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Open Thread 56.75

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

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634 Responses to Open Thread 56.75

  1. Threshin' Session says:

    I listen to Intelligence Squared debates a lot but often find them frustrating, because the side I support frequently does not make the strongest arguments it could make, and fails to call out the other side for their bad arguments.

    It makes me want to start my own podcast with a parallel format. I think the commenters here would all be great participants. We should do it!

    [EDIT] I’d settle for listening to an existing podcast that tackles opposing views of contentious issues better than IQ2, if someone can recommend one.

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      >I think the commenters here would all be great participants. We should do it!

      Whoa hold the fuck up son, I’m a commenter here.

  2. Threshin' Session says:

    Research question: Do angrier-looking cars impact driving behavior?

    A) of the person driving them?
    B) of other drivers?

    • Threshin' Session says:

      Related research question: Does being behind the wheel of a car significantly affect things like a person’s contentiousness, patience, impulsiveness, etc. relative to other people?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      What does it mean to say a car look angry?

      • Threshin' Session says:

        In the research methodology you’d have to first create a metric. It would probably include stuff like slim pointy headlights that slant inwards and downward toward the center of the car, a grill that resembles the shape of a scowling mouth, an aggressive overall styling, etc.

        The 2001 Dodge Neon does not look angry. The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer does. The VW Beetle got angrier looking in the later models. It’s objectively true, isn’t it?

        • LPSP says:

          I’d probably go by popular census over any more specific metric. Collect images of many car “faces” and show them to many people, ask for ratings out of 10 for various emotive properties (the big 6 of Happy, Sad, Shocked, Angry, Nauseous and Fearful would do the trick). Collect the data and see how it aligns with the rate of accidents.

          For all we know, it could be surprised-looking cars causing oncoming drivers to panic that really upskews the accident rate.

          • Threshin' Session says:

            Yeah, I had that same thought.

            I doubt a car’s appearance (without aftermarket mods) causes (m)any accidents, but I was thinking it might have an impact on stuff like defensiveness, how likely people are to let an aggressive-looking car merge, how people respond to being tailgated by an aggressive-looking car (get out of the way vs. slow down), etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        @HBC, something like this?

        (also)

    • The Nybbler says:

      Sounds like something for the Annals of Improbable Research. Anyway, I’d suggest any correlation with driving behavior of the person driving them would be most likely due to selection effect (angry people picking angry cars); you don’t see your own car when you’re driving and you often don’t see the front when you get in.

    • Aapje says:

      I think that drivers tend to pick brands based on their brand identity, so aggressive drivers pick cars with a brand identity of fast driving. I’d expect there to be a weak correlation between that identity and aggressive looks. For example, the VW Golf has a long reputation as a ‘driver’s car’, especially the GTI model, yet has never looked particularly aggressive in my subjective opinion. This is probably because the car model doesn’t need to prove it’s driving capabilities with the looks. However, a newer brand that wants to appeal to aggressive drivers might want to design the car to look aggressive, to create a perception. So I’d expect cars with an aggressive brand identity to be a bit more aggressively styled than average, but not hugely so.

      Anyway, that research would need to distinguish between aggressive drivers being more drawn to aggressively styled cars and the drivers becoming more aggressive due to that styling. In general, my experience is that most of these kinds of correlations are due to selection effects*, while people invariably overestimate the causation effects, so I’d expect that to be the case here.

      * For example, aggressive people are drawn to aggressive games far more than they become aggressive due to these games.

      • Threshin' Session says:

        The thing is, designs for the same cars, or classes of cars, have changed. Over the past few years, the “angry/evil insect” look has become ubiquitous. So, even nice, mild-mannered soccer moms are driving around in cars whose front ends convey scowling, growling facial expressions.

        Suppose you want a new sedan in 2016 and you’re one of those “Toyota or Honda only” people (like me). Your options all look aggressive–even the Prius. None of them don’t. Yet Toyota and Honda sedans aren’t the go-to cars for aggressive drivers.

        I agree about the distinction the research would need to make, anyway. I’m also interested in other drivers’ reactions to aggressive-looking cars.

        • Aapje says:

          Your options all look aggressive–even the Prius.

          I would say that aggressive styling is currently in fashion, which may influence the research. For example, (business) lease drivers have relatively new cars and are known for driving aggressively. In my country (non-US), the choice of car seems to be strongly determined by regulation (as some models are much cheaper to lease due to regulation) as well as practical concerns (room for kids, etc).

          So I expect that styling is one of the less important reasons why lease drivers choose a car, yet I also expect a substantial correlation between aggressive styling and lease drivers, merely because they drive newer cars that tend to have that styling.

          I agree about the distinction the research would need to make, anyway. I’m also interested in other drivers’ reactions to aggressive-looking cars.

          My experience/subjective opinion is that there is little correlation. I stereotype brands/models primarily on past experience. For example, I have seen a lot of bad behavior from small business vehicles (‘white vans’ and the like), which tend to have the least aggressive and sporty designs, aside from European trucks (US trucks have way more aggressive styling, IMO).

          Interestingly, I now stereotype Porsche drivers as very sedate drivers, while I did the opposite initially, when I lacked experience with their behavior. My ‘common sense,’ which was that fast cars get chosen by people who (often) want to drive fast, ended up being incorrect.

          • Alex says:

            Interestingly, I now stereotype Porsche drivers as very sedate drivers, while I did the opposite initially, when I lacked experience with their behavior. My ‘common sense,’ which was that fast cars get chosen by people who (often) want to drive fast, ended up being incorrect.

            In my experience, Porsche behaviour falls into two classes:

            1) extremely risky “as if this were a race” driving
            2) “why do you even own a Porsche if you gonna drive like that”

            And I’m very sure that both is bias on my part.

            I notice 1) because Porsches and other above average cars are the only cars that can in fact race my average car. And I notice 2) if it is a Porsche but I would not notice the same behaviour in a below average car.

          • Aapje says:

            @Alex

            Where I live, only the second category seems to exist. My very speculative theory is that these cars are bought by people who dreamed of these cars when they were young and couldn’t afford them. Then in their midlife crisis, they actually end up buying one, but at that point it’s more a nostalgic way to get some of the feeling back of when they were young and wanted to drive fast, but without the actual desire to do so. It’s more ‘I can now drive really fast if I wanted to.’

            The really aggressive drivers tend to drive a BMW, Audi or hot hatch.

            However, there is a very high tax on gas guzzlers where I live, so this may price young people out of cars that they can afford in your country. Modern cars are also so good, that you can drive very aggressively/fast with almost all car models, where at most you need to select a bigger engine from the catalog*.

            * Unless we are talking about the no-speed limit Autobahn, but in other situations, the limit is often how much the driver is willing to speed, rather than the limit of the car.

          • Alex says:

            but in other situations, the limit is often how much the driver is willing to speed, rather than the limit of the car.

            I think the point of owning a Porsche or Porsche-like car is acceleration (and decceleration, for that matter, I’m told the thing has fantastic breaks) and maybe the “handling”, rather than top-speed. This may lead to very risk behaviour that, at the same speed, would be suicidal in your average car.

            Then again, I do not own a Porsche so what do I know.

  3. LimeyExport says:

    For those who are following UK politics, and Brexit in particular, what do you think will happen? Various measures of economic performance have been better than expected so far, but perhaps that’s just because reality hasn’t sunk in. Theresa May famously asserted that “Brexit means Brexit”, but nobody in her government seems to know what Brexit means.

    Will the UK end up staying in the free market? Will there be curbs on immigration, and if so, what will they be? How do people think the UK will end up doing, given the various different outcomes?

    Personally, I think there’s still a high chance the UK will remain in the EU. I’m quite convinced by Jack of Kent’s arguments: Brexit is an enormous legal, political and financial challenge. Theresa May has to support it to appease the Eurosceptic camp, but if the government struggles for years without getting anywhere (and all the while suffering problems) people might change their minds.

    I think leaving the EU would be bad for the UK, both politically and economically. People have given a far better summary of this than I’ll offer, but briefly:

    Economics. Single market access is very important, and political influence over the single market is quite important. I don’t think leaving would impoverish the UK, but I fail to see how it could help anything. There is a liberal argument in favour of being in the EEA but not the EU, put forward by the Adam Smith Institute — however, I think this has the severe disadvantage that non-EU EEA members (e.g. Norway, Iceland) can’t vote on EU policies. Supposedly this would offer the possibility of more free trade agreements with third parties, but I’m dubious…

    And, of course, it’s not a given that the UK will opt for EEA membership. A large part of the pro-Brexit vote wants tighter restrictions on immigration.

    Politics. Most EU policies seem to have been in favour of social liberalism. They have curbed various detention, seizure, snooping, etc laws. Movement towards the “Common” policies (Agricultural, Defence, etc) worries me, but they actually seem to have gotten better in recent years.

    • Threshin' Session says:

      I’m confused about why more rational people aren’t saying “It’s only been a couple months, we won’t really know the implications until a few years or even decades have passed.”

      • LimeyExport says:

        I think many people have that view, at least implicitly. Certainly, I’d attach a high uncertainty to any attempt to understand/predict things. Nonetheless, it’s probably worth some discussion and speculation? Otherwise, we could apply the same attitude to so many other political issues.

        • Threshin' Session says:

          This one just seems like a “steering the battleship” issue. There’s SO many moving parts, it is unlike a lot of other issues.

          • LimeyExport says:

            I don’t really disagree with you — I even have a fairly high uncertainty about how uncertain I am. I guess I’m asking for people’s low-certainty predictions and opinions, in the hope of learning new things about this. After all… battleships can be steered.

          • Threshin' Session says:

            Fair enough, but stuff like this

            I think leaving the EU would be bad for the UK, both politically and economically.

            seems way oversimplified a statement to make in that case.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      A major problem the Republican Party has had in the United States is making extravagant promises to marginalized and angry voters in order to get elected, and then once elected, theatrically failing to carry them out. That’s pretty much what led straight to Trumpagaddon and a non-zero chance of the GOP being wiped out this November, maybe permanently. Are there similar trends in the UK? From over here it feels like May and the Conservatives are playing with fire if they’re seriously looking for a way to weasel out of Brexit.

      • Jill says:

        Well, just at GOP voters believe that THIS time the GOP nominee really means his promises, perhaps angry conservative voters in the UK will believe all promises made to them, forever, no matter how many times those promises are broken. So it could easily be just business as usual forever.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Well, just at GOP voters believe that THIS time the GOP nominee really means his promises,

          Except this primary season they didn’t; that’s why GOP voters went for an implausible outsider joke candidate instead who isn’t even a Republican. The backlash always comes eventually.

          • Jill says:

            Trump made the most popular promises to voters, out of all the GOP candidates. So, insider or outsider, that’s what won, in the GOP primaries. But there’s no reason to believe he would keep promises any better than anyone else– especially as he changes his mind constantly.

      • LimeyExport says:

        I’d say there are some similarities, but also some important differences.

        The Conservatives weren’t elected on a platform of leaving the EU. They did make the manifesto pledge that a referendum on EU membership would be held, but nothing beyond that. Moreover, Theresa May was a (quiet) supporter of remaining in the EU. She managed to become Prime Minister despite this, basically by doing nothing and allowing her opponents to discredit themselves. At the moment, it would definitely be seen as a betrayal to renege on Brexit — but what about in a couple of years? If things grow worse economically, which they may well do, voters might change their mind.

        There’s also the interesting side issue that the UK currently has little in the way of an opposition party. Labour is embroiled in in-fighting, and is currently led by a very left-wing candidate who will likely be re-elected as leader. Currently, the Conservatives are the only party with any chance of forming a government.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        A major problem the Republican Party has had in the United States is making extravagant promises to marginalized and angry voters in order to get elected, and then once elected, theatrically failing to carry them out.

        I think you’re mistaken if you think this is limited to the Republican party.

      • cassander says:

        >A major problem the Republican Party has had in the United States is making extravagant promises to marginalized and angry voters in order to get elected, and then once elected, theatrically failing to carry them out.

        How is that different from what the democrats do?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Possibility 1: unlike the GOP, the Democrats are making promises that they can, and do, keep. They’re not promising poverty-stricken inner-city residents that they will get good jobs, or that crime will go down in their neighborhoods; they’re promising welfare payments and limitations on the police.

          Possibility 2: maybe it isn’t different! The Democrats are The Other to me so when I look at them I just see a faceless, inhumanly efficient machine relentlessly achieving the progressive dystopia, while looking at the Republicans from the inside I see an incompetent gang of hacks, grifters, and closet Democrats. But this is a complete mirror for people on the other side.

          • Protagoras says:

            As someone on the other side, I’m going to vote for possibility 2. When I reverse the descriptions you give, they do sound pretty familiar.

          • Jill says:

            Interesting. Since the GOP got a majority in both Houses of Congress, I don’t see the Dems as accomplishing much at all progressive– whether dystopian or utopian or neutral. Even when Dems had a bit of a majority, the GOP found ways to block most of what they would otherwise have done.

            I think single payer health care would be utopian and I’d love to see it. I see the GOP as extraordinarily efficient and dystopian, as it controls most state governorships, most state legislatures, both Houses of Congress, and SCOTUS until Scalia died. So it controls everything except the presidency currently.

            I also see that the GOP refuses to compromise and encourages their voters to brook no compromise either. So no compromises are done, and nothing gets done. No problems are solved.

            I see highly efficient Right Wing propaganda as totally immersing the country. Which is how the Right Wing controls everything currently except the presidency. I see this propaganda having forced politics into the framework of religion, where the other side is evil. And where government itself is seen as evil.

            Therefore government can not be improved, made more efficient, made less corrupt, used to solve any problems at all. The government is Lucifer. And Lucifer is evil

            You don’t compromise with Lucifer, make him more efficient, make him less corrupt, use him to solve problems. You just hate him and try to destroy him. Which is what the GOP has done to the Dems to a large degree. But it has also made government itself into Lucifer– even those parts of it which the GOP controls– which is most of it. The GOP controls everything except the presidency, as I mentioned above.

            This is quite a mess. I wish I could say that I see a clear and constructive way out of the mess.

          • cassander says:

            >They’re not promising poverty-stricken inner-city residents that they will get good jobs, or that crime will go down in their neighborhoods;

            FWIW, Hillary is currently promising both of those things.

          • cassander says:

            @Jill

            >I also see that the GOP refuses to compromise and encourages their voters to brook no compromise either.

            Jill, it’s been repeatedly explained to you by multiple people how this is not the case. If you don’t want to get piled on, you have to stop repeating the same talking points over and over again.

            >I see highly efficient Right Wing propaganda as totally immersing the country.

            Ditto

            >Therefore government can not be improved, made more efficient, made less corrupt, used to solve any problems at all. The government is Lucifer. And Lucifer is evil

            Ditto

            >The GOP controls everything except the presidency, as I mentioned above

            Sure, assuming you don’t count the schools, the media, the civil service, the academy, most of the federal judiciary, and the Supreme court.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Now, I have been critical of Jill, and she definitely has made unfounded assertions.

            But she is correct that the GOP made a conscious effort after the election of Obama to specifically deny as much bipartisan cooperation as possible to the Democrats. This is well established with multiple avenues.

            In addition the she is correct that partisan drawing of district (as well as general structural factors endemic to geographic districting) tilt the electoral map towards Republican with there victory in 2010 coinciding with decennial census.

            Neither of those two things are hyperbole.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            But she is correct that the GOP made a conscious effort after the election of Obama to specifically deny as much bipartisan cooperation as possible to the Democrats.

            I don’t know about that. The GOP position (which is also well-established) is that after the Obama election the Democratic administration was entirely uninterested in “bipartisan cooperation” (unless it involved the GOP sitting down, shutting up, and doing what they were told) and preoccupied with yelling “Elections have consequences” — see e.g. this.

          • Chalid says:

            This leftist would agree with the rightist OP that Republican campaign promises have tended to be more extravagant and unattainable than Democratic ones. A Democratic candidate’s tax and spending proposals may have some optimistic assumptions, but Republican ones tend to be pure fantasy – vague unspecified tax cuts that pay for themselves and create 4+% RGDP growth.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Lumifer:
            I think you and I have been round about this before, but perhaps I am misremembering.

            It’s well documented that the Republicans came into the Senate in 2009 with an immediate delay and obstruct tactic, utilizing the Senate calendar to prevent Democrats from being able to move forward, and that in both the house and the senate they specifically desired to give Democrats as close to zero Republican votes as possible to avoid the possibility that anything passed and signed could be characterized as bipartisan. This was strategy going into the Congress in 2009.

            Part of that strategy is claiming that Obama does not “want to negotiate”, which you appear to have accepted as true.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            >But she is correct that the GOP made a conscious effort after the election of Obama to specifically deny as much bipartisan cooperation as possible to the Democrats. This is well established with multiple avenues.

            This is largely a myth, based on something Mitch Mcconnell said in 2010, after two years of being ignored by obama.

            In reality, the obama administration expressed, very early on, that they had no interest in working with congressional republicans. Congressional democrats too, actually, though that took a bit longer to become clear. The fact of the matter is that this administration has been bad at working with congress, period. the administration is, by all accounts, extremely insular. Now, you can claim that these congressmen are a bunch of whiners, I certainly wouldn’t disagree, but at the end of the day, a big part of being president is herding the cats on capitol hill, and the obama administration has done a lousy job of it from start to present.

            >In addition the she is correct that partisan drawing of district (as well as general structural factors endemic to geographic districting) tilt the electoral map towards Republican with there victory in 2010 coinciding with decennial census.

            Not really. Gerrymandering got republicans a few extra seats, less than 10 percent of their margin. It’s not responsible for their substantial majority, and it certainly isn’t responsible for the slaughter of democrats going on in state houses.

            >It’s well documented that the Republicans came into the Senate in 2009 with an immediate delay and obstruct tactic, utilizing the Senate calendar to prevent Democrats from being able to move forward,

            The Senate Minority does not control the senate calendar.

            @Chalid

            >A Democratic candidate’s tax and spending proposals may have some optimistic assumptions, but Republican ones tend to be pure fantasy – vague unspecified tax cuts that pay for themselves and create 4+% RGDP growth.

            All of the republican tax promises in the world are outweighed by the constant left wing claims that single payer will save money, to say nothing of the rest of what they promise.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Democrats got more votes, by a substantial amount for US Congressional candidates in 2012 and still had fewer seats, by a comfortable margin.

            And no, I’m not talking about the statement from Mitch McConnel in 2010, I’m talking about reporting about late 2008 and early 2009.

            Also, you clearly don’t understand how the rules of the Senate allow for obstruction by the minority if they so choose.

          • Chalid says:

            All of the republican tax promises in the world are outweighed by the constant left wing claims that single payer will save money, to say nothing of the rest of what they promise.

            Obama promised something pretty close to what he delivered on health care. And Clinton is supporting incremental improvements to the ACA. So I don’t really see any major dishonesty on health care.

            I feel like the single-payer example cuts the other way, actually. Sanders’s single-payer promises demonstrated that there was a populist appetite for extravagant left-wing claims, but the party firmly rejected that in favor of Clintonian incrementalism.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            >Democrats got more votes, by a substantial amount for US Congressional candidates in 2012 and still had fewer seats, by a comfortable margin.

            And in 2014 they didn’t, what of it?

            >and no, I’m not talking about the statement from Mitch McConnell in 2010, I’m talking about reporting about late 2008 and early 2009.

            the evidence to that effect, as far as I know, is a single book written by a man who got his start writing anti-bush political books that were highly praised by John Stewart. Not exactly a neutral source.

            >Also, you clearly don’t understand how the rules of the Senate allow for obstruction by the minority if they so choose.

            They do allow for some obstruction, but the record number of cloture votes in that congress show how willing Reid was to override them ANd they don’t allow for control of the calendar by the minority. Control of the calendar is, in fact, the majority leader’s single greatest power.

            @Chalid

            >Obama promised something pretty close to what he delivered on health care.

            The ACA cost vastly more than was promised, covered fewer people, didn’t reduce the deficit, didn’t let you keep your doctor, didn’t bend the cost curve. Of the many claims it made, just the only one it fulfilled was expanding coverage.

            >And Clinton is supporting incremental improvements to the ACA. So I don’t really see any major dishonesty on health care.

            “Our tribe makes mistakes, their tribe is dishonest.” Clinton is currently promising to magically reduce costs for everyone without costing anyone (except some evil phama companies) a thing. Republican claims are, of course, often equally absurd, though generally not on this particular topic.

            >I feel like the single-payer example cuts the other way, actually. Sanders’s single-payer promises demonstrated that there was a populist appetite for extravagant left-wing claims, but the party firmly rejected that in favor of Clintonian incrementalism.

            They rejected Sanders as a candidate, I don’t see them rejecting his claims. There was some elite rejection, sanders claims were so outrageous even vox couldn’t swallow them whole, but I think if you asked the run of the mill blue triber “would single payer save money?” they’d say of course.

          • Chalid says:

            @cassander

            ACA cost vastly more than was promised, covered fewer people, didn’t reduce the deficit, didn’t let you keep your doctor, didn’t bend the cost curve. Of the many claims it made, just the only one it fulfilled was expanding coverage.

            I don’t really feel like reading the whole CBO report right now but here’s a NYT article on that report. It says that costs for 2016-2019 are projected to be 25% lower than expected when the law was passed, that fewer people will be covered on the exchanges than expected (for 2016, 12 million covered vs 21 million predicted), and that more people will have coverage through Medicaid/CHIP than expected (for 2016, 68 million covered vs 52 million predicted, of which 13 million is attributed to the ACA). I am not an expert on this – are these numbers wrong or incomplete in some important way?

            Clinton is currently promising to magically reduce costs for everyone without costing anyone (except some evil phama companies) a thing.

            She’s emphasizing the benefits of her policies, not the costs – if that’s dishonest, no one is honest, politician or no. But there’s nothing on the page you link that is an impossible promise.

            They rejected Sanders as a candidate, I don’t see them rejecting his claims. There was some elite rejection, sanders claims were so outrageous even vox couldn’t swallow them whole, but I think if you asked the run of the mill blue triber “would single payer save money?” they’d say of course.

            Elites are what this conversation is about. The run-of-the-mill blue triber would likely say “what is single payer”?

          • cassander says:

            >I don’t really feel like reading the whole CBO report right now but here’s a NYT article on that report.

            CBO reports assume the law will be implemented as written when everyone knows it won’t be. They assume, for example, that the promised medicare cuts will happen, when they won’t, and that the employer mandate will happen, which won’t. And even putting that aside, covering half as many people as you promised for 3/4 as much money as predicted is not exactly a success. To the extent that the ACA has helped people, it’s done so through the medicare expansion, and that could have been done without the complexity, expense, and controversy of the rest of the ACA.

            >I do think that’s an aggressively uncharitable interpretation of her website. She’s emphasizing the benefits of her policies, not the costs – if that’s dishonest, no one is honest, politician or no.

            No one trying to sell anything to anyone should ever be presumed to be honest, least of all politicians.

            >Elites are what this conversation is about. The run-of-the-mill blue triber would likely say “what is single payer”?

            When I think of the run of the mill blue triber, I think of the people I knew in college. If you want to call them elite, I suppose you could, but that’s not the definition I’d use. And while you are correct that very few of them could define single payer if asked, they certainly were in favor of it, and knew that it would save money.

          • Chalid says:

            CBO reports assume the law will be implemented as written when everyone knows it won’t be. They assume, for example, that the promised medicare cuts will happen, when they won’t, and that the employer mandate will happen, which won’t. And even putting that aside, covering half as many people as you promised for 3/4 as much money as predicted is not exactly a success.

            I feel like you’re really quibbling here. If we take the numbers at face value, fewer people are covered by insurance, but that is more than made up for by the increase in Medicaid coverage. Saying that there was major dishonesty by politicians because people ended up being covered by different parts of the law than predicted (after the whole economy did things that were different than predicted) is assuming an unreasonable amount of foresight on the part of the politicians of 2010.

            I am open to being told that we shouldn’t take those numbers at face value, as, I add once again, I am not an expert, but I given forecasting limitations, I do feel like they need to be *wildly* wrong in a way that could have been known in 2010 to support an accusation of serious dishonesty, let alone being comparable to Republican fantasy tax cuts.

            To the extent that the ACA has helped people, it’s done so through the medicare expansion, and that could have been done without the complexity, expense, and controversy of the rest of the ACA.

            And this is where we can say that the Democrats of 2008 were pretty honest about their selling of the law! Most Democrats would have preferred a more profound overhaul which would not have had the ACA’s complexity, expense, and controversy. Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that this would have been a popular position to take in a Democratic primary.

            But Clinton and Obama both knew that a leftist-designed plan would not pass Congress. And so the health care reform bills they debated on the campaign trail in 2008 were really pretty similar to the actual ACA. Presumably they emphasized its advantages and not its disadvantages, but crucially, *they did not promise the impossible.*

            No one trying to sell anything to anyone should ever be presumed to be honest, least of all politicians.

            Everything on Clinton’s health care page is something she actually could deliver, or could deliver with a not-very-major act of Congress. Most of it probably will happen if Clinton is lucky enough to get a Democratic-controlled House. I really don’t see how anything on it qualifies as a big lie.

          • Deiseach says:

            I see the GOP as extraordinarily efficient and dystopian, as it controls most state governorships, most state legislatures, both Houses of Congress, and SCOTUS until Scalia died. So it controls everything except the presidency currently.

            Jill, then the question has to be asked: how did they manage this? How did they persuade voters to elect enough Republicans to achieve a majority? Why did not the voters keep electing Democrats? I know in my own country why people vote for party X to get back into power, after swearing blind they’ll never vote for party X ever again. But someone please explain the same to me in the American context.

            I would have explained Republican majorities during a Democratic presidency as being down to the same principle: people weren’t seeing the change in circumstances they expected from the party in power, so they voted for the other guys instead. I would expect the same thing to happen if under a Republican presidency a rising tide wasn’t lifting all boats, so people voted for the Democrats in local and national elections (and I think this did happen before?)

            A simple “when in the minority the Republicans are fiendishly successful at blocking Democratic policies and when in the majority the Republicans are fiendishly successful at blocking Democratic policies” isn’t good enough of an answer. I note you claim the Presidency isn’t really powerful and doesn’t matter (in the context of a Democratic party president on his second term and how his introduction of the earthly paradise has been blocked by those cunning Republicans), but if that really is so, then why should it matter if Trump is elected?

            Shouldn’t the Democrats be saying “Who cares who gets to be president, let’s make sure we get a majority in Congress” if that is the case?

            Otherwise it’s “our guy is hampered because the office has no power and the other party controls all the levers of government, but if their guy gets in, even though our party controls the levers of power, the office has such incredible power he can do all kinds of bad stuff” which is rather inconsistent.

          • cassander says:

            >I feel like you’re really quibbling here. If we take the numbers at face value, fewer people are covered by insurance, but that is more than made up for by the increase in Medicaid coverage.

            medicaid coverage didn’t make up for it, it expanded about as much as was predicted. But more than that, it’s not quibbling. You can’t say “these numbers show they didn’t lie” then, when I point out the numbers are wrong respond “stop quibbling about the numbers.” the differences between the ACA as written and as implemented are massively, and expensively, different.

            >Saying that there was major dishonesty by politicians because people ended up being covered by different parts of the law than predicted (after the whole economy did things that were different than predicted) is assuming an unreasonable amount of foresight on the part of the politicians of 2010.

            Normally, I would agree, but the politicians in 2010 used those predictions to sell the bill, swearing that the CBO was the gold standard for saying how much it would cost and how many it would help. When people like me pointed out how the cost savings would never materialize and that fewer people would be covered, we were called liars.

            >like they need to be *wildly* wrong in a way that could have been known in 2010 to support an accusation of serious dishonesty, let alone being comparable to Republican fantasy tax cuts.

            They were wildly wrong. they covered HALF the people they said they would with the exchanges. And because they aren’t reducing medicare advantage or enforcing the employer mandate, which paid for the vast majority of the bill, it’s going to cost more than twice what was promised.

            > Most Democrats would have preferred a more profound overhaul which would not have had the ACA’s complexity, expense, and controversy.

            If this were true, then the democrats would have passed such a bill. They could not get such a bill through. The ACA itself was only gotten through by immense arm twisting of moderate democrats. It was precisely because most democrats didn’t support a major overhaul, and the administration refused to work with republicans, that we got the awful kludge of the ACA.

            >Everything on Clinton’s health care page is something she actually could deliver, or could deliver with a not-very-major act of Congress.

            let’s go through the list, shall we?

            >Defend and expand the Affordable Care Act, which covers 20 million people.

            status quo

            >Bring down out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles

            Pure magical thinking.

            >Reduce the cost of prescription drugs

            Pure magic.

            >Expand access to rural Americans, who often have difficulty finding quality, affordable health care.

            Pure magic.

            Those are half her bullet points that either aren’t doing anything, or proposing something magical.

          • Chalid says:

            medicaid coverage didn’t make up for it, it expanded about as much as was predicted. But more than that, it’s not quibbling. You can’t say “these numbers show they didn’t lie” then, when I point out the numbers are wrong respond “stop quibbling about the numbers.” the differences between the ACA as written and as implemented are massively, and expensively, different..

            As I understand it, exchange underperformance is partially due to employer plans having higher enrollment than anticipated, which is probably a good thing, and much of the rest is taken up by Medicaid, which last I looked was getting heatlhy enrollment relative to predictions in spite of the adverse supreme court ruling. If one part of the law underperforms expectations, and another part of the law overperforms expectations, then it doesn’t seem fair to point at the underperformance as evidence of terrible dishonesty, and basically ignore the overperformance. If there was a lot of dishonesty, wouldn’t you expect across-the-board underperformance?

            I don’t really see evidence that the law is, overall, performing much worse than anticipated. This post by Kevin Drum looks at the overall state of things and concludes that “CBO originally estimated that the uninsured population would drop to 8 percent by 2016. That estimate changed after the Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion voluntary, and CBO now figures that in 2016 the total number of uninsured will come to about 11 percent. The CDC estimates that in the most recent quarter the number of uninsured dropped to 10.7 percent. If Gaba’s numbers are correct, that will decline to about 10 percent or so by the end of 2016.”

            So overall performance is basically on-track once you account for the Supreme Court, right? This is consistent with prediction being hard (lots of errors in different directions which mostly cancel out), and inconsistent with prediction being heavily biased, right?

            If this were true, then the democrats would have passed such a bill. They could not get such a bill through. The ACA itself was only gotten through by immense arm twisting of moderate democrats. It was precisely because most democrats didn’t support a major overhaul

            As for “most,” I’d guess 45-50 of the then-60 Democrats in the Senate would have gone for a much more major health care overhaul, but that isn’t enough. They needed all of them.

            So Clinton and Obama campaigned on a bill that could actually pass, one that could get the support of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, and in a slightly different world would have gotten the support of a few moderate Republicans too. And thus they were being honest with the electorate.

            Defend and expand the Affordable Care Act, which covers 20 million people.

            status quo

            >Bring down out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles

            Pure magical thinking.

            >Reduce the cost of prescription drugs

            Pure magic.

            >Expand access to rural Americans, who often have difficulty finding quality, affordable health care.

            Pure magic.

            Those are half her bullet points that either aren’t doing anything, or proposing something magical.

            Defend the ACA absolutely is status quo, but it’s something that she would do differently than a president Trump, or for that matter a president Sanders. It’s very worthwhile saying it.

            “Bring down copays” – copays are already regulated and restricted by law, it’s not magical thinking to modify those restrictions involved. Reducing prescription drug costs is about the usual plan of allowing drug imports, which would, in fact, reduce the cost of the drugs – nothing magical at all. Rural costs – the next sentence is “Hillary will explore cost-effective ways to make more health care providers eligible for telehealth reimbursement under Medicare and other programs, including federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics” which is not exactly a grand extravagant unattainable promise.

            Now all of these policies have tradeoffs, of course, and these tradeoffs are not explored in any depth on this bullet point page. If Clinton explicitly denied the existence of those tradeoffs, like Republicans routinely do with taxes, then *that* would be magical thinking.

            These policies may very well be bad ideas – that’s another discussion entirely. But nothing seems impossible. Certainly I would expect Clinton to generally continue supporting these things when in office, and that if Democrats are lucky enough to control the whole government next year I’d expect them to do some subset of that list – which is another way of saying I think the list looks honest.

            Edit: linked to wrong tab

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Deiseach, in haste
            How did they persuade voters to elect enough Republicans to achieve a majority? Why did not the voters keep electing Democrats?

            TL;DR. Democrats barely get out to vote for POTUS, less for Senators; House members, who dat? Republicans get out to vote for everything, especially local.

            Those generalizations are cutting at the joints, because the US is two-party. ‘Democrats’ = ‘people who if they vote at all, would vote Democratic’ (or split the Democratic vote and elect Bush).

          • cassander says:

            >As I understand it, exchange underperformance is partially due to employer plans having higher enrollment than anticipated, which is probably a good thing, and much of the rest is taken up by Medicaid, which last I looked was getting heatlhy enrollment relative to predictions in spite of the adverse supreme court ruling.

            the word “partially” is doing a lot of work there. As for medicaid enrollment, you’d have to disentangle the expansion from a generally somewhat sluggish economy, as medicaid elibigility is based on income.

            >If there was a lot of dishonesty, wouldn’t you expect across-the-board underperformance?

            Medicaid expansion, as an existing system, basically cannot fail to expand coverage. But it’s not the most expensive, legally questionable, or intrusive part of the law.

            >So overall performance is basically on-track once you account for the Supreme Court, right?

            Only if you A, ignore costs, B, use a metric (% insured) of dubious utility, C, assume that medicaid coverage is equal to other forms of coverage, and D, ignore the rather blatant illegality the administration used to get here.

            >As for “most,” I’d guess 45-50 of the then-60 Democrats in the Senate would have gone for a much more major health care overhaul, but that isn’t enough. They needed all of them.

            Then why were none of the ACA defections on the left?

            >So Clinton and Obama campaigned on a bill that could actually pass,

            Obama actually campaigned against a mandate, but we’ll let that slide.

            >I’d expect them to do some subset of that list – which is another way of saying I think the list looks honest.

            And if trump gets elected, I assume he’ll do several of the things on his list, but that doesn’t mean that the claims he’s making about what they’ll achieve are honest.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Obama specifically campaigned against the individual mandate, to the point of highlighting that opposition in his ads against Hillary. He promised repeatedly to air all health care negotiations on C-SPAN, so the process would be completely transparent. He campaigned against the Cadillac tax, to point of attacking McCain for having one in his plan. And he “firmly pledged” that no family making under 250K would see any form of tax increase. In fact, he would reduce premiums by $2,500 per family.

            But yeah, other than the process he used to pass the bill, central contents of the bill like the individual mandate, and the results of bill like the cost savings to families, it was just what he promised.

          • Chalid says:

            Only if you A, ignore costs, B, use a metric (% insured) of dubious utility, C, assume that medicaid coverage is equal to other forms of coverage, and D, ignore the rather blatant illegality the administration used to get here.

            you’ve posted a couple times that the cost is way higher than expected. But figure 2 of the CBO report that I linked earlier shows 2016 cost (and projected future costs) as way lower than the 2010 projection.

            Just eyeballing the graph, it looks like the original 2010 projection for 2016 was about $140 billion and the most recent is about $100 billion. (See also page 27.)

            Can you please reconcile your claims with this?

            For the rest, % insured may not be the absolute best metric but it seems likely to be better than the fraction of people using a particular small part of the system. Broad metrics are less vulnerable to cherry-picking.

            Then why were none of the ACA defections on the left?

            Because the leftist Democrats of 2010 believed in incremental progress, as I’ve been saying.

            Obama actually campaigned against a mandate

            Sure, and that was actually an important piece of dishonesty for which it is totally valid to criticize him. (And certainly there were other claims being made during the campaign that were way too optimistic.) Nonetheless, while the mandate is important, I’d maintain that the ACA as a whole is recognizably what he campaigned on. He made adjustments, of which the mandate was the biggest, but he didn’t come into office and completely reverse course.

            (Also, Clinton was really a saint for being open about the need for the mandate in spite of its unpopularity. Let us all praise her for that!)

          • cassander says:

            >Can you please reconcile your claims with this?

            Because the CBO scores assume the law will be implemented as written, not as its actually being implemented. Going forward, the gap only gets larger.

            >Because the leftist Democrats of 2010 believed in incremental progress, as I’ve been saying.

            Sorry, I wasn’t clear. Assuming you have a roughly bell curve shaped senate democratic caucus ideologically, if a bill is written for the middle of the caucus, you should have defections on the left and right. If it’s written for the right, you should have most defections on the left, and vice versa. The fact that all the ACA defections were on the right indicates that the bill was to the left on the mean democrat, not the right.

            >He made adjustments, of which the mandate was the biggest, but he didn’t come into office and completely reverse course.

            Jaskologist has pointed out a number of areas where he reversed course.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I always attributed Obama’s early opposition to the individual mandate to wishful thinking rather than dishonesty; I assume that at some point his experts sat him down and explained how in the absence of a mandate, everyone would wait until they got sick to buy insurance. (Perhaps they should have spent a bit more time on the question of whether the penalty they came up with is adequate to the task.)

          • cassander says:

            @Chalid

            One point I forgot to mention. You, and the NYT, are treating the CBO report you’re citing as if it was a retrospective comparison of their projection to actual costs. That is not what they’re doing. They were asked to do that, but refused. Just to note, in 2014, the medicare advantage cuts and employer mandate were still on the books and had not yet been delayed. The medicare changes alone accounted for 196 billion in cost reduction that is completely gone. The employer mandate is tens of billions more.

            @Cerebral Paul Z.

            >I always attributed Obama’s early opposition to the individual mandate to wishful thinking rather than dishonesty;

            Would not political opportunism be a much likelier motive? Hillary was for a mandate, the mandate was not popular, and Obama needed to distinguish himself from Hillary. Ditto McCain and the Cadillac tax later.

            On a more philosophical level, let’s assume you’re right and neither Obama or his campaign staff actually knew anything about the healthcare policies they were endorsing/rejecting. Is that not a pretty damning indictment of his style of operation? Isn’t in exactly the same sort of ignorance and demagoguery that Trump is currently being accused of?

          • Chalid says:

            Because the CBO scores assume the law will be implemented as written, not as its actually being implemented. Going forward, the gap only gets larger.

            The report came out in March 2016. I specifically highlighted the prediction of 2016 costs, since I am not aware of any major last-minute changes to the law that have come out since March that are going to increase the cost by 40%.

            And the law’s already been out for a few years and I do not recall major cost overruns in 2015 or 2014. (I don’t have time to dig up the data to prove this, and invite you to the research on this topic and report back with your findings.)

            Would you have predicted, in 2010, that costs would be at or below CBO predictions in the middle of the decade? If not, how have you updated?

            Assuming you have a roughly bell curve shaped senate democratic caucus ideologically, if a bill is written for the middle of the caucus, you should have defections on the left and right. If it’s written for the right, you should have most defections on the left, and vice versa. The fact that all the ACA defections were on the right indicates that the bill was to the left on the mean democrat, not the right.

            Well, there was trouble with the leftmost senators. But more fundamentally, you are not accurately modelling how negotiation works. Your negotiating power is derived not from your numbers or your beliefs or your passion, but instead from your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Basically, the rightmost Democrats basically didn’t mind very much if the bill failed and thus they had enormous leverage over the rest of the caucus.

          • cassander says:

            >The report came out in March 2016. I specifically highlighted the prediction of 2016 costs, since I am not aware of any major last-minute changes to the law that have come out since March that are going to increase the cost by 40%. And the law’s already been out for a few years and I do not recall major cost overruns in 2015 or 2014.

            >Would you have predicted, in 2010, that costs would be at or below CBO predictions in the middle of the decade? If not, how have you updated?

            I have not, because they are not. I said, at the time, that the medicare cuts and the CLASS act were completely illusory in terms of savings, and So far I have been proved right. I did not predict that the administration would illegally refuse to implement the employer mandate. I also did not predict, but should have, that the launch would be so botched.

          • Chalid says:

            The repeal of the CLASS act is already baked into the March 2016 CBO report. Any medicare modifications affecting 2016 were already baked into the 2016 CBO report. And the 2016 CBO report predicts lower costs for 2016 than the 2010 CBO report.

            So I conclude that total costs for 2016 are lower than predicted in 2010. You pointing out specific things that have acted to make the bill more expensive just means that the rest of it is *even cheaper* than we thought, which brings us back to “forecasting is hard” rather than “systematic major dishonesty.”

            (I tried, and failed, to find 2015 actual realized costs.)

          • caethan says:

            @Jill:

            I also see that the GOP refuses to compromise and encourages their voters to brook no compromise either. So no compromises are done, and nothing gets done. No problems are solved.

            So the problem with this, from the perspective of a social conservative, is that past compromises get reframed as the status quo and then become the baseline from which new compromises get proposed.

            Let me give an example.

            About 15 years ago in the early 2000s I was arguing with my college friends about gay marriage. I opposed it; they supported it. After some arguing, we agreed that we both thought civil unions would be a reasonable compromise position. Since then, my substantive position hasn’t changed; neither has theirs. But the dynamics have now changed quite a lot. Civil unions is no longer a compromise position; the new proposed compromise is “we won’t force your church to endorse same-sex marriage if you stop political opposition to same-sex marriage”. I appreciate that I’m losing and that political power has shifted away from my position. But I hope that you can appreciate why I find being accused of being unwilling to compromise so galling – I was willing to compromise, it’s just that the compromise position kept shifting further and further from my position.

            It seems like “compromises” between conservatives who prefer the status quo and liberals who want change leave conservatives like me going “OK, we’ve struck a deal, that’s over and done with now.” and liberals going “Well, we’re halfway there, now lets push for the rest of what we want.” It ends up leaving me very very suspicious of compromise positions. If the first compromise puts us halfway between the current status quo and the desired change, then the next compromise takes that as the new status quo, and we get halfway of the remaining distance and so on until, a la Zeno, till we get to the place the liberals wanted to be all along, except that I get to feel like a chump for supporting the compromises along the way.

            Whereas if I just hold to my position, I’m still going to lose, but at least I get the satisfaction of not having sold out along the way.

          • Anonymous says:

            the new proposed compromise is “we won’t force your church to endorse same-sex marriage if you stop political opposition to same-sex marriage”.

            @Caethan, who exactly is proposing this compromise? AFAICT, no one is in favor of forcing churches to endorse same-sex marriage. Do you know of any (non-trivial) group taking the position of Stop Politically Opposing SSM, Or We Will Force You To Endorse It?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Caethan, The other thing is. the populations doing the compromising have changed since c. 2000. Namely, they include people who were born more recently, and exclude those who were born earlier. It’s unsurprising that the ethical and political stances held by each group also change. It’s not some dirty trick.

          • cassander says:

            >were already baked into the 2016 CBO report. And the 2016 CBO report predicts lower costs for 2016 than the 2010 CBO report.

            For the last time, no, they aren’t. The CLASS Act might be, they don’t mention it one way or the other, but the suspension of the medicare cuts and delay of the employer mandate are NOT included, because those laws are still on the books, just being ignored. The CBO forecasts going forward are assuming they will be implemented when everyone knows they won’t be, drastically lowering the forecast.

          • caethan says:

            @Anonymous:

            I’m sorry, I thought I made that clear. I’ve got a group of friends I’ve had since college in the early 2000s. Mostly Democrats, some libertarian-type Republicans, but I’m the only social conservative. Back then, the compromise position when we talked about politics was in one place, now the compromise position is in another place, much closer to their position. I don’t particularly resent that the compromise position has moved, because I understand that the median opinion has changed in 15 years, even if my opinion hasn’t. What I do resent, quite strongly, is when liberals complain that I’m not willing to compromise with them. The current status quo is a compromise position as far as I’m concerned.

            As far as my perception of the compromise position on gay marriage then and now, things kind of crystallized for me in 2008 when more than half of them got so angry about CA Proposition 8 that they were discussing the best way to get the IRS to revoke the Mormon Church’s tax-exempt status. I suppose “do our best to financially destroy your church” isn’t quite the same as “force your church to endorse same-sex marriage”, though.

          • Chalid says:

            For the last time, no, they aren’t. The CLASS Act might be, they don’t mention it one way or the other, but the suspension of the medicare cuts and delay of the employer mandate are NOT included, because those laws are still on the books, just being ignored. The CBO forecasts going forward are assuming they will be implemented when everyone knows they won’t be.

            The employer mandate is *already* in effect, so you should find a new set of “everyone” to get your facts from.

            The CLASS repeal is long-settled and of course would be reflected in the CBO report, and it would be a completely trivial number anyway.

            I don’t know which medicare cuts you’re specifically talking about and don’t care to guess, but will happily read any link you provide on it, hopefully one that is up to date and includes the actual budget impact.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            An object level point: states that passed anti-GM laws also banned anything like ‘civil unions’ for gays.

            Also, something that sounds like a good compromise in the dorm, may look less practical after people get their law degree and look at the fine print in different states. California and Vermont may have compatible laws on civil contracts … which isn’t much help if you’re in a hospital in Kansas.

          • cassander says:

            >The employer mandate is *already* in effect, so you should find a new set of “everyone” to get your facts from.

            It goes into effect this year, maybe. Two years late, and thus tens of billions behind, assuming they don’t delay it again.

            >The CLASS repeal is long-settled and of course would be reflected in the CBO report, and it would be a completely trivial number anyway.

            it was originally scored for 70 billion dollars in “savings” in the first 10 years of the bill. Not trivial.

            >I don’t know which medicare cuts you’re specifically talking about and don’t care to guess, but will happily read any link you provide on it, hopefully one that is up to date and includes the actual budget impact.

            I already have. They were originally scored to save almost 200 billion over 10 years, instead the administration is spending more than that.

          • Chalid says:

            It goes into effect this year, maybe. Two years late, and thus tens of billions behind, assuming they don’t delay it again.

            How is there a “maybe” here? It went into effect for employers over 100 people in January 2015 and for the rest of applicable employers in January 2016. It’s done.

          • Anonymous says:

            things kind of crystallized for me in 2008 when more than half of them got so angry about CA Proposition 8 that they were discussing the best way to get the IRS to revoke the Mormon Church’s tax-exempt status.

            @Caethan, Can you really not appreciate the objection to the political over-involvement and financial support coming from the Mormon church? Twisting it into “they were angry and wanted to destroy your church” seems a bit uncharitable.

          • caethan says:

            @Anonymous:

            Short answer: No, I can’t.

            Long answer: The anti-Prop 8 campaign spent more money that the pro-Prop 8 campaign, and had more money coming from out of state. The Mormon church also did not contribute any financial support, regardless of how much support individual Mormons contributed. So you’ll forgive me for thinking that complaints about “political over-involvement” is mostly whining about losing an important election to outspent opponents.

        • Jill says:

          The difference is that Dems do not even promise anything to the voters that Trump appealed to. It’s like they don’t know they exist. Except for Bernie, but he apparently didn’t promise the most popular things, because he didn’t win.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            If Bernie promised things that appeal to Trump voters it wouldn’t matter since Trump voters don’t vote in Democrat primaries, do they?

            Not a rhetorical question. I just don’t know much about the American electoral system.

          • Sandy says:

            @Saint Fiasco: Many states have open primaries.

    • CatCube says:

      Will the EU allow a post-Brexit UK to join the EEA even if the UK wants to do so? They might be out to stick it to a defecting member of their group pour encourager les autres.

      • Diadem says:

        There are definitely some within Europe who want to go that route. But my impression is that they are in the minority. Most countries don’t want to lose their trade with Britain, and most politicians would prefer the rock the boat as little as possible.

        But it’s too early to tell how it will play out. Britain leaving the EU will be a multi-year process, and in most countries there’ll be elections in the meantime. So a lot can and will change between now and then.

        I have the impression that the entire EU’s feature is pretty precarious at this time. The Greek crisis still hasn’t entirely been resolved. The immigration crisis is still raging. Turkey is creating an entirely new challenge.

        Myself I’m one of the most pro-Europe people you’ll find. For example I think we should move ahead with a European army posthaste. But even I have my doubts. The EU just seems so incapable of dealing with any sort of crisis. When I see our leaders groveling for a megalomaniacal, genocidal dictator of a mid-sized country, I’m just fucking embarrassed. The number of problems that would disappear overnight if we just told Erdogan to go fuck himself is astonishing.

        • Sandy says:

          The number of problems that would disappear overnight if we just told Erdogan to go fuck himself is astonishing.

          In fairness, the groveling is the natural result of Turkey’s strategic position. Tell Erdogan to go fuck himself and he might replace NATO airbases with Russian ones, and start flooding Europe with migrants again.

          It’s embarrassing, but I have some sympathy for the people who do the groveling. It may be necessary. That said, Europeans who still entertain ideas of bringing Turkey into the fold are just delusional.

          • Lumifer says:

            and start flooding Europe with migrants again

            That’s not Turkey’s doing, that’s Greece.

            People with good memories might remember that that during the Greek debt crisis Greece promised to open the door to Europe for all the migrants unless it got more money. It didn’t get more money. And it did open the door.

            There is actually a land path into Europe from Turkey, going through Bulgaria. Why do migrants take the boats? Because the Bulgarians closed the border, and if they catch migrants they beat them up and throw them back into Turkey. Works very well.

            The migrant problem has not been created by Turkey, it’s entirely self-inflicted.

          • Diadem says:

            I entirely agree with this, Sandy.

            I’m not inherently against groveling in politics. Sometimes it’s needed.

            Turkey is not a small country, but it is small compared to Europe. Turkey is a very useful and convenient ally for Europe, but not a necessary one. We can solve the refugee crisis without Turkey (as Lumifer points out, it’s mostly self-inflicted anyway). Our economy won’t collapse without Turkish trade. Even our security situation won’t suffer too much if we cut ties with Turkey. It would suffer a bit, but that’s also mostly self-inflicted, since we gutted our own armies.

            If Erdogan was a normal leader I still wouldn’t mind the groveling too much. It may not be necessary, but if it’s convenient, why not. But Erdogan is a evil. He’s abolished Turkish democracy, he’s completely fucking over the Syrian situation, he keeps stoking up unrest within Europe itself. He is not someone you should want to grovel to.

          • Anon. says:

            Lumifer: how do you think Greece could stop them? They can’t be returned to Turkey because they’re not Turks and Turkey won’t take them back. You can’t sink their boats because just imagine the headlines. And returning them to Syria isn’t a viable alternative either.

          • Lumifer says:

            how do you think Greece could stop them

            The way it worked before? And the way it works in most other places?

            What’s with this helplessness, oh, no, the migrants are coming, WE CAN DO NOTHING?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Lumifer

            Could you be more specific in what they could do? If migrants are coming over a land border, you can build a wall. People who arrive and are turned away probably won’t die. The same doesn’t apply if they are arriving on boats. You either have to let them in, let them drown, or run an expensive programme where you escort them to another country (presuming you can find another country that is willing). Those options are less palatable.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            If Europe is rich enough to support millions and millions of stateless, jobless migrants until the end of time, it is surely rich enough to afford a Coast Guard.

          • Anon. says:

            There is no “before”, the flows of people are unprecedented. The only comparable place is Sicily, but even that is not a close match: the closest point between Italy and Africa is ~155 km, while there are many Greek islands within 10km of the Turkish coast. And even Italy is having trouble controlling its maritime borders.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            Disregarding your comment about millions of stateless jobless migrants (there are barely millions, the whole point of settling in a country (and according to you, claiming benefits) is that you aren’t stateless, and migrants are more likely to be employed than the native population), what do you think the Coast Guard should do after intercepting a boat of Afghans and Iraqis? Let them drown? Take them back to Afghanistan and Iraq?

          • Anon. says:

            and migrants are more likely to be employed than the native population

            If by “migrants” you mean EU citizens who move to another EU country, then yes.

            Obviously not the case for “refugees”: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d5d0bb96-49a8-11e6-8d68-72e9211e86ab.html#axzz4IOQkiuhH

          • Anonymous says:

            The same doesn’t apply if they are arriving on boats. You either have to let them in, let them drown, or run an expensive programme where you escort them to another country (presuming you can find another country that is willing).

            Bobbins! You can just turn them away; force them to turn back to where they came from. If they can get to you, they can get back. Conflating that with “let them drown” is just amazingly disingenuous.

            I mean, you can certainly also question whether it’s evil at all to let people drown if they willingly take actions which will make them drown in an effort to guilt you into betraying your own rules, but it’s still pretty gross to just leave out the obvious “the coast guard turns them away” solution.

          • Diadem says:

            How do you ‘just turn them away’?

            Turkey doesn’t want them. And covertly and illegally entering the territory of another nation with a military vessel is generally considered an act of war. So unless you are willing to declare war on Turkey, no, you can’t just turn them away.

            So yeah, Europe is rich enough to afford a coast guard. But then what? You encounter a leaky boat full of refugees in the middle of the Mediterranean. What do you do? You can ignore them, let them enter or kill them. There are no other options.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Australia doesn’t seem to have much difficulty enforcing its immigration policies, and I should think lots of their illegal immigrants come by boat. Maybe we could try doing what they do?

          • Anon. says:

            IIRC Australia keeps them in refugee camps off-shore, and then either takes them in or repatriates them.

            This is completely implausible for Greece, both because of differences in scale and resources available. Something like 500k people arrived in Greece in 2015. There is simply no way the government could detain people in such numbers, especially in the middle of an economic crisis. On top of that, repatriation isn’t really an option because you can’t send people back into a war zone.

            To put some perspective on the numbers: Greece’s TOTAL prison population is 12k and the prisons are overcrowded shitholes. Crete is Greece’s largest island and has a population of 600k.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can ignore them, let them enter or kill them. There are no other options.

            Again, nonsense. It’s quite enough to bar them from entering Greek waters; after that, let them go where they please. If that’s to the bottom of the sea, that’s still not “killing them”; at most it’s “letting them die”.

            But besides that, the fact is those boats came from somewhere, and they’ll indubitably find their way back to that same place once they find they’re fresh out of options. This shit doesn’t fall from the moon. They’re operations run by hard, crass men, not likely to prefer a watery grave to going back.

          • “If they can get to you, they can get back. ”

            This is simply not true. So simply not true that I don’t think you’re qualified to have an opinion.

            Perhaps an explanation will help. A boat has limited supplies. Having X supplies is not the same thing as having 2X supplies.

            Furthermore, a boat on open water is subject to weather, which might be worse on the return trip.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I’m not trying to be edgy for the sake of it, but why can’t they just sink the boats?

            International opinion would be against it, but international opinion is already against any form of border controls. Nobody is going to invade or embargo Greece over this. There would be some anti-Greek hashtags and a lot of impotent posturing from Eurocrats but I have a hard time seeing what Greece would actually lose.

            And it’s not like you’d be drowning hundreds of thousands of people. Refugees would take the hint pretty quickly that Greek waters were no longer a safe place to cross. Maybe a few hundred or a thousand people would die initially to prove the coast guard wasn’t bluffing but that’s not very many when we’re talking about nations and continents.

          • Anon. says:

            First, the Greeks are already on shaky ground diplomatically, and they still depend on cash injections from Europe. Second, the refugees don’t stay in Greece anyway, they go on to central and northern Europe, so the Greeks don’t bear the costs of open borders. There’s no incentive for them to bear the cost of closing them. Third, the current Greek government is far left, stopping refugees is not their line of business.

            Securing the European borders is a job for Germany and France, not Greece. They pay (most of) the costs of the refugees, they set EU-wide policy. And they’re not interested in keeping the refugees out.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Because that would be murder. Officially state sanctioned murder tends to have all sorts of repercussions.

            There isn’t any case to be made that these people known hostile actors.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            I think you underestimate the number of migrants who would die, how much it would cost, and how successful the Greek navy would be in carrying out their goal. Disregarding popular protests against it, I think the main results would be tens of thousands of migrants dying, and approximately the same number being stopped from entering Greece (and Italy and Spain). I.e. few migrants would be deterred overall and many would get through anyway.

          • Randy M says:

            There isn’t any case to be made that these people known hostile actors.

            Did they turn back when requested?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not trying to be edgy for the sake of it, but why can’t they just sink the boats?

            International opinion would be against it, but international opinion is already against any form of border controls.

            International opinion is against border controls that leave Syrian refugees in Syria, in roughly the same way that international opinion is against Putin’s approach to Ukranian sovereignty.

            International opinion is against border controls that leave Syrian refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, in roughly the same way that international opinion was against Hitler’s approach to the Jewish problem.

            Nobody sane is completely indifferent to such distinctions. You might as well ask why people who are stopped for speeding don’t shoot (or if not American, run over) the traffic cop – they are already lawbreakers, no?

          • sweeneyrod, all of that, plus a lot of protestors getting in the way of government efforts to sink the boats.

          • Diadem says:

            Again, nonsense. It’s quite enough to bar them from entering Greek waters; after that, let them go where they please. If that’s to the bottom of the sea, that’s still not “killing them”; at most it’s “letting them die”.

            Shut of your computer, go stand in front of a mirror and reflect on your utter failure as a human being for at least 5 minutes.

            Australia doesn’t seem to have much difficulty enforcing its immigration policies, and I should think lots of their illegal immigrants come by boat. Maybe we could try doing what they do?

            Australia is paying some nearby small island nations to put up camps where boat immigrants that are intercepted by the Australian coast guard are put. In principle this is not different from putting them in refugee camps in your own nation, except it makes it easier to kick them out again if you deny their asylum request, and you have fewer pesky human rights activists looking over your shoulder.

            The scale of the problem is much, much smaller in Australia though. This solution would be much harder to implement in Europe. There are no convenient island nations that would gladly accept half a million refugees in exchange for a bit of cash.

            That being said, Europe is kind of doing the same thing in their much-hated deal with Turkey, which basically amounts to Europe paying off Turkey to make Turkey accept these refugees back.

            The problem is that Turkey isn’t really keeping up their end of the deal, and the current political climate in Turkey isn’t making things any easier.

            I’m not trying to be edgy for the sake of it, but why can’t they just sink the boats?

            Because it would be wrong?

            Did you really have to ask that question? If you’re not trying to be edgy, then what the fuck are you trying to be? A literal psychopath?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Anon.,

            [T]he Greeks don’t bear the costs of open borders. There’s no incentive for them to bear the cost of closing them.

            Yeah, that’s probably the best point anyone has made so far.

            Right now the migrant crisis is a bargaining chip they have in negotiations with Germany. Still it seems incredibly short-sighted of them.

            @Diadem,

            Did you really have to ask that question? If you’re not trying to be edgy, then what the fuck are you trying to be? A literal psychopath?

            Well, because it seems like there’s a brinksmanship strategy here.

            First, all of the non-murderous options that we normally use to police borders are one-by-one made politically impossible by the open borders crowd*. And then the open borders people say “you monster, don’t you realize the only way to police borders is through MURDER!!!” to shut down the conversation.

            When someone is challenging you to a game of chicken, you should consider who actually has the sturdier car. If Europeans can survive a crash with the EU elites then it doesn’t make sense to swerve on immigration. It’s ugly but the alternative is submission.

            *In the Sanders-esque “Open borders is a Koch brothers proposal” sense. It’s not a Left/Right as much as Rich/Working distinction IMO.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Again, nonsense. It’s quite enough to bar them from entering Greek waters; after that, let them go where they please. If that’s to the bottom of the sea, that’s still not “killing them”; at most it’s “letting them die”.

            Shut of your computer, go stand in front of a mirror and reflect on your utter failure as a human being for at least 5 minutes.

            If someone comes up to me, puts a gun to their own head, and demands my wallet or else they’ll pull the trigger, and I refuse, would that make me an utter failure as a human being?

          • Anonymous says:

            Shut of your computer, go stand in front of a mirror and reflect on your utter failure as a human being for at least 5 minutes.

            Now there’s a sentence that’s both true, necessary and kind 😀
            My answer to you is: you misspelled “off”. I think we both know who’s the worse person here.

             
            For the rest, Dealgood and Gobbobobble have covered the point admirably, and I do plus them the 1.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Could we not just tow the boats to the edge of Turkey’s territorial waters and tell the people on-board “Right, there’s Turkey on the horizon. Sail back to it. We’ll keep an eye on you to make sure you do go back, and if you try and cheat by getting around us and heading to Greece anyway, we’ll put a hole in your boat and leave you to swim for it.”

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @DrDealgood

            Which non-murderous methods for dealing with migrants arriving in Greece by boat have been made politicaly impossible? Brinksmanship doesn’t come into it, the issue is the purely practical matter that when humans are immersed in open water for long periods of time they tend to die, and that desperate migrants tend not to travel in suitably engineered vessels that can sail hundreds of miles on a whim. Returning migrants back to Libya from Italy was practical in 2008 when there were far fewer of them and the Italian and Libyan governments had an agreement. The situation is very different now.

            There are certainly non-murderous methods for dealing with the migrants who come to Greece and Bulgaria by land (large fences being the main one). Unfortunately, 97% of migrants arrive by sea.

          • John Schilling says:

            Could we not just tow the boats to the edge of Turkey’s territorial waters and tell the people on-board “Right, there’s Turkey on the horizon. Sail back to it. We’ll keep an eye on you to make sure you do go back,

            That would be a lie – the Greek coast guard doesn’t have enough ships to keep eyeball-to-eyeball coverage along the entire Turkish maritime border, or one-on-one coverage of the entire refugee flotilla, and radar can’t distinguish between a refugee boat and a legitimate fishing boat.

            and if you try and cheat by getting around us and heading to Greece anyway, we’ll put a hole in your boat and leave you to swim for it.”

            The average refugee is not capable of swimming twelve miles, making this murder. Or at least homicide of the sort most people will consider to be murder.

        • “When I see our leaders groveling for a megalomaniacal, genocidal dictator of a mid-sized country”

          What genocide has Erdogan committed?

          I’m not sure what “mid-size” means in this context. Turkey’s population is about the same as that of Germany, which is the largest country in the EU. Its active military is more than half that of Russia, more than twice that of Germany. Number of tanks almost ten times that of Germany (I didn’t check other EU countries). In the European context, it’s one of the largest players after Russia.

          • Lumifer says:

            All valid points, but I don’t really like the direction in which Erdogan is going. I always thought of him as little Putin, but now that he is doing a credible imitation of Stalin’s 1937 purges, I’m afraid he might turn out to be a little Stalin.

          • Diadem says:

            Erdogan is basically waging a war of aggression against the Kurds (and other groups), after decades of slowly improving relationships. Trying to erase a people’s culture and identity classifies as a form of genocide.

            Turkey is 36th in the world in area, 19th in population and 18th in GDP. So Turkey is mid-sized in all categories people tend to look at when making such statements without classifiers.

            Germany may only a slightly bigger population, but their economy is the 4th in the world. Germany would classify as mid-sized if you were looking mostly at area or population, and large if you were looking at economy.

          • “Erdogan is basically waging a war of aggression against the Kurds (and other groups), after decades of slowly improving relationships. Trying to erase a people’s culture and identity classifies as a form of genocide.”

            There are lots of Kurds in Turkey. Erdogan is not having them all arrested and executed, which is what he would be doing if he was attempting genocide. There is a large difference between genocide and policies designed to hold down an ethnic minority that is pushing for independence, sometimes violently.

            I don’t much like Erdogan, but hysterical overreaction to his offenses isn’t useful.

            “Turkey is 36th in the world in area, 19th in population and 18th in GDP. So Turkey is mid-sized in all categories people tend to look at when making such statements without classifiers.”

            Wikipedia’s list of countries by GDP has 189 entries. Being in the top ten percent isn’t obviously “mid-sized.”

            Turkey is 14 in the world in active military manpower, 9th in number of main battle tanks, 9th in aircraft.

          • Diadem says:

            There are lots of Kurds in Turkey. Erdogan is not having them all arrested and executed, which is what he would be doing if he was attempting genocide.

            You need to look up the definition of the word ‘genocide’.

            But this whole line of argument seems a bit useless. Both the argument over the word ‘genocide’ and over the word ‘mid-sized’ are semantic arguments.

            I don’t think that’s a very fruitful direction to take this argument, unless you think that these semantic distinctions somehow mean that the EU should be groveling to Erdogan? In that case I’d be interested to hear why.

          • Harambe's Ghost says:

            You need to look up the definition of the word ‘genocide’.

            When will Malala Yousafzai be held to account for her crimes against humanity???

    • LPSP says:

      I do not doubt that the powers-that-be in England will manouvre to make whatever solid form Brexit occupies as mild and moderate a one as possible. But outright, openly not leaving the EU is suicide for the conservatives. The only way for Labour to get elected as it is, is if the conservatives break their own base up that strongly.

    • Deiseach says:

      I didn’t believe the catastrophic “The UK will collapse!” version but I don’t believe the sunny “Everything will remain the same or be even better!” version, either.

      At the moment, I think a lot of people are sitting and waiting to see what will happen. The Tories have steadied down with the leadership contest behind them (I’m still amazed/amused about BoJo getting the Foreign Affairs gig, but it’s a wonderful object lesson for any future Brutuses – be sure when you stick the knife in the back that Caesar really is dead and done for, and that there are no Mark Antonys waiting in the wings to take you down in turn) and since Article 50 hasn’t been invoked yet, and nobody is in any particular hurry to do so, it will take years for the disentanglement to happen – and what kind of deals will be cut and how the exit will be watered down, who knows?

      The big problem is the access to the single market and internal immigration – the UK can’t eat its cake and have it on this one. If it wants to be treated as still within the EU for the sake of trade, it has to accept the free movement of EU citizens. If it wants to control its borders and impose immigration controls, it has to be treated as non-EU trading partner.

      How they’ll square that circle, I have no idea. I’m also very curious as to what will happen to agriculture when the EU subsidies are cut off – for a start, I think it’ll be the final demise of the family farm and only the large industrialised agribusinesses will survive, and if they’re depending on imports from the Commonwealth countries of New Zealand lamb and Canadian wheat and other products from other nations, what effect will this have on native agriculture? How vulnerable will the UK be to the necessity of importing its food (a quoted figure is that the UK produces only 59% of the food it consumes) if farming becomes a near-monopoly of a few large agribusinesses? The UK is our major trading partner and we export a lot of food products to them, but if we’re still in the EU and they’re not, what kind of knock-on effect will that have for Ireland (we’re getting a lot of doom and gloom prognostications over here on that).

      • Lumifer says:

        the UK can’t eat its cake and have it on this one

        At the moment. But EU isn’t in great shape and while UK needs EU markets, EU needs the UK market as well. The German export machine might decide that being able to export more German stuff into the UK is worth more than the right of Poles to become British plumbers.

        How vulnerable will the UK be to the necessity of importing its food … if farming becomes a near-monopoly of a few large agribusinesses?

        Um, less? The bucolic family farms are notoriously inefficient (which is why they need subsidies to survive). An agribusiness utilizing the same inputs, notably land, should be able to produce more food.

        • Alex says:

          The German export machine might decide that being able to export more German stuff into the UK is worth more than the right of Poles to become British plumbers.

          Thank you!

          I really hate it when free market and free movement a treated as if they were entangled by some law of physics. Of course you can have either without the other. Not for one moment should we think that any nation, Germany or other, in the EU would sacrifice her own economic interests on the altar of freedom of movement when push comes to shove.

          • Diadem says:

            A shared market and free movement of people and goods are the founding principles of the European Union. So yeah, they are entangled. This is not a principle that the EU is just going to give up.

            If you think Germany would never sacrifice its own economic interests for immigration, you haven not been paying attention to what has been going on there lately, because that is exactly what is happening right now with the refugee crisis.

          • Alex says:

            This is not a principle that the EU is just going to give up.

            We’ll wait and see.

            If you think Germany would never sacrifice its own economic interests for immigration, you haven not been paying attention to what has been going on there lately, because that is exactly what is happening right now with the refugee crisis.

            You got evidence that refugee crisis has harmed German economic interests so far?

          • Aapje says:

            @Alex

            You got evidence that refugee crisis has harmed German economic interests so far?

            Short term costs in 2015 were 6-10 billion euro:

            http://www.dw.com/en/refugee-crisis-to-cost-germany-10-billion-euros/a-18696346

            We also know that refugees have a lot of trouble getting jobs compared to natives and economic migrants* and the experience with Muslim immigrants in the past in Europe has been that they integrate very poorly.

            So long term the total cost will be much higher that that 6-10 billion. Die Zeit ordered a report that showed that that the cost can go up to 400 billion, depending on the level of integration.

            It’s also pretty certain that a certain percentage of those immigrants or their offspring will become terrorists (and we know for a fact that terrorists have used the refugee route in the recent past, as well), so the preventative security costs and the damage of the actual attacks will do economic harm as well.

            * This is culturally defined in part, for example, Somali refugees are notorious for their reliance on welfare. We don’t have solid information about how well the Syrian refugees will do, because there is not enough historic data yet.

          • Aapje says:

            @Diadem

            A shared market and free movement of people and goods are the founding principles of the European Union. So yeah, they are entangled. This is not a principle that the EU is just going to give up.

            That’s true, neoliberalism is at the core of the EU. However, it’s an ideology that inevitably results in a small group of winners and a large group of losers, as well as poor economic performance in the long term, so it’s fundamentally incompatible with democracy.

            This is why the EU is designed to be elitist, where the democratic influence on the EU is filtered through so many layers that the voters cannot hold the EU leaders accountable for their actions (the disconnect is visible whenever referendums are held, as they often result in the EU elite losing, upon which those referendums are ignored if possible).

            If the EU doesn’t compromise on its principles, the same thing happens to all powerful entities who refuse to compromise and instead choose to give most benefits to one group of citizens at the expense of others. That latter group will get increasingly angry. The bigger the suppression of that anger, the bigger the backlash tends to be.

            Usually, the revolution is triggered by economic problems and with a graying EU population, it’s inevitable that the standard of living will have to go down to accommodate that. I don’t see how the EU is going to survive the immense dissatisfaction that this will cause.

          • Alex says:

            Short term costs in 2015 were 6-10 billion euro:

            Do we quantify “economic harm” in terms of cost to the taxpayer (which I guess is what your figure is) or GDP or something else?

          • Diadem says:

            @ Aapje: Even if everything you say is true (and I really don’t think it is, but that’s another argument), none of that counters what I said.

            Maybe the EU is going to collapse. Who knows. But as long as the EU is around they aren’t going to just abandon their core principles. So if Britain wants access to the EU’s shared market, they are going to have to accept free (or at least mostly free, no doubt some minor compromises are possible to allow Britain to save face) movement of people.

            If the EU does collapse, well, then there’s no more shared market and Britain can’t get access to it either.

            @ Alex: Does it matter? Do you have reason to believe that it’s good for taxpayers but bad for the GDP, or the other way around? Honestly your question just sounds like an attempt at distraction through obfuscation.

          • Alex says:

            @ Alex: Does it matter? Do you have reason to believe that it’s good for taxpayers but bad for the GDP, or the other way around? Honestly your question just sounds like an attempt at distraction through obfuscation.

            The question was “does the refugee crisis harm Germany’s economy?” and the answer was, “it will cost 10 to 400 billion”. Yes, I do think, we need to know what “cost” is supposed to mean here.

            Maybe I’m ignorant of something here, but in my understanding a 400 billion drop in GDP is a completely different thing from a 400 billion increase in government spending. You may call the latter a “cost” but it is unclear to me how you construct “harm to the economy” from there.

            I’m sorry, but if anything here is obfuscation, then it is to treat two different things as if they were the same.

          • Aapje says:

            @Diadem

            But as long as the EU is around they aren’t going to just abandon their core principles.

            We’ve seen in the past that people can very quickly change their core principles (or rather, justify to themselves why the opposite standpoint serves their core beliefs). I don’t have the same belief as you that humans are that stable in their standpoints, even if they are strong advocates.

            This is especially true when we are not talking about individuals but about cultures. Social norms can result in strong preferences within a (sub)culture and strong punishment to dissenters, without those strong beliefs actually being held by a majority. Instead, only a minority actually feels strongly about it and there are many hangers-on who are OK to just go along with the ‘majority opinion.’

            There are mechanisms that can result in a ‘coup’ by another minority, resulting in a rather quick cultural switch. For example, the hangers-on can grow dissatisfied and become increasingly less willing to enforce the ‘majority opinion,’ resulting in a spiral of more dissent widening/moving the Overton window which then results in more dissent, which….

            So if Britain wants access to the EU’s shared market, they are going to have to accept free (or at least mostly free, no doubt some minor compromises are possible to allow Britain to save face) movement of people.

            That depends on how stubborn the EU will be. So far they have proven very stubborn, so I am not claiming that they won’t be with the UK, but it’s not a given that they will be.

            The EU has already compromised on free movement in the past. For example, there was a delay for some Eastern European countries before their citizens were allowed to work in West European countries without a permit. Furthermore, EU countries are allowed to limit benefits for EU immigrants, which technically is discrimination between EU workers and thus against the shared market.

            If the EU does collapse, well, then there’s no more shared market and Britain can’t get access to it either.

            That depends on what it collapses into. It can certainly become a more limited shared market.

            @Alex

            I’m looking at it from the POV of German citizens. If the government has to cut or not increase spending that benefits them, then their group experiences economic harm.

            Note that this doesn’t automatically make it wrong or against the people’s wishes. I am in favor of some aid by my government to other countries, so I accept the economic harm. But it would be silly for anyone to argue that giving the aid is an ‘economically rational’ decision.

            Anyway, perhaps you object to the emotional force behind the word ‘harm’, in which case we could talk about the ‘reductions in societal benefits enjoyed by native Germans.’ It would mean the same, but expressed in a more PC way.

          • Alex says:

            I’m looking at it from the POV of German citizens. If the government has to cut or not increase spending that benefits them, then their group experiences economic harm.

            […]
            we could talk about the ‘reductions in societal benefits enjoyed by native Germans.’ […]

            Several points:

            – Germany’s government spending “on refugees” clearly does benefit some Germans, mostly contractors in the business of refugee management in one way or the other. I find it all but clear that these benefits are outweighted by some yet to be quantified harm.

            – I find it very hard to believe that Merkel/Schaeuble after years of preaching austerity to Greece and others would have made these expenses in absence of the refugees. You cannot compare the world as it is with the alternative of spending the same kind of money “on Germans” whatever that would mean. The fair point of comparison is a world were the money is not spent at all (or at least not by the government). To “increase spending that benefits them” never has been on the table and it is insincere to argue as if it had.

            – As for the cutting of such spendings, can you give an example? The worst I am aware of are things like local sportspeople unable to use “their” heavily subsidarized gym because refugees were sleeping there. Personally I think this complaint is totally out of proportion but even if you differ, I think it is unclear, what the net effect is here.

            – I think we should very clearly differenciate between economic impact and societal impact. Example: If some imaginary German enjoys an utility from not living near Syrians, him having to live near a Syrian clearly harms him. I would not call that harm “economic” though.

          • Aapje says:

            @Alex

            1. Your first point seems to be little more than the broken window fallacy, the assumption that all spending is equally good, ignoring that some spending has way more positive effects than others.

            Research shows that refugees pretty much always are both less cost-effective than native workers or immigrants selected for their economic potential (which Eastern Europe now provides in abundance for the richer EU countries). So even if the economy is constrained by a lack of workers, the refugees will be a worse fix than the alternatives that can be chosen, from a pure economic POV. The difference between the optimal choice and allowing the refugees to stay is economic harm suffered (again, people may consider this worth it for non-economic reasons, but that is a different discussion).

            2. Your claim that the German government must practice austerity due to their stance on Greece is nonsense because the government is already running a surplus. Less refugee spending allows the same surplus with a better service level for citizens or a higher surplus, benefiting citizens in the future.

            Even if they were running a deficit, your argument would be wrong, because the EU limits the deficit, so then Germany would have to cut some services to stay above the deficit limit.

            In general, countries tend to mostly choose an acceptable surplus/deficit (which smart countries adapt to the economic circumstances in a counter-cyclic way) and then try to get their budget to work within those constraints. So extra expenses will cut into the money that is available for spending.

            3. The German states are not fully compensated for the costs, for example (behind paywall, but the relevant info can be read in the preview part), 4 billion goes to the states, but the states have allocated 16.7 billion in their budgets, which means that there is 12.7 billion euro deficit at the state level. In my newspaper, I’ve read that this has resulted in some major cuts of local services felt by Germans, but I cannot find Internet evidence for this.

            Furthermore, there is a housing deficit in the most desired locations (German cities, mostly), which is exactly where the refugees want to live and are generally placed. So the German citizens will then have reduced housing options and/or higher prices.

            In general, not all services/resources enjoyed by people in a country can just be ramped up by throwing money at them. Doctors don’t appear out of thin air, they need time-consuming training. So if you have more people needing healthcare, the quality of healthcare will deteriorate in the short term.

            4. I agree that some of the things I named above fall more under societal impact than economic impact, although I would argue that there is not necessarily a clear distinction. Many reductions in quality of life lead people to spend money to mitigate that reduction, which I consider economic harm. If your local doctor can’t accommodate you and you have to travel 30 minutes each way for another doctor, then you have suffered economic harm equal to the value of those hours + the travel costs.

          • Alex says:

            the assumption that all spending is equally good

            No what I’m saying is that the point of comparison should be “no additional spending” because that is what I think would most likely have happend had there been no refugee crisis. When you say there are “costs” you seem to mean, at least in part “additional spending” and I’m not convinced that this is a “harm”.

            Research shows that refugees pretty much always are both less cost-effective than native workers or immigrants selected for their economic potential (which Eastern Europe now provides in abundance for the richer EU countries). So even if the economy is constrained by a lack of workers, the refugees will be a worse fix than the alternatives that can be chosen, from a pure economic POV. The difference between the optimal choice and allowing the refugees to stay is economic harm suffered (again, people may consider this worth it for non-economic reasons, but that is a different discussion).

            For the record I do not dispute that, but I think it is besides my point.

            2. Your claim that the German government must practice austerity due to their stance on Greece […]

            I think you got me wrong there. My claim is that the Merkel/Schaeuble stance on austerity is what they really believe is the right thing to do and that we have their comments on Greece as sort of evidence. Therefore I think austerity is what they would have choosen, given the choice. I’m not saying that they could not have chosen differently were they so inclined even without the refugees.

            […] because the EU limits the deficit […]

            I’m really not trying to score cheap points here, but this did not work in the past and I have no reason to believe that it will ever work.

            3. The German states are not fully compensated for the costs,

            Coincidentally, I believe that this is the foundation on which the federal surplus you mention is built on and that this was a structural problem long before there were refugees. Like you say, the surplus is there on the federal level.

            Actually, I count this as more evidence that “spending the same money on Germans” never was on the table.

            Furthermore, there is a housing deficit […] then you have suffered economic harm equal to the value of those hours + the travel costs.

            Individually there for sure are Germans that stand to loose from the refugee crisis. I grant you that. But “the German economy” as a whole? I’m not sure. And I mean that, it is not rhetorics. I’d be gladly convinced in one direction or the other, but so far I have seen nothing that allowed me to make up my mind.

          • Aapje says:

            Actually, I count this as more evidence that “spending the same money on Germans” never was on the table.

            I don’t understand why you don’t see evidence of states not being compensated and thus cutting services; as evidence that less money goes to native Germans.

            It seems rather obvious to me.

          • Alex says:

            I don’t understand why you don’t see evidence of states not being compensated and thus cutting services; as evidence that less money goes to native Germans.

            It seems rather obvious to me.

            In short because I think this is a strategy of the states to blackmail their way to getting more federal money.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh, I know the business of feeding the population is in the hands of large industrial-scale agribusiness; the family farm is a dying breed or a boutique indulgence by those who made their money elsewhere.

          But putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, leaves you vulnerable. If BigFarm Corp goes under, what happens then? And large organisations do suddenly collapse, so if 25% of the UK food supply is under the control of BigFarm Corp, who steps in to take charge during the chaos?

          EU farm subsidies are a big part of farm incomes. The US also props up its agriculture with farm subsidies. The UK was getting a slice of the entire EU pie, so what will it do when it has to either keep paying the same level of subsidies on its own, or say “congratulations, welcome to the free market, survive or go under!” Big agribusiness doesn’t turn its nose up at subsidies either, so if that revenue stream is cut off, that does leave a gap.

          Will the UK be able to rely on cheap Commonwealth imports?

          • John Schilling says:

            But putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, leaves you vulnerable. If BigFarm Corp goes under, what happens then?

            You sell the assets to someone else at the bankruptcy auction, preferably packaged as going concerns, and let them take over. The land is still there, the crops are still there, the machinery is still there, and the workers probably don’t care who signs their paycheck.

            And large organisations do suddenly collapse, so if 25% of the UK food supply is under the control of BigFarm Corp, who steps in to take charge during the chaos?

            For best results, whoever put in the high bid at the bankruptcy auction. But taking over existing farms and running them not-terribly-badly is the sort of thing even quasi-socialist bureaucracies can usually handle in the short run.

            If they do screw it up, American farmers (family and otherwise) will be competing – with each other and with e.g. the Argies and the Aussies – to ship you all the food you can eat at a price no greater than the market will bear.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The UK is/was a net contributor to the EU, so if it wants it can afford to keep on subsiding all the things that currently get subsidised by the EU.

        • Alex says:

          What is a “family farm” anyway? Where I live, all farming is highly industrialised and so called “organic” farming, being more labour intensive, is even less likely to be done by one family alone than industrial farming.

          Also farming subsidaries are not an instrument to make domestic farming competitive but to keep consumer prices at a politically desired level. Every change of butter prices at the leading supermarket chain is a national news event. If the price sinks farmers will call for even more subsidaries, claiming they cannot compete at that price point (which is either a lie or a sure sign how perverted this market is). If the price rises it is a national catastrophe and discussed as if we were on the verge of pulling in UNHCR or CARE International or something for fear of people starving. Naturally politicians hate that, and prefer to pay for sinking prices with additional subsidaries.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            If you’re from the UK, family farming is the Archers.

          • Alex says:

            If you’re from the UK, family farming is the Archers.

            I. e. a fiction invented by non-farmers?

          • LPSP says:

            Pretty much what it says on the tin – a relatively small plot of land for a farm, but a pretty large plot of land for a normal household, is occupied by a family that sort-of hovers between nuclear and extended (typically a husband and wife, little kids, one or two adult kids and 1 or more grandparents). They rear about as many animals and til as many crop fields as they can handle, and sell the produce locally. My dad sort-of tried to be one a few years back, but he had a kidney issue that made him sell the pigs he collected. Still lives on the plot with his psychiatrist wife, not sure what he’ll do from here on out.

            There’s a local farm shop just down the street from where I live, and my mother swears by it. It’s pretty dang expensive, but the produce is nice enough. I’m not sure if a punnet of strawberries from there is any more tasty or healthy than from the Aldi a small bit further away, but it’s sort-of more convenient and the shop is quieter and pleasant. There’s room for all sorts of psychological filters to be at play here, but there’s a really strong audience for it nonetheless.

          • Alex says:

            They rear about as many animals and til as many crop fields as they can handle, and sell the produce locally.

            I have no citation for this but from local observation I assume that e. g. the number of pigs “a family can handle” has grown by a factor 10 in the last 20 years thanks to industrialisation / automation / economics of scale.

            So my point really is that “family farm” conjures an image that is readily exploited for marketing but has nothing to do with reality.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The big problem is the access to the single market and internal immigration – the UK can’t eat its cake and have it on this one.

        One thing that’s always struck me as kind of odd is how people who are strongly pro-EU/anti-Brexit* almost never portray free movement of people as a positive good which we ought to want anyway, and almost always as a kind of unpleasant cost that has to be accepted to get the stuff people actually want. Given that freedom of movement is meant to be one of the main pillars of the EU, I find this somewhat odd.

        * Not necessarily saying you’re one of these people, just that your post reminded me of something they say.

        • Vaniver says:

          I think this is because it’s relatively easy to get free movement of ‘desirable’ people under closed systems but relatively hard to stop free movement of ‘undesirable’ people under open systems. (Yes, they’re ignoring the benefit to the people doing the moving.)

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’ve seen a lot of anti-Brexit people portray free movement of _themselves_ as a positive good.

        • Zakharov says:

          As an opponent of Brexit, I know trying to convince pro-Brexiteers that free movement is a good thing is futile, so it’s better to use other arguments.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think free movement is a great idea, and we certainly have a substantial minority of English people who come to live in Ireland.

          But the UK Leave campaign was very strongly for “we want to impose controls” and against European immigrants – Eastern European, that is: the racism argument was misunderstood here, as people outside the situation were assuming it was anti-Muslim, anti-non white prejudice when it’s really anti-“thieving Romanian beggars, Polish builders taking our jobs, and the others streaming in to take advantage of our benefits system” (that last amuses me since the Irish welfare system is better than the English and English pensioners here do better than living at home).

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I think anti-migrant/refugee prejudice also played a role. For instance, the infamous Breaking Point poster looks to me to be portraying a stream of North African/Middle Eastern migrants.

          • ivvenalis says:

            I know this term gets overused, but I think that opposition to “Polish plumbers” and other European immigration is at least partly a dog whistle/expression of opposition to mass immigration in general. Criticizing Muslim/non-European immigration appears to this foreigner to be literally illegal in the UK, so if you’re against current immigration policy and don’t want to get thrown in jail you limit your public criticisms to the Poles.

          • LPSP says:

            Hit the nail on the head there, ivvenalis. Ironically, among actual immigrant circles you can express dissatisfaction with any immigrant group, or the state of immigration in general, and be accepted. Immigrants themselves don’t pull punches. But if you say anything like that within earshot of a primary school class, any teachers present will act quick to isolate you from the group and damage-control your statements. The byline is that criticising any type of immigration, in any way, IS racist, or at least might encourage racism in children’s febrile minds. I can’t say that isn’t a possibility, but the sheer homogeneity within our teaching establishments and other official bodies is pretty keen.

          • Sandy says:

            Sure, but there actually is an anti-Eastern European migrant sentiment in Britain — see the Gordon Brown “bigoted woman” incident. And there were reportedly various instances of people calling Poles in Britain “scum” and “vermin” after the Brexit vote.

            Although I agree that it is likely easier to suggest a crackdown on European immigration than Pakistani immigration.

        • LPSP says:

          That’s something I never saw in any large number in major or official outpost of the pro-EU agenda prior to the referendum. Now I see it coming out of some such outposts and more commonly elsewhere. It’s a substantial margin in the attitudes of pro-EU types – they’ve realised that there’s no way to sell increased immigration as an inherent positive anymore, so now they frame it as a necessary cost for other benefits.

      • Guy says:

        For clarity: the “we” here is Ireland, no?

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes, when I’m using “we” I mean Ireland (unless I’m using “we” in the sense of “human beings” but I should hope that’s clear from the context).

          • Guy says:

            It usually is :p

            (I originally tried to end this comment with a regular colen + close-paren smiley, but that didn’t appear. Anyone know why?)

    • Randy M says:

      but if the government struggles for years without getting anywhere (and all the while suffering problems) people might change their minds.

      In other words, make the people suffer, then ask them if they’ve changed their minds yet.
      We do that here on the rare occasion there’s a plausible attempt to cut government.

    • cassander says:

      >Will the UK end up staying in the free market?

      Almost certainly.

      >Will there be curbs on immigration, and if so, what will they be?

      Assuming brexit actually happens, almost certainly.

      >Personally, I think there’s still a high chance the UK will remain in the EU.

      Not sure if I would call the chance high, but it’s certainly far from zero. There is a much better chance, imho, of a brexit in name only, where the UK formally invokes the charter and leaves, but negotiates a new treaty that keeps almost everything the same.

      >but if the government struggles for years without getting anywhere (and all the while suffering problems) people might change their minds.

      >Economics. Single market access is very important, and political influence over the single market is quite important.

      Leaving the EU does not require abandoning single market access.

      >Politics. Most EU policies seem to have been in favour of social liberalism. They have curbed various detention, seizure, snooping, etc laws.

      Of some varieties, but not others.

      >Movement towards the “Common” policies (Agricultural, Defence, etc) worries me, but they actually seem to have gotten better in recent years.

      Agriculture is still a massive disaster, and defense is a joke. I don’t see anywhere EU policy has gotten better in recent years, it’s just plodded along.

      • Diadem says:

        Britain can’t stay in the shared European market and curb immigration. The EU will never agree to such a deal.

        Assuming you’re talking about immigration from European countries of course. If you’re talking about immigration from outside the EU, they are free to curb that. But they already are. It’s not something that leaving the EU will really impact.

        • Alex says:

          Britain can’t stay in the shared European market and curb immigration. The EU will never agree to such a deal.

          Why so?

          • John Schilling says:

            The EU can’t agree to much of anything without absolute unanimity, and what motive does e.g. the Polish government have to agree that poor Poles have to stay poor in Poland rather than going to England and making lots of money to send back to Poland?

            Yeah, the Germans would be fine with trading their cars for the UK’s banking services and keep the people mostly in their native lands, but the Polish government isn’t big on giving a damn what the Germans think.

          • Alex says:

            So we are heading for a bilateral contract between UK and Germany?

            And maybe another one between UK and France and so on?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I believe membership in the EU precludes such bilateral agreements, so only if the EU falls apart.

            I expect such agreements between the UK and the US, though (regardless of which clown is running the circus in the US)

          • Mary says:

            One advantage of Brexit is that they can make more favorable deals with non-EU nations.

          • Diadem says:

            Yeah. What The Nybbler said. Germany can’t make unilateral deals with Britain. That’s one of the rules of EU membership.

            Germany is also a weird example to use. Germany is one of the most pro-European countries, and one of the driving forces behind the European union. If there’s one country that’s not going to abandon core EU principles for short term economic gain, it’s Germany. Because if Germany abandons EU principles like that, the union dies, and Germany knows this.

          • Anon. says:

            If there’s one country that’s not going to abandon core EU principles for short term economic gain, it’s Germany.

            Just like they didn’t abandon the no bailouts clause in the Lisbon treaty?

          • Alex says:

            Yeah. What The Nybbler said. Germany can’t make unilateral deals with Britain. That’s one of the rules of EU membership.

            My error.

            Germany is also a weird example to use. Germany is one of the most pro-European countries, and one of the driving forces behind the European union. If there’s one country that’s not going to abandon core EU principles for short term economic gain, it’s Germany. Because if Germany abandons EU principles like that, the union dies, and Germany knows this.

            If this is common knowledge, Germany insta-gains the bargaining power over Poland that John Schilling denied her having.

          • Alex says:

            Just like they didn’t abandon the no bailouts clause in the Lisbon treaty?

            Nice catch.

          • Diadem says:

            Germany compromising on a minor clause in the Lisbon treaty is not the same thing as Germany abandoning founding principles of the EU. And if you think those things are similar I can’t help you.

            If this is common knowledge, Germany insta-gains the bargaining power over Poland that John Schilling denied her having.

            Bargaining power to demand things they don’t want? That makes no sense.

          • Alex says:

            Bargaining power to demand things they don’t want? That makes no sense.

            I think it is pretty clear, that Germany wants the UK in the common market (for goods that is, not labour), other things being equal.

            What we were discussing is

            a) is Germany willing to compromise on freedom of movement of labour to get a free market for goods

            and

            b) if so, how is Germany going to get the rest of the EU to agree.

          • John Schilling says:

            If this is common knowledge, Germany insta-gains the bargaining power over Poland that John Schilling denied her having.

            I must be missing something here.

            Poland’s negotiating position is, “The core principles of the EU are no free markets without free movement of people, no independent side agreements, and nothing happens without unanimous consent. The post-Brexit UK isn’t part of the EU and so doesn’t get access to our markets without an EU-wide agreement via unanimous consent. We do not consent to any agreement with the UK that does not involve free movement of people, preferring instead the status quo of no agreement”

            Germany’s negotiating position necessarily begins with, “We absolutely commit to upholding the core principles of the EU as outlined by the Polish negotiator, because to do otherwise would make us Literally As Bad As Hitler and also cut into our profits. Therefore…”

            How does the German negotiating position not end with, “…the UK stays outside the EU markets until they agree to accept free movement of people, or until the Poles change their mind which they don’t have any reason to ever do”, which is exactly what Poland wants?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @John Schilling

            I don’t know, but in my experience when a someone says “We absolutely commit to upholding …”, that a betrayal of whatever they absolutely commit to uphold is coming right up. That’s where I thought you were going with that, actually. Somehow it will make a sort of sense; that’s what they have diplomats and negotiators for.

          • Diadem says:

            No, John Schilling’s summary is very accurate.

            People on this site tend to look too much as the economic picture, and not at other considerations. The German position can very simply be summed up with “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to be on the right side of history for a change”.

            The original reason for the French to join the predecessor of the European Union was: “We need to contain German power”. But the original reason for Germany to join the predecessor of the European Union was also: “We need to contain German power”.

            In the decades since then, Germany has certainly grown more assertive, and started feeling less guilty. But Germany is still not a country that likes making open power plays.

            And the original sentiment, that the EU is essential for maintaining peace in Europe, is still very much alive everywhere in Europe.

          • Alex says:

            John:

            You may be right. I admit, that I do not know. Maybe you have better intel than I have.

            However, points for consideration:

            a) I never ever have heard anyone allude to the core principles of the EU, unless they thought it might help them in a negotiation, in the way you sketched out. So I conclude that nobody, neither Poland nor Germany gives a damn about these principles and everybody is keeping up pretenses exactly as long as they think they stand to profit from that. And I think this is common knowledge.

            b) Nobody knows what happened in Greece. Both diplomatically and economically. There are multiple versions of events and to whichever you subscribe I think the others have nonzero probability. There is at least one version that paints a picture of Germany very different from the one Diadem is trying to paint. So frankly I have no confidence whatsoever in any proposition that begins with “But Germany would never …” (cf. “But Britain would never vote leave” for that matter).

    • sweeneyrod says:

      What do you think will happen? Most likely, we leave in the next few years and strike a Norway style deal that keeps everything pretty much the same. Roughly in order, the other possibilities: we leave in the next few years and don’t strike strike any such deal; we don’t leave; the EU falls apart. No idea on who will actually leave the EU (whether Scotland will get another referendum).

      Will the UK end up staying in the free market? Probably.

      Will there be curbs on immigration, and if so, what will they be? Probably. It depends on the situation with migrants.

      How do people think the UK will end up doing, given the various different outcomes? In the most likely situations, slightly worse than before in the medium term. If the EU falls apart, or we stay in because Russia is invading Poland, a lot worse.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think there’s a “high” chance of us remaining at all, and frankly (as a guy who was quite neutral on the issue – I won’t say how I voted) I regard that as basically a silly fantasy by Remainers, most of whom still seem absolutely cemented stuck in the denial phase of grief.

      The same goes for the “Norway Option” or any other leaving-while-staying wangle, I feel reasonably certain that government will end up soaking roughly anything to cut immigration, including leaving the free market, because:
      A) The referendum was kind of “about” immigration and the Conservatives know they’ll be butchered as a government and party if they don’t deliver on it;
      B) Public opinion is kind of virulently against free immigration to Britain and you have to be quite bubbled not to realize this.
      Again, fake-Out very much looks like desperate fantasizing from people in denial. I think honestly that much of it is that the chattering class/educated left can’t really bring themselves to accept that their beliefs on immigration don’t actually have much backing among other demographics, because they’ve entrenched it so strongly as a virtue ideal that they’d effectively have to believe that “the country is evil”.

      At present I think the two most likely scenarios are the EU caving on the single market (which it’s showing signs of doing already; notably most of the EU nations and their governments are speaking positively about this type of compromise and about being understanding, while the EU apparatus itself hates it for challenging its own power and legitimacy) or us just leaving clean and completely.

      I think Scotland will stay in the UK and I also think one of the big mistakes of the May government so far has been to not put their foot down and absolutely reject any talk of a second referendum as well as make clear the unfeasible, castle-in-the-air nature of all the special-solution fantasies that have been put about. (This is the only part I’m really not even a bit neutral on, I consider the SNP’s mendaciousness on the topic to be absolutely disgusting. I’m completely alienated from them over it. How could you possibly pretend that a Scotland simultaneously borderless against England and retaining the EU free movement and single market while the rest of the UK is out is even theoretically feasible? It’s preposterous).

      I’m strongly skeptical about whether even a complete break would be bad for the UK, not least because I remember a lot of doomsayers being prevalent in every country that rejected the Euro, and they ended up being pretty blatantly wrong. The Union itself has been doing very poorly since long before the depression, getting far too big for its britches and colonized by career bureaucrats of a very unpleasant stripe. I think it’s entirely possible that in ten years’ time our getting out from under all that while the getting was good will look prescient and everyone writing in the Guardian now will have conveniently forgotten the wailing and gnashing of teeth they’re doing. Of course, it might get worse too – for those of us who can afford to buy things like holidays, French cheese and Italian ham, and cheap labour, it’ll quite likely be a blow on the personal level, especially in the short/medium term. It just doesn’t look like the foregone conclusion that the angry establishment losers want to paint it as.

      • Deiseach says:

        How could you possibly pretend that a Scotland simultaneously borderless against England and retaining the EU free movement and single market while the rest of the UK is out is even theoretically feasible?

        That’s a question they’re having to discuss re: the Republic and Northern Ireland. Everyone right now is at pains to assure that there will be no returns to border guard towers and the other relics of the bad old days, but the problem remains: if one part is still in the EU and one part is out, then if the UK wants border controls between itself and the EU, there is going to have to be some kind of border built again between the Republic and the North.

        • Anonymous says:

          Norn Iron is in a different situation, though, since it’s separated from the rest of the UK by a pretty heavy patch of moisture. At least on paper one could imagine the border controls being on the ferry, or at the ferry terminal.

          I admit this isn’t terribly probable in practice, but you can at least sketch out a principle for it. The SNP haven’t even got that.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            There isn’t a sea border between Northern Ireland and the Republic though.

          • Anonymous says:

            …No? I know. What’s your point?

            To be perfectly clear, I’m saying that a plan is at least theoretically feasible where Northern Ireland retains free movement from and to the rest of Ireland but strong border controls are placed on conveyances from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.

            That is, exactly how it would work if Ireland were reunited and in the EU, while the UK was out.

          • Deiseach says:

            Strong border controls between one part of the UK and another? Instead of having strong border controls between a part of the UK and a country in the EU?

            How are you going to then have border controls between Northern Ireland and Scotland? You would have the situation where people can freely cross over between an EU state and the UK (so long as it is in Ireland), even if they are Polish immigrants, but when British citizens are moving from one part of the UK to another part (from Northern Ireland to Scotland), then suddenly the free internal movement is halted and strong controls are in place – how would that play?

            Make up your mind, friend: either the UK is a whole and its constituent parts have free internal movement and the borders between the UK and the EU need to be kept strong, or there is unequal treatment between areas and the North of Ireland is de facto lumped in with the Republic.

          • Mary says:

            Actually I’ve heard speculation about Northern Ireland leaving the UK, which would be much easier than Scotland; if it rejoined the rest of Ireland, it could hardly be kept out of the EU.

            The question is whether the sentiment is there for to be even a possibility.

          • Anonymous says:

            Make up your mind, friend

            To be clear, Deiseach, I’m not suggesting any of this is a good idea, let alone backing it 😀

            All I was saying was that Scotland doesn’t even have that thin tendril of a theoretical solution that Northern Ireland has. I.e., if a Northern Irish party were to say “we don’t have to have a border with Ireland! We can keep things open!” I’d consider their plan wishful thinking and very unlikely to succeed, but I wouldn’t hop directly to “knowingly lying through their teeth for selfish and even malicious reasons” as I find I must with the SNP.

        • John Schilling says:

          As e.g. the US and Canada have shown, you don’t need a wall or a fence to have a legally significant border. Most people will obey whatever rules you set. Most people who don’t obey the rules will be sufficiently obvious about it that you’ll catch them eventually even if you make a deliberate point of not catching them at the border. And people who can fake it well enough to not get caught, are mostly not the people you are trying to keep out in the first place.

          No controls at the intra-Irish border, basic filtering of obvious e.g. Polish immigrants at the ferry terminals, and the status quo everywhere else, seems like it ought to be workable to me. What am I missing?

          • Mary says:

            The difference is that the US/Canada border is not a place where people wanting to cross is that major an issue. Unlike the US/Mexico border. People who want to get to the UK can use Ireland as a stepping stone.

          • John Schilling says:

            And people who want to get to the United States can use Canada as a stepping stone. Except for the ones who won’t think of that, and the ones who can’t afford airline tickets, and the ones who can’t speak fluent English – but that’s about all the ones we really want to keep out. The rest is posturing.

            I suspect the same is true of e.g. Poles trying to enter the UK.

      • LPSP says:

        Public opinion is kind of virulently against free immigration to Britain and you have to be quite bubbled not to realize this.
        Of course, I’ll happily point out that the entire city of London is largely one such bubble…

        • Anonymous says:

          I have to disagree with this. Large sections of London are fairly plentifully sown with anti-immigrant sentiment, even though Greater London as a whole came down pretty solidly on the side of Remain (2:1 almost cleanly, wasn’t it?), and the City happens to be one of them; I’m not sure whether most people realize it or not, but City bankers are not by and large the sort of fellows who’ll stint to use words like “wog”, especially not among themselves.

          Now, Hackney and the metaphorical Fleet Street assuredly are bubbles, but those are fortunately not yet the entirety of London 😉

    • sohois says:

      I’ve seen a lot of speculation of late that any move to actually exit will cause another referendum. Essentially, the Brexit offices will present some kind of – most likely bad – deal that retains free market access, probably just the Norway deal. The government will then go to the public with three options: 1) Take the ‘moderate’ Brexit deal. 2) Refuse and go for a hard Brexit with no access 3) Stay in the EU.

      Splitting Brexit into two options will inevitably split the majority, enabling an easy victory for Remain, assuming demographics don’t cause that anyway. The Conservatives can thus safely stay in the EU without having to renege on public opinion.

      This may cause some blowback on the party, but the state of UK politics makes it hard to see any real negative outcomes for them. Labour is either also a pro-EU and remain party, or it will still have Corbyn and be completely hopeless; the SNP and the Lib Dems are both pro EU, whilst UKIP are once again beset by internal strife and in any case have no real chance of getting any power due to the FPTP system.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think this hypothesis disregards two rather important things:

        I) Labour might not be able or willing to give the government blowback on a retread of the sort you describe, but the backbenches of the Conservative Party are full of hungry men, men with long knives and anti-EU voting records. They may not be able to actually wrest control of the Party, but they’re certainly enough to cause mayhem, and might well split off en masse if the Brexit mandate is betrayed.
        These people are strong and recalcitrant enough that the referendum had to be called in the first place; open warfare will almost certainly ensue, and at a time when Labour looks like it might be killing itself via cytokinesis, the last thing the Prime Minister will want to do is destroy her own party the same way.

        II) The long term damage to the voter’s faith in the democracy of our nation and the idea that he has a voice. If the educated/wealthy/London tranche – “the elite”, in other words – goes ahead and cancels or disregards the Brexit vote, no matter what means are used it’ll be a clear actual and apparent disenfranchisement of the ordinary voter. I think the Cabinet realizes that the long-term damage this type of betrayal would do to the trust and support of the citizen for the democracy generally and for their party specifically would be disastrous, much worse than any Brexit.

        I certainly hope they realize.

        • Deiseach says:

          the last thing the Prime Minister will want to do is destroy her own party the same way

          I have to disagree; the Brexiteers seem to have imploded quite astoundingly. Cameron called the referendum because he’d painted himself into a corner trying to be hardline with the EU, and I don’t think anybody expected a serious chance that the Leave side would win. UKIP, which was the main impetus, doesn’t seem to have made any gains from its victory – Farage quit as leader (at least temporarily) and I haven’t seen anything in the media about this result giving a shot in the arm to UKIP or positioning them as power-brokers, the usual thing you’d expect if there was a surge of support such as the Leave result.

          The Tories were at their most likely to fission during the leadership struggle, and what happened there? Gove, the true believer in the Leave campaign who put himself forward for Prime Minister by stabbing his co-campaigner in the back, did not benefit from any “backbenches… full of hungry men, men with long knives and anti-EU voting records” and indeed managed the quite astounding result whereby his career is (for the time being) more or less dead and gone, and the man he assassinated is now the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs!

          May won the leadership even though as everyone and his dog has been pointing out, she was very much on the fence during the referendum campaign and is pretty much dealing with the situation she has inherited.

          I really haven’t seen any evidence of a coherent, united, strong pro-Brexit wing of the Tories, at least not from the recent past. Maybe they’re all lying back in the snipe grass and waiting for the dust to settle before emerging to cabal and plot. Perhaps Michael Gove is hosting agreeable little tête-à-têtes with the Brexiteers who have come to kiss the Godfather’s hand and pledge their support as he formulates his plans to rise up and strike back from the obscurity of the backbenches – but I’m not betting on it!

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think anybody expected a serious chance that the Leave side would win.

            I did…

            The Tories were at their most likely to fission during the leadership struggle, and what happened there?

            I agree, but I rather think this is something that makes May keen not to overextend herself against the Brexiteer flank. Things have been brought to order now; why jeopardize them just to fuck over a vote of the people? Amplified by the fact that May strikes me (and not just me, I think) as a pragmatist to the bone.

             
            As for Gove personally, I think the reason there wasn’t any rally of support behind him is that he’s seen as a big patsy as well as a traitor. Before Gove screwed him, Out had certainly put the momentum behind Boris, its Tory figurehead.

            (Personally I think Boris rather screwed himself than anything else, by being so vague on appointments that even his longest-standing ally wouldn’t stand by him, but that certainly wasn’t the general perception.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I really haven’t seen any evidence of a coherent, united, strong pro-Brexit wing of the Tories, at least not from the recent past.

            They were strong enough to force David Cameron into holding the referendum in the first place. If there isn’t a coherent pro-Brexit wing now, I suspect it’s because they’ve already got what they want, so there’s nothing for them to really unite around or against any more. Trying to weasel out of actually leaving the EU, either by holding another referendum to get the “right” answer or by coming up with an out-but-not-really-out fudge, is probably the best way possible of reconstituting the Brexit wing as a coherent political force.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Personally, I think there’s still a high chance the UK will remain in the EU.

      Personally, I don’t. For one thing, most of the arguments about the UK staying seem predicated on the idea that Brexit will be such a massive, unmitigated disaster that the British people will inevitably come to repent of their foolishness and beg for readmission into the European club. Indicators so far suggest that this scenario is a little bit overblown.

  4. HeelBearCub says:

    This question got buried at the end of the last OT, and I hope David Friedman or someone can answer it. It is a question about Iceland in the 10th to 13th century.

    In this paper David says the following:
    “At the base of the system stood the godi (pl. godar) and the godord (pl. godord). A godi was a local chief who built a (pagan) temple and served as its priest; the godord was the congregation. The godi received temple dues and provided in exchange both religious and political services.”

    What do we know about the natures of temple dues and services provided?

    • What I was describing was the origin of the godar. I don’t think temple dues and services still mattered by the time the system was really set up and surely not after 1000, when Iceland went Christian.

      The thingmen paid a thingtax to their godi, its amount negotiated between them. It was to pay the expenses of the Thingmen from that godord who went to the Althing.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Thank you for the answer.

        I’m not sure I understand it though. You seemed to be describing the godar as they existed at the founding of Iceland in 930 A.D.

        The whole base of the system was a priest/chieftain whose temple took in dues and provided services, but you think that went away at some point? But you aren’t sure when? Or how? Or are you saying it never existed in Iceland at all?

        Given that Iceland came close to war on the question of converting it seems unlikely that religion was unimportant before then?

        As to the thingtax, whose expenses did it pay? It’s a little unclear if it paid for the godi’s travel or the accompanying thingmen or both. I’m assuming you are saying the Godard as a whole paid for the trip of their delegation to the Allthing.

        • The settlement of Iceland started in about 870. A.D. 930 is when the legal system was set up and the godar got their special position in it. They are believed to have started as the people running local pagan temples, hence their label, which originally meant “priest.”

          As best I can tell, the thingtax was supposed to pay for the expenses of at least the thingmen who accompanied their godi. I’m not sure if it was supposed to cover the godi as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            So, in 870 people payed dues to godi and received services from them? Can you say what the nature of those dues and services was?

            Had that ended by 930? By 1000? Or perhaps you aren’t sure if or when it ended?

            I would find the “official adoption of Christianity” to be a weird point to say it ended, given the way in which it ended, which seems to have been something done to avoid either war with Norway or civil war or both, but doesn’t seem to have actually been the result of their being any/many Catholic churches in the country. The whole point of Norway’s ire was that any Catholic missionary was getting run out of town rather swiftly. But perhaps I am misunderstanding that history.

          • I don’t think we know much detail about the relation between godar and thingmen in the early decades or just when it ended. After the events of 1000, public pagan worship was illegal, private pagan worship, for a while, still permitted.

  5. Pik says:

    I recently had the book The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb recommended to me and I was wondering if anyone here has already read it and can concurrently recommend it or provide any commentary/discussion on it? It seems pertinent (in my limited knowledge) to discussion about AI risk in some ways (based upon a wikipedia info snippet on the book).

    • Lumifer says:

      The book has a valid point expressible in a small number of pages. Unfortunately, Taleb really wants to be a Continental Philosopher and thus is prone to grandiose generalisations and general puffery.

      • Ivy says:

        Granting all these flaws, I found The Black Swan to be a fun and valuable read. The basic points he makes are simple the way Bayes Rule is simple – mathematically trivial, but counterintuitive and hard to internalize – and Taleb’s punchy writing style and plethora of anecdotes does a great job of making them stick.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have read some books of Taleb’s. There are several recurring themes in his work:

      • Experts don’t know their shit (every mention of “nerds”)

      • Nobody uses statistics properly (as if that’s news to the readers of this blog)

      • Induction is impossible; you may see a disaster tomorrow that you could never predict from your past experience (“the turkey problem”)

      • Expected value is not a good measure of whether an investment is worth it; if there’s a risk of enormous loss, sometimes it’s better to avoid it even if the probability is tiny (I believe he has come to call it the “precautionary principle”)

      • You can’t beat the wisdom of thousands of years of civilisation (e.g. if religion has existed for so long, it must be advantageous)

      • You can’t beat the wisdom of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that shaped your intuition; i.e. intuitive (system 1) thinking is superior to deliberative (system 2) thinking (there’s a chapter in Antifragile where one of his archetypes debates Socrates on this issue)

      • Beliefs should be judged for their utility, not truth value (“sucker vs non-sucker”)

      • Religion is about practices, not beliefs

      • Sometimes doing nothing/something ineffective is the best course of action (“iatrogenics”; he defends homeopathy and religion on that ground)

      • Prescriptive rules should be treated as heuristics, not absolutes; you should never “take ideas seriously” (he argues against religious literalism, and any other kind of literalism on this ground)

      • The best investment strategy is maintaining a low-risk low-gain investment combined with exposing yourself to serendipities (“barbell strategy”)

      • Some things benefit from being exposed to risk and stressing factors (“antifragility”); if you wish to become this way yourself and take advantage of it, you need to remove your dependence on the things you may lose (he mentions Stoics and Seneca)

      • Don’t trust advice if the person who gave it to you has nothing to lose if the advice is bad (“skin in the game”)

      • Awards are stupid (well, he has a point here… but Seinfeld said it better)

      Neither are his topics especially original, nor does he write about them terribly well. And if you take his advice seriously, you can probably find some of it contradicting one another; but then, he expicitly says you shouldn’t do that, so it’s probably an unfair criticism. His writing style is rather meandering (every so often he tends to insert a random anectode) and self-aggrandizing. But if you don’t mind that, then sure, go read it. Though remember that he is the same man who once claimed P versus NP is about differentiation, so I’d be cautious about any claims he makes.

      • Alex says:

        Though remember that he is the same man who once claimed P versus NP is about differentiation, so I’d be cautious about any claims he makes.

        I wonder what he meant by that. “The P-NP-Problem explained: here are two random graphs” gives us very little information about what he thinks the P-NP-Problem is.

      • LPSP says:

        Having recently spent a lot of thought about the power of adaptation, its perks and its pitfalls, I suddenly find the word “antifragility” hilarious.

      • Aapje says:

        @Anonymous

        You can’t beat the wisdom of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that shaped your intuition

        Does he explain why evolution that made our intuition suitable to one environment would make it suitable to a different environment? Because my belief is that there is a rather big difference between living in a small community and mostly being concerned with gathering enough food vs our current globalized world.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          big difference between living in a small community and mostly being concerned with gathering enough food vs our current globalized world.

          Which was quickly named “The Global Village”.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, but it isn’t, is it?

            There is evidence that we really can’t deal with globalization very well. For example, our sense of risk seems tuned to small communities where every incident you hear about probably has a fairly big chance of happening. In modern society, we hear about the worst crime & accidents that happen in the entire country & the entire world, resulting in people greatly overestimating the risks of those things happening to them.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            >> Which was quickly named “The Global Village”.

            > Yeah, but it isn’t, is it?

            I doubt it. Not to go all Tri-Lateral Bildenburg or whatever, but I expect the Gnomes of Zurich and their peers see things quite differently.

            And maybe the old villages were quite different than we think, too.

    • Pik says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful replies. I think I’ll pick it up, it sounds like a good use of my free time.

    • Urstoff says:

      Read a random chapter of Fooled by Randomness and you’ll know everything that NNT has said or ever will say.

      • I got one idea I value a lot from Taleb’s book of aphorisms– that people become less predictable as they beome more numerous. This may not be true for individuals– their behavior can be constrained by crowding– but on the large group level, they’re more likely to invent new things with unpredictable knock-on effects.

        This is important to me because I had an irrational belief that psychohistory was plausible. Psychohistory is the idea from Asimov’s Foundation series that given enough people, they become as predictable as large numbers of gas molecules. This is an idea which is definitely good enough for science fiction, but…. I’ll note that the two most notable sf series with predictability as a strong element (Foundation and Dickson’s Childe cycle) had implausibly slow technological improvement.

        Weirdly enough, finding this in Taleb caused me to stop reading him abruptly rather than continuing to read him in the hopes of finding more gems. This may be a coincidence, since I was also getting tired of his bragging.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      As Lumifer, it had a point that was expressible in a small number of pages. Its *worse* then that though.

      I dislike the book a great deal,and mostly look back with confusion on how people thought it was influential. Its main point was something made in speeches by politicians across the world, as just statements, something like this

      *best to imagine an older, yet not elderly man in a serious and somber tone with a chisled jaw saying this,yet one fit for a politician and not the look one expects in “just” a gruff military commander, and the brow one would expect on a man of intelligence. Even lincolnish.”

      (AKA you have seen variations of this in movies too…there was nothing/little to gain from his main points or evidence)

      …ready…go!

      “As man looks back we believe we knew what the future would be, and have forgotten our prior doubts…*insert grand poetic statement*…there are known knowns in this world, but it is unwise and presumptuous for the limited minds of man to not believe there are unknown unknowns that may and will effect us….men in great quantities of numbers are prone to wild fancy of limited intelligence(point of shakespeare or something, that one)

      Taleb is one of those guys like Gladwell who I am just kindof surprised that the got so famous in the world right outside of academia. I think his book is often cleverly worded ego stroking for the reader.

      I’m certain he has said and written some insightful statements, but they are not the points he is famous for. It looks like he has some respect in the Academic world for his critiques of the current misuse of mathematics in the world of economics. I’m not sure how much of an insight that is,or its a collective sigh of relief that some guy will finally point out the Emperors new clothes, knitted in differential linear equations without adding any explanatory thread.

      I liken it to Paul Grahams quote on Wittingestein

      “Wittgenstein is popularly credited with the idea that most philosophical controversies are due to confusions over language. I’m not sure how much credit to give him. I suspect a lot of people realized this, but reacted simply by not studying philosophy, rather than becoming philosophy professors.”

      Summary: Worth reading if you have spare time, since its still a smart guy calling out bullshit. But you end up feeling like its WORDS WORDS WORDS. Like this post, I guess.

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2.pdf

        His argument against GMO’s.

        See, this is why academia is hopeless. The man arguing against useless math in there has to add that at the end of his paper to boost his main point of basically the possibility of GMO’s functioning as a hyper-successful invasive species. Which is all it was.

    • Chalid says:

      Taleb is incredibly, obnoxiously uncharitable to everyone he disagrees with, which is just about everyone. But that can be fun to read. Just don’t come away thinking that all the people that Taleb calls idiots actually are idiots.

  6. Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

    I’m trying to learn R using the Johns Hopkins class on Coursera. Problem: I have an awful time trying to stay engaged, particularly with the videos. The Swirl exercises they have are good, but I think I’d be more interested if I had a larger project. As it stands, the instruction style is “Here is a screwdriver. Use it to turn the screw Good! Here is a hammer. . .”, demonstrating a lot of built-in functions with little theme. I find I usually learn better by exploring a problem, finding the tools when I find a need for them. However, as a statistics noob, I don’t know where to go to find a suitable project. Does anyone here have any suggestions?

    • mobile says:

      Do angrier looking cars impact the behavior of the person driving them or other drivers?

    • Lumifer says:

      Pick a complicated dataset of interest to you (let me repeat: do NOT pick any random set of data which you don’t understand and which you find boring). Start asking yourself questions about the data, what it says, what it implies, what it hints at, what it proves or disproves, etc. Use R to find/calculate/estimate answers.

    • Threshin' Session says:

      I’m currently taking what might be the exact same class, or maybe just a similar one, elsewhere on Coursera through UCSD as part of the interaction design series.

      I was totally stumped up until the 3rd or 4th time I took the first coding quiz, then it just sorta clicked that I need to copy and paste code from the examples used in class and just modify the variables so they’re about whatever dataset the quiz is talking about.

      I don’t really think of it as “I’m going to be a beginner R programmer after this,” more as “I’ll have gained some exposure to R and can (hopefully) have an easier time getting more into it later if I find it advantageous to my career to do so.”

      If you want to try your proposed method, then just create/find any big dataset you’re interested in and analyze it (again, by importing it, coding subject numbers as nominals, copying and pasting the code for whatever tests you wanna do and switching out the variables, etc.).

    • Chalid says:

      Maybe try to reproduce one of Scott’s posts where he did a deep dive into a topic? Start here; or search through the archives.

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        That’s a really good suggestion; I might do that! I like that it has the feature of Scott already having done an analysis; it means that I have a basis for comparison for my findings.

  7. R Flaum says:

    Does anyone know if any slave-owning society ever tried breeding slaves for desirable traits?

    • Threshin' Session says:

      Good question. I always heard that ours (the US up until 1865) did, but I never looked into whether it was actually true. There are a lot of myths about slavery and that might be one.

    • Sandy says:

      Depends on what’s considered a desirable trait — in the Sudanese Civil War, the Arab Janjaweed soldiers reportedly raped enslaved black women en masse to produce mixed children in an effort to dilute the blackness of the mothers, and by extension the black tribes generally.

      But for more conventional definitions of desirable traits, such selective breeding is hard to find compelling evidence for.

    • LPSP says:

      I was always under the impression that antebellum slave owners bred africans for strength, docility and general controllable qualities. The docility/pliability/conscientiousness one I am almost certain they would’ve done, given their earlier rejection of european slaves for exactly that reason – white people are too lazy, truculent and rebellious. Whether the cavaliers succeeded much, did anything resembling a deliberate or effective breeding program, or only managed to reward slaves who ironically mimicked their own nature and social construction by example (ie modern pimps) is a good question.

      edit – the process of selecting for slavery among the populations of africa certainly included a portion of this, however accidental and/or on the african slave-seller’s behalf

      • HeelBearCub says:

        rejection of european slaves for exactly that reason – white people are too lazy, truculent and rebellious

        Oh lord, the irony.

      • Guy says:

        The shift away from British slavery (that is, indentured servitude) happened when African slaves became profitable, which happened when old world imported people stopped mostly dying in fewer than 20 years. This is because 20 years was the length of the indenture term. At the end of the indenture term, not only did your servant (formerly a bought-and-paid-for crop production machine) cease to work for you and require wages to employ, they sometimes became an expense, as their ex-owners were required to outfit them for life off the plantation in some places. Meanwhile a slave (and these were essentially African only because of the nature of the legal systems of origin) was yours forever, but more expensive (by about 50%, if I remember right). An indentured servant and a slave are no different from each other if they both die before the term ends, but if a slave can live long enough to make up the difference in cost, you win with the slave. In the long term, of course, a slave is even better than that, because a slave’s children are also slaves, unlike those of indentured servants.

        Basically, western Europe (because it spent a long time under a western European feudal system) did not produce slaves. Instead it produced a short term slave equivalent which was superior only while the length of the term didn’t matter much.

        North American colonists (mostly) did not use native populations as slaves because the natives were better as trading partners than as slaves – as trading partners, they would fight amongst themselves and support a trading network extending as far as the middle of the continent, while as slaves they would merely provide easily-replaced farm labor and possibly a focus for a rebellion / war against the colonists. Compare Spain’s colonies, which freely used native slavery (as well as African), as they felt no need to keep external native populations happy.

        • “This is because 20 years was the length of the indenture term.”

          What sort of indentured servants are you describing?

          English criminals who were transported in the 18th century were normally bound for either seven or fourteen years. Immigrants who had agreed to pay for their transportation via indentured servitude had the term of indenture set by a reverse auction–the buyer willing to pay the set amount for the fewest years won–and I don’t think the typical term was anything close to twenty years.

          Source and context for your figure?

          • Guy says:

            Misremembered high school history textbook. I assume your figures are correct; substitute 14 for 20 wherever you see it in my post.

            (The shorter the term, the stronger my argument gets)

        • cassander says:

          >North American colonists (mostly) did not use native populations as slaves because the natives were better as trading partners than as slaves

          I think there’s more to it than that. A history of the Spanish empire I read recently pointed out something very significantly different about north american and latin american colonialization. For whatever reason (the author in this case did not take stand) latin colonists wanted native populations as slaves/serfs/whatever. They deliberately set out to conquer, Christianize, and rule native populations. North American colonists did not, they wanted empty land. They deliberately sought out areas without natives, or if they couldn’t find any, drove natives out of the areas they wanted, and made few efforts to convert them.

          • Adam says:

            The conquistadors were empire-building religious fanatics operating at the behest of the Catholic church. North American frontiersmen were largely just looking for places where they could be left alone, many descended from people at least nominally fleeing religious persecution.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            There’s more to outcome than what the Spanish and English tried to do. For example, the Spanish tried and failed to use native labor in the Caribbean. Part of it was that foragers are less susceptible to slavery than farmers. The English in the Caribbean acted pretty similarly to the Spanish. The English had a lot of religious trouble-makers that they wanted to unload. But similarly, the Spanish had Conversos, who emigrated, but sure didn’t want to Christianize the natives. I’m skeptical of the claim that the English didn’t try to Christianize the natives.

          • cassander says:

            @Adam

            >The conquistadors were empire-building religious fanatics operating at the behest of the Catholic church. North American frontiersmen were largely just looking for places where they could be left alone, many descended from people at least nominally fleeing religious persecution.

            American settlers were just as fanatically religious, and there’s no reason they couldn’t have built an empire. They chose not to.

            @Douglas Knight

            >There’s more to outcome than what the Spanish and English tried to do. For example, the Spanish tried and failed to use native labor in the Caribbean. Part of it was that foragers are less susceptible to slavery than farmers. The English in the Caribbean acted pretty similarly to the Spanish. The English had a lot of religious trouble-makers that they wanted to unload. But similarly, the Spanish had Conversos, who emigrated, but sure didn’t want to Christianize the natives. I’m skeptical of the claim that the English didn’t try to Christianize the natives.

            I wouldn’t say they failed so much as that any Caribbean Indians diseases didn’t kill were quickly worked to death.

            >I’m skeptical of the claim that the English didn’t try to Christianize the natives.

            I wouldn’t say they never converted anyone, but missionary work was an overwhelmingly Catholic activity.

          • Guy says:

            @cassander:

            Agreed re: the West Indies – my understanding is that the Spanish fucked up their colonization/conquest there (Colombus was not a particularly good governor). There’s also the fact that the Spanish were after resources that the natives didn’t really extract: minerals (many Caribbean natives were worked/punished to death looking for gold that was not there, because the quotas were set too high). Above Mexico, there wasn’t much in the way of usable minerals, so the English and French didn’t go after it. Instead, they traded for furs, which the natives already had immense trade networks centered around.

          • cassander says:

            @Guy

            >fucked up their colonization/conquest there (Colombus was not a particularly good governor). There’s also the fact that the Spanish were after resources that the natives didn’t really extract: minerals (many Caribbean natives were worked/punished to death looking for gold that was not there, because the quotas were set too high).

            That’s definitely true, but the fact is, from the start, the Spanish were trying to conquer natives, not drive them out and take their land. And despite the fact that the colonists in north american, initially at least, were looking for good, they behaved very differently.

            > Instead, they traded for furs, which the natives already had immense trade networks centered around.

            I’m not very knowledgable about the settling of canada, but I’m pretty sure there weren’t large flows of trade into nova-scotia before the settlers arrived.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s worth remembering in these discussions that the aims of the Spanish crown weren’t necessarily the aims of the Spanish settlers in the New World. E.g., the Spanish government sent out missionaries to convert the natives, but the Spaniards in the New World would often try and hinder their work, because if the natives did convert to Christianity they wouldn’t be allowed to enslave them any more.

          • Deiseach says:

            The conquistadors were empire-building religious fanatics operating at the behest of the Catholic church. North American frontiersmen were largely just looking for places where they could be left alone

            Or they might have considered the natives were not really fully human so it was pointless trying to convert them and indeed, better not to. If you convert them, you agree they have souls and are human. This gets in the way of the universal human tendency to go “There’s stuff here we could use and we really want it! Oh, but there are some other people here and we can’t take the stuff. Unless we all agree that they are not really people, then that means there is all this free stuff lying around we can have!”

            Did those solitude-seeking frontiersmen have anything in common with the gold-rush fortune-hunters who headed off to the Black Hills of Dakota, even though by treaty this was Indian land where whites legally could not enter?

        • John Schilling says:

          While as slaves they [Native Americans] would merely provide easily-replaced farm labor and possibly a focus for a rebellion / war against the colonists.

          Or just walk off and go home as soon as you turn your back on them. Slavery is almost never profitable if you have to keep the slaves literally enchained or under the eyes of whip-bearing overseers. Which means you really want for there to not be a culture within walking distance into which runaway slaves can readily blend.

          Indentured servitude gives you a bit more flexibility, because then the runaways have to trade a certain seven years of service vs. an uncertain lifetime on the run, but for Native Americans that’s still not going to be a strong deterrent.

      • Anonymous says:

        white people are too lazy, truculent and rebellious.

        You left off, more likely to die of tropical diseases.

    • Yehoshua K says:

      I’m not sure how reliable a historical source you’ll consider it, but in the lamentation-prayers of Tisha b’Av, there’s one that speaks of a brother and sister who were each enslaved after the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman forces. It states that the owners knew each other, and, in bragging about the physical beauty of their two slaves, decided to mate them, in order to acquire a shared interest in beautiful little baby slaves. (The lamentation-prayer goes on to state that they spent the night weeping in separate corners until it got light enough to recognize each other; then, presumably out of shock, both brother and sister died.)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Very few societies bred slaves at all. Unskilled (agricultural or mining) slaves generally had fertility well under replacement. Skilled slaves required complex incentives, so they generally received income and ultimately bought their freedom.

      Slaves were generally people captured in war. Babies weren’t worth the investment. The main exception is the USA, where the ratio of people to fertile land was so low that it was worth investing in creating new farmers.

      Serfdom is another class of slavery that had expansion at times, but they weren’t chattel that would allow such control.

  8. Two McMillion says:

    What is hypnosis, and how does it work?

    • Jill says:

      Google it.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Y’know, for someone who starts so many threads, you could be a bit less dismissive of others’ topics.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      This thread contains a lengthy discussion of hypnosis, including a number of interesting comments by Marc Whipple, who apparently moonlights as a hypnotherapist.

    • onyomi says:

      I have absolutely no expertise in this area, but I recently saw this video of a hypnosis demonstration which was pretty interesting, because it seemed to me to suggest that hypnosis is both more and less powerful than I’d have thought.

      On the one hand, it seems, especially in this sort of context, where you can’t guide someone through a long, gentle relaxation process, the idea of digging deep and then somehow implanting suggestions deep in the subconscious or what have you, may not be real, or, at least, not possible for this type of hypnosis (it may be that what doctors do in their offices and this kind of performance are really two very different things).

      In this case, at least, the subjects are remaining very much awake and aware (they report this afterward in one video–they knew clearly what was going on, but felt strongly, at the time, that it was a good idea, say, to pretend to milk a cow on stage). And they also can’t be forced if they don’t want to. One certainly gets the impression that the presence of the audience is a big factor in this case: those who end up hamming it up (and those who don’t he politely asks to leave the stage) get a lot of positive attention and laughs. They seem to be “playing along,” yet the line between “just playing along for fun” and “I really was made to do something I would normally do” is kind of blurry.

      In particular, what this reminds me most strongly of is religious “ecstasy” type activities like speaking in tongues. And this, in a way, is kind of scary, because of what it suggests about how, well, suggestible people are when the atmosphere is right. It also reminds me of the “fake/psychosomatic” seizures Scott has described, where the patient isn’t really in control enough to just not have a seizure, but they also will not spasm in such a way as to injure themselves.

      This space which exists on the border of conscious and unconscious control seems to be a very powerful and still not well understood one, probably with a lot of potential for both profitable use and abuse.

      • LPSP says:

        I agree with the insights but disagree that conscious/unconscious is the main or most central topic here. The occam’s razor explanation to hypnosis is that it exploits the human desire to fit in or appease to authority and satisfy demand (and as you bring up, to earn laughs and strong/positive attention) There’s the fancy, official hypnotist on the stage compelling you to do things, and an audience rapt to see what you do.

        This concoction doesn’t work on everyone because not everyone has a fit-in/appease cluster of incentives strong enough to be suggested like that. The people whose interaction with hypnosis forms puzzled bemusement, more intereted in how the hypnotist did it that their target’s antics on stage, are probably this crowd. Someone who responds to seeing a hypnotists with no curiousity, just awe and wonder, is probably the sort of person who could be hypnotised. (in fact, one could conjecture into whether the audience of a hypnosis session is itself hypnotised in a sense or not. it’s not too different from a religious ecstacy or a political rally in any sense)

      • Deiseach says:

        Only experience I have with stage hypnosis is from years and years ago, when a stage magician putting on a show hypnotised volunteers from the audience and one of them was a girl in my technical college class.

        She was told that she lost her bellybutton. Sounds silly and the kind of thing to make an audience laugh, right?

        But the next day (which is when I met her – I hadn’t been at the show) she was still convinced she had no bellybutton and was quite upset. Telling her of course she did, telling her to go into the bathroom and check for herself – no use. She couldn’t see it.

        About mid-morning the effects wore off and she remembered and felt like an idiot. We, of course, were all “But did you really believe it? You weren’t just pretending?” and she said she was convinced and really couldn’t see her bellybutton and believed it was gone.

        So for some people, that kind of fast stage hypnosis plainly does work.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I recommend magician/hypnotist Derren Brown’s book Tricks of the Mind, which covers hypnosis among other subjects.

    • jimmy says:

      That’s a pretty big question with very different answers depending both on what exactly you’re trying to explain/achieve and how you model “everything that is *not* hypnosis”.

      For example, there is a very big divide between asking about hypnotic *phenomena* like amnesia (which can be achieved without anything resembling “hypnosis”) vs asking about hypnosis as a “state” or as a technique of influence/persuasion/therapy/mind control.

      What, specifically, do you want to know?

  9. onyomi says:

    Is the American economy:

    a. way overregulated
    b. a little overregulated
    c. regulated roughly to the right degree
    d. a little underregulated
    or
    e. way underregulated?

    If you are tempted to say “it’s overregulated in some ways and underregulated in others,” choose an answer based on your impression of the industries in which the largest numbers of people are employed. That is, if you think most things are a little overregulated but financial services are a little underregulated, pick b. If you think 50% of industries are over and 50% under, pick c. If you want to say that we need “better/smarter” regulation, though not more nor less, then suggest a way of making that happen.

    I ask this because I have the impression that even Blue tribers and others traditionally on the left have the impression that there’s too much regulation outside a few areas like health care and financial services (which I also think are overregulated, but calls for stronger regulations in these areas are common on the left). But I could be wrong. You can also include your approximate political affiliation if so inclined.

    As you might guess, I’m libertarian and pick a, but I’m especially curious to find out if there are, for example, habitual Democrat voters who would pick A or B.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      This feels like such a sucker question.

      I mean, gun to my head, I’ll pick c, but I think it’s the wrong way to think about it altogether.

      The problem is that this is a simple question. Therefore it is the framing preferred by most people (ideologically agnostic). But reality is almost always nuanced.

      If a given set of regulations is sub-optimal given the net desires of the vast majority of the population, you can’t say the situation in question is under or over-regulated. In a case like that you might need more regulations or fewer regulations, but mostly what you need are different regulations.

      • onyomi says:

        Whether the content of the regulations is optimal and whether the quantity is optimal are two separate questions. I’m asking the latter.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          This seems very much like asking if the “right” exchange rate of yen to dollar is 10000 to 1 or 10 to 1 (holding net value of yen in dollars as a constant).

          Sure there might be some small advantages to accomplishing the same regulatory effect via a single two sentence “regulation” instead of two one sentence “regulations”, but it’s swamped by the effects caused by the regulation(s) themselves.

          Basically I think it’s a bullshit question and I think asking the question is assuming the answer.

          • onyomi says:

            Okay, sure, there may be no difference between having five small regulations and one big regulation covering five small things, but I don’t see how the question “are regulations, in general, too extensive right now” is a “bullshit question.” Just because there are complicated answers doesn’t mean there aren’t any useful generalizations, or that simple questions are bullshit.

            I also don’t see how asking the question is assuming the answer.

            A Rash Anion below just said he thinks that, though he thinks some existing regulations are bad, in general, there should be more regulations. The opposite of my answer.

          • cassander says:

            >Sure there might be some small advantages to accomplishing the same regulatory effect via a single two sentence “regulation” instead of two one sentence “regulations”, but it’s swamped by the effects caused by the regulation(s) themselves.

            As the corpus of regulations grows, it begins to impose burdens by sheer size. We’re well past the point where a human mind can even know all the rules, much less comprehend or study them. The difference between one and 5, or even 500 might not be large, but the difference between 500 and 50,000 is vast.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ HBC

            Yes, the term ‘regulations’ is pretty much a boo light. Many of us meet a ‘regulation’ on its bad side, ie when it’s telling us individuals to do something or not to do something. When we meet the good effect of it (clean air, a quiet campsite) we don’t think “Yay Regulations!”, we just enjoy their result without thinking about them.

            There’s kind of a life cycle of a regulation or agency. It gets created by some people who are dedicated to some cause, there aren’t too many of them, so it’s relativey sleek and efficient. Soon it gets clogged with people who just want a job or want more employees; then the industry it’s protecting us from attacks the agency one way or another; then there’s Regulatory Capture.

            I don’t see any way to break this cycle, except Sunset Laws of one kind or another. Even that is weak. If an agency were shut down, hopefully to be rebooted with all new personnel, the industries it regulated would be right there fighting the reboot. The enthusiastic people who got it created would not be able to gather the same enthusiam … until the air gets quite bad again.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            You are switching back and forth between effect and quantity.

            As a simple example, imagine that all regulations are simple and clear and they fit on a single sheet of paper. Probably sounds pretty good to you (although I expect that you anticipate what I will write next.)

            All actions undertaken by a private business or individual citizen engaged in matters of commerce must be approved by the People’s Council for the Welfare of the Proletariat to be appointed by the office of the Supreme Minister.

            That is almost assuredly a burdensome regulation which has a horrible effect. Although if the community affected is small enough and the council is incredibly reasonable, etc. I suppose there is some possible utopia where it works out well.

            You might want to define that as “over” regulation. But if I propose replacing this with specific detailed rules on all the various businesses and what they can and can’t do, you complain (as cassander is doing here) that the regulations are too numerous.

            And let’s be honest, who wants to understand the complexity of the local electrical code (besides electricians)? But it’s a mistake to say that the code itself is burdensome by mere nature of the quantity of individual rules. What matters is how well those individual rules match the needs of constructing various means of delivering power in an efficient and safe manner.

            And for every yahoo who will insist that the electrical code is bullshit, you will find ten qualified electricians who can explain why the code says what it does.

            You might say, it’s better to let a private licensing agency handle defining and enforcing the electrical code, but that isn’t actually an argument about the content of, nor number of rules and standards in, the electrical code.

          • CatCube says:

            @HBC

            In terms of building codes as regulations, the majority of them (the National Electrical Code included) are written by private organizations and given force of law by the authority having jurisdiction.

            The NEC is written by the National Fire Protection Association. For structures, the American Institute of Steel Construction writes AISC 360, the American Concrete Institute has ACI 318, and the American Society of Civil Engineers has ASCE 7. These are all basically incorporated by reference into local building codes. Or rather, in many US jurisdictions, they incorporate the International Building Code by reference, which includes these codes by reference.

            I don’t know the details of the NEC, but I do know there is a strain of thought that the complexity is in part job protection for the electricians and electrical engineers who are the only ones who understand it, and the manufacturers who make code-compliant equipment have a hand in its creation.

            I don’t buy this line of thinking myself, but bear in mind that my own field (structural engineering) requires a knowledge of the codes written by other structural engineers so we can stamp designs as approved for construction at $2000 a pop–so I would think that, wouldn’t I?

          • onyomi says:

            I agree there is a difference between effect and quantity, which is why I think it’s valid to ask a question about sheer quantity as abstracted from the content.

            Perhaps a clearer way to state the question might be: “is the ambit of regulation effecting the US economy currently too extensive, about right, or not extensive enough?” (That is, are too many areas regulated in too much detail or not enough areas not regulated in enough detail?)

            One other possible way to put it: I’m pretty sure almost everyone, even those in favor of more regulation, would agree that regulations impose a burden on those who must comply with them. But assuming the regulation, in general, has some positive effects, the question is whether the tradeoff is worth it. So we could also pose it as: “is the tradeoff between positive effects of regulations and negative burdens of regulations currently about right, skewed too burdensome, or else skewed too light, with a lot of room for more positive regulations which aren’t too burdensome?”

            Of course, you could again say, “only pass regulations with a positive cost-benefit ratio and repeal those with a negative one,” but that again raises the separate problem of how to improve the odds of that happening under the current system, which is not really the question I’m asking, though, again, I’m open to suggestions.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Do you think regulations should be detailed or generic?

            Do you think regulations should be rigid or flexible?

            Now, I’m going to say that your answer to both of those questions should be “it depends on the details of what exactly we are regulating and why”, and if you agree with that statement I hope you will consider why I find the question “how many regulations is too many regulations?” to be sort of frustrating.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Catcube:
            Interesting. I would say one national standard mostly makes sense, although regional differences between Florida and Los Angeles would argue (I assume) for some differences. I would hope that if earthquake zones and hurricane zones mandate different construction that the code in place locally would somehow account for this.

            In any case, my main point in that example is that I’m not sure if regulation that says “Comply with NEC current practices” counts as a little regulation or a lot.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            >You might want to define that as “over” regulation. But if I propose replacing this with specific detailed rules on all the various businesses and what they can and can’t do, you complain (as cassander is doing here) that the regulations are too numerous.

            Why is that, exactly? Excessive quantity and excessive onerous-ness regulations are both problems.

          • Anonymous says:

            Heelbearcub:

            And for every yahoo who will insist that the electrical code is bullshit, you will find ten qualified electricians who can explain why the code says what it does.

            The entire rest of this argument entirely aside, I think you’re vastly underestimating the yahoo:electrician ratio.

          • “then there’s Regulatory Capture.”

            You seem to be assuming that capture happens late in the process, that the original motive and effect of the regulation is benevolent in the public interest.

            Is there evidence for that? My impression is that regulation quite often is produced by and in the interest of the regulated industry, with the history of the ICC as the obvious example.

          • onyomi says:

            “Do you think regulations should be detailed or generic?

            Do you think regulations should be rigid or flexible?”

            Generic and flexible.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            I don’t think you actually mean that. You might think you do, but I don’t think you do.

            Because, my sense is that ideologically, you don’t trust in the competence and professionalism of regulators, which is what is required to make generic and flexible regulations work.

            Now, I would generally favor generic, flexible regulators inside a culture that expects regulators to be professional and competent and does not attack regulators for malfeasance and incompetence when none exists. I’m not sure that we are capable of having that in the US.

            But I also think that there are situations where regulations need to precise and fairly rigid.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            A fairly common occurrence in my country & the EU is that the regulators end up suffering from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome, where they excessively identify with the regulated companies. Then an increase in genericness/flexibility will just end up with decisions that favor special interests more, rather than decisions that follow the average opinion of society better.

            The actual laws actually have to be voted on by politicians who can be held accountable. Implementation choices that are allowed by flexible rules generally result in decision making with much less accountability to society.

            So, onyomi, while I agree that there are downsides to specificity and rigidity, libertarians like you would be better off devising solutions to problems like the one I explained above. The current strategy that I commonly see employed by libertarians, to talk up ‘less regulation,’ appears to me to be a poor strategy. Most people seem to value ‘less regulation’ mainly in the abstract, but not very often in specific cases, where they usually see more/stricter regulation as the better solution (not surprising, given the horrible things that tend to happen when there is ‘deregulation’). As you can never achieve ‘less regulation’ without eliminating specific regulation, your strategy will breakdown at the implementation level.

            So if you actually can make the case that you have a good libertarian solution to prevent banking crises, restaurants serving rotten food, etc, your platform becomes a thousands times stronger.

      • onyomi says:

        As to how one can separate quality and quantity:

        One can imagine one very simple regulation with a huge positive or negative effect and one could imagine a large number of regulations which, taken together, actually have a negligible effect.

        What I’m getting at is this: given the system we have, we have no reason to believe that future regulations will be better or worse in terms of their content, unless something changes about the system used to design and put them in place (other than “pray to somehow vote in and hire smarter people”). This is why I asked that, if you’re going to say we just need different regulations, I’d like to know how to get them. I personally can’t think of any, operating within anything like the current system.

        The ease of passing or repealing regulations, and, therefore, the total quantity or extensiveness, however, is something which one can conceivably change. The question then is, “assuming the quality of regulations is going to remain roughly static (though I actually think there is something of an inverse correlation between quantity and quality in this case), do we want more or less of it than we have now?

      • onyomi says:

        I will say, however, that “we just need different regulations, not more, not less, per se,” seems to me the most defensible for someone answering “c,” because if we are not too far off the mark it implies that the system currently used for determining quantity and quality is functioning okay.

    • A Rash Anion says:

      I think that the american economy under-regulated, and that also, of our few existing regulations, many existing regulations are bad and should be removed.

      So I am in favor of increased regulation in most circumstances, assuming we can reasonably determine that these new regulations will be better than existing ones or the current lack of regulation (this is often not true sadly). However, I am also in favor of removing existing regulations in many circumstances, since a lot, maybe most of them are really terrible. “Insufficient regulations, and the ones we have are often bad or subject to regulatory capture” describes my personal views pretty well I think.

      This doesn’t particularly translate into voting for one party or another; neither seem to adequately address my concerns, especially since most of the regulations I’m talking about happen on a local level, which in my part of the country is basically one-party and all the real elections are primaries. For example, there all kinds of really bad land use and zoning regulations that are municipal laws, and boy, let me tell you: trying to talk my peers into caring about local city council elections and zoning regs is really hard, even when I write an analysis on all the candidate’s position and share it with them.

      • cassander says:

        >Insufficient regulations, and the ones we have are often bad or subject to regulatory capture” describes my personal views pretty well I think.

        So, in other words, we’re bad at regulating…..and we should do more of it? How on earth do you think that will work out for the good?

        • Lumifer says:

          …if the only thing you have is a hammer…

          • A Rash Anion says:

            …if the only thing you have is a hammer…

            …maybe you can use the hook end to pull out the bad nails and put new ones in? 😀

        • A Rash Anion says:

          Ah, yeah that sounds a bit bad when you put it that way! Sorry if this didn’t come across clearly in my comment, but I am not in blanket favor of all new regulations. As I said earlier:

          So I am in favor of increased regulation in most circumstances, assuming we can reasonably determine that these new regulations will be better than existing ones or the current lack of regulation (this is often not true sadly).

          I do accept that many proposed regulations are bad. I am against those. I am also against many existing regulations. Perhaps it might be better to say I’m not inherently pro- or anti-regulation, but I think we need different regulations than the ones we have. I’m aware this is kind of dodging the top-level question but I think it’s worth noting that it’s not inconsistent to thing that there are both good and bad regulations. Being involved in local politics has shown me just how bad (and good) regulations can be.

          For example, I think a lot of Japan’s multi-use zoning regulations (which apply everywhere and are pretty strict) are way better than the zoning regs in my local municipality. I’m not sure if Japan’s zoning regulations are “more” or “less” regulation than what we have now, but I think it would be better if we repealed our current zoning regs and brought in ones similar to the Japanese regs.

          EDIT: Take a look here http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/08/the-japanese-zoning-system.html? for what kind of stuff there is. I think this kind of regulation, while big and broad-reaching, could definitely be characterized as “less” regulations, even though a bill introducing this and replacing our existing zoning with it in my town might be technically “new regulation” or something. I think a lot of the talk about more and less regulation can be difficult when there’s so many ways to approach it.

          • cassander says:

            You miss my point. We have a lot of regulation now that you don’t like. I don’t deny that there are good regulations out there, but why do you think the current system, which made all the regulations you don’t like, is suddenly going to start making regulations you do like? More regulation, in the us as it currently exists, is not going to mean adopting Japanese zoning, it’s going to mean taxing uber to subsidize traditional cab services.

          • A Rash Anion says:

            I don’t deny that there are good regulations out there, but why do you think the current system, which made all the regulations you don’t like, is suddenly going to start making regulations you do like? More regulation, in the us as it currently exists, is not going to mean adopting Japanese zoning, it’s going to mean taxing uber to subsidize traditional cab services.

            I see what you’re getting at. Thinking about it, I agree with you! I definitely do feel some frustration about my ability to control the direction of our government, and I am aware that recent ancestors of our current government in a very similar system have generated poor outcomes. I definitely agree that, assuming our government stays the same, there’s no reason to expect regulatory quality to improve.

            This doesn’t change my answer to the top-level question, though. The top-level question doesn’t ask “do you think the government, assuming it’s identical to the previous government, will generate good regulation?”–it asks if I think we have too much regulation or too little. I think that we have plenty of bad regulation and not nearly enough good regulation. This doesn’t mean I always will vote for new regs; as I have said, most new regs are bad. We agree on that point.

            Although you express negative thoughts about zoning regs, in my personal experience, there is a ton of action going on with zoning regs in my local municipality. We have several candidates for city council this year running on zoning regulation reform. You are correct that none of them are proposing a Japan-style reform. However, many of them want to loosen regulations and remove burdensome hurdles in the way of homeowners and businesses, as well as rezone several commercial areas around town to have fewer restrictions. I have been spreading the news to my friends and family about these potential policies, and although it is frustrating to get them involved, I certainly don’t feel that there’s no hope.

            It’s worth noting that at least from a party-politics perspective everyone in my town (both in favor of restricting regulations and in favor of loosening regulations) is from the same party. A lot of this stuff isn’t very simple or partisan and people for the most part don’t pay attention to these local issues, which are the most important. Although I doubt the pro-growth deregulationists will get a majority on the council (which is possible if all 4 of them get spots) this year, I think the number will definitely grow.

            It’s tough work for fixing up regulations but being involved in local politics is where it’s at. There is some amount of political will! Japan may not be possible, sadly, but I remain hopeful for regulatory reform candidates winning this fall in my town.

        • Protagoras says:

          The “we’re bad at regulating, so we should deregulate” ignores that we seem to be bad at deregulating too; when government deregulates it doesn’t usually eliminate taxi medallions or loosen zoning restrictions to make more housing possible, it does things like weakening environmental oversight or financial oversight, allowing pollution and fraud. Advocating deregulation involves hoping that it gets done better than it has in the past just as much as advocating regulation does.

          • onyomi says:

            This is a good point and speaks to the idea I have which is that we won’t ever get a significantly better regulatory regime given the current mechanisms.

            My preferred practical solution (as in, I can imagine it possibly getting passed under the current system, though it would still be quite difficult) is something like a constitutional amendment protecting economic freedom which makes it much more difficult to pass laws restricting economic freedom and easier to contest them. A step above that might be creation of a “negative legislature” like Michael Huemer has proposed.

          • cassander says:

            First of all, environmental laws are basically never weakened. And you’re assuming the old regulations were preventing fraud.

            That aside, less regulation is inherently a more idiot proof solution than more. There are always a lot more ways to make things worse than better.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ cassander
            First of all, environmental laws are basically never weakened.

            Hunh?

          • cassander says:

            @houseboatonstyxb

            You read that correctly. Feel free to name (by which I mean cite chapter and code) environmental regulations of the last 2 decades or so that were actually repealed or substantially weakened by the executive. These are old laws that were changed, mind you, not proposed laws that were modified or delayed before implementation. I am aware of precisely one.

    • stargirlprincesss says:

      A) Way over-regulated.

    • cassander says:

      >I ask this because I have the impression that even Blue tribers and others traditionally on the left have the impression that there’s too much regulation outside a few areas like health care and financial service

      Healthcare and financial services. And labor markets. And education. And the environment. And politics. And sex. And after that, there really isn’t much left. The blue tribe might occasionally say they’re against regulation in theory, but in practice, on any subject they care about, they want more rules.

      Ultimately, this is what stops me from supporting them politically. If the left would agree to just spend my money, and not insist on telling everyone how to live, work, eat, sleep, etc., I could get on board with that program. I’d grumble, but I’d go along. But they just help themselves. In fact, they probably care more about the regulating than they do the spending. And thus, we have the story of the american healthcare “system”.

      • onyomi says:

        Well, this is sort of the intent of my question: to prompt people to consider whether their stances on particular issues is really consonant with their overall impression. Because I get the sense that there are more than a few left-leaning Blue Tribers who think a lot of red tape could and should be cut in general, but who are seemingly in favor of any particular new economic regulation proposed.

        A somewhat related problem, as I see it, for the right wing and the Red Tribe, is the disconnect between ideas about government spending in general and particular. If we replaced the original question with “does the government, in general spend too much or too little,” most Red tribers would say “too much,” or “way too much,” yet many of them would balk at any specifically proposed cuts to the military, social security, medicare…

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ onyomi
          Because I get the sense that there are more than a few left-leaning Blue Tribers who think a lot of red tape could and should be cut in general, but who are seemingly in favor of any particular new economic regulation proposed.

          New regulations get proposed with public support, when the public feels a need to solve some new problem. After the problem is solved, and/or the enforcement is overgrown or captured, then it’s time to cut that piece of red tape. Not a contradiction.

          • onyomi says:

            “New regulations get proposed with public support, when the public feels a need to solve some new problem.”

            So it was the public proposing to regulate Uber? Or was it the Taxi companies?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes to both.

            Taxi medallions solve multiple problems in the context of 50, 100 years ago. Probably the largest one that still applies today is the fact that taxis taking fares hailed from the curb is an exploitation/use of the commons (roadways).

            Car services available on call not regulated by medallions have existed for many decades.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think Uber customers were clamoring for Uber to be regulated. I think this and AirBnB are the clearest recent cases of people with a vested interest trying to gin up fake safety fears about a service customers were happy with in order to regulate their competitors out of business, or at least back into line with the monopoly they enjoyed.

          • And going back to the previous round, it’s my understanding that the jitneys were regulated out of existence at the behest of the trolley companies.

            That’s from my memory of the old Hilton and Eckert article.

          • S_J says:

            Sometimes, new regulations are proposed by agencies that feel like the regulation is a better way of approaching their core mission.

            Or new regulations are proposed by industry experts who wish to use the new regulations to enable or further their dominant position in the market.

            Of the tens of thousands of pages added to the regulations in the United States every year, which ones had the most public pressure in favor of them?

            Which ones were only noticed by industry boards and lawyers?

            Which ones were only noticed by the Government Printing Office?

        • Chalid says:

          I get the sense that there are more than a few left-leaning Blue Tribers who think a lot of red tape could and should be cut in general, but who are seemingly in favor of any particular new economic regulation proposed.

          Do you ask these people what they would cut? How do they respond?

        • cassander says:

          > Because I get the sense that there are more than a few left-leaning Blue Tribers who think a lot of red tape

          Of course they think that. Just like they want to save money by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse, or eliminate bureaucratic inefficiency, or take loopholes out of the tax code. But those are not meaningful statements, and neither is “reduce red tape”. They’re slogans that no one can object to.

          >A somewhat related problem, as I see it, for the right wing and the Red Tribe, is the disconnect between ideas about government spending in general and particular. If we replaced the original question with “does the government, in general spend too much or too little,” most Red tribers would say “too much,” or “way too much,” yet many of them would balk at any specifically proposed cuts to the military, social security, medicare

          It’s pretty much exactly the same thing. People, not just red-tribers, but large majorities, all agree that government spending should be cut. Just not spending on anything the government spends money on, besides foreign aid.

        • Yehoshua K says:

          I’m a Red Triber.

          I firmly favor dramatic cuts in social welfare spending, on the argument that America’s unfunded liabilities for social security, medicare, and medicaid are so high as to be unpayable under any possible economic future. I think it’s better to make clear up front that we’re not going to be burdened by laws passed before we were born ordering us to pay more money than we’ll ever have to the older generations that voted them in, rather than let reality come as a surprise at some unknown time in the next few decades. I also favor the argument that points out that social flourishing can occur without government, and therefore should probably not be under government mandate.

          I’m more leery about cutting military spending, because I think maintaining a strong military that deters major aggressors is better than having to build one up once you’re already in a WWII-level conflict–but I’m sure that there’s plenty of waste to be trimmed there, too.

          I do not accept the idea that cutting waste, fraud, and abuse will ever get us where we need to be, because A) WF&A are far less than planned expenditures and B) humans being humans, even if we get rid of WF&A today, they’ll come creeping back tomorrow.

          So my ideal economic policy? Leaving out political calculation?
          1) Redefining poverty line in absolute rather than relative terms (if you have enough to eat, adequate clothing, a refrigerator, air condition and heating, you’re not poor in any absolute sense, no matter where you fall on a relative scale).
          2) Maximum slashing of social welfare spending, except for the neediest.
          3) Raising taxes (defined in terms of revenues, rather than rates) as much as possible in order to…
          4) Retire the debt as rapidly as possible.
          5) Once the debt is down to a manageable percentage of GPD–I’m thinking 5%, although I’m more or less pulling that number out of my sleeve–decrease taxes to the amount necessary to fund bare-bones government.

          Now you know why I’ll never be president.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Would you consider a monolithic public healthcare system to be an example of massive regulation, or no regulation? It seems to me that a lot for the regulation of private healthcare is needed because commercial incentives point in the wrong direction…unnecessary treatments, catch-out clauses in insurance and so on. And it seems to me that the incentives largely point inthe right direction for a private heatlhcare system.

    • The Nybbler says:

      As a libertarian, I of course pick a.

    • Zakharov says:

      Since the left seems to be under-represented so far, I’ll try to give their perspective, though I personally lean a bit more on the libertarian side.

      Regulations fall into basically two categories. Good regulations are things like the EPA, FDA*, banking regulation, to a large extent the building codes. They are complicated, but the benefits they provide to society more than make up for the costs. We need more of these regulations. People trying to cut these regulations are selfishly trying to pass the costs of their harmful actions off onto society. While libertarians might propose seemingly better alternatives to regulation, those solutions are risky and/or impractical**.

      Bad regulations are things like occupational licenses for hair braiders, or more controversially, taxi medallions. These are more or less a form of corruption, and ought to be eliminated. However, they are a small minority of regulations which receive disproportionate attention due to their ability to generate outrage and controversy.

      * I’m not going to defend this one, but it’s a commonly-held view.
      ** I generally prefer the alternative solutions.

      • cassander says:

        >Bad regulations are things like occupational licenses for hair braiders, or more controversially, taxi medallions. These are more or less a form of corruption, and ought to be eliminated. However, they are a small minority of regulations which receive disproportionate attention due to their ability to generate outrage and controversy.

        When is the last time you saw a left wing movement seriously go after these with anything like the effort they devote to expanding the “good” regulations?

        • The Nybbler says:

          In fact, the left tends to go all Chestertons-fence when you talk about removing regulations, arguing “Those regulations were made for a reason”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ The Nybbler
            In fact, the left tends to go all Chestertons-fence when you talk about removing regulations, arguing “Those regulations were made for a reason”

            When a Chesterton’s Fence has existed since the white horses on the hills, knowing exactly why it was first made can get a bit obscure. Luckily the reasoning behind most current regulations, pro and con, is written down in the promoters’ own words, probably Googlable.

          • cassander says:

            @houseboatonstyxb

            Stated reasons and actual reasons are often not the same. Stated reasons and actual results differ even more often and more widely.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ cassander
            Stated reasons and actual reasons are often not the same. Stated reasons and actual results differ even more often and more widely.

            Opponents of each proposed regulation, were quick to point that out, suggesting many many ‘real reasons’, also Googlable.

        • Zakharov says:

          I said the leftist view is that the bad regulations are minor issues that receive disproportionate attention. It would make perfect sense for regulation advocates not to pay much attention to them.

        • radmonger says:

          Since the Clinton era, the map of states that require licensing for hair braiders is basically redstates.map.

          I think there is generally a thing where on the left, if a regulation is obviously stupid, everyone agrees and it gets quietly dropped without any open political controversy, maybe a bit of back-room bargaining at most.

          Dunno why that doesn’t happen in Republican-ruled states. Perhaps it’s the existence of libertarians as an explicit political faction that makes it impossible to pass sensible reforms quietly?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s also possible that, because blacks are almost entirely in the democratic coalition, red states don’t represent their issues as well.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Since the Clinton era, the map of states that require licensing for hair braiders is basically redstates.map.

            Nope.

          • Jiro says:

            radmonger: Now that DK has shown that your information is false, would you mind telling us where you got it from? It would certainly be useful to know what sopirces to avoid.

            Also, now that it has been shown to be false, have you changed your belief about Republicans being unable to pass sensible reforms?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I do think the map Douglas linked is commensurate with the idea that black population under-representation might have something to do with it.

            Not hanging my hat on that mind you.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            “Commensurate”?? Do you mean “compatible”?

            Well, it isn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            I probably did misuse commensurate and compatible is better.

            I was only glancing at the map and noting that some places where I think of blacks having marginally more representation look better than their neighbors. So, that cluster of New England states (which are comprised of a high percentage of whites) looks marginally worse than the neigbhbors. The DC area, Chicago and Atlanta all look marginally better than their neighbors.

            I don’t think that’s proof or anything, just sort of an idle musing.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        The idea that categories of regulation as large and multifaceted as “the EPA” or “banking regulation” can be pronounced good as a unit seems pretty close to the view for which the left is being blamed here.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      And no one wants to answer the question by comparing the Us to another country…

      • Based on James Q. Wilson’s Bureaucracy, I think other countries have MUCH less detailed regulations than the U.S. does.

        Bureaucrats in parliamentary countries tend to have great discretion to make exceptions, give advice, and arrange detailed compliance. Americans, by contrast, are very much into rules-lawyering, so in response, regulations become enormously more detailed. Americans are also strongly committed to abstract equality (treating everyone exactly the same), and punishment as the only way to change behavior.

        Wilson compares the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) with its equivalent agency in Sweden. US-OSHA, even under Republicans, takes a harshly adversarial approach toward business, does surprise inspections, insists on rigid adherence to the letter of the regs, and constantly imposes fines and penalties. The equivalent Swedish agency, even when left parties are in charge, takes a cooperative approach, never does surprise inspections, often allows extra time for compliance or exceptions for special circumstances, and almost never fines or penalizes anyone.

        And yet the workplace-safety situation in the two countries is about equivalent. Wilson says both approaches work equally well in the contexts where they exist.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Larry Kestenbaum:
          See my earlier example of a simple regulation which would be regarded as onerous:

          All actions undertaken by a private business or individual citizen engaged in matters of commerce must be approved by the People’s Council for the Welfare of the Proletariat to be appointed by the office of the Supreme Minister.

          More to the point, I think that the underlying actual regulations of what a business must comply with are likely to comply with are likely to be essentially similar. It’s when the business “wins” by being adversarial that the regulatory mechanisms are forced into codification.

          Small hypothetical example:
          Inspector: You don’t have enough clear space between the machine and the wall.
          Swedish Business: OK, we will move the machine or the impediments to movement. See you back in a week.
          US Business: We won’t do anything unless you can prove it’s required. See you in court.

          I expect that the Swedish Business thinks they will lose if they try and buck the inspector and the US Business thinks they will win.

          • Deiseach says:

            Your US versus Swedish Business example sounds like a way of imposing more regulation on everyone.

            Swedish Business: Okay, we’ll do that, come back in a week and re-inspect.

            Result: They complied with the inspector’s advice. Factory next door which has different machines or processes or has more space is not required to move its machines.

            US Business: Make us! See you in court, buddy!

            Result: Judgement goes against them and not only do they have to move their machines, now in order to prevent more court-cases, the regulations about Move Your Flippin’ Machines When We Tell You Act (2019) is brought into law. Factory next door, which would have been okay, now is compelled via regulation to move its machinery around,

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            The more common the behavior of the “US” Business is, the more incentive there is for everyone involved in regulations becoming extremely detailed in the codification of the regulation, and also rigid in its enforcement.

            Basically, I agree that the approach results on more explicit regulation. But it’s not clear that it results in more onerous effect of the regulation itself. I’m not sure that the end result is “more” regulation.

            The net result is still a machine with proper safety clearance. The process of getting there is certainly less efficient in some cases though. I’d hesitate to say that the “less efficient” part is a universal though.

            As WAG, the explicit codification could make it clear beforehand what the inspector could object to, and prevent misplacement of the machine in the first place.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            HBC / Deiseach –

            As far as “pros” of explicit rules, a critical thing is that when you build the building to house the machine, you really need to know how much space the machine will need to have. Knowing what the regulations are, exactly, ensures that you’ll actually be able to meet them.

            But also, with explicit rules, if there’s no space to move the machine in the way it should be housed, your operations can be shut down, and it’s your own fault because the rules are clearly written. Whereas with the Swedish system, you can play game-theory chicken with the regulators, in which, if they shut you down, they’re the bad guys for not accommodating you and thus putting workers out of jobs.

          • Whereas with the Swedish system, you can play game-theory chicken with the regulators, in which, if they shut you down, they’re the bad guys for not accommodating you and thus putting workers out of jobs.

            Of course, I have no direct experience with Swedish regulators. But Wilson gives the impression that, rather than shut down the company, they’d figure out a solution, and give the company extra time to comply. Remember, very few penalties given out in Sweden.

          • Anonymous says:

            Whereas with the Swedish system, you can play game-theory chicken with the regulators, in which, if they shut you down, they’re the bad guys for not accommodating you and thus putting workers out of jobs.

            It’s easy to see why an American would think this, but in the complete Swedish system this isn’t possible. The Swedes are notoriously anti-business and pro-government the same way Americans are pro-business and anti-government, so you can’t play chicken with the regulators at all: you’ll be the bad guy for not accommodating the nice guys from the state, even though you know that by refusing you’ll be putting workers out of jobs. (This goes far enough that if the government overtaxes and overregulates – in the sense of harshness, not complexity – an industry to the point where they have to either move manufacturing to Bangladesh or fold completely, the companies in that industry still get blamed for destroying Swedish jobs. In effect it’s the precise reverse of the US scenario.)

            Culture is key in these things.

          • The Swedes are notoriously anti-business and pro-government

            Nope :

            https://fee.org/articles/the-myth-of-scandinavian-socialism/

          • Anonymous says:

            Ancientgeek:

            That article doesn’t even respond to what I said. I’m talking about the cultural attitude Swedish people have toward business/state conflicts, not about whether the Swedish system is one of government ownership of the means of production. If you want to question my experiences of a country I worked in for years, at least have the politeness to single-word-link an article that’s relevant to the topic at hand (and if at all possible, not from a US left-wing think tank; ideally, make it a Swedish source).

        • My vote for comment of the week goes to this.

        • Aapje says:

          @Larry Kestenbaum

          I would argue that Anglo-American culture is traditionally more adversarial and has gotten increasingly so during the last centuries. Adversarial systems automatically result in far more rule-lawyering and less room for informal forms of conflict resolution.

          The traditional Germanic/French business model is stakeholder capitalism, where a business has an obligation to balance the interests of the shareholders, employees and customers. Under such a model, an employer doesn’t necessarily raise its prices as far as the market conditions allow or lower the wages as much as possible. Instead, the CEO seeks to set a fair price, to pay a fair wage and to offer a fair return on investment. The profits are shared between the stakeholders.

          In contrast, shareholder capitalism is about maximizing the return on investment to the shareholders. The interests of employees and customers are only relevant to the extent that this maximizes profit. Laws are only considered obstacles and ethics are not considered to exist outside of these laws. So it’s the duty of the business to do everything that is allowed by law (or not allowed, but not properly enforced), which increases profit.

          The latter model, which has been popular for the last decades (and also has become more popular in Europe than the old model in recent times), automatically results in a situation where you either have very strict and extensive regulation; or widespread unethical behavior.

          So my solution to over-regulation is to fight back against the adversarial model and (re)create a culture where social norms (among the elite) result in voluntary ethical behavior. Then regulation can be reduced. Not before.

          PS. Robert Reich writing about this kind of stuff.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      “Too much regulation” is a libertarian question. It doesn’t actually make sense from the liberal perspective; there’s not really such a thing as too much regulation. Each regulation, on its own, is either a good thing or a bad thing; either its costs outweigh its benefits, or they don’t.

      There’s a strong argument to be made that at a certain point, it becomes impossible to know what the laws are, and thus to be able to follow the law; this point can be argued especially well given that government gives its agents special exemptions from laws they couldn’t be reasonably expected to know or understand, yet these exemptions aren’t more broadly applied.

      But even at that point, the question isn’t really about the amount of regulation, but the amount of regulation that applies to any given person; it’s theoretically possible to structure society such that everybody can know all the relevant laws to their lives, yet nobody could know all the laws that govern all people. From a Blue Tribe perspective, the issue is the extent to which we deviate from that ideal, rather than how much regulation exists.

      Another strong argument is that there’s a strong Dunning-Kruger effect going on, in that people aren’t aware of how bad regulations are outside the domain of their own specialization, and the amount of regulation makes it impossible to ever know, and thus it is impossible to be an educated voter in our society. I do not know the Blue Tribe response to that argument, but I suspect, given my interactions with Blue Tribe members, that that is a part of why agencies like the FDA, free from the influence of necessarily ignorant voters, must exist.

      • Another strong argument is that there’s a strong Dunning-Kruger effect going on, in that people aren’t aware of how bad regulations are outside the domain of their own specialization, and the amount of regulation makes it impossible to ever know, and thus it is impossible to be an educated voter in our society.

        By the same token, people aren’t much aware of the necessity or usefulness of regulations outside of the domains they know. Someone unfamiliar with trucking or electrical work or banking might not realize how important any specific rule is, say for inhibiting some easy and dangerous shortcut.

        Try sitting in on a class of first-year law students encountering the Uniform Commercial Code, which at first glance seems to assign rights and burdens in arbitrary and unfair ways. However, once you get the whole picture, you understand how critical every piece is for efficient commerce.

        • onyomi says:

          “Someone unfamiliar with trucking or electrical work or banking might not realize how important any specific rule is, say for inhibiting some easy and dangerous shortcut.”

          And people who are already employed in trucking, electrical work, or banking tend to overestimate how critically important are all the rules which supposedly ensure quality but also, in effect, make it harder for others to break into their professions.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Try sitting in on a class of first-year law students encountering the Uniform Commercial Code, which at first glance seems to assign rights and burdens in arbitrary and unfair ways. However, once you get the whole picture, you understand how critical every piece is for efficient commerce.

          I’m not sure “Yeah, these laws are arbitrary and unfair, but they add up to a really efficient commercial system” is most people’s understanding of the purpose of regulation.

          Indeed, I suspect that most pro-regulation people would be quite upset by a legal code that was structured for the purpose of increasing economic efficiency at the cost of some arbitrariness and unfairness.

          More, you admit a major fault of the system: If something looks more arbitrary and unfair than you’d expect, it’s because you’d expect something different. Which implies that the legal code defies expectation, which implies that most people have absolutely no idea what the law is.

          There’s a whole hell of a lot of inefficiency implied there about people’s economic choices, and how their understanding of the ramifications of their choices are probably greatly at odds with the actual laws on the matter.

        • Lumifer says:

          you understand how critical every piece is for efficient commerce.

          This implies that without UCC efficient commerce is impossible which does not seem to be true.

          Commerce certainly needs laws, but surely it does not critically depend on each particular piece of the current US legal code.

          • CatCube says:

            I think a better reading of Larry’s comment is that the UCC provides a fair and efficient way of conducting business overall, even if some parts of it read in isolation might be unfair. But fixing the isolated “unfair” rules might interact with other parts to make the system as a whole inefficient.

            It’s not that the UCC is the “only way” or something, just that it needs to be adopted as a whole, without screwing around with component parts because they seem wrong looked at alone.

            (NB: Not at all familiar with the UCC, so I don’t have any idea what the “unfair” looking parts might be.)

          • Lumifer says:

            @ CatCube

            The thing is, Larry is basically invoking the Chesterton’s Fence and saying that all these weird clauses and strange pieces of regulation have reasons. I am sure they have reasons. The problem is that these are not necessarily good reasons.

            You can construct a legal Rube Goldberg’s machine where all pieces are necessary and have reason to exist. You would be able to point to each weird piece and explain how it is necessary to keep this particular machine working. But, notably, this is not an argument the we should have a Rube Goldberg’s machine instead of doing things the simple way.

          • CatCube says:

            Being a conservative, I find Chesterton’s Fence a pretty compelling argument.

            It definitely applies here, if you’re proposing to rip out pieces of commercial law. You’d better have a good understanding of the reasons that the law exists as written before you say they’re stupid, which is what Chesterton’s Fence demands. And, BTW, if you think that the UCC as written is a Rube Goldberg machine that shouldn’t exist*, you’re going to need to have a completely new legal code in the wings before you start tearing it out, seeing as predictability in the law is one of the most important things for commercial interests.

            *I can’t say you’re wrong. As I said, I don’t know even one sentence of the UCC. But you still need to have a better alternative before you start taking it apart.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ CatCube

            I’m not arguing that we should start by throwing out the entirety of UCC. In fact, I’m not even arguing that the commercial legal system is in dire need of a major overhaul (there’s a fellow named Coase who has a theorem about that…). My point is simpler: an argument that a piece of a complicated system needs to be there is not an argument in favour of the whole system.

          • CatCube says:

            My reading of Larry’s comment was exactly the other way around: the whole system requires that a particular piece of it be there, even though it’s hard to defend that piece in isolation.

          • I think a better reading of Larry’s comment is that the UCC provides a fair and efficient way of conducting business overall, even if some parts of it read in isolation might be unfair. But fixing the isolated “unfair” rules might interact with other parts to make the system as a whole inefficient.

            It’s not that the UCC is the “only way” or something, just that it needs to be adopted as a whole, without screwing around with component parts because they seem wrong looked at alone.

            Let’s say Joe has an account at Bob’s Bank. He buys something with a cheque (I’ll use the British spelling to avoid confusion). He signs the cheque, which triggers certain legally enforceable guarantees.

            If he happens to post-date the cheque, and it is accepted, those guarantees are void. He might still owe the merchant money (based on the “underlying debt”), but the cheque, if unpaid, becomes worthless.

            The merchant endorses the cheque, which adds certain guarantees for the next party in the chain. The merchant’s bank accepts the cheque and gives the merchant money for it. The bank then forwards the cheque through a clearinghouse to Bob’s Bank, where Joe’s account is.

            But it turns out that the Joe’s account is empty!

            Bob’s Bank has until the midnight deadline to reject the cheque. If the deadline passes, then Bob’s Bank has to take the loss.

            But assuming Bob’s Bank returns the cheque to the clearinghouse before the deadline, the bank gets its money back, and the loss is passed along. The clearinghouse returns the cheque to the bank that submitted it, which returns it to the merchant, who absorbs the loss.

            It is taken for granted that Joe, or the crook who pretended to be Joe, is unavailable or insolvent, hence irrelevant. The party who takes the loss is the one who dealt with him, because somebody has to.

            All of these processes and guarantees, including deadlines and duties and liabilities, and on and on and on in mind-numbing detail, are all laid out in the Uniform Commercial Code.

            And the process for processing debit and credit card transactions is based directly on this.

            I suppose a very dedicated libertarian could design a private-sector contract system to structure these things, but it would require nearly universal participation. The better it worked, the broader it was accepted and the rules followed, the more it would look exactly like the government-imposed UCC. And of course it would presumably still rely on government-created contract law to be enforceable. Or maybe there’s an ancap alternative that would shun anyone who abused the system.

            But we already have something that works, so why tear it down and rebuild it?

        • Chalid says:

          I think the way I would put it is that we can simultaneously believe that we have way too many regulations, and also believe that the expected value of removing a random regulation is negative. Without having thought about it too hard, I think that’s about where I sit.

          • An-cap here, and I see that as a consistent belief. 100% is your ideal regulation ‘amount’ and the stuff beyond that 100% is a bad regulation.
            If there is 150% regulation, then picking at random, you have a 2 in 3 chance of hitting the good regulations rather than the bad.
            It wouldn’t be until you hit 200% regulation, 50-50 bad and good, that you’d have an even shot of removing the bad regulations choosing randomly.

            This is actually my current hang-up with my own ideology/politics, btw. Arguments and resources either way would be appreciated.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Dice –

            It could be worse than that.

            It could simultaneously be true that we’d be better off if none of the regulations had never been passed, but also that removing any single regulation would leave us worse off.

            Regulation A was passed, with benefit X. Regulation A has a horrible side-effect which is slightly worse than X, which Regulation B is passed to solve. Regulation B provokes a slightly less bad problem, which Regulation C is passed to solve. Continue through T.

            There’s no regulation you can remove that would result in the situation becoming better-off. Without removing all of them, you cannot remove any, without making things worse.

            This is, more or less, how the regulatory bodies exist today. Most regulations exist to solve problems government caused in the course of solving other problems.

            ETA: And then to make matters still worse, businesses have made investment plans years into the future expecting the regulations to exist. Removing the regulations could invalidate investments, causing economic damage.

          • Chalid says:

            Another way this could happen is if we have some small set of very valuable regulations (e.g. I think fire codes and air quality regulations do a tremendous amount of good relative to not having them) combined with a large set of slightly-worse-than-useless regulations. And it may not always be obvious which is which.

      • “But even at that point, the question isn’t really about the amount of regulation, but the amount of regulation that applies to any given person; it’s theoretically possible to structure society such that everybody can know all the relevant laws to their lives, yet nobody could know all the laws that govern all people. From a Blue Tribe perspective, the issue is the extent to which we deviate from that ideal, rather than how much regulation exists.”

        Even in the ideal case, people could know the laws that apply to them if they only do what they usually do. If they’re considering doing something new, complex regulations would add a lot to the research needed for exploration.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          You could probably carve out separate regulatory structures for professional versus hobbyist/exploration enterprise; to a significant extent this sort of duality already exists with respect to, for example, home repair regulations.

          As an example of what this looks like, in many jurisdictions, you need a license to do plumbing or electrical or (insert craft here), but can work on your own (non-commercial) property without any such requirements (although you’ll still often have to deal with things like permits, so you’re not entirely free of the issues).

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      That strikes me as a question similar to “Are you pro-Israel or pro-Palestine?” in that the answer doesn’t actually matter to the real issue of what particular set of regulations (or what particular arrangement of territories) is most appropriate.

      • onyomi says:

        Assuming that “the real issue” is which regulations are or aren’t good is assuming the conclusion that the problem is the specific content of regulations, rather than their more general scope or ease of passage/gross quantity.

    • Adam says:

      Well, I don’t vote at all, but I’d guess about a decent approximation of a good amount of regulation at the federal level, but increasingly overregulated as governments get more local to the point of absurdity with many single-purpose tax jurisdictions that most of the public probably doesn’t even realize exist. This is about what I’d expect, as local governments are more corrupt, less accountable, and easier to get laws passed through than the US Congress.

      Nonetheless, my sense is that much of the federal-level regulation is still wrong-headed and inefficient. Some of this comes just from my own experience of being a federal comptroller, which convinced me that the amount of fraud, waste, and abuse we prevented was nowhere near what it cost for us to exist in the first place.

      On the other hand, there are hidden costs to having a government that people don’t trust, even if it costs less in itself and imposes fewer costs on private activity. Much of the point of having a government at all seems to be in simply ensuring a relative level of peace and expectation fulfillment that technological, business, and social progress can happen mostly unimpeded by catastrophic losses, even if the overall trajectory becomes slower than optimal. For instance, one of the great things about the United States is that, since the Civil War, we have mostly avoided the kinds of decades-long setbacks where the entire country sees negative progress on most fronts, as happened in post-Soviet collapse Russia or much of Europe during the interwar period, and we’ve certainly avoided the types of centuries setbacks that have happened in places like Somalia and Afghanistan.

      Also on the other hand, even though my sense is local governments are largely ridiculous, they’re also extremely non-uniform, that is, some get it way more right than others, and provided we have free movement of labor and right of exit, this is exactly the kind of small polity free market for government that results in a Tiebout equilibrium. It’s also the theoretical basis of our own federal system, of states as test beds for the country.

      And I don’t see any perceptible tribal differences here. A political party may sometimes choose to campaign on the idea of more or fewer of type X regulations. Typically, these would be fewer economic regulations but more social regulations in the US Republican party, but fewer social regulations and more economic regulations in the US Democratic party, but if anything, this election should be teaching us that tribal boundaries don’t break down this way at all. It seems increasingly that all politics is identity politics, and people mostly prefer things like protectionism for the industry they happened to be employed in, or relief for the kind of debt they happen to have a lot of, and voters of all stripes are dissatisfied because the major parties available in national elections don’t offer these things.

      Are you even sure that a libertarian world would result in fewer regulations? The fact that regulatory bodies would be private instead of state-sponsored doesn’t mean they’d produce fewer regulations. I see no reason to believe that people as consumers would be less stupid about what they demand of regulatory bodies than people demand as voters. And in cases where tremendous power is executed by private actors, we don’t always see this. For instance, in Afghanistan, outside of the major cities most restrictions on private activities are imposed by tribal and religious leaders, not by the state, but their lives are surely far more regulated than the lives of an average American. The same is true of the Amish. What makes the Amish appealing, but not the Taliban, is that the Amish give you a choice and don’t execute you for trying to leave. That would seem to be the appeal of libertarianism as well. It isn’t that any randomly selected person would lead a less regulated life. It’s that they would have far more power to choose the regulations they live under.

      • Chalid says:

        I do think it’s often underemphasized that local governments are often the worst offenders.

        Libertarians tend to be all about federalism and I’ve wondered if they’re making a mistake in that.

        • Adam says:

          This is definitely a problem I see with American libertarianism. It’s way too bound up with the alliance of necessity with paleo-conservatives who mostly just hate the federal government for forcing their states to integrate their schools and end Jim Crow, but are not in any meaningful way pro-liberty.

          Not that the federal government has been blameless. There’s drug policy, the ability to wage war, manipulate the national economy on a huge scale. But sheerly in terms of personal liberties, state governments have been way more historically oppressive than the federal government. Hell, families have probably been more oppressive than governments, even. Look at the worst places in the world and it’s a woman’s own uncle or brother burning her face off with acid because she doesn’t dress the way they want her to.

          • cassander says:

            > It’s way too bound up with the alliance of necessity with paleo-conservatives who mostly just hate the federal government for forcing their states to integrate their schools and end Jim Crow, but are not in any meaningful way pro-liberty.

            Anyone who remembers school integration is at least in their 70s, if not older. Even if this were true of the origins of the libertarian party, the problem would solve itself in not too many more years as those people die off.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Adam’s been beating the drum of “libertarians are really crypto-racist fans of Jim Crow” for a couple of open threads now.

          • Chalid says:

            So if you don’t like Adam’s explanation, what are some likely alternatives? I was hoping some libertarians would chime in.

          • If what needs to be explained is why libertarians prefer decisions to be made at the state rather than the federal level, I think the answer is pretty obvious. It’s much easier to move from one state to another than from one country to another.

            One implication is that if the state you are in makes rules you don’t like, you may have a reasonably easy exit option to another state with different rules. Another implication is that states have more of an incentive than nations to provide people what they want, in order to keep them–are a little more like private firms competing for customers.

          • Chalid says:

            I was actually hoping for something more responsive to Adam’s comments that local governments tend to be the worst oppressors of freedom (and are just generally bad).

            I think it’s debatable whether freedom of movement between localities gives local governments an incentive to give people what they want (witness various local governments trying to keep people out, or even drive them out, though zoning and the like). If there is an incentive, it doesn’t seem to be very strong, at least if you agree with the idea that local government is bad.

            But also, “what people want” is not, generally, anything resembling libertarianism, so I’m not sure how making governments more responsive to what people want is a win for libertarianism. And I believe you’ve commented before that you’d put libertarianism ahead of democracy?

    • Xeno of Citium says:

      To quote HellBearCub, “gun to my head” I have to pick b – there are some glaring parts of the US that need more regulation (finance and telecommunications, for example), but overall there’s so many pieces of regulation we should ditch that I think, if I had my way, we’d have less regulation overall. I’d start with dismantling most of the laws that basically exist to enrich established actors at the expense of new entrants to the field and the public (a lot of licensing for professions), get rid of the usual bunch of laws that try to police morality, and so on.

      Lifelong Democrat, and I’m plenty happy to suggest new regulation to solve a problem, but we’ve picked up a lot of regulatory barnacles over the last 240 years that are long overdue for removal.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        To quote HellBearCub

        You’ve just upgraded me to an “angry” nick. 😉

        What effect will this have on my posting style?

    • Gil says:

      Cost of compliance definitely seems crippling for the US [It seems the US has a tendency to overpay for everything, Schools, Hospitals, and regulations] compared to other OECD countries. And I personally tend to view ‘too many regulations’ as meaning that the regulatory burden is too heavy, not that an excessive number of regulations are written [Though the two are likely correlated] but as others have pointed out, except in the cases of certain clearly “cronyistic” rules, one regulation might exist to counteract the negative consequences of another regulation. Turning de-regulation into a game of jenga.

      The other big problem is that while the businesses being regulated likely have the best notion of what the impact of a law will be on the receiving end, they are for the same reasons not an impartial decider of whether the regulation is well conceived or desirable at all.

      One solution is to look at more efficient countries and emulate them. Another is to try to get another segment of your government to monitor administrative / compliance burdens throughout the economy, and identify areas that that could be made ‘leaner’ — Then as lawmakers impose new regulations, they are required to essentially budget them against the current drop of regulations.

      The latter approach seems similar to what Canada was trying with the ‘red tape reduction act’ —

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Crippling compared to whom and by what measure?

        US businesses in aggregate head the pack compared to their “first world” cohorts.

        • Gil says:

          Shouldn’t have used the word crippling. I was under the impression that Western OECD’s had higher taxes but easier regulations.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Cost of compliance definitely seems crippling for the US

            What word can you substitute for crippling that makes this sentence stronger?

          • Gil says:

            I can’t think of a single word that means “The relatively predominant factor in the operating cost a government imposes upon it’s economy”

            As I said my impression had always been:
            US: High Regulation, Low Tax
            Northern EU: Low Regulation, High Tax
            Southern EU: High Regulation, High Tax
            Hong-Kong / Singapore / Switzerland: Low Regulation, Low Tax

          • Adam says:

            Cost of compliance is burdensome. It can be crippling to certain types of small businesses trying to compete with larger businesses, but it means virtually nothing to the larger businesses, and we have such an overwhelmingly wealthy and large consumer market and attract so much technical talent that we still outcompete countries with more business-friendly regimes.

            Plus, I think you have to grudgingly concede something to Keynes at least about the seeming indifference of the macro economy to the exact form taken by microeconomic activity. Tax attorneys and auditors still spend and invest money. I don’t doubt that we could do a little better if we devoted more activity to socially useful, productive endeavors, rather than regulatory compliance, but it’s not like money spent on compliance just disappears into a pit of fire.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I’m with HBC that this is a bad question. Imagine for simplicity’s sake that there is a society with six equally sized industries. 1-3 should be regulated heavily and 4-6 should be largely unregulated. Suppose in fact, 1-3 are unregulated and 4-6 are regulated heavily. Now suppose you ask “is there too much or too little regulation or just the right amount of regulation in this society?” I guess one is forced to answer “there is just the right amount of regulation.” But this answer has told us absolutely nothing of interest about what’s going right or wrong. It’s not as though there is something that is going swimmingly, the ‘amount of regulation’, and then we just need to work on the quality of it. Nothing is going right in this society. It is strictly worse than the societies where nothing or everything is regulated and which would come out as “overregulated” or “underregulated” in response to the same question.

      It’s like pointing out that a house where the fireplace doesn’t work but the refrigerator occasionally bursts into flames has “the right amount of fire” in it. Like, sure, I guess, but you’re not going to use that fact to show anything interesting. “Overall amount of fire” is neither a dimension of quality for a house, nor does it have any theoretical role to play.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        Of course, ordinary people do complain about “too much government!” or “too much spending!”. But I think the charitable way to view them is akin to someone yelling “too much fire!” while beating out the flames on his refrigerator. What really matters to them is not the overall amount of fire, but the fire being in places it shouldn’t. You would be missing their complaint if you pointed out “actually, because the fireplace doesn’t work, there is in fact just the right amount of fire”.

        • Alex says:

          I do not think that this analogy holds.

          If someone here complains about “too much regulation” I tend to assume that they have thought it through and are against any regulation whatsoever.

          This I presume is also the OP’s stance. The real problem with the question is that the OP, holding that stance, does not seem to realize that the stances competing with his are not “there is just enough regulation” or “there is to little regulation”, but various forms of “it’s complicated”.

          A less charitable reading would be that the OP intentionally posted a scale on which his position is the only one that makes sense at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “If someone here complains about “too much regulation” I tend to assume that they have thought it through and are against any regulation whatsoever.”

            When I pointed this out to onyomi (the OP), that the formulation of the question assumes the answer, onyomi vigorously denied it.

            So, I think you are actually taking both my and Philosophisticat’s position.

          • Alex says:

            So, I think you are actually taking both my and Philosophisticat’s position.

            On the question making sense: yes. On Philosophisticat’s analogy accurately modeling the problem with the question: no. Not their’s anyway. I do not know your position on the latter.

    • It seems unlikely to me; if “black-sounding names” are associated with unpleasantness, and this is really inherit in the language, why would anybody choose those names for their children? I suspect they’re conflating “inherent in the language” with “present in the corpora” since I don’t see how you could disambiguate those in the first place. (But perhaps I’m misinterpreting “inherent in the language”?)

      • Jill says:

        Associated with unpleasantness to whom? Not to the parents that named their kids these names, apparently.

        Inherent in the language? More likely, inherent in cultural prejudices against black people.

        • Threshin' Session says:

          I think in general you’re right. However, a lot of white people find a name like “TeJarius” rather offputting, but this fact might actually encourage some black people to name their kids TeJarius.

      • Jiro says:

        “Black-sounding names” are often associated with being of lower class. So you’re basically being skeptical that people of lower class would do things that mark them as being of lower class. And it should be obvious that people of lower class *do* show class markers.

        Also, the fact that nobody would choose the names for their children is a feedback loop that helps make the names worse. Because it isn’t “nobody would choose those names”, it’s “nobody smart would choose those names”. Once a name gains a negative connotation, smart people would avoid using it. This means that the name would be preferentially used by dumb people (or at least people with dumb parents), making the connotation of the name even worse.

        • And it should be obvious that people of lower class *do* show class markers.

          Yes, but surely class markers are generally arbitrary, not somehow built into the language ahead of time?

          Once a name gains a negative connotation, smart people would avoid using it

          The claim is that the negative connotation is inherent in the language, so it isn’t a question of a name gaining the negative connotation, unless you’re talking a long enough time-frame for the language to change significantly.

          I guess you could argue that perhaps people of different classes (or people of differing intelligence, or whatever) associate words differently, and that the machine learning algorithms are designed to use the same logic as the people who designed them do. Seems a bit of a stretch to me.

          • Jiro says:

            It’s not being trained on “the language” in the sense of being trained on vocabulary and grammar and nothing else. It’s trained on the language as actually used by people. The grammar and vocabulary change slowly, but the fact that people use some names more in sentences that include the words “tacky” and “high school education” changes as fast as perception of the names does.

          • Exactly. That’s what I was saying. Given that the machine is being trained on the language as used (the corpora) how can they conclude that the bias is inherent in the language itself?

          • Diadem says:

            What is the difference between “The language as used” and “the language itself”.

            It seems to me you’re trying to make something out of a distinction that doesn’t exist.

          • It seems obvious that there’s a distinction between a language and what people are saying in that language.

            If you trained one machine on Blue Tribe writings and a different machine on Red Tribe writings you’d presumably get different biases for the same language. No?

            (And see Jiro’s comment. Which sorts of sentences are likely to contain which names is determined by what people are saying, not by the language.)

          • … but on second thoughts I rather think you misunderstood me, which is entirely my fault because “the language as used” is hideously ambiguous. To clarify, I’m not talking about using “who” rather than “whom” or “me” rather than “I”, I’m talking about what people say about other people.

            As a thought experiment, suppose you modified the corpora to exclude or modify those sentences that cause the machine to develop bias. If and only if the resulting machine was necessarily significantly less capable of understanding written English would I consider the bias to be inherent in the language. (For whatever definition of “understanding” is applicable to the machine in question, I guess. I didn’t read the paper, just the blog post.)

            That seems to be more or less the same distinction they’re drawing, since they conclude that you can’t prevent the bias and should instead teach the machine not to act on it. That’s the bit I don’t understand.

            It seems to me that it would be particularly easy to eliminate bias based on people’s names, just by randomizing any proper names appearing in the corpus. But I suppose it depends on what the machine is to be used for; if you’re trying to program Big Blue to play Jeopardy you probably don’t want to train it on sentences like “Billy Gibbons Crossing The Nile is an oil-on-canvas painting by Chinese artist Sinead O’Connor”. 🙂

  10. sweeneyrod says:

    Any thoughts on the danger posed by near Earth objects? The impression I got from the guy at the National Near Earth Objects Information Centre I visited today was that we should have a few years warning for dangerous asteroids, and we have good ideas on how to deflect them. But we don’t have good resources for detecting or deflecting centaurs (giant comets that would disintegrate upon nearing the Earth, causing large numbers of damaging meteorite collisions).

    • John Schilling says:

      At this point, the average danger to human life is dominated by the smaller, Chelyabinsk-to-Tunguska NEO impactors which can cause only local destruction but which might still strike with little or no warning. Between the thresholds of 50 meters (smaller and it won’t cause significant damage at ground level) and 140 meters (larger and we’d probably know about it years in advance), we can expect approximately one land impact per two thousand years, killing an average of 15,000 people per impact.

      For extinction or global-catastrophe level impacts, there almost certainly aren’t any asteroid or short-period comet threats that we haven’t detected yet and verified won’t be a problem for decades or more, which leaves the long-period comets. We can expect a long-period comet impact of some sort every hundred fifty million years, but those are mostly “smaller” (~1600 meter) ones that would devastate an area ~1000 km across, and we’d have a year or so to plan an evacuation ahead of time. Ten-kilometer class long-period comets, it’s a coin toss whether we get even one of those before the Earth gets vaporized by the sun’s Red Giant stage anyway.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Re Trump: The Harry Potter effect.

    • Threshin' Session says:

      I haven’t read the link, only hovered over it to get the headline, but:

      People who read Harry Potter tend to be younger. Trump is unpopular with younger voters. Mystery solved?

      • a n o n says:

        Apparently they did control for age. They admit to sensationalism because it has actually nothing to do with reading Harry Potter, but with reading any book. They also seem to ignore that correlation does not imply causation.

    • This reminds me of the “Amy Fisher effect” during the war in Bosnia.

      The Times-Mirror organization (a media company which existed until 2000) used to constantly run polls, and they would cover very different topics in the same poll.

      In 1992, a Long Island teenager named Amy Fisher, who was sexually involved with an older married man named Joey Buttafuoco, shot and wounded her lover’s wife. Fisher, who obviously loved being in the spotlight, was dubbed “the Long Island Lolita” and the whole episode received constant media coverage, including three made-for-TV movies.

      Times-Mirror asked poll respondents how many of the Amy Fisher movies they had watched: zero, one, two, or all three.

      At that time, there was a war going on in former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The same poll asked five simple knowledge questions to test how much people knew about that situation. Scores ranged from zero questions correct to all five.

      I’m sure y’all anticipate the punchline here. There was a strong negative correlation between knowledge about the war in Bosnia and interest in Amy Fisher: “Among Americans who knew nothing of the Bosnian conflict, half watched an Amy Fisher movie. Among those who knew about Bosnia, only 15 percent tuned in for an Amy episode.”

  12. DanPeverley says:

    I’m planning to run a historical wargame for some local friends with 6mm samurai models. The ruleset is Killer Katanas 2, the battle in question will be the battle of Anegawa, this is my first major project of this sort. Anyone here into historical miniature wargaming?

    • Threshin' Session says:

      The idea of giving a lecture about a historic battle and illustrating it with miniatures sounds awesome. Even though it interests me, I was never able to make much sense out of military history the way it’s normally taught, but that method sounds promising.

      But I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about. What are you talking about?

    • hlynkacg says:

      Anyone here into historical miniature wargaming?

      *Raises hand*

      Avid war-gamer, both fantasy and historical, also a pretty serious scale modeler. What you want to talk about?

    • LPSP says:

      I played fantasy wargames a lot as a kid and teen, and have maintained a keen interest in wargaming rules and theory throughout the years. How might I be of assistance?

    • Terrain crafter and game master here if you need opinions on cheap/easy ways to make basic terrain or want to run through the implications of any given rule set.

    • A Kind Of Dog-Octopus says:

      I’m also into historical wargaming. Been working on a 6mm project myself, in the American Revolutionary War.

    • Outis says:

      What is 6mm? Not the height of the figures, or is it?

      • A Kind Of Dog-Octopus says:

        It is indeed. Wargaming scale is given typically as representing 6′ from the bottom of the feet to the eyes. Some manufacturers run a bit large or small for the scale but most 6mm figures are pretty close.

        It is a pretty small scale, which lends itself to grand visual effect in large numbers.

    • Urstoff says:

      I tend to be a hex and chits wargamer, as I find miniatures super expensive and the rulesets generally lacking compared to the better hex and chit games.

  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJEiDRi4Itc

    I’m not sure whether the theology is sound, but it’s pretty funny.

  14. 75th says:

    Hypothesis: People say they would choose 3^^^3 dust specks over 50 years of torture not because of insensitivity to 3^^^3, but because of a massive (by percentage) underestimate of the negative effects of a single dust speck getting in a single person’s eye

    • Ivy says:

      I thought people (myself included) choose dust specks because they are not sum-utilitarians. But I’ll bite – what negative effect of dust specks might I be underestimating?

      • Psycicle says:

        With 3^^^3 people, the dust specks will have considerable ripple effects, because all the tiny probabilities of dust specks incurring car crashes and making people drop power tools and stuff, each have substantial populations of people affected by those low-probability worst-case events.

        It essentially tries to dodge the problem by going “well, there are massive swarms of people who get in horrible car accidents and maim themselves with power tools, since 3^^^3 is a huge set of people, so yes, that outweighs torture”, instead of focusing on the pure version of the dilemma.

    • Psycicle says:

      Nope.

      Stipulate that nothing additional and bad happens due to the dust speck, just a momentary flash of discomfort, no car crashes as a result.

      This argument was present in the initial thread, but it still tries to dodge the core of the problem.

      On the other hand, if I misinterpreted, and your argument is that eye dust is a lot worse than most people think, replace with a more minor harm, like a slight ache in one finger.

      (I do think there is a good argument for torture over dust specks, but now is not the right time for it)

    • Anonymous says:

      I have been wondering lately about inverting the torture vs dust specks scenario. I think the LW tribe tends to regard lifespan as an intrinsically good thing; I don’t, but let’s use that as an example. Suppose that instead of choosing between two evils, you make a choice between one of the following options:

      1. Extend the lifespan of a single person by 50 years (which we assume will be lived in good health), or
      2. Extend the lifespan of 3↑↑↑3 people by one millisecond each.

      I think the answer is obvious. How about you?

      • Psycicle says:

        I’d pick number 2, by an argument that can be trivially generalized to the original problem.

        Let’s say you can choose between giving one person 50 years of life, or 10 people 50 years-1 millisecond of life. The second is obviously the right answer.

        Then, choose between giving one person 50 years-1 millisecond of life, and ten people 50 years-2 milliseconds of life. Again, the second is better.

        Therefore, if you had to choose between giving one person 50 years of life, or 100 people 50 years-2 milliseconds of life, the second is better (by the first choice, 10 people with 50 years-1 millisecond is better than 1 person with 50 years, and by the second choice applied 10 times in a row, 100 people with 50 years-2 milliseconds is better than 10 people with 50 years-1 millisecond).

        Iterate. Just keep boosting the population by a factor of 10, and docking 1 millisecond of life, and you’ll get to option 2 well short of 3^^^3.

        • Anonymous says:

          The only thing I agree with is that it can be trivially reduced to the original problem.

          One person can spend fifty years on something useful. With fifty years, you can dedicate yourself to making beautiful art, or doing scientific research — for example, study genetics or pharmacology in order to increase the longevity of 3↑↑↑3 other people.

          A single millisecond gains you nothing. It’s not even enough to say a single syllable with your last breath to a detective asking you “Who did this to you?”. Every single person’s life prolonged by a single millisecond would be virtually the same; it’s the same as doing nothing.

          Nine women can’t make a baby in one month. At some point when sliding on a continuum between the two choices, a phase change happens that makes the difference between them no longer purely quantitative. Any decision theory that doesn’t recognise this is seriously broken.

          • Psycicle says:

            At what point in the “multiply population by 10x, remove 1 millisecond” chain do you think it stops being better and starts becoming worse? Where is the phase change?

            (I think the phase change is in the 100-10 millisecond range, but I’d be interested in where you think the argument fails.)

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            …huh.

            There’s an axiom difference.

            You’re arguing from… a narrative axiom? “What can I get done”. What does this change. I don’t know what to call it.

            Whereas the standard utilitarian axiom is more like, 1 millisecond of life is an additional millisecond of experience. They’re counting something different than you are; 3^^^3 milliseconds is supposed to be a sufficiently high number of milliseconds that the tiny amount of extra experience each person has exceeds the large amount of extra experience a single person would have.

          • DrBeat says:

            But an extra millisecond of life isn’t a tiny-but-aggregatable quantity of value, it’s ZERO value, as nothing can be done in a millisecond.

          • Not Robin Hanson says:

            But something can be done in a marginal millisecond.

            Of course, then we’re right back where we started.

          • Adam says:

            We can reframe the question and ask if any good is brought into the world by creating a person who only exists for a millisecond. It’s not clear what that existence would be like, as blood doesn’t even move from the heart to the brain that quickly, but it seems to work as a thought experiment. To me, that life has exactly zero value. I don’t know exactly what length of time a person needs to exist for that existence to have measurable utility that can aggregate, but it’s more than a millisecond.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Consider, for a possibility, that “What you get done” isn’t the correct measurement. That an extra millisecond of experience has a value in and of itself, however minute. It’s not enough time to finish a thought? So what? The point of existence doesn’t have to be to lead a narratively fulfilling life, it can just as easily be to experience existence, and a millisecond of existence experienced is no less valid an experience than any other period of time.

          • CatCube says:

            @Orphan Wilde

            I think I get what you’re saying, but I reject it. Mathematical analysis is a tool that can be used to support decision making, but morality isn’t mathematically rigorous.

            You seem to be using some syllogism like: 10 years of life to one person=1 millisecond to 315,576,000,000 people–Hah! Both sides of the equation balance!

            I say, echoing others above, that 1 millisecond rounds to 0, so you’re actually looking at 10 years of life for one person versus 0 for 315,576,000,000 people–and no matter how big “a” is, a*0=0. (I hesitated to put this statement in, because I think it assumes the premises I reject, but I’m using it for the sake of argument.)

            I can pretty much guess the next part: “Well, if you accept that giving an additional 10 years of life to one person is good, what about giving 5 years of life to 2? And then giving 3 yr 4 mo to 3?…” and walk down to 1 millisecond for 315 billion people by induction, stating that at each step that you can’t say that this particular step is where the 0 happens.

            And I will agree that I can’t say any particular step is where the breakpoint occurs. Different people will have different places where it’s true, based on who they are and where they are in life–an old man might not care much about an additional year, or he might want just 6 months to see the birth of a grandchild. A young person might want one more year pretty badly. These are all qualitative judgements, and not amenable to a mathematically-rigorous analysis. Take a deep breath and put down the slide rule.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @CatCube:

            I think in the dust specks formulation there is another issue as well which makes the aggregation question relatively moot. It’s that the dust speck is specifically prevented from having any follow on consequences. If this were not the case, choosing torture would be (relatively) easy (from an ignore the practicalities and treat it as strictly a thought experiment perspective), as the follow on effect would include death and maiming for untold trillions of people.

            To carry this through to the idea of “added life”, to make it strictly analogous, you have to assume that the added or subtracted life is not meaningful and has no follow on effects. The person won’t feel more or fulfilled in their life by the added/substracted time, no children will be conceived or fail to be conceived, etc.

            That last one is particularly pertinent, it seems to me. Given that many people affected, the extra millisecond is going to make the difference between some people being conceived and not, but the rules of the thought experiment specifically reject these kind of statistical reasonings.

            What is the advantage, roughly, of spending one more millisecond in an (essential) coma at the end of my life?

          • Adam says:

            Even experience has some lower resolution bound. Maybe it’s less than a millisecond. I don’t know. However long propagation delay is for neurotransmitters to cross the gap between axons.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            CatCube –

            Yes. According to your morality.

            Do you understand that other people have different ways of answering moral questions, and that their answers, while different from yours, aren’t obviously wrong simply because they are different from yours?

    • CatCube says:

      The problem with the whole “dust speck” thought experiment is that it assumes that every single thing can be quantified. It doesn’t admit rounding to zero–that is, that there can be qualitative differences between experiences, not merely quantitative.

      Seriously, name the last two times you got a dust speck in your eye. You forget about it within 10 minutes of blinking it out of your eye. It has no lasting effect on you. The negative effect is 0. 3↑↑↑3*0=0. No matter how big you make the exponent on the left, multiplying by 0 is still 0.

      To me, the whole thing is trying to sneak in the assumption that literally every experience can be explained with math. Which I guess can be attractive if you’re really good at math and want to reduce all of existence to your most comfortable domain. I’m not sure why the rest of us should go along with this, however.

      • Anonymous says:

        To me, the whole thing is trying to sneak in the assumption that literally every experience can be explained with math.

        That isn’t necessarily all that objectionable. The really questionable assumption is that utility is strictly linear with respect to certain easily obtainable metrics; i.e. that you can always use proportionality relations to meaningfully reason about moral dilemmas. Say, giving to 5000000 people one cent each is exactly as good as giving 50000 dollars to one person.

      • Alex says:

        It’s worse than that. That additional milisecond, if added to a life at its end will most likely be spent in, as per our host, “slow decay”. So to be charitable we have to assume we are talking quality adjusted life miliseconds here, whatever that might be.

    • Adam says:

      Unless you’re talking about unknowable follow-on effects, how could this possibly be so? Surely, every person reading this has had a dust speck in their eye at some point. My greatest experience of this is not even noticing it’s there until I attempt to focus my vision on the specific part of my field of view that is obscured by it. It’s like asking me about the hit to my utility from walking up a 2% incline. The fact that ground everywhere is not perfectly uniform and flat doesn’t even register as discomfort. Our legs and general motor propulsion systems are designed to deal with this. Our ancestors spent billions of years becoming habituated to non-uniform inclines. Likewise, our eyes are pretty heavily optimized for dealing with and removing single specks of dust. I would assume that many, many more specks of dust get into my eyes than I ever consciously notice.

      Edit: And I see CatCube said pretty much what I said, but stealthed me while I was composing.

      • Outis says:

        A 2% incline is noticeable, especially if you’re on a bicycle.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          A 2% incline (followed by an immediate return to level) that lasts a millisecond in travel isn’t noticeable, I don’t think.

    • Diadem says:

      Honestly I never understood why preferring dust specks in the dust speck scenario is so hard to grok for many people.

      Two islands. Both have 10 people. On one island all 10 inhabitants live a life worth 100 utilitons. On the other 9 people have 110 utilitons while the 10th has only 10. Which island is better?

      Both islands have the same total and average utility. But it seems obvious to me that the first island is better. It is not just about average utility, but also about the standard deviation.

      Reasonable people can disagree on this. But surely the argument itself is easy enough to understand.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Its even simpler than that. On the first island you have 10 reasonably happy people. On the second island you have 9 happy people and 1 miserable one.

        Any moral/philosophical system would encourage it’s adherents to pick the second island over the first can be reasonably described as anti-cooperation or anti-humanist.

      • Adam says:

        I have definitely always felt like a weakness of much of utilitarian theory is that lumping all of the sentient experience in the universe into a single aggregate measure is a terrible way of describing a distribution.

      • Alejandro says:

        I support specks over torture myself, but I find the argument for torture much stronger than what you present, and am not sure really how to refute it. It is best presented using ranked preferences, not “utilons” (which are abstractions defined only as summaries of ranked preferences, and inevitably create confusion when reified).

        The case for torture proceeds by asking a series of questions like:

        – What do you prefer: 1 person being tortured for 50 years (call it option AA), or 100 people being tortured for 50 years minus one second (AB)?

        – What do you prefer: AB, or 10,000 people being tortured for 50 years minus 2 seconds (AC)?

        After many such questions, in which one presumably always answers the former option, one has established that AA is preferable to AZ, where AZ = “a Vast Number of people being tortured for one second.” If any step is doubtful, just increase the multiplier in the number of people for that step.

        Then, ask:

        – What do you prefer, AZ or 100 times more people suffering very very slightly less painful torture for the same time (BZ)? Presumably AZ is better than BZ (if doubtful, again, increase the multiplier)

        – What do you prefer: BZ or 100 times more people suffering a very slightly lesser pain?

        … and so on until you end up concluding that AA is better ZZ, which is a Very Vast Number of people suffering an extremely slight pain for one second – i.e. dust specks.

        The only ways out I can think of are denying that preferences have to be transitive, or denying that pains suffered by different people can be meaningfully compared and traded off. The first seems an obvious principle of rationality, and the second, while more appealing, implies that one or more of the steps must be rejected, even though all are extremely intuitive. That said, I cannot bring myself to accept torture regardless of this argument; I just don’t know which part to reject.

        • Skivverus says:

          The analogy that comes to mind is one about boiling frogs.
          The threshold need not be a thin, clear line.

        • radmonger says:

          > denying that preferences have to be transitive

          Plenty of entirely rationally-understandable mathematical constructs (e.g. matrices) don’t obey transitive laws.

          Note also that ‘number of people potentially affected by a decision’ is not an indefinitely scalable quantity, because of speed of light limits.

        • nm. k. m. says:

          Some alternative ways to reject torture is reject some other implicit assumptions.

          For example, one possibility.

          1. Any ethics hypothetical is outright meaningless if not grounded in reality. This is because morality, in the end, is a bunch of suitably successful heuristics for communal apes too smart for their own good, and nothing more. We don’t have any real ability to influence 3^3^3 dust specks: we are stepping outside the meaningful domain of the model.

          However, if we assume that someone really had that power and is asking you to choose, well the morally culpable party would that particular someone asking the question. The ethically best response: remove that particular someone with haste, for the benefit of no dust specks and no torture.

          If the argument is just a ‘toy version’ or attempted distillation of some real problem with real trade-off, you’d better present the real problem, because the distillation has obviously lost some of its meaningful information present in the original (like, why the trade-off is necessary and we can’t ignore the question or remove the person demanding you to make such a silly choice).

          Another viewpoint. 2. Any assumption that rationality can be meaningfully applied to morality and ethics is false. This is another viewpoint to the fact that morality is a bunch of suitably successful heuristics for communal apes that are not rational… but in the end, this is the same argument (1), really. The thing called ‘ethics’ is model that breaks down easily if try to reason about it with convoluted hypotheticals.

          • Jiro says:

            If the argument is just a ‘toy version’ or attempted distillation of some real problem with real trade-off, you’d better present the real problem, because the distillation has obviously lost some of its meaningful information present in the original

            I don’t think that gets to why we use hypotheticals in the first place. In a real situation with a tradeoff between two principles, it’s possible to arbitrarily pick one principle or another depending on what you want the result to be. In a hypothetical which is designed to only use one principle, this is much harder.

          • nm. k. m. says:

            I don’t think that gets to why we use hypotheticals in the first place. In a real situation with a tradeoff between two principles, it’s possible to arbitrarily pick one principle or another depending on what you want the result to be. In a hypothetical which is designed to only use one principle, this is much harder.

            Ah, but that is sort of my point here: attempts to answer such hypotheticals will produce meaningless or even contradictory results, because ethics isn’t designed [1] to stand a rigorous inspection one principle at a time. In any real application, on the other hand, there are trade-offs present, so I’m wondering what is meant to be achieved by studying dust-speckles then.

            But I do question whether anyone who opts for ‘torture’, and is willing to apply their ethical system to real life instead of seriously questioning the logic that produced such an answer, is a suitable person to do any real ethical decisions. If one is willing to accept torture of one person for a large number of dust speckles, there are many related ethical problems that do have real life relevance, and any answer of ‘dust speckles’ will have serious problems there.

            Is torturing suspects moral good if it means less slight inconveniences for millions of other citizens, majority of whom won’t ever end up as suspects? Even more immediate, what about torture and murder of anyone maybe involved with drugs without any procedure, as is the currently advocated policy by the reigning president of the Philippines?
            This is just arguing about size and number of dust speckles needed to outweigh torture. Often, “expected value of dust speckles”, even. The easiest and foolproof way to not to terribly fail in morality is to find oneself a ethical system or principles or whatever-you-call-it that always rejects torture.

            [1] figure of speech, not assuming any particular designer here.

      • alaska3636 says:

        I think your math is wrong. Or my utilitometer has malfunctioned.

  15. Guy says:

    Hey, people-who-are-or-have-been-on-SSRIs: what’s emotional blunting like?

    I ask because … well.

    I’m pretty stoical, in the sterotypical sense. I try to not react to things when they happen, for most values of thing. Or at least, to react in the most minimal way possible. A considered response, a small grin, a sad shake of the head, whatever. And, ideally, I feel exactly as much emotion as I express. This isn’t always true, but I definitely like it better when it is. I’ve experienced emotions that swing harder, sometimes. It’s a very unsettling experience when I’m aware of it, even when the emotions are positive*. It’s an enormous reminder that, at least at the time of the experience, I’m not in control of myself. Which is a pretty fundamental desire for me, as a transhumanist and also a human. Not experience emotions as these giant, all-encompassing waves of FEELS also let me appreciate the subtler distinctions between different kinds of emotions. Sometimes I want to enjoy something the way I enjoy Axiom of Choice: a sad, cathartic story with a deep, deep fall followed by a rise back up to ok-ness. Sometimes I want to enjoy something the way I enjoyed House of Suns the first time I read it: a damn fun ride, even if it didn’t have a ton of depth. Sometimes I want to puzzle out all the hidden (or imaginary) secrets in some work. All of these are different kinds of enjoyment, but I wouldn’t want to say just that because often people don’t cleanly separate enjoyment from happiness (which itself is a distinct set of several emotions, as I experience it/them).

    Other people I encounter seem to feel things way more strongly than I do, which (sort of) sounds approximately like Scott’s description of emotional blunting (you may want to Ctrl-F for the term there). It also seems to be the exact opposite of Ozy’s description of the extremes of emotion that (can) come with being borderline (which for some reason I am totally unable to find at the moment)**, which Ozy said was something they value a great deal about being borderline and which I found horrifying to contemplate. “The opposite of wild mood swings is not obviously something to be described as “emotional blunting”, but coupled with the first thing it sounds sort of right. Which leads me to wonder: is emotional blunting a side effect would consider a benefit? Are normal-human-emotions a super power I would rather do without? Am I just making this up because it sounds kind of right and lets me label what feels like an important part of myself?

    So yeah. What is actual, definitely-from-drugs-or-something emotional blunting like? Does anyone prefer it to the alternative (perhaps “if only it didn’t come with these other non-emotional-blunting things”)?

    * The best example of a positive emotion that needs to be limited for me to enjoy it is humor: I hate laughing involuntarily, especially at jokes I dislike aesthetically. The thought that always follows is “‘You aren’t who you thought you were; you’re just watching someone else from the inside.”

    ** Actually, this might have been a completely different blogger describing their desire to keep the “symptoms” of an entirely separate diagnosis, and I just found it off of ToT.

    • Psycicle says:

      Sadly, I can’t help with describing emotional blunting, but I can describe drug-induced emotional amplification.

      I’d say that emotional amplification is definitely a worthwhile thing and I’d be sad if you rejected it CONDITIONAL ON IT BEING POSITIVE.

      Given my life situation earlier, just doing across-the-board emotional amplification would have been a terrible idea. Being able to go kind-of-numb when you are going through rough patches is a very useful skill to have, so I’d say that the virtues (or lack thereof) of emotional blunting depend heavily on where you are in life. There are some times where you just can’t afford to feel despair over a life situation.

      Also, I’d separate out the questions “is emotional blunting from human mean to my current state a good thing?” and “is further emotional blunting from my current state to SSRI-land a good thing?”

      Also, I suspect you are somewhat overestimating the normal default range of emotions. The vast majority of my day is spent in neutral, with a bunch of subtle emotions noticeable only by mindfulness. Actual strong emotions maybe only show up 3-4 times in a day.

      But strong emotions can actually be quite nice, they just require a rather different approach, which makes them feel scary to some people. Compare sailing on a calm sea to rafting down rapids. The latter is a whole lot more fun, but you don’t have unlimited control over where you are going. You have to pick when to row, and where. Similarly, strong emotions are best handled by figuring out what conditions cause or dissipate them, and trying to structure your circumstances to lead into the ones you want, and otherwise going with the flow. Since your conscious mind is only in partial control, a much heavier focus on shifting your mental position is required, instead of just going “damn the currents, I’ll row where I want”.

      That was a bunch of miscellaneous thoughts in no particular order, which is also very anecdotal, that didn’t really answer your question. Sorry.

      “Is emotional blunting a side effect [?] would consider a benefit?”
      Well, you might, and I would if I was in a tough life situation, but overall, I’d actually prefer stronger emotions.

      “Are normal-human-emotions a super power I would rather do without?”
      You know your own mind better than I do. From your questioning, I think the answer is yes.

      “Am I just making this up because it sounds kind of right and lets me label what feels like an important part of myself?”
      Well, if you feel it’s an important part of yourself, keep it, I don’t think you are making it up with respect to you, but I suspect that many other people, if given the opportunity to dial down their emotions to your level, would reject the offer.

      “What is actual, definitely-from-drugs-or-something emotional blunting like?”
      Actual, definitely-from-drugs emotional amplification is like…. well, strong emotions. Looking at the clouds or kicking leaves causes a little burst of delight, a mildly sad song causes you to actually start crying, you are really excited to see what the day brings next, things which would normally elicit a chuckle can literally floor you with laughter, and you can literally feel your mood change when you walk into a place with different lighting conditions. It was great.

      “Does anyone prefer it to the alternative?”
      Oh hell yes, I’d definitely take a permanent-emotional-amplification pill, conditional on two things. One, that the rest of my life would be good or neutral (because emotional amplification in bad circumstances is really terrible). The second condition is that it be less powerful than the time I described above, because I suspect that’s enough emotions to moderately impede the normal tasks of life. Really what I want is the ability to dial emotional strength up or down as needed.

    • Jill says:

      The normal range of emotions can help you to grow by letting you know who you are, and giving you challenges to deal with. If you blunt those, you make yourself stupid– emotionally retarded, essentially. If you have just a bit more than you can figure out how to cope with, you might benefit from psychotherapy with a competent therapist.

      Overwhelming emotions, that keep you from being able to cope at all, even when you put effort into it and/or get help with it from a competent therapist, are generally undesirable, and those are what people often take SSRIs for.

      >The best example of a positive emotion that needs to be >limited for;me to enjoy it is humor: I hate laughing involuntarily, especially at >jokes I dislike aesthetically. The thought that always follows is “‘You >aren’t who you thought you were; you’re just watching someone else >from the inside.”

      So what if you ARE just watching someone else from the inside? Why is it so important to be who you think you are, rather than giving yourself space to discover who you actually are?

      We live in a strange culture, where people believe that the body is just a platform that the brain rides around on. In reality, your body and your emotions can be important. They can give you a lot of information that can help you to grow to your highest potential.

      • Guy says:

        Because I want to be a certain kind of person, not just any kind of person? Trying to be that (or, well, any particular) kind of person requires a certain degree of self knowledge, and being abruptly made aware of the imperfection of that self-knowledge is kind of disturbing. The distance between myself and who I want to be appears to increase abruptly. Then it goes back down as I regain control.

    • Xeno of Citium says:

      I had, essentially, the *opposite* experience: all emotions were dulled when depressed, like I was permanently bored. Being on SSRIs made me able to experience the full range of emotions again. Having a full emotional range is better, and I say that completely without reservation. If SSRIs had ended up emotionally blunting me, I would have gone off them.

      People do have different levels of emotion – at least, not having directly access to anyone else’s mind, I’m pretty sure they do. Even when not depressed I tend to be more reserved than average, and being a bit reserved isn’t bad in and of itself. You very well may be in the normal (non-pathological) range of human emotions, just on the lower end of it.

  16. Scott’s famous essay Radicalizing the Romanceless opens with the sketch of a patient “from the worst part of Detroit.”

    Maybe that phrasing is part of fuzzing over details and identities of patients, but anyone deeply familiar with Detroit would be baffled by that reference. It implies that there is some recognized section or subset of Detroit which is worse to live in, or be from, than all the rest of Detroit.

    There is really no such thing.

    Ask ten Detroiters where “the worst part of Detroit” is, and if they come up with an answer at all, they might name ten different locations.

    If you point to a specific intersection or census tract or police precinct that seems pretty awful, I can point to an equally bad one in a different part of Detroit.

    A detailed map of crime rates or housing conditions or health statistics would show some variation, but no hard kernel of “here is the section which is worst off in every way.”

    I wrote about this in my own blog:

    In most large cities, like Chicago or New York or Boston or Philadelphia, you can point to almost any square inch of the city’s territory and find that it’s located within a widely understood neighborhood with a name and an identity.

    In effect, those cities are tiled with neighborhood areas — not just city planner jargon or realtor hype, but names that local residents know and use.

    Detroit has no such tiling. Essentially, Detroit doesn’t have neighborhoods.

    Sure, there are isolated little pockets that have a known identity, like Greektown, or Indian Village, or Boston-Edison, or Palmer Woods, or Rosedale Park. But almost all of the city is just undifferentiated Detroit.

    Except for east side vs. west side, there is no generally understood consensus way to divide up the city into meaningful territories. This is one of the great weaknesses of Detroit, because it undermines the kind of attachment to place that is necessary for a neighborhood to thrive.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      “The worst part of Detroit” is sketching a picture for you, not specifying a location.

      • “The worst part of Detroit” is sketching a picture for you, not specifying a location.

        “The worst part of” most large cities does usually specify a known territory. When that kind of thing is lacking, it just sounds silly.

        “He was from the worst part of Nebraska, and his wife was from the worst part of Utah.”

        “She paid the bill from the worst part of her checking account.”

        “We’re sending a probe to the worst part of the Solar System.”

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Again, it’s sketching a picture, not specifying a location. Remember that the author is changing key details about people so as not to compromise anybody’s identity – so the person could just as well have been from Flint, or a bizarrely horrible area of Grand Rapids I somehow never encountered. It doesn’t matter.

          What matters is that you understand that the person was from an area which was distinctly worse than the area you’d imagine if he said that they were merely from a bad part of town; he stacked connotation there, the worst part of what a city that is at least in the running for the title of worst city in the US.

          This complaint is ridiculous on two fronts. First, you miss that it’s an artistic description, not a literal one. Second, you miss that the description is false in any case, and any referent to any real city would likewise be false.

          • Outis says:

            Larry already showed he understood Scott was “painting a picture” in the second paragraph of his comment. I think he has provided valuable information about Detroit. I don’t see the point of pushing back.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            I push back for the same reason I push back against people who e-mail sci-fi authors to say “You had the Silcrest Falcon make the journey to Euds in twenty eight wens, when, according to Chapter 7 of ‘The Murtau Incident’, the maximum velocity of a Silcrest Vessel is 17 shites, and that only when it is in perfect condition. It would take the Silcrest Falcon at least 28.7 wens to make that trip.”

            Which is to say – no, it’s not valuable information. He’s basically complaining that he doesn’t know where exactly Scott is talking about, which, for multiple reasons, doesn’t actually matter. It misses the point.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            The valuable information has no relation to what Scott said, the latter is just a springboard for an explanation of how, unlike other cities, Detroid is a shithole all around, rather than having its shittiness clustered in one area.

            Whether you think that’s interesting or not is another subject. Personally, I do. And of course you’re free to criticize his commentary as innacurate, but it’d be a detriment to lose track of what he wanted to say just because he may have not put it as clear as he could’ve.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            …y’know, I am not a fan of Detroit, but I’d also characterize that as being quite false.

            There are areas that are distinctly worse than others. Downtown Detroit is okay. The neighborhoods around the bridge to Canada look like they were bombed, repeatedly; indeed, there were a few areas I went through which forced me to update my internal picture of how terrible a neighborhood could look. But there are rich neighborhoods somewhere – I never had cause to go to them, but the native Michiganders talked about them. There are decent beaches in the area, including one which is awesome for windsurfing.

            Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to live there, for the winters if for no other reason. But it’s inaccurate to characterize it as a uniformly terrible place.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Well, I’ve never been to Detroit, and my mental image of it (urban hellscape) comes solely from exported American pop culture. Also, I exaggerat a lot for comedy purposes.

          • There are areas that are distinctly worse than others. Downtown Detroit is okay.

            Downtown Detroit is small compared to the downtowns of similarly sized cities, with only a small percentage of the region’s employment, and until recently fewer than a thousand residents.

            The neighborhoods around the bridge to Canada look like they were bombed, repeatedly; indeed, there were a few areas I went through which forced me to update my internal picture of how terrible a neighborhood could look.

            That’s southwest Detroit, which until a few years ago would have been pointed to as one of the more hopeful areas. It’s the center of Detroit’s small Arabic and Hispanic communities; near 23rd and Bagley are the locally famed Mexican restaurants. Back when Detroit was the “murder capital”, this was the least dangerous area, especially for outsiders.

            The portion closest to the bridge does have the worst air quality in Michigan, and Zug Island is notoriously unsightly to boot. Delray, which used to be a separate village before it was annexed by Detroit, and was densely crowded with factory workers at its peak, barely exists at all any more, and a lot of those factories are in ruins now. What little is left is about to be wiped out by approaches and customs/toll plazas for the new bridge to Canada.

            But if you’re asking Detroiters what “the worst part” is, nobody would single out southwest Detroit.

            But there are rich neighborhoods somewhere – I never had cause to go to them, but the native Michiganders talked about them.

            Rich neighborhood? That’s Palmer Woods, which I mentioned above. Wikipedia says, “many of the wealthiest professionals in the City of Detroit live in Palmer Woods.”

            And Palmer Woods has just 289 houses. That’s probably well under 1,000 people. It’s about 2/10 of 1% of Detroit’s territory. And in terms of affluence, there is nothing else remotely comparable to it in the city of Detroit.

            In the suburbs, sure, there are a number of wealthy areas you could point to. But remember, there is a very sharp distinction between the city of Detroit and its surroundings, and the city limits are racial boundaries. The city has a deep, deep stigma. Many suburban residents would become angry if you mentioned their homes as being in “Detroit”.

            There are decent beaches in the area, including one which is awesome for windsurfing.

            There’s a small beach on Belle Isle, on the Detroit River, with a view of the downtown skyline. I doubt many people would want to go swimming there, though. Any other beaches you have in mind are in the suburbs.

        • Randy M says:

          The probe is following us, sir.

    • The Nybbler says:

      To add to what others said, the term “the worst part of”… is painting a picture for those with a far view. It doesn’t make sense for those with a near view interpreting it literally. This isn’t unique to Detroit; you could talk about the “worst part of NYC” in the 1980s, but did you mean Harlem (and which part?) or Alphabet City or Hell’s Kitchen or the South Bronx or Bed-Stuy or …? Same for Philadelphia; the “Badlands” which became semi-famous in the early 2000s are part of North Philadelphia, but a local might have considered parts of Southwest or West Philadelphia to be just as bad.

      Did Detroit have neighborhoods before the riots and depopulation?

      • The reason the description is jarring is that it’s so meaningless. With some small exceptions, ALL of Detroit is pretty bleak.

        It’s like saying “the LEAST valuable Mercury dime”, when (due to lower-value coins having being melted down for their silver) all but the scarcest mint years are now worth exactly the same. You wouldn’t want to say something like that in front of a coin collector.

        Did Detroit have neighborhoods before the riots and depopulation?

        The rapid citywide population change, in an atmosphere of fear and hostility, probably erased a lot of community memory about neighborhoods. But some aspects of Detroit that weakened neighborhood identity were in place many years earlier.

        For example, for many decades until recently, the entire city council was elected at large, so that the council consisted of citywide media figures rather than neighborhood leaders. A neighborhood base in Detroit was worth nothing in city politics. The entire delegation of 21 state representatives from Detroit were also elected citywide.

        Also, most of Detroit was developed very rapidly in 1910-30, rather than the more gradual process seen in most places. Transportation and commercial development proceeded continuously along the wide radial avenues, rather than in neighborhood clusters. Probably this helped originate the common Detroit habit of mentioning one’s location with reference to an intersection.

        Again, it’s sketching a picture, not specifying a location. Remember that the author is changing key details about people so as not to compromise anybody’s identity – so the person could just as well have been from Flint, or a bizarrely horrible area of Grand Rapids I somehow never encountered. It doesn’t matter.

        Why not “he came from a rough urban environment”? If he’s masking the man’s identity anyway, why be meaninglessly specific?

        I’m certainly not demanding to know, or trying to figure out, where this anonymous guy came from. Rather, to someone who’s lived there, that phrase comes across as a loud signal of not understanding Detroit. Almost involuntarily, I roll my eyes when I see it.

    • S_J says:

      I’ve got a couple of candidates in mind for “worst part of Detroit.”

      Mind you, one of those candidates was very different a decade ago. (Before some old acquaintances settled in that area and began attempting a neighborhood-rebuilding through urban farming.)

      I think Detroit used to have neighborhoods. Some of them survive in vestigial form. But too many people moved to the ‘burbs to keep the neighborhood-atmosphere alive.

      There used to be a Corktown. Poletown was clustered around Hamtramck, the suburb that is now an enclave.

      The last remnant of Greektown is a casino by that name. Rosedale Park was probably larger, or at least had better-define edges, when more people cared about who was inside it, vs. outside of it.

      Old Redford has some distinctiveness in its look, but I don’t know if the region is still a distinctive neighborhood.

      In all of these cases, I think that the rapid move of populations broke the cultural continuity of the neighborhoods.

  17. Sandy says:

    So Hillary is apparently going to warn America about the alt-right today. Really. That’s gotta be really stupid, right? They’re a tiny internet fringe group and at best their largest avenue of cultural influence is Breitbart. This sounds like a 20-something campaign worker who spends too much time on Vox has persuaded Hillary that they are a major threat to the free world.

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      Hillary doesn’t have to be stupid to do that, just a little cynical. If she exaggerates the threat of weird political outgroups, that might increase voter turnout among the people who are most likely to vote for her, conditional on actually bothering to vote.

    • cassander says:

      Blue tribe’s gonna be blue tribe. Those witches aren’t going to burn themselves.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      I mean, it depends if you use alt right to mean “those ethnocentric fascist guys with really good memes” or the more popular “anyone on the internet who is not aligned with the SJ left” (or the classic “Talk about one while describing the other”). The former would be silly, the latter is merely “Outgroup boo”, which I assume is standard in elections.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The way the alt-right is defined, it’s NOT a tiny internet fringe group. It includes not just actual neo-Nazis and /pol/, but Trump supporters, Libertarians, ants, sometimes Tea Partiers, etc. Basically everyone to the right of Hillary (or who can be painted that way, as with the ants) who isn’t the establishment wing of the GOP. I swear they’d try to shoehorn in Bernie supporters if it wasn’t manifestly obvious that that’s silly even to them.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        >I swear they’d try to shoehorn in Bernie supporters if it wasn’t manifestly obvious that that’s silly even to them.

        >Implying they didn’t try

        What do you think the “Bernie Bro” was supposed to be?

        >Implying Wikileaks isn’t alt-right now

    • Lumifer says:

      Hillary is going to do PR for alt-right?? X -)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      It makes a lot of sense from a policy point of view.

      Cyberbullying / harassment, pedophilia and terrorism are probably the three justifications for removing internet anonymity which have the best optics. And you can attach two of the three onto the Alt-Right by simple word association, pedophilia too if you play up the -chan angle.

      Establishing the Alt-Right as a Cishet White Male terror group harassing women and delivering cheese pizza makes them an ideal boogeyman in any future attempts to regulate the internet.

      • Lumifer says:

        Cyberbullying / harassment, pedophilia and terrorism are probably the three justifications for removing internet anonymity

        The traditional three boogiepersons are pedophiles, terrorists, and drug dealers — at least since the 90s. They are reliably trotted out any time government wants something.

        • cassander says:

          I’m trying to come up with an exception to this rule, and am having a really hard time doing so.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      They’re a tiny internet fringe group and at best their largest avenue of cultural influence is Breitbart.

      So, who just took over as chief executive of Trump’s campaign? You basically provided your own refutation.

      Also, I’ll be surprised if she uses the term “alt-right”.

      • Dan T. says:

        A TV I glanced at briefly in a doctor’s office waiting room this morning had a news channel on (CNN? MSNBC? Fox? Don’t remember) and appeared to be discussing this, and the on-screen text mentioned “Alt-Right”. So I don’t know if Hillary will use that term herself, but certainly commentators are.

        Mentioning these groups is something that could well backfire on her; probably a fairly small proportion of the general public is at all familiar with “alt-right” as a movement beyond Trump and a few extremist kooks, so it might just make more people more interested; the fact that Hillary hates them might cause some to want to support them, saying things like “It’s about time somebody showed up to oppose that PC garbage.”

      • Jill says:

        See my comments a bit below here. 2 recent Vox articles, one on the Breitbart guy who is chief executive of Trump’s campaign, and one on the Alt Right, citing one of Scott’s articles, explaining the Alt Right to people who never heard of it.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Did you miss Trump appointing the Breitbart chairman chief executive of his campaign? Fringe group or not, it looks like the alt-right, so-called, would have a lot of influence on a Trump presidency.

      It’s probably a good strategic move, too, although it’s hard to know for sure. If Trump wants to tie himself to the tabloid which publishes hard-hitting headlines like:

      –“Would you rather your child have feminism or cancer?”
      –“Tr-nnies whine about hilarious Bruce Jenner billboard”
      –“Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy”
      –“The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: women should log off”
      –“Climate expert: Marxists, global warming extremists control Vatican”

      …it would be crazy for Hillary’s campaign not to try to capitalize on it.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Huh ok. Looks like t r a n n y is actually on the banned word list, since my test comment didn’t go through.

        I thought that was weird self-censorship but apparently it’s an actual rule. Kind of surprised by that.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          I sympathize, I spent about an hour this morning trying to figure out why my comment wasn’t showing up.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Climate expert: Marxists, global warming extremists control Vatican”

        Oh, thank God! Somebody’s in control!

        (If you think the Pope controls the Vatican, brother, have I got news for you).

    • Vaniver says:

      Imagine the Catholic church worried about a tiny letter-writing fringe group of atheists in centuries gone by.

    • Diadem says:

      The size of the group is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Trump is a member of this group, or at least sympathetic to them (he put their most famous member in charge of his campaign). That makes their views relevant, because they tell us more about Trump.

      If Hillary were a member of some tiny sect with weird ideas, I would also want to know. It doesn’t matter how tiny the sect would be.

      Anyway, from what I saw of Hillary’s speech she’s playing this very smart. She’s basically trying to drive a wedge between Trump and the mainstream Republican party. If successful, Trump is done for.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s important to remember that there is no group called the “alt-right”. Not even a loosely bound one. It’s not a movement; it’s just a label. So when Trump puts a Breitbart exec in charge of his campaign, it tells you something about Trump’s relationship to Breitbart, but not about Trump’s relationship to “the alt-right”.

        Of course, most people aren’t going to realize that and so the message which gets through is just going to be that Hillary is calling Trump a Nazi again.

        She’s basically trying to drive a wedge between Trump and the mainstream Republican party. If successful, Trump is done for.

        That wedge is already there, but Hillary can’t drive it this way; she’s instead making herself the common enemy.

        • hlynkacg says:

          That wedge is already there, but Hillary can’t drive it this way; she’s instead making herself the common enemy.

          Exactly! if Democrats really wanted to ruin trump they’d be courting the “NeverTrump” camp of the GOP instead of treating them as the enemy.

          I’m pretty sure that if Clinton offered moderate Republicans a USSC pick in exchange for “getting out of the way” most would leap at that deal. After all the primary objection to Clinton is her corruption and the continued weaponization of state organs. Giving the conservatives a judge or two would go a long way towards allaying those concerns. Unfortunately most Democrats seem to view “compromise” as a one way street.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          It’s funny how far out of touch with reality these speculations are. Obama did offer a compromise pick to fill Scalia’s slot on the Supreme Court: Merrick Garland. But Garland has been in limbo for five months now, because senatorial republicans have zero interest in any sort of compromise.

          Hillary has a substantial lead in the polls. She has no reason to court NeverTrump conservatives, and no reason to start offering compromises. The best course of action for her is probably to avoid making waves, grab a bag of popcorn, and watch while the GOP implodes. Emerging occasionally to point out that Trump represents a mob of brain-damaged racists and wingnuts probably won’t hurt her, though.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Garland just turns into Chaos, given Time. We should never compromise with Fiends.

          • Randy M says:

            Orphan, I don’t give a Rat’s Tail for your incoherent argument.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I think you have misjudged poor Merrick. Clearly, his resentment for the Senate has resulted in a split personality, and we have to help him overpower his demonic alter-ego Yami Merrick so that he can fulfill his destiny of taking a seat on the Supreme Court.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If anyone is “out of touch” it’s whomever thought that nominating Clinton’s Deputy AG to the USSC would represent a “compromise” with conservatives. If that was the compromise, who was their first choice?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Here is what Orrin Hatch, the second highest-ranking republican in the Senate, had to say about Garland:

            “The President told me several times he’s going to name a moderate [to fill the court vacancy], but I don’t believe him,” Hatch told us.

            “[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” he told us, referring to the more centrist chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia who was considered and passed over for the two previous high court vacancies.

            But, Hatch quickly added, “He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

            Senator Orrin Hatch said he had known the federal appeals court judge, seen as a leading contender for the Supreme Court, for years and that he would be “a consensus nominee.”

            Asked if Garland would win Senate confirmation with bipartisan support, Hatch told Reuters, “No question.”

            “I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of (Senate) votes. And I will do my best to help him get them,” added Hatch, a former Judiciary Committee chairman.

            It’s cute that you think being appointed deputy attorney general by Bill Clinton shows that he’s really liberal or something.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Did you read the previous post?

            the primary objection to Clinton is her corruption and the continued weaponization of state organs. Giving the conservatives a judge or two would go a long way towards allaying those concerns.

            If your objective is to convince conservatives that they have nothing to fear from Clinton 2.0, nominating Clinton 1.0’s deputy AG is a really poor choice.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Yeah, I don’t care about your weird vendetta against Clinton. I was just pointing out that your claim that Democrats have not shown any interest in compromising on Supreme Court nominees is ludicrous. Only democrats have been willing to compromise on filling Scalia’s seat.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If you genuinely can’t understand why US conservatives have such a low opinion of the Clintons there are far more serious barriers to cooperation than who gets nominated to the Supreme Court.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If you were genuinely interested in cooperation, you would be writing your senators to push for a vote on Garland, not insisting that Clinton kowtow to your whims when she has a commanding lead in the race. (Do you also randomly demand that republican candidates make capitulations to the democrats when they’re primed to win an election?) You’re not interested in “cooperation” or “compromise,” though, you’re interested in smearing Clinton.

          • hlynkacg says:

            First off, what would a vote on Garland gain? If Clinton is going to win anyway why would I want to split the party? The obvious play from my end is to do my best to keep the opposition party unified.

            Secondly, who said anything a bout kowtowing? I simply responded to the previous comment by observing that if Democrats really wanted to “Drive a wedge between Trump and Mainstream Republicans” they need to stop treating Mainstream Republicans as the enemy and actually court them.

          • “First off, what would a vote on Garland gain? If Clinton is going to win anyway why would I want to split the party?”

            If Clinton is going to win anyway, voting in Garland fills the seat and so prevents Clinton from filling it with someone you consider worse. Especially important if Clinton might get a Senate majority.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Randy M –

            I’m ashamed to admit I debated explaining the joke to you. It took me way, way too long to realize you’d then have to explain the joke to me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            David, if Obama doesn’t withdraw the nomination, the Senate can confirm Garland in the lame duck session. And I’m really not seeing a lot of love between Obama and Clinton, so he may well allow it.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David Friedman
            If Clinton is going to win anyway, voting in Garland fills the seat and so prevents Clinton from filling it with someone you consider worse.

            If Clinton loses in November. they can wait a couple of months till President Trump nominates someone they like better. If she wins, they have a couple of months to approve Garland. So waiting till November is their better choice; the voters who will be annoyed by this, are quite annoyed with them already.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            First off, what would a vote on Garland gain? If Clinton is going to win anyway why would I want to split the party? The obvious play from my end is to do my best to keep the opposition party unified.

            Think about what you just said in light of your earlier remark that “unfortunately most Democrats seem to view “compromise” as a one way street.” First, you criticize democrats for being unwilling to compromise. Then, when it’s pointed out to you that democrats have offered a compromise, you reject it on the grounds that it doesn’t do enough to advance your party’s agenda!

            I simply responded to the previous comment by observing that if Democrats really wanted to “Drive a wedge between Trump and Mainstream Republicans” they need to stop treating Mainstream Republicans as the enemy and actually court them.

            Hillary could also court republicans by adopting the GOP’s platform as her own. It’s not a realistic or reasonable demand, though. All she really has to do in order to corral in republican defectors is keep letting Trump be Trump.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ houseboatonstyxb

            That is essentially my take as well

            @ earthly knight

            do you really think Garland represents a compromise?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Garland represents someone that a broad group of Republican Senators said they were willing to accept … right up until he was nominated.

            Some of the Senate, like Mitch McConnel, are very up front that they oppose any Obama nomination, full stop. Scalia died in a gray area in the modern political calendar and McConnel is using it.

            If they vote to approve Garland in the lame duck, this really will be unprecedented. Frankly, I think Obama would need to withdraw the nomination unless Hillary publicly endorses Garland as her putative nominee.

            You can’t let the process become “I get two bites at the apple”. If Republicans say they are standing on a precedent of “no nominee too close to an election” then they must be made to abide by that precedent.

            Norms are extremely important in the functioning of systems. Abuse is corrosive to the system.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            do you really think Garland represents a compromise?

            Forget what I think, the republican senate leadership said exactly that.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ HBC
            Frankly, I think Obama would need to withdraw the nomination unless Hillary publicly endorses Garland as her putative nominee.

            Didn’t she do that, more or less, early on, saying that she didn’t want “daylight” between Obama and her on this?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyxb:
            I don’t think so, all she said was that she wasn’t going to question Obama’s strategy.

            Given that some Democrats are lobbying her to renominate Garland, I don’t think she has taken any definitive stance on what Obama should do post-election.

          • “If she wins, they have a couple of months to approve Garland.”

            You are assuming that, after she wins, Obama doesn’t withdraw the nomination of Garland on the grounds that it should be up to his successor to choose her nominee or replace Garland by someone less acceptable to Republicans on the grounds that they had their chance and refused to approve Garland.

            Especially likely if the Democrats substantially improve their situation in the Senate.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ HBC

            Here’s what I remember (from March 2016). The transcript is at this link, and the subject is Hillary’s plans re Garland.

            http://www.politicususa.com/2016/03/31/hillary-clinton-hammers-republicans-pretend-obama-president.html
            “I don’t want any daylight between me and President Obama. [….] So, I’m stickin’ with the President. The President’s prerogative, his Constitutional responsibility. And– that’s what I’m going to stand up for.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstxb:
            (Why the added b by the way?)

            That just means she will support the presidents decision, not that she prefers Garland and has committed to renominate him in the next congress.

            It’s an important distinction. She is merely pointing outthat the president is, in fact, the president and hasn’t received some constitutional status of “late in their term president”.

      • “he put their most famous member in charge of his campaign”

        Yarvin? For some reason I didn’t hear about that.

        “If Hillary were a member of some tiny sect with weird ideas…”

        Obama was a member of a church whose leader had some weird ideas.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Nitpicking for no reason and unreasonably.

          • “Their most famous member” meaning someone I had never heard of, despite a fair amount of discussion of the alt right here?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Breitbart.com was described by Bannon, when he was running it as “the platform for the alt-right”.

            Regardless of whether he is the “most famous” member of the alt-right he has championed the movement. Breitbart is a far larger platform than Yarvin ever had.

            It’s not as if Yarvin is even actually famous. Far more people had heard of Breitbart.com than alt-right, certainly before the speech. Bannon may actually be more famous than Yarvin.

            Trump tapped someone who champions alt-right causes and was the head of a fairly large and influential media organization. Snide asides in this case are hardly charitable.

          • BBA says:

            I’d heard of Breitbart but not Bannon. Andrew Breitbart might be considered an alt-right leader today if he hadn’t died four years ago. The only other people associated with the website I can think of are James O’Keefe (who doesn’t work there anymore) and Milo (lol are you kidding me?)

            So I’m with David, I’m not seeing how Bannon is the “most famous member” of the alt-right.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Problem is, there isn’t any “alt-right” movement. It’s like a “big tent”, only there’s no tent. Various groups self-describe or are described by others as “alt-right”, but they aren’t all actually related. What does Stormfront have in common with Milo Yiannopolis? How are the ants (who deny being “right” of any sort, but usually get lumped in) related to Yarvin?

            So when you say “Trump tapped someone who champions alt-right causes”, you aren’t really saying much, because “alt-right” causes aren’t coherent.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            As used by the left, “alt-right” is just a sneer word for anyone on the right who doesn’t roll over and beg.
            Anyone Trump hired would be called the leader of the alt-right in the same way that every single Republican candidate is called Hitler.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Jesus H. Christ on a stick.

            Bannon gave a self-appellation of alt-right champion.

            It doesn’t even matter whether you have heard of Bannon or whether he is/was well known to the general public. He was the executive chairman of Breitbart News which is very well known. It’s perfectly fair to both characterize him as prominent and an alt-right supporter.

            You guys are circling tribal wagons like mad. Nitpick after nitpick to avoid the obvious point.

            If I hired Cecile Richards (head of Planned Parenthood) and someone said I hired “the most famous pro-choice advocate in America” attacking Richards alleged fame would be obfuscation.

            You are blowing smoke into your own faces.

          • The Nybbler says:

            More like if there were four different groups all called or calling themselves “pro-choice”; maybe one was pro-choice on drugs, one on guns, one on suicide, and one on abortion; and when you hired the abortion person I tried to link you to the suicide group because after all they’re all “pro-choice”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            Bannon’s relative fame is still a distraction, whether there are 4 or 40 alt-rights.

            Again, she ascribed Bannon’s own views to him. Whether he is the first, second or twentieth most famous alt-righter is obfuscation.

          • John Schilling says:

            If I mention the Most Famous Anti-Smoking Advocate In History, you all know exactly who I’m talking about right?,

            For anything other than the very biggest organizations or belief systems, “most famous [X]” is ambiguous. Most famous living Christian, yeah, that’s the Pope. Most famous Scientologist (living or dead), is that L. Ron Hubbard or Tom Cruise? Most famous anti-smoking activist: Patrick Reynolds, C. Everett Koop, or That Other Guy?

            First, figure out how closely their fame is tied to [X], and how much it matters. Then communicate that to whoever you are debating this with, because you all are talking past each other here.

          • Jiro says:

            Again, she ascribed Bannon’s own views to him. Whether he is the first, second or twentieth most famous alt-righter is obfuscation.

            She ascribed his views to him for the purpose of implying that they are common for the group. Whether he really is the most popular does matter for this purpose; an unpopular figure can be expected to share many fewer beliefs with the group.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            That has nothing to do with what I was talking about.

            @John Schilling:
            I don’t think this really qualifies as talking past each other. I didn’t expect the bullshit wagon circle, but I don’t think it has anything to do with my point being unclear.

    • Gil says:

      I don’t see the benefit. “You’re a R-ist” was already implicit in the campaign. Calling attention to internet trolls benefits them more than her.

      I mean it might work, or it might backfire horribly and expose millions of people to some very dark ideas. People keep forgetting that we’re not living in the television age anymore.

  18. Jill says:

    Related to the Alt Right thing, Scott got mentioned in Vox again, for his clear explanation of what the Alt Right is:
    http://www.vox.com/2016/4/18/11434098/alt-right-explained

    I guess they update that same article at various times, since the Alt Right is getting more press now, since Trump is running for King, promising to do all kinds of things that could never be gotten through Congress, if one were to merely become the president.

  19. Jill says:

    Also, Vox has an article on Breitbart from yesterday

    Breitbart, explained: the conservative media giant that wants Trump to burn down the GOP

    http://www.vox.com/2016/8/24/12552602/breitbart-trump-explained

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Vox “explaining” Brietbart is like Stalin “explaining” Hitler.

      • Sandy says:

        I would have stuck the Stalin label on Salon, personally. Vox is more like….Lenin, maybe?

        • Urstoff says:

          Salon is Stalin, Vox is Lenin, and Slate is Lenin’s pet chihuahua

        • cassander says:

          Lenin was competent. Vox is Trotsky.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Vox is fairly competent at what they do, what liberal news outlet would you say is much better?

            Besides, no one but Jacobin can be Trotsky.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Not being snarky, WHTA’s comment sparked a genuine question. “what liberal news outlet would you say is much better?” suggests that there are some better conservative ones. What are they? (I get most of my news from the BBC).

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Well, I’d say there are better neutral ones (of course “neutral” only means “caters to my biases well enough for me not to notice).

            Golden standard is probably Reuters… I’d say The Economist, WP and NYT are at least as good as Vox.

            I also like Reason, but I’m very obviously biased on that front.

          • cassander says:

            >Vox is fairly competent at what they do, what liberal news outlet would you say is much better?

            The people at Vox think they’re Josh Lyman. They’re not. They are good at self promotion, that’s indisputable, but they’re bad at what they purport to actually be doing, which is be genuine wonks.

      • Lumifer says:

        Stalin and Hitler were buddies for a while : -/

      • Anonymous says:

        Is this comment a good example of the “smug style” in conservative (U.S.) politics?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Probably, but we learned it from watching you 😉

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Ehh. Maybe?

          If it is, it suggests conservativism’s “smug style” is superior to liberalism’s, because, while the argument is presented in an unnecessarily snarky way, it’s actually a good argument that is being presented (that maybe a group’s enemies aren’t the best resource to discover what the group believes); compare the example of “liberalism’s” smug style, which is nothing more than a sneer.

          • Anonymous says:

            compare the example of “liberalism’s” smug style, which is nothing more than a sneer.

            Some examples?

            Also,

            that maybe a group’s enemies aren’t the best resource to discover what the group believes

            are you sure this principle has been applied in equal measure to the right?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Some examples?

            There’s exactly one example, as suggested, and if you search the phrase in question, you’ll find it.

            are you sure this principle has been applied in equal measure to the right?

            The correct response to “You’re wrong” isn’t to point out that Newton was wrong, too.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Orphan Wilde

            Don’t feed the troll.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Orphan Wilde, which phrase should I search? “smug style liberalism”? Is there a particular example people have in mind when using this phrase?

            I’m not sure what your point is regarding Newton being wrong.

            @Hlynkgac, People pushing back against the double standard is trolling now, is it?

          • hlynkacg says:

            No.

            The timing and specific wording of your post indicates that you know exactly which post was being referred to. This, especially when considered in light of your posting history, makes it pretty clear that you’re more interested in “stiring the pot” than any sort of dialog.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Hlynkgak, No. While indeed I know “which post” in the sense that I saw the phrase used in the instance you point out, I do not know “which post” in the sense of Orphan Wilde’s comment. I am looking for examples of comments from liberals on SCC, for evidence that they are nothing more than sneers, not a link to a Rolling Stone article.

            (Or, maybe we are simply talking at cross-purposes. Either way, I’m not sure how my comment can be seen as trolling. )

          • anonymous says:

            On this site, all the sneering is from the right.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            So are you a right-wing troll trying to make the left-wing look bad, or just an incompetent left-wing person who doesn’t grasp how dumb the defensive partisan behavior of leftists here looks?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I wouldn’t say it was smug, more like outright hostility towards those media outlets.

          (Maybe once upon a time I would have felt a vague tribal desire to defend Brietbart but seriously, screw those hacks. They aren’t interested in the truth any more than Slate, Salon, et cetera are; they’re propagandists and they deserve no one’s time.)

      • Daniel Keys says:

        Vox thought Breitbart was a rational sociopath and tried to make deals accordingly, only to be unpleasantly surprised? Are you sure you haven’t confused Vox with Bill Clinton?

  20. Jill says:

    Curt Schilling Is the Next Donald Trump
    November looks bad for the white-guy grievance movement, but new filterless dimwits wait in the wings

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/curt-schilling-is-the-next-donald-trump-w435754

    • The Nybbler says:

      Yet another good example of “the smug style in American liberalism”.

      • Sandy says:

        Perhaps also a good example of Scott’s idea of what many white Blue Tribers mean when they talk about “white people” — not them personally, just those other whites.

        I think Sailer’s crowd dubs these groups “goodwhites” and “badwhites”, but maybe the lingo should be updated. Woke-Americans?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Consider me confused, Jill, that you can both casually toss this pointless article out there and also casually reference Scott’s alt-right deep dive.

      Certainly you are dedicated to your persona, most likely genuinely, but lord you make me twitch.

      • Jill says:

        What’s your issue, exactly with the article? Are you intentionally trying to disguise what you mean? An you say I “casually reference Scott’s alt-right deep dive.” What?

        I love these comments that exhibit masterful lack of clarity, as though someone considered numerous different phrasings of their comment, and then carefully settled on the phrasing that was the most unclear.

        Even if I wanted nothing more in this world, than to stop making you twitch, I could not make that happen, because I don’t understand what you are talking about.

        Clear human communication is indeed very difficult. But this is ricidulous.

    • Artificirius says:

      an’t-shut-up types like Schill are the reason white men will probably eventually have to be rounded up

      What sterling quality.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Stupid paranoid inbred redneck racist alt-right hicks, thinking we want to do to them exactly what we keep publicly saying we want to do to them.
        And worse, having the nerve to want to do something about it!

        • hlynkacg says:

          I was going to say something to the effect of “stop lowering the level of conversation” but then I read the article…

          Never mind.

  21. Outis says:

    Should we be more concerned about Hillary’s ties to Saudi Arabia? I have been expecting a Clinton win, and have been generally ok with it, but the Saudi connection really bothers me.

    Saudi Arabia is perhaps with country with the greatest negative influence on the world, even greater than America itself. Their promotion of retrograde Islam has sown the seeds of the evils that have afflicted us for the last 15 years. I want to see their influence shrink, yet the next US president is indebted to them to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. On top of that, Clinton’s Chief of Staff Abedin, the person who directly manages Hillary’s life (have you seen those emails?), grew up in Saudi Arabia.

    I don’t like it.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      It’s worrying, but I don’t see how she’ll make things worse than the status quo. We’re just getting through eight years of a President raised by a Muslim stepfather whose biological father was a Marxist-Leninist of Muslim origin, and states like the UK and Germany haven’t needed specific leaders indebted to the House of Saud for it to be illegal to criticize Islam there.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      I agree with you both about Saudi Arabia’s malign influence on the world and the potential for corruption created by the Clinton foundation. According to politifact, though, the Saudis donated about $10 million to build the Clinton library in the early 2000s, about the same amount they donated to the HW Bush library, and have given very little to the Clinton foundation since. It also strikes me as rather unlikely that Clinton would have any special sympathy for a repressive Islamic monarchy. Although perhaps even the appearance of a conflict of interest is objectionable.

      Where Abedin spent her childhood, in contrast, is a complete non-issue. Aside from the fact that it’s paranoid and xenophobic to judge someone on the basis of where they grew up, she’s also married to a zionist jew who has publicly denounced Saudi Arabia!

    • How concerned were you about both the Bushes ties to Saudi?

      • Gil says:

        The real impact of that relationship is hard to place a finger on. I’d say that relationship was disastrous but my evidence is circumstantial.

  22. Jordan D. says:

    In the Federal Courts, I give you – http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/08/16/15-10117.pdf

    This is the 9th Circuit case about the recent Congressional prohibition on spending any of the Justice Department’s appropriation on activities which would interfere with the laws states have passed dealing with marijuana. Here, the court finds that the prohibition means that the Federal Government cannot prosecute anyone for federal violations if they are in strict conformity with their state’s laws. I think that this is the best way to read that appropriations rider and:

    1) I agree that it’s important for Congress to have the power of the purse
    2) I’m not a fan of Federal marijuana regulation
    3) I think this is the sort of thing states really should determine for themselves

    But I’m still torn about this one. It strikes me as bizarre to create a patchwork where a substance is strictly illegal by default, but each jurisdiction can choose to make it more legal rather than the reverse, and I feel strongly that if Congress wants to change the law, it should change the law rather than circumspectly forcing the Executive Branch to stop enforcing parts of the law. More than that, it seems to offend traditional notions of justice to say that a thing is illegal but if you follow these procedures you won’t be prosecuted but we can change our minds about that tomorrow if we like and then prosecute you for what was illegal but unenforceable at the time you did it.

    This is technically notice that what you’re doing is illegal and you may be punished for it, but the government shouldn’t be able to say ‘But we won’t punish you for it. Unless we change our minds.’

    Or so it seems to me.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Eh. It’s a terrible way of implementing something that can’t quite be implemented properly yet.

      I don’t see it as problematic, just… incredibly far from optimal. But there’s also a rule: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      This is an improvement over the status quo. It’s not what we want, but it’s an improvement.

      • Jordan D. says:

        While I can agree that this is better than those prosecutions continuing, it strikes me as a miserable way to run a country and I hope it doesn’t spread.

      • Jiro says:

        It’s an improvement with respect to marijuana specifically, but it is also damage with respect to rule of law. It’s just harder to see the damage than it is to see the improvement, because that damage is distributed but the improvement is concentrated.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Maybe.

          From where I’m standing “Rule of Law” is a formality that us peons live by, which government ignores whenever it wants, and which it has granted blanket protection from to its agents via qualified immunity.

          Complaining about rule of law in this instance looks to me like complaining that the slag pile is rusting.

          • hlynkacg says:

            So what would you have us do?

            Throw up our hands and declare “the law has failed, you keep what you kill!”?

          • Fahundo says:

            Is the law the only thing keeping you from killing someone?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            hlynkacg –

            No. But insofar as complaining about Rule of Law violations go, that ship has sailed. Ours is a government of men and process, not laws.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Fahundo
            If the law can not be depended on, other arrangements will have to be made.

            @ Orphan Wilde
            Granted, but I will continue to argue that we are worse off for it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Hey everybody! Looks like Fahundo isn’t the marginal case!

        • It still looks like the rule of law to me, it’s just that the federal government has made a clear transfer of very specific powers to the states.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, in terms of “rule of law, not of men”, this is rule of law. It’s just a very Rube Goldberg way of going about it.

            Note that the US incandescent bulb ban, something you’d expect to be far less divisive and easier to handle with normal procedure, is in essentially the same condition (minus the state law involvement); it’s illegal to manufacture, sell, or import certain light bulbs, but the government is forbidden from spending any money to enforce this law.

    • BBA says:

      If Congress were to officially exempt state-authorized marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, they’d probably be putting the US in violation of the narcotics treaties we’ve forced on made with the rest of the world over the years. Illegal-but-unenforceable at least plausibly puts us in compliance.

      Also, the rest of the drug war still applies. A dispensary may be safe (this fiscal year) from getting busted by the DEA but it still has to do all its business in cash because no bank will open an account for it, and it pays income tax on its revenue, not its profits, thanks to 26 USC § 280E. Given how many dispensaries have opened in the last few years and how relatively few have been shut down by the feds, this is a fairly small shift in policy.

      As a side note, once something is an appropriations rider, it’s probably there for good. The ban on funding ACORN is still there, years after the organization collapsed.

    • Deiseach says:

      So what happens if you have your legal-in-state-A marijuana with you when you go to visit your aunt in state B where it is illegal? Can you be prosecuted in state B if the police stop you and arrest you?

      • Jordan D. says:

        Yes.

        But in that case you’re way more likely to be arrested and charged by state authorities rather than the Department of Justice. Federal drug prosecution for mere possession was rare anyway. This rider is really more to protect growers, manufacturers and purveyors.

  23. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Because it’s apparently already everywhere else, alma mater in the news: http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/univ-chicago-pushes-back-trigger-warnings-safe-spaces

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      I envy you so much. Mine just gets in the news for purges and mandatory BDSM lessons in freshman orientation.

    • Adam says:

      Mine gets in the news for working to bring about the robot apocalypse.

      • SUT says:

        Another TA, Jill Watson, offered some leeway…Here’s the weird bit: Jill, the gentler TA, isn’t actually a human being. “Jill” is an unfeeling artificial intelligence, guiding a student who had no idea this was the case.

        Hmm…has somebody trained a NN on Vox articles and NYT comments and produce a cylon among us?

  24. TheAnonymousNone says:

    I’m not sure if this is already known, but: the open threads, while largely not clogging up the recent posts sidebar of the homepage, still do dominate the recent posts on other pages (eg. About or search pages). I don’t know if this is intentional, but figured I should point it out.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s not intentional. Scott has expressed confusion in the past, so I’m not sure he’s aware of it now. But without knowing how to turn it off, I don’t think that there’s any point in drawing attention to it. (If Scott did know how to control it, I would conclude that it is intentional, since it is complicated.)

      • rmtodd says:

        I dunno about anybody else, but I for one find it convenient that when you’re on some one of the posts the Recent Posts section will typically have links to the most recent open threads, i.e., to the ones which are likely to still have some active commenting going on.

        If this admittedly probably unintentional behavior is to be changed, could we at least have the Recent Posts section list the N most recent open threads when one is on one of the Open Thread posts?

  25. My attempt to channel Scott’s style of writing; Meditation on the Nature of Walls

  26. Dr Dealgood says:

    Is there a term for situations where correcting an hyperbolic accusation actually makes the accused look worse?

    Like if someone accused of strangling ten puppies got up and explained that it was all a big misunderstanding. In reality, you see, he had actually only strangled four puppies and three kittens. Where you want to go “no, stop, that’s not actually helping your case” at each correction.

    This isn’t a reference to anything in particular, but it’s a situation I see come up somewhat frequently and I’m sure others have noticed it to. There has to be a name for this.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Allthetropes doesn’t seem to have a specific page for it; it’d be a subtrope of “Digging yourself Deeper”.

      • Montfort says:

        I disagree, it’s much closer to “I Take Offense to That Last One”

        The focus is much more on the pattern of long lists of insults, only one of which is disputed, but also includes things like:

        On a darker note, the first commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Höss. When accused of the murder of three and a half million people in the Holocaust, Höss replied, “No. Only two and one-half million—the rest died of disease and starvation.”

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t know, I’d dub it something like Confirming sufficient particulars.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      Oddly enough, the reverse of that can be used to success.

      Scott Adams of Dilbert has argued that Trump’s usage of that has aided his success.

      By saying he had a whole “10 billion dollars” the entire media debated trumps wealth, when most figures pinned it at…4 billion. Still a lot that mean he isn’t an idiot with money. Along with “More british muslims have joined ISIS then the british army” It was less, but like within 70%, which is still really bad.

      So something similar can be an effective technique for your opponents to dig holes for themselves.

      • Jill says:

        Scott Adams always manages to come up with some argument that Trump is brilliant, a Master Persuader, a serious candidate etc. almost no matter what Trump does. He has the biggest man crush on Trump on the web.

      • whateverfor says:

        Another example of this is literally everything Adams has said for the last eight months. Hence why we’re talking about his blogging output.

  27. Wet-cooked food may be very helpful for people with metabolic syndrome. Wet-cooked food is steamed, poached, or stewed. Dry-cooked food is baked, fried, or grilled.

    Unfortunately, I have no idea which category stir-frying falls in, nor am I qualified to judge the quality of the study.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160824111244.htm

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00125-016-4053-x

    • Loquat says:

      I can’t address the quality of the study either, but I can tell you stir-frying would be considered dry-cooked food.

      Basically, wet-cooking is any technique that prevents the temperature of the food from getting much above the boiling point of water. You need to get your food well above that temperature if you want any significant browning to occur – but that also results in higher levels of Advanced Glycation End Products, the thing they’re saying has bad health effects.

      • Thanks. I’m wondering whether there are any natural experiments– places where there was a significant shift in the proportion of wet and dry-cooked food.

        Also, I suppose this means that if AGEs are such a hazard, you shouldn’t brown food before making it into a soup or stew.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      I am a bit skeptical of it being useful for those with metabolic syndrome, but I am not skeptical that it may be easier to digest. Its on the sliding scale of hard solid foods and soft wet foods.

  28. R Flaum says:

    Everyone I’ve ever met, and everybody I’ve read online discussing the subject, agrees that McDonald’s has better french fries than Burger King does. And it just now occurred to me that this is really odd; you’d expect Burger King to copy McDonald’s fry-making technique. The only thing I can think of is that maybe McDonald’s holds a patent, but really, how much room for patentable innovation is there in french-fry making? Does anybody know why there’s this discrepancy?

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Everyone I’ve ever met, and everybody I’ve read online discussing the subject, agrees that McDonald’s has better french fries than Burger King does.

      You do not know anyone’s actual preferences, not even your own, unless you’ve conducted carefully blinded taste tests. And you definitely can’t generalize from that item of knowledge that you don’t have to a conclusion about the population without appropriate sampling techniques.

      It may be that the exact method McDonalds uses to prepare fries is a closely guarded trade secret. It could also be that (say) 35% of the population prefers the taste of Burger King’s fries, and, were Burger King to change its fry recipe to mimic McDonalds, it would lose many of them as customers while failing to attract a comparable number of new ones. This was one lesson of the New Coke fiasco.

      • R Flaum says:

        In the case of my own preferences, I do know just as well as I’d know after a double-blind, because I can identify the specific quality that I like: McDonald’s fries are crispier. I am convinced that the difference is large enough that I’d be able to detect it even if blindfolded. The broader point about needing a larger sample size is reasonable, though.

        I don’t see how something like this could reasonably be kept secret; there are thousands of McDonald’s franchises in America, training I don’t even know how many minimum wage workers to make the fries. A secret would get out.

        • Guy says:

          A trade secret (especially in the context of a recipe for a food product) is legally protected intellectual property in the US. I go back and forth on whether and to what degree this is a terrible thing.

        • The trade secret might be something about the machines and/or prepping the potatoes– even the specific variety of potatoes.

          The thing is, it’s not just crispier fries, it’s getting a high majority of them crispy– not burnt, not underdone.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      Suppose for the sake of argument we grant the premise that McDonald’s fries objectively taste better than Burger King’s. Now, what makes you think tastiness is the only metric being optimized for?

      Maybe the Burger King fry-making process is faster. Or cheaper. Or lets them leave fries out longer before being discarded, leading to less waste.

      Or maybe the McDonald’s fries are better when you eat them hot right away, but worse if they sit around and get cold.

      A burger firm isn’t trying to make the tastiest fries they possibly can at any price, they’re trying to make fries that are profitable to sell given their existing constraints and their customers’ demand functions. So they pick a point somewhere on their production possibilities frontier and optimize on that.

      To put it another way: “Everyone I’ve ever met agrees BMW makes better cars than Ford. And it just now occurred to me that this is really odd; you’d expect Ford to copy BMW’s car-making technique.”

      According to CNBC, Burger King fries are the cheapest. You get the most fries, and the most grams of fries per dollar at Burger King, so BK does a better job of catering to customers who value price over taste.

      • R Flaum says:

        Well, I thought of that, but the problem with this is that Burger King and McDonald’s are facing very similar situations; it’s not like one’s the up-market option and one’s the down-market option, or they’re catering to wildly different customer bases. If it makes economic sense for Burger King to spend less on its fries, then I would think that it would also make sense for McDonald’s to do so.

        • R Flaum says:

          Though actually, now that I think about it, this can be combined with Earthly Knight’s “35%” point in an interesting way: even if everyone on Earth prefers McDonald’s fries, it’s possible that not everyone values fry tastiness the same amount, so a reduced price resulting from soggier fries could work that way; the chains could be aimed at different sections of the market in a slightly different way than by fry-preference ordering.

      • Montfort says:

        Or maybe the McDonald’s fries are better when you eat them hot right away, but worse if they sit around and get cold

        This is mostly irrelevant, but that was actually my opinion of the two chains’ fries when I still visited them with any regularity. Of course, BK has since adjusted their recipe at least once, and McDonalds may have, too.

    • nm. k. m. says:

      I have never eaten french fries at BK, but the McD’s I have visited have had so much variation that I’m suspicious if there’s any meaningful difference.

    • Deiseach says:

      The only thing I can think of is that maybe McDonald’s holds a patent, but really, how much room for patentable innovation is there in french-fry making?

      Anecdote from the early 80s when I was learning to be a lab technician and they were sending us out on work placement; most of us on the biology side ended up in some kind of food industry placement and when we returned, one student who had been placed at a flour mill, was bound by confidentiality and couldn’t include in their write-up of the experience what they put in the flour (even though there’s only certain things that can be legally put in and certain things that work as flour improvers)

      So it’s entirely possible there is a Top Secret Process protected by patent where you can’t reveal that they blanch their fries 🙂

      • “So it’s entirely possible there is a Top Secret Process protected by patent”

        There might be a top secret process protected by trade secret law. One of the requirements to get a patent is that you reveal what you are patenting–hence the name.

  29. Chris says:

    Just like to mention that I was recently on an Air Emirates flight, and this website is blocked on the inflight WiFi for having content contrary to their policies. You must be doing something right!

  30. TMB says:

    We should be worried about AGI risk = We should be anti-semites ?

    (We should fear humans who are more intelligent than us, particularly those from a different culture who are less likely to be benevolent.)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Who’s “we,” kemosabe?

      The AI risk crowd is predominantly Jewish [citation needed]. While the self-hating Jew is a trope, the self-fearing Jew isn’t.

      Anyway, the point as I understand it isn’t “smart is scary” so much as “speciation is scary.” AI, or at least YudAI, is a digital organism: a new Domain of life in competition with eukaryotes as much as with humanity. The fear is to an extent that what is adaptive for a superintelligent machine to expand and copy itself is not necessarily in humanity’s interests.

      • TMB says:

        Non-Jewish people.

        I think that the fear is fundamentally of intelligence – if we were talking about some unbound chaotic digital (evolutionary)process, then AGI wouldn’t be particularly scary (or intelligent).

        We’re worried about which initial conditions will keep this process from eating us only because it will have a super-human ability to model, and change, the world.

        I would also say that there is plenty of reason to be afraid that what is adaptive for one culture or group, is not necessarily in my interests (or in the interests of my group).

      • Tekhno says:

        @TMB

        The difference is that you can make friends with Jewish people, you can’t make friends with an AI that has no human compatible utility functions. If Ashkenazi Jews are superintelligences then they are ones for which the friendliness problem has mostly been solved.

        If the equation of the Ashkenazim with AGI was at all reasonable, then you should be pro-semitic, not anti-semitic.

        • TMB says:

          I am pro-semitic, but maybe that’s because they want me to be?

          Seems to me that anti-Semites are the ones who think that Jewish intelligence is out of the box.
          Yeah – we can “make friends” with them. But how can we tell?

  31. Tekhno says:

    Is it weird that I’m more skeeved out by regular US religious conservatism than Nazism?

    I think the internet might have messed me up. My emotional reaction to seeing Nazi types going on about their racial theories, and how they’re going to gas/rope/etc certain inferior groups is something like amused interest mixed with frustration, whereas my reaction to characters like Bill O’Reilly is something more like a heavily suppressed desire to erase them from existence. Just talking about my raw emotional reaction before I rebuke myself in any way. My value system points to the opposite, that I think Nazis are much worse in terms of what their ideology necessitates, but I can’t help but feel that way.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      For some strange reason, I don’t feel too peeved at Napoleon Bonepart.

      Its past your time. If you lived 60 years ago, things would be different.

    • Tekhno says:

      Yeah, but these people are still around. You don’t see too many Neo-Bonepartists running around.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Do you mean Nazis, as in:

      1. Historical National Socialists in Germany?

      or

      2. Modern Nazis, whether of the tattoos and leather jackets variety, or the green frogs and waifus variety?

      Because, right here, in the US today (I understand that skinheads are more of a thing in some other countries), the mainstream American right has more power and thus more ability to harm people than 2. Considerably more. It is possible that the green frog element might somehow become influential in the US today, but the leather jackets element? As the Blues Brothers establishes, everybody hates Illinois Nazis.

      In comparison, 1 committed the worst crimes that history has ever seen. If your emotional reaction to Bill O’Reilly is worse than your emotional reaction to Friedrich Jeckln, that’s something else entirely.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Because, right here, in the US today (I understand that skinheads are more of a thing in some other countries), the mainstream American right has more power and thus more ability to harm people than 2.

        Of course, so does the mainstream American left.

        • Jill says:

          No, the Left has no ability to harm or help anyone. The GOP blocks almost everything the Left tries to do– even just hearing and considering the president’s SCOTUS nominee.

          • Alliteration says:

            Except for gay marriage, Obamacare, abortion, ect.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            No, the Left has no ability to harm or help anyone.

            a) The Left has been running cities like Detroit and Baltimore for decades. That’s evidence of their ability to harm people, at least.

            b) If the Left is incapable of helping anyone despite winning so many elections, why should anyone continue to vote for them? (While you’re wrestling with this one, please note that the mirror image of it explains Donald Trump.)

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is true. Analogously to the original example, the mainstream left has more power than socialists in the US, and one result is that it gets more hostility.

      • “In comparison, 1 committed the worst crimes that history has ever seen.”

        ?

        Mao killed considerably more people. The Khmer Rouge killed a much larger fraction of the population they ruled.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’d argue that the speed, intensity, and intentionality of German crimes under National Socialism combine to make them the worst.

          The case can be made that much of the death count under communist rulership can be ascribed to incompetence along with incompetent and sometimes malicious handling of natural crises.

          In comparison, National Socialist Germany intended to get rid of the Jews (historians argue whether the original intention was extermination or deportation to a probably inhospitable climate), starve Soviet POWs because the war plan didn’t account for feeding them, reduce the conquered peoples in the East to helots, starve some 30 million Soviets to death post-war, etc.

    • Tekhno says:

      Yeah, I’m talking about modern Nazis.

      • Jill says:

        Perhaps you are reacting most to people whom you consider to be the biggest danger to the U.S. culture/government/economy today. People who are long ago, far away and/or present now in only tiny numbers and/or widely ignored, are certainly unlikely to be a current threat.

  32. Jill says:

    An interesting article on Libertarianism, and on the 2 main 3rd party candidates.

    Robert Steele: Libertarians Now or Never?
    http://phibetaiota.net/2016/08/robert-steele-libertarian-primer/#more-120484

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I’m not sure how applicable any such thinkpiece is, given that the Libertarians are just running as Democrats this year.

      • Jill says:

        How so? How do you desire them to run, that they aren’t doing?

      • Irishdude7 says:

        ??
        They support eliminating income taxes and corporate taxes and having a national consumption tax as a replacement for all of it.

        Johnson supports eliminating all federal wage standards, a sharp contrast from a call to double the minimum wage.

        They are non-interventionists in foreign policy, definitely a contrast from a candidate that is a fan of regime change.

        They support school choice and eliminating the Department of Education.

        The biggest overlap is on social issues, but even there Johnson and Weld come out in favor of descheduling marijuana and making it a state’s issue, which goes much further than Clinton.

        I just don’t seem them being Democrat copies.

        • Johnson isn’t a Democrat copy. He is, in this election, a very watered down libertarian, avoiding libertarian positions that he thinks would drive away too many Republicans, Democrats and Independents unhappy with the major party candidates. That’s an understandable policy if he believes, perhaps correctly, that this year libertarians have a chance to get a much larger vote total than in the past.

          It would be interesting to compare what he has said this year with what he said in his previous presidential campaign.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I just don’t seem them being Democrat copies.

          I’m going by what they say loudly enough to get news coverage, not by party platforms that no one reads and which are ignored when a party gets into power.

          • IrishDude7 says:

            They’ve done rallies across several states the past couple weeks, and at every one they’ve hit the points I mentioned above except for federal wage standards. What the media chooses to cover is another story, but they’re very open about the platform they’re running on. Hopefully they can make the debates to get their narrative out there without being filtered through the media as much.

    • I only read the beginning, but I don’t think the author’s view of the subject is very close to that of most libertarians.

      • Jill says:

        True, at least not close to the views of the ones here. He doesn’t have a man crush on the Koch brothers at all.

        • Irishdude7 says:

          Here’s a great interview the Washington Post did with Charles Koch. I’m curious what your thoughts on it would be, as I think you might have a certain respect for his views after giving it a read.

          A snippet:

          TANKERSLEY: Did you read Piketty’s book on capital when it came out a couple years ago? The big inequality book?

          KOCH: No I read several reviews of it, but I didn’t read it.

          TANKERSLEY: Do you worry at all about inequality as a discrete phenomenon from mobility?

          KOCH: Yeah, I worry about it when it is caused by corporate welfare. It’s like we treat employees here. We want to reward you not only monetarily, but including the value you create here, because we want you to create more value. We don’t want to put a ceiling on it because we don’t want you to put a ceiling on the value. And that’s what we want in society. If somebody is doing more and more to make other people’s lives better, have them make all they can, if that’s what drives them, because that’s what we want.

          If they make it through by rigging the system, then that’s horrible, and that’s a good part of the disparity we have. Whereas the median income — which I think is a much better metric on well-being than GDP, hasn’t gone up in the last decade — and productivity has barely moved. And I think it is because of this corporate welfare and the Fed. So what we see happening is that because of that combination — free money to big companies like ours or established companies and the difficulties in getting permits to do something new with all of the handicaps on innovation — that rather than going in and investing in increasing productivity, it is investing in buying other companies.

          So we are just moving the chairs around and spending huge amounts of money rather than having them go in making people’s lives better.

  33. Little Yid says:

    Have you considered writing a piece on time management?

    I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations with a friend and we have determined that you have ~30 productive hours of work per day. Please teach us your wierding ways.