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Open Thread 52.25

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

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705 Responses to Open Thread 52.25

  1. LTP says:

    Does anybody know if there’s good data on whether or not owning and having a handgun makes one safer?

    I was debating this with a friend the other day. She claimed that with proper training, she’d probably be safer with a gun, at least in certain kinds of situations. I disagreed, saying the risk of accidentally hurting herself or another unintentionally with the gun outweighed the safety benefits.

    The best I could find was this, which claims that in the cities studied, accidental gun injuries were four times as common as justifiable gun use.

    However, the study is almost 20 years old, and was only done in a handful of cities.

    I’ve found other sources for various things, but they seemed to not be quite addressing the question I’m interested in. Most were concerned with how gun regulations and rate of ownership affected crime in an entire polity, but what I want to know is, given that my friend and I as Americans live in a country with high gun ownership rates, does owning a handgun with proper training (but also living a fairly normal, and thus safe, middle-class American life) make one more or less safe? Does this friend being a woman change this calculus?

    • Seneca says:

      I don’t have direct data, but allow me to share some knowledge that I do have which might be able to help you interpret handgun safety data as you get it. A decade ago, when my kids were little, I became a homeowner for the first time, and I considered getting a propane grill for the backyard. I wanted to find out how safe they are. So I check out accidental death and injury statistics. Turns out, propane grills are shockingly dangerous. But not as dangerous as regular grills.

      Huh? Let’s look at some subclassification data. Oh. All those regular grill deaths and hospitalizations are from “asphyxiation.” And the propane accidents? People shooting them with firearms or putting them on bonfires.

      So, the problem is that safety data aggregates lots of dumbasses. And if you’re not a dumbass, the statistics probably don’t apply to you.

      • Lysenko says:

        Firearm injury data in the US also aggregates lots of criminals, by which I mean career criminals or those for whom the firearm ownership is made as a way to facilitate other crimes (robbery, drug trafficking, etc). There is little to no motivation to disaggregate criminal-on-criminal violence from the statistics, so it doesn’t happen.

        At the end of the day, it comes down to personal choices. A firearm is a potentially dangerous tool, much like a chainsaw, propane grill, car, acetylene torch, etc. Why do you want one? How willing are you to get trained? Do you have other people in your household, and what is -their- mindset? and so forth and so on.

        I don’t think that firearms are uniquely dangerous implements in a way that other tools aren’t when it comes to accidents. Proper handling, proper storage, and proper respect from others in the household go a long way, but I am averse to making sweeping generalizations about safety because risk profiles are so individual.

        • Nornagest says:

          My grandpa’s old radial arm saw scares me more than any firearm I’ve ever handled. Guns don’t have positive feedback.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Hadn’t heard of that particular tool. But you know there are safety issues when the index of its wikipaedia page lists a section for ‘demise’.

            Oh, and of course, the name kind of has macabre overtones: wood saw, metal saw, arm saw 😛

      • Urstoff says:

        So how dangerous are firearms conditional on whether you are a moron or not?

        • ivvenalis says:

          I’d estimate that they’re about as dangerous as power tools, with the caveat that keeping unused firearms loaded is more common/necessary than keeping unused tools powered.

          • If you have power tools, you are probably using them fairly often. If you have a handgun and are not a serious target shooter, you probably have it in a drawer somewhere, possibly in a locked gun case whose key is somewhere conveniently close, and almost never use it. So, in my judgement, the power tools are considerably more dangerous.

            Especially chain saws, which scare me.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            I don’t know.

            How many 4 year olds would be able to injure their parents with a chainsaw (that isn’t already running)? What are the relative odds of that 4 year old being able to kill their parent or themselves with it?

            Guns and chainsaws are different tools. Guns are designed with the express purpose of projecting lethal force on relatively large fauna as conveniently as practicable.

            Chainsaws are designed to make cutting woody flora easy, but since woody flora don’t move are try to harm you, the convenient part is less of an emphasis.

            The danger to a human from a gun is inherent. The danger to a human from a chainsaw is a side effect.

            I wonder if one could calculate the relative risk of accidental injury of chainsaws vs. guns appropriately? I’m not sure you could. What is the appropriate base? Simple ownership? Per hour “used”? Per squeeze of the “trigger”? All seem somewhat problematic. What about death?

            How many people die in chainsaw accidents per year, anyway?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Deaths by accidental firearm is very rare. 300 people a year in the US, out of ~300 million people.

   is a biased site. It seems to say professionals have 712 deaths per year. Most home tools are only given ER visits, not deaths.

   says there are 70 DIY deaths per year.

            For lots of American age groups, “accidents” is the most common killer, by CDC rankings.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Edward Scissorhands:

            For lots of American age groups, “accidents” is the most common killer, by CDC rankings.

            This is not really surprising, but none of those really separate chainsaws from guns?

            In any case, one thing I think about here is airplanes vs. cars. Flying is intrinsically more dangerous than driving, but many more people die and cars. How many people would die in cars if they had to follow the same rules that airplanes do, most people only traveled in buses that had a crew of two or more and had to check in with “bus control” every so often, the individual cars on the road were separated from commercial traffic and as few of in number compared to roadspace as private planes are to airspace?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Here is a CDC chart of the top 10 causes of “injury” death, I think meaning in contrast to disease. It doesn’t directly answer anything anyone asked, but it may be of use. (See also all causes.)

        • Luke the CIA stooge says:

          The really dangerous thing with firearms, assuming you yourself are competent (ie willing to get training/Google relevant safety aspects), is other people who aren’t rational you: kids and spouses, your friends acting like idiots with their guns (If you go to the range/hunting), future-you ( don’t get a gun if your prone to depression) and stupid you (acting like a jackass and putting a bullet in your foot or someone else). If you would put down money that you can keep the above in check (safety locks, willing to say no/walk away from stupid friends, maintain control of yourself) then you’ve reduced your risk profile by probably 90% and any benefit from the gun out ways to cost.

          remember guns don’t kill people, stupid kills people.

      • Theo Jones says:

        There is also another subgroup issue here. People who get a handgun may just live in more dangerous situation, and without the gun things may have been even worse.

    • dndnrsn says:

      There is, of course, the risk of someone in the household intentionally harming themselves. Guns are a popular, and highly effective, method of suicide. If someone in the household suffers from, say, serious depression, that would be relevant.

      The friend being a woman might change the calculus insofar as women appear to prefer less disfiguring (and generally less lethal) means of suicide (there is also the hypothesis that women’s suicide attempts are far less likely to be serious attempts to die) – but the lower rate of female gun suicide could also have something to do with lower rates of female gun ownership.

      • lemmy caution says:

        That is a real concern. How sad is your teenage son going to be when his girlfriend breaks up with him?

        • Fctho1e says:

          Why’d you leave a gun where any teenager could get it?

          There are 2 safe places for a gun to be. In a holster on your body, or in a securely locked container that’s very hard to get into.

          Anything else is just too god-damned risky, especially with kids around.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Many people want a handgun for home defense, in which case “need to do a bunch of things to unlock it” is a negative value.

            I’ve had that seriously depressed teenager, and in theory I would have gotten rid of a gun if I had any in the house. But I’m not sure I would have noticed exactly when it was oncoming.

    • Psmith says:

      Kellermann is full of shit. Notably, most defensive gun uses do not involve shooting and many are not reported to police or EMS.

      I don’t think it makes sense to give the risk of negligent discharges the same weight as the risk of becoming a victim (see for instance), but intuitions vary.

    • Anonanon says:


      Yeah, that’s a bad sign. This is a guy whose research was funded by the Coalition to Ban Handguns. He went on a one-man crusade for decades until he finally lost the last of his credibility.

      Here’s one useful analysis.
      And here’s another.
      And here’s a Gary Kleck paper on the subject from the Journal of the American Medical Association

      The moneyshot quote is

      only 14.2% of the shootings involving a gun whose origins were known, involved a gun kept in the home where the shooting occurred.”: among those 438 assaultive gunshot woundings, 49 involved a gun ‘kept in the home where the shooting occurred,’ 295 involved a gun brought to the scene from elsewhere, and another 94 involved a gun whose origins were not noted by the police

      So yeah, that study was nonsense. He made no attempt to control for most of his sample being drug dealers, for instance.
      The TL;DR is that if the research isn’t by an actual criminologist, it’s probably just propaganda bought by some activist group to use in media blurbs.
      That Kellerman study was used to generate thousands of “Science Proves You’re 81 Times More Likely To Die!” headlines. A very effective use of money for influencing public opinion—and they even got the CDC to pay for some of it!

    • John Schilling says:

      Oh, dear. Roughly speaking, Arthur Kellerman is as reputable a source on the defensive use of firearms as is Anthony Wakefield on vaccine safety and efficacy. That particular article is behind a paywall, and I’ve probably got a hardcopy in my archives at home but that’s not handy right now. His usual stock in trade mostly comes down to comparing, on the one hand, every shooting of a criminal by another criminal with a gun obtained by a criminal for criminal purposes with, on the other hand, the small minority of self-defense shootings which are unambiguously determined by a court to have been legal acts of self-defense(*).

      It is probably true that people who own or whose housemates own defensive-type firearms are more likely to be shot than those who do not, but this is a selection effect. There is a small subset of the population that is very very very likely to be shot, possibly because they are e.g. inner-city liquor store owners but more likely because they are violent criminals or hang out with violent criminals. Most of these people have guns of their own with which to shoot back. Most of the normal law-abiding people who aren’t likely to be shot, don’t bother to buy guns beyond maybe a hunting rifle.

      And in any event, counting self-defense shootings is the wrong metric, because the ideal outcome is that the bad guy runs away or surrenders and nobody gets shot. For the statistics on that, you probably want Gary Kleck. Several surveys consistently and convincingly indicate that legitimate acts of self-defense by law-abiding citizens with firearms occur on the order of a million times per year, mostly without a shot being fired. And mostly against attacks that wouldn’t have gone all the way to murder, so that’s nowhere near a million lives saved a year. But it’s still orders of magnitude higher than the largest plausible count of truly accidental shootings, or shootings by previously law-abiding citizens who lost their temper in an argument, etc.

      Bottom line: If you or someone you live with is at all suicidal, and you think that’s a bad thing, you probably shouldn’t have a gun in the house. If you know you are exceedingly careless, hot-tempered, or the like, ditto. Otherwise, you can use a gun to make yourself a little bit safer. Either you hang out with violent criminals, in which case you’re probably going to wind up being shot or stabbed no matter what you do but the gun will give you a fighting chance, or you don’t hang out with violent criminals in which case there’s a small chance that the gun will save you from a random criminal assault and essentially none of anything really bad happening.

      In the former case, while I would still recommend the gun as a backup, Plan A would be “stop hanging out with violent criminals, dumbass”.

      * The most common real-world outcome of a self-defense shooting is being arrested for assault with a deadly weapon (or worse) and then having the charges dismissed, because the police basically can’t not arrest a non-cop standing over a shooting victim while holding a smoking gun but neither they nor anyone else have a strong incentive to do anything beyond dropping the case the next day when the facts come in. On paper, at the statistical-abstract level, this is indistinguishable from the criminal who shot someone and got away with it because e.g. the eyewitnesses were afraid to talk.

      • brad says:

        You have to get data where you can, and Kleck deserves credit for going out on getting it, but I’m skeptical about the accuracy of survey data on something like this.

        People build all kinds of narratives in their heads. I imagine some of those DGUs turn out to be hearing a noise in the backyard, grabbing a gun, going outside and waving it around, the deer running off, and the gun owner convinced he scared off a would-be-robber. Or there was a suspicious looking fellow across the street and the proof he was up to no good was when he started running after you opened your door and started waving a gun at him.

        • John Schilling says:

          You may well imagine this, but did you really imagine that Keck et all would not imagine the same, obvious thing?

          “All Rs[Respondents] reporting a DGU[Defensive Gun Use] were asked a long, detailed series of questions establishing exactly what happened in the DGU incident […] When the original R was the one who had used a gun defensively, as was usually the case, interviewers obtained his or her firsthand account of the event. When the original R indicated that some other member of the household was the one who had the, experience, interviewers made every effort to speak directly to the involved person, either speaking to that person immediately or obtaining times and dates to call back […]

          Questions about the details of DGU incidents permitted us to establish whether a given DGU met all of the following qualifications for an incident to be treated as a genuine DGU: (1) the incident involved defensive action against a human rather than an animal, but not in connection with police, military, or security guard duties; (2) the incident involved actual contact with a person, rather than merely investigating suspicious circumstances, etc.; (3) the defender could state a specific crime which he thought was being committed at the time of the incident; (4) the gun was actually used in some way–at a minimum it had to be used as part of a threat against a person, either by verbally referring to the gun (e.g., “get away–I’ve got a gun”) or by pointing it at an adversary. We made no effort to assess either the lawfulness or morality of the Rs’ defensive actions.

          An additional step was taken to minimize the possibility of DGU frequency being overstated. The senior author went through interview sheets on every one of the interviews in which a DGU was reported, looking for any indication that the incident might not be genuine. A case would be coded as questionable if even just one of four problems appeared: (1) it was not clear whether the R actually confronted any adversary he saw; (2) the R was a police officer, member of the military or a security guard, and thus might have been reporting, despite instructions, an incident which occurred as part of his occupational duties; (3) the interviewer did not properly record exactly what the R had done with the gun, so it was possible that he had not used it in any meaningful way; or (4) the R did not state or the interviewer did not record a specific crime that the R thought was being committed against him at the time of the incident. There were a total of twenty-six cases [out of 222] where at least one of these problematic indications was present. “

          • brad says:

            That looks like a pretty strong procedure. I guess I shouldn’t have speculated without reading the paper. Thanks for posting the excerpt.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Brad – For what it’s worth, one of Kleck’s strongest critics claims that the survey is overcounting, and the real DGU total is merely in the hundreds of thousands. that’s still a very large number, though.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t remember who, but someone in one of the gun threads (6 months ago?) related an anecdote of “They looked at me, and I looked at them to let them know that I knew what they were thinking, and put my hand on my CCW and they they backed down did something that I took as a de-escalation of threat”

          It was in the context of me making the point that I thought gun-ownership as defense was damaging to the self because the number of times you need to prepare to kill someone is vastly more than the number of times it is warranted.

          That’s a dimly remembered anecdote, now at second hand, but, I think: “I prepared to use my weapon in self-defense, and then I did not have to” is necessarily going to include a lot of intrinsic bias based on imperfect knowledge of other people’s state of mind.

          • Anonanon says:

            “damaging to the self”
            Not even sure what to say here. More damaging than the constant stories we hear from NPR-types of “I left the store, he followed me to the dark car park, I dropped my bags and sprinted to my car fumbling for my keys while he laughed at me”?
            That’s self-destructive learned helplessness.

            Also, you misremembered that anecdote in a fashion that suggests a certain amount of intrinsic bias was involved in your reading of it.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m with the doubly anonymous here.

            There is Me and there is That Other Guy. That Other Guy had made it likely that in the near future there will be only Me or That Other Guy but not both. I am prepared to ensure that That Other Guy is the one that does not exist so that I will continue to exist.

            I see this, physically, psychologically, and morally, as exactly the opposite of “damaging to the self”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Also, you misremembered that anecdote in a fashion that suggests a certain amount of intrinsic bias was involved in your reading of it.

            I would love a link to what I am remembering, so I can be more accurate about it.

            I am prepared to ensure that That Other Guy is the one that does not exist so that I will continue to exist.

            I think you are either misunderstanding my point or misrepresenting it.

            Here is an example of what I am talking about. It is only one of many possible.

            You here a noise in your house and think that it is possible that someone is breaking in. You decide that it is necessary to deploy your handgun and go downstairs where you find your son having come in through the backdoor. You holster or lower your weapon.

            That’s the damage I am talking about. The damage to the expectation of a peaceable home. The preparation to take a life which was unwarranted. Done to you. Done to your son. It’s a constant drip-drip of small, tiny damage. The mere fact that you show the need to have a holstered weapon in your own home does this damage, even if you don’t unholster it.

            In any case, I wasn’t trying to re-hash that argument, merely trying to give a marker to anyone who might remember the conversation.

          • Skivverus says:

            You hear a noise in your house and think that it is possible that someone is breaking in. You decide that it is would be necessary to deploy your handgun were you allowed to own one, but you aren’t, so you pick up a baseball bat instead and go downstairs where you find your son having come in through the backdoor. You holster or lower your weapon sigh in relief that this time it was a false alarm, and put away the bat.

            Or, more succinctly: I disagree that the damage you describe is caused by owning a gun (though I suppose you might have gone through this argument before). Rather, I think it comes from living in an environment where you cannot take personal safety (from other people) for granted, and thus have to divert attention to its maintenance.

          • Anonanon says:

            That makes less than zero sense. I don’t know what else to say.
            How does any “harm” done by being prepared compare to the constant demoralizing “learn to use your Prius keys as tiny knives, and remember to pee yourself!” advice we hear?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Are we sure this wasn’t an episode of “Family Ties”? The one where the Keatons get a gun, and, of course, nearly shoot Alex when he has to come home late at night?

          • Psmith says:

            I think this is the beginning of the exchange in question.

            I don’t agree with HeelBearCub, but I think I understand where he’s coming from, and it seems like the sort of thing about which reasonable people might disagree.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Thank you to PSmith for finding that thread.

            Ah, this is what I was remembering. Not an anecdote of use but a description of ideal defensive use. Not exactly the same thing, but similar.

            Echo said:
            The ideal “defensive gun use” is a slight change in posture and a brief moment of eye contact that communicates “I know you know that I know, so let’s not and pretend you never thought about it”.

            It’s more subtle than any stupid “martial arts” style body language used to indicate preparedness, and you don’t even have to be armed or physically intimidating to use it… as long as that 5-7% of concealed carry holders exist as a “threat in being”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are we sure this wasn’t an episode of “Family Ties”? The one where the Keatons get a gun, and, of course, nearly shoot Alex when he has to come home late at night?

            I believe that was a Very Special Episode of pretty much every sitcom between 1975 and 1995, though now you’ve got me wondering if “MASH” ever managed to pull it off.

            And, yeah, I’m not seeing the damage. “The damage to the expectation of a peaceable home”? A gun isn’t the cause of that, it’s the result of that. “The preparation to take a life which was unwarranted”? I was in this hypothetical prepared to evaluate a possible threat and take a life if and only if it was warranted.

            I get that there are people whose self-image does not allow for these things. I disagree with which group of people is damaged. Everything they can do in this realm, everything they can think or believe that is not false to the point of self-delusion, I can do and think and believe, and more besides. Now it is proposed that I should be disarmed, perhaps by my choice or perhaps by someone else’s action, and the supposed advantage of this is that I will be diminished not only in choice or action but also in thought or belief, rendered unable to conceive of defending myself against actual threats? It isn’t necessary for me to so much as touch a firearm to be “damaged” by it, merely to expand my mental horizons to contemplate the possibility of its use?

            I think I understand this. I absolutely reject it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            You are failing at either charitably or imagination.

            Go read the thread. It was a statement about my mindset about guns and self-defense, not a manifesto for gun confiscation.

            And the snarky, superior references to “very special episodes” are [redacted] … about as helpful to having actual conversation as if I started mentioning “mah gunz! Derp!”

          • Richard says:

            @John Schilling

            MASH did manage to pull it off. Frank is the one who gets the gun, can’t remember who he shoots, but maybe it’s his own foot. Or I could be mixing it up with the episode where he tries to swindle his way to a purple heart.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HBC: Go read the thread. It was a statement about my mindset about guns and self-defense

            …filled with phrasings like “you need to prepare to kill someone”, “You decide that it is necessary to deploy your handgun”, and “[Damage] done to your son”

            I do not think it was uncharitable of me to take that as a description of my mindset, or prescription of what it ought to be, and I am skeptical even now that it was truly meant to be just about your own. At a minimum, I think you are engaged in gross typical-minding here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Not you, personally, John, but the “you” that represents the some subsection of the population, which is the cohort to which I belong. I probably should have phrased it as “one”. I do think there is some universality to this, but I’m not trying propose that it applies equally to everyone.

            I probably would not have been so short in my reply if the “very special episode” comment didn’t seem to be a preface to the entire thing. It was a bullshit thing to say, with a so clearly implied as to be explicit sneer in it. If you wanted anger, you got it. Congratulations.

          • LHN says:

            In “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan”, Houlihan is asked to give emergency help to a Korean giving birth. When no one knows where she is, Burns assumes she’s been kidnapped, and starts loading a gun to go after her. In the process, he accidentally shoots Hunnicut in the leg.

            (There’s also an earlier episode, “The Gun”, where Burns steals a visiting officer’s vintage gun, trying to pass it off as his own to impress Margaret. When he tries to return it, he shoots himself in the foot.)

    • Julie K says:

      > accidental gun injuries were four times as common as justifiable gun use.

      I think that the count of instances of “justifiable gun use” omits the times when someone, for example, scared away a criminal by showing they were armed, without needing to fire the gun.

      • DavidS says:

        You and several people above argue that showing you have a gun without firing it counts for most of the times when a gun is successfully used defensively. Is this an argument for keeping fake or at least unloaded guns? Or does ‘without firing’ often mean things like ‘fire in the air to scare them away’

        (genuine question from a Brit who finds all this gun stuff a bit bizarre)

        • William Newman says:

          “You and several people above argue that showing you have a gun without firing it counts for most of the times when a gun is successfully used defensively. Is this an argument for keeping fake or at least unloaded guns?”

          Do you think that the answer should be substantially the same for ordinary citizens as for official armed guards or government cops, or should some completely different logic apply?

          Do you think it is useful for official armed guards or government cops to have guns even on some (many?) occasions in which they don’t actually injure or kill people with them?

          (genuine question from a guy who is puzzled by attitudes like illegitimacy of high-capacity magazines for ordinary citizens but indifference to the same stuff for cops or off-duty zoning commissioners)

          E.g. “With this decision, we can further reduce the flow of weapons that have no legitimate use in our society.” (Said surrounded by Secret Servicemen who carry such weapons.)

          Admittedly the new narrative that we should tightly control weapons which could be useful for massacres doesn’t suffer as badly from that particular illegitimate-except-somehow-for-the-rulers puzzle, but various no-guns signs I have seen posted around the Dallas area still leave me puzzled in a similar way. Whole Foods may not have the legal authority to demand that cops and off-duty zoning commissioners not carry guns into their stores, but they could (and don’t) post signs politely requesting it as a matter of courteous cooperation with the WF no-gun-violence policy, everyone leave their guns outside.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            I think the point is that a civilian with an empty gun can freeload on the threat of it being a real gun without the disadvantages (if everyone did it it wouldn’t work). That doesn’t work if cops do it as a matter of policy.

            And yes, as another Brit I like the fact our police officers aren’t armed (and the majority of police officers feel the same way).

          • DavidS says:

            Like Sweeney said, Brits aren’t the most likely people to want cops or off-duty zoning commissioners (is that some sort of traffic warden?) to carry guns.

            In terms of the ‘do you make an exception’, I can completely see an argument that armed police have been checked, vetted etc*. whereas random people haven’t. And that having lots of bullets is useful if your job might be to have a shoot-out, but is less crucial for home defence (I assume most home defence scenarios don’t become Mexican standoffs). Also, y’know, monopoly of force and all that. ‘No-one but the royal guards has a sword inside the palace’ etc.

            On police having replicas, it would have to be policy which would make it counterproductive as people would know they didn’t have guns. I guess you could have some weird % chance the gun is real? But in the UK we only give police guns for (1) guard duty at certain places where presumably they think there’s a big attacker threat, e.g. airports, Parliament and (2) reacting to certain sorts of police emergency (I assume ‘send a gunman to fight a gunman’ but I suspect it’s more complex.

            *this again may be more true where having a gun is rare for policemen. I assume the checks are less stringent in forces where all/most are armed.

        • bean says:

          You and several people above argue that showing you have a gun without firing it counts for most of the times when a gun is successfully used defensively. Is this an argument for keeping fake or at least unloaded guns?
          I personally wouldn’t do that. In most cases, showing a gun will be enough to scare the bad guys off, but you do risk really pissing them off instead, and then dying because it’s not really a gun. It might be safer than no gun at all, but it’s probably more dangerous than a real gun if you’re careful, even counting accidental shootings.

          Or does ‘without firing’ often mean things like ‘fire in the air to scare them away’
          No. That’s a good way to kill someone. Never point a gun at something you don’t want to destroy. And you don’t want to destroy whatever is at the end of that arc.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Pulling out a gun if you aren’t ready to use lethal force is a dumb move.

          • DavidS says:

            Fair enough. I guess the ‘if you’re careful’ runs into the ‘everyone thinks they’re are good driver’ thing

            Fire into the ground rather than the air? Or is ricochet an issue?

          • Lysenko says:

            Unless you’re firing into something like a foot or two of packed earth/sand (and sometimes even then) then ricochet is very much an issue, yes. And again, The bullet’s going to go SOMEWHERE.

            This doesn’t even get into the old truism that a weapon that you cannot use, will not use, and/or cannot retain control of is not YOUR weapon. It belongs to the first person who is willing to take it away from you. I generally recommend against offering people of unknown or known hostile intent a weapon.

            I also think it’s worth stating the four rules of firearm safety here. Some people teach more extreme versions of these,:

            1) Assume all firearms are loaded unless they are in your personal control (as in, you are holding them) and you have verified that they are unloaded and clear.

            2) regardless of 1), do not point the muzzle of a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy. ‘don’t worry, it’s not loaded’ is never an acceptable reason for ignoring this rule.

            3) keep your finger off the trigger until your weapon is pointed at your target.

            4) be aware of not only your target, but what is around it and behind it.

            For trained and experienced individuals engaged in a combat situation or in training, there are sometimes cases for the violation of some of these rules. However, each and every one of those violations is not ‘ok’ in the sense that they are ‘safe’. They are calculated risks.

        • The Nybbler says:

          A bluff only works if your opponent doesn’t think it’s a bluff. The more people believed to be using fake or unloaded guns for defense, the more likely the attacker will believe it is a bluff. This will increase the proportion of defenses using real loaded guns which result in shootings (attacker thought it was a bluff, it wasn’t), and it will result in proportionally more successful attacks against those using fake or unloaded guns.

          So if you’re preparing for defense with a gun, prepare to use a real and loaded gun. Otherwise you’re both spoiling the commons and increasing the risk to yourself.

          As for firing in the air, generally a bad idea. If you fire straight up, the bullet won’t come down with lethal velocity (usually) but it’s still a chunk of metal falling somewhere. If you fire at enough of an angle, the bullet will remain stable and perhaps kill someone fairly distant.

        • Lysenko says:

          Most of the time when you need first aid supplies, you just need plasters. Therefore you should have a nice big first aid kit, but when opened it should only have plasters.

          And that’s actually a much BETTER stance than producing a fake or unloaded firearm. One of the consistent points of training in firearms handling is that you should not draw a weapon, or even carry one, if you are not willing to use it.

          Producing or even showing a firearm is an effective deterrent because it sends the message that you can and will raise the stakes of an encounter higher than the aggressor is willing to handle. Most criminals are opportunists who attack weakness and run from strength, but not all, and you don’t know ahead of time what sort you’re dealing with. And that leaves out the fudge factor of plain old human irrationality and the chaotic unpredictability of confrontations.

          So, no, if you’re not willing to carry a loaded firearm and you are not willing to (given the right sequence of events) draw it and use it to end the life of another human being, I do not think you should under any circumstance, bluff, pretend, or signal that you are. You are far better off simply planning any self-defense strategies around techniques you are willing to employ, starting with situation avoidance and running like hell and working up from there.

          • DavidS says:

            I can completely see this argument. But it does seem to run directly counter to the idea that one of the benefits of a gun is that the mere threat scares people off? Presumably the person who really has a gun faces similar risks of missing (rather than being unable to shoot because it’s fake) and then escalating etc. In fact presumably people like actually being shot at (or having their criminal mates shot) even less than replicas?

            Several people have raised a good ‘poisoning the commons’ point. It’s an interesting point to follow through in terms of the knock-on effect of some people having guns. Does it mean less crime? That criminals shoot first? That they go after people who they profile as unlikely to be able to / choose to use guns?

          • Skivverus says:


            I don’t have specific sources for you, alas, so I’d recommend double-checking, but I seem to remember studies pointing towards having more guns around resulting in “less face-to-face crime (such as robbery), more covert crime (such as burglary); inconclusive whether any changes in total crime rate”.
            I suspect that criminals attempt to profile their targets for lack of effective resistance regardless of the prevalence of guns, but I can certainly imagine the smarter ones will adjust how they profile. The less-smart ones will likely require a more pointed reminder.

          • Anonanon says:

            >That they go after people who they profile as unlikely to be able to / choose to punch them unconscious

            Yeah. The trick is that while it’s easy to avoid mugging a 6′ 6″ biker in favour of an old indian lady closing up her corner shop, it’s impossible to tell which one is more likely to shoot you.

            The side-benefit is that introducing uncertainty (rather than risk) dissuades all but the most stupid and impulsive from making a career out of mugging (the smarter ones deal, work with fences to sell burgled property, etc.).
            And the stupid and impulsive are also the least likely to be able to keep and maintain an (expensive) deadly weapon without selling it for crack.

          • Lysenko says:

            Not at all, David. We have a fairly robust series of studies on prevalence and nature of defensive gun use incidents as well as police reports, and even testimony from and studies on criminals themselves, both casual and career. All of it points in the direction of threat being effective in many cases.

            Whether or not a fake gun would be AS effective is irrelevant to that, and irrelevant to the point I was making, which is about what you do when you draw the short straw, and it turns you need to do more than simply -deter- the bad guy, and in fact need to STOP them.

            Given that the person with a real gun has a non-0% chance of hitting their target, and the person with a fake gun has an absolute 0% chance of hitting their target, I would not equate the two.

            Add to that that we actually DO have studies showing that offering ineffective resistance to a robber is worse than offering none at all (to include running/yelling for help, if you are caught or they ignore you) in terms of your chances to avoid injury, I’ll stick by my original recommendation:

            If you are not mentally, emotionally, and morally prepared to carry a firearm and use it on another human being should you judge the situation calls for it, you should not even contemplate faking it. Your optimum defense strategies are avoidance, running, and failing those submission and compliance.

          • “I seem to remember studies pointing towards having more guns around resulting in “less face-to-face crime (such as robbery), more covert crime (such as burglary); inconclusive whether any changes in total crime rate”.”

            The original reference is the Lott and Mustard article in, I think, the Journal of Legal Studies. It spawned a long and controversial literature, with serious people arguing both sides of what the evidence actually showed.

          • On the fake gun question …

            Most people are not very good liars–we signal things about the inside of our head by facial expression, voice tone and the like. My guess is that someone holding a fake gun is less likely to be convincing than someone holding a real gun, because he knows it’s fake.

        • John Schilling says:

          Is this an argument for keeping fake or at least unloaded guns?

          Only in very narrow circumstances. Most people couldn’t pull off a bluff to save their own lives. To win a bar bet, sure. To win a $500 pot on poker night with the guys, maybe. Not when death is on the line. And a career criminal is every bit as professional at reading the tells as any Vegas shark. This strategy might stop you from being roughed up or robbed by an ambivalent criminal, but will likely increase the danger of your being murdered or raped by the really serious ones.

          Plus, as others have noted, you’re poisoning the commons.

          Or does ‘without firing’ often mean things like ‘fire in the air to scare them away’

          It shouldn’t, but it frequently does. Just about every professional law-enforcement organization has long since adopted the policy of No Warning Shots Ever. Partly because the risk to bystanders, while small, cannot be wholly eliminated. Mostly because it doesn’t work.

          The criminal does not mistakenly believe you are pointing a toy or unloaded gun at him. Maybe in someplace like Japan, or in the hypothetical future where lots of people adopt the “bluff him with an empty gun” strategy, but in most of the present world, the criminal’s prior for “That thing that looks like a gun is actually capable of firing deadly bullets” is very high. There’s not much room for improving your situation on that front.

          The criminal’s prior for “The person with the gun understands how to operate the controls and make it go bang”, is likewise high, as is “The person with the gun is willing to shoot it at an inanimate object”. Yes, it’s possible you don’t know where the safety catch is, or are so sensitive to loud noises that you won’t ever fire a gun, but those aren’t the sort of things a criminal is going to bet his life on.

          Where there may be doubt, is in the criminal’s assessment of the probability that you will fire a gun at a living human being. So, argument for Bayesians and Frequentists alike: Given a P(willing and able to shoot gun) ~1.00, how does the assessment of P(willing and able to shoot gun at another person) change with each shot fired at conspicuously-not-another-person?

          But Hollywood keeps telling people that firing warning shots scares criminals and makes them run away, and people keep doing it. Usually it doesn’t make any difference, sometimes it makes things worse.

          In the very rare case where it might make things better, e.g. trying to intervene in a third-party fight where someone is shouting too loudly for you to get their attention with anything less than a gunshot, make sure to pick a large, tough, bullet-absorbing backstop and take careful aim.

          • DavidS says:

            Really interesting points (have sort of responded to some above). On the ‘reading tells’ things, doesn’t the stress of the scenario change that? I know plenty of people who tell stories about driving off muggers either by being aggressive or just by being weird and throwing them off (not planned things, just odd reactions that the person themselves didn’t expect).

            Especially given what you say about priors etc. I really can’t imagine it’s likely that someone would be confident enough that a gun’s a replica based on tells.

          • John Schilling says:

            I really can’t imagine it’s likely that someone would be confident enough that a gun’s a replica based on tells.

            What the criminal is trying to read is not so much specifics like whether the gun is real, but the uniform overriding variable of whether or not the victim is going to resist to the utmost. That’s a critical skill for any criminal – even an unarmed 90-pound woman can resist vigorously enough to make robbery or rape a decidedly unrewarding business for the attacker. And likely get herself killed in the process, which is why I prefer 90-pound women carry guns or perhaps wicked scary knives, but any criminal who wants to stay in the business very long has to have a well-developed sense for which victims will fight back and which ones won’t. When applied to victims with guns, that means they don’t know that the gun is fake and/or empty, but they don’t care because they are pretty confident the victim isn’t really going to really fight back.

            And the other side of that is that if you are genuinely aggressive, maybe too pissed off at being mugged to care that you might get yourself killed, or just plain weird enough that they can’t read you, you might indeed be able to drive them off without a gun – they
            can’t be certain you aren’t carrying a concealed weapon, and they see that you are going to fight back even knowing what numbers and weapons they are showing, so what might you know that they don’t?

            But that game requires the ability to project lethal confidence under extreme stress, not the ability to wave a toy gun around. Or even a real one. Any gun you might bring is a prop for a theatrical performance, or it is the ante in a battle of will, or it is a tool for killing. If you’re not willing to kill, you’ll need to be a damn good actor.

          • Winfried says:

            @John Schilling

            That’s why instead of a concealed weapon I carry around a concealed skull. Nothing freaks out and deters potential aggressors like a lively excerpt from Hamlet.

            “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest…”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “If you’re not willing to kill, you’ll need to be a damn good actor.”

            With the implication that most people aren’t damn good actors, yes?

            The further implication being that every time one deploys their firearm in a non-practice situation, they are preparing/prepared to kill someone. Not exactly sure why that was one of the bones of contention

          • John Schilling says:

            Aside from a handful of people trying to run a bluff, yes. I don’t think that was ever in contention. If there was any contention here, it was over whether trying to bluff was a good idea, and I am of the opinion that it is not.

        • Ptoliporthos says:

          In many parts of the U.S., toy guns are required to have bright orange markings to distinguish them from real guns (so police don’t shoot someone with a non-lethal “weapon” by mistake).

          Perhaps criminals should install fluorescent orange parts on their real guns to try to fake out the police?

          • Lysenko says:

            Been done, though mainly by law abiding citizens with a sense of humour and smart enough to only use them on the range. I’ve heard anecdotes from cops about crooks trying to do something like this to fool police officers, but haven’t seen any photos and the anecdotes were generally about much cruder jobs than the ones I’ve linked (spraypainting the tip of the barrel orange, that sort of thing).

  2. Lysenko says:

    I am curious about something. How many members of the SSC community/Commentariat are Active Duty Military? Prior Service? If So, when and what nation?

    For my part:

    -A bit under 5 years in the Regular Army of the United States. Contracts are generally in even increments, but I was Stop-Lossed.

    -One OIF (OIF2 – NOV03-NOV04) , no OEF deployments. The first few months in Samara, the rest in Nineveh province, especially Tal Afar and to a lesser extent Sinjar, Bi’aj, and Mosul.

    I feel like the military experience really dramatically shifted my previous isolationist/NAP-uber-alles Libertarian political and social philosophy, and I’m curious to see if there are many other soldiers or veterans in the ‘audience’.

    • Urstoff says:

      Can you describe how/why it has shifted your political and social philosophy?

      • Lysenko says:

        I can try.

        Prior to the military (and to be clear, we’re talking about an 18-19 year old here. Day 0 of Basic was my 19th birthday), I was much more concerned with the environment, and questions of ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ social structures. I was influenced by Edward Abbey and while I didn’t buy into all the premises of books like ‘Ecotopia’ I found them very interesting. To the extent I was concerned with questions like war and terrorism, they were things we could mostly fix by becoming isolationist and anti-immigrationist and turning inward to perfect our own society. Since I believed in the NAP, I believed that we would have to achieve this shifting of priorities and restructuring of society to smaller and less intrusive government organized at smaller and local levels and more in tune with the natural world via something more like religious and cultural conversion than through legal force.

        I now view that worldview as naive in many respects, and my younger self as having a woeful lack of appreciation for basic truths about human nature, human interaction, technology, and economics.

        There is nothing like weeks at a time really spent in the wilderness under strict noise and light discipline on an all-MRE diet to give one an appreciation for power, running water, and all manner of artificial chemicals from bug sprays to fabric softeners to food preservatives to plastics.

        And there is nothing like spending time outside the US to put into perspective the value of our rich, multilayered technological infrastructure and how it makes every last little aspect of our lives better and easier.

        I am still concerned about environmental issues, but in an almost purely humanistic framework, and if the cost of species survival is abandoning a 20th century “first world” technological lifestyle, I consider that to be an unacceptable solution.

        I went from thinking that the US could and should turn away from the world to understanding that the aforementioned first world technological infrastructure was dependent upon the global economy. That this in turn made us players on the world stage, and our current pre-eminent position could be stepped away from only at the cost of great economic and political disruption for ourselves and creating a vacuum that, in all likelihood, something far worse would rush in to fill.

        I started studying geopolitical and military history much more intensely, and that combined with my pre-existing libertarian philosophical bent to make me intensely skeptical about supra-national political organizations like the UN, the EU, even the more limited ones like NATO. I came to think that even if the US suddenly became a virtuous, non-interventionist actor on the world stage, it would not be met with reciprocal virtue. That a country’s ability to be virtuous depends directly upon its ability to back up that virtue with violent action, either by its own assets or those of allies.

        That made me look at the trend of demilitarization of Europe relative to other, less liberal democratic parts of the globe, and say, basically “Oh Shit”.

        I feel like I’m rambling, so I’m going to pause here for response/questions/criticism, but basically I came around to a much more…stark view of the role of violence in human history, I guess you’d say, and stark disagreement with the people who say “we’re less violent than we’ve ever been, both as individuals killing one another and groups making war upon one another, draw that trendline forward and even if the Singularity doesn’t make it all moot, we’re headed for the End Of History and a stable, peaceful, harmonious global community if we just keep on the right path!”.

        To the extent that that is true, I think it’s a temporary cultural artifact, and while my personal answer in the long-term is still something a lot closer to the more atomistic, decentralized, and small-scale concepts I once liked (I’d love to see some sort of real world implementation of the archipelago idea for example, allowing people to aggregate based on shared philosophies), I think that any such plan has to account a substantial allocation of resources to the issue of organized violence, and it deeply concerns me that the majority of both libertarian thinkers (using the term as broadly as possible), and trans-national progressives (using the term to mean those who see the future in terms of a Democratically Socialist or at least Social Democratic federation or global union. United States Of Europe Uber Alles) disagree.

        • Urstoff says:

          Thanks for sharing that. Does NAP mean “non-aggression principle? If so, I’m quite surprised that a strong believer in it would join the military, where the probability of being used in support of some operation that violates the non-aggresion principle is very high.

          What would be an example of backing up virtue with violent action? Would WWII count? The Vietnam War? The Gulf War? The Iraq War? I think the mainstream answers (as of 2016) would be Yes/No/Yes/No.

          • Lysenko says:

            18-year olds are not known for their exemplarily well-thought-out and internally consistent philosophical stances, Urstoff 😉 Add to that a sense of patriotism, and personal situational pressures relative to my own needs and it’s not really that crazy. And yes, NAP = Non-Aggression Principle.

            And I’d agree with the mainstream except for Vietnam. I can’t say I agree with how the war was waged or our cold war policy of not putting more pressure to reform and alter the government of friendly, non-communist regimes, but I cannot disagree with the decision to intervene militarily to attempt to stop the spread of communism, an ideology which in practice has led to more misery, suffering, and loss of human life than any other in the history of the world.

            I find the scientific socialism of the Russians fascinating and even appealing in an abstract, intellectual way, but that dream has too often turned into the reality of the gulags and the killing fields for me to see communist revolutionary movements as anything other than a literal ‘threat to civilization’.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      I joined the Air Force as a 1N3 in 97 and switched over to maintenance analysis; I was in for 6 years (I wasn’t allowed to re-enlist for medical reasons).

      Didn’t really do much for me politically, other than politics related to atheism (especially after 9/11).

    • Anonanon says:

      I’d be very interested to hear your conclusions. The experience made you less cynical about foreign intervention?

      • Lysenko says:

        Depends on the type of intervention you mean.

        In terms of “nation-building” I think that it shouldn’t be undertaken without massively more popular and political support than we had going into Iraq. Basically, if you’re not willing to spend the kind of time and money we spent on the Marshall Plan or Japanese Reconstruction, don’t bother. That said, I think we should make that an option to put on the table and make it known that it IS on the table if we really need it, and damn international consensus.

        The other factor is receptivity of the population in the country being intervened in. While the Iraqis weren’t anywhere near as hostile to US presence as the general media narrative painted 2004-2008, even at their MOST receptive you couldn’t compare it to post-WW2 japan.

        So, I became a lot more cynical about that sort of grand intervention, toppling a hostile government and trying to replace it with a friendly one.

        I became a lot -less- cynical about interventions on the scale of, say, picking sides in an ongoing civil war or an already unstable/dysfunctional region.

    • Inc says:

      Active duty army, finishing my seventh and final year. 13A/35D. 3x OEF, 1x other. Started off conservative, now I’m leaning ancap. Working for the government has given me less faith in it, not more. And I’ve become significantly less interventionist after seeing the way such things are actually carried out.

      • Lysenko says:

        Thanks! I was starting to think there were only two military or ex-military commenters here. Though I was enlisted, not officer. Have you become less interventionist across the board? That is, not just troops on the ground, but retaliatory strikes with airpower, aid/arms to political conflicts, 2nd ID’s presence on the DMZ, etc?

        • Inc says:

          Across the board. I think the only time I would be open to intervention is when we have:
          a. genuine allies (that is, they have something to offer us and they’re not morally repugnant)
          b. who are threatened with some existential or intolerable… threat,
          c. are themselves committed mentally and militarily,
          d. all (or most of) our other allies in the region support them AND are committed,
          e. we agree on both the endstate and the manner in which the intervention will be prosecuted,
          f. they cannot win without us,
          g. the USG jumps through all the legal hoops to declare war, deploy troops, and commits to seeing it through to the endstate (subject to a 10 or 20 year sunset clause).

          I may be wrong, but I don’t consider retaliatory strikes to be intervention, those are self-defense. I consider intervention to be military action outside that which is strictly necessary for the defense of the USA in an “obvious and immediate” sort of way, not in an “well I guess somewhere down the line this could potentially adversely affect some of our interests” sort of way.

          As far as the aid/arms question, I’m not sure. Although I haven’t thought it out, I suspect my conclusion will be complete mobilization and deployment or nothing. If our ally’s cause isn’t worthy of our complete support, I don’t think it makes sense to half-ass it.

          • Lysenko says:

            I think we are in broad agreement when it comes to not half-assing it and not mobilizing troops absent a clear end-state and the will to commit to the long term if necessary. Thank you for laying out your own preconditions clearly. That said, I think your criteria raises interesting questions. What about…

            …Military aid, Economic aid for security reasons, and arms deals? There are countries (Israel and Taiwan being the most obvious) who would be dramatically affected if the US were no longer a supporter.

            …Training and Advisory missions? To be clear, I do not mean the deployment of SOF elements to link up with units that are already in combat, but rather stuff like the US missions to Georgia in the 2000s immediately prior to the 2008 conflict, 1st Group’s ongoing cooperation with the Phillippines’ military and security organizations prior to 9/11 (which did result in dead American soldiers), or our more or less permanent ‘training mission’ to Saudi Arabia (which is so large and long term as to deserve the quotes. In my mind training missions don’t last 60+ years and have a Brigadier General in command).

            …and finally, unless we want to effectively renounce the ability to intervene period, doesn’t your criterion D) imply that we should either withdraw from collective agreements like NATO, or at least be a lot more parsimonious about who we consider ‘allies’?

            I mean, in Iraq I found myself working almost simultaneously with Peshmerga and Turkish army officers. To put it mildly, I don’t think their overall agendas overlapped. Similarly, if we cannot intervene anywhere in eastern europe unless a majority of the EU member states is willing to back us, I would say that is a defacto announcement that we have no intention of responding to any Russian actions short of an Armored Division rushing through the Fulda Gap like it’s a 1983 war game come to life.

            EDIT: To be clear, I am not presuming whether you consider that defacto announcement is a feature or a bug. Post-Georgia, -Crimea, and -Ukraine I am no longer all that confident that Russia will NOT act with decisive military force to secure territory, but I feel like things would have to change a lot for them to be so bold as to consider taking a crack at, say, Poland.

          • Inc says:

            I’m not in favor of handouts, particularly if the recipients don’t meet the above requirements. I don’t see any reason we can’t sell arms to friendly nations who we’re moderately certain won’t do horrible things with them.

            I think training is fine. Training is good training, and building relationships with our allies is important. However, your next point is spot on: we ought to be more selective with our allies and probably shouldn’t enter into broad agreements with lots of potential for unforeseen consequences or unsavory partners.

            I’m not well versed in European politics, but if the Europeans decide they want to submit to creeping Russian aggression then all the more power to them. They’re in a better position to decide their future than we are. Hopefully the “announcement” would shock them into getting serious about defending themselves, at which point they’ve started to meet conditions for US assistance. Unconditional military alliances where one party is orders of magnitude more powerful create toxic incentives.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There seems to be an implicit argument in your position that if we end our alliance with a state, that they will not replace our alliance with another one. I’m not a military historian, by any means, but I think that strategy and history tend to indicate that the opposite will occur.

            One reason to ally with NATO is that you don’t want to be facing as a global opponent some new entity called UEAS (Union of European and Asian States).

          • Inc says:

            That is not an argument I’m making, implicit or otherwise. If they replace our alliance with another, great. Hopefully they follow the same rules that I’ve laid out here or they’ll end up in a bad place.

            The implicit argument you seem to be making is that the only thing keeping all of Europe and Asia from banding together in harmony is our meddling in their affairs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m saying that if we aren’t involved in Europe, the European-Russian relationship is more important, one way or the other.

            If we aren’t involved in Japan and Korea, the Chinese relationship with them becomes more important, one way or the other.

            And there is a chance that the relationship resolves in a way that is deleterious to us. I don’t think disengaging is the smart play.

            Do you think a Russian/European war would not harm us? Do you want the Ukraine or Turkey building nukes? The Atlantic and Pacific don’t protect us the way they did 100 years ago.

          • Inc says:

            I don’t think it’s worth the opportunity cost.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t really comment much or maintain an identity here, but I served 5 years in the Navy as a submarine electronics technician. That encompasses two Western Pacific deployments and one Eastern, but I’m not sure how valuable you boots-on-the-ground folks would consider that experience since it mostly boils down to spending a few weeks at a time locked in a windowless office building punctuated by the occasional long weekend in a Southeast Asian port city.

      When I joined, I had pretty standard Daily Show Blue Tribe opinions, which were probably a contrarian maneuver due to growing up in the Gulf South. Over the course of my enlistment I got bored and read a bunch of Dawkins and friends (not much to do in a submarine radio room when you’re submerged ) and shifted to a hard-atheist libertarian outlook.

      It’s been a few years since I got out. After dropping out of college twice in that time I’m currently of the opinion that power expands to fill all available space, and whatever ideological noises it makes are self-perpetuating window dressing. Also that I personally am rather irrelevant and whatever I think about the way the world works or should work won’t make a difference; that effort would be better spent improving my material conditions and navigating whatever power structures exist.

      I think the only constant belief in all three periods has been a strongly pro-gun rights stance, present culturally from childhood and only reinforced by familiarity in the military.

      • Anonanon says:

        Sorry I can’t comment on the rest of your post, but the last bit really stood out. Despite all the “rebelling against my upbringing” stories, it’s rare to hear about people rejecting dad’s guns the same way they rejected dad’s god.
        Do you know why your young-adult-contrarianism ended up focusing on certain things? Do you think it would have been different if you’d found, I don’t know, gay rights or anti-gun books instead of Dawkins?

        (Also, if you don’t mind me asking, were copies of The God Delusion just floating around among the seamen? Did friends get you into it, or was it a private discovery in a library or something?)

        • Anonymous says:

          Growing up I thought Dad’s guns were in poor taste, but not any kind of moral failure or “should be illegal” sort of thing, whereas Dad’s God was fairly unimposing – his religion is a private, academic pursuit. It was my mom who dragged me to Mass every now and again, but even she clearly wasn’t too into it. The rebellion there, if directed at anyone, was probably against my 7th-grade biology teacher who refused to competently teach evolution and constantly quoted scripture to justify her belief that humans coexisted with dinosaurs.

          Once in the Navy, everyone seemed to keep some aspect of where they were from sacred and sort of comically amped up, so for me I guess it was the gun rights thing. The boat also seemed to be roughly divided along regional subculture lines – I unintentionally ended up hanging out with other Deep Southerners, who were largely pro-gun atheists who played a lot of D&D. This was a visibly distinct social group from, e.g., the Appalachian axis, who were twangy pro-gun Protestants who played a lot of World of Warcraft. This was a submarine, so most of the enlisted crew outside the machinery and torpedo rooms were some species of nerd.

          Re: Dawkins, The Selfish Gene had been on my to-read list for a long time as the book that coined the word “meme”. My Kindle suggested a constant chain of reading from there on out, which I followed quickly and enthusiastically because I’d often only have a few minutes topside to download new reading material. Whispersync is remarkably resilient that way – I was pleasantly surprised to be able to download books while at anchor in Alaska, nothing but pine trees in line of sight.

          • Anonanon says:

            They should put that in the kindle advertisements!

            The boat’s social dynamics sound really fascinating. That’s about 140-155 people split into three work shifts, with a bunch of them being socially distant officers?
            The sacred-and-amped-up thing sounds really familiar. And D&D sounds like a great way to pass the time at sea.

      • Inc says:

        My experience in Afghanistan has made me significantly more pro-gun. Seeing first hand the way those in power can control a disarmed populace has increased my resolve to remain armed.

    • Sfoil says:

      I’m a currently serving 19A in the US Army working on seven years in, active duty. I have a separate handle which I use for political discussion; I use my other name more often but neither alt really gets a lot of use. I’ve served a combat tour in Afghanistan a few years ago and a non-combat rotation to Korea pretty recently.

    • Richard says:

      Special forces NCO during Iraq-one. Couple minor deployments before and after, notably Bosnia. Don’t think it’s changed any of my views.

    • erenold says:

      I served some years as a conscript in a country that I’d rather keep quiet, but which is one of your closest allies in East Asia. Never served in action and greatly respect those who did.

      Started out as a pretty unreflective student lefty type and gradually shifted towards a position that maps to the American centre-left over time, but I’m not sure that had much to do with service rather than the enforced free time, much of which I spent studying.

    • Vorkon says:

      Active duty Marine since 2003, and still in. I joined as an avionics technician, but lat-moved into the comm/IT field. (Despite which, I’m actually serving in a security billet right now, and didn’t even lat-move into it like most people, since I just happen to be at a unit that doesn’t rate an actual intel guy, and was in the right place at the right time. Needs of the Corps, and all that.) Two OIF and two OEF deployments, though I spent the majority of them inside the wire.

      I’d love to go into more detail about how it effected my political and social views, but that would, unfortunately, take more time than I have right now. I just figured that since you made a direct request, you deserved a response. I’ll keep the option open to come back and add more detail to this thread later, though!

      The broad strokes of it are that I came from a blue tribe enclave, and largely identified as blue tribe (although obviously I didn’t call it that at the time) despite having some nonstandard views and mostly considering myself “centrist,” but since I’ve been in I’ve grown more and more libertarian, both because of the many opportunities to see the inefficiency of large government bureaucracies at work, and because of a somewhat (for lack of a better description) closer and (I think) more realistic relationship to violence than I had growing up convincing me that the libertarian argument that all government power springs from violence if you get to the source is broadly accurate, and thus that the NAP is generally a good rule of thumb in most situations. Much like you describe above, though, I tend to be somewhat less isolationist than most libertarians, though I also agree that it’s a good policy in general.

      Mind you, that is a very broad description, which I came up with quickly, and don’t have as much time to expound upon as I would normally like.

    • CatCube says:

      Army officer, and currently in. I’m getting out in October after 11 years and taking a civilian job doing what I’m doing now (engineer).

  3. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Some users quote the user they are responding to, including the ∾new∾ banner. Those of us who search for ∾new∾ get frustrated. But I don’t think those original users are intending to frustrate us, and the norm they are violating is one that occurs in the meta-community, if you will.

    So, software request: Can we automatically change “~-n-e-w-~” into “∾-n-e-w-∾” in posts? (Any glyph that looks like the tilde but isn’t will suffice.)

    • caethan says:

      Oh yes please, this was driving me crazy in the link thread. Is there a different way to look for new comments than searching for the new tag?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The “official” way is to use the widget in the upper-right, which will nicely take you through all the new posts. But it does this in chronological order, not screen order, which I vastly prefer.

        It might be easier to change the widget to sort that way (since it can be done entirely by the users with no site admin interaction).

        • onyomi says:

          Is there a way to cycle through the upper-right list using a keyboard rather than clicking on individual names with a mouse? Sometimes I’d like to rapidly cycle through new posts without having to aim carefully at each individual name.

          • Bakkot says:

            No, not at the moment. The only way to rapidly cycle through new posts with a keyboard is to search for the text Edward Scizorhands refers to and then hit enter repeatedly.

          • onyomi says:

            Thank you, by the way, for including the link, italic, etc. options in the edit window.

        • Bakkot says:

          Searching for the text is also an “official” way; I added it specifically so that you could go through them in page order.

          I have previously declined to have the widget sort in page order, since there is not otherwise a way to view them in chronological order, which is sometimes helpful. I could in principle add a toggle, but I’m generally extremely averse to UI changes.

          (This change is no more or less difficult than Edward Scizorhands’ proposal. It would be me doing it in either case.)

    • Bakkot says:

      Hm. Probably. I’ll take a look when I get some spare time.

  4. onyomi says:

    I tend to think US foreign interventions are net negative in consequence both for US citizens and the world. This reason alone, if one agrees, would be reason enough to drastically scale back.

    A question I’m interested in considering more, however, is, whether it’s possible for America to stop being the go-to scapegoat/prop of terrorist fantasies if we did roughly as Ron Paul wants and greatly withdrew the US global military presence and stopped talking about how much we support Israel all the time, or would the US, simply by virtue of history, and its status as an economic, cultural, and military superpower, still be the the world’s scapegoat of a choice?

    On the one hand, it seems like we’d still be an easy scapegoat for places like North Korea and the Middle East. If not the military presence, we could be blamed for cultural imperialism, or ruining everything with capitalism, or something else. On the other hand, it might not happen overnight, but it seems like a more neutral stance would, over time, make the blame of governments like DPRK, Venezuela, and Iran less plausible (honestly, in the case of sanctions, I think they make a pretty good point). Also, China now manages to be a nuclear economic superpower without becoming the target for anyone other than Xinjiang separatists, who also, frankly, have something of a legit grievance.

    *Edit: I again fail to notice someone posting something very similar. Consider this then, either as a response to, or a new question within this other question.

    • Lysenko says:

      Re: China, give it a few more decades. Their most aggressive plays right now are happening in areas most of the Americas and Europe don’t pay attention to in a consistent manner, and they are still focusing more on internal issues than external. Also, I’m not sure I’d want to place bets with how cross-strait relations would continue to unfold in a world with a non-interventionist US who didn’t offer any support or cooperation to Japan and Taiwan. I’m not saying that the Chinese would launch with the next tide, but it would come down to a lot of hard to predict things like the exact behavior of Taiwanese politicians and their electorate over the next decade or two.

      Re: DPRK. This is a really bad idea. US military presence, and the prospect of significant US casualties if the DPRK attacks is one of the main things that keeps such an attack off the table.

      EDIT: Thinking about this, one possible good OR bad scenario, depending. A bolder china, no US deterring them, a ROK without US support, DPRK increasingly dependent upon China for aid…I could see a Chinese attempt at the gradual mostly-peaceful (or even abrupt and not so peaceful) annexation of the peninsula. How Japan would react to this would be…interesting…one of these days I WILL write that near future technothriller I keep thinking about.

      Re: Venezuela. Probably, but if we’re being brutally honest here, who cares? Venezuela is not and has never been even an economic threat (ALBA posturing aside), much less a security one. The extent to which I care about Venezuela is the extent to which I empathize with the citizens and wish they didn’t have such a fucked up government.

      Re: Iran. Doubtful. The position of America as The Great Satan is as much political/cultural tradition now as it is reality. Witness the past few years of softened stances and accomodations, which resulted in exactly zero softening of the rhetoric and in fact bolder demonstrations of hostility. I’ll grant that much of that hostility is theatrical (though that doesn’t comfort the sailors who ended up in Iranian hands), but enough is sincere that I would group Iran overall in with the rest of the Middle East there. As long as Iran is theocratic, cultural hegemony by liberal, democratic, and libertine western powers is as threatening as military hegemony.

      • onyomi says:

        “Their most aggressive plays right now are happening in areas most of the Americas and Europe don’t pay attention to in a consistent manner, and they are still focusing more on internal issues than external.”

        But Africans and South Americans aren’t hijacking Chinese planes to attack them. As for the idea that they are not externally focused right now… I guess that is the whole point? If they inspire less ire (outside their own territory at least) than we do with an inward focus, why couldn’t we do the same?

        • Lysenko says:

          1) On the non-state front, The extent to Which china has NOT been targeted for attack (which isn’t entirely true.) is the extent to which the US is a bigger and more attractive target. Take us off the gameboard, and that changes.

          2) On the state front, authoritarians, even authoritarian state capitalists, are less threatening than pluralist, liberal democratic regimes. One you can work with, strike deals with. The other threatens to spread memes and cultural contamination that undercuts and destabilizes authoritarian governments.

          And the degree to which they are internally focused is both temporary and a function of having limited prospects for outward expansion of their influence without provoking a more direct confrontation with other parties, first on an economic level and eventually on a military one. Again, take us off the gameboard, and that changes.

          • onyomi says:

            “One you can work with, strike deals with. The other threatens to spread memes and cultural contamination that undercuts and destabilizes authoritarian governments.”

            This is an interesting point and I think gets to the idea many, myself included, have that governments like Russia and China are allowed to act shrewdly in a way the US government is not. But then the US may also be like a slightly bellicose version of that terrible Flower God Scott once described, with movies and TV being perhaps its greatest weapons.

    • The Nybbler says:

      America will remain the scapegoat, both because of path dependence and consequences. If you mess with the Russians or the Chinese they will respond quickly, cruelly, and overwhelmingly. Mess with the US, and as long as you don’t take a shot at the President’s daddy or kill 3000 people in one shot, we won’t do much.

      Can you imagine the Iranians taking the Russian Embassy hostage? It probably would have gone something like this:

      • Manya says:

        Can you imagine the Iranians taking the Russian Embassy hostage? It probably would have gone something like this:

        You mean, there would be 130 dead hostages?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yes, along with all the Iranians invovled.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          A successful rescue (as in Operation Chavin de Huantar) would have even been better, of course, but failing that, killing the hostage-takers even if you have to kill a lot of hostages in the process is actually a pretty rational response, because it eliminates the incentive to take hostages in the first place. As John T. Reed explains:

          In Somalia, bad guys who had the U.S. Army Rangers pinned down in the Blackhawk Down incident would hold a woman or child against their chest as they crossed the street to prevent the squeamish Americans from firing at them. The Somalis would blast away at the American with their guns as they thus crossed the street. Apparently, it worked. I would have told my men to shoot the SOBs through the civilians.

          Would that cause the civilians to have a bad day? Sure. But it would be a great thing for the remaining civilians because the fighters would immediately stop using that tactic as soon as the Americans started killing the fighters by shooting them through the human shields.

          Also, from S.I.:

          I settled myself before the Berserker again, and calmly pushed the power button.

          “Laura just lost another two points of IQ-”

          “Shut up.”


          “Shut up.” I waited a moment, then continued. “You are guilty of war crimes. Unless you have use as an intelligence asset, you are to be destroyed.”


          “Shut up. I always assume that anyone who threatens a hostage has already carried out their threats. Torture her all you wish – just keep the volume down, or else I will end this interview.”

          And from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:

          There was an increasing fury in Voldemort’s expression, and yet his hiss carried a tinge of fear. “I sshall wreak pain beyond imagining on all you care for –

          Sshut up. I dissregard all ssuch threatss now, as theory of gamess ssayss I sshould. Only reasson you make threatss iss that you expect me to resspond.” That, too, Harry had truly understood in the last extremity.

          • Zombielicious says:

            The Chechens actually still managed to do 3x or 4x times the damage in terms of lives lost. In the future they’d learn to start killing all 850 at the first sign they might be getting gassed, for a potential force multiplier of 21x. Not a bad deal, especially if you minimize the attacking force to a small suicide squad going in.

            Or, in the case of Somalia, use multiple human shields at a time. Or dress hostages up as combatants and send them across with other hostages.

            There’s also the political blowback against a government that’s willing to cause 98.6% of the casualties to its own people just to maintain the upper hand. I expect that’s why you don’t see more of that stuff in the U.S. – voters tend be pretty harsh after Waco type incidents.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s also the political blowback against a government that’s willing to cause 98.6% of the casualties to its own people just to maintain the upper hand. I expect that’s why you don’t see more of that stuff in the U.S. – voters tend be pretty harsh after Waco type incidents.

            Yeah. You can see this in the US vs Soviet nuclear doctrines too – the Americans considered mutually-assured destruction to be the guarantor of peace, because both sides being destroyed was unacceptable; the Soviets, on the other hand, considered destroying their enemies while being destroyed themselves to be just fine.

            So too with the Soviet successor state – if our enemies are all dead, we win. 🙂

          • Peter says:

            “Total nuclear destruction, we can totally come back from that. We’re frikkin’ Russians, man, that’s what we do.”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There’s also the political blowback against a government that’s willing to cause 98.6% of the casualties

            That is starting from the narrative that the anti-terrorism forces have the agency for killing the hostages.

            If you start with the narrative that the terrorists have the agency for killing the hostages, this doesn’t work.

          • John Schilling says:

            the Soviets, on the other hand, considered destroying their enemies while being destroyed themselves to be just fine.

            You have evidence for this extraordinary claim?

            I note that the Soviets spent about fifty years conspicuously not destroying their enemies, when they had the power to do so at the cost of their own destruction.

          • Lysenko says:

            Except that they haven’t. The last major hostage attempt against a Russian target was Breslan, two years later, and that ended even more dramatically: with over a third of the hostages dead after the Russian forces used overwhelming military force to assault the hostage takers.
            And here’s the thing, there HASN’T been major blowblack for the Russian government of the time. In fact, the only laws that were passed were ones to give more executive power and leeway to the President, and giving Russian CT forces broader latitude. I can’t say that I’ve made a systematic survey of average Russians, but the 3-4 20-30 somethings I’ve spoken with about this subject generally believe that Chechens are particularly monstrous as terrorists go, that overwhelming force and smashing them is more important than saving hostages, and that US and European nations embolden terrorists with our lack of resolve.

            In short, I’d chalk that up to cultural and frame differences, and note that it does NOT appear to have led to an increase of violence. I am not necessarily advocating a similarly heavy-handed CT stance on the part of the US, but there isn’t actually a lot of room to criticize it on the ground that it isn’t effective for them.

          • bean says:

            You can see this in the US vs Soviet nuclear doctrines too – the Americans considered mutually-assured destruction to be the guarantor of peace, because both sides being destroyed was unacceptable; the Soviets, on the other hand, considered destroying their enemies while being destroyed themselves to be just fine.
            Not really, although you’re not entirely wrong. The Soviets did think that a nuclear war was, in theory, winnable, while US doctrine pretty much said that it wasn’t. But this was not achieved by defining ‘victory’ as ‘all the capitalists are dead, regardless of what happens to us’. They thought that they might be able to do a lot more damage to us than we could do to them, and that we’d be hurt more badly enough that they could come out on top. They were never certain enough that this was the case to push the button, though.

          • Rob K says:

            factions of the Soviet leadership thought that the USSR could cope with nuclear strikes the way they’d coped with the German invasion – move huge numbers of people, get industries back up and working in areas that weren’t captured/contaminated. This led to a belief that the USSR could win a nuclear war (the assumption was that the West would not pull off similar feats of resilience).

            Chernobyl was bad news for this school of thought, since it wiped out the estimates of how easily the Soviet system could deal with a nuclear contamination event.

          • Thank you for that link to S.I., I’m quite enjoying the world and writing. Every time I check out a book or short story suggestion from your book threads, I end up enjoying them, keep doing that.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Dice Without Rulers – care to give me a brief idea what S.I. is? waffling on whether or not to dive in, could use more data.

          • *I’m only about 7 chapters in at this point, so grain of salt*
            It is a fairly novel (to me) approach to the standard approach of the protagonist waking up in the future, in this case after a singularity has caused major problems from the perspective of those it left behind, and possibly to those involved too. So its a weird world of different powerful AI’s causing problems while the remaining loners, wilderness survivalists, and amish/Mennonites/etc have carved out the spaces between cities. I find it to be good fun with the side bonus of having an interesting premise of what happens to those outside the singularity.

    • James Bond says:

      I read in a book called the next 100 years that America is hated by the terrorists because America represents the new way of living in an industrialized and 21st century economy. And this causes the breakdown of old power structures and those who had power in those structures by economic means ( basically if you dont allow women to work, you are losing a lot of potential economic growth, therefore you cant afford as big guns off your taxes as those who do allow women to work , ergo you get your stone age ass kicked). Open sexual norms, abortion, ect are all just the result of the demands of the modern economy.No sex until marriage makes sense if everyone marries at 16 but when people are getting married at 28 or 30 its fucking nonsense. And you cant marry at 16 anymore because you need to spend that time in
      school to learn stuff to contribute towards the economy. A hatred of America is just a coded hatred of modernity and urbanization. This is also why America is absolutely loved in parts of the world that love modernity. In India the upwardly mobile upper middle class watches American tv and movies, wears american clothing brands, gives higher status to those who lived in America at any point, speaks English ( or at least attempts to) in an American accent, and in general attempts to Americanize to the best of their ability. Hell in our school we even called what most indians call football soccer. This is because the upper middle class loves modernity, america , and the jobs freedom and prosperity American moddernity has brought. To sum it up, how you feel about America says a lot more about your opinions on industrialized American modernity than on any particular military conflict.

      • Julian R. says:

        Huh, I think I’ve read that book. It made some interesting geopolitical predictions about the rise of Mexico and Poland, but overall I felt that the predictions were far too specific to be at all likely in 2100.

        Hell in our school we even called what most indians call football soccer.

        This I find quite surprising. Would I be correct in assuming you live in a part of India where football is not widely popular?

        • Anonymous says:

          No it was quite popular, but the school was full of people who either came back from the US or were planning to go to the US. It was a mixture of upper middle and lower upper class students ( maybe a few mid upper class ), but exactly the sort of indian person who fancies themselves some sort of world citizen. Like some American liberals use football instead of soccer to signal that they are in tune with Europe and foreign culutres ,Indias “global” class uses soccer to signal an in tuneness with the US.

        • gbdub says:

          How well does that map to the sort of ISIS supporter toting an AK-47 in Syria? They would seem to be the core of ISIS, both by sheer volume and by influence on the ideology, and they seem pretty conservative.

          Also, hypocrisy is a thing, after all.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          You can lead an unconservative lifestyle yourself while still preferring conservative lifestyles in the abstract. It’s a problem of identity.

          The purpose of projection is not to get rid of the feelings, but to explain their presence, to defend the self against a label: “I’m not gay….. even if I have gay sex once in a while.” The point isn’t to avoid gay sex, the gayness isn’t intolerable to them– e.g. observe the high hat Christians caught in various rest stops across our land– but even thought they’ve committed the act, it doesn’t affect their identity.

          My use of gay as an example is unfortunate because half of you will see “gay” as “bad,” but the projected impulse doesn’t have to be “bad”, merely incongruous to the desired identity that you are trying to solidify. If you doubt this, consider the sullen engineering student at a party, “I’m not like these superficial sorority girls with perfect smiles and condomless sex” who then perceives great happiness in these people.

          You could be happy, too, dude, if you weren’t so invested in not being happy. If you want a partial understanding of why 19-21 Saudi/Egyptian terrorists could live in America and enjoy our strip clubs but still want to crumble our architecture, there you go.


      • basically if you dont allow women to work, you are losing a lot of potential economic growth,

        How do you square that with Scott’s famous graph?

        • NN says:

          One could easily argue that the economic growth rate would have been lower if women hadn’t entered the workforce. Eyeballing the graph without even attempting to control for anything is a very poor way of measuring this sort of thing.

          I don’t consider that to be one of Scott’s best articles.

    • It’s probably not what you are looking for, but if you stop being Top Nation, you will probably stop being number one scapegoat. The one goes with the other. The boss in any given workplace tends to be the scapegoat.

  5. Orphan Wilde says:

    Scott –

    Did you ever get a good explanation from a virtue ethicist on what virtue ethics is, or are you still left wondering what exactly everybody is going on about?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Ah, this reminds me of a thread from a while back I wanted to follow up on regarding utilitarianism and TSA ethnoreligious profiling.

      In utilitarianism, shouldn’t it be more justifiable to narrowly target certain groups than to subject everyone to the great ball of disutility that is the TSA? The fewer people inconvenienced, the better. I don’t think we can justify this by saying it’s all just security theater, either, since faith in the system is likely harmed by seeing a little old granny pulled aside for enhanced pat-downs.

      I kind of suspect that this is yet another area, in addition to death and birth, where utilitarianism can’t tell us anything until we’ve already prejudged what the answer should be.

      (Taboo “discrimination.” Opposing that is a virtue.)

      • dndnrsn says:

        I can’t recall exactly how I responded to that, but:

        It is probably not politically feasible, and might not be practically feasible, to put the resources towards airport security in every airport, or even every major airport, that would actually provide real security instead of security theatre, with or without profiling. As I understand it, low-level TSA employees are not particularly well-paid or well-trained, to begin with, and there are all sorts of stories of investigative journalists and the like sneaking stuff through. I personally have accidentally gone through security with something that probably should have been confiscated that I had forgotten about – I got flagged, thought it was something else that looked suspicious but wasn’t, showed that thing to the agent, and got let on the plane.

        Given that it’s just security theatre, and most people know this, it’s probably deemed preferable to have security theatre without profiling, than security theatre with profiling, because legitimate security isn’t possible either way.

      • Jiro says:

        Even if you don’t use the word “discrimination”, the concept still exists; it becomes a question of aggregating utility. How do you aggregate utility when the utility loss is unbalanced such that some people lose a lot more utility than others?

        (Also, you should not assume utilitarianism to begin with.)

      • Saint Fiasco says:

        Fewer people are inconvenienced, but they are inconvenienced a lot more. Multiplying the (fewer) number of people affected with the (larger) inconvenience I can see it going either way. It’s an object-level question.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        Profiled search has a weakness compared to random searching: the evil mastermind can probe the system, sending different henchpersons through airport checkpoints until they find one who passes the profile. Then they can use that henchperson to avoid getting searched and perpetrate an attack.

        Or repeat the trick to build up an image of the profile being used, so they can subsequently send through a large number of henchpersons who don’t match.

        Basically, the only way profiled search works is if the mastermind only has access to persons-of-hench who match the profile, and no persons-of-hench who don’t.

        • drethelin says:

          the more time and expense a mastermind has to go to in order to find a henchman who appears innocent, the harder it is for them to launch an attack, and the greater the likelihood that it is noticed beforehand. It’s probably not impossible to find blond, white, fanatical muslim women. But it’s going to be a lot harder.

  6. Immortal Lurker says:

    Does anyone have any weird ideas on how to produce an unnaturally wide overton window?

    Personally, I was thinking of maybe a comment voting system that used mutual likes as votes, and then ran DW Nominate to represent everyone’s views in vector space. Then, you grant a huge visibility bonus to any users who are both

    1) More extreme on a given vector than anyone else, or represent an entirely new vector, as measured by both their incoming and outgoing likes.

    2) Reliably rated as polite and thoughtful by their enemies, as measured by incoming “thoughtful” and “polite” votes.

    Anyone else have any weirder ideas?

    This system would need a third requirement: High status users would also have to give out at least some “thoughtful” and “polite” votes to their enemies.

    • Wrong Species says:

      How would you determine whether a high status user should give a “thoughtful” vote to an enemy? Maybe every single person I downvoted had nothing worth saying. Or maybe I’m just spiteful. How would anyone know the difference? I’m not sure an algorithm can fix that problem.

      • Immortal Lurker says:

        I should have been more clear. The imaginary system would have multiple vote buttons, one of which would be labeled “thoughtful”. Similar to how you proposed “insight” votes, which would also be useful.

    • Wrong Species says:

      The “Unique vs Banal” angle seems like it could work. There could be a typical upvote/downvote system along with a unique insight vote. And then there could be an option to sort by number of insightful votes.

  7. TD says:

    I’ve been planning to disrupt and destroy a vulnerable far-right anonymous board with just a couple of thousand users. They have already lost users due to moderation becoming stricter over the last year, and I hope to send them into a terror spiral leading to a lack of faith in their administration.

    I plan to do this by advertising a date to attack the site on reddit and tumblr and various other places, and sending PMs to various leftists saying that I’ve compromised their moderation. The best case scenario is that we swarm them with superior numbers for a few days before we peter out, thereby challenging their culture and engineering a state of crisis, but the best part of this is that even if nobody bites, just spreading the rumor of the looming attack will cause the already paranoid users of said far-right board to lobby for even stricter moderation, leading to further decline in the fun of using the site, and more users dropping out or getting banned on the day of the attack as they are mistaken for shills.

    Should I do this?

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Is this an allegory for something? because this reads like one of those movies that are Shakespeare’s plays set in a high-school.

    • Anonanon says:

      Keep good records, because it sounds like a neat research opportunity.

    • Julian R. says:

      Have you read

      If you’re serious, and want my opinion, I think it would be a mean thing to do.

      • Jiro says:

        On the other hand, for him to do that would be perfectly in accordance with scott’s post at , since it is coordinated meanness.

        • Anonymaus says:

          That post talks about meanness coordinated by the society it affects; using the post’s examples, TD’s actions are more akin to WBC picketing funerals than a church shunning promiscuity among their members.

          • TD says:

            But doesn’t this imply that it’s more moral to use the law to ban things than to use non-violent disruption tactics and boycotts? If I was calling for vigilante action to go and beat up the nazis like Antifa, then yeah, but all I’m planning to engage in is a bit of free speech psyops.

            I don’t really agree with “be nice until you can coordinate meanness” literally, when it should be “be non-violent until you can coordinate violence”. The argument that since shaming is unpleasant it is equivalent to violence is silly. The problem with violence isn’t per se that it disincentivizes things, but that it does so in a way that can be terminal.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t agree that “unallowable-meanness” should be limited to “violence” (or rather, I believe that “violence” need not be physical, and would consider your proposed “free speech psyops” to be “violence”).

            The problem with violence isn’t per se that it disincentivizes things, but that it does so in a way that can be terminal.

            So non-fatal violence isn’t a problem either? The issue with violence is that it disincentivizes things in a manner that is toxic to a free and open society. Free speech should mean that everyone gets their say, not that the biggest mob gets to shout/threaten the minorities out of existence. “I respect your right to say that, but you are wrong, and here is why” should always be preferred to “I disagree, so I will destroy your ability to speak by any means necessary”.

            Pretty much the only way I see your action as being defensible is if the group in question is actively coordinating violence of their own, and there is no other means of mitigating their harm.

          • Anonanon says:

            Right communities need to be hardened against entryism and disruption by Wrongists. If TD can take down this forum, and we learn something from it, it’ll be a much better outcome than preserving a weak community in its vulnerable state.

            If you can hack into AT&T’s unsecured billing system with only a 14.4k modem and a phone book, it’s not you who needs to make better life choices.

          • Jiro says:

            This is equally true without using the terms “right” and “wrong”.

          • Anonanon says:

            But Right is the example in this case. And I honestly can’t think of a single example of right entryism destroying or taking over a community.

            The left manage to do it themselves, with the constant purge of secret trotskyite conspirators, but I’m not aware of rightists ever doing it.

          • Anonymaus says:

            @Anonanon, do you support burglaries in communities where mutual trust is so high that people leave their front doors unlocked out of convenience?

          • Anonymaus says:

            Kind of like this, except instead of leaving messages they actually steal stuff.

          • James Picone says:

            The right-wing equivalent is banning the subgroup for being perverted sexual deviants, evil, fraudulent ivory-tower academics, etc.

          • TD says:

            So non-fatal violence isn’t a problem either? The issue with violence is that it disincentivizes things in a manner that is toxic to a free and open society.

            I meant that violence has the potential of being fatal directly, whereas words only have the potential of being fatal indirectly, so we restrict non-coordinatedgovernmental violence, but allow non-coordinatedgovernmental speech, including counter-speech, and counter-counter-speech, and so on…

            Free speech should mean that everyone gets their say, not that the biggest mob gets to shout/threaten the minorities out of existence.

            No, free speech is a legal principle meaning that the government shouldn’t arrest or otherwise prosecute people for their words, directly through censorship, or through enforcing libel laws and so on.

            The spirit of free speech, as opposed to the legal idea, is that everyone gets their say, but not everyone can get their say, since some people will always have more resources with which to build a platform, whether that’s monetary or social resources. Just the fact that one idea is more popular than another at any moment means that even if you don’t have mobs literally going to shout over the minority groups meetings, the net effect in society as a whole is that the minority position is washed away by the cacophony of the majority.

            Upholding the spirit of free speech is meaningless – you need the legal principle – and there’s a very good reason it applies to violence and not everything, otherwise free speech would undo itself. You could argue that my opinions are making your opinions less popular and this is a variety of restriction, and then we get nowhere. Setting the principle to not using violence to disrupt others speech is the best way to try and reduce the subjectivity involved in determining what exactly free speech should be free from.

            Yes, if you do go to shout out another group you are a dick, but private property nicely checks that possibility most of the time. If Trump, for example, rents a stadium, then he is within his rights to physically remove protestors. If you are in my house and I don’t want you there, and you won’t leave, then I can get the police to remove you for any reason I like, including your speech.

            On the internet, it’s different yet again. If I go and organize a raid of a pseudonymous message board without account systems, then the only sense in which this constitutes a crowd shouting over another crowd is in the sense that it pushes other speech down the page. However, you can always argue that there is a crowd shouting over another crowd! Any speech that deviates from the status quo can be classified in this way. At any rate, there are no legal structures in place to prevent this activity. The only thing mods can do is ban those IPs, which also restricts speech. Who is restricting who? If my favored speech becomes temporarily more popular than yours am I taking away your freedom to speak? If you then remove my speech, are you taking away mine?

            I don’t think either is right, because as soon as you try to get away from freedom of speech as a strict legal principle revolving around regulating violence, you run into enormous problems defining it consistently.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            On the internet, it’s different yet again. If I go and organize a raid of a pseudonymous message board without account systems, then the only sense in which this constitutes a crowd shouting over another crowd is in the sense that it pushes other speech down the page…

            This is the sort of logic which says that you can take the entire bowl of complimentary mints at the restaurant since they’re technically free.

            Yes, by a reading of the board’s own rules and a tortured interpretation of the spirit of freedom of speech someone could do this. However, they would be acting like a huge asshole if they did, because their actual motivation is to ruin a space other people have created. The law, and technical rules like those of a message board, have a hard time dealing with motivations, but they still exist.

          • TD says:

            If you allow people to post comments that disagree with your narrative, and then they come to your board and do exactly that, then there’s little tortured interpretation needed. If a far-right board wants to claim to be an open forum of “free speech” in which only the best arguments survive, then that can be put to the test. If the mods fail that test as I expect they will, then that’s on them surely.

            How many newcomers are allowed to come into a board and make new arguments before that threatens freedom of speech according to your definition of freedom of speech?

          • James Picone says:

            Presumably the point where it makes it practically very difficult to talk about other things.

            Just don’t. Please.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            If you allow people to post comments that disagree with your narrative, and then they come to your board and do exactly that, then there’s little tortured interpretation needed.

            If you put a sign over the plate of mints that says they’re free, and then a person comes to your restaurant and takes all of them at once, then there’s little tortured interpretation needed. Right?

            If a far-right board wants to claim to be an open forum of “free speech” in which only the best arguments survive, then that can be put to the test. If the mods fail that test as I expect they will, then that’s on them surely.

            I’m sorry? Who died and put you in charge of this “test”?

          • TD says:

            If you put a sign over the plate of mints that says they’re free, and then a person comes to your restaurant and takes all of them at once, then there’s little tortured interpretation needed. Right?

            You are taking advantage of their poorly organized charity in a way that makes you a bit of a dick, sure. You’re breaking a social norm about being considerate.

            However, I don’t think it’s a good parallel for a large group of new people posting on a board and changing the culture. You’re not really breaking any social norms with respect to general society, because different ideologies are expected to combat each other in open debate forums (which said board bills itself as though being far-right). It’s not dickish to want ideologies you don’t like to be combated, as they wish for your ideology in turn.

            Free speech commits you to non-violence, not cultural/ideological relativism. You can still hate things and fight them using speech based means.

            I’m sorry? Who died and put you in charge of this “test”?

            It’s the entirely organic test of the free marketplace of ideas. Hail Liberty!

          • Jiro says:

            It’s not dickish to want ideologies you don’t like to be combated, as they wish for your ideology in turn.

            The word “combated” is covering a lot of ground here. It’s one thing to combat an ideology by providing arguments; it’s another to combat an ideology by provoking noise to make their forum unusable regardless of the quality of your arguments.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            However, I don’t think it’s a good parallel for a large group of new people posting on a board and changing the culture. You’re not really breaking any social norms with respect to general society, because different ideologies are expected to combat each other in open debate forums (which said board bills itself as though being far-right)

            You’ve elided the bit where your vision of “combat” is deliberately spamming the message board in order to prevent other people from having a conversation. That’s no more within the spirit of free speech than Black Lives Matter protesters shouting down events they disagree with is. And from the ha-ha-only-serious tone of your writing, I suspect you know this quite well.

            It’s the entirely organic test of the free marketplace of ideas. Hail Liberty!

            Yeah, preeeeeeetty sure you’re using this thread as a weapons test at this point.

    • Agronomous says:

      “Co-workers say the shooter appeared to have been upset at the destruction of a far-right internet message board he frequented….”

    • Xeno of Citium says:

      No, don’t do this. Rather than restate any of the excellent reasons already given to not do this, I’m going to appeal to your tribalism: disrupting free speech is a tactic of the enemy. Tyrants and the right try to deny people speech, not right-thinking leftists who understand that one of the core tenants of leftism is that free speech is a requirement for a free society.

      If the reason you’re doing this is that a bunch of assholes have a forum to talk to other assholes, let them be assholes together and move on. Don’t become an asshole yourself in some sort of low-rent version of the famous Nietzsche quote.

      • Virbie says:

        > not right-thinking leftists who understand that one of the core tenants of leftism is that free speech is a requirement for a free society.

        Free speech doesn’t have anything to do with leftism AFAIK. You’re thinking of liberalism, it seems. I don’t think it’s non-standard to describe the USSR as to the left of contemporary America, for example, and free speech certainly wasn’t one of the ways that they showed that.

        I think leftism is doing itself a disservice when it abandons liberalism (both ethically and tactically), but conflating the two is just inaccurate.

      • Sandy says:

        Like Virbie said, this is a core tenet of liberalism. They’re the ones who take pride in the “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it” idea because they begin with the assumption that a free and just society is one where everyone possesses equal rights by virtue of personhood.

        This is not a core tenet of the progressive-left, or the further-left, or whatever you want to call it. They begin with the assumption that society is not equal, that straight people or white people or male people or straight white male people (or whatever other group) have in-built advantages that are difficult or may be impossible for others to overcome, and therefore the idea that everyone must enjoy equal rights like freedom of speech only entrenches such privileges. A free and just society is not created by giving everyone the same rights, but by stripping certain freedoms away from privileged people.

    • Vorkon says:

      It occurs to me that if you were trying to do this, a good first step might be to post there claiming that you were planning to do the same thing to some random “vulnerable far-right anonymous board,” to convince them that it was actually a viable tactic and start making them paranoid even sooner. :op

      That said, it sounds like a terrible idea. What do you actually intend to accomplish with it? It might make you feel happy that you disrupted a site belonging to your enemies, but it won’t do a thing to actually reduce the amount of far-right thought on the Internet. All you’ll do is drive them to other sites, possibly even further radicalize them (if such a thing is even possible: despite the snark above, I’m not sure which site you’re talking about here, but I’d say it’s safe to assume that further radicalization is always possible) and give them a very clear piece of evidence to use in their arguments that leftist entryism is the source of all their problems.

      In fact, I would go so far as to say that you sound almost like a bad sockpuppet trying to sound like what you believe a leftist entryist would sound like, so you can use your fiendish plan as evidence that leftist entryists are hiding around every corner and must be stopped, in your next debate on the subject. I’m not saying that’s what you’re DOING, but when your plan sounds like something a strawman sockpuppet would say, it’s probably not a very good plan.

      • TD says:

        It might make you feel happy that you disrupted a site belonging to your enemies, but it won’t do a thing to actually reduce the amount of far-right thought on the Internet.

        I don’t need to reduce it straight away, I just need to make it less fun and it will have less power and be less popular in the long run, and in any case, a major hub will be lost, spreading demoralization. The internet far-right as a whole (excluding the intellectual DthEtrs here) emerged from meme oriented raid culture, including this offshoot as well. Over time, however, as it got later in the game, and things got more serious, a culture of paranoia emerged that ran counter to the subversive carefree attitude that made the alt-right semi-popular in the first place. It’s like a self-limiting factor, and it’s expressed to its extreme on the board in question where various internet drama “crises” caused increases in moderation and user on user cannibalism, leading to reductions in popularity and a teetering tottering board.

        Against that backdrop, I wish to play accelerationist and give them a little push.

        • CatCube says:

          Wow. So this is how SJWs justify their behavior to themselves.

          “No platforming” is a filthy tactic. And one, I’ll note, that this alt-right board could use here.

          I dislike the alt-right, but they’re on their own space. As others here have said, let them be.

          • TD says:

            I’m not an SJW/intersectionalist/leftist. If you look at what I’m actually proposing, it only resembles no platform in really superficial ways, so you’d have to clarify that.

            As it happens, I decided I’m not going to do this after all (or am I?), but I did get an interesting reaction here.

          • CatCube says:

            Your proposal is exactly the problem that people have with “social justice warriors”–you see somebody being wrong in a way that conflicts with your values, so you harass them rather than try to engage with arguments. And make no mistake, creating chaos in a right-wing forum to destroy their community is harassing them. It’s also exactly the thing that I’d expect a Tumblrina to try to coordinate (or somebody creating a Twitter mob.)

            And you’re right that it only superficially resembles “no platforming.” No platformers at least have the grace to try to shout down/”uninvite” people from the college they attend. You’re talking about doing it to a forum you have absolutely no connection to.

          • TD says:

            LATE REPLY:

            And make no mistake, creating chaos in a right-wing forum to destroy their community is harassing them.

            If you market yourself as a space of free speech where right wing ideas just so happen to be the most competitive; not really. Anyway, one of the reasons I disagree with SJWs is that I find their definition of “harassment” to be so trivial. You’re just reflecting that sort of definition here.

            You’re talking about doing it to a forum you have absolutely no connection to.

            Not true. Why do you think I know that the forum started a different way and was more fun in the past? The mods ruined it, and that needs to be accelerated now.

    • James Picone says:

      No, and I’m horrified that you have to ask that question.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’ll just say that this is a bullshit tactic.

      “It’s OK when WE do it”

      “The end justifies the means”

      “They deserve it”

      “They are dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed to associate with each other”

      Nope. Nope. Nope.

      Attack actual positions they hold. Argue with them. Ignore them. If they are actually advocating or husbanding violence take more official action.

      If they were taking advantage of the commons, it would be one thing. But walking into someone’s virtual home to show that they should lock their doors? Straight up bullshit.

    • Uhurugu says:

      I wonder if SSC fits the bill?

      “vulnerable” – maybe? Effectively one moderator means we’re fairly vulnerable to a mass influx of users.
      “far-right” – depending on who you ask, SSC is “far right” for tolerating views to the right of the mainstream Overton Window
      “anonymous board” – anons can post here; no registration required. I’ll admit, it’s not exactly a ‘board’.
      “couple thousand users” – floor of 2.5 thousand SSC users, based on the subreddit’s subscriber count
      “already lost users due to moderation becoming stricter over the last year” – Wheeee, Reign of Terror!
      “advertising . . . on reddit and tumblr” – Scott tries to keep the blog on the down-low, presumably to avoid an influx of the tribally-minded

      Anyway, do unto others as ye would have done unto you. Act only on that maxim through which you could at the same time will that it become a universal law. Do what you think a virtuous person would do. And maximize utility.

      • TD says:

        It’s not SSC. Since the moderation here has (to my knowledge) mainly pruned far-right posters, I don’t think it fits the bill. I’ve decided not to do it anyway, so you can all relax.

        Anyway, do unto others as ye would have done unto you.

        I wouldn’t pretend to have an open forum and then ban users for not being right wing enough.

        Act only on that maxim through which you could at the same time will that it become a universal law.

        I’m not so sure that I want all my actions to be in accordance with a universal law. I guess I need to read Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals.

        Do what you think a virtuous person would do.

        What on earth is a “virtuous person”?

        And maximize utility.

        Why would you wanna do that, man?

  8. ivvenalis says:

    Several open threads ago, some commenters got into an argument over whether a primarily consent-based sexual morality was objectively correct (or at least approximately the best form of sexual morality, I’m paraphrasing all of this) or whether it was just another unstable social equilibrium which will later be denounced as a cruel restriction on our human liberty to do [currently taboo and/or illegal act]. I thought of this when reading this article about a recent case about a 17-year-old convicted of distributing child porn in the form of pictures of himself. Now, in this case the defendant was using such images in an intentionally harassing manner, but this section struck me:

    [The defendant] argued that the child pornography exception to the First Amendment shouldn’t apply to a minor’s “self-produced depictions,” because “the goal of protecting minors from abuse and exploitation is not served by prohibiting self-produced child pornography.” No, said the [Washington State Court of Appeals]:

    However, one of the primary purposes of child pornography statutes is to restrict the distribution network for child pornography in order to eliminate the market for producing the materials. Exempting self-produced images simply affords putative child pornographers the opportunity to purchase child pornography directly from voluntary, consenting minors, or else encourages minors to produce and market their own child pornography. Such exemptions would significantly frustrate efforts to combat child pornography.

    I.e. your individual consent is irrelevant compared to collective efforts to prevent the production and distribution of certain unwanted media. While I think this reasoning is logical, it also strikes me as a giant unprincipled exception to Consent Uber Alles and renders criminalization of images of naked teenagers vulnerable to attack along consent lines: all that’s lacking now is a more sympathetic defendant.

    Does the court’s argument strike anyone else as setting the stage for (some) child pornography laws to bestruck down on consent grounds?

    • TrivialGravitas says:

      I read this differently. Basically it says, “no, you cannot abridge the first amendment rights of teenagers, we don’t care why you’re trying to do it” and “but this is still not actually a first amendment issue any more than any other child porn case”.

      Consent Uber Alles simply doesn’t apply to the legality of sexuality under 18 either, you need legislative not judicial changes to establish that, which means it would have to be an overwhelmingly popular position.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Well, yeah. The whole “age of consent” run-around was the source of that argument in my memory: following the idea that any consensual act is morally permissible leads down a lot of roads which few people really want to follow. It’s much easier to just redefine consent as whatever it needs to be at any given moment.

      Does the court’s argument strike anyone else as setting the stage for (some) child pornography laws to bestruck down on consent grounds?

      What would that even mean?

      There was a really good comment a while back, either here or at Ozy’s blog, that drew the distinction between factual and legal consent. The law already recognizes that there are cases where both parties consenting in fact doesn’t constitute legal consent, and used to (until the advent of marital rape laws) hold that some non-consensual acts could be considered consensual for legal purposes. So the fact that the kid consented to produce the pictures is irrelevant, because legally he cannot give consent to such an act even if he wanted to.

      But yes, I agree these sorts of cases are always a good example of why consent alone is not enough for a useful legal or ethical framework. One needs to base it on something something a bit less protean and more measurable than the moment-to-moment desires of the participants, as interpreted after the fact by bureaucrats and talking heads.

      • Wrong Species says:

        How else would consent be based?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          I guess that was abigously written.

          I meant, the ethical and legal rules governing sex need to be based on something less ambiguous and better defined than consent alone. Not that consent has to be based on something else, which would be a rather odd statement.

          The current, very recent, idea that is usually phrased as ‘whatever two consenting adults do is fine’ is unstable. In large part because the justification, consent, is difficult to actually pin down and any consistent definition would allow for behavior which is completely unacceptable to the vast majority. You need to add some concept akin to the Christian virtue of chastity or Feminist principle of objectification to capture what people actually want out of their sexual norms: a way to punish the sexual violation of women and girls, regardless of whether or not they are active participants.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      I’m just puzzled as to how somebody is mentally competent to consent to a criminal act, but not a sexual act, when the criminal and the sexual act are precisely the same act.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Consent laws aren’t about consent. They’re about ways to outlaw sexual acts we don’t approve of in a contemporary framework.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think it might be possible to square them. There are a lot of levels of mens rea, and they might not hit quite the same target as the competence prong of valid consent.

        On the criminal side, the primary question of mens rea is your understanding of the prohibition. Are you aware that the conduct is prohibited? Some cash this out in terms of being aware that you are violating social norms (and being aware that these social norms are things you shouldn’t violate) and/or being aware that society is likely to punish you for the conduct (with liberal assumptions about it being discovered/prosecuted/whatever).

        On the other hand, I think the competence prong to sexual consent is extremely underinformed (and probably as much of a potential source for failure of the entire Consent Project as anything). Do you have to be competent concerning the mechanics of the act you consent to perform? Potential physical consequences? …social norms of how society will view such an act? If we move toward social norms, then it’s probably harder to get different results between the criminal act and the sexual act, but if we’re in one of the earlier categories, there might be more room to maneuver. Of course, it could be something entirely different (I’m really not aware of much good work on this topic).

        There are difficult questions here. If we’re basing it on understanding of social norms, are you ‘allowed’ to competently consent to an act that violates those social norms so long as you’re sufficiently aware that you’re violating them? One of my favorite questions to pose to people (not because I really enjoy the content, but because I like watching brains break) is whether sex education actually causes youth to be capable of consenting?! Is there a list of topics where you could say, “Yep, they seem to understand X,Y,Z… they can consent!” The messed up flipside is that we may have to couple this with some kind of, “You’re not able to consent unless you understand this list of topics. Sorry, Mr. 20-year old in college. Shoulda gone to sex ed class if you wanted to be able to consent.”

        This can lead to really hair-raising conclusions if we think about adults who want to have sex with youth in violation of current norms. Is it enough for this adult to teach the child the mechanics of sex… the potential physical consequences… the social norms? What if they ‘teach’ the child, “Society wouldn’t like it if we had sex. In fact, they’d surely throw me in jail if they found out. Nevertheless, I think it’s good because ____”?

        There is some room for a ‘power relations’ claim to come into play, but we have more experience with those coming into play in the freedom prong rather than the competence prong. It’s perhaps more difficult to require someone to be competent enough to figure out when their authority figure is wrong about their reason for violating a social norm… because we’re right back to Socrates yelling again.

        • caethan says:

          On the criminal side, the primary question of mens rea is your understanding of the prohibition.

          No, no, NO! This is absolutely wrong. The classical saying is “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, and you can and will be punished for acts that you are unaware are unlawful.

          Whether you understand what the law forbids is irrelevant. What matters is your understanding and knowledge of the act that you committed. From more to less culpable:
          * Intentional
          * Knowing
          * Reckless
          * Negligent
          * Accidental

          • Anonymous says:

            Right. I didn’t claim that knowledge of the law is a defense. That’s why it’s often cashed out in terms of social norms. You don’t have to be aware that the law specifically prohibits particular behavior, but you have to be aware that society disapproves or prohibits the result in some way. For example, Black’s law dictionary defines recklessness as:

            Conduct whereby the actor does not desire harmful consequence but…foresees the possibility and consciously takes the risk

            Buried in there is an understanding of “harmful” consequences. That is, some sense of knowing that the result could be bad, disfavored, or prohibited. We don’t see it come up in the majority of trials, because the majority of trials assume it. However, it definitely comes up in discussions of edge cases where we think someone might be deficient.

    • TD says:

      Consent laws don’t tell us that children are not capable of consenting to things literally, they tell us that their consent is not legally permissible. So when we say “kids can’t consent” what we actually mean is “kids shouldn’t consent”. Children can agree to things, but we do not accept their agreement as being permissible because society has evaluated that it may cause either personal harm or incentivize societally harmful behavior.

    • Anonymous says:

      TD is correct that there is a difference between factual consent and legal consent. The obvious example that comes up a lot for this distinction is youth. No one thinks that you magically gain the ability to factually consent on your 18th birthday; nevertheless, we don’t accept that factual consent as legal consent.

      The harder question is whether consent is doing any work here. We are kind of assuming that the law is structured as follows:

      1. It is illegal to have sex with another person without his/her consent.

      2. For the purposes of (1), individuals under the age of 18 are not considered capable of consenting.

      Here, we’re talking about legal consent. We could put the qualifier ‘legal’ in there, and it would make sense. However, we could also structure a law as follows:

      1. It is illegal to have sex with a person under the age of 18.

      2. Consent of the individual in question shall not be considered a defense for the charge of (1).

      Here, (1) doesn’t talk about consent at all. We don’t actually need to. (2) talks about factual consent, for it wouldn’t make sense to talk about legal consent. Both structures are capable of accounting for the idea that some minors may be capable of factually consenting (or could actually factually consent), while still rendering such consent invalid. However, in the latter formulation, there is no actual reason to state (2). We just don’t need it. It doesn’t change anything. So, it’s really tempting to think that consent just isn’t Uber Alles. (I made an argument on a previous open thread that it’s possible that people just didn’t think rape was “the law of consent” back when there were things like the marital rape exemption. Maybe rape just isn’t all about consent.)

      Alternatively, we can think that even if consent isn’t Uber Alles for the mechanics of the law, maybe it’s still the fundamental moral principle that is driving our policy choices. Wertheimer argues for something like this, but also tries to ground consent, itself, in a broader notion of sexual autonomy (where positive autonomy is why consent is sufficient for morally acceptable sex and negative autonomy is why denying consent makes sex morally unacceptable (and justifies rape laws)). I don’t think he’s quite successful in this, especially because when he gets around to the type of case we’re concerned about (youth), he passes the buck. With a nice helping of paternalism (literally writing about youth in the same terms as mental retardation (his term, not mine; don’t crucify me)), he thinks that we can empirically determine an age at which sex doesn’t “tend to be harmful” to youth. I was quite annoyed by the fact that at such a crucial moment in his book, he just made a bald appeal to our general sense of “harm”, which is obviously the moment when Socrates stands up and proclaims, “THERE! Right there is where you are hiding all of the rest of your morality.”

      Is there any hope for a more principled stand of Consent Uber Alles? Perhaps. Westen identifies three major prongs that are necessary for valid factual consent: knowledge, competence, and freedom. The details of these are each subject to their own nuances, but they at least give us a possibility for exploration. Westen isn’t so much in the game to really answer moral questions or make policy suggestions, so at this point he pretty much just stops (he’s interested in just fixing the ball of utter confusion we’ve wrapped around the word “consent”). For him, society can choose to value Consent Uber Alles – we can get into the theoretical details of these prongs and try to figure out how to conform the law to them… or we can go the other way – we can just say, “That’s too complicated, subject to gaming, and the legal system isn’t really capable of handling it; let’s just draw a line.”

      Like all of the best problems, I vacillate on my hopes for a solution. Sometimes, consent looks like it can be made to perform all of the moral magic in turning impermissible sex into permissible sex… other times, it seems hopelessly feeble, and I really wish people would be more open to considering alternatives. Them’s the breaks.

      • Anonymous says:

        Another problem with the consent above all theory of rape is that fraud vitiates consent except it doesn’t in Anglo-American rape law. It used to, but only in the very narrow case where the fraud in question was the promise of marriage.

        • Anonymous says:

          Actually, the current distinction is between “fraud in factum” and “fraud in the inducement”. The prevailing legal theory for fraud in the inducement is caveat amator.

          To illustrate fraud in factum, consider a doctor who is to perform a procedure on you. You’ve been informed that the procedure in question involves inserting a medical device inside your nether region. Now, instead of doing this, the doctor inserts his penis. Your consent to the insertion was rendered invalid, because he committed fraud with respect to the nature of the act itself. (Side note: while Westen uses a bunch of different hypotheticals through his book, I was absolutely shocked by the number of citations he had to real cases with stupidly messed up facts like this. People are effed up.)

          On the other hand, suppose you’re at a bar, and a guy tells you he plays for the New York Yankees. For some reason, in the era of smartphones, you believe him rather than check, and decide to sleep with him based on this belief. If it turns out he lied, it’s fraud in the inducement, and pretty much all jurisdictions reject that as a claim which would invalidate your consent to the sex. Ditto for things like, “But he told me he loved me.” Specific promises generally don’t hold up, either, though I think you’re right that at times, some jurisdictions have had an exception specifically for promises to marry (I don’t have access to the reference I’d use to check this right now). I think this fits into my claim that rape/marriage had a more complicated history that didn’t have an obvious pathway directly through our current understanding of consent.

          I don’t think it’s clear whether this distinction is completely tenable or currently handled Correctly. I also don’t think there’s a clear dependency between showing that something is wrong in the fraud analysis and showing that Consent Uber Alles is objectively wrong or untenable.

    • Anonymous says:

      In my haste to discuss Consent Uber Alles (and my lack of time earlier today to actually do it), I neglected to answer your actual question.

      I’m on board with Dr Dealgood’s question, “What would it even mean to strike down CP laws on consent grounds?” There is no free-floating Consent Clause in the Bill of Rights. The only thing they have is the Free Speech Clause. However, as TrivialGravitas points out, CP clearly falls under the obscenity exception.

      Of course, that’s merely describing the law. If society passed a law tomorrow legalizing self-produced depictions under a theory of consent, the law would change. The question of whether Consent Uber Alles demands such a result (or even whether it would be consistent with such a result) from a philosophical/normative perspective is a different one. It’s a much harder one, too. It implicates several of the topics I’ve discussed in other comments in this chain… as well as questions like whether depictions of a sex act even fall in remotely the same category as the sex, itself. The scope of the analysis is tough; do we include distribution? Potential subsequent views? It’s really a mess.

    • Miinors are generally not regarded as being able to giuve valid consent, so this ban is consistent with current thinking.

  9. TrivialGravitas says:

    So I have a friend who is looking for a psychologist/psychiatrist that understands internet social lives. This seems like the place people are most likely to know how to find that and I thought I’d ask.

    Also, as an informal poll who believes I’m asking for a friend vs ‘asking for a friend’ given the cliche about it?

    • nope says:

      Look for a young one? So maybe a therapist instead of a psychiatrist or psychologist, since it requires less training. Tumblr might be useful. Also, favoring males might help.

    • Xeno of Citium says:

      No one ever believes you’re asking for a friend even if you really are. No advice on how to find a good therapist, sadly – they do exist though.

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      I believe you’re asking for a friend, since it usually doesn’t occur to me that people might deliberately hide the truth from strangers.

    • Alliteration says:

      There exists which may or may not be related to what you are looking for. I don’t know anything about them beyond what the website says however.

      Before I read Xeno of Citium’s comment, I believed that you were actually asking for a friend. Know I am undecided.

  10. I guess I’m just treating SSC open threads as a source for personalized answers to science questions now? Whatever, there’s just too many knowledgeable people here.

    Anyway, a few open threads ago people were talking about testosterone therapy, and it got me thinking. I don’t produce any testosterone naturally, so I get injections every two weeks. But I’ve heard that there are various things that can boost testosterone levels: exercise, consuming more zinc, diet and sleep, blah blah blah. My question is: are those things that would only act on testosterone production (and hence be irrelevant to me), or would any of them also work on someone who wasn’t producing any testosterone? What’s the actual mechanism for the boost in testosterone level, in other words?

    (note: I’m not looking to increase my testosterone level, it’s fine. I’m just wondering if I should treat my level as effectively immutable, or start worrying about what could be affecting it)

    I’d be happy to research this one myself, I’m just not sure where to start. Any endocrinologists in the house?

    • TrivialGravitas says:

      Answering only the exercise question (though this may inform the rest), all of this is straight up textbook answers (Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning Volume Three, which has further citations). The effect of resistance training on testosterone is subtle, and ultimately the body’s way of producing the end results that evolution dictated bodies should get from intense physical exercise. I don’t know the exact mechanism by which testosterone changes from resistance training. There are many many reasons why hormones change in response to exercise, and changes in secretion is only one. I figure listing them should help your future research.

      Fluid volume shifts, if there is less fluid in your body you effectively have more hormones,

      Tissue clearance rates. If a hormone is stuck in some other tissue (lungs, liver) you have less of it in your blood. It may also increase hormone degradation.

      Speaking of, hormone degradation, the rate at which hormones breakdown.

      Muscle contractions greater than 45% slow bloodflow back to the heart, which in turn traps the hormones.

      Hormones binding with blood, this makes them flow faster, but they don’t actually interact with your hormone receptors when bound (this is what the ‘free’ in ‘free testosterone’ in your bloodwork refers to, the testosterone not bound to blood).

      The magnitude of the signal the receptor sends to the nucleus, and the actual response of the nucleus.

      And of course actual secretion. The Adrenal gland is a secondary source of testosterone so depending on the actual issue you may still actually see an increase in secretion, but this would be extremely small given that the increase women see is extremely small.

    • Siah Sargus says:

      Sorry for getting to this one so late, but the short answer is no.

      Your initial hypothesis is correct, these things have small but noticeable effects on testosterone production, and have no effect on the testosterone already in your bloodstream.

      If you don’t produce any testosterone naturally, increasing your zinc intake, sleeping more, or exercising will not increase the absorption your exogenously administered testosterone into your bloodstream. The sort of advice for “boosting” testosterone you tend to get online is “general hormonal well-being” advice, except zinc supplementation which is “maybe you masturbate too much” advice. More moralistic momscience than effective endocrinology. You could get no sleep, eat very little, exercise to failure, and your blood testosterone levels would stay exactly the same as they would have otherwise; that is to say, they’ll slowly decay at the rate of the half life of the ester of the testosterone you inject. So don’t worry about anything affecting your testosterone levels, because you don’t have to worry about your body producing testosterone.

      The actual mechanism for the production of testosterone involves the Leydig cells in the testicles mostly, and is highly variable from person to person with regards to output of testosterone; there are daily peaks and troughs, of course, just like with other hormones.

  11. Barry says:

    I’m trying to find an SSC post from a while ago and I can’t remember the title. It was about the problem of debate when one side is convinced that the other can’t really believe what they’re saying, and must have a secret motivation that they’re not sharing. It used christians and the abortion debate as an example I think. Anyone have any idea how I would go about finding it?

  12. not posting under my normal handle for obvious reasons says:

    Anyone have any recommendations for solving personal/emotional trauma issues without the help of therapy (which is expensive)? Specifically, dealing with extreme discomfort around emotional intimacy and interpersonal reliance in the aftermath of an abusive relationship.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Bibliotherapy, ie therapy from a self-help book, has been found to work as well as normal therapy in most cases. I’m not sure exactly what book I would recommend for a case like this, but look over the reputable ones on Amazon (usually good sign if written by a psychologist and describes itself as a workbook in boring terms, eg ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Workbook’ rather than ‘The Seventy-Two Hour Cure!’) and see if any of them look good.

  13. hash9843 says:

    Hi, Scott.

    From some of your posts I gather that you don’t like virtue ethics much. I want to give you a different perspective on virtue ethics that you could have not considered.

    I see virtue ethics as habit cultivation, just like rationality. In most day-to-day situations it is not possible to just perform the full Bayesian calculation every time you receive a new piece of evidence on something. But you know cognitive science, you know how you generally tend to think, and you know what biases to watch for. So you develop a useful heuristic – like noticing confusion – and make it your second nature. Then you hope that maybe that habit will be there when you need it. Other people often discover and compile lists of useful rationality habits, and you use those.

    Virtue ethics works the same way. You can’t just perform a full consequentialist analysis of everything you do in real time. But you know how you generally tend to think about moral problems, you know some of your biases (such as prematurely dismissing universalizability, or not recognizing prisoner’s dillemas, or being too selfish), and you generate useful heuristics to follow, and train yourself to follow them automatically. We call those heuristics virtues. Other people find their own heuristics and present them as guides to ethics (that often take form of fiction books).

    Humanity, partly through reasoning, partly through memetic evolution, has assembled a lot of useful virtues. Honor. Honesty. Compassion. Niceness. A lot of practical ways to train those virtues, like lovingkindness meditation. Even if someone in the society can’t follow the entire chain of reasoning of why you should not fight nasty, the tradition of Honor would help them make the right decision.

    Myself, I am sort of a pathological liar. Whenever I have to say something, my intuitive response is “say something that helps your agenda and paints you in a good light”, rather than “say what actually is”. It used to hurt me, a lot. I knew that, and I worked on developing the virtue of Honesty. I developed a habit of saying the correct thing even if it hurts, and even if it feels like a bad idea right now. It helped, a lot.

    If you think you can consistently make correct decisions in real time according to consequentialism, untilitarianism, you moral intuitions, or whatever else you actually use, then sorry, you can’t. But you can use those to decide what habits you expect to guide you along the right path, and train yourself to follow them. That is virtue ethics.

    • Anonymaus says:

      How does the virtue ethicist decide what kinds of habits are worth cultivating? The way you describe it, it is just utilitarianism in disguise, by positing that habit formation is a good method to reach certain moral ends. To the extend that this is true it would be useful, but no more useful than knowing that e.g. voluntary trade can lead to mutually preferred outcomes.
      I’ve always understood that ethical systems are supposed to answer directly what things are moral and what are not (though I never studied them beyond the odd lecture series on youtube). Utilitarianism: do what makes people happy — I can look at whether people are happy with an action and therefore decide whether it is moral. Deontology: follow the golden rule in a meta-level way, so I can look at the intention of an action and see whether this kind of intention would be self-defeating if accepted on a global scale. How does virtue ethics decide that (whether?) being nice out of habit is more moral than being a liar out of habit?

      • hash9843 says:

        Quoting Scott:

        The problem of “doing the right thing” consists of two subproblems.

        First, knowing what the right thing is. Do we legalize or ban abortion? Do we press the switch in the trolley problem or not?

        Second, behaving correctly in situations where we do know what the right thing is. For example, going to visit a friend in the hospital even though the hospital is far away. Not cheating on your taxes even though you could use the money. Working hard even though no one is checking up on you.

        The proposal was that virtue ethics doesn’t claim to be a solution to the first problem, but is a uniquely excellent solution to the second, and in fact the solution people actually use.

        • Anonymaus says:

          So virtue ethics sees virtue as an instrumental, not a terminal value?

          • hash9843 says:


          • Philosophisticat says:

            There’s a lot of diversity among people who call themselves virtue ethicists, but few of them think that the virtues are merely heuristics for doing things that are consequentially best. That may be what hash thinks but don’t take it as representative of virtue ethics.

  14. Anonymous says:

    What a clusterfuck the Supreme Court’s affirmative action jurisprudence is. Yet more evidence that Kennedy and O’Connor are/were terrible justices. I guarantee you if Ginsburg or Breyer had been the fifth vote since Grutter and Gratz we’d have a lot more defensible and coherent set of decisions on the subject.

  15. estelendur says:

    I find Judaism fascinating and compelling, and have considered conversion at various points in the past… but I’m not sure if people would Strongly Object to me converting while most likely remaining atheist? And if they would, then I should probably give up the whole notion?

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      What do you mean? I would consider converting to Judaism but remaining an atheist to be contradictory.

      • dndnrsn says:

        There’s a school of thought in Judaism – I’ve heard it from a few Jewish acquaintances – that actual belief in G-d is not the important thing, rather, following (some of/all of) the rules and participating in the community life and rituals is.

        I’m not sure if I agree with the reasoning, because the context of religion that Judaism arose in was very different from today: the idea of religion as “belief” is, according to some scholars, a modern (and, possibly, Protestant) idea; “belief” in G-d/gods/some supernatural force(s) or other would have been taken for granted – as those things were known to exist.

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          I think Judaism is a bit peculiar, because it is an ethnic group and culture as well as a belief system. But you can’t convert into an ethnic group, so I would have thought that conversion would necessarily involve joining the belief system.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Acceptance of the belief system of Judaism, both as laid out in the Hebrew Bible and as it has developed since then, entails all sorts of ritual observances, observances of rules, etc.

            It’s orthodoxy versus orthopraxy: is the belief the important part, or the observances?

          • estelendur says:

            Right, I would be really good at the orthopraxy part, and I find rituals and so on really meaningful when I actively choose to commit to them and have so far been unable to find any religion that has rituals I would find meaningful as an atheist, except possibly Judaism.

            There may be some pagan things that would fit the bill, but not in my area, and their rituals are less weighty and interesting to me anyway, because so much less old, therefore much less force carrying them on through time.

          • Have you looked into any societies, secret or otherwise? Depending on what orders/fraternities/masonic-style orders are in your area, they might be really into the rituals things themselves. My tech-school fraternity was really into ours and that commitment to them certainly sold me on the enjoyableness of ritual (it also helps when your fraternity was founded by a bunch of people organizing to stop their school’s literary society from granting awards by nepotism/favoritism).

          • estelendur says:

            Not that anyone will probably see this reply, but yes. Being female, my options are extremely and obnoxiously limited, and having graduated college and moved away, I can no longer regularly participate in anything I might have had access to in college.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            I’m in the same boat.

            I like the Grange in many ways, and it would make my life a lot easier to join…but I’m an atheist.

            And I’ve been taking “best fit religion selector” quizzes and one suggested Judaism.

            …just wanted to commiserate.

        • Jaskologist says:

          The view has been expressed in previous comment threads as well. I wonder how well-represented it is in historical Judaism, though. Certainly the acquaintances I’ve known who would hold to it have already had at least 1 foot out the door; I think it is a view for Jews who will not be Jews in another 2 generations.

          On the other hand, Jesus’ critique of the Jews of his day was pretty much, “All you guys care about are these rules you’ve made up. You’ve forgotten the most important part which is to love God and your neighbor.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, it’s the sort of thing one hears from fairly secular, unobservant Jews. The really observant ones tend both to follow the rules and believe that G-d exists.

            I attended a service at a synagogue, I can’t remember what they called themselves, but they were on the one hand quite observant and traditional in terms of liturgy and stuff – definitely not Reform – but counted women as equal to men for religious purposes, etc.

            I should have thought to ask about this issue.

            EDIT: At the same time, though, it’s really remarkable how much a modern, fairly secular, fairly Christian, fairly Protestant conception of religion has taken over. You see things like people saying “the Islamic State isn’t really religious, see, they have real-world objectives”, or “the Crusades were about trade routes, not religion” – not realizing the extent to which thinking that “real-world objectives” and “religious” are non-overlapping is unusual in human religious thought.

          • brad says:

            It sounds Conservative of some flavor or other. The movement is quite a bit broader than it used to be.

            Forty – fifty years ago, it was pretty much a traditional liturgy except that they were friendly about making announcements from the bima to keep everyone together as compared to the pandemonium of a MO service where everyone is doing their own thing half the time. Only men counted in minyans and could get called for an aliyah (women could open the ark). The full Torah portion was read every week and the first and second aliyah were reserved for kohen and levy respectively. The biggest difference in the synagogue versus MO (other than the aforementioned style issue) was no mechitza and there were microphones. Out of the synagogue, that is to say general practice among the congregation, was where the real differences occurred. Many (but not all) congregants drove to shabbat services. Only part of the congregation kept kosher, and even those that did had all kinds of compromises. No one was shomer negiah. Only the rabbi and a few others wore yamakas all the time. Etc.

            Since then the central body of conservative Judaism (USCJ) in conjunction with the movements rabbinical school (JTS) has opened things up considerably. Today the movement includes synagogues that are fully egalitarian (woman can do anything a man can including be a rabbi), that have dispensed with cohen and levy aliyahs, moved to the triennial system, and in the last two decades those that hold same sex commitment ceremonies.

            The new movement siddurs include a lot more responsive readings in English and shortcuts in Hebrew as well as an old around effort to be more “friendly”.

            However none of the above is universal, there are lots of synagogues that mix and match, even some remaining ones of the old style — today they’d be called conservadox.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I looked them up: they’re unaffiliated with any denomination, and describe themselves as being both traditional and egalitarian.

            It seemed, basically, like a Jewish version of liberal high-church Anglicanism/Episcopalianism.

        • Yehoshua K says:

          There was a very similar discussion on this site about two months ago. I contributed the following response:


          I don’t think that belief in God is unimportant in Judaism. See, for example, the beginning of Mishneh Torah (Foundations of Torah 1:6), where Maimonides states “The foundation of foundations and pillar of wisdoms is to know that there exists a primordial Being; that He grants existence to everything that exists; and that everything that exists, whether in heaven, on earth, or between the two, exists only because of the truth of His existence. 2. In the event that He should not exist, nothing else would be able to exist. 3. But if nothing else were to exist, He would nevertheless exist. He would not be nullified by their nullification, because all creatures depend upon Him, but He, may He be blessed, does not depend on them, or on any of them. Therefore, His truth is unlike their truth…6. Knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment, as it says “I am Hashem your God.” Whomever thinks that some god exists aside from this One violates the prohibition of “You shall have no other gods before Me.” He denies the main point, for this is the main point upon which everything depends.”

          See also the first gloss of Rabbi Moshe Isserles (better know by his Hebrew acronym, the Rema) on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 1:1, where he states “‘I have placed Hashem before me always’ is a major principle of Torah and a major aspect of the good traits of the righteous who walk before God. For a man conducts himself differently when he is by himself in his house than when he is in the presence of a great king; neither is his speech when he is surrounded by his own family similar to his speech when in the royal palace. How much more so (will his conduct be refined) when he takes to heart that the Great King, the Holy One Blessed be He, whose glory fills the world, stands over him and sees his deeds, as it says ‘If a man hides himself in secret places, shall I not see him, says Hashem.’ Immediately he shall be seized by fear and submission before Hashem, the Blessed One, and shall be humbled before Him. (Source: Guide to the Perplexed, section 3 chapter 52).”

          See also the Mishna Brurah there, Biur Halacha that starts with the words “Is a major principle,” who explains that every Jewish man and woman is constantly obliged in six particular commandments; namely, belief in God, not to believe in other gods, belief in God’s unity, love of God, fear of God, and not to get involved in physical passions or heretical ideas. (The last should perhaps be divided into two separate commandments, making seven constant commandments in all.) He explains that in contrast to other commandments, which apply to some people but not all, or at some times but not all, or under certain circumstances but not all, these commandments apply to every Jew, man or woman, at every moment and under all circumstances.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think you are going to have much luck going up to a Orthodox rabbi and telling him you want to convert but oh by the way you don’t believe in God. (Unless of course you are in the IDF in which case feel free to bring a BLT to the Bet Din; the next guy on the assembly line will probably be wearing a Russian Orthodox crucifix.)

      On the other hand, if you want to convert reform it probably won’t even come up.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Okay, I am going to need this joke explained for me.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          A lot of people think that many or most of Israel’s recent Russian immigrants are not actually Jewish, but just used that as a ploy to get citizenship. Since they also vote as a distinct bloc and have a different language / culture it raises the same sort of replacement fears as Mexicans here, albeit politically flipped.

          I don’t have any opinion on the issue since I’m not particularly well informed on the topic, besides the basics.

          • Julie K says:

            Anyone with one Jewish grandparent is eligible to move to Israel. Thus many Russians who are not Jewish by matrilineal descent have made Aliyah. (It’s all in the open, so I wouldn’t call it a ploy, unless they lied and actually had zero Jewish grandparents.)
            There has been a lot of political pressure on the Rabbinate to allow them to convert even if they are not going to observe Jewish law. (“Bet din” = rabbinical court overseeing conversion.)

          • Anonymous says:

            That political pressure is especially acute with respect to non-Jews serving in the military. Most secular Israelis think that fighting for the state of Israel should mean you are Jewish. So the IDF have their pet NRP rabbis do pro forma conversions on people that have no intention of actually practicing Judaism. And this is accepted by the haredi establishment even while some genuine conversions under the auspices of the RCA are not.

            The original sin was changing the law of return to use Hitler’s definition of a Jew (that happened in 1970).

            If Brother Daniel couldn’t invoke the law of return there’s no reason at all that someone from Russia whose one and only connection to the Jewish people was being married to a woman whose paternal grandfather, that she never met, was Jewish, ought to be allowed to. It’s crazy.

    • Yehoshua K says:

      Sorry, but I’m not quite sure what it means to convert to a religion without accepting the basic beliefs of that religion. When ypu say that that you would be interested in converting to Judaism, how do you imagine your life changing?

      • estelendur says:

        I imagine adopting the (subset appropriate to the subtype to which I would convert of) the rules and rituals of Judaism as part of my daily life, which would be a pretty dramatic change since I would be taking it quite seriously.

        • Yehoshua K says:

          If you want to adopt certain Jewish practices as a matter of personal preference and lifestyle, why not just do so without going through a conversion?

          • estelendur says:

            Mainly because it would feel significantly more weird and… appropriative? to do so than converting as an atheist would feel. I think. I should probably talk to a rabbi or something.

  16. Julie K says:

    What do you think is the weakest part of the theory of evolution?
    (Inspired by this comment.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      Poor ability to make predictions. Drop a breeding population of animals on an island. Do they get bigger or smaller? How quickly will this happen? What other changes will they undergo?

      In the same vein, “sexual selection” can explain everything, and thus explains nothing. See also: Evo Psych.

    • Skivverus says:

      If defining “weakness” as “reason why it is not universally believed in the US” as opposed to “avenue of reasoning or experiment by which it might be proved false” (I do not have an opinion on the latter) – I’d say the relative emphasis (or perceived emphasis) on the parts of the theory that conflict with the Bible’s account of things (e.g.: the vast difference in timescales), as compared to the parts of the theory that are agnostic on the matter.

    • John Schilling says:

      The willingness of its proponents to be tempted into debating abiogenesis in the name of “evolution”. Evolution is a stronger theory than abiogenesis, does not require abiogenesis, does not incorporate abiogenesis, and certainly is not abiogenesis writ large. But the two are so often combined as to obscure the distinctions and drag evolution down to abiogenesis’s level(*).

      Really, worse than that, because if the mechanisms of abiogenesis are plausible for archaea they certainly aren’t for mammalia, and if the distinction isn’t kept clear you don’t have a convincing story for anyone.

      *Which, to be clear, is pretty solid. Not nearly so ironclad as evolution, which we can actually watch in the field or duplicate in the lab.

      • Julie K says:

        When you say “watch in the field or duplicate in the lab,” do you have in mind observing the survival of the fittest, or also the appearance of new functional traits?

        • John Schilling says:

          Appearance of new functional traits, e.g. resistance to new antibiotics. And sometimes that’s “just” a matter of a freakishly rare and previously non-functional trait becoming dominant in a population, but that’s also something we can watch in the field or duplicate in the lab.

    • Jiro says:

      It depends on what you mean by “weakest part”. If you mean “part which most implies that the conclusions of evolution are false” or something like that, I don’t think it has a nontrivial weakest part, for the same reason that the theory “homeopathy doesn’t work” has no nontrivial weakest part.

    • keranih says:

      As others have said, I am not sure what “weakest” means. The idea that all organisms are scrambling for resources, and that the ones most successful at exploiting the existing environmental niche(s) will be the ones who reproduce most successfully make so much intuitive sense that it is very hard to argue with.

      And yet…

      Viruses. (How does this work, evolutionarily? Same-same for prions.)

      Squid eyes. (The linage of vertebrates and squid separated way, waynorth of has eyeballs. Yet the structure and the chemical reactionson retina are the same. How did this happy accident happen twice?

      Sexual differentiation. Oh, so many questions here, starting with alligators and temperature. For serious? How does that even make sense? And circling back to squid eyeballs – completely different genes are used for sexual differentiation in birds and mammals. But reptiles are a whole separate issue.

      And then there are plants, which make a whole hash of the concept of species in the first place. Wheat is three different plants inter mingled. WTF?

      Overall, I think the theory is sound, but the evidence – particularly that of the fossil chains, and even more so with non-vertebrate fossils – is scary weak in some places. Far too many n=1.

      I really wish more people were willing to admit to the weaknesses of the data, rather than insisting that all parts of the theory are currently well supported.

      • Julie K says:

        The idea that all organisms are scrambling for resources, and that the ones most successful at exploiting the existing environmental niche(s) will be the ones who reproduce most successfully make so much intuitive sense that it is very hard to argue with.

        Oh, absolutely. But this is a process of losing information. We start out with a certain number of species, or subspecies, and the less successful ones die out, and now we have less than we started out with.
        How do we *gain* information? How do we get new proteins, new organs and limbs?

        • fibo says:

          Duplication errors mostly.

          One of the mutations that haven’t properly entered the popular lexicon are duplicates, i.e. whole genes or chromosomes get doubled up. Having two copies of a gene is a tiny, fractional disadvantage, but once you have two copies that extra copy can mutate and change into a new form without disrupting the original. This allows species to add complexity to their genomes without negatively effecting functions as you would expect in deletion or substitution mutations.

        • Anonymous says:

          Divine intervention!

        • Whatever is rndom in some sense results in in information gain, in some sense. Even under strict determinism, you can have events occurring in a system that aren’t predictable from the information in the system, such as a mutation being caused by a cosmic ray.

        • William Newman says:

          “How do we *gain* information? How do we get new proteins, new organs and limbs?”

          We tend to be badly handicapped in our detailed discussion of design processes for new proteins and organs and limbs by our incompetence in designing and analyzing these things ourself. We can look at data like the distribution of traits and genes over time and space, and the gross performance of different variants, and say quite a lot about how yup, it looks like evolution. That’s not wrong, but it’s like typical 14-year-olds opining about how cell phone manufacturers seem to be a mostly-market mixed economy: they’re not wrong, but there is a limit to how much their analysis will be able to address questions about how a market system ever managed the transition from vacuum tubes to semiconductors or from 2-micron feature sizes to 1-micron feature sizes.

          For things that we know very well how to design and analyze and for which it is cheap to get impersonal ignorant automated feedback, like circuit board wiring networks and finite element meshes, it has been practical for decades to use randomness and impersonal ignorant automated feedback to get designs that are correct and efficient. Would you consider that a demonstration that gaining information is possible?

          If you are bugged in purest principle by how randomness and impersonal ignorant automated feedback can *gain* information, so that my appeal to practical engineering success doesn’t float your boat, you could try looking at Ch. 19 in . It contains upper bound calculations on how much information (in the information theory quantitative sense used in the analysis of e.g. error correcting codes) can be acquired per generation of natural selection. (The chapter is largely about why the upper bound is substantially larger in the presence of something like sexual recombination.) It might not be the ideal answer, but it’s not obviously too far away from your question, and does have the virtue of being free online. If the chapter doesn’t answer your question, at least it should show you a framework that practical people use when reasoning about questions like that precisely and quantitatively, so it could help you or someone like you to frame your objection so precisely that evolutionists can’t try to weasel out of it by appealing to examples that turn out to be irrelevant to the point you are trying to get at.

      • Ptoliporthos says:

        Re: alligators and temperature

        This is easy. If the environment is highly variable, and males and females have different fitness in different environmental conditions, and temperature during egg incubation is predictive of those environmental conditions, then the eggs that can use that information to direct development down a male or female pathway will gain an advantage over those that cannot.

        If the environment were constant, or male and female fitness didn’t differ among evironmental conditions, or temperature during egg incubation didn’t have some predictive value, you should expect this to break down and some other form of sex determination to evolve. I think I recall that this switch away from temperature dependent sex determination when the environment became constantly high temperature has been observed in an Australian lizard species.

    • The evolution of nitrogenase. The Haber process, the main method used by humans, requires high temperatures and pressures. In ordinary conditions it’s difficult to make nitrogen gas react with anything at all. Half a nitrogenase won’t react without nitrogen at all and it doesn’t improve the fitness of the organism.

      By the way, I would like it if someone who knew more about this subject would chime in. What is known about the evolution of nitrogenase? Could it be a Great Filter event? Is there another biochemical pathway that is even more implausible?

      • William Newman says:

        “The evolution of nitrogenase.”

        Or, for that matter, type II topoisomerases. I mean, what the hell?

        But those are deep into the class of things that I was referring to earlier when I remarked about being impaired in our ability to have an intelligent discussion by lacking useful engineering knowledge about how they work. Discussions of those questions will be much less vacuous when chemical engineers are capable of designing nitrogenase with different metal ions or a topoisomerase using an unnatural collection of amino acids (i.e., some limitation that keeps them from just cribbing from the evolved design without properly understanding it). Meanwhile, as long as we lack that level of understanding, a lot of handwaving is involved, probably at least as bad as arguing about the earliest origins of life today, or arguing about the details of evolution of flying insects not only before the Wright brothers but before the Montgolfier brothers.

        Note also that even for systems whose final evolved state we understand pretty well, it can be quite tricky to figure out from first principles what intermediate states might be useful in some niche. I vaguely remember old, old arguments from incredulity about evolving flying creatures — what good does it do to be able to only-sort-of fly? Except stuff like flying squirrels. Or what good is a sort-of eye? Except for pit vipers, maybe. It seems to me that fllying squirrels and pit vipers would have been implausible just-so stories if I had made them up from whole cloth in an argument about evolution, or for that matter in a 1950s-era science fiction story, but they do actually exist.

        Note *also* that figuring out what intermediate states are feasible can be remarkably difficult even in systems that have no biological evolution or design involved. Calculating how stable a chemical compound is can be plenty difficult, but it still tends to be far less difficult than calculating how fast a chemical reaction will proceed under what conditions and in the presence of what catalysts, in part because the rate of the reaction depends sensitively on what the intermediate states are like.

      • Ptoliporthos says:

        Isn’t Nitrogenase a homodimer? How would you ever end up in the situation that you only had half of one? And it’s not like it doesn’t consume energy, it couples nitrogen fixation to ATP hydrolysis.

        Comparing Nitrogenase to a fertilizer plant running the Haber process is like comparing the sodium and potassium pumps to a desalination plant powered by a fission reactor.

  17. I was reading in the library today, and was startled to find that Thomas Browne addresses whale cancer in Religio Medici (1643):

    That there must be heresies, is true, not onely in our Church, but also in any other: even in Doctrines hereticall there will be super-heresies, and Arians not onely divided from their Church, but also among themselves: for heads that are disposed unto Schisme and complexionally propense to innovation, are naturally indisposed for a community, nor will ever be confined unto the order or œconomy of one body; and therefore when they separate from others they knit but loosely among themselves; nor contented with a generall breach or dichotomie with their Church, do subdivide and mince themselves almost into Atomes.

    Browne, of all men, would appreciate Scott’s resurrection of the concept; just a few pages before this he says:

    Opinions doe finde after certaine revolutions, men and mindes like those that first begat them. To see our selves againe wee neede not looke for Platoes yeare; every man is not onely himselfe; there have beene many Diogenes, and as many Timons, though but few of that name; men are lived over againe, the world is now as it was in ages past, there was none then, but there hath been some one since that parallels him, and is as it were his revived selfe.

  18. gbdub says:

    I have a concern with using the no-fly list / terrorist watch list as a tool for preventing firearm purchases that I doubt is novel, but I haven’t seen discussed:

    Using the list to prevent a purchase at the point of sale makes the list potentially less effective as an anti-terror tool, because it alerts the potential terrorist that you’re onto him. To make the list fair (and in my opinion, not blatantly unconstitutional) you need to add some due process to the list, or at a minimum provide an appeal process to get off it in which the gov’t has to provide probable cause to keep you on it. But that due process risks letting not only the terrorist, but also his connections, know who you’re watching and why (“The feds are onto everybody congregating at X! Let’s find a new meeting site!”). That’s extremely valuable intel, and we might be risking losing tabs a whole terror cell to prevent one guy from getting a shotgun. You could even see actual terrorists trying to buy a gun just to see if they’ve made the list (it’s a low risk to them, since there’s not going to be anyone at the gun store to arrest them…)

    If we instead allow the list to remain secret, and maybe just send an alert to the FBI that a “person of interest” is requesting a gun purchase, the authorities can add additional surveillance or move in on the group if they really think an attack is imminent, or hold off if they want to keep their surveillance covert. You lose that option if being on the list means an automatic denial+appeal.

    I’m also opposed to the no fly list in its current form along similar lines, though perhaps it’s more defensible in that the flight itself, or entering another country, are more likely to be terminal goals for the terrorist. Plus if they are really dangerous you have the personnel to arrest them at the airport.

    Anyway the whole thing is probably moot because organized terror cells probably have other means of obtaining weapons, and the people actually using gun stores for mass shooting weapons so far have not been suspicious enough to be on the list at the time of their purchase.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is why no one* likes the NRA proposal of a watch list with due process. The pro-secret-policing (but also pro-gun-rights) people don’t want due process for the terrorist watch lists, and the anti-gun-rights (but not particularly pro-secret-policing) types don’t want due process for gun buying.

      * for slightly hyperbolic values of “no one”

      • gbdub says:

        Does anyone (for slightly hyperbolic values of anyone) actually have a big problem with the FBI keeping tabs on suspicious-but-not-yet-arrestable people at a level above that of random John Doe on the street?

        It’s when you start denying rights based on that that people start having a problem, and the primary difference between the sides is whether they care about gun owner rights.

        Interesting tidbit, John Lewis, the Georgia congressmen leading the “sit-in” (is it really a sit-in if you’re occupying somewhere you already have access to?) was himself stuck erroneously on the no-fly list for over a year, and missed something like 35 flights because of it.

      • Anonanon says:

        >This is why no one*

        Wasn’t the republican proposal written under the advice of the head of the FBI? Who didn’t like the idea of the AG’s office blowing their investigations by giving terrorists a fast, totally free way to see if they were being watched?

  19. Luke the CIA stooge says:

    Does anyone else following US politics feel like the country is headed towards a breakup?

    It seems like the federal system is both incapable of producing functional legislation that would benefit the groups making up the nation, and yet can’t stop producing regs and interventions that anger said groups.

    Does anyone see a scenario where this doesn’t end with a national political crisis: Trump fucking up, Clinton having the biggest scandal of her career, credit default (by debt ceiling), entitlements going kaput, etc.
    Followed by individual states leaving, with there being no political will to drag them back.

    It seems there is no longer enough common ground to make federalism work and too many guns floating around to force it to work.

    • Anonanon says:

      What do you think of these articles as a response to the question?
      The USA Cannot Balkanize, (and part two)

    • John Schilling says:

      I do not believe that any US state government, even that of Texas, is at this point capable of meaningfully divorcing itself from the Federal Government. There might in extremis be fake-posturing-secession-from-the-Feds in roughly the same way that there is now fake-posturing-shutting-down-the-Federal-government in the halls of Congress, with everybody understanding that all the really important stuff will go on as normal. Too much of the necessary machinery of government has been Federalized, too many of the top players in State government have their core interests aligned nationally, and too much of the Federal government still works, at a level below the legislative, in ways that the people of the various states would not forgive or forget being deprived of. So long as the Social Security checks continue to flow, even in inflated dollars, no State will vote to have its citizens stop receiving them.

      Balkanization on a basis other than State secession is a greater, but still very remote, possibility. If e.g. Donald Trump orders the military to do something entirely beyond the pale, they might attempt a military coup – and I would wager they would succeed if it came to that, but a partial success might result in a US divided along lines based on the presence of and/or respect for the military.

      • LHN says:

        I agree we’re not remotely near the point of it happening. But the USSR was AFAIK much more centralized in practice than the US is, and fracture along the lines of its constituent republics occurred despite the fact that many of those republics weren’t themselves ethnically or culturally coherent in ways that continue to cause problems. (As described above re Ukraine.)

        Obviously, for that to happen, there’d have to be a power vacuum in Washington unable/unwilling to oppose it, or enough uncertainty or division in the military to give it cover. Low as my opinion is of a Trump presidency, I don’t foresee that happening.

        (That said, I didn’t foresee the Soviet breakup as a possibility till the Baltics started getting visibly restive, or as a certainty till the failure of the August coup attempt, so I make no claims about being good at predictions.)

        • John Schilling says:

          The various Soviet Socialist Republics were ethnically and culturally coherent nations, and in many cases self-governing ones, within living memory. Stalin and company grafted bits of incompatible ethnicity, culture, and even geography to most of them in hopes of making secession impossible, but managed only to make the resulting independent states unstable.

          The United States of America has three generations on the Soviet Union when it comes to delegitimizing its constituent states as potentially independent nations, and while I wish it were otherwise I think that’s essentially a done deal.

          • LHN says:

            Aside from the Baltics, had any of the republics been self-governing in living memory at the time of the breakup, outside of the civil war period? (During which the eventually victorious side wasn’t in control of a lot of Russia proper either.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Most of them were self-governing between 1917-1921, and many had substantial autonomy under the Russian Empire. Moldova, under the name “Bessarabia”, was nominally a sovereign principality in union with the Kingdom of Romania until 1940. And the various ‘stans are particularly difficult to track during the Great Game period (roughly 1820-1920), officially claimed by some Russian entity throughout, not bothering to contest the matter on paper so long as nobody tried to actually rule them on the ground, and with the British maneuvering to make sure nobody could actually rule them on the ground.

    • The very idea of a constituent state just upping and leaving a federation is sci Fi nonsense!

      • Luke the CIA stooge says:

        I don’t know if you imagine 1 or 2 failed presidents, combined with a debt crisis and subsequent entitlement crisis it begins to seem increasingly likely.
        The only thing really holding it together is its role in the international system, it’s financial role (entitlements, world reserve currency, free trade) and the belied of the American people in their nation.

        One bad president could fuckup the first two and the third would follow.

        America wouldn’t collapse because of fundamentals (demographics, ethnic conflict, resource drought, foreign pressure) it would split up because the federal system is increasing erattic enough to do more damage than its worth. And in a world of networks as opposed to hierarchies, is incapable of giving the benefits it could in the second half of the 20th century.
        Theoretically the fundamentals are worse up here in Canada, but everyone holds on because each side knows their just one majority government away from being able to do whatever they want. Whereas in the USE everyone with sense has given up on winning any policy battle and has settled for perpetual stalemate, with all the institutional decay associated with that.

        I put the odds at 18% over the next 20 years a state breaks off.

        • Vorkon says:

          Just in case you didn’t notice, the comment you are replying to was supposed to be a snarky reference to the fact that the scenario he is describing as “sci-fi nonsense” just happened today, albeit not in the US.

          (Though, if you realized that and are responding to the notion just because it’s an interesting topic of discussion, more power to ya’!)

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Sorry hadn’t read the news before I posted.
            Ya I would want to adjust that number up in light of recent news.

            Side note does anyone else think BREXIT might be a good thing for globalization? The breakup of large economies and international regulatory frameworks seems like a good way to rip power out of the hands of bureaucrats and force independent and smaller (assuming Scotland breaks off) nation states to actually compete with each other in serving economic actors, as opposed to manipulating their monopoly of governance to better themselves and their cronies.

            Could this be a sign of the death of the bureaucratic/politico/intelligentsia elite, and the rise of the entraprenuerial/international/unlanded gentry.

  20. AlphaGamma says:

    A potential upper bound for the Lizardman Constant has come from the British EU referendum:
    7% of self-identifying UKIP supporters claim to have voted Remain.

  21. Brandon says:

    A little over a year ago you posted this story you had written
    and I want to adapt the story into a short film. I don’t want to start a complex project as such without your permission to use it. You will be credited and as of now I do not believe I will attempt to make money off of it, but I may enter the film into festivals and post it to YouTube.

    If you are willing I would be more than honored to bring this brilliant work of art to the screen for many to observe!

  22. Lumifer says:

    So, Brexit. Evidently it’s a thing.

    Anyone wants to comment on the likely consequences?

    • Anonanon says:

      The political class declaring total war on the recalcitrant population, probably.

      Would it not be easier
      In that case for the government
      To dissolve the people
      And elect another?

      • Lumifer says:

        Well, the whole political class has just been told very explicitly to fuck off.

      • Peter says:

        a) Quite a lot of the political class are Brexiteers.
        b) Quite a lot of the population – 48.1% of those who could be bothered to vote – aren’t.

        • Perhaps uncoincincedentally, the upper political classes get enhanced personal power from exit.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            That would explain why the political class in the UK — the media, the leadership of the major political parties, and so on — were so strongly in favor of exit, right?

          • The upper political classes include people whose power base is dependent on the EU as well as people who are hamstrung by the EU. One should predict a split among them.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            How much of a split should one predict? Members of Parliament, for example, were 3-1 in favor of Remain.

        • Lumifer says:

          All true, but there are two notable facts.

          The first is that no political party other than UKIP (a minor player) took the position of Leave. The political class was not unanimous, of course, but overall they wanted to Remain and it wasn’t particularly subtle.

          Brexit looks like a very clear example of a voter revolt.

          The second is that fault lines did not arrange themselves on the usual Labour – Tory axis. The Tories were split, both leadership and voters, and with Labour the leadership favoured Remain but the Labour voters said Nope. Arguably, it’s the traditional working class in the Midlands and the North of England that delivered the Leave vote.

          • onyomi says:

            It seems like there must be some sort of “us v them” tribal/cultural thing going on (London v rest, young v old, recent arrival v longtime native…) as well, considering how close it was. I am always suspicious of very important votes which come down to 51-49.

          • Lumifer says:


            My impression is that the lower-middle classes really wanted to vote against immigration. They couldn’t — because it’s politically incorrect and because they weren’t asked — so they voted on the next best thing: leaving the EU.

          • onyomi says:

            Makes sense and further supports the similarity to Trump supporters in terms of motivation.

    • Agronomous says:

      Do you really think anything different will happen? How will this be any different from the other popular votes against EU membership/treaties/whatever?

      They will find a way to keep the UK in the EU, even if 52% of the voters tell them not to.

    • Sandy says:

      I admittedly know little about how these things work but apparently Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives the rest of Europe the power to negotiate the terms on which Britain leaves, on a “take it or leave it” basis.

      Juncker, Tusk, Merkel et al have been very hostile to the whole Brexit idea. Would they force an ugly, malicious deal on Britain as a result?

      Perhaps we’ll have a new Treaty of Versailles.

      • Peter says:

        If the “take it” option is too bad, there’s always the option of just waiting out two years after triggering Article 50, in which case all EU treaties cease to apply – this doesn’t affect any non-EU stuff, so we won’t be in a state of war with anyone (unlike Versailles). There might be some serious issues with trade, and the immigration status of various people, which would create some chaos, but that’s the worst of it.

        So there’s a limit to how harsh the terms of exit can be made – there’s no scope for bits of territory to be carved off and given to Poland or whatever, unlike Versailles.

        • Agronomous says:

          …there’s no scope for bits of territory to be carved off and given to Poland or whatever, unlike Versailles.

          What, not even Ealing and Hammersmith?

          • Peter says:

            Well, there’s some talk of independence for London, but it seems not to be too serious, and at any rate is unlikely to come as part of an exit treaty.

      • Tibor says:

        I doubt it or at least I hope that sanity will win and the UK gets basically the same deal Switzerland has. Otherwise, the EU would be damaging both its own countries’ and the UK’s economy. I think it would not be very helpful in terms of keeping member states in either. If it had a negative effect on the economy of the member states, and it would, then the easiest thing for the eurosceptics would be to point out that because of the EU’s retaliatory politics against the UK, the national economies are doing worse. Since France already has an unemployment rate of 10%, Spain of 23% and generally at least southern Europe is in quite a bad shape economically, they are not likely to support it. Even if Germany does (some German politicians are basically the only ones, save for the EU officials, who threatened with what should probably be best described as sanctions), they will likely be alone.

        In the best case scenario, Brexit will prompt the EU to reform and go back to its free market roots. Another good scenario is that it will fall apart in a controlled fashion over the course of a few decades and then hopefully the EFTA will take over. The worst case is EU going on like it has with increasing centralization and then collapsing very fast because of nationalists and protectionist sentiments, going back to tariffs and movement of labour restrictions between the former member countries.

      • Lumifer says:

        the power to negotiate the terms on which Britain leaves, on a “take it or leave it” basis.

        The power is bilateral. In extremis UK can just leave without a deal. That would be a pretty ugly outcome, but it will be ugly for both sides. It’s not like Continental Europe has a lot of economic power or political clout to punish Britain at the moment.

        EU is fighting for its existence now.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Beating up on Britain for leaving would pretty much establish that the Exiters were fundamentally right, wouldn’t it? If the EU is going to severely punish anyone who tries to leave, suddenly it’s not quite the happy flowers hippie granola utopia of joyful voluntary democratic cooperation Remainers insisted it was.

        Hmm. Back during the Scottish independence referendum were there ominous warnings from the anti-independence side of how an independent Scotland would be punished by a vengeful UK?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I was going to talk about how that wasn’t a good comparison, but then I looked it up and 90% of people in the UK live in England.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Right, but I mean, did that actually happen.

            I may be in a bubble here, but during the Scottish referendum as well as the Quebecois referendum several years back, the prevailing tone from the greater polity I heard was “noooo, please don’t go!” Whereas the prevailing tone from inside the EU during this referendum tended towards angry predictions of doom, sneering at provincial, racist exit voters, and the occasional veiled threat. I can’t help but think that perhaps a little kindness would have gotten the EU the two percent of the vote it needed to beat this.

          • Tibor says:

            I think that in Wales the result was for Brexit.

        • kaninchen says:

          That seems very plausible. I personally took a lot of offence at the EU threats, it felt they were behaving as though Britain was their property and that by by leaving we would be wronging them. (My suspicion is that this is how a lot of people, including not just EU bureaucrats but also a lot of ordinary pro-EU people feel, e.g. If the EU were really a “co-operative venture for mutual gain” then one would expect the reaction to be disappointment but acceptance – as though the UK were deciding to leave a tennis club, not a marriage.

          FWIW I was not in favour of leaving, but nor was I at all enthusiastic about the prospect of remaining. And that’s as a student born in the UK but primarily living in Hungary – surely the EU’s key constituency.

    • Lycotic says:

      Apparently a complete crash of the financial markets.

      Sorry if you were caught long.

      I don’t think anyone in the City really believed it was going to happen.

      ETA: The City now certainly believes that *something* will happen.

      • Peter says:

        Yeah, it looks like there’s been a little bit of a recovery. I keep an eye on the FTSE from time to time and to be honest it’s been a bit underwhelming. The movement of the pound has been a bit more alarming, but there’s been a bit of a recovery there too.

    • anon says:

      1. Cameron will resign, any minute now. (Or at least within a couple of months.) 90% confidence.
      2. There will not be another referendum on the matter. 75% confidence.
      3. Within 2 or 3 years, the UK will have formally withdrawn from the EU. 75% confidence.
      4. Germany et al will drive a relatively hard bargain; the UK will not get quite as attractive terms of access to the common market as, say, Norway. But trade with the Continent will not end. 70% confidence.
      5. The City will remain the financial heart of Europe, although some banks will reallocate staff and resources to offices on the Continent. 70% confidence.
      6. The banking sector will lead a mild recession in the UK. 65% confidence.
      7. We’ll see continued ZIRP/NIRP in the developed work for the next 5 years. There will not be a robust economic recovery. 55% confidence.
      8. There will be continued periodic crises involving PIIGS. One or more might leave the Eurozone. ?? confidence.
      9. The pound will recover some of the ground it’s lost (maybe sooner rather than later); the Euro will be weak. ?? confidence.

      In sum, life will go on, even if the confidence of the global elite is shaken.

    • Peter says:

      The Leave campaign promised control over EU immigration, and continued membership of the single market. It is not clear how people will react when it becomes abundantly clear that we can have one of those, or the other, but not both.

      Outcome 1 is getting a Norway or Switzerland-style deal. This appears to be a worst-of-both-worlds deal, with no advantages over staying in, but may be the best we can salvage from the situation.

      Outcome 2 is leaving the single market altogether and having an even worse self-inflicted economic crisis. The Leavers can hardly claim to have a mandate for that, seeing as they promised it wouldn’t happen, but if they want their precious immigration curbs they don’t really have a choice.

      Which way things go depends a lot on who ends up winning the inevitable power struggle within the Tories. Already I get the feeling that the Prime Minister has the full confidence of the Prime Minister, so to speak (EDIT: ninja’d by Cameron committing seppuku, so to speak. Normally I’d be the first to break out the Champagne on Cameron resigning, but not like this), but what next?

      • Anonymous says:

        Outcome 1 is getting a Norway or Switzerland-style deal. This appears to be a worst-of-both-worlds deal, with no advantages over staying in, but may be the best we can salvage from the situation.

        There are advantages. According to the Minks, Norway implemented just over 9% of EU legislation between 2000 and 2013 – this is a nontrivial benefit when faced with a body as totalitarian (in the sense that they regulate, or try to regulate, everything) as the EU. Plus, such a deal is easier to get out of without declaring rebellion, if it should occur that Article 50 is removed.

        • Peter says:

          totalitarian (in the sense that…

          Well, if you want to make words mean anything you like, then you can say just about anything about anything.

          • Anonymous says:

            Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.


            How does this not conform with my usage of the term? I clarified that I did not mean Nazi Germany, which is the natural picture brought up by the term.

          • Peter says:

            Well, that clearly doesn’t apply to the EU. For example the EU and member states have their authority limited by the ECHR: one of the complaints from some Leave-minded individuals was wanting to get away from the ECHR. I.e. they wanted to leave so that the Home Secretary can move towards totalitarianism (in your sense), not away.

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, that clearly doesn’t apply to the EU. For example the EU and member states have their authority limited by the ECHR: one of the complaints from some Leave-minded individuals was wanting to get away from the ECHR. I.e. they wanted to leave so that the Home Secretary can move towards totalitarianism (in your sense), not away.

            So you’re saying that being under ECHR restrictions and EU restrictions and UK restrictions is somehow less restrictive than being just under UK restrictions?

            Or do you just mean that because the state doesn’t do it all by itself, it doesn’t count?

          • Peter says:

            Your definition specifically talks about states.

            You need to distinguish between the ECHR (the European Convention on human rights) and the ECtHR (the European Court of human rights). Like the distinction in the USA between the Constitution and the Supreme Court. The ECtHR applies the ECHR.

            It takes a special sort of person to say “Oh noes, the rule of law! It’s totalitarianism!” but I’ve come to expect no less from Anonymouses here.

          • Anonymous says:

            There is rule of law, and there is specifying the permitted curvature of a banana. You can have rule of law without explicitly taking effort to regulate and specify every single tiny thing, across all spheres of human and non-human activity.

            Your definition specifically talks about states.


          • Peter says:

            Oh noes! A marketing standard! Who would have thought that an institution based around a single market would have marketing standards? What’s next? Mussolini?

            Also: if you’d read the article you’d linked to properly, you’d see that bananas of any curvature can be sold in the EU just fine, they just can’t be marketed as Extra, or if seriously abnormal, Class I. You’ve fallen for a classic Euromyth.

            Also, nothing to do with the ECHR or the ECtHR.

          • Peter says:

            Also: the powers of the ECtHR are binding only on states – an individual (or a government) can take a government to the ECtHR, but not vice versa. So the ECHR, via the ECtHR, specifically limits the authority of states without itself exercising authority over individuals[1].

            This is of course distinct from EU regulations – EU regulations must be in compliance with the ECHR (as interpreted by the ECtHR) of course.

            [1] OK, to be pendantic, if you’re the Home Secretary or someone like that then you might think of it exercising authority over you in your capacity as Home Secretary, but even then it won’t regulate your private live.

          • Lumifer says:


            It takes a special sort of person to say “Oh noes, the rule of law! It’s totalitarianism!”

            The rule of law can perfectly well be totalitarian. These are orthogonal concepts. I also don’t see anything unusual about pointing out that EU has totalitarian tendencies. It’s not there yet, but its regulatory appetite is considerable :-/

            With respect to bananas, I’m afraid it’s still ridiculous. The legitimate purpose of regulation is to prevent harm to consumers. The case is especially strong if the potential defects are hidden and not visible at the point of purchase.

            I invite you to describe to me the harm of beholding a miscurved banana at your grocer’s.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The rule of law is potentially authoritarian, but not totalitarian, isn’t it?

            In a totalitarian system, the laws quickly change based on the whims of the rulers – which isn’t really something most would associate with “rule of law”.

          • Lumifer says:


            The rule of law is potentially authoritarian, but not totalitarian, isn’t it? In a totalitarian system, the laws quickly change based on the whims of the rulers

            No, I don’t think that’s the usual meaning of the word. To quote Wikipedia

            Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.

            Totalitarianism is about total control. It’s not about the whim of the rulers at all.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Also Wikipedia:

            Consequently, the utilisation of power for personal aggrandizement is more evident among authoritarians than totalitarians. Lacking the binding appeal of ideology, authoritarians support their rule by a mixture of instilling fear and granting rewards to loyal collaborators, engendering a kleptocracy.

            Of course, that’s a scholar being cited, and to what extent the Wikipedia definitions of anything controversial are useful is an open question.

            Historically speaking, I can’t think of any totalitarian states where the total control wasn’t by individual leaders or ruling cliques, who could often be quite mercurial.

            The rule of law constrains both rulers and ruled – but in a totalitarian system, it’s far more one-sided. I wouldn’t describe Nazi Germany or the USSR under Stalin as operating by the rule of law.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I would think that the difference between totalitarian and authoritarian will be mostly clearly observed under the application of a mercurial and arbitrary law.

            If you have mercurial and arbitrary law, and every one jumps to it, that has to be a totalitarian state that has total control over all aspects of its populace.

      • Anonymous says:

        Outcome 2 is leaving the single market altogether and having an even worse self-inflicted economic crisis. The Leavers can hardly claim to have a mandate for that, seeing as they promised it wouldn’t happen, but if they want their precious immigration curbs they don’t really have a choice.

        Is it impossible to have freedom of trade (transport and sale of goods) without freedom of movement of labour?

        • Peter says:

          It would require the co-operation of the people we’d be trading with, and there’s no sign of any willingness to engage in that.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe they’d be more amenable if the terms were altered to benefit both parties, then.

      • Tibor says:

        Why did the Swiss clearly reject the EU membership then? I think that the Swiss and the Norwegians actually get the best of both worlds – a good trade agreement with the EU as well as flexibility and independence. True, Switzerland has to comply with the EU regulation, at least when it wants to export its products to the EU. It even has to pay money to the EU budget do get a barrier-free access to the EU common market (although this also shows the protectionism sadly inherent in the EU). But it does not have to comply with quite a lot of what the EU countries do and since Switzerland is a rather small country, it would never have the power to steer the decisions their way. Now that the UK is out, the southern “borrow our way out of problems” and the “regulate everything” German attitudes will sadly likely be even more prevailing. If the shock of the Brexit causes the EU to reform into a more free market-oriented and less politically oriented union, then everyone might win by Brexit. If countries like France and Italy use it as an opportunity to loosen the monetary and fiscal policy of the EU even more and if the eurofederalists take it as a sign to double down on the political integration, then the EU will be affected by the Brexit far worse than the UK and probably won’t exist for long (but breaking the eurozone, especially if it happens too fast, would have much worse consequences than the UK leaving the EU).

        I wonder what will happen. There are basically no significant free market proponents in the EU, the UK was the only country close to that, so I don’t expect any strong reforms in that direction. On the other hand I cannot imagine a push to an ever closer union now, even the bubble of the EU politicians must have been penetrated by this and hopefully they realize that this would lead to the end of the union. If I had to guess I think they will try to accommodate the nationalist sentiments in the member countries instead, because the nationalists are sadly the loudest of the EU opponents (it looks like it is a societal constant that on every issue the people with the worst arguments for something tend to be the loudest of its proponents). So they might for example limit unrestricted free movement of people, giving this power back to the national governments instead. This would be worse than no reform, since instead of getting rid of the things that are bad about the EU, they would get rid of one of the (increasingly less numerous) things which are actually good about it.

    • Anon. says:

      Curiously, the DAX and CAC40 are down more than the FTSE100.

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        I guess that’s just because the latter is denominated in pounds sterling.

    • Zorgon says:

      Some people are trying very, very hard to find a way to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this.

      I now understand the apparent urge of some to say things like “I can’t even.”

      • Anonymous says:

        Isn’t Corbyn that really strange fellow Scott once wrote about?

      • erenold says:

        What’s wrong with blaming Corbyn?

        He speaks for his party – a party that in spirit should be passionately opposed to Brexit. Yet he said nothing, or close to nothing. And it was his silence that depressed their turnout, and it was the beating heart of traditional Labour – Hartlepool, Durham, the North East in general – that cost Bremain tonight.

        I despise Corbyn with the special kind of passion that the centre-left reserves for the far-left. So maybe I’m biased. But who is at fault, if not him?

        • Anonymous says:

          But who is at fault, if not him?

          Are you suggesting that the British people did not vote for what they wanted, but were rather unwillingly steered in some way?

          • erenold says:

            No and I have no idea how you got that from my post or how you come to that conclusion.

            I’m pointing out the obvious. Corbyn has been seen about once in the past month, on some kind of reality show, and it has been just about radio silence from him and his cronies during this time. Coincidentally, or probably not, it was traditional Labour heartlands that voted unexpectedly and cost Remain tonight. Obvious implication is obvious – stronger and more decisive leadership – or any leadership at all, really, could have averted this.

          • Lumifer says:

            I think that the suggestion is that Corbyn failed to steer the people :-/

          • erenold says:

            Just read that GE2015 Labour voters in fact narrowly preferred to Leave. That’s genuinely shocking, if true. Labour grassroots and leadership are eminently entitled to see Corbyn’s phoning it in throughout the entire campaign as shambolic and sackworthy (and are, from what I’m reading). Cameron may well not be the only casualty of the referendum.

          • Anonymous says:

            Are you suggesting that the British people did not vote for what they wanted, but were rather unwillingly steered in some way?

            This argument, if taken seriously, implies there is no point in ever spending a single penny on political campaigning.

          • erenold says:

            This horse has been thoroughly flogged to death but holy shit Corbyn’s Labour refused to even share their voter data with the In campaign


            It’s only Twitter, but I’m seeing a lot of Corbyn’s base, young, passionate far-left activist types genuinely seething at their man.

            Blue anon: I think the argument is not that it is ineffective but that it is somehow morally wrong to do so, since presumably that would be “steering the people.”

          • James Picone says:

            Wasn’t the British left against the European economic zone in the 70s?

            Maybe Corbyn’s got older left views on the whole EU thing.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Does anyone actually pay attention to the European left? The Dutch socialist party over here has been eurosceptic for a long time now.

          • erenold says:

            He definitely does.

            But here’s the thing – that’s not what the people who voted him in – young, far-left internationalist types – thought they were getting. That’s not how he campaigned. And the voter data thing is particularly heinous because if I understand this right, this isn’t like Bernie Sanders refusing to share data that he himself collected – that’s Labour’s data he’s not sharing. He literally didn’t build that.

            Stefan: But the British left is not. It overwhelmingly supported in.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            The left here does the exact same thing; it’s the actual socialists who don’t. Given that Corbyn is such a person, I’m not surprised by this.

          • erenold says:

            Okay, but again, no one cares that Jeremy Corbyn, Esq., card-carrying old-left socialist extraordinaire, was personally a crypto-Brexiteer. A lot of people care that Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the left-wing Europhile party, purported to be in favour of the EU during his leadership campaign, signed Labour up with the official Bremain campaign (as was demanded of him), and then turned his cloak in the face of the enemy, all but sabotaging the campaign in fact. I would venture that if he had come out during his campaign and set out exactly what he was going to do during a Breferendum, i.e., nothing, he would never have been elected. That’s why the knives are out for him now.

    • mobile says:

      Please observe the three day moratorium before commenting on any tragedies.

    • onyomi says:

      My question is why it was 80% likelihood “remain” until the last possible moment. My best guess is “shy Tory syndrome,” since it seems like “leave” was the politically incorrect position. Which makes me wonder how much of a boost Trump will get from “shy Trumpkin syndrome.”

      Related, this vote is clearly analogous in many ways, for good and for ill or for however you think about it, to the Trump nomination, including the total freakout of the political class. Those wondering whether or not the sky will fall if Trump is elected should probably pay careful attention over the next several months.

      Personally, my guess is that the markets are just having a tantrum right now, but it won’t actually be so bad. But I could be wrong; the idea that Smoot-Hawley greatly exacerbated the depression seems plausible. I just heard Trump literally talking positively about protectionism the other day, so that might be where we’re headed, too.

      I have mixed feelings, being in favor of free trade but also in favor of political decentralization. It does make me angry, though, that people want to say “if you don’t submit to our jurisdiction and regulation/don’t let our people freely emigrate, you don’t get to trade with us.” It doesn’t inherently have to be a package deal, and those (including on the continent) making it out like it does seems like a disingenuous way to hold onto authority to me.

      Bigger question: does this increase the probability of a serious inter-European war in the future? My sense of the culture tells me that we are a long way from the place where another WWI could happen, but maybe that’s naive. But I don’t think political unity should be a prerequisite for peace or trade.

      • Anonymous says:

        Bigger question: does this increase the probability of a serious inter-European war in the future?

        A serious inter-European war is an inevitability. The only questions are “when?” and “who vs whom?”.

        • onyomi says:

          Inevitable on what time scale? And does this have any effect on “when” and “who vs whom”?

          • Anonymous says:

            >Inevitable on what time scale?

            200 years since the last big event or so.

            >And does this have any effect on “when”

            I don’t think so. I can see both Brexit and Bremain to have a destabilizing effect. I think the stability is going down the crapper for other reasons, and this is just the symptom.

            >and “who vs whom”?

            No idea.

          • onyomi says:

            200 years since WWII? Doesn’t political history that far out become a total black box?

      • erenold says:

        Good post, and its one that many must seriously consider.

        I’m not sure about it being Shy Tory syndrome specifically, as I understand it – people hiding their true feelings from pollsters. There’s no shortage of pride and passion on Leave’s side as far as I can tell. The more likely explanation could be some kind of idiosyncratically British phenomenon – their polls do seem to be systematically skewed towards the small-c conservative position – the Scottish referendum, GE15, and now this.

        • Alraune says:

          This wasn’t Shy Tory Syndrome, it was motivated disbelief by Londoners. If you looked at the polls, this was a coinflip. The conventional wisdom, however, believed the odds were at least 75% Remain and could not be convinced otherwise.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You seem to be conflating polling averages and predictions about results?

          • erenold says:

            The whole shebang reminds me of this.

            Alraune, I do think you raise a good point about motivated reasoning, even though as HeelBearCub points out that’s not strictly speaking what we’re talking about. That you could get Leave at 5 or 6 to 1 on the betting markets when Leave were actually up is certainly very odd, and points to a fundamental confidence that we now see was entirely misplaced.

            But I do want us to bear in mind that this phenomenon of being very cavalier about contrary poll results – let’s call it Nate Silvering, even though I know that’s entirely unfair to that gentleman – was not entirely born of arrogance or presumption. It was born of past experience. If we see Trump not as a single phenomenon but within the context of Santorum, Huckabee, Gingrich and especially Cain who came before him, then applying a steepish discount in the final analysis for the objective criterion of ‘never seriously considered by the Republican Establishment’ would make sense.

            Likewise, if we consider the Breferendum not as a single event but rather a data point within a larger recent history of pretty spectacular British polling fuckups – Scotland and GE2015 – it was reasonable to assume late-deciders would break Remain and apply a steepish discount, particularly as much late polling missed the Jo Cox incident. The small-c conservative position tends to have an attraction for the nervous nellies who leave it late.

      • Lumifer says:

        My question is why it was 80% likelihood “remain” until the last possible moment.

        As you observed, probably some “shy Tory syndrome”. But I think the two main reasons were the massive overconfidence of the Remain camp which expected the common people to fall in line (“Don’t They Understand What Is Good For Them??!?”) and the very high turnout — noticeably higher than the last general election. People who don’t normally vote came out of the woodwork and surprised the pollsters.

        • erenold says:

          Let’s be fair, though – it really was abundantly clear what was (economically) good for the British public here, within the medium term. The bloodshed going on now in the markets is proof patent of that. I haven’t verified this personally, but I think I saw somewhere that the UK is already – already! – no longer the 5th largest economy in the world. And under normal circumstances, the loss aversion inherent in “do you really want to bet your current job on my honourable opponent being right?” is a very effective tool. Something genuinely abnormal happened last night.

          Good point about turnout.

          • Lumifer says:

            it really was abundantly clear what was (economically) good for the British public here, within the medium term

            It wasn’t clear to me and still isn’t clear to me. I think the situation is considerably more complicated. The bloodshed in the markets is a short-term reaction to an unexpected shock.

            I’m wary of confident forecasts of economic doom in part because no one actually knows what the economic relationship (trade, etc.) of the UK and (what remains of the) EU will look like in two years. It is, as many people have pointed out, uncharted territory.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The “bloodshed” is only happening among day traders. Things will settle down to normal. A probably slightly slower, less richer normal.

            Keep in mind one reason the markets reacted to strongly was because there was such confidence it wasn’t going to happen. The correction has to all happen at once.

            I wish they’d remained, but you can only tell someone to shut up and get in line so many times before they refuse.

          • erenold says:

            Independent projections on GDP in event of Brexit, as collected by the Economist.

            The IMF agrees.

            Brexit would mean that borrowing costs would go up, house prices would fall, low growth, budget deficit.

            I’m not trying to Chinese-robber this thing. I’ve been fairly interested in the Breferendum and following it quite closely for a while now, and yet have genuinely never seen any single credible economist say that Brexit was going to be anything but economically damaging short-to-medium term, so I would appreciate being directed to any that did.

            To the contrary, I have seen a lot of anti-intellectual well-poisoning from the likes of Gove about how economists always get it wrong anyway so let’s just preemptively ignore them, which tends to confirm my perception that my initial impression on the unanimity amongst the economic community was correct.

          • Anonymous says:

            I wish they’d remained, but you can only tell someone to shut up and get in line so many times before they refuse.

            What exactly are you supposed to say to people that are 1) dumb, 2) ignorant, and 3) either unaware or unwilling to acknowledge #1 and #2?

            I never expected this whole ‘everyone’s opinion is equally valuable and precious’ thing to become a right wing phenomenon! All of sudden people that are supposedly conservative sound like devotees of Foucault.

          • Lumifer says:


            So, can you show me some actual analysis — not Lagarde pontificating about how free trade is great and not a journalist trying to predict the real estate market? I’m in particular interested in explicit assumptions it makes.

          • erenold says:

            Wait, what?

            Free trade is great. Or at least its good. Is that in contention here? The proponents of a position in which free trade is not great surely have the burden of proof to show why the general rule would not apply?

          • Lumifer says:


            Free trade is great. Of course, if EU continues to believe that, there is no reason it would not be willing to enter into a free-trade agreement with UK, is there?

            By the way, does EU believe in free trade in agricultural products with the rest of the world?

          • erenold says:

            I’m not trying to be sarcastic, Lumifer, but I genuinely do not understand what you’re asking of me now, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this has now descended into ideological point-scoring, which I would rather not participate in. The original contention made was that Bremain were sneering elitists trying to tell “the common people to fall in line (“Don’t They Understand What Is Good For Them??!?”)”. I considered this unfair. The fact of the matter is that Remaining was good for them, economically – and I have an opinion on sociopolitically as well, but let’s not muddy the waters.

            So, to back this assertion up, I did a quick bit of googling to find Brexit’s projected impact on the British economy, to back up my impressions gained during the campaign. I kept my eyes out for contradictory evidence, of which I did not find and have not been able to find. My invitation for you to post such remains open.

            The evidence I obtained confirmed my priors, which is that there is a very rare phenomenon – unanimity – between economists of all stripes on the economic impact of Brexit. Which is negative in the medium term. I posted that. There was a quibble that my evidence amounted to Lagarde pontificating about free trade. But that’s the entire point. The disruption to free trade, as well as the blow to business confidence, is exactly how and why people think Brexit will affect the British economy. Is this wrong, thus far?

            Now the new objection is that the EU are far from perfectly liberal, e.g. that they pursue protectionist policies with regard to their agricultural sector. Fair and true enough. But it is hard to see this as anything other than ideological point-scoring absent an argument about the central claim here, which, again, is that Brexit is harmful to the British economy medium term, and this was the near-unanimous opinion of the economic field pre-referendum. Is the claim that the EU is so protectionistic on agriculture as to outweigh the free-trading benefits elsewhere?

            (Also, I might be missing something, but did my Economist link not provide the “explicit assumptions” you sought about Brexit?)

          • Skivverus says:

            @erenold I think Lumifer’s point was that “leaving the EU” should(?) not require the UK or the EU to alter which laws/regulations pertain to them regarding trade (as opposed to sovereignty or other legal matters), and that therefore changing said trade regulations to the UK’s detriment would be viewed as an act of spite rather than of sense.

          • Lumifer says:


            I am asking of you, as I said, a link to economic analysis which lays out its assumptions and on their basis provides a forecast for the state of British economy given the Brexit. You didn’t link to the Economist, by the way, there are two links to the Lagarde piece.

            I don’t want just the conclusions, though, I want to see the path by which they were made.

            The original contention was NOT that “Bremain were sneering elitists”. The original contention was that the Remain camp was overconfident and expected people to fall in line. That was a mistake — wasn’t it?

            You continue to insist that “[t]he fact of the matter is that Remaining was good for them, economically” while I — very explicitly — disagreed with this very point. Did you not read my reply?

            You seem to find it hard to believe that I actually hold my position. Why is that so?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            become a right wing phenomenon! All of sudden people that are supposedly conservative

            Ha. You said this in a comment where you quoted me, implying I am right-wing or conservative. That’s funny!!

            Free trade has benefits to the economy, but few of those gains are captured by people at the bottom, who suffer a lot of competition for their labor.

            Telling those people “shut up” used to work. Now it doesn’t. So, now that calling them dumb and ignorant is no longer effective, what to do? You can drive them into the nativist camp, or you can offer partial measures still acceptable to your side to defang the other side.

          • Anonymous says:

            Only in a bizarre post-modern framework can you just brush off the critiques of ignorance and stupidity as if they were mere insults irreverent to the question. How can you compromise with people that aren’t capable of having rational, or even consistent from day to day, positions? It’s an exercise in futility.

            I’m sorry but both dumb and ignorant are real things with actual concrete consequences, not just things that big ole jerks say to be mean.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Well, there’s dumb and ignorant, and then there’s the kind of dumb and ignorant that leads you to believe that insulting the lower classes is okay because you’re telling the truth about things, political consequences be damned.

            Nothing is so amusing as a ruling class that has decided it no longer has to answer to the lower classes. And nothing so obviously demonstrates somebody who thinks they’re a natural member of the ruling class than that they declare that the policy decisions of their intellectual inferiors should be dismissed entirely on their own entirely unbiased assessment of their opponent’s intellectual capacities.

            This is why your social group lost the Mandate of Heaven. You don’t realize you’ve lost it, because you don’t understand what it is or why it matters, but you lost it.

            Look around. Do you see the spirit of the age, the zeitgeist of tomorrow? They’re the ones you regard as dumb and ignorant, as your predecessors regarded you as dumb and ignorant.

            Relax, man. Enjoy the show. We don’t get to change the channel.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s a cool theory but it’s belied by the data. Just look at the age structure of the voters.

            Countries that reject my social group are going to be fucked. Another city in Europe will open their doors to the well educated expats currently living in London and that city will thrive. Meanwhile rump England will end up in a permanent economic slump. With no thriving London to pay for everything pensions will fall, NHS lines will lengthen, make-work programs in the hinterlands will lose funding. The aging populace can be secure in their absolute sovereignty over a country that will increasingly look like their fellow ultra-nationalist countries in Eastern Europe.

            Tomorrow belongs to the cosmopolitans. The last grasp of the old, dumb, ignorant nationalists will be painful, above all of for themselves, but for the rest of us too. It won’t be nearly enough to turn back the clock though. They’ll shit all over their own homes, homes that they can’t leave while we can.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Huh. Okay.

            I must confess I’ve never seen inverted Objectivism in the wild. It’s weird and alien. This is like the collectivist’s version of John Galt’s speech, and… yeah. I kind of see why Objectivism annoys people.

          • Lumifer says:

            Tomorrow belongs to the cosmopolitans.

            Yes, the Asians — from Pakistan to China. There is MUCH more of them than you. Demographics is destiny and if there are no borders, sheer numbers win.

            To quote Snowcrash, your world will be “a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity”.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Tomorrow belongs to the cosmopolitans. The last grasp of the old, dumb, ignorant nationalists will be painful, above all of for themselves, but for the rest of us too. It won’t be nearly enough to turn back the clock though. They’ll shit all over their own homes, homes that they can’t leave while we can.

            I mean, if we’re going to get caught up in grand narratives about the march of history, “Tomorrow” probably belongs to people that are pretty different to both you guys and the nationalists, you’re just debating who gets to write “on the right side of history” on their gravestone.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Also, you’re aware “old” and “dead” aren’t the same things, right? Like, old people participate in social movements, too? And sometimes social movements even -come- from old people?

          • Anonymous says:

            This is like the collectivist’s version of John Galt’s speech,

            Collectivist? What do you call this idiotic idea that you are supposed to preferentially trade with (including hire) your fellow countrymen even though they charge more for worse goods and services, because God Save the Queen, if not collectivism?

            Also, you’re aware “old” and “dead” aren’t the same things, right?

            Not yet anyway. But your comment spoke of the zeitgeist of tomorrow.

            How can the alt-right think they are in the vanguard of a movement that will sweep the west when they have only a small minority of their own age group? After the baby boomers die off, then what?

            Then it’ll be 10% with their Nazi Pepe memes against the 90% changing their Facebook pages to rainbows every other day.

          • Sandy says:

            How is this supposed to be a collectivist outcome when it rejects the idea of common European goals in favor of specific British goals? What framework of collectivism does it even fit into?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            It’s more the whole “My in-group is the in-group of the future” attitude. At least Ayn Rand’s in-group at least had the benefit of existing in a custom-built universe where they genuinely were, y’know, the future.

            But, well, I find your response to Brexit to be… hilariously agist. “They’re all old people, but we’re young and will actually have to live with this”, politely skipping over the whole “Forget what old people want they’re just going to die” thing running underneath. So now only young people should be allowed to vote, I guess, and maybe the old people should just go shoot themselves since they don’t matter anymore anyways.

            But – hey, they just proved they mattered. They just proved that they’re capable of changing the direction of the country. They just proved that not all social change is directed from the young elites to an aging idiot class.

            And, hilariously, they just beat you.

            I don’t care whether the UK stays or goes. But I find it hilarious that Cameron pushed the vote because he thought “Stay” would win by a landslide, because he, like you, thought that the future was with him, and his success was guaranteed.

            I’m on the sidelines. My side isn’t going to win, we just get the schadenfreude of watching social groups have the implements of political warfare they’ve constructed for use against their enemies get used on themselves instead.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Tomorrow belongs to the cosmopolitans.

            Would this be the same cosmopolitans who aren’t having any children? Not gonna belong to them for very long.

          • Anonymaus says:

            Forget what old people want they’re just going to die

            There is a kernel of truth in there? One can argue whether Brexit is an action of the kind that gives short term benefits but is a long term negative. But if that were the case, it would be similar to overfishing or wasting other natural resources, in that some people are underrepresented in the decision making process compared to how much of the consequences they bear.

          • Anonymous says:

            But – hey, they just proved they mattered. They just proved that they’re capable of changing the direction of the country. They just proved that not all social change is directed from the young elites to an aging idiot class.

            As I said they are capable of doing some damage by shitting all over their house before they die. That just means they are going to have spend their golden years sitting in feces. It hurts us too, but we can pick up and move Dublin, or Frankfurt or wherever it turns out to be. They can’t.

            I’m on the sidelines. My side isn’t going to win, we just get the schadenfreude of watching social groups have the implements of political warfare they’ve constructed for use against their enemies get used on themselves instead.

            That’s certainly what your first comment sounded like. You’re just in it for the memes. Sure buddy.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, the Asians — from Pakistan to China. There is MUCH more of them than you. Demographics is destiny and if there are no borders, sheer numbers win.

            To quote Snowcrash, your world will be “a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity”.

            I don’t what kind of strawman you are attacking but it isn’t my position. There’s no doubt that much of the elite will be Asian in the coming years but there’s no good reason for them to exclude the productive of other cultures. If they give into rank nationalism and try to do so they’ll be left behind just like the UK.

          • Anonymous says:

            Would this be the same cosmopolitans who aren’t having any children? Not gonna belong to them for very long.

            Long enough. You and I will both be dead before the supposed demographic collapse comes to sweep right wingers into a thousand year majority.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s no doubt that much of the elite will be Asian in the coming years but there’s no good reason for them to exclude the productive of other cultures

            Right, so they’ll have to do it for the usual bad reasons, like racism and nationalism. Pretending to have eliminated those things is a funny hobby of European elites, not elites generally.

          • Sandy says:

            If they give into rank nationalism and try to do so they’ll be left behind just like the UK.

            Asians are half the planet, several of the world’s largest markets, centers of exports and manufacturing that your cosmopolitan world cannot do without, holders of some of the world’s most profitable trade routes and investors in several key Western sectors including real estate and energy.

            But sure, you can leave them behind, just like you leave behind a tiny island.

          • Psmith says:

            Since we appear to have abandoned the “economically” qualifier in the parent comment, it’s worth noting that Brexit voters may have terminal values other than increased per capita GDP.

          • erenold says:

            Then they are eminently entitled to their position, and I wish them well upon their new path. Larry Kestenbaum, below, has linked very interesting articles on this being the (re)birth of English nationalism, and upon reflection I tend to agree with that interpretation.

            Since I fucked up posting this the first time, this was the Economist’s snapshot of forecasts. For good measure, the FT.

            I was and still remain interested, by the way, in before-the-fact predictions of economic benefit to Britain from Brexit. I find it difficult to believe there can be none, but thus far they have rather effectively eluded me.

          • Anonymous says:


            How is this supposed to be a collectivist outcome when it rejects the idea of common European goals in favor of specific British goals? What framework of collectivism does it even fit into?

            You can’t have failed to notice that the Brexit voters are a coalition of moochers and the productive people in the nation overwhelmingly voted to stay. You think that’s an accident?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            You can’t have failed to notice that the Brexit voters are a coalition of moochers and the productive people in the nation overwhelmingly voted to stay. You think that’s an accident?

            That attitude sure worked out great for President Romney.

          • Anonymous says:

            The Romney / Obama breakdown was not even close to as clean a division between makers and takers as the Brexit vote was in England (the effect wasn’t as strong elsewhere).

            Romney only got 54% of those making $100k or more, lost the postgrads by a similar margin, got killed big and mid-sized cities, and split suburbia right down the middle.

            The only part of the pattern that matches is the age breakdown and even there the effect was significantly stronger in Brexit.

          • HeelBearCub says:


            Well, the whole makers/takers thing was completely incoherent. Some majority of the Republican base are “takers” (by his definition) in that they receive Social Security payments in excess of taxes.

            Makers/takers is a bullshit division anyway.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The point is that Romney said something which was construed, fairly or unfairly, as accusing half the population of being moochers, and that was a major reason why he lost the election.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Orphan Wilde

            That isn’t “inverted Objectivism”, it’s bog-standard Progressivism with its belief in there being an inevitable direction to (and thus a right side of) history. Or, rather, it’s the sizzling sound you get when you throw the cold water of the reality that history hasn’t been written yet, onto the hot skillet of those beliefs.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s gotta be bog standard progressivism. We’ve always been at war with them. Never mind that progressives love them some old people welfare. Never mind that progressives don’t like free trade.

            It can’t possibly be libertarian — we know what libertarian looks like. We’ve got a few house libertarians that love to sit around and play footsie with the national collectivist cool kids.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            Nah, it’s just that “libertarians” and “progressives” more and more are the same thing.

            Libertarians picking up progressives’ traditional/frequent “right side of history” stuff is new. So is progressives beginning to reach for the same “just world fallacy” that libertarians traditionally/frequently do.

          • “but I think I saw somewhere that the UK is already – already! – no longer the 5th largest economy in the world. ”

            That’s presumably at market exchange rates, not purchasing power exchange rates, so in itself says nothing about whether the inhabitants are or are not worse off.

            The exchange rate shift means foreign goods are more expensive to Britains, British goods less expensive to foreigners, which should produce a more “favorable” balance of trade for those who believe in such things–meaning a net capital outflow. Whether only in the short term isn’t yet clear.

            I agree with the commenter who said that it’s too early to know the long term effect, in part because we don’t known what trade agreements will be made. The U.K. could try to create a commonwealth free trade zone, if the other countries want one. It might end up with EU free trade, like Switzerland et. al. On net, trade might be freer or less free as a result of Brexit. Pretty clearly, labor mobility will be decreased.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        if you don’t submit to our jurisdiction and regulation/don’t let our people freely emigrate, you don’t get to trade with us.” It doesn’t inherently have to be a package deal,

        Doesn’t it, though? If Germany has strict regulation, while Lemonbourg has next to none, won’t a free trade agreement give a huge and uncompetitive advantage to Lemonbourg’s industry over Germany’s? That’s no reason why the level of regulation must be high rather than low, but it should be uniform.

        • Skivverus says:

          Depends. How well do the regulations in question correspond to what the consumers [of that industry’s product] actually want?

          If it corresponds relatively closely, Lemonbourg had better start figuring out how to follow those regulations, or they’ll end up with a reputation of “not good enough to buy stuff from” in Germany, “free trade” or no.
          If it doesn’t, well, what is Germany doing with those regulations in the first place?

          But to attempt to steelman it – “there’s a cost associated with determining how close a foreign product comes to conforming with regulations, especially when those regulations are about factory conditions or other issues similarly hard to inspect remotely.”
          I’m trying to come up with a suitably steelmanned next part that says something to the effect of “the burden of proof falls to the newcomer”, but I can’t shake the impression that it seems like begging the question, or ignoring the role of supply and demand.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If it doesn’t, well, what is Germany doing with those regulations in the first place?

            Some regulations will track consumer’s interests and desires without tracking their market behavior because of a dearth of consumer information. Purity regulations in food and drugs are a good example. Vitamins and supplements sold in the US are typically manufactured in China, where regulations are much laxer, and often come impure and adulterated. The average consumer is none the wiser, although most would of course prefer to pay a small premium to ensure that their bottle of Vitamin C capsules contains the specified amount of the ingredient and has no chance of lead contamination. Uniform regulation would ensure that Chinese and US vitamin manufacturers share a level playing field.

          • Skivverus says:

            Mm, good point. I should have made that explicit – the regulations you’re describing there fall under the first category, of “(close to) what the consumers actually want”: if the criteria were obvious enough to the end user to distinguish between competing products firsthand, it probably wouldn’t have made it into formal regulations. (Though that’s the same kind of ‘probably’ in ‘any given person is probably honest’ – the exceptions are a royal pain)

            Either way, there’s a price to proving conformance beyond the price of actually making the product; frequently we do want someone to pay that price (and to the extent we have control over our laws/regulations we want it to be the other guy), which is, I think, one of the arguments against (completely) free trade.
            To use a brief programming analogy – “does it compile” is much easier than “does it do what the user asked for”, which in turn is much easier than “is it bug-free”.

        • Lysenko says:

          I think that by making that argument, you’re setting the bar for ‘free trade’ so high as to discount the possibility of it existing between two separate states with separate governments and regulatory approaches. By the standard you’re proposing, the US and Canada never engage in anything that can be described as free trade either internally or externally, while trade within the EEC or between sub units of various historical empires is the only example of free trade in human economic history.

          This strikes me as a rather narrow view.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            There’s no reason why free trade between nations can’t be a graded notion, with parity of regulation as one component.

          • Lysenko says:

            Ehhh, I agree, but parity of regulation is basically nonexistent between states, and generally pretty rare within states. Even when you compare two countries with broadly similar levels or regulation, there are generally specific sectors that favor one side or the other. A good example of this would be environmental regulations in the US and Canada.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Parity of regulation can also be a graded notion. Our regulatory scheme is plainly more similar to Canada’s than it is to India’s, for instance.

        • onyomi says:

          “We can’t have free trade with you because we have these restrictive economic regulations we don’t want to get rid of, and if our people are allowed to buy your stuff, our producers will become uncompetitive” reminds me of this argument against open borders:

          “We can’t come let you live, do business, work, own a house, etc. here because we have this policy of giving a lot of free benefits to anyone who comes here; we don’t want to give you all those free benefit, so you can’t come here, even if you claim not to want the benefits.”

          To the latter person the correct response seems to be “that’s your problem; you don’t HAVE to give a bunch of free stuff to whoever comes into your nation, so that shouldn’t stop me from doing business with people in your nation if I don’t want the free stuff.”

          Similarly, to the more regulated economy I want to say, essentially, “that’s your problem you’re making your own economy less competitive; not a good reason to prevent your people buying stuff from us and vice-versa.”

          But if this attitude were adopted it would lead to a “race to the bottom” in terms of economic regulation, you might say. Well, since most economic regulation is unjust and net-harmful on my view, I’m okay with that. You probably want more economic regulation than I do, which is fair enough, but let’s not ignore that that, essentially is what one is asking for by insisting on a “package deal.” The EU may be a “free market” entity insofar as it lowers barriers, but it is also a way of limiting jurisdictional competition, the result of which may be more barriers to trade within the unit, and, potentially, on net, by the same logic whereby tax havens actually result in lower taxes (because they can tax you more heavily the harder it is to evade).

          • Jiro says:

            The “you” who adopts policy A and the “you” who adopts policy B to mitigate the damage caused by policy A, are often different groups of people. When you look at the country as a whole, it acts inconsistently, but that’s because the country is influenced by a bunch of different groups, who each may be able to use their influence in some ways but not in others.

            It’s politically feasible to not have open borders. But it’s not politically feasible to avoid giving immigrants benefits. I have to work with what I have.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Here, here.

            I’ve been really excited at the prospect of the EU and the UK splitting up in aftershocks of brexit for exactly this reason.
            If nation states keep getting smaller (as historical trends seem to suggest) then each nation will be weaker and less able to bully individuals.

            I know right now the us is imposing a tax regime not based on residence but based on citizenship (much to the sharing of every other country which taxes based on residence) and has started going after little old ladies who got married and became dual Canadian/US citizens in their twenties, never living in the us since.

            This is a prime example of these large conglomeration getting away with shit even a mid sized nation would never dare pull.

            It seems Brexit cannot but be a blow for freedom and probably one for log term growth as a consequence.

          • CatCube says:

            @Luke the CIA stooge

            If nation states keep getting smaller (as historical trends seem to suggest) then each nation will be weaker and less able to bully individuals. If nation states keep getting smaller (as historical trends seem to suggest) then each nation will be weaker and less able to bully individuals.

            Huh? North Korea is pretty small, and they seem to have the “bully[ing] individuals” part down.

          • Sandy says:

            Huh? North Korea is pretty small, and they seem to have the “bully[ing] individuals” part down.

            In what sense? It’s not like they can point a nuke at Seoul and say “adopt glorious Juche thought or else”; not even China would allow that. They have no economic sway over their neighbors and they only survive through humanitarian aid, the brunt of which comes from China’s naked self-interest, since Beijing does not want a refugee crisis on its borders or a unified Korea that would likely be an American ally.

          • CatCube says:


            I’m referring to the 25 million or so individuals within their own borders.

          • Sandy says:

            Ah. Even so, that may have more to do with the ability to exercise absolute border control that prevents anyone from leaving, restrictions and/or bans on social units that don’t feed into the state ideology and a state monopoly on violence. These things aren’t necessarily dependent on size. China seems to be able to bully its people pretty well. Iran too, to the point that anyone with hopes of reform has no choice but to bide their time and wait for Khamenei to die.

        • “If Germany has strict regulation, while Lemonbourg has next to none, won’t a free trade agreement give a huge and uncompetitive advantage to Lemonbourg’s industry over Germany’s?”

          Why? Are you thinking in terms of absolute rather than comparative advantage? What does “competitive” mean here?

          Suppose everything in Germany is more expensive due to the regulations. Germans buy from Lemonbourg, Lemonbourgers don’t buy from Germany. Euros (I assume they are both EU countries) flow out of Germany into Lemonbourg. Prices fall in Germany, rise in Lemonbourg, until trade between them balances. It’s the same logic as an international gold standard, with Euros replacing gold.

          If the German regulations make German industries less productive, Germans end up poorer—but imposing the regulations on Lemonbourg wouldn’t change that, it would just make those people poorer too.

          The only situation I can see where your argument makes sense is if the German regulations are providing a public good that benefits both Germans and Lemonbourgians, such as reduction of air pollution that blows across the border. But the problem there isn’t that Germany is uncompetitive, it’s that Germans are choosing to pay, in reduced output, for a shared benefit.

          “if the criteria were obvious enough to the end user to distinguish between competing products firsthand, it probably wouldn’t have made it into formal regulations.”

          Suppose you have free trade, but products cannot make false claims of origin. If consumers find that the American drugs are enough superior in quality to Chinese drugs to outweigh the lower cost, they buy American drugs.

      • Ganymede says:

        The polls didn’t actually perform too badly (certainly compared to the disastrous general election polling in 2015). The betting markets fared worse and at times seemed quite mismatched to what the polls were saying.

        Prior to the killing of Jo Cox the leave side had momentum and most polls gave them a lead. In the financial markets, anticipating a leave result, the pound weakened and the FTSE fell. However, on the betting markets remain was still odds on and you could still get a 2-1 bet on leave.

        After Jo Cox there was much talk of a distinct shift towards remain, the FTSE and pound rallied and the leave odds drifted. The polls did move but were still fairly balanced. There may have been some lying to pollsters in this final week but I’m doubtful. (Indeed some polls made curious choices like splitting undecided voters 2-1 towards remain). I suspect there was a sort of wishful thinking cycle – the side of Jo Cox would prevail, voters would come to their (economic) senses, polls cannot be trusted, rely on the markets instead, more money backs remain, markets rally.

        I wonder if part of the market failure is begging the question. The assumption is that people will vote (and bet) in economic self-interest yet the leave option is a vote precisely against the idea of acting in economic self-interest so it’s quite hard to gauge the likelihood of leave by how much money is placed on the outcome.

      • James Picone says:

        My question is why it was 80% likelihood “remain” until the last possible moment. My best guess is “shy Tory syndrome,” since it seems like “leave” was the politically incorrect position. Which makes me wonder how much of a boost Trump will get from “shy Trumpkin syndrome.”

        “Markets don’t work as well as I think they work” seems like a hypothesis you should consider.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Why is this a market failure?

          At 80% odds, we should find the occurrence of these events very normal.

          This is like saying “You said there was an 83.3% chance it wouldn’t happen. How the hell did he roll a 1!?”

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HBC – “You said there was an 83.3% chance it wouldn’t happen. How the hell did he roll a 1!?”

            To roll poorly once may be regarded as misfortune. To roll poorly twice looks like carelessness. This is the second major political upset in the alt-right’s favor this year. Granted, I’m not confident it’s a pattern either, but the possibility is alluring.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Nobody ever rolls snake eyes at a craps table, that’s crazy talk.

            Sure, these are victories for the alt-right, but that’s different than market failure.

            Prediction markets have necessarily imperfect information. One source of imperfection is their lack of exact knowledge of what’s going on in every person’s head. But we shouldn’t expect them to get all the calls “right.” In fact 80% predictions should fail 1 out every 5 times. They should get two wrong “in a row” roughly one out of 20 times.

            Note, I’m not even claiming prediction markets are particularly, good, just that treating 80% the same as if it’s 100% is silly.

          • James Picone says:

            It’s not wildly unlikely, sure, but it’s definitely the market calling it wrong. And not insignificantly wrong either; 52% is a fairly large majority.

            It’s not the biggest piece of evidence for that proposition, but it’s some evidence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @James Picone:

            I think what you are saying is that a 48% share of the electorate is at the tail end of the 20% of outcomes that result in a loss if we view the electorate as some evenly distributed set of probability engines.

            Good enough as far as that goes, especially as I brought in dice to begin with.

            But I will say it’s not at all clear to me that this is the way actual electorates work, and in addition its doubly unclear to me that this is how prediction markets think of electorates or the problem space of prediction in particular. It seems likely to me that this a stochastic space where we should see that when predictions are wrong they are not infrequently “very wrong”.

            As a for instance, which doesn’t apply in this case, if polling is at 60% remain, it’s not at all clear to me that we should expect that the vast majority of results that end up being leave are those that barely clear 50%. I would expect large systemic errors or shifts to dominate that “leave” result set.

            I think it’s fair to question why the “remain” market was so high given polling results that seem ambivalent in hindsight, but that requires a knowledge of how polls have performed in similar situations.

          • Chalid says:

            Prediction markets are tiny and illiquid, both of which are big red flags for a market which is going to do badly. Back when I paid attention to this stuff, you’d see really big (in percentage terms) arbitrages persisting for a long time because the gain from exploiting them was really tiny in dollar terms.

            I also rather strongly suspect that the various behavioral biases that have been observed in e.g. the stock market will show up even more strongly in prediction markets.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Yes, there is a fair amount of arbitrage (on PredictIt) that is ignored because of the liquidity problems make it unprofitable to take advantage of. It is also very frequent for the probabilities to add up to more than 1, as no-one can take advantage of that since it isn’t possible to short the bets (except by manually searching for someone willing to loan you a position).

          • Chalid says:

            so Brexit betting was a couple million dollars per day right before the vote. That’s *tiny* and would be easy to manipulate for a lot of people and institutions.

            I’m not saying it happened here but I could easily imagine it being worthwhile for a political party or institution to generate good press for its side by spending a couple million dollars to skew the prediction markets’ odds. I could also easily see it being worthwhile for a hedge funds and the like to mess with these markets too. Drop a million dollars into a betting market in order to alter the perceived odds of Brexit, which then affects your vastly larger GBP/USD bet…

    • Anonymous says:

      I have a vague idea that total globalization is bad because we need a couple ideologically distinct developed nations to avoid stagnation. If the EU is making bad decisions, those will be more visible ten years down the line with UK to compare to. That’s my only issue with the concept of a world government; you need someone of similar development level with different policies to compare and compete against.

      But I also kinda like the EU so I don’t know if this is good or bad in the end.

  23. webgl says:

    Here’s a thing I made; take a look. Scroll-wheel up and down to zoom; scroll-wheel left and right to rotate.

    There are others here.

    (Chrome and Firefox should work fine; older IE… not so much. Reply to this if you have problems.)

    • anon says:

      Can you give some background on the physical motivation (if any) for the simulation in question? Is it related to galaxy formation or any other natural phenomenon?

      • webgl says:

        The points are a little like stars visually, in that no matter how far away they are, they’re the same apparent size. I guess I’d say aesthetically, it’s related to galaxies (and maybe supernova ejecta).

        But the particles aren’t really following physical laws: there’s a flow function, based solely on position, and the particles move to their next position based solely on that function (no history, no inertia). You can get a better idea what the flow function looks like here: points are connected with the point the function would send them to.

  24. Anon. says:

    Could anyone recommend a book on Maimonides? I’m mostly interested in the Hellenistic element in his thought, and how that influenced Judaism.

  25. Tibor says:

    What do you think about this? I observe this pattern for some time in the EU debates. Those who oppose the EU are consistently shown as nationalists or conservatives in the media, people who are afraid of globalisation and change and want to protect their traditional values. While it is probably true that these people do make up either a majority or a large minority of the opponents of the EU, it completely ignores other (and IMO much more important) reasons for why someone might want to be against the EU as it is today, namely its overregulation, protectionism (with respect to non-EU countries), production quotas and subsidies of often rather questionable projects (I would not support subsidies of any kind but when you see a hotel or a golf course partially funded from the EU subsidies then it really makes you wonder). Of course when you mention these things the EU question is suddenly much less black and white and much more difficult than “tradition vs. modernity”. I don’t think the people who write about it that way (and they seem to be a large majority, at least among the journalists) do so for sinister reasons but then it has to be the case that they really are not acquainted with any arguments against the EU other than those made by the conservatives and nationalists (and which are much less likely to convince anyone who is not a conservative or a nationalist). It might be that this is partly the fault of the pro free-trade opponents of the EU who have formed an unholy alliance with the conservatives in this question (for similar reasons many people on the left somehow associate capitalism with social conservatism although there is no objective reason why that should be so, if anything, capitalism is more “progressive” than socialism in that it tends to change things rather than conserve them and hold them in place).

    This is perhaps a more general concern. Save for radicals like actual communists, it seems to me that a sizable part of the left only opposes the free market because they somehow associate it with social conservatism, partly because the free marketers have in many countries aligned themselves with the conservatives for strategic reasons. It also seems to me that while the mainstream left is less tolerant to the people with a conservative lifestyle (I am not talking about those who want to force that lifestyle on others but who just want to live in a more traditional way) than I would like, save for the very toxic parts of the left such as the SJW, it is still within reasonable bounds and they mostly oppose the people on the right who actually campaign for conservative values not only for themselves but for others whom libertarians would also tend to oppose (the “god hates fags” types or those who would want to ban evolution at school, both rather US-specific examples, for example the social conservatives seem to be much more evenly distributed between the left and the right in the Czech politics and religion plays no role because the country is majority atheist). I also find it easier to convince a leftist of the merits of capitalism than to convince a conservative (or a radical SJW leftist) that it is not his business how other people live their private lives, since the goals of people tend to be aligned in the first case (prosperity and freedom) and the difference is more about the facts of the world – how things and the economy work – and not so much on the second which is a question about how people are supposed to live.

    To simplify and caricature it a little bit, it seems to me that the left sees the capitalism as the enemy because conservatives oppose gay marriage and also happen to at least verbally support the free market. Most people see two policy packages of what vaguely the left and the right and somehow assume that you cannot take somethings from one package and something else from the other. This is very unfortunate and rather frustrating but I am not sure what can really be done about that.

    • Ruprect says:

      They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
      Lords without anger or honour, who dare not carry their swords.
      They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
      They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
      And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
      Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.

      We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
      Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
      It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
      Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
      It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
      God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
      But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
      Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

    • onyomi says:

      I wish we could have a third choice between “every little country and municipality retreat into conservative parochialism and protectionism” and “world government with absolute standards for how everything is done” (and at the risk of sounding conspiracy theoryish, those are the logical endpoints of the two major options as presented right now).

      What about many very small political units (or “archipelagos”), each catering closely to the specific wants and needs of their populace with respect to culture, taxation, and the like, but largely existing and trading peacefully alongside one another? That is, a thousand Singapores rather than ruling the world from Washington, Brussels, and Beijing?

      • Anonymous says:

        That is, a thousand Singapores rather than ruling the world from Washington, Brussels, and Beijing?

        That’s a Warring States period. If small states are proximate and mutually independent, you’re going to have wars until someone comes out on top and becomes Emperor of All Under the Heaven.

        What you seem to want is a Holy Roman Empire – but that actually requires a feudal system, where the local rulers are permitted to rule their own fiefs as they see fit, without the Emperor’s Diet being permitted to pass laws that butt into the fiefdoms’ internal matters (which is just about anything short of how much tax and levies they are supposed to provide for the Emperor).

        • onyomi says:

          “If small states are proximate and mutually independent, you’re going to have wars until someone comes out on top and becomes Emperor of All Under the Heaven.”

          Why does that have to happen?

          • Anonymous says:

            Why does that have to happen?

            Human nature, I figure. It’s always happened that way before. The only reason Europe (mostly – intra-European wars did happen) hasn’t been fighting is because it got dragged into a couple of alliance blocs and nobody wanted to be the first to cast the stone that ends civilization. One of the alliances collapsed, but the other still exists, and is absorbing neutral states who want security vs the remnants of the former alliance.

          • onyomi says:

            “It’s always happened that way before.”

            Might not military technology (MAD) make a difference?

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Might not military technology (MAD) make a difference?

            MAD amongst a thousand Singapores wouldn’t really be the same as MAD between two superpowers. Small states might have a hard time fielding a second strike force (typically ballistic missile submarines) or deploying early-warning systems that would guarantee them the ability to retaliate. They might also have a hard time reliably determining who had attacked them.

            Edit: Not saying military technology might not make a difference (though I’m skeptical), just that I don’t think the specific logic of MAD would apply.

          • erenold says:

            However much they spend on their military (I think about 6% of their GDP?), is not a major part of what keeps Singapore afloat the very fact that the Seventh Fleet underpins their very existence?

        • Tibor says:

          Also, most of the times when things like that happened, those warring states were far from free and most of its inhabitants were either serfs or close to that. At the same time, for example for Singapore to enter war would be disastrous. The country spends more on national defense than all of Malaysia, so theoretically (if it were a matter of money only) it could conquer the whole island. However, the moment it starts a war all of its money, which mostly stems from international trade, is going to disappear, the country would go bankrupt extremely fast. Small polities are much more dependent on international trade than bigger ones. USA could somehow carry on on its own (even though with great losses), Singapore or Netherlands would collapse. In most of the past, international trade was very limited and the rulers did not care much for the welfare of the populace because nothing forced them to. But today is radically different. In fact, the more globalization and international trade we have, the easier it should be to keep polities from fighting wars and this holds especially for small polities for whose economies the international trade is absolutely crucial. So I think that free trade is actually an even better deterrent of wars than MAD. This holds less for bigger states and it does not work always, but I think that things are sufficiently different today than they were in the middle ages or in the antiquity (when the economy of many countries actually depended on plundering and warfare).

          Also, it is easier to move out of a small polity than from a big one, simply because of the geographical size. And when people vote with their feet, unless you build an mini version of the iron curtain, you will either have to govern your country well or risk ending up with no citizens.

          Also, even if a probability of a war were more likely between small countries, a war between Singapore and Monaco would be tragic but the consequences limited. A war between two superstates would end the civilization.

      • Urstoff says:

        Hyper-localized governments need freedom of movement to prevent an authoritarian populace from creating mini-dystopias. There are also some advantages in having things standardized across states (weights and measures, transportation conventions, etc.), and a mish-mash of regulations for products across states will inhibit trade. The real problem seems to me to be whether it’s possible to have a large state/union that doesn’t overregulate everything. The US did that pretty successfully for a while (although no longer); I don’t think the EU ever did that successfully. So how do you find a balance between localities feeling that their interests are being served in the context of a larger union that sometimes needs to enforce things that localities don’t want because it produces the best outcome for everyone? The US seems to have accidentally hit on a good balance until bureaucratic technology advanced enough that it was feasible to regulate anything and everything.

        • onyomi says:

          Seems to me that the smaller a sovereign region the less likely it is to become a dystopia because of the high level of competition. Can you give any historical examples of “mini-dystopias”? DPRK is the closest thing that comes to mind, but that’s actually quite large by the standards of Singapore or Hong Kong. I’m thinking more of the level of city states.

          Re. standardization of weights, measures, and the like: why would standardization require political unity? The mere fact of its convenience will tend to push things in that direction. There’s no law preventing any company from making a triangular bank card, but they want it to fit in all the existing machines.

          • Psmith says:

            Can you give any historical examples of “mini-dystopias”?

            Ferguson, MO, if the accounts of extractive policing and so on are to be believed.

            Calvin’s Geneva? Puritan Salem?

          • Chalid says:

            smaller a sovereign region the less likely it is to become a dystopia because of the high level of competition

            How do you reconcile this belief with the generally bad quality of local governments? (In the US, anyway)

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think city governments within larger polities, which have to abide by and deal with state and federal laws, are a fair comparison. You have to compare actual city-sized countries: Singapore, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Qatar…

            Which is not to say that just having a small polity is alone sufficient cause for freedom and prosperity, but it seems much more likely, on average, to get freedom and prosperity in a smaller polity, as compared to a larger one.

          • Randy M says:

            Are local governments generally bad? What fraction and based on what?

          • onyomi says:

            “Are local governments generally bad? What fraction and based on what?”

            Yeah, though we can point to some examples of bad local governments, we also have to remember that they are much more numerous throughout history. I don’t think it’s at all given that local governments are more poorly run than provincial or national governments, on average, even within a country.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            What I’ve read re: local governments being bad is that it’s due to a combination of one-party rule and nobody paying much attention to local politics. These might not apply in Singapore-like states.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Can you give any historical examples of “mini-dystopias”?

            I have no particularly strong feelings either in favor or against your general point of view, but examples of this exist, yes.

            Schiller’s writings and the plainly simple historical records confirm that life in Prussia was much better than it was in the various small German kingdoms that yet remained in the late eighteenth century.

            I am biased on this one example, but the Persians were much, much better at ruling their subjects than their various Greek opponents were; having a religion revolving around truth and justice will do that to you, I suppose. The freaking Jews rebelled against the highly repressive Greeks, the Romans who let them be for the most part after establishing supremacy, but the Persians? Nah. While the Greeks were discussing the enslaving of the entire Anatolian area because ‘they were used to submission anyway’ and generally being a highly bastardly sorts, the Persians ruled with (comparative) benevolence to the point where some historians aren’t even sure they had slavery.

            Aside from that, do we not count Sparta as a city-sized dystopia? They make for good movie protagonists, but not for very good historical examples of good governance.

            Aaaaaaaanyhow.. There are a few problems with this theory in general:

            Firstly, there just aren’t that many examples in history of such tiny city-sized states when compared to their larger neighbours, because the city-sized states have a tendency to just get eaten. This is doubly true when such a city would have a terrifyingly oppressive government, as that is the best way to get people to ask for liberation.

            Secondly, in the case where we do have a number of smaller nations next to each other, Warhammer-style endemic and constant warfare is the norm. Pre-European central America, ancient Greece, northern Italy, ancient Spain, Mesopotamia, the Warring States period that has been mentioned already, and really any place with tribes making war on each other at all.

            Thirdly, you say this:

            I don’t think city governments within larger polities, which have to abide by and deal with state and federal laws, are a fair comparison. You have to compare actual city-sized countries: Singapore, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Qatar…

            Which is not to say that just having a small polity is alone sufficient cause for freedom and prosperity, but it seems much more likely, on average, to get freedom and prosperity in a smaller polity, as compared to a larger one.

            .. And by and large, you’d be correct. In 1600 or so, Venice was a better place to live than France was a better place to live than Russia…

            .. Except the confounder you’re looking for here is urbanisation, and creating a world based on that isn’t at all going to work.

            Generally speaking, historians can correlate low population density with repressive government; the enormous agrarian empires of the Chinese and the Russians held on to immensely authoritarian government for much longer than the Swedes did, who took a longer time of developing a nation where people had rights and freedoms than the Dutch did, who became a republic after the Venetians and Genoese had such a government for centuries already.

            And that’s all well and good, but ‘make everything densely populated’ isn’t a strategy at all likely to work out. Archipelago-style government sounds nice in theory, but the world is a terrifyingly large place, and at some point people are going to claim larger pieces of land and do with them as they see fit.

            Still, it’s not a bad idea to discuss, at least.

          • Urstoff says:


            The high level of competition presumes freedom of movement, which doesn’t seem to be something that’s guaranteed in a world full of small states. And standardization of weights and measures may not be a big problem, but a huge variation in local regulations may be a significant impediment to trade and economic growth.

            In addition, local governments are likely to be more reactionary, idiosyncratic, or just plain dumb. As terrible as congress is, it just takes one look at your local politicians to realize that national congressman are the cream of the political crop. Congress may full of buffons, but state houses and city councils are full of outright morons.

            It might be the case that a world with small states is better than a world with mid-sized states (today’s world) or a world with one or two big states, but it’s not obvious that it is. Large states still have the upside of freedom of internal movement across a large territory and a somewhat unified regulatory scheme, neither of which may exist in a world full of small states.

          • JDG1980 says:

            Stefan Drinic: “The freaking Jews rebelled against the highly repressive Greeks

            It’s a bit more complicated than that. Many, perhaps most, Jews were fine with Greek rule and culturally embraced Hellenization. It was a small minority of fundamentalists – basically the contemporary equivalent of ISIS – that led the Maccabean revolt. This article by Christopher Hitchens goes into some detail on this.

          • Chalid says:

            I don’t think city governments within larger polities, which have to abide by and deal with state and federal laws, are a fair comparison.

            I think if you’re invoking “competition” as the thing which will improve government quality, you need to be more explicit about the mechanism by which competition will force governments to improve, and why it would not apply to our current system of local governments. (And also, if we would to live in a system with that type of competition – companies compete partly by driving each other out of business, so soon a market has no badly run companies. What makes a persistently badly-run city-state go away? Invasion and/or civil war?)

            Unfortunately I don’t really have any studies comparing local and national government quality and I’m not really coming up with much on google. But I’ll second Urstoff’s take.

    • Lumifer says:

      it seems to me that a sizable part of the left only opposes the free market because they somehow associate it with social conservatism

      I take a rather more uncharitable view of the left. I think they oppose the free markets because they are statists. Their statism might be submerged when they are in opposition, but it usually comes out if they get access to power.

      • Tibor says:

        Some left-wingers indeed are socialists. Then again I think that even those who support more government involvement in the economy do so because they think this leads to more prosperity. That is a difference about the facts of the world and it is in principle not so difficult to overcome it.

        Then there is a part of the left which sees itself as an intellectual elite and likes to tell other people how to run their private lives, who do not see the state interventions as something that creates more prosperity for everyone but as something that creates better people. I don’t have any sympathies for these people but they do not represent all of the left. Then there is the SJW-like group which wants to force others to become what they consider the “better people”. These two groups are not very different from the kind of conservatives who would like to ban abortions. But again, as not all of the right is represented by these kind of people, not all of the left belongs either to the SJW or the elitist “upper class”.

        I kind of like what Roderick Long wrote about this (even if I do not agree with everything he writes, I am also not such a big fan of the “austrians”) here.

      • Their stated reasons tend to involve reductions in wage levels? Dud you not know that, or do you not believe it?

      • I’ll add a third view the only one so far that is in line with the stated attitudes. They are suspicious of free markets because tend to lower wages and lower job securit for poorer workers. And as far as it goes, they’re not wrong.

    • Tibor says:

      Ok, so this is an exception to the rule and I am happy to see it on the BBC. Then again, the author is an executive of an economic consultancy company and not a journalist…which might explain a lot. His suggestion for the UK to go by the Hong Kong example and embrace unilateral free trade (no trade barriers for anyone wishes to do business with the UK, even if they themselves have trade barriers against UK imports) is something I have never seen in mainstream media.

      Unfortunately, a sizable part of the Brexit supporters AND Bremain supporters are likely going to be hostile to such a proposal. Still it is good to see it written somewhere where a lot of people can read it and see it as an alternative. I believe that most people don’t even realize something like that is an option. The article also does a good job of explaining (at least implicitly) why a Brexit supporter does not have to be motivated by nationalism or protectionism.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      it seems to me that a sizable part of the left only opposes the free market because they somehow associate it with social conservatism

      I can assure you this is not true at least for Western Europe. Both Germany and the UK have Liberal Parties, that are liberal in the European and not the US meaning: Sceptical of state interference both in the economy and personal lives.

      Moderate leftists have good reasons to be opposed to unrestrained free market capitalism, both from an ideological and an instrumental perspective. Emotionally, leftists are neither materialistic nor individualists (something something “All you need is love” something something) and are therefore uncomfortable with a system that so unabashedly embraces striving for your economic self interest. From an empirical standpoint, the damage inflicted on the environment also weights pretty heavily against capitalism’s favor. There is also the guilt by association aspect, where wall street bankers who themselves are very progressive in their lifestyle, are blamed for all woes of the working class and Third World countries.

      • Tibor says:

        That’s the thing, it seems to me that some leftists are quite individualist. It could be that these people do not stay leftist for a long time.

        Also, I am not sure how socialism is less materialistic than capitalism. It is just a different way of organizing the economy. It is not like the left supports theocracy or anything.

        You’re right that there are (classical) liberal parties in Europe who are demonstratively not socially conservative, so that is a good counterargument.

  26. Ruri says:

    First-time poster here. I am 18 EU-citizen and I have no idea about how politics/economics work, but I want to get into it to understand things and to know what to vote. I think I am leaning towards liberalism, but I am not sure what my political alignment is. Can you please suggest some reading which is not about promoting a certain opinion, but actually explaining how political/economical things work? And, maybe, some good resources on the main political points of views, like, what rights are saying and what lefts are saying and whoever else exists?

    • Tibor says:

      I think that a big, perhaps even the major part of the difference in political opinions is based on a disagreement on how economical things work. The best thing to do is to try to hear the best defenders of and best arguments for a particular policy/set of policies and then decide which you find the most convincing. What most people do is that they find something convincing and then only look for arguments that support them…then they only see the weakest arguments for other views and conclude that their opinion is obvious and only idiots can reach a different conclusion. That is not to say you are not allowed to have opinions and reach conclusions of your own of course.

      • Creutzer says:

        I think that a big, perhaps even the major part of the difference in political opinions is based on a disagreement on how economical things work.

        And the rest is based on disagreement about how human minds work.

  27. As I recall, there are posters here who don’t just focus on men being treated badly, they also apparently believe that feminism has won so completely that women complaining about being treated badly by men should just be ignored. Now, it’s possible that I’m mistaken about this or that all such posters have been banned, but as a result of thinking that they are missing a large fact about the world, I have made a transcript (with thoughts of my own added separately) of Vi Hart’s Feeling Sad about Tragedy, which is an account of the huge amount of harassment she’s experienced online and how it’s less frightening than the way she’s been treated in person, and how that connects to the murder of Christina Grimmie and the mass murder in Orlando.

    My feeling was that not everyone is willing to take the time to listen to a podcast because they read faster, and also it’s easier to discuss something from a transcript than a video.

    The transcript was long enough that it didn’t seem reasonable to post it here, so I’m supplying a link rather than the whole thing.

    If you believe feminists have total victory, you really need to update.

    Be reassured, Vi Hart doesn’t blame men in general, and neither do I. What’s more, she doesn’t attack men of good will for failing to control men of ill will. And I’m do such little as I can to preserve my peace of mind by believing that everyone is defensive because everyone is being attacked.

    • This is a useful thing that you did. Thank you for providing the transcript.

      I don’t agree with everything Vi said, but I appreciate the opportunity to engage with her words in my preferred medium.

      • Jiro says:

        There’s a well-known fallacy “Something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done.”

        I suggest a related fallacy: “Something caused that, this is something, so this caused that.” I see it a lot–the fact that someone has experienced genuine problems means that we’re expected to believe whatever is said about the source and context of those problems.

        (This one is much milder than most instances of the fallacy, but I still see some bits in it.)

    • Zorgon says:

      As I recall, there are posters here who don’t just focus on men being treated badly, they also apparently believe that feminism has won so completely that women complaining about being treated badly by men should just be ignored.

      Citation needed.

      • “As I recall” means I don’t have a citation. Also note that I said I might be wrong.

        I don’t consider my memory to be perfect (tracking down errors in the transcript proved that I can’t reliably remember five words in a row), but it isn’t completely bad either.

        Let’s see what turns up.

        • Zorgon says:

          I’m not just going to suggest that you’re wrong, I’m going to go a step further and make a truth claim: The idea “that feminism has won so completely that women complaining about being treated badly by men should just be ignored” has never been put forward in the comment threads or main articles of SSC.

          As evidenced in the comments below, the strongest version of this sense you are misrepresenting is that complaints of mistreatment by women are routinely exaggerated to the point that such complaints should automatically be treated with suspicion. Not ignored.

          This is not the same thing as ignoring them. Feminists have intentionally constructed a halo effect around claims of mistreatment of women by men, and the movement has gone further to enshrine the idea that questioning such accounts is implicitly the same as denying that such events happen. It is not.

          The thing is, I think you know this, which is why you’re presenting this particular account by a talented and likeable individual with a gift for communication and not the dozens of vastly less believable ones that are produced by the feminist movement on a regular basis, like this one: Gaming has a White Male Terrorist Problem.

          But that incredibly obvious piece of fiction was repeated by dozens of blogs and even a few reputable news sources as being truth. And it is in that the belief that “feminism has won” comes into play. Because I could present a thousand accounts by female gamers who have never so much as received a glance in the wrong direction, women for whom gaming is their primary refuge from whatever unhappiness or humiliation they might receive from the rest of the world, and it will never so much as make a mark in the edifice of bullshit like that link I just gave you.

          And that, right there, is why you’re getting pushback against Vi Hart’s account. It’s not that we don’t believe her, exactly. It’s that no other mode of discussion is permitted, so how the hell do we distinguish her from the “old enough to bleed!”-purveyors of the world?

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            I don’t understand. Why does the stupidity of some feminists necessitate distrust of non-stupid feminists?

          • Anonanon says:

            Just imagine you have a bag of M&Ms, ok? And some of them (we’re definitely not saying #YesAllM&Ms!) have poison in them…

          • Zorgon says:

            I don’t understand. Why does the stupidity of some feminists necessitate distrust of non-stupid feminists?

            It doesn’t. The existence of a feminist discourse mode which actively encourages the construction of fictitious accounts of harassment necessitates distrust of non-stupid feminists.

            I don’t think the feminist in my link above is stupid so much as acting in alignment with what she believes is the interests of her Tribe. Optimising for the system as it is presented rather than the actual good of those she seeks to protect.

            Or to put it another way: We do not disbelieve out of hand, we merely suspect the presence of Moloch.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            Feminism hasn’t remotely won, because the effects that feminism has had / “achieved” are not at all what feminism was trying to do.

            They are often bad effects. (A “halo effect around claims of mistreatment of women by men”? Obviously bad. A “discourse mode which actively encourages the construction of fictitious accounts of harassment “? Obviously bad.) But when you combine every mention of these bad effects with the insistence that they are intentional, you deter feminists from expressing their agreement with you that they are, in fact, bad.

            You even deter them from realizing they’re even happening at all. Because, remember, these things actually are not at all what feminism wanted. They are not what feminists were ever aiming for. So feminists didn’t predict them. That they happen or will happen as a result of feminists’ actions, is not obvious to them. It’s a non sequitur, to them. It’s weird.

            So here you are claiming that these weird, bad things are happening. Things that are obviously bad, but “no one” would expect them ever to happen. It’s a weird claim, that they are.

            And then you claim that feminists are doing this *deliberately*.

            And then the feminist’s reasonable conclusion is, “This person’s only claiming these weird bad things are happening *to attack feminism*. These weird bad things that we don’t want to happen and didn’t intend to happen…are not actually happening. After all, here this person is claiming we’ve won, and look, our objectives aren’t even close to being achieved.”

            Dude just…realize these things aren’t at all what we intended, and stop even getting *near* claiming they’re deliberate. And realize, too, that we have not even come *close* to achieving what we *did* intend to achieve.

            IOW, it’s an inferential distance issue, again. It’s similar to the issue we had on this board a while back where some people thought “Woman has baby by man whose primary is someone else, even though this is breaking her agreement with man” was a predictable result of polyamory (and perhaps likely to be common, and perhaps even a reason to not be polyamorous), and others thought no, it was an isolated incident and something no one could have predicted.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Cord Shirt,

            The problem with your take is that it requires feminists (and polyamorists) to be totally incapable of perceiving anything other than what they intend to happen happening. Obviously everyone wears rose-colored glasses when it comes to their own pet projects, but I don’t think even most strident anti-feminists think that they are quite so myopic as that.

            Also, the problem with “nobody could have predicted that!” is that a lot of the time people did predict it well in advance. In fact, in both of the cases you’re talking about there were and are large groups of very vocal people making those predictions. Asking about how you handle kids in a poly relationship is literally one of the first things skeptics bring up in any discussion of polyamory. Movements like ‘Listen and Believe’ were criticized immediately on exactly the grounds that they would make false accusations more profitable.

            It’s poor form to assume malice, because it’s both rarely true and a conversation ender. But when someone pursues actions which have entirely predictable and horrible consequences it’s very hard not to see that as malicious.

          • fubarobfusco says:

            It’s that no other mode of discussion is permitted

            Is this one of those weird senses of “permitted” where if anyone anywhere criticizes you for saying something, that means you weren’t “permitted” to say it?

            You’re engaging in exactly the behavior that you claim “isn’t permitted”. I predict that you will receive zero death threats on account of your “not permitted” behavior.

            (As, indeed, you shouldn’t.)

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Dr. Dealgood:

            And yet people got banned from here for saying it was a predictable consequence and implying it was a reason not to be poly.

            The inferential distance really is greater than people assume.

            And, yes, one reason people have trouble discovering and discussing these misunderstandings is because it does often feel like “admitting to being stupid,” or, at least, “giving the other side an opening to interpret you as just being stupid.”

            But nah. It’s not stupidity. Just great inferential distance.

            (BTW, you’re also making a similar argument to the old feminist argument I used to make–to believe–that, “You antifeminists who claim men are so much worse than we assume, you’re the ones who hate men, not us! You’re making men look, like, evil! We think better of men than that.” Turned out what we really thought was that there was less inferential distance than there was. You’re making the same mistake, just with “myopic” instead of “evil.”)

            As for the nature of the disagreement, you’re oversimplifying.

            With the poly example, your objection, “But ‘How does poly deal with children?” is the first question asked!” implies that the area of disagreement is “Whether children will ever be an issue.” It’s not. It’s more complicated than that.

            The area of disagreement in this example is whether one specific type of childbearing–a woman bearing the child of someone whose primary she isn’t, over his objections, particularly when he *has* a primary who is *not her*–is going to be predictably enough of a problem that it might even be an argument against being poly at all…or, at least, enough of a problem that poly ought to have a standard way of dealing with it *other* than treating it as an isolated incident and using the type of coping skills appropriate for isolated incidents (such as taking up a collection).

            That’s the type of disagreement where plenty of people can argue till they’re blue in the face that it’s predictable, it’s expected, this is gonna happen and it won’t be an isolated incident…and other people just have different enough priors that they won’t be convinced.

            “But people existed who said this would happen!” is not proof that anyone involved ever *believed* them. Ever were even close to convinced by their arguments…let alone “knew” it was going to happen.

            Particularly when the people who said it managed to give the appearance of motivated reasoning, and/or were already tagged as “opponents”/”enemies.”

            Or to put it a more evocative way:

            The more you insist on, “Those people whose actions resulted in great suffering for you, so you joined a movement against them? Those people who said that doing anything about your suffering would have bad consequences and you should just knuckle under to them and give up, so you ignored them? They actually were right about EVERYTHING BWAHAHAHA!!!111!!”

            …the less anyone will listen to you about the one bad consequence “those people” definitely did turn out to be right on.

          • Nornagest says:

            And yet people got banned from here for saying it was a predictable consequence and implying it was a reason not to be poly.

            If memory serves, people got banned for saying that rudely.

            I’m not convinced either way on the object level. But even if you’re (generic “you”, that is) not aware that Scott personally identifies as poly, etc., it should be easy to infer from the context of the situation that the woman in question is a friend of his and he was sympathetic to her living arrangements. If you then proceed to talk shit and get banned for it, I’m not inclined to feel very sympathetic to your plight, even if I might under other circumstances find the content of what you’re saying convincing.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            Doesn’t really matter since it’s not a big part of my point. I mean, I did choose poly because so many here are poly, including many of those who’ve been burned by feminism. Such as, yeah, Scott.

            The point was for the shoe to be on the other foot, to help them understand the feminists’ perspective (as people who’d dismissed arguments which were made by “enemies” in the context of opposing their entire project and expressing zero empathy or understanding toward it)–and to help me understand theirs (as people who’d wanted discussion and been dismissed/silenced).

            Off-topic discussion:

            No official reason was given, as one rarely is these days, and I’m afraid arguing over the motivations of Dear Leader is a bit too far down the “cultish” road for me.

            What stood out to me, though, is that most people who wanted to express that opinion despaired of finding a way of saying it politely enough to be found acceptable. People were saying things like, “I can’t say what I think because I’d be banned,” and, “It’s unfair of you to bring up that topic again, since making the opposing argument gets a person banned.”

            So I think any “shit talking” happened because of previous banning decisions which had had the result (intentional or not) of people believing they were never allowed to express a particular opinion no matter how polite they were.

            It’s when people feel that way that you get lots of sideswipes, snark, and attacks on “people who are *associated with* the authority figure but who aren’t the *actual* authority figure.” (This also applies IMO to snarks about “Scott’s tumbr commie friends”–it’s not actually about any such individuals. It’s much more about the perception that people here are allowed to express socially liberal opinions but not socially conservative ones.)

            When people are angry at the authority but feel they can’t attack the authority directly, then they scapegoat others. When people want to express their opinion but feel they can’t do so directly, then they express it through making examples of people. Etc.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Cord Shirt

            Feminist preferences in favor the “halo effect around claims of mistreatment of women by men” are both stated (“Believe Women”) and observed; I see no evidence that feminists in general believe this is bad.

            Feminist preference for a “discourse mode which actively encourages the construction of fictitious accounts of harassment” is only observed, but it’s quite strongly observed; witness the complaints that calling false claims of sexual harassment or rape “false”, or prosecuting the false claimants, should not happen because it will deter other women from complaining.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            There’s been a carrying forward of philosophies developed in one cultural context into an entirely changed cultural context.

            Some people’s priors are still stuck in that past cultural context.

            Both “Believe women [because the incentives are such that they almost never come up with a false accusation but very often don’t come forward with true ones]” and “don’t obsess over the [incredibly rare] instance of a false claim [when the incentives are such that even one you think is false might not be, and true claims that no one wants to come forward with are a zillion times more likely]” originated in that past cultural context. Back when the bracketed was true.

            If you grow up in a cultural context with certain powerful incentives, you often continue all your life to behave as if those incentives were still in effect…

            OK I’m starting to replicate Ben Franklin’s “Why Even Though I’m A Deist I Still Think Everyone Should Be Raised Christian” argument, and it’s late, and….good night. 😉

          • Nornagest says:

            No official reason was given, as one rarely is these days, and I’m afraid arguing over the motivations of Dear Leader is a bit too far down the “cultish” road for me.

            I’m not saying we should invest a lot of effort into figuring out Dear Leader’s motivations as an exercise of faith or something. And I’m not saying he always makes the right call with these things, either; go back to some of them and you’ll find me saying so. I’m saying, instead, that you shouldn’t piss Scott off because he has the banhammer, and that pissing Scott off was eminently predictable in this case. Predictable enough that trying to play it off afterwards as some kind of political persecution has a strong whiff of sour grapes, and that’s being generous.

            Discourse norms here are unusually open, but seriously, if you go out of your way to shit on someone the site owner introduces as a friend in need, what do you think is going to happen?

          • Cord Shirt says:

            OK well I ignored it the first time, but since you’re pressing the point, something I edited out of my first reply to you:

            That was quite an intense rant you delivered, but I didn’t find it at all convincing. All that happened is I felt browbeaten.

            Intellectuals (or, if you prefer, geeks) get so focused on their abstract discussions they forget to consider political issues like who is whose personal friend. (This is also why I’m willing to politely explain how feminists react like people too, instead of just being all “YOU ALL HATE FEMINISTS.”) Worrying about politics isn’t natural to them, and if you terrify them into trying constantly to keep politics in mind, pretty soon they can’t relax enough to have any discussion at all.

            So, like, feel free to keep enjoying seeing intellectuals punished for innocently being themselves, I guess?

            Now I’ll add, to put it another way:

            pissing Scott off was eminently predictable in this case.

            Gotta disagree.

            All I’ve managed to figure out so far is that there must be a huge cultural gulf between Scott (and perhaps Bay Aryans in general) and me (and perhaps East Coasters in general–this may be a “Bay Area style vs. New York style” type thing). I have not yet learned to predict what “pisses him off” as you put it. So far his bans have never failed to shock me, and it’s always been stuff that I could swear I’d seen others do, frequently, and not get even a warning let alone a ban.

            My reaction has been to try to discuss only those of my beliefs that are culturally left-wing or economically right-wing (in the American sense). Nothing else “feels safe” to say here. (And when I do say anything that doesn’t fit those, I’m doing so with trepidation–“It’s *officially* OK, but is it *really* OK? Is it?” Now you know.)

            …but hey, cool, this really is working as an example of what I’ve been talking about. You don’t believe me because of the great inferential distance between us: You think Scott’s reaction was so predictable that my/others’ expressed belief that certain political positions aren’t safe to express here cannot be sincere. Well…all I can say is that to me, no, it really was not predictable. (Well, not for the reason you gave. Again, *previous* banning decisions had *already* given me the impression I should maybe try to avoid posting anything socially conservative.)

            Now…you know how some feminists feel, I guess?

          • Jiro says:

            “But people existed who said this would happen!” is not proof that anyone involved ever *believed* them.

            How about “were recklessly indifferent to” or “willfully ignored the possibility of”?

            Wanting bad consequences and getting them is a form of success.

            But wanting to ignore the possibility of bad consequences, and successfully remaining ignorant of them, is also a form of success.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            How about “were recklessly indifferent to” or “willfully ignored the possibility of”?

            I’d agree with the second (though not to the point of “they should be ashamed of themselves” or anything, more just “they were human”), and I’d accept the first as close enough to the facts to be a reasonable person’s disagreement.

            Have some understanding of why it happened that way: People had raised the standard against behaviors/cultural mechanisms that had really hurt them. And the only people they heard “defending” these cultural mechanisms paired the defense with, “Your suffering doesn’t matter in the face of the benefits.” Most people react to that by writing off the entire argument as nothing but an attack–not a sincere argument to be actually, like, evaluated or anything.

            BTW, also: It turned out the people being dismissed as too few in number for their suffering to matter, weren’t as few as the dismissers thought. They had numbers enough to shift the culture.

            It would have been better if there could’ve been better communication and negotiation. It might have gotten both sides more of what they wanted and less of what they didn’t.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Total victory? No. Pretty darned good victory, though.

      they also apparently believe that feminism has won so completely that women complaining about being treated badly by men should just be ignored

      Feminism — or at least modern feminists — has caused this. Because at this point when a woman loudly and publicly complains about being treated badly by men, I have strong priors that she’s either lying or exaggerating. You can thank Mattress Girl, “Jackie”, and Jian Ghomeshi’s accusers for that. You can thank the women who go onto long rants about harassment on the streets when it turns out all that happened is some drunk guy sitting on some steps called out “Hello, beautiful”. You can thank the twitter twits who complain about men taking pictures of them on the subway (I saw one recently where the complainer took a picture of the guy. He was holding a newspaper. In both hands. No explanation offered when someone pointed this out).

      But most of all you can thank the “Believe women” movement. Because if these claims could be examined critically without automatically making the examiner a horrible and evil misogynist, it would be possible to separate the real complaints from the liars and the dramatists; then perhaps the liars and dramatists wouldn’t be quite so emboldened, and the real complaints would actually dominate.

      • What do you think of Vi Hart’s description of how she’s been treated?

        • Jiro says:

          I would guess that it’s real, because a lot of the telltale signs of being fake are absent. It’s very light on the blame, and doesn’t invoke most of the things that typical media-driven complaints invoke (except Orlando).

          But I think the point still applies to complaints in general. If the environment incentivizes fake or exaggerated complaints to the point where the place is polluted with them, then the rational thing to do is to have a high prior that any given complaint is fake. Because a prior is not the same thing as a 100% likelihood, there will be some genuine complaints that get caught by this as well, and it will be easy to point to those heartless rationalists who just drove a poor harassed woman to tears by doubting her. But that’s not the fault of the rationalists; it’s the fault of the polluters.

          It’s especially their fault if it’s considered heartless to even try to figure out if a complaint is fake or not.

          • I’d say that people are at least somewhat responsible for what they do, even if it was in response to what other people have done.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “If the environment incentivizes fake or exaggerated complaints”

            What do you think of the [partial] mechanism that Vi identifies as [comparatively] disincentivizing true complaints?

          • Jiro says:

            I’d say that people are at least somewhat responsible for what they do, even if it was in response to what other people have done.

            I don’t think that’s true in a nontrivial sense. If I let an exiled Nigerian prince rot when I could easily have helped him, because I couldn’t tell the difference between his email and all the fake ones I keep getting, is that my fault, or the fault of the fraudsters?

            If I’m a police officer and I arrest someone who fits the description of a killer, is at the scene of the murder, and has his hands covered in blood, but it all turns out to be an unfortunate coincidence, is that my fault?

            Of course you can define “fault” however you wish, but it wouldn’t be my fault in the sense that most people mean it.

          • Agronomous says:

            If I let an exiled Nigerian prince rot when I could easily have helped him, because I couldn’t tell the difference between his email and all the fake ones I keep getting…

            I see you read the same Writing Prompts page my son did….

            Also: Po Bronson has a story about a guy with a dead Nigerian father he’s never met who’s contacted over the internet by a Nigerian guy saying his dad’s not dead after all, but a rich man living in Lagos…..

        • The Nybbler says:

          The hints she gives about how she’s been treated (unlike the Internet/telephone incidents, the events she describes in real life, she implies happened without actually stating so) range from the kind of crap that’s the cost of celebrity (even minor celebrity), like someone running up and telling her they’re a fan, to some pretty nasty stuff, like shoving her against a wall or threatening her life for refusing a drink.

          But I have no idea whether to believe it. I know she’s an outspoken feminist; I know she has an agenda. And I know feminists with agendas make this kind of stuff up; they’re stock atrocity stories in the culture war. As Jiro notes above, it doesn’t have a lot of the tells of a fake story, so I don’t dismiss it straight off. But on the other hand, that could just mean she’s a better storyteller.

      • Anonymous says:

        If James A Donald believes Jian Ghomeshi’s accusers, maybe you should, too.

      • corypheus says:

        “But most of all you can thank the “Believe women” movement. Because if these claims could be examined critically without automatically making the examiner a horrible and evil misogynist, it would be possible to separate the real complaints from the liars and the dramatists; then perhaps the liars and dramatists wouldn’t be quite so emboldened, and the real complaints would actually dominate.”

        Speaking of which, a “believe women” feminist/atheism+er has been accused of rape. It seems like a bit of chickens coming home to roost, no?

        • The Nybbler says:

          It appears Carrier has won the victory over himself; he claims it’s unethical to hit on a women if she becomes grossed out by it. As a man, once you’ve accepted that it’s unethical to even make an advance if it is turned down, you’ve limited yourself to the roles of villain or monk.

        • Anonanon says:

          Oh that is beautiful!
          Dear Dick Carrier:

          Atheism+ is our movement. We will not consider you a part of it, we will not work with you, we will not befriend you. We will heretofore denounce you as the irrational or immoral scum you are (if such you are). If you reject these values, then you are no longer one of us. And we will now say so, publicly and repeatedly. You are hereby disowned.

    • I realize I’m asking people to add to their cognitive load. If you believe that in conflicts between men and women, it’s always the fault of one gender, it simplifies your life a lot.

      • gbdub says:

        But isn’t that the failure mode of feminism that the moderate anti-feminists are complaining about? “This is a problem that women have. Therefore, it is the fault of the patriarchy”.

        Is Vi’s experience truly a gender unique one? How different was Grimmie’s murder from that of, say, John Lennon? Celebrity stalkers of all genders are a thing, and have been since celebrity existed. I think YouTube celebrities and internet authors are going to be uniquely vulnerable to this unfortunately – they aren’t high profile enough or rich enough to have the protection of a Hollywood A-lister, but they work in a medium that tends to create a particularly strong sense of intimacy (and false intimacy, seeing a relationship where there is really only one-way admiration, would seem to be the core feature of stalking). Certainly, sometimes domestic violence and harassment can be ignored or let slide (but how many bar fights are similarly let go as “no big deal”? How often do men get told to “suck it up” when faced with a bully? Should men be required to tolerate a higher level of physical violence against them). I also think Vi could use to read “Radicalizing the Romanceless” before projecting the “I deserve women’s affection!” mentality onto her fanbase.

        Anyway this is not to say that women don’t get harassed, or that there isn’t some gender specific form and language to the harassment. Clearly those are true. Also clearly, there are some toxic aspects to gender norms. I’m pretty sure I’m not someone you were referring to, but certainly I don’t think this should all be ignored because “feminism won”.

        But is feminism still the best framework to address the gender norm problems we still have, now that most of the big legal barriers to female equality have been defeated in Western culture?

        Feminists often say “feminism is for everyone!” but there is a definite sense in feminist spaces that the full participation of men is not welcome, and that a willingness to accept or at least understand male sexuality and male points of view is not there. When feminists say “breaking down gender roles can be good for everyone!” they have a good case – but when they then focus on “patriarchy” and “toxic male culture”, or dismiss gendered harms to men as unimportant, that’s offputting to potential male allies. For all feminism’s focus on gendered language, it can be remarkably glib about gendering the “problem”.

        I think there could still be a place for a “women’s solidarity movement”, but that’s a separate thing. Certainly female victims of actual assault at a minimum deserve their safe space. But at this point real cultural progress needs to involve everyone, which means that no one, feminists included, can get away with blaming one gender anymore, as cathartic as that might be. Unfortunately “Against-Overstrict-Gender-Normism” doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

        • John Schilling says:

          Is Vi’s experience truly a gender unique one? How different was Grimmie’s murder from that of, say, John Lennon?

          Being stalked and murdered on the basis of perceived unrequited love, seems to be a predominantly young-female-celebrity thing.

          Being murdered in general is very predominantly a male thing, by 3.5:1. So seeking out the tiny niches where women are at greater homicide risk and suggesting that we need to take particular care to note why women are afraid of this happening to them, can sound like special pleading on the part of victorious feminists if it isn’t handled carefully. Rather like, yes, black lives matter, but if you’re telling me to focus on black men killed by white policemen that’s suspiciously specific.

          I’m actually more interested in the lower levels of FTF emotional harassment that Hart reports, and would like her to have gone into that in more depth as it seems to me it may represent a greater overall harm. But I can understand why she chose to focus on the rare murders and the constant ludicrous death threats.

          And I thank Nancy for the transcript, because I’d never have sat through the blog post. That was a useful service.

          • gbdub says:

            I second both of your closing paragraphs. The FTF stuff is more interesting and more likely to be a gender-specific phenomenon (the worst of the internet is toxic – but I think we’re all in agreement about that already). And I love transcripts and can’t stand watching videos, so thank you Nancy.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I agree with the point about using gerrymandered reference classes to distort victimization rates, but I disagree that “killed by police” is a gerrymandered reference class. Police killings are special, both because they sow mistrust in the justice system, and because we have more direct control over government agents than private actors and so can more readily prevent them through simple policy changes.

            One irony of the disproportionate focus on the victimization of women is that it’s a textbook example of benevolent sexism, seeing women as specially in need of protection and crimes against women as especially heinous. It was the feminists who taught us about benevolent sexism in the first place, so why do they have so much trouble recognizing it in their own movement?

          • Being murdered in general is very predominantly a male thing, by 3.5:1. So seeking out the tiny niches where women are at greater homicide risk … can sound like special pleading …

            Yes, men in general are at much higher risk for being murdered than women. But that risk is heavily concentrated among men who spend time among criminals, trade in illegal drugs, take unusual risks, use force to take things from others, etc.

            An ordinary middle-class man in an average American community is surely at no greater risk of homicide death than his wife is.

            I’m guessing the gender ratio among innocent homicide victims is not far from 1:1. That’s a minority of homicides, but not a “tiny niche.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Here is an old-ish article suggesting that women are more likely than men to be the victims of murders committed by middle- and upper-class offenders.

            I suspect, though, that among the poor more men are killed than women even after controlling for differential involvement in crime. You can see here that about 40% of all homicides are the upshot of arguments, and that men still make up three-quarters of the victims.

            So it looks as though women preponderate over men as homicide victims only in society’s upper echelons. This might help to explain why violence against women seems especially pressing to affluent, white feminists, I suppose.

          • I suspect, though, that among the poor more men are killed than women even after controlling for differential involvement in crime…. So it looks as though women preponderate over men as homicide victims only in society’s upper echelons.

            Society’s upper echelons? That’s a strange way of referring to the non-poor.

            I mean, I would accept that “the poor” are, very broadly, within the bottom quintile of the socio-economic status distribution. That would leave the other 80% as “middle- and upper-class.”

            There are relatively few murders in the upper 80%, but again, it’s not a “tiny niche”.

          • Anonymaus says:

            “Upper echelons”, to the cited paper, seem to be:

            a. professional,
            b. industrialist,
            c. self-employed businessman,
            d. craftsman,
            e. executive-sales,
            f. farm owner,
            g. manager,
            h. spouses
            or offspring of persons in above categories.

            in the timeframe of 1955 through 1975. I don’t think this would represent 80% of the population.
            Also these characteristics refer to the perpetrator, not the victim.

          • John Schilling says:

            An ordinary middle-class man in an average American community is surely at no greater risk of homicide death than his wife is.

            I can’t find that information, because the government doesn’t seem to track murder victims by social class. However, the National Crime Victimization Survey has some relevant information, and while they obviously can’t survey murder victims we can perhaps use aggravated assault leading to injury requiring medical treatment as a reasonable proxy.

            In which case, exercising my database-fu, I find that for married white non-hispanic suburbanites with household incomes of at least $35k/yr, men were subject to potentially murderous assaults at roughly 3.5 times the rate of women.

            For both men and women, murder is concentrated among a small high-risk population. Even among the low-risk group, though, men are at much greater risk. I believe this is due to a strong cross-cultural norm of “don’t hit girls”, and a complimentary norm that girls shouldn’t fight back hard enough that men have to kill them to make their point. Could be wrong about that.

            Don’t think it matters in this case, because we are focusing on a very atypical high-risk subset of women, which is to say sexy female celebrities with a sometimes-too-adoring fanbase. I am suggesting that maybe we should be looking elsewhere for real insight, and that Vi danced closely around but didn’t really dive into the interesting stuff.

          • linker says:

            Earthly Knight’s article is about murders reported in the NYT. Although it claims to be about middle and upper class murderers, it is worthless as a source about middle class murderers. If lots of upper class murders are newsworthy simply because of the people involved, it might be useful there.

          • I find that for married white non-hispanic suburbanites with household incomes of at least $35k/yr, men were subject to potentially murderous assaults at roughly 3.5 times the rate of women.

            That’s very interesting, and not what I expected. Thank you for finding it.

        • Anonymous says:

          isn’t that the failure mode of feminism that the moderate anti-feminists are complaining about? “This is a problem that women have. Therefore, it is the fault of the patriarchy”.

          My favorite instantiation of this was a pair of reddit threads. The first was, “What are some nice things about being tall?” The second, made in response, was, “What are some nice things about being short?” Finally, the comment was, “Now that we’ve determined that there are nice things about being tall and nice things about being short, we can immediately conclude that the patriarchy hurts everyone.”

          As far as I’m concerned, this is still an open challenge. I’d love to see a feminist argument for why this doesn’t follow, so that we can make bare some of the theoretical workings of the patriarchy claim.

          • fubarobfusco says:

            “Now that we’ve determined that there are nice things about being tall and nice things about being short, we can immediately conclude that the patriarchy hurts everyone.”

            Consider two sets of integers, S and T.

            The intersection of S and the positive numbers is nonempty. This is true for the intersection of T and the positive numbers.

            Therefore, the sum of S and the sum of T must be equal and positive.


      • Anonanon says:

        You don’t even draw a distinction between people distrusting “feminists” vs distrusting “all women”? Then I’m not surprised your perspective is… the way it is.

        And you link someone who thinks “freedom of speech” is a “stupid, intangible cool-factor” when weighed against the costs of “perpetuating harmful biases”?
        You don’t think anyone might be just a little mistrusting of someone who talks about “public speech qualification tests”?

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @ Anonanon :

          You don’t think anyone might be just a little mistrusting of someone who talks about “public speech qualification tests”?

          Did you watch the video that screencap came from? Vi didn’t, in fact, talk about “public speech qualification tests”. She talked about tools and how they have possible risks and rewards for both the user and those around them and the fact that you can’t reliably use simple tests to determine when and how a tool should be used. In context, the drawn “public speech qualification test” was an example of something that…doesn’t actually work, and she’s kind of glad it doesn’t.

          Vi responds (at the link above):

          Interestingly, despite how explicitly I stated the opinion that it’s important that we should be allowed to cut towards ourselves when we think it’s worth it (though hopefully after understanding the risk, and learning from our mistakes), more than a few commenters decided to interpret this video as an anti-free-speech fascist nanny state thing.

          How does even?

          Part of the point of the video is how easily we push our values to extremes, and I can’t say I’m very surprised to see such commenters asserting their values, but what’s interesting is that the extreme they’ve decided to sort me into is the one opposite themselves. They could have decided to interpret my video as backing up their beliefs through agreement, but chose conflict.

          Me, I went with the other option – I took the point of the video being that rules are more complicated than we think and don’t always work and don’t always solve the problems we’d like them to. In the drawing layer she applies this idea to rules about knives and rules about guns and rules about speech, trying to derive some meta-wisdom from thinking about how we use tools in general.

          Also note that in context it’s not clear who is enforcing these rules, if anyone. Some are rules we might enforce on ourselves…or choose not to.

          • Anonanon says:

            Yes, I watched it. And I also noticed the comics she retweeted by “GynoStar” shortly afterwards, mocking due-process-fetishizing dudebr-s in 50s suits. I thought that made her position pretty clear.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I miss when Vi Hart made videos about math.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            I miss when Vi Hart made videos about math.

            At least this year’s Pi Day video was still about math…

          • ThirteenthLetter, do you suppose the way she’s been treated might have something to do with that?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Is abandoning math for political advocacy going to reduce the amount of crude trolling she gets?

          • Anonanon says:

            Wait, I thought the point was that the abuse she got as a celebrity paled in comparison to what every woman faces every day? Which one is it?

          • Anonanon, she said that real life harassment was frightening in a way that online harassment isn’t, not that online harassment has no effect.

            She says that she’s built up a lot of emotional callouses to deal with online harassment.

    • Urstoff says:

      Related: what happened to the general thrust of the 60’s civil rights movement that people/races/genders may be different, but everyone has equal moral worth and is deserving of equal respect? Much of the left seems to deny the former (and a bit of the latter), while much of the right (particularly the alt-right) seems to deny the latter.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        Inflation of virtue signaling: If you can’t show off your progressvieness by asserting that all races matter the same because now pretty much every one thinks this way, the new progressive thing becomes “Group A that progressives support is better than Group B”.

        • onyomi says:

          I think this is also the motivation behind people like Tim Wise. It’s not enough for a white person merely to think black people are of equal moral worth as white people because everyone thinks that way now. In fact, people who talk like that (saying things like “I don’t see color”) are now openly mocked as covert racists and behind the times.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I’m not sure how this is evidence against feminism having won the culture wars.

      Celebrities, even internet celebrities, attract a lot of nutcases by virtue of their fame. Attributing murders committed by erotomaniacs to a broader societal misogyny or male entitlement masks a real mental health problem and slanders tens of millions of healthy well-behaved fans.

      Even in a perfect feminist utopia, there would still be men and women who delusionally believe that a famous person secretly loves them. And some of them, sadly, would still react with violence when reality refused to bend to delusion. The existence of psychiatric illness does not prove the existence of Patriarchy.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        As I understood it, Vi Hart’s point was that the harassment she received due to being an Internet celebrity paled in comparison to that she received as a woman. Feminists may have won some aspects of the culture wars, but this is evidence that they haven’t won the “no random harassment of women” part.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Well I could get into why that likely is, namely that the particular allies modern feminists have chosen represent the majority of perpetrators of sexual violence, but I think it would be a distraction.

          If that was really her point, then why didn’t she actually provide any examples of being harassed in person? There was a lot of innuendo but not even one specific incident. Maybe this is me being a doubting thomas but I need something more than implication.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Do you mean black men?

            She did, didn’t she? For example, the man in a bar who was angry that she wouldn’t let him buy her a drink, and so threatened to kill her.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Here, yes. In Europe they do the same with Muslims. In either case a baffling choice.

            Also I’m pretty sure that was Nancy’s anecdote, or at the least it was past the end of the transcript. If I misread and that was Vi Hart then I retract what I said before.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Dr Dealgood:
            “represent the majority of perpetrators of sexual violence”

            You think black men commit the majority of sexual violence in the US?

          • Sandy says:

            You think black men commit the majority of sexual violence in the US?

            In fact, they don’t, but they are over-represented in such statistics. The white (plus Hispanic) offender numbers are about double the number of black offender numbers in the US, but black people make up much less than half the percentage of white people in America.

            Although I believe in countries like Sweden, it is not so much a case of disproportionate representation as a clear majority of rapists being Arabs, North Africans and assorted stripes of Muslim.

          • There were two bar stories, and I’m not sure whether they got conflated.

            Vi Hart said that she wasn’t extremely careful to make nice when a man offered her a drink, and he started talking about killing her.

            I’d been just sitting in a bar, and a man started talking to me about knifing small women.

            Guys, have you ever had anyone, male or female, start talking about attacking you when it wasn’t a matter of escalating shit-talking?

          • Zorgon says:

            Yes. Numerous times, in fact. The most recent one was only about 8 months ago.

            Probably my favourite, though, was when I was a student and a blowhard began to explain to me how all students were scum and he would glass the next one he saw. I started laughing at the absurdity of it, he caught on and began laughing too, and it turned out he wasn’t actually serious about it and that as in many previous cases, a specific type of person uses generalised threats as a means of drunkenly asserting their status.

          • Ruprect says:

            Yeah, once I was in the toilets of a pub and this guy from Wales started chatting to me, asking me where I was from etc. I happen to come from an area with a large gay population, so he asked me if I was gay. When I said “Yes” he threatened to kill me.

            (I’m not gay.)

            Once when I was walking home from the pub on New Years Eve this guy who was walking towards me said “Happy New Years” to me, then, when I returned the greeting, he kicked me in the shoulder (he was walking down the hill towards me) and then him and his friend pushed me against a wall.

            Once a guy I was chatting to outside a pub hit me on the shoulder with his skateboard because he was angry about something.

            A guy attacked me on a dance floor once.

            So, less people telling me they’ll attack me, and more people just attacking me to be honest.

          • lunatic says:

            I’ve had complete strangers start actually attacking me with very little talk of any variety beforehand. I can remember 3 such incidents.

            It was never “serious” in the sense than when I ran or rode my bike away they didn’t chase.

          • Acedia says:

            Guys, have you ever had anyone, male or female, start talking about attacking you when it wasn’t a matter of escalating shit-talking?

            A belligerently drunk Scottish man at a bus stop late at night who asked for a light and took great offense at me saying “sorry, I don’t smoke”. I treated his threats as if he was making a joke (probably helped that I’m a big guy) and he calmed down and wandered off.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Not sure if this counts, since I wasn’t actually attacked and I was more annoyed than frightened, although it’s a bit closer to the original anecdote.

            Last year when I was riding the subway (not in a real city) at night with my ex, I had a drunk Latino guy wander up. He started talking shit about how dangerous it was for me to be riding the subway at night with a pretty girl, how many murders had happened in this line and how I was going to get stabbed, basically scaring the shit out of my girlfriend. I was a good head taller and decade younger than the guy, so when I told him to get out of my face he didn’t push the issue and slunk off.

            Funny thing is that I recognized him, since he had a pretty memorable face due to the scars and pockmarks. He had actually tried something similar about a year earlier when I was with a different girl, although in the evening and with a less violent subject of conversation.

            To be honest I’m not sure if he was trying to threaten me, make me look bad in front of my girl, or what. But it roughly fits the criteria.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            had a chav threaten to stab me for not getting out of his way fast enough. not sure that really matches what you’re talking about, though.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Feminists had something close to total victory. They lost it. Social movements don’t survive their victory intact; the peak requires the decline.

      The number of people willing to hear her complaint is declining. This is actually a move towards equality, however; it means women are being treated more like men.

      Feminism revolves around an unacknowledged expectation of chivalry; an expectation that men will help out with women’s problems. There isn’t any reciprocity to the deal, however, and many people are dropping out of the bargain. They’re forming the next social movement, which has been a slow wave building up over the past decade. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be any prettier than the last few.

      My position at this point is this: Everybody gets shit on for who they are. We can either all agree to stop doing that, or we can individually stop caring what other people think. Since thus far my mind control powers have failed, I’ve changed the thing I can change, myself.

    • J Quenff says:

      For future reference, you can use this tool to scrape subtitles from youtube videos in order to save time transcribing —

      (That said, I, and I’m sure a good few others, only took the time to read the post because the effort you spent in transcribing it implied that it was a piece worth giving time to, so please don’t feel that you wasted any time!)

    • Glen Raphael says:

      In the transcript you added:
      > [pages of a log of many, many youtube comments saying “marry me”]

      The description doesn’t do that part of the video justice. First Vi scrolls through a list of her “marry me” youtube comments and as you scan the list you could still plausibly be thinking “well, this might be innocuous/cute – occasionally people say marry me (live or on the net) as a teasing way to mean “I really like what you are saying!” but they don’t mean anything by it. It’s like a thumbs-up!”

      …and then she scrolls to the side and lets the cursor linger over the date field to casually reveal that dozens and dozens of these comments all arrived on the exact same day. Probably from the same person. Somebody must have said “marry me” in response to every video or every conversational thread about the latest video.


      • The Nybbler says:

        But as far as there being some sort of societal or systemic problem, dozens and dozens of “marry me” comments from the same person is nothing. It’s one obsessed fan, or one troll. This is a serious problem for Vi Hart, but it says no more about feminism or “women being treated badly by men” than David Letterman’s stalker does about men being treated badly by women.

    • Pku says:

      The problem is that you’re conflating two arguments here. The first is that we’ve become so feminist, as a society, that being too anti-feminist and pushing society too far to the other side is not realistic enough to worry about at present. The second is thinking it actually is impossible for society to be anti-feminist enough.

      The first argument seems true, as far as it goes. Its failure mode is that it can occasionally lead to confusing average results for present results. If I see a woman on the internet complain about being harassed, I don’t need to worry about giving her support because the whole internet is going to give her ridiculous amounts of support and call her a national hero. If I’m meeting a friend and she said she got harassed on the bus ride over, I do need to support her, because “society” isn’t there, just me.

    • Jeffrey Soreff says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz

      Thank you for the transcript. Much appreciated.

    • keranih says:

      @Nancy –

      Thank you so much for posting this. FWIW, I went into reading this in a very dubious mindset, and only did so because, hey, Nancy is generally sensible (even when deeply wrong) and she put some effort into this, and might as well see what got said.

      I found Vi H’s statement interesting and that it resonated on some levels. Your words more so.

      What Vi said – regarding the normalization of death threats: There is very little that makes me feel more like I had a very sheltered upbringing than hearing about teenage minors who get real, believable death threats, and everyone treats this as normal. Inner city gang culture African Americans, gamers, all one and the same – this is fucked up. Me and mine never had that, and I was constantly bullied in junior high and part of high school.

      (The part about Vi “turning trolls into friends” – hen. Time will do that. I get *so many* drinks bought and offered for me at high school reunions, starting at ten years out, by people who were like “omg, we were such assholes to you, I am so sorry.” So trolls, yes. Death threats, no. And as I think on it – it’s been the guys who apologized for being assholes. The girls/women – NSM.)

      I do think that you are onto something with pushing boundaries, as is the person with the hugs post. We have created a society where it’s not very possible to be moderate and modest in dealing with other people, and where bias that shoves away some people but allows others to approach is seen as not at all proper. Freedom of association seems to ratchet only one way – you have to be approachable by more and more people, never fewer.

      I suspect this can shed some light on what we have set aside, when we put away more reserved social mores, and expected greater social distance between men and women. Sure, we women get a greater range of choices in our professions, and in our living arrangements, and the guys get a lot more sex offered to them, but we’ve also decreased the striking distance, so to speak.

      Women in the USA have come a long way in forcing men to reorganize the social side of work – as well as a lot of the physical/structural part – in order to permit the average woman to thrive in an environment that had been occasionally challenging for the average man. And we’ve still not achieved a status quo where women don’t feel threatened or stressed at all. I have no doubt that the feminist movement will continue to try to shut down all the small “aggression” until nothing at all threatening happens ever, but I’m not really positive about their chances of success, and I don’t really want to live in that world, either.

      And finally, because hey, this is already TL;DR – the mirroring of what the other person said – I’ve done that as well, and I think that there’s a certain degree of geekishness/austisticness that facilitates repeating the words well, due to communicating flatly in low context environments. I’m far less convinced that this actually means that the people who can exactly mirror the words of others understand the other person any better. And like you, I think that tone of voice does a lot which is missed in transcripts.

      Again, thanks for your work in doing this.

      • John Schilling says:

        There is very little that makes me feel more like I had a very sheltered upbringing than hearing about teenage minors who get real, believable death threats, and everyone treats this as normal

        I am going to guess that there is almost no overlap between the set of people who consider this to be normal and the set of people who consider the death threats to be believable.

        Note that in mainstream American culture, threats far worse than death are delivered regularly and yet dismissed as harmless talk. “Damn you!” and “Go to hell!” being common formulations. And there are enough Christians around, even among the population using such language, that we can’t dismiss this as unbelievable to the participants. We just assume that nobody really means it, nobody is actually going to lobby God for another’s eternal damnation and/or embark upon a campaign of harassment that would prevent a person from sincerely repenting.

        And we’re probably right, though good luck verifying that in this world. Internet death threats, we can presumably get numbers on.

        • Jiro says:

          The person threatening to kill you could conceivably run you over with a car. The person threatening you with Hell has no ability to get you sent to Hell. He might try to lobby God, but nobody actually fears being sent to Hell because someone lobbies God, and since God is omniscient, that shouldn’t work anyway for the same reason that prayer shouldn’t work–what could you possibly say to convince God that he doesn’t already know?

          • John Schilling says:

            For the more common versions of Christian theology, one can theoretically arrange someone else’s eternal damnation with nothing more than email harassment and with God standing dispassionately on the sidelines. Find some mortal sin they have committed (it’s a long list), and attack them on that front to the point where they become defensive, unwilling to admit error because they are less concerned with what God thinks than with showing weakness to their hated human enemy, until they die unrepentant. Or, for extra bonus damnation, hound them until they commit suicide over it.

            To a believer, that would seem more credible than the usual internet death threat insofar as it doesn’t require dragging one’s ass away from the computer and into a dangerous meatspace confrontation.

          • Agronomous says:

            The person threatening you with Hell has no ability to get you sent to Hell.

            I don’t know: I suspect D.’s got some pull with the Big Guy.

            (Too soon?)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Hounding them until they commit suicide” sounds like it should be a different category than “death threat.”

          • John Schilling says:

            “Hounding them until they commit suicide” sounds like it should be a different category than “death threat.”

            Yes, it should. At least as usually implemented on the internet, one of these is a thing that is intended to result in the death of an innocent person and sometimes does result in the death of an innocent person, the other is trash talk that isn’t and doesn’t.

          • Uhurugu says:

            @John Schilling

            I’d expect this threat to be credible to someone who actually believes that it could work. However, I’ve seen no evidence that mainstream Christians, let alone mainstream America, believe that such lobbying actually impacts their chance at salvation.

            Given that ‘Damn you’ is not widely regarded as an enforceable threat and ‘I know where you live and will use that information to inflict violence on you’ is, I think it’s reasonable that there’s a different perception of threat.

        • keranih says:

          We just assume that nobody really means it, nobody is actually going to lobby God for another’s eternal damnation and/or embark upon a campaign of harassment that would prevent a person from sincerely repenting.

          Eh. That sounds an awful lot like Lewis’s discussion of persecuting witches.

          On reflection, it is possible that I used “normal” in a confusing way – I meant in a “normally occurring, standard for the environment” sort of way. (Not in a “ideal homeostasis” way.) And so I am informed by many people that for [people X] death threats are a frequent occurrence, a standard part of that environment, which is a sign of how bad the lot of [people X] is, because they are constantly exposed to these non-trivial, serious threats.

          • John Schilling says:

            because they are constantly exposed to these non-trivial, serious threats

            And I am questioning the part where these threats are non-trivial and serious. A great many statements whose literal content is some form of “I intend to cause you Great and Terrible Harm” are generally understood to be trivial and non-serious, and the presence of such quasi-threats does seem to be a normal part of most human environments. Standard-issue internet death threats seem to me to match the usual pattern of trivial non-serious “threats”, and I think it is most likely that we are seeing miscommunication across cultural boundaries rather than serious threats.

            In which case, it is a miscommunication that works to the benefit of the people making non-serious death threats, so even if you explain it to them they aren’t likely to stop. If you can explain it to the targets, the people making the threats look like the impotent trolls they are, and the more obvious that becomes the more likely the threats will be to stop.

  28. Blairmacg makes it very clear that this is about bullying of new karate students, and it can come from *anyone* who’s larger and/or stronger. Gender is irrelevant, and it isn’t always family members.

    This sort of bullying is common enough that it was worth writing an essay on how to deal with it, but I didn’t see any claims that it’s universal.

    Do you have any idea how you came to misread the piece so badly?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Did someone delete a comment?

      • Yes, it looks like a comment has evaporated. Mercifully, I don’t remember the name of the person who made it.

        However, the piece they linked to was good, so I’m preserving that part. If anyone does happen to remember the name of the poster, I’d appreciate it if you don’t mention it.

        • Oliver says:

          That’s an interesting read.

          I have been practicing Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing for around two years, and have not observed the kind of bullying that the article presents. I think this is because the focus of my club is on sport and competition rather than self defense.

          I am very skeptical of the effectiveness of self defense classes. To be effective in a fight, you need the right frame of mind – you need to be ready to use you moves, and you need the resolve to hurt someone. With a little practice, it’s easy to enter this frame of mind when you step into the ring. It’s much harder to enter it suddenly when you are threatened. Somehow the skills you learn in class do not come to mind when they are needed.

          Ever though I have a good level of fitness and skill, I have no confidence at all about my ability to defend myself from an unexpected attack. My intuition is that the same holds for the attendees of self defense classes.

          The instructor at my club is terribly, awe-inspiringly good at kickboxing. Every kick she makes it precise. Her movements are like lightning. She lifts more weights than me. Despite that, she suffered physical abuse from her ex-boyfriend, even though I know she could effortlessly knock him out in the ring. Somehow, her skills were not transferable to a different setting.

          I think it is quite unhealthy for martial arts instructors to present classes under the label of ‘self defense’. Martial arts are sports. The resolve to fight cannot be learned in the dojo.

          • Lysenko says:

            I think you’re right in that the average Martial Arts dojo of the type found in half the strip malls of America are ill-equipped to teach the mindset and skillset required for effective self-defense. I strongly disagree that “the resolve to fight cannot be learned in a dojo” if by ‘dojo’ you mean a classroom environment combined with physical exercies.

            The militaries of the world do it wholesale, with varying degrees of success depending on the exact techniques applied. Martial arts did not develop as a sport, and their status as a sport is a recent deviation from their history and purpose.

            Even now, you can absolutely find martial arts and self defense instructors who are absolutely ready to at least try and inculcate the appropriate mindset and habits of thought, though they tend not to run “dojos”. Most of the good ones run various courses or clinics targeting people who have already taken the first steps along that path either through personal choice or via time in a LE/Military environment.

        • John Schilling says:

          My perhaps less than charitable read on this is that the instructor’s plan is to,

          A: Teach his students pathetically ineffective means of self-defense
          B: Build up their self-confidence by throwing a few contests, and
          C: Backfill later with effective self-defense training to justify the confidence

          Which I can see as a potentially effective strategy, and with some students maybe even the best strategy. But then we get to

          D: Hope nobody accurately tells my students how lame stages A and B were,
          E: If they do, denounce them as small-minded bullies who like beating up women.

          And that’s clearly uncharitable. There are probably some bullies, etc, in that group. There are probably also some people who were hoping the women in their lives would show them they had learned something useful and disappointed that this didn’t happen. In neither case is “Stop showing my students that my early teachings are lame, you bully!” the appropriate response, in the former case because they won’t listen and in the latter because it is based on falsehood.

          • onyomi says:

            I started off thinking that way as I read the article, but I think this point is very important: the person testing you (usually a friend or relative) is counting on you being more concerned to avoid hurting them than you are to prove the technique works.

            If the whole goal of the technique, as with say, Aikido, is to subdue without hurting, then obviously it is a failure if it can’t do that against someone applying full effort. But that’s not true of all martial arts techniques by any means.

            That said, I do think it’s potentially dangerous to imagine that you will be able to effectively deploy techniques you can’t even use against someone in a low-pressure, low-danger situation to a high-pressure, high-stress situation.

            You will use more strength in that situation due to adrenaline and less fear of hurting the opponent, but your technique will tend to go out the window. And if your technique was already so bad you couldn’t joint lock or whatever your partner in a relaxed situation, you can be sure you won’t have the finesse in a high-pressure situation. But if you’re relying entirely on adrenaline and strength, then that defeats the whole point of learning a martial art.

          • You’re missing that a lot of this testing is done to very new beginners– people who’ve only been studying for a month or two. They haven’t had enough time to learn how to be effective, especially against someone larger.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, I get that these are beginners, but they are clearly overconfident beginners who believe they have learned how to be effective. Otherwise they aren’t going to be accepting “try and break my hold” challenges outsiders, or at very least aren’t going to be surprised and asking their teacher “why didn’t it work?”

            Anybody learning self-defense and/or martial arts needs to be taught, not only the techniques, but whether each of those techniques is:

            A – Wax-on/Wax-off training material, ineffective except as a foundation for something to come later,

            B – Effective low-impact techniques that can be demonstrated and practiced among friends and other amateurs,

            C – Effective high-impact techniques that work by actually hurting people and need to be practiced under expert supervision.

            Otherwise people are going to get hurt, one way or another. If a woman believes she can break a random male friend’s hold, and she can’t even come close because she hasn’t been taught that yet, then there is something wrong with their teaching and I don’t want to hear the teacher whining about the male friend who put their teaching to the obvious test.

  29. My thoughts on Brexit are similar to those of Josh Marshall (here and here).

    The Brexit vote was an emotional rejection of economic rationalism. Because it will likely result in what is now the U.K. becoming an impoverished and balkanized backwater, it is awful news for the entire English-speaking world.

    As things get worse and worse in Britain, it probably won’t occur to voters that they brought this on themselves.

    On betting markets, essentially the summation of conventional wisdom, the odds of Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidential election have now edged a bit higher. I still don’t think Trump can win, but I admit that the Brexit vote shakes my certainty on this.

    • onyomi says:

      “likely result in what is now the U.K. becoming an impoverished and balkanized backwater”

      Isn’t this a bit hyperbolic? One of three financial capitals of the world is going to become a backwater because it pulled out of a particular agreement?

      • gbdub says:

        Of course it’s hyperbolic. Are Norway and Switzerland “impoverished and balkanized backwaters”? The linked article makes a point that the UK already had special deals within the EU, because of its unique place in the EU economy. Certainly, the remaining EU could make the divorce especially painful out of spite, but, well, then who is letting emotionalism win out over rationality?

        And that’s kind of the problem – while I generally agree that the “economic rationalists” had the right of it on “Remain”, they certainly relied heavily on emotional appeals both in their leadup and reaction. “Vote with us, or we will look down our noses and call you a dumb geriatric racist slightly more vigorously than we already do, you dumb geriatric racist!”

        With such a logical and charitable campaign, who wouldn’t be swayed?

    • Jaskologist says:

      There goes Bryan Caplan’s winning streak:

      10. “If any current EU member with a population over 10 million people in 2007 [Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Hungary] officially withdraws from the EU before January 1, 2020, I will pay you $100. Otherwise, you owe me $100.” (here) Date: 04/26/08. Status: open.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        We’ve still got to actually leave before 2020, which may not happen (either due to the unlikely event of the government overruling the result, the more likely event of a change of public opinion and another referendum, or the quite likely event of negotiations taking longer than four years).

    • John Schilling says:

      How do you figure “impoverished and balkanized backwater”, when that clearly isn’t the case for e.g. Norway or Switzerland?

      I have always believed, and still now believe, that Brexit would cause net harm to the British economy, but I see no reason to believe that this will be more than a modest harm. The only way it could become catastrophic is if the EU deliberately acts to make it so, and at the cost of substantial economic harm to itself. That is not impossible, and it may be the outcome you are thinking of.

      But even then, I’m not sure I wouldn’t bet on the Brits. A trade war with Britain while the EU still hasn’t got its own financial house in order could collapse the union entirely. And if the whole of Europe becomes “impoverished and balkanized”, the whole of Europe cannot become a backwater. Britain seems likely, in that scenario, to have a relatively stronger economy than any single ex-EU nation save Germany, and thus be a preferred conduit for wealth fleeing a collapsing continental economy or foreign investment seeking to profit from opportunities mid-collapse.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        I agree that the harm won’t be massive, but Norway have oil and Switzerland has a special banking system (and Greenland, the only other country to ever leave the EU only had 60,000 people).

        • John Schilling says:

          Britain has both oil and a special banking system.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Not quite on the same scale (and the UK may no longer have oil if there is another Scottish referendum with a different result).

          • JDG1980 says:

            That oil is the patrimony of the British people. Why should the Scots be allowed to take it for themselves if they vote to leave the UK?

          • Steven says:

            And, of course, under the Law of the Sea, the oil is in the waters/EEZ/continental shelf of Shetland and Orkney, constituencies that were 64% and 67% opposed to Scottish independence. It is by no means assured that, when all is said and done, they would leave with Scotland.

          • brad says:

            If you are going to play that game, how did Shetland and Orkney vote on Brexit? Or London for that matter?

          • Alliteration says:

            Shetland and Orkeny voted to remain. Shetland Islands voted 56.5% remain and Orkney Islands voted 63.2% remain

        • linker says:

          Swiss banking is no more special than UK banking. I believe that UK finance is a larger proportion of GDP than Swiss finance, but I don’t have numbers. Here is finance+insurance as proportion of export services, FWIW.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            That’s interesting, I would have expected the Swiss proportion to be much larger. But even so, I think it would be relatively easy to move investment banks from London to Frankfurt or Dublin (although rumours that this is already happening appear to be false). Conversely, there aren’t many other choices for users of Swiss banking services.

          • John Schilling says:

            Which services are those? The Swiss no longer offer anonymity in banking, and will pretty much hand over your records on demand to the government of whatever nation can claim you as a citizen.

            For offshore banking generally, there are several fairly reliable choices. More than one of which, I believe, claim Elizabeth II Windsor as their head of state.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        I’d be very surprised if the difference in incomes between the UK-in-the-EU and the UK-out-of-the-EU was anywhere close to the size of the difference between the UK-in-the-EU and the US (let alone the EU and the US). Yet it seems to me that the people who expect me to hyperventilate over the former are mostly the same sort who’ve spent decades expecting me to shrug off the latter.

        The massed phalanx of economists are probably qualitatively right about the harm to the trading system, but I suspect them of getting carried away as far as the magnitude goes. I think it was Paul Krugman who observed that economists exaggerate the benefits of trade precisely because it’s a thing they understand and everyone else misunderstands, making it a point of pride for them.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Everybody is talking about this like it was definitely a vote on the economics. Do we have a good reason to believe this? What makes us so sure that this wasn’t Brits saying, “Ah, finally a chance to vote against importing more ‘rapeugees!’ Capitol, capitol.”

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        I think they were more likely to be saying “capital”. But in any case, although anti-immigration rhetoric was a big part of it, it was mostly directed at Eastern European immigrants and generic “foreigners” for allegedly stealing jobs and burdening public services, rather than at refugees, of whom we have very few.

      • gbdub says:

        Who’s “everybody”? So far all the reactions Im seeing presume all the “leave” voters are geriatric racists.

    • Anon. says:

      The FTSE100 closed down 3.1%. It’s a big-ish move, but absolutely not consistent with anything even remotely like “impoverished and balkanized backwater”.

    • Some comments from various folks, via Financial Times:

      “A quick note on the first three tragedies. Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded, and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another. Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors. Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were as useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in a HG Wells novel. When Michael Gove said, ‘The British people are sick of experts,’ he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has led to anything other than bigotry?”

      “So let me get this straight: as a young person, we bailed out the city and the over inflated pensions and savings that were gambled away by governments we didn’t elect (Thatcher, New Labour), and we will have to bail all of these people out while millennials see a decline in earnings and an ageing population (rising pensions, healthcare costs, etc). What do we get in return? We lose the right of freedom to move, study, work, live and be treated as equals in any European country, we face rising debt levels and now even lower incomes as we punch our own economy in the face for some poxy nationalist cause and fake democracy. What about proportional representation? What about the House of Lords? Where were the Brexiters then? As soon as I’ve finished my studies, I’m out of this country.”

      “For those arguing that the market is going to bounce back due to strong UK economic fundamentals: imagine a fever. In most cases you end up being okay, but what happens to your productivity while you struggle to recover? I’m going to print out the pound-dollar overnight volatility chart to remind myself that financial literacy is not optional if you want a democracy to work.”

      “Never before in my adult life has a democratic decision come close to affecting my and my family’s future income in the way this one will. Decades of focus groups, spin doctors, media training and politicians’ calculated messaging to different portions of the electorate have come home to roost. When the time came, none of our political, business or media elites was able to speak the plain truth to the electorate with the authority and trust that might have made a difference.”

      • FacelessCraven says:

        if you’ll pardon me, I think that last quote is the truly decisive one. The “post-factual democracy” line rings true as well. Certianly as far as I’m concerned, I assume that anything I see with an “experts say” or “studies show” appended is a lie. We’re all flying blind now.

      • Skivverus says:

        Decades of focus groups, spin doctors, media training and politicians’ calculated messaging to different portions of the electorate have come home to roost. When the time came, none of our political, business or media elites was able to speak the plain truth to the electorate with the authority and trust that might have made a difference.

        Leaving aside the obvious political analogies, this strikes me as having a good deal in common with market bubbles: namely, the long and increasingly-taken-for-granted rise, with people relying more and more on each other, and the precipitous fall/”(over)correction” when a subset of those people runs into something they absolutely don’t want to be (or can’t be) relied on for.

      • Ruprect says:

        Perhaps we should be thanking the British electorate for giving us a chance to see how right the experts are.
        Unambiguously proving the validity of their prognostications, could add as much as 3% per annum to global GDP, by making it easier to implement optimal policies.

        Anyway, I voted leave – I don’t think anyone really doubted that there would be some impact in terms of trade – but the impact, such as it is, will be from the EU playing hard ball. I mean, economically speaking, isn’t there some value to doing something unambiguously damaging to yourself if it will convince people not to mess with you in the future?
        That’s why I tended to trust to the inarticulate wisdom of the stout British yeoman over the models of the egg heads, at least on this matter – because this is, at base, a question of social interactions.

    • erenold says:

      Quick point –

      Many of the replies to this point focus on the line “impoverished and balkanized backwater,” and consider it hyperbolic based on Brexit alone. This seems to ignore the high possibility of a 2nd Scottish independence referendum, which would have far graver consequences than Brexit itself would have had. Their First Minister has already explicitly demanded as such.

      And while neverendums are generically a Bad Thing, in this case the Scots obviously have the moral right to demand such. They stayed In in large part because they were told that Out meant breaking from the EU. Now the UK has left and taken them along, locked in the trunk.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        …what would be the consequences of Scotland leaving the UK?

        • erenold says:

          An excellent question for which I don’t have the numbers at hand. But a United Kingdom of Great Britain – which justifies its name as the 1707 union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland – would be unquestionably no longer great if it was no longer united; smaller, sadder, grayer, and drearier. Coincidentally but with great symbolic value, the UK would possibly no longer even be a nuclear power, since it would lose access to Faslane, home base of their Trident nuclear deterrent, and I am given to understand that there is no place in England that Trident can easily be relocated to.

          • LHN says:

            If I’m figuring it right, a rump UK without Scotland has the population of the entire UK around the turn of this millennium. Shorn down to just England, it has the population of the entire UK around when I was born. Neither of those seems incompatible with operating on roughly the same scale as the current UK does.

            (I don’t especially want to see the UK break up, both due to small-c conservative inclinations and for sentimental reasons. But I mostly think of it as something that’s their business more than it is mine.)

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The most likely alternative base would be Devonport, where the SSN fleet was based (it’s now moving to Faslane) and where all Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarines are refuelled and refitted.

            The problem with Devonport is that it is in the centre of the city of Plymouth, and therefore it’s considered unacceptably risky for submarines carrying nuclear warheads to dock there. Submarines don’t actually enter Faslane armed- warheads are removed from their missiles and stored at the nearby Coulport base- but building a replacement for Coulport in England, while possible, would be difficult and it would be significantly further from Devonport than Coulport is from Faslane.

            The only other possibilities would be to keep Faslane in some way (either under a Sevastopol-type lease arrangement or as a sovereign base like the British bases in Cyprus) or to switch to a non-submarine-based deterrent.

          • erenold says:

            AlphaGamma – I was under the impression it is legally impossible to move Trident to Devonport, since as you say that would be a breach of the MoD’s own guidelines, and therefore it really is Faslane or bust. Certainly I remember the MoD being uncharacteristically assertive about this during Corbyn’s Trident debate, which I took as a sign that this time they were really very serious about it.

          • John Schilling says:

            King’s Bay has already been floated as at least a temporary alternative to Faslane, if it comes to that. The Royal Navy already does missile refits there, so there’s local experience with the Vanguard-class SSBNs, and we do kind of owe them one.

            By the time any of this matters, even the name will likely be appropriate.

          • erenold says:

            John Schilling, is it possible for me to ask you a technical question? My instinctive perception of these things is that the actual risk involved in a competent, professional Western military handling nuclear weapons, even near a city, is basically zero, and in fact quite a lot lower than e.g. having a nuclear power plant in the vicinity. Is this correct? And if so, does that make things like the Devonport ban a pure PR sop to NIMBYism?

            I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything craven or particularly dishonest about it, mind. I just think there are certain things that are in reality just about completely safe but governments rightly don’t push their luck trying to explain that to the public.

          • Jeffrey Soreff says:

            “the actual risk involved in a competent, professional Western military handling nuclear weapons, even near a city, is basically zero”


          • John Schilling says:

            My instinctive perception of these things is that the actual risk involved in a competent, professional Western military handling nuclear weapons, even near a city, is basically zero,

            For modern weapon designs, that’s probably the case as far as the nuclear part goes. However, it’s worth noting (and a quick google suggests that it has been noted w/re the UK Trident basing controversies) that each Trident missile contains on the order of 50 tonnes of propellant which in the US is a DoT Class 1.1 Mass Explosion Hazard, i.e. it doesn’t just burn, it actually can detonate.

            Some of us in the rocketry business think it is slightly insane using that stuff when we’ve got propellants almost as potent that can’t detonate. Though to be fair, if a missile ignites on a submarine at sea, everybody is dead whether you get a detonation or not, and that’s never happened to a Western SSBN yet. But in port, you need expert paranoids running the show, and you need a substantial buffer zone between the subs and any civilians.

          • erenold says:

            Ah, TIL. Thanks for your time, John Schilling (and Jeffrey Soreff as well – I was not aware of that incident.)

          • bean says:

            That article vastly overstates the possible damage. The specific claims of ‘a 100% kill zone of seventeen miles’ and ‘we came damn close to having a Bay off North Carolina’ are hogwash. My nuclear slide rule says you’d get a bad sunburn, and a crater with an outside radius of, at worst, .4 miles.
            Also, modern nuclear weapons are much safer.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          I’ve got to figure that Scotland is more tightly integrated with the rest of Britain than Britain is with the EU. (My best friend, an Englishwoman living in Glasgow, is distraught over the result.) I guess it would be rather like the “Texit” that a lot of US conservatives have been joking about. And I suppose they would have to change the name, to something like “United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland”. Assuming the latter stick around. You could argue that they’d also need to change the blue bits of the Union Jack to white.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “I guess it would be rather like the “Texit” that a lot of US conservatives have been joking about. ”

            You know Scotland already came close to exiting the UK, right? They had a referendum very recently.

            Ad they want to stay in the EU. I don’t know how it shakes out, but it’s not in the same class as Texas secession.

          • onyomi says:

            This is all very exiting not only because I strongly favor secession, but because of the puns. Thus far I’ve seen: Grexit, Departugal, Czechout, Finish, Byegium, Oustria, and my favorite, Italeave.

          • Sandy says:

            @onyomi: “Fruckoff” has also been doing the rounds

          • Lysenko says:

            A friend of mine suggested a superier variant for one of those, Onyomi. I give you:


          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            We can add “Ditschland” and “Donemark” to the list.

            HBC: We were talking about the effects if it were to happen, not about the likelihood.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z:

            Ah, I see my misunderstanding. Apologies.

          • Nornagest says:


          • erenold says:


            This is all very exiting not only because I strongly favor secession, but because of the puns.


          • FacelessCraven says:

            this thread, is the best thread.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            With all those countries saying Cypronara and Slovenaderci, it’s a good thing they’ve still got Remainia.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            You missed Latervia.

    • Ano says:

      > The Brexit vote was an emotional rejection of economic rationalism.

      No, it was an emotional rejection of immigration. I think the population as a whole thinks that the economy will be worse off under Brexit, and yet, it turns out that people care about things other than money.

    • Steven says:

      The Brexit vote was an emotional rejection of economic rationalism. Because it will likely result in what is now the U.K. becoming an impoverished and balkanized backwater, it is awful news for the entire English-speaking world.

      Oh, sure, the EU can, if it decides to be economically irrational, shoot itself in the foot by refusing to come to a reasonable accommodation with the UK on the basis of something like EFTA and the EEA. In that case, well, it goes to WTO rules, and trade with the EU is more difficult, and a lot of German companies see their bottom lines hurt in the name of pique at the British. And, yes, there could be balkanization. If Scotland chose to be hyper-economically-irrational, it could then leave the UK, and (because of the EU irrationality assumed previously) face as an EU member full-scale customs and immigration controls on its border with England. And, of course, the possible Shetland-and-Orkney secession from Scotland, which would leave the Scots without any oil revenue.

      On the other hand, there might be something more rational, like the UK rejoining EFTA, and so remaining in the CTA and EEA, with a few minor carve-outs on EEA things (benefits for EEA migrants, mostly) traded in exchange for stuff like the UK leaving its waters in the Common Fisheries Policy.

      • Gbdub says:

        How generous can the EU be, without encouraging other restless members to leave expecting similarly gracious terms?

        Re: Scotland, it’s unlikely they get to “stay” in the EU – they would be declaring independence from a non-EU country and would need to apply for accession as a new member.

        • erenold says:

          It’s impossible that they can ‘stay’ in the literal sense, as you rightly point out. They are essentially out already, and will be legally so once Art 50 is invoked.

          The question is whether the EU will slow-walk their touchback accession or take it seriously, and that in turn is ultimately a question of what Mariano Rajoy thinks about the whole affair, since he’s likely to be the major obstacle.

          But I tend to think that IF Scotland have a referendum and IF they vote out and IF they apply for EU membership, they’ll get it fairly rapidly. The game has changed completely since 2014. The very existence of the EU is now in doubt in a way it never previously was, and Brussels must see Scottish enthusiasm for joining as very welcome and refreshing news, whereas previously it was a destabilizing factor.

        • Ruprect says:

          If the EU wants to play hard-ball, why shouldn’t the UK do the same?

          There is no mechanism to eject a member state from the EU – until the UK triggers article 50, they have complete power to decide if and when they leave.

          If the EU are so desperate for the UK to leave as quickly as possible, why shouldn’t the UK insist on a guarantee of a favourable deal?

          And if it was foolish for Britain to Brexit, it would be insane for Scotland to leave the UK (without some trade deal existing between UK and EU). Scotland does three times more trade with the rest of the UK than it does with all of the other nations on Earth combined.

          • erenold says:

            Wait, why is Europe desperate for Britain to leave asap? If you never trigger Art 50, why would they care?

            And re: Scotland – just as there’s largely a consensus that the British have turned from the EU for non-economic terminal values, could Europe too be more than just a free trading zone to them? It seems clear that they place a higher value on cosmopolitanism, internationalism, and left-wing values in general than England.

          • Sandy says:

            @erenold: I’m not sure Scotland could afford to have non-economic terminal values; their economy is heavily tied up with England and Europe. At the end of the day, England still has a powerful, influential financial sector. Cut Scotland loose and what do they really have?

          • erenold says:

            Why should that stop them? They’d be a petrostate, which is far from the worst thing in the world for a European country with the rule of law to be. As for poverty, the DPRK have non-economic terminal values, and so does Bhutan.

            The non-glib answer is that nearly 60% of Scots would vote yes if an Indyref 2 was held today. Is that enough to overcome the loss aversion? No clue, but I do know that when I was in Scotland for indyref 1 I saw two things everywhere – discussions over keeping the pound, and discussions over staying in the EU. Both of these were decisive factors in the end. And both of those factors are now very much in the air. There are plenty of Scots who now think remaining with Britain would be the economically dangerous thing to do.

          • Ruprect says:

            “Wait, why is Europe desperate for Britain to leave asap? If you never trigger Art 50, why would they care?”

            They don’t want Britain to play ‘cat and mouse’ with the rest of Europe – I say that is our strongest bargaining chip. If the British Government has the interests of Britain at heart, they will play cat and mouse, they will threaten to destabilise the (core) European vision unless they get a favourable trade deal.
            It’s insane to think that we can’t get a better deal than Norway when we are already members of the EU. We don’t have to simply accept what the Germans want on this matter.

          • erenold says:

            Ah, ok. I’ve considered your argument, along with various versions of it floating about the interwebs, but may I respectfully suggest that you may not have considered this through?

            I presume you’re referring to Merkel’s recent comments on this matter. Here’s the thing – your leverage is immeasurably limited by the fact that your nuclear option (not leaving) is literally their win condition. Playing ‘cat and mouse’ only works if the cat cares about the mouse in the first place. They want things done efficiently and quickly now, because they think you’re seeking to leave in good faith. If you just sit in the corner and hold your breath, in seriousness, what do you think is stopping them from just… ignoring you?

            In the meantime, of course, it’s not their currency getting shellacked in the money markets. It’s not their political institutions in a state of cardiac arrest. It’s not their countries that near a constitutional crisis with every passing day that its government ignores the expressed will of the people in a democratic referendum. And above all, it’s not their business confidence that’s shellshocked. To put it in Trumpian terms, your leverage is a depreciating asset, not theirs. And so is European goodwill.

            Lastly, about

            It’s insane to think that we can’t get a better deal than Norway when we are already members of the EU.

            This strikes me as almost completely opposite. It’s precisely because your example now poses an existential threat to the EU that you’re not going to get the sweetheart deal. This may well be seen as mafioso tactics – which doesn’t change the fact that they’re a thing.

            Lastly – and I know you didn’t say or imply anything like this – I think sometimes there’s this perception that because Angie talks nicely, politely and humbly that she’s a pushover. That strikes me as almost certainly wrong. The last time someone tried this with her, they ended up transferring 50bn euro of their country’s airports, banks, and state assets into a trust fund at her disposal. Don Corleone never raised his voice, either.

          • Ruprect says:

            Yeah, maybe – but doesn’t it all rather depend on how stable and unified the EU is? I don’t think Britain has ever had a government that actively worked to undermine the EU project – given growing nationalist sentiment within Europe, what damage could be done to ever closer union by an anti-EU government with a mandate to leave? Not quite as helpless as Greece, either.

            If the EU wishes to give a bad deal to prevent other’s from taking advantage, the British position should be to find those who would like such a deal and organise them in opposition.

            That’s the nuclear option – make the ‘punishment’ more trouble than it is worth. Highly unlikely that there is anyone in the political class who’d want to stand up for British interests by doing anything like that though.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think Britain has ever had a government that actively worked to undermine the EU project

            Sir Humphrey might politely disagree with that. As usual for “Yes Minister”, this is strictly Ha Ha Only Serious and any resemblance to actual British foreign policy is entirely intentional if slightly exaggerated for comic effect.

        • Steven says:

          Turn that around. Why shouldn’t the EU allow restless members to leave on equally gracious terms? What’s the upside of keeping dissatisfied countries in the full-bore, Treaty of Lisbon, EU?

  30. onyomi says:

    I am generally pro-free trade for all the standard economic reasons, as well as ethical reasons.

    But since protectionism is seeing an obvious resurgence, I’d like to steelman the protectionist case:

    An argument in favor of free trade: if the Japanese were to send us free automobiles, would Americans, on average, be richer or poorer? Richer, is the obvious answer. The auto industry gets hurt, but a much larger number of people get to spend money they would have spent on automobiles on something else.

    But lets say the Japanese are just sending us free automobiles to put our local auto industry out of business, after which they intend to jack up the prices. This is a standard anti-trust issue. The libertarian rebuttal is to say that this strategy doesn’t usually work. There are historical cases, for example, of companies colluding to lower prices in an attempt to destroy a competitor, but the competitor just buys the underpiced stuff and waits them out, coming back every time they try to raise their prices again.

    But a possible steelman to counter that: that is fine for relatively non-capital intensive industries, but what about industries which require maintaining large, expensive equipment, like auto manufacture. If you are put out of business for 10 years while the Japanese send free cars, it may not be easy to just fire up the auto plants again. They may be defunct, sold off, in need of repair, and the workers in need of retraining.

    To put it more concretely in terms of things happening today: right now the Chinese are, in a sense, allowing Americans to live beyond their means by constantly inflating their currency to keep pace with ours and thereby continuing to sell us a lot of cheap stuff. In the short to medium term China is losing on this deal. But if the longterm result is that China ends up tremendous manufacturing infrastructure and talent and us very little, then, if they decide to jack up the prices, we won’t be able to just flip a switch and become a manufacturing giant again overnight.

    This is making me feel perilously close to arguing for autarchy, which is not at all my view–I’d rather be a specialized Singapore than one giant, supposedly self-sufficient USSR–but this seems like a somewhat plausible argument for the case against free trade, especially if we consider tariffs not as an additional cost added on top of the current system of taxation, but as a potential replacement for part or all of a more net-harmful form of government revenue collection, like the income tax. In other words, if we accept that we must tax the people in some way to fund the government, might it not be better to tax them in a way which encourages development of local capital rather than one which discourages income in general?

    • Lumifer says:

      right now the Chinese are, in a sense, allowing Americans to live beyond their means by constantly inflating their currency to keep pace with ours and thereby continuing to sell us a lot of cheap stuff.

      I don’t know if you’d consider it a nitpick or not, but right now the Chinese are supporting their currency which naturally wants to go lower but the Chinese central bank is not letting it. The basic reason is massive outflow of money out of China into foreign assets.

      • onyomi says:

        But the longterm, net effect of their currency peg enforced through purchase of US treasuries has been to keep the Chinese currency much lower, relative to the USD, than it would be otherwise.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If the Yuan Renminbi currently is being propped up, then the net effect of all Chinese manipulation is to keep the currency higher.

          You seem to be conflating “historical trend” with “net effect”. There definitely has been a historical trend of depressing its value to favor exports.

          Perhaps another nit, but I think an important one.

          • onyomi says:

            But where would the RMB be, relative to the USD, if China sold ALL its US treasuries and the US sold any Chinese treasuries it might(?) be holding? That would be the “natural” exchange rate and would mean a much higher RMB relative to USD.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            IANAE (I am not an economist) nor a money market trader, but, here is my understanding:

            The Chinese holding of US treasuries is related to two things:
            1) They are a net exporter to the US, so they (by definition) end up holding dollars. They turn that into US Treasuries because it is marginally better than holding dollars.

            2) They print(ed) money which they then use(d) to buy dollars which they then use(d) to buy US Treasuries. (This has only been going on since 2010).

            It’s the printing of money (and then putting it out into the market by buying dollars) that is actually devaluing the RMB, rather than the holding of US Debt. Holding US Debt is a side effect.

            So, I guess you are probably right, that since 2010 the net effect is to devalue the RMB. I was thinking about the pre-2010 system where they just said “Fuck it. The RMB trades at X vs. the dollar”.

            If they sold all their treasuries, they would just be holding lots of dollars. If they bought up a bunch of RMB with that, and then took it out of circulation, they probably could re-inflate the currency.

            I’m not sure what the effect would be on the dollar though. Probably slightly weaker because T-Bill rates would want to float up (because China would be flooding the market with older treasuries and presumably taking a haircut on them, effectively raising their yield to whomever bought them.) But that kind of turmoil might paradoxically send people to the safety of US Securities, which would strengthen the dollar and lower treasury rates.

    • onyomi says:

      One other point re. Brexit:

      What if the net result of Brexit 10 or 20 years from now is that average British income per capita is lower than it otherwise would be, but that the benefits of the higher income in the “remain” hypothetical would have flowed disproportionately to new immigrants, such that the people actually voting for Brexit now would have been better off, individually, with Brexit?

      And this is kind of a general possible critique of free trade, as well as free immigration: what if it makes the world, on the whole better off, but most individuals currently residing in rich countries worse off? We might say they have a moral obligation to accept this for the greater good, but I can certainly see them voting otherwise.

    • Ano says:

      This is entirely true, and one criticism of free trade is that developing economies can become dependent on commodity exports without building up a real economic base that can withstand shocks. For example, Venezuela is a recent example of a country that relied on oil exports to support itself, and now that the price of oil has collapsed finds itself mired in poverty (obviously the government has also mismanaged the economy, but mainly in that it’s failed to diversify). Another example is Tunisia which for many years was a popular tourist destination. When a terrorist attack occurred, the industry suffered greatly, and some people lost their jobs with nothing to fall back on.

      That’s not to say we should oppose free trade, but we should be aware that it has significant costs for some groups even if there is an overall benefit, and seek to mitigate that harm, through example, a well funded welfare system to provide a safety net for those left unemployed by the whims of international markets.

  31. A source of misery that middle-class folks usually don’t think about:

    Social Perceptions of Individuals Missing Upper Front Teeth:

    200 volunteers … rated five photographs depicting tooth presence or absence, from a full dentition to missing as many as four upper front teeth, on social traits including attractiveness, health status, educational attainment, satisfaction with life, active social life, aggressiveness, intelligence, trustworthiness, caring, friendship, dating … a person missing visible teeth was more negatively perceived on all social traits than a person with full dentition…. Men and women agreed on perceptions of social traits and dentition condition. These results suggest the presence of strong Western cultural values, whereby those who are missing teeth may experience significant barriers to personal and social success.

    A substantial proportion of Americans have broken or missing teeth.

    Replacement of missing teeth is a very expensive and time-consuming project, costing typically $4,000 to $6,000 per tooth. Very few people have dental insurance, let alone a dental insurance policy generous enough to cover reconstruction.

    A person with missing teeth, subject to the prejudices and barriers mentioned above, might be unable to find a job which generates enough money to obtain needed dental work.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Are there any charities which focus on this specific issue?

      • Good question. I found a few:

        * Dentaid (focus on developing countries)
        * Cosmetic Dentistry Grants (is there a catch?)
        * A Soldier’s Smile (for military veterans; just starting)

        • CatCube says:

          What exactly is “A Soldier’s Smile” subsidizing? The military has dental insurance. (They also force you to get a checkup and cleaning once a year, whether you like it or not.)

          Edit: I guess I don’t know how generous the dental program is for dentures and the like. I know that cleanings, fillings, and dental emergencies are covered.

          • I’m guessing the military dental program doesn’t cover reconstructive work like implants to replace missing teeth.

            I’m not surprised the military has compulsory routine dental care.

            As I heard it, solders (draftees or enlistees) in World War I were required to have a minimum of eight teeth (two on each side, upper and lower) to be able to chew field rations. They discovered that an alarmingly high proportion of young men failed to meet this low threshold.

            (A different version: during the U.S. Civil War, “Large numbers of potential recruits were turned away because they did not have six opposing upper and lower front teeth to bite off the end of the tough paper powder cartridges that were used with muzzle-loaded weapons at that time.” Source.)

            Dental schools were founded and supported as a matter of military necessity or national security.

          • keranih says:

            They discovered that an alarmingly high proportion of young men failed to meet this low threshold.

            Be wary of applying Viet Nam era standards to the whole of the US history (or even that of the whole world.) In most drafts, the average age was closer to 30 than 20, as all men – not just young men – were caught up in the draft.

            It appears that cosmetic work is available on cost share, but costs of alternative replacements (like a dam or bridge) are cheaper.

          • LHN says:

            Though for WWI specifically, it looks like they didn’t expand registration to those over 30 till the war was nearly over.

          • CatCube says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            I dug into it a little bit. implies that dentures and the like are covered. (N.B.: This is for the Remote insurance plan, for Soldiers who are not located near a base, but it should be similar to what’s provided at a military Dental Treatment Facility.)

            Now, it does state that “All prosthodontic treatment requires written authorization prior to initiating treatment,” but I expect that the authorization would be more or less routine, aside from checks to ensure that the dentist isn’t charging the Government for work not performed. Maybe it *is* a battle to get it, but that would surprise me, since medical care to a fairly great extent is totally covered. You might need to battle to get a doctor whose competence you don’t question, but getting procedures authorized usually happens.


            That website is for the coverage of family members, not the SM themselves.

  32. Sweeneyrod says:

    One unexpected consequence of the EU referendum seems to be movement of the Overton window towards the North and/or London seceding from the UK. If the former is seriously considered, I expect lots of Game of Thrones references to be made.

    • onyomi says:

      I’m very happy to see an emboldened Texit movement. It’s still fringe, and it would definitely be a bigger deal to secede from the US federal government than to secede from the EU, but then, Brexit was a “fringe” opinion not that long ago.

      Also, I’m still convinced the US would not go to war to prevent a Texit, despite many people’s intuition to the contrary. They would engage in scaremongering to make the Brexit scaremongering look tame by comparison, though.

      I’m more convinced than ever that the path to a libertarian future is not electing Ron Paul president, but having libertarianish places secede from less libertarian places, with the result of people and businesses moving to the more libertarian places, encouraging the less libertarian places to become more libertarian, and so on.

      • Anonymaus says:

        I’m still convinced the US would not go to war to prevent a Texit

        Do you think there would be enough people willing to go to war to facilitate Texit?

        • onyomi says:

          Why would war be needed to facilitate it?

          • Lysenko says:

            See my comment below. Right now, legal consensus is that the only way to concede is to be able to fight the federal government and win. Any attempt to actually secede would constitute seditious conspiracy on the part of the government officials so doing and the feds could put them on trial for it, with a max sentence of 20 years.

            “No constitutional right to secede” was one of the key SCOTUS rulings post-civil war. The other amounted to ‘vae victis’, and specifically said that only military victory could give a secessionist polity legitimate standing.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Under what scenario do you envision the federal government granting Texas the right to secede? Although, I suppose Trump might appoint enough justices that the right is “found” in the constitution.

        But absent a legal path to secession, secession won’t be allowed. It can’t be allowed, as rule of law is the cornerstone upon which the country rests.