t include healthcare for people injured on the beaches of Normandy but you should include the net present value of a lifetime of healthcare for the two soldiers that were injured in Iraq at the end of May. Similarly a pension for someone that retired with 20 years in in 2015 is not part of 2016 defense spending, but 1/20th of the net present value (discounted for the chance that he won’t make it to 20) of someone serving his 18th year this year should be included.

            I have no idea what this real number is. It might less than the cash number, it might be more. It’s even possible that it is more than 100% of the entire cash federal budget as it almost certainly was in the waning years of WWII.

          • Lysenko says:

            @Zombielicious

            Fair enough, Zombie, and I apologize for misinterpreting your point about semantics.

            For my part, while I do agree 100% that there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of defense spending, I see it in terms of eliminating empire building and allowing the military budget to bear costs that aren’t really defense-related, focusing more on training and readiness, and increasing our tooth-to-tail ratio as much as possible rather than a general downsizing of the military-industrial complex.

            If you’ll note my comments elsewhere in this thread, I think we could probably save a decent amount of money simply be reducing our overseas presence and our current commitments until such time as those nations serious about being strategic military partners are willing to contribute on terms of rough parity. It would be somewhat disadvantageous to lose pre-positioning sites in Germany and Japan, but by no means crippling, and there are American territories we could expand to in the Pacific if we really need forward-deployed assets there. Not as good, but workable.

            Don’t even get me STARTED on procurement and major systems.

            Another good example of this is the amount of the military’s operational budget spent on both domestic and international disaster relief/aid missions. Some of the National Guard portion of this hits state budgets, but a LOT hits the national defense budget. This is not massive amounts in terms of the overall budget, varying between a couple hundred million dollars most years, and one or two billion in years where there are really major disasters.

            But at the end of the day, I suspect my “cuts” would, at my most optimistic and extreme, be on the order of a 20-30% reduction in spending. This is, to be clear, a very rough estimate. I tried to go through and propose a new defense priority budget once when I was in college, which is where I’m drawing that figure from.

            I think it entirely appropriate that national defense have a large share of the overall government budget, as one of the most core and legitimate functions of a government. If anything, my concern is that many other countries we are supposed to be partners and allies with are not spending anywhere near ENOUGH time, money, effort, and care on their own militaries.

          • Zombielicious writes:

            “no one talks about the elephant in the room because a large portion of our military and NatSec spending is hidden behind these budgetary slights of hand, e.g. mandatory vs discretionary vs …”

            And, in a later post, writes:

            “54% was actually totally wrong, I misremembered that from the portion of discretionary spending, not the portion of the total federal budget.”

            The first quote implies that the budget complications are used to make defense spending look smaller than it is.

            The second quote implies (correctly) that the distinction between discretionary spending and total expenditure is used to make defense spending look bigger than it is, by reporting it as a fraction of discretionary spending rather than of total spending.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I get the impression that this is an intensely regional issue. I mean if you live on the coast I can see how it might like things are going awesome. But you’ll find that things on the edges are starting to fray.

        The official unemployment rate may be <5% but according to the Bureau of Labor work-force participation for citizens between the ages of 16 and 65 has been trending steadily downward since the mid 2000s. Likewise official the inflation and compensation numbers explicitly exclude things like food, water, energy and shelter from their calculations because they're "too volatile". Yet these also tend to be the biggest line-items on a young family's monthly budget. X rise in "real compensation" doesn't do you any good if your rent also goes up by X.

        Heck, "official" unemployment and inflation numbers are so infamously bad that there's a whole cottage industry of economists figuring out the “real” numbers.

      • Snodgrass says:

        I am confused by the note about taxation: does America still tax couples on joint income? If one person on $38,000 pays $6,600 tax, why doesn’t a couple of people on $38,000 each pay $13,200 tax (rather than the $18,000 that an individual on $76,000 would pay)?

        Britain at least is usually very careful about tax being something that applies to individuals – a substantial objection to the minor reform of not paying child benefit to women whose partner was paying higher-rate tax was that it involved linking two peoples’ tax affairs.

        Like everywhere else, Britain is *awful* about benefits being something that apply to either individuals or couples depending on what costs the State less; if a woman without a job moved in with me, it is assumed that I would be supporting her to the tune of thousands of pounds a year, and her benefits would be reduced accordingly even if I were miserly and did not provide the support!

        • Chalid says:

          If one person on $38,000 pays $6,600 tax, why doesn’t a couple of people on $38,000 each pay $13,200 tax (rather than the $18,000 that an individual on $76,000 would pay)?

          In the US, a married couple pays at lower rates than a single person would if they had the same income.

          From a tax perspective, whether it’s advantageous to be married or not depends on what the incomes in question are. As a general rule, if the two people have close to equal income, there’s a bit of a penalty for being married, but if their income is very unequal, being married is a benefit.

          • John Schilling says:

            As a general rule, if the two people have close to equal income, there’s a bit of a penalty for being married, but if their income is very unequal, being married is a benefit.

            And if we didn’t have something like this, we’d get about the same result with more paperwork when working husbands officially hired their SAHM wives as nannies/housekeepers and wrote their wages off on their own taxes as a business expense, exploiting the progressive nature of the tax code to reduce the net burden. Since this is the approximate economic arrangement behind the traditional family and traditional families have been handling this well enough without the extra paperwork, it’s a sensible provision when most or all of your families are the traditional breadwinner+SAHM+2.3 kids type.

            As Chalid notes, it now penalizes many families, albeit only to a small extent.

      • shemtealeaf says:

        Thanks for linking those; I somehow missed that point the first time this was discussed.

    • Bugmaster says:

      In addition to what Chris Stucchio said:

      How do you determine whether X is “that much better” than Y or not ?

      For example, a modern cellphone allows you to instantly retrieve all kinds of knowledge, assuming that it is known by someone else. It also plugs into a growing telecommunications infrastructure, which allows you to summon goods and services of all kinds (entertainment, transportation, food, romantic partnership, etc.) on demand. It prevents you from getting lost, unless you happen to be getting lost in an underground cave, and maybe not even then. In a dire emergency, you can use it to summon help at your location. Oh, and it also allows you to make voice calls, just like a landline.

      I think all of that stuff is pretty good, but is it “significantly better” than a landline ? Without some sort of a metric to judge by, I don’t know. So, what is your metric ?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Yes, that’s a very significant improvement over a landline. My family were very late adopters of cellphones when I was growing up, and I remember how much easier things got when we first got them. But, the delta between landline and cellphone is still much less than the delta between no phone and landline.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Again, I can neither agree nor disagree with you until you explain how you are measuring this “delta”. People had telegraph and postal service before landlines, after all.

          • You can read about the BLS methodology on measuring inflation. Ultimately they are attempting the heroic and impossible – trying to build a transitive measure of inflation.

            Inflation is defined in Econ 101 textbooks as inflation in the price of a basket of goods.

            It would make perfect sense to measure quantities like Inflation(1970, 2016) – this would be how much more expensive the 1970 basket of goods is in 2017. As time goes on, the 1970 basket will become cheaper and cheaper, and also less and less relevant to the economy since we buy so many more things in 2016 than in 1970. Further, you’d have problems like Inflation(1970, 1990) + Inflation(1990, 2016) != Inflation(1970, 2016).

            The big issue with this is that if the cost of medical interventions invented in 1971 skyrocket, Inflation(1970, X) will never go up.

            But unfortunately, the basket of goods people consume changes over time. So the BLS changes the basket of goods every year, and attempts to make the metric continuous. But fundamentally this prevents things from being an inflation measurement. Consider the following situation.

            Year 0: Food costs $100 for 100 bushels of wheat.
            Year 1: Food costs $105 for 100 bushels of wheat, and healthcare is invented. Healthcare costs $100 for 1 appendectomy.
            Year 2: Food costs $95 for 100 bushels of wheat, healthcare costs $120 for 1 appendectomy.

            Inflation(0,2) = -5%, since Healthcare wasn’t in the basket of goods in year 0. The same amount of money in year 2 buys you 5% more wheat than in year 0.
            Inflation(1,2) = 12.5%, since healthcare got expensive but food got cheaper.

            The BLS method of inflation would measure 2 years of inflation as 5% + 12.5% = 17.5%. (I’m oversimplifying the arithmetic here, e.g. avoiding geometric averaging, etc – this gives the flavor.)

            So tl;dr; measuring “delta” is a really tricky matter. The common ways of doing it (how the BLS does it) overstates inflation. The textbook way of doing it would have reduced relevance over long periods of time. Overall, it’s not an easy thing to get right.

          • The definition of inflation is less arbitrary than this thread makes it sound. In principle, the question is how much money you would have to have in year 2 to buy a bundle of goods such that you were indifferent between it and the bundle of goods you actually bought in year 1. The ratio between that and what you spent on the year 1 goods is the inflation rate.

            To get an upper bound on the inflation rate, you calculate what it costs in year 2 to buy the bundle of goods you actually bought in year 1. That’s an upper bound because the year 1 bundle is unlikely to be still optimal in year 2, so you could be as well off by spending a little less on a bundle better designed to optimize against year 2 prices.

            To get a lower bound, you calculate the cost in year 1 of the bundle you bought in year 2. The actual inflation rate is between those two. The two approaches are referred to as a Paasche index and a Laspeyres index, but I don’t remember which is which.

            It’s still imperfect, most obviously because you are calculating it for some sort of average consumer and the rate is really different for different people who consume different things. But it’s a good deal less arbitrary than discussions such as this thread make it sound. And it does in principle, and to a limited degree in practice, answer the question of how you define the amount of an improvement. We judge how much better a cell phone is than a land line by how much less income it would take in a world with cell phones to make you as well off as you would be in a world without them.

    • Sir Gawain says:

      In “Economic Treadmill”, Scott notes that America “has about 1.3x the per capita GDP now as it did in the 90s” and wonders why “if we’re about 1.3x as rich, why do we feel so much poorer?”

      At least partly because the post 1970s income gains in the U.S. have gone largely to the top 1%.

    • brad says:

      By contrast, look at all that was lost. Most of the jobs are gone, and most of the ones that remain are unpleasant, part-time, low-paid, low-status, and/or temporary. Most of the few remaining good jobs require ever-increasing portions of life and money spent in universities and unpaid internships to stand a reasonable chance of getting hired. Young people can’t afford to move out of mom and dad’s house. Can’t get married. Can’t have children and start families. And the ones that do manage to marry cannot afford to have the wife stay at home because the two-income trap keeps getting worse.

      This seems way over-exaggerated for a comparison to the 90s.

      Labor force participation rates for 25-54 year olds are down 2.7 percentage points as compared to twenty years ago. That’s not nothing, it’s a great many people in a country as large as the U.S. but it isn’t “most jobs”. Similarly U6-U5 (i.e. part timers looking for full time) is up .8 percentage points, homeownership is down 1.6 percentage points, and total fertility down .1 births.

      If you want to say something about the trend, that’s one thing, but to claim that there is some night and day difference between the 90s and today mistakes changes at the margin for changes in averages. There were plenty of people struggling in the 90s and there are slightly more struggling today, but the bulk of Americans were doing pretty well back then and the bulk are still doing pretty well today.

    • drethelin says:

      The penetration and population of people whose job it is to make people feel poor has gone way up. Or less negatively, our ability to know about the world and the vast wealth of celebrities and CEOs has gone up. People’s feelings of being poor are much more related to what they’re comparing their state to, than they are to any absolute measure of wealth. And not only are people comparing their lives to the wealthy of today, they compare them to the wealthy of yesteryear who are portrayed as “normal”. People’s mental image of life in the 50s is composed of the brady bunch and other TV families that would’ve been objectively upper middle class at least in the past, and not of the lives of slum-dwellers or anything like it.

      • John Schilling says:

        “The Brady Bunch” was set in the 1970s, not the 1950s, and competed for mindspace with e.g. the very working-class “All in the Family”. Actual 1950s family sitcoms similarly ranged from the upper-middle-class “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” to the working-class “Andy Griffith” and “The Honeymooners”.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @john Schilling:
          Andy Griffith as “working class”? I mean, I understand where you are going with that, but Mayberry seems to exist outside class. How many times is the word “boss”, “manager”, etc. ever uttered? I’m not exactly sure how to describe Andy, but he seems more “Southern gentleman” than anything else.

          Come to think of it. It’s a very paternalistic set-up, much like Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best. Andy is the the town’s “father”, more than anything else.

          I realize it’s not really here or there, it just really struck me when you described it as working class.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Working class” and “paternalistic” are not contradictory; far from it. And sheriff is a solidly blue-collar profession, literally as well as figuratively. Griffith’s character was near the top of the working-class ladder, but pretty much everyone on the show was on that ladder.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sure. I’m not challenging that.

            It’s the absence of non-working class people on the show, and the fact that no one seems to regard themselves as being in any sort of class structure that strikes me. There aren’t any supervisors or factory bosses. Class tension doesn’t really seem to exist.

            I’m sure there might be a few city/country tensions alluded to. And probably some “keeping up with the Joneses” things. I can’t remember the show in detail at all.

            Anyway, like I said, not really here or there.

        • Xeno of Citium says:

          Wait, the Brady Bunch as working class? One worker supported a wife, six children, and a live-in servant. They always struck me as upper-middle class. Were they really seen as working-class by viewers?

          • John Schilling says:

            The Bradys were middle class; it’s not clear whether they were meant to be at the high end of middle class or whether Hollywood’s inherent biases(*) lead to the depiction of an unrealistic level of prosperity for middle-middle-class. I don’t think audiences of the time were under any misimpression that the life of an architect’s family was interchangeable with that of a factory foreman or a bus driver.

            At the same time, IIRC terms like “upper middle class” hadn’t really achieved currency in the 1970s, and “working class” had been deprecated as a gauche synonym for “middle class”, because even people who understood that architects were different than bus drivers were trying real hard to pretend that class distinctions were for stuffy Europeans and basically all Americans were or ought to be Just Plain Middle Class.

            * e.g. large houses make for easier camera work, GM wants to see a late-model Pontiac prominently displayed, and if the producers have the budget for a location shoot then the family must be able to afford an exotic foreign vacation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            How does the phrase “aspirationally normal” strike you?

            They were supposed to be what every normal family aspired to be. Which is different than trying to be a representation of the average family, and different than a representation of a family that is “rich” or “high income” or “well off”.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Aspirationally normal” works nicely, thanks. But I still think we need to distinguish between the Bunkers and the Bradys, and I’m not sure that was just a matter of saying that the Bunkers could or should have aspired to live like the Bradys.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “All in the Family” wasn’t an aspirational show at all. It was, to coin a phrase, “comédie vérité”.

            If you want aspirational (white) working class comedies made in the same time frame I would suggest “Happy Days”. “Laverne and Shirley”, “Alice”, and perhaps some shows like them were aspirational working class, but didn’t have the nuclear family as the core frame, so they look different.

          • LHN says:

            I think in the 70s the Bradys would have been considered distinctly middle-middle class at best living in a suburban house that put six kids into two bedrooms connected by a single bathroom. (Not working class- architect is a white-collar profession.) On the other hand, they did have that live-in domestic, so maybe it was just unusual priorities.

            (Carol and the girls did move into Mike’s existing house in the pilot, so it may have been intended to be temporary crowding that the architect never got around to alleviating, for the same reason the cobbler’s children go barefoot.)

      • neonwattagelimit says:

        The penetration and population of people whose job it is to make people feel poor has gone way up. Or less negatively, our ability to know about the world and the vast wealth of celebrities and CEOs has gone up.

        I don’t know that that’s really true. Mass communication has been around for decades. True, the internet has probably made our ability to learn about the lifestyles of celebrities and CEOs even easier, but it’s not as though this was especially difficult before.

        Social media does induce comparisons to other people’s “highlight reels,” which makes people feel bad about themselves. But the people you are interacting with on social media are overwhelmingly likely to be of the same socioeconomic class as yourself – so it’s not exactly the same thing as comparing oneself to the wealthy (unless you are wealthy), although it very well could contribute to general malaise.

        I think lots of people are dissatisfied because, while things aren’t really that bad objectively, more peoples’ lives are falling short of their expectations. There’s no one, simple explanation for this, but I’ll entertain some:

        -The curve of economic growth has actually flattened in the past 15-ish years. I think as we get more and more advanced, it’s just harder and harder for the economy to grow.

        -While ALL of the income growth has not gone to the top 1%, economic inequality has increased substantially.

        -The cost of certain goods – particularly education, healthcare, and housing – has gone way, way up. Crucially, these are big costs which are borne by pretty much everyone at some point. Lots of Sanders supporters, for example, are upset about student loans, which can eat up a big chunk of income, making you feel poorer even if your income is OK.

        -Cultural changes. This includes stuff like the increasing prominence of women and minority groups (so being a white man is no longer, in itself, a guarantor of status), and our ever-increasing bombardment with images from the Internet, social media, television, etc., driving us to compare ourselves to other people more and more.

        -Higher expectations. While the “entitled millennials” narrative is often overblown, I do think many folks in my generation absorbed our Boomer parents’ high-minded ideals about personal fulfillment, only to run headlong into a world with diminishing (though by no means vanished) prospects and higher cultural expectations. We thought we were getting fulfilling, exciting lives; we mostly got fairly normal lives with nice side helping of economic and cultural malaise. Once again, this can be overblown, but I don’t think it’s totally made-up.

        • Virbie says:

          > don’t know that that’s really true. Mass communication has been around for decades. True, the internet has probably made our ability to learn about the lifestyles of celebrities and CEOs even easier, but it’s not as though this was especially difficult before.

          I’m not sure this is true. Celebs’ social media presence means you’re getting a constant drip of the parts of their life they most choose to highlight: instead of picking up (and paying for!) a People magazine every once in a while and seeing short glimpses of a vacation, you get to see the day-by-day of how fabulous the lives of the hyper-rich and famous are. The lower friction also makes it easier for everyone to do it: I know people who wouldn’t be caught dead reading People who are happy to follow Kanye’s or Kim’s or Kendall’s or Jennifer Lawrence’s or whoever’s Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat/etc/etc/etc.

          I may be misunderstanding the dynamic a little bit since my only experience with it is secondhand (I have never understood following a brand or celebrity on social media), but as far as I can tell it’s extremely prevalent (at least among a certain age group), and the follower/view counts of these celebs’ profiles bear that out.

          • neonwattagelimit says:

            True, the friction has been reduced. But I think the real negative impact of social-media on people’s psychological well-being is the “highlight reel” effect – comparing your life to the best parts of your peers’ lives, constantly advertised on Facebook and Instagram. It was possible to follow the lifestyles of the rich and famous before the Internet, if somewhat more difficult. It was not possible to see the photos of some guy you went to high school with’s fancy European vacation – and this sort of thing is the bread-and-butter of social media.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          Don’t forget fiction. I don’t even know the names of most Hollywood superstars but the characters they play in movies and TV shows are very affluent. Even when they are supposed to be acting as poor people they always have cars, leisure time and nice clothes at a minimum.

          • neonwattagelimit says:

            Certainly true – “middle class” in TV in movies is really more like “very comfortably upper-middle-class” in real life. But has this always been the case? I don’t know enough about old movies and TV shows to have a strong opinion on this, but my vague impression is that sub-upper-middle-class people have always been underrepresented in movies and television.

    • Alex says:

      I think part of the puzzle is a sort of diminishing marginal utility of widgets and internet services. A Kindle isn’t that much better than a library card and a book store, an iPod isn’t that much better than a Discman, a personal cellphone isn’t that much better than a family landline, Blu-Ray isn’t that much better than VHS, Netflix and Redbox aren’t that much better than Blockbuster, Amazon isn’t that much better than a mall, etc… even if they are all cheaper and better than what they replaced, their quality of life improvements were very minimal compared to what already existed.

      I wonder how this went unchallenged. Any of the former is way better than any of the latter. I realize that this is subjective and I grant you that all of these are the kind of improvement that one easily gets used to, but if you directly contrast the pairs (as in actually entering a physical bookstore or putting on a VHS) you will realize that the difference is enormous.

      Link somewhat relevant to what others in the thread have said:

      http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/hip%20consumerism.pdf

      • Jiro says:

        Actually that link does one of the best jobs of making the idea of consumerism plausible that I’ve seen. Usually “consumerism” is just a way of looking down on the proles.

  10. onyomi says:

    I’m interested in continuing this thread in which I began to discuss with HBC, NN, and others what seems like the disconnect between terrorists as popularly imagined and terrorists in reality.

    There are different motivations for terrorism and rampage killings–political, religious, personal, but do Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh, and Elliot Rodger have more in common than we may think? Omar Mateen seems to be a strange cross-pollination between Osama and Elliot, but would he find he had a similar psychological profile to, for example, the Unabomber? Are Islam, the environment, government tyranny, and inability to get laid all just excuses for the same “go on a rampage” impulse (though clearly that’s not 100% true, since certain circumstances, such as perception of foreign occupation seem to greatly increase the probability of suicide attacks in particular, nor do I think we can axiomatically say all terrorists are mentally disturbed).

    More to the point, it feels like most of the stereotypes and narratives are wrong: the stereotype of an Islamic terrorist is poor true believer hoping to get into Heaven by sacrificing for his faith. But many of the most prominent terrorists are rich or at least reasonably well-off, have ties to the West, and, as NN points out, prove to have lived rather libertineish lifestyles. And there’s also the fact that it wasn’t the radical Afghani immigrant, but his American-born son on Grindr who committed the rampage.

    What are similarities/differences between these acts of terror/rampage killing and how do we explain them? Do we need to greatly rethink the profile of a terrorist?

    • The Nybbler says:

      The part of the stereotype which DOES hold is “Islamic”. There’s a website which tries to prove otherwise by claiming that “right wing” terrorists (in the US) kill as many as “Islamic” terrorists. One might quibble with some of their examples, but Muslims make up about 1% of the United States. Right wingers, presumably a lot more. That suggests that terrorism is far more prevalent among Muslims.

      The New York Times reported a similar result, this time with _all_ extremists versus Muslim extremists in the US. They got twice as many deaths from non-Muslims. Which, given how rare Muslims are in the US, is extraordinary.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/us/tally-of-attacks-in-us-challenges-perceptions-of-top-terror-threat.html?_r=0

      • NN says:

        I’m not so sure that measuring by death toll is a good way to do it, because often death toll is determined more by luck than by anything else. For example, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold might have killed as many as 500 people if they hadn’t sucked at bomb-making. On the right-wing terrorist side of things, there was a plot last year by several Right-Wing militia types to attack Islamberg, a rural hamlet of mostly African American Muslims in New York State, that was thankfully foiled by the FBI. But of course, there have also been any number of plots by Muslim terrorists that failed to kill anyone due to incompetence and/or the intervention of law enforcement.

        Also, those counts leave out supposedly non-ideological rampage killings such as Sandy Hook, the Aurora theater shooting, etc. But the whole point of this discussion is questioning whether those are really different from ideological terrorist attacks in the first place.

        Regardless, even if Muslims are more likely than non-Muslims to do this, that still leaves the question of why this is the case. The fact that support for terrorism is not positively correlated with religiosity is evidence against the idea that some specific religious doctrine is at fault. Omar Mateen simultaneously pledged allegiance to ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah despite all three groups being enemies of each other, so it’s hard to argue that he was motivated by a deep understanding of ISIS ideology. One possibility is that the additional notoriety gained from pledging your killing spree to an infamous terrorist organization provides an additional incentive for Herostratus types.

        Also, I’ve brought this up before, but the over-representation of converts among Muslim terrorists (2/3 of American Muslim terrorists compared to 20% of American Muslims, 31% of British Muslim terrorists compared to 1-2% of British Muslims) can’t help but make one wonder if a significant portion of Muslim terrorists weren’t Muslim before they became terrorists.

        • Gbdub says:

          I do think it’s an important fact that there are radical and violent sects of Islam that are apparently pretty good at attracting converts (but are you counting Mateen as a “convert”? His dad isn’t exactly a warm fuzzy Muslim, and Mateen was Muslim before he was a radical, if not a particularly devout one).

          I’m not sure what to do about this fact though. I do think there are a group of individuals, often first generation kids of immigrants, who are looking to reconnect with their Muslim heritage and end up in the radical parts. I don’t know that there is a solution for this outside the Muslim community, but were resistant (for both good and bad reasons) to talk about this frankly.

        • Julie K says:

          ISIS’ best recruiting tool seems to be its videos with the message, “If you want to kill people in gruesome ways, we’re the group for you!”

          • Gbdub says:

            It does. And the fact that inspiring lone wolf or small group attacks is apparently part of their strategy would seem to make this different in an important way from your Unabomber type, who is truly “self-motivated”.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Oh, yes, aren’t these the geniuses who start their tally of terrorism-related casualties in the United States on September 12th, 2001? What an odd date to choose at random. I simply can’t imagine why they did that.

        • onyomi says:

          Looking at statistics from further back, it’s true that that’s the point when Islamic terrorism really outstrips all the others. But it’s also true that the number of suicide attacks committed by Muslims in the past 15 years, it also vastly outstrips the number committed by other groups, like the Tamil Tigers (mostly Buddhists, btw!), who racked up the biggest numbers, I think, in the 90s.

          So it IS true that Islamic terrorism is both the most prevalent form of terrorism now and also the most severe in recent memory; it may not be so true, however, that this is some longstanding feature of Arab culture. Rather, it may be a pretty modern phenomenon, as we in the US tend to view Columbine-type killers.

          • NN says:

            But it’s also true that the number of suicide attacks committed by Muslims in the past 15 years, it also vastly outstrips the number committed by other groups, like the Tamil Tigers (mostly Buddhists, btw!), who racked up the biggest numbers, I think, in the 90s.

            So it IS true that Islamic terrorism is both the most prevalent form of terrorism now and also the most severe in recent memory; it may not be so true, however, that this is some longstanding feature of Arab culture. Rather, it may be a pretty modern phenomenon, as we in the US tend to view Columbine-type killers.

            Actually, the Tamil Tigers were mostly Hindus (Tamils in Sri Lanka are about 80% Hindu and 20% Catholic). There were, however, thousands of Buddhist suicide bombers during World War 2.

            Also of note: while suicide bombing is most common among Muslim militant groups now, as far as I can tell there were no suicide bombings during either the Algerian War of Independence or the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. That indicates that, as you said, this isn’t some longstanding feature of Arab/Muslim culture. I have a more complex theory that I might post later on when I have more time.

          • Jiro says:

            I would expect no suicide bombings when the target is ruthless enough to not care about civilians in order to stop the attacks, and when they have control over the media so that measures against suicide bombers can’t be spun as affecting civilians in the media.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      In that thread I had three buckets I was trying to use to loosely sort the various terrorists. Let me try and describe them rather than merely give examples (although I am not particularly wedded to them. This is more musing out loud):
      1 – Engaged in asymmetric war on their (roughly) home turf with a (plausibly) foreign force. The IRA, Hamas, etc.

      2 – attempting to engage in asymmetric warfare in an organized manner, but motivated far more by ideology than an attempt to change “facts on the ground”. A certain messianic component that views an attack as the first domino in a chain of events, but organized and perhaps cooperative with others. Timothy McVeigh, Al Qeada, and Eric Rudolph might all fit here.

      3 – Lone wolves driven by ideological reasons that may only be clear to them. Misanthropic and manifesto writing. They also may have messianic delusions, but there ideology is far less connected to either the real world or their ultimate desire to inflict pain and damage to satisfy their own personal need. Columbine, Brevik, Robert Dear, etc.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Something to note is that many of the suicide bombers employed by Hamas or terrorists in Iraq’s sectarian conflicts may be motivated primarily by money (for their family). I think some of those are true believers in the sense that onyomi talks about, but that is more like an anasthetic that allows them to actually commit the act. My understanding is that they are much more like soldiers in a war than category 2 and 3.

      • onyomi says:

        Wikipedia’s page on attacker profiels and motivations is pretty helpful (probably should have consulted that in the first place).

        Two things stand out to me as relates to this discussion: attackers tend to be educated and middle class, but otherwise, “[individual terrorists] are not sufficiently different from everyone else [to accurately profile]. Insights into homegrown jihadi attacks will have to come from understanding group dynamics, not individual psychology. Small-group dynamics can trump individual personality to produce horrific behavior in otherwise ordinary people.” (argues Scott Atran)

        This latter point seems roughly correct, but also seems to suggest a difference between “terrorists” and “lone wolf” rampage killers. Unless, of course, the “lone wolves” are actually responding to a small group dynamic we can’t easily see.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I have a bucket for “literally insane” in the “barely able to form coherent sentences” sense. Adam Lanza would fit there. Your third bucket comes close, but I think I actually wouldn’t count most the examples you give there in mine.

    • Sandy says:

      It seems like a bizarre comparison to me. McVeigh, bin Laden and Kaczynski had elaborate reasons rooted in political ideology and history for their terrorism. For McVeigh it was Waco and paranoia that the government was coming for us all, for bin Laden it goes all the way back to when he was banished from Saudi Arabia for railing against the House of Saud as corrupt traitors who sold out Islam to the West, and Kaczynski was an extreme Luddite convinced that leftism and advancing technological transformation were tearing human society apart. It should be noted that Kaczynski was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and a lot of people still believe that MKUltra turned him insane.

      Elliot Rodger was a hormonal misogynist filled with teenage angst and self-hatred over his biracial identity, mad that he couldn’t get any while a black guy was fucking his sister.

      • TD says:

        Kaczynski was an extreme Luddite convinced that leftism and advancing technological transformation were tearing human society apart.

        Does this make Kaczynski the opposite of Nick Land who is convinced that leftism is slowing down the technological transformation needed to tear humanity apart?

      • Matt M says:

        “self-hatred over his biracial identity”

        Wait what? I read the dude’s entire manifesto and don’t remember this being mentioned, like, at all…

        • Ted says:

          […] On top of this was the feeling that I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with. I envied the cool kids, and I wanted to be one of them.

          It came up a little more in his forum posts. Media made a bigger deal out of this than was I think warranted.

        • TD says:

          There was also a lot of analysis in the media over what societal factors caused Elliot to behave as he did, but it’s pretty clear from reading his Manifesto that he had intrinsic mental problems from the start. Even his stories of early childhood reveal his narcissistic and sociopathic view of others.

          It’s not that Elliot was facing problems that others don’t face, it’s that he was reacting in different and worse ways to fairly ordinary problems and then compounding them. He was a product of his own genetic inferiority, in my honest opinion.

    • hlynkacg says:

      This is an older article but I think it’s the closest that any one has come to actually identifying the actual mechanism.

      In many ways it reminds me of Scott’s Toxoplasma of Rage in that it accurately identifies an entire class of behaviors that I had previously encountered (both here and in the middle east) but had been at a loss to describe and make them “click”.

      9-11 as Symbolic Drama -Lee Harris. September 2002

      • onyomi says:

        Wow, that’s a great article, and makes sense of the point that the most vigorous proponents of fantasy ideologies tend to be middle class and educated. Also seems to support the notion that Osama bin Laden DID have more in common with the Unabomber than the IRA (which has clearly defined political goals).

        Makes me wonder if we should even rethink the label “terrorism.” Not that we are likely to do so, but “terrorism” actually seems more applicable to the IRA case or Tamil Tigers, where basically the message is “we will terrorize you and make you feel unsafe until you meet our political demands.” As the author notes, if this were al Qaeda’s goal, they would have followed up on 9-11, even on a small scale, by any means possible, in order to maintain pressure until political concessions could be achieved.

        But if the US is just a prop in a fantasy of renewed Islamic glory or something, then our terror is really just a side effect of being used as such a prop, and not the goal (many have convincingly argued that crippling the nation economically as a result of our predictable overreaction and overextension was the the real goal, but that, again, I think, gives bin Laden too much credit for having realistic political goals).

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      It’s worth reading the Europol TE-SAT for an insight into European terrorism. There has been a very recent (2014 or 2015 IIRC) change from the majority of arrested terror suspects being nationalist separatists to being religiously motivated (i.e. Islamist).

    • Jaskologist says:

      One semi-related note on a quick rule-of-thumb that I’ve found works well.

      When initial news reports come in about an ongoing attack, I withhold judgement about the motivations. No data yet. But once they reveal that there are multiple attackers, I know that it was carried out by Muslims. I’ve said before that religion is good at overcoming coordination problems, and this is one that Islam is good at.

      Lone wolf attacks tend to split between schitzo and Muslim, at least in the US.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The IRA will be surprised. So to the Tamil Tigers.

        It might work right now. But I don’t think that means too very much about Islam in particular.

        • Jaskologist says:

          My sample is limited to the US, although it seems to have worked well for those European attacks which become big news over here, like Brevik or the latest Paris attacks.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            ” although it seems to have worked well for those European attacks which become big news over here

            I submit that the bolded portion is doing work there.

            The media wants to make available to us things that are novel and interesting. The IRA got more press than the Tamil Tigers got more press than Basque separatists in America, and the “why” of that is going to be fairly complex. Body counts play a part, but cultural connections also play a part, and many other factors, including how slow the news cycle is when a body count event happens.

            Once 9/11 happens, the interest in Islamic terrorism rises exponentially, so we get exponentially increased coverage of it. It crowds out other events from the possibility of being covered in depth.

            So, the fact that you don’t immediately bring to mind the 2014 Kunming attack when thinking about multi-attacker organized terrorism isn’t really surprising.

            Edit: Whoops, looks like those guys actually do identify as Islamic. Score 1 point for Jaskologist. I was thinking I was looking at a Tibetan Buddhist attack.

            Edit 2: But there definitely are multi-actor Tibetan attacks, which was my main point.

          • onyomi says:

            But the Kunming attackers were Muslims?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Let me emphasize again the US-centric nature of this quick-score method. I am mostly concerned with attacks against the US, and I don’t expect the attacks other countries suffer to have the same root causes*. Also, I’m pretty much only concerned with attacks in this century; I don’t think the conditions of the 90s apply anymore.

            This is heavily biased by whatever filter makes us care about some mass killings and not others. Nobody cares if a bunch of gang members kill each other. I don’t know how to define what is “terrorism” and what isn’t, but I’d say it seems to roughly coincide with “attacks concerned with killing a lot of people quickly.”

            Anyway, test it out the next time some big attack is just hitting the news. Worked well for San Bernardino and the (admittedly foreign) Paris attacks.

            * At least, not a priori. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t. I don’t think the US has much to worry about when it comes to the IRA, Tamil Tigers, or Chinese mass knife attacks.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        You seem to have forgotten, somehow, about the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, which was carried out by a team of men who were neither muslim nor psychotic.

        • Sandy says:

          I don’t know if two people counts as a team for such purposes given that such a small group is much easier to coordinate and control without needing the help of a powerful organizing principle like religion or political ideology. See Columbine.

          But then again, the San Bernardino shootings were also just two people working together. I wonder, if we expand it to terrorist incidents with 3 or 4+ perpetrators like the Bataclan shootings and Brussels bombing, how many of them will involve non-Muslims?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Jaskologist clarifies above that he is thinking of attacks that took place in the US. Looking through the Wikipedia article “Terrorism in the United States,” it appears as though only two fatal terrorist attacks since 1990 were perpetrated by conspiracies larger than two: the 1993 and 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center. (A few accessories-after-the-fact were indicted in the Boston Marathon bombings, but McVeigh and Nichols also had accessories). Two will be too small a sample size to draw any conclusions.

            Here is another instance of right-wing terrorism carried out by a duo, in this case a couple.

            It looks to me like Jaskologist’s heuristic is unreliable.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      Suicides (which should include these lone wolf mass attacks) I think are a manifestation of male anomie driving men to go literally amok.

  11. onyomi says:

    As someone noted in a recent OT, the trend of nasty anon sniping continues. It is somewhat better since the mass anon e-mail was banned. I generally report it when I see it, though Scott seems not to do much about it. I would encourage others to report it too when they see it and maybe Scott will take notice.

    I just hope it is always-anons who are jerks, as opposed to regular posters who go undercover to express their disdain for the people toward whom they are outwardly polite. If the latter, I hope their whole IP gets banned.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I usually only check reports once a month or so, so I may do more once I see it. I actually IP ban a lot of anons, but they just keep coming.

      • onyomi says:

        That is actually strangely reassuring, if bothersome for you. I would rather think that most of the one-off snipes are just passersby taking potshots, as opposed to regular posters being secret assholes.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          In your honor, I just ran through the backlog and banned three named commenters plus about twenty anonymice (some of them might have been the same)

          • suntzuanime says:

            You’re banning the people who get fed up with the tedious posters and not the tedious posters. This is deadly to an online community.

          • Ted says:

            suntzuanime: What’s the alternative? Ban people for no particular reason except you find their posts uninteresting? I don’t think any of the named bans were all that unjustified; I’d hope it’s possible to manage both “fed up with tedious posters” and also “does not actively insult other party in discussion”.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I strongly prefer a light moderation touch that relies on social enforcement by the community over official moderation action in all but the most egregiously disruptive cases. If you are going to engage in heavy moderation, the burden falls on you to make sure you’re not anarchotyrannically banning the people in the community who are trying to enforce good social norms while letting the norm-violators walk free. It can be hard to do that while being “fair” and not banning people for, as you say, “no particular reason except you find their posts uninteresting”.

            In theory, a Reign of Terror could handle this problem, but I don’t think Scott has the energy to devote to doing a proper job of arbitrary authoritarian modding of the community. What I think happens is, a post will get reported, and then the post will be viewed along with the immediate context when Scott views the report, but Scott doesn’t have the time to consider the larger context of the community so that he can prune the community into exactly the topiary sculpture he desires. So working largely locally, he will say “wow, rude, banned indefinitely” without considering reasons that could justify the rudeness, and larger patterns of harmful behavior that are not as instantaneously striking will go unchecked.

          • suntzuanime says:

            So I guess this is the topiary after all. Well, your will not mine be done.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I do put in an effort not to ban people who get angry because they were provoked, but I may have a different definition of “provoked” than you.

            I also have some different incentives – I am pretty sure that any community that is more than 20% alt-right quickly becomes 100% alt-right through a neighborhood-segregation-style effect, so I am trying to push against that by getting rid of the people who sound most stereotypically and aggressively alt-right above a certain point. I still value those views, but they have to be pretty good about not sounding a certain way that scares everyone else off.

            I also really don’t want to end up in the news as “before the massacre, the shooter was known to comment on a blog called Slate Star Codex”, which has been a factor once or twice.

            I’m not going to ban anyone who doesn’t deserve it, but this determines which of the people who deserve it I’m closest to snap on.

            I’m wary of banning people for being boring because I don’t want to seem arbitrary and get people angry or afraid.

          • onyomi says:

            To clarify, were the three named posters you banned also guilty of anonymous sniping from the same IPs, or were they banned purely for their named comments?

          • Anonymous says:

            @onyomi

            Why the obsession with named accounts switching to anonymous ones to snipe, you silly bad person?

          • Anonymous says:

            I strongly prefer a light moderation touch that relies on social enforcement by the community over official moderation action in all but the most egregiously disruptive cases.

            The alt-right has spent the last decade consciously seeking to immunize themselves from social pressure online. When edginess is a virtue, social pressure is useless.

          • onyomi says:

            Also, I feel like part of the point of posting snarky things anonymously, besides trying to skirt a ban, is precisely the avoidance of social pressure. If named commenter x keeps saying mean things and everyone calls him out on it, he may be encouraged to be nicer or stop posting.

            But how can social pressure be applied to throwaway identities, other than by discouraging their use for snark more generally (which is part of what I was trying to do here)? Of course, they know who they are, but I think people are also good at compartmentalizing: “I’ll vent using this throwaway identity and my ‘real’ identity won’t be tarnished.”

            And that’s why I was concerned about the possible issue of named users going undercover, though I still have no idea how often it happens. If it were happening, I would see it as a kind of abuse of the commons (arguably good reasons for posting anonymously, like not wanting an online persona at all or politely expressing a controversial viewpoint) and circumvention of the light social pressure which, ideally, would uphold community standards.

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree with the anime general. When someone’s being tedious, you obviously shouldn’t ban them, which is why it’s useful to have someone rude enough to point out their tediousness. In the current policy anyone performing this role is committing a bannable offense.

            That isn’t to say there should be snark under every post or that poor posts should be piled on mercilessly, but not every openly rude post is a bad thing.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I thought we had to be two out of {polite, true, necessary}. If someone is being tendentious, saying so meets numbers 2 and 3.

          • onyomi says:

            “That isn’t to say there should be snark under every post or that poor posts should be piled on mercilessly, but not every openly rude post is a bad thing.”

            Though I’m not perfect myself on this count, I can’t see why we wouldn’t want to aspire to 0 rude posts (which is not to say it would be worth banning everyone to achieve that, but fewer rude posts seems almost always better, all else equal). It often hurts discussion and almost never helps. Which is not to say we should have to walk on eggshells or have no sense of humor, but I think we can all tell the difference between friendly ribbing and mean personal attacks.

            The only time the latter might ever be justified is in response to an openly rude post, but even then, fighting fire with fire is probably not as effective as just ignoring and, if bad enough, reporting.

            As for the idea that we might sometimes have someone spouting so much rubbish that someone would need to put them in their place, I’m not convinced that’s a good idea, either.

            If you actually hope to convince the person, being rude is almost certainly the wrong way to go about it. If you’re concerned others might agree if you don’t point out in the flaws in the argument, then it’s always possible to point out flaws in arguments without getting personal.

            The best response to a really dumb post is to ignore it; any sort of response only increases the probability of derailment. And if the idea is to get the person to stop posting altogether, then ignoring, again, is probably the best strategy. Some people enjoy drama. Nobody enjoys having all their posts ignored.

            The problem with “polite, true, necessary; pick two” is that we are all fallible in our judgment of what is true and what is necessary. As for the rare case when someone comes on to say something unambiguously loathsome, there are ways to point out the opinion is not welcome without being rude, and reporting the comment is one of them.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not sure where to find it now, and as much as we all hate being told “read the sequences,” I definitely recall reading some posts on LW which were dumb enough as to prompt Eliezer to say, in effect, “you lack the background knowledge to express an informed opinion on this topic. I suggest you look into x, y, and z.” I think that was a pretty good model for how to tell someone, in effect, that their posts are bad, without being rude.

          • Zorgon says:

            Problem is, that drags us right back to the 101-Spaces problem all over again. And I don’t remember how that ended up, but I’m pretty sure we never came to a decent conclusion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            On the rudeness question, I think it’s important to take into account familiarity.

            In a recent thread I said that, theoretically, I would kick FacelessCraven’s fucking ass if [a certain slight was offered]. (I’m sure he would actually best me in any physical contest, but that’s beside the point.)

            Now, he and I have gone back and forth enough that I understood how he would take that (or I certainly hope I understood). Sometime rudeness is a shortcut to communication. Or sometimes it’s a useful signal that communication isn’t occurring. It can be the kind of vent that allows greater communication down the road.

            I think there has to be enough flexibility in the overall norms to allow this type of thing while distinguishing it from the kind of rudeness that isn’t intended to do anything but provoke, and also the kind of rudeness that comes from uncontrolled and corrosive anger.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, part of the reason I pick on anonymice is because of the lack of interpersonal context. If you’ve had many interactions with a poster you may develop enough familiarity with them to know what is or isn’t crossing the line, and they will also be less likely to mistake a strong rebuttal or joke for an intentional sleight.

            Which is not to excuse regular posters being mean, but I think the courtesy bar actually has to be a little higher for those poking their heads out of the ether to leave a comment and again disappear, because there’s no context to draw upon.

          • onyomi says:

            “Problem is, that drags us right back to the 101-Spaces problem all over again. And I don’t remember how that ended up, but I’m pretty sure we never came to a decent conclusion.”

            Well I certainly don’t like the idea that people asking basic questions or making elementary errors must be repelled by insults. No one is obligated to teach them anything, and I think it’s totally fine to say “read this first,” “lurk moar,” or just ignore, but relative willingness to engage people not already in-the-know is probably what makes SSC feel less insular than LW.

          • Anonymous says:

            I thought we had to be two out of {polite, true, necessary}. If someone is being tendentious, saying so meets numbers 2 and 3.

            The issue with true and necessary is that they don’t have to be applied charitably. No comment under a blog post is truly necessary, so if you’re being an asshole your comment is probably unnecessary unless you’re pointing out a blatant lie. To a much lesser extent it applies to “true” as well; does it require your post be plausible, or should it convince everyone who reads it, or? The two combined seem to mostly allow for rudeness if someone is blatantly lying and you’ve caught them in the act and you can prove it beyond doubt..

            @onyomi
            You’re making perfect the enemy of the good here. I’ve never seen someone post “dude, politely, I couldn’t read your entire post because it’s boring”. For whatever reason it seems you can only choose between “people who rudely tell tedious people they’re tedious” and “people who don’t tell tedious people they’re tedious”.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            You’re making perfect the enemy of the good here. I’ve never seen someone post “dude, politely, I couldn’t read your entire post because it’s boring”. For whatever reason it seems you can only choose between “people who rudely tell tedious people they’re tedious” and “people who don’t tell tedious people they’re tedious”.

            I don’t think that’s necessarily true. For example, HeelBearCub is usually harsh with the typical “Boo blues” contentless comment, without being nearly as rude as the common anon reply.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Whatever:
            To be fair, I probably started out harsher. I’d have to go find and read what I have posted earlier, to be sure. But I feel sure that my approach has changed in response to this communities norms.

            The best “policeman” for this kind of stuff is self-discipline. The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” probably applies here. That’s one reason I bang on about norms of discourse and the fact that they should be guarded zealously. I also have asked that the norms be applied equally, but I also recognize that my view of this will always be subject to a certain amount of bias.

            Onyomi has a good point about ever changing anon’s vis-a-vis my point about familiarity. I’ll take it a step further and say that when posting without attempting to establish an identity, it seems to me that you make it less likely that you will absorb the community norms, which seems harmful to me in the end.

            Certainly that sword has two edges, though.

          • Julie K says:

            This comment and others nearby are fairly polite. (Whatever happened to Jill? Did we scare her away?)

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Word has it that suntzuanime had her assassinated.

          • Watercressed says:

            The problem with {polite, true, necessary} is that afaik no one is banned for saying things that are polite, but neither true nor necessary.

          • Anonymous says:

            The problem with {polite, true, necessary} is that afaik no one is banned for saying things that are polite, but neither true nor necessary.

            Scott converted from Buddhism to Puritanism. That policy is no longer even in effect.

      • Andrew G. says:

        Why anyone thinks that IP banning does anything useful escapes me.

        People don’t “have” IPs. They use IPs. And in many cases, they’re unlikely to use the same IP from day to day.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I mean, it helps. If you’re not a hardened troll, it’s a hassle to figure out how to evade. And if you’re not a totally malicious troll, it’s a “hey, for real, fuck off” sign that could give you pause.

          • Andrew G. says:

            Some of the commenters on my blog literally would not notice if I banned their IPs, since they essentially never comment from the same IP twice.

          • onyomi says:

            Part of the difficulty may be that the short sideswipe is precisely the kind of comment which is easy to write on a cell phone.

            But as others have said, an IP ban is definitely a strong message and, for some, a hassle to get around. Not perfect, but I’m not sure what else one can do without requiring registration for all posts.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My view, probably obviously, is that the short sideswipe is the bane of good discussion, whether it stands alone or is embedded in a longer comment.

            Ultimately that is a community norm though. If the sideswipe pushes people in the direction of not supporting the arguments of the person who made the sideswipe, you get better conversation. Otherwise things devolve to snipe fests.

            And yeah, I see the most likely path for SSC continuing to grow and maintaining its commmenting tenor is actual registered users, perhaps even with limited open registration periods so that a banned user can’t just immediately re-register.

            I don’t actually expect Scott will do that though. I think he seems to object to it on principle.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HBC
            I’m not sure why you seem to value length for its own sake. If there is a six paragraph comment but it doesn’t engage all with the thread it is posted in or any other posters, rather is yet another spittle inflected screed about the evils of the hated outgroup, to me that looks worse than the dismissive sideswap posted in response. (I may be biased though.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not sure why you seem to value length for its own sake.

            whether it stands alone or is embedded in a longer comment.

            I said the opposite of what you seem to think I said. Or, at least, orthogonal to what you said.

            A long post composed entirely of invective, which might be categorized as 60 car pileup rather than a single side-swipe is certainly worse than the single side-swipe comment. I’m not denying that, if that is what you are thinking.

            But it does take more energy to produce, is actually easier to ignore on the margin and doesn’t quite inspire the race to the bottom that we see at, say, reddit or twitter. “Long form” invective posts don’t seem to result in the “snipe-counter snipe” wars that seem to comprise the bulk of the posts on many forums.

            Of course, it’s possible that long form invective just naturally devolves to short form, so that any long form “cause” becomes obscured after some point in time.

            In any case, I am broadly against invective when attempting to engage those who are in disagreement, long form or short form.

        • Nornagest says:

          Static IPs are a lot more common now than they were in the days of dial-up, but yes, an IP ban is an incomplete solution at best.

          There’s really no good way to ban people, but an expiring IP ban combined with a non-expiring username ban is probably the least bad outside a closed ecosystem. In a context like this one you might be able to rig something up using cookies that’d persist through sessions, but that would only work until someone thinks to clear them, and I doubt there’s an easily available plugin for it.

          • Andrew G. says:

            I’m not sure static IPs really are more common: consider mobile devices.

            My own blog has a relatively small population of regular commenters, but in a 3-month sample of data, more than 50% of the posts come from commenters who have used 9 or more different IPs in that time, with the highest being 37 different IPs.

          • John Schilling says:

            Browser fingerprinting would probably work fairly well for this purpose. Almost all web browsers will tell the client server everything about their configuration to “enhance the user-side web experience” or whatnot, and while the IP may change, the bit where you are running Firefox version 41.2.3.4 on a 1024-by-768 pixel display with the time zone set for UTC-7 DD-MM-YY HHMM and the font preference being small sans serif, etc, etc, etc, generally doesn’t and will suffice for reliable user identification in the short term.

            It would be a pain to set up, but painful once, and it would be a recurring pain to spoof for each user. We’re probably a good ways from needing such a thing here, but it may be worth keeping in mind for the future.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            John, as Andrew says, the most common source of variable IPs is cell phones. But those are exactly the devices unlikely to have interesting fingerprints. At least iphones don’t.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Scott – Speaking of bans, would you mind adding the year to the dates given in the banlog? Sure, it’s pretty easy to click or hover over the “reasons” link, but listing years would let us glance over for trends.

      • Teal says:

        Can’t say I love the new deletion policy. I went to go look at one of last weeks open threads and I had a weird anti-deja vu feeling because parts of conversations I had read are gone.

        The old rule seemed pretty good to me:

        If I need to react to a comment, I will delete it only if it is dangerous to leave it up (ie comment contains people’s personal information, comment contains strong basilisk, comment is so offensive that Internet mob would use my leaving it up as an excuse to attack me). Otherwise, I will leave it up but post in large red letters below it “COMMENT VIOLATED POLICY FOR [REASON]. POSTER BANNED FOR [TIME]”, for approximately the same reason all those people in Game of Thrones leave bloody heads on spikes in front of their castles.

  12. Jiro says:

    First this thread on why banning encryption won’t prevent terrorism, since sufficiently smart terrorists could use steganography – especially Izaak’s demonstration of such.

    Nobody actually believes that banning encryption would prevent terrorism anyway. It’s just a government excuse because they may convince a few non-experts and it sounds better than just saying they want to spy on everyone.

  13. madman says:

    Tired of having discussions with friends about Islam and everyone wandering ever back to a few fallback positions (mostly learned from listening to NPR). Round and round things go.

    So I want to get a bit more scientific in my learning. I therefore came up with some potentially-falsifiable hypotheses. Would appreciate links or thoughts on evidence one way or the other for these hypotheses (I consider evidence to include large-scale survey data, quantitative social science, sentiment analysis, quantitative comparison of court rulings or sentencing, etc).

    Hypothesis 1: Muslims in a country are similarly likely (or only slightly more likely) than their fellow citizens to view homosexuality as immoral. (my prior comes from Pew Forum 2010 Sub-Saharan Africa surveys, n=25,000, 19 countries)

    Hypothesis 2: Within a country, Muslims are more likely than Christians to desire rule based on religious text (my prior comes from Pew 2010 above).

    Hypothesis 3: Across countries, Muslims are more likely than other major religions (Christian, Hindu) to favor application of violence for violation of social norms (examples include: physical punishment or death for adulterers, pre-marital sex, or for apostates and blasphemers). (my prior from Pew 2013 “The worlds muslims”).

    Hypothesis 4: Within and between countries, Muslims are more likely to rely on informal or familial assistance than on formal government services (i.e., policing, welfare, support of elders and infirm). (Prior based only on intuition. Evidence that controlled for development level across countries obviously required.)

    Hypothesis 5a: Across countries, muslims in minority-muslim countries are more conservative (prior: us vs. them effect). 5b: Across countries, muslims in more western countries are less conservative (prior: intuition about cultural bleed over).

    Hypothesis 6: The median global muslim is more conservative (via some quantifiable measure) than the median conservative voter in OECD countries. (Prior: intuition but little else)

    Hypothesis 7: Across countries, muslims score higher on indices of social conservatism than on economic indices of conservatism (i.e., classical economic liberalism). (prior: Pew surveys above, intuition).

    Any evidence one way or the other come to mind?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t know how relevant “across countries” is – Muslims who immigrate are a non-random subset, and Muslims who immigrate to America even more so (there are shockingly different outcomes between European vs. American immigrants).

      • madman says:

        Yes, that could confound things. Am curious about core modes of thought that are common to the teachings.

    • Sir Gawain says:

      I think quite a few of these are literally true, but I suspect Islam qua Islam isn’t the problem so much as the fact that a lot of societies that happen to be Islamic are also relatively low to mid income, undereducated, tribalistic and lack a long history of effective states with monopolies on violence. Christian/pagan countries in Africa today have a lot of the same problems, and pre-modern Christian Europe likely had a lot of the same dynamics of the contemporary Muslim world.

      In my view, like a lot of debates about culture, a universal “modern/pre-modern” axis is a better guide to this than a “unique individual properties” taxonomy.

      • madman says:

        One reason to look at within-country, between-religion comparisons is that it can get at features while holding most “modern/pre-modern” variables reasonably constant. Example: The Pew Forum 2010 study surveyed both Christians and Muslims across 19 countries in sub-saharan africa. One interesting finding is that muslims are significantly more likely across all countries to support stoning of adulterers. Christians and Muslims both almost universily thought adultery (and homosexuality BTW) were immoral, but Christians were much less likely to support physical violence.

        • Sir Gawain says:

          That’s interesting, and it seems at least possible to me that at a given level of state history/economic development/education Muslims are more likely to have regressive views. But I also think it’s quite possible that there are confounding non-religious variables that explain some of the seemingly religious effect.

          My big picture point is that educated, wealthy, law-abiding Muslims would likely make better neighbors than uneducated, poor, violent Christians. I agree with what I take to be your implication that there are important differences in values and behaviors across societies, that these are under discussed and that some societies are meaningfully better than others; but I think these differences have relatively little to do with nominal religion.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Muslim countries aren’t all poor either. Saudi Arabia has a GDP per capita on par with western countries. And it’s not like a few wealthy individuals own all that wealth. The median income is also at a similar level relative to the west. Also, terrorists aren’t even disproportionately poor. It might even be the other way around but I’m not sure about that. And of course it doesn’t matter if they’re law abiding when Islamic law tells you to kill apostates. Beliefs matter and the currently fashionable insistence that it doesn’t is just bizarre.

      • Except that “modernism” is a name for a particular strand of Christianity that went nuclear and took over the world. “Modernism” is not a universal global end-state which all cultures aspire to, but is its own particularity.

        • Sir Gawain says:

          Mai La Dreapta says:
          June 20, 2016 at 12:55 am ~new~
          Except that “modernism” is a name for a particular strand of Christianity that went nuclear and took over the world. “Modernism” is not a universal global end-state which all cultures aspire to, but is its own particularity.

          Is there some distinctly Christian/European Christian aspect to modernity in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, South Korea and/or Taiwan?

          And I’d say once you consider that huge numbers of people want to move from pre-modern to modern states, but trivial numbers want to move from modern to pre-modern ones, it’s pretty clear which form of society people want to live in.

          • Sandy says:

            You could argue it for Japan and Hong Kong. Japan no longer worships the Emperor as the infallible God-King because the post-WWII occupation stressed on getting rid of Hirohito’s fanatics and replacing their environment with more Western values of government, religion and civil society. Hong Kong was a British colony up until 1997.

            Perhaps Singapore too, because of Lee Kuan Yew.

          • Sir Gawain says:

            Sandy says:
            June 20, 2016 at 1:16 am ~new~
            You could argue it for Japan and Hong Kong. Japan no longer worships the Emperor as the infallible God-King because the post-WWII occupation stressed on getting rid of Hirohito’s fanatics and replacing their environment with more Western values of government, religion and civil society. Hong Kong was a British colony up until 1997.

            Perhaps Singapore too, because of Lee Kuan Yew.

            I think in the cases you describe Anglo-American liberalism is more important than Christianity, and it seems really strained to me to argue that Enlightenment liberalism is actually best understood an outgrowth of Christianity.

            And then you still have to consider that Japan largely modernized pre-WW2, mainland China was never quite colonized, Korea and Taiwan were Japanese colonies, etc.

          • Sandy says:

            I think in the cases you describe Anglo-American liberalism is more important than Christianity, and it seems really strained to me to argue that Enlightenment liberalism is actually best understood an outgrowth of Christianity.

            Depending on whom you ask, Enlightenment liberalism is ultimately an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation.

          • Ah, but now you’re doing a bait-and-switch with the meaning of “modernity”. (To be fair, my own comment was also not completely clear.)

            Your original post was concerned mostly with moral attitudes regarding homosexuality and state violence, which you conflated with “modernity”, but in the East Asian economies I believe that this falls through. The attitudes in eg. China towards violent punishment for criminals are much higher than those in the states (and remember Singapore’s famous use of caning as punishment for certain categories of crimes). And where attitudes are more “modern”, as with the attitudes in Japan towards homosexuality, I believe that these attitudes existed long before modernity came through.

            These countries are economically modern, however, but this does not reshape their moral attitudes as much as you might think. (Though of course it does impact some things.)

          • it seems really strained to me to argue that Enlightenment liberalism is actually best understood an outgrowth of Christianity.

            Er, but that’s exactly what Enlightenment liberalism is. It’s (part of) the moral framework of Protestant Christianity, turned against the cosmology and the ritual content.

          • Yakimi says:

            Is there an East Asian country that didn’t escape the influence of Christianity? Some of the Meiji Reformers converted to Christianity, or were so admiring of it that they wanted the Emperor to convert to Christianity. Over ten percent of Japan’s Prime Ministers have been Christians despite being one percent of the population. Socialism was spread to China by American missionaries. Sun Yat-sen was a Christian. Kim Il-sung was the son of a Protestant missionary family. The first leaders of South Korea (I Sygman) and Taiwan (Jiang Jieshi) were Christians.

          • madman says:

            This is very interesting, but is leading back around to debates about admittedly nebulous topics (“modernity”).

            To politely and gently push back to my original post: does anyone know of reliable data on more specific beliefs? I (perhaps naively) feel that getting data on more specific beliefs is a better way forward than trying to call Islam more or less modern.

            To give more motivation (in case it wasn’t obvious): Trump is claiming that more muslims in the US would be a bad thing. I want to see data.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Er, but that’s exactly what Enlightenment liberalism is. It’s (part of) the moral framework of Protestant Christianity, turned against the cosmology and the ritual content.

            Isn’t it wars of religion and protestant beliefs lead to idea of individual consciousness and freedom of belief with the emphasis on reason and democracy coming from French and British traditions respectively?

          • Matthias says:

            Singapore might be full of overseas Chinese people, but it’s also very much a part of the former British Empire.

            (As an aside, evangelical Christianity seems prevalent in the Singaporean public sector, especially higher up.)

          • Jiro says:

            My explanation for East Asian companies violently punishing criminals is that it has nothing to do with modernism at all, it has to do with the fact that it is difficult for a political movement to spread when the countries are on the other side of the world from you and speak languages you never had a reason to use before. People pretend that the European way of punishing criminals is part of modernism, but it’s just the result of pressure groups that managed to get their way by spreading to nearby places but couldn’t cross the barrier to Asia.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            (You have three comments on this page where you quoted the ∾new∾ banner. This frustrates people who search for new posts by searching for that string. Is there something in your posting workflow you could change to reduce this?)

      • Jaskologist says:

        But Islamic societies don’t “happen to be” tribalistic, low income, etc. Those cultures have been shaped by Islam for centuries, and the shape they are in now is heavily a result of that.

        I guess you could be shooting for a more HBD explanation, but I’d bet that if we carved up a map by religion, we’d find more explanatory power and interesting correlations than if we did it by population group.

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          But historically Islamic societies weren’t all tribalistic, low income etc. (the caliphate in the Golden Age was pretty nice). I don’t think you can argue that shaping by Islam for centuries is the cause of the poor state of most Muslim majority countries, if that shaping involved them being prosperous.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The Caliphate had low levels of wealth for most of the population. Remember, civilizations are built on agricultural productivity; the fact the Caliphate had an efficient tax system or lots of trade goods has little effect on the vast majority of the people.

            And Jask is using low income in an absolute sense; the fact Europe started industrializing and had growing wealth for the last 2 centuries changed it in ways that the Islamic world didn’t experience. This gets into arguments about inherent characteristics versus colonialism, but ignoring that we can agree societies with factories culturally diverge from those who didn’t build them.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Samuel Skinner isn’t wrong, though his comment holds true for most civilisations at any point in time.

            Aside from that, the Caliphate in its glory days was still very much a tribalistic society. Not a hotbed of civil ware and slaughter, true, but also very tribalistic.

    • I think a good deal of what you are reacting to is not Islam vs Christianity but 21st century Islam vs 21st century Christianity, reflecting the fact that Christians take their religion less seriously than they used to, a change that has not yet happened for Muslims, at least at a mass level.

      Hypothesis 1: In theory, homosexuality is banned by Muslim law. Historically, it’s often been widely tolerated.

      Hypothesis 2: The divine right of kings was a popular doctrine in Christian Europe from at least the 17th century on. In a majority Muslim country, I would expect Muslims to be happier with laws based on religion than non-Muslims, since Islam is likely to be the religion they are based on. Traditional Jewish law, in Jewish communities within Christian and Muslim polities, was based largely on religion.

      Hypothesis 3: I think this is a difference in time, not in religion. There was lots of corporal punishment in European law enforcement through at least the early 19th century, and in Chinese law enforcement through the end of that century. Sodomy was a capital offense in England at least into the 19th century, I think into the 20th.

      Hypothesis 4: Here again, I think you are looking mostly at a difference between traditional and modern societies, not Muslim vs other. One thing that might be relevant, however, is that the Koranic taxes, required of all Muslims, don’t have to be paid to the state. In Islamic law (although not necessarily in the practice of modern Muslim states) you can pay it to the state to spend on the designated categories of recipients, you can donate it to the designated categories yourself, you can give it to a private middleman who spends it on the designated categories (and gets a percentage of it for his work). In Shia Iran, as I understand the system, you pay the Koranic tax to the top level religious authority whose rulings you follow (there being several such you get to choose among) and he then parcels it out to recipients of his choice.

      As may be obvious, my context is traditional Islamic society not modern Islamic society, if which I don’t know a lot.

  14. Daniel says:

    With all the talk now about income inequality and support for politicians like Bernie Sanders, is anyone else surprised that there hasn’t been any movements aimed at living cheaper lifestyles?

    We have access to so much nowadays (and for so cheap). Almost every American alive today is going to wealthier than almost every person in existence a century ago. Yet despite being so wealthy, everyone thinks that they’re so poor.

    I’m not saying one should live on a lifestyle of a person from 50 years ago, but too many people are basing their standards/happiness on the purchases and fads of others.

    Living in cheaper areas, making cheaper foods, buying used clothing, heck – even avoiding buying technology that’s within 4 years old; there are a million things a person can do that shouldn’t impact life satisfaction.

    Mainly, I’m just surprised that everyone’s anger has gone towards political changes, rather than lifestyle, consumer or societal changes.

    NOTE* I’m not talking about those earning $10,000 per year, but those earning $30,000+ and thinking they are broke.

    • Evan Þ says:

      There was a very heated discussion here last week about whether we can expect people to do that, that managed to get a regular commenter banned…

    • NN says:

      Living in cheaper areas isn’t an option for a lot of people, though. Unless you’re one of the rare few people who can work remotely, then you have to be close enough to your workplace to commute every day. Especially if you don’t own a car (and if you do own a car, then that adds to your bills through loan payments, gas, maintenance, parking…).

      • Daniel says:

        I’m not saying for everyone, I’m just saying I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more of a conversation about living cheaper lifestyles.

        This isn’t about those in poverty, but those who are above that, yet still feel like they are incredibly poor and angry.

        Bernie Sanders resonated with and gave hope to millions of Americans by speaking of political changes. I’m surprised that some sort of cultural leader/spokesperson hasn’t found a similar audience by offering non-political changes.

      • Julie K says:

        There may be cheaper neighborhoods within commuting distance, but with high crime and bad schools. [Moving into such neighborhoods is called “gentrifying.”]

      • “Living in cheaper areas isn’t an option for a lot of people, though.”

        There are a lot of people for whom it isn’t, a lot for whom it is. There are many jobs which exist pretty much everywhere–waiter/waitress, cook, checkout clerk, carpenter, plumber, police officer, cab driver, truck driver, …

    • Pku says:

      I’m a bit surprised by this too. It’s especially blatant to me since I moved from a country with significantly lower average income, and my current (grad student) salary seems ridiculously decadent to me.

      In particular, regarding living in cheaper areas: If average home size has increased over the last few decades, wouldn’t living in smaller homes/with roommates also help? (of course, that requires more small-home construction, but I haven’t seen much of a push for that.)

      • TPC says:

        The canonical smaller home these days is for show. There is one built by a farming family on the East Coast, but they lived out of their barn, which was fully kitted out (including with cable) and, well, not exactly tiny. I’m not sure they still have pictures of it up anymore, the father of the family got into a number of internet disputes about other matters and the entire farm website has epic link rot issues.

        Many tiny-houseers live in them as weekend homes. And lots of people do the small rustic cabin for holiday purposes. But nobody in America wants to live in a smaller space, it’s something that goes back a long way in American social history.

      • TPC says:

        Or to put it another way, I’d love to invite another family to live in our house, but it’s now very difficult to find people willing to share a home and in the past and quite often in the present day, it’s usually done with relatives.

        I agree with you that we could have the benefits of our technological advancements and labor saving devices but have more people living less expensively if people made slightly different choices in aggregate. But it’s very hard for people to give up having their own private car and/or household even when it’s financially bleeding them, which is not even that uncommon.

        • Julie K says:

          > I’d love to invite another family to live in our house

          You would? I think the lack of privacy would drive me crazy.

        • Julia says:

          In our mid-twenties, my husband and I moved in with another couple (we found them on our local cooperative housing email list) who were expecting a baby. We lived with them and their son for a year and learned a lot about parenting. It was a good experience, and we only parted ways because our apartment itself had problems and we couldn’t find another location that worked for all of us.

          Now we live with another couple and our children. It’s a four-bedroom apartment with four adults and two children. (We’re in the process of building two more bedrooms and will soon have an au pair join the household.) This is also working well for us. Because children make more mess and noise than most adults, I suggest that the children live there from the get-go rather than trying to add them to a household that’s already accustomed to being only for adults.

          We found the combo of parents and non-parents worked well in both cases; first as testing out whether we really wanted to have kids, and in our current situation because our housemates don’t plan to have children but do like having children around part of the time who aren’t their responsibility.

          We’ve saved a lot of money doing this.

          • TPC says:

            We live in a single family home in a very rural area. I only wish we could get a childless or childfree couple to live with us plus an au pair. But it turns out people don’t actually like country living in a rambling old farmhouse with a housewife, town-job handyman husband and more than one or two kids as a cohousing scenario.

            With the costs of an au pair and extra building on to the house, though, I’m not sure where savings come in financially. But presumably the social benefits have their own value.

      • Julie K says:

        I think many people consider living with roommates to be bearable when one is single, but out of the question for a married couple with children. And that there’s a significant demographic of single people who feel that they are currently just getting by, but they can’t afford to have a family.

    • TPC says:

      There are a lot of cost/benefit tradeoffs to the suggestions you’re making. No jobs and/or lack of safe areas in cheap places to live is just one case. For many people, living with airport noise, higher crime, road noise, and etc. are obvious reducers of life satisfaction.

      There is no free lunch. There is an entire (paid) industry (or several, depending on how you want to slice and dice it all up) revolving around One Weird Trick to Save Money But not Lose Living Standard or Life Satisfaction.

      Buying used clothing can be dicey, and you have to have the time and willingness to search for clothing that fits you and is suitable in style and durability. Fast fashion has made this more difficult, since the clothing is less durable.

      People are making the kinds of changes you’re talking about and running hard into infrastructure walls that make them ultimately more expensive or challenging to enact in the first place.

      • Daniel says:

        What I was trying to illustrate is a radical change in the mindset of consumption habits and expectations.

        With the current mindset of most people, there is minimal fat to trim on the margins. If a person embraced a wholly different mindset towards consumption (IE instead of watching my local professional sports teams, I will only watch the local amateur team. Or instead of paying $100 for concert tickets to X nationally touring artist, I will only see free concerts), they could become mentally much wealthier.

        • Amanda says:

          I think it depends on what real-life and internet-based social circles you run in. I’m aware of people who eat take-out on a weekly (or more) basis, buy the next phone when it comes out, get something new because the old one is broken, go to concerts and professional sporting events, and assume vacations happen on an annual basis.

          Few of the people I interact with on a daily basis are like that though. In my bubble, the things Dr Dealgood mentions below (buying in bulk, small wardrobes, handyman attitudes) are just the norm. It’s like the connection between “I want that” and “I should therefore buy it” just isn’t there. It’s more like, “Oh, look, another one of those shiny store things. Pretty.” It doesn’t feel like a hardship when it’s how everyone around you lives. It is, as you describe, a matter of “the mindset of consumption habits and expectations.” I can’t take credit for having them, and only a little for maintaining them.

          I think it becomes a political thing, because most (all?) people don’t want to have anyone tell them to do those things. Political economic solutions (at least appear to) skip over that.

          I don’t have any idea how you could adjust society-wide consumption expectations without bossing people.

          • “I think it becomes a political thing, because most (all?) people don’t want to have anyone tell them to do those things.”

            That’s one reason. Another is that actually living a simpler and less expensive life involves actual costs. Saying that other people should do something so that you can live the life you want to doesn’t. Blaming other people for your problems feels nicer than blaming yourself, although it’s usually less useful.

      • LTP says:

        Also, often not mentioned and also highly underrated, are the social costs of living a more frugal lifestyle in the way people suggest.

        (If) You could find employment in a less desirable cheaper area and move there, you’re probably going to have access to fewer in-person social opportunities than before, especially if it is more exurban or rural. This is because there are just fewer people in the “potential friend” and “potential romantic/sexual partner” pools, there’s less infrastructure and businesses present that facilitate social events and hobbies, and because the people in these areas are more likely to be poorer and so don’t have the time and/or money to run cool meet-ups or go to cultural events. Plus, you’re going to have to move away from all your friends and family in the more expensive place you lived in.

        You could give up your car, but then a lot of your potential social life is cut off from you if it is not within walking distance of a bus stop, and doesn’t end too late at night, and doesn’t require you to transfer buses twice just to get there. But, of course, cheaper areas often don’t have public transit or it is not nearly as good as in more expensive urban areas.

        You could give up your unlimited data plan, but then you are cut off from using many social media apps unless you happen to have access to free wifi wherever you are at the moment.

        You could never eat out, but eating out is a major part of many people’s social lives.

        You could cut back on video games, concerts, movies, etc., but again, for many people their social circle revolves around, or at least significantly relies on, these things. Sure, you can buy a previous generation game console and used games for it very cheaply on ebay, or buy a cheap PC with crappy specs rather than a nice gaming rig, but if all your gaming friends are playing the new FPS or MMO that doesn’t work on your systems, then your social life suffers.

        You could go to a cheap commuter college rather than a university, but (as I know from first-hand experience, having gone to both kinds of colleges) at the former making friends is a real challenge while at the latter I’ve made at least a couple of friends that could last me for decades.

        And so on.

        The social sacrifices of living frugally can be quite large.

    • There have been movements like this. Dave Ramsey is the speaker on these issues who comes immediately to mind, but there are others and you can probably find them pretty easily with a search. (The names escape me right now).

      Ramsey’s particular mantra is actually “get out of debt”, but the main means for getting out of debt is living beneath your means, using techniques very much like the ones you describe here.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I agree with you, which shouldn’t be surprising since I was arguing for frugality and saving before. But it’s not really surprising that people would prefer to frame it as a political issue.

      Actually living on a budget means doing things that are kind of a hard sell when you’re not used to them. Buying ingredients in bulk and cooking them is great for your wallet and waistline, owning a small modular wardrobe and taking care of the clothes can actually make you look better, and taking a handyman attitude improves your quality of life as well as saving you a lot of money in the long run. But all of those sound awful: the mental image you get is of a guy in ragged clothes eating gruel in a house covered in sloppily applied duct tape.

      If you take that attitude to it, that any cost-saving measure is a hardship, then being asked to endure constant hardship while other people live comfortably sounds extremely unfair.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I have this idea that’s vaguely dystopian but possibly practical where single people living in cities decide not to have their own home but treat housing as part of the sharing economy. I don’t mean couch-surfing or anything. Imagine that someone rents out a cheap bunk to sleep next to their work so they can avoid traffic. Their kitchen is a cafeteria in some other location shared with a number of other people. If they want a kitchen they rent one out. Their leisure time is spent at “home” in a microapartment that fits only a couch and a bathroom. They probably have an office room close to their work if they need it. And they can rent out a big room if they need the space. The appeal would be that an economically mobile techie wouldn’t be tied down to any one location and could move at a moments notice. Not only that but “housing” would be more customizable. Maybe you want to move up to a cozier location to sleep but are ok with your tiny microapartment for leisure. Instead of facing a trade-off, you could have both. And there could even be some kind of subscription model so that moving to a new city would be relatively painless.

      • Anonymous says:

        I recall a Google employee living out of a truck.

      • Matthias says:

        > Imagine that someone rents out a cheap bunk to sleep next to their work so they can avoid traffic.

        That’s illegal in places where it counts.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Right. The laws would have to change but I don’t think that’s an unreasonable assumption 20 years down the road.

          • Matthias says:

            If we could change the laws, we might as well make people able to build up. No need for living in trucks or five to a room.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      This kind of discussion is the bread and butter of the personal finance / financial independence / early retirement movement. There’s lots of blogs and subreddits and stuff you can read if you are interested. Personally, I’m a big fan of Jacob’s Early Retirement Extreme. I recommend his “How I live on $7,000 per year”, “How to retire in 5 years”, and this awesome reddit comment.

      • DavidS says:

        Another one is Mr Money Mustache. Although far less extreme than ERE, it’s not just ‘practical tips to save money’ but a lot of stuff on getting the right mindset, anti-consumerism etc.

      • Lumifer says:

        I am not sure I understand the early retirement movement. I mean I get the point about not having to work and thus being “independent”, but there is that issue of first being poor while working and then, once you retire, you continue to be poor for the rest of your life because you have to stretch your money over 50 years or so.

        It is a rather extreme case of trading money for time and while there are surely people for whom it makes sense, there can’t be too many of them.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Let me put it this way; we all know that there are a lot of college students, both undergraduate and graduate, who are poor in the sense that they don’t have a lot of possessions and have to sleep in the same room with one or two or three other guys, and yet are financially secure in the sense that they don’t have to worry about how to pay for rent or food or transportation until they graduate, whether because they have a scholarship, took out loans, or are going to university on their parent’s dime. And these same people seem to be pretty functional and fulfilled and happy with their lives for as long as this state of affairs lasts.

          Early retirement basically offers you the chance to go back to that lifestyle of genteel poverty, except that this time you never graduate. Even if you are not personally interested, can you see why a lot of people would be?

          • Lumifer says:

            You are arguing that early retirement is basically permanent care-free undergrad life?? It certainly doesn’t look like that to me.

            Being poor is very tolerable when you are in your early 20s, fit and healthy, not burdened a family (either kids or aging parents), have all your life in front of you, and can afford to make mistakes. That state does not last.

          • Vaniver says:

            Lumifer, my parents supported a family of 4 on approximately $50k a year, despite earning much more than that. It wasn’t ERE, but it was definitely ERE-adjacent / they made tradeoffs. But they were happy to make those tradeoffs, because they decided they didn’t want those other things that much.

            I think a potentially useful MMM article for crystallizing this debate is Great News! Dog Ownership is Optional!, in which he points out that dogs have costs that are actually non-trivial, and one can simply choose to not have a dog. There are lots of benefits to dog ownership, sure–but it’s not actually clear those benefits outweigh the costs.

            I think that sort of reasoning goes through for basically every hobby. Sure, it makes sense to have an expensive hobby or two, but the more cheap ones you can get, the better.

          • Lumifer says:

            @Vaniver

            because they decided they didn’t want those other things that much

            Sure. That’s perfectly normal. I’m not arguing that everyone should chase after the Joneses and aspire to what the latest ads tell you to aspire to.

            I understand those who have some goal to retire to. Some people retire early to buy a boat and sail it around the world. Some people retire early to write their great novel. Some might even retire to a cabin in the woods just to contemplate the local pond. But unless you know what you want to retire early for, the trade-off of that much money against that much time seems misguided to me.

            The thing is, your freedom (= abundance of choices) is a function of many things. It certainly is possible to have time as the main constraint because all your time is eaten by work (see the traditional image of junior investment bankers or Big Law associates). However it’s more common to have money as the main constraint — you would like to go spend a week in Tahiti, but it’s just not in your budget. All in all, you need both. This means you need to trade off time against money to achieve the balance that’s right for you at this time.

            And that balance varies. For example, I’ve met a guy in his 40s who is an oil rig worker. The way his life is arranged, he works for about a month a year (two shifts at an oil rig in the middle of the ocean), and the rest of the time he travels the third world (it’s cheap). He doesn’t have a family or a house, whatever stuff he has is stored at his mom’s. He looked happy.

            However this guy is hardly typical. A lot of people want early retirement just to avoid unpleasant work. Once you retire, it’s leisure all the time! You’re free! Even if you live in a trailer park (better $/sq.ft. basis :-/) and don’t have the money to go anywhere. For such people I doubt early retirement is a good options. It will make them worse people and they will have a worse life.

            Again, I’m not posting universal truths. People are different and different things make them happy. My point is that having enough money to scrounge through the rest of your life is not an unalloyed blessing and is not necessarily something to work your ass off for.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m pretty sure that many people would like to retire to a life of uncomplicated, cheap leisure (say, video games) if they could. Like living in your mom’s basement, except it’s your own basement, and nobody nags at you to get a job (because you don’t need a job).

        • Soumynona says:

          From all the talk about changing mindsets I suspect they don’t consider themselves poor.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I forgot to mention his “Frequently Asked Questions”, which is also pretty good.

    • Matthias says:

      Alas, macro-economically moving to cheaper areas is exactly the wrong way. It lowers productivity.

      Ignore areas with a high cost of living because they are hard to supply—like Hawaii or Alaska perhaps.

      The other areas come by their high cost of living because people are productive there earn more and thus bid up limited real estate. One option for the individual is to just move to cheaper places (or equally damaging, stay in the cheaper place and don’t move to the more expensive place). I say damaging, because these places are usually cheaper because of lower productivity bidding up real estate less.

      The obviously Right Thing to do is to allow more substitution of capital for land, ie make sure developers can build higher.

      American cities froze in the 1970s, when NIMBYism and development restrictions like restrictive zoning really started to bite. Before that time, costs of living difference where much less pronounced.

      Check out http://cityobservatory.org/ for some more indepth arguing along these lines.

      You might enjoy this paper about the genesis of NIMBYs.

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        This is also why the passing from the world of Georgist Economics is the greatest tragedy to ever befall civilization. Because near as I can tell, old George was 100% right, and got propagandized out of political relevance by the rentier class.

        • Matthias says:

          He was definitely on the right track. We still see some traces of old Georgist policies in eg some American and Australian states.

          However, I don’t think I buy his account of recessions coming purely out of land speculation. The market monetarists seem to have a better explanation there.

          (Ideally we both finance government from land value taxes, and tell the central bank to target nominal GDP.)

  15. Daniel says:

    In Pulp Fiction, Bruce Willis risks his life to get his family’s watch back. What do people in this community think of the decision? Would you go back for the watch?

    Most people I’ve asked in real life have said they would have gone back for the watch. However, risking your life for a material object seems iffy, no matter its significance. That being said, I would risk my life for many other things that most people wouldn’t find valuable.

    Thoughts?

    here is the scene in question:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFtHjV4c4uw

    • Matthias says:

      Asking people is one thing—they might give you an answer based on social signalling. The other is finding out what they’d really do when faced with such a situation. People are also not very good at predicting their own behaviour outside of known settings.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      There is a term, which I think is “object memory”*, to describe the trait of treating an object as being imbued with a special quality because of who has touched it or where it has been.

      Another example: My grandmother’s wedding ring is more special than one which is identical, but was not worn by my grandmother, bought say at a consignment shop.

      I want to say there are some psychological studies of this, and people can be sorted based on whether or not they largely behave in this way.

      *Searching on “object memory” is not helpful.

    • Matt M says:

      I’ve always thought of this as something of a “sunk cost” problem.

      Willis’ character believes that his grandpa’s sacrifice would be in vein if he does not retrieve the watch – but the sacrifice/suffering of someone years ago is a sunk cost. The real question is, what makes things better at this particular moment – and based on how things turn out – the answer would seem to be “not going back for the watch.”

    • Murphy says:

      I get the impression that this is one of those sacred value things.

      Sort of an “ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods” sort of deal.

      Imagine someone putting their life on the line for a few acres of land with little economic value simply because it’s where their child is buried.

      Ignoring sacred values the obvious answer is “why would you risk everything for some dust and bones” but including sacred values it’s easier to see why someone might be willing to make that trade-off.

      Sacred values need to be balanced against other sacred values if you want people to consider the tradeoff reasonably. If Butch had had, say, a kid and the risk was phrased as “should be have risked leaving the kid fatherless for the watch” then I suspect it would get a very different response.

  16. Yakimi says:

    A movement to restore a monarchy is gaining steam in, of all places, Brazil.

    The Wall Street Journal: New Plan to Fix Brazil’s Royal Mess: Restore the Monarchy

    Financial Times: Brazil’s would-be king and his two-bed rented home in São Paulo

    The emperor presumptive is also appropriately reactionary.

    Just as Jesus sacrificed himself for its people, he says, so too must a king.

    He is not a fan of Kate Middleton. “I prefer the ways of Queen Elizabeth,” he says. “Well-dressed, well-presented, dignified.” “Imagine if she also went out in blue jeans, what a disappointment that would be,” he adds, his placid tone disguising what begins to emerge as an acerbic conservatism and fiery temper.

    “A republic corrupts,” he says.

    While he insists a reinstated monarchy would be non-partisan, he does not hide his hatred for the party that had ruled Brazil for 13 years up until this month. They are “Marxists” who want to “turn Brazil into a Soviet Republic” and “paralyse agricultural progress because communists like misery”.

    • Sounds great. Sign me up as a Brazilian.

    • Sandy says:

      Erdogan is trying to bring the Ottomans back to Turkey, so perhaps the future is all go for the Moldbuggians.

    • erenold says:

      The big question I always want to ask for any political system is: how is the next generation going to be selected?

      An oligarchy of technocratic elites, kept honest by a ferocious anti-corruption watchdog, who self-select via a closed cadre system and rigorous academic meritocracy (something like the Papal Conclave crossed with the Qing Mandarinate) would be my personal preference.

      • Matthias says:

        I wish we had more city states. London would make for a good one—it’s denizens are much more open to immigration and free trade than the average Englander.

        With more and smaller countries, we wouldn’t need to settle on some optimal system for selecting leaders—voting with your feet has a much bigger impact on your life than voting on the ballot.

        Eg Singapore is an awesome place, and happens to have competent and honest administration and government at the moment. I am not so optimistic on their selection process being able to keep up the good luck in the future.

      • DavidS says:

        Assuming the watchdog has power over the technocrats, how do you stop them (1) seizing power entirely (as the people who identify who/what is corrupt they can basically hand-pick the govt.) and (2) becoming corrupt themselves?

        Can’t see from your description how this is different to any proposal from Plato onwards of ‘just put some really moral/competent people in charge’, which always seem vulnerable to this same problem

        • erenold says:

          A strong challenge. Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?

          I’m not concerned about this body – which I’m basing on Singapore’s real-life CPIB – seeking power for their own sake per se, for the same reason that you’re probably not concerned about General Joseph Dunford crossing the Potomac tomorrow – it seems eminently doable to socialize a culture of deference to the civilian executive within a society with the rule of law. Even more so because the watchdog’s (“ACW”) personnel lack the capacity to take power even if they wanted to. Historically, I can find no example of an overt coup by an ACW-equivalent – largely because they are so rare, though.

          Corruption trials are subject to rule of law (albeit that the ACW has a completely autonomous body of prosecutors and investigators from the regular police and prosecution), which prevents another overt means of takeover by completely-fabricated charges. A strong, independent, depoliticized judiciary is crucial here, such as what they have in the UK.

          What I’m really concerned about is a scenario in which there is both (1) factionalism and (2) genuine low-level corruption within the supreme executive, not enough to destabilize the country but sufficient for exaggerated charges to be used as a weapon by council members inter se. “You used your position to get your nephew an internship at $LAWFIRM? Corruption!” I don’t believe such low-level corruption is ever possible to eliminate, so as you rightly point out the answer can’t just be “the ACW will magically make everyone so incorruptible that something like that will never happen.”

          I can’t think of a way out of that one, other than that the supreme executive needs to try to avoid factionalism within its ranks – which in turn I suspect is impossible based on human nature.

          • DavidS says:

            How is the technocratic executive appointed though? Loads of states throughout history do have the civilian executive overthrown by whoever can, and I think that it seems so odd to us because democracy is very good at creating
            1) a sense of legitimacy
            2) a sense that the correct route to wanting to get rid of the government is voting

            I don’t know enough about your system to judge this, but I can’t see how you guarantee the executive is technocratic if they’re elected. And I’m not sure you can get the same stability through other routes without some serious quashing of dissent (e.g. China)

            In terms of ACW powers, if they have no military might etc. what forces the executive to pay any heed to them?

          • “A strong challenge. Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?”

            A phrase which originated in the context not of politics but of the problems of a husband keeping his wife faithful.


            … I know
            the plan that my friends always advise me to adopt:
            “Bolt her in, constrain her!” But who can watch
            the watchmen? They keep quiet about the girl’s secrets and get her as their payment; everyone hushes it up.

  17. Douglas Knight says:

    Shortly before LWN showed up, an anonymous comment accused another anonymous commenter of being John Sidles:

    In case you haven’t been following the open thread, the current working theory is that is John Sidles reborn.

    Which open thread does this refer to? (google doesn’t suggest anything)

  18. Wrong Species says:

    Is there any evidence that pre-industrial people used any extra wealth to increase their leisure time rather than invest it to create more wealth?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Studies on forgers show very low number of hours worked and the easier it is to produce food, the less they work. Don’t have the links.

      • anonymous poster says:

        I know you meant foragers but I’d much rather live in a universe where we study the habits of workshy counterfeiters and slovenly art imitators

      • Wrong Species says:

        Did hunter gatherers really have much opportunity for investing though? I guess my question is more focused on agricultural and pastoral societies.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Wrong Species

          It took me a couple of readings of Studies on forgers show very low number of hours worked and the easier it is to produce food, the less they work” to get to “Oh. There should be an ‘a’ in that word.”

          Now, trying to post that Native American beadwork is evidence that some of them had a lot of leisure time, I’m picturing beadwork being forged in a basement.

      • Julian says:

        You are referring to the Original Affluent Society research, largely done by Richard Lee:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society

        Lee found that the modern day !Kong people of southern Africa spent about 20 per week on “subsistence” activities such as gathering food.

        However, later research has revealed that this calculation left some thing very important out: preparing the food! It would take the !Kong nearly another 20 hours/week to prepare the nuts that comprised most of their diet. So their “work” was closer (but lower) than the 40 hours of the modern world.

        An excellent criticism of the Original Affluent Society theory can be found here (PDF). Or in more readable form here.

        Largely the criticisms relate that !Kong and similar peoples are often semi-starving most or all of the year. These people are often smaller than urban populations largely due to poor nutrition.

        • Nornagest says:

          This deserves more exposure.

        • herbert herbertson says:

          If you want to keep it apples to apples, though, you’re going to need to add some time to the 40 hour workweek for cooking, grocery shopping, etc. Obviously that’s not going to add up to 20 hours, but it’s more than nothing.

    • Matthias says:

      Read these wonderful papers by Lemin Wu about Malthusian theories. Eg If Not Malthusian, Then Why? A Darwinian Explanation of the Malthusian Trap.

      He has more on his website at http://wulemin.weebly.com/

      The Song dynasty and the Romans are great examples of rich societies that predate the industrial revolution. (By some estimates, they both had GDPs of around 1500 USD/y, comparable to modern day India.)

      • Wrong Species says:

        I just glanced at the article but it seems to me like he’s suggesting that “barbarian” groups were responsible for keeping Song China and Rome from industrializing because when they took over, they didn’t have the same “culture of growth”. Is that correct?

        • Matthias says:

          Sort of. Simplified slightly less, and much closer to his argument:

          There are different things the economy can produce. He takes the example of bread and flowers. Flowers make you happy, bread feeds you.

          The Malthusian constraint is entirely on the bread. Ie an economy can produce heaps of flowers and have very happy people, but bread is needed for population growth.

          Now, add a bit of a Darwinian dynamic: the societies that outbread [pun intended] others are miserable but numerous. It’s entirely rational for them to look for happier more prosperous places, either via peaceful migration or conquest.

          Historically, ideas and technology travelled only via people. Thus the miserable breaders spread their relatively more advanced subsistence technology, but the technology for breading flowers doesn’t travel—people are happy to stay where their flowers are. (Some simple computer simulations by Lemin Wu support this argument. I should really write a simple simulator myself, too.)

          Malthus assumes an economy that only produces a single good. By a simple extension to multiple different goods we get a much richer theory that fits the facts much better.

          All of this is very orthodox economics, nothing controversial; just applied in a new and interesting way.

          • Wrong Species says:

            So mongols and Germanic people are the “miserable breeders” in this scenario? Maybe I’m missing something but this doesn’t seem right to me. Nomadic groups are more likely to immigrate(basically by definition) but sedentary groups also have a reason to leave. It gets too crowded so they go find some new land to start their own settlements and increase the population. That’s why agriculture started from just a few places but eventually took over the world, even before the Industrial Revolution. And nomads don’t have higher populations than sedentary groups but far lower. So in China you have a constant expansion of “civilized people” against the “barbarians”, especially to the South. Sure there are exceptions(Mongols, Manchus), but once they took over China they didn’t put a stop to the flower economy. They just reaped the benefits.

    • Hackworth says:

      If with “wealth” you mean “material wealth”, then wouldn’t the whole body of human art, from cave paintings to symphonies, count as evidence?

  19. Julie K says:

    In a previous open thread, someone expressed a wish for more talk about books, to leaven the political discussion. Here’s my 2 cents.
    Mary Poppins (1934 novel)
    I’ve been reading this book to my almost-11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, and picking up on a lot of things I missed when I read it as a child.
    I hadn’t realized how satirical the book is. For instance, I accepted Mary Poppins’ high opinion of her own beauty and gentility at face value. Now I notice that she has “large feet and hands” and “small eyes”, traits not usually considered beautiful. On Mary’s day out, she and Bert indulge in lower-class pleasures, eating whelks and riding Merry-go-Round horses “all the way to Yarmouth and back, because that was the place the both wanted most to see.”
    My daughter is more attuned to nuances than I was at her age. [Two cheers for regression to the mean!] “Mary Poppins isn’t a good nanny,” she declared before we had even competed the second chapter. And she’s right. Like the Alice books’ Queen of Hearts and Red Queen, Mary Poppins is a caricature of the capricious, domineering authority figures many children know.
    By the time we had finished the third chapter, I could say more: Mary Poppins is a horrifying nanny. She takes the children on a magical adventure, and afterwards pretends it never happens and that she doesn’t know what the children are talking about when they mention it. This is classic gaslighting, and the children’s devotion to her is a horrifying picture of how people stay in abusive relationships.

    tl, dr: This ain’t the Disney movie.

    • DavidS says:

      On tl:dr, I’ve heard that. But the Disney movie does have the blatant denial of what just happened. And indeed the threat to summon a policemen if they continue to insist it did.

      Also, anyone who likes Narnia and/or Mary Poppins should read Neil Gaiman’s The Problem of Susan (spoilers for Narnia, less so for Poppins. Also apparently genuinely quite disturbing for some Narnia fans)

      http://grotesqueanddecadent.tumblr.com/post/21272759751/the-problem-of-susan-by-neil-gaiman

      Almost entirely about Narnia (and Susan!) but with this rather lovely interlude on Mary Poppins:

      The professor’s lips prickle with shock. And only then does she understand that she is dreaming, for she does not keep those books in the house. Beneath the paperback is a hardback, in its jacket, of a book that, in her dream, she has always wanted to read: Mary Poppins Brings in the Dawn, which P. L. Travers had never written while alive.

      She picks it up and opens it to the middle, and reads the story waiting for her. Jane and Michael go with Mary Poppins on her day off, to Heaven, and they meet the boy Jesus, who is still slightly scared of Mary Poppins because she was once his nanny, and the Holy Ghost, who complains that he has not been able to get his sheet properly white since Mary Poppins left, and God the Father, who says, “There’s no making her do anything. Not her. She’s Mary Poppins.” “But you’re God,” said Jane. “You created every body and everything. They have to do what you say.”

      “Not her,” said God the Father once again, and he scratched his golden beard flecked with white. “I didn’t create her. She’s Mary Poppins.”

      • Julie K says:

        > The Disney movie does have the blatant denial of what just happened.

        Thanks for the info. I haven’t seen the movie in- well, probably the same length of time since I read the books.

        • Julie K says:

          There’s a nice reference to punching up vs. down in The Horse and His Boy:
          “Shame, Corin,” said the King. “Never taunt a man, save when he is stronger than you: then, as you please.”

      • I’ve always considered “The Problem of Susan” (as critique, not necessarily as story) to be definitively answered by RJ Anderson’s analysis, so much so that I am mildly surprised when people continue to bring it up as a real thing.

        • Jiro says:

          People who speak out against something often caricature it as well. “She’s not being criticized for being sexual, she’s being criticized for vanity” may actually mean “she’s being criticized for being sexual, and the author thinks of what we would consider healthy sexuality as associated with vanity”.

          It would be incorrect to say that Birth of a Nation only warns us against lazy, indolent, black people.

          • Julie K says:

            There are also some male characters who are vain (Bree, Uncle Andrew).

            For girls (but not mature adult females, e.g. Mrs. Beaver) I think there’s a pattern of “tomboy good, girly-girl bad.”
            “The fuss [Lasaraleen] made about choosing the dresses nearly drove Aravis mad. She remembered now that Lasaraleen had always been like that, interested in clothes and parties and gossip. Aravis had always been more interested in bows and arrows and horses and dogs and swimming.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            For girls (but not mature adult females, e.g. Mrs. Beaver) I think there’s a pattern of “tomboy good, girly-girl bad.”

            I dunno; Lucy’s not a tomboy, but we’re clearly not meant to think of her as bad. I’d hesitate to call Jill a tomboy too, membership of the Girl Guides notwithstanding.

          • Mary says:

            “she’s being criticized for being sexual, and the author thinks of what we would consider healthy sexuality as associated with vanity”.

            The problem with that theory is we in fact have no evidence that way. All we have is the knowledge that she denies Narnia and is fascinated with makeup. On the face of it, if you are reading “healthy sexuality” into the overt statement of vanity, it’s probably you.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The problem with that theory is we in fact have no evidence that way.

            Further more, the presence of apparently healthy romantic relationships elsewhere in the books would seem to be evidence AGAINST Jiro’s interpretation. I mean come on, Lewis isn’t going to say “and then they fucked” in a childrens’ book but when he says that two characters got married and lived happily with babies ever I think its safe to surmise that there was sex involved.

        • DavidS says:

          I think that’s a correct response to J K Rowling’s criticism. But I read Problem of Susan as a story more than a critique. It certainly isn’t very specific about what Susan’s fault is. It quotes the nylons/lipsticks/invitations and tentatively refers to Susan having time to repent for “Not believing, I suppose. And the sin of Eve.”

          It also talks quite a lot about luxuries and ordinary pleasures: her perfume is her one luxury, after the train crash there are few luxuries etc. etc.

          To be honest, I think that sense of incompleteness and left-behindness fits very well with Lewis’ idea of people blocking themselves out of heaven as set out in the Great Divorce (and implicitly Narnia and various other things). Although I suspect he’d have hated the imagery of the Problem of Susan and the sexualised, rather Freudian feel of bits of it (the Dark Tower, if indeed he wrote it, has an almost comically Freudian villain and then has the main character say what idiots his fellow academics are for thinking it’s Freudian, presumably because people pointed this out when they read the manuscript and he didn’t like it…)

        • Evan Þ says:

          Myself, I consider the definitive answer (again as critique, if not as story) to have been given by Tom Simon in his The Problem of Being Susan.

          • That’s a remarkable piece of writing, but I’d leave the possiblity open that there are things in people’s minds which are better than the default, not just things that are worse.

        • Julie K says:

          I don’t mind what happens to Susan, but I do have a different critique:
          1) The male villains (Miraz, Rabadash) are humans with human motivations, while the female villains are pure evil.
          2) The good females are static, while Edmund and Eustace are completely transformed the first time they visit Narnia. This pattern is improved on somewhat in the later books, where we get Jill forgetting the signs and Aravis needing to get over her snobbishness.

          • Nornagest says:

            Jadis is basically Satan (with a male counterpart in Tash), and the Lady of the Green Kirtle is implied to be some kind of reincarnation or emanation of her, IIRC. Are there any other female villains? I don’t remember any, but it’s been years since I read the books.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Story order, not publishing

            Book 1- White Witch
            Book 2- White Witch
            Book 3- None
            Book 4- None
            Book 5- None
            Book 6- Green Lady
            Book 7- None

          • Randy M says:

            The female villains may be harder to identify with but they are more memorable and formidable. I think the situation would have been equally open to criticism if the roles were reversed. Maybe you want more and deeper villains all around, but these are seven rather short children’s novels.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I can’t agree there were no male villains.

            Publish Order, because I’m that kind of person

            1: LWW: White Witch
            2: PC: Uncle Miraz
            3: VDT: none
            4: SC: Green Witch
            5: HB: Rabadash
            6: MN: White Witch
            7: LB: Shift, for part of the story

          • Pku says:

            I think the reason behind that, though, is that he didn’t want to have his heroes fight against a human woman. It can come off more like domestic violence than heroic conquest.

          • Julie K says:

            he didn’t want to have his heroes fight against a human woman.

            Good point. “Battles are ugly when women fight.”

        • I think RJ Anderson is right, but have a good critique of a different aspect of Narnia.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I couldn’t read all of that, but the “adults turning back into kids” thing really sat on me after seeing adult Susan in the movie. Because, knowing what follows, if she had died in Narnia, would she still be a Friend Of Narnia?

            My own take is that Susan stopped believing, because she refused to even talk about those pretend games they had. That didn’t necessarily lock her out of the True Narnia. We never see what happened to her.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yes, that’s a problem in-universe, definitely. (I don’t agree with that post’s personal assessment of it – medieval Christendom approved of celibacy, and Lewis himself was celibate past age 35. But returning to childhood after growing to adulthood was a problem.) But for whatever reason, Lewis never even hinted at any effects of that. By the next year, in Prince Caspian, they were all children again, treating their reign almost as a dream. It was as if the fifteen years of growth and maturing in Narnia had never happened.

            So… On a Doyleist level, this was a failure in worldbuilding. And I’m not surprised; Tolkien once reduced Lewis to silence just by asking where the Dwarves had gotten their sausages and bacon. But given how completely it doesn’t exist in-universe, I’m not comfortable with treating it as a problem or betrayal on a Watsonian level.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m starting to think that Narnia lends itself to good fanfic largely because of issues like these.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            By the next year, in Prince Caspian, they were all children again, treating their reign almost as a dream. It was as if the fifteen years of growth and maturing in Narnia had never happened.

            It’s pretty strongly implied that, if they stay in one world for very long, the time the children spent in the other world gradually comes to seem more dreamlike and less real. (At the end of Lion, their reaction when they stumble across the lamp-post at the end is “I know not how it is, but this lamp on the post worketh upon me strangely. It runs in my mind that I have seen the like before; as it were in a dream, or in the dream of a dream”; near the start of Caspian, Susan says something along the lines of “Oh yes, our old castle in Narnia at Cair Paravel. How could I have forgotten?”) So, presumably that would be the in-universe explanation for why the children don’t seem like adults in children’s bodies when they come back to England.

            And I’m not surprised; Tolkien once reduced Lewis to silence just by asking where the Dwarves had gotten their sausages and bacon.

            I want to know how this medievalesque society invented the sewing machine, or managed to feed itself during a hundred-year-long winter.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            And I’m not surprised; Tolkien once reduced Lewis to silence just by asking where the Dwarves had gotten their sausages and bacon.

            There was an episode of Bojack Horseman (which features anthropomorphic animals devoted to this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4xytsouUYo

            It

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            What’s the problem with sausages and bacon? The world explicitly has both Talking Animals and normal animals.

          • Nornagest says:

            The world explicitly has both Talking Animals and normal animals.

            I don’t remember seeing any normal animals in Narnia in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe timeframe, though. They do start appearing in later books, and I think Prince Caspian or Dawn Treader describes than as Telmarine introductions, but I may be imagining that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You may be right. Magician’s Nephew explicitly says that Narnia has both since its creation, but that might be a retcon. I think Prince Caspian even suggests that all beasts were talking during the golden age but they went into hiding when the Telmarines took over.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I’m always surprised nobody seems to mention that Lewis had an even gender balance for his main characters, even though he could easily have written the books with just boys as the protagonists. This seems a pretty important point against the idea that Lewis didn’t like women or didn’t like his female characters, but for some reason it always gets ignored.

          • Unless I’ve missed something, every time one of the boys says “Isn’t that just like a girl?” it turns out that he’s wrong and the girl is right.

          • Nornagest says:

            I always thought Lucy was very clearly the author’s favorite.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Lucy is the protagonist of the first book. It’s hard for her not to be the author’s favorite character. Sure the other children have their roles, but Lucy gets into Narnia first, gets the true story of Narnia from Tumnus, gets the typical treatment of the protagonist being disbelieved, etc.

          • LHN says:

            Yeah, the problem of Susan is almost a process of elimination, given that Lewis wanted an example of someone who loses faith for a time. (Just as he wanted to do the opposite and show that being a loyal Tash-worshipping enemy soldier doesn’t preclude salvation with Emeth.)

            Lucy is clearly an author (and I think reader) favorite. Edmund can’t be the one, since it would send the entirely different message of “once a traitor, always a traitor”. Peter, maybe, but his being the High King potentially raises side issues (is this a “power corrupts” story?) Eustace presents the same problems as Edmund, and Jill Pole is awesome (and would present the same criticism if it had been her in any case). So that leaves Susan.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Did he intend to write more than one story about Narnia when he started? I don’t think so?

            If so, I submit Lucy is going to be cemented as a favorite once the first book is written.

          • Nornagest says:

            She’s the protagonist of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, but she still has a tendency to get the best lines and show the most virtue in Prince Caspian (where Caspian’s the protagonist, later sharing the role with Peter) and Voyage of the Dawn Treader (where Eustace is). Not so much in The Last Battle, but everyone in that book is so overwhelmed by the plot that they don’t have much chance to shine.

            I think the author favorite in The Silver Chair was Puddleglum, but I can’t really blame him for that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Did he intend to write multiple books when he started? Probably not at the very beginning. But by the time he was getting close to publication, probably yes. After the initial decade of incubation, he wrote the books very quickly. Three more were complete by the time the first hit the shelves.

          • Mary says:

            The original motive was to write a book for his goddaughter Lucy Barfield. One suspects some influence.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I found The Cat In The Hat (and most other Suess works) repulsive as a child because the Cat was doing things to get them in trouble that the kids absolutely did not want to be doing.

      • smocc says:

        And then he gets away with it, scot free! It’s the worst.

      • Julie K says:

        For most of the book the children are paralyzed as they hear the contradictory messages of the cat and the fish. (It’s like one of those scenes where a guy has an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other.) When the boy finally stands up to the cat, the cat cleans up the mess he made.

  20. M says:

    Does anyone have any pointers to good research and information on gut flora? I’ve heard that healthy gut flora are important for weight loss, general health, etc., and there are lots of articles out there about foods and lifestyle choices which are supposed to improve your gut flora (whatever that means).

    But what does the actual science say? Is there any metric or test which determines if you have “good” gut flora or not? Any comprehensive literature reviews like the ones Scott or Gwern do for other issues?

    • Matthias says:

      Have you tried searching pubmed?

    • Lumifer says:

      I think the science here is… how do they say it? unsettled.

      Basically, by now we know that gut microbiota is important and we’re taking, um, stabs in the dark (e.g. fecal transplants) to see what would happen if we poked this particular bit, but as far as I know there is not much in the way of actual science having been able to figure specific, reliable methods to achieve useful things.

      There have been interesting attempts at DNA sequencing of the microbiota and they show that it’s somewhat stable but can be pushed around by your diet, but the overview is still too crude and it’s still to early to conclude much.

      You might want to check out the American Gut Project, some hunter-gatherer studies, or a PubMed overview.

  21. Nornagest says:

    I read the title three times before I caught the pun. Now I feel dumb.

  22. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    The final section of the “Unnecessariat” article from ” Three Great Articles On Poverty, And Why I Disagree With All Of Them” makes a very interesting point. Poor rural whites have only now become unnecessary to the economy, but poor urban blacks became unnecessary to the economy years ago.

    Note that the government’s response was not to implement a basic income, wage subsidies, protectionism, or any of the other potentially humane and comprehensive responses that are frequently debated in internet articles and forums; it was to keep them half-alive on welfare / food stamps / disability / section 8 housing and lock up the ones that caused too much trouble in prisons or mental institutions. Apparently, this is what business-as-usual has in store for all of us.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Welcome to the party.

    • TD says:

      “it was to keep them half-alive on welfare / food stamps / disability / section 8 housing and lock up the ones that caused too much trouble in prisons or mental institutions.”

      But minus the mass incarceration part that is the basic income solution. The basic income just means everyone effectively gets a basic standard of welfare that would cover food stamps and housing and so on rolled into one. They’re not exactly half alive on food stamps either. Mass starvation is not the major problem of the African American community.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        By “half-alive”, I don’t mean that their food stamps are not providing enough calories to avoid starvation, I mean that the lifestyle that members of the black community have adopted since they lost their jobs and became dependent on welfare has been incredibly dysfunctional and self-destructive (and other-destructive, for that matter). I am not sure to what extent this is caused by badly-designed incentives and bureaucratic hurdles in the welfare system (in which case a basic income should fix it) and to what extent this is the natural result of long-term unemployment (in which case wage subsidies, guaranteed make-work, or job protectionism are probably better ideas than unconditional income).

    • Lumifer says:

      The proles are restless tonight, dear. Up the voltage on the fence, please.

    • John Schilling says:

      Poor urban blacks are a small enough fraction of the population that this “solution” is affordable for the rest of us, and culturally isolated enough that it is acceptable to the rest of us (generally speaking). I suspect neither of those things will remain true when we add working-class whites into the problem space, and we’ll get a different outcome. Not necessarily better, but different.

      • TD says:

        But the necessity of the basic income is tied to technological unemployment. If machines can do more that’s going to apply to public services too, so a basic income that wouldn’t be affordable today might be affordable when it’s needed.

        This is why I’m pro-basic income, but against trying to roll out the basic income too early.

        • J says:

          Well, people have been saying technological unemployment is right around the corner for about 200 years now, so I’m sure it’ll be along any minute now: https://timeline.com/robots-have-been-about-to-take-all-the-jobs-for-more-than-200-years-5c9c08a2f41d#.wtdikypn1

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            It’s already here:

            When Alex Tabarrok writes “If the Luddite fallacy were true we would all be out of work because productivity has been increasing for two centuries”, I think, isn’t that correct? If you’re not a student, you’re retired; if you’re not retired, you’re disabled; if you’re not disabled, perhaps you are institutionalized; if you’re not that, maybe you’re on welfare, or just unemployed.

            Compare now to most of human history, or just the 1300s:

            * every kid in special ed would be out working on the farm; there would, if only from reduced moral hazard be fewer disabled than now (federal Supplemental Security Income alone supports 8 million Americans)

            * everyone in college would be out working (because the number of students was a rounding error and they didn’t spend very long in higher education to begin with)

            Indeed, education and healthcare are a huge chunk of the US economy – and both have serious questions about how much good, exactly, they do and whether they are grotesquely inefficient or just inefficient.

            * retirees didn’t exist outside the tiny nobility

            * ‘guard labor’ – people employed solely to control and ensure productivity of the others has increased substantially (Bowles & Jayadev 2006 claim US guard labor has gone from 6% of the 1890 labor force to 26% in 2002; this is not due to manufacturing declines); examples of guard labor:

            ** standing militaries were unusual (although effective when needed31); the US maintains the second-largest active in the world – ~1.5m (~0.5% of the population), which employs millions more with its $700 billion budget and is a key source of pork and make-work

            ** prisons were mostly for temporary incarceration pending trial or punishment; the US currently has ~2.3m (nearly 1% of the population!), and perhaps another 4.9m on parole/probation. (See also the relationship of psychiatric imprisonment with criminal imprisonment.) That’s impressive enough, but as with the military, consider how many people are tied down solely because of the need to maintain and supply the prison system – prison wardens, builders, police etc.

            * people worked hard; the 8-hour day and 5-day workweek were major hard-fought changes (a plank of the Communist Manifesto!). Switching from a 16-hour to an 8-hour day means we are half-retired already and need many more workers than otherwise.

            In contrast, Americans now spend most of their lives not working.

          • Anonymous says:

            @J

            Don’t believe the hype. We’ve automated every single job that existed in 500BC, and there is still demand for human services. Also, Autor.

          • J says:

            I think it’s awesome that people are gradually (over decades and centuries) getting more free time as everyone’s wealth increases.

            The argument I’m skeptical of is “this time it’s different” — that there’s some new phenomenon that will soon or that has just recently started harming people. I read the whole screed you linked and Gwern does the common thing of pointing at some gradual and neutral-to-good trends like “16-hour workdays -> 8 hour workdays” or “look at all the unemployed horses!”, and then switching to “therefore sentient EMs and their capitalist overlords are about to send us to the poor house”.

            My standard for luddite arguments is: translate argument to ~1820 and see what we’d conclude. If it ends up arguing that the mind-blowing and job-market-disrupting phenomena of industrial agriculture, mechanized transit and modern medicine are anything other than crowning achievements of mankind, reject.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Welfare, food stamps, and Section 8 were the “humane and comprehensive responses” that would have been debated on the internet forums back then.

  23. SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

    How can I become a good software engineer? I am currently in school, studying something slightly related, but from the little actual programming I have done already I can tell that my school won’t help me much in improving my programming skills.

    Specifically, what subskills or knowledge make up a great engineer, and how can I train them?

    • Anonymous says:

      How can I become a good software engineer?

      Get a job in software engineering.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Hah, if only.

        This will take a long time, software is an art form. You will also need to learn to be comfortable with some types of math.

        I will always suggest getting through “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.” A lot of computer science is in that book.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve learned more about software engineering in my first year of employment than