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

Links 10/16: New URLeans

Hey, remember that time when Merv, Turkmenistan was the largest city in the world? What about when it was Dobrovody, Ukraine? Here’s a helpful cheat sheet if you’re feeling a little lost.

Marble quarries somehow look both exactly how you would expect a marble quarry to look and yet also much much better.

Profile of Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chairman, a former naval officer whose motto is “Honey badger don’t give a s***”.

Genetic risk for high sugar consumption is somewhat correlated with genetic risk for substance abuse, suggesting some kind more more general genetic risk for impulsivity and addiction.

Related to Lizardman’s Constant: when polled on whether they have ever been decapitated, four percent of people say yes (hidden in this transcript)

Brookings Institution: “There is a deep well of rigorous, relevant research on the performance of charter schools in Massachusetts…This research shows that charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes. The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.”

One interesting methodology to examine whether school degrees are useful in and of themselves or for signaling value: look at teenage mothers. Someone who delivers a child a month after graduating high school is probably the same sort of person as someone who delivers a child a month before graduating high school, but the former will probably get a degree and the latter probably won’t. Based on this methodology, a paper finds that a high school degree has real value and not signaling value. Possible confounds: maybe the availability of a GED makes this situation different than for college; maybe there’s a ceiling effect for how well people with teenage pregnancies do?

“Related”, by which I mean completely contradicting the above: Danish data (of course it’s Danish data) showing that school effects are mostly just signaling. Maybe a US/Danish difference?

Marginal Revolution asks why bowling has declined in America. Did you know in the 1960s, top bowlers made twice as much as top football stars, and a bowler was the first athlete ever to get a $1 million endorsement contract?

Federal government tells Berkeley they may not offer free online video courses, because they are discriminatory against deaf people who cannot hear the audio. Willing to reconsider if they translate them into sign language as well or add closed captioning, but the college says it can’t afford that and will probably just take the courses down. This is a metaphor for how everything works all the time.

Hey, remember those five different times when thousands of Irish-Americans formed impromptu armies and invaded Canada in order to pressure Britain to free Ireland?

The Daily Show had a whole segment making fun of Donald Trump’s claim that his microphone wasn’t working properly during the last debate. Now the Commission on Presidential Debates has confirmed that his microphone was indeed defective. On the other hand, still no sign that it was part of a giant Clinton campaign conspiracy, and not clear exactly how a microphone malfunction makes you say that not paying taxes makes you “smart”. Come to think of it, every part of this story is also a metaphor for how everything works all the time.

Herman Mashaba started out as the son of an impoverished widowed domestic worker in apartheid South Africa and rose to become a multimillionaire businessman. Now he was just elected as the first Libertarian mayor of Johannesburg, and has vowed to end poverty in the city by encouraging construction and investment. The best thing to happen to African capitalism since Nwabudike Morgan?

Reddit: r/IAm14AndThisIsDeep Also, r/CrabsEatingThings.

Adam Smith Institute argues for the claim that markets will punish discrimination by pointing out many examples of exactly that happening. This is in honor of a recent study which follows up on one of those resume experiments by finding that companies which discriminated against minorities in the hiring process were twice as likely to go out of business as those that didn’t. As welcome as this result would be I’m not sure I buy it – discriminatory vs. non-discriminatory companies likely only differ in a few employees, and that’s not enough to double the company’s chance of surviving. The paper itself points out that this could just be an artifact of more organized companies having a better hiring process that relies less on personal judgment, or the sort of company leaders who aren’t racist also having other good qualities. Related: did you know that the segregation-era South had to pass laws prohibiting companies from preferentially hiring (cheaper) black labor?

Andrew Gelman on the history of the replication crisis.

American television: Let’s see which celebrity can answer trivia questions the fastest. Japanese television: We’re going to tie a piece of meat to a celebrity’s body, take her to the island of Komodo, and film her getting chased by Komodo dragons.

In Denmark, neighborhood of origin does not influence earnings after age 30. In Sweden, neighborhoods also don’t matter for earnings, education, etc. Still not sure why Moving To Opportunity had such a strong effect in the US, unless it’s the whole “US socioeconomic status differs a lot more than Scandinavian socioeconomic status”. I feel bad for being excited that Scandinavia will probably develop its own segregated underclass in the next few decades and we’ll finally start getting good studies about how that affects things.

Lifehack: Align the High and Low Lights of North Shields to escape being caught in the Black Middens.

More praise for SSC sponsor Beeminder.

A physicist on the problems with “publish or perish” and modern science culture. I keep hearing about this but I have yet to read a clear explanation of how a better system would work.

The Insanity And Brilliance At Ethereum’s Developer Conference. “Until you see it for yourself, it’s hard to truly grasp the scope of what is being built. If Ethereum works it will fundamentally change society.”

Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft come together to form Partnership on Artificial Intelligence To Benefit People. Probably more about privacy and cybersecurity at this point, but still useful to have as a framework if larger issues come up in the future. I would link to the organization’s website itself, but I’m boycotting all those sites that are one page full of giant images and two or three sentences of text which don’t explain anything useful.

Only about forty percent of Americans support Trump for US President – so how come fifty-four percent of Chinese do?

China admits that 80% of its clinical trials are fabricated.

There’s a standard argument that sweatshops are good for the Third World because they increase employment opportunity. Now Chris Blattman has studied it empirically.

Helpful 19th century infographic on Albion’s Seed and Bay Area transhumanism (h/t ecstatmonochromat)

Argument: Maybe the surplus of men in mathematical fields is for some biological reason. Counterargument: as the culture has become more accepting toward women, more women have entered these fields, so wouldn’t attributing the remaining difference to biological factors be a very silly god-of-the-gaps argument, arbitrarily saying that all of the already-resolved differences were cultural but all of the not-yet-resolved differences must be biological? A study adds a new perspective to this debate by determining that the percent women in the extreme right tail of mathematical ability was increasing rapidly up until twenty years ago, after which point it has mysteriously remained exactly the same. Women continue to do better at verbal tasks.

Remember how you had to learn cursive in elementary school even though it was clearly useless and inferior to other forms of communication? An Atlantic article argues that there was sort of a rational explanation – cursive was the most convenient form of writing for the obsolete pens of yesteryear, and it took a while for people to realize that better pens made it unnecessary.

Garett Jones has written a long summary article of his theory about how immigrants can change countries’ economic fundamentals.

“Some have claimed that [the city of] Austin put up moonlight towers partly in response to the actions of the Servant Girl Annihilator.”

Reddit: What is a great career path that kids in college aren’t aware exists? Answers include “sailor”, “actuary”, and “person who joins the military for the minimum allowed period of time and then takes advantage of veteran-related programs to get free college and a cushy government job for life”.

The BMJ published an article a while ago pushing a extreme Taubesian view of nutrition. Now it’s facing calls to retract as scientists point out various errors.

The newest front in the replication crisis: basic math errors. A bot finds that 13% of papers may have a math error large enough to potentially change the paper’s conclusion.

Leading environmental scientist James Lovelock was previously famous for his belief that global warming would be much worse than anyone thought. Now he says he’s changed his mind, that global warming will probably be so slow we don’t need to worry much, and that he’s actually concerned about AI risk.

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1,221 Responses to Links 10/16: New URLeans

  1. cassander says:

    >Hey, remember that time when Merv, Turkmenistan was the largest city in the world? What about when it was Dobrovody, Ukraine?

    >US game shows: Let’s see who can answer trivia questions the fastest. Japanese gameshows: We’re going to tie a piece of meat to your body, take you to the island of Komodo, and film you getting chased by Komodo dragons.

    >Hey, remember those five different times when thousands of Irish-Americans formed impromptu armies and invaded Canada in order to pressure Britain to free Ireland?

    3 more points for the theory that is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.

    • Scott Alexander says:
      • Nott Alexanderson says:

        Do you think there is an upper limit to how much societal change a person can adapt to in their lifetime?

        • Not for all people. Because there have been people who moved from one society to an entirely different one and managed fine.

          • Tibor says:

            I guess this ability tends to decrease with age. Whenever there is a flood you have people who refuse to leave their homes (or move somewhere else after the flood even though they are still in a risky area, they won’t get any insurance any more and they had to rebuild the house after the flood anyway), because that’s “where they’ve lived all there lives.”

            This probably has to do with people getting more conservative (I don’t mean politically conservative but opposed to change and to risk) with age. My father started a company with a loan secured by our house when he was 32, give or take a year. Had the company not succeeded we would have lost everything. I cannot imagine him being this bold now that he’s 56.

            Of course, this effect is stronger in some people (some 30 year olds seem to me like they’re 60, even though I am almost 30 myself) and less pronounced in others.

          • Aapje says:

            @David Friedman

            Because there have been people who moved from one society to an entirely different one and managed fine.

            There is a lot of evidence that migrants are often outliers (especially the successful ones, as remigration rates are substantial for migrants that have the ability to go back). I don’t think you can point at the level of change that migrants can deal with as evidence of what an average person can deal with.

            I also wonder how you define ‘managed fine,’ because a lot of migration involves people creating cultural bubbles in their new country, where they maintain many aspects of their source culture (food, clothing, religion, the media they consume, etc). So ‘managed fine’ often seems to be due to reducing the level they need to adapt, rather than quick integration.

          • “I don’t think you can point at the level of change that migrants can deal with as evidence of what an average person can deal with.”

            I made no claim about average people.

    • keranih says:

      If people have not yet read Micheal Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road and of the background of the story, I strongly recommend it.

      • Stezinech says:

        This idea is very prominent in early Sherlock Holmes. It’s in “The Red-Headed League” and “A Case of Identity”.

    • Deiseach says:

      Hey, remember those five different times when thousands of Irish-Americans formed impromptu armies and invaded Canada in order to pressure Britain to free Ireland?

      Why do you think it took us eight hundred years to win our freedom from England? 🙂

      Okay, the first one would have been after the failed 1848 Young Irelander rebellion (also known as the Cabbage Patch Rebellion and not because dolls were involved). Like pretty much every Irish revolutionary movement, it failed because the British had infiltrated it and informers were plentiful. Also we really suck at organising revolutions, how 1916 worked is anyone’s guess. (The Young Irelanders were the reaction to Daniel O’Connell, who was opposed to the physical force tradition after his youth when he’d seen the French Revolution becoming the Terror first-hand. After great initial success but eventual failure in his political campaign to repeal the Act of Union, the young revolutionaries were impatient and decided war was the only way to succeed).

      The failed revolutionaries were either transported and escaped, or scattered to Europe and American. Still wanting to raise the rebel flag, the Fenian Brotherhood (in America) and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (in Ireland) were founded. In the aftermath of the American Civil War, when there had been Irish regiments and so trained soldiers with experience of warfare were ready, willing and able (more or less), the first raid on Canada seemed like a good idea. The rest of them? Well, that is what you call the opposite of “learning from experience”. Mostly they were attempts to incite rebellion back in Ireland.

      • Deiseach says:

        Counter-counter-example (or is it? this depends on whether or not it was a real newspaper article Conan Doyle was referencing) from the Sherlock Holmes story “A Case of Identity”:

        (Holmes is arguing truth is stranger than fiction, Watson is arguing the opposite)

        But here” — I picked up the morning paper from the ground — “let us put it to a practical test. Here is the first heading upon which I come. ‘A husband’s cruelty to his wife.’ There is half a column of print, but I know without reading it that it is all perfectly familiar to me. There is, of course, the other woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the bruise, the sympathetic sister or landlady. The crudest of writers could invent nothing more crude.”

        “Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one for your argument,” said Holmes, taking the paper and glancing his eye down it. “This is the Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged in clearing up some small points in connection with it. The husband was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the conduct complained of was that he had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at his wife, which, you will allow, is not an action likely to occur to the imagination of the average story-teller. Take a pinch of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over you in your example.”

      • LPSP says:

        If you could think of it, it’s not strange anymore.

  2. keranih says:

    did you know that the segregation-era South had to pass laws prohibiting companies from preferentially hiring (cheaper) black labor?

    Oh, hon, it wasn’t just th’ South.

    • Southern states also regulated out of existence agents who matched up black workers in places where they were treated badly with jobs, typically in other southern states, where they were treated better. The Supreme Court, to its discredit, let them get away with doing so–arguably inconsistent with the Lochner jurisprudence for which it later got blamed.

    • Fate Amenable To Change says:

      Similar things happened in South Africa.

  3. Sandy says:

    I wish Google Translate did a better job with Chinese. I followed the Zhihu link on that Politico article to see that post about Chinese users praising Trump’s anti-political correctness stance, and the translation from Mandarin to English is just gibberish.

    And then for the Trump, first dared to fire politically correct, it is also worth the punch a ballot. Racial divide is not only raised him, but because of unfair policies already. All lifes matter are politically incorrect, and civilians who dare to speak. However, for blm, moveon other organizations called the protest, in fact, vandalism incident, we can only be endured. Trump’s remarks, although extreme, but really let ordinary people see hope. A master is not engaged in racial discrimination, discrimination against blacks must admit that this child is an objective fact. However, these people advocate of black supremacy blm remarks really can not agree. Obama plus shoes, blacks were accidental injury on infinite compassion, turn a blind eye or even black crime not to media reports, create a black crime are forced to atmosphere. But the truth is rarely as black both on the mental, the physical labor nor hispanic industrious work hard. Respect is to fight for their own, rather than shouting numerous slogan everyone will respect you! !

    • Sandy says:

      I couldn’t find it either. I can see a lot of comments making basically that same point about Islam and political correctness, but no 10000-upvote comment.

    • erenold says:

      This is strange, but I can’t seem to find the 10000-upvotes comment you (and the article) are referring to on the Zhihu link Politico provided. Could you link the original, or just copy over the source text? I’ll give it a try.

      Never mind found it. Full comment:

      [The “reddit” question is: Do Zhihu members support or oppose Donald Trump? If so, why?]

      “Of course I support Trump! In fact, even if he doesn’t win, I would rather die than surrender to the Democratic Party!

      My background: I have lived in California for 10+ years, from undergraduate to doctorate, have never left here other than for work. The schools I go to are all brand name ones everyone will be familiar with. But now, I am so disappointed, I want to leave for elsewhere.

      My father and mother are all disability welfare beneficiaries. But the Democrat Party’s various schemes make it harder and harder for people who really need [welfare] to get it, and are cutting existing welfare. All the money is going to illegal immigrants, or lazy non-working bums (懒人= v. pejorative, cf. slackers, drifters). The Democrats talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. ObamaCare in actuality has many good aspects, but they don’t touch the special interests and leave it to the middle class.

      Speaking of education, everyone has talked about the “AA issue” (blacks?) and I shall not repeat it. And UC universities are always broke to the point where it’s no longer news. Every year they’re broke, even Berkeley is full of slacking drifters. And the background of these children’s families are driven by a lot of resentment. The Democrats ostensibly are trying to improve the inner cities, but what is the truth? I have often thought about their schools, that’s why I joined the local Teach for America branch. It turned out, everyone there has the attitude of “if students don’t study well you can’t say they are unmotivated, but this is the result of fundamental inequalities in society”. I was very disappointed and quit, I feel these people are just trying to cheat the government of money, that’s all. And the Democrats daily talk about welfare, it’s clearly just to get minority support.

      [and this is the part from your original quote]

      Coming to Trump, he is the first to dare to confront Political Correctness, and deserves a vote just for this. He was not the one who created racial divisions, but, instead, racial divisions are inherent in life. “All lives matter”, however, is not Politically Correct, but the ordinary citizens do not dare to say this. Talking about BLM, MoveOn etc organizations, they are ostensibly about civil resistance, but in reality about beating, rioting, and robbing, but everyone can only endure it. Trump may sound like an extremist, but he truly gives the commoners hope. I am honestly not a racist, and the discrimination that blacks faced must be admitted as a reality. But BLM, these people, will not tolerate any dissent. Talking about President Obama, when blacks are accidentally hurt (slightly injured?) Obama has infinite compassion, when blacks break the law he is no where to be seen and does not allow the media to report it, creating an atmosphere where blacks can do no wrong. The truth is, blacks are mentally inferior [!!], and do not even have the physical endurance of Hispanics. Respect is earned, not obtained by screaming around until everyone respects you!!

      America truly is a country where only those who have motivation and entrepreunership (bravery?) can lead good lives. From high school graduation I began to take care of my family [monetarily], everything from then till now I have been self-reliant. And I still want to help those who need help, but I will never tolerate those extreme bums and slackers [好吃懒做=extremely pejorative for bums and slackers] people! Nothing to do with party or race!

      Talking about Muslims, Trumps’ language is extreme, but their words and actions are clear for all to see. Even though it is just a minority for them, but when they organize there are indeed difficulties. A government that cannot protect its citizens lives, will lose its peoples support. Look at recent Germany for an example.

      Talking about Gays, I still moderately support them. This is a person’s freedom. So long as it doesn’t bother others, true love should be celebrated. But, recently men have been trying to use women’s toilets in schools and that is really laughable. Does that mean that just because you have rights, all the girl student’s rights don’t need protection? I feel that you should be a post-op transexual before you can do that. The Democrats encourage you [transexuals] into senseless noisemaking, but clearly it is backfiring on you.

      In conclusion. Trump can achieve all he has done in the face of tremendous opposition, proving that not everyone may love him, but those who are dissatisfied with the status quo will do. If we don’t make changes now, the future will be apocalyptic.

      PS: last night, listening to NPR radio, there was a program showing a party Primary analysis. The first man was a Republican big-shot (slightly derogatory), who said he wanted Rubio and now after Rubio lost he did not want say who he wanted to support [in the general?] The reporter could not prise it out of him. I think the Republican Party should internally keep these things quiet.

      The second interview was with the Democratic Congressman from Ohio. Before the reporter could say anything, he [the Democrat] criticized the previous Republican thoroughly, then later interrupted the reporters questions. Then he didn’t answer any of the reporter’s questions, the reporter was so angry he cut him off [hung up on him?] Aren’t the Democrats supposed to be elites? What does this say about them?”

      • Nelshoy says:

        Thanks for the translation! Fairly sure the “aa issue” is affirmative action.

        • erenold says:

          Yes – good hypothesis, the author has no trouble saying “black” elsewhere.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yeah, in the context of a discussion in Chinese between Chinese people, “the AA issue” is virtually guaranteed to refer specifically to the fact that measures put in place to get more blacks into colleges are keeping Asians out of top colleges en masse. Short version: they don’t like it. They don’t think it’s fair.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It mentions Berkeley – my understanding was that AA is illegal for universities in California, but universities find ways around it. Anyone know if this is roughly correct?

            A lot of people who want to change the demographics of universities haven’t actually considered at the demographics of universities – making, say, university mimic completely the country as a whole, or the state/province, or the city, or whatever, would involve a lot of discrimination against Asians, especially East Asians, as well as discrimination against Jews – both groups are far more represented in universities than in the general population. It would also probably involve net discrimination against women, given that they increasingly outnumber men at the undergraduate level, at least. It might even involve AA for white students, who are frequently a lower % of the campus population than their % in the general population.

          • I believe the situation in California is that private universities are free to engage in affirmative action–the university where I teach does so openly. I think public universities are not supposed to but find ways around that restriction.

            I don’t know the current details. One simple way is to evaluate students by class rank rather than by SAT. Being in the top ten percent of your high school class is easier if the rest of the students are from the same low performing group as you are.

            The issue of discrimination against high performing groups is an old one. In the early 20th century, universities were concerned about what a large fraction of their class was Jewish. Some that were unwilling to impose explicit quotas instead added geographical diversity to their list of admission criteria. The Jewish applicants were mostly concentrated in a few places such as New York City, so attempting to get equal representation from Iowa and Mississippi and Wyoming pushed down the number of Jews being admitted.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes CA state schools like Berkeley found ways around the ban on AA, but they do a lot less of it than they used to. And they probably have only worked to increase the black percentage, not to return to penalizing asians against whites.

            dndnrsn, your subtext seems to be: if they don’t face AA, why are they complaining about it? Two points: the removal of AA at Berkeley may have been eye-opening about what its effects are elsewhere; and there is well-founded fear that it might return.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @David Friedman:

            Yeah, similar tools once used to exclude Jews (eg, Harvard’s elevation of “character” which in practice meant “Gentile”) are now used, or similar tools are used, to discriminate against Asians.

            @Anonymous:

            I didn’t intend that subtext; I was just trying to figure out if I understand the situation in California correctly.

            I’m more criticizing the people who call for “equal representation” (relative to the population) or “diversity” without actually considering what that would entail (or, without considering whether what they want would actually be equal representation, or diversity).

          • Anonymous says:

            I believe the situation in California is that private universities are free to engage in affirmative action–the university where I teach does so openly. I think public universities are not supposed to but find ways around that restriction.

            This seems like a textbook example of Cthulhu swimming left, doesn’t it?

            Private universities’ profit objective and teaching objective are both unaffected at best and likely hampered by affirmative action: they do it anyway.

            Public universities are explicitly forbidden from affirmative action: they do it anyway.

            What exactly is someone supposed to do if he (and the entire public, for that matter) wants to get rid of affirmative action? At times like this I find it very easy to sympathize with the Polish government firing every employee of the state broadcaster.

          • Zakharov says:

            Universities are to the left of the general population, so even if the majority of the general population wants no AA many universities will want AA. This doesn’t seem any different from any other case of a subgroup of the population having a different political position to the average of the whole of the population.

          • Mary says:

            “What exactly is someone supposed to do if he (and the entire public, for that matter) wants to get rid of affirmative action? ”

            Entire public? How about a majority?

            Elect a president who supports that. Have him issue an order that colleges that used “diversity” as a pretext to discriminate were barred from receiving all federal funds, including federal student loans. Pretext would be determined by looking to see what they were doing to promote the diversity when they arrived. Just as one could deduce that athletic admissions were a pretext if there were no teams, no coaches, no games, etc., diversity is a pretext if they did not actively demand the students mix with the students of other races. As for those that permitted racial “safe spaces” and other means of segregation, that would go double.

            Or start impeaching justices who permit discrimination.

      • LPSP says:

        I would be really interested in a literal translation of some of the vague/non-obvious terms used here (anything explained with chinese characters and [] quote). Could I reliably get a sense for them by running them through google? I reckon they probably have a literal meaning buried in chinese references.

        Edit, I perhaps spoke too soon – Google translate proved helpful. The second, four-character perjorative breaks down into “good” “eat/consume/live off/enstrain” “lazy” and “do/produce/enact” – in otherwords, someone accomplished at making a life of lazy consumption. A zen deadbeat.

    • Laowai says:

      For those who don’t follow China stuff, this is the equivalent to using Yahoo answers as a guide to American public opinion. Its pretty much impossible to get accurate opinion polling in China, for reasons you might suspect.

      Coverage of trump has been almost universally negative, with a strong vein of “this is what you get with democracy stupid. Here’s a decent article on the subject: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/03/14/china-paper-says-rise-of-racist-trump-shows-democracy-is-scary/

    • sohois says:

      For future reference, Baidu’s Chinese-English translation seems to outperform Google’s

    • MugaSofer says:

      This is fairly legible to me. Sure, there are typos (shoes?) and the grammar is poor, but it’s not gibberish.

    • Dahlen says:

      I wish Google Translate did a better job with Chinese. I followed the Zhihu link on that Politico article to see that post about Chinese users praising Trump’s anti-political correctness stance, and the translation from Mandarin to English is just gibberish.

      Heh. I once tried to translate the Seven Kill Stele with Google Translate.

      “Official” translation:

      Heaven brings forth innumerable things to nurture man.
      Man has nothing good with which to recompense Heaven.
      Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.

      Google Translate vomit:

      All things in nature dependents
      No one to report a good day
      sha shasha sha sha shasha

      • dndnrsn says:

        That’s great. Anyone have an idea why the translation would be that off?

        • Lumifer says:

          Chinglish is a thing. Google up chinese menu translations.

        • bean says:

          Basically, each character in simplified Chinese has two or three completely different meanings (that’s how they simplified Chinese) and the machine translation system has to work them out from context. This is why Chinese translates so poorly. Add in attempts to make the English in China American and idiomatic (as opposed to the traditional British-influenced formal English) and you get such gems as wide use of the f-word in machine-translated English (Google doesn’t do this, but Chinese equivalents do), which comes from them reading the word ‘do’ in the sexual sense because it’s ‘idiomatic’.
          Basically, you couldn’t design a worse situation for machine translation to have to deal with.
          Language log has a good series on this, where they usually unpack where the machine went wrong.

          • Dahlen says:

            You know, I actually suspected that simplified Chinese had something to do with it. IIRC, it was a Communist Party project, right? Which would perhaps explain why the human-translated version went with the more religious wording, while the dumb machine which can’t handle high-context languages produced something that managed to sound much more bureaucratic and sterile, and whitewashed the religious connotations away.

          • youzicha says:

            This is not correct.

            There are a handful of cases where two different traditional characters were merged into one when simplified (e.g. the traditional characters 麵 ‘noodle’ and 面 ‘face’ are both simplified to 面), but those are exceptions. For the vast majority, simplified and traditional characters are in 1-1 correspondence, and the simplification works by omitting some strokes (e.g. traditional 學 versus simple 学) while keeping enough of the character to make it unambiguous.

            In any case, the stele text on wikipedia is written in traditional characters, so you can’t blame character simplification for this. As for why machine translation works so poorly in this case, I suspect it’s because the software expects a text in Mandarin and the stele is in Classical Chinese.

        • Anonymous because of personal reasons says:

          I know someone who worked on google translate and we talked a little bit about his work. I think many of the commenters here probably understand the basics way better than I ever will, but for the sake of making this post legible, allow me to go into it a little.

          Machine translation works by statistical analysis, he tells me. They take a huge body of text/translated text (I believe they used the UN Declaration of Human Rights) and basically do a giant pattern search game, comparing your input to the corpus in the library of your input language and matching to the corpus of the output language.

          That’s as much as I can understand anyway. What I then thought, and I have zero confidence that it’s even in the right direction, is that funny way video games keep score like accuracy. If you shot once and you hit, your score is 100%. But if you shoot 10 times and missed once, accuracy drops to 90%, even if numerically you hit 9x more than before. So I wondered if the accuracy of the translation wouldn’t be improved the same way by using smaller chunks.

          And it worked to a certain degree. There’s still a piece missing, because if I try to translate to Chinese or Japanese the translation becomes goobledygook again.

          So I thought, what if there’s a middle ware sitting just before the translation that rearranges the word order construction of your sentence, into something that the output language would expect?

          I ran some tests first on Danish, because Danish word order construction is remarkably similar to English, but with enough differences so that errors can pop out (and also there was a really pretty Danish chick I was trying to impress, who remains very unimpressed with my efforts haha). The long and short of it is that Danish inverts the subject/verb order depending on whether the main clause of the sentence occurs before or after the subordinate clause. So in an inversion case, “I ran to the beach” in English would be “ran I to the beach” in Danish. If I manually rearrange the sentence in English to “ran I to the beach”, then the correct Danish sentence pops out. I tried this with Polish to Danish as well and the limited testing I did seems to work.

          So for my last round of tests, I decided to try out English/Japanese translation.

          I grabbed this chunk of text from a random news article:

          この地区ではホヤの養殖が盛んだったが、東日本大震災の津波で養殖いかだが流され大きな被害を受けた

          This sentence says:” this used to be a prosperous area for the cultivation of sea squirts, but the great eastern Japan tsunami washed all the rafts away and great damaged was incurred”

          If I do a human translation, I would not be able to get back the target language. However, if I break up the input sentence like this:

          “at this district, aquaculture of ‘hoya’ was prosperous, but.

          at tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake, aquaculture raft is flowed, great damage received”

          I get this:

          “この地区では、「HOYA」の養殖が盛んだったが、。
          東日本大震災の津波で、養殖いかだが流され、大きな被害は受けました”
          Which, minus the punctuation (which I used to break the sentences into chunks), is almost word for word the original passage. The error occurred in the last sentence. It should be “大きな被害を受けた“, not “大きな被害は受けました

          I did a second trial:

          世界の風力発電施設の発電能力は今年、4億キロワットを超え、原発を初めて上回ることがわかった

          Using this:
          ‘power generation capacity’ of ‘wind power generation institution’ of the world this year,

          exceed 400 millionkilowatt,

          exceed nuclear power plant first time, thing understood

          I get this:
          世界の「風力発電施設「今年の「発電能力」、
          4億キロワットを超え、
          原子力発電所を初めて超え、事は理解しました

          Which is really, really close. The main problem I have here now is that there are some words that GT prefers to use (which is not correct in contextual terms) that I can’t change without digging into the API or doing something on the backend.
          Idiomatic and colloquial/casual words are also, for obvious reasons, hard to work.
          Anyhow, hope this was interesting for like 5 minutes!

          • LPSP says:

            It was, nice work ‘non! It’s always something simple like “first rearrange, THEN transliterate” that makes the difference.

  4. E. Harding says:

    Merv could have gotten pretty big, but I don’t think it ever got as big as Constantinople.

    “The best thing to happen to African capitalism since Nwabudike Morgan?”

    -You mean Botswana?

    “Now Chris Blattman has studied it empirically.”

    -Not all sweatshops are created equal. Ethiopia is a fast-growing country, but its environment is difficult for manufacturers.

    “Related: did you know that the segregation-era South had to pass laws prohibiting companies from preferentially hiring (cheaper) black labor?”

    -And yet, the percentage Black in the Deep South kept rising right up until the 1910s.

    “Only about forty percent of Americans support Trump for US President – so how come fifty-four percent of Chinese do?”

    -It’s way less:
    http://www.unz.com/akarlin/russians-4-trump/
    This comment:
    http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/10/01/he-kept-us-out-of-war/#comment-419579
    also suggests there are quite a few Chinese-American Republicans put off by the Donald.

    BTW, on the topic of the last post: there was a debate just a few hours ago. I would not be comfortable with either of the two Russophobic yahoos who want to deliberately bomb Syrian Army positions speaking as President. Thank goodness we didn’t get someone like Pence (who won the debate by at least a Kennedy-over-Nixon-first-debate margin) as the GOP nominee. I’m still comfortable with Trump.

    • HircumSaeculorum says:

      >Merv could have gotten pretty big, but I don’t think it ever got as big as Constantinople.

      I’m not sure that there are empirical figures, but Constantinople didn’t really hit its golden age until the 10th-11th centuries. I would guess that Merv was largest when it was the Tahirid capital in the mid 9th century and trade was flourishing in central Asia. There’s definitely a “window” when Merv could well have been larger than Constantinople, but I’m not sure how you could be certain.

      • Wency says:

        According to Wikipedia, citing one Tertius Chandler, Merv was the world’s largest city between 1145 and 1153. This seems quite specific — I’d think even a best estimate could easily be off by 50% or more. I’ve seen it argued that ancient Rome had closer to 100,000 people at its peak, rather than a million, but in any case the estimates Wikipedia lists range from 500,000 to 1 million.

        Constantinople shows up being largest in the eras preceding the ERE’s two major disasters: the initial Arab invasions and the Battle of Manzikert. Though it’s interesting to me that Justinian’s Plague doesn’t seem to be reflected in those estimates, since it killed maybe 1/3 of the city’s population.

        • Riothamus says:

          It does not address the question of Merv directly, but I speculate that primary sources which comment on the population of cities will favor large disruptions like resettlement, massacre, and disease.

          This would probably include things like importing slaves after a particularly successful military campaign, and/or counting the whole army assembled before a campaign launches.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The claim is not that Merv rapidly changed population, but that Kaifeng was sacked and depopulated and that Hangzhou subsequently grew to replace it, leaving a short period in which the largest city was not in China.

            (Looking more closely, I find that Chandler also claims that Merv rose and fell rapidly, but that is less important and less rapid than what happened in China.)

    • anon says:

      Would it be uncouth for the rest of us to have an impromptu, unsolicited career-advice session for E. Harding? Surely the answer is yes but let’s do it anyway.

      Assumptions, gleaned from his posts: E. Harding has a nigh-obsessive interest in social science, with special attention to subtopics including demography, statistical analysis of polling data, and elections.

      Propositions (to be debated):
      * If seeking to maximize lifetime career earnings, E. Harding should try to become a campaign strategist or polling consultant.
      * If seeking to maximize life-satisfaction, E. Harding should focus on his passion for demography.

      Do people agree or disagree with my propositions, and why?

      • anon says:

        Don’t follow your passion

        • LPSP says:

          This. Finding a job you can do well which makes you feel better completely outclasses any other concern, includin misguided notions of fun or “liking” a job. You will never like anything that asks you to attend to it every day for hours at a time.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I think I should point out that your comments would be more readable with the blockquote tag.

      • LPSP says:

        I imagine Harding doesn’t have the script active. It blocked me from using quotes for a fair while.

  5. Alex says:

    A physicist on the problems with “publish or perish” and modern science culture. I keep hearing about this but I have yet to read a clear explanation of how a better system would work.

    The problem is too many people chasing too little money, and there’s no “solution” that doesn’t involve a lot of academic birth control and a lot of restructuring of the workforce so that science is produced by people who don’t also churn out new PhDs as by-products. Also, the new system will replace intense competition (which can stimulate productivity but also push people to be safe rather than creative) with a bit more security (which can elicit creativity from some people but also lead to sloth), and people will just have to accept that the upsides will come with downsides. Alas, if we ever tried it people would probably look at the downsides and say “Well, obviously what we need to do is just take the best parts of each…” and ignore that things tend to fit together better in certain ways, and that downsides are inevitable. So they’d create some weird Frankenstein version of the old system.

    On the other hand, it’s kind of in the nature of researchers to not regard that which already is as being good enough…

    • Steven says:

      The solution of improving the quality of the funnel being unthinkable and too difficult (for the sort of person who becomes a grantor anyway).

      • Alex says:

        By “improving the quality of the funnel” I assume you mean a better process for awarding money. The problem is that scientific discovery is a risky, uncertain, and creative endeavor. Maybe I’m talking like a Chicago economist who doesn’t believe there can ever be a $20 on the ground, but if there were a good way to spot the promising ideas and approaches then the private sector would probably jump all over it. But the private sector is also risk averse, and has shorter time horizons than federal agencies.

        I sit on a grant review panel, and the reality is that there are a lot more creative people with good ideas than there are grants to award. Whether true or not, I fancy myself able to identify the top third of proposals, and also a middle third that are probably also just about as good and can probably be re-crafted to make the case more strongly. If we were funding the top third this job would be easy: Fund that top third today, and send the middle third to the drawing board so they can think things through a bit more (never a bad idea, really) and then rise to the occasion next time and get funded as well. And then the unexpected twists and turns of how research actually works will happen, and some of the great advances will come from that middle third, others from the top third, and a few from people who didn’t get funded but found other ways to scrape by. And a lot of decent “normal science” (in Kuhn’s terminology) will also come out.

        But that kind of money isn’t on offer. So we’re stuck doing a slightly more respectable-looking version of throwing darts at the board to select a fraction of the top third. And even if that kind of money were on offer, the universities would just expand their programs and produce more scientists with that money and pretty soon we’d be right back to too many people chasing too little cash. That’s exactly what happened when NIH doubled its funding in the late 90’s/early 2000’s and the universities responded by increasing the sizes of their programs and churning out more scientists in NIH-funded fields. (See Paula Stephan’s _How Economics Shapes Science_ for more info.)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I think that what Steve means by funnel is the shape of the number of people at various stages of the pipeline. “Academic birth control” is one way of adjusting the shape. More generally, we should kick more people out earlier. It is easy for me to imagine such systems because they exist in Europe and in the American past. I am surprised that Scott has trouble imagining this because he has written about it. One extreme is that French math postdocs have tenure. Mathematicians are cheap, allowing such an extreme.

      • Arcaseus says:

        Do you have a source for French math post-docs having tenure ? I am finishing a PhD in France (in CS admittedly) and never heard of it.
        What is true in all subjects is that we don’t have a tenure track: you are either a poorly paid post-doc with a one or two year contract, or a poorly paid tenured professor/researcher (based mostly on seniority, it goes from about 2k€/month just after the post-doc, all the way to about 6k€/month if you have 40 years of seniority and a nobel prize).
        From what I heard, US universities pay their senior professor more, but getting tenure there is even harder.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I meant CNRS postdocs, but I couldn’t remember the name of the agency. Probably I should have included a disclaimer that I didn’t necessarily mean all postdocs. And maybe they aren’t called postdocs, but that’s what Americans call them because most people leave them to take professorships at other schools, rather than being promoted in place. They are badly paid and the expectation is that if you aren’t promoted you’ll leave academia, but there isn’t a deadline. If I read them correctly, I have seen CVs of people getting such positions out of PhD and keeping them for decades.

          Maybe my information is out of date. This (not specifically about math) says that short-term funding was introduced in 2005, although before that there was an expectation of doing foreign postdocs.

      • onyomi says:

        I was going to bring up “non-dual awareness.” The problem is that the people making the decisions are the lucky few with the good jobs. They have no incentive to make their jobs worse in order to make the lower rung jobs better or the higher rung jobs more plentiful.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Probably it’s worse in America because it is less centralized.

          There are two issues, stress and the effect on research. The winners may not care about the stressful careers of the current generation, in general, but they do care about the stress on their own students, not that there is much that they can do unilaterally to change the system. Most professors’ research programs are inextricably intertwined with those of their students and they distort them towards LPUs for the sake of their students. And there are pressures directly on tenured professors, most obviously grant funding.

    • maybe_slytherin says:

      From your comment below:

      So we’re stuck doing a slightly more respectable-looking version of throwing darts at the board to select a fraction of the top third.

      People have seriously proposed research funding by lottery, pretty much on the basis you describe. Here’s a good (open-access!) article:

      Research funding by lottery

      It offers significant potential to reduce bias, improve efficiency, and minimize incentives towards incrementalism. Largely, this is predicated on the belief that we can’t accurately predict research anyway.

      In a way, it seems loosely analogous to basic income in the science world. The arguments in favour are fairness, efficiency, and better-aligned incentives; the arguments against are “it’s politically crazy, and implementation is unclear.”

      I’d love to see the SSC community discuss this.

      • Lumifer says:

        The arguments in favour are fairness, efficiency, and better-aligned incentives;

        I don’t think “fairness” (as usually understood) is a good argument in science. By efficiency do you mean the administrative costs of distributing grants? They don’t seem to be very high. And the incentives here are to buy as many lottery tickets as you can, that is, produce the maximum number of grant applications that just scrape by to get over the admittance bar.

        • maybe_slytherin says:

          Bias has been alleged & documented in various ways — against women & minorities (though that is controversial, especially here), against those who work at smaller institutions, and perhaps most damnably against those who have a personal conflict with a member of the review panel. Mainly what I mean by “fairness” is, in this context, the reduction of known or suspected sources of bias.

          As for efficiency, I will agree that the administrative costs of distribution are quite small. However, the time cost of preparing grant submissions is extensive, and it’s particularly frustrating for those that do not succeed since it’s almost entirely wasted. There’s some good discussion (beneath the overdramatic metaphor) in “American Idol and NIH grant review.”

          Yes, buying a lot of lottery tickets is a problem. Perhaps a hard limit of one application per PI per cycle would help, though even that has flaws.

          Fixing complex systems is hard, and so is aligning incentives. I admit there are lots of areas where this is an underdeveloped idea. But it’s a pretty powerful suggestion to keep in mind when we talk about systematic issues in science.

          • Lumifer says:

            it’s a pretty powerful suggestion to keep in mind

            I don’t see it as being powerful, I see it as giving up.

            Imagine yourself as a homeowner looking for a contractor to, say, remodel your bathroom. It’s a somewhat complicated and uncertain process: you have several contractors come look at the job and produce quotes; some contractors have reputations known to you, some don’t; some you like personally and some not so much, etc. etc. In the end you choose one but you spent a lot of time on the selection process and the not-chosen contractors wasted a lot of their time on producing rejected quotes.

            You are suggesting to shortcut the whole process and just give the job to a random contractor picked by throwing darts at a phone book Google search.

            Do you believe it’s a good idea?

            Besides, it’s easy to see who would be very enthusiastic about the lottery: incompetents who do NOT want to be evaluated on the merits.

          • One major problem with bias is, I think, insoluble–the bias towards funding research that the people making the decision agree with. If you are pretty sure that room temperature fusion is bogus, you are not likely to want to allocate money to research on it–except possibly research by other people who think it is bogus and want to debunk the people who claim it is real.

            It’s insoluble because it is the flip side of trying to fund research that the person making the decision thinks is worth doing. But it’s a problem because it is a bias in favor of whatever views are currently orthodox in the field, those being the views that most of the senior people making decisions agree with.

          • maybe_slytherin says:

            @Lumifer

            The suggestion has never been an open, free-for-all lottery.

            It’s for applications to still get reviewed, and only those judged good enough enter the lottery pool. Particularly exceptional ones (say, top 5%) could be allowed to bypass it entirely.

            I think it’s apt to call it giving up. I also think that in certain cases, recognizing when to give up is admirable. If you really can’t predict something, it’s best not to try, since you’ll be prone to confounding.

            As for whether or not I think it’s a good idea: it really depends on the context. For most science, it would be a terrible idea. For biomedical research — where much of the data on prediciton difficulty comes from, and many people report frustration at a seemingly arbitrary process — it could perhaps be appropriate to start a pilot program. Similarly, it might make sense for young researchers — they have very little track record to evaluate, and it seems like a more honest way to “narrow the funnel”.

      • The Most Conservative says:

        I’d think you’d want *some* kind of accountability, so researchers didn’t just dither the money away, and having one’s track record play a role in determining funding seems like a natural way to introduce accountability.

      • Riothamus says:

        The notion is interesting, but the question I immediately come up with is what happens to long-term investments in research equipment?

        If a laboratory can no longer rely on getting a better-than-average share of grant revenue, how will they maintain their facilities, and why would they invest in new ones?

        That being said, if the assertion that we have a lot of surplus science equipment laying around and maintaining it is a waste of money were made, I could accept it.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I never did a doctorate but I know a lot of people who did/are doing one. Mostly outside of the sciences. But I imagine the problem is the same: there’s a lot of smart people who love what they study and really want to be profs, with the result that universities have access to a lot of underpaid labour – I don’t think very many people would agree to the kind of deals TAs and non-PhD instructors get if there wasn’t the possibility of being a prof at the end of the rainbow. But there aren’t enough jobs out there for everyone – certainly not good tenure-track jobs.

      Similarly, so many people want to be lawyers that law schools are letting in more people than there are articling positions and jobs.

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        So pretty much every career that a high school councilor would suggest is flooded.

        Wow its almost as if having the state mandate a path of education and set of values make the marginal utility of a person with those traits zero.

        Seriously does anyone else see a major problem with encouraging the entire population to pour a lot of resources in being exceptional within the same narrow band. Its like the exact opposite of what the laws of comparative advantage would want us to do. We’d want to produce people who were massively different if we were persuing efficiency.

        • Lumifer says:

          We’d want to produce people who were massively different

          I think you’re massively overestimating the capabilities of schools.

        • dndnrsn says:

          As far as I know medical school isn’t, but it seems to be a lot harder to get into medical school than law school, and the med students I knew seemed to work far harder than the law students.

      • In the law school case, the view you are describing became widespread some years back with the result that law school applications dropped sharply and total law school enrollment ended up dropping as well–by how much I don’t know. So there is some feedback in the system, even if with a considerable delay.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Unfortunately for a lot of people I know, they made the decision to go to law school (3 years, after all) right before the feedback started to happen. Someone who started their degree in, say, 2010 is vastly better off than someone who started it in 2013.

          • brad says:

            I think the worst years for the legal job market were 2008-2010, which affected those that entered law school in 2005-2007. In 2008 job offers were actually rescinded at several BigLaw firms. Except in special cases having to do with problems at a single firm, I don’t think has happened before or since.

          • maybe_slytherin says:

            There will be observer bias there — naturally there are more people in the larger classes, so it’s less likely that people will know people in the more recent smaller classes.

            That said, it’s a sucky position for those people to be in.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Also, the new system will replace intense competition (…) with a bit more security (…), and people will just have to accept that the upsides will come with downsides.

      I have little faith that replacing one system with another will improve much.

      Far better to have several different competing systems.

  6. Steven says:

    The basic math errors thing was my introduction to research skepticism. Some cantankerous old professor had a lecture up where he had collected some of these. He had submitted corrections to the journals in question, usually resulting in being ignored, but in a couple cases resulted in the paper having the page numbers and where tables appeared shuffled around without the error being fixed. He made enemies and quit doing it.

    I was confused by no one being aware of the military thing in high school. Join the coast guard, get cushy gig because they are short on smart people, exit and continue with cushy gigs. It was a backup plan I came very close to executing on when it looked like college wasn’t going to work out due to laziness.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I believe that the situation may have changed in recent years, due to the very high risk of getting sent to some foreign war, and then stop-lossed forever. I could be wrong though.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Is that going to happen to someone in the Coast Guard, though?

      • cassander says:

        the vast majority of american soldiers can serve 4 years without going anywhere near danger. That’s true even of those not in the Air Force or Navy.

      • Wency says:

        According to this link, in Iraq, the Coast Guard has seen a grand total of 1 KIA and 2 WIA out of 1,250 deployed, the first losses in military action since Vietnam.

        I know a guy who was former Coast Guard. Reasonably smart guy, though he became a cop, hated it, is still looking for a way out. He would have happily stayed in the Coast Guard, but after becoming a father wanted to be home more. He felt that as a guardsman he helped people and as a police officer he’s mostly harassing people.

        In general, I think joining the military is bad advice for people unless they actively want to join the military and perhaps make a career of it, or they’re late bloomers. People of above-average IQ who would nonetheless spend their early 20s as baristas might end up ahead in their careers by age 30 if they instead joined the military. I went to business school with a guy who probably fit this mold — working-class but above-average IQ. Wasn’t ready for college at age 18, so he enlisted.

        But how do you predict future baristas? I might have been headed down that path, except I matured rapidly in my last year of college and ended up with a good job.

        People who would otherwise graduate college and get a decent job will often just find themselves a few years behind in their careers when they finish their military service, any benefits from the military connection easily offset by age discrimination. I think this is even true if your ambition(?) is to work in the Federal bureaucracy.

  7. cassander says:

    >A physicist on the problems with “publish or perish” and modern science culture. I keep hearing about this but I have yet to read a clear explanation of how a better system would work.

    I would think that one could start by hiring and promoting as teachers people want to and are expected to teach, not to publish. Then we could stop flooding the world with the thousands of mediocre research papers that are needed to maintain the illusion that the pre-1945 academic world is still alive and its members are still a tiny quasi-aristocratic intellectal elite, not a huge swathe of broadly upper middle class, but not terribly special, knowledge workers.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      as someone related to a professor, you fucking nailed it

      Look, I think the idea is: it’s always good to have more research, right? And sure, it is. But in reality it seems like once a critical mass is reached, you get very little cumulative benefit. Now there’s also a significant downside, in the form of false research which deceives people, propagates lies, and then as a result of these things devalues the whole idea of scientific research and so forth. I guess I don’t have all the answers on this score, but it seems to me like we could re-focus on professors mostly teaching, and also research professors being fewer and mostly researching. That might lead to a lot less P-hacking, because you’ve always got something interesting to chase and you don’t even have to worry about someone stealing it out from under you, more than likely. (especially if there’s not that many professors in your field, because you’d need to maintain good relationships with them in order to keep up the collaborations.)

      • Elephant says:

        As an actual professor (sciences): basically, yes. Fewer research professors, more stable funding, more staff-scientist / “permanent” postdoc positions — this would be great for science, society, overall budgets, etc. Why doesn’t it happen? I think two things: (1) Everyone wants to be a professor, and (2) Universities have a huge incentive to have lots of faculty applying for grants. I think (2) is the more important of these. When the NIH budget doubled, for example, the number of faculty applying for grants more than doubled, as universities went on hiring sprees to take advantage of the big pot of money. In the end, success rates for NIH grants went down, to their present abysmal levels.

    • I wonder if the longer term solution is going to be a much more radical one, a shift in the direction of much academic work being done as a hobby by amateurs. In a way that’s a return to the pattern of a couple of centuries ago, except that then it was mostly limited to the small fraction of the population that could afford it–we are a much richer society, and a lot more people can earn a decent living doing boring job X while they get their real fun and sense of self worth from unpaid job Y.

      Consider, for example, our host, who has been doing very good amateur analysis of other people’s articles for quite a long time.

      Going back, David Ricardo was a retired stock market prodigy, Charles Darwin trained as a clergyman, Galton was a financially independent polymath. My geologist wife tells me that her field owes much of its origin to a gentleman farmer and a mining engineer.

      • Lumifer says:

        That might work for social sciences, but physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, etc. are far too expensive (and regulated, in the case of medicine) to be pursued by amateurs.

        • baconbacon says:

          Biology isn’t far to expensive to be pursued by amateurs. Genome sequencing plummeting in cost, and you can run bioinformatics software on a fairly standard laptop (gonna need an external hard drive for the data though).

          • joseph pk says:

            hi, can you elaborate on this? what sorts of things can an amateur do in biology?

          • Odoacer says:

            @joseph pk

            Kinda. Bacon is being pretty optimistic. There is a lot of sequencing data out there on public repositories and online courses on data analysis. While genome sequencing is dropping in price, it’s not exactly cheap, especially if you want to sequence something that’s never been done before. * Additionally you get a lot of data and need a fair amount of computing power to analyse it.

            For things you can’t do on a computer, then those are different stories.

            *Link is a few years old. So the price has gone down a bit, but again for sequencing of an organism that hasn’t been done before you need good depth and coverage for it to be worthwhile in many cases.

          • baconbacon says:

            First let us remember the context, David Friedman was not talking bout amateur as in layman, he is talking about gifted people who have achieved or been born into financial independence turning their focus to subjects that interest them. If you think of an amateur as someone that took a few biology classes in college and spends some nights playing CS and some nights doing sequencing you have a right to be incredulous, but if you think of someone like Nassim Taleb who made a bunch of money as a trader and then pursued his intellectual curiosities for a few decades after you have a better model.

            Background: I worked for 3 years (7-10 years ago) part time in a biology lab as an “amateur” (no degree in biology) working on genetic markers for plants (I made a fair amount of money, but not Eff you money, playing poker and had no responsibilities so I was sort of halfway since I was working in an actual lab). Some of the projects I worked on lead to publication (I think I am listed as 3rd author and 5th author on a pair of papers) but nothing of importance. My dad, whose lab it was (and obviously how I got the job) is a professor of biology and has been researching genetics for 45 years and we still talk about his work on occasion so a lot of this represents my interpretation of his opinion of the field.

            One of the main inhibitors in progress in biology is that the ability to produce data far exceeds our ability to analyze or understand it. You can sequence a large chunk of genome for analysis, but it is like discovering the Library of Alexandria and looking for something exciting and original, but only having high school Latin as a background in language, while reading the texts one at a time. From a big picture standpoint what was (and still is) needed are good ways to approach and handle this data, and better models of how genomes function.

            In terms of small picture, the world is your oyster. There are enormous numbers of interesting results in genetics that could provide valuable (or at least fun) insight into how life organizes itself. Some plants have the ability to rearrange their own genomes within a single generation in reaction to stress (with those changes being passed on to another generation). This, in my view, is effing nuts! More importantly though it seems that a lot (if not all) of labs end up with odd results that they can’t, or don’t take the time to, explain.

            @ Odoacer-

            If you want to sequence a brand new genome, and attempt to analyze it as a whole (or as a series of very large parts) you need boatloads of money, computing power etc, however progress was being made even during the times when sequencing a single gene was considered a Thesis project, and not something that was done over the weekend after shipping a sample to the lab. Genomes are large enough, and complicated enough, that there is still a ton of room for “bottom up” research, which is certainly in the means of amateurs.

      • cassander says:

        Why would we want that? I don’t meant to be snarky, I mean that sincerely. In every other field, except politics, we recognize that professionalism, in the broadest, most positive sense, is a good thing for making disciplines more rigorous. Are there downsides to professionalism? sure, but they are usually vastly outweighed by the positives that come from people dedicating much of their lives to a pursuit and the knowledge and investment that come with that. I don’t think amateur scholars should be rejected out of hand, but why would we expect them to outcompete professionals in the long run when they don’t anywhere else?

        • John Schilling says:

          Amateurs don’t have to be paid and will often provide their own equipment. If the business model by which professional scientists are hired and equipped is sufficiently broken, that may give the advantage to the amateurs.

          Don’t underestimate the economic advantage of dividing by zero in your ROI calculations.

          • cassander says:

            >Amateurs don’t have to be paid and will often provide their own equipment.

            That’s just as true of amateur dentists and realtors, but I still want the professional.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are you willing to pay for the professional dentist or realtor? And what’s your budget for paying professional scientists?

            If the answer is, “I pay taxes and expect the government to pay those people to do the stuff I want done”, that’s the thing that can sometimes work well and sometimes work so badly that the only good work is being done by amateurs. Right now, the funding system for professional scientists isn’t working as well as it used to and it’s trending in the wrong direction.

          • cassander says:

            >Are you willing to pay for the professional dentist or realtor?

            Yes, and I do.

            >And what’s your budget for paying professional scientists?

            My personal budget is zero, but I am not in the business of producing science. Were I a research institution, however, I certainly would prefer professionals for the day in, day out work. I actually do use the efforts of enthusiastic amateurs in for some of the work I do, and believe me, I appreciate them, but there are limits to what they can achieve.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            I love amateurism as a gamer who has used mods, romhacks, and Starcraft special maps. But I don’t know if it’d really work well in science. Because frankly, most of that stuff is crap, it’s just that the good stuff rises to the top because it’s continually tested by gamers. So are you also going to find lots of amateurs willing to replicate? How are you going to stop the media from taking these studies and running with them as they normally do with more credible but still pretty non-credible studies?

          • Also, the amateur is doing it because he want to find out things, not because he needs publications to get hired to get tenured. My rather casual impression is that only a small fraction of publications actually contribute to scientific progress.

          • sconzey says:

            Scott Locklin posted a list of 30 unsolved questions in physics and astronomy which he thought that individuals or small groups could contribute to on shoestring budgets.

            Not sure how many of these have been answered in the intervening four years…

          • John Schilling says:

            Were I a research institution, however, I certainly would prefer professionals for the day in, day out work.

            The problem lies in the fact that you are not in a research institution, rendering your preferences entirely moot.

            Research institutions prefer that their scientists generate prestige, in the form of publications in high-impact journals. This, and similar metrics, is what gets them funding and power. As these metrics become increasingly decoupled from actual science(*), less science will be done by professional scientists working at research institutions.

            Amateur scientists, by etymological definition, do science because they love science. They will continue to do science. Professional scientists who are motivated by science rather than funding and prestige will become increasingly frustrated in their institutional environments; almost certainly some of them will chose to instead do science as amateurs. Bystanders who Fucking Love Science will in some cases chose to fund amateur science as that becomes a more reliable way to get their fix.

            This may reach a point where more and better science is done by amateurs than by professionals, only in part because the amateurs are doing more. If you would prefer that science be done by professionals, best get yourself in a position to make the funding decisions for a research institution that hires scientists.

            *Particularly the relatively boring, day-in-day-out sort of science that you correctly recognize as vital.

        • Odoacer says:

          @David Friedman and John Schilling and I’d be willing to bet an even smaller amount of current amateur science contributes to progress.

          Look, I’m all for people doing what they want for the most part. If a prodigy wants to analyze published data on her spare time and finds an important connection to a disease, then bully for her! However, how did that data become available in the first place? It takes a lot of time, effort, and money in many cases to do science, especially boring parts of science like documentation of repeated experiments. I’m not claiming that all of currently researched science is worthwhile or even true, but it’s not a bad system. Changes might be welcomed, but I’m not certain what changes are necessary.

          Also, maybe I’m being unfair here, but it’s been my experience that really smart people tend to underestimate how difficult things are in fields not their own. I don’t know why that is.

          • Odoacer says:

            Just to be clear, I’m not against amateur science (science done outside of research institutes/businesses/etc.). But I think the current costs and resources required in many fields limits what the amateur can do.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not claiming that all of currently researched science is worthwhile or even true, but it’s not a bad system. Changes might be welcomed, but I’m not certain what changes are necessary.

            That is the wrong question. The right question is, what changes are going to happen?

            One change that seems to be happening now is that the research institutions that make up the current “not a bad system” are increasingly disincentivized from performing the “boring parts of science like documentation of repeated experiments”, because that’s not the sort of thing that gets funding in a tight budgetary environment.

  8. Occam's Laser says:

    Relevant Hark! A Vagrant on Irish-Americans raiding Canada: http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=364

  9. Error says:

    Genetic risk for high sugar consumption is somewhat correlated with genetic risk for substance abuse

    This is interesting in that I’ve avoided drugs of any kind for a long time, in part for exactly this reason. I can’t keep finger food or sugary stuff in the apartment, because I’m incapable of not munching on it until I’m too sick to continue. I figured that lack of self-control would generalize to drugs.

    …on the one hand, it’s nice to have some confirmation that I’m making a good call in that respect. On the other, I’m even more wary of trying any kind of recreational drugs now. One more small pleasure of life that I don’t get to enjoy. Bah.

    • Fahundo says:

      Counter-anecdote: I too have a hard time forcing myself to stop eating junk food.

      I’ve had no problem trying recreational drugs once or twice without getting hooked, and rarely drink alcohol. I also find tobacco repulsive.

      • Gazeboist says:

        My experience as well. Though I note that, if in the presence of an open alcoholic drink that I like, I will often drink it quite quickly. I’m just rarely in the presence of such. But I don’t experience the same cravings as I do for salty/sugary junk food.

        • nimim. k.m. says:

          >I’m just rarely in the presence of such.

          Isn’t this exactly the thing Error is doing…?

          • Gazeboist says:

            I don’t think I was clear enough. I’m around alcohol infrequently, but this is not in any way deliberate. If I haven’t essentially been handed a drink, it’s about 50/50 that I’ll get one (for example at restaurants that also serve alcohol). I have to deliberately not buy eg jerky when I see it in the store, and I struggle with this.

    • Lumifer says:

      Confirmation from another side: I basically don’t eat sugar and don’t have cravings for sweet foods; I am also unaffected by a popular recreational drug.

    • Andrew says:

      I come from a long line of fat alcoholics with a sizable sub-population of drug addicts. I’m skinny and healthy, but only through paying a LOT of attention to my habits and trying hard to stay that way. Booze and sugar give me the same sorts of temptation problems- I try not to keep session beers or ice cream in the house, though baking supplies and my extensive liquor cabinet are fine, since they tend to work better with small doses and more extensive prep-work to consume.

  10. Nelshoy says:

    Re: /r/im14andthisisdeep

    I reddit a lot, but I’ve started to really dislike these kind of subs (see also /r/iamverysmart, /r/thathappened, /r/tumblrinaction, /r/ anything-with-fedora-or-cringe-in-the-title).

    I’m14andthisisdeep isn’t so bad, but the typical mode is laughing at lonely insecure people for not being as smart or self-aware as they should be. I didn’t like the company or how it made me feel to engage as someone who was bullied a good deal when I was younger.

    • rob says:

      /r/im14andthisisdeep is sometimes a little harsh about what they do, but /r/tumblrinaction is okay. On TIA they have rules against insulting people in their blogs, and they have a scheduled “sanity sunday” where they post things they think are positive and constructive.

      /r/iamverysmart is sometimes dumb itself, and it likes to link to reddit threads, which encourages brigading. Same with stuff like /r/srs. Outside reddit agreggators are better.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      That’s what r/iamverysmart is?! I had just seen the name once and been comforted to think that there existed a safe space for people who believe they are smarter than most, where they could stop pretending not to believe that.

      Well, better to find out this way rather than turning there in a time if actual need…

    • The Voracious Observer says:

      I agree, and I find those subreddits vaguely repulsive. It’s not that any of the criticism is wrong, but it just seems like on an overall basis, if you have to judge whether the existence of those subreddits are making the world a nicer or meaner place to live, you have to judge it as meaner, and that is probably a negative for society and shared trust. Also, participating in those communities is an extremely poor use of time, but that’s never stopped any internet debate, anywhere.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        r/tumblrinaction really isn’t that bad. I won’t deny it’s a time waster, but the people there are pretty nice. Plus, since SJWs took over tumblr, the subreddit is nicely opposed to the radical social justice types and has largely resisted the infiltration most other popular subreddits have had.

  11. BBA says:

    “Largest city” is an ambiguous term. I could truthfully say that the largest city in the US is Sitka, Alaska, or that the smallest city in England is London.

    • Wency says:

      Unless someone sets up context or is trying to be contrary, “largest” city always means “most populous”. Of course, there can still be ambiguity around city vs. metro and daytime vs. residential population (a 1000x and 30x difference, respectively, in London’s case). Though none of these apply to pre-Industrial cities.

      • BBA says:

        I was just being cheeky about Sitka (although it now has another claim to fame besides being the setting of an alternate-history novel).

        London is pretty unusual in that most of what’s commonly known as “London” is outside the city limits. The only other city I can think of like that is Las Vegas, where the whole Strip (except for the Stratosphere) is in unincorporated Clark County – and even then, the City of Las Vegas has a few hundred thousand residents. The City of London has under 10,000.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Although London (as in the Square Mile) is also the smallest city in England by population- there are two smaller ones in the UK, but both are in Wales.

  12. Sniffnoy says:

    Ooh, link time! I posted these in the open thread, but this seems an appropriate place to repost them.

    #1: Some flat-earthers have a new theory that there are no real trees left on the earth, and that what we now call “trees” are nothing in comparison to the real trees, hundreds of miles high, that once existed. (H/T Sarah Perry)

    #2: You’ve likely heard before the theory that autism and schizophrenia are actually opposites, so that you could form an autistic-schizophrenic spectrum with most people in the middle. Well, here’s a pair of articles proposing, based on physiology, that perhaps this axis is actually the same as the domestication axis that’s so famous from canine experiments, with schizophrenic people being more domesticated than usual and autisic people being less domesticated. (H/T Alice Maz)

    I am not remotely qualified to evaluate this, but I thought I’d point it out.

    • Nelshoy says:

      1.) I can’t even. I love how the Atlantic has no problem writing 5000 words on a YouTube video even flat earthers think is crazy, or analyzing the impact of the harambe meme

      2.) Strange. I’m not an expert either, but I got the feeling I get when someone glosses over the details that don’t fit the narrative. Age of onset seems like a huge descrepancy that needs to be explained. Why does autism kick in during early childhood while schizophrenia appears later? Autism seems much closer to congenital and schizophrenia to pathological.

      Can it be reconciled with Simon Baron-Cohen’s overly-male brain autism theory?

      • LPSP says:

        I’ve been more under the impression that both condition-groups are conditional; that certain circumstances can bring out schizophrenic and autistic behaviour, but the overal autisticness and schizophrenicness of an individual is overwhelmingly hereditary.

        I see validity in Baron-Cohen’s hypothesis, although I think calling the autistic brain flatly “male” proves too much – autism aligns with a very male set of characteristics, but not all distinctly male characteristics align with autism. In any case, does schizophrenia align with a “female” brain? Are delusions of reference, paranoia and reading small things into giant theories feminine?

    • LPSP says:

      I stumbled across that kind of stuff a while ago, found it intriguely if not necessarily substantiated. It ties in to Scott’s post about mental processes and the “handshake” – in that model Schizophrenia and Autism are related but not opposites, and the opposite of Autism would be some sort of congenital credulity or super-gullibility, or someone who just accepts things the moment they happen. Not entirely sure if something like that exist.

      Both models as well as my own experience confirms to the view that autism is a form of un, anti or maybe dis-domesticaiton. The set of internal standards in autists, rational or otherwise, are very anal and tight.

  13. Seth says:

    Adam Smith Institute argues for the claim that markets will punish discrimination …

    (sarcasm) Oh, why is it that SSC comments often have a very right-wing leaning? Wouldn’t one expect that liberals and conservatives are equally interested in investigations if discrimination is all the fault of the gummint? We’re rationalists, right? We look at “studies” which might prove it, and anyone who even hints that there’s something dubious about this sort of effort due to political effects is anti-rational, right? (end sarcasm).

    Look, this sort of stuff is going to attract far more right-wingers (yes, I include Libertarians there) who are interested in celebrating that it “proves” their worldview about discrimination, than it will attract left-wingers who want to slog through trying to produce a counter-argument against it, in hostile territory. That’s simply an empirical effect. Note I didn’t say the latter is going to be absolute zero. But, on the whole, who is going to find that sort of discussion more attractive? Conservatives who want to just tell themselves that discrimination is all the government’s fault, or liberals who want to assemble a kind, charitable, and also analytic, educational rebuttal?

    And the end result is going to be what’s apparent in the election thread comments.

    This is observation. I am making no statement about what course of action follows from it. But there’s no mystery in why the SSC comentariat tends to drift to being a more intellectual version of a certain polarity.

    Not quite a disclaimer: There’s much very bad material and attitude on the left, which I abhor and oppose. But, I think it’s more like an immune response that turns into auto-immune illness rather than a pure negative.

    • E. Harding says:

      Are the SSC commenters very right-leaning? Surely there are some Clinton and Sanders supporters here.

      “Conservatives who want to just tell themselves that discrimination is all the government’s fault, or liberals who want to assemble a kind, charitable, and also analytic, educational rebuttal?”

      -False dichotomy, man, and very unfairly treating one side.

      “And the end result is going to be what’s apparent in the election thread comments.”

      -Don’t complain about the comments if you can’t refute them.

      • Seth says:

        Are the SSC commenters very right-leaning? Surely there are some Clinton and Sanders supporters here.

        SSC commentariat leans right != Each and every SSC commenter leans right.
        Note I specifically alluded to the opposite idea: “Note I didn’t say the latter is going to be absolute zero.”

        False dichotomy, man, and very unfairly treating one side

        I did not say “Each side consists only of these two types”. The idea is that given these two types exist, which of the two types will be preferentially attracted? It’s a rhetorical way of saying “This type will be attracted far more than this other type”, which again, is not a statement that the sides consist intrinsically of only those types.

        I submit the relatively simple parsings above as illustration of why there is a disincentive to argue anything that is subject to repeated misparsing in a similar fashion.

        • Part of the problem is that different people have different views of what leaning right consists of.

          My guess, from the recent enormous threads, is that only a small minority of commenters actually like Trump, think his nomination was a good choice. But a substantial number more think he is less bad than Hilary and others, myself included, think both are pretty poor selections and favor Gary Johnson.

          Should all those positions count as right?

          For another example … . Someone recently had a comment which pretty clearly regarded the traditional freedom of association position, which implies opposition to laws prohibiting private discrimination, as not merely right of center but so extreme right that it was surprising anyone held it. From his standpoint it makes sense to view a lot more posters as right wing than from my standpoint, since I regard that as the obvious position and the current orthodoxy as bizarre.

          • Seth says:

            We are in agreement entirely that “different people have different views of what leaning right consists of.”. For example, I’ve been fascinated in readings of US history how much slavery was a widespread acceptable position in the US before the Civil War. Not every single person supported slavery. But the abolitionists, who we think of as obviously correct nowadays, were considered in the past as what might be termed a very left-wing position. These terms are very relative to one’s political context. Nonetheless, despite the imperfections of language, in 2016 America I believe the stance of relegalizing business discrimination is fairly described as “right-wing” (including Libertarians), given how the phrase is commonly understood in colloquial usage, in ways it would be very tedious to outline in excruciating detail and subject to distracting semantic quibbling.

            Someone recently had a comment which pretty clearly regarded the traditional freedom of association position, which implies opposition to laws prohibiting private discrimination, as not merely right of center but so extreme right that it was surprising anyone held it. From his standpoint it makes sense to view a lot more posters as right wing than from my standpoint, since I regard that as the obvious position and the current orthodoxy as bizarre.

            Well, if you are recalling something I wrote, I would not have been expressing any sort of surprise at the existence itself. I’ve been on the Internet a very long time. Though I can certainly see someone having such a reaction, given the past 50 years of civil rights progress. Regarding considering “the current orthodoxy as bizarre”, you might contemplate how many people in pre-Civil War America believed it was the obvious position that people could be property. In terms of history, it wasn’t that long ago.

            https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/60/393
            (emphasis added)

            “4. The Constitution of the United States recognises slaves as property, and pledges the Federal Government to protect it. And Congress cannot exercise any more authority over property of that description than it may constitutionally exercise over property of any other kind.

            5. The act of Congress, therefore, prohibiting a citizen of the United States from [p396] taking with him his slaves when he removes to the Territory in question to reside is an exercise of authority over private property which is not warranted by the Constitution, and the removal of the plaintiff by his owner to that Territory gave him no title to freedom.”

          • “But the abolitionists, who we think of as obviously correct nowadays, were considered in the past as what might be termed a very left-wing position.”

            Why? They were definitely extreme. Is that identical with “left”?

          • @Seth:

            I agree that if you have to classify my view on private discrimination as right or left it’s right. My point was that you seemed to see it as extreme right, I as “not left.”

            You are correct that slavery was an accepted institution for a long time. But it’s worth noting that the 19th c. libertarians, the classical liberals, were among its opponents. Economics got its label of the dismal science from Carlyle in response to the support by Mill and similar people for the emancipation of slaves and related ideas. And Carlyle’s opposition to the radical notion of human equality was supported by people such as Ruskin and Dickens–the people viewed by those leftists with opinions on the subject as the 19th century good guys.

            Indeed, as you probably realize, from my standpoint support for nondiscrimination law is support for a very dilute version of slavery–having the decision of who someone associates with made not by mutual consent but by an outside authority.

          • AnonBosch says:

            You are correct that slavery was an accepted institution for a long time. But it’s worth noting that the 19th c. libertarians, the classical liberals, were among its opponents.

            Right, but he’s saying classical liberals would be classified as “left-wing” relative to the 19th century perspective, where the hierarchies being fought over were those of royalty, slaveowners, and the state church rather than the more meritocratic systems emerging in the 20th. (Some, such as Bastiat, were “left-wing” in the original, literal sense of the word.)

          • Simon says:

            It could also be viewed as a supply/demand issue for the type of forum we are on.
            The left and progressive groups are also very fashionable, and widely accepted among a large swath of ‘intellectual’ type forums. There is tons of supply of places where academic and/or intelligent people can discuss the merits of progressivism. Whereas the supply for non-progressive intellectual thought and debate is very low, and basically doesn’t exist in most academic circles.

          • Lumifer says:

            Whereas the supply for non-progressive intellectual thought and debate is very low, and basically doesn’t exist in most academic circles.

            Don’t you mean demand? X -)

          • Maware says:

            Joseph, they probably would be considered left, but the idea that one could be a committed leftist and also use the language of Christianity without hypocrisy is something the modern left doesn’t do. In that case, being leftist was being leftist in the tradition of Christianity, which bound people together. Now they are leftist in no tradition and with nothing to bind them to conservatives.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Maware:

            but the idea that one could be a committed leftist and also use the language of Christianity without hypocrisy is something the modern left doesn’t do.

            This is simply not true.

            For instance, one of the major fronts in the gay rights and marriage equality fight was in liberal churches. This caused an actual schism within the Episcopal Church in 2003, I believe.

            Religious in the US gets used as if the only real believers are part of the Moral Majority, but the actual picture is much more complex.

        • tumteetum says:

          “I submit the relatively simple parsings above as illustration of why there is a disincentive to argue anything that is subject to repeated misparsing in a similar fashion.”

          Indeed.

      • Zombielicious says:

        -Don’t complain about the comments if you can’t refute them.

        10.54% of the comments in the last non-open thread (1,117 total) were yours alone. 5.02% of the 2,310 in the thread before that. It’s no one’s responsibility to waste their time “refuting” all that.

        Seth and Jill said it best:

        “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

        “For me, it’s like arguing with the Bible toting missionaries at my door who have come to convert me. No one would expect me to waste my time in discussions with those people, in person. But on the Internet, when the fundamentalism is political rather than religious, many people think this is different. It’s not.”

        • herbert herbertson says:

          Especially when he bails if and when you do manage to lock down his arguments.

        • keranih says:

          @ Zombilicious sez Jill or Seth sez:

          “For me, it’s like arguing with the Bible toting missionaries at my door who have come to convert me. No one would expect me to waste my time in discussions with those people, in person. But on the Internet, when the fundamentalism is political rather than religious, many people think this is different. It’s not.”

          Well, no. Because the JW or LDS are talking to you personally, and generally in private.(*)

          But arguments on the internet are done in public, and are not about the person you’re engaging with, they’re about the lurking bystanders. You really do need to challenge bad ideas, and you need to do so in an honest, engaging, amusing, non-threatening way. And dang right, it’s hard.

          *shrugs* Welcome to the human race, you want a cookie?

          (*) I tend to live in sketch neighborhoods. I invite them in, offer them ice water or lemonade. I tell them I’m Roman Catholic, and not likely to change the way I’m following The Man, and invite them to my parish. *shrugs* Generally they come by at least once more, just to smile and say hey.

      • JonCB says:

        Are the SSC commenters very right-leaning? Surely there are some Clinton and Sanders supporters here.

        Oh i dunno… our host perhaps? Granted he’s more of an “anyone but Trump” supporter… but still…

      • MugaSofer says:

        >Are the SSC commenters very right-leaning?

        … you did read the comments on the trump post, right? I realize they were agreeing with you, but it was fairly noticeable.

        (I’m not sure if those comments were unusually bad, perhaps because someone linked to them from somewhere, or if the comments have gotten much more right-wing recently while I wasn’t looking.)

        • TheWorst says:

          Those comments were unusually bad–highlights include E. Harding declaring that the Chinese Exclusion Act was justified because modern Chinese-Americans might not vote for Trump–but the overall fever-swampery was mostly coming from Harding and sometimes Friedman, who are both regulars here.

        • Jaskologist says:

          That’s not a good sample, being a post that will definitely trigger the “someone is wrong on the internet” module of right-wing brains more than left-wing brains.

          I start to sympathize with the left when E. Harding is half the thread, but the sympathy evaporates when the complaint becomes “a single link was posted which might back up some right-wing views.” There’s no satisfying that short of “never ever discuss any right-wing views.”

          • TheWorst says:

            I start to sympathize with the left when E. Harding is half the thread, but the sympathy evaporates when the complaint becomes “a single link was posted which might back up some right-wing views.” There’s no satisfying that short of “never ever discuss any right-wing views.”

            You’re far from alone on this, on both points.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            I think the reason SSC gets so much heat for being “right-wing” is that this is a space where none of the usual left wing, or even cosmopolitan centrist, assumptions can be taken for granted.

            We do genuinely have people from every extreme of the political spectrum. which isn’t alarming if you have some out there views (your ued to people like that) but is alarming if you aren’t used to it and just saw an in depth discussion of freedom of association vs. anti-decrimination laws in which no one called the other racist.

            On the whole I don’t think SSC actually leans right but there are a lot of fat tail political beliefs here that even some college educated probably hasn’t been exposed to.

          • Lumifer says:

            SSC doesn’t lean left or right. It leans smart and that, evidently, is very unexpected and unsettling for some people.

          • DavidS says:

            I agree SSC leans smart. But I really don’t think that the political differences between it and others is entirely down to smartness. There is quite a distinct strain not so much of right-wingness as anti-leftness. Especially the feeling that ‘social justice’ and ‘SJWs’ are leading threats facing US/West.

            There are various likely reasons for this: the issues our host has faced himself with SJW-types, the apparently significant numbers of people from tech backgrounds where this seems to be more of an issue, the (I guess) fact that vast majority of posts are by men etc.

          • “There is quite a distinct strain not so much of right-wingness as anti-leftness. ”

            Not “anti-leftness.” Guaranteed Basic Income is generally viewed as a left wing idea and pretty popular here.

            Anti a particular sort of leftness exemplified by SJW types, which some on the left are also anti.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’ll echo the E Harding comment, I’d guess that you could improve the comments sections of most established blogs by banning anyone who breaks certain prolific standards. Ray Lopez on MR for example.

          • DavidS says:

            @David Friedman: you’re completely right. I wrote the SJW stuff to clarify the reference to anti-leftist but implied that I was giving an example, when actually what I meant was specifically that lots of people here are anti- the SJW bit of leftist.

            Agreed some people on the left are also anti-SJW but lots of commentators here explicitly refer to SJW as ‘left’, so…

            Also, I think a fair chunk of pro-GBI people here reach that apparently left-wing position from the right?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Also, I think a fair chunk of pro-GBI people here reach that apparently left-wing position from the right?

            It’s basically the libertarian compromise option for welfare (with a side of “worrying about technological unemployment”).

        • Since you are describing me as fever swampery, would you like to take up my challenge to defend your claims about my blog? You wrote:


          “David, why do you think I don’t post on your blog? Why would I want to interact with only the people you consider tolerable?
          I’m quite aware that you and your fellow-travelers are wildly offended at seeing viewpoints that aren’t alt-right, yes. ”

          I pointed out that my blog had contained extended exchanges with Robert Frank and Robert Altemeyer. Also that I don’t censor the comments on it. You could easily check that both those statements are true. So unless you are willing to claim that the views of Frank and Altemeyer are alt right, along with the views of the various commenters on my blog, you cannot support what you wrote.

          My conjecture is that you had not actually read my blog and formed your beliefs by transforming conjecture about what people who disagree with you must be like into fact without the involvement of data. I could be wrong. But unless I missed it, you provided no support at all for your description and no rebuttal to my evidence that it was nonsense.

          • JHC says:

            You are tremendously biased but nevertheless demand to be regarded as unbiased. You seem to struggle with this.

          • His claim wasn’t that I am biased, which is hard to test, since bias is relative to the truth, which is one of the things people disagree about.

            His claims, however, were that posting on my blog would result in only interacting with people I consider tolerable and that I am wildly offended at seeing opinions that are not alt right. You can prove that those statements are false by simply reading my blog–I provided convenient links in my response. I have long and civil conversations with people well to my left and, while I have nothing close to the volume of comments Scott gets, my commenters cover a range of views.

            Do you want to defend his claims, which I think you can easily check are false? If you would prefer to argue about my biases, feel free. I’m willing to discuss that question too.

      • Ryan says:

        I don’t think “right-leaning” has much of a coherent meaning. To me the “right-leaning” take on discrimination laws would be that people can discriminate or not discriminate, it’s a free country and they own their shit, let them do what they want with it.

        Or maybe that’s the libertarian leaning? The classification system doesn’t make any sense.

        • That’s the libertarian leaning, but libertarians are quite often lumped in with conservatives as right wing.

          That isn’t entirely unreasonable, since the conservative movement from 1960 or a little earlier viewed itself as a libertarian-traditionalist alliance. Candidates such as Goldwater and publications such as National Review showed elements of both positions and Frank Meyer argued for a natural fusion of the two.

          But the alliance began to fray some time back. And libertarians are the modern version of the classical liberalism that, in the 19th century, was the chief opponent of conservatism, which makes lumping them together a bit odd.

          I favor both open borders and drug legalization, and those positions are not unusual among libertarians. But they are the opposite of the views on those subjects usually classified as right wing.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ E. Hardin
        Surely there are some Clinton and Sanders supporters here.

        Me, HeelBearCub, Jill, Uncle Kyrakin, Nita, a few more I can’t remember at the moment. But we more often post about non-political things, not wanting to be dogpiled. If Deiseach were USian, Hillary is financially liberal and socially a mild liberal, not an aggressive one.

        • What would a similar list of Trump supporters look like? I haven’t tried to compile one.

          You might want to distinguish between people who support candidate X and people who would vote for X because they think Y is even worse. My guess is that a majority of those expressing views here fall in the latter category, some with one X, some with the other.

        • Deiseach says:

          If Deiseach were USian, Hillary is financially liberal and socially a mild liberal, not an aggressive one.

          Hillary reminds me weirdly too much of Maggie Thatcher for me to be comfortable with her. I have no idea why. Possibly it’s the hairstyle: I know Mrs Thatcher was groomed and coached into changing her vocal style and pretty much everything to appeal to a broad swathe of the electorate, and to avoid seeming too weak (as a woman) to deal with tough decisions to be made, but also to avoid seeming too ‘masculine’ as well.

          I think Hillary has done some re-inventing and re-branding along those lines for the sake of her career herself (disclaimer: which is perfectly fine, they all do it, they all have to do it, I’m not singling her or women politicians out for criticism here), so it just strikes the wrong kind of note as far as I’m concerned.

          I also don’t know about the “mild not aggressive socially liberal”; I see a lot of “Hillary stands with Planned Parenthood” on Tumblr. A large part of that is probably pragmatism; getting unfavoured by PP hurts your ratings as a Democrat, and I don’t think that half her ‘progressive’ signals are any more than that – signals that her campaign has carefully calibrated to appeal to young women voters. And of course it depends if you see supporting PP as mildly or aggressively liberal 🙂

      • nimim. k.m. says:

        >Are the SSC commenters very right-leaning?

        The couple of the most right-leaning commenters seem [1] to make up majority of the discussion. Now, I don’t have statistics to back that up, but as a ex- social democrat, I can certainly agree with Seth that feel like being constantly on the defense here.

        ([1] There also might be some perception bias going on caused by that a couple of right-ers / libertarians here are so active that they have bothered with registering a nickname, and so their comments stand out.)

        Attempting to answer everything with a counter-argument would probably be require same amount of time as full-time job. I don’t even have time to read majority of the comment threads, and writing well-researched or at least sound responses is even more time-consuming.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          nimim. k.m. – “Attempting to answer everything with a counter-argument would probably be require same amount of time as full-time job.”

          The two Trump threads burned all my free time for three consecutive days. The last thread I got deeply involved in before that burned roughly two days. At the time, this seems like a good idea because People Are Wrong On The Internet, or else the conversation is just deeply interesting and compelling. Afterward, there is a noticeable crash into regret and self-recrimination, but in the moment the mind burns with glorious illumination.

          I doubt I’m the most prolific poster here either. I’ve been actively trying to comment and engage less over the last six or so months. The ability to walk away from low-quality conversations seems like an important one.

          Welcome, by the way.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I read through the first 1,000 comments or so on the first Trump thread before I thought, “wait a minute, what am I doing?” and stopped.

            I skim comment threads for promising subtopics, and block the rest. With the volume of commenting SSC has picked up over the last three years it’s really my only option if I want to stay engaged with the community (albeit posting perhaps once every two months) and still have time for non-SSC things.

    • drethelin says:

      Freaking out for paragraphs at a time about one link in a linkpost is exactly the opposite of how one can improve comments. This kind of tribe-bashing based NOT on content but simply on guilt-by-association of content is obnoxious and far less useful than honest disagreement by members of different tribes.

      • Seth says:

        … about one link in a linkpost

        I didn’t say “This and only this will have the effect I observe”. It’s simply an example which leapt out at me, given the context of the past week prominently, and similar discussion before. The problem is not purely outside agitators (as the phrase goes) being imported from reddit or somewhere. Or even being anti-SJW. There’s a ratchet effect which goes much deeper, from the approach in general.

        … far less useful than honest disagreement by members of different tribes.

        And this is my point, being made in full awareness of the ways which lie madness: What is “honest disagreement”? If you have “honest disagreement” over whether slavery should be relegalized, that’s going to attract a certain demographic. If you think that’s too harsh, having “honest disagreement” over whether business discrimination should be relegalized is going to attract a certain demographic. I know! I know! Take this too far, it becomes the Killing Fields! You don’t have to tell me that. It’s not a killer argument (pun unintended). But there’s still a problem, and the observation holds that there are effects which can’t be wished away with appeals to niceness and charity.

        • jlow says:

          >I know! I know! Take this too far, it becomes the Killing Fields!

          Given the context, this already seems “too far” to me.

          No, you didn’t say “this link and only this link” — but it is, seemingly, an example of problematic content. If “hey, here’s a link that isn’t 100% on-board with Favored Political Group” is too much, what’s left? If your solution isn’t “ban all non-Party-Approved discussion”, what is it, and how could it possibly apply to this link?

          >But there’s still a problem, and the observation holds that there are effects which can’t be wished away with appeals to niceness and charity.

          Well, if you enforce niceness and charity, then you’ll get only people willing to discuss things, with which they don’t agree, with niceness and charity. That seems fine regardless of political orientation proportions, but since this blog includes stuff from both sides, surely it won’t be too uneven.

          (As a parallel to what you say in this last quote: saying “I know this ends up in a bad place” doesn’t stop it from ending up in that place.)

          • Seth says:

            This is not “… here’s a link that isn’t 100% on-board with Favored Political Group”. It much closer to “Hey, right-wingers, post lots of stuff in the comments about how liberals are really the causes of discrimination, and saying that business nondiscrimination civil rights laws are anti-freedom”.

            That’s the effect. I’m focused on outlining how the election comment threads are not aberrations, but the ground is laid well beforehand. Repeat: “This is observation. I am making no statement about what course of action follows from it.”. It’s entirely possible for someone to conclude that this is where they are, and the results are simply beyond their ability to change given the world and what they want to do. But I do think there’s a misapprehension of the underlying mechanism, which is what I’m trying to point out (perhaps to no good result).

          • Garrett says:

            I don’t think it’s so much that “liberals are really the causes of discrimination”, so much as “this issue is a lot more complicated and nuanced than the conventional storytelling holds”.

        • ” If you think that’s too harsh, having “honest disagreement” over whether business discrimination should be relegalized is going to attract a certain demographic.”

          It could be true. But since there are good arguments against current anti-discrimination law as well as arguments for it, the disinterest of people on the currently conventional side in arguing the question is not creditable to them.

        • Lumifer says:

          There’s a ratchet effect which goes much deeper, from the approach in general.

          This is a sign-neutral argument. Would you like to go to any leftist site and make it there?

        • keranih says:

          @Seth –

          If you have “honest disagreement” over whether slavery should be relegalized…

          Well, (a) not we’re not talking about slavery but about race-based socio-economic discrimination. Trying to equate the two is an unforced error.
          And (b) – not “relegalized”. Decriminalized, surely.

          It’s much less about whether it’s a good idea, and more about the downsides of trying to enforce the ban.

    • qwints says:

      Studies about discrimination are of interest to all sides of the political spectrum. I think you’re misinterpreting the statistical model (probably due to the way it was presented in the blog post) as right wing, when it’s not. There’s a ton of lefty stuff about how racism isn’t about personal animosity (taste) but about structure (statistics). It’s just saying that most economic discrimination is done by actors who believe it benefits them economically rather than because they dislike the target of discrimination. That doesn’t mean the state shouldn’t bar such discrimination or that it’s responsible for it.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      hey, sorry if…uh…facts have a conservative bias

      🙂

      😀

      just kidding though. Look I feel you. But I think that the reason I sort of switched more than anything is that right now, the Right is engaging argumentatively and the Left is simply retreating into their bubbles, which to be fair is arguably a function of bubble control to begin with – if you own the bubbles, then retreat is an alluring option. And so, the Right has gained some ideological ascendance, because it is putting out its steelmen and the Left is unable to engage in them. Until the Left puts forth its steelmen, and likely until some rollback of culturally Left bad ideas and politically Left bad ideas occurs, you’re going to see one side start to gain momentum.

      • Zombielicious says:

        Uh, did it ever occur to you that SSC might be a massive far-right bubble? It’s my go-to example for when I want to quickly show liberals and blue-tribers what a conservative tribe thinks about them. Or just illustrate how tribalist behavior and accusations on both sides is basically indistinguishable.

        Tbh I was maybe halfway through this links post when I thought it might just be an attempt to regain tribal cred after the last two posts criticizing Trump.

        • Jugemu Chousuke says:

          If you think this is “far right” you haven’t looked very far outside the mainstream left.

          edit: To be fair we did have some hardcore far right posters in the past, but they got banned for that reason. Anyone as extreme as Jim who’s still around here knows to keep it on the DL.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          So all those threads constantly where everyone supports progressive ideals, I just imagined that? Man, it turns out I’m part of a massive far-right bubble! Phew, better stop voting for the Greens then!

          Seriously, there have been surveys:

          On a political spectrum where 1 is farthest left and 10 is farthest right, the average person placed themselves at 4.6. 19% identified with the US Democratic Party, 7% with the US Republican Party, and 3% with the US Libertarian Party. Of the ideological affiliations available, the top four were social democratic (29%), liberal (23%), libertarian (22%), and conservative (9%). Readers were mostly neutral on feminism, human biological differences, and the minimum wage; they mostly supported gay marriage, environmental action against global warming, more immigration, and basic income guarantees.

          This place has never been right wing on average, or even close to it. It’s just that it tolerates a wide range of opinions, which is unusual nowadays and freaks people out. They think if they see a right wing comment or two it must mean everyone’s on board with that. Well it doesn’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            That survey is readers. Weight it by comment lines of text and using a moving average and you’ll get a very different result.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            @Anonymous: So if liberals are overrepresented as readers, and underrepresented as comment writers, perhaps the solution is simply to encourage liberals to post more comments?

            I would love to see more left wing perspectives on SSC. Be the change you want to see in SlateStarCodex, Anonymous!

            It sounds like a big thing that’s holding back liberals from posting now is a sense that they will be outnumbered in any discussion. But since liberal readers actually outnumber conservative readers if the survey is to be believed, maybe we have a coordination problem on our hands. All of the liberal readers are holding back from commenting because all of the other liberal readers are holding back from commenting.

            To solve this coordination problem, I suggest the creation of a Schelling point for coordination. Scott could post in the description of the next Open Thread and say something like “this is the thread where all the liberals will simultaneously speak up and explain their views”. (Or an early commenter in the thread could attempt to create a Schelling point.) Once you guys get one thread where you are not outnumbered among comment writers, you will hopefully have chipped away at the sense that sharing your views on SSC is useless, and the problem will start to resolve. (And I’ll get to learn more about why you believe what you believe!)

          • keranih says:

            …*blinks*

            Why does this solution sound like a mashup of a twitter mob and a quota?

            I am sure there is another method to getting what you want. (Serious question – what is it that you want?)

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ The Most Conservative
            (And I’ll get to learn more about why you believe what you believe!)

            Since you may be our only reader, what are your main questions?

          • Jill says:

            “perhaps the solution is simply to encourage liberals to post more comments?”

            I don’t know how you could possibly do that. The more readers observe that liberal people get dogpiled onto when they comment, the fewer liberals are going to comment. The board would have to seek out liberal masochists, for this to work otherwise.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            Why does this solution sound like a mashup of a twitter mob and a quota?

            Sounds like you chose to make a hidden inference. See Scott’s essay on this.

            I am sure there is another method to getting what you want. (Serious question – what is it that you want?)

            To make SSC a place on the internet where liberals and conservatives engage with one another intelligently and thoughtfully.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            Since you may be our only reader, what are your main questions?

            I’m wondering about lots of stuff! Where to start? I guess I see lots of smart arguments on SSC, which yes indeed do seem to be kind of right wing, and I would be very interested if there are smart left wing rebuttals. So probably a good place to start would be if there’s some belief or argument that’s commonly shared on SSC that you think the left has a pretty good rebuttal to, but this rebuttal is rarely discussed.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ The Most Conservative
            I’m wondering about lots of stuff! Where to start? I guess I see lots of smart arguments on SSC, which yes indeed do seem to be kind of right wing, and I would be very interested if there are smart left wing rebuttals. So probably a good place to start would be if there’s some belief or argument that’s commonly shared on SSC that you think the left has a pretty good rebuttal to, but this rebuttal is rarely discussed.

            Okay. Not to pin anything to anyone here … consider all these to be strawmen drifted in.

            Here’s a cluster of opinions with a common factor. Does anyone have a snappy name for it?

            1) In a ‘rich country’, everyone is rich. When the GNP rises, everyone has more gadgets, and higher income. If a Third World country’s average income is not too bad compared with the US average, then there is no poverty there. (Or here, ftm.)

            Rebuttal to 1) Each person has one ovary and one testicle.

            2) All First World people are ‘rich’ compared to kings long ago, because we have cars, tv’s, electric heat, etc. Because we are ‘rich’ there can be no poverty here. (Having no heat at all because the electricity was turned off, doesn’t count. The heat we don’t have was electric heat!)

            3) The US already has plenty of Social Service resources to take care of everyone who falls through the cracks.

            4) For poor USians to expect better conditions than Third World, is unrealistic. Because those people sleep three in a bed, gather firewood in walking distance, use a fire ring for all heat and cooking, etc etc — that is all our poor should expect.

            Rebuttal to 4) When poor people in the US try living in Third World conditions, they’re a ‘homeless encampment’ to be cleared by the police.

            5) Instead of complaining, unemployed people should move to where the jobs are.

            Rebuttal to 5) Tell that to the coal miners.

          • For your list of five propositions, I don’t think anyone argues for any of them as stated. The closest is 2.

            The point is not that it is impossible for someone to be poor in a rich society–for an extreme case, consider someone lost in the woods and starving. It is that the rhetoric around poverty in rich countries depends on treating considerably poorer than average as if it meant starving to death, as in past societies it well might.

            People worrying about poverty in the U.S. are not talking about the bottom .01% but about the bottom 10% or so–most of whom are, in material terms, richer than most people that have ever lived. And people talking about poverty are mostly reluctant to recognize that.

            Rebuttal?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HouseBoatOnStyx – “4) For poor USians to expect better conditions than Third World, is unrealistic. Because those people sleep three in a bed, gather firewood in walking distance, use a fire ring for all heat and cooking, etc etc — that is all our poor should expect.

            Rebuttal to 4) When poor people in the US try living in Third World conditions, they’re a ‘homeless encampment’ to be cleared by the police.

            …This argument seems like a vaguely good one to me. The rebuttal to the rebuttal would seem to be to stop the police doing that. I guess I’m asking, if we got the police to stop clearing “homeless encampments”, would the homeless in particular and society in general be better off?

            I guess the usual arguments in favor of running them off is that big concentrations of homeless drive crime, lower property value, the homeless are squatting…

            If we stop all clearing, are we just trading the homeless problem for the Favela problem? Is that a worse problem or a better one? Are there better solutions available?

            [EDIT] – To be clear, this sort of question is one I’m genuinely interested in, and don’t feel like the red-tribe narrative answers very well. It really does seem to me like we have enough wealth to go around, so the problem comes in distribution.

            [EDIT EDIT] – 2) All First World people are ‘rich’ compared to kings long ago, because we have cars, tv’s, electric heat, etc. Because we are ‘rich’ there can be no poverty here. (Having no heat at all because the electricity was turned off, doesn’t count. The heat we don’t have was electric heat!)

            Are we talking about not having heat in terms of it’s miserable, or not having heat in terms of in danger of freezing to death?

            The former was most of the first two decades of my life. Are people in our society actually freezing or starving in appreciable numbers, though? Like, from a utilitarian perspective, do we save more lives with heating and food, or with driverless cars or something like that (assuming the costs are the same, or divide cost by life saved or whatever)?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            I frequently point out that I think value systems tend to work because the various values are in tension with each other. You can’t actually fully optimize on one of the values without ending up in an an untenable place vis-a-vis the other ones.

            This mean I rarely think there are any actually optimal solutions to any problem. Homelessness seems to me like one of those issues where attempting to optimize around the value of self-reliance leads to awful edge cases. And we can see that in either of the two options being put forward here. Kicking them out or letting them squat both assume that it’s completely on the homeless to work within whatever set of rules are made and damn them if they can’t make that work to their profit.

            Whereas, if we look at the current VA effort to reach zero homelessness in vets, what we see is communal responsibility for our fellow. Responsibility which is not regarded as optional or voluntary, but mandatory. And that approach has actually worked in many areas, and it has worked by starting with the premise that the best way to end homelessness is to .. get the vets into a home (and then work on the problems that led to their homelessness.)

            Now, if you try and optimize solely around the value of communal responsibility, this will not work either. But that’s not a good argument for ignoring this value altogether.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David Friedman
            People worrying about poverty in the U.S. are not talking about the bottom .01% but about the bottom 10% or so–most of whom are, in material terms, richer than most people that have ever lived.

            Well, there you go. Defining ‘rich’ as ‘having more luxuries than Mr. X’ is the same idea whether Mr. X is a current citizen of Haiti or King X of Ruritania. Define ‘rich’ that way, and ‘poverty’in the US is impossible by definition. Question begged.

            But luxury without security or a smooth longterm situation =/= ‘rich’. Rich needs a balanced budget, no big stresses or conflicts around basic needs. Either your car is dependable or you have a spare car … or your job doesn’t require a car. When your car doesn’t start, that isn’t a crisis that might lose your job. Your income is adequate (with buffer) for living as is normal among your neighbors; no stresses or crises there. Keeping utility bills paid is never a problem.

            It’s silly to call someone ‘rich’ if they don’t have that security, or something approaching it, no matter how fancy their gadgets are. If someone through no fault of their own gets squeezed between lower wages and higher rent, and this puts them chronically in crisis and out of sync with ‘normal’ people — that’s poverty. Especially if it’s gone far enough that they are short of food or miserable with cold.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            >> Rebuttal to 4) When poor people in the US try living in Third World conditions, they’re a ‘homeless encampment’ to be cleared by the police.

            > …This argument seems like a vaguely good one to me.

            It’s been made a few times already in response to 4), but at a higher income level. Commenters talk about quite a few USians sharing a single house, and someone brings up the fact that zoning regulations make that illegal in many locations.

            The rebuttal to the rebuttal would seem to be to stop the police doing that.

            Here you’re going deeper into object level than I want to follow, though I will say I’m on the side of the beach or highway encampments. These are not the shaggy zombies of city alleys. These are a bit grubby in old work clothes, but ingeniously coping in a challenging situation. Most of them are in old travel trailers. They’re not asking for any resources, just to be allowed to camp on some out-of-the-way land. [Source: observation during our motorhoming in the 80s up and down the Pacific Coast.]

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ HBC
            I think value systems tend to work because the various values are in tension with each other. You can’t actually fully optimize on one of the values without ending up in an an untenable place vis-a-vis the other ones.

            Yes. CS Lewis sets it out in the last part of THE ABOLITION OF MAN, though in quite different words. Setting yours beside his gives rather an SF effect, for me.

          • @houseboatonstyxb:

            I wrote: “most of whom are, in material terms, richer than most people that have ever lived.”

            You replied “Well, there you go. Defining ‘rich’ as”

            as if I had said “were rich.”

            Do you disagree with the claim–that most of the bottom ten percent of the U.S. population are, in material terms, richer than most people that have ever lived?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @David:

            Rebuttal?

            I guess the most obvious rebuttal would be that, even if people have more material possessions than most historical (or even most present foreign) people, they’ll still feel poor and inadequate if the societal mainstream seems considerably better off than them and they’ve got no way of bettering their situation. Is that a rational way for them to look at the situation? Probably not, but then people aren’t always rational, and you have to take that into account when thinking about how society should be run.

          • @The original Mr. X:

            I wasn’t defending “there is no poverty here.” I was pointing out the part of claim 2 which people actually make–and which is true.

            Whether there is poverty here depends on how you define it. The rhetoric usually implies absolute material impoverishment and usually ignores how rich our society is. On the international level, the rhetoric usually ignores the fact that the only way of hiding the sharp decrease in world poverty is to keep raising the definition.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            they’ll still feel poor and inadequate if the societal mainstream seems considerably better off than them and they’ve got no way of bettering their situation.

            I am not talking about feelings. I’m talking about whether a person has the cash to function smoothly with the physical requirements of their culture. For example, granted that most people (especially the lowest 10%) need a job; the job needs a car; the car needs maintainance. If the car won’t start, the person is in stressful, crisis mode for saving his job: calling people to beg a ride, or for help to fix the car, etc. This disrupts his family’s and neighbors’ day, causing cascading crises. It is not just about feelings.

          • Lumifer says:

            granted that most people (especially the lowest 10%) need a job

            I am pretty sure most people in the lowest 10% live on some kind of welfare and a job will seriously interfere with that welfare.

          • “It is not just about feelings.”

            I think you underestimate how much more than feelings was making life difficult for most people at most times and places in the past. The estimate I have seen for medieval Europe is a famine about every ten years. That doesn’t mean going to bed hungry, it means some people starving to death.

            Of course, it was a very unequal society. Kings were unlikely to starve to death even in a famine. But for a century or two starting in the mid-fourteenth they had a serious risk of dying of plague, and through most of history diseases we don’t take very seriously, such as measles, were mass killers.

            I’ve cited McCloskey’s estimate before that the average real income in modern developed societies is twenty to thirty times as high as its average through most of history. That’s real income, so allowing for price changes. Think about living on $2000/year and having to work fairly hard for that.

            I will happily concede that one element in perceived poverty is relative income–status is important to humans. But claims of the form “it really take much more money to live now” are either ignoring the fact that the figures are already allowing for price changes or treating status as in the same category as food and shelter.

          • Jill says:

            It seems that there is no such thing as poor in 21st century America, according to Libertarians, or anyone on the Right Wing. Their needs (theoretically) can not exist. That’s why they are never considered in Libertarian or other Right Wing policies.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Jill

            As a libertarian I care very much for the poor and advocate for policies I think would help. End the drug war which cages peaceful individuals, causes gang violence, and makes it harder to get a job with a record, impacts which fall disproportionately on the poor. End all tariffs to make goods cheaper to allow poor households’ income to go further. Eliminate minimum wage to make it easier for those with little skills and experience, typically the poor, to get a job. Reform the criminal justice system to move it more towards restorative justice, which would primarily benefit the poor. Stop foreign intervention which destabilizes poor parts of the world. Vastly increase immigration to make it easier for the destitute in 3rd world countries to move to a place with greater opportunity. Etcetera.

            I do okay as a middle class person, but I think much of what government does harms the poor, and this is one of the main drivers of my libertarian politics.

          • Jill says:

            Interesting. It seems you are most interested in the poor in other countries. It does sound like you want the criminal justice system to not be against them. But getting rid of minimum wage so that employers who are paying people less than a living wage, can start paying them a penny and hour or whatever– that part I would characterize as not caring about the needs of the real poor. Maybe you do care about the theoretical poor who can live on a minuscule wage though.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Jill

            A significant portion of my charitable donations go to the poor in 3rd world countries, as they have to deal with issues like disease, illiteracy, very poor shelters, and getting enough calories, which I prioritize as more important issues to ameliorate than the issues of most American poor.

            Minimum wage in the U.S. has historical roots in discriminating against employing poor black southerners moving north to take jobs that whites wanted. Set a high wage floor, and employers will take skilled labor over unskilled labor, harming the least skilled who tend to be poor. A minimum wage makes some people unemployable, giving them a wage of zero. I don’t find it to be a good policy for the least well off.

          • Jill says:

            How do you think people who are making the current minimum wage are doing, trying to make ends meet? Have you ever tried to live on that kind of wage? This author did.

            Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Paperback – August 2, 2011
            by Barbara Ehrenreich

            https://www.amazon.com/Nickel-Dimed-Not-Getting-America/dp/0312626681/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476076730&sr=1-1&keywords=NIckel+and+Dimed

            It seems that a great many people on this board agree with you though, that “Charity begins not at home but in some far away Third World country.”

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @houseboatonstyxb: I agree.

          • ” But getting rid of minimum wage so that employers who are paying people less than a living wage, can start paying them a penny and hour or whatever– that part I would characterize as not caring about the needs of the real poor.”

            Like a lot of people, you assume that if other people support policies that you believe have bad effects, they must be in favor of those bad effects.

            I would think by now you would have figured out that opponents of the minimum wage think it’s effect is to price unskilled labor out of the market, replacing a low wage with a zero wage. You don’t agree–but you might at least try to base your interpretation of their views on what they actually are.

            I’m also a little curious about your model of the world. About 2% of American workers are at or below the minimum wage. Since, on your theory, the only constraint on what employers can pay is what it is legal to pay, why does everyone else get more?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ jaimeastorga2000

            Thank you, and for the link

            My hunch has always been that UBI/etc would produce local inflation: the merchants in poor areas would raise their prices to whatever the market could newly bear. But it’s worth trying; it would give poor people a break, even if temporary, to do things to improve their situation.

            As for zero-sum inhabitable land, I expect technology can solve that, by building space colonies; plenty of space out there.

            As to how Moloch is working here, I’m not sure how we can find and solve that, till we can agree that there is poverty in the US.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David Friedman
            Do you disagree with the claim–that most of the bottom ten percent of the U.S. population are, in material terms, richer than most people that have ever lived?

            I do disagree with that claim, and with the definition of ‘rich/richer’ that it tacitly rests on. It requires a non-central meaning of ‘rich’. The central meaning of ‘rich’ combines having plenty of money with accouterments such as a comfortable home, respectable appearance, many possessions, etc — but the key to the definition is ‘having plenty of money’. If someone has the accouterments but it turns out he has no money, we say ‘He isn’t actually a rich man.’ If someone lives in a poor lifestyle but it turns out he has a great deal of money in the bank, we say ‘He looks poor but he is actually a rich man’.

            I’m tempted to say, if he has many possessions but has no money, he’s a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If he has a fancy house and expensive toys but can’t pay the rent, he is not rich. Money is necessary (at least a small but regular amount).

            Saying a USian without money is ‘rich’ in gadgets etc — is like saying he’s got the sun in the morning and the moon at night. It may work in poetry, but not in practicality.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Jill

            I think people who have little skills and experience and can only get an employer to pay minimum wage have more struggles and stresses than highly productive people able to command higher wages, with respect to affording the basics. The best way for them to do better in life is to gain skills and experience that employers want so that they can ask for and get a higher wage. It’s the same process I went through: I earned minimum wage at my first job (a pizza place) when I was 15, but I worked hard, treated customers well, and took initiative to learn how to do everything (take orders, make pizzas, tend the oven, rout drivers, prep the food, audit the till, etc.) and within a year was earning almost double the minimum wage.

            I created and demonstrated value to my employer, and they paid me accordingly when I asked for a raise and told them I was going elsewhere if they couldn’t accommodate. If the minimum wage was $15/hr when I was 15, I don’t think I would’ve been able to get a job, as employers probably would have preferred someone with more skills and experience than a 15 year old kid had. A low enough minimum wage made it easy for me to get on the first rung of success and to climb from there. An elimination of the minimum wage would make it easier for people with less polish and skills than my 15 year old self had to get employment to start climbing the ladder of success.

            As far as charity beginning at home, I do take care of my family, friends and coworkers in times of need. A significant portion of my charitable donations also goes to helping kid’s with cancer in the U.S., as I have a soft spot for people who come into misfortune through no fault of their own, and kid’s with cancer really meets that criteria. Outside of helping those I know and kids with cancer, I don’t feel any more obligation to a random stranger in America than one in India, and I find the needs of the poor in India to be more compelling than the needs of the typical poor person in America (http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/07/what-is-poverty)

            BTW, here’s two more libertarian policies I think would help the poor: school choice so poor kids aren’t locked into a failing school and removal of extensive occupational licensing so it’s easier for poor people to start a business, like hair braiding.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            PS to my own comment above.

            I said: till we can agree that there is poverty in the US. My hasty use of ‘poverty’ there looks like a question-beg.

            I should have said something like: “till we can agree on a definition of ‘poverty’, or invent some neologism to take its place in these discussions.”

        • Deiseach says:

          Poor Scott. He doesn’t engage in the ritual throwing of shoes at the unclean lepers of the right-wing/conservative inclination, and so he gets a rep as running a bordello for those who like to live in “a massive far-right bubble”.

          I don’t know what I can do to help reclaim this as a liberal/progressive oasis of sanity, any suggestions as to how I might express myself in a properly liberal way? Unfortunately, I’m not Blue Tribe by background or education so I’m stuck being a bog-Irish peasant, but I can ape my betters if taken by the hand and guided in how to do so 🙂

          • Lumifer says:

            so he gets a rep as running a bordello

            But I like spending time in a bordello! X -D

          • Your modesty is unconvincing, given past demonstrations of your ability to entertainingly mimic views you disagree with.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Poor Scott. He doesn’t engage in the ritual throwing of shoes at the unclean lepers of the right-wing/conservative inclination…

            On the other hand, he does engage in the ritual throwing of shoes at the evil regressive left/cultural marxists/Cathedral. Maybe that’s got something to do with the perception of SSC as right-leaning?

        • lvlln says:

          As a far-left liberal, I find the statement that SCC is a “massive far-right bubble” or even just a “far-right bubble” or even could be accurately described as “far-right” to be utterly ridiculous. The far-right definitely have a much greater presence here than in most public spaces, but they hardly dominate, and non-far-right ideas tend to be engaged with critically and in good faith just as much as far-right ideas do.

          • Anonymous says:

            The strongest defining characteristic of the comment section is a loose grip on reality when it comes to the social left.

            The percent of the commentariat that consider themselves under personal sustained attack by powerful shadowy forces is astonishing.

          • TheWorst says:

            @ Anonymous:

            In fairness, probably half of those people who think the dominant factions within the social left have gone toxic are reasonable facsimiles of leftists ourselves.

          • Anonymous says:

            I wouldn’t say half, but yes those people do exist. And their / your hysteria has somehow lead you to conclude that it is better to be bedfellows with the deplorables than with the large majority of people on the left in the US that aren’t especially far left on social issues but haven’t set their hair on fire because some kids in college are saying dumb things on twitter.

          • TheWorst says:

            …somehow lead you to conclude that it is better to be bedfellows with the deplorables than with the large majority of people on the left in the US …

            Outgroup homogeneity bias is not a useful tool for learning information about the world. Declaring that everyone who is not in bed with you must be in bed with each other is both false and rude.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Eh.

            It’s not a far-right bubble. There are (plenty of) far-right bubbles, but many of those are sectional in nature. Are we talking Stormfront? Breitbart? Various dominionist spaces?

            Does Huffington Post (or at least the old crystals and snark HuffPo, haven’t spent time there in a long time) or Daily Kos make for a are “far-left” bubble? Answer that question for yourself before evaluating comparable sites on the right.

            But is definitely the case that SSC is “niche-right”. There are just lots of relatively odd right-wing stances here.

          • “Declaring that everyone who is not in bed with you must be in bed with each other is both false and rude.”

            Correct.

            And stated by someone who quite recently accused a libertarian anarchist academic of being “wildly offended at seeing viewpoints that aren’t alt-right.”

          • Anonymous says:

            What are we to make of the repeated invocation of a 40 year old alleged financial scandal from one of the major presidential candidates and zero invocations of the many financial scandals of the other major presidential candidate?

            Yes, yes Gary Johnson and anarchism but it is abundantly clear that Trump, conservatism, and the Republican Party are in close second place.

            Which is fine, but don’t act all horrified when you are lumped in with them. If you would rather not be seen that way then try to more than occasionally bring up the things you disagree with conservatives on rather than always the things you disagree with liberals on.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Declaring that everyone who is not in bed with you must be in bed with each other is both false and rude.

            Nice image, anyway.

          • JHC says:

            HBC,

            You seem to enjoy being the only liberal here. When others show up you suddenly decide the board is evenly matched and start policing “your side”.

            On days when it’s you vs. a 10-man dogpile you seem much happier.

          • CatCube says:

            @JHC

            I think a more charitable reading of HBC’s actions (and one I commend him for) is that he doesn’t like seeing people on “his side” be assholes. He’s pretty limited on what he can do about those of us on the right. I can understand why he does it; it’s a big reason why I’m not going to vote for Trump.

            I wish, myself, that we could make E Harding at least pipe down.

          • JHC says:

            I just wish he had a single counterpart in the majority.

            I still can’t get anyone to tell me who here on the right polices their own side.

            This seems significant.

            But so does the combined effort to make this subject go away.

          • Jill says:

            “You seem to enjoy being the only liberal here. When others show up you suddenly decide the board is evenly matched and start policing “your side”.

            “On days when it’s you vs. a 10-man dogpile you seem much happier.”

            I hadn’t noticed or kept track of this, if it is indeed happening. But liberals tend to be wimps and not stand up for ourselves, and many liberal exhort other liberals to be wimps and not stand up for themselves. That’s extremely common, though as I said, I haven’t kept track, so I don’t know if the typical thing is happening here.

          • Gazeboist says:

            And stated by someone who quite recently accused a libertarian anarchist academic of being “wildly offended at seeing viewpoints that aren’t alt-right.”

            To be … “fair” … there are many “viewpoints that aren’t alt-right”, at least some of which I have on good authority would wildly offend you.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @JHC:
            I don’t know how long you have been around here (lurking or commenting), but I have been fairly vocal for as long as I have been here (18 months maybe?) that I view the commentariat as being fairly well dominated by those who can broadly be classified as being “on the right”. I’ve also been fairly consistent in wanting more left/liberals to comment here and stick around here.

            One of the thing I have tried to do, and have been accused of being a “manners Nazi” for, is to point out the idea of Scott’s walled-garden as being something of a shared sacred value for the space. I don’t claim to always live up to it, but I do think it’s worthwhile to try and reach for it as an ideal.

            I spend more time criticizing people on the right than I do people on the left, for all manner of things, but it’s arguably more effective when it comes to the idea of “manners” if the criticism comes from someone who agrees with you on the ideological questions.

            As something of a side-note, I actually think I have seen more left-wing comments here recently overall (although not on the two shit-shows of Trump post comments sections). I do think that having evident, even prominent, left-wing comments is one thing necessary in order to show someone new that they are welcome here. I hope I have at least been sort of good at that. But maybe that is humble-brag, or something like it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jill:
            I’m not being accused of being a wimp, so much as a narcissist who wants the left wing spotlight to myself.

            Or, as someone once accused me of being SSC’s “Alan Colmes”, perhaps I am being accused of being a prop, a useful foil for SSC’s right-wing to trot out to make weak arguments that are easily shot down.

            I don’t believe I am either one. And I certainly reject the idea that I am a “wimp” when it comes to defending my values or positions. I think you will see that I am fairly bull-dogish (generally) once I start into a particular argument.

          • Garrett says:

            “If you would rather not be seen that way then try to more than occasionally bring up the things you disagree with conservatives on rather than always the things you disagree with liberals on.”

            Part of the problem with this is so little of what separates libertarians from conservatives when it comes to specific policy positions is actively being debated these days. For example: marijuana legalization is being pursued at the state level with a good deal of slow but steady success – it’s not a major talking point. Nobody is actively engaging in the meta-question of “why do we have a military?”

            Republicans (not to be confused with conservatives) have been engaging in odd activities around abortion, but that’s mostly either being overturned by the courts, or is a wider symptom of government interference that the left doesn’t seem to be interested in engaging with so the responses tend to fall on deaf ears.

            Other topics like immigration are not fully agreed within the libertarian community. You want to hear a screed against zoning restrictions?

          • Jill says:

            HBC, excellent then. We need more liberal bull dogs. Seriously. Too many liberals are too much like Gandhi. A wonderful guy. But history indicates that he was successful in part because there were more violent leaders ready to take his place if the British killed him off or otherwise got rid of his influence. So the British decided to deal with a nonviolent leader, rather than a violent one.

            Verbal aspects of politics are sort of like Prisoner’s Dilemma. You need something closer to a tit for tat strategy to have an impact– not a constant peace and love attitude, which can cause you to be seen as a doormat. I’m not talking about being mean– just standing up for oneself. And not bending over backward to be 10X nicer to others than they are to you.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            HBC
            I do think that having evident, even prominent, left-wing comments is one thing necessary in order to show someone new that they are welcome here.

            Speaking of new Lefties or Moderates, an important thing for them to know is that many of the off-putting Rightside comments are from recent immigrants who have not assimilated.

          • Anonymous says:

            Part of the problem with this is so little of what separates libertarians from conservatives when it comes to specific policy positions is actively being debated these days.

            I don’t think this is adequate to explain what is going on. Immigration comes up in every single open thread. David Friedman claims to be for open borders, but he is never or very rarely in those threads arguing aggressively for open borders. Yet if someone mentions global warming even in passing he posts twenty posts on the subject.

            As a person he may well be a libertarian or anarchist or whatever, but as a poster he makes posts that are: non-ideological / non-partisan (which are the most interesting IMO) and those that are right wing / republican. Common examples of latter include frequent posts on: Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry, Hillary Clinton’s trading history forty years ago, climate change skepticism, and opposition to minimum wages.

            Nothing wrong with that, anyone is entitled to post about what he wants to post about and not post about what he doesn’t want to post about. But we know you by your fruits, and regardless of what David Friedman the person is, David Friedman the SSC commentator is a right winger. Ditto for onyomi & DrBeat.

          • “David Friedman the SSC commentator is a right winger. ”

            You make a legitimate point. But you might also consider my absence from certain “right wing” arguments. You will not find me arguing the perils of too much immigration, especially of Muslims. Or arguing that we should have a more aggressive foreign policy. Or arguing for banning abortions.

            And my view of the minimum wage reflects the fact that I’m an economist, not my political orientation. As I may have pointed out, back when Krugman was an academic economist rather than a public intellectual, he thought the same thing about the minimum wage as the rest of us.

            Also, I may be wrong, but I think I have discussed the existence of legal rules in stateless societies here in the not very distant past. Which ought to at least hint at the fact that I’m an anarchist. Not to mention other posters occasionally mentioning it.

            Not exactly a Republican position, but one fairly common among libertarians.

        • wintermute92 says:

          Man, the standards for “far right bubble” have dropped.

          Seriously, among people who take Scott’s surveys, “democratic” and “liberal” are the most popular alignments, followed by “libertarian”. If that’s far-right, I have some bad news for you about 4chan, Facebook, Reddit, churches, country clubs, and your average PTA meeting.

          If you wanted to narrow this charge to “posters in the SSC comments section” there’d be more room for a debate, but that’d be a very different statement. And even then, I would argue that there’s a lot of left-wing content that might not be standing out to you as strongly.

          One note: if you check the comments right after a post goes up, there’s often a lot of fairly far right discussion (by sheer word or post count). This is a small enough place that a handful of really persistent individuals can make up a huge fraction of the top-level comments section. Harding alone was ~10% of the election comment threads, and it would be possible to show up after he posted a lot but before people rebutted him.

          So I think your broad assertion is provably wrong (for standard meanings of far-right), and the narrow one is unfixably distorted by the impact of 2-5 hyperactive posters.

          • Zombielicious says:

            I’m not going to continue this discussion, since both Scott and everyone else have made it clear what they think, but fwiw I was referring to the comment section, not the general readership (I wouldn’t even know who they are) or the author himself (one person doesn’t constitute a bubble, and most of the posts aren’t even explicitly political or cultural).

        • Garrett says:

          For various reasons, there’s been what I view as a long-running lack of research on issues which may end-up supporting right-leaning positions. Only now are some of them being done and it’s providing a great deal of intellectual interest, in part because in contradicts what was the orthodoxy. This makes the new research results generate more conversation which you might be experiencing here. This isn’t remotely right-wing. Not at all. It’s not even libertarian-leaning, though though there are a number of posters here who do share that sensibility.

          If you want to read something actually right-wing that isn’t incredibly crazy, I’d suggest starting with the PowerLine Blog. It’s written by several attorneys from Minnesota.

        • Lumifer says:

          did it ever occur to you that SSC might be a massive far-right bubble?

          Please don’t retreat into outright idiocy.

        • Tibor says:

          Oh, I had this lovely diamond shape diagram. Actually, there is another one showing libertarians in the upper corner and everyone else as Maoist, but I can’t manage to google it right now.

          But saying that SSC is “far-right” is about as ridiculous as when some libertarian anarchists call everyone who is not an anarchist automatically a communist.

        • Anonymous says:

          This is a far-right bubble. [Warning: NSFL]

        • Urstoff says:

          SSC seems far-right in the same way the field of Economics feels conservative: those on the left don’t overwhelmingly outweigh those on the right.

          SSC certainly doesn’t seem to be a cesspool echochamber for the right (there are plenty of those around; SSC is definitely not like them), and as long as Scott is an active moderator here, I don’t forsee that happening. The only real trend I can forsee is leftwing posters leaving because they’re tired of arguing with the rightwing posters, but that seems to say more about the leftwing posters than the rightwing posters.

          • Analogous to your point about economics …

            The University of Chicago Law School has, I think, the image of being a conservative law school. It’s probably true that it has more conservative or libertarian faculty members than any of the other very elite schools (Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, …).

            But having spent most of ten years there, I’m pretty sure that in any presidential election of recent decades the Democratic candidate would have gotten a solid majority of the school’s faculty.

        • Jill says:

          “SSC might be a massive far-right bubble”

          No “might” about it. It definitely is one.

          • bean says:

            Have you ever tried going to an explicit far-right bubble? I’ve seen one or two, and they don’t look much like this.

          • Jill says:

            Of course, it is not the most extreme Right Wing bubble. It’s not all alt right or anything like that. And yes, liberal comments are allowed, although dogpiled.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jill:

            You get dogpiled.

            I end up in three or four or five running threads with individual people on the right. This is both a distinction and an actual difference.

            You keep claiming you want to have dialogue, but what are you doing to facilitate it? Be the change you wish to see.

            Just … food for thought.

          • anon says:

            … and again the rabid right wing comes out to demonize and dogpile on someone who dares to post something that goes against the right-wing echo chamber.

            Recommend a ban for HeelBearCub.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @anonymous – unhelpful. blargh.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            It may be unhelpful, but I did laugh at it. That was definitely one of those jokes that you need to have knowledge of HeelBearCub‘s general positions and charitable posting style for, however.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Come on, it’s an anonymous account with a never seen before gravatar. Let’s not be fooled quite so easily now.

          • Jill says:

            Heel Bear Cub, you can eat your food. I’ll eat mine. I see what people mean by saying that you may be Left of Center, but you reserve your criticism for other people Left of Center, and that you are most comfortable being the one and only Left Wing commenter on a thread. So go ahead. You say you are a bull dog. Perhaps you are a bull dog who only criticizes people who are on the Left?

          • Jill says:

            And, HeelBearCub, maybe you enjoy being dogpiled. I don’t. So I won’t reward those who do it.

            Perhaps being dogpiled is your definition of “dialogue.” It isn’t mine.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            “So here’s a someone considered measured and reasonable by people all across the spectrum telling me I should reconsider the way I comment. On the other hand, there’s Paranoid Lefty Anon telling me exactly what I want to hear. Who should I listen to?”

          • Jill says:

            “So here’s a someone considered measured and reasonable by people all across the spectrum telling me I should reconsider the way I comment. On the other hand, there’s Paranoid Lefty Anon telling me exactly what I want to hear. Who should I listen to?”

            Whatever Happened To Anonymous, What I myself see is this: {Someone who is considered measured and reasonable by people in this Right Wing echo chamber only} commanding me to do what he wants me to do, instead of what makes sense for me–commanding me to “dialogue” with rude Right Wingers like you who dogpile on.

            And I see someone perfectly reasonable who happens to be Left of Center, telling me something perfectly reasonable, but that person immediately gets dissed as Paranoid by a rude individual who posts as : Whatever Happened To Anonymous.

            You need to go to your eye doctor and get your vision checked.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          • Jill says:

            Whatever Happened to Anonymous:

            People have been saying they’d like to invite more Left of Center commenters for variety here. I’m sure that your labeling a a person who is a Left of Center commenter, as a “Paranoid Lefty”, will really help make such commenters feel welcome in the future.

            You sure are doing your part to keep this board from being an echo chamber for one political tribe, aren’t you?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jill:

            I have spent literally days in threads arguing in favor of the principle of affirmative consent.

            I consistently argue on behalf of left and liberal positions, although I readily admit your positions are farther to the left than mine.

            I have banged on for days trying to get people to understand that the Southern Strategy was a real thing, and the effect it had on the Republican Party and what that means in the modern day.

            I have spent hours on posts about why I think carrying a gun for self defense is a mistake.

            Attacking me for not being left enough doesn’t make much sense.

            I guess I’d ask you to put on your therapist hat and analyze the relationship you have with right wing posters here and ask yourself why the two of you are having trouble communicating effectively.

            I’m not poking fun there, I’m serious.

            Because what I would really like is for you to achieve what you say you want, which is effective communication of views, ideas and values. In both/all directions.

      • cassander says:

        >Until the Left puts forth its steelmen, and likely until some rollback of culturally Left bad ideas and politically Left bad ideas occurs, you’re going to see one side start to gain momentum.

        I think this is an extremely optimistic view of the way the world works.

    • MichaelM says:

      The SSC commentariat really, really doesn’t lean right. They’ve done surveys on this.

      Perhaps you’ll want to examine your own perceptions before going off on Scott for posting links that interest him.

      • Anonymous says:

        The surveys are old and aimed at readers rather than only writers.

        • TheWorst says:

          This. Looking at how the commentariat responds to any non-right-wing poster with a massive flurry of posts saying essentially “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!”

          …it’s not terribly hard to see why people start seeing it as being solidly within the rightwing bubble. Certainly all of the most prolific commenters see it that way, and take dramatic offense when they don’t see total conformity.

          • lvlln says:

            Looking at how the commentariat responds to any non-right-wing poster with a massive flurry of posts saying essentially “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!”

            I mostly lurk, but as a leftist who tends to pay more attention to threads with commenters whose views are closer to mine, I find that characterization of the response to be a plain falsehood. Not even hyperbole, it doesn’t really bear a resemblance to reality. I’ve observed non-right-wing comments being treated about the same relative to the quality of their content as the right-wing ones. When E Harding posts a garbage comment filled with right-wing bubble tripe, they get called out on it heavily, just like when Jill posts a garbage comment filled with left-wing bubble tripe.

          • TheWorst says:

            …as a leftist who tends to pay more attention to threads with commenters whose views are closer to mine…

            It seems like stating up front that you’re paying less attention to the conservative commenters is commendably honest, but undermines your point.

          • lvlln says:

            It seems like stating up front that you’re paying less attention to the conservative commenters is commendably honest, but undermines your point.

            I pay more attention to threads that have non-right-wing content. So it’s possible I’m missing some right-wing lovefests where right-wingers pat each other on the back while stating right-wing tripe. In fact, I know these threads exist, because I’ve observed them. So my observation that non-right-wing comments get responded roughly the same as right-wing ones relative to their quality may be too strong a claim and not something I can actually conclude based on my limited observations.

            This doesn’t in any way impede my ability to observe “massive flurry of posts saying essentially ‘OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!'” in response to non-right-wing comments and notice that such a phenomenon doesn’t actually occur. This also doesn’t in any way make this blog a right-wing bubble. Right-wing bubbles may exist within the blog, in the form of certain subthreads, but given how charitably I’ve observed non-right-wing posters being treated here, the idea that this blog is a right-wing bubble is laughable on its face. And, again, bears no resemblance to reality.

          • TheWorst says:

            Did you read any of the previous two comment threads, in which virtually the entire comment section consist of right-wing commenters being outraged–perhaps “butthurt” is appropriate here?–at Scott for daring to post something that wasn’t right-wing.

            If you think that bears no resemblance to reality, then thank you for informing me of your viewpoint; it assists me greatly in calculating how much weight to assign to your future statements.

          • lvlln says:

            Did you read any of the previous two comment threads, in which virtually the entire comment section consist of right-wing commenters being outraged–perhaps “butthurt” is appropriate here?–at Scott for daring to post something that wasn’t right-wing.

            I did read a good portion of the comments (given the staggering numbers, I’m not confident that I read most of them) in Scott’s last 2 posts endorsing anti-Trump. I saw plenty of right-wingers “butthurt,” yes. But to describe that as in reaction to “for daring to post something that wasn’t right-wing” or being at all accurately described as “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!” is ridiculous. Some posts were of that sort, definitely – basically all of E Harding’s comments, for instance. But the vast majority of what I read actually attempted to engage with Scott’s points and debunk them. Most of those did extremely poorly at that IMHO, and seemed more like the result of knee-jerk “protect my in group!” rationalizations than thought-out arguments. But they were attempts at engaging with arguments, not trolling or flaming or anything close to the sort.

            If you see those sorts of posts – those that attempt, however poorly, to put forward convincing right-wing arguments in response to non-right-wing arguments – that made up so much of the comments in those posts as something akin to flaming someone for daring not to toe the line, I imagine you must be about as overconfident in the obvious correctness of left-wing ideology as Jill is.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @llvn

            Right-wing lovefest threads exist, but I think part of it is there’s sometimes just no point in interfering with them. For example, once someone’s claimed that Jews (as a whole) have not assimilated into American culture, and someone else has pointed out to no avail that this is ludicrous, there’s no point in paying much further attention to that thread.

          • TheWorst says:

            Some posts were of that sort, definitely – basically all of E Harding’s comments, for instance.

            So, the first comment, and an extremely-visible portion of essentially every individual thread, and all of the people high-fiving him?

            Yes. That’s what I’m saying too.

            I imagine you must be about as overconfident in the obvious correctness of left-wing ideology as Jill is.

            Is it your position now that George H.W. Bush is left-wing? His is the position you’re describing as overconfident in the obvious correctness of left-wing ideology.
            Voting for Trump is the obviously-incorrect choice, and voting against him isn’t the left-wing choice, it’s the not-insane choice. The fact that the Trump enthusiasts are treated with more regard than flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, or bible-literalists is an artifact of the US media’s strange commitment to “balance” posturing; none of the rest of us are obligated to pretend there are sane reasons for supporting Trump.

          • lvlln says:

            So, the first comment, and an extremely-visible portion of essentially every individual thread, and all of the people high-fiving him?

            Yes. That’s what I’m saying too.

            E Harding’s posts were slapped down for being stupid and blindly partisan just as much as they were high fived. So in your view, one individual making a 1st comment and making lots of other comments that are high-fived by some and slapped down by as many others is enough to constitute or at least prove the existence of a bubble of that commenter’s ideology. That’s a highly unusual meaning of ideological bubble, not to mention doesn’t at all address the existence – or lack thereof – of people piling on with “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!”

            Perhaps if you and Jill are quick enough with getting the 1st comment and make enough posts, perhaps you can turn SSC into a non-right-wing bubble or at least not-a-right-wing-bubble?

            Is it your position now that George H.W. Bush is left-wing? His is the position you’re describing as overconfident in the obvious correctness of left-wing ideology.
            Voting for Trump is the obviously-incorrect choice, and voting against him isn’t the left-wing choice, it’s the not-insane choice. The fact that the Trump enthusiasts are treated with more regard than flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, or bible-literalists is an artifact of the US media’s strange commitment to “balance” posturing; none of the rest of us are obligated to pretend there are sane reasons for supporting Trump.

            Trump enthusiasts are expressing a preference, not an empirical claim about reality. The same cannot be said of flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, or bible-literalists, who are by definition making an empirical claim about reality. When someone makes an empirical claim about reality, we can and do engage with them and dismiss them if they keep repeating the same debunked arguments and evidence. When someone expresses a preference that we find deplorable, we can engage with them and try to convince them otherwise, and we can dismiss their arguments if those arguments are just repetitions of debunked ones, but their preference is their preference.

            You seem to want to just round off some preferences as being so obviously wrong that they’re equivalent to making empirical claims about reality that have been debunked in a million different ways. That’s extreme overconfidence and epistemic hubris.

          • TheWorst says:

            Perhaps if you and Jill are quick enough with getting the 1st comment and make enough posts, perhaps you can turn SSC into a non-right-wing bubble or at least not-a-right-wing-bubble?

            “You could change [Situation] if you felt like investing massive amounts of time” is not a compelling argument against the situation’s existence.

            Trump enthusiasts are expressing a preference, not an empirical claim about reality.

            Perhaps, since you’ve already acknowledged that you didn’t read all of the thread in general, and that you pay less attention to those posts in specific, you could be a bit more restrained about making empirical claims that the people who did read the page are wrong about what it contains?

            “I haven’t bothered to find out the truth, but I insist that you are wrong because I prefer it that way” is a bad position to take, and you should stop taking it.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            So, the first comment, and an extremely-visible portion of essentially every individual thread, and all of the people high-fiving him?

            For whatever it’s worth, only one person expressed agreement with E. Harding’s first post (which is where his main argument was), and rebuttals came from across the political spectrum.

          • lvlln says:

            “You could change [Situation] if you felt like investing massive amounts of time” is not a compelling argument against the situation’s existence.

            It’s a good thing that I was making no such argument, then, and only an insane or highly motivated reading of that statement would infer as such.

            Perhaps, since you’ve already acknowledged that you didn’t read all of the thread in general, and that you pay less attention to those posts in specific, you could be a bit more restrained about making empirical claims that the people who did read the page are wrong about what it contains?

            You state a complete falsehood, which I bolded. In fact, I stated that I paid more attention to those posts in specific, i.e. posts involving interactions between non-right-wingers and right-wingers. Which are what you were making an empirical claim about with your “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!” claim.

            “I haven’t bothered to find out the truth, but I insist that you are wrong because I prefer it that way” is a bad position to take, and you should stop taking it.

            I never did. But it’s clear to me now that you’re just Gish Galloping. You state blatant falsehoods and refuse to actually engage with any of my arguments and keep changing the subject, which started with how non-right-wingers are treated by commenters on SSC, went onto whether or not SSC was a right-wing bubble, and continued to whether preferring Trump as POTUS was as obviously and empirically wrong as believing that the Earth is flat.

            It’s depressing that someone with as little honesty and epistemic humility as you has been one of the louder voices speaking in favor of my tribe in SSC recently.

          • TheWorst says:

            It’s depressing that someone with as little honesty and epistemic humility as you has been one of the louder voices speaking in favor of my tribe in SSC recently.

            Are you talking to yourself?

            which started with how non-right-wingers are treated by commenters on SSC, went onto whether or not SSC was a right-wing bubble, and continued to whether preferring Trump as POTUS was as obviously and empirically wrong as believing that the Earth is flat.

            Saying true things when challenged with falsehoods is the opposite of what a gish gallop is. Perhaps you should have looked that up before using it.

            I mostly lurk, but as a leftist who tends to pay more attention to threads with commenters whose views are closer to mine…

            That is a quote. From you. In this conversation.
            When I pointed out that you had said this, you accused me of lying.
            I’m done with you.

          • lvlln says:

            The Nybbler:

            Right-wing lovefest threads exist, but I think part of it is there’s sometimes just no point in interfering with them. For example, once someone’s claimed that Jews (as a whole) have not assimilated into American culture, and someone else has pointed out to no avail that this is ludicrous, there’s no point in paying much further attention to that thread.

            Ha, that’s actually one of the threads I did read, I think. Pretty fascinating discussion, in showing me a few places where right-wing arguments about lack of immigrant assimilation start breaking down. Not sure I’d call it a lovefest, though. I saw it as a right-wing idea being vigorously challenged, and the challengee refusing to back down, then trying to save face.

            Whatever Happened to Anonymous:

            For whatever it’s worth, only one person expressed agreement with E. Harding’s first post (which is where his main argument was), and rebuttals came from across the political spectrum.

            Huh, I thought there was more than that. Perhaps the case of E. Harding actually provides strong evidence that SSC has a very strong anti-right-wing bias, lol.

            Or maybe SSC is just biased against partisans who keep acting like their own beliefs are Obvious Truths and that any denial of that is an affront. That would explain why both Jill and E. Harding get treated so poorly.

          • lvlln says:

            TheWorst:

            I mostly lurk, but as a leftist who tends to pay more attention to threads with commenters whose views are closer to mine…

            That is a quote. From you. In this conversation.
            When I pointed out that you had said this, you accused me of lying.
            I’m done with you.

            And yet again you lie. While providing the exact evidence required to prove that it’s a lie. It really doesn’t get any more bald faced than this, does it?

            Yes, that’s a direct quote. From me. In this conversation. Stating that I paid more attention to posts relating to interactions between non-right-wingers and right-wingers than those that involve just right-wingers. Since the topic under discussion was whether interactions between right-wingers and non-right-wingers could be accurately described as right-wingers saying “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!” I unambiguously was saying that I paid more attention to the posts specifically relating to the topic at hand.

            Here’s a direct quote. From you. In this conversation: “you’ve already acknowledged that you didn’t read all of the thread in general, and that you pay less attention to those posts in specific.” This is the precise opposite of what I wrote. Admittedly it’s possible that you were just mistaken, but based on your style of posting, I came to the conclusion that it was a lie.

            I’m glad you’re done with me. I didn’t intend to respond to you again, but when you slander me by claiming falsehoods about what I said, I do feel compelled to respond.

          • E. Harding says:

            “When E Harding posts a garbage comment filled with right-wing bubble tripe,”

            -Examples?

            “Some posts were of that sort, definitely – basically all of E Harding’s comments, for instance. But the vast majority of what I read actually attempted to engage with Scott’s points and debunk them.”

            -None of my comments can be described as “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!”. I can say with great pride I debunked most of Scott’s points and engaged with nearly all of them, though perhaps I could have gone into more depth on why Trump is not a millenarian.

            “For example, once someone’s claimed that Jews (as a whole) have not assimilated into American culture”

            -Jiro and I agreed on that. And, on net, they haven’t. Here’s the relevant comment:
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/10/01/he-kept-us-out-of-war/#comment-419133
            They vote 70% Democrat, are strongly disproportionately urban (most New York City Whites are Jewish), and Jewish names stick out notably in certain fields if you bother to look for them. I cannot call this anywhere near full assimilation.

            What’s with this bashing of me when I’m not around?

            I repeat my call for TheWorst to be banned for his chronic inability to engage with evidence.

          • “and Jewish names stick out notably in certain fields if you bother to look for them. I cannot call this anywhere near full assimilation.”

            An odd definition of assimilation. In order for an ethnic group to assimilate to a culture it has to have the same distribution of characteristics as the average of that culture?

            By that definition, I don’t think very many ethnic groups affiliate, given that generally there is some correlation between ethnicity and other characteristics. WASPs, for example, long dominated certain niches. Irish dominated others (big city politics and low wage labor). Italians other. Does the fact that if you stop at a random motel the proprietor is likely to be an immigrant from India show that Indians have failed to assimilate?

            “I repeat my call for TheWorst to be banned for his chronic inability to engage with evidence.””

            Banning seems a bit extreme for either of you, but perhaps the two of you could get a room?

          • E. Harding says:

            “Does the fact that if you stop at a random motel the proprietor is likely to be an immigrant from India show that Indians have failed to assimilate?”

            -At this point, yes. Though it seems that it’s mostly first-generation Indians running motels; you’ll have to look three generations ahead to check if this is permanent.

            “Irish dominated others (big city politics and low wage labor).”

            -Irish were largely unassimilated into U.S. society as recently as the 1940s.

          • JHC says:

            Ivlin or The Worst,

            Would you care to name an open thread from the past year that we could examine together to test whether what you say is true?

            Or maybe someone could compile a list of the top twenty commenters over a year?

            Why is SSC so relectant to examine itself statistically?

            With so many mathematicians of programmers it seems strange that we only have subjective impressions to work with.

          • Jill says:

            TheWorst says

            “Looking at how the commentariat responds to any non-right-wing poster with a massive flurry of posts saying essentially “OMG! How dare you not be a right-wing nutjob! Muh safe space! Blasphemy!”

            “…it’s not terribly hard to see why people start seeing it as being solidly within the rightwing bubble. Certainly all of the most prolific commenters see it that way, and take dramatic offense when they don’t see total conformity.”

            Exactly.

          • Jiro says:

            As I pointed out in that thread, the reason assimilation was brought up was to deny that demographic replacement means anything. For that purpose, whether immigrants vote like others is relevant, but whether that counts as “assimilation” is a matter of semantics and is irrelevant.

          • JHC says:

            Ivlin,

            Seems strange you only speak up to hush complaints about bias. Who is your counterpart on the right here?

            If, as you say, there is no problem, then you should be able to name a couple people on the right who dont ALWAYS take the predictable side.

            E. Harding recently claimed: He [obama] didn’t do all that badly during his first term, pulling the U.S. out of Iraq, for one, and killing Bin Laden and revealing his birth certificate in one week for another (only later would we find out he only did so in order to take control of the global jihadist movement himself).

            Typically, without rebuke. Again, Who is your counterpart on the right here?

            Shouldnt the fact there is none mean something?

            The SSC right wingers are all team players. The liberals are all on their own. When they pushback
            you and HBC seem compelled to pretend there is no problem.

          • The Nybbler says:

            JHC:

            The SSC right wingers are all team players.

            Since JHC has described me as a right-winger (I’m a libertarian, which seems to be close enough nowadays), I have to make a note on my calendar. That’s the first time anyone’s described me as a “team player”.

            P.S. Scott, please don’t ban keranih for being trolled. Her response was true and at least arguably necessary.

          • Jill says:

            “The SSC right wingers are all team players.”

            I wouldn’t exactly put it that way. But there are a number of Right Wingers who seem to enjoy piling on. Some of them say “I don’t want to pile on but” first, which is interesting.

            There are also some Right Wingers who I don’t ever see piling on to someone to criticize Left Wing views. But when you get piled onto a few times, it does seem so excessive, and does hurt so much, that it seems like it’s coming from everywhere. Emotional pain can make some situations seem magnified beyond what they are.

          • Sandy says:

            To be clear, when E. Harding said Obama coordinates global jihadist efforts, I thought that was idiotic, but I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t interested in getting into that discussion and I don’t consider it my responsibility to police right-wingers on this blog. I typically just ignore everything E. Harding says, but that doesn’t mean I have accepted those statements “without rebuke” or that I think of him as “on my team”.

          • @JHC:

            I did a very partial version of the statistical test some threads back. Someone asserted that most of the group was right wing and named three posters who he said had contributed ten percent of all posts (this is by memory). His claim was more specific, something along the lines of “most posts here claim X.” I think X was some derogatory claim about liberals or leftists, but I’m not sure.

            I went through all the posts that the first of his three people had made prior to that. There were about twenty, of which one or zero fit the pattern he described, many being on things that had nothing to do with politics. I pointed it out. I do not believe he ever responded with evidence to support his claim. So I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for someone who thinks the group is overwhelmingly right wing to offer evidence.

            I apologize for how imprecise my description is, but it was some days back and I’m not going to go searching for the needle of my post in the enormous haystack of recent days.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Or maybe someone could compile a list of the top twenty commenters over a year?

            Someone did this a few months ago with open threads, but it was before the election really heated up. At the time I think Jill was the top poster (by a pretty wide margin), but she was also very new and clearly had not acclimated yet.

            The analysis also assumed that each anon was unique. Probably a bad assumption, but it does point to a difficulty in doing such a thing.

          • Deiseach says:

            The SSC right wingers are all team players.

            First time I’ve ever been accused of that! I’m really not a gregarious person, I assure you.

            But in the case of some of the more extravagant claims that a specific commenter may make, speaking for myself I don’t bother going “Hey, hang on” because, well, they’re extravagant. The same way I don’t bother getting into arguments on the kind of website that is stuck in 90s design with blood-red lettering and closely, not to say densely, argued proof that the Pope is Anti-Christ and the Catholic Church is the Woman Riding The Beast of Revelation.

            Because it would be as much use as shaving a pig – a great cry, and little wool.

            That lack of interaction probably does make it seem like I (and others) are sitting back nodding in approval going “They speak for our team” but no, that’s not how it is.

        • MichaelM says:

          first Anonymous:

          Do you have anything better?

    • Virbie says:

      > But, on the whole, who is going to find that sort of discussion more attractive? Conservatives who want to just tell themselves that discrimination is all the government’s fault, or liberals who want to assemble a kind, charitable, and also analytic, educational rebuttal?

      Did you even read the link? How on earth does it provide support for the fact that discrimination is government’s fault? It’s pretty explicit in its claim that statistical racism exists, and statistical racism is pretty much the kind of racism people are concerned about (on the left and elsewhere). “I’m going to treat the black people I meet like criminals [because statistically they are more likely to be]” is a problem in and of itself, I don’t even think that’s all that controversial.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        If it is statistically more likely that black people are criminals, isn’t it rational to increase your prior that a black person you encounter is a criminal?

        • Sandy says:

          It may be rational to combine that with statistical links between crime and age, socioeconomic status, neighborhood etc. So it would not be rational to increase your prior that a 58 year old surgeon living in a swanky Midtown apartment is a criminal just because he’s black.

        • Virbie says:

          Yea, it’s rational in a first-order, local optimization sense. It’s also rational to steal from people if you can get away with it, but as we know, stealing is both discouraged by society and contrary to most people’s moral compass. The problem is that at the societal level, this (can) end up as a net loss: if everybody went all in on refusing to hire or associate black people because of the blunt-filter statistical racial likelihood of committing crime, you’re shutting the entire communities out of so much of productive society that you’ve got something of a self-fulfilling prophecy on your hands.

          • ” if everybody went all in on refusing to hire or associate black people because of the blunt-filter statistical racial likelihood of committing crime, you’re shutting the entire communities out of so much of productive society”

            Statistical discrimination doesn’t imply that you don’t hire people who, on average, are more likely to have traits you don’t want, it means that you offer them less. It’s only when that becomes illegal that they don’t get hired.

            Which explains why the Nationalist Party in South Africa under Apartheid supported equal pay for blacks.

    • Alex says:

      Look, this sort of stuff is going to attract far more right-wingers (yes, I include Libertarians there) who are interested in celebrating that it “proves” their worldview about discrimination,

      The people we need to convert or scare away are people celebrating their own confirmation bias regardless their political position.

      than it will attract left-wingers who want to slog through trying to produce a counter-argument against it, in hostile territory.

      I know you are just spinning rhetorics, but ideally speaking: yes, left wingers contradicted by this study should find it far more interesting and worthy of discussion than right wingers confirmed by it.

    • Murphy says:

      Who needs studies! am I right?
      We already know the answer! We don’t need no stinkin “science”.

      I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I will happily spit on anyone who trys to piss in the fountain of truth because they think they already know the answers.

      If you think the research is no good, attack the research and it’s methods, don’t piss on the very idea of people possibly contradicting your world views with study of harsh, inconvenient, physical reality.

      If that drives away people who desperately want to believe only what is convenient to their ideology then good. Mission fucking accomplished.

      I say that as someone on the left who has misgivings about the methods in that paper. Scaring off the intellectually weak is not a negative.

      The right-wingers who are actually willing to think are much more interesting to be around than the kind of people who’ll be driven off at the sight of a research paper contrary to their existing opinions.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So I should never discuss studies that might support a right-wing viewpoint?

      (like “companies shouldn’t discriminate against blacks because that makes them go out of business”? That’s the rock you want to die on for this blog being too far right?)

      This seems like a really motivated personal attack and future comments along the same lines will result in banning.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        It’s probably not good as a general rule, but there must be something positive about basically pissing off people on all sides in the course of about a week and a half.

      • Seth says:

        I am sorry you perceived my remarks as a personal attack. Nothing of the sort was intended.

        However, it seems my participation as a commentor is untenable. I will not try your patience, and will voluntarily refrain from commenting in the future.

        I respect your prerogative to define the boundaries of the acceptable behavior of your community. If what I have said is near such a boundary, nobody is well-served by future bad feelings.

        I wish you well in attempting to build the community you want, and bear no personal ill-will over this incompatibility.

        • qwints says:

          I respect this response.

        • Jill says:

          Sorry to see you go, Seth. I and the other 1 or 2 lonely non-Right-Wingers here are the board will miss you. I hope you’ll consider coming back. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments.

          Did you actually say that Scott shouldn’t blog on studies like that? I think he certainly has every right to. And I also agree with you, Seth, that such studies are of more interest to Right Wingers than to non-Right-Wingers, because they appear to prove the Right Wing point of view. But then it’s all the more appropriate perhaps, because this definitely is a majority Right Wing commenter board here.

          Scott, I noted that you said in your post that you weren’t sure you buy the results of this study. And I can see why you might not be sure. And that is probably why Seth doesn’t buy the results of the study himself– and why he says that the study would attract more Right Wing than Left Wing commenters.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I disagree with you on pretty much everything, but I’d rather you stay.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          And I’m sorry if my response was harsh. But the comment pattern-matched a pattern I hear a lot, where the evidence is against X but X’s supporters threaten “Just warning you if you talk too much about that then you’re at risk of getting lumped in with The Bad People”.

          There seem to be whole fields (and I’m not saying this is one of them) where everyone knows that the popular account is wrong, but nobody talks about it openly because it would make them look like they’re on the wrong side.

          I’m really against this, but I also respect that these threats are sometimes accurate and easy to carry out, so it annoys me when it sounds like people are making them explicit. If that wasn’t your intent, then I apologize. Of course stay here or don’t based on whatever you think is best for you.

          • Gazeboist says:

            This feels like useful context and/or a related subject.

          • I’ve run across “lumped in with the bad people”– I’ve been told not to use the word misandry because it will make me look like an MRA.

            I’ve continued to use misandry. I don’t know how it’s affected my reputation.

          • James says:

            @Nancy

            How about Gynocentrism?

          • I’m talking about hating men, which isn’t quite the same thing as overvaluing women.

          • DrBeat says:

            Gynocentrism isn’t necessarily overvaluing women (though in practice they happen together very frequently). It’s looking at women’s situation, never looking at men’s situation, and even though you never looked at men’s situation and have zero bits of information about it, being confident that you know how women’s situation relates to men’s situation.

            It’s gynocentrism when people say “Look, $INTEGER women had $BAD_THING happen to them! Women are in so much more danger than men, it’s shameful how men threaten women, and men need to step up and take responsibility and change their behavior to make women safer!” without ever looking at if the number of men who have $BAD_THING happen to them is lower or higher (spoiler alert: it is always higher). But though the person doing that is overvaluing women, the mistake they are making is not valuing women too much, it’s looking at women, never looking at men, and drawing conclusions about how men are better off than women.

            But on the other end, you have people who hate America, but are still entirely Americentric in their thinking — they look at something about America, never look at it anywhere else in the world, and conclude that America is worse than the rest of the world they never looked at. Not much gynocentrism fits into this model, but it does happen, usually from the Roosh / PUA camp — “I showed women doing something irresponsible, I never looked at if men do the same thing, this proves women are more irresponsible than men!”

          • I don’t *think* there’s socially obligatory clothing which happens to men which is as dangerous as high heels, though I might be missing something.

            What is your list of BAD_THINGS? I’m dubious that life is always worse for men.

          • Sandy says:

            @Nancy:

            What is your list of BAD_THINGS? I’m dubious that life is always worse for men.

            I think the usual list of BAD_THINGS circulated around is stuff like assault, murder, suicide, homelessness etc. Those things tend to be significantly worse problems for men than women.

            Relatively recently I read an article about rates of online abuse and harassment suffered by each gender. This is an issue a lot of zeitgeist feminists like to complain about as affecting women terribly. This article cited a study that asserted that men are the targets of online abuse and harassment much more commonly than women are; they just don’t complain about it as much. In practice, I have been called a faggot and told to kill myself several times on various online fora, which I have brushed off as the nature of the internet — meaningless shitposting from bored idiots. But such attacks are commonly the subject of feminist thinkpieces decrying a hostile and misogynistic online environment, or arguing that the abuse women suffer is much worse qualitatively than the abuse men suffer even if it is not quantitatively equal.

          • I think women more commonly report threats (sometimes very explicit and including their addresses) as well as insults.

            On the other hand, men’s shorter lifespans suggest worse living conditions, though it may also be that women are relatively overengineered for childbirth and grandmotherhood.

            There are times when misandry is the right word– I know three men who say their mothers just didn’t like males. (Different ethnicities and birth decades– only one of them had a mother who might have been a feminist.) Also, Mary Daly pretty clearly detested men.

            Gynecentrism sounds like it’s a thing, but not the same thing, so I’m still hanging on to using misandry.

            I may have noticed gynecentrism– I was watching a romance movie, and it occurred to me that the male lead’s virtue was defined by how well he treated the female lead, and nothing else.

          • DrBeat says:

            Honestly, the male lead of a romance being defined solely by his treatment of the female protagonist isn’t really gynocentrism. It’s… I wouldn’t say “good” storytelling, but it’s not “bad” storytelling either, it’s knowing what your focus is and serving it efficiently.

            Gynocentrism isn’t about one man vs one woman, but information that is only about Category Women being used to draw conclusions about how Category Women is doing relative to Category Men. Gynocentrism is when people see how often women get attacked at night, don’t see how often men get attacked at night, and say male privilege is not being afraid of being attacked at night because look at how often women are attacked! Gynocentrism is the thinkpiece-industrial complex producing calls to action to save the imperiled women of El Salvador who are being killed in unprecedented numbers, calling it proof of how our society hates women and disregards the safety of women and how threatening men are to women, when 7% of murder victims in El Salvador are women and 93% of them are male.

            And yes, by bad things I mean murder, suicide, rape, domestic abuse (for those two numbers are equal but men are deliberately and maliciously excluded from support programs), assault, harassment, racial discrimination, imprisonment, homelessness, maiming, etc. The example brought up, the current narrative that women are uniquely harassed online, is a result of gynocentrism: when data is actually gathered, it shows men are harassed more frequently across the board. But people who say it is a problem women face just look at how women are harassed, don’t look at how men are harassed, and conclude women have it worse than the men they didn’t look at.

            Fair point on high heels, though neckties might match them depending on how you’re measuring the harm (I would naively guess that one necktie causes less harm from general usage than one pair of heels but there are more frequent opportunities for a necktie to straight-up kill you). But usually people aren’t talking about high heels, they’re talking about overt forms of victimization as things inflicted by men unto women, when it actually happens way more to men.

          • switchnode says:

            I don’t *think* there’s socially obligatory clothing which happens to men which is as dangerous as high heels, though I might be missing something.

            The nearest I can think of is the detachable stiff collar, called Vatermörder in German. Two caveats, though:

            1. I’m not sure how much it lived up to the reputation it’s acquired. I can find three obituaries describing death-by-collar and one close call in the NYT, but it doesn’t seem to have been a common reference at the time; two German encyclopedias from the turn of the (20th) century give two different (and rather dubious) etymologies, neither of which suggest they were actually dangerous.

            2. If we’re going back that far there’s an awful lot of interesting corsetry to point at, so it’s hardly evidence against women having it worse in this area.

      • Tibor says:

        Your blog, your rules Scott. But if it makes any difference, here are my two cents: Eeven though I personally strongly disagree with the tone and the message of that comment I think that it was really not aimed personally at you and that threatening Seth with a ban is a bit too much. He appears to be on the partisan level of Jill or E. Harding but that is not a good enough reason to ban people, I think.

        EDIT: After reading Seth’s reply to your comment, it seems that the main result was to help convince Seth that this is a very right-leaning blog where the left is discriminated. A second order effect is that other partisan people on the left here who are like Seth will only be convinced in the same (IMO very wrong) conclusion, becoming even more partisan and bigoted (i.e. close minded). I don’t know if that is the desired result. If people are unreasonably partisan, the right course of action is to ignore them until they give up and try to write something less tribal and more charitable, not to ban them. Banning them will reduce the number of such people on this blog but kind of increase the number of such people in total and it could possibly lead to a less intellectually diverse SSC comments in the long run (more “middle of the road” rather than very right or very left wing).

        • E. Harding says:

          Jill and E. Harding aren’t equivalent, fellas. Jill is an apparently blindly partisan Democrat; I support Trump for the reasons I outlined in the two Trump v. Clinton megathreads.

          • The two of your are not equivalent. You are a little more coherent in your arguments than she is.

            But you share a common attitude–that your (in my view highly dubious) views are not merely true but obviously true.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Both of you have 1 post written 100 times. Dial back the need to respond to every last person and I think you’d be fine.

          • TheWorst says:

            But since you didn’t support Trump in 2012 or 2000, all of those reasons are clearly post-hoc rationalizations. There’s no reason to think Trump isn’t the same man at age 70 that he was at 66.

        • Jill says:

          “If people are unreasonably partisan, the right course of action is to ignore them until they give up and try to write something less tribal and more charitable, not to ban them. ”

          Yes, wait for me to write something more Right Wing. 90% of the comments here are very Right Wing tribal. And responses to Left of Center posts are 90% very uncharitable. So I see that your rules you are desiring, apply only to Left of Center people. Good for me to become more and more aware of what this board is like, so I don’t mistake it for something else than what it is.

        • The Most Conservative says:

          I think that it was really not aimed personally at you and that threatening Seth with a ban is a bit too much.

          Agree.

      • JHC says:

        That’s pretty chilling, Scott. Seth’s comment takes care to make all sorts of qualifications.

        • Evan Þ says:

          +1 on chilling effect.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Meta: this kind of stuff discourages Scott from continuing this blog and stresses him out probably (on the margin).

          • anon says:

            Good on both.

            If Scott wants to run a far right echo chamber then he should feel stress – especially since his real name is known and he’s said some very problematic things.

            Scott should keep this in mind when he allows right wingers comment here and posts things that seem to support violence against the most vulnerable groups.

            Moreover, when someone tells him that what he posted is problematic he shouldn’t defend it he should acknowledge his privilege and apologize.

          • @anon:

            Apropos of something else I posted, yours is the sort of comment that makes me wonder if it might be someone pretending to be on the opposite of the side he actually is on in order to make the side he is pretending to be on look bad.

          • Sandy says:

            ^I’m hoping that’s a troll, because otherwise this blog is a place where some on the left insist that the culture wars are not real and people who say otherwise should stop living in their bubbles while others on the left toss out not-so-veiled threats for saying “problematic things”.

          • anon says:

            … and predictable as privilege out come the right wing attacks for someone on the left even daring to exist.

          • Sandy says:

            I think you can dare to exist without telling our host that you know his real name and he should feel nervous about what he posts on his blog.

          • Skeltering Lead says:

            My confidence that anon is a troll increases. Of course I’m pretty convinced Anita is a troll, so my detector may be too sensitive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Nice try anon@12:50 am EDT, but that reads like a precis of the SJW position from one of their opponents, not something they’d actually say as a single coherent statement.

            (an accurate precis, mind you…)

      • keranih says:

        Scott, I didn’t see this as a personal attack on you (although it might have come across that way) as much as it was an expression of frustration.

        I dunno who you’ve been dealing with pinging you for attention over the last couple days, and I suspect you’ve had to communicate with people via 2×4 more than you like, and perhaps that bled over to Seth, whom I think isn’t as much in need of percussive therapy.

        I’d rather Seth stayed, and more so that he felt ok with staying.

      • malpollyon says:

        If this is the reaction to even measured criticism from the left I have to say I understand why more and more people are perceiving this as a right-wing echo chamber.

    • Tibor says:

      I’m not sure what your point is. I also have the feeling that some people here (you apparently among them) are not used to interacting with people who are more “right wing” than they are (which for you apparently includes libertarians as well, although to me it does not make much sense to put libertarians either to the right or to the left – even though even some libertarians would disagree).

      I have no statistics, but to me it seems that the commenters here consist of a few very vocal “right wingers”, a few very vocal “left-wingers” and a majority which is not strongly either. I find some conservatives here mildly annoying but to their credit, they at least do not keep complaining about how incredibly left-wing the majority of the commenters here are. That I cannot say about the vocal left-wingers (with the left and right switched, obviously). Occassionaly, some people on the left here are suspected to be trolls, because their arguments are so clichéd and stereotypical they could come from the “I’m 14 and this is deep” reddit page. Again, I’ve probably only seen one or two such extreme cases from the people on the right. By no means o I want to say that the majority of the left-wing commenters are like that but the very unreasonable left-wing comments are at least as prevalent as the very unreasonable right-wing ones.

      Scott writes many things which are definitely not right-wing at least not in the sense socially conservative. To me, he is kind of a libertarian-leaning centre-left guy, if it makes any sense. Most importantly, he seems to be someone who genuinely takes epistemology seriously, way more than partisanship, which is why it is interesting to read what he writes. But it seems to me that you have a tendency to notice every article he links to or writes which supports a libertarian or (more rarely) a conservative viewpoint and to ignore those which support a left-wing viewpoint, presumably because you see that as “normal”.

      • The Most Conservative says:

        Your troll point gave me an idea for an SSC competition–a sort of extended ideological turing test. Create a persona and leave comments for several months espousing the side you disagree with. See if anyone else fingers you as a fraud. Competitors who aren’t fingered as a fraud get voted in to 1st, 2nd, 3rd place by the commentariat at the end of the competition.

        (I may or may not already be doing this with my current persona)

        Edit: David Friedman’s comment below explains why this might be a bad idea: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/10/04/links-1016-new-urleans/#comment-420392

      • JHC says:

        “I have no statistics, but to me it seems that the commenters here consist of a few very vocal “right wingers”, a few very vocal “left-wingers” and a majority which is not strongly either.”

        Off the top of my head I’m seeing:
        sandy, jiro, gdub, lumifer, jaskologist, orphan wilde, cassander, john schilling, faceless craven, jaimeastorga2000, glen raphael, Mai La Dreapta, Dr Dealgood, blacktrance, TheNybbler, onyomi, Nornagest, DrBeat, suntzuamine, Mary, David Friedman, keranih, Hylinka, ThirteenthLetter, Randy M, original mr. x, deiseach, and e. harding as reliably partisan commenters on the right

        vs.

        jill, heelbearcub, corey, ……?

        • onyomi says:

          I could name a lot more left-leaning commenters here, but I just want to say, as I have said previously, that I find the listing of commenters by ideological orientation, especially on a site where we try to at least consider things in a non-tribalish way, to be unseemly.

          And, again, this whole “is SSC too right-wing???” debate is so tiresome and pointless. If you want more intelligent left-wing commentary invite some of your left-wing friends to check out the blog.

          • JHC says:

            Why not just ignore those threads Onyomi?

            If some people feel there’s a problem
            you cant say there is none, can you?

            “I find the listing of commenters by ideological orientation, especially on a site where we try to at least consider things in a non-tribalish way, to be unseemly.”

            Again, I dont believe you because I’ve never seen you find an alt-right comment unseemly. Like Mr. Friedman you enjoy the privilege of being a political partisan masquerading as an open-minded dude

            You seem embarrassed that a simple counting of pseudonyms gets to the truth about your dogpiling club.

          • onyomi says:

            It may actually be true that there are more right-wing commenters and/or libertarians here than left-wing commenters. Even if it is true, what are we supposed to do about it? Demand Scott stop posting any interesting information he might find which supports a right-wing interpretation? Make a list categorizing all the posters and say “uh-oh, we’ve got 64 right-wingers and only 48 left-wingers right-now: time to hand out 16 bans.”?

            And as for dogpiling, are we supposed to just not comment when we agree with people? I have been “dogpiled” when I made statements on here which hardly anyone agreed with (see, e. g. my contention that it’s morally wrong to defend a client you believe to be guilty). It’s not a problem so long as people are polite.

            Again, if you want to see more left-leaning comments on here there’s only one solution: introduce left-leaning people to the blog. Calibrating his posts in terms of how many of which side they might attract is not and should not be Scott’s responsibility, and he already does a much better job being balanced than almost everyone. Having him second-guess himself about how any post or link might affect the ideological makeup of the comments section would reduce the quality of the blog overall.

          • JHC says:

            “are we supposed to just not comment when we agree with people?”

            Of course not. Be as right-wing majority as you like.

            Be a majority right place and embrace it.

            Stop pretending.

            “uh-oh, we’ve got 64 right-wingers and only 48 left-wingers right-now: time to hand out 16 bans.”?

            I think acknowledging that the ratio is closer to 64 to 10 would be a start.

            And there it is.

            Is the ratio closer to 64 to 48 or 64 to 10?

            If its the first you have no problem.

            Im curious why no one wants to know.

          • onyomi says:

            “Im curious why no one wants to know.”

            If you want to hire a research assistant, categorize every SSC comment over the past year as “left” or “right”-leaning, and provide us with statistics, by all means. I don’t really care about the results, because ideological balance for the sake of balance doesn’t matter to me, but go right ahead.

          • JHC says:

            I dont care about balance.

            I care about the truth.

            Too many people on the right play with disguises while working together to make GOP dreams come true.

            Ive seen you deny you’re a partisan and ive seen you come out strongly in support of Ted Cruz.

            You want to say there is a powerful social justice movement in the U.S. You want to talk about this for two years without any evidence of this movements existence in politics or on the ground.

            You are concerned about this group and its capacity for spreading groupthink.

            Well i am concerned about another case of groupthink that i can provide evidence for.

            It flourishes on a blog that thinks itself beyond such a thing.

            It seems infinitely more surprising (and somewhat frightening) that on a blog where lip service is paid to epistemic hygiene that such virulent bias could take hold, but worse, that it would sustain itself through simple denial of what is apparent. This second part is what concerns me. Be as right as you like. Just stop pretending youre anything other than embarrassed Republicans.

          • Mary says:

            Are you arguing that supporting any candidate at all makes someone partisan?

            that would be so broad a usage as to be useless.

          • onyomi says:

            “Ive seen you deny you’re a partisan and ive seen you come out strongly in support of Ted Cruz.”

            “Strongly” relative to the other options at the time, none of whom I liked. I also don’t recall ever denying partisanship. I freely admit I’m more apt to side with the Republicans than the Democrats in US politics, and have frequently described myself as “right wing,” even though I’m also usually very dissatisfied with the Republicans on issues like foreign policy, drug prohibition, immigration, actually cutting spending instead of paying lip service to it…

            Calling libertarians (and, in my case, an anarchist) who grudgingly support Cruz or Trump over Hillary “embarrassed Republicans” is no better than calling Noam Chomsky an “embarrassed Democrat” because he prefers Hillary to Trump (but identifies as an anarcho-syndicalist and varies greatly with the modal Democrat in terms of his actual views).

            And believe me, it’s just as frustrating from my perspective to see someone like Scott, with infinitely better and more nuanced views, grudgingly endorse Hillary on practical grounds, as it is for you to see libertarians grudgingly support Republicans. But that’s the crummy two-party democracy we have. When 300 million people are forced to pick one ruler, it ends up being a case of “pick your poison.”

            I also care about the truth, which is why I don’t don’t care about equal ideological representation. The whole reason I am a repeatedly self-professed libertarian is because I find the arguments for libertarianism better.

            As for SSC, I again freely admit I’m more apt to take a typically right-wingish or libertarian stance on most issues. And I often get intelligent push back on those posts. Good enough for me. If right-wingers are drawn to SSC, maybe it’s because it’s one of the few places where you can express an idea like “I’m against the minimum wage” and get some intelligent objections without all the “I guess you must hate poor people, huh?”

            If I just wanted a Republican or Libertarian echo chamber there are plenty of more echoey places I could go.

          • cassander says:

            >I dont care about balance. I care about the truth.

            I agree, but weren’t you just complaining about a lack of balance a couple comments ago?

            >Too many people on the right play with disguises while working together to make GOP dreams come true.

            Are you really criticizing right wingers for supporting the more right wing party?

            >Ive seen you deny you’re a partisan and ive seen you come out strongly in support of Ted Cruz.

            Do you think it is impossible to support Ted Cruz for reason that are not partisan? Or is support of cruz simply illegitimate, end of discussion?

            >You want to say there is a powerful social justice movement in the U.S. You want to talk about this for two years without any evidence of this movements existence in politics or on the ground.

            The SJW movement is getting laws passed as we speak. How on earth is stuff like this not evidence that you have a powerful movement?

            >Well i am concerned about another case of groupthink that i can provide evidence for.

            And yet you somehow deign to do so.

          • Jill says:

            JHC, humans are being capable of infinite self-delusion.

          • Tibor says:

            @JHC: What disguises do you mean? I’m sorry but this sounds a bit like some kind of a conspiracy theory. Either that or I misunderstand what you are trying to say. The way I see it, you are basically saying that people here have a “reasonable” persona while they are in fact all alt-right or something. That is kind of similar to accusing anyone of secretly being a communist just because he advocates some left wing ideas.

            By the way at least some people on the “blacklist” above are not even from the US (Deiseach for example) and hence have a zero interest in the GOP.

        • keranih says:

          vs.

          jill, heelbearcub, corey, ……?

          You know what really fucking pisses me off? I’ll tell you what really fucking pisses me off.

          What really, really fucking pisses me off is god-damn fly-by-night low-context shallow one-stop thread participants who don’t even fucking invest the goddamn time to observe what they’re slagging before starting to run off at the mouth about things they aren’t even a part of.

          If that’s all the left-wing partisans you can name on this board, you’re an illiterate ignant idjit. STFU and go back and actually read the comments being made. Because you’re missing a shitton of insightful commentary by left-wing partisans who don’t deserve to be tarnished by association with the likes of you.

          Jesus.

          • JHC says:

            I’ve done nothing wrong. What is this rage all about?

            Is this your place? Actually it kind of is.

            Yes there are liberals on the board this week.

            My point is about the other 51 weeks of the year.

          • keranih says:

            The other 51 & 1/2 weeks of the year, they’re here, too.

            And you just erased them.

            Nice going.

          • Jill says:

            Keranih, wow. Rage city, here we are.

          • Gazeboist says:

            @keranih

            I think you’re right to be pissed here, but this doesn’t feel like a good conversation to get involved in. I mean, you post something like that here, and the best you get is Jill just kind of smugly glad to have pissed you off. This subthread ain’t a good place to be.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Keranih banned for two weeks

          • Tibor says:

            @Scott: Now this ban actually does makes sense (although I also think it is fair that it is only temporary).

            I have a feeling that the comments are sliding to a more tribal and partisan discussion now, maybe it is the US elections. But it would be sad if this ended up, well, just like any other internet discussion. I normally prefer it when moderators are very liberal about what is allowed, generally only banning obvious trolls and spam bots. But at the same time if people start doing this, it threatens to bring about some kind of a flame war where a few loud people shout at each other and everyone else leaves with disgust. So I guess careful interventionism is justified here 🙂

          • LPSP says:

            For some reason replies I’m making to this thread aren’t working. What is up?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @LPSP:
            Monikers of those banned become banned words, I believe. That might be your issue.

          • LPSP says:

            Ah right, I’ll use a cypher.

            Thank you Scott. I think dddfewdwad has good content to contribute, but he’s been pretty silly on occasions over the last week or so, and time out is a good call.

        • Acedia says:

          @JHC

          Grouping alt-right people with Libertarians doesn’t make any sense, man.

          • JHC says:

            Does anyone remember the thread about the estate tax? I thought it was in the preceding OT but I cant find it.

            I was really struck by how overwhelmingly one-sided that was.

          • ChetC3 says:

            “Grouping Maoists with Trotskyists doesn’t make any sense, man.”

          • Does anyone remember the thread about the estate tax? I thought it was in the preceding OT but I cant find it.

            I was really struck by how overwhelmingly one-sided that was.

            Wow, I was involved in a discussion about estate tax. Is that the one? IT was not at all one sided. I was arguing that they made sense, except for their complexity, and most of the others disagreed. One sided in the sense that I don’t think anyone agreed with me. But that’s how arguments work; sometimes it is difficult to find an ally. But it wasn’t anything tribal.

        • Lumifer says:

          Heh. This is actually quite revealing. “If you are not with us, you’re against us” — if you’re not left-wing, you must be a reliably right-wing partisan.

          All non-white colors are black. Why do they pretend they are not black? X- /

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          jill, heelbearcub, corey, ……?

          brad, houseboatonstyx, ChetC3, Stefan Dirnic (or however it’s spelled), null, nil, up until recently Seth & apparently Zombielicious, Bitter lefty anon (not actually all that bitter, but the nickname stuck), paranoid lefty anon, birdboy2000, lvln…

          Besides, there’s two arguments here being equivocated.

          One is that the comment section here leans Right Wing, the other is that this is a right-wing bubble where left wing ideas get shouted down.

          The first one is easy to notice, and fairly undisputable. The latter is far more contentious, and you’re providing evidence for the former, as if it supports Jill and TheWorst’s statements, which are about the latter.

          • hlynkacg says:

            be better than that.

          • Or at least say who you are responding to.

          • Feeble says:

            Quality content.

          • Tibor says:

            Really please calm down. What makes Scott’s blog and the comments (usually) unique and interesting is that you have people of very different political opinions who can usually get along quite well and actually listen to each other. There have always been strong partisans who only want to speak but who don’t want to hear. But if people here start being like this, then this is quickly going to collapse into either an actual right-wing or a left-wing bubble, or more likely, to a forum full of angry partisan right-winger and angry partisan left-wingers who just throw insult at each other. In short, this is going to become a regular internet discussion. It would be nice if that could be prevented.

            Also, David’s comment to suntzuanime’s post made me laugh out loud 🙂

          • onyomi says:

            Though Sun’s language is clearly beyond the bounds of SSC rules and intended to provoke (only a tempban, I hope), perhaps in response to the banning of Keran, I do think people are a little justified in getting angry at the “call-out culture” aspect of the never-ending and tiresome “is SSC getting too right wing???” debate.

            I think the debate itself is petulant and pointless, but if people insist on having it, I think they should do it without calling out a bunch of people as, essentially, mindless partisans. This feels doubly creepy when the person calling out is not a regular commenter on other issues but instead feels more like a stalker seeing fit to publish a list categorizing all the frequent posters, who often post on many apolitical issues, by his own, personal yardstick, despite being largely only an observer and not participant.

            Though I personally would prefer a soft, unofficial ban on the whole topic of ideological makeup of the comments section which, thus far, has produced a great deal of acrimony and nothing useful, I would strongly suggest that anyone who wants to do it in the future at least talk in generalities (preferably backed up by actual statistics and not just “off the top of my head, these seven people are really right-wing…”) and not call out specific users.

            This relates to the complaint some had earlier about getting called out for previous statements, which JHC did below, saying essentially, that Deisea has too many covertly pro-Trump posts. Having someone, especially a non-participant, jump in to say, “you have too many posts like this,” or “why is this different than what you said last month”–THAT has a chilling effect on good discourse and drives people to go full anon.

            What is the saying? “Great minds discuss ideas, good minds discuss events, average minds discuss people.” Keep it about the ideas.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I think it’s a pretty tedious discussion, but putting a ban on it seems like essentially conceding the point. “If you kill your enemies they win” or something like that.

          • onyomi says:

            I agree and so suggest “soft ban.” Something like “no hard and fast rule you get automatically banned for bringing it up, but a consensus/norm to not engage with it, especially if it offers nothing new, like stats instead of ‘off the top of my head…'”

            I guess what I’m saying is I’d like to see it discouraged outside the case where someone has a substantive proposal or question about addressing a specific issue, like “how can we get the Reddit communists to post here more often?”

            Actually, “how to get x group to post here more often” would, in general, seem a much more congenial and potentially productive discussion to have than “how can we scare off all these awful people Scott’s measured consideration of right wing ideas seems to attract?”

          • Anonymous says:

            I guess this must be one of those “you’re not allowed to notice” situations. Is it characteristic to a conservative safe space that everyone pretend that it isn’t a safe space?

          • hlynkacg says:

            If you want more left wing comments on this blog, why don’t you write some instead of sniping from the cover of perceived anonymity?

          • onyomi says:

            Another problem: repeating the false claim that SSC is a “conservative safe space” over and over might have the potential to create an “my id on defensiveness” effect, linked above: to the extent they believe the claim, the more open-minded conservatives might seek out other venues.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Yeah, I think paranoia-anon has it right.

            This is an unproductive and unreasonable response. We shouldn’t try to prevent people from asking questions about site demographics by shaming them.

            The problem isn’t when people say “there are a lot of rightists here.” Either they’re wrong and can be corrected or they’re right and can correct others.

            The problem is when people say “there are a lot of rightists here therefore their points should be dismissed out of hand.” And combating that problem by dismissing their points out of hand is totally self-defeating.

          • Anonymous says:

            If you want more left wing comments on this blog, why don’t you write some instead of sniping from the cover of perceived anonymity?

            Is that a doxxing threat baby killer?

          • onyomi says:

            “This is an unproductive and unreasonable response. We shouldn’t try to prevent people from asking questions about site demographics by shaming them.”

            Yeah, I’m definitely not trying to encourage a culture of “too many rightists? We don’t talk about that here…” It’s mostly the “off the top of my head…” assertions categorizing people I object to. Though I do think this kind of discussion has proven unproductive in the past.

            It’s especially surprising coming from a site where we have Gwern, and where I’ve been called out for relying too heavily on personal experience and subjective impression. Claims like “SSC is too right wing” should be backed up by something quantifiable, ideally in non-personal terms.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Anonymous

            Not a threat, a question and an observation.

            Considering your posting history I find it difficult to believe that you are genuinely interested in increasing the representation or reputation of left-wing ideas on this forum.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s especially surprising coming from a site where we have Gwern, and where I’ve been called out for relying too heavily on personal experience and subjective impression. Claims like “SSC is too right wing” should be backed up by something quantifiable, ideally in non-personal terms.

            How about claims about what “feminists”, “progressives”, “the Blue Tribe”, or “SJW” do or believe? Should those claims also be backed up by something quantifiable?

          • Lumifer says:

            I continue to be amused by people considering me a conservative or a right-wing partisan : -)

          • MichaelM says:

            Anonymous:

            Really….yes. Everything should come back to something quantifiable. Or, rather, you should be capable of giving reasons for your claims. And giving reasons for your reasons. And ultimately falling back into a scientific falsification cycle because infinite regress isn’t fun.

            Isn’t that what this place is supposed to be about? Being reasonable, engaging in rational discourse that asserts by argumentation instead of argument? I’ll come right out and say I’ve not read most any of the Sequences, have had no attachment to the ‘Rationalism’ movement (especially when it seems Less Wrong was still a thing), and ultimately have little cultural similarity with Scott or his ilk…but I do like the idea. That’s why I’ve kept coming back here for quite some time now: They seem to care about Reason. The people who post here seemed to care about Reason.

            If you want SSC to get better and seem less like a ‘right-wing echo chamber’ to you…maybe you should show us how much you care about Reason? Be rational, give reasons for what you believe. Keep giving reasons when people disagree with those first reasons. The danger isn’t that SSC becomes an echo chamber for anyone, the danger is that it becomes another discussion board where conversations essentially stay first-order in that regression of reasons. You can have a perfectly diverse discussion board, with equal representation from all sides of the political spectrum, but it can be worthless when ALL the discussion is first order. You can have a discussion board that is all people coming from the ‘correct’ (whatever your preferred value for ‘correct’) viewpoint and it still won’t be that great a place if EVERYTHING stays first order.

            Go second order on us. Third. Forth. Keep digging. Quantification is valuable because it covers fifty orders at a time, giving really good reasons that contain their own reasons going down several layers. Go through posts here in Open Threads going months back. Collect post counts on ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ posts. Give some methodological justification, share your results! Maybe SSC really has become a right-wing echo chamber. Who knows? None of us do! Not until someone gives us the reasons.

            The tragedy that could happen here isn’t that SSC could stop being left-wing or have too many right-wingers, the tragedy is that it could stop being a place where people think about what they believe and justify what they have to say. Places where intelligent people can carefully, deliberately discuss various issues (not always political ones!) with other intelligent people who may or may not agree with them are vanishingly rare. It would suck for this one to die.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Lumifer:
            There is a saying “If you wake one day and meet a jerk, you just met a jerk. If you wake up every day and meet a jerk, you are the jerk.

            So, if you are continually being confused for someone who is on the right half of the political spectrum, it’s probably because you are playing a reasonable facsimile of one.

            I can’t think of times when I have seen you disagreeing with right-wing positions or agreeing with left-wing ones. My memory of names is bad though, so that is (of course) very non-dispositive. Just a thought.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            I’m not being continually confused for a right-wing person, or, rather, people who do that belong to a specific type.

            I don’t identify as right-wing and right-wing people will not acknowledge me as their own. People who call me right-wing are invariable left-wing people who think solely in terms of “us vs them” and I’m clearly not “us”, which means I’m “them” and out comes the right-wing label to stick onto me.

            It’s not that I’m bothered by that, it’s just that it’s a clear sign of black-and-white vision which is, unfortunately, widespread.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Lumifer

            As far as I can tell, you are a libertarian, which makes you right-wing (since you don’t seem to be a left-libertarian). You may be a different kind of right-wing to the social conservative one that prevails in mainstream politics, or the alt one that prevails in this comment section (where libertarians are common enough that it is sensible to distinguish between them and other right-wingers), but that doesn’t stop you from being right-wing.

            It is possible to transcend the left-right binary, such as by simultaneously believing that free markets are the solution to everything, but that we need to violently confiscate and redistribute wealth to get them; or that gay marriage should be both legal and mandatory. But I can’t remember you expressing any obviously non-right-wing sentiments.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ sweenyrod

            you are a libertarian, which makes you right-wing

            Why is this so?

            It makes sense only if you define “right-wing” as “anything which is not left-wing” and, as I mentioned, I don’t find this a useful approach.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Lumifer
            Well, words mean what you choose them to mean and all that, but libertarians tend to be part of right-wing parties (the Pauls, Gary Johnson when governor, Douglas Carswell etc.) and their ideas tend to influence right-wing politicians (Reagan, Thatcher). There is a very permeable boundary between libertarianism and the mainstream right-wing. There is no such link between libertarianism and the mainstream left-wing. Hence it is right-wing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @sweenyrod:
            Indeed.

            Yeah, a left-right dichotomy doesn’t really accurately describe all political nuance. We all (should) know that.

            However, and this is a big however, at the end of the day, in a democratic system, you end up in a coalition, and the coalitions tend to be stable in the short term and move slowly in the long term. And there are only two of those coalitions because, again at the end of the day, when a matter comes before the political body it can only vote “aye” or “nay”.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If I were a person who’s continually being confused for a scold-happy net nanny, I’d probably be a bit reluctant to deploy the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” argument.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z:
            I think I actually admit to being a “scold happy net nanny”. 😉

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            at the end of the day, in a democratic system, you end up in a coalition

            No, I don’t. We’re talking about me and I’m not running for any office or is much interested in jumping into some local political tussle. I do not end up in a coalition.

            And there are only two of those coalitions

            That’s just not true. Look at political landscapes outside of the US.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Lumifer:
            Yes, I was considering outside the US as well. Specifically when considering parliamentary systems, which are typical, you still end up either in the coalition that elects the PM or not.

            Sure, you are going have countries that are far more sectarian where the splits aren’t left/right but geographic or ethnic, but given a country that has a true national identity, the two-way split will tend to be evident.

            As far as you, personally, not being in a coalition, that just seems to me like a version of a “free rider”. Nevertheless, if your consistent set of political views map to views that sit within one of the coalitions, and all we have to judge you on is those views which you express, it’s a little weird to object to having those views so labeled.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            you still end up either in the coalition that elects the PM or not.

            Not true. Those who elect the PM are a coalition, but those who do not are not.

            As far as you, personally, not being in a coalition, that just seems to me like a version of a “free rider”.

            So… anyone who is apolitical is a free rider? That seems a bit extreme of a view. Not to mention that I still don’t think that everyone has to pick one of two and only two coalitions.

            if your consistent set of political views map to views that sit within one of the coalitions

            I keep on telling you that it does not and you keep on telling me that it does : -/

            This subthread seems like a good example of the outgroup homogeneity concept.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Lumifer:
            Then point me at views expressed here that don’t sit comfortably within “libertarian right”? I’m not claiming to know the whole, real Lumifer, only the one that I notice in the SSCC.

            Yes, everyone who is apolitical is, to a certain extent, a free rider. I think that applies even more to people who claim strong views that fall in the political sphere and the claim to be apolitical.

            Now, don’t mistake me. Professionally or even societally remaining apolitical is not what I am talking about. Not expressing political views at work or to random people in the grocery store is not what I’m pointing at.

          • “As far as you, personally, not being in a coalition, that just seems to me like a version of a “free rider”. ”

            Not directed at me, but it was a general comment.

            I’m not a free rider–everyone else is. I try to create and analyze ideas and put the results into circulation, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. That is a way of influencing political outcomes–a more effective way than voting, arguably more effective than what most politicians do. It doesn’t require me to be part of either coalition–with luck I can influence both.

            How many political leaders had more effect on the world than Keynes or (M.) Friedman?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            point me at views expressed here that don’t sit comfortably within “libertarian right”?

            First, I don’t know what your definition of “libertarian right” is, you might have noticed that “libertarian” is a very fuzzy label, and second, it’s not like I use SSC as a soapbox to promote my political philosophy to the whole world. Especially during the pre-election madness I think the political discussions here get a bit too… mindkilled.

            Of course it’s fully within your rights to assign me to the “right-wing” bucket. Just as it is within my rights to look at that and snicker.

            Yes, everyone who is apolitical is, to a certain extent, a free rider.

            That’s an interesting idea. In which way is it different from “if you are not in the front lines killing the enemies of our tribe, you’re useless and a burden for the tribe”?

            Or, to look at it from another direction, would you like everyone to be more politicized than they are now? Is there a limit to that or the more the better?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Lumifer:
            Politics is the means by which we don’t have tribes literally fighting, among other things. Like it or not, our lives are inter-connected and we live within a system. We all live off the fruits of the polity, whatever that system happens to be.

            So, you can remain apolitical, but that doesn’t mean you do not benefit from the polity. It also doesn’t mean you are a net detriment to society.

            @David Friedman:
            You are apolitical? Not buying it. You take far too much joy in rubbing liberals’ noses is what you think is the mud.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            Politics is the means by which we don’t have tribes literally fighting

            Given the popular expression “War is the continuation of politics by other means”, that doesn’t seem to be so.

            I define politics as “about power”. Political science studies how power works in a society and politicians practice the craft of acquiring, keeping, and enhancing power.

            We all live off the fruits of the polity, whatever that system happens to be.

            Um. What happened to the standard left-wing tropes of exploitation, colonialism, etc? Do the slaves, the serfs, the generally-screwed-over also live off the fruits of the polity? Does all the population of, say, contemporary Iraq live like that?

            Besides, it’s not like the polity is giving me its fruits out of the goodness of its heart.The polity imposes its rules on me regardless of whether I like them or not. It takes my money on the same basis. If I object, it has men with guns ready to make sure I don’t make too much trouble.

            Are we all in debt to the state? Always?

          • “@David Friedman:
            You are apolitical? Not buying it.”

            I didn’t say I was apolitical and I’m not. My point was that I am not a supporter of either of the coalitions that has a chance of getting serious political power, which was the question being discussed. You had written:

            “you end up in a coalition, and the coalitions tend to be stable in the short term and move slowly in the long term. And there are only two of those coalitions because …”

            At the moment my preferred outcome for the election, among those having any significant probability of happening, is Hilary as President and the Republicans keeping control of both houses. A few elections back I commented on my blog that, of the serious candidates (McCain, Obama, and Hilary), Obama was probably the least bad–and got mislabeled in various places as an Obamacon for saying it.

            I have strong political views, enjoy arguing about them, and have been doing so for well over fifty years. But they don’t happen to map into Republicans vs Democrats.

            Some time back, I suggested that the Democrats ought to try to pull the libertarians into their coalition. So far they don’t seem to be interested in doing so, unfortunately.

          • Jill says:

            David Friedman, you think you are apolitical? Other people here say you are a famous Libertarian. And I’ve certainly never seen you write anything even close to Center politically, much less Left Wing sounding.

          • Jill:

            Where did I say I was apolitical?

            What made you think I said so? Can you quote me?

            What I said was that I did not fit into either of two major coalitions that were competing for political power. I plan to vote for Gary Johnson, not either Trump or Clinton.

            Center, left wing and right wing do not exhaust the political possibilities–there is more than one dimension in the world.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DavidFriedman:
            Interesting that you completely ignore that my objection works just as well for your clarified position. If you claim to be want be neutral and influence both sides, you should evaluate your strategy. I think you just like to claim neutrality, to try and grant your positions the appearance of more weight, but the claim is not very credible.

            Also, it’s pretty easy to see why we could be unclear on whether you were claiming to be apolitical, given that is a specific claim of Lumifer’s being discussed previously. I don’t see why you don’t just clarify, as it’s fairly obvious what happened.

          • @HealBear Cub

            You wrote:

            “in a democratic system, you end up in a coalition, and the coalitions tend to be stable in the short term and move slowly in the long term. And there are only two of those coalitions because, again at the end of the day, when a matter comes before the political body it can only vote “aye” or “nay”.”

            A little later in the thread you wrote:

            “Specifically when considering parliamentary systems, which are typical, you still end up either in the coalition that elects the PM or not.”

            And still later:

            “As far as you, personally, not being in a coalition, that just seems to me like a version of a “free rider”.”

            I responded to the final quote with:

            “I try to create and analyze ideas and put the results into circulation, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. That is a way of influencing political outcomes–a more effective way than voting, arguably more effective than what most politicians do. It doesn’t require me to be part of either coalition–with luck I can influence both.”

            You were claiming that the only way of participating in the political system rather than free riding on it is to support a coalition, of which there are only two.

            You responded to my comment with “You are apolitical? Not buying it.”

            I said nothing about being apolitical. I said that I was not part of either coalition—the coalitions you were discussing being political parties (or party coalitions in a multiparty system).

            If “apolitical” means “not supporting either party,” I am apolitical. I linked to two blog posts of mine in which I stated my preferred electoral outcome, and in neither case was it for the Republicans, the coalition you apparently imagine I am part of, to win everything.

            If “apolitical” means not trying to influence the political system, I am arguably more political than almost anyone else here, since I write books, teach courses, give public lectures, try in various ways to influence the mix of ideas which ultimately affects political outcomes.

            You were insisting that supporting one of the two coalitions is the only option other than free riding. That was the claim I disputed.

            “Interesting that you completely ignore that my objection works just as well for your clarified position.”

            Your objection being that I enjoy pointing out errors in Liberal arguments and that must mean I am part of the Republican coalition? It isn’t possible to be critical of one movement without being a supporter of the other?

          • Jill wrote:

            “David Friedman, you think you are apolitical?”

            And she wrote it immediately after the comment in which I wrote:

            “I didn’t say I was apolitical and I’m not.”

            Which leaves me wondering if she bothers to read the comments she responds to.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Members of a coalition don’t always vote with the coalition. If you only critique Democrats or liberals, and never conservatives or Republicans, it’s a strong indicator. The joy with which you do so, the fact that you find it fun to tweak them, speaks even more to this.

            The free-rider problem was about people who were apolitical, not about those who are claimed to be political, but neither left nor right.

            It’s important to understand that coalitions haven’t always mapped in quite the way they do now. The Democratic and Republicans coalitions didn’t really map so neatly onto left and right, because they were regional.

            I’m talking about tendencies and trends and why much of politics necessarily is reduced to binary classifications. You can claim not to be in the coalition, but when you are in the right neighborhood and wearing the right (or wrong) colors, the coalition claims you and you find yourself beating on the same enemy.

          • “The free-rider problem was about people who were apolitical, not about those who are claimed to be political, but neither left nor right.”

            That may be what you meant but what you wrote and I responded to was:

            “As far as you, personally, not being in a coalition, that just seems to me like a version of a “free rider”.” (Emphasis mine)

            Being political in the sense of wanting to change political outcomes doesn’t put you in a coalition. I don’t try to change outcomes by voting but by writing, speaking, and teaching, none of which requires a coalition.

            “The joy with which you do so, the fact that you find it fun to tweak them, speaks even more to this.”

            I like arguing. I’ve spent my life in blue tribe areas–I’m an academic–so most of my arguments are with blue tribe errors. But I also argue on immigration and drug laws and free trade, where the positions I am arguing against are more common with Republicans than with Democrats.

            For many years, back when Usenet was a functional place for conversation, the bulk of my online argument was on humanities.philosophy.objectivism, where I was most often arguing with Objectivists. If sufficiently curious you could probably find those threads on the archive, although Google Groups has done a pretty bad job of making it searchable. One chapter of the current edition of my first book is a critique of Rand.

        • DrBeat says:

          I’m not right-wing. I’m just afraid of how the left-wing has been taken over and, instead of being used to actually push varying left-wing ideas such that the good ones will be adopted and the bad ones abandoned, leftism is now a vessel for the punishment of the unpopular.

          If “being afraid when explicitly threatened by people on the left” is all it takes to be “reliably right wing” then SSC is right wing, but the whole goddamned world should be right-wing along with it.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not right-wing.

            Res ipsa loquitur.

          • DrBeat says:

            It is not and should not be my responsibility to constantly signal left-winginess loud enough that nobody could ever possibly mistake me for a right-winger if they decided they wanted to do that.

            The idea that people should have that responsibility is what got us into this mess.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Right to disengage!

          • TheWorst says:

            For whatever it’s worth, not every left-leaning commenter thinks you’re right-wing. I don’t, and I think this post is basically entirely true* and I’m pretty far out of the leftward side of the Overton window for here. In an odd kind of way, you’re one of the people here I trust the most.

            *If someone’s having a different reaction to that post, I suspecting they’re glossing over the word “been.” You do an admirable job of not mistaking the demon for the summoner.

        • Deiseach says:

          reliably partisan commenters on the right

          Flattered as I am to be included amongst the august names on that roll of honour, where exactly does Fianna Fáil fit in to your schema?

          I will admit that I’m religiously conservative therefore on the “bad” side of many Culture Wars-type matters, and am nationalist about my own country (we’re currently celebrating the centenary of 1916 and the Easter Rising, and I’m one of those who think that, all in all, independence was a good thing) and yes, I’d class myself as on the right.

          On the other hand, had I emigrated like so many of my nation, I’d probably have ended up voting Democrat like so many of my nation when they got settled in America. I don’t particularly like or trust the Republicans, from my ill-informed viewpoint on this side of the water. But I can’t trust the Democrats either because they’ve nailed their colours to some dubious masts. And I think capitalism is an economic system created by fallible humans, not some divinely ordained natural way of things that is impeccable and infallible. And when I partook in this quiz which was linked on here before, I came out as a Solid Liberal 🙂

          Going by Scott’s Blue Tribe and Red Tribe (and Gray Tribe) classification, which encompasses a lot more than politics, I’m Red Tribe (of my country, which doesn’t quite map onto it the same way) but with some smattering of Blue Tribe interests or sympathies.

          I mean, this is the kind of rural/small town background I come from, and (even though slightly exaggerated for comic effect) this is a sample of the kind of local politician we are infested with graced with as public servants 🙂

        • Glen Raphael says:

          glen raphael […] as reliably partisan commenters on the right

          FWIW, I don’t consider myself “on the right”. I’m somewhere on the left-libertarian/anarchocapitalist spectrum.

          The “left-” part of that is important; I started out (very) liberal and then learned some economics, which turned me libertarian but still left me liberal in all sorts of ways that happen not to come up much in debate here. When I favor libertarian policies it’s usually for liberal reasons – it’s specifically because I think those policies are likely to help the poor and disadvantaged classes more than whatever the alternative is. (I don’t do enough to emphasize that connection, so some people incorrectly assume “partisan right winger” rather than “bleeding heart liberal” explains why I oppose, say, the minimum wage.)

          Some positions I favor: legalize (all) recreational drug use. Unilateral free trade. Open borders to immigration. Eliminate the TSA. Make it LEGAL to build housing poor people can afford close to where they work (a more Japanese approach to zoning would help in this regard). Make it LEGAL for entrepreneurs to create jobs that employ people at EVERY level of ability and experience. Reduce or eliminate zoning/ licensing/ regulatory laws that make it difficult for people to start their OWN businesses (food trucks, hair braiding, all that stuff the Institute for Justice fights for). Make it LEGAL to feed the poor. Limit the military to defending Americans in America – bring the troops back from everywhere they are now and get us OUT of the policing business. Cut military spending along with most other spending. Freedom of speech includes the legal right to be offensive, to criticize political candidates, and to burn the flag.

          Some of that might agree with “the right” – but much does not and the emphasis is different.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Tibor
        I have no statistics, but to me it seems that the commenters here consist of a few very vocal “right wingers”, a few very vocal “left-wingers” and a majority which is not strongly either.

        Quite likely. So some of us Lefties may be grouping Libertarians, Romney types, Trump types, etc all under the label ‘Far-Rights’ on this issue. This is unfair to those who are being mis-gendered mis-labeled. But from the bottom of a dogpile, it doesn’t matter which breed each dog is. They all quack bark the same language.

        We Lefties should use a more accurate term; any suggestions? I don’t see asking the Rights to change their language; that’s hard. Anyway, Scott has the matter in hand.

        • JHC says:

          Call them what you will, but they all line up on issues like Citizens United and financial regulation.

          • Sandy says:

            I have no ideological aversion to financial regulation. I have general market sympathies but I support Dodd-Frank, as an example. I just think there are a lot of carefully cultivated lies surrounding the popular Citizens United narrative.

          • Deiseach says:

            Call them what you will, but they all line up on issues like Citizens United and financial regulation.

            I am conservative/right-wing (I’d say centrist right, but why split hairs?)

            I would very much like to see some financial regulation, given that the economic crash in my country was caused by out of control property speculation funded by crazy money loans being handed out like Happy Meals by our banks, and our government of the time not wanting to be anything but “light touch” regulation because they were afraid of anything that might stop the good times from rolling. But the good times stopped anyway, and we’re still paying the price to clean up the mess.

            I know sweet Fanny Adams about Citizens United. If the law says that the group or action in question is not breaking the regulations, I’ll have to leave that up to the legal scholars if the decision was right or not.

            If a group is violating regulations meant to cool down things right before a ballot is taken, then I think they should be stopped. (I’m very much in favour of stopping all the bloody electioneering before the day of the voting, and indeed I’d like to stop it a good fortnight beforehand, because by then the topics have been flogged to death and I’m sick of looking at all the candidates’ beady little eyes and sweaty little faces).

            On the other hand, if a particular candidate is trying to get a group making a political broadcast for the other candidate (which is broadly what ‘Smith is a terrible choice and here’s why’ ads are all about) shut down, I say no dice, buddy. You can’t pick and choose; you can’t have the luxury of using anything you can get your hands on to attack an opponent but not having mud flung at you in return. (I’d dearly love to get away from the days of mud-flinging, but they seem to have been around as long as politics has been).

            You want your supporters to be able to run ads and campaigns saying “Smith is great, Brown sucks”? Then Brown’s supporters get to run ads saying “Brown is great, Smith sucks”.

          • I have been surprised by all the favorable concurrence on CU, since it is such a boogeyman outside the SSC bubble. It may be because CU is an example of SSC leaning smart, not leaning right. Every attack on CU outside SSC has been incoherent in my opinion, completely misunderstanding the opinion.

            I think if Lefties better understood CU, they might still be against it, but not so emphatically. And in fact that might be what is happening outside SSC. The Lefties that do understand it realize it isn’t that big a deal, so don’t bother to write about it. This gives the impression (to me at least) that Lefties are just dumb when it comes to SCOTUS decisions, but what we see may be an artifact of just the dumb ones doing the writing.

            By the way, I disagree with Onyomi that there should any kind of a ban on this kind of discussion, soft or otherwise. I am very interested in the discussion, and all the comments seem to indicate that others are too (Onyomi, why are you even commenting if you don’t like this thread? I ignore the ones I’m not interested in.) I do think that we could use more on the Left. I lean libertarian, but I would prefer to read what non-libertarians have to say. Slapping each other on the back is boring.

        • Tibor says:

          I think you are making a less extreme version of this mistake. Now, many libertarians (not in these comments though, but let’s say in “libertarian echo chambers”) make a similar mistake. But that does not make the first mistake better.

          I consider myself libertarian and I disagree on a lot of issues with a lot of the people you all put into the same category as right-wing. With some I disagree more, with some less, but there are let’s say moderate left-wingers I agree with on more issues (or issues I find important) than some of the right-wingers you mention. This is the reason why grouping people together like this makes little sense. This is not about differentiating some let’s say minor differences between different kind of libertarians (consequentialists vs. deontologists for example), but this is differentiating people whose opinions might have a nonzero overlap but the symmetric difference of their opinions is often much larger than that overlap. Similarly, one could group some left-wingers and people like me or David Friedman because all would support some kind of open borders and legalizing (or at least decriminalizing) drugs and put some of the people who support Trump, Deiseach and some other people on the left into another group because they all want to increase the regulation of the finance market.

          I personally dislike being called right wing, at least as long as people like Trump or Le Pen are called right wing. I am not not left wing either, at least as long as people who support central planning and an expansive state are called left-wingers. Similarly, you can probably find other groups of people or individuals whose opinions are not all aligned to what is the right or the left orthodoxy. Then if you take a position which is within that orthodoxy and call everyone outside of it right-wing, then you are almost guaranteed to have a right-wing majority – in a still bit simplified model (but much better than the one dimensional one) you have a space divided in four equally big parts and you just called three out of those four right wing. Assuming that the population is not heavily skewed in the direction of the last fourth, you will have “right-wing” majority.

    • Randy M says:

      This whole argument -ad-commentariat recurring complaint gets tiresome. Partially because there’s more than one way to slice right and left, but mostly because who cares? There’s interesting and uninteresting comments that are true, false, crazy, conservative, socialist, whatever. But the meta-comments about the community and who’s secretly what and which side gets less agreement, etc. rarely veer into the interesting category. No one can vote you off the island except for Scott, and if you don’t trust his judgement why show up here in the first place?

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s important in its relation to dogpiling. We could use stronger norms against dogpiling, even if we already have some.

        • Randy M says:

          Dog-piling is a real problem, if you are supervising middle school lunch recess. In a forum like this, one is free to pick and choose the points one responds to, and the audience can judge whether the rebuttal was sufficient in their own minds.
          Dog piling in terms of personal insults are bad because of the insults, but when five people offer a civil (even if fallacious) argument against a proposition, they can all be responded to at once by a single comment, or, honestly, ignored if the falsity of their position is self-evident. With no harm done in either case sans the occasional cramp in the scrolling finger of an uninterested reader–which is what the hide button is for anyway.

        • I’m also a little curious about whether any of the posters is someone doing a deliberately bad job of supporting a position he actually opposes. It seems like an obvious, although dishonest, tactic.

          I don’t think I have ever seen a clear example, here or elsewhere. There are posters whose net effect is to weaken their own side by the low quality of their posts, but my guess is that most, at least, really support the side they claim to support. We’ve only had one poster here recently who I seriously wondered about.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I think there are a few, but I’ve also one of the quicker ones to fire “troll” accusations, as far as I can tell. I was also very probably wrong on one specific occasion I can think of, so that cuts against my credibility.

    • onyomi says:

      The debates about the ideological makeup of SSC commenters have become really tiresome.

    • Gazeboist says:

      yes, I include Libertarians there

      Bit of a tell. Might want to work on it.

  14. Sandy says:

    Since the year 2000, there have been 17 editions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and Indian kids have won 14 times. For reference, Indians are slightly less than 1% of the American population. Apparently there is now a small industry within the Indian community dedicated to extending this streak.

    I wonder if a sheer refusal to ever lose plays into Amy Chua’s conception of market-dominant minorities.

  15. erenold says:

    Never mind found it. Full comment:

    [The “reddit” question is: Do Zhihu members support or oppose Donald Trump? If so, why?]

    “Of course I support Trump! In fact, even if he doesn’t win, I would rather die than surrender to the Democratic Party!

    My background: I have lived in California for 10+ years, from undergraduate to doctorate, have never left here other than for work. The schools I go to are all brand name ones everyone will be familiar with. But now, I am so disappointed, I want to leave for elsewhere.

    My father and mother are all disability welfare beneficiaries. But the Democrat Party’s various schemes make it harder and harder for people who really need [welfare] to get it, and are cutting existing welfare. All the money is going to illegal immigrants, or lazy non-working bums (懒人= v. pejorative, cf. slackers, drifters). The Democrats talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. ObamaCare in actuality has many good aspects, but they don’t touch the special interests and leave it to the middle class.

    Speaking of education, everyone has talked about the “AA issue” (blacks?) and I shall not repeat it. And UC universities are always broke to the point where it’s no longer news. Every year they’re broke, even Berkeley is full of slacking drifters. And the background of these children’s families are driven by a lot of resentment. The Democrats ostensibly are trying to improve the inner cities, but what is the truth? I have often thought about their schools, that’s why I joined the local Teach for America branch. It turned out, everyone there has the attitude of “if students don’t study well you can’t say they are unmotivated, but this is the result of fundamental inequalities in society”. I was very disappointed and quit, I feel these people are just trying to cheat the government of money, that’s all. And the Democrats daily talk about welfare, it’s clearly just to get minority support.

    [and this is the part from your original quote]

    Coming to Trump, he is the first to dare to confront Political Correctness, and deserves a vote just for this. He was not the one who created racial divisions, but, instead, racial divisions are inherent in life. “All lives matter”, however, is not Politically Correct, but the ordinary citizens do not dare to say this. Talking about BLM, MoveOn etc organizations, they are ostensibly about civil resistance, but in reality about beating, rioting, and robbing, but everyone can only endure it. Trump may sound like an extremist, but he truly gives the commoners hope. I am honestly not a racist, and the discrimination that blacks faced must be admitted as a reality. But BLM, these people, will not tolerate any dissent. Talking about President Obama, when blacks are accidentally hurt (slightly injured?) Obama has infinite compassion, when blacks break the law he is no where to be seen and does not allow the media to report it, creating an atmosphere where blacks can do no wrong. The truth is, blacks are mentally inferior [!!], and do not even have the physical endurance of Hispanics. Respect is earned, not obtained by screaming around until everyone respects you!!

    America truly is a country where only those who have motivation and entrepreunership (bravery?) can lead good lives. From high school graduation I began to take care of my family [monetarily], everything from then till now I have been self-reliant. And I still want to help those who need help, but I will never tolerate those extreme bums and slackers [好吃懒做=extremely pejorative for bums and slackers] people! Nothing to do with party or race!

    Talking about Muslims, Trumps’ language is extreme, but their words and actions are clear for all to see. Even though it is just a minority for them, but when they organize there are indeed difficulties. A government that cannot protect its citizens lives, will lose its peoples support. Look at recent Germany for an example.

    Talking about Gays, I still moderately support them. This is a person’s freedom. So long as it doesn’t bother others, true love should be celebrated. But, recently men have been trying to use women’s toilets in schools and that is really laughable. Does that mean that just because you have rights, all the girl student’s rights don’t need protection? I feel that you should be a post-op transexual before you can do that. The Democrats encourage you [transexuals] into senseless noisemaking, but clearly it is backfiring on you.

    In conclusion. Trump can achieve all he has done in the face of tremendous opposition, proving that not everyone may love him, but those who are dissatisfied with the status quo will do. If we don’t make changes now, the future will be apocalyptic.

    PS: last night, listening to NPR radio, there was a program showing a party Primary analysis. The first man was a Republican big-shot (slightly derogatory), who said he wanted Rubio and now after Rubio lost he did not want say who he wanted to support [in the general?] The reporter could not prise it out of him. I think the Republican Party should internally keep these things quiet.

    The second interview was with the Democratic Congressman from Ohio. Before the reporter could say anything, he [the Democrat] criticized the previous Republican thoroughly, then later interrupted the reporters questions. Then he didn’t answer any of the reporter’s questions, the reporter was so angry he cut him off [hung up on him?] Aren’t the Democrats supposed to be elites? What does this say about them?”

  16. AnonEEmous says:

    On the subject of mathematics, I’ll give my perspective.

    An argument Milo Yiannopoulos has made is that gender inequality in these fields goes down as income levels drop (and as sexism rises, funnily enough). I’m not up on all the data, as such, but there’s definitely at least a few countries far more traditionally sexist and yet less gender unequal in STEM fields as us. Feel free to post some data that conclusively debunks me, but I don’t think you can and if you can’t, I think this proves pretty clearly that merely sexism or cultural attitudes are not sufficient explanations as to why STEM isn’t gender equal, and instead it’s probably just the sexes having different desires.

    (an aside to the complaint of right-wing commenters being drawn here: hey, I get you. That’s how I came here, after all. But a pair of points: the first, that you have an honest chance to convince me otherwise and draw me closer to the position I formerly held. And secondly, if I’m really right, then you guys can abandon a losing issue which helps you politically and helps the nation ultimately.)

    I’ll finish with a smoking hot anecdote, because as we all know Anecdotes are to data what I am to your smoking hot cougar of a mother.

    Basically, my aunt has an engineering degree and a medium-functioning aspergers son, but never actually got a job using that engineering degree specifically. (ironically worked at an engineering startup but as a receptionist lol). In a third-world country, that son wouldn’t be able to get much work (even in the first world he struggles) and the mother, wanting to provide for him, would probably get a job as an engineer. in the first world, they live in an apartment complex worth like $7 mil overall courtesy of my middle-class grandparents who invested their savings in real estate (very unlikely to see in the third world obviously). the kid will live there free for the rest of his life and likely have an apartment he can rent to get him the income he needs without working much. oh, the baby daddy is the only heir to a multi-million fortune once his mom croaks and that top-class engineering degree was nearly free courtesy of the government

    hell, if you want to go there, my sister could’ve gone into any number of super lucrative fields, instead she’s getting her PhD in child psychology, which ain’t nothing but isn’t incredible either. luckily my dad is more than willing to pay her rent and expenses. which isn’t some kind of veiled jab because I’d be more than happy to pay that too because I love her. actually feeling kind of sad right now because she’s doing that PhD far away and I miss her…look, the point is that the first world provides its women with the opportunity to do whatever the frick they want and so they have a blast. (its men too I guess). Why is it so certain that women and men don’t have different desires, and the centuries upon centuries upon eons upon eons of empirical data, stories legends tales and so forth, are all uniformly a result of cultural construction? Why would the idea of a blank slate even make sense? And how does anyone propose to separate the data from the quagmire of endogeneity it’s landed itself into without enacting Reich 4.0 and bringing back the gang together for one more Nazi Medical Trial? Not to mention all the motivated reasoning you can find at a mere glance.

    • Sandy says:

      Related anecdote: I am originally from India. Indian women actually have an impressive ratio of male-to-female STEM degree distributions relative to places with much greater gender equality. A large part of this relates to culture and the nature of the Indian economy; an engineering degree is considered a safe entry ticket to the middle class, because for weird reasons it is also transferable to fields like banking and management. The humanities are considered frivolous bourgeois subjects, even more so than they are in America. There is also an element of social prestige that comes with being an engineering graduate, so Indian parents send their kids to engineering schools by the droves even if the kids aren’t doing anything related to engineering after that — even if they aren’t doing anything after at all. You might be a girl who’s going to get married off as soon as a good match comes along, but your parents will still send you to get a good degree just so they can brag about it.

      I have a large extended family, because my parents were each the youngest of six children on their respective sides of the family. My parents and their siblings only had one or two children each (two of my aunts chose not to have children at all) around the same time the Indian government started aggressively pushing family planning to tackle overpopulation, which means I got to see a national demographic transition play out within my own family, but that’s a different story. The point is that I have sixteen cousins, twelve of whom are women. Our family could be described as part of the “Westernized elite”; incomes range from upper middle class to wealthy, everyone has at least a college degree and progressive social attitudes abound.

      So these female cousins of mine were afforded enough money and liberty to do basically anything they wanted. They went to competitive English-medium private schools in India, and most of them opted for higher education in the US or UK; the few who didn’t attended elite universities in India, the sort that serve as feeder institutes for elite American graduate schools like Berkeley and MIT. And none of us live or work in India anymore. Mostly we’ve emigrated to London and the Northeast United States, but one now lives in Vietnam and another in Japan. All of these women are highly educated and could have done basically anything with their lives. They are essentially as free as any white Western woman of a similar socioeconomic profile would be. No crushing parental or cultural expectations weighing them down. But one by one, they have either dropped out of the workforce or switched to jobs beneath their level of education simply because of disinterest and boredom.

      There is literally only one of these women who is still in the job she opted for after high school. She went to medical school and now she’s a doctor in London. Exactly three of them took jobs in HR after careers in STEM disciplines. One of them finished a PhD in economics, worked for Visa for exactly two years, and then decided to permanently retire at the age of 27 after marrying an Australian and moving down under to start a family. Another finished a law degree and an LLM, bounced around boutique firms in Mumbai and Singapore for a while, and then decided she hated the law. Her plan now is to marry rich and never work again. It will probably work out. And another one went to Northwestern for a Masters in Communication, which she never used because immediately after graduation she moved to Vietnam and became a fashion model.

      All of this happened in the span of a few years, and on a personal level I found it quite irritating, not simply because these are all intelligent, capable women but because most of them are older than I am, so when I was growing up my parents would frequently encourage me to emulate their drive and academic success. I did pretty well for myself; I have two advanced degrees and will happily stay in this line of work for the rest of my life. But I have watched these women who were supposed to be aspirational figures throw away all their work and settle for less simply out of boredom, and so I’m left wondering if they ever cared about all that work or if they just felt that cultural compulsion to get a good degree even if you have no interest in it. By contrast, I doubt that I or any of my male cousins will ever switch to another career.

      • caryatis says:

        “There is also an element of social prestige that comes with being an engineering graduate, so Indian parents send their kids to engineering schools by the droves even if the kids aren’t doing anything related to engineering after that — even if they aren’t doing anything after at all. You might be a girl who’s going to get married off as soon as a good match comes along, but your parents will still send you to get a good degree just so they can brag about it.”

        This is how education for women started out in Western countries, too (although with less of the engineering).

      • hooniversalist says:

        I have watched these women who were supposed to be aspirational figures throw away all their work and settle for less simply out of boredom

        Seems to me, the natural inference is that they’re not settling for less at all–that being a housewife or a model or whatever is better, for them, than being a high-flying professional.

        • DrBeat says:

          Right — so then we should not assume that less high-flying professional women is proof that bad, threatening men have done something bad to threaten women and stop them from being high-flying professionals and should therefore be punished until there are more high-flying professional women.

      • Ghatanathoah says:

        But I have watched these women who were supposed to be aspirational figures throw away all their work and settle for less simply out of boredom

        Good for them. They sound awesome. Throwing away useless work is good, failing to throw it away is the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Pursuing a career you don’t like because it will increase your status and prestige is a terrible idea unless you really like status and prestige.

        And the idea that women should do jobs they hate because it increases their status suggests that feminism cares more about the status and prestige of Women than it does about the welfare of individual women, which is bad.

        By contrast, I doubt that I or any of my male cousins will ever switch to another career.

        Why not? If you like your current career, stay in it, if you don’t you ought to emulate your female cousins. It sounds like they really have things figured out.

        • I got a PhD in one field then switched to an entirely different one. I am pretty sure it was the right choice.

        • Mary says:

          “And the idea that women should do jobs they hate because it increases their status suggests that feminism cares more about the status and prestige of Women than it does about the welfare of individual women, which is bad.”

          Some feminists do. Most infamously, Simone de Beauvoir

          “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

      • namae nanka says:

        Indian women actually have an impressive ratio of male-to-female STEM degree distributions relative to places with much greater gender equality.

        While that may be true overall, when it comes to the right tail you wouldn’t find a better ratio in IITs than US colleges. It wasn’t uncommon to not have a single girl for some branches.

      • LPSP says:

        on a personal level I found it quite irritating… I have watched these women who were supposed to be aspirational figures throw away all their work and settle for less simply out of boredom, and so I’m left wondering if they ever cared about all that work or if they just felt that cultural compulsion to get a good degree even if you have no interest in it.

        It’s my thoughts about education and work relative to female relatives exactly. My parents divorced when I was young, and my single mother settled for leaving myself and my brother alone with video games to work hard for a degree. She preceded to work as a physio for six years, only to switch to a very lax TESOL job with limited hours out of nothing but indifference. It just sort of kills my respect for education and employment altogether.

    • zz says:

      I will present International Math Olympiad data, where the only country that has sent more girls than boys is Laos. Wikipedia tells me that in Laos, the adult male literacy rate exceeds the adult female literacy rate by 20 percentage points. You get similar results when you look at countries that have sent no more than twice as many boys as girls.

      (For reference, Wikipedia tells me that the country that scores highest on the gender inequality index—Netherlands—has sent 281 boys and 17 girls. In the past decade, they’ve sent seven teams with 5 boys/1 girl and three with 6 boys/0 girls. You get broadly similar results when looking at other countries that score at the top of the gender inequality index.)

      What I suspect is going on here is that there was some real bias against women in math, feminism happened, and now there’s either not, or it’s been counterbalanced, and the stable levels in the study Scott cites measure ability. Nations that send a lot of girls tend to be third-world, and “best high school mathematician in the country” is mostly determined by who has access to a decent education (almost no one). In the low gender inequality countries, everyone has access to an excellent education, so the main factor that comes into play is ability which, at the extreme right tail (and, please, do note that no difference shows up until you reach the 99th percentile) is male-dominated. Also, since the gender disparity grows as you go further out, this might explain why America (population 320M) sends fewer girls than eg Netherlands (population 17M).

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m Scandinavian. In Norway, the government was having huge trouble with the fact that none of its equality initiatives with regard to STEM and similar fields were actually taking — if anything, the proportion of women was declining in spite of them. They tried desperately to figure out why they were doing worse than unequal places like India so they could finally fix this once and for all and move on to the glorious future of 50% women in STEM; a huge government investigation was commissioned.

      What they found out was that the more prosperous and happy Norway got, the safer people felt, the more free they felt to pursue their inclinations instead of just work for their bread, the less women opted to do men’s work: because they didn’t want to do it. They didn’t want to get STEM degrees, they didn’t want to do STEM jobs. (They didn’t want to work on trawlers either, by the way, but mysteriously there’s never to my knowledge been a program to reduce the gender imbalance onboard cold, wet boats riding the North Sea swells for cod.) They wanted to be nurses, bakers, actresses, homemakers. Sure, they said, if they’d been poor and worried about the future, they could’ve been tempted to do an engineering degree to be sure of good money; it’s important to have equality so you have the option in times like that. But now, in a time of properity and well-being, with a Nordic safety net and the National Oil Fund? Hell no.

      A lot of people were significantly shaken by this. A number of others might have suggested they already knew it.

      • Evan Þ says:

        So what did Norway do after that study?

      • AxiomsOfDominion says:

        For the love of god link the report on what happened. Don’t just say something happened. I tried to google this and was unable to find the report.

      • Irritated says:

        [citation needed]

      • LPSP says:

        (They didn’t want to work on trawlers either, by the way, but mysteriously there’s never to my knowledge been a program to reduce the gender imbalance onboard cold, wet boats riding the North Sea swells for cod.)

        Nor for grinding down long hours onboard an HVG across icy roads, or operating a crane or forkling or digger, or taxi-driving, or sewage and waste disposal work, or building site surveyance, or model tank painters, or…

    • Ryan says:

      I’m reminded of a Louis CK bit from his TV show. He plays a middle aged divorced dad with two elementary school aged girls. He’s at a PTA meeting and the teacher says we need to think up ways to get the kids more excited about coming to school. Louie says that’s dumb because “school sucks. Come on, you all went to school. It sucks, the kids aren’t going to get excited about it.” His ex-wife of course didn’t think that was the best comment to make at the PTA meeting.

      Back around to women in STEM. Math is hard, the hard sciences are hard. The work is boring and tedious. STEM sucks. We don’t need any further explanation for why women aren’t interested. What we need is an explanation for why a lot of men stick with the field and the jobs despite how much it sucks. My vote is for traditional societal expectations of men that are not also placed on women.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        Is this sarcasm? Or have you not considered that some people might enjoy STEM?

        • Nebfocus says:

          Working in STEM fields can be awesome. The education part, less so. At least that’s my experience.

      • TheWorst says:

        I recall the same thing coming up in investment banking–wondering why women aren’t usually sufficiently interested in the field to put up with the (frankly awful) drawbacks to working in the industry, when the answer is that almost nobody wants those jobs. Whatever makes 99.999% of women have no interest in the field is probably the same thing that makes 99.998% of men have no interest in it either.

        The people who want those jobs are, frankly, freaks; it’s normal for people not to want those jobs. If one group produces a lot of freaks, look at that group, not at the group that produces fewer, because that’s where the unusual thing is happening.

        @sweeneyrod: The point is that not wanting to do hard, tedious things is normal. Almost nobody wants to do hard, tedious things. Less-normal people exist, but we should all be comfortable with acknowledging that we’re not the norm. The people who drop out aren’t unusual; the people who stay are. Whatever unusual trait that makes STEM work seem tolerable (or easy, or non-tedious) seems to occur mostly in men, though still in a tiny percentage of them. Whatever is happening is happening there.

        • Lumifer says:

          investment banking … almost nobody wants those jobs

          unusual trait that makes STEM work seem tolerable

          You do sound like a troll, y’know.

          • TheWorst says:

            Wait, so now when someone says something that’s unquestionably true, you dismiss it as trolling? This is a new low, even for here.

            Is it your position that the people who get in and stay in STEM or investment banking represent more than a vanishingly-tiny percentage of the population?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            investment banking … almost nobody wants those jobs

            The status and attached pay, sure. The ridiculous hours, high dependence on things that are outside your control and massive pressure… eh

          • Lumifer says:

            @ TheWorst

            Please demonstrate how it is “unquestionably true” that almost nobody wants an investment banking job.

            Please demonstrate how STEM work is intolerable to everyone but “a vanishingly-tiny percentage of the population”.

          • TheWorst says:

            Is it your position that the people who get in and stay in STEM or investment banking represent more than a vanishingly-tiny percentage of the population?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @TheWorst
            You seem to be saying that only very few people work in STEM because it is intrinsically dull and awful, and only very few people can stick it out (hence the analogy with investment banking, where you have long hours but massive pay). Everyone else is disagreeing, because we think that the small amount of people who work in STEM do so largely because they enjoy it.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ TheWorst

            My position is that out of people who actually have an opportunity to apply for an investment banking job (that’s mostly grad students from the top-ten MBA programs) a lot of them want one.

            My position is that T in STEM stands for Technology and there is a LOT of people doing that kind of work.

            Your turn.

          • TheWorst says:

            If you acknowledge that it’s a small number, then you aren’t disagreeing.

            Note that even the massive pay in investment banking doesn’t result in all that many people either applying for the job or sticking it out for the length of a career. Wanting a banker’s paycheck or a scientist’s prestige (of a sort) doesn’t mean wanting the job. As people tend to find out to their sorrow.

            The exceptions are mostly male. Why?
            My point is that that’s a more valuable question than “why don’t many women go in and stay in,” because the answer to that is “Almost everybody thinks (or finds out) that it’s too much work to be worth it.” The answer to what’s keeping women-qua-women out is “nothing.”

            My position is that T in STEM stands for Technology and there is a LOT of people doing that kind of work.

            There are 300-some million people in America. What percentage of them choose that T as a career path?

          • DavidS says:

            @TheWorst: do you think the numbers of investment bankers is simply the number who’d like the job? From very swift googling this suggests 125-135 applicants per job in investment banking grad schemes
            https://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/investment-banking-and-investment/advice/394852-beat-the-competition-for-investment-banking-graduate-jobs

            Vs. say just over 20 per job in civil service (i.e. working for government: much more sociable hours and Ts+Cs

            https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2014/sep/01/civil-service-fast-stream-how-to-join-graduate-careers

          • Lumifer says:

            @ TheWorst

            Please demonstrate how it is “unquestionably true” that almost nobody wants an investment banking job.

            Please demonstrate how STEM work is intolerable to everyone but “a vanishingly-tiny percentage of the population”.

          • TheWorst says:

            DavidS: Are you assuming that everyone who applies is someone willing to put up with the actual conditions of the job? If so, how do you explain the dropout rate?

            And again, there are 300-plus million people in the US. The percentage of people who go into banking and don’t drop out after getting a taste is very small.

            Hard things are hard. People mostly don’t like doing hard things. Some, rare people either do like hard things, or find a particular “hard thing” less hard.

            None of this should be controversial. When someone points that out, no one should accuse them of trolling.

            @ Lumifer:

            Is it your position that the people who get in and stay in STEM or investment banking represent more than a vanishingly-tiny percentage of the population?

            Can you read?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ TheWorst

            My initial suspicions are confirmed.

            I’m not terribly interested in distinguishing between the cases of a true troll, a genuine simpleton, and someone who lacks reading comprehension.

            Bzzzzt! Thank you for playing. Goodbye.

          • DavidS says:

            ‘Almost nobody wants those jobs’ is different to ‘a significant number of people drop out’. What is the drop-out rate anyway?

            Unless the recruiters are supernaturally good at identifying who’ll drop out and recruitment is focused entirely on avoiding that, I’d say such high application figures suggest that the demand for the jobs outstrips the supply. Even those 125-135 are only those who meet the criteria on paper (I imaginge fairly high) AND believe enough that they have a chance to go through with the application.

            Your argument from ‘most people aren’t investment bankers’ applies to pretty much every job out there. It may be true that in this case the numbers are because most people don’t want the job because it’s hard/horrible but the stat alone is basically worthless in determining that.

            I don’t know if you’re trolling, and I wasn’t the one who said you were. I suspect you feel your conclusion is obviously true and therefore you think that
            a) it’s self-evident, and
            b) because you believe the conclusion you think the logic of ‘few people do it means few people want to’ is compelling, when you wouldn’t say the same for lots of other jobs (e.g. ‘professional footballer’, ‘ice cream taster’)

          • Skeltering Lead says:

            I don’t get the “troll” comment – it’s a truism that investment banking is difficult work with brutal hours that attracts hordes of applicants due to high pay and conferred status. No one would pursue it as a hobby. There are obviously plentiful examples of STEM hobbyists, but TheWorst’s point about 300 million people is germane. You might have liked bio/chem/physics class in HS, what fraction of your schoolmates did?

          • jlow says:

            I think the people here are a bit misled by the company they keep. Think back to high school, or about any national polls you may have seen re: math or books. “I hate math” is a phrase entire books have been written about. Most people find intellectual work unpleasant, math most of all.

            Similarly, most people find, e.g., modeling or puzzles to be incredibly tedious. These things are legitimately tedious, in the sense that they’re long, involved, painstaking, and not very exciting — but some people enjoy them. I don’t know if it’s vanishingly few, but it’s not most.

            Put another way, very few people find engineering or banking to be recreational activities. They’re well-compensated, prestigious, perhaps even interesting or the best of the “work”-sphere activities… but in my own experience, it’s rare to find someone who looks at this stuff and thinks “fun”.

          • onyomi says:

            I do think accusations of trolling have become too promiscuous of late.

            I agree with TheWorst in the sense that, when you are part of a certain segment of society which values certain things, it is easy to forget how little the rest of society cares about or values those things. I’m not sure if 99% of people have no interest in doing the work of an investment banker even if the position were offered to them is true, but it’s probably a pretty high percentage. Sure, everyone wants the money, but not nearly everyone wants to do what’s entailed.

            A somewhat related experience I’ve had lately: realizing how much of a freak I am for thinking nothing of moving several thousand miles every few years. Amongst the people I usually hobnob with it’s totally common to say, “oh yeah, I’m moving to Amsterdam for an internship next year.” “Oh, yeah, we’re moving to Sweden for a postdoc.” To us that sounds fun. But to the vast majority of people, who still live in the same town they grew up in, this is bizarre, unthinkable. It’s not that they want, but can’t get my job, it’s that they would never want my job even if they could get it.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Lumifer:
            This may shock you, but most of the non-STEM people I’ve ever met consider large areas of STEM work (specifically, computer science/biology/physics/math) to be boring, repetitive, and dull. They are willing to concede that the more hands-on disciplines (mechanical engineering, electrical engineering) may be more interesting, but still believe that the amount of studying you have to do to get into them is not worth the effort. This applies to both men and women, though women do express such attitudes a bit more often than men.

            I realize that anecdotes are not data, but still: have you entertained the idea that people like you and I might, in fact, be the freaks ?

          • TheWorst says:

            DavidS: Look. Take the number of people who go into i-banking in America. Take even the number of applicants if you want, though that’s a noisy signal.

            What percentage of 300-plus million is that number? Kind of a small percentage, innit?

            Yes, I do in fact think that’s self-evident. That’s because division is very very easy, especially for anyone who is currently using a computer. Computers have a calculator function.

          • DavidS says:

            OK, every post is upping my ‘you’re a troll’ percentage. Once again, every job is a small percentage of the overall population: there are many jobs and the economy is complex so we’re not mostly farmers. Frankly if we were this would be very little evidence hardly anyone wanted to be farmers.

            There are very few rock stars – does this mean people don’t want to be rockstars? Or more mundanely same for teachers, lawyers, literally every job you can think of

            Using the fact that a tiny percentage of the whole population does something as evidence that this thing is undesirable just.. doesn’t work when it comes to things people can do relatively few of. Like jobs, or where to live ‘Most people don’t want to live in place X!’ where X is anywhere in the country, or type of car, or anything really.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Sorry Dave I’m with Worst on this one.

            Lots of people “want to be rock stars” who doesn’t but the percentage of those people who want to be rock stars bad enough to deal with all the boring stuff like learning to sing / play an instrument, put in the foot work to get their name out there, record a demo etc… is demonstrably very small.

        • Ryan says:

          Whatever makes 99.999% of women have no interest in the field is probably the same thing that makes 99.998% of men have no interest in it either.

          That’s a very good way of putting it.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          @The Worst

          I’m just commenting to mention that I find your post to be funny, insightful, and interesting. I am baffled that other people think you’re trolling. I had a lot of “that’s so true!” moments when I was reading it.

        • bean says:

          I’ll completely agree with this. I routinely tell people who ask about Aerospace Engineering that they shouldn’t do it, because if they were cut out for it, they wouldn’t be asking me for my opinion, they’d have already decided to do it.
          I’m reminded of Scott’s post on the lottery of fascinations. For some reason, more men than women draw STEM subjects, and they make tolerable what someone who didn’t draw them would see as awful.

          • jlow says:

            That’s very apt. I could talk about language — computer or human — for ages, but my wife would rather cover her ears than hear it. Meanwhile, I have a friend who can spend *days* creating intricate and painstakingly-detailed models, but as hard as I’ve tried, I just can’t sustain enjoyment in it.

            Some of these things seen to go together, as if one lottery result is “immunity to tedium”. For example, almost all of the people I know who genuinely like STEMy stuff also like building ridiculously complete databases about X topic, or ridiculously detailed models, or ridiculously involved puzzles (jigsaw or logical), etc. I’ve met few others who are like myself — haphazard and fickle.

          • bean says:

            Yes and no. If it’s something you enjoy, it’s not tedious. Or at least less tedious. But at least personally, I’m pretty severely ADD, which meant that the school day was usually over by 9 or 10 PM, when my ritalin wore off. Occasionally, though, something was interesting enough to keep going long past that, even though researching thermodynamic properties of every liquid on the planet would normally bore me. (We were doing novel propulsion work.)

          • TheWorst says:

            Pretty much this. I was going one step further, though: not only that more men than women draw STEM subjects in the lottery of fascinations, but that–in trying to guess why that is–we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that even for men, it’s not a large percentage.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s also likely that (some types of) STEM are especially attractive to people with a more autistic brain. We know that autism tends to show differently in women and/or they have autism less; which could mean that fewer women have the brains* for it.

            * Not as in IQ, but in the sense of compatibility.

          • bean says:

            @The Worst:

            I was going one step further, though: not only that more men than women draw STEM subjects in the lottery of fascinations, but that–in trying to guess why that is–we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that even for men, it’s not a large percentage.

            To be honest, I’m kind of kicking myself for not having noticed this earlier. There seems to be a general belief that ability to do STEM work is normal, and that the problem is lack of interest, not lack of ability. A quick look through a typical engineering washout class should lead anyone paying attention to conclude that this is not the problem. Actually, that would be a really good way to test the difference between interest and ability. Do men fail those classes at a higher rate then women? If we assume that men are more likely to be interested but no more likely to actually have ability, then men should disproportionately wash out, and I don’t recall that being the case at all.

            Thinking this over more, I’m not sure fascinations is the right lottery for most STEM people. There’s a weaker version, where people do things that they don’t do slightly different versions of during their free time. Call it the lottery of compatibility. There are things people can and can’t do, both in terms of skills (someone who doesn’t get calc isn’t going to be able to master most types of engineering) and motivation. External factors can fiddle this a bit, but I can’t ever see myself working with small children professionally, and the average preschool teacher probably looks with similar horror on what I do. It’s not just STEM where this happens.

          • TheWorst says:

            That’s a good point. I, for instance, have no interest whatsoever in teaching elementary school. To the extent that were there a draft for it, I might commit significant self-harm to evade it. There seem to be more men in this position than women, but I don’t think that’s due to any gendered pressures applied to teachers.

          • Aapje says:

            @bean

            Your assumption seems to be that a preference for STEM by men would result in more poorly suited men to study STEM, but this is hardly necessary.

            It’s very likely that there are simply more women than men who have the ability to do STEM, but don’t enjoy the work. So then fewer capable women choose to study STEM than capable men. This doesn’t have to impact the dropout rates at all.

          • bean says:

            @Aapje

            Your assumption seems to be that a preference for STEM by men would result in more poorly suited men to study STEM, but this is hardly necessary.

            It’s very likely that there are simply more women than men who have the ability to do STEM, but don’t enjoy the work. So then fewer capable women choose to study STEM than capable men. This doesn’t have to impact the dropout rates at all.

            I’m not sure you can separate ability and enjoyment that easily. If you don’t like the work, you aren’t likely to put in as much effort. And keep in mind the situation we’re looking at here, which is an introductory engineering class. It’s full of people who are interested enough in the subject to go to school and try to major in it, and people leave it because they either weren’t interested enough in it to push through when it got tough, or weren’t good enough to be able to get through. There are definitely people in the second category, and I think they’re probably the majority.
            Unless we assume that interest and ability are totally uncorrelated (which they aren’t), then with an even distribution of ability between genders, any depression of female interest is obviously going to mean that the average female entering the class is going to have more ability than the average male. Which means that fewer women are going to fall into the second category. This might be balanced by more of them falling into the first category, but I kind of doubt it. They were interested enough to get into the class in the first place, and interest and ability do trade off against each other some. Someone who is good enough not to have to sweat blood over a class doesn’t need the motivation that someone who does have to do so does to pass.

          • szopeno says:

            How can anytone find STEM field boring is beyond me. I work at computer science department on topics like distributed computing and fault tolerance. When I want entertainment, I write parsers in my free time.

            And I am serious.

          • Aapje says:

            @bean

            You are assuming that the women have similar backgrounds and motivations, this is not my experience. A relatively very high percentage of the women in my year had a non-native background. In many of those cultures, STEM for women is much more normal than in the west.

            So their motivations may be much more external (expectations by family) than for natives.

          • bean says:

            You are assuming that the women have similar backgrounds and motivations, this is not my experience.

            I am assuming that, because it was my experience. The aerospace program at my school is not what we’re known for, and I’m not recalling offhand any of the undergrads in my class being from overseas. The mining department would be different. In any case, it’s the sort of thing you’d control for if you were doing proper studies.

        • “Whatever makes 99.999% of women have no interest in the field is probably the same thing that makes 99.998% of men have no interest in it either.”

          That’s a reasonable explanation for the shortage of women as math professors at top schools but I don’t think it works for STEM in general. I posted some numbers from the census of professions and it looks as though STEM fields broadly defined employ about ten percent of the labor force.

          • bean says:

            I’d suspect it’s more like half that, particularly has health care employs a huge number of people who bear no resemblance to traditional STEM people. They have their own draws which make their work tolerable, distinct from those which STEM people need. I’ll agree that The Worst overstated his numbers considerably, but even then, his basic point (most people couldn’t be engineers, and we should worry about why people can) stands.

          • “but even then, his basic point (most people couldn’t be engineers, and we should worry about why people can) stands.”

            We should be puzzled about why some people can be top level mathematicians, since that doesn’t seem like a skill with any value in the environment we evolved in–and it is very rare.

            But there are quite a variety of different talents that are both generally useful and useful for STEM careers. And even if I accept your estimate that those careers employ only 5% of the workforce, I don’t think that shows that the needed talents are rare and their existence puzzling. Not everyone who can do something chooses to, in part because many people can do any of several different careers.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ bean

            his basic point (most people couldn’t be engineers, and we should worry about why people can) stands

            I really don’t see what’s special about engineers in that context. In the sentence “most people couldn’t be X”, X can stand for a great number of professions, from journalists to surgeons to national park rangers, and I remain puzzled why should we worry about those who can. People are different, yes, and..?

          • bean says:

            @Lumifer:

            I really don’t see what’s special about engineers in that context.

            Nothing, except that Women In STEM is a controversy, and the distribution of ability/tolerance for STEM is skewed in favor of men. Men In Primary Education isn’t a controversy, even though it appears that the imbalance there is even larger.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ bean

            Sure, but then the argument becomes just a generic one, applicable to almost everything, and thus loses most of its power.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Undergraduate University STEM education is hard, but can often be interesting, with a good professor (Berkeley Comp.Sci./Math here). I had bad professors too, of course.

      • LPSP says:

        I imagine there’s a degree of irony going on here, but just for the record’s sake, men were doing STEM before STEM was an official, paying, reputable thing. Men’s doing so made STEM those things. Men, or least a subset of men, clearly and obviously have an innate compulsion to STEM their lives away, and the material or societal rewards be damned.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Some women also did that (and in those cases it is even clearer that there was an innate compulsion, because the material and societal rewards were actually punishments).

          • LPSP says:

            Yep. Your point?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            It seems relevant to a discussion about STEM and gender.

          • LPSP says:

            Here’s the discussion:

            Person A:

            We don’t need any further explanation for why women aren’t interested. What we need is an explanation for why a lot of men stick with the field and the jobs despite how much it sucks.

            Person B:

            …just for the record’s sake, men were doing STEM before STEM was an official, paying, reputable thing. Men’s doing so made STEM those things. Men, or least a subset of men, clearly and obviously have an innate compulsion to STEM their lives away, and the material or societal rewards be damned.

            What exactly did repeating one of the initial, entirely-unchallenged premises of this argument, that some women innately like science, add?

    • James says:

      The MRM also makes similar arguments.

      For instance, Pakistan has great turnout for women in STEM. The MRM argument is that the more freedom you give to women, the more inequality you’ll find because women want to be mothers and not get PhDs.

      • I don’t think STEM occupations represent that tiny a number. Checking the BLS National Occupation Survey data:

        Computer and Mathematical Occupations: 4,005,250
        Architecture and Engineering Occupations: 2,475,390
        Life, Physical and Social Science Occupations: 1,146,110
        of whom social scientists and related workers: 239,170
        (some may want to subtract out this from the previous)
        Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: 8,021,800

        Just how many of these count as STEM is a bit iffy, but the total is more than fifteen million and I would expect that quite a large fraction do. The figure for all occupations is 137,896,660, so something like 10%.

      • Aapje says:

        @James

        It’s more an observation than an argument.

    • LPSP says:

      Could it be to do with the cultural perception of jobs and roles as masculine and feminine? In a less gender-egalitarian society than our own, people would feel less reservations about labelling a job as masculine or feminine. If women suddenly start piling into a sector, everyone would shrug and go “it’s a woman’s job”, and boom, it’s accepted – men would not head towards the role (even if they used to do) for the same reason they don’t fly towards nursing and such. Whereas in the west, such language is taboo, and so only a few lingering – outdated? – senses of male and female occupations inform things. Less women head into jobs well-suited to them because they’re officially gender-neutral and traditionally gender-male.

  17. Jaearess says:

    Any time I see “publish or perish”, I always think of this SMBC: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2495

    • AnonEEmous says:

      I wanted to leave a sick burn here, but basically take a look at what happened to Wells Fargo as a non-academia example of the problem with certain forms of publish-or-perish. If the goals are badly calibrated, then you have people doing bad things to compensate. One can argue that corporations have done this often and I shall but also that they produce more value to compensate and I shall. I don’t think professor incentives currently produce more good than bad and I think they should be adjusted as a result.

      • wintermute92 says:

        There’s a pretty interesting argument that increasing efficiency directly produces corruption and destructive business practices.

        That is, that for every GDP-increasing productivity gain from time-motion studies and worker tracking and staffing calculations, externalities get bigger, corruption increases, and employee health/happiness declines. It’s actually a fairly shocking claim, because increasing productivity is supposed to be the One True Way to improve standards of living across all workers. But it starts to look alarmingly plausible when you dive into what it would predict.

        The ‘best’ jobs have historically been the ones with minimal accountability and terrible efficiency. Think academia, unions, and low-importance government work. Those careers are being aggressively squeezed: tenured academics turn into underpaid adjuncts, governments shrink, and unions are broken in favor of lower paid rotating-shift labor. Compare an infamously-awful warehouse job at Amazon to an automotive job from a decade ago.

        On the business practices question, a look at Comcast or Wells Fargo should suffice. Comcast call centers had minimum ‘upsell’ rates for each employee, to be hit regardless of who calls and why. So even if 100 people call to cancel their service, you’re expected to retain and upsell several of those people. The result is a horrible customer experience and serial fraud: reps simply lied about prices and rules to achieve the goals. Wells Fargo did the same, but took an end-run around consumers to simply sell them products without their consent.

        And externalities? Most infamously, “maximum legal emissions” have become target levels – if it’s December and you aren’t at annual cap, quit paying to clean waste and dump it in the river. But I’ve got a better story:

        UPS has famously produced massive increases in efficiency over the last decade or so. The old “no left turns” story. Much of that has been down to Telematics, an in-depth driver tracking system. It finds points of inefficiency and pushes drivers to do more, better.

        …or so the company story goes. UPS set efficiency goals that assumed best-case outcomes (packages to be left at a ground floor entrance, minimal wait for signatures, etc). They were absurd, so workers started cutting corners. Speeding was the first step, but that was bad for company reputation so it got monitored. So workers switched to skipping slow deliveries – if it’s bulky and you’re behind, leave a “missed you” note instead of even trying the door (that, not just observer bias, is why people claim “I was home all day, I would have heard them knock!”). But you can only do so much of that, especially once failed-delivery events get logged. So the next was not shutting the back section in residential driving, to save time. But that’s dangerous, so that gets monitored. So the next is not wearing seatbelts, but that gets monitored. So then you buckle your seatbelt behind you, to trick the sensor while saving time. (That’s not insane: seconds count in Telematics.) Another winner is pulling out recklessly, and indeed UPS vehicles seem to be getting in more accidents than ever. The war continues, sacrificing safety and reliability at every turn.

        There are entire forums where UPS workers trade Telematics-beating tips, not to skive off but to avoid being fired. The system has finally gotten good enough to prevent most UPS-harming consequences, so workers drive with faked seatbelts, deliver at an awkward half-run, and lift packages unsafely. Chronic health problems abound, but most can’t be provably blamed on UPS. Probabilistic issues continue unabated too, like fake ‘missed deliveries’ and dangerous driving.

        The point in all of this? Well, that Frederick Winslow Taylor was a monster. But more broadly, that there’s a real question of whether fully-efficient workplaces are horrifically destructive, and a sensible thing to resist.

        • Jimmy Gentle says:

          great comment. would love to hear some more examples and/or counterarguments.

        • Lumifer says:

          That is, that for every GDP-increasing productivity gain from time-motion studies and worker tracking and staffing calculations, externalities get bigger, corruption increases, and employee health/happiness declines.

          That seems to be falsified by reality.

          I think you’re confusing the trial-and-error mechanism of the markets searching for an optimal solution with an inexorable law of nature. And yes, the agent problem is a huge one with no universal and entirely satisfactory solutions.

          However the capitalist survival of the fittest evaluates by end results — if all your management is corrupt and all your workers are unhappy, you’ll go out of business even if your efficiency metrics are stellar.

          • Matthew says:

            No you won’t. If the efficiency is giving you a sufficient competitive advantage relative to companies with happier workers, then it will stay profitable. There is a long long history of very successful firms which built their fortune at the cost of crippled and unhappy workers.

          • @Matthew. I’d like to hear that list. I think that is mostly a myth. I agree that companies can sometimes succeed at this for a while, when they are in a semi-monopoly situation. But eventually other firms find their way into the industry to eat up the excess profits, workers figure out that there are better jobs elsewhere, etc. Why would a worker stay at a firm that made them miserable if they had a better choice elsewhere. The only reason workers do stay at such firms is because it’s the best they can get. Perhaps firms can pay more when they make their employees miserable, but it doesn’t sound very productive to me.

          • Jiro says:

            “Companies may sometimes succeed doing it for a while but it won’t last” doesn’t mean that no companes will be doing it. We have a steady state where companies are created and have a lifespan. If some companies do inefficient things and don’t have as big a lifespan, the steady state will still contain a percentage of such inefficient companies.

          • LPSP says:

            I think Mark is underestimating the pains and difficulties of transitioning from one state to another.

          • wintermute92 says:

            I think this overestimates the freeness/efficiency of our markets (although I admit I was being hyperbolic).

            First, the externalities can grow enormously – there’s no force restricting those unless you do something so unconscionable that you get stopped by the state (severe polluting) or public opinion (blood diamonds).

            And second, that ‘corruption’ can often mean something similar to ‘externalities’. I don’t mean managers stealing cash from the till, I mean managers doing unethical, dangerous, or consumer-harming things to improve efficiency. The Wells Fargo scandal may cost the company more money than it earned, but lots of awful practices don’t.

            At risk of opening a 20k word rabbit-hold, RibbonFarm’s Gervais Principle has a great bit on leaders who arrange for predictably unethical/illegal outcomes without ever ordering them. When one gets caught out, you fire/prosecute the bagman. When one doesn’t, you profit.

            Third, that real-world markets aren’t terribly efficient. Comcast mistreats its call-center workers (and the people who call them) because it can sustain 300% turnover, because it has an incredibly lucrative monopoly that makes sales hikes more valuable than reputation or happy employees. More broadly, employment markets are full of information asymmetry that allows systematic abuses of workers even in a nominally ‘efficient’ labor market.

            Beyond that, though, there’s no particular rule of economics protecting employee health/happiness. My suggestion was that efficiency gains make it decline. EV of working can’t ever fall below EV of not working, but you can push it as close as humanly possible. And the EV of “not working” is incredibly low for marginal workers, who lose housing, medical care, and sometimes food for not working. So you can have employees who are miserable all the time, but still prefer working for you to not working at all. You can, in fact, push the suffering of working just shy of the point where suicide becomes preferable – Foxconn walks that line already.

            All of this, of course, assumes surplus labor. With a labor shortage employers bid each other up for labor, and life is good for employees. (And this is why you’re right: my principle isn’t universal.) But with surplus labor – which, participation rates considered, we have plenty of – employees bid each other down to the most miserable experience that beats not working.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ wintermute92

            First, the externalities can grow enormously

            As you yourself note, they can only grow until they piss off someone who can do something about it. Given that the state likes to regulate and given that the judicial system has been dealing with torts for a very long time, I have my doubts about “enormously”.

            Sure, there are cases of massive externalities (e.g. adding lead to gasoline), but these tend to result from, basically, not knowing what you are doing and not from evil intent. Tobacco smoking is an interesting case, but I would probably argue that the externalities like the cost to the society come from the smokers’ decisions.

            I mean managers doing unethical, dangerous, or consumer-harming things to improve efficiency.

            Ethics are in the eye of the beholder and a company which insists on doing dangerous and/or consumer-harming things will find itself in hot water soon enough. Case in point: the current Samsung’s debacle with Note 7.

            real-world markets aren’t terribly efficient

            Well, you would have to look for reasons why a company isn’t punished for non-efficient behavior. Are you quite sure that 300% turnover isn’t efficient for Comcast’s interests? How do you know?

            there’s no particular rule of economics protecting employee health/happiness

            Sure. There’s no particular natural law protecting a person’s health/happiness either. So?

            My suggestion was that efficiency gains make it decline. EV of working can’t ever fall below EV of not working, but you can push it as close as humanly possible.

            EV of working is EV(work + money) while EV of not working is EV(time). Note that the horribleness of the “work” term can and usually is compensated by increasing the “money” term: e.g. working on a fishing boat in Northern Atlantic in the winter is pretty horrible, but pays pretty well.

            David Friedman already asked this question somewhere in this thread: if this is as you describe, why is anyone paid any more than the minimum wage? In reality a lot of people are paid much more than the minimum wage, why is that so?

            Employers compete for workers. They very much compete for competent, honest, reliable workers.

          • LPSP says:

            At risk of opening a 20k word rabbit-hold, RibbonFarm’s Gervais Principle has a great bit on leaders who arrange for predictably unethical/illegal outcomes without ever ordering them. When one gets caught out, you fire/prosecute the bagman. When one doesn’t, you profit.

            I watched a linked Steven Pinker talk on euphemism from the OT yesterday, and on reflection this is another example of a risk-taker hedging his bets. You don’t explicitly say you’re trying to do something illegal (boundary-crossing, relation-changing, role-defying), you just nudge-nudge it in a manner that’s painfully obvious to anyone present, yet has plausible deniability (and if anyone kicks up a fuss, there’s a way to deflect it to something else).

      • hooniversalist says:

        Goodhart’s law, Goodhart’s law everywhere.

        • Skivverus says:

          Maybe not everywhere, but certainly everywhere the number of relevant factors exceeds the number of (concurrently) measurable ones (which is the vast majority of interesting cases).

          Probably a relevant principle for AI, too, in at least two ways.
          One, stopping the AI from gaming the system is not going to be successful merely by adding more “things to optimize” (read: “measurable factors”).
          Two, even an AGI will necessarily be working from incomplete information; it will have to make assumptions, including about its own source code, which will almost certainly be inaccurate. That is, it will make mistakes.

        • maybe_slytherin says:

          As soon as we start trying to meet the standards of Goodhart’s law, we will no longer follow Goodhart’s law.

    • PedroS says:

      That is powerful, but only in the most “immediate” sense. If one stops to reflect for some moments, one realizes that people in most of academia (i.e. non “Major research Universities”) are expected to perform research but the rationale for their hiring (and the basis for the computation of their salaries) is the number of classes taught or number of hours spent teaching. Therefore “doing their job” is not “publishing” but “teaching and grading”, and firing them for failing to publish is not “firing them for not doing their job”

  18. “Remember how you had to learn cursive in elementary school even though it was clearly useless and inferior to other forms of communication? An Atlantic article argues that there was sort of a rational explanation – cursive was the most convenient form of writing for the obsolete pens of yesteryear, and it took a while for people to realize that better pens made it unnecessary.”

    This is also a metaphor for how everything works all of the time

    • Is the argument that later pen designs made printing better relative to cursive? I would guess that cursive is still faster.

      What really made learning cursive obsolete was typing on a word processor. When my elder son was ten or so we were told he was having trouble in school with handwriting. I didn’t see why he should invest a lot of time in an obsolete skill. So I wrote a simple typing game for him, later bought a better one.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I spent years taking remedial handwriting classes in elementary school. Eventually the program gave up on me, and I still remember the teacher telling me that I would probably be best off avoiding college or any job where writing was a requirement. It was a major blow.

        By the time I got to college, of course, most of my professors wouldn’t accept handwritten materials.

        • wintermute92 says:

          In elementary school, they told us to practice cursive because it would be mandatory in middle school.

          In middle school, they recommended cursive because it would be mandatory in high school.

          In high school, they urged cursive because print would be forbidden in college.

          In college, they said to do whatever was readable, and type if we had any doubt. “If I can’t read it, it’s like you didn’t write it.” Even when typing wasn’t required, printing was 100% accepted.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            In college, they said to do whatever was readable, and type if we had any doubt. “If I can’t read it, it’s like you didn’t write it.” Even when typing wasn’t required, printing was 100% accepted.

            A friend at University used to handwrite all of her essays to avoid endless revisions due to perfectionism. One of her supervisors demanded that they be typed. She bought a typewriter.

          • dndnrsn says:

            My handwriting began turning to pure garbage the moment (grade 5?) they stopped forcing me to write in pure cursive. Pretty quickly it developed into a printing-cursive hybrid, but I was forced to be legible because I still did a fair bit of handwriting to be turned in (quizzes, tests, exams, stuff for language courses) through university. Since I graduated, my handwriting has become pretty much illegible – sometimes I write in all caps because otherwise I can’t write comprehensibly unless I do so really slowly.

            It would have been better had I never been taught cursive. Sometimes I can’t read my own handwriting.

          • And when I, a college professor, tell my students to print their names and not write their names in cursive because I find it hard to read cursive names, most students still write their names in cursive.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            “If I can’t read your name it is like you never turned it in.”

          • “If I can’t read your name it is like you never turned it in.”

            Professors have a limited number of “meanness points” they can spend before students avoid their classes and consider them jerks. I prefer to spend my meanness points on getting students to turn in assignments on time and on giving them honest feedback.

      • Deiseach says:

        Handwriting is also fine motor control skills, though.

      • I’ve seen claims that printing is faster than cursive– pen spends less time on the paper.

        Also, it seems reasonable that the loops in cursive would eat time.

        • wintermute92 says:

          I think there’s a gap here between ‘academic’ and ‘efficient’ cursive.

          The academic stuff may have been efficient once, because those big loops keep your pen nib aligned and moving smoothly. These days, though, fast cursive reduces all kinds of loops and curves to fast, linear motions. It’s damned hard to read, but I honestly believe it’s faster than lifting the pen.

        • Lumifer says:

          I can write fast cursive and these claims are not true.

      • nimim. k.m. says:

        Didn’t read the article, but writing in cursive is much nicer and more fun with a fountain pen than with a ballpoint pen. Especially with cheap ballpoint pens everyone uses. Pencils are a little better, and I use them for notetaking during the lectures / classes, but it’s easy to make a mess with the softer kinds of graphite ‘lead’ (accidentally swipe over what you wrote with your hand, oh, text is now unintelligible and you need to wash your hands).

        I don’t know enough of the relevant physics to be sure about this, but I think it’s because there’s more friction in the rolling ball mechanism and so you also have to press the ballpoint pen against the paper more; compared to that, ideally the traditional pen feels like it… flows.

        I grandmother bought me a fountain pen as a birthday present some years ago, and I actively (re-)learned the cursive and started keeping a diary. But yes, it’s mostly a hobby, not a skill everyone needs to learn but a skill that can make normally tedious moments of your life happier (oh, I should write notes vs Yay, I can write!); not unlike drawing.

    • Autolykos says:

      There’s another problem with cursive. As you get faster, you individualize it by adapting it to your personal physiological quirks. Which means that eventually no one else can read it.
      I got tired of teachers telling me they couldn’t read my handwriting, and switched to printing. It only took me a few months to get to a similar speed as with cursive, but it is way more legible (though not perfect – I still got some complaints after, just little enough that I could stop caring).

      • LPSP says:

        Story of my life right here. I can’t even print anymore, so my writing is entirely illegible unless I take the painstaking effort to draw each character.

    • Arcaseus says:

      I never learned any other kind of handwriting than cursive, and I don’t think we even have a word in French for cursive/non-cursive. I wonder what makes it so different from country to country ?

    • Deiseach says:

      Remember how you had to learn cursive in elementary school even though it was clearly useless and inferior to other forms of communication?

      Well, thanks for making me feel very, very old 🙂

      My primary school still had inkwells in the desks! Though we didn’t use fountain pens or nib pens, but plain biros.

      • LHN says:

        My first elementary school required us to buy fountain pens with plastic ink cartridges in (I think) third grade and learn to use them, but I think that was unusual at that point.

        Then we moved before I started fourth grade, and I never saw a fountain pen in school again.

    • nelshoy says:

      Do you know what I think would be cool? Bringing back shorthand. I’d love to be able to make loops on a touch screen and quickly spell out whole words. Does anyone know if there’s a keyboard app for iPhone that does this? I couldn’t find any when I searched a while ago.

      • Lumifer says:

        I’d love to be able to make loops on a touch screen and quickly spell out whole words.

        That’s basically how swype-style keyboards on smartphones work.

        • nelshoy says:

          Yes, but the issue with those is that they sacrifice efficiency for accessibility (everyone knows qwerty layout).

          I don’t know how much more efficient specifically gregg shorthand would be, but if there’s a system that let’s you type at 150 WPM with one hand, that seems like a darn useful skill to learn.

          • Zakharov says:

            There are systems like that, used by court reporters and other people who need to write a lot very quickly, but they’re hard to learn.

      • LPSP says:

        My mother actually trained to learn shorthand as a secretary in the ’80s, and I’m vaguely fascinated by it as well. Same with stenography – they both seem like really efficient ways to approach communication and are sadly underused.

        • kw773 says:

          Mirabai Knight started Plover, an accessible way to learn stenography. I looked into it for speed (I type 150 WPM on QWERTY) and mobile computing possibilities–she has some fascinating articles on this in her blog.

  19. chaosmage says:

    Not saying 54% of Chinese do, but one could root for Trump if one expects to benefit from turmoil in the US (especially if it causes a brain drain the other way for once) while also expecting Trump will not cause a global nuclear war.

    • Autolykos says:

      Yep, I can’t deny that I would feel a certain degree of schadenfreude if Trump got elected. But sadly, in this day and age being on the other side of the pond is not enough to keep you safe from Amercian foreign policy…

  20. zz says:

    A new study adds a new perspective to this debate by determining that the percent women in the extreme right tail of mathematical ability was increasing rapidly up until twenty years ago, after which point it has mysteriously remained exactly the same. Women continue to do better at verbal tasks.

    A new study, published in 2010!

    (I happen to be familiar with it because it’s the source in Wikipedia’s article on CTY that says CTYers are in the top 0.3% of their age group and, having attended for five sessions, I have a good idea how I stacked up compared to CTYers and there was a period where I had crippling self-doubt about my intelligence. Anyway, the study doesn’t contain the Wikipedia-cited figure, although comparing where the study puts the top 0.5% to entrance requirements, it seems about right. Also, the thing that got me over my crippling self-doubt was Paul Graham saying that, empirically, success in startups was dominated by factors other than intelligence that. Anyway.)

    The study’s results seem broadly in-line with the genders of International Math Olympians. But it doesn’t really explain the prevalence of men in mathy fields. Gender disparity only really begins cropping up once you reach the 99th percentile, and you have to go further out to get any appreciable disparity. Except in domains that are extremely limited by math ability (going to grad school for mathematics), as opposed to merely “mathy” fields where math ability is helpful but can be satisficed at sub-99th-percentile levels or dominated by other factors, this study really doesn’t explain a lot. Certainly not a 9:1 gender ratio in something like undergraduate computer science.

    Speaking of things that fail to explain women not being in mathy fields: I’ve been trying to figure out women in STEM—in particular, how to get more women into it. My priors for any particular person thinking clearly about a field this politicized are so low that I expect that any summary I find will do more harm than good, so I’ve been doing it myself. (If anyone knows of a good summary that won’t cause me to believe untrue things, I will be eternally grateful if you link me to it.) Anyway, I was reading this report, which contains data for both female representation in STEM subfields and wage gap in the same subfields. “Hmm,” I thought. “I wonder if there’s a relation?” So, I dump the numbers into a Google Sheet, have it make me a scatterplot and throw a trendline and, sure enough, the higher the female representation, the higher the wage gap.

    This is based on all of four data points from one survey, so I’m ready to say “coincidence”, but I also happened across this wonderful chart on Wikipedia that tells me that “construction” is the industry with the smallest wage gap. So now I’m wondering if anyone’s investigated this. Have I just happened across anomalous data? Or is there some obvious-in-retrospect explanation that I’m unaware of?

    • Can I still be anonymous? says:

      I don’t think this is true even across your four data points? CS and math roles have the highest wage gap but they aren’t the most gender balanced field.

      I do have a theory that there’s a complicated dynamic going on related to the correlation of status and wages, the higher status of “masculine” roles in our society, and the way that salaries tend to plummet in a field that women enter, but you can’t really see it with data this rough.

      Also when a field initially opens up to women, there will be more women in entry level roles compared to higher level roles, but a field that isn’t really open to women yet and only exceptional women enter, will have the same small ratio of women to men at every level of experience.

      • zz says:

        *Checks works*

        The correlation between %female and wage gap is certainly positive. CS and math roles have the highest wage gap and are the second-most gender-balanced field. (Compare to engineering, which has half the female representation and half the gap, and managerial, which has marginally less female representation and a 25% smaller gap.

        Science has the highest female representation and the second-lowest wage gap. It is exactly where you’d naively expect it to be. Things get confusing when the next-highest female representation group has the highest wage gap and the group with the lowest female representation has the lowest wage gap.

        I forgot to mention that I was largely spurred by the report saying that STEM has a smaller wage gap than all industries by one-third.

        Agree that the data is rough and appreciate the explanations.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Is there a gender*race interaction factor at all? Some family cultures may push kids of all genders towards STEM as a desirable source of dependable income vs. others that either gender STEM jobs (as per the point above of women getting degrees but not careers), or are neutral, and therefore will probably follow status quo distributions.

    • I have no idea if your pattern is true, but I think I can construct an explanation of why it could be true.

      Suppose that within a subfield there are two sorts of subsubfields, ones that women have comparative advantage in and ones that men do. Suppose that subfields differ in how attractive to women the subsubfields that attract women in them are. If a subfield contains subsubfields very attractive to women that pulls lots of women in, drives up the percentage of women in the subfield, drives down the wages in the subsubfield, thus increases the m/f wage gap.

    • namae nanka says:

      Bottom up, it’s a TE gap more than STEM overall. If you’re to include social sciences you might even tip the scales.

      Surprisingly to me, most of the STEM majors aren’t doing as bad gender disparity-wise as I expected. 40-45% of the degrees in Math, Statistics, and the Physical Sciences were conferred to women in 2012. Even better, a majority of Biology degrees in 2012 (58%) were earned by women. This data tells me that we don’t really have a STEM gender gap in the U.S.: we have an ET gender gap!

      http://www.randalolson.com/2014/06/14/percentage-of-bachelors-degrees-conferred-to-women-by-major-1970-2012/

      There are other abilites besides maths. Verbal and spatial where males lack in former and excel in latter. So while there might not be a big separation in the bell curves when you consider maths alone, once you account for other abilities as well you’d expect males and females to make widely different choices. Especially when boys don’t really have a choice since their verbal skills lag way behind girls.

      The funny thing about your comment to Anon is that feminism has turned the fact of male disadvantage in schooling upside down, girls have been getting better grades even in maths since the records were kept. A pretty simple way to stop boys concentrating in TE fields would be to improve their verbal skills so that they are more willing to consider other fields but that would also run the substantial risk of widening the maths gender gap even further.

      • A pretty simple way to stop boys concentrating in TE fields would be to improve their verbal skills so that they are more willing to consider other fields but that would also run the substantial risk of widening the maths gender gap even further.

        Now this turns the point of this upside down. I thought the main societal reason the gap mattered was because without women the STEM field (or maybe TE field) didn’t have enough talented workers. Decreasing the gap by encouraging men to leave STEM should be contra-indicated.

        Personally speaking, I think the previous thread on this made more sense, where the data seems to make it evident that women aren’t in STEM simply because they don’t like it. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me, and not a problem at all. If we need more STEM workers (which I don’t think is true anyway), then STEM employers simply need to make jobs more in demand through higher pay and better working conditions. I care not at all if there is a gender gap.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Decreasing the gap by encouraging men to leave STEM should be contra-indicated.

          It’s the thing which works the best at reducing the gap, though; discouraging men gets much better results. Harvey Mudd College has managed to get more women than men in its Computer Science program through such innovative techniques as telling enthusiastic male students things like

          “You know, Joe, I love having you in the class. It’s just so wonderful to have someone who’s so enthusiastic and so well prepared. I’m sure you don’t realize this, but when you talk so intensely in class, it’s really intimidating for the other students who assume they have to know as much as you do. So if we could just continue to have these conversations one on one, it would be really great,” and usually the problem goes away

          (and no, all the ego-boosting stuff in the beginning won’t fool Joe for a minute. He knows he’s being shut down)

  21. Jack V says:

    “Marble quarries somehow look”

    Woah! It’s like a doorway for giants.

    “they may not offer free online video courses,”

    This does seem bizarre, but someone else pointed out, does it make a difference that they’re public — do students AT Berkeley have a way of seeing the videos? If not, there’s just as much legal problem.

    ““publish or perish” and modern science culture”

    I think it *used* to be better (though still difficult in many ways). It seems like now, there’s too many people chasing too few roles. Maybe partly because more people can go to university, so a smaller proportion can stay on in academia, and partly because the recession means less science roles overall. And it takes time for people to give up, or learn it’s not worth trying in the first place. So there’s a lot of competition, settled on arbitrary criteria like “who can produce enough ‘good enough’ papers in the first few years” (which correlates with, but isn’t the same as, producing good results long term).

    And partly, whatever criteria you used, it might be better to roll a die and pick fewer grad students, then let them get on with experiments, than get them to spend most of their time on useless but competitive activities like “who’s the best at writing grants” and “who’s the best at making results look publishable” to see who succeeds.

  22. Yehuda Porath says:

    Nwabudike Morgan – ah, SMAC. Alpha Centrauri’s still memorable after all these years.

    Something else good must have happened to African capitalism, but nothing comes to mind

    • Urstoff says:

      Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I’d settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice.

        • Look at any photograph or work of art. If you could duplicate exactly the first tiny dot of color, and then the next and the next, you would end with a perfect copy of the whole, indistinguishable from the original in every way, including the so-called “moral value” of the art itself. Nothing can transcend its smallest elements.

    • Zakharov says:

      I found it suspicious that all of the economic activity in the so-called “free market” faction seemed to be owned and controlled by one man.

      • I would pay good money for a remake of that classic with modern graphics and an even deeper storyline.

        The level of attention to detail and craftsmanship that went into games in the late 90s/2000s has never been matched.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I would enjoy a version of Mass Effect that was as open-world as Star Control 2. The first Mass Effect crept up to it with the planetary exploration but it was confined to an arbitrarily small region and from there it only became a more generic on-rails shooter. High production values, but little depth.

  23. Deiseach says:

    Profile of Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chairman, a former naval officer whose motto is “Honey badger don’t give a s***”.

    God damn it, don’t be giving me reasons to like his bloody campaign! (Going by the motto alone, because some days it’s just “Kill everything with fire”) 🙂

    Re: decapitation, I wonder if that’s a case of Mrs Malaprop in action:

    “Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!”

    Re: poor, persecuted, humble Berkeley which can’t afford the crushing financial burden the heartless bureaucrats wish to impose upon them – I’d be more sympathetic to their plight, had I not Googled to see what exactly they spend their endowment on, and the first thing that pops up is a perhaps, perhaps not mini-scandal – how much closed captioning would $1 million get you, even in these days of higher prices?

    UC Berkeley has spent over a million dollars to fix up the official home of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

    Or maybe they might shave a few bob from the sports budget?

    Since 2004, UC Berkeley’s athletics budget has nearly doubled, increasing from $45.1 million, to a projected $89.6 million in 2013

    Then again, apparently it’s hard for them to keep track of exactly where the money goes in their budget, except they know they need more from the government:

    Legislative staff has been digging through the university system’s spending documents for weeks, and still doesn’t have a totally clear picture of the reason the total UC budget is now $26.9 billion. That’s a 40 percent increase from the last pre-recession year of 2007-08 until 2014-15.

    Yes, poor, poor, hard-pressed Berkeley and those accessibility check-box ticking fiends that are burdening them with dreadful requirements!

    I wonder if this little contretemps isn’t to do with the budget talks with the state government as in the linked article, and the bureaucrats are pushing for more falling into line with equality legislation/regulations while the university is pushing back with “we’ll take our ball and go home”, and both sides are playing hardball?

    • Murphy says:

      Look at it this way: they have no obligation to provide free education to everyone in the world in return for nothing.

      And yet they did. Probably on the basis that it wouldn’t significantly hurt them to do so.

      Suddenly it’s looking like they’ll be faced with a massive bill if they want to continue providing free education to everyone and the easiest and most understandable response is to simply not give stuff away for free when they have no reason to.

      Why should they piss away any of their money at all on people who aren’t students to whom they have no obligation? They tried to do the public a favor and instead got spit in their face and legal threats. You can be sure the next time the option comes up to help the world for little cost to themselves they’ll, entirely reasonably, say “nah, lets not, it didn’t work out last time we tried being nice”

      Imagine if every open source developer creating free software for anyone in the world to use tomorrow received a threat from the government that they each need to pay thousands out of their own pockets to make their software accessible or stop making things for free. The next day the open source movement would be 99% dead.

      • Deiseach says:

        How “massive” is the massive bill, though? I’m not seeing any figures, just claims that this is more overbearing government interference. Berkeley seems to be cash-strapped, like many other universities, and I am wondering if this isn’t in part that they’re getting their retaliation in first; “the reason we’re over-budget and under-funded is because we’re forced to comply with all this unnecessary red tape!” rather than whatever they are spending the money on (I have a feeling remuneration is going to be one of the areas looked at, and that’s one where there will be an immense amount of screeching over how A deserves every penny they earn and B won’t stand for the implication that they’re not worth it as well).

        • Murphy says:

          How “massive” is the massive bill, though?

          does it matter? if you volunteered your time down at the local homeless shelter and some horrible little admin started trying to issue you with “fines” for 10 euro a pop for trivial things how long would you keep going before you said “fuck this” and found other ways to occupy your time ?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Murphy, you are fined one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute.

          • Deiseach says:

            It matters very much if they’re pleading poverty and the “massive” bill turns out to be less than the catering bill for the big jamboree they threw for the tenth anniversary of the Vice-Vice-Provost’s Office for Selecting New Carpeting.

          • LHN says:

            The people pushing the decision to offer free courses probably don’t have budget authority over the catering bill or the carpeting.

            Changing their case to the folks who allocate money from “this will be basically free” to “this will require an expenditure to benefit people it’s not our purview to help” is probably going to end the conversation.

            (At least my own experience with university budgets is that “but that department wasted ten times as much” is rarely as much as a slam dunk in getting the money as you might think.)

            My wife is hard of hearing, and I’m keenly aware of how important accommodations are and how useless their absence can make something. But this really does seem like making the perfect the enemy of the good.

          • “It matters very much if they’re pleading poverty and the “massive” bill turns out to be less than the catering bill for the big jamboree they threw for the tenth anniversary of the Vice-Vice-Provost’s Office for Selecting New Carpeting.”

            Not it doesn’t.

            You are assuming that their argument is “we can’t afford to do what you want.” But the much more reasonable argument is “the cost of doing what we want plus what you want is more than the value to us of doing so, so we won’t.”

            Suppose a panhandler asks you for five pounds. You decline. He responds with “how can you refuse me? I know you can afford it–you just came out of that bookstore with a stack of secondhand books that must have cost you more than five pounds.”

            His point is true but irrelevant, because the reason you turned him down wasn’t that there was no way you could have found the money to give him. Similarly here.

            Or in other words, why do you interpret Berkeley’s response as pleading poverty?

    • Julian says:

      A note on the sports budget:

      A majority of that funding is likely coming from television contracts that the Pac12 is party to. Another portion will be merchandise and ticket sales (though much smaller).

      I cant claim this is certain at Berkeley, but the salaries for most highly paid coaches are paid by booster donation that are earmarked only for that purpose.

      While its easy to see $80 million going to sports and say “that’s dumb they should spend it on X” its not exactly fair. The vase majority of that money only exists because of sports and wouldnt be going to scholarships or academic programs otherwise.

      • gbdub says:

        Lots of schools lose a lot of money on sports, but Berkeley (Cal, to sports fans) is not, I think, one of them, and most of the “power 5 conference” schools make enough money on men’s football and basketball (plus alumni donations) to pay for the rest of the department.

        At e.g. Michigan, the athletic department is essentially an entirely independent entity, with a separate budget. It pays the rest of the university face value for the scholarships it gives athletes, and usually runs a surplus. About the only possible argument you could make against it, budget wise, is that it perhaps draws some alumni donations into sports instead of the rest of the university. But then again sports fandom is a huge thing that keeps alumni engaged with the university at all.

    • cassander says:

      IIRC, most big university sports budgets are actually very far in the black, even before you consider the alumni donations they encourage.

    • Virbie says:

      I actually looked into each of the links you posted, and they’re pretty much all frivolous (with the possible exception of college administrator salaries being high, which is a systemic problem that Berkeley has almost no control over). Acting as if fixing up the Chancellor’s Residence even approaches a scandal is laughable: it’s a historical campus building that the current Chancellor lives in. The way you’re framing it is as absurd as equating repairs to the White House to Obama using govt money as a personal slush fund. It’s hardly controversial to attach a nonzero value to maintaining a campus’s history and anesthetics, or every university would just be a trailer park + portapotties.

      The “mismanagement” of the endowment is explained in the very link you posted. First of all, the article is about the entire UC, not just Berkeley. UC is ranked as one of the 10 richest schools only because it has something like TEN universities included in it. UC Berkeley alone is triple the size of colleges like Yale. Secondly, as the article mentions, public universities in general are forced to be more conservative in their investments because their funding is a lot less in their control than rich private schools like most of the rest of the list that the article compares it to.

      Even your budgetary mismanagement article manages to be almost completely irrelevant. Again, it talks about the entire UC, and every example in the article is something like “pension obligations”, “UC run hospitals” or “health science instruction (ie med school)”, none of which have anything to do with Berkeley and the kind of spending it has control over. At this point, it’s entirely unexpected that even the figures you quoted are irrelevant. 6.9 billion is the budget for actual instruction costs, _across all ~ten schools_.

      If you had pulled this horribly flawed analysis from a single article, I mightve just chalked it up to you being really naive and credulous. But the amount of work it took for you to pull together sources and paint this bullshit masterpiece implies some pretty impassioned motivated reasoning. I can’t imagine what Berkeley must have done to you. Was it the dining hall food?

    • Spot says:

      God damn it, don’t be giving me reasons to like his bloody campaign! (Going by the motto alone, because some days it’s just “Kill everything with fire”)

      I mean, but he says this, and yet Bannon’s hiring coincides with a sudden increase in campaign discipline and a sharp rise in Trump’s poll numbers. My pet theory is that it’s actually Bannon who somehow managed to tame Trump, not Conway. You don’t run a vast, intricate and many-pronged right-wing apparatus as some wannabe Joker.

  24. Ann Nonny Mousse says:

    Federal government tells Berkeley they may not offer free online video courses, because they are discriminatory against deaf people who cannot hear the audio. Willing to reconsider if they translate them into sign language as well or add closed captioning, but the college says it can’t afford that and will probably just take the courses down. This is a metaphor for how everything works all the time.

    … i.e. that people will make up any excuse whatsoever, no matter how ridiculous, for why they won’t do things that would be useful to people in general if doing so would limit their opportunities to maximize their own personal gain?

    • Murphy says:

      I don’t follow your logic.

      they have no obligation to provide free education to everyone in the world in return for nothing.

      And yet they did.

      Probably on the basis that it wouldn’t significantly hurt them to do so.

      If someone does you a favor out of the goodness of their heart it’s traditional to not turn around and demand (with threats of legal action) that they start spending time and money on improving the favor. The typical result of that is them saying “Nah, I think I’ll just stop doing things for you for free”.

      Scott complains in an old post about the use of the term “entitled” as an insult but I’m not sure there’s a more fitting term. There’s also some old phrases about gift horses and whether it’s polite to look them in the mouth.

      • Ann Nonny Mousse says:

        I was referring to the government in this instance as being the entity that’s behaving in this manner. But then I live in a country where educational institutions as a rule are ultimately government-run, anyway, so I didn’t make a clear distinction in my mind between the college putting the videos up in the first place and the government then stepping in and forcing them to take them down with what seems to me a fairly blatantly transparent excuse. To me it registered more as infighting from within the same entity, with a lower-level administrative subdivision coming up with cheap way to provide a public service only for the higher level adminstration to step in and put a stop to that because it would ultimately endanger the larger entity’s interests (in this case, the government’s interest in maintaining its monopoly and legitimacy in the field of education) and making up what’s a fairly obviously thin fig-leaf of an excuse for that purpose because they obviously can’t just come out and say it’s to prevent people from getting a free education outside of the government-run institutions. Now that you’ve reminded me that the setup isn’t necessarily quite the same in the US somewhat weakens my argument but I’m not sure it stops working entirely.

        • Julian says:

          UC Berkley is funded (approximately) by the state of California. The Federal US government is the one stepping in to stop them.

          A good analogy for this would be: You and I are throwing a party for 10 people. I buy chocolate ice cream. 1 Person doesnt like chocolate, so none of us get ice cream and I have to just throw out the ice cream I bought.

        • Virbie says:

          The federalism (and size) of the US is fairly important when using other countries for comparison. This is most directly relevant when approximating state and federal institutions as the same entity. This is best illustrated by the ubiquitous example of marijuana laws: they’re federally illegal and legal to various degrees within the states. You end up getting weird things like businesses being taxed as legitimate enterprises by the state while having trouble getting funding from banks scared of federal action. The model of “all levels of government as a single entity” is particularly unsuitable.

      • Deiseach says:

        Berkeley has its very own Web Accessibility team:

        The Web Accessibility team, in IST’s Architecture, Platforms, and Integration (IST-API), assists UC Berkeley departments in making campus websites accessible to people with disabilities.

        And by the bye, when it’s buying in materials from outside (bolding mine):

        The University of California’s Information Technology Accessibility Policy (effective August 27, 2013) states that all campus websites and web applications should be accessible to people with disabilities, including those who use assistive technologies.

        What does this mean for Berkeley?
        For Website and Content Owners: All site content should be accessible.
        For Web Developers: Websites and products should be built with accessibility in mind.
        For Buyers: Products purchased from external vendors should be accessible.
        For Users of Technology: There are resources available for users to improve their experiences with technology.

        So they have this stuff onsite. I really want to know what the expense that they can’t cover is; I’d like to see some figures (how much free content are they putting online? And while I don’t doubt they’re doing this as part of their remit as a public university, I have to say that I don’t think they’re doing it purely out of the goodness of their hearts – they’re getting recognition from the public at the very least, and probably some other means of monetising how many hits they get.

        I see they’ve taken down their webcasts, and are re-directing people to the edX site. Now, the thing is, if we take all this in toto, if the webcasts were being produced by Berkeley onsite, by their own accessibility policy they would have needed to be “accessible to people with disabilities”.

        And indeed, that’s what they are going to do. And they have their own (commerical? semi-commercial? not sure) branch doing it, so it’s not the case that they had to pay an outside company a huge fee:

        Berkeley AV and Berkeley Video are proud to announce we will be adding captions to all videos we produce this fall in our continued effort to uphold a culture of inclusion and meet the University of California’s IT Accessibility Policy. Not only will adding captions make your videos more accessible to those with hearing impairments, it will make the dialogue in your content more easily understood by everyone. This is especially beneficial in our increasingly global environment at UC Berkeley.

        For our customers, the process is seamless. After the video has been recorded and edited, our off-campus partner, who specializes in captioning, will create the captions and add them to the video with no delay to the overall process. Customers will see a price increase for this additional service, but we have been able to control the cost by negotiating with a vendor to provide this important service for all videos we will produce going forward.

        This decision is part of a larger initiative within ETS to review its services to better understand how to best uphold a culture of inclusion across all of our offerings and meet the University of California’s IT Accessibility Policy.

        “The University of California is committed to providing an electronic environment that is accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities.”

        I would imagine the public is getting to see the same lectures broadcast/webcast as the students, so I do think there’s rather more going on here than merely “imperious government interference forcing university by diktat to do away with free charitable project”. I am getting the impression the university wants to charge people for accessibility materials if they’re not part of the student body officially, the government is telling them they have to make all their materials accessible and can’t charge for this (i.e. if the material is already accessible for students, they can’t provide a different version for the public and charge the public for the accessible version), so they’re doing a bit of PR ju-jitsu and saying “Oh we can’t afford this yuuuuuge expense, we’ll have to pull all our free for you the public materials instead!”

      • Anonymous says:

        This reminds me of something I remember reading about bakeries and other food-related producers, that they don’t directly give their leftovers to the homeless because it makes them liable to a suit if something happens.

        • gbdub says:

          I’ve heard that as well. A couple of restaurants got sort of around this by collecting all of their clean leftovers at the end of the day and throwing them out in a clear trash bag (the other bags were black). The local homeless knew when they could come around and get the good stuff, and the restaurant could say “well, we can’t hardly be expected to police dumpster divers, can we?”

        • At a slight tangent …

          My university sometimes has a drive to get people to donate books and toys and such to give to disadvantaged children. The instructions say it is limited to new books and toys.

          We, and I suspect many other people with adult children, have huge numbers of suitable books and toys lying around. At least in theory (I’m not sure to what extent the university takes its own rules seriously) we are not allowed to donate them. I’m not sure if the reason is worries over something going wrong and someone getting sued or if the theory is that getting second hand things is somehow demeaning.

          • Randy M says:

            Wasn’t there a law passed recently requiring all products for children to be lead tested prior to being sold, after some poisonings from Chinese imports? There was some reason that anything before a certain date would not longer be able to be sold despite there being no likely danger involved.

          • bean says:

            @Randy M
            I suspect that’s a large part of it. New toys are safe. Old toys may need to be tested, which is uneconomical. Also, asking for new toys means that you either get new or very gently used toys, and don’t become a way for people to dispose of junk.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Goodwill will take your old toys and books, and have the labor to figure out what someone else actually wants.

    • @Ann:

      Are there things you could do that are useful to other people but don’t benefit you–picking up trash along the streets near your house, for instance? Do you do them? All of them?

  25. Zombielicious says:

    Re: Berkeley online course videos.

    How hard is it to add closed captioning to videos? It seems like it would be very easy to do, and volunteers would also be readily willing to contribute, and it seemed like most of the MOOC sites already had some form of it (EdX and Coursera at least, iirc). I also wonder what qualifies as “closed captioning?” A speech-to-text converter plus a button to notify an admin of errors?

    Re: Markets punishing discrimination.

    This is like the joke about the economist and the $20 bill, in that it basically ignores empirical reality where discrimination of various forms was ridiculously widespread (see most of U.S. history). It’s also making a big, unjustified leap from some examples of markets punishing discrimination to the conclusions “we can be pretty sure markets are picking only on the criteria we want them to use” and “it is perfectly well and good to lament the fact that for whatever reason, some ethnic groups are less qualified, systematically less hard-working, achieve worse educational results, commit more crimes or whatever.” Plus conflating discrimination in hiring (or better yet, fantasy football picks in ~2016) with discrimination as a whole, and the implied conclusion that therefore discrimination can’t really exist. Good thing we have the link showing degrees aren’t actually about signaling – it’s not like the market would ever allow people to be judged based on broad stereotypes about them, rather than their merits as an individual. Anyone company or individual doing so would be outcompeted quickly, keeping their numbers negligible, just like with the non-existent $20 bill.

    • Deiseach says:

      I Googled costs to see if this really is hideously expensive, as per the Vice-Chancellor’s letter.

      This crowd say they’ll do it for $3 per minute. How long are the videos and how many of them is the next thing; I’ll assume they run for an hour each so that is 60 minutes x $3 = $180 dollars per video. If you have ten in a series, that’s $1,800. Multiply that by however many different lecture series they’re offering. But I’ve seen some small amount of education budgets in a previous job and that’s not too unreasonable. Expensive for an individual, but for an entity like a university not so much, and surely there’s some kind of accessibility grants available?

      Okay, they need to cut costs, but on a multi-million dollar annual budget, there must be some fat they could trim, and there does appear to be rumblings about where exactly is the money going?

      Berkeley does appear to be feeling the pinch when it comes to its budget, and is facing what seems likely to be swingeing cuts:

      Their message was that the campus faces a deficit in the neighborhood of $150 million for this fiscal year and has embarked on what Steele termed “a broadly consultative process” to review all areas of the campus for potential changes that would better position Berkeley for the future. The goal, they said, is smoothing out a recurring pattern of expansion and contraction — and maintaining Berkeley’s place as the nation’s top public university.

      So I imagine the “we can’t pay for closed captioning” is a combination of genuinely seeking to cost-cut (if these are free online for the public and not core college coursework, they are going to be very far down the list of priorities) and putting on the poor mouth to get more money out of government.

      This is the kind of stupid stuff that happens when budget cuts are made in an emergency; big, splashy, wasteful things keep their funding because they’re somebody’s pet project or they’re guarding their turf, and you get the office staff told they have to buy a cheaper brand of copier paper while the big-wigs are claiming expenses for jetting off to conferences and symposia at full whack.

      Looking again at that Vice-Chancellor’s letter, I think this is more of signs of tough times ahead:

      Yet we do so with the realization that, due to our current financial constraints, we might not be able to continue to provide free public content under the conditions laid out by the Department of Justice to the extent we have in the past.

      In many cases the requirements proposed by the department would require the university to implement extremely expensive measures to continue to make these resources available to the public for free. We believe that in a time of substantial budget deficits and shrinking state financial support, our first obligation is to use our limited resources to support our enrolled students. Therefore, we must strongly consider the unenviable option of whether to remove content from public access.

      • Murphy says:

        Again, you’re working under the assumption that they have some kind of duty to dig the cost out of their own budget when they were providing free education to everyone out of the goodness of their hearts. You know what’s cheaper than close captioning thousands of videos? pulling the network plug out of the server.

        If it’s so cheap then it should be super easy for some of these Oh-So-Concerned groups to caption the videos themselves. I suspect the uni would have been happy to add such captions if someone provided them.

        But easier to point to someone else’s budget and scream that they should spend the money to enhance favors they have no obligation to provide to the world at all.

        • Zombielicious says:

          You know they are a public university taking taxpayer money. I tried to find out how much, and it looks like it’s been dropping every year, to 12% of their total revenues in 2013, down from 54% of their total budget in 1987.

          So, if we want everyone involved to just ruthlessly optimize for self-interest, sure – they should probably pull the program entirely, which would also save on hosting and electricity costs, unless they’re getting some positive marketing benefit out of it, in which case it’s not really a selfless act to “provide free education to everyone out of the goodness of their hearts,” and the state should also stop using taxpayer money to fund the university. Though I don’t really advocate for that, I’m just having trouble seeing them as martyrs here, so much as that their reaction offers a great chance for political opportunism.

          • Julian says:

            Yes they are public university, but they are only obligated to provide education to students who are accepted for enrollment.

            The videos are available to anyone, not just students of UC Berkeley.

          • Ann Nonny Mousse says:

            Yes they are public university, but they are only obligated to provide education to students who are accepted for enrollment.

            The videos are available to anyone, not just students of UC Berkeley.

            Yes, which is exactly what I was trying to get at with my earlier comment about conflicts of interest; the perceived value of being accepted as a student is diminished by the availability of the videos to the general public, which may be a (even unconcious) part of the motivation of whichever administrative body to put roadblocks in the way of them being made available to the widest possible audience. That part of the college administration which put them up originally obviously didn’t have any such qualms.

          • “which may be a (even unconcious) part of the motivation of whichever administrative body to put roadblocks in the way of them being made available to the widest possible audience. ”

            That makes very little sense. Improving accessibility would increase their audience by what, a percent or two? If they didn’t want to offer free classes for fear it would undercut their market for paid classes they wouldn’t be providing the videos in the first place.

        • Deiseach says:

          Murphy, they’re a fee-charging university. They are not providing anything to anyone out of the goodness of their hearts, and I worked in Irish local education provision and saw dealings with second and third level institutions from both the provision and the government side, so I am very cynical when any institution starts crying poverty in response to government directives.

          • Soumynona says:

            They weren’t charging fees for the video access.

          • Murphy says:

            @Soumynona

            From further up the argument seems to be “they must be getting something out of giving this away for free, like good PR hence *mumble mumble* evil money grubbing evil *mumble* football bad”

          • Deiseach says:

            Soumynona, I was addressing Murphy talking about them providing education out of the goodness of their hearts. They don’t, they charge fees to the students, which is part of how they pay for the running of the university. If they’re putting up stuff online, that’s part of a wider scheme – yes, part of it is fulfilling the public university mandate, and part of it is branding, getting recognition, etc.

            If only part of the public can access their free content, then that limits their charitable and educational purpose. There are members of the public who have disabilities that mean these videos are not accessible to them and so they do not benefit from them. The government is acting in its capacity of treating all the interests of the people equally. If the university really can’t afford to caption or otherwise make the videos accessible, then they are entitled to take them down or look for help in making them accessible.

            The protest seems to be “if some can’t have it, none can have it and that’s not fair” – but it’s the university that seems to be doing this, not the government. And if you find it unfair that a free resource is no longer available, imagine then how it feels to be someone who can never access any resources like this because their needs make the ‘free’ content unusable to them – and that’s something they have to put up with every day of their lives. That’s not very fair either, is it? Someone who gets something unexpected for free that they can do without because they have other sources of obtaining it, versus someone who can’t get any advantage of the ‘free’ material and can’t easily access alternatives: there’s no “big bad wolf” here, there’s competing needs and problems, and I think the people who jumped on this as a stick to beat “See? Big Interfering Government strikes again!” are being disingenuous.

            Either equality legislation means what it says, or it’s only a face-saving exercise to make ordinary, able-bodied people feel good about themselves and when push comes to shove, they won’t carry through on it.

            Frankly, I find all the university’s pledges on their websites of being fully signed up to making things accessible less believable when I take this incident into account, and were I a student with a disability, or a parent of such, I’d think twice about going to Berkeley or that they would live up to their promises.

          • ” The government is acting in its capacity of treating all the interests of the people equally.”

            I don’t think that’s right.

            Suppose there is some service the government thinks it is good to provide. It can provide it to ninety percent of the population at a cost of ten dollars per person. The other ten percent are much harder to provide it for–perhaps a much more dispersed population–so it costs a hundred dollars each to provide it to them.

            Providing it to only the ninety percent is treating everyone equally–treating everyone as if the value of providing the service to him is more than ten dollars but less than a hundred dollars. It isn’t providing the same outcome for everyone, but unequal outcome is not the same as unequal treatment.

          • John Schilling says:

            Providing it to only the ninety percent is treating everyone equally […] It isn’t providing the same outcome for everyone

            By one extremely popular definition of equality, that is literally oxymoronic – “treating everyone equally” means exactly and only “providing the same outcome for everyone”. You may prefer one of the other definitions of equality, but you need to understand and acknowledge this one if you want to communicate effectively with people who don’t share your preference.

          • Murphy says:

            Many universities do a lot of things which offer little to no benefit to themselves as long as it costs them little to nothing.

            Looking for mirrors for linux repositories? trying to download cran packages? Most of the repo mirrors will turn out to be hosted by universities.

            They get ~zero PR for this because people don’t typically feel strongly about linux repo mirror 27 in a list but they play a small part in making highly valuable things available to normal people easily by donating a little of the universities bandwidth.

            But if some horrible little scumbag bureaucrat or some little scumbag private individual with an attitude of “if I can’t have something nice perfectly customized for me then nobody can have it” took them to court insisting that they spend chunks of their budget annotating those repos documentation to better support custom tracing machines for deaf-blind children with synesthesia then those mirrors would simply get the plugs pulled because suddenly a low-cost good deed is being turned into a stick to beat them with and is suddenly a cost center with little benefit for them.

            The narrative seems more and more accurate the more I read about it.

    • Odoacer says:

      The link states that:

      Nevertheless, the Department of Justice has recently asserted that the University is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because, in its view, not all of the free course and lecture content UC Berkeley makes available on certain online platforms is fully accessible to individuals with hearing, visual or manual disabilities.

      Does this mean that whenever an image that is referenced it must be described aloud for those with visual disabilities? I don’t know the price of closed captioning, but adding audio descriptions of images sounds like a harder problem. I’m also uncertain if the videos are fully accessible to people with manual disabilities.

      EDIT: Looking at the DOJ letter, it appears that a concern for the deaf got this started. The “Aggrieved Individuals” listed work at Gallaudet University and are both members of the National Association of the Deaf.

      Also, the DOJ letter talks mentions vision disabilites WRT BerkeleyX:

      Some videos were inaccessible to people with vision disabilities for several reasons.
      First, many videos did not provide an alternative way to access images or visual information (e.g., graphs, charts, animations, or urls on slides), such as audio description, alternative text, PDF files, or Word documents. Second, videos containing text sometimes had poor color contrast, which made the text unreadable for those with low vision. Finally, information was sometimes conveyed using color
      alone (for instance, a chart or graph would differentiate information only by color),
      which is not accessible to individuals with vision disabilities.

      Finally, there is a section of the requirements on p.9 that Berkeley must follow if it continues this online content. I’m not aware of the costs, but following guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA), probably isn’t cheap.

      • Josiah Henn says:

        I’m not aware of the costs, but following guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA), probably isn’t cheap.

        I was originally thinking maybe they could just run the videos through cloud.google.com/speech-to-text‎, but this is a whole different problem. Are the lectures from other universities really compliant (and this is only a Berkeley issue)? How are other universities managing this?

        Personally I’ve complained about video-only training in my job many, many times (apparently we must not have any hearing-impaired employees). We have many non-native English speakers and, being bilingual myself and having lived abroad for many years, perhaps I sympathize more than others. Furthermore, I like useful information to be searchable, which video and audio is not. I am told these things:

        1) Video is cheaper (in terms of wage cost / time) to make. Speakers can ramble and hem and haw and change directions mid-sentence or whatever and not have to worry about grammar or paragraph structure or, you know, generally conveying information in a means that benefits the consumer (which takes additional time and effort). So video might be especially preferable if the source of knowledge is expensive, busy, or self-important–and the destination of that knowledge is more of an afterthought.

        2) Text has a higher risk of leakage. I am not sure this follows logically, but it is what I am told. Though not obviously an issue with giving away college lectures for free (compared to proprietary information within a company), they still might want people to watch the videos at *their* sites (for advertising or branding), instead of walk away with, and be able to redistribute, written information. (Although it’s quite easy to walk away with videos as well, I guess it is less common).

        3) Video is better for metrics. You can track views and set checkpoints to make sure people at least have them running on their computer (whether they are playing minesweeper and barely listening or not). This is especially good to automate compliance if people are required to have been exposed to certain information, or perhaps for progress tracking at online educational sites.

        Anyway, I guess I’m most surprised how other universities are managing compliance if Berkeley does not. If they are, then Berkeley should just do whatever they’re doing. On the other hand no one complying would not surprise me. I haven’t watched any university’s online lectures, because I don’t like video, so I have no idea what’s going on.

        • Iain says:

          Speaking of other universities: in the absence of accessibility mandates, how many of those universities would have provided closed-captioning on their videos? I would expect very few of them. Because of the mandates, people with disabilities now have a wealth of resources that would otherwise have been completely locked away. (I’ve taken a number of free Coursera courses from a variety of universities, and they were all fully closed-captioned, so I’d be surprised to learn that the answer is that nobody is complying.)

          It’s obviously regrettable that Berkeley feels the need to take down some of its free content. But it’s far from obvious that the overall mandate is a net negative. At most, all this story shows is that the DOJ is being a little bit over-zealous in this one instance – and, given that other universities don’t seem to have the same problem, I think it’s quite plausible that this is some sort of political move on Berkeley’s part.

          PS: From the “Conclusions of Law” section of the DOJ’s letter:

          Finally, UC Berkeley has not established that making its online content accessible would result in a fundamental alteration or undue administrative and financial burdens. As indicated below, the Department would prefer to resolve this matter cooperatively.

          As ultimatums go, that seems quite tame. Less “you have to stop offering free courses”; more “you already have policies about making content accessible, and you aren’t following them. Please fix that.”

          • Josiah Henn says:

            Speaking of other universities: in the absence of accessibility mandates, how many of those universities would have provided closed-captioning on their videos? I would expect very few of them. Because of the mandates, people with disabilities now have a wealth of resources that would otherwise have been completely locked away.

            As someone who abhors video as a communication medium, I would say this hinges on how much information is unique to lectures. In my experience, professors are eager to share their knowledge and opinions, and I would hope you could get the same information from their books and textbooks. So unless “completely locked away” means “not free”, I hope this is not true. If it is, then I (and others who have very poor aural retention), non-native speakers, and hearing-impaired all are suffering.

            On the other hand, if the information is available elsewhere, and the issue is the “knowledge” not the “video”, then perhaps linking free textbooks would satisfy the requirement as well. I, for one, would be ecstatic. Textbooks are not cheap.

            Alas, however, I suspect institutions are more willing to give away spoken information than written information, for similar reasons to those my company gave to me: it is less expensive to create, easier to brand, and easier to track.

          • Iain says:

            By “resources” I meant the free classes / videos themselves, not the information contained within. There’s been an explosion in MOOCs recently, without a concomitant increase in (for example) free textbooks. Without the accessibility mandate, people with disabilities would have been unable to benefit from the proliferation of MOOCs. Thanks to the mandate, they can. That seems valuable to me.

            One concern with free textbooks is that a good chunk of the value of MOOCs comes from working through the assignments. To get the full benefit, there would have to be a fairly tight connection between the textbook and the coursework. Given the overall benefit of free textbooks, though, the DOJ might have accepted it anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            By “resources” I meant the free classes / videos themselves, not the information contained within. There’s been an explosion in MOOCs recently, without a concomitant increase in (for example) free textbooks. Without the accessibility mandate, people with disabilities would have been unable to benefit from the proliferation of MOOCs. Thanks to the mandate, they can. That seems valuable to me.

            Of course it is valuable, but there is also a cost. These laws/regulations are a burden and do affect the ability for people to provide stuff (not even necessarily financially, but at a certain point the burden of a large amount of rules just becomes so irritating and tiresome that people give up). The result is that the majority are denied things, so a minority can have something.

            A major objection that I have to the pro-regulation rhetoric is that this downside is typically ignored (and additionally, the debate often involves shaming language implying that the opponents hate the minority). The result is a rather toxic and divisive debate, rather than a rational assessment of what burdens are reasonable (how many people benefit & how much vs the burdens) and which aren’t.

            There is also the issue that these regulations de-incentivize actually solving the problem at the source and instead, result in a lowest common denominator society, where non-disabled people cannot have things that are deemed discriminatory (like the trend to gender-neutral rest rooms resulting in the removal of urinals, despite those being much better suited for people with male genitals than using a toilet to pee in).

            Another example is that we now have deaf people fighting against implants, which they argue will destroy deaf culture. So you get the weird situation of some deaf people embracing and refusing to solve their disability, but then demanding that society enables this self-segregation by burdening non-deaf people.

          • Deiseach says:

            society enables this self-segregation by burdening non-deaf people

            Burdening? How is this burdening you? If you don’t want or need the closed captioning or subtitles, you need not use them.

            If it’s the producers of such material you worry about, it’s the same kind of burden they have in making sure they’ve properly credited and paid for using copyrighted material, got consent, provided bi-lingual materials, etc. Paying to have videos made of a lecture and putting it up online is also a ‘burden’ – these are free courses for the public, and nobody is being charged for them, but at the same time the university has to pay for them being made and hosted and all the rest of what is involved in putting material online to be seen.

            Are the non-deaf public who were taking advantage of this material any less of a burden?

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            The burden is that a professor cannot just put a camera in his classroom and upload the video, but he has to take extra steps to add captioning which takes time & effort (at minimum). So that is a burden for the professor.

            It’s very likely that the captioning process means that it takes longer for the video to become available, as it is an extra step, which is a burden on non-deaf students who don’t need the captioning, but still have to wait for it to be added.

            If a professor/college decides that this burden tips the endeavor over from feasible into non-feasible, they can decide to not provide the video at all, which clearly burdens non-deaf students by not giving them the option to see the video. Basic economic theory suggests that all endeavors are on a continuum of viability and any extra burden will make some endeavors unviable.

            And keep in mind that my main objection is not so much to this individual case, but rather the stifling effect of having many such requirements. It’s often very easy to make a case that one individual requirement is a small burden, but I object to how cumulative effects are generally ignored by advocates. It’s not that hard to make a tasty meal for a vegetarian or for a lactose intolerant person or for a gluten intolerant person. But it’s very hard to make a tasty meal that has to be vegetarian and without lactose and without gluten. I don’t want to live in a lowest common denominator society.

            Anyway, your unwillingness to simply concede that captioning a video is an extra burden above and beyond the basic burden of creating a video without captioning, proves my point how irrational the debates on this topic tend to be.

          • “Burdening? How is this burdening you?”

            I have, webbed and in most cases linked to my web page, the full text of four of my published books, most of my published articles, video or audio recordings of many of my public lectures, video or audio recordings of various of the courses I’ve taught.

            The cost to me of putting that material up and keeping it up is very low. If someone imposed a bunch of requirements on me, such as text versions of all the talks and classes, the material wouldn’t be there.

            The web is a superb tool for giving information away, a somewhat clumsy tool for selling it. People often find it worth their while to give information away for indirect benefits, such as getting people to read what they have written. Push the cost up a bit and it often isn’t worth doing.

            I concede that there is a certain poetic justice to Berkeley being forced to live up to its own stated principles. But forbidding people to give something away to anyone unless they go to the additional trouble to give it away to everyone is a stupid and destructive rule.

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje:

            I am perfectly happy to concede that closed captioning imposes an additional marginal cost. I haven’t seen much discussion about how large that marginal cost is, but it is obviously more than zero. I’m also willing to concede that quantity of regulations can have a cost all of its own. That said: given your frustration, I hope you will be sympathetic to my own equivalent frustration. Specifically, I think the anti-regulation discussion in this thread has largely tended to ignore the upside of accessibility regulation.

            Nobody would deny that, ceteris paribus, having closed captioning on videos and granting disabled people access to additional resources is a good thing. Nobody in this thread has proposed an alternative mechanism for obtaining those benefits. Instead, all we have is (largely unsupported) speculation that maybe the cost is too high.

            And sure. Sometimes the cost of regulations is too high. And sometimes the regulation already takes that into account, and allows for reasonable exceptions (page 8):

            UC Berkeley is not, however, required to take any action that it can demonstrate would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its service, program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.

            Too often, the cost of compliance is used as a one-stop all-purpose argument against regulation. It’s not. It’s a cost, which needs to be reasonably weighed against the benefits of that regulation.

            In the specific case of accessibility mandates, there is a long history of positive externalities. Cut curbs on sidewalks were originally mandated in the interest of people in wheelchairs, but they turned out to be beneficial for nearly anybody riding or pushing a thing with wheels: bikes, strollers, shopping carts, and so on. Similarly, closed captioning is important for deaf people, but it’s also useful for people watching a video in their second language, or skimming quickly through a video to find a particular point, or just watching a video in a library without headphones. That’s far from being a “lowest common denominator society”.

            I am absolutely down for critical analysis of the costs and benefits of various forms of regulation. I’m just not convinced that cost-benefit analysis is what we’re all doing here.

          • “I am absolutely down for critical analysis of the costs and benefits of various forms of regulation.”

            One complication is that there are two levels of cost/benefit analysis.

            1. Does this particular regulation produce net benefits?

            2. Do the institutions that produce the particular regulation produce a set of regulations that produce net benefits?

            For a very different example, consider the question “should the government put out recommendations on what people should eat?”

            It’s obvious that such recommendations can sometimes produce benefits. I think it is now well established that one such recommendation, switching from butter to stick margarine in order to eliminate saturated fat (replacing it with transfats!) did an enormous amount of damage. So in deciding whether you approve of that sort of government activity you have to somehow figure out which will happen how often.

            Take this line of argument far enough and you get to the anarchist/minarchist debate. The question is not whether there are things governments can do that should be done but whether having a government results in net benefits or losses.

          • Deiseach says: