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

OT60: Openitentiary

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

1. I went through some of the reported comments and banned the appropriate people. If you can’t post, check the Register of Bans to see if you’re on it. Note that I was also kind of a jerk in a few places and in order to avoid accusations of bias I have banned myself for one week (commenting only; I can still post). TheWorst, you are not yet banned but are on your final warning. Jill, you are not yet banned, but you are forbidden to reference Ayn Rand, accuse other people of worshipping Ayn Rand, attribute everything you dislike to a conspiracy centered around Ayn Rand, or use Ayn Rand as a metonymy for any view you disagree with. I will lift this restriction if you read and post a book report on Atlas Shrugged.

2. Comment of the week is Azure on linguistics.

3. Book II of Unsong is finished. If you’ve been waiting to read it until there was a big chunk you could read all at once, now’s your chance.

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1,447 Responses to OT60: Openitentiary

  1. So, what’s with the new WordPress-based login in the Meta header? Is it supposed to remove Bakkot’s recently-posted sidebar widget?

    I don’t mind logging in (since I have a WordPress and everything), but I like that widget!

    Was there an announcement I missed somehere?

    • Bakkot says:

      Ehm… I’m not logged in and continue to see the widget, as usual. Is it that it goes away when you log in? If not (or if so), could you tell me what browser and OS you’re using?

      Although if you mean you couldn’t see it when you posted this comment, it may just be that there were not yet any comments. It only appears if there’s at least one.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Data Point: It removes the widget for me, even in threads that had new posts.

        OS: Windows 10
        Browser: Firefox

        • Bakkot says:

          Hm. Can’t get it to happen on Firefox, but I don’t have a Windows box lying around to test with right now.

          Also, are you logged in or not? Does it matter?

  2. Benjamin Finkel says:

    Wow, that seems like a really tame comment to ban yourself over.

    • Autolykos says:

      But Sun Tzu would have approved. When a general exempts himself from his own rules, morale and discipline will collapse.

    • Link to the comment causing the one week autoban.

      I was annoyed at Scott for being uncharitable at the time and I don’t think a one week ban for that is unreasonable.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      That comment by itself is tame, I agree. There may have been other comments, however, that may were weighing on Scott, based on some of the other bans he was handing out – some commenters apparently had ventured rather deeply into unnecessary-untrue-unkind territory without quite warranting a ban, until a relatively tame comment became the final straw.

      I agree with the Sun Tzu principle. One week seems light, but still fair (if it were up to me to be ruthless, a week would be about all I could justify, too).

  3. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #22
    This week we are discussing Three Worlds Collide by Eliezer Yudkowsky.
    Next time we will discuss Manna by Marshall Brain.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      When I imagine myself aboard the Impossible, I find the True Ending solution pretty suboptimal. First, because, unlike the Lord Pilot, I actually care a lot about “tiny irrelevant details” like remaining alive. And, second, because I don’t share the crew’s overwhelming urge to stop the Babyeaters from eating their children. What was up with that, anyway? Even the ones who opposed the invasion did so extremely reluctantly, based mostly on decision-theoretic reasons and the lack of course of action they considered acceptable once the Babyeaters had been defeated. Whereas when I imagine myself in that situation I think something like “why would I want to sacrifice a lot of humans just to forcibly change the way of life of a race that has been nothing but friendly to us so far?” It’s like every human has been genetically engineered to be a universalist utilitarian or something.

      Anyway, my preferred solution would have been something like going back to Huygens, rigging up a delay detonator, coming back with another starship, evacuating the crew to the second starship, and blowing up the crosslinking system. I would also have liked to keep contact with the Babyeaters, but that would have required blowing up the adjacent Superhappy system, which is probably impossible. And probably more trouble than its worth as well; if the crew of the Impossible is any indication, at least some non-trivial fraction of humanity is going to go to war with the Babyeaters no matter what, which won’t lead to anything good. It kind of makes me wish that the combined human-Babyeater military was an even match for the Superhappy onslaught, so an alliance option was on the table; nothing like The Outside Enemy to make people put aside their differences.

      Also, badass Confessor is badass.

      • youzicha says:

        I found myself liking the False ending more than the True one out of some kind of sense of fairness: why should the humans get away with not changing at all, even though the superhappies think this is terrible?

        I guess the author’s intention was to portray the True Prisoner’s Dilemma, a scenario which gets rid of such fairness intuitions, but for me it didn’t quite work. Maybe part of the problem is that he also portrays the future humans and their morality as kindof alien, so it’s hard to completely empathize with what they want.

        • Deiseach says:

          so it’s hard to completely empathize with what they want

          Markets, so far as I could make out 🙂

      • Evan Þ says:

        But at least as much as I have sympathy for the Babyeaters themselves, I also have sympathy for their devoured children. We don’t see them onscreen in the story, true, but we know they exist. Utilitarianism might let you write them off, but at least virtue ethics and deontology – the other ethical systems I’ve got sympathy with myself – dictate that we must save those innocent children.

        • Some dude says:

          What? I think you massively misread the comment you’re replying to. He’s saying the characters in the story being unable to “write off” the babyeater children is evidence that they’re all utilitarians, not that utilitarians somehow don’t care about children being eaten.

          You seem to have interpreted the exact opposite of what he’s trying to say.

      • PedroS says:

        I also found myself wondering the same thing regarding the way Humans felt that stopping the Babyeaters was an overwhelming, obvious, ethical imperative in spite of the carnage entailed in a galactic war (fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus). It almost sounded as if:

        A) the author never read anything about the just war tradition (i.e. a good cause is not enough: you also need a reasonable chance of success at a (moral/suffering/etc.) cost below that incurred by keeping the status quo)

        B) the author thinks that every pro-lifer who does not engage in terrorism/violence against abortion providers is a hypocrite, rather than someone who weigh the evils of terrorism/violence/mob-rule against those of abortion and finds terrorism to be a worse evil than both the current status quo, and peaceful cultural/political engagement which might elicit a change in their preferred direction.

        I would expect a self-described rationalist (i.e. one who dispassionately engages the reasoning behind other worldviews, in order to find a rational course of action) like EY to have engaged these strains of thought and to be able to articulate their reasoning, even if he finds them unpersuasive. Simply assuming that future humans will view a grave evil as a reason to engage in a massive galactic genocidal war seems to me a major flaw in the novel. That would not have bothered me, though, if the role the Humans play in the story had been replaced with Vulcans, sentient androids, etc. But setting the Humans as the species with that worldview immediately broke my “suspension of disbelief” and made me assume the novel intended to be a ham-handed indoctrination attempt. I did read it through, but could not shake this impression , and indeed several portions seemed to be a rationalization of ” (intellectual) might makes (ethical) right” in a cosmic scale.

        • raj says:

          It wouldn’t be genocide: society had advanced sufficiently far to agonize about the relative evils of occupation, the loss of their culture and self-determination, and so forth. They just weighed that as being completely dwarfed by trillions of child-minds being tortured to death.

          It is also assumed that there is a power asymmetry such that super happies >>> humans >>> baby eaters. If pro-lifers had such a power advantage, they probably would use physical force. In fact, that was the status-quo for most of human history.

      • Murphy says:

        I agree about the crew’s overwhelming urge to stop the Babyeaters from eating their children.

        I mean some counts of “EWWW”, some people a bit horrified, perhaps 1 or 2 saying they need to do something, sure, but the whole crew?

        It’s like people getting upset at the idea of ducks raping each other and deciding that ducks must be edited to stop it or getting upset by the effects of flesh eating parasites on wild animals with the added bonus that the babyeaters are intelligent enough to make choices about it, they all grew up with the constant terror of being hunted as food and still consider it great.

        • Deiseach says:

          I mean some counts of “EWWW”, some people a bit horrified, perhaps 1 or 2 saying they need to do something, sure, but the whole crew?

          I think that’s meant to be part of the point, though; the Confessor comes from the Bad Old Days (i.e. our time or shortly afterwards) and he would be tough-minded about it as we would be.

          But the descendants of the post-enhancement world (that solved aging and death and made everyone smart and empathic and compassionate etc.) plainly feel as badly about this as we would feel about slavery (or insert whatever makes you want to grab your sword and shield and sally forth for great justice) because they’ve evolved in their characters and ethics – it’s the Whig Version of History on steroids.

          the author never read anything about the just war tradition

          He may have been engaging with it in the question “And what do you do with the Babyeaters after you’ve defeated them? Do you kill all the adults and so wipe out their entire culture? Do you let the children grow up to become Babyeaters – if that’s their natural instinct – in their turn or do you interfere with their physiology and psychology? What do you do?” and if the result of the war is greater suffering, then you do not embark upon it, as in point four of Catholic ‘Just War’ doctrine below (presumably genocide of all the adult Babyeaters or destroying their entire culture and changing the child Babyeaters would be a great or greater evil than letting the status quo subsist):

          (1) the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
          (2) all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
          (3) there must be serious prospects of success;
          (4) the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (the power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition).

          • Jiro says:

            plainly feel as badly about this as we would feel about slavery

            I’m pretty sure there are countries where slavery exists today and we’re not going to war with them.

          • Nelshoy says:

            @Jiro

            Slavery isn’t legal anywhere as far as I know. In the places it was (up until the eighties), other countries put pressure on them to change. I’m sure it’s still a norm in some places anyway, but we can’t insist right now that everyone alligns with or values anyway and no government has the power to universally enforce them. Right now we are still pretty fractured and weak as an intelligent global civ. The more unified and connected any group gets, the more likely the group is to crack down on the values they can’t tolerate.

            Duterte vs. Obama on how to deal with criminals seems like a real life example of this conflict going on right now.

          • Jiro says:

            Putting pressure isn’t the same as going to war, however. And “slavery isn’t legal” isn’t the same as not having slavery; driving over the speed limit is also illegal.

          • Fahundo says:

            And “slavery isn’t legal” isn’t the same as not having slavery

            Well then, “countries where slavery exists today” would include the United States, wouldn’t it?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nelshoy: there is still slavery in the world, even in developed countries, except it’s not legal and less visible.

            It’s generally referred to as “modern slavery”: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/02/10/canadas-shameful-modern-day-slave-trade

          • There is slavery today in modern societies and it’s legal. The military draft is a form of slavery. Imprisonment for crime is a form of slavery. Even jury duty is a very mild form of slavery. In each case, you are doing things not because you choose to but because someone else orders you to and will punish you in some way if you don’t.

            I expect slavery in the traditional sense also exists elsewhere. I’ve been reading up on the Nuer, a Sudanese people. They were subject to slave raids from the northern Sudan well into modern times. Whether it’s still happening I don’t know, but I would be pleasantly surprised to discover that all of the slaves had been released.

          • nimim. k.m. says:

            >There is slavery today in modern societies and it’s legal.

            Somehow this use of the word “slavery” manages miss the feature that makes slavery distinctive from all other kinds of compulsory work and duties: the slaves can be sold. Laws and customs that apply to them are akin to property laws.

            Rhetorics like this is one of the reasons why I’m not sure if the libertarian crowd who constantly perpetuate it are arguing in a good faith.

          • John Schilling says:

            …the slaves can be sold. Laws and customs that apply to them are akin to property laws

            So when people say that e.g. the Nazis made use of “slave labor”, you see that as hyperbole, as rhetoric that makes you less than sure the antifascist crowd who constantly perpetuate it are arguing in a good faith?

          • Nelshoy says:

            @jiro and anonymous

            I chose my words carefully. Slavery still happens, but that’s very different from being an acceptable norm. Murder, rape, and theft are all common occurrences as well wherever you look.

            Slavery is still going on in the world, but so is a bunch of other terrible **** that’s hard to crack down on. But at least slavery is no longer a norm that everyone accepts as a fact of life and takes for granted. I’d like to see the current acceptance of factory farming make a similar transition.

            @ David Friedman

            Comparing jury duty to chattel slavery is the ol’ Worst Argument in the World and not a good recipe for people here taking your argument seriously.

          • Fahundo says:

            Comparing jury duty to chattel slavery is the ol’ Worst Argument in the World and not a good recipe for people here taking your argument seriously.

            So, is admitting that MLK is a criminal the Worst Argument in the World; or is admitting that MLK is a criminal, and therefore as bad as all other criminals, and therefore no one should look up to or respect him the Worst Argument in the World?

            I think what Friedman said is similar to one of those.

          • Jiro says:

            Well then, “countries where slavery exists today” would include the United States, wouldn’t it?

            “Countries where slavery exists today” means “country where slavery is relatively common”, not where there is any non-zero number of incidents of it. You’re being too literal.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling:

            If you look at the way that slave labour was handled in Nazi Germany, I think you can reasonably describe slaves as being traded back and forth – consider, for instance, the haggling between Speer and Himmler.

          • @ dndnrsn:

            Back when there was a military draft, I assume there was some negotiation among different parts of the army as to who got how many draftees. Does that make it slavery by your definition?

          • “– consider, for instance, the haggling between Speer and Himmler.”

            Don’t you think that, back when the U.S. had a military draft, there were similar negotiations between different parts of the army as to who got how many draftees?

          • Nelshoy says:

            @fahundo

            I think Friedman was using a word loaded with negative affect (for good reason) to take a potshot at non libertarian government mandates he’s not in favor of.

            Friedman’s statement seems to me like a pretty central example of the noncentral fallacy: “slavery involves compulsion and is very bad, therefore since jury duty involves compulsion it is also very bad.”

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Friedman’s statement seems to me like a pretty central example of the noncentral fallacy: “slavery involves compulsion and is very bad, therefore since jury duty involves compulsion it is also very bad.”

            I see it as an entirely different thing. Namely: people believe slavery is bad because they see slavery as compulsion*, and people believe compulsion is bad. Therefore, it’s instructive to look at other activities that rely on compulsion.

            The most obvious alternative to this leads me to infer that you’re in favor of compulsion. Is this the case?

            *Compulsion is defined here as threat of violence to motivate action (in people who otherwise were neither harming nor helping you).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:
            Compulsion is a necessary but not sufficient part of the badness of slavery. There is also the totality of that compulsion. And the potential consequences for attempting to deny that compulsion.

            Compelling one’s child to eat there vegetables, even it is a child who is passed the age of majority should not be termed slavery. Nor should paying taxes or serving jury duty.

          • “If you look at the way that slave labour was handled in Nazi Germany, I think you can reasonably describe slaves as being traded back and forth – consider, for instance, the haggling between Speer and Himmler.”

            Don’t you think there was similar negotiation, back when the U.S. had a military draft, as to what part of the army got what draftees?

          • Fahundo says:

            since jury duty involves compulsion it is also very bad

            I don’t remember anyone saying this. In this thread, anyway.

          • Nelshoy says:

            Of course no one is coming out and saying jury duty is bad outright, that’s kinda the point. He just called it slavery, it’s up to You(Hint, hint, nudge, nudge) to decide if being slavery’s a good thing or not.

          • “If you look at the way that slave labour was handled in Nazi Germany, I think you can reasonably describe slaves as being traded back and forth – consider, for instance, the haggling between Speer and Himmler.”

            Don’t you think that back when the U.S. had military conscription, there would be bargaining over what part of the army got what draftees?

            We usually refer to galley slavery as slavery. Galley slaves were not normally sold, although they were sometimes rented out as labor.

          • “Somehow this use of the word “slavery” manages miss the feature that makes slavery distinctive from all other kinds of compulsory work and duties: the slaves can be sold. Laws and customs that apply to them are akin to property laws.”

            So galley slaves were not slaves? Why is it the transferability rather than the compulsion that you see as the defining characteristic of slavery?

          • Murphy says:

            To be fair, he did call it a very mild form.

            I don’t agree with the argument that slavery is only slavery if you can be legally sold.

            If I round up a village worth of people, put them in a camp and force them at gunpoint to build artillery shells for me then they’re slaves. Even if I can’t sell them to anyone, even if I promise to release them at age 60 and don’t claim legal ownership of them.
            I still have a gun pointed at their heads and I’m making them work for me with threats of death, pain or suffering.

            Frankly I can’t take anyone seriously who turns around and says “but that’s not real slavery!”

            Ditto if I roll up into a village, abduct all the males over age 10 to turn into soldiers and cut off the hands and feet of anyone who refuses to come with me. Or round up the women as “comfort women” for my troops. That’s still slavery even if I can’t sell them and they get a “choice” to accept the hand chopping instead.

            And these are things that happen in many places.

            By that measure jury duty is a very very mild form, so mild that it’s advantages can reasonably be said to justify using it. It’s mild (very very mild) because the punishments for it are so mild, and the fraction of a persons life affected is so small. Where I live it’s just a modest fine for failure to attend without notice and usually only lasts a day or so.

            Conscription can also be mild or not, to some extent depending on how it’s implemented and the punishment for refusing. At one end of the scale are children being abducted at gunpoint to bulk up the ranks of armies, at the other end are countries where they simply require a large portion of the population to go through some basic training so that if the country is attacked there’s already lots of people trained, armed and ready to defend themselves.

            For countries that are under serious threat from neighbors the more mild forms can be justifiable because the advantages are large.

            I’m willing to bet that if you outlined something with very similar terms to conscription but instead of some social good like keeping the countries population alive the people instead had to act as footstools and hand-servants for members of congress (with threat of jail if they refuse) then people would be more willing to say that it’s wrong and a slavery-like situation simply because there would be no social good.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Murphy’s comment says a lot of what I was thinking.

            Forget, for a moment, all the negative stigma attached to the word “slavery”, and see if you can come back around to that stigma by considering what slavery actually is. This process should reveal certain insights to you. And this process underlies the points Friedman is making.

            For instance, if I notify you that you need to sit on a jury and I explain to you the purpose of juries, and you think about it and conclude that, even if there was no one threatening violence, juries are better than the alternative, and similarly that the method that selected you for jury duty is better than the alternative, and you consented and sat on that jury, that would not be slavery. If you decided the former but not the latter, then you might request an exemption, and in US society you would likely get it. If you decided against the former, then you still would likely get an exemption – at worst, one of the lawyers would reject you.

            In general, if you shirked jury duty, there are sufficiently other Americans willing to do it that the threats never have to come out. So it never looks like slavery, because there’s no compulsion.

            If there were a movement of Americans rejecting jury duty on principle, such that courts began to have real trouble filling juries, then jury duty might start to look like the customary view of slavery, depending on how courts tried to solve that problem.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you look at the way that slave labour was handled in Nazi Germany, I think you can reasonably describe slaves as being traded back and forth – consider, for instance, the haggling between Speer and Himmler.

            And the secretaries of the Army and Navy never negotiated over the allocation of draftees? If you’re going to stretch the definition of “bought and sold” that far, it becomes meaningless and encompasses everything.

            I do think there is a meaningful difference between civic duties and slavery, but this isn’t it.

          • DavidFriedman says:

            On the bought and sold point …

            So galley slaves were not slaves?

          • David Friedman says:

            “Somehow this use of the word “slavery” manages miss the feature that makes slavery distinctive from all other kinds of compulsory work and duties: the slaves can be sold.”

            So galley slaves were not slaves?

            You are not defining slavery, you are defining chattel slavery, a subset.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling:

            If we’re differentiating civic duties from slavery, one obvious one there is that slave labour used by Nazi Germany wasn’t Germans being forced to do it, as was the case with conscription (which was, after all, essentially at gunpoint – as the war reached a close, more and more German soldiers were executed for desertion). They were either minorities of one sort or another who as a result lost their protection by the German state, or foreigners press-ganged in one way or another.

          • Civilis says:

            The Google definitions of the word slave (as a noun, that apply to people) are:
            – a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
            – a person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.
            – a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something.

            The second definition certainly implies that coerced labor can be termed as slavery; after all, if you don’t negotiate your salary for jury duty or military service, you’re not being properly renumerated. A prisoner that’s forced to break rocks would also be a slave. Are modern American prisoners forced into labor? I don’t know that legal incarceration in the ‘here’s your cell, here’s your food, enjoy the next decade’ meets that definition.

            More importantly, what level of control is necessary for the population of a totalitarian state to be properly described as slaves rather than citizens? I’d say (as a starting point for discussion) if you’re not legally free to either work without government approval or leave the country to work elsewhere, you’re a slave.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          They consider it great now, but they didn’t when they were young. It mirrors an argument the Superhappy made about human children, in that humans think a life of only pleasure is terrible, but children would totally go or fit.

      • Faceh says:

        > “tiny irrelevant details” like remaining alive.

        Only tiny in relation to the ENTIRETY OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION.

        >Whereas when I imagine myself in that situation I think something like “why would I want to sacrifice a lot of humans just to forcibly change the way of life of a race that has been nothing but friendly to us so far?”

        Because humans tend to place value on preventing the suffering of sentient life (and nonsentient, in some cases). The story makes it clear that Babyeater babies are, in fact sentient and in addition they feel IMMENSE suffering when they are eaten. It makes it clear that most of the babies are eaten and that this is not a NECESSARY component of babyeater life, but one that will continue indefinitely because the babyeaters enjoy it/see nothing wrong with it.

        So if you take each babyeater life as valuable, then the number of babyeaters that are eaten and die in agony is MUCH greater than the number who survive, and the number who WILL die in great agony over the next several millenia is greater still.

        In that perspective, an interstellar war is clearly a worthwhile endeavour in the long run.

        You could compare (awkwardly) the status of the United States before entering the second World War. “Why would I want to sacrifice a lot of Americans just to forcibly change the way of life of a Country that has been nothing but friendly to us so far?”

        Well, because there are millions of Jews who are suffering, and millions more sentients that WILL suffer if we don’t take action now.

        If you value Jewish lives on the same level as American lives, then you should see why Babyeater lives (including the lives of the babies!) are considered equal to human lives. No need to be a Universalist utilitarian.

        >Anyway, my preferred solution would have been something like going back to Huygens, rigging up a delay detonator, coming back with another starship, evacuating the crew to the second starship, and blowing up the crosslinking system.

        You could do that, except that every MICROSECOND delay is a risk imposed on the ENTIRETY OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION (keeping in mind that we’re a spacefaring species at this point!). The cost of waiting too long and allowing the superhappies to arrive is that ALL OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION is converted to something other than human. If you are even 1 second too late, ALL OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION is lost.

        Thus, the risk that appends to each additional second of delay is far greater than the value of a single piddling star system.

        Or, to put it another way, you have to argue that the lives of the crew and the people of that system are substantially more valuable than the lives of EVERY SINGLE OTHER HUMAN BEING CURRENTLY LIVING AND WHO WILL EVER LIVE.

        As above, that calculation is easy to make if you value the lives of all sentient being as appoximately equal.

      • LPSP says:

        My thoughts are pretty similar on 3WC. It’s a good piece of hypothetical, but Eliezer sort-of flashes his cloistered card with the way everyone expresses humour and pain. I can’t see modern humans reacting to Baby-eaters differently to how they react to knowledge of distant tribes with disgusting habits or whatever, poetry be damned. It could cause a war if the BEs were zealous enough to want us to eat OUR babies, but then I sincerely doubt our side would be primarily interested in saving BE babies or trying to reshape them.

        In a future where people are bred to be incredibly sensitive, furiously zealous, rape-happy utilitarians with inbred senses of humour, the story is totally plausible. I think that hypothetical is as fascinating as the two alien races.

      • raj says:

        why would I want to sacrifice a lot of humans just to forcibly change the way of life of a race that has been nothing but friendly to us so far?

        If your neighbors are members of a child-torturing cult, but are very friendly when they interact with you, that’s ok?

        But if you really feel this way, you may try to substitute the babyeaters for something else, for the purpose of the story as thought experiment rather than fiction. The point was to illustrate an unambiguously maximally negative disutility, that you really-maximally-don’t-want-to-negotiate-over.

        The moral calculus is supposed to be at high enough stakes that the value of the crew is totally dwarfed. This isn’t merely utilitarian rhetoric, it is well represented in human story telling and values, afaik. And if I were to choose a crew of humans to make decisions for the rest of humanity, I’d definitely choose one who wouldn’t let their personal well-being balance against the well-being of civilization.

    • blacktrance says:

      I have to give Eliezer some credit for trying to spin a happy ending as unhappy, but (IMO) he didn’t quite succeed.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Three Worlds Collide” is clever, and even funny in places. Ironically, it reminds me of the kind of thing the Sad Puppies stand for – it has a vaguely old-fashioned tone, even if it’s sprinkled with up-to-date-when-written references (you could do an entire Tumblr call-out post on its manifold lacks of diversity but while that would be amusing, it would not be germane).

      Part of the old-fashioned tone was the careful set-up to give the result the author’s philosophy wanted, but hey, if I can stand the lecturing from Asimov, I’m not going to whine about Yudkowsky’s ideal society. Also, the Confessor – pure old-school character and I liked the idea of how being old and experienced means you are Too Powerful 🙂

      Though I was reduced to laughter every time a decision was made on the basis of “quick, what does the prediction market say?” That was the least convincing part of it to me, followed by the appeal to Evolution as justification by the Babyeaters being rejected by the crew of the Human spaceship – yeah, but didn’t you guys just lay an “Evolution means that we do zis” explanation on me earlier in the text? If Evolution works to explain Human motivation and behaviour, and nobody seems to say “But that’s no reason to do it!” on the Human side, why not for Babyeater motivation and behaviour? As well, how the rejection is worded makes no sense – sure, they were eating their offspring before they ever knew what Evolution was, that’s what makes it an evolutionary behaviour.

      It’s not sufficient to say “Ha, their justification doesn’t work because they hadn’t a theory of evolution to let them decide what would be the optimally successful strategy before they engaged in that behaviour”, because neither did we and if evo-psych guys can have a reputable discipline saying “the reason men like blondes is because back in our savannah days…”, then so can Babyeater evo-psych apologists. Though I imagine this was more a criticism of Natural Law ethics/philosophy/theology under the guise of ‘appeal to Evolution’, and possibly also the kind of popular “Behaviour Z is common in nature, we see it in these species, so it’s perfectly natural and normal for humans!” Yeah, but there’s a lot of things that animals do that are perfectly natural and normal that we don’t emulate nor wish to, and hence arguing for or against Behaviour Z on the basis of an appeal to Nature is prone to cherry-picking the parts we like and ignoring the parts we don’t like.

      As I said, good old-fashioned message wrapped in prediction skiffy but the moral dilemma was set up in such a way that really there was only going to be one ending.

      • András Kovács says:

        Facts about evolutionary origin do not necessarily move any evolved agent to update moral views. More generally, processes may create processes with different goals; the paperclip optimizer I develop doesn’t care about my preferences. EY has wrote a lot about this elsewhere. He doesn’t think about moral arguments from evolution the way you think he thinks.

        • Deiseach says:

          Whatever you think I think he thinks, within the story there’s a self-contradiction. If it’s intentional, well done to the author, but I don’t know if it’s intentional or not.

          • youzicha says:

            There is no contradiction. The point the author wants to make is that morals developed for evolutionary reasons, but that what we consider to be moral depends on the what our morals are (the current “moral phenotype”, as it were), not on what is fitness-maximizing. He shows this by first explaining how it could be (approximately) fitness-maximizing to believe that eating babies is good, and yet if you don’t believe in the goodness of eating babies, arguments about fitness will not sway you.

            This is basically an author-tract in this passage, I think we can safely assume that the characters are arguing for the orthodox Yudkowskyan position without any intentionally introduced contradictions.

      • Murphy says:

        I think the humans blindness to their own reasoning is one of the anvils in the story.

        I think EY has straight out stated that it’s not his idea of a utopia, rather a intentional weird-topia

      • aanon smith-teller says:

        >If Evolution works to explain Human motivation and behaviour, and nobody seems to say “But that’s no reason to do it!” on the Human side, why not for Babyeater motivation and behaviour?

        If human and babyeater morality are both products of evolution, that doesn’t mean we should be immediately compelled to eat babies by this fact any more than it means they should be immediately compelled to stop. They’re programmed to eat babies, and we’re programmed to care about them.

        The babyeaters were claiming that eating babies would *speed up* evolution, improving the average health of the survivors. Do you think this is a good argument?

      • raj says:

        But there wasn’t one ending. It was deliberately set-up to illustrate the complexity and difficulty of meta-ethics (contrary to virtually all fiction written by humans). The “true ending” is a more traditional tale where the human spirit wins out, but begs the question: wouldn’t the babyeaters write exactly the same (relative) moral tale, where honor and defiance and babyeating won out in the end?

        But which is the true “true ending”? I don’t think that has an answer. Our values are many, and sometimes contradictory.

    • Callum G says:

      Parts of this book I found to be gratingly in your face about the point Eliezer was making and honestly, this limited it’s appeal as fiction. For example, unexpectedly mentioning rape as a point about how societies change. These things weren’t so much a plot device to further the story, it simply served as an abrupt signal for Eliezer to rant about rationalist things. I’m not against rationalist things, I am on this blog, but the messages could have been weaved in far more subtly.

      Other than that I really enjoyed it. He mentioned the babyeaters somewhere in the sequences right? Something about an Evolution Fairy magically keeping competing species at a nice equilibrium, but when scientists selectively breed for less offspring, they found it wasn’t due to altruism/Fairy but the insects were eating their babies. Or something along those lines.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I liked Three Worlds Collide on the whole, even though parts of it didn’t make much sense.

      The human society reminded me of the old “catgirl volcano” idea: it seemed like they had organized their society for the purpose of maximum juvenility. It just seemed thrown together and incredible. Big Yud said he was deliberately aiming for a shocking future after the dustup about legal rape but aside from that one weird detail there’s nothing that would be offensive to a modern liberal.

      The superhappies seemed like an extrapolation of that trend if anything. They’re emotionally weak, unserious, sex-obsessed and arrogant. Which gave it an unintended element of symbolism: when confronted by the ugliness of the path humanity was taking, those who had seen it firsthand willingly died to save the rest of the species from suffering it.

      • Deiseach says:

        I found the rape thing less offensive than I had anticipated it to be, but that’s probably because I was putting myself mentally into the Confessor’s shoes and thinking “Oh Junior, you have no goddamn idea – you think ‘rape’ is the same as ‘slap and tickle’ because your society has been engineered, and you guys have been bred, so that you would no more use violence on an unwilling sexual partner than you would cut off your dick with a rusty, blunt breadknife”.

        But yeah – the Babyeaters, Superhappies, and Market Humans were all three varieties of scarecrow (stuffed with straw) – they’re each Planet of the Hats aliens in their own way, and only there to represent the points the author wants to make. Which is why the story gave me the old-fashioned Golden Age SF echo that it did 🙂

        • Jiro says:

          I added a comment on the rape thing years later: In the real world, the only cases where a random person is permitted to do something to another random person nonconsensually is where doing the thing itself does not require any further use of force or threats of force. I can talk to you even if you don’t want to hear me, but if you’re wearing earmuffs, I can’t take them off of you or threaten to shoot you if you don’t take them off.

          If a society allowed rape in the same way that we allowed other nonconsensual activites, you could rape someone, but you couldn’t tear off his clothes, hold him down, or threaten him if he refuses.

          If a society allows rape in the sense that we normally think of, that society doesn’t just treat rape differently from how we do, it treats rape differently from how we treat everything else as well, and the comparison to our society doesn’t actually work.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think it’s meant to be pretty clear (even if Yudkowsky maybe didn’t allow for the shock value of the word “rape” or was trying to capitalise on it for that very point) that the Market Humans’ future society doesn’t allow rape in the sense that we normally think of; that it’s more of a cross between “when they say ‘no’, they really mean ‘yes’ because you’re not meant to be discouraged and back off too easily, they’re testing your alphaness” and “discouraging being a pricktease” (or whatever the male to female equivalent of that is) – that if you’re flirting and expressing sexual interest and you go beyond a certain socially agreed limit in your interactions, then you’re “asking for it” – but in this case, you really are “asking for it” and everybody knows that – it’s the equivalent of bratting *. So the scene is set up as nonconsensualish but everyone knows the difference between playing and not, and therefore it’s as legal as any other BDSM stuff because kink is none of the government’s goddamn business and get out of our bedrooms/alleyways/public parks.

            Which is why the Confessor is so drily and blackly amused, because he (like us) is a product of the Bad Old Days, when rape meant genuinely non-consensual, and often with the use of violence to the point of injury or even killing (he mentions near the end how he assaulted, injured, raped and killed a woman when he was a young thug before being Uplifted or whatever the magic treatment to make people nice and civil was).

            * I was trying to think “Where the heck did I learn this?” and I think it came out of a post on a Christian website talking about Christian complementarianism groups online that laid out how husbands should discipline their wives (including spanking) and that this drew quite a lot of unexpected attention from “people interested in spanking/being spanked by their spouse” that had little to do with complementarianism. Or Christianity.

            May I just take this opportunity to say “You Americans are weird, and I don’t mean only the BDSM crowd”? 🙂

    • Autolykos says:

      While I am not surprised by the crew’s reaction to the Superhappies’ offer, I would have taken it (once I listened the warnings by my System 1 and categorized them as “weird, but benign”). And I would have expected at least one of the escaping ships to go in the direction of the nova (and the Superhappies), not towards Earth.
      I would still have tried to negotiate some optionality into the deal, like allowing the modifications to be switched off temporarily, at least for adults. That would be so similar to the situation of the Kiritsugu (sp? – it’s been a while) that they would have probably taken it.

      What I absolutely do not get is why the Superhappies try to integrate parts of clearly inferior moral systems into themselves. I would slightly prefer becoming 100% Superhappy to a hybrid Superhappy/human, and becoming part Babyeater would probably be the worst part of the deal for me.
      But then, I have absolutely zero respect for tradition. The whole notion of preferring things just because it was like that in the past seems about as alien to me as the Babyeaters.

      • Faceh says:

        In this story Eliezer is making a point about the complexity of value and the immense difficulty in optimizing a society to sufficiently satisfy all participants who carry different values in their utility functions. Given the huge variety of utility functions present in human beings, imagine the difficulty when you add in the vastly different psychologies of an alien race.

        The solution offered by the superhappies is to IMPOSE a blunt merging of each society’s utility functions, broadly stated, with no consideration for that of each individual, many of whom would NOT have *willingly* chosen this outcome and didn’t WANT it. People are ANGRY that they weren’t given a choice and that their rational dissent was not noted and included. People KILL THEMSELVES in the story (not too unrealistic, but you could object) because that is seen a preferable to the change. You can’t really express your distaste with the choice in any starker terms.

        This is probably because the concept of self-determination is highly valued in by many humans.

        One of Eliezer’s larger goals in real life is to figure out how to design a superintelligent AI that doesn’t just NOT kill us, or improve society, but improves it in such a way that it considers and attempts to optimize based on EVERY SINGLE PERSON’s utility functions and thereby creates a society that is net gain for EVERY person, and still respects self-determination in the process. To oversimplify it: the changes that an AI makes are ones that every single person should WANT, regardless of their own individual preferences.

        The concept is called “Coherent Extrapolated Volition” and you can read a paper he wrote on it.

        There may be some out there who think integrating humanity into the borg such that all share identical values and no dissent is possible is an ideal solution, but that is what THEIR utility function allows, and not what every person would find ideal.

        So by adopting this solution, you are basically assuming that your utility function (or the one you’re advocating) is the clearly correct or superior one, while the whole story is about pointing out that the issue of values is hugely subjective and comes in large part to your own perspective.

        >What I absolutely do not get is why the Superhappies try to integrate parts of clearly inferior moral systems into themselves.

        Their terminal value is ‘happiness.’ They want to optimize for maximum happiness (and a few other variables). If integrating parts of a different moral system (i.e. utility function) into theirs results in more net happiness, they are probably going to do it.

        The fact that you call it a ‘clearly inferior moral system’ betrays what your utility function might look like.

        • jlow says:

          >So by adopting this solution, you are basically assuming that your utility function (or the one you’re advocating) is the clearly correct or superior one, while the whole story[…]

          Any solution, in this story, is imposing upon someone. By adopting the Superhappy offer, he is only trading off some values against others to obtain the best result as he judges it — which is, in this situation, exactly what anyone choosing any solution would be doing.

          I think that almost any utility function that values sentient beings will be better fulfilled by the Superhappy offer than the other choices — do we value self-determination for its own sake, such that suffering and death are preferable to its loss? doesn’t the latter also entail loss of choice? — but that’s another, endless argument.

        • Autolykos says:

          It seems jlow anticipated a lot of what I was going to say, so I’m just posting the diff:

          Yes, not having a choice about the matter kind of sucks, even if I get the solution I’d have picked anyway. But what you’re missing is that I don’t have a choice about my current state, either. Plus, it seems the Kiritsugu career would allow for a life with plenty of meaning/eudaimonia, but without much of the BS I have to put up with because this earthly shell of mine was assembled by a blind alien god. So, the best of both worlds, as far as I’m concerned.
          I’d probably enjoy the heck out of the Superhappy way of life for a while, just because I can. But when I get bored, becoming Kiritsugu is a nice option to have. And I expect many, many people would just enjoy the heck out of being Superhappy, period. That is, after they dealt with the culture shock and destigmatized hedonism.

          Also, I don’t see terminal values as quite as sacred as you (or EY, probably). If I have terminal values that require me to harm others, I want to get rid of them. My comment about the clearly superior ethical system was mostly about that point, wrt the Babyeaters – and in lesser extent to humans who seem to be perfectly fine with starting a civil war for the right to commit genocide (xenocide?).

          The only thing I’d criticize about the Superhappies is their radical interventionism. Force-converting any aliens they encounter may be the superior option from a purely utilitarian standpoint in most cases (even including the mass-suicides and possibly collateral damage from conquering unwilling species). But it is not very ethically failsafe. You might accidentally bulldoze worthwhile aspects of an otherwise lower-utility culture without realizing it. Having the civilizations coexist and allowing any individual to self-modify in any direction would eventually converge to an equilibrium around the best set of values, but at lower risk of missing anything valuable. You’re paying a bounded utility cost (the inferior values will eventually die out anyway) for the potential of very high gain (you get to keep the good parts until the heat death of the universe).

      • jlow says:

        @Autolykos: Hooray, I’m not the only one!

        I actually am kind of surprised both that Eliezer wrote the crew to have that reaction, and that so few people — as far as I’ve seen — side with the Superhappies on this one. It seems like clearly the best choice, to me; not ideal, but surely orders of magnitude better than any other. Continued existence for humanity is ensured, and death and suffering ended.

        I’m always mildly confused by how little people seem to value pleasure.

        (Or maybe how much they value “sacral ideology”, to coin a probably-opaque term for stuff like “romantic conflict”, awkward gatherings, catharsis, and other bewildering Traditional Stuff You’re Supposed To Like And Mildly Revere Even If It’s Kinda Awful.)

    • Immanentizing Eschatons says:

      The Last Tears ending is the best ending.

      The ability to feel pain, embarrassment and “romantic conflict” are not something I would want to take away from people unwillingly, but doing so is far, far, far superior to murdering 15 billion people.

      (dust specks for the win)

      People’s reaction to that in the story made very little sense to me- I really don’t think anywhere near that many people would kill themselves over this.

      • jlow says:

        Agreed. As I say (or rather, am about to say) above, one of the things that has confused me since the first time I read the story is how much dramatic effort went into making the Superhappies super baddies — sure, it’s not ideal, but mass suicides? the ending with mass death and suffering, in both immediate and ongoing terms, is the “good” ending? — and how rarely I see anyone disagree.

    • MugaSofer says:

      I’m genuinely shocked by how many people are commenting they would allow tens (hundreds?) of billions of children to be agonizingly tortured to death for eternity (or – admittedly less shocking – willingly turn themself into an alien fleshlight) in exchange for avoiding mild inconvenience; and find the idea of anyone caring about morality weird and unrealistic.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m a little uncertain what “mild inconvenience” you mean. Avoiding interstellar war that could possibly slay untold multitudes and cause incalculable property damage sounds like more than a “mild inconvenience”.

        • raj says:

          The super-happies are assumed to be sufficiently advanced to automatically win without a wasting war.

      • Jiro says:

        People who are not utilitarians or EAs usually differentiate between action and inaction. “Allowing” them is inaction.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank god we have the leading authority on normies to explain these things to we poor benighted basement dwellers!

      • Immanentizing Eschatons says:

        Wait, the “turning into an alien fleshlight” thing is done with the alternative being the death of 15 billion people- not exactly a mild inconvenience?

        I agree with you about the people who think it’s OK to let the babyeating go on though.

    • TMB says:

      I really enjoyed this story – the only negative I’d say is the rape stuff – I read the part about legalised rape as a kind of joke – we would be too out of touch to understand the enlightened moral sense of the later generations – fair enough. I didn’t find that offensive.
      But then, at the end when the confessor talks about raping and killing someone – I have to say, I found that a bit unnecessary, I didn’t really understand the point of it, and I felt it departed from the general tenor of the story, and kind of spoiled that character.

      From what I read here, there might have been some other reason to include that part, but for me, it wasn’t great.
      Still, other than that, good stuff.

  4. Daniel says:

    We spoke about this in the last open thread, but I think it warrants further discussion, because the other commenters also seemed uncertain of the answer.

    How can I incorporate the uncertainty of a forecasting model into the confidence I have in an event happening.

    For example, as of right how, Predictwise says that Hillary Clinton has an 87% chance of winning the election and Donald Trump has a 13% chance.

    What should my credence level be that Hillary Clinton becomes the next president?

    I don’t think it can be 87% because prediction markets are not 100% accurate reflections of reality. But what should the number be then? Do I reduce my level of confidence below 87% to represent the fact that I’m not 100% confident in predictwise’s forecast?

    And if I lower my confidence in Hillary becoming president, is it acceptable to have a cumulative confidence in two mutually exclusive events that’s less than 100%? (Ie I know that one of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will win the election with 100% certainty, so would it not be problematic if I only believed Hillary would win with an 80% credence, but that Donald only had a 10% chance of becoming president).

    To help clarify my point, compare this to forecasting flipping a (normal) coin two times. The model shows that there is a 25% chance that heads comes up both flips. Because you have a 99.99% credence that the model is an accurate reflection of reality, you believe with a 25% credence level that the coin will land heads both flips.

    I look forward to hearing feedback and thoughts on this issue.

    Thanks!

    • pku says:

      Two ways to deal with this: one is to just reduce your probability for all cases (for example, there’s a statistical model that pretends you have one extra event of the opposite way for everything to mitigate small sample bias). The other is to balance it with some prior – For elections there’s an easy prior of 50/50 (or maybe count third parties if you want to). If you don’t have a prior though, this is hard.

    • Jesse says:

      THe key question is still is are the valid estimates centered on the values predicted?
      Is there any evidence of a bias in the models that should shift the estimates from the expected values?

    • Wrong Species says:

      I would take PredictIt’s probability estimate with a grain of salt. They don’t let you put more than a single dollar per bet which means people are much more likely to let their bias influence their bets. I feel like 538 is pretty good though and their polls plus model puts Clinton at 81%.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        a single dollar per bet

        Isn’t the limit $850?

        In any event, PredictIt is not the only prediction market. Betfair has about the same odds, 80-20.

        • Wrong Species says:

          They all have the same problem in that they’re limited by law in how much people are allowed to spend.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Betfair has no dollar limit. It just bars Americans. That might be a problem, but it’s a different problem. And if it were a problem, we’d probably see arbitrage opportunities between the markets.

      • Virbie says:

        > I would take PredictIt’s probability estimate with a grain of salt. They don’t let you put more than a single dollar per bet which means people are much more likely to let their bias influence their bets.

        This definitely isn’t true. It’s a single dollar per contract, but you can buy thousands of contracts. Your risk per contract is capped at $850. I do agree with a much, much weaker form of what you’re saying: PredictIt takes a high percentage of both gross funds and profits, so the market is pretty inefficient and bias is capable of playing a larger role. But definitely in a whole nother universe than if each bet were capped at $1.

        Also, and more relevantly, GP is talking about PredictWise, not PredictIt.

        • Luke the CIA stooge says:

          Also these limited scope prediction markets, because they’re so limited, are easily manipulated by people who have something to gain in the bigger markets (or even the political actors themselves, the confidence of others is a powerful thing). Think about it :you have a staff of 500, can create new accounts easily and movements on this market of 2-3000 dollars can move the big markets by millions.

          If the prediction markets are 87-13 hillary I would adjust it to at least 75-25 if not 65-35. This election is just to wild and unstable and there’s too much vested interest in making it seem otherwise

          • Daffy says:

            But if you’re willing to adjust it to 75-25, why not just make an account on PredictIt and buy some shares against Democrats at 16c, the current price? Even after the fees, this is a positive expected value bet.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            Because on such small markets there’s a big problem of the payout for small corrections not being worth the time investment. Markets efficiency is a function of the liquidity (flow of money) through the market. Regrettably the SCC and various other regulators have set out to keep these markets small and irrelevant. so for the foreseeable future they will remain iliquid, unprofitable and useless.
            (unless you use them as a mechanism to manipulate public perception and the big profitable markets.

    • Anon says:

      I have done some amateur data science stuff and have found a pretty useful method for dealing with uncertainty that has lead to more accurate predictions:

      1. For a model you are using to develop probability estimates for an event assign to that model an uncertainty score between -1 and 1 (with 0 being completely uncertain and 1 be completely certain, and -1 being completely certain it is wrong)

      2. When that model gives you a probability estimate convert it to odds form

      3. Raise the odds form to a power equal to the uncertainty score you gave the model.

      4. Convert the odds form back into probability form.

      So if you are 75% confident in predictwise’s forecasting ability you could give them an uncertainty score of 0.75 leading to about 80% for Clinton, 19% for Trump.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      You may account for uncertainty by representing your belief that Hillary will become the next president as a credence interval or set of credence functions rather than as a single, precise credence function. Your credence that Hillary will win could be the interval [.82,.92], for instance.

      And if I lower my confidence in Hillary becoming president, is it acceptable to have a cumulative confidence in two mutually exclusive events that’s less than 100%?

      Yes, but you’re asking the wrong question. I think you mean to ask whether the sum of your credences in a set of mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive propositions can be less than 1, and there the answer is no.

      • pku says:

        That doesn’t quite make sense, though – if you’re already saying it’s a probability, you should just put it in the middle of the interval.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          I do not understand the objection. Suppose an urn contains some unknown mixture of red and black marbles. Of the first four drawn, three come out red. Of the first thousand drawn, 750 come out red. Intuitively, your credence that the fifth marble will be red and your credence that the 1001st marble will be red should both be .75, but the evidential basis for the latter prediction is much more weighty than the evidential basis for the former prediction. We can capture this dimension of difference by representing your belief about the fifth marble as a very wide credence interval centered around .75, and your belief about the 1001st marble as a much narrower interval around .75.

          • pku says:

            But you can still just multiply these probabilities. If you’re working with probabilities you already have a mechanism for dealing with uncertainty – having another one on top of it seems redundant.

            The method I’ve seen for this specific problem is to be “one ball less certain” than you should be – that is, when predicting the odds that the next ball is red, pretend you’ve drawn one extra blue ball. Your odds now in the first case will be 60% and in the second case 74.9%, which seems a good way to hedge your bets.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Your proposal is incoherent, it has us assign a credence of .6 to the fifth marble coming up red and .2 to the fifth marble coming up black, but these were supposed to form a partition. You are probably thinking of Laplace’s rule of succession, which for m red (black) marbles in n trials has us assign a probability of m+1/n+2 to the next marble coming up red (black). For the fifth-marble prediction, this will be .667 for red and .333 for black.

            But using the rule of succession instead of the straight rule doesn’t help us at all, because the rule of succession has us assign the same credences, .667 and .333 respectively, for the 899th marble coming up red (black) if 599 of the 898 marbles so far drawn have been red. The difference in weight of evidence remains uncaptured: you are stuck pretending that absolutely nothing has changed from the four-marble case no matter how many trials you’ve conducted so long as red+1/n+2=2/3 . This is why we need imprecise probabilities.

        • Raga says:

          “If you’re working with probabilities you already have a mechanism for dealing with uncertainty – having another one on top of it seems redundant.”

          You’re just missing a meta-level, is all. EK is showing you how to deal with the situation where you’re uncertain about the degree to which you are uncertain about an event occurring; check out hierarchical models, like the beta-binomial distribution, for a way to handle a similar situation.

    • Mr Mind says:

      What you have here is a classic case of probability with a high Knightian uncertainty. 87% is the level of credence that you should have about Hillary winning the election, because that’s the meaning of probability, once you factor in every piece of evidence (yes, I’m a Bayesian).
      Your discomfort is due to the fact that this estimate is very fragile: any piece of evidence can wildly sway its value one way or another.
      The classic example is a tennis match: if you know nothing about the two players, you would give each 50% probability of winning, but that’s the exact number you would come up if you knew a lot about them and judge they to be at about the same level.
      In your case, 87% is the probability you give to one event, but under that one number there’s a lot of turbulence, and so you’re not sure about how much you’re not sure.

      One formal treatment of Knightian uncertainty that I always bring up is “Ap distributions”, from Jaynes: let’s say that Ap is any piece of evidence that brings the probability of A at p, that is formally:
      P(A|Ap) = p
      Then you can show that P(A) = E[Ap], the probability of an event is the average of the distribution of any piece of evidence you could conceive. Since the value of E[Ap] can stay the same while varying wildly the shape of the distribution, you get a nice explanation of Knightian uncertainty: if P(Ap) is very peaked, you have a strong certainty that P(A) is the correct value (because you judge other explanations to be very unlikely), while if P(Ap) is very flat, you can have the same value of P(A) but be very uncertain about why it should be that way.
      I suggest that this is what happening in your situation: you come up with 87%, but at any moment any other piece of evidence can make it vary a lot. Still, until such evidence arrives, 87% is your number.

      And no, you cannot have the sum of two mutually exclusive, exhaustive events at a value different than 100%.

      • Daniel says:

        Thanks for the responses everyone.

        So if I understand correctly, one should not incorporate the fragility of a forecast into our credence levels then?

        • Mr Mind says:

          You could if you want, but very few people know Ap distributions and even fewer think they are a good solution to Knightian uncertainty.

          But yeah, you could do that with a confidence interval on the Ap’s: I’m 87% sure that Hillary will win the election, and
          – I’m 95% sure that in the future this value will be no lower than 80% and no higher than 90%.
          – I’m 95% sure that in the future this value could vary between 50% and 95%.

    • Deiseach says:

      would it not be problematic if I only believed Hillary would win with an 80% credence, but that Donald only had a 10% chance of becoming president

      Ah God, I haven’t the maths to deal with this, but I think in this case it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of trying to establish confidence in a prediction: as you say, there’s a certain amount of uncertainty baked in because no method is going to be 100% correct, and this specific incidence depends on other factors; right now it looks as if Hillary will win, but there is always the chance – however small or unlikely – that she will do something spectacular and implode her campaign, or drop dead (or, to be more cheery, have genuine health problems that means she has to drop out of the race), or that everyone will decide to vote for a third party candidate and Jill Stein will be the first woman president of the United States, or the Martians will invade, or something.

      So a 10% margin for “Who the hell knows, 2016 has been crazy so far, we have an actual Creepy Clown Threat, anything can happen” might be a bit wide but the general principle is sound enough.

      • Nyx says:

        I don’t think that’s it, because the same possibility of catastrophe applies to Trump. Clinton could have a meltdown, but so could Trump (in fact he seems to be melting down right now).

        Rather, it’s the reality that polls are an imperfect way to measure voter opinion. If your poll of 500 people gives Clinton +4, that could mean that the general population is anywhere between Trump +1 and Clinton +9, depending on how representative your sample is. And elections are themselves, not representative, with older, whiter people voting in disproportionate numbers to younger, blacker people. This creates an inherent element of uncertainty. Even if the election were held tomorrow, Trump still has a >10% chance of winning. The polls might be slightly inaccurate, and maybe unrepresentative, and maybe turnout among Trump-friendly groups is higher and Hillary-friendly groups is lower. That could add up to a pretty big swing.

        What we should expect is regression to the mean. Hillary has generally held a small lead over Trump throughout this race; if events cause a big swing away from that, that swing should gradually dissipate as time goes on.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      In principle you would Bayes All The Things (have a big Bayesian meta-model which gives degrees of belief in any specific model you have, and then integrate over all that). In practice, this is where Bayes falls down — it’s very hard to do this!

      So in the coin example you would have a big family of models with a prior on that family. Coin flips update your prior for the entire family via Bayes rule.

  5. Wrong Species says:

    Scott is so great. Not only does he ban himself, but he does so for this mildly offensive comment that he immediately apologizes for. If every person was that charitable, political debates would not be nearly as mind-killing.

    • SilasLock says:

      +1 for Scott love!

      I don’t think he had to ban himself, though. He apologized after realizing he’d mistakenly criticized someone else for something they didn’t do. We all make mistakes like that. When they happen, the best thing you can do is say you’re sorry as gracefully as possible.

      Scott, if you’re reading this, you have the right to ban yourself if you want to. But I think your comments this week were far from the worst thing I’ve seen here on SSC. You’re a good guy.

      • Callum G says:

        I appreciate his honesty, it’s really admirable of him, but I still think a ban was probably the best move. It’s a dangerous precedent when a leader starts to see themselves above the law. Even the little laws. He may be overcompensating a tad, but given the biases behind banning yourself, I think it’s a good to err on the side that’s the least dictator-like.

  6. Arbitrary_greay says:

    Has anyone watched Black Mirror? (currently available on Netflix) It’s an anthology show based around taking the implications of social technology and social media culture to their extreme ends. There are also detailed episode summaries on Wikipedia, if you want to know what each ep deals with without subjecting yourself to them, as many watchers have reported outright nausea and inability to binge the show because of what it depicts.

    And I can’t quite word my dissatisfaction with the conclusions it draws, or how so many find it “so powerful” and “soul-crushing” and whatnot. In some cases, like most of the Christmas Special, the gap between what people think the technology is like, and the reality of how it’s executed, is the problem. Some of the individual “bad end” extrapolations, I even can believe. But for most of them, the final world-building twist that each episode takes to goes from merely unsettling to horror is the one step too far to break my suspension of disbelief. (The only episode I kind of buy is “Be Right Back.”)

    And that kind of fear-of-tech-existential-horror seems to be a vein of fiction that I’m just not into, in general. It’s like anti-sci-fi. Am I just being too optimistic about humanity? Am I sticking my head in the sand, in denial of Hobbesian reality? (something something I dislike fiction that makes their thematic argument via fiction fiat something fuck Omelas something)

    I also ruminated this past week on how Westworld implies a future in which further developments in VR or wireheading technology apparently aren’t enough to stop people from wanting to abuse meatspace NPCs. But part of the abuse of NPCs in gaming comes from their failing to overcome the uncanny valley, as evidenced by how the schadenfreude can be equally derived from players’ abuse of their own avatars. Related to my feelings on Black Mirror above, I just don’t believe in things like The Purge going mainstream, so I don’t quite buy people treating androids of that level of realism as callously? And most all current cases of 1) animatronic rides and 2) visceral simulated experiences (like haunted houses, horror VR, zombie/apocalypse experience attractions), are all dependent on the customer not interacting and exerting their agency upon the NPCs at all. A lot of that, for the current-day examples, is not allowing the customers to damage the tech or hurt the employees, but I guess that adds another layer to my disbelief, that we’ll reach a level of androids that are designed to take the abuse and have that level of humanity emulation.
    Like, I could buy Dollhouse’s conceit, given the current state of sex work in a lot of places, but Dollhouse was also a very niche thing in-world. Westworld is not.

    • cassander says:

      I like tragedy. I love the show because you know it’s going to end badly, you just don’t know how, and they always manage to take you down the path in an interesting way. the show isn’t deep, but it’s not meant to be. Unless, that is, you believe this.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I’ve only watched one episode, “Fifteen Million Merits”. I liked it. It reminded me a little of The Twilight Zone. Not all science fiction has to be optimistic.

      • Arbitrary_greay says:

        It’s not that scifi has to be optimistic, but in Black Mirror’s case, it’s the comprehensive effect of the entire series being all “this technology/tech-enabled cultural attitude is HORRIFYING!” from every angle. For example, I enjoyed Fringe and Warehouse 13, despite their also having “science gone wrong!”-of-the-weeks, but their attitude towards science/tech overall wasn’t one of relentless fear. Twilight Zone, too, alternated between supernatural and mundane sources of weird.

    • Wrong Species says:

      What exactly about the episode “The Entire History of You” did you find unconvincing? Because I’m certain that exact scenario will play out many times when the technology is invented.

      • Arbitrary_greay says:

        I’ll concede that The Entire History of You was another episode I buy, and it was those similar “enhanced reality” bits of the Christmas Special that I also liked. Huh, it seems like I’m more okay with the ones that limit themselves to the realm of day-to-day living, and the eps that concern themselves with greater institutions, I don’t buy. Decisions by the individual feel more believable than decisions by the collective?

    • eniteris says:

      This post contains spoilers.

      I quite like Black Mirror, although I am more indiscriminate in my enjoyment of science fiction. I do agree that Black Mirror is more on the depressing side, but I don’t think it necessarily says that the technology is bad, rather it will have implications that we should consider.

      I thought the Christmas Special was quite good, especially on the abuse of ems.

      (I agree that Be Right Back is more positive episode.)

      (Episode by episode review below. Spoilers.)
      The National Anthem: Art and attention. Nothing really new about technology, only about media attention. And art.
      15 Million Merits: Actually based on a prison where the prisoners generate electricity on bikes. Basically dystopian, with some commentary on social norms, but they give the contestants drugs anyways, so most of that doesn’t apply.
      The Entire History of You: Accurate enough when everyone gets portable video cameras and Periscope becomes a social thing. An adequate extrapolation of the fall of privacy.
      Be Right Back: The happiest of all the episodes. Apparently there was a news article about someone building an “AI” based off a deceased SO. There’s a youtube video with the same idea.
      White Bear: Meh. That’s all I have to say. Again, something about media consumption.
      The Waldo Moment: Some sort of comment on our current electoral system? Not my favourite.
      White Christmas: Abusing ems to get them to do what you want. Also extending baleeting into real life, which doesn’t seem very plausible. I mean, what if you don’t wear the hardware?

      I haven’t watched Westworld yet. I’ll probably find a copy sometime this month.

      • Virbie says:

        > Also extending baleeting into real life, which doesn’t seem very plausible. I mean, what if you don’t wear the hardware?

        “Why don’t you just avoid using it” is always the question with stuff like this, but I thought they did a decent job of making it somewhat plausible. They mention that the implant is not removable, so all it takes is getting it once. I think the implication was that everyone gets one for the same reason almost everyone has a smartphone/Facebook account. It’s ubiquitous, most people are slaves to social pressure, far-off potential downsides don’t resonate with people as strongly as immediate benefits do, etc. I don’t think I know a single, solitary person within a few years of my age who has never had a Facebook account. Those few that I know without accounts made the decision to delete it after a few years (and again, the implant is not removable). I’m sure there are people here and there without the implant, but it’s clearly ubiquitous enough that blocking has real impact. I did think the final scene (blocked by everyone) was a little ludicrous though.

        FYI, the first episode of Westworld is watchable online for free: http://www.hbo.com/watch-free-episodes/westworld
        I think the second episode just aired today or yesterday or something, but the first is worth watching to see if it captures your interest.

        • Arbitrary_greay says:

          Virbie brings up an interesting point: much of this vein of horror-scifi is obsessed with highlighting those who get the short end of util. The authors seem to really want their audience to think about the minority who will suffer that culture’s failure modes, and outside of a couple of episodes, the primary perpetrators/enablers of perpetrators in Black Mirror are the collective of the mainstream populace. It’s still an appeal to “what if this happened to you?” but maybe my dissatisfaction is in that the implication is also that “this consequence is more common than you think!”

          And as per my comment to Wrong Species, the few episodes I do buy seem to be the one where I can believe that the bad end will indeed occur to a higher proportion of people. (Oh man, do I buy the kid’s behavior at the end of Be Right Back)

          Or maybe it’s that this genre is like the antithesis of competence porn, which is what I like in my normal story-consumption.

      • Anonymous says:

        Be Right Back: The happiest of all the episodes. Apparently there was a news article about someone building an “AI” based off a deceased SO.

        I also recall someone building a ‘blocking’ gadget that hides brand logos, inspired by “White Christmas”. Reading either, I was reminded of the phrase ‘to use 1984 as an instruction manual’…

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      The first episode is not even Sci-Fi, just speculative fiction, it’s cool.

      15 million merits is kind of run of the mill dystopia, but it’s competently executed and it looks good.

      The entire history of you is probably the best episode IMO, it works in a “this is what could happen with this future tech” way, and on an emotional level. It also seems like the most plausible one of the “actual sci-fi” episodes.

      Be right back is OK.

      Haven’t seen the rest yet.

      • Nostradamus says:

        I thought that The National Anthem and The Entire History of You were both very good. I also found Fifteen Million Merits quite thought-provoking once I got past the silliness of using human bodies as a power source. I thought White Bear and Waldo were both pretty silly, though, and I haven’t seen any of the others.

        • Arbitrary_greay says:

          Fifteen Million Merits was very much where each individual step was very plausible, and then just the one step too far has me feeling weird about it. It might even be that the conceit was too interesting, and I wanted them to acknowledge the huge amount of world-building they opened up. Like, humans throughout the ages have found ways to get around advertising. The mute button, DVRs, ad-blocking, pirating, other tabs, going outside, just regular ol’ eye avoidance, and while the industry has done its best to make ads more unavoidable, they’ve never achieved a state of complete unavoidance, and I don’t know that the populace would ever allow that. At the very least, the inclusion of a victim getting punished for attempted ad avoidance (a la the illegality of removing DRM) would have upped the credibility of the world-building a lot.

        • cypher says:

          I assumed the people in 15MM were ems.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I think it’s some kind of punishment or maybe it’s what they do with the unemployed. It seems more like busy work than anything else.

    • Virbie says:

      Some spoilers for Black Mirror ahead.

      I actually really enjoy Black Mirror. I don’t quite disagree with your complaints, but they don’t reduce my enjoyment of the show all that much. I find it generally well-made (acting/writing/shooting/scoring), but I’ll focus on the thematic stuff that you’re talking about.

      One of the reasons I like it is the way it manages to marry the foreign and the immediately relatable: The Entire History of Y is a pretty decent example. Most of the questions or complaints that put some distance between you and a society with norms like that are addressed by drawing parallels to similar norms in our own society[1]. I certainly agree with you that most episodes push the implications of the setting a little too far, often farcically, but somehow I’m able to write those parts off and enjoy the parts that they execute more subtly.

      White Christmas is a decent example: the part that horrified me the most was the torturing of the housekeeper cookie into submission, despite being a short expository story in between the main ones. I think it does what good fiction often does: adds a visceral understanding of an issue that’s actually pretty interesting. As machines become smarter, at what point does it become relevant to stop considering them as tools and start considering them in the framework of autonomy and rights that we afford sapients? The fact that a lot of the rest of the episode (and indeed, that segment) had flaws didn’t do much to diminish my appreciation of that part.

      [1] for a crappy off-the-top-of-my-head example, “why not just avoid getting a grain” vs “why not just avoid a FB account”. For a lot of people, the latter is nigh-unthinkable from a social perspective, and I say this as someone who’s a very, very light user of social media.

      • Arbitrary_greay says:

        Spoilers for the Christmas Special below

        The cookie was actually the biggest suspension-breaker for me, which is weird, since I didn’t mind the “torturing brain-image AI” storyline in Red Vs. Blue. In the Special’s case, it was that I don’t believe that brain-image AI would be as useful in the applications shown as the story believes. (For example, there are so many reasons a confession from the Cookie wouldn’t/shouldn’t be accepted in court. And why even are they punishing the Joe cookie at the end!?) Although it could occur by default in a world where non-brain-image AI fail to develop, I suppose.
        I most believed in the enhanced-reality “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” tech applications, especially the mechanism of Matt’s ultimate punishment, although I don’t believe that he would/should have been given it.

        Westworld is doing a better job of illustrating the spectrum of programs from tools to autonomous.

        • Anonymous says:

          And why even are they punishing the Joe cookie at the end!?

          Because they think he is a Bad Person™ and Deserves It™. Though personally, I think it’s the least believable part (or at least that they’d do so this thoughtlessly).

          • Common Pleb says:

            Because he’s not seen as a person period, no more than say those torture the dummy with a dictators face is. Society are capable of atrocities on the flimsies of rationals, not being Human(TM) is enough.

          • Anonymous says:

            I rather meant Joe than the cookie. But yes, That Too™.

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            @Common Pleb:
            But the horror that was supposed to come out Part 2 with Greta wasn’t simply the abuse of the cookie, but that it was done for such a coldly pragmatic reason, done in rote as a part of creating a product for the customer. Broken cookie!Greta has a purpose for which it was broken. There is no such future for cookie!Joe. There is no reason to not just delete the cookie when they’re done with it. Maybe if they characterized the cop as someone who likes to troll people in general, and this cookie is the only case where he could get away with it.

          • Virbie says:

            @Anonymous

            If there’s a plausible explanation for a behavior, why does it need to be explicitly characterized beforehand? If I see a character wolf down a bunch of donuts, I don’t think “that’s odd, they didn’t establish him as liking donuts that much”, I just think “homey probably likes donuts”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Overall I like Black Mirror but I’m worried that the episodes people like the most (White Christmas, 15 million merits) are the stupidest ones.

      15 million merits is basically a stoner rant “we are all cogs in the machine, dude!”.
      White Christmas and Be Right Back both postulate the existence of technology that would necessarily have consequences that would be vastly more far reaching than what’s used is the episode: they are speculative science fiction for people who lack any imagination.
      Be Right Back would work better as a story about a magical trinket bought from a gipsy.

      This leads me to suspect that the writer, Charlie Brooker, is a bit of an idiot when it comes to technology, since all the remaining episodes (which I liked) do not really deal with technology at all (The National Anthem, White Bear, The Waldo Moment), or were written by someone else (Entire History of You).

      Needless to say, this doesn’t bode well for season 3 and 4.

      • Arbitrary_greay says:

        I bought Be Right Back, although I think it would only apply to a subset of people with a particular personality type. It deals with much the same themes as the first portion of Spielberg’s A.I., before David runs away. And I’ve recently finished two stories that dealt with trying to simulate a lost loved one in technology. One (Mraqrtv, abiry ol Tert Rtna) came to the same conclusion as Be Right Back, in that the AI was ultimately unconvincing, but had the subjects scrap the AI instead, while the other (gi fubj Crefba bs Vagrerfg) didn’t get to fully explore the long-term aftermath. The fanfiction for the latter has had one wirehead conclusion, and a few fiction-fiat accepted the reconstruction as equivalent to the original (which is also what Red Vs. Blue did). So Be Right Back was kind of relevant to my interests and memories at the time.

      • tgb says:

        White Christmas had several plots happening. At least one of which (with regards to dating advice) was entirely plausible and, quite frankly, possibly happening at this moment. The censorship/blacklist point seemed quite OK too. Though your criticism is quite fair when it comes to the main technology employed. (Sorry, I’m going out of my way to avoid spoilers.) I think it overall was still among best best science fiction films yet. Other acclaimed recent science fiction works like Moon and Her could easily be criticized similarly; same for, say, Source Code and Looper. You have to look to novels to find something definitively better. All IMO of course.

        • Nelshoy says:

          Speaking of good scifi movies come out, is anyone else hyped for Arrival? I love Ted Chiang’s stories, especially the one Arrival is based on.

        • Anonymous says:

          The censorship plot is OK, everything happening with the uploaded AIs is preposterous. Spoilers follow.

          (1) The smart house concept is a disaster: there is no reason to be that cruel to the AI, doing that would make it unnecessarily dangerous and the concept wouldn’t work any better than a much simpler AI anyway.

          (2) If that technology existed its first application would be to make rich people live forever, which would cause uploaded minds to have the same rights as humans

          (3) Seduction coaching apparently nets you a lifetime ban from society, I can only interpret this as an extremely heavy handed satire of feminist society.

          • Anonymous says:

            (Apparently comments containing the G-word are filtered even if it only appears inside a link. I realise there are good reasons for banning the word, and have managed to work around the filter anyway, but I think it’s a bit excessive regardless.)

            Seduction coaching apparently nets you a lifetime ban from society, I can only interpret this as an extremely heavy handed satire of feminist society.

            Doubtful. For one, Charlie Brooker buys into the orthodox feminist narrative about the Ants, or at least he used to (he wrote a Guardian column about it, look for it). He’s a rather typical Blue Triber.

            But notice it’s not mere ‘seduction coaching’. The stream from the ‘client’s’ eyes is forwarded to several other people, and presumably recorded, without the knowledge or consent of the people he’s interacting with. Presumably it is also meant to include any possible sexual intercourse… in other words, it’s a live amateur porn broadcast. Keeping these things in mind, it’s not all that preposterous to penalise such a ‘service’.

          • John Schilling says:

            in other words, it’s a live amateur porn broadcast… it’s not all that preposterous to penalise such a ‘service’.

            I haven’t seen the episode in question, but it seems like given the premise all sex in that society would constitute a live amateur porn broadcast. Well, OK, probably a next-morning-at-the-office delayed amateur porn broadcast, but that’s a pretty fine distinction on which to hang a sentence of lifetime ostracism.

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, that seems quite horrible in itself and, though the episode doesn’t mention anything about it, I’d assume there would be measures to prevent that from happening — measures of the DMCA sort, i.e. ‘we keep pretending information is not copyable by giving really, really harsh sentences to people who circumvent our rules’. (Compare how child pornography is dealt with.)

            Also, the end of the episode reveals that being blocked by the whole country is not the standard sentence given for such a crime. Matt has negotiated a bargain that he’d be let go if he extracts a confession from Joe, and the police were dicks to him in upholding it.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Overall I like Black Mirror but I’m worried that the episodes people like the most (White Christmas, 15 million merits) are the stupidest ones.

        They are the stupidest ones from a sci-fi perspective, but people like them because they have other good qualities. 15MC has a nice coherent aesthetic, White Christmas has Jon Hamm doing Jon Hamm things.

    • Deiseach says:

      I haven’t watched it, but reading the episode descriptions, it’s the good old horror anthology format dressed up in modern tech. It’s not about SF and social technology and all that jazz, rather, like the Fat Boy in “The Pickwick Papers”, the intention is “I wants to make your flesh creep”.

      • Arbitrary_greay says:

        For me, the use of technology and social media culture as the frameworks for all of the episodes matters, though. It gives the show as a whole a comprehensive bone to pick. As per my reply to jaimeastorga2000, anthologies that spread out the explanations for their horror don’t have the same effect. Black Mirror seems to want us to do something (moderate our culture, basically) to avoid the bad ends depicted in the show. The extra existential horror is supposed to stem from human nature itself causing the flesh-creeping, and therefore feel even more horrifying that it could be inevitable in the collective, since most episodes involve individuals trying to change their own personal spheres. White Bear is an Omelas where no one wants to walk away.

    • multiheaded says:

      “What if phones, but too much?”

    • Anonymous says:

      And I can’t quite word my dissatisfaction with the conclusions it draws, or how so many find it “so powerful” and “soul-crushing” and whatnot. In some cases, like most of the Christmas Special, the gap between what people think the technology is like, and the reality of how it’s executed, is the problem. Some of the individual “bad end” extrapolations, I even can believe. But for most of them, the final world-building twist that each episode takes to goes from merely unsettling to horror is the one step too far to break my suspension of disbelief.

      Sounds quite vague. Can you be more specific?

      Black Mirror isn’t really about technology. It’s more about how it enables people… hmm, it’s a bit hard to express… to give in to their urges that in the absence of the technology would be naturally curbed. The most conspicuous and direct instance of what I’m talking about is wireheading; Black Mirror offers more subtle examples. For one, the horror of “White Bear”, “The Entire History of You” and “Be Right Back” is brought about by people who cannot let go of the past, who are unable to forgive and/or forget.

      So, given that it focuses more on psychology than technology, I’m not particularly surprised that it doesn’t explore all the possible implications of the latter; technology is just a vessel for meditating on the human condition. And personally, I don’t particularly mind it either; though I am vaguely aware that probably some elements of the Black Mirror worlds don’t make very much sense and in reality couldn’t work as described (like the bikes in “15 Million Merits”). Black Mirror is more “Meditations on Moloch” than hard SF.

      Related: an interview with Charlie Brooker, where he basically says the same thing.

      • Arbitrary_greay says:

        Replying to the others helped me sort out my thoughts a bit.

        The basic interactions that have unsettling implications are solid, drawn from reality as they are. However, the method that Black Mirror uses to magnify the horror of the consequences is to simply scale everything up. Two people becomes an entire population, a small consequence is stretched to its extreme end.
        The problem with that approach is, micro does not directly translate to macro when it comes to human behavior. Contrary to Asimov’s Foundation, the predictability of humans decreases as the group number increases. Scaling up in most cases, even non-sentient processes, such as going from research batches to production line scale, introduces all sorts of complexities.
        Except that part of the horror of Black Mirror’s conceits is based upon a near-monolithic agreement from the populace. I expect a large number of protesters outside of the White Bear Justice Park every day, half of Victoria’s experiences sabotaged by them. I expect an investigatory podcast having found and publicized Carlton Bloom’s participation, memes lampooning Callow and Susannah alike behind their back. Neither Eich nor Sacco are homeless or jobless. Chris Brown and Woody Allen still have successful careers dependent on others’ eyeballs on their work.

        It’s like the lesser Black Mirror episodes make their arguments based on the following template:
        1. Social media technology enables herd mentality to the extreme
        2. ?????
        3. Due to step 2, everyone starts jumping off of a cliff
        4. Due to step 1’s extreme herd mentality, our protagonist also jumps off of a cliff
        5. profitISN’T THAT SCAAAAARY TO THINK ABOUT

        It’s logically sound, but only because step 2 was hand-waved away, but the probability/credibility of step 2 in a near-future setting really matters to my buying the argument!

        Which is why episodes that don’t rely on “groupthink is scaaaary!” work so much better. (Entire History, Be Right Back, the non-Cookie aspects of White Christmas, although the twist for part 1 was also too silly and does a disservice to their argument)

    • TMB says:

      All of the best episodes feature infidelity of one sort or another.

      Bad infidelity.

    • lemmy caution says:

      I love Mallory Ortberg’s line about black mirror:

      “What if phones, but bad?”

    • pterrorgrine says:

      “What if phones, but too much?” (alluded to, but I don’t think linked, above)

      • arbitrary_greay says:

        Thanks for the link. Loved the Twilight Zone riff in the comments. Some of the hypothetical episodes sounded like amazing anime or Kdrama pitches, too.

  7. Virbie says:

    I was a little surprised to see a couple of your comments last time, but Fundamental Attribution Error and all that, particularly because the last couple threads were some of the more acrimonious ones I’ve seen in a while. Kudos for putting yourself on the ban register.

  8. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Eliezer Yudkowsky’s final solution to the Reaver question ruffled a lot of feathers in the subreddit. To be fair, he later clarified that he was joking, but damn, talk about bad optics.

    • The Most Conservative says:

      His most recent post is frustrating. It’s quite poorly written, but if you take the time to understand it, it’s not much more than a case study in smug American liberalism. (Longer response available on request.) Of course I’d rather not say anything that could be perceived as supporting Trump, or even having some glimmer of understanding of why people support Trump, under my real name. So, the Smugularity draws closer.

      I have thought of myself as a member of the “rationalist community” for a long time, but having this guy as community figurehead strongly makes me want to find a new tribe.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I wonder if his beliefs about the 50s are molded by SF.

        • Evan Þ says:

          For what it’s worth, I’ve gotten something of the same impression about the 50’s from history books, as well. At least, it was definitely more accepting of expertise than the current era.

          I think the lack of competition to the mainstream media, and both parties being generally centrist, had a lot to do with it.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            I agree. People are willing to trust experts if they think experts are on their team. And in the 50s, the US felt like a single team. We were on a team fighting the Nazis, and we were on a team opposing the Soviet Union.

            Then the refragmentation happened. Now Trump supporters are skeptical of experts because they don’t think of the experts as being on their team. And they’re often right–in many cases, people on their team were long ago driven out from expert circles.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think TMC inadvertently raised an interesting question: did the US really feel like a single team in the 50s? Or were there elements that felt sidelined from media like conservatives do today, and even less visible due to there being no Internet yet?

            For example, if I had to guess, I would guess that a lot of people in the 50s thought communism was, when you think about it, maybe a pretty good idea, but they weren’t gonna bring that up because they weren’t that keen on being like Soviets, and they also noticed the people who passionately felt it was a good idea were getting systematically whacked down by a certain Wisconsin senator, so maybe the thing to do was just ride it out and go back to their jobs at the A&P or wherever.

            Later, maybe whatever irritations they had about American-style capitalism finally grew until the late 60s.

            Of course, this guess is all reasoning post facto, so I don’t put great weight to it. That said, I think it fair to say that 1950s America didn’t feel like one team to those who had little voice in the MSM, and who moreover saw what little voice they had being driven out.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Paul Brinkley
            did the US really feel like a single team in the 50s? Or were there elements that felt sidelined from media like conservatives do today

            Yes — the same conservatives we have today. Goldwater, National Review, George Wallace, the John Birch Society. They were sidelined or excluded by MSM and what is now called ‘the cathedral’, but I remember hearing them, with much air-time, on the radio.
            Senator McCarthy was on their side.

            He did a lot of witch-hunting, accusing various officials and celebrities of being Card Carrying Communists in the pay of the International Communist Conspiracy. If there were any real Communist Fellow-Travellers around, probably in the ‘cathedral’, I never knew about them; either because I grew up in a Red Tribe bubble, or because they were really good at conspiring.

            I don’t recall any of McCarthy’s targets, dull old guys, being involved in the 60s movements. We Hippies and Flower Children were marching for Peace, Free Love, and free marijuana.

          • Psmith says:

            If there were any real Communist Fellow-Travellers around, probably in the ‘cathedral’, I never knew about them;

            Stanton’s Blacklisted by History is a mighty interesting revisionist account of this period. The Verona project data is also a good primary source.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Thanks for the link. I read it, and it’s basically a multi-thousand-word treatise saying “Trust the experts. Really. Expertise can be real and useful.” He doesn’t interact at all with the arguments that in this case, the experts are biased and are optimizing for different things than the average person. For that matter, his argument would work just as well to say “Ignore this one Yudkowsky guy who’s yelling about how AI can kill us all.”

        I’m not sure I would’ve expected more from him, but… I was sort of hoping for more.

        • The Most Conservative says:

          For that matter, his argument would work just as well to say “Ignore this one Yudkowsky guy who’s yelling about how AI can kill us all.”

          Yeah, it’s an interesting post coming from a guy who dropped out of high school, then made a career out of telling off highly credentialed AI experts.

          Actually, I think EY is like Trump in a lot of ways. Both of them have no formal credentials in the area they claim expertise (for EY it’s AI; for Trump it’s policy). Both of them created a large following of people who also lack those credentials (most EY fans are not AI researchers; most Trump fans are not policy wonks). Both of them say outrageous things, polarize people in to fans and haters, and have somewhat miraculously survived a series of scandals. Both of them have important and true things to say if you’re able to look past the hype. Both are people who would make for terrible leaders but somehow may be given power as leaders anyway.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I would pay good money to see EY’s response to this comparison.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            This is sort of harsh.

            One important way in which Trump and EY are the same is their bad optics are not accidental — they are what they appear to be.

            But they are very different types of people. Trump is a sociopath and a pig. EY is a “guru.”

          • The Most Conservative says:

            “This is sort of harsh.”

            More harsh or less harsh than joking that people like me should undergo involuntary eugenics?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Sorry, I don’t read EY’s stuff on fb. I think he blocked me once I accused him of “poshlost” for trolling for sex there.

          • Bassicallyboss says:

            You were the one responsible for the “Poshlost” comment? God bless you.

          • hlynkacg says:

            xaxa хорошо!

        • Tedd says:

          … What? Did we read the same post?

          That doesn’t mean you blindly trust people you can’t tell whether to trust! It means that you don’t get upset when other people are confident of questions that look balanced to you, because for all you know, they could know better and *that would be okay*. You don’t defer to them, you don’t take their estimate as your own, you go on suspending judgment yourself, because you can’t tell if they really do know better or not. But it’s okay for now that they seem more confident than you; you have also suspended judgment about whether their confidence is justified.)

          This is not only not “Trust the experts”, it is both more sophisticated than and explicitly different from that.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            EY says you should suspend judgement when you see people making a claim that seems absurd to you. But this is advice for others, not himself. His own essay on how knowing about biases can hurt people illustrates what’s going on.

            If Eliezer wanted, he could suspend judgement and investigate the absurd-seeming claim that Trump is a better choice. But he doesn’t. And no one else in the “Trump = the end of the world” camp seems to be either.

            I made a list of pro-Trump comments here that I think are at least somewhat convincing. But these people who think Trump means the end of the world haven’t found time in their schedules to respond to them. Sometimes it seems like they’re willing to do anything to get Hillary elected except engage in a polite, reasonable discussion with Trump supporters.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Just who do you think you are? The internet is full of people engaging in debate about your election. Why does a comment on an essay on an obscure blog warrant any special attention?

          • The Most Conservative says:

            @Stefan Drinic – I’m no one special. But this blog is special because it’s one of the few places on the internet where you’ve got some hope of having a thoughtful two-sided election discussion. (Also, it’s far from obscure.) My comment consists of data: good pro-Trump arguments that anti-Trump people could “save the world” by politely engaging with.

            Yudkowsky is definitely aware of Scott’s blog; he’s praised it very highly in the past. But his revealed preferences suggest that he’d rather write 1000+ words expounding on the unfathomable idiocy of those who disagree than, you know, actually respond to their arguments. That’s the smug style. It’s not discussion or even attempts at persuasion; it’s insular self-congratulation.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I’m not sure if he ever posts on this blog in the first place. If I, along with a dozen others, start posting about how awful his taste in music is today, I’m not going to expect a response either.

          • radm says:

            > I made a list of pro-Trump comments here that I think are at least somewhat convincing.

            Of those, can you pick _one_ that you feel actually has some grounding in things Trump has said and can plausibly do? Because they mostly look to me like free riffing of smart people trying very hard to find a set of 3-level-deep hypotheticals that all come together to get the desired result.

            If you find that kind of thing convincing, that seems a bad heuristic; smart people can make hard-to-disprove- complicated arguments in support of literally any position.

            Top-tier arguments are obvious, short and (preferably) true, e.g ‘Trump boasts about sexual assualt’, ‘Trump wants to have Hilary arrested on unspecified charges’, etc.

          • youzicha says:

            @The Most Conservative

            In the linked post, I don’t see Eliezer saying anything about suspending judgement whenever people make a claim that seems absurd to you. He says that if you consider it impossible to work out the fact of the matter (you already have suspended judgement, as it were), then you can not conclude that other people people cannot work it out.

            By contrast, what you are talking about is what you should do in situation when you consider it very obvious what the fact of matter is, and run into someone who also thinks it’s obvious but in the other direction. That’s quite different from thinking that you don’t know.

          • caethan says:

            @The Most Conservative:

            Be fair. One of the strongest arguments for Trump is that Hillary is a hawk who would lead us into unnecessary and potentially disastrous wars. And our illustrious host wrote a whole post trying to refute it, fairly persuasively, I think.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            Top-tier arguments are obvious, short and (preferably) true, e.g ‘Trump boasts about sexual assualt’, ‘Trump wants to have Hilary arrested on unspecified charges’, etc.

            Neither of these seem especially convincing compared to questions of foreign policy though. In the least convenient possible world, you have to wade in to the complicated-argument thicket.

        • No, no ,no, he is absolutely not saying that you should trust experts in the conventional sense of expert,, he is appealing to his own notion of one size fits all smartness…note the one dimensionality of the Level above Mine…theres no good at geography but bad at maths. And some of the people who disagree with him about MWI are experts , and he does disregard them for lacking his patented brand of smartness.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Thanks for the vox link. That was a good thing to read.

        • Sandy says:

          I read that the day it came out and thought it was a good piece. Shortly afterward, the writer was suspended from Vox for tweeting that assaulting Trump supporters in public is a perfectly legitimate political tactic.

          Now I don’t know what to think.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Now I don’t know what to think.

            The author thinks smug liberalism is bad, but militant liberalism is totally awesome?

          • Sandy says:

            Yeah, like how does that even work? Being smug to your political adversaries is a bad thing, better to stuff soap in a pillowcase and let ’em have it?

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Being smug and haughty endangers your political position through making it impopular; being militant strengthens it through intimidation and a better public image(they were Bad People, anyway?)

            I’m not even sure. Does anyone have these tweets?

          • Anonymous says:

            From reading the Vox article one of his main bones to pick is that smug liberalism stops at lip service. The point isn’t to achieve anything: in fact, the point is specifically to achieve nothing while signalling virtue and intellectual superiority; the whole thing is a bourgeois status apparatus.

            With that in mind it’s pretty obvious why he might still think militancy or anything, really, is a legitimate tactic, as long as it actually goes toward smashing the system maaaaaaaan, or whatever it is he wants in specific.

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            I am reasonably sure that he was calling the media out on their bullshit, not calling for Trump supporters to be attacked.

            Iirc the gist of it was something along the lines of.

            A. Trump isn’t actually the rise of fascism and the 2nd coming of Hitler, and this is all political mud-slinging at an outsider populist.

            or

            B. He really is the rise of fascism and the 2nd coming of Hitler then any amount of violence against him and his base is justified.

            The Media has been doing their best to paint him as B, and then being shocked and condemning violence against his supporters as if they really believe A.

          • Gazeboist says:

            People can write good things and still be assholes. On the other hand, NEWTONIAN ETHICIST makes me want to see the actual tweet in question. On the gripping hand, twitter is where toxoplasma thrives in all its forms.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            My memory matches Newtonian Ethicist, but there were several tweets with different tones. The first two condemned journalists for condemning violence / thinking that words would work. The second two unconditionally called for violence. An hour later he made an a conditional tweet:

            Listen, if Trump is Hitler then you’ve got no business condemning rioters. If he isn’t, you’ve got no business pretending normal is better.

            …but I don’t know what that second sentence means. Probably I just saw popehat or someone commenting on it and not the actual tweet.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I think I’ll fall back to “fuck twitter”. Several of the tweets look like he’s trying to attack journalists who needlessly cry fascist and then condemn people who react as though the person they just called a fascist was, well, Hitler.

            But then there’s “Advice: If Trump comes to your town, start a riot.” (entire tweet)

            This reads like it could be a trolling manifesto: “If they call this guy Hitler, let’s react like he’s Hitler and condemn them for causing our overreaction.” Of course, because twitter, it’s not clear that this was his intent, rather than regular old anti-Trump riot incitement. And I’m not about to condone this guy for shit I condemned elsewhere in this very thread. He should have stuck to longform, where snappy headlines get a chance to explain themselves.

            (Speaking of snappy headlines that explain themselves, the article itself is seems anti-Rensin to a degree not justified by the tweets – after the tweets, it cites a bunch of articles: one blames trolls, rather than sexism, for male dominance in journalism; one is a Jew talking about being Jewish in the Jewish manner, rather than the way non-Jews sometimes expect; and the last is a condemnation of … journalists comparing Trump to Hitler. This is taken as evidence that Rensin should have been expected to advocate rioting. Somehow.)

          • Anonymous says:

            The article about how Trump is not Hitler is not by Rensin. WaPo doesn’t say it is, but just that it might have been edited by him.

        • Nelshoy says:

          I liked it to, but the tone was awfully smug for an article complaining about smugness.

      • a non mouse says:

        From that vox article:

        There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them.

        Bullshit that that’s what’s going on with the Yudkowski post.

        He doesn’t think he knows better what’s good for boarderers – he sees them as a ethnic group that both opposes and is opposed by his ethnic group. He’s expressing outright animus to them.

        Their beliefs on what makes for a good society – mainly controlled borders (which is what Trump is emblematic of) – are anathema to what he sees as necessary for his ethnic group – open borders. He and Scott claim that the problem is that white borderers are too low IQ to understand how their vision is best for everyone but borderers aren’t a low IQ group and the groups being imported are low IQ – it’s a red herring. That post is saying “Borderers only support policies I hate because of stupidity – if they were smarter, they wouldn’t”.

        • The Most Conservative says:

          I was saying this post was an example of the smug style, not the borderer post.

          • a non mouse says:

            That wasn’t smug – that was (on the surface) the rantings of a crazy man who thinks he’s solved physics even though he’s done no physics.

            Look at that argument:

            People can’t distinguish better or worse within more than one standard deviation above their own level.

            (…)

            I get all kinds of scorn from people who want to know how I could possibly be so confident in the Many-Worlds Interpretation when, from their perspective, there are all these interpretations of quantum physics, all of which sound kinda quantumy and physicsish, and there’s this one weird guy who’s *so sure* about one of them.

            (implied premise from common knowledge)

            Actual real physicists (ya know, guys who didn’t drop out of high school) are on both sides of the many worlds interpretation debate.

            Implied conclusion- since I’ve taken a strong stand on this question in quantum mechanics it isn’t more than 1 STDV beyond me – I’m as smart as or smarter than those physicists! (Also – the scorn I get is because people aren’t as smart as I am.)

            So not the rantings of a crazy man but strategic posturing as a credential.

          • Autolykos says:

            Actual, real physicists are in many cases on both sides of the Many Worlds debate *simultaneously*. Because they recognize that the various interpretations of QM make identical predictions about anything that can currently be measured, so the whole debate is a matter of philosophy, not physics.
            As one of those actual, real physicists I agree with EY in so far as I find Many Worlds to be the most philosophically elegant and aesthetically pleasing interpretation I know (I dislike the hidden variables in Bohmian Mechanics, and think the Copenhagen Interpretation is a dog’s breakfast). But they all work, and to the best of my knowledge there isn’t even a hypothetical experiment that makes different predictions for each of these theories. And since CI is what I learned first and used most, that’s what I’d use in practice (I don’t have anything to do with QM at the moment, though).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Actual, real physicists are in many cases on both sides of the Many Worlds debate *simultaneously*.

            Because of course they are.

          • Nelshoy says:

            @autolykos

            I don’t know much physics, but I read EY’s sequence on MWI and his whole point is that until new experimental evidence comes along, MWI should be accepted as true exactly because it doesn’t postulate the existence of other rules, that it isn’t just “philosophically more elegant” compared to other solutions, but what we have to assume based on probability theory insofar as we assume anything.

            What do you think of this claim?

            Is it not true that we can make best guesses about theories that don’t differ in their experimental predictions? Also he thinks experiments that observe superposition on ever bigger scales would put the nail in the coffin for Copenhagen.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Autolykos:

            Do you have thoughts on RQM? The LW quantum mechanics sequence seemed off to me, especially at the end; I scrolled down to the comments and found people asking why Yudkowski never discussed the relational interpretation.

          • Autolykos says:

            @Nelshoy: I think that’s exactly part of EY’s beef with the scientific method for not being rigorous enough (or not being applied rigorously enough). The scientific establishment usually only throws out old theories when they’re demonstrably wrong. The new one just being slightly simpler by some standard is not enough. EY seems to argue it should be, and I agree with him in principle (in sufficiently egregious cases, even classical science agrees; see Copernicus) – so we’re pretty much only haggling about thresholds here.
            The main point in favor of higher thresholds is that new results are relatively noisy and occasionally fail to replicate. So if you change the canonical explanation too quickly, you risk teaching nonsense. If you change it too slowly, you only risk teaching slightly more complicated and inaccurate theories than necessary.

            @Gazeboist: Sorry, never heard about RQM, so I can’t tell you anything you couldn’t also find in the Wikipedia article (or possibly in the posts of the people advertising it to EY).

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            The scientific establishment usually only throws out old theories when they’re demonstrably wrong. The new one just being slightly simpler by some standard is not enough.

            By which standard? A lot of people reject MWI for extravagance, for instance.

          • Autolykos says:

            The standard is of course not applied symmetrically. That’s kinda the whole point. I’m pretty sure even many proponents of the CI would concede Eliezer’s point that in the counterfactual world where MWI came first, it would be the canonical explanation.
            But in the end, the only thing that matters is the complexity of the math – which is, as far as I’m aware, the same*. The remaining difference is mostly about what our monkey brain imagines while doing the math, and what words we use to refer to the concepts. The former point doesn’t matter at all, you could even imagine that it’s Chuck Norris glaring at superpositions until they make up their mind, if that somehow helps your intuition. For the latter point, it’s nice when everyone uses the same terminology. Which one is pretty much secondary, but rewriting textbooks is expensive.

            *Bohm’s Mechanics has somewhat different math, though (IIRC).

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            But in the end, the only thing that matters is the complexity of the math

            Says who?

            Sincere and consistent instrumentalists may exist, but I think they are rare. What is much more common is for people to compartmentalise, to take and irrealist or instrumetalist stance about things that make them feel uncomfortable, while remaining cheerfully realist about other things.

            At the end of the day, being able to predict phenomena isn’t that exciting.
            People generally do science because they want to find out about the world. And “rationaists”, internet atheists and so on generally do have ontological commitments, to the non-existence of gods and ghosts, some view about whether or not we are ina matrix and so on.

        • Maven says:

          >are anathema to what he sees as necessary for his ethnic group

          Sorry, maybe I’m missing some context, which ethnic group would that be.

          • Anonymous says:

            a non mouse doesn’t like da joooz

          • hlynkacg says:

            it’s pronounced juice

          • a non mouse says:

            a non mouse doesn’t like da joooz

            In this discussion who discussed the genetic targeting and extermination of ethnic groups that he doesn’t like? Not me.

            I guess because there’s a word for antisemitism but no word for “Jewish person who hates non-Jews” you can’t even conceive of the latter category even when a Jewish person talks about literally exterminating those he sees as his ethnic enemies.

          • Anonymous says:

            The “ethnic enemies” part is entirely in your head. Big Y’s post had nothing at all to do with him being Jewish except in your imagination.

            Steve Sailer at least makes money off being an edgelord, what do you get out of it?

          • Maven says:

            Yeah, I figured that was what this was about.

            I’d actually love to get some input from this community on the “Jewish Question”. The idea of any discernible pattern of political activity among Jews as a group is so incredibly toxic in mainstream culture that it’s basically impossible to talk about with educated, intelligent people. (There is some special rationalist word for that sort of idea, yes? An extreme version of “politics is the mind killer”?)

            Hopefully we all agree that any talk of a literal organized conspiracy is obviously nonsense. The idea that the actions of individuals Jews come together to create a pattern of pro-Jewish group behavior, though, isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility. It’s obvious, for example, that over the past 200 years of American history, there have been many instances where whites acted to further white group interests and blacks acted to further black group interests, and the sum of these individual actions create identifiable patterns of group behavior. If Jews are indeed a separate ethnic group, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be subject to the same analysis.

            The biggest counter-argument seems to be that Jews are small enough in number and white enough in skin color that pro-Jewish actions wouldn’t really register on a national or international scale. Many Jews probably consider themselves nothing except for white, in terms of race, and because they “pass” so well in this identity (to the point that many don’t even know they’re “passing”), we wouldn’t really expect an identifiable set of specifically Jewish interests to take shape.

            My epistemic status is that it’s conceivable that there’s something here, but whatever it is, I don’t think it’s of political consequence. The charge from the far right that certain founding documents of leftist intellectual modernity such as The Authoritarian Personality have a “Jewish character” doesn’t seem to be entirely baseless in certain cases, since Adorno comes right out and says in The Authoritarian Personality that one of his goals is fighting anti-Semitism, but I also don’t see anything wrong with this. If I was a Jew who had just fled Nazi Germany, I’m sure I would write books to try and combat anti-Semitism too.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            @Maven

            Oh boy, I’ve always wanted to have a thoughtful discussion about this. Here’s what I think is going on. During World War II, there were a bunch of German ethnonationalists (lead by a guy named Hitler) who had extermination of Jews as a core part of their platform. Ever since then, it’s been part of Jewish culture that something like the Holocaust should never be allowed to happen again. And as part of their “Holocaust immune system”, the Jews reject anything that looks vaguely like the German ethnonationalism that ended up leading to the Holocaust.

            Even though a lot of the stuff on /r/whiterights would be totally tame coming from someone of any other ethnicity (“my people have history and culture they can be proud of”), there are enough Jews who have positions of influence in the media etc. that tame statements like these get lumped in with genuine neo-Nazism. (For some reason they forget that having their faces shoved in to the dirt and feeling like “cucks” is what caused the Germans to turn to ethnonationalism in the first place.) This, in turn, leads to genuine anti-semitism on the part of otherwise harmless white ethnonationalists–they correctly notice that a lot of their critics are Jews, and make up absurd stories for why this might be the case (neglecting the obvious explanation I just described). It’s the same feedback loop that underlies many arguments.

            The whole thing is just an unfortunate case of low-level, ongoing ethnic conflict. It’d be much better if everyone sat down and came to an agreement:

            1. White people are allowed to display the same level of ethnic pride that other races do, and America is allowed to be just as xenophobic towards foreigners as Israel is

            2. White nationalists stop saying anti-Semitic stuff, and acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and it was terrible

            Unfortunately, due to the asymmetrical nature of the conflict, it’s hard to recognize as ethnic tension, and credible third parties don’t realize they need to step in and mediate.

          • “I’d actually love to get some input from this community on the “Jewish Question”. The idea of any discernible pattern of political activity among Jews as a group is so incredibly toxic in mainstream culture that it’s basically impossible to talk about with educated, intelligent people.”

            A lot of American Jews support Israel, for obvious reasons. That aside, Jews have played a large role in intellectual life on all sides of the political spectrum. Ayn Rand was Jewish. Murray Rothbard was Jewish. I’m Jewish. That’s three rather different libertarian intellectuals–all ethnically Jewish, none religiously Jewish. Barry Goldwater was ethnically (on his father’s side) but not religiously Jewish.

            Noam Chomsky is Jewish. Paul Krugman is Jewish. Lots of other people left of center.

          • brad says:

            The crazy thing is the kind of Jews these guys get obsessed about are over. The real deal guys that were members of landsman societies and spoke Yiddish are dead or in nursing homes.

            Their kids, that can at least understand Yiddish, that experienced some really nasty antisemitism when they growing up, that mostly married fellow Jews even if they were totally non-religious, whose instinct is always to ask “is it good for the Jews” — they are mostly in their sixties, some as young as their late fifties. That generation seems really powerful right now because they have all the big titles but their time is rapidly coming to end. Blakenfein is 62, how much longer you think he’s going to be able to run a major bank?

            The next generation — the 30 and 40 year olds — a lot of them were bar or bat mitzvah’ed, they know the Jewish holidays, they had some Jewish friends growing up, they maybe visited Israel once or twice but they also had non-Jewish friends, they went to colleges like Harvard or Yale or UMich or UConn where they met more non-Jews. Ditto for grad school. A lot of them also met their future spouses that in many cases aren’t Jewish. They know some Yiddish words, they like bagels, but they really don’t feel all that different from their non-Jewish friends. They have politics that might be influenced by Israel but it isn’t wagging the dog. J-street exists because of this generation.

            Their kids? Much of the time they’re only half-Jewish. Some of the spouses did a pro-forma conversion, but often not. Plenty of these families don’t go to any synagogue. Even if they do, the conservative movement is barely there anymore and the reform movement never was. They kids are learning the Disney version of Judaism.

            Do you really think they are going to grow up to form a distinct voting block? They are going to adsorb the upper middle class / upper class values of whatever suburb they grow up in. They are going to be all Jewish once a year, like the guys with two Irish great-grandparents are on St. Patrick’s Day.

            On the other hand there are the orthodox, they are still coherent and will stay that way. But they aren’t going to punch above their weight the way that those prior generations did. Too many wasted years in yeshivas that are tough to make up. Whether they end up off the derech or trying to straddle the worlds, either way they aren’t going to often end up with Nobels or as judges or running newspapers. Not after graduating from YU at best. So you’ll have a small group that does act as voting bloc but is of little interest to anyone outside of Brooklyn, the five towns, Monsey, and Lakewood.

            Finally, let’s look at the kids of those that leave the community. These might be expected to be somewhat like the second generation that were born in the US. To a certain extent they will be — in terms of religion and culture, and even genes. But in terms of politics they are going to be very different. Even though their ancestors in the US managed to maintain the Jewish religion, the Yiddish language, the European foods, and so on they haven’t maintained the intellectual environment that the Jewish immigrants from 1890s-1940s were marinated in. Didn’t even try — in many ways their culture is based on explicitly rejecting it.

            So all in all, I think there is probably a kernel of truth there, but it describes something that is going to be less and less relevant going forward.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @A non mouse

            In this discussion who discussed the genetic targeting and extermination of ethnic groups that he doesn’t like? Not me.

            But nobody ever does, do they? they just make dehumanizing insinuations. Even hardcore skinheads never explicitly come out in favor of putting children in gas chambers.

            @The Most Conservative

            Even though a lot of the stuff on /r/whiterights would be totally tame coming from someone of any other ethnicity (“my people have history and culture they can be proud of”), there are enough Jews who have positions of influence in the media etc. that tame statements like these get lumped in with genuine neo-Nazism.

            You literally can’t conceive of the idea that white nationalism would be unpopular for any other reason then malicious Jewish influence can you?

            Speaking as a white man, I am very proud of the cultural heritage of my European ancestors, The peoples of European gave birth to great civilizations that spread their culture across the globe and changed human history in unprecedented an enduring ways .

            Much of this process was of course ugly and and brutal, but even the legacy of slavery and imperialism does not in my mind detract from the invention of calculus, or democracy, or modern medicine.

            On the other hand, what I see reason to be proud of is whiteness qua whiteness. I feel no great tribal bond to a Georgian or a Bosnian, for instance, of whose culture and history I know little.

            The notion that I should, as so many white nationalists believe, forsake my loyalty to my black and mestizo friends and neighbors, who speak the language and practice the religion of my ancestors; and join instead in a shared political project with the heir to the blood stained legacy of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky is treasonous.

            And it is not any Jewish brainwashing that leads me, or the vast majority of Americans of European descent, to reject it.

            Jews as a group of people lived for thousands of years dispersed among those not of the tribe. They, like many minority groups, have an obvious interest in maintaining cosmopolitan states where they are free to practice their religion and pass their culture on to their children.

            But when you attribute liberalism to Jewish influence you are spewing the worst kind hate mongering nonsense. It is millions of American gentiles like me who made this country a liberal democratic state, there are simply not enough Jews to account for it.

            Antisemitism is worse then bigotry it is a mental illness, a conspiratorial delusion entertained by people who can not face the fact that their fellow members of the herrenvolk reject their ugly ideology.

          • Maven says:

            Goodness, lots to go over here…

            @The Most Conservative

            >there were a bunch of German ethnonationalists (lead by a guy named Hitler) who had extermination of Jews as a core part of their platform. Ever since then, it’s been part of Jewish culture that something like the Holocaust should never be allowed to happen again. And as part of their “Holocaust immune system”, the Jews reject anything that looks vaguely like the German ethnonationalism that ended up leading to the Holocaust.

            Certainly not a bad thought at all. This is something that might consciously go through the mind of many Jews when they respond to self-consciously white political movements, and it’s an easily understandable motivation that doesn’t require recourse to any conspiracy theories.

            Folk theories of Jewish control of the banks and media have existed since before Nazi Germany though, so that’s another fact that needs to be explained. The prevalence of these ideas could implicate uniquely Jewish patterns of political behavior, or it could not. I imagine it’s for a variety of reasons that can’t be unified under one theory. (e.g., the idea that Jews gained an association with finance-sector jobs because that’s where the church herded them in the Middle Ages could be one contributing factor).

            >(For some reason they forget that having their faces shoved in to the dirt and feeling like “cucks” is what caused the Germans to turn to ethnonationalism in the first place.)

            Every news article that starts with “We need to talk about white privilege” is another grain of salt in the wound…

            >1. White people are allowed to display the same level of ethnic pride that other races do, and America is allowed to be just as xenophobic towards foreigners as Israel is

            >2. White nationalists stop saying anti-Semitic stuff, and acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and it was terrible

            Certainly two points that I can get behind. 🙂 Unfortunately, I think that it’s impossible for hardcore white nationalists to compromise on anything… the level of visceral hate they have for anything even remotely related to Judaism is absolutely surreal. Gavin McGinnes wrote an article at Taki’s Magazine where he hypothesized that a majority of the commenters at The Daily Stormer are FBI agents trying to discredit pro-white politics, which doesn’t sound entirely crazy to me.

            Also, this isn’t to counter anything you said, but this part did sound a bit strange:

            >The whole thing is just an unfortunate case of low-level, ongoing ethnic conflict.

            It’s a bit strange to call this whole situation an “ethnic conflict”. If you pulled any random person of any race off the street and asked them “what do you think about the conflict between the whites and the Jews?”, 99.99% of them would respond with “…what the hell are you talking about? Did you just step out of a time machine or something?” This all seems to be something that’s confined to fringe online discourse.

            @brad

            >The crazy thing is the kind of Jews these guys get obsessed about are over.

            Well, the image that they’re obsessed with is as follows: educated, wealthy, position of prominence in academia or the media, promotes leftist politics, has successfully “blended in” and doesn’t make overt displays of their Judaism, etc.

            @hyperboloid

            >The notion that I should, as so many white nationalists believe, forsake my loyalty to my black and mestizo friends and neighbors, who speak the language and practice the religion of my ancestors; and join instead in a shared political project with the heirs to the blood stained legacy of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky is treasonous.

            I agree, it all does seem rather silly when you look at it like that. If there’s any value in white nationalism, it’s as a pragmatic, temporary response to current political problems in the West, and as a pragmatic response, it will necessarily lack ideological purity. I see no value in making “whites only” one of your founding ethical axioms, and indeed, I see plenty of reasons not to hold that belief at all.

            >Antisemitism is worse then bigotry it is a
            mental illness, a conspiratorial delusion entertained by people who can not face the fact that their fellow members of the herrenvolk reject their ugly ideology.

            To be charitable, the more sane members of the WN movement have tried to remove the explicitly conspiratorial aspect, instead replacing it with a story about evolutionary group selection and intra-group competition (Kevin MacDonald’s “Culture of Critique”).

          • Elephant says:

            @ hyperboloid : very well put!

          • The Most Conservative says:

            @hyperboloid

            You literally can’t conceive of the idea that white nationalism would be unpopular for any other reason then malicious Jewish influence can you?

            Is Japanese nationalism verboten in Japan? Do Muslims apologize for the military success of Mohammed? Present-day Mongols glorify Genghis Khan, one of the most bloodthirsty conquerers in history. Contrast with British conquerers who abolished slavery in their territories. I do think there is something weird about white self-hate.

            The notion that I should, as so many white nationalists believe, forsake my loyalty to my black and mestizo friends and neighbors, who speak the language and practice the religion of my ancestors; and join instead in a shared political project with the heir to the blood stained legacy of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky is treasonous.

            There you go, lumping me in with the Far Right as soon as I take a single step outside the Overton Window.

            If someone created the white version of La Raza, call it “White People Weekly”, would that be treasonous? (I don’t even think someone should do this; I’m just trying to figure out what is treasonous.)

            Antisemitism is worse then bigotry it is a mental illness, a conspiratorial delusion entertained by people who can not face the fact that their fellow members of the herrenvolk reject their ugly ideology.

            Well, that escalated quickly.

            I’m not a white nationalist. I don’t consider myself antisemitic. I’m trying to answer the question: if it’s true that you frequently see Jews promoting open borders and multiculturalism for America, while they promote closed borders and ethnonationalism for Israel, why might this be?

            I agree with you that Jews are not the main cause of liberalism in the US. The simplest proof is the popularity of anti-Zionism on the American left. When it comes to the willingness of white people to “commit cultural suicide”, I put more weight on the explanation offered by many HBD bloggers: white people often come from outbred stock, and they are compassionate and self-critical to a fault.

          • brad says:

            Maven:

            Well, the image that they’re obsessed with is as follows: educated, wealthy, position of prominence in academia or the media, promotes leftist politics, has successfully “blended in” and doesn’t make overt displays of their Judaism, etc.

            Except it isn’t a matter of blending in, in the sense of hiding. They’re increasingly just educated, wealthy, leftist Americans.

            Subparts of general blue tribe cultural — whether its media or academia have been influenced by the Jews who have passed through and now have some of that influence as parts of their respective cultures. People that acculturate into those subcultures, whether ethnically Jewish or not, are influenced by those aspects as well as the rest of the mix.

            For better or worse, the process is largely over. The Jews have joined the melting pot and are now part of the alloy. The alt-right types are fighting not the last war, but the one before that. That seems quixotic at best, and leads one to reasonably wonder if something else is going on.

            The Most Conservative:

            if it’s true that you frequently see Jews promoting open borders and multiculturalism for America, while they promote closed borders and ethnonationalism for Israel, why might this be?

            I reject the premise. You might be able to find a few examples, but frequently is just wrong.

          • a non mouse says:

            The Most Conservative:

            if it’s true that you frequently see Jews promoting open borders and multiculturalism for America, while they promote closed borders and ethnonationalism for Israel, why might this be?

            I reject the premise. You might be able to find a few examples, but frequently is just wrong.

            Is this impression of yours open to evidence? How many examples would it take for you to change it? Let’s set the terms before anyone goes dredging up examples.

          • brad says:

            If you have actual evidence, i.e. surveys, I’m all ears. If you were going to link me some random blogspot pages, don’t bother.

            I come across plenty of Jews in day to day life and I’ve never met anyone that’s for open borders. So on that basis alone I have a low prior for that statement being true.

          • a non mouse says:

            If you have actual evidence, i.e. surveys, I’m all ears. If you were going to link me some random blogspot pages, don’t bother.

            The Most Conservative talked about “advocacy” – not voting patterns. Your view of “surveys” as evidence is bizarre in that context. No one really complains about the voting patterns of Jews, yeah it’s over 70% for Democrats but Jewish people are only 2% of the population so it’s not significant.

            What influence that a small population can have comes from money and advocacy. That being said, what evidence in the realm of donations and advocacy would you accept for the proposition that you declared (with no evidence) is “just wrong”?

            I come across plenty of Jews in day to day life and I’ve never met anyone that’s for open borders. So on that basis alone I have a low prior for that statement being true.

            I come across plenty of Jewish people in my day to day life as well but I’m not so boorish as to talk about the minutia of politics with everyone so I don’t know what their stance is on open borders and if they believe the same policy is a good idea for Israel.

            That being said, this blog is hosted by a Jewish person who is in favor of open borders, the person whose comments we’re discussing on this thread (Yudkowsky) is a Jewish person in favor of open borders and of the people who have commented on this post the one person that I know is Jewish is also in favor of open borders (David Friedman). Update your priors accordingly.

          • brad says:

            Surveys are generally about opinions, voting surveys are just one small subset of surveys generally. So unless the thesis is that Jews advocate for positions that they don’t support, they are quite relevant.

            I think the original anonymous is probably right. Bizarre to come across frankly. I guess I’m sheltered.

            Anyway if tMC or maven want to continue the conversation, I’ll check back later.

          • Latetotheparty says:

            “Is Japanese nationalism verboten in Japan? Do Muslims apologize for the military success of Mohammed? Present-day Mongols glorify Genghis Khan, one of the most bloodthirsty conquerers in history. Contrast with British conquerers who abolished slavery in their territories. I do think there is something weird about white self-hate.”

            I think this is an artifact of humans thinking in near vs. far mode. Reading about the Roman Empire as a kid from far mode, the Roman Empire sounded really cool! Gladiators! Legions! Grandeur! But up close, if we were living inside of it, what would the Roman Empire look like? Slavery! Conquest! Brutality!

            Am I really worried about a couple hundred thousand Mongolians romanticizing Genghis Khan? No. Just like I don’t worry about an 8-year old boy romanticizing the Roman Empire. But would I worry about Western industrialized countries and their leaders romanticizing the Roman Empire and claiming that they would rebuild a new thousand-year Reich to rival the Roman Empire of old? Yes, very much.

            One reason for why we hold whites to a higher standard is because we are very much more capable to make our fantasies into reality at present.

          • Sandy says:

            Is Japanese nationalism verboten in Japan?

            It sort of is. Certainly not to the same extent as white nationalism in the West, but every time some Japanese group starts talking about Japanese pride and Japanese nationalism, media outlets in Asia and the West start firing out column inches about troubling trends from the Japanese right and implying Japan is on the verge of returning to the bad old days of Pacific colonialism and worshiping the Emperor as God on Earth.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Likewise, regarding sensible people condemn the Muslims who glorify Muhammad’s military conquests, as sometimes they try to emulate them. If a Mongolian National Front started blowing stuff up in Central Asia it would be reasonable to worry about people glorifying Genghis Khan. Glorify/condemn is a false dichotomy, in most cases the correct response is somewhere in between (i.e. don’t care that much).

          • John Schilling says:

            Q: Is Japanese nationalism verboten in Japan?
            A: Every time some Japanese group starts talking about Japanese pride and Japanese nationalism, media outlets in Asia and the West start firing out column inches about troubling trends from the Japanese right and implying Japan is on the verge of returning to the bad old days of Pacific colonialism

            Thus showing that Japanese nationalism is verboten in Korea, China, etc, and highly suspect in the US, Australia, and UK. Big surprise.

            Japanese nationalism, in Japan, is controversial but absolutely not “verboten”.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            This all seems to be something that’s confined to fringe online discourse.

            Agreed. It’s small-scale ethnic tension… the white gang and the Latino gang at the local prison can be having a gang war, but this will have minimal effects on race relations in their local community.

            I think this is an artifact of humans thinking in near vs. far mode.

            That’s fair.

            One reason for why we hold whites to a higher standard is because we are very much more capable to make our fantasies into reality at present.

            Genghis Khan was also very capable of making his fantasies in to reality. Did this cause him to hold himself to a higher standard? The reason the world’s ruling clique (which disproportionately consists of white people) hold themselves to a high standard is because they inherited Quaker values. And that’s a good thing. But they shouldn’t count on Quaker values to persist if they aren’t defended. Many historical empires have had non-Quaker values. We got lucky with the American empire.

            I reject the premise. You might be able to find a few examples, but frequently is just wrong.

            Yeah, I’m not sure how true it is. I could try to check whether the allegations are true, but why? There are lots of great Jewish people and I don’t want to start seeing them as an outgroup. The explanation I offered will suffice in the least convenient possible world where “anti-white” people are disproportionately Jewish.

            That being said, this blog is hosted by a Jewish person who is in favor of open borders, the person whose comments we’re discussing on this thread (Yudkowsky) is a Jewish person in favor of open borders and of the people who have commented on this post the one person that I know is Jewish is also in favor of open borders (David Friedman). Update your priors accordingly.

            I know Scott has expressed skepticism about open borders:

            In terms of “political causes that we can be totally sure won’t backfire and devastate entire countries for generations”, I would place open borders…well, let’s say somewhere in the bottom quartile. A thorough analysis by one of its strongest and most intelligent advocates concludes with “doubt that the American polity could survive and flourish under open borders” but has been mostly ignored in favor of constantly retreading the same old streetlight-illuminated ground of whether immigrants do or don’t affect native wages.

            As someone whose own views on open borders are mixed (I should probably write a post)…

            The fact that you got Scott’s opinion wrong makes me distrust the rest of your comment.

          • a non mouse says:

            I simplified Scott’s position.

            The quoted part you put up was from a character in a dialog of his named “Bob” – who also came down against gay marriage – in other words, not representative of Scott’s beliefs.

            The rest of the second paragraph you quoted was this:

            As someone whose own views on open borders are mixed (I should probably write a post), I am really turned off by memes like the one above. And since only seven percent of Americans fully support open borders, that’s a lot of potentially turned-off people. They’re going to go on effective altruist sites, see that a big part of the movement is arguing for a policy that they abhor, and notice their potential colleagues talking about how people like them who oppose that policy are stupid and parochial and hate foreigners. “We think you’re wrong and stupid, come join our movement” makes a really crappy recruiting pitch. But it is the pitch we are sending to anyone who isn’t a Silicon Valley libertarian, George Mason University economics professor, or Vox.com journalist – the only three groups from which I have seen a level of open borders support much beyond the lizardman level.

            In other words, Scott is pro-open borders but thinks it’s tactically unsound to say it and tactically unsound to mock the people who aren’t pro-open borders. Oh, but he has reservations (of course he does, that’s his whole thing – having reservations about supporting whatever policy will destroy society).

            In the last comment thread Scott made this pretty clear –

            I’m coming at this from a position of being more against SJ tactics than SJ positions. I’m glad gay marriage is legal now. I’m not so happy people who oppose gay marriage have been ridden out of town on a rail.

            He’s against gay marriage opponents being ridden out of town on a rail – well, personally against it – he wouldn’t actually do anything about it other than say something about how you should be nice until you can coordinate meanness (like when you can make a gene altering virus to destroy your enemies rather than just riding them out of town piecemeal).

            Not the best example of an open borders advocate (because Scott doesn’t really do advocacy for policy), I’ll grant.

            As far as Eliezer Yudkowsky goes I generally avoid reading him because but in his seminal work – his Harry Potter fan fiction – his author insert stated:

            It had come up much earlier, before the Trial, in conversation with Hermione; when she’d said something about magical Britain being Prejudiced, with considerable and recent justification. And Harry had thought – but not said – that at least she’d been let into Hogwarts to be spat upon.

            Not like certain people living in certain countries, who were, it was said, as human as anyone else; who were said to be sapient beings, worth more than any mere unicorn. But who nonetheless wouldn’t be allowed to live in Muggle Britain. On that score, at least, no Muggle had the right to look a wizard in the eye. Magical Britain might discriminate against Muggleborns, but at least it allowed them inside so they could be spat upon in person.

            …and then in the very next sentence he discovered that he could power the killing curse – previously thought only able to be cast with the power of hate – with that same awful power of indifference. Subtle.

            David Friedman is on this thread and has supported open borders here.

            The original claim that I was refuting was that the poster didn’t even know anyone who was in favor of open borders. The examples chosen were to demonstrate the absurdity of that.

            As far as –

            Yeah, I’m not sure how true it is. I could try to check whether the allegations are true, but why? There are lots of great Jewish people and I don’t want to start seeing them as an outgroup.

            The discussion started with a quote from EY expressing contempt and hostility for Borderers in a frankly disgusting way. Sometimes it’s not about who you choose as an outgroup but who sees you as an outgroup.

          • Latetotheparty says:

            @The Most Conservative:

            I know that Genghis Khan himself wouldn’t hold himself to a higher standard (rulers can always find a way to rationalize their bloodthirsty deeds), but I would certainly hold his fantasies to a higher standard if he was in a position to implement them.

            I’ll give you another example: when I was a naive teenager, I actually found rap videos like this one humorous(!) because I thought, surely, blacks don’t really behave like this. Surely they are just clowning around and flinging some barbs at privileged whites to even the score somewhat for their historical oppression. But in the last few years, with more reports of random black hoodlum attacks on innocent white people in various towns, I am no longer so naive, and I consider the problem to be a deadly serious one, as it appears that black thugs do have the means and inclination to pull off things like this. It is not just a fantasy anymore (actually it never was; I was just naive before).

            Now, I haven’t become a complete racist because I happen to think that thug culture still has cultural and economic roots, perhaps in addition to low IQ and impulsiveness being a problem genetically with some people. And obviously, there are white trash thugs too in some places. But it does seem like, for whatever reason, it is disproportionately prevalent among black teenage males compared to other teenage male groups, and it gives me second thoughts when walking through certain parts of town at night.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @The most conservative

            Many forms of nationalism are certainly verboten in modern Japan, the old idea of Kokutai was quite possibly the defining ideological concept of prewar era, and since 1945 it has been rejected by all mainstream political actors as militaristic and antidemocratic.

            Common tropes of American nationalism such as boasts about military prowess, or claims that the country has a special role in history as a leader of other nations would be extremely controversial in Japanese politics. Japanese political culture is obviously less nationalist then it’s American counterpart.

            What I think you’re trying to get at is that in spite of this fact Japan remains a quite conservative and ethnocentric society. The country has some of the most restrictive immigration laws in the world and the overwhelming majority of Japanese citizens are descended form people who have lived in the archipelago since at least the Tokugawa era.

            The are two things to say about this that have Relevance to white nationalism. First, I think that this attitude has hurt Japan in the long run by contributing to economic and social stagnation. And second, what ever you think of Japanese nationalism, the Japanese certainly constitute a clearly defined ethnos. “White” people do not.

            Because of Japan’s history of isolationism, and the unifying policies of the bakufu and the Meiji government, Japan is a highly homogeneous society. The overwhelming majority of bearers of Japanese culture share a common ancestry, and the overwhelming majority of those who share Japanese ancestry are bearers of a common culture.

            “Whiteness” has never been precisely defined to anybodies satisfaction, and even at the height of the popularity of notions of racial supremacy Europeans never thought of themselves as a single nation.

            Japanese ethnocentrism can remain relatively harmless because it exists in a society where the population is almost exclusively Japanese.

            If we take white nationalism seriously as an actual political project, and not a way of trolling PC liberals, there is nothing harmless about it.

            Depending on how you count, something like thirty percent of the American population is non white. A nation state is a community bound together by institutions of coercion and violence. Installing a white nationalist regime in the United States would mean, at the very least, stripping that thirty percent of their civil rights. White nationalists have never been clear about how they plan to do this without horrific bloodshed.

            If it’s true that you frequently see Jews promoting open borders and multiculturalism for America, while they promote closed borders and ethnonationalism for Israel, why might this be?

            >

            Because American Jews and Israelis are two different groups of people with two different sets of priorities. Contrary to hundreds of years of antisemitic propaganda, “the Jews” with a capital J are not a collective political actor. They are people scattered across dozens of countries and sometimes separated by vast ethnic and political differences.

            Despite what many Americans think, Israel is not Brooklyn by the dead sea. It is a Hebrew speaking middle eastern country that has been at war on and off for the past seventy years. It is considerably less xenophobic then most of it’s neighbors.

          • NN says:

            > 1. White people are allowed to display the same level of ethnic pride that other races do, and America is allowed to be just as xenophobic towards foreigners as Israel is

            Funny, I don’t see many objections to Irish/Italian/whatever Americans being proud of their Irish/Italian/whatever heritage. Heck, within living memory a not-insignificant number of Irish Americans donated millions of dollars to an Irish ethnonationalist terrorist organization, and nobody seems particularly quick to condemn them for it.

          • DavidFriedman says:

            “perhaps in addition to low IQ and impulsiveness being a problem genetically”

            I’m curious. There is evidence, whether or not correct, that average black IQ is lower than average white IQ. Is there any comparable evidence for a difference in impulsiveness, or is that just conjecture?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Regarding:

            you frequently see Jews promoting open borders and multiculturalism for America, while they promote closed borders and ethnonationalism for Israel

            I am an American former Jew (aka “jewish atheist” aka “culturally jewish”) who is unambiguously in favor of open borders, yet I fail to meet the criteria given because I don’t “promote” any particular policy for Israel – I don’t really care what Israel does.

            (Also, I have some reservations about “multiculturalism”.)

            I suspect the people doubting the assertion are parsing it the way I do – that to qualify as a positive example you’d need to find THE SAME PERSON meeting both criteria at once.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Latetotheparty

            Ah, good old fashioned American negrophobia.

            It might help the case of you and your fellow incomplete racists if you didn’t sound like you’d never met an actual flesh and blood black person.

          • latetotheparty says:

            @ Hyperboloid

            Hahaha, I love it when people who know nothing about me accuse me of negrophobia due to my justified criticism of a particularly heinous rap video and a very real tendency in African-American culture towards that kind of stuff.

            It wasn’t very many years ago that I considered myself an anarchist-communist. Bakunin4life and all that. (I still consider myself a communsit). My favorite artist used to be Immortal Technique (I still like a lot of his stuff). Dead Prez also has some good stuff too. I am totally down with black liberation when it comes to reasoned criticism of, and organizing against, oppression. But when it comes to stuff like Dead Prez’s “Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)” video, I just can’t stand it, and more and more it actually makes me feel threatened. Like, if blacks are going to make things about race rather than class and attack any random white dude on the street, well, as a white dude it makes it pretty hard for me to be an ally with them, even if I would like to band together in a common (class) struggle.

            Here’s a Key and Peele video that highlights this awful discrepancy in black culture between serious resistance and bling-blang thug culture. I so much wish there were more of the former and less of the latter because it would actually 1. do more to help the black cause itself, make it appear more legitimate (even Malcolm X’s radicalism is fine when voiced in his serious manner. Whereas someone like L’il Jon is not helpful in any scenario), and 2. make it more appealing and possible for people like me to ally with them.

            And if some blacks would come back at me and say that this all sounds like whitesplaining their oppression to them, I would respond: do you want to win, or not? Because blacks are not a majority in the U.S. They don’t have the numbers without allies. Whites still currently do. And we all know that whites are capable of horrible things (Hitler, etc.) when they put their minds to it. Blacks absolutely cannot afford to antagonize all whites. And I happen to think that, with all due respect, I am one of the more sympathetic whites out there that blacks will ever encounter. So, if they can’t get me on their side, then they have a serious problem.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @latetotheparty
            “my justified criticism of a particularly heinous rap video and a very real tendency in African-American culture towards that kind of stuff”

            I sympathise with you. It annoys me when people claim my sweeping generalisations about Norwegian culture’s tendency towards church burning are invalid, when I’ve listened to at least three black metal songs.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            I’m sorry but I’m gonna be laughing for a solid minute at attempting to establish black solidarity with an Immortal Technique namedrop

          • Zombielicious says:

            And I happen to think that, with all due respect, I am one of the more sympathetic whites out there that blacks will ever encounter.

            Truly, they are lucky to have you on their side.

          • brad says:

            I think for both blacks and Jews, benignly ignorant is preferable to malevolently knowledgeable.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I’m not sure when we determined that him being a racist was the correct prior, and it was up to him to prove he was not.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have thought of myself as a member of the “rationalist community” for a long time, but having this guy as community figurehead strongly makes me want to find a new tribe.

        He’s the main reason I’ve never really joined anything like the “community”.

        (Although I admit that the bonobo rationalists also gross me out something extreme.)

      • The Most Conservative says:

        (I read the post again and, on second reading, I think my summary is somewhat unfair)

      • caethan says:

        I find it deeply hilarious that he picks the MWI of quantum mechanics as the “clearly obvious” example. He realizes that Einstein, de Broglie, Heisenberg, Bohr, et alia were all pretty sharp guys, right? For those of us who don’t deeply understand the theory and are willing to accept arguments from authority, it’s not like we’re dissenting from Authority that all agrees with EY and man we are so stupid. It’s more that there’s this big pillar of authority with lots of smart famous guys on and most of us go “OK, sure, that sounds reasonable” and EY is over there going “They’re all fools! FOOLS I SAY!”

        Every time I read him talk about this, I have to remind myself that Everett is actually a pretty sharp guy too and I shouldn’t overly discount the MWI because there are doofuses who support it.

        • a non mouse says:

          Man in Black: You’re that smart?
          EY: Let me put it to you this way – hhave you ever heard of Einstein, de Broglie, Heisenberg, Bohr?
          Man in Black: Yes.
          EY: Morons.
          Man in Black: Really?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Those people all worked before MWI existed, so it doesn’t tell you much that they didn’t choose it.

          The Einstein-Bohr debate is about realism vs instrumentalism. Einstein argues that we should reject “CI” and search for a realist interpretation. So it’s fairly clear that he would choose MWI. Bohr argues that it doesn’t matter. So he’s definitely not rejecting MWI, but it’s not clear that he wouldn’t prefer realism if it were an option. I’m not sure about de Broglie, but Heisenberg said that consciousness causes collapse and I’m willing to call bullshit on his authority.

          • caethan says:

            It’s so nice that we have people like you around to tell us what geniuses would say if they could weigh in on this dispute. That way I can stop deferring to actual authority on the subject and instead defer to your made up opinion of what they would have said.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            You weren’t deferring to actual authority, but to your fabrication of Einstein rejecting MWI.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Einstein argues that we should reject “CI” and search for a realist interpretation. So it’s fairly clear that he would choose MWI.

            That’s not at all clear. He wouldn’t have gone for a hidden variables theory like Bohm’s, for instance?

        • Gazeboist says:

          Griffiths’ Introduction to Elementary Particles has a beautiful footnote in the first chapter that runs through a list of four or five examples of Bohr loudly and publicly claiming a position that was flat wrong.

          The real answer, of course, is that most people who aren’t philosophers don’t really care about the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            This was a most disturbing result. Niehls Bohr (not for the first time) was ready to abandon the law of conservation of energy.* Fortunately, Pauli took a more sober view…

            * It is interesting to note that Bohr was an outspoken critic of Einstein’s light quantum (prior to 1924), that he discouraged Dirac’s work on the relativistic electron theory (telling him, incorrectly,
            that Klein and Gordon had already succeeded), that he opposed Pauli’s introduction of the neutrino, that he ridiculed Yukawa’s theory of the meson, and that he disparaged Feynman’s approach to quantum electrodynamics.

            Yes, authority isn’t everything.

            ━━━━━━━━━

            It’s certainly true that most people don’t care about interpretation of quantum mechanics. Probably they shouldn’t. Most physicists don’t, either, and I’m not sure that’s a good situation. But they were quite interested in this before the war. I took your second paragraph to be related to your first paragraph, so I thought the footnote was going to be examples of Bohr spouting philosophical bullshit to demonstrate that he didn’t care about philosophy. But those examples don’t seem to have much to do with philosophy. Maybe the rest of the physicists were just faking it, but Bohr was quite serious about the philosophy of quantum mechanics. Maybe he was faking it in the beginning (consciousness causes collapses is generally blamed on him), but taunted by Einstein he did most of the work of clarifying the issues. David Kaiser has interesting things to say about how interpretation fell out of fashion after the war.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Ah, sorry. I was classifying current, modern physicists with the non-philosophers in that second paragraph. Here are my thoughts as to why modern physicists are less interested in the philosophy side of things. I’m hardly an authority, so don’t take this as an absolute explanation, but it fits with what I’ve learned studying physics.

            Many physicists did care about the philosophical elements, all through the 1880-1950 period. Boltzmann was arguably driven to suicide because Machians objected to his theory of statistical mechanics on philosophical grounds. Less sensationally, Einstein’s theory of special relativity was based primarily on philosophy, as were Planck’s early objections to quantum mechanics, and then later Einstein’s own objections to the same. As Einstein’s generation faded, though, philosophy fell out of favor among physicists, replaced by a consensus that nobody really understood quantum mechanics (and, thus, that nobody really understood physics or its implications).

            And then some time in the late 70s or early 80s … everyone understood quantum mechanics. Bell’s Theorem showed that local hidden variables were dead, but there wasn’t much more to say. The next couple of decades saw the standard model repeatedly confirmed; fundamental physics hasn’t been shaken up in the same way it was during the preceding period. For a while the only theory that was even close to certain was electromagnetism; experiments were wildly ahead of theorists in terms of results they were getting. Now the only really fundamental* anomalous results are dark matter and dark energy, and there are plenty of theories that get those kinds of results. We just don’t have the data to readily distinguish between them.

            Modern physics isn’t getting constantly punched in the assumptions, so it doesn’t matter what those assumptions are. Choosing between relational, Bohmian, many-worlds, BST, or even Copenhagen or statistical QM doesn’t result in disagreement over what to expect from the next experiment. So … whatever. It’s not a big deal if someone proposes a bunch of inaccessible alternate universes, or thinks that a function we can’t measure changes its values in a faster-than-light manner every time two electrons get near each other.

            * Condensed matter people get all kinds of weird shit, but that doesn’t usually undermine fundamental physical assumptions the way quantum mechanics did.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            That the second paragraph started off with “The real reason” should have tipped me off that the two paragraphs weren’t connected.

            philosophy fell out of favor among physicists, replaced by a consensus that nobody really understood quantum mechanics

            Yes, that’s what happened, but that doesn’t answer why. You seem to say that physicists don’t worry about it today because they solved the problems in the 70s and 80s, but why did they abandon these problems in the 50s and 60s? Kaiser gives an answer: an influx of students required focusing on easy to grade calculations at the expense of interpretation.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Having read further on the topic, I’m going to revise my position that philosophy was abandoned by high level physicists: rather, consensus was reached on the debates of Einstein’s day, and the philosophical disputes of Feynman’s era were not well understood by non-physicists. That modern philosophers can sort of get a handle on the Standard Model / General Relativity conflict is a return to the status quo of the early quantum mechanical debates, which gradually drifted out of external comprehensibility as quantum mechanics developed.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            consensus was reached on the debates of Einstein’s day

            I’m not sure what time frame you’re talking about, but I thought that the whole point of this thread is that nothing remotely like a consensus was reached on the Bohr-Einstein debate and instead the whole thing was swept under the rug for forty years.

            Your last sentence is pretty disturbing. I think I should stop using the word “philosophy.” Do you have any suggestions for an alternative?

          • Gazeboist says:

            Physicists (and other scientists, but physics is often more dramatic) spend a lot of time poking around at the boundary between science and philosophy. Every so often, something that was a metaphysical or epistemological debate abruptly becomes a physical question with a fairly definite answer, usually because some physicist somewhere found a way to frame it as such. Atomism is the earliest I can think clearly about. Other examples include relativity of motion and whether various quantities are discrete or continuous.

            Einstein and others argued (from 1935 by the paper trail, but likely earlier in private) that quantum mechanics was incomplete because it seemed to allow for fundamental facts about the universe to remain unfixed until certain interactions take place. That implies that the universe is fundamentally nondeterministic, unless you accept instantaneous signaling, and thereby at least sort of accept time travel. Einstein thought both of those things were in fundamental conflict with the axioms of physics; he therefore sought a “more complete” theory that predicted the same experimental results as QM, but with additional factors that retained the definiteness of the results on a micro level*. In 1964, Bell showed that any such theory actually made predictions distinct from quantum mechanics. The experimental evidence didn’t come in until the 70s and 80s, but “it’s an experimental question” serves well enough as consensus for the theorists to move on.

            The Feynman/Gell-Mann split I referred to earlier was over the definition of a particle. Gell-Mann thought that particles were only those things that could be separated and isolated from other things like them; Feynman thought that was not a necessary condition for particle-ness. This turns out to be important for deciding whether quarks are real objects or mathematical constructs, since according to the experimental evidence it is impossible to isolate a single quark. Feynman turned out to be right: the particle nature of quarks turns out to have testable implications despite the fact that they can’t be isolated. Past this point, there’s a long period where most of the debates in physics are over various esoteric symmetries.

            Local realism is pretty easy to explain, and it’s easy to see what each side is saying, so the dispute became famous. Quarks, especially right at the beginning of the construction of the Standard Model, are harder to explain, and it’s hard to explain what meaning “particle” could have other than that the thing could be isolated without getting into things like Fourier transforms. Getting into what the theorists are even talking about with regard to symmetry is harder still.

            That’s what I mean when I say the debates “gradually drifted out of external comprehensibility” – it got to the point where, without some background in the stuff being debated, it was hard for someone to understand what each side was even saying. I don’t think that’s necessarily disturbing; as long as the people in the field aren’t hiding behind non-definitions or otherwise deliberately obfuscating things, an interested party can go in and learn the subject of the disputes. That there isn’t a particularly clear path from ignorance to understanding is a problem, but it’s one that can be solved. If nothing else, people looking for a path can ask for help finding one.

            In any event, there are many modern debates that are more easily understood. The big, easy to grasp ones are probably the question of why certain dimensionless constants can’t be calculated directly from the laws involved, the related but distinct question of fine tuning, and the reasons behind baryon asymmetry.** Other people here can probably think of more, or find them. It’s not like these debates didn’t exist in the 40s or the 60s or the 80s, but questions tend to get fixed to eras associated with the run-up to their answer, even if they were asked long before. Heliocentrism goes back at least as far as the Pythagorans, but it’s associated with the period that led up to Kepler and Newton’s laws. The same is true for atomism, in fact. It’s nigh impossible to say what question will be answered “next” without actually providing the answer, but it looks like the quantum / general relativity answer might come soon. Of course it’s looked like that for twenty or thirty years by this point, so maybe not.

            I don’t know what you should call these disputes that used to be philosophical but have since become physical. I mean, geocentrism vs heliocentrism really was a matter of philosophy for a while, until eventually the data was good enough that one could be tossed.

            Looping back to the original question of whether Yudkowski is committing some grave sin by “going against expert consensus”, I think the answer is that a lot of people have misunderstood what the expert consensus actually is. I’d say the consensus is “unless you have a way for us to distinguish between these theories, which one you believe is not our concern.” Yudkowski makes an Occamian argument that MWI should be preferred over Copenhagen, but until he’s got a distinguishing prediction (computational complexity of the universe?) this has as much force as arguments that nonstandard analysis and infinitesimals make for a more elegant approach to calculus than limits.

            * Compare Brownian motion: it’s a random walk on a macro level, but is perfectly explicable as the result of deterministic processes at the micro level.

            ** A couple of other open questions I like:
            (-) “Why is the cosmological constant smaller than the Planck energy by three orders of magnitude?”
            (-) “Why the hell is baryon number conserved?” (imagine if chemical reactions always conserved the number of atoms currently in a gaseous state of matter – that’s baryon conservation, loosely)
            And some that are waiting on experimental results:
            (-) “Did our hubble bubble strike another one at some point in the past?”
            (-) “Is dark energy a thing, or do we just happen to be at the dead center of a hubble-bubble-sized low density pocket in the universe?”

            [edit – holy fucking shit that got long]

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Looping back to the original question of whether Yudkowski is committing some grave sin by “going against expert consensus”, I think the answer is that a lot of people have misunderstood what the expert consensus actually is. I’d say the consensus is “unless you have a way for us to distinguish between these theories, which one you believe is not our concern.”

            That’s true of most working physicists, but there is another kind of expert, which is the expert in the philosophy of physics.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Gazeboist, can you give an example of a philosopher who was not himself a scientist or mathematician influencing science? Let’s restrict to post-1500.

            Many scientists claim to be influenced by Schopenhauer or Popper. Some people claim that Comte influenced Mach. Are there any other examples?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Gazeboist:

            Every so often, something that was a metaphysical or epistemological debate abruptly becomes a physical question with a fairly definite answer, usually because some physicist somewhere found a way to frame it as such. Atomism is the earliest I can think clearly about.

            Actually no, since the “atoms” of modern physics aren’t atoms as Democritus defined them.

          • Gazeboist says:

            @Douglas Knight

            No; I don’t have a good knowledge of philosophers except for cases like Mach or Liebnitz where they were also physicists. But I also don’t really understand why you’re asking. I don’t think philosophers have any particular influence on physics; they just talk about it sometimes, with greater or lesser understanding of what things actually mean.

            @Mr X

            They are definitely the atoms that Mach argued against, though, and his arguments failed when Einstein successfully explained Brownian motion. I considered naming Kepler and Newton’s discrediting of geocentrism, but I don’t have the historical knowledge to talk about that period.

      • Maven says:

        Hi The Most Conservative,

        Despite the fact that it might come off as unnecessarily aggressive to some ears, I thought the basic idea behind Eliezer’s post was sound. Expertise is real, experts should be trusted (with caveats; epistemology is hard), and some people do make better political decisions than others. Eliezer did get lost in a Smugularity when he started talking about MWI (I grant that it is metaphysically and epistemically possible that Eliezer is so much smarter than all other physicists than the proper interpretation of QM is a non-issue to him, but my credence of this being true is quite low), but that shouldn’t impinge upon the rest of what he says. I confess to being something of a political elitist myself. I think it would be good if experts were given a greater role in public decision making, and democracy shouldn’t be fetishized to the degree it is.

        Turning to the specific content pertaining to Hillary and Trump , though. I gather that you’re a Trump supporter, yes? I confess that there are many points in Hillary’s favor (or rather, to Trump’s discredit) that make the choice somewhat “obvious” for me. Trump has threatened to expand the scope of libel laws to make it easier to punish journalists, and as someone who holds free speech sacred, I can’t tolerate this; he hasn’t assigned to global warming the priority it deserves, and may literally believe that it’s a Chinese hoax; his commitment to our NATO and Asian allies is questionable at best; etc. However, I do recognize some amount of pull towards voting for Trump, because he’s roughly on “my side” of the culture war. I assume everyone knows what I’m talking about.

        This cultural, ideological dimension to politics – the tribal dimension – is very powerful, and Eliezer may have ignored the importance of this dimension in his analysis of Hillary vs. Trump, instead choosing to focus on bare economic calculation. Tweak someone’s tribal allegiances and risk perceptions a little bit and you can get them to support wildly different political candidates and movements, regardless of what the “correct” answer is. Indeed, Eliezer himself listed “Trump’s past misogyny” as a reason why it’s “obvious” that one should not vote for Trump. The mere use of this phrase indicates that Eliezer has been inducted into a particular ideology, and he may not even be aware of it.

    • Jiro says:

      “I was just joking” is the common refuge of trolls and bullies who get caught. I have strong priors that anything which needs “I was just joking” and wasn’t clearly being misunderstood wasn’t just a joke.

      (Note that jokes are often merged with attacks. “I was joking” is a feeble defense if it doesn’t imply “I was just joking”.

      • Fahundo says:

        You remind me of the dad in this comic.

        Just joking!

      • The Nybbler says:

        It certainly read to me (before he said so) as a joking reference to Trump’s “Second Amendment people” comment. Certainly merged with an attack; clearly he doesn’t like Borderers and thinks they are dumb.

      • Tedd says:

        I believe nearly all of his intended audience interpreted it correctly. Since it is impossible to make a joke which will not be misinterpreted by someone, especially someone outside your audience who is generally mistrustful for you, I don’t think we ought to hold him to the standard of “no one, anywhere, thinks it is sincere”.

    • Deiseach says:

      Yeah, I can see that he was trying to satirise the original ‘perceived veiled threat’ but that’s the kind of “joke” where you take someone aside and explain “No, see, a joke is funny or witty“.

      Making the analogy of CRISPR editing out “Borderer values” would have been quite enough (though he couldn’t even come up with a quasi-plausible ‘what they are or where they might be located on genes or what factors influence them’). Making it coercive, non-consensual, and throwing in “And we’ll make all you poor dumb white trash smart as well” is asking for a smack in the kisser.

      If you’d write a denunciation of someone ‘joking’ about engineering a virus to make all the poor ghetto-dwelling blacks smart in order to make society safer and nicer for everyone, then you should re-think putting something of the same kind up yourself.

      • Autolykos says:

        The most charitable interpretation would probably be that EY was trying to get as close to the line as possible to create a perfect mirror image of Trump’s jokethreat (and since geneticists are, in general, perceived as less unhinged than some Trump supporters, the threat needs to be more credible to get the same ambiguity). And there’s a bit of “Don’t mess with old nerds. We can be more scary than your wildest nightmares without even trying.”
        But I agree that does make it somewhat unfunny. But I guess it’s more of a “Binnenspaß” anyway (I don’t know a good translation; it describes a “joke” you only make to amuse yourself, and don’t expect anyone else to get – basically an in-joke with an audience of one).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Yeah, it’s not a joke.

        The best you can say about it is that it is an analogy that is supposed to invoke horror. Those who read it are supposed to be horrified, see the parallel to “Second Amendment Remedies”, and then be prompted to stop thinking about or referring to “2AR”s.

        If that was the intent, it is, as you say, satire, in the style of “A Modest Proposal”. Certainly that is his claim in the second post, despite referring to a “joke” (where “thatsthejoke” almost never means an actual attempt at humor).

        I’m not sure if that was the original intent though. Satire is, after all, dead. Counter-threat to threat is also clearly available interpretation, and indeed both can be true at the same time.

    • roystgnr says:

      “thatsthejoke.gif” doesn’t mean “this is nothing but a joke”, it means “people didn’t get it”.

      The most important thing some people didn’t get, even though the phrase “*my* equivalent of making ominous noises about the Second Amendment” should have handed it to them on a silver platter, is that the original post was saying “A ⇔ B”, which is not the same thing as saying “B”. In this case it is just the opposite: the first statement of a proof-by-contradiction which relies on the fact of “¬B” to work.

      Yudkowsky has had “bad optics” for forever; getting critics to out themselves as incapable of recognizing a proof-by-contradiction may have been a more effective expenditure of “weirdness points” than average.

      Amusingly, IIRC Trump was recently the victim of the exact same process. One set of “Second Amendment” remarks were indeed as creepy as Yudkowsky’s analogy makes out, but at another time Trump made a statement along the lines of “If Hillary thinks nobody needs a gun then she should have her Secret Service disarm”, which often got reported as “Trump wants Hillary unprotected” without showing the slightest recognition of the actual argument that was being made.

      • Gazeboist says:

        In writing, one usually concludes a proof by contradiction with, “¬B, and so ¬A”. Without any interpretive markers, “it could be interpreted this other way” is not a valid shield from criticism.

        • roystgnr says:

          No; in mathematical papers, one usually concludes a proof by contradiction that way. In colloquial writing to an informed audience, it should be safe to assume that your readers can take a contrapositive themselves.

          Regardless of whether any particular critic is capable of going that far, however, they should all be capable of detecting the difference between “A is equivalent to B” and “B”, correct? They should be smart enough to know that those are two distinct, independent propositions? I vaguely recall reading Scott complain at one point that news headlines seemed incapable of conveying compound propositions, that they could assert “A is true” or “B is true” but never “(A or B) is true” or “(A implies B) is true”; perhaps if someone’s contribution to society is “giving cnn.com another ad impression” that’s the correct floor to shoot for, but I’d hope SSC readers could be held to a higher standard.

          If someone had criticized Yudkowsky’s “support” for what genetic engineers might do to Borderers as well as his “support” for what extrajudicial things “the Second Amendment people” might do to Hillary Clinton, then I might be able to buy the theory that they had simply failed to infer the same unwritten steps of his argument that I did.

          Anyone who did not treat both those levels of “support” the same way, however, whether they concluded that it was both support or both condemnation, has no leg to stand on. Words like “equivalent” mean things, and understanding what they mean is a prerequisite to criticizing sentences which include them.

          • Gazeboist says:

            “Your claim of X licenses me to Y” is not readily distinguishable from “Your claim of X would license me to Y, therefore not X.” Both are typical in human discourse.

            These are especially hard to distinguish when someone has already expressed support for things that could be mistaken for Y; carefully separating your actual claims from similar sounding claims you do not endorse is an important rhetorical skill not demonstrated by the borderers post.

            [paragraph deleted as needless antagonism on my part]

        • Jiro says:

          In the real world, saying A ↔ B is often a way of saying B while trying to maintain plausible deniability. (This is also one of the reasons why people fight hypotheticals.)

          Also, even taking Eliezer at his word, the two statements may be equivalent in the sense that they are both ways of signalling hatred of X. We expect candidates to signal hatred of each other, but we don’t expect this of Eliezer.

    • TMB says:

      Yudowsky’s arguments for taking AI risk seriously are also excellent arguments for the rest of us to be careful of him.

  9. Odoacer says:

    Does anyone have an informed opinion on US-Philippines relations?

    Duterte announced that they would end joint military exercises with the US. He’s also made several uncouth comments about Obama recently as well as mentioning that the Philippines won’t be a doormat for the US, and that he could create closer ties with China instead. Does this represent a huge change in the two countries’ relationship, or is Duterte just angling to get a better deal with the US?

    • cassander says:

      my opinion is unorthodox, but I think this can actually be good for the US. the philippines is strategically unimportant enough that the US can pull out without losing much, and it gives us a chance to demonstrate that we’re the guys in the white hats. then in a few years, when duterte is gone, and the philippines remember that they’re still arguing with china over who owns the south china sea, we’ll get asked back, and again, look like the good guys.

      • John Schilling says:

        Will the Phillipines still be arguing about that in 2022? It doesn’t seem to be a priority for Duterte, and China can afford to cede the fishing rights that are the only thing he really needs to take home. Six years is long enough for the facts on the ground(*) to change to the point where the argument is moot.

        * Newly constructed just to support those facts

        • cassander says:

          I guess I’m assuming that the south china dispute is more about nationalist dick waving than it is about the actual economic benefits of owning the islands, and thus is not the sort of thing that’s going to be solved by a rational settlement any time soon.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t know about that. The Fishing and transit rights in question are pretty damn lucrative. Maybe not worth going to war for, but certainly worth playing hardball for.

          • cassander says:

            @hlynkacg

            I should have been less absolute. there are economic concerns, but for transit rights, clearly the optimal solution is free passage for everyone. For fishing, that’s more about protecting/creating opportunities for a domestic special interest than real economic calculation. these issues are real, but if that was all they were then the countries involved would have carved up the islands a long time ago to minimize uncertainty and maximize economic gain. the conflict continues because the nationalistic aspect makes rational economic settlement politically difficult.

          • John Schilling says:

            Duterte’s brand of nationalism, and it seems to be highly popular, seems to be more about Defending the Filipino Nation from its domestic enemies than foreign, and to the extent that it cares about foreign affairs it is about Not Letting Any Foreign Busybodies Tell Us How to Handle Business in Our Own Country. That’s not a recipe for reforming an alliance with the United States to keep the Chinese fishing fleets a few hundred miles farther over the horizon; it’s an argument for forming an alliance with China to keep the Americans from using “human rights” as an excuse to meddle in the Philippines like they have done in so many other places.

    • Montfort says:

      I’m no more informed than the next guy, but I’ll add a few articles on the Filipino defense minister’s evolving stance on the issue.
      My read is that Duterte doesn’t have an exact plan in mind, he’s just sort of pushing back in a general way and seeing where it’ll get him. From the examples above it seems evident his ministers don’t know what’s going on.

    • brad says:

      If the Philippines doesn’t want to be allies anymore, I don’t see why we shouldn’t say goodbye and good luck. The only thing the US *really* cares about in the South China sea is navigation rights. However the SCS ends up getting carved up exclusive economic zone wise doesn’t have a big impact on that. The fishing and oil rights China is trying to grab with its doesn’t-pass-the-straight-face-test nine dash line are being stolen from Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

      • youzicha says:

        Is it really that easy? I feel the fifty-thousand American boys who died in Vietnam to keep Red China bottled up are crying out from beyond the grave, but maybe I’m just imagining things.

        • John Schilling says:

          Imagining that the Vietnam war had anything to do with China, yes. American involvement in Vietnam came long after Mao had split from Moscow, and North Vietnam was solidly in the Soviet, not Chinese, sphere of influence.

          • And the Vietnamese fought the Chinese not all that long ago, after we had stopped fighting them.

          • youzicha says:

            Yeah, in retrospect it turned out to be a bit confused, but as I understand it, the reason the U.S. fought the war was because they believed south-east Asia would otherwise fall under Chinese dominion. (I got this from McNamara’s book.)

          • cassander says:

            the Vietnamese were pretty good at playing the Chinese and Russians off against one another as long as the war lasted, and managed to get considerable Chinese aid.

  10. Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

    So, the question that immediately comes to mind from Scott’s self imposed exile is who will impart justice in the meantime.

    Hopefully, it won’t be necessary, but if it is…

  11. SpoopySkellington says:

    How about that debate, lads?

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Didn’t watch it, but looking forward to hearing what people who did said.

      I’m pretty sure Trump is toast at this point, so I’d be very surprised to see this turning his numbers around. Too little too late is my guess.

    • pku says:

      I loved the guy at the end. “Say something nice about each other.” aww…
      (Seriously, it really was a decent effort at lowering the anger level in this election).

      • SilasLock says:

        Kudos to that guy. We all needed to hear a question like that asked. =)

        Too bad the candidates used it to throw underhanded insults at each other. But it’s the thought that counts.

        • Virbie says:

          Did they? Trump usually seems incapable of saying positive things about things he dislikes without slipping in an aside, but I thought his answer was (shockingly) pretty straightforwardly complimentary.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          For the record, Trump’s statement was:

          I will say this about Hillary: She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter, I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for, I do disagree with her judgment in many cases, but she does fight hard and she doesn’t quit and she doesn’t give up and I consider that to be a very good trait.

          Clinton’s was

          Well, I certainly will, because I think that’s a very fair and important question, Look I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. And I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.

          I think both of those are pretty great answers, they’re actual compliments and they are both true statements.

          • baconbacon says:

            Saying someone is devoted to a terrible person isn’t a compliment, and saying devoted children are a sign of good parenting isn’t remotely close to correct.

            “Donald, I don’t agree with anything you say or do, but the fact that your children think you are great shows good parenting” is just a bizarre statement.

          • Vaniver says:

            Trump’s “I’ll take that as a compliment” reaction to Clinton’s statement was weird, because I read Clinton as being genuine and complimentary, and Trump’s kids are a big point in his favor. It took guts for Clinton to bring it up, and so I read him as trying to trivialize or question that.

            Trump’s answer about Clinton was ‘safe’ in that it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t make people who dislike Clinton dislike her less. A tireless adversary is worse than a normal adversary!

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Vanvier

            It isn’t a compliment because the statement, in its essence, is “it is more important to me that my kids/grandkids are devoted than they use good judgement”. Compare with an alternate universe where Hillary is able to say “Your children oppose you politically, while still maintaining an apparently healthy relationship with you, this shows you have raised emotionally healthy and independent adults, and admirable combination”.

            Hillary’s actual statement is an indictment of Trump’s parenting, she may not have meant it as an insult but that is just an indictment of herself.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Saying someone is devoted to a terrible person isn’t a compliment, and saying devoted children are a sign of good parenting isn’t remotely close to correct.

            “Donald, I don’t agree with anything you say or do, but the fact that your children think you are great shows good parenting” is just a bizarre statement.

            You’re reading this the wrong way. Clinton is complimenting Donald Trump’s children as incredibly able (which they are), this is a compliment to Trump by proxy because:

            If you believe that parenting matters, the fact that The Donald’s children turned out great is evidence of him being a good father. Particularly, they seem to have avoided a lot of the “showbiz kid” pitfalls that so many fall in.

            Smart and competent people being devoted to someone is evidence that that someone has positive qualities, even if we can’t see them.

          • lemmy caution says:

            you have good kids isn’t really a compliment.

          • onyomi says:

            The implication of “I think that says a lot about Donald” is that the fact that he’s raised smart, mature, poised children must mean he knows how to do something right (the presumption being, if he were all bad, it would rub off on his children and they wouldn’t seem so poised, successful, etc.). It’s a vague, roundabout sort of compliment, but still a compliment.

            For example, I am a professor. If someone said about me “I don’t agree with hardly anything Professor Onyomi says, and he’s got a bad temper and he doesn’t respect women… but his students sure seem to be very smart and competent, and I think that says a lot about him.” That would still be a sort of compliment, because it implies I must be doing something right, even if the person doesn’t know what exactly it is.

          • Psmith says:

            you have good kids isn’t really a compliment.

            I’d certainly as hell take it as one.

          • baconbacon says:

            The implication of “I think that says a lot about Donald” is that the fact that he’s raised smart, mature, poised children must mean he knows how to do something right

            What if Donald’s kids were high level members of a dangerous cult? What if they were poised, mature, smart and were involved in brainwashing runaways and devoted to a Charles Manson type leader?

            It is the “devoted” that turns it from possibly being a compliment to being an insult. If you demonstrate dislike/despise/distrust for someone as much as Hillary has done during the campaign you don’t turn around and say “hey, but at least you corrupted some wonderful people in the process and blinded them against your flaws”.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’d certainly as hell take it as one.

            It all depends on who it is coming from.

          • Zombielicious says:

            It seems like a stretch to take it as a veiled attack. She has a daughter herself, which makes it seem unlikely she’d want to start attacking each other’s kids. Plus if she wanted to insult him, why not just do it directly? Just say, “I’m sorry but I can’t think of anything positive to say about this man.” Needlessly attacking his kids would just make her look petty and be bad strategy, especially since she’s going first and he can just take the high ground and make her look bad. Which seems to be what he was attempting anyway with the “I’ll choose to take it as a compliment” thing.

          • I didn’t watch the debate. But the account here of the final question makes me wonder if it had been leaked in advance to one or both participants.

            The alternatives being that it had been guessed as a possibility and prepared for or that both of them are good at thinking on their feet.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The key words in Clinton’s answer were “and I think that says a lot about Donald.”

            If she hadn’t added that, the answer would be easy to interpret as a smarmy non-answer answer, but the clear reference to Donald as a parent saves it.

            Trump’s answer was better. He won that exchange of the debate, partially by having the advantage of going last, but mostly by simply answering the question (one of the very few times in the night he actually did that).

          • baconbacon says:

            It seems like a stretch to take it as a veiled attack. She has a daughter herself, which makes it seem unlikely she’d want to start attacking each other’s kids

            I didn’t mean to say (I assume this is directed my way given the direction) that it was an attack, I meant that it wasn’t actually a compliment even if Hillary wanted it to be one.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @David Friedman:

            I imagine they, or someone on their staff, both saw that question coming. I’ve run for meaningless student positions a few times, and questions like that are fairly common. So, they’d probably be equally or more common for positions that matter.

            Questions like that actually serve a purpose: someone who is in a leadership role needs to be able to see the positive in almost anyone, because appealing to the positive parts of a person seem to be the best way to lead them.

          • Anonymous says:

            David Friedman: congratulations on independently discovering a meme!
            http://theblacksphere.net/author/kevin/

            Everyone else: I think that complimenting Donald Trump on his child-rearing was actually meant as a compliment to his ex-wives.

            But like my suspicions that David Friedman gets a lot of his news from VDare and Breitbart, I can’t prove it!

          • “But like my suspicions that David Friedman gets a lot of his news from VDare and Breitbart, I can’t prove it!”

            What’s VDare?

            I’m not sure if I’ve ever read Breitbart. My main source for ordinary news is GoogleNews, which selects from lots of different places, and Breitbart might be one of them.

            I followed your link, didn’t notice any meme that I had independently invented.

        • Autolykos says:

          I wouldn’t call those statements strictly “true”. They agree on a whole lot more than they give each other credit for, it’s just that anything politicians agree on is a non-issue in the media (somewhat justified, but makes everything look a whole lot more divisive than it needs to be).
          For example, I guess they both agree it would be a bad idea to add a portrait of Mickey Mouse to Mt. Rushmore, or to bulldoze Washington DC, cover it in cow dung and plant Kudzu on top of it.

    • onyomi says:

      Consensus seems to be that he did well enough to pull out of his tailspin, but he’s still headed for defeat barring something unexpected. Of course, something unexpected happens every three days in this election…

      Personal subjective impression was that he started off weak (seriously, what’s with the sniffing? You’d think he was the one who recently had pneumonia? Lingering effects of a coke habit? Kind of not joking… he was rich and powerful in the 80s…) but got better as the night went on, both stylistically and in terms of stringing together coherent sentences.

      Nevertheless, the general impression I had with the last debate of “is this seriously a discussion about who is getting the most powerful job in the world??” was not changed. To the extent Trump expressed any actual policy ideas, they seemed like warmed over Paul Ryan kind of stuff. Hillary, as before, said “we’re going to take careful, substantive, well thought-out steps to make sure all the good things happen and none of the bad things happen.”

      It’s so odd how such a competitive primary process has resulted in two (four) such deeply flawed and vulnerable candidates (not that the LP and Green nominations were competitive, but I find myself unexpectedly lacking enthusiasm even to cast the quasi-protest/statement vote for Johnson I intend).

      • youzicha says:

        Towards the end of the of the debate Clinton was asked about supreme court nominees, and I was surprised to hear a sentence about her future policies. (People with prior experience as a judge. That’s an… actual objective criterion, and it would be possible to afterwards agree about whether she applied it or not.) It was an interesting contrast with the “we want more good things and less bad things” of the rest of the debate. She swiftly moved on back to negatives by complaining about the senate not acting on Garland.

        • Perhaps it was pro forma posturing, but I thought she would spurn Garland in favor of a more ideological candidate.

          On the other hand, from a pro-Garland standpoint, maybe it’s better if she acts like she’s going to nominate somebody left-wing, because it will motivate the Senate to confirm Garland immediately after the election.

          It would be unfortunate if Garland were to be cast aside (by either presidential nominee) in favor of polarizing the Court even further.

          • I don’t know anything much about Garland, but the comment I’ve seen on him from libertarians who do is that he’s the worst of both worlds–agrees with conservatives where they are wrong and with liberals where they are wrong.

            Wrong, in both cases, from a libertarian point of view.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            If your sources are correct, they explain Garland’s being a pick of choice right there.

          • lemmy caution says:

            Game theory suggests that if she does not push through a more left wing candidate than Garland then it is a victory for the republican senate.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            David Friedman:

            You might be thinking of this article: https://reason.com/archives/2016/03/30/merrick-garland-extremist

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Garland was picked because he is an eminently qualified judge whose jurisprudential views are similar to Obama’s, and (this is the key point) had been effusively praised by Republicans as someone they would vote to confirm because he was such a great judge.

            Obama guessed they wouldn’t actually do it, which serves to highlight their hypocrisy, while giving a good outcome if they had turned around and actually held hearings, etc.

      • CatCube says:

        It’s so odd how such a competitive primary process has resulted in two (four) such deeply flawed and vulnerable candidates

        I think it might be the competitiveness, or more specifically, the form it takes in our current media culture that explains it. Nobody who doesn’t want power so badly that they can taste it would subject themselves to the inanity and humiliation of the current electoral process. This is going to tend to drive out decent people.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          My prior, with apologies to Lord Macaulay, is that power corrupts not in proportion to how much you have, but how much you lust for.
          So it would be far more probable to get a good hereditary monarch than a good President.

          • Lumifer says:

            “Appetite comes with eating”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So it would be far more probable to get a good hereditary monarch than a good President.

            I’m quite ready to believe that that’s true; the problem comes when your hereditary line throws up a Caligula or Henry VI, and you don’t have any way to get rid of him (short of assassination/rebellion, that is).

      • The original Mr. X says:

        the quasi-protest/statement vote for Johnson I intend

        Go ahead! Throw your vote away!

    • Zombielicious says:

      I’ve watched most of it at this point (waiting on SO to have time so we can finish it together). Nothing really profound to say that hasn’t already been said, but I can’t think of another debate, at least outside of the recent Republican primaries, that came close to that level of hostility and vitriol. More so than the last, and pretty much what I was expecting would happen if it came down to Trump vs Clinton. Not that it was particularly bad compared to the baseline of global political history, but it was definitely a reflection of the current era, and a noticeable change from the “we need to work together and reach across the aisle, put an end to divisive politics” rhetoric of the 2008 election. Trump did seem better prepared this time, as he should have been for the last one, which might have made things a little less hopeless for him.

      It’s more amusing that the first question was essentially about civility and whether the debate atmosphere was making them poor role models for youth, all of which was of course promptly ignored within 30 seconds of them finishing their faux responses. Also, some props to Trump for having the balls to attempt the “vote for me if you want to see this ***** in jail” strategy.

    • Nathan says:

      Didn’t like Trump saying he would put Clinton in jail. I think a lot of the anti-Trump stuff is overblown, but I can very easily imagine him using the powers of the presidency to go after people who criticise him. That’s pretty toxic to democracy.

      Hoping for Clinton to win while Republicans hold the Senate.

      • Brad (The Other One) says:

        Didn’t like Trump saying he would put Clinton in jail.

        That was the only thing Trump said all night I liked!

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        Unless he’s threatened to put other people in jail who have criticized him and haven’t actually violated national security policy, I wouldn’t take threatening to prosecute Clinton that way (Obama would probably pardon her anyway).

        Now, his actual statements about loosening libel laws and going after journalists, *that* is a valid reason to be concerned.

        • Randy M says:

          Obama would probably pardon her anyway

          Non-rhetorical questions:
          Can someone be pardoned before they are convicted?
          If so, can they be pardoned before they are indicted?
          If so, can they be pardoned before their crime is noticed?
          If so, can they be pardoned before their crime is committed?

          • Richard says:

            not before it’s committed it seems.

            In 1866, the Supreme Court ruled in Ex parte Garland that the pardon power “extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.

          • CatCube says:

            The president can apparently grant blanket immunity, as was done with the Vietnam draft-dodgers. They had committed crimes, but many of them were either unindicted or had their crimes go unnoticed.

            Edit: This says nothing about your last question about before the crime is committed. However, a pardon can certainly be granted before indictment or even investigation for specific crimes.

          • brad says:

            One wrinkle is that the person pardoned has to accept the pardon. A pardon is considered an admission of guilt and some have refused to except them.

          • Randy M says:

            Not sure what you meant to link? I did recall that, which is why I didn’t blurt out something like “He can’t pardon her, she hasn’t been tried,” and went with an honest if lazy request for clarification.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Unless he’s threatened to put other people in jail who have criticized him and haven’t actually violated national security policy

          “@SteveRattner While I think you should have gone to prison for what you did, I guess Obama saved you. But watch – I will win!”Tweet, 27 Jul 2015

          This was prompted by his appearance on Morning Joe criticizing Trump. Rattner paid a substantial settlement in 2010 in a civil lawsuit with the state AG over pay-to-play pension fund referrals but was never charged criminally.

      • Garrett says:

        powers of the presidency to go after people who criticise him

        For reference, Hillary is opposed to the Citizens United ruling. That case revolved around the distribution of movie which was specifically criticizing Hillary. Opposition to that specific decision strikes me more as trying to put opponents into jail than doing so to someone who actually broke the law (if unintendedly).

        • Chalid says:

          Since virtually every Democrat opposes Citizens United (along with a supermajority of voters), the fact that Clinton does so as well tells you virtually nothing about her.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I am firmly supportive of the Citizens United ruling but believing that a neutral, bipartisan, and possibly unwise law should be reinstated is a far cry from making specific threats regarding a specific opposition figure.

    • Fahundo says:

      Couldn’t watch it because power was out due to the hurricane. And yet people will still deny the vast media conspiracy to rig this election.

      • Randy M says:

        I bet you live in a swing state too! Which way was it leaning, we’ll know who has the weather machine controls.

    • Vaniver says:

      Really liked Anderson Cooper as a moderator.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I’m so conflicted about this election. I like what Trump represents for the Republican party: a realignment of what issues to consider important. Trying to get the party to reach out to LGBT by playing up the Islam skepticism angle was great. The greater focus on immigration policy is great. And honestly, having someone who’s not an establishment politician is pretty nice, too.

      The problem is that I just don’t like Trump. There’s no getting around it, and this debate kind of made that clear to me. I’ve had goodwill towards him, but I think most of that comes from the above and not because I think he himself would make a good leader. So in that respect I kind of want him to lose.

      But then I get concerned that if he does lose, the stuff I like about what he’s done will vanish into the aether. If he loses in a landslide, the Republicans may see those things as a losing strategy and go back to their old ways. So in that respect, I should hope that Hillary wins in a nailbiter-close election. Maybe even have a 2000-style win where Trump marginally wins the popular vote. Show that this is a winning strategy if they just pick a better candidate for 2020. This bizarrely suggests I should vote for Trump but hope he loses.

      But then I also wonder if it will be too late then. Some of these issues, like immigration, might require swift action. Will it be too late in 2020? Maybe a strong Trump showing will embolden a Republican congress to try to push some things through despite Clinton being president. How much that might depend on being able to veto override is unclear, and I don’t think they’ll take the house or senate quite that strongly.

      So, yeah. Maybe it’ll come out that Hillary actively helped ISIS form or is planning on selling part of the Southwest back to Mexico or something. Maybe it will come out that Trump really did sexually assault a bunch of women or has massive debts to the Russian mafia or something. Maybe one of them will die and obviate the whole issue (they are 70+, after all). But until then, I’m really not sure what I want from this election.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I share your consternation.

        Edit:
        Ok, that’s weird, is this post showing up as anon to anyone else?

      • Lumifer says:

        A Giant Meteor sounds better and better…

      • Eccdogg says:

        I think Trump has shown that a natavist policy stance that focuses on blue collar whites is a potential winner in lots of places that Republicans have had trouble winning (Wisconsin, Iowa, OH, PA, MI, etc). I think what is holding him back is the general package of Trump personality wise and the question of his ability to actually be the president.

        I think the next Republican integrates some of those themes with a more competent looking candidate and might be tough to beat. And the next guy will likely be running against a very unpopular sitting president. I think moving forward you will see a Republican party that is less free trade, more hard line on immigration, softer on social issues, and maybe less interventionist though I don’t know on that one.

        ETA: Kind of like how Reagan followed Goldwater.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Are the demographics there to support that, though? Are there enough blue-collar whites to elect such a candidate?

          • I think the question is whether there are enough people attracted by such policies to more than balance the loss of regular Republican voters who would be repelled by them. It doesn’t take a very large number to shift a party from a little below half to a little above half.

          • Eccdogg says:

            No, you can’t just get blue collar whites and win, you also need a good chunk of college educated whites which is why you can’t go full Trump.

            But I would point to the polls leading up to the debates as a test case. Trump was tied in CO and up in NV, NC, FL, OH, IA. 538 had the race as 55/45 Clinton and all Trump needed to do was win CO and he would have won the race. Now that all evaporated after the first debate, but it is amazing that with Trump’s faults he was that close.

            You put a guy up there who doesn’t go full Trump policy wise but goes pretty far in his direction that looks like he could actually do the job and doesn’t have Trumps personality/baggage that might be a winner. The big question is how much of Trumps support is because of his personality vs his policies.

          • Alejandro says:

            @Eccdogg: But that Trump came so close to tying Clinton was also due to her having big personal negatives of her own for a large segment of the population. Take your candidate with a Trumpian ideology and without his baggage, put him against a generic Democrat without Clinton’s baggage, and my bet is that the Democrat would win.

          • Eccdogg says:

            You maybe right. But the next Dem candidate is very likely to have Clinton’s baggage because it is very likely to be Clinton.

      • Vaniver says:

        I’ve said a few times that Trump is the elite’s Karmic punishment for no-platforming their opponents on several issues. Instead of Thilo Sarrazin, the sort of competent intellectual who could implement immigration restriction well for the right sort of reasons, we get Donald Trump, the sort of self-promoter who can win campaigns but whose ability to govern is unproven (to say the least).

        But a consequence of this is that, as far as I can tell, we don’t have a Sarrazin to replace Trump with. Maybe some will appear if it’s clear that Trump’s electoral strategy will win. (One could imagine, for example, Trump winning, many people making good on their threat to move to Canada, and then the electoral math swinging towards the Republicans.)

        (Amusingly enough, in a bit of nominative determinism, Sarrazin’s name means ‘Muslim,’ and comes from Saracen.)

      • Mr Mind says:

        But if Trump has run inside the GOP but has won with a completely different set of values, doesn’t that mean that the GOP has failed?
        To what extent a political party is defined by its values or by an empty flag under which people rally?

        • Sandy says:

          I think a lot of the pro-Trump conservatives have pointed to the popularity of his campaign (rather than just the fact that he won) as proof that the GOP has failed and in fact has been failing for quite some time — that the official party platform is the product of the preferences of country club blue bloods and Ivy League-stocked think tanks rather than what the base, the people the party expects votes from, actually wants. The repeated comparisons of the GOP to the Washington Generals, for example. Their contention is that the platform that Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney et al want is not the platform of people who actually want to win elections, but that of people who want to be the ceremonial punching bag sticking to what they consider “principled conservatism” while the left marches through the institutions and degrades everything.

          • Anonymous says:

            These people either don’t understand the median voter theorem or don’t have a strong grasp on who the median voter is. Washington conservatives are how they are because they want to win, not as part of some Colmes like plot to throw the game.

          • Eccdogg says:

            I don’t know, I think there is always some uncertainty about what types of coalitions can be formed.

            Political parties try to form a coalition of 51%, but it is not always clear what a sustainable coalition looks like and parties don’t react instantaneously.

            It sometimes takes a political entrepreneur to break out into a new equilibrium coalition. I think Trump has done that somewhat. Now it looks like he is going to lose, and maybe that makes you think that that coalition does not exist. Maybe that is right. But my hunch is that Trump’s losing has more to do with personality and competence than the themes of his campaign.

            My guess is a less flawed Republican takes look a the lessons of Trump’s campaign and incorporates them. That is just conjecture though.

          • Anonymous says:

            The thing that will determine whether or not that is viable is when we can crunch the turn-out data and find out whether Trump brings out new voters in substantial numbers. If that’s true I can see a coalition shake-up. If it isn’t — and most of the Trump phenomenon is energizing existing Republican voters plus some poaching on the margin, then I don’t see a shake-up happening.

    • jsmith says:

      While historically being strongly anti-clinton and moderately pro-trump may make me slightly biased, I thought Trump completely destroyed her, to the point where I’m 100% going to take a few hours off of work to vote for him now.

      • pku says:

        Post-debate polls had it as a (mild) Clinton victory. While they may be off, they’re probably not off by “he destroyed her” levels.

        • jsmith says:

          Well, I’m talking from my perspective obviously, since that is what will influence my vote. Polls don’t and shouldn’t do that.

          That said, he, as always, has disappointed me with some of his sidesteps, particularly on environmental issues (I don’t think Clinton’s empty rhetoric was any better), but in terms of overall performance, when the biggest complaints are that ‘he was looming over Clinton,’ that he wants to throw a criminal in jail, or that he said “acidwash” instead of “bleachbit,” [https://heavyeditorial.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/cover32.jpg?quality=65&strip=all&strip=all](keep in mind that acidwashing is a well used term in the tech industry and Trump was more or less accurate here.) I kinda have to laugh the criticisms off.

          However, for what it’s worth, I just took a look at whatever polls I could find, and your narrative seems to be a little off.

          Fox5:~65000 votes (http://fox5sandiego.com/2016/10/09/who-won-the-second-presidential-debate/)
          Trump 85%
          Clinton 13%

          BuzzFeed:~3.5m votes (https://www.buzzfeed.com/sarahburton/who-won-the-second-presidential-debate?utm_term=.mjn4vqKQg#.fiYv2NQ14)
          Trump 92%
          Clinton 2%

          Drudge:~1.1m votes (http://www.drudgereport.com/)
          Trump:73%
          Clinton:27%

          Fox6:~300k votes (http://fox6now.com/2016/10/09/hillary-clinton-or-donald-trump-who-won-the-second-presidential-debate-cast-your-vote-in-our-poll/
          )
          Trump 47%
          Clinton 53%

          Mediaite:~120k votes (http://www.mediaite.com/online/poll-so-who-won-the-second-presidential-debate/)
          Clinton 59%
          Trump 41%

          Breitbart 180k votes (http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/10/09/poll-won-presidential-debate/)
          Trump 92%
          Clinton 8%

          Politopinion: 300k votes (http://politopinion.com/2016/10/town-hall-presidential-debate-poll/)
          Trump 92%
          Clinton 8%

          q13Fox: (http://q13fox.com/2016/10/09/vote-who-won-the-2nd-presidential-debate/)
          Trump 79%
          Clinton 13%

          CNN: (no reported numbers, link to poll, or place to vote, but “CNN’s political director also cautioned that the instant poll’s sample skewed slightly Democratic.”)
          Clinton 57%
          Trump 34%
          63% said Trump performed better than expected

          PBS poll: (http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/question/who-won-second-presidential-debate)
          Throws error if you try to vote or view results

          Admittedly places like Breitbart and Drudge skew heavily conservative in their readership, and I’m sure you can probably pull up some polls in Clinton’s favor if you tried (I just checked wapost, abc, etc but couldn’t find them), but every article I’ve seen saying Clinton won has relied on the CNN poll, which I don’t think is a good sign for her.

          Keep in mind, I’m gain nothing from saying “Trump Won,” as it will persuade literally no-one. And that most people probably made up their minds before the debates and it won’t change anyone’s mind one way or another. And that polls are typically a reflection of the sites readership and not necessarily indicative of their performance. But this is what I saw.

          • pku says:

            Instant-response polls tend to skew heavily towards Trump in general, which I think is driving most of those – in principle, I wouldn’t trust any poll that had either candidate below 20%. The CNN poll is the one I saw, which is more reliable according to 538, who (at least when it comes to poll quality) are generally pretty reliable.
            The other main indicator is the betting markets – overall, they didn’t shift much over the debate, and have since shifted slightly towards Clinton (she’s about 2% up over the last 24 hours).

            In terms of persuading people who were leaning Trump to vote for him – yeah, I believe it would do that. My personal impression was that he did a pretty good job, managing to be relaxed and possibly put the tape thing behind him. But “destroyed her” is probably wrong.

          • tgb says:

            Were those the biggest complaints you heard? From my end, coming with the opposite biases, he appeared utterly unhinged for the first half-hour or so and I have to imagine that his managers breathed a sigh of relief when the moderators forced a topic switch. He landed some blows on Clinton, but not without furthering his image as impulsive and uncontrolled. That’s not the worst, though. The worst were moments like when he was question about what would happen if Aleppo fell – and it was clear that he had no idea how to answer (I think he ended with something like “Well, it basically has fallen already”). Sure, Clinton’s answers were largely “more good things, less bad things” but at least she knows what the issues are. Is the only thing Trump knows about tax code is that one carried interest loophole? And then Clinton points out she’s also been in favor of removing it, so it’s not even an interesting talking point!

            Or moments like “RADDATZ: There are sometimes reasons the military does that. Psychological warfare. / TRUMP: I can’t think of any. I can’t think of any. And I’m pretty good at it.” Creativity is not his strong suit. Or how about “COOPER: Secretary Clinton, does Mr. Trump have the discipline to be a good leader? / CLINTON: No. / TRUMP: I’m shocked to hear that.” You want to convince us that you have the discipline to be president but do so by interrupting someone? Yeah, that’s not helping. Or his bizarre misinterpretation of the 3am twitter question – is he actually unaware the problem wasn’t that he tweeted at 3am but about what he was tweeting?

            The “looming” criticisms were ridiculous, of course. How did that become a matter of public fixture? So bizarre.

            Now, all things considered he did better than I expected. The early part looked like a steep nosedive to a breakdown, but he picked things up for the most part.

          • Johnjohn says:

            Aren’t all of those polls online polls?
            AKA completely meaningless?

            As in, literally worth less than nothing.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think he won that debate. They started with the Access Hollywood tape; he took some damage there but put it mostly behind him. If they’d ended with it, he’d have been much worse off. His content was terrible (putting your opponent in jail is not a good idea, probably not even if she did use her own political power to avoid indictment in the first place), but it kept the focus on her weaknesses rather than his.

    • JayT says:

      The debate was essentially what I expected it to be. Though Clinton’s constant posturing on Russia was quite off-putting to me. Especially that she seems to still think a a no-fly zone in Syria is a good idea. I have been pulling for Clinton because I think she is by far the better candidate when it comes to economic issues, but her Russia hate is kind of disconcerting to me.

      • tgb says:

        That was easily the most interesting part of the debate. We just saw the likely future president basically taking every chance she could get to bad mouth a major super power that we had be cautiously getting along with. I don’t know enough to say whether it was a smart move geopolitically, but in a month we’ll be forgetting about this election but Russia will still be here.

        • On the other hand, I expect her badmouthing was aimed at American voters not Russians. So by a month after the election it may have vanished.

          • Latetotheparty says:

            People have accused Trump supporters of straining to read Trump’s outbursts in the most charitable light imaginable. This seems to me like doing the equivalent for Hillary.

            I mean, there’s no way that Russia would feel so cornered by this rhetoric coming from Hillary that they might…I don’t know…start having nationwide civil defense drills or anything….nawww…It’s not like professor emeritus on Russian history Stephen Cohen is scared to death that America and Russia might be about to blunder into WW3…I’m sure everything with Russia will be just peachy…right?

          • cassander says:

            on the other hand, she’s been consistently selling the no fly zone idea for a long time, which is frightening because it’s a really bad idea on a number of levels that she seems to genuinely think is a good idea.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David Friedman

            I’m beginning to wonder how old some of these commentors are. In recent times I see here a lot of anti-Communist posts about famines when various old Communist leaders took over; and attacks on our own members who describe themselves as Communists; and fierce equation of certain projects with Socialism=Communism. All familiar stuff. But now suddenly no one seems to mind that the Russians are hacking our government computers and (apparantly) messing with our elections?

          • Lumifer says:

            no one seems to mind that the Russians are hacking our government computers

            Cyberwar at the moment is a free-for-all. The Russians and the Chinese are hacking us, we are hacking Russia and China, they hack each other, I’m sure the Brits and the Israelis and all the other usual suspects are not just standing there twiddling their thumbs, there are government-employed hackers, government-proxy hackers, plain old mercenary hackers, etc. etc.

            It’s the war in the shadows, the new Great Game.

          • cassander says:

            @houseboatonstyxb

            I don’t like putin, but the comparisons of him to communism, or current strife with russia to the cold war, are silly. Modern russia threatens to undermine the US global system at the edges, and that’s bad. But the USSR was an entire alternative system, and it was an alternative system build on the murder of tens of millions of its own citizens which had repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to force countries into that system and which posed a massive conventional military threat to western europe.

            Putin’s not a nice guy, but he hasn’t slaughtered millions to build up an ideological empire dedicated to global revolution, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

      • Latetotheparty says:

        Ditto here. I had pretty much written off the idea of voting for Trump when Mike Pence went all anti-Russia warmongering in the VP debate, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear Trump outright disagree with his VP over Russia and Syria last night…so now I’m back on the fence as to whether to vote for that orange fecal cesspit of a human being…if only to avoid having Killary start WW3 in Syria.

        • Jill says:

          You are assuming that saying good things about Russia will have a positive effect on relations with them and will avoid war, and that saying bad things will do the opposite. Trump has been so idolizing of Putin that there is a danger, if he were elected, that he would kowtow to Putin, perhaps in return for permission to build hotels or casinos in Russia. This could result in Putin treating the U.S. like a doormat, which would eventually result in war– once Putin crossed a certain line that the U.S. felt it had to draw e.g trying to take over a lot of Eastern Europe again, shooting down U.S. planes without provocation etc.

          • cassander says:

            the idea with anyone with an ego like trump’s kowtowing to anyone strikes me as laughable.

          • Latetotheparty says:

            I don’t understand where all of this hostility towards Russia is coming from. Jill often complains that people are so immersed in right-wing propaganda that they can’t think straight about Trump. Well, I would counter that people are so immersed in American exceptionalism that they can’t think straight about Russia.

            Is Putin a dictator? No. I would compare him to FDR, actually. He’s a strongman who took over during a time of troubles and took drastic measures to stop his country’s free-fall. Like FDR, he has been popularly re-elected to many terms for this. You can argue about whether some of his policies were counter-productive or not, but the point is, most of his policies are genuinely popular (80% approval rating, and yes, I believe those numbers). Does he lean on the scales a bit? Probably. So did FDR (attempted Supreme Court packing, illegally confiscating gold, all the other unconstitutional programs he passed). Plus, not everything that Putin wants passes. Recently Putin wanted to privatize more state-owned businesses in Russia recently. Didn’t happen. He is not some dictator with a death-grip on his country. But the Western media has so saturated people with this idea that you can’t say anything otherwise without being called a paid Russian agent.

            Now, as for foreign policy goes, here’s how I would handle Russia:

            1. Pull U.S. special forces and airstrikes out of Syria. We have no business being there. Our presence there is illegal under international law. We have not been invited by the legitimate govt. there, whereas Russia has. If we get permission from Assad to help fight ISIS, then sure, we can stay and do that, and maybe set up some civilian safe zones like Trump wants to do. Otherwise, no.

            Yes, the Syrian Civil War ain’t pretty, but the U.S. is only prolonging it the longer they continue to supply Islamist rebels to fight the Assad govt. We should be rooting for Assad to stay in power. He ain’t pretty either, but the Middle-East right now never gives you ideal options. Assad is certainly better than ISIS or Al-Nusra. And those are the alternatives (aside from the Kurds, who have an admirable experiment going on, but who would never be tolerated to rule the rest of the country). The supposed “secular” opposition is no longer an option. Their forces and influence are minuscule. The only reason the U.S. continues to hang onto the idea that there is any significant number of “moderate” rebels is to justify its arming of groups that it doesn’t want to admit are mujahideen. Arming the Taliban in Afghanistan all over again. People who have no loyalty to our ideals, and who will backstab us at the drop of a hat and use our very weapons and training against us. Insane.

            Whereas, if Assad stays in power, it won’t be the end of the world. The U.S. has put up with him for decades. Why draw the line on him now? (This is also why I don’t understand the Libya intervention either. We had put up with Ghaddafi’s antics for decades. What really fundamentally changed to make it imperative that we get rid of him RIGHT NOW? All the humanitarian arguments feel a little too convenient).

            2. Drop the Crimea issue. Let Russia have it. This is non-negotiable for Russia, there is literally no conceivable strategy for the Ukraine ever taking it back at this point short of WW3, and the only reason it belonged to Ukraine in the first place was an administrative quirk in the Soviet Union. It has been, until very very recently, a part of Russia. Let it go.

            3. Put pressure on the Ukrainian govt. to implement and abide by the Minsk II accord: the Donbass stays technically a part of the Ukraine, albeit with greater autonomy.

            4. Do not bring the Ukraine into NATO. This is their “Cuban Missile Crisis.” To Russians, this is like having nukes 90 miles off the coast from Miami. They are rightfully paranoid of Western invasion ever since Barbarossa, and they will never tolerate this final act of encirclement.

            5. Stand firm in our NATO commitment to the Baltic states and others. Ideally, I would have never brought the Baltic states into NATO, as this was the understanding that Russia had in the 1990s during what could have been the end of the Cold War and a real turning point in diplomatic relations. The U.S. and NATO tore up that understanding by inviting the Baltic states into NATO. But, what’s done is done. We have given our word, and we must stick by it. Our promises must have credibility: not just because Putin could take advantage of us, but because any other country could as well. China, North Korea, Israel…we lose leverage all around the world if we continue to appear “not-agreement-capable” as we currently do with Russia. We shouldn’t compound that by abandoning the Baltic states over quibbling about chump change (the extra billion or so that Trump wants them to pay for their own defense).

            This is one area where I’m not a fan of Trump’s rhetoric. But compared to Hillary’s crazy WW3 rhetoric (a no-fly-zone in Syria WILL start a gradually-escalating war with Russia), Trump still looks like a goddamn saint.

          • Aapje says:

            @Latetotheparty

            You can argue about whether some of his policies were counter-productive or not, but the point is, most of his policies are genuinely popular (80% approval rating, and yes, I believe those numbers).

            His policies are popular because he controls the media. Furthermore, the Russians are traumatized from when the neoliberals tried to force Russia into becoming a Western nation in a way that was way too disruptive. Due to a lack of good alternative models in their history, the Russian leaders and populace are regressing into USSR/cold war mode.

            So the popularity of these politics is more an indication that the Russian people are ignorant than that they are on a productive course.

            But the Western media has so saturated people with this idea that you can’t say anything otherwise without being called a paid Russian agent.

            That sounds more like a straw man than an accurate assessment of what people believe.

            The evidence that paid Russian commenters do exist, logically leads people to regard pro-Russia posters with suspicion and merely indicates that they are rational. However, I’ve seen plenty of people give opinions with nuance that are not seen as being a paid Russian mole.

          • Latetotheparty says:

            Is the mainstream Russian media really all that more controlled or deferential than the mainstream U.S. media is to our government? Sure, RT tows a pro-Kremlin line, for sure, but it’s not like they are the only game in town anymore. And it would probably disappoint a lot of Americans that Putin’s strongest critics are actually on the right rather than the left. Unfortunately Western-style liberals have been discredited ever since the 1990s when their ideas seemed to put Russia into a tailspin. The two next-largest parties in Russia are…the Communist Party, and the far-right LDP. Also influential is the banned neo-Nazi National Bolshevik Party.

            Putin got a lot of flak from Russian nationalists for not doing more in the Ukraine. The nationalists wanted a full-scale invasion. Putin is actually the sane compromiser. And people idealize what Russia would look like without a strong executive to keep these competing extremists at bay….

            Maybe someday Russia’s political system will look more like something that the West can identify with. But it is not this day….

          • Aapje says:

            @Latetotheparty

            Is the mainstream Russian media really all that more controlled or deferential than the mainstream U.S. media is to our government?

            Yes.

            Sure, RT tows a pro-Kremlin line, for sure, but it’s not like they are the only game in town anymore.

            Modern autocrats have realized that you don’t need 100% control over the media, but rather, you just have to marginalize the opposition. These autocrats accept small oppositional media and political parties, also as a shield against criticism, but remove them if they threaten to get too big.

            Unfortunately Western-style liberals have been discredited ever since the 1990s when their ideas seemed to put Russia into a tailspin.

            Nation-building is extremely hard, as it requires more than just new institutions. It requires a new mentality as well. As most Western politicians/bureaucrats have no understanding of how their own institutions can only function by being intertwined with their countries’ culture, they don’t have the ability to create functioning institutions effectively (except by chance, sometimes).

            The two next-largest parties in Russia are…the Communist Party, and the far-right LDP. Also influential is the banned neo-Nazi National Bolshevik Party.

            Yes, like I said: they have no good models to fall back on.

            Putin got a lot of flak from Russian nationalists for not doing more in the Ukraine. The nationalists wanted a full-scale invasion. Putin is actually the sane compromiser. And people idealize what Russia would look like without a strong executive to keep these competing extremists at bay…

            Putin is stoking the nationalism a lot to gain support from the people, so it is a bit much to declare him the savior from the flames that he helps to fan.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Aapjie

            Modern autocrats have realized that you don’t need 100% control over the media, but rather, you just have to marginalize the opposition.

            /me looks at the current US election campaign

            /me grins

          • Manya says:

            My question for Latetotheparty is this:

            How exactly would you demonstrate your commitment to the Baltic countries and, at the same time, just abandon Ukraine to deal with Russia on its own? That seems like sending mixed messages at best.

          • John Schilling says:

            I hope I’m not late to the party, but I think one can draw a pretty solid line between nations we have signed mutual defense treaties with and nations we have not signed mutual defense treaties with. The Baltic states are part of NATO, Ukraine isn’t. If we say that, because of this, we would lament the invasion and conquest of Ukraine but wage bloody total war to prevent the conquest of Estonia, that’s a politically coherent position.

            And if there’s any doubt about our commitment to the Baltic states, we can put a battalion of American ground troops in each of them, whose flag-draped coffins would impose an intolerable political cost on any POTUS who didn’t at least avenge their deaths (and dress it up in prettier words than that, of course).

          • Salem says:

            What’s relevant is defence treaties – the mutual is irrelevant. Russia has flouted the Budapest Memorandum, and the US has done nothing about it. It certainly looks like US security guarantees are worthless.

            If you want to finesse the distinction, you have to argue that the security guarantees given to the Ukraine were never ratified by the Senate, or something of that nature. Which is going to embolden China…

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            What’s relevant is defence treaties – the mutual is irrelevant. Russia has flouted the Budapest Memorandum

            The Budapest Memorandum was not a treaty. Treaties are ratified by the Senate and legally bind subsequent Presidents. The Budapest Memorandum was an executive agreement. A former diplomat who worked in Eastern Europe at the time explicitly stated the first Bush administration worded the agreement short of a military guarantee because we were unwilling to extend one at the time.

            You can call this a “finesse” if you want, but the difference between a treaty and an agreement is pretty well-established in US law.

          • Salem says:

            Yes, my second paragraph points out that argument is available.

            Do you really think it’s a good one? The US does not have a treaty with Taiwan.

            America has security relationships involving varying levels of implicit and explicit commitment with a large number of actors in the world. It would reverse decades of foreign policy, and greatly harm US interests, were it to announce that it is only committed to the explicit terms of ratified treaties, such as NATO.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Do you really think it’s a good one? The US does not have a treaty with Taiwan.

            America has security relationships involving varying levels of implicit and explicit commitment with a large number of actors in the world. It would reverse decades of foreign policy, and greatly harm US interests, were it to announce that it is only committed to the explicit terms of ratified treaties, such as NATO.

            Well, I would not advocate military intervention in the case of a mainland Chinese invasion of Taiwan, so yes, I think it’s a pretty good distinction. This has been obvious since the abrogation of the original ROC treaty by the Carter Administration, so I don’t think an explicit announcement is necessary.

            Why do you believe this would “greatly harm US interests?” The list of countries we are currently obligated to defend is already fairly explicit. I think it’s fairly safe to include Mexico de facto, despite their absence from the Rio treaty, as we would obviously not acquiesce to the invasion of our most populous neighbor and largest trading partner, but an invasion of Mexico is a crazy hypothetical anyway.

            I am 100% down with a moratorium on NATO expansion and with the general idea that the US should not be so quick to project force around the world. Insofar as one is willing to ignore “take the oil” and other such pronouncements to take a rosy, dovish view of a Trump foreign policy, I wouldn’t object to its goals. I object to its haphazard and ambiguous methods. (I also don’t believe one should ignore “take the oil,” as it seems to be one of the few views Trump has been historically consistent with.)

          • bean says:

            America has security relationships involving varying levels of implicit and explicit commitment with a large number of actors in the world. It would reverse decades of foreign policy, and greatly harm US interests, were it to announce that it is only committed to the explicit terms of ratified treaties, such as NATO.

            This is a very important point. Once, about 60 years ago, the secretary of state made a speech in which he explicitly laid out the US defensive perimeter, excluding a country which previous had been at least arguably the beneficiary of US security guarantees. The country? South Korea. The result? 36,000 US dead over the course of three years, and troop deployments that continue to this day.
            Doubt is actually a valuable thing in international politics. Would the US intervene militarily if China tries to invade Taiwan? Maybe. Probably not. But the Chinese can’t be sure of that, and the benefits of taking over Taiwan aren’t enough to outweigh that chance. By removing doubt in Korea, Dean Acheson made Stalin confident enough to sanction the invasion. A policy where we repudiate all implicit security guarantees would remove a lot of good doubt, and conversely add a lot of bad doubt. This is particularly true because the US nuclear umbrella is largely implicit.

          • John Schilling says:

            Doubt is actually a valuable thing in international politics. Would the US intervene militarily if China tries to invade Taiwan? Maybe. Probably not. But the Chinese can’t be sure of that, and the benefits of taking over Taiwan aren’t enough to outweigh that chance.

            If you are certain of that “benefits aren’t enough…” thing being common knowledge, then there should be no harm in establishing a treaty or other formal policy committing the US to repel an invasion that will never come. If you are at all uncertain, you are allowing for the possibility of a nuclear war between two nuclear powers, desired by neither, that could be avoided by making US policy more explicit. Just as the Korean war could have been avoided by making the actual US policy, explicit common knowledge.

            In the broadest realm of international politics, there are circumstances where doubt is the best one can do because credible commitments aren’t possible. When it comes to the US defense of its allies, we have the means and we ought to have the credibility to draw all of our red lines very clearly, and we have repeatedly seen the cost of not doing so. I’m not seeing much of a case for deliberate ambiguity in that context.

          • Lumifer says:

            Being very explicit about commitments means your behaviour becomes very predictable and that’s not necessarily a good thing (consider game theory).

            The advantage of red lines is that you made things inside them safe. The disadvantage is that you made things outside of them free-for-all.

          • bean says:

            If you are certain of that “benefits aren’t enough…” thing being common knowledge, then there should be no harm in establishing a treaty or other formal policy committing the US to repel an invasion that will never come.

            You know as well as I do why we can’t do that. The diplomatic community pretends that Taiwan is somehow part of China.

            If you are at all uncertain, you are allowing for the possibility of a nuclear war between two nuclear powers, desired by neither, that could be avoided by making US policy more explicit. Just as the Korean war could have been avoided by making the actual US policy, explicit common knowledge.

            I’m not sure that the actual US policy was different from the one in the speech. I’d have to check, but I believe that Truman et al hadn’t thought much about Korea, and were conflicted over whether or not to intervene.

            In the broadest realm of international politics, there are circumstances where doubt is the best one can do because credible commitments aren’t possible. When it comes to the US defense of its allies, we have the means and we ought to have the credibility to draw all of our red lines very clearly, and we have repeatedly seen the cost of not doing so. I’m not seeing much of a case for deliberate ambiguity in that context.

            Are you arguing for isolationism, or for us signing lots of defense treaties? I’m not quite sure. There are definitely red-line cases, but in a lot of cases, people’s interests aren’t closely enough aligned with ours to make any sort of treaty really feasible. If we make explicit that we will only honor our explicit commitments, we effectively write off everything outside our explicit commitments, and then handicap ourselves when we decide to intervene outside them. I can think of quite a few cases. Kuwait. The Balkans. Panama.

    • pku says:

      The winner was, evidently, Ken Bone.

    • cassander says:

      If trump does as much better between the last debate and this one as he did between the first one and this one, hillary is in trouble.

    • Jordan D. says:

      Debate thoughts:

      1) I found it really hard to listen to. I get annoyed when people turn from substantive discussion to bash opponents over scandals. I kinda knew what I was getting into, going in, but this was real bad.

      2) I appreciate that Clinton wants to cast herself as the more gracious and reasonable person and so is apologizing for her e-mails, but she needs to adjust tack somewhat. Apologizing and saying that she could have done better is one thing, but she should also give a cogent explanation of why she didn’t commit a crime. (Whether you believe she did or not, such explanations do exist and could be re-packaged for mass consumption)

      3) On a related note, I’d call Trump’s promise to have her prosecuted and jailed for the e-mail thing one of the lowest points in presidential debates in decades. Under no possible circumstance will I vote for an executive who promises to jail his political enemies, even if you could charitably interpret this one as ‘I’m just going to have another prosecutor look at this case.’ No, no, no.

      4) The ‘Clinton laughed at the victim of a rapist she was defending’ meme is especially odious.

      5) I understand that arguing with the moderators and casting them as biased is a strategic decision, but it comes off as really petty when they’re obviously trying to be evenhanded.

      6) I’m torn on Russia- on the one hand, if the feds are right that Putin’s trying to rig this election for Trump, that’s alarming. On the other hand, this is the kind of claim which any politician could plausibly make about an opponent AND I’m not all that interested in escalating tensions with the Russians. On the whole, I did not like Clinton’s hard-line stance.

      7) If your campaign is so fractured that the presidential candidate denounces the VP’s stance a week later, can it even be called a ‘campaign’? I know some people are delighted to hear Trump swear off Pence’s aggression, but I think that this bodes poorly for the chances of a united and cohesive executive branch.

      8) Ken Bone’s sweater was magnificent.

      9) Trump kept his cool a lot better this time.

      10) I think I came out of the Obamacare question more confused than I went in. Realistically, I understand that ‘Keep the good, do away with the bad’ or ‘Replace with better thing’ are about as detailed as you can get when you’re talking about a national medical regime and you have two minutes, but wow, maybe they should have just cut that question. Also, repeatedly saying ‘lines around the states’ made me think of ‘ring around the rosie’.

      11) I’m sure there was some point to bringing in Bill Clinton’s accusers, but Trump seems to have forgotten to make whatever it was.

      12) SHAKE HANDS AT THE START OF DEBATES OR I’M CALLING THE DEBATE OFF OKAY?????

      • cassander says:

        > Under no possible circumstance will I vote for an executive who promises to jail his political enemies, even if you could charitably interpret this one as ‘I’m just going to have another prosecutor look at this case.’ No, no, no.

        So imagine nixon manages to hang on until 1976. You’d be against Carter if he ran on a platform that included prosecuting him for his crimes? Were you against the democrats that wanted to prosecute Bush for warcrimes?

        For my money, I find establishing the principle that high office is a get out of jail free card, and that this is a virtuous thing, considerably more odious than prosecuting one’s opponent for committing things that would get any ordinary citizen thrown in jail.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m pretty skeptical of a President who runs on a platform of prosecuting any specific person, ever, for anything. That’s the Attorney General’s job, and I think it is a Really Bad Idea for any POTUS to tell the AG how to do that part of their job or use a will-prosecute-X litmus test in selecting an AG.

          • cassander says:

            The AG works for the president, full stop. And trump didn’t say he’d order the AG to investigate, but appoint a special prosecutor which gives at least some independence.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          So imagine nixon manages to hang on until 1976. You’d be against Carter if he ran on a platform that included prosecuting him for his crimes?

          I get what you’re saying here, but Nixon was 100% done after the smoking gun tape came out (due to a unanimous SCOTUS vote). It wasn’t a matter that could possibly be subject to interpretation. A “manages to hang on” alternative would require either a difference in his actions or a difference in the law.

          • cassander says:

            maybe he manages to get some congressional allies to drag out the proceedings and run out the clock on impeachment. or maybe we’re talking about an alternate universe where everything starts to happen a little later. the details aren’t as important as the basic idea of declaring presidents and presidential candidates above the law.

        • Jordan D. says:

          1) I can’t imagine how that would happen, but yes, I would oppose Carter running on such a platform.

          2) Yes, I was, in fact. I was also against Bernie’s ‘We will put some of those Wall Street fat cats in prison’ rhetoric.

          Look, I was being somewhat hyperbolic- for example, if Clinton came out tomorrow and announced that she planned to nuke China when elected, I would vote for Trump despite my prior claim. But I really do feel strongly about this issue.

          I’m in favor of people being prosecuted for crimes as a general rule. I’m also in favor of high officials being prosecuted for crimes they commit. I’m not in favor of politicians running on the platform that they’ll throw the other batch of crooks in jail, because that seems like a killer way to guarantee corrupt prosecutions, retaliatory imprisonment and further the decline of the public’s faith in the justice system.

          Here in America, we’ve got a pretty good thing going. You can oppose the President and people who are likely to become President as vocally as you want, and you hardly ever get arrested for it. Sometimes, presumably, the opponents of the President have taken actions which could be crimes if somebody motivated enough looked at them. I would still rather those people be free than the President go around appointing special prosecutors to just take a real hard look at that guy.

          ’cause you don’t get hired to take real hard looks at people unless you’re willing to charge them with something.

          • cassander says:

            I admire your consistency, but I still think your position is crazy. the people we’re talking about jailing aren’t being jailed for opposing the president (which has been done before), they’re being jailed for violating the laws that have nothing to do with their campaigns. If Trump or hillary murders someone on live television tomorrow, they should be jailed. to do otherwise is to abandon the notion of rule of law.

          • Jordan D. says:

            If Trump or Hillary murders someone on television tomorrow, do you expect them to walk away free? I’d expect them to be arrested and tried- just not by each other. This seems less about the notion of the rule of law and who we trust to respect it while they’re locking people up.

            I mean, let’s say that, at the next debate, Trump suddenly draws a gun and fires into the audience, right? After a period of chaos, the state police there announce that somebody was charging Trump and he shot in self-defense, so there was no crime and they won’t press charges. The cameras didn’t capture that, and a lot of Hillary’s supporters call for him to be prosecuted for the killing.

            Wouldn’t it leave a bad taste in your mouth of Clinton started suddenly insisting that she’d appoint an independent prosecutor and “lock him up!” No doubt we’d find out that his cousin or something donated to that police department once. We can’t trust them to be honest about this!

            But this is what I’m saying. If the FBI did an about-face tomorrow and decided to recommend that, on the basis of some new evidence, Clinton be prosecuted, I might not like that but I’d accept it. And a lot of that is due to the fact that Director Comey doesn’t stand to gain by throwing a show trial.

          • TheWorst says:

            I’m not sure what would happen, but it looks like creating the norm that “whoever loses the election gets arrested” either wrecks your democracy or is a sign that it’s already wrecked.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @TheWorst:

            This is true, and is the reason I oppose Trump’s plan to have Hillary investigated (If Trump wins, I would recommend Obama pardon her).

            Unfortunately, a reasonable argument can be made that if the people in power can commit real crimes and not be held accountable even after they’ve lost power, that’s bad for rule of law.

          • Randy M says:

            @The Nybbler
            I think that’s one of the strongest anti-Hillary arguments.

          • John Schilling says:

            they’re being jailed for violating the laws that have nothing to do with their campaigns

            I missed the point where Trump promised to imprison the thousands of people who have e.g. sent classified information over private email and escaped with a warning or a plea bargain because that’s actually how we usually handle that offense.

            If Hillary Clinton were to murder someone on live television tomorrow, Donald Trump wouldn’t have a chance to put her in prison because Loretta Lynch would take care of it before inauguration day. But if Hillary is jailed under President Trump for anything she has actually done to date, she’d be being jailed for her campaign against Trump, and pretending otherwise is to abandon the notion of rule of law.

          • cassander says:

            @jordan

            >If Trump or Hillary murders someone on television tomorrow, do you expect them to walk away free? I’d expect them to be arrested and tried- just not by each other.

            if you’re talking about a federal crime, ultimately the president is the prosecutor. there’s no way around that. and if trump murdered someone in a national park tomorrow, I would for damn sure call for him to be arrested

            >Wouldn’t it leave a bad taste in your mouth of Clinton started suddenly insisting that she’d appoint an independent prosecutor and “lock him up!” No doubt we’d find out that his cousin or something donated to that police department once. We can’t trust them to be honest about this!

            if she did it before the normal investigation, yes. if after the investigation, one where trump’s wife met with the AG in question in secret, where trump’s story about the shooting changed repeatedly, where he was caught repeatedly lying to the authorities, if his defense at one point relied on him saying he didn’t know how guns worked, yes, I would support a special prosecutor. I’d prefer it didn’t come to that, but I’d rather we have that then let the elite be above the law.

            @John Schilling

            >I missed the point where Trump promised to imprison the thousands of people who have e.g. sent classified information over private email and escaped with a warning or a plea bargain because that’s actually how we usually handle that offense.

            If hillary had had to plea to even a misdemeanor and pay a fine, I’d be much happier with the current state of affairs. That we couldn’t even get that much for such massive violations of the law I find deeply troubling.

            >If Hillary Clinton were to murder someone on live television tomorrow, Donald Trump wouldn’t have a chance to put her in prison because Loretta Lynch would take care of it before inauguration day. But if Hillary is jailed under President Trump for anything she has actually done to date, she’d be being jailed for her campaign against Trump, and pretending otherwise is to abandon the notion of rule of law.

            And if loretta lynch refused to prosecute her for some reason, what then? Because that is where we are now. hillary massively violated the law and the establishment is refusing to prosecute her. I would prefer that trump didn’t have to appoint a special prosecutor, but that he does is an indictment of others, not him.

            @TheWorst says:

            >I’m not sure what would happen, but it looks like creating the norm that “whoever loses the election gets arrested” either wrecks your democracy or is a sign that it’s already wrecked.

            the norm we’re establishing isn’t anyone who loses gets arrested, lots of people lost and only one of them is up for getting arrested. the norm we’re trying to establish is that running for president doesn’t get you a de facto pardon for all your crimes. Rick perry, I remind, you, got indicted, and while I disagreed with that case and thought it was political, I never argued that rick should be immune to indictment because he had run for the presidency. it’s insane to think that hillary should be so immune.

          • TheWorst says:

            Cassander, just to clarify: Hillary Clinton is almost certainly the single most-investigated person on Earth, and millions and millions of dollars have been spent on trying to find something, anything, illegal that she’s done, and it turns out there’s nothing. (If you have any reason to think this isn’t true, call Trey Gowdy, he needs to hear from you immediately.)

            Meanwhile, Trump’s demonstrably broken a great many laws, to the extent that he jokes about it (and here I mean bribery and misappropriating charity funds, not sexual assault, though he’s almost certainly done that too).

            If a guilty party announces “If I win, I’ll put my innocent opponent in jail,” then they’re declaring that the rule of law ends with their inauguration. There’s actually a decent argument to be made that running for office shouldn’t be a way to stay out of jail – they tried that in the later stages of the Roman Republic, and it turned out poorly – but that argument points in the opposite direction. Pissing off Trump by running against him isn’t a prosecutable offense in a country where the rule of law exists, and the fact that Hillary hasn’t done anything else to earn it is absurdly well-documented.

            Being unpopular with those in power is not, and should never be, a crime. Candidates who announce that they’re going to give their political opponents the Brendan Eich treatment dialed up to eleven are unlikely to be the right choice.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hillary Clinton is almost certainly the single most-investigated person on Earth, and millions and millions of dollars have been spent on trying to find something, anything, illegal that she’s done, and it turns out there’s nothing.

            Also, Al Capone was a totally honest businessman except for that one time when he forgot to report some income on his tax return.

          • cassander says:

            @TheWorst says:

            >Cassander, just to clarify: Hillary Clinton is almost certainly the single most-investigated person on Earth, and millions and millions of dollars have been spent on trying to find something, anything, illegal that she’s done, and it turns out there’s nothing. (If you have any reason to think this isn’t true, call Trey Gowdy, he needs to hear from you immediately.)

            they have found plenty. she has just avoided punishment because she is also one of hte most powerful people on earth. how does that not offend the rule of law?

            >Meanwhile, Trump’s demonstrably broken a great many laws, to the extent that he jokes about it (and here I mean bribery and misappropriating charity funds, not sexual assault, though he’s almost certainly done that too).

            the standards for public officials should be higher, not lower. I and I’ll be happy to jail trump for taking bribes ones we jail the people who took them.

            >If a guilty party announces “If I win, I’ll put my innocent opponent in jail,” then they’re declaring that the rule of law ends with their inauguration.

            It’s a good thing he didn’t say that then, but “i’ll investigate the incredibly serious allegations that have been made against her for which there are mountains of evidence.”

            >Being unpopular with those in power is not, and should never be, a crime. Candidates who announce that they’re going to give their political opponents the Brendan Eich treatment dialed up to eleven are unlikely to be the right choice.

            the problem with clinton is precisely that she isn’t unpopular with those in power, and uses her popularity to break the law with impunity. calling for her prosecution isn’t persecution of political enemies, it’s saying that the law applies even to people named clinton.

          • TheWorst says:

            Yes. They investigated Al Capone much, much less, and they found something.

            By stark contrast, on Hillary Clinton, smarter people than you or I spent decades, and more money than you or I will ever see in our lives trying to find something (anything!). And they found nothing.

            I think that distinction is significant. What evidence would it take for you to agree that Hillary Clinton isn’t a criminal?
            Do you have any evidence whatsoever that Hillary Clinton is a criminal? It seems like those are very important questions – huge red flags for motivated reasoning – that aren’t being addressed.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think that distinction is significant. What evidence would it take for you to agree that Hillary Clinton isn’t a criminal?

            That’s a genuinely good question. With regard to the most prominent (recent) criminal accusation against Hillary Clinton, an independent investigation of the text of the thirty thousand deleted emails, finding no compelling evidence of wrongdoing, would probably do it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            And they found nothing.

            The FBI’s investigation found plenty, that the DOJ declined to prosecute is a separate discussion.

          • TheWorst says:

            That’s a genuinely good question. With regard to the most prominent (recent) criminal accusation against Hillary Clinton, an independent investigation of the text of the thirty thousand deleted emails, finding no compelling evidence of wrongdoing, would probably do it.

            The problem is that’s a demand for an awful lot of rigor, and it looks extremely isolated. Do you think I’m a criminal? No independent investigation has ever gone over the text of thousands of emails I’ve deleted. Nor yours. Nor Rice’s, nor Powell’s, nor basically anyone’s. By that standard, you’re a criminal, and so am I.

            Is that really the standard you require for believing someone isn’t a criminal? If you aren’t applying this standard to anyone else, why are you choosing to apply it to Hillary Clinton?

            @houseboat

            Yep. (Well, aside from the hyperbole.)

            Yeah. But then… it felt like hyperbole at first, but can you think of any human who currently exists on Earth who’s been investigated more than Hillary Clinton? I’m not sure I can.

          • cassander says:

            @the worst

            >The problem is that’s a demand for an awful lot of rigor, and it looks extremely isolated. Do you think I’m a criminal? No independent investigation has ever gone over the text of thousands of emails I’ve deleted. Nor yours. Nor Rice’s, nor Powell’s, nor basically anyone’s. By that standard, you’re a criminal, and so am I.

            Is that really the standard you require for believing someone isn’t a criminal? If you aren’t applying this standard to anyone else, why are you choosing to apply it to Hillary Clinton?

            you haven’t destroyed evidence while under subpoena, lied to the FBI repeatedly, and been caught with classified material and thousands of official state department emails on a server in your basement. if you had been, for damned sure I would be applying the same standard to you as her.

            There is zero ambiguity here. The FBI fully admitted that hillary clinton got caught in violation of numerous laws. their, incredibly lame, excuse was that while she broke the rules, it is not typical to prosecute criminally this sort of rule breaking. that assertion is dubious, esepcially given the sheer scale of her violation.

            Since then, the information about her obstruction of justice has come out. She destroyed evidence and lied to the investigators. Martha Stewart went to jail for a hell of a lot less even if you completely ignore the classified material angle.

          • a non mouse says:

            I think that distinction is significant. What evidence would it take for you to agree that Hillary Clinton isn’t a criminal?

            A seemingly reasonable approach but, of course, unanswerable because it’s not striking at the heart of the matter. Everyone arguing against you is convinced she’s a criminal because of evidence that they’ve seen. The evidence they would need to see to agree that she’s not a criminal would be “all that old evidence was faked in an elaborate prank”. Do you think that the difference between “gross negligence” and “extreme carelessness” is something you can see evidence on? Because the difference between those two terms is the cited reason why she was “cleared” by the latest investigation.

            Do you have any evidence whatsoever that Hillary Clinton is a criminal? It seems like those are very important questions – huge red flags for motivated reasoning – that aren’t being addressed.

            Yes! Loads of it! Turning the question around – given that she did delete 30k+ subpoenaed emails and that she treated classified material with “extreme carelessness” do you have any reason that you’ve concluded she isn’t guilty of obstruction of justice and violation of the espionage act other than the report which laid out the evidence that she’s guilty but concluded that she shouldn’t be prosecuted? Is your sole defense that she’s not a criminal that she’s not in jail?

            It seems like “she’s not in jail” is your only defense against allegations that she’s a criminal and there’s a really attractive alternate explanation as to why she isn’t in jail – that she holds enough power to undermine the workings of law enforcement.

          • a non mouse says:

            I think that distinction is significant. What evidence would it take for you to agree that Hillary Clinton isn’t a criminal?

            A seemingly reasonable approach but, of course, unanswerable because it’s not striking at the heart of the matter. Everyone arguing against you is convinced she’s a criminal because of evidence that they’ve seen. The evidence they would need to see to agree that she’s not a criminal would be “all that old evidence was faked in an elaborate prank”. Do you think that the difference between “gross negligence” and “extreme carelessness” is something you can see evidence on? Because the difference between those two terms is the cited reason why she was “cleared” by the latest investigation.

            Do you have any evidence whatsoever that Hillary Clinton is a criminal? It seems like those are very important questions – huge red flags for motivated reasoning – that aren’t being addressed.

            Yes! Loads of it! Turning the question around – given that she did delete 30k+ subpoenaed emails and that she treated classified material with “extreme carelessness” do you have any reason that you’ve concluded she isn’t guilty of obstruction of justice and violation of the espionage act other than the report which laid out the evidence that she’s guilty but concluded that she shouldn’t be prosecuted? Is your sole defense that she’s not a criminal that she’s not in jail?

            It seems like “she’s not in jail” is your only defense against allegations that she’s a criminal and there’s a really attractive alternate explanation as to why she isn’t in jail – that she holds enough power to undermine the workings of law enforcement.

          • John Schilling says:

            The problem is that’s a demand for an awful lot of rigor, and it looks extremely isolated.

            Then you aren’t looking in the right places. That is absolutely standard procedure for dealing with any case where classified information is found on an unclassified system, and how we distinguish between “you were inexcusably sloppy, no more government work for you” and “this was no accident, off to jail with you”.

            At least that’s standard procedure for the little people. The only isolated rigor I’m seeing is the demand that Hillary Clinton be convicted of a crime before we follow our standard procedures for investigating that crime.

            Is that really the standard you require for believing someone isn’t a criminal?

            If one of the crimes they are accused of is mishandling classified information, and we find classified information on their personal computer, absolutely. That’s the standard for the people who work for me, it’s the standard I expect of the people I work for, it’s the standard I have signed up to be held to myself, and it is the standard to which I hold even the highest government officials.

            Particularly the ones who signed up for those rules themselves, even if they considered themselves too important to be bothered reading them.

          • David Friedman says:

            “And they found nothing.”

            I think you mean “they found nothing that they could prove clearly enough to get her tried and convicted in a court of law.”

            The cattle futures case, way back when Bill was governor, was found long ago, I think proved well enough to persuade a neutral party that she was almost certainly guilty. The recent revelations on email were found, used by her political opponents, arguably would have resulted in some legal penalties for a less prominent person.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ The Worst
            Hillary Clinton is almost certainly the single most-investigated person on Earth, and millions and millions of dollars have been spent on trying to find something, anything, illegal that she’s done, and it turns out there’s nothing.

            Yep. (Well, aside from the hyperbole.)

            The term ‘conspiracy theory’ iirc began with people saying, “A moon landing hoax would require too big a conspiracy to do it and to keep it quiet afterwards.” I don’t think all these investigations of Hillary could be called a single conspiracy, but as a set they do fall by the same criticism: too many people would have to be involved. From the cattle thing in 1979 to now is like 50 years: the early accusers must be dead by now. Each investigation by each agency in each state would require a separate operation to defuse a different group of accusers, and of course a somewhat different group of Evil Operatives.

            So in 50 years, none of them have come out with a tell-all book or even a reputable news story. If the Clintons were this powerful and/or smart, they’d have got Gore in in 2000, and Hillary in 2008, as well as a Democratic Congress through the whole 90s term. Do the current accusers think Kenneth Starr was in Bill’s pay?

          • a non mouse says:

            I don’t think all these investigations of Hillary could be called a single conspiracy, but as a set they do fall by the same criticism: too many people would have to be involved. From the cattle thing in 1979 to now is like 50 years: the early accusers must be dead by now. Each investigation by each agency in each state would require a separate operation to defuse a different group of accusers, and of course a somewhat different group of Evil Operatives.

            There are a ton of problems with this line of reasoning:

            1) You simply accept as given that a bunch of different people all separately decided there was enough basis for legal investigations into Hillary and Bill’s doings but that there was no actual basis. Either these people all separately saw enough evidence of wrongdoing to investigate or they’re all members of an anti-Clinton conspiracy. Since you also assert that there’s no basis for all these investigations you’re saying that a conspiracy to get the Clintons by lots of different people who don’t know each other and acted over a period of 50 years is likely. In my estimation, this is an extremely unlikely conspiracy – there’s no supposed ring-leader and no real motive – why pick the Clintons? The only reason Bill even got the Democratic nomination in 1992 was because the Democratic field assumed that Bush was unbeatable.

            2) Your entire argument is an appeal to authority. Taking two examples from the most recent Clinton scandal how is “gross negligence” different from “extreme carelessness” legally? Well, they were declared to be different in a report that “exonerated” Hillary. Is there an actual underlying argument other than that? Second example – she deleted and intentionally destroyed subpoenaed emails. What reason do you have to believe that isn’t obstruction of justice?

            3) The “conspiracy” that you’re positing would be the only way to explain why the Clintons keep getting off while being guilty isn’t at all implausible. It simply requires that the Clintons have an interest in avoiding penalties for wrongdoing. John Gotti wasn’t convicted of any of the numerous charges against him for years – to the extent of getting the nickname “the teflon don” – before his ultimate conviction your reasoning would lead to the conclusion that he was an honest businessman unfairly harassed by a vengeful FBI. Conspiracies to cover up profitable systemic wrongdoing occur all the time.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ a non mouse

            You seem to have read my comment, or at least the first part of it, just the opposite of what I meant. I’m sorry I was unclear, and will try to redo it when I can.

          • a non mouse says:

            @ houseboatonstyxb

            Ah, got it – we’re in agreement. The implausible conspiracy is that lots of people with no contact conspired to investigate baseless allegations about the Clintons.

            I patterned matched it for the opposite because Hillary did claim that “a vast right wing conspiracy” was out to get her.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyxb:
            You and “a non mouse” are disagreeing, not agreeing.

            He is talking about how hard it would be to execute a conspiracy to attack the Clintons, you are talking about how hard it would be to execute a conspiracy to defend them.

            In point of fact, you are both right, in your own way. The attacks on the Clintons don’t need to be a long conspiracy carried out in secret behind the scenes. Rather they can merely be a common tactic for attacking one’s political enemies.

            Similarly, all of the various investigations don’t require a vast cover-up to have failed to find evidence of criminal wrong-doing . One reasonable way this occurs is that criminal wrong-doing did not occur.

          • a non mouse says:

            Similarly, all of the various investigations don’t require a vast cover-up to have failed to find evidence of criminal wrong-doing . One reasonable way this occurs is that criminal wrong-doing did not occur.

            Right. Just like innocent needlessly harassed businessman John Gotti. What’s that? He was acquitted due to multiple cases of jury tampering? Meh, that would have required a conspiracy.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Just like innocent needlessly harassed businessman John Gotti. What’s that? He was acquitted due to multiple cases of jury tampering? Meh, that would have required a conspiracy.

            His jury tampering did later get found out; that’s how we know about it now. There were too many people involved; they couldn’t all be kept quiet indefinitely.

            Compare this with all the investigations of Hillary, now alleged to have been dropped by some sort of pressure. Each of these wouldn’t have involved as many people to keep quiet — but look how many investigations there have been. At least some of those, if illicit, would have been debunked by now. I mean, like with evidence — and the people involved been prosecuted themselves.

  12. Bakkot says:

    The Unit of Caring now has a Patreon – see announcement.

    A lot of people respect TUoC’s writing and would like to cause there to be more of it, myself included. I’m contributing.

    I’ve checked with her about posting this in light of vitriol in response to previous requests for donations and gotten the OK, but was not specifically asked to post it. Even if you are strongly opposed to this (which… I’m not sure why you would be), please try to express your disagreement civilly and with a minimum of personal attacks.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’m seriously considering supporting her, not so much for donations as “exchange [of] currency for goods and services.” Plus, hey, a feed of her thoughts-not-worth-blogging might be worth the price of two restaurant dinners per year.

      On the other hand, maybe first I should just join Quasi-Rationalist Tumblr to talk with her and many other interesting people…

    • Bakkot says:

      As a reminder, Scott also has one, which is per-post. It’s linked on the sidebar, but you may have overlooked it.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I read that as “The unit of caring is now the patreon.” and wondered who decided we needed a unit to measure caring.

  13. AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

    Serious question that may seem silly.

    To what extent is it interesting that Tim Cook, the CEO is apple, is gay?

    Apple products are known for exquisite design, and the products are marked up oh, a good 300% with the same functionality as other products.

    Would it take a good eye to spot social trends of people, which is otherwise seen in industries like the movie and fashion industry? Stereotypically, that’s a gay male advantage.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I would guess that depends largely on how much of the design he’s responsible for, versus others. I’ve heard that Steve Jobs (who’s AFAIK perfectly straight) single-handedly directed a lot of Apple’s design during his era; has Cook followed suit? Or has he deferred it to the people whom Jobs hired to follow in his footsteps?

    • AnonBosch says:

      As far as I know Apple’s iProduct-era design and aesthetic has been mostly informed by Jonathan Ive, not Steve Jobs or Tim Cook (who I believe came from the sales side of the business).

    • SilasLock says:

      Alternatively, the stereotype could be completely wrong and gay people are just as socially conscious as other people?

      Seems like a silly premise to me. = /

    • Blue says:

      The fact that the CEO of the most profitable company in human history (non inflation adjusted) is a member of a distinct minority group still suffering oppression in many places is fascinating from _so many angles_.

    • Stationary Feast says:

      I’d say it’s not at all interesting, but Cook is kind of a boring guy 99.99% of the time he’s in public.

      Plus, as one of the other commenters pointed out, he was the supply-chain guy, not a designer like Ive or Forstall or an arbiter of taste like Jobs.

    • Deiseach says:

      My impression of them, for what it’s worth, is that Jobs was a guru and Cook is a bean counter. Gay people can be boring and ordinary, too!

  14. DrBeat says:

    Eirin Yagokoro created the Hourai Elixir, the ultimate medicine of immortality, making its recipient no longer intersect with death as a concept. Nothing, under any circumstances, can kill someone who has taken the Hourai Elixir. If you go back in time and kill them before they take the Elixir, it still won’t work. The two people known to have taken the Elixir — Kaguya Houraisan and Fujiwara no Mokou — will explicitly live through the heat death of the universe.

    But being alive after the heat death of the universe is going to be incredibly unpleasant as you float about in space with nothing to do. Since Kaguya and Mokou will live forever due to Eirin’s intervention, there will be a point in time at which Eirin is responsible for all of human suffering (rounded up).

    Does this make Eirin history’s greatest monster now, or do we have to wait?

    • pku says:

      Interesting question. Since you’re assuming time travel, I’d say we can just do it now, since timelessness is the way to go here.

      Also, potential solution: if you allow time-travel of this form, can we somehow put Kaguya and Fujiwara in a closed loop, so that they have finite lifespan despite being immortal?

      • Error says:

        This would have to happen eventually in some sense, I think. Assuming their respective minds have only a finite number of possible states, eventually they must repeat, even without time travel.

        • Zakharov says:

          If Kaguya and Mokou can figure out sometime between now and the end of the universe a way to enter a stable joyous loop, the Hourai Elixir becomes a source of infinite utility.

          • ThrustVectoring says:

            Still finite, IMO. You don’t get to count the same mental state twice, let alone an infinite number of times.

      • DrBeat says:

        I’m not assuming time travel, I’m saying that even if you DID, time travel would still be unable to kill them.

        • Robert Liguori says:

          That would seem to suggest that the Elixer doesn’t actually grant immortality, but is actually simply a marker indicating that the recipient is favored by acausal entities from outside the universe. (The author, to be specific.)

          Therefore, any questions of morality would need to be parsed under the understanding that there was an Author, which invalidates quite a few basic moral precepts we have about our universe.

          Plus, if this is interesting immortality, then it includes regeneration and such, which means it takes place in a universe in which our laws of thermodynamics are not absolute, so I don’t know if we can posit heat death as a possibility.

    • baconbacon says:

      Why would someone who has clearly non human characteristics count as human?

    • John Schilling says:

      But being alive after the heat death of the universe is going to be incredibly unpleasant as you float about in space with nothing to do.

      Except perhaps socially interact with the other immortals, of which there will be at least one in this scenario. We’ll assume that sometime in the next infinity years they’ll be able to handwave around the merely physical problems of communication in a post-heat-death universe; they’ve either got indestructible human bodies to throw into the solution space, or their consciousness transcends material limits.

      • baconbacon says:

        Question- how long does it take for two points to cross paths in an infinite space?

      • DrBeat says:

        Except that 1: each of them is very very small and space is very very big and, once anything (like Earth, or the Sun) explodes, they will spend very little time able to perceive each other

        and 2: Kaguya and Mokou despise each other, and I am pretty sure that their nature as beings stretched over eternity prevents them from experiencing character growth that would be necessary for them to learn to tolerate one another (though maybe I am thinking of fairies?)

      • John Schilling says:

        You guys aren’t even trying. These two, and their colleagues to come, have how many trillion years to work the problem before the stars burn out? Learn to gene-edit their immortal, indestructible, but not immutable bodies into blobs so gargantuan that they will be gravitationally bound throughout eternity even when all non-indestructible matter has succumbed to proton decay. Or jump down a black hole together, and when it vanishes in a poof of Hawking radiation it’s a poof of comingled transcendent sapient Hawking radiation permeating the universe. Or learn to take infinitely long, deep, naps, waking only for on the infinitesimal occasions when they do bump into one another, which still adds up to an infinity of shared social interaction. And duplicate the elixir, so as to recruit the companions you’d like to share eternity with.

        Above all, threaten to give the author eternal writers’ block if he doesn’t give you a happier ending.

    • Aegeus says:

      She would also be responsible for all of human happiness at the time, so I think it balances out.

      Also, Kaguya and Mokou have had a few thousand years to come to terms with their immortality, to the point that they try to kill each other for shits and giggles. Point being, I don’t think you can reliably apply the preferences of today to calculate utility a billion years from now.

      Also also, Touhou is a setting with magic. And Gensokyo is a place that defies common sense. Thermodynamics is a polite suggestion at best.

      • DrBeat says:

        Gensokyo doesn’t have common sense, but Gensokyo is still on planet Earth, and when Earth blows up Gensokyo’s lack of common sense won’t help it!

  15. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    The question of collective self-defense in an anarchist society is a difficult one, which is why I was interested to see how an ancap webcomic called Escape From Terra approached the issue. Spoilers below.

    In the comic, the bureaucratic, socialistic Earth government wants to annex the asteroid Ceres and to tax and regulate its ancap society. At first they try diplomacy, but when that fails they send a naval strike force seven ships strong. Ceres has no military, but individual citizens carry small arms as a matter of course and miners regularly use multi-megawatt lasers and mini-nukes in industrial operations. The invasion is stopped when a small group of citizens spontaneously and altruistically decide to use these tools to fight against the strike force, forcing them to surrender.

    Which is all well and good, except that it means Ceres is a ticking time bomb. The first time someone with a laser or a nuke decides to go postal, the place is doomed. If you build your fictional world such that a handful of random people with common industrial tools can defeat an entire military fleet, you have built a world that is hanging by a thread.

  16. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    The question of collective self-defense in an anarchist society is a difficult one, which is why I was interested to see how an ancap webcomic called Escape From Terra approached the issue. Spoilers below.

    In the comic, the bureaucratic, socialistic Earth government wants to annex the asteroid Ceres and to tax and regulate its ancap society. At first they try diplomacy, but when that fails they send a naval strike force seven ships strong. Ceres has no military, but individual citizens carry small arms as a matter of course and miners regularly use multi-megawatt lasers and mini-nukes in industrial operations. The invasion is stopped when a small group of citizens spontaneously and altruistically decide to use these tools to fight against the strike force, forcing them to surrender.

    Which is all well and good, except that it means Ceres is a ticking time bomb. The first time someone with a laser or a nuke decides to go postal, the place is doomed. If you build your fictional world such that a handful of random people with common industrial tools can defeat an entire military fleet, you have built a world that is hanging by a thread.

  17. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    The question of collective self-defense in an anarchist society is a difficult one, which is why I was interested to see how an ancap webcomic called Escape From Terra approached the issue. Spoilers below.

    In the comic, the bureaucratic, socialistic Earth government wants to annex the asteroid Ceres and to tax and regulate its ancap society. At first they try diplomacy, but when that fails they send a naval strike force seven ships strong. Ceres has no military, but individual citizens carry small arms as a matter of course and miners regularly use multi-megawatt lasers and mini-nukes in industrial operations. The invasion is stopped when a small group of citizens spontaneously and altruistically decide to use these tools to fight against the strike force, forcing them to surrender.

    Which is all well and good, except that it means Ceres is a ticking time bomb. The first time someone with a laser or a nuke decides to go postal, the place is doomed. If you build your fictional world such that a handful of random people with common industrial tools can defeat an entire military fleet, you have built a world that is hanging by a thread.

    • James says:

      Cool!

      I’d love to see how entrepreneurs solve tough problems of public good market failures.

      David Friedman’s law and courts ideas are interesting.

      The one I think about a lot is fireworks. I’ve been trying to figure out how to provide fireworks.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      I remember Escape from Terra – and I have to say I agree with your criticism.

      I gave up after a while when the feeling that Ceres was a Mary Suetopia and Earth a straw dystopia grew too large.

      As an alternative I recommend the TV show The Expanse. It’s not mind-blowing and it’s not trying to explore political ideas but it’s a solid piece of work. The asteroid miners aren’t exactly ancap. It’s more like the wild west – if “back east” meant England rather than the east cost of the united states.

    • Deiseach says:

      individual citizens carry small arms as a matter of course

      Not going to dig through the back-issues to find out why, but why? Are there dangerous native lifeforms (but if it’s our Ceres, that’s not going to be the case). In which case, they’re carrying them as protection from one another. Space pirates and space claim jumpers? Or simply the assumption that if you get into a fight, someone is going to start shooting, so you have to be armed?

      • John Schilling says:

        Members of the Sikh faith generally live in peaceful societies, yet carry ceremonial daggers. I can easily imagine a libertarian-ish culture adopting a similar quasi-religious custom regarding guns – particularly if there were a foundational myth from the days when their cultural survival depended on being armed against Space Pirates or whatnot.

        • baconbacon says:

          Also they would be rich, and seeking ways of establishing status.

        • bean says:

          John, how could you betray the Sensible Space Warfare side like this? Next time we have to debate stealth in space, someone will bring this up to prove that you actually secretly think space pirates are going to be a thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, I didn’t say they were stealthy Space Pirates, did I?

            These are your Barbary-Coast style space pirates; there’s no question about what they are or where they are, but their homeworld is protected by the Space Ottomans and their ships are small but fast, so you just have to be ready to repel them wherever they land.

            Or pay them tribute to leave you alone, but I’m just going to close my eyes and hum real loud rather than have to contemplate a bunch of libertarians choosing a market-based solution when they could be out shooting people with their big privately-owned guns…

          • LHN says:

            As the Byzantines demonstrated, once you start paying the Danegeld, you… remain one of the most powerful polities in the region for centuries, outlasting repeated waves of different “Danes”.

            (Including actual Danes, or at least Varangians.)

            But of course fighting makes for a much better story. Constantinople standing almost alone against the final siege by the Ottomans is a lot more compelling than “and then the Emperor sent out wagons filled with tons of gold to buy off the latest group of barbarians. Again.” Even if you’d generally rather live in the city during the “buy them off with tons of gold” phase.

            Still, I’d sort of like to see a Nick van Rijn or early First Foundation-style incarnation of the libertarian Ceres colony, repelling pirate raids and conquests via its more sophisticated finances, access to capital, and understanding of the difference between glorious victory and long-term success.

          • “Still, I’d sort of like to see a Nick van Rijn or early First Foundation-style incarnation of the libertarian Ceres colony, repelling pirate raids and conquests via its more sophisticated finances, access to capital, and understanding of the difference between glorious victory and long-term success.”

            Two points:

            1. The Byzantines had the improved model of Wergeld. Pay off one set of enemies to leave you alone and attack another set.

            2. Van Rijn is your man–he understands economics. See “Margin of Profit,” which is on my very short list of works of fiction that make a correct economic point. You don’t have to make what the enemy is doing impossible, just unprofitable.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Members of the Sikh faith generally live in peaceful societies, yet carry ceremonial daggers. I can easily imagine a libertarian-ish culture adopting a similar quasi-religious custom regarding guns

          A Kirpan is one thing; but people carrying around loaded firearms in a space habitat?

          because of the “every pound counts” rule of space travel spacecraft tend to be pretty fragile things full of nasty explosive chemicals. One drunken mistake and you have depressurized your ship, or worse.

          • LHN says:

            Long-range spacecraft need to be able to withstand micrometeoroid impacts. I’d think that the necessary shielding would tend to make bullets non-disastrous, though it may depend on how it’s implemented.

            (For a hypothetical asteroid settlement, you’re presumably dug into rock and it isn’t an issue.)

          • hyperboloid says:

            Thanks to the tyranny of the rocket equation, any realistic spacecraft design is basically a flying gas can. Think of a reactor and a huge mass of fuel tanks with a tiny pressurized volume to keep the meat bags alive.

            Micrometeoroid defense is going to depend on some combination of armor and point defenses (probably lasers). Its is going to be designed to protect a ship form incoming objects and not gun fire from within So its not going to cover every part of the habitable area of the ship.

            Imagine I’m standing on the deck of my interplanetary rocket looking down, that is to say along the axis of acceleration, and I pull a Roland Pryzbylewski with my ancient earth 1911, what happens? There may be armor above and around me, but beneath my feet, where fuel tank meets habitat, the hull should be just thick enough to keep the air pressure in.

            Best case scenario the ship slowly depressurizes; worst case scenario I hit something hypergolic, and KABLAMO, there are going to be widows back on Ceres collecting life insurance.

            Unless the right to bear arms is restricted to things that don’t go bang, there is no second amendment in space.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Hyperboloid – “Unless the right to bear arms is restricted to things that don’t go bang, there is no second amendment in space.”

            Glaser Safety Slug
            Birdshot

            Plus beanbag rounds, flechettes, and lots and lots of other neat things. Floors are going to need to be strong enough to handle the abuse of people walking on them, falling on them, dropping heavy wrenches or crates full of kit… I’m pretty sure a floor strong enough to eat non-AP isn’t too much to ask.

          • John Schilling says:

            Micrometeoroid defense is going to depend on some combination of armor and point defenses (probably lasers).

            We know how micrometeoroid protection works because we’ve been doing it for decades. It’s all armor, not lasers, and that’s not going to change. The weight of the armor is not driving the design, the sensors and fire control for the lasers are going to be chock full of unacceptable failure modes, and passive defense works just fine here.

            Also, for long-duration human spaceflight, radiation protection is going to be the driving concern, not micrometeoroids. You’re definitely not going to be shooting down cosmic rays with point-defense lasers.

            Imagine I’m standing on the deck of my interplanetary rocket looking down, that is to say along the axis of acceleration, and I [screw up] with my ancient earth 1911, what happens? There may be armor above and around me, but beneath my feet, where fuel tank meets habitat, the hull should be just thick enough to keep the air pressure in.

            We’ve been building spaceships long enough to know that this isn’t how it works either. Or if it does, you were doomed from the start by incompetent design. The fuel tank doesn’t meet the habitat at a common bulkhead; there’s at minimum two pressure hulls and a machinery bay between the two. And if there were a common bulkhead between the propellant tank and the habitat, it would have to be much stronger than necessary to keep the air pressure in, because the fuel pressure is much higher than the air pressure. I couldn’t find data on the Apollo Service Module tanks, but close modern equivalents average 2mm titanium walls or the equivalent, and that will stop .45 ACP.

            Also, if you shoot a .45-caliber hole in the side of an Apollo Command Module, you have eleven minutes to find and crudely patch the hole before the air pressure drops too low. That’s for a very large caliber pistol in a very small spacecraft, even assuming full penetration.

            It’s possible a stray bullet could hit some absolutely vital, irreparable, but fragile piece of equipment, but it turns out that people who design spaceships are really big on redundancy and fault tolerance, because Murphy’s law. The biggest danger is almost certainly that a stray bullet will hit and kill a person on the spaceship, because I can give your spaceship redundant everything but Darwin only gave you one heart.

            And that’s a danger that people have been dealing with here on Earth since guns were invented. Some people find it absolutely intolerable and attempt to purge their societies of guns, others take it entirely in stride, and there’s not much difference in the mortality statistics between the two. I imagine it will be similar in extraterrestrial societies – as on Earth, the biggest difference between the armed and disarmed societies will be that the armed societies have bloodier but not more frequent suicides.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ LHN

            (For a hypothetical asteroid settlement, you’re presumably dug into rock and it isn’t an issue.)

            Hm. Dug safely into rock … first big gunfight no damage … rock monsters appear … “You knocked? Welcome to Lithotopia. Where is your mining permit?”

          • Furslid says:

            You’re already one drunken mistake from disaster in any spacecraft. I’d be more worried about a misused wrench, welding torch, or angle grinder than a firearm.

            If your spacecraft/habitat is big enough to need firearms for self defense against people, it’s big enough to have common areas that don’t have mission critical equipment exposed. It’s also likely that any mission critical areas have highly restricted access (like in real life). So gunplay would be more likely in the laundry where anyone can walk in than the engine room where only the 12 trusted engineers can enter.

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re already one drunken mistake from disaster in any spacecraft.

            Interestingly, about half the people who have travelled into space have brought handguns, and about half the people who have travelled into space brought booze (mostly congnac, I believe), and it turns out to be mostly the same half. This has caused zero problems that I know of.

            Whether future spacefarers or -dwellers have guns, is going to be decided on the basis of cultural values and marginal utility. Anyone saying it is about the fragility of spaceships is mostly just signaling their cultural values (or their unsuitability to travel on anything but the most thoroughly nerfed spaceships, but that’s another matter).

          • LHN says:

            Interestingly, about half the people who have travelled into space have brought handguns

            And what a handgun.

            I still don’t know why I’ve never yet been offered a triple-barrel pistol that fired flares, shells, and rifle ammunition (if you didn’t want to mount the machete blade) in any space-based video game. It makes most of the weapons in, say, Mass Effect look positively tame.

            (Okay, maybe not the backpack nuke.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Furslid:

            As someone who has lived in university residence, I can totally imagine a huge amount of violence on a spaceship happening in the laundry room.

          • bean says:

            I think that there’s a critical distinction between “spaceship” and “space habitat”, and that will greatly affect how the design is done, and how people act in those situations. Spaceships are too mass-critical to be set up to allow people to live under anything but what we’d identify as naval/nautical discipline. (Obviously excluding liners.) A habitat, on the other hand, is stationary, and might well be on a planet/moon/asteroid. Which means thicker walls, more redundant life support systems, and a much higher tolerance for misbehavior. I could see people carrying pistols on Ceres, but leaving them in the lockbox when they get on their mining ship (or whatever). In fact, that could be very symbolic. When you have the gun on, you’re an individual. When you take it off, you’re part of a crew for whatever purpose.

          • John Schilling says:

            And what a handgun … I still don’t know why I’ve never yet been offered a triple-barrel pistol that fired flares, shells, and rifle ammunition.

            OK, I just realized we’ve found the killer app for the Gyrojet. The only really successful item from that entire product line were the distress flares and smoke rockets, which were quite good. Some of the kinetic rounds offered the sort of downrange kinetic energy you’d need to take on Siberian megafauna, which is rare in a lightweight handgun, but took enough time to build up speed that they’d be relatively harmless inside a small spaceship. The recoilless aspect would be useful if you needed to fire the thing during an EVA, to repel space pirates or lurking Chinese microsatellites or whatnot. And my references are at home but I believe MBA did offer a survival pistol variant that was packaged with several sorts of flare and kinetic rounds and had an option for a single-shot conventional firearm barrel that could presumably in this application be limited to shotshell or prefragmented rounds for close-range use.

            Alexy Leonov and Robert Mainhardt were contemporaries. If not for Cold War politics preventing their collaboration, we could have had Actual Buck Rogers Rocket Pistols, In Space.

          • John Schilling says:

            I could see people carrying pistols on Ceres, but leaving them in the lockbox when they get on their mining ship (or whatever). In fact, that could be very symbolic. When you have the gun on, you’re an individual. When you take it off, you’re part of a crew for whatever purpose.

            +1. This is the sort of sociological extrapolation I like to see in my science fiction, far more than the usual “Western in Space” or whatnot, and more than rote libertopian dreck like “Escape from Terra”. Please, science fiction writers in the audience, steal this one.

          • bean says:

            @John Schilling:
            If I’m in a proper space colony, I don’t see much reason to carry a survival weapon specced against Siberian megafauna. My survival plan involves going to the escape pod and waiting for the Space Guard to rescue me. Likewise, I don’t need a flare gun. I want the flare close to me.
            And as I’m sure you know, handgun recoil isn’t that big of a deal in zero-G. Also, I suspect that a gyrojet is going to have a greater quantity of propellant than a conventional bullet, which is bad for two reasons. First, nitrogen is expensive in space, and you want to minimize usage. Second, that’s more junk you just dumped into the environmental control system.

            Edit:
            I feel compelled to provide the canonical set of links on realistic futuristic sidearms. I’m surprised that nobody else has done so.

          • John Schilling says:

            Near term, the biggest habs are likely to be in LEO, and may take days to arrange an orbital rendezvous in LEO compared with hours to land a capsule in some vaguely-habitable location on Earth. I think we’ve got at least a generation where abort-to-Siberia still figures prominently in manned spaceflight contingency planning.

            After that, the gyrojets will be firing smart rounds, which offers an entirely new set of SFnal opportunities. If I’m putting down a riot in a mining platform off Ceres, I want the gun whose bullets can reason, “Wait – that’s the backup lithium battery pack dead ahead, BREAK RIGHT!”

          • hlynkacg says:

            This is the sort of sociological extrapolation I like to see in my science fiction, far more than the usual “Western in Space” or whatnot, and more than rote libertopian dreck like “Escape from Terra”. Please, science fiction writers in the audience, steal this one.

            Ditto and on it.

          • Lumifer says:

            I want the gun whose bullets can reason, “Wait – that’s the backup lithium battery pack dead ahead, BREAK RIGHT!”

            Or “This looks stupid, what am I doing here? OK, bye all!” X -D

            But I think you really want a knife missile.

          • bean says:

            Near term, the biggest habs are likely to be in LEO, and may take days to arrange an orbital rendezvous in LEO compared with hours to land a capsule in some vaguely-habitable location on Earth. I think we’ve got at least a generation where abort-to-Siberia still figures prominently in manned spaceflight contingency planning.

            At this point, we start getting into precise design of the escape system. I’ll grant that LEO habitats will escape to Earth, but at that point, we have lots of options. Unless your plan is either MOOSE and an immediate landing or literally landing somewhere in Russia, I’d expect that you’d stay in orbit for a few hours until you get a good window to land somewhere safe where you’re easy to rescue. Most likely on a clear patch of water with the local Coast Guard (or equivalent) standing by. Definitely not somewhere where you need serious survival skills and risk being eaten by megafauna. (If nothing else, those places tend to be hard to rescue people from.)
            That said, while we maintain something resembling our current model of manned spaceflight, it’s not implausible that the gyrojet could make a comeback.

            After that, the gyrojets will be firing smart rounds, which offers an entirely new set of SFnal opportunities. If I’m putting down a riot in a mining platform off Ceres, I want the gun whose bullets can reason, “Wait – that’s the backup lithium battery pack dead ahead, BREAK RIGHT!”

            I was going to disagree, but now that I think about it, it’s one of the easier ways of providing large, low-velocity rounds in a man-portable package.

          • John Schilling says:

            Unless your plan is literally landing somewhere in Russia, I’d expect that you’d stay in orbit for a few hours until you get a good window to land somewhere safe where you’re easy to rescue. Most likely on a clear patch of water with the local Coast Guard (or equivalent) standing by.

            Which brings us back to the “cultural values” aspect of who is going to be packing heat in space. The Russians are scared of landing on the high seas because no naval tradition, and they are scared of wolves because their wolves are historically scarier than ours, but they are OK with guns, so they are going to parachute into someplace desolate and do it properly armed. The descendants of Yankee Traders will trust their Coast Guard to fish them out of the ocean. Not sure where the Chinese fit on that spectrum, once they stop copying the Russians.

            As for literal gyrojets, I am afraid that window closed a while ago on account of they were really the passion of Robert Mainhardt, who was a Lone Mad Scientist of the old school and is now dead. If we had hooked him up with some proper wolf-fearing cosmonauts, something might have come of it, but too hard to resurrect the technology for a niche application today. And a generation from now, smart-rocket guns will neither need nor want the “gyro” feature. So we’re stuck between a kind of neat alternate history that wasn’t, and some interesting future possibilities that might become.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Come to think of it, wouldn’t chemical weapons be a whole lot more practical in space?

          • bean says:

            @John Schilling:
            That’s more or less what I was groping towards. The Russians want to land on land because they have lots of it and don’t trust the Navy to show up and fish them out. (This is a rational fear. Russian naval deployments always include a tug for exactly the reasons you would first conclude on hearing that.) I don’t think that Americans not being OK with guns has much to do with it, except that we don’t see a need for them in practice.

            As for literal gyrojets, I am afraid that window closed a while ago on account of they were really the passion of Robert Mainhardt, who was a Lone Mad Scientist of the old school and is now dead.

            So what do we call a non-spun smart rocket-propelled bullet? I’ll bet that ‘gyrojet’ is at least a strong contender when/if that happens.

            @FacelessCraven

            Come to think of it, wouldn’t chemical weapons be a whole lot more practical in space?

            Why on (or off) Earth would that be? If you’re talking about a nutter with a tank of chlorine, then I suppose you’re right in that there’s no ‘outside’ to get to. But on the other hand, unless the life support designer is a complete and total idiot, the potential release of toxic gasses will be taken into account. If the atmosphere monitors pick up anything that they don’t recognize, the local ventilation system gets locked down and the evacuation alarms start going off. The appropriate response is to simply vent the affected compartment and wait a while. All chemical weapons are either gasses or liquids with non-zero vapor pressures.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Bean – “Why on (or off) Earth would that be?”

            arbitrary lethality to minor wounds, was my thinking. poison darts or BBs, not necessarily grenades. Though if there was a substance that had a very short persistance, grenades might work too.

          • Lumifer says:

            If the atmosphere monitors pick up anything that they don’t recognize, the local ventilation system gets locked down and the evacuation alarms start going off.

            …after the first Mexican night at the local cafeteria everyone agreed to never every do it again…

          • bean says:

            @FacelessCraven

            arbitrary lethality to minor wounds, was my thinking. poison darts or BBs, not necessarily grenades. Though if there was a substance that had a very short persistance, grenades might work too.

            But what does being in space buy you over using poison on Earth? There’s a reason that poison isn’t widely used on weapons now. A poison dart doesn’t penetrate well, may take some time to take effect, and puts the user at risk, too. In space, the chances of light armor (space suits) being present increase significantly.

            @Lumifer:

            …after the first Mexican night at the local cafeteria everyone agreed to never every do it again…

            Actually, that’s a point of some interest. IIRC, gas-producing foods are somewhat frowned upon because the gas doesn’t separate out very well.

          • John Schilling says:

            [why chemical weapons in space?]
            Arbitrary lethality to minor wounds, was my thinking.

            But lethality is rarely an actual goal for weapons. The bit where the military supposedly prefers wounding rather than killing the enemy on account of tying up other soldiers caring for the wounded is mostly an urban legend. The reality is, the vast majority of the people who use “lethal” weapons simply don’t care whether the target dies, or if they do care they aren’t averse to e.g. cutting the other guy’s throat when he’s down. What people mostly(*) care about, when they get to shooting at each other, is whether the other guy goes down right now, before he can shoot back.

            Lots of things can do that, and almost all of them are lethal at least some of the time. Chemical weapons can’t do that, because it’s going to take a minute or more for the poison to spread from the point of injection. Maybe thirty seconds for a really high concentration of a fast-acting inhaled agent. Still enough time for the other guy to leap across a hab module and bash open your skull with a wrench, and then what good is it that you’ve killed him too?

            * #2 on the list, and sometimes #1, is scaring the crap out of the other guy so he doesn’t even try to shoot back. That’s where the instinctive fear of fire and thunder (and sharp pointiness and bloody dismemberment, etc) wins over the intellectual knowledge that the laughable tiny dart is deadly.

          • Furslid says:

            Another problem with the small weapons like darts/bbs is that people have spacesuits available. Any space suit that is rugged enough to use in EVA work would double as body armor. This suggests more powerful, more penetrating ammo would be needed than on earth guns.

          • Agronomous says:

            @hlynkacg:

            If you’re writing a story with gyrojets, I want someone to use them to propel themselves in an emergency! You could tether yourself to the rocket (how long is the exhaust plume?), fire it out of the gun, get dragged along, then repeat as needed. Could work well with being spaced out of a low-acceleration spaceship, and the bad guys not realizing you’re alive or have propulsion (maybe they sabotaged it, or drained the air tanks so they can’t be used) or can catch up.

            On another note: what if guns shot projectiles with lots of penetrating power, but that left only tiny holes when they go through rigid stuff like exterior walls? Don’t bullets do a lot of damage via shock wave, not just tumbling and fragmenting?

            Also, habitat walls will probably be designed to be self-sealing; I know I read something somewhere about inflatable habs being safer in the event of micrometeorite strikes.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Agro,
            It started as a setting for a D20 campaign that was essentially “Hard boiled detectives in SPAAAACE” (a lunar colony to be precise as my group has quite a few old school Heinlein and Clarke fans). It has since been expanded and fleshed out with art and stories from myself and one of the other players.

            Firearms in my setting generally come in two flavors. “HV” weapons, and “Thumpers”.

            HV rifles and pistols are basically what you describe. They fire small projectiles with lots of penetrating power, and are typically carried by military personnel, mercenaries, and other “professionals”. Their use/possession is heavily regulated by many locations in the setting.

            “Thumpers” are essentially M79 Grenade Launchers that can be loaded with a variety of custom rounds. EVA crewmembers carry them as a matter of course where they’re used as rope launchers, signal guns, etc… Thumpers loaded with “Taser” or bean-bag rounds are standard issue for station police, and your average bartender or shop-keep’s probably keeps one stashed behind the counter. Individuals looking to cause a bit more mayhem can load them with conventionally lethal rounds such as buckshot, incendiaries or explosives, but should expect some trouble with station security should they be caught with them.

            Things like laser-guns and anti-personnel missiles do exist in the setting but are generally too expensive / specialized to be encountered in day-to-day use.

            In addition hand weapons are still very much a thing with boat-hooks, halligan-tools, and good ole fashioned switchblades, readily available.

            As an aside, I’m very much enjoying The Expanse, but am kind of miffed that they “stole” some of my ideas.

    • baconbacon says:

      Which is all well and good, except that it means Ceres is a ticking time bomb. The first time someone with a laser or a nuke decides to go postal, the place is doomed. If you build your fictional world such that a handful of random people with common industrial tools can defeat an entire military fleet, you have built a world that is hanging by a thread.

      Why is it hanging by a thread?

      • Aegeus says:

        Because all it takes to kill a city is one person having a bad day. Take one of today’s mass shooters, and give them a nuclear bomb instead of a rifle.

        • bean says:

          Jon’s Law. Any interesting spacecraft drive is also a WMD.

        • baconbacon says:

          You have made a huge leap here, just because a nuclear weapon exists and can be used by a small group of people with a plan does not imply that it can be used by 1 person, on a whim.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            A small group of people with a plan is a rather low barrier to entry for the power to destroy your entire civilization.

          • baconbacon says:

            That isn’t the barrier- its a small group of people who have risen to the top of a free society who suddenly decide that everything they know, own and have built should be destroyed, without any of the other people in the society being able to stop them.

            How many mass shooters were well balanced, stable and rich prior to going on their rampage? How many of those people who would go on a rampage are also capable of getting into the upper echelon of a market society first?

        • bean says:

          I think you overestimate the threat of nuclear explosives, for several reasons.
          1. Mining explosives are likely to be on the order of, at most, a few hundred tons. The correct scale is ‘very large terrorist attack’, not ‘nuclear war’.
          2. People who deal with explosives have fairly strict controls. When was the last time you heard a disgruntled miner stealing explosives and blowing something up?
          Actually, I’m not even sure that nuclear mining explosives make any sort of sense. I’m aware of Operation Plowshare, but that was for heavy earthmoving work, not regular mining. There was one planned mining test, but it got cancelled.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            This is an asteroid colony. It’s both smaller and much more fragile than Earth based civilization.

          • bean says:

            This is an asteroid colony. It’s both smaller and much more fragile than Earth based civilization.

            Good point. For some reason, I was focused on someone snapping and going after Earth. This is why I really, really doubt the Libertarian/AnCap Utopia IN SPACE!! The environment is too hostile and the powers involved are too great for there not to be some regulation. And by ‘some regulation’, I mean that when you have to pay for the air you breathe, and you have a choice of paying the company or paying the government, I’d look really hard before choosing the company.

    • Luke the CIA stooge says:

      Use of nukes and megalasers would probably be coordinated by companies and large voluntary organisation’s. Hell an anarchocapitalist society can even have the equivalent of government s if there are strong exit rights and strong practicality to exiting over small things. Imagine if your local city was decided up that each neighborhood was it’s own jurisdiction and they didn’t coordinate to assert broader control, that would default to anarchocapitalism since at that point any “tax” is functionally just a payment for services rendered, which you can shop around for if you don’t like your current
      provider.

      ironically the reason Anarcocapitalism isn’t currently viable is that we don’t have the institutions to make it work.

    • bean says:

      If you build your fictional world such that a handful of random people with common industrial tools can defeat an entire military fleet, you have built a world that is hanging by a thread.

      Agreed. The corollary is that such things don’t actually happen. I’ve spent some time thinking about this.
      Even megawatt mining lasers aren’t likely to be useful for space warfare. The optics required to make a useful weapon are highly nontrivial, and don’t have a lot of civilian uses, unless you’re looking at beamed propulsion or something of that nature (and even then, the constraints are a bit different). As for nukes, the problem is delivering them. Unless the attackers are nearly as improvised as the defenders, they’re likely to have some sort of point defenses. (I know the comic mentions they were only set up to shoot at surface targets, but that confirms that they’re doing ideological propaganda, not serious analysis of space warfare.)
      In other words, the result of a battle between improvised and professional space forces is almost certain to be the same as the result of a battle between improvised and professional air or naval forces.

    • caethan says:

      Not even “decides to go postal”, which is admittedly pretty unlikely. We’re talking more “doesn’t take sufficiently strong safety precautions”. Whoops, that laser I just turned on was accidentally aimed at your ship! Sorry!

    • IrishDude says:

      The Asteroid is a Harsh Mistress?

    • raj says:

      Is there a standard anarcho-capitalist response to the problem of raising an army? I see how public services could be provided, but the military is a sort of all-or-nothing endeavor that requires everyone to commit, and more acutely suffers from the free-rider dilemma.

      (something something markets, shared incentives, prestige and social status?)

      • John Schilling says:

        I don’t know if it counts as a standard response, but a common one is to note that the sort of distributed armaments and institutions that would be necessary to fight domestic threats like criminal gangs would also serve as the basis for a guerilla resistance movement that would make a nation intolerably painful for an invader to truly conquer so they will either not bother to try or abandon the effort quickly.

        I suspect this plan is most favored by people who have been raised on the Disney edit of the American Revolution and have never experienced or even studied real guerilla wars / armed resistance movements, and that’s before we even consider the class of conquerers whose are fine with a bit of scorched earth or genocide if that’s what it takes.

        • bean says:

          Well said. I would add that a large portion of the job of a military is deterrence, and politicians the world over have a bad habit of seeing a place with a weak conventional military and deciding that their much stronger conventional military can take it over pretty easily. Usually, they’re right, but then run into the guerilla war. While the defender may win in the end, it’s usually an unpleasant experience for all concerned.
          And since the discussion started in space, I’d reiterate that an improvised space force stands very little chance against a regular one. The technology required is simply too esoteric.

      • David Friedman says:

        I spent one chapter in the first edition of the Machinery of Freedom (the link is to the second edition but the chapter is the same) and one chapter in the third edition on the problem.

        For a very different approach, you might look at James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed. It’s largely about features of stateless societies in the past that made annexing them unprofitable for adjacent states.

      • David Friedman says:

        I spent one chapter in the first edition of the Machinery of Freedom (the link is actually to the second edition but the chapter is the same) and one chapter in the third edition on the problem.

        For a very different approach, you might look at James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed. It’s largely about features of stateless societies in the past that made annexing them unprofitable for adjacent states.

      • David Friedman says:

        I spent one chapter in the first edition of the Machinery of Freedom and one chapter in the third edition on the problem. I tried posting this with links, but whatever bug it is that keeps me from posting with my webpage URL in my email also keeps me from posting links to things on my web page. Try using these links:

        Second Edition of Machinery (the chapter is the same as in the first): http://www.daviddfriedmanXXX.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf

        Chapter in Third Edition: http://www.daviddfriedmanXXX.com/Machinery_3d_Edition/The%20Hard%20Problem%20II.htm

        In both cases, remove the XXX

        For a very different approach, you might look at James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed. It’s largely about features of stateless societies in the past that made annexing them unprofitable for adjacent states.

        • Skeltering Lead says:

          The mind boggles at the kind of content posted (possibly from a library terminal in The Dreaming?) at davidfriedmanXXX.com

    • Mr Mind says:

      Frome the link you posted:

      The defensibility of an anarchist society, in a military sense, is a crucial, perhaps the most crucial, question in determining the legitimacy of anarchism as viable political philosophy. Unfortunately, this is also the realm of anarchist thought where the varying schools of anarchism are the least well-developed.

      Isn’t a huge red flag of any philosophy or ideology that the most important problem is the least developed?

      • John Schilling says:

        I think we can pretty much reduce the differences between ideologies to which problems they consider most important. That being the case, the other ideologies all have huge red flags in that they don’t have well-developed solutions to what us right-thinking people all consider the most important problem.

        • Mr Mind says:

          The way I read the passage is different: the author is saying that it is the most important problem for each school, but it is also the one that they develop the least.
          Having almost zero acquaintance with AnCap I might be wrong.

          • David Friedman says:

            I don’t think national defense is the most important problem for anarcho-capitalists, although it’s an important problem. The problem of how you manage the equivalent of courts and laws without government is at least as important.

            National defense is simply the most difficult of the important problems.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            National defense, or at least border control, is going to be a huge problem for any state with a competent state nearby.

            Because otherwise you are just the lawless area where the fugitive criminals go, and that’s not likely to stand.

          • IrishDude says:

            There is law in ancap land, it’s just provided competitively instead of as a monopoly. I’d assume there would be private services the bordering country could hire to find the fugitive, as that would be an important service to have within ancap land when criminals flee an area.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @IrishDude:
            On what legal grounds would these people be removed from AnCapistan?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ IrishDude

            it’s just provided competitively instead of as a monopoly

            Right. So what you mistakenly call an “invading army” is actually just a private law-enforcement agency that I have created and hired to bring to justice offenders against my laws.

          • bean says:

            I’d assume there would be private services the bordering country could hire to find the fugitive, as that would be an important service to have within ancap land when criminals flee an area.

            Those are called bounty hunters. These days, states don’t like dealing with them. They’re messy compared to extradition treaties. The more likely result if the problem gets bad is a punitive expedition. Or a new private enforcement agency entering the game, that just happens to wear the uniforms of my army. (That’s a really good quote, Lumifer.)
            And this doesn’t even solve other problems, like cross-border coordination. How do I know that the radio stations in Ancap Land will respect ITU frequency allocation? How can I be sure that airplanes from Ancap Land won’t suddenly fall out of the sky on my citizens? How does air traffic control in Ancap Land work, anyway?

          • IrishDude says:

            @Lumifer

            So what you mistakenly call an “invading army” is actually just a private law-enforcement agency that I have created and hired to bring to justice offenders against my laws.

            If your private law-enforcement tries to enforce laws most people in ancap land don’t like, then it will be very costly for them to do so.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            On what legal grounds would these people be removed from AnCapistan?

            Canada creates reciprocating agreements with the private law enforcement agencies that stipulates extradition terms, same as is done now between countries. Any benefits or challenges that exist for extradition treaties between countries would likely exist between a country and private law enforcement agencies in ancap land.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ IrishDude

            That’s why my private law-enforcement agency has tanks and bombers : -P

          • IrishDude says:

            @bean

            How do I know that the radio stations in Ancap Land will respect ITU frequency allocation?

            How do you know the radio stations in nation-state land will respect ITU frequency allocation?

            How can I be sure that airplanes from Ancap Land won’t suddenly fall out of the sky on my citizens?

            I’m pretty sure airplane pilots and companies will have strong incentives to not have planes falling out of the sky. At the very least, it’s bad for business, and most pilots don’t want to die.

            How does air traffic control in Ancap Land work, anyway?

            It would probably start working like it does now, but there’d be more experimentation to find new and better ways to keep track of everything in the sky.

          • IrishDude says:

            The U.S. and U.S.S.R sent tanks and bombs into Afghanistan. It didn’t work out too well to take control.

            If AnCap land starts in an enclave in the U.S., I’m not too worried about Canada or Mexico invading. If AnCap land started near Russia, it would have to be much more concerned about defense.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ IrishDude

            You really think that the current-day Afghanistan is a good poster country for ancap?? Come to our AnCapistan, we’ll be just like Afghanistan!

          • IrishDude says:

            I think Afghanistan is an instructive example that just because you have tanks and bombs doesn’t mean you can take control of a place, and given how poor Afghanistan is the fact that tanks and bombs are ineffective for gaining control there provides some evidence that it would be that much more difficult to take control of a wealthier AnCap enclave. Costa Rica doesn’t even have a military and they don’t seem to be getting invaded from their neighbors. Maybe the importance of needing a military is overblown? I think defense is more important in some parts of the world than it is in others.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Lumifer: There are various parts of the world where people live who seem to have taken that tradeoff. If, for instance, the people living in the parts of Afghanistan that foreign conquerors inevitably fail to take and hold didn’t want to be (as the stereotype goes) “fiercely independent”, presumably they’d just yield to the foreign conquerors.

            Not a great poster child for Ancapistan though – the sorts of cultures that inhabit those regions tend to be rugged, but they tend not to be individualistic – blood feuds definitely violate the NAP.

            I can imagine the sort of people who think Jack Donovan is tops taking that tradeoff, or at least saying they would.

          • IrishDude says:

            Googling on Costa Rica, I came across a wikipedia article on the Regional Security System:
            “The Regional Security System was created out of a need for collective response to security threats, which were impacting on the stability of the region in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On 29 October 1982 four members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States—namely, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines—signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Barbados to provide for “mutual assistance on request”. The signatories agreed to prepare contingency plans and assist one another, on request, in national emergencies, prevention of smuggling, search and rescue, immigration control, fishery protection, customs and excise control, maritime policing duties, protection of off-shore installations, pollution control, national and other disasters and threats to national security.”

            The Regional Security System covers a few nations without any military. I think a “mutual assistance upon request” agreement could be signed among several private rights enforcement agencies, and perhaps some existing country’s military, to cover international threats to AnCap land.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ IrishDude

            Nobody bothered to take control of Afghanistan because there is nothing there worth taking. A succession of Great Powers stuck their snout in there for “strategic” reasons and soon discovered that the natives are surly, uncooperative, and, most importantly, piss-poor. Besides, shooting at foreigners out of whatever firearms they can scrounge is their favourite form of entertainment and sport, all in one.

            Note, though, that if you want something that’s in Afghanistan (other than land), you send in a company of special forces and they just take it. If someone annoys you, why, you drone some weddings (and then some funerals) and no one can do anything about it.

            It is precisely the poverty of Afghanistan that makes it so resistant to conquest. Having nothing to lose is a very potent advantage. But if you are a rich enclave and not terribly cooperative, well, a couple of bombs into you power plant, another couple into your water filtering station, what’s that burning? oh, that’s your refinery and your oil supplies, how unfortunate… Y’know, winter is coming, what will you do to not freeze to death?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ dndnrsn

            There are various parts of the world where people live who seem to have taken that tradeoff.

            All these people are very very poor.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @IrishDude:

            The advantages that those parts of Afghanistan have in fighting off foreign conquerors are probably advantages a wealthy ancap enclave would probably not have. The conditions that make it possible to fight off foreign conquerors probably would keep those parts from becoming wealthy.

            The cities of Afghanistan, richer, are far conquerable. A wealthy ancap enclave would probably be more similar to the cities.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Lumifer:

            Yeah, that’s a big part of the tradeoff.

            To polarize it in a fairly cartoonish fashion:

            A) Wealthy, cosmopolitan city-dwellers, but easily conquerable.
            B) Fiercely independent mountain folk, but poor.

            Choose one.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Lumifer

            Costa Rica has no military. Why haven’t they been overrun or had missiles sent into their power plants?

          • IrishDude says:

            @Lumifer

            Nobody bothered to take control of Afghanistan because there is nothing there worth taking.

            I disagree, as I think there’s a lot of mineral wealth there, and as you note, it’s geographic location has strategic importance. However, to the extent you might be referring to Afghanistan not having much in resources, an AnCap enclave in a place without natural resources wouldn’t have anything worth taking either. To the extent wealth in that place is created through creativity and ideas, like say an Apple headquarters, would it be worth it for a country to invade?

          • bean says:

            @IrishDude:

            How do you know the radio stations in nation-state land will respect ITU frequency allocation?

            Because if they don’t, their government will shut them down. How do I know the government will respect the ITU allocations? I don’t for certain, but I do know that everyone has signed it, and that I assume there are consequences for being kicked out.

            I’m pretty sure airplane pilots and companies will have strong incentives to not have planes falling out of the sky. At the very least, it’s bad for business, and most pilots don’t want to die.

            You’d be surprised what some airlines try to get away with in the name of saving money.

            It would probably start working like it does now, but there’d be more experimentation to find new and better ways to keep track of everything in the sky.

            Now you’re just being nonsensical. The ATC system works because the government enforces it. Unless you start handing out ownership of the sky, there will be nothing to stop anyone who wants to from ignoring ATC. Yes, I suppose all of the airlines could pool their money and buy a rights-enforcement agency that will go after anyone who violates their ATC system. Congratulations. You’ve just reinvented the FAA. Wait, another case in which ancaps are likely to converge on a solution that looks exactly like a government? Hmm…

            I think Afghanistan is an instructive example that just because you have tanks and bombs doesn’t mean you can take control of a place, and given how poor Afghanistan is the fact that tanks and bombs are ineffective for gaining control there provides some evidence that it would be that much more difficult to take control of a wealthier AnCap enclave.

            I think you have this backwards. The Afghans didn’t drive us off because they were rich. They drove us off because they were poor, and they liked living in a war zone more than they liked living under us. I’m pretty sure that most Americans wouldn’t make the same choice on that trade. “We’ll be able to drive them out eventually” is not a good defensive strategy for a modern country. (Lumifer and dndnrsn beat me to this one.)

            Costa Rica doesn’t even have a military and they don’t seem to be getting invaded from their neighbors.

            I believe the Rio treaty may have something to do with that. So long as Costa Rica remains nice and quiet, it will remain uninvaded. If it stopped having a government, then it would probably stop being quiet, and it would be promptly invaded by the US under the auspices of the UN. There’s more than one reason for invasion.

          • IrishDude says:

            @bean

            How do I know the government will respect the ITU allocations? I don’t for certain, but I do know that everyone has signed it

            Why did all governments sign the agreement?

            You’d be surprised what some airlines try to get away with in the name of saving money.

            Having your airplanes fall out of the sky does not save an airline money, for all sorts of reasons I’m sure you can list.

            The ATC system works because the government enforces it. Unless you start handing out ownership of the sky, there will be nothing to stop anyone who wants to from ignoring ATC. Yes, I suppose all of the airlines could pool their money and buy a rights-enforcement agency that will go after anyone who violates their ATC system. Congratulations. You’ve just reinvented the FAA.

            If coordination adds value then you’ll see cooperation on finding common standards. There’s lots of private standards that exist now: http://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/biores/news/private-standards-and-wto-law

            Why does almost every key board have the same configuration of letter placement? Because consumers like having the same arrangement of keys, and so it pays to have manufacturers use the same standard for all their keyboards.

            Whatever process is used to ensure international air travel doesn’t turn to chaos can happen similarly in AnCap land among the various airports.

            So long as Costa Rica remains nice and quiet, it will remain uninvaded. If it stopped having a government, then it would probably stop being quiet, and it would be promptly invaded by the US under the auspices of the UN.

            In other words, don’t be a dick to others and you’ll be okay. I expect that some AnCap enclaves will be dicks and some won’t, and the ones that aren’t won’t have to worry about getting invaded.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ IrishDude

            Costa Rica is a member of the club of governments. The members are mostly polite to each other and, for the last half a century or so, try to not invade each other as war is a messy and expensive business. They are not quite successful at not invading each other, though.

            With Costa Rica, it helps that its neighbours are not too rich or powerful and tend to be preoccupied with their own problems.

            However if a Costa Rican government suddenly decided to dissolve itself and let the Ticos be free, I’m pretty sure that would be followed by Nicaragua or Panama (or both) getting quite larger.

            With respect to Apple headquarters, yes, it would make sense to grab it because there is wealth which could be taken.

          • bean says:

            @IrishDude

            Why did all governments sign the agreement?

            Because it’s required to hook up to the global telecommunications grid. Note that the internet provider in Ancap Land isn’t the same as the person who is running the radio station in question.

            Having your airplanes fall out of the sky does not save an airline money, for all sorts of reasons I’m sure you can list.

            But things which slightly increase the chances of the airplane falling out of the sky do. Yes, airlines do actually try to get around these kind of regs.

            If coordination adds value then you’ll see cooperation on finding common standards.

            I already noted that. It’s great in most cases, but we’re looking at a situation where someone not adhering to standards would put lots of people at risk. If the general rule in Ancap Land is drive on the right, someone driving on the left is still a problem. (Yes, terms of service to use the road, I know. There’s no road in the air.)
            I’m also aware of maritime rules of the road, which were enforced entirely by custom. The big difference is how fast things happen in the air and on the sea.

            Whatever process is used to ensure international air travel doesn’t turn to chaos can happen similarly in AnCap land among the various airports.

            Treaties again. And the problem is that nobody has authority to go after the guy flying out of his back yard who wants to go play in traffic.

            In other words, don’t be a dick to others and you’ll be okay. I expect that some AnCap enclaves will be dicks and some won’t, and the ones that aren’t won’t have to worry about getting invaded.

            Still not quite getting it. Costa Rica is safe because they’re seen as an upstanding global citizen, and because upstanding global citizens do not get invaded. Ancap Land is safe so long as they don’t get a reputation for being a haven for bad people. They could get this reputation because they actually are a haven for bad people, or because their neighbors crank up the propaganda and convince everyone they are a haven for bad people, with the intent of getting the UN to back their invasion. Being Ancap Land makes the propaganda part easy.
            Edit:
            I’ll second Lumifer’s bit about the Club of Governments. There are both privileges and responsibilities that come with being a member. Going Ancap forfeits both, and the rest of the members are going to be confused. The easiest way to clear up this confusion is to forcibly return the new Ancap state to the club.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        Eh. There’s no such that as a stable government, which is in a very important sense what the defense of an anarchistic government would be about – government, like all organizations, slowly decays over time – so relax a bit about the “inevitable failure mode” bit. Everything is going to fail eventually, that’s entropy for you. Anarchy would turn into libertarianism would turn into the mess we have today anyways, as the people who remember what it was they were fighting for pass away.

        Let go of the concept of permanence, and build what matters today.

        • bean says:

          Yes, but anarchy comes with a built-in mode for short-circuiting that, and having someone else put a government in charge. If you’re lucky, it will be the US or the UN. If you’re not, it will be your neighbor, who will put their government in charge. Avoiding this and allowing your lack of government to last longer should be a pretty high priority.

        • Mr Mind says:

          “In the long run, we’ll all be dead.”
          Thanks, but I already knew that. I’m already relaxed: AnCap fascinates me but only from an intellectual point of view, if not only because it’s an incomplete political theory.
          If I were an AnCap followers, though, I would be troubled if that were indeed the state of the philosophical debate over my discipline.

          • David Friedman says:

            I did offer pointers to two chapters of mine that discuss possible solutions to the problem of national defense.

            How hard a problem it is depends in part on the environment, whether the anarchist society has powerful and aggressive neighbors. Also on social characteristics of the society. Suppose it turns out that A-C is workable for some societies but not for others. Isn’t the same true for any particular version of government?

  18. Sandy says:

    I don’t know if there’s been much discussion about Bryan Caplan’s argument in favor of open borders here; I suspect there probably has been and I just wasn’t around. I went back and read through it again yesterday after that speech transcript came out where Hillary talked about her dream of an open borders world.

    There is a conspicuous paucity of any analysis relating to the political and cultural effects of open borders immigration. I felt that the few arguments Caplan put forward in this regard were shockingly inadequate; well below the standard one would expect from an influential and highly regarded public intellectual. I am not sure whether this is because he does not think they are serious issues or whether he is (or he feels that he is) not as fluent on such subjects as he would be on the economic aspects of open borders immigration. Alternatively, it might be because my priors and assessments are deeply flawed.

    For instance, there is a large demographic of low-education foreigners that Caplan calls “worryingly authoritarian” in some of their political preferences, such as restrictions on the freedom of speech. He notes that the foreign-born in general are less supportive of free speech than the native population, but that the gap in disapproval of freedom of speech spikes sharply as you go down the ladder of educational attainment. Caplan thinks this could be a problem, but no one should worry about it because these people don’t vote anyway.

    When immigrants finally gain the right to vote, they often fail to show up: Migrants and their descendants have lower voter turnout than natives. The worryingly authoritarian less educated foreigners are especially abstentious. In the 2008 presidential election, for example, only 25% of eligible foreign-born high school dropouts chose to vote.

    I don’t know if Caplan thinks it’s a good state of affairs when a growing section of the American populace is increasingly indifferent to electoral politics or feels disengaged from the polity; I don’t even know if that really is a bad state of affairs, although my gut thinks that it is. My main issue with this line of thinking is that it presumes the only way to affect politics or culture is the voting process. I don’t think that’s true. There is some furor about rising antisemitism in Western European politics, which some have attributed to the increased involvement of Muslim immigrants in the political process. But Western Europe has a very small number of elected Muslim officials; there are notable examples in places like Britain and Sweden, but for the most part there is very little in the way of formal representation for Muslims in European politics. The people pushing “Muslim issues” are not necessarily Muslim immigrants looking to gain an audience in the public square, but leftist European politicians like George Galloway, who goes into these constituencies and tells immigrants that a vote for him is a blow against the Zionist empire. Galloway is admittedly an extreme example and always has been; I cite him because he is helpfully open about his views while most other politicians of the Corbyn/Walker/Livingstone variety embroiled in this antisemitism mess tend to dance around the subject a lot.

    The point is that it is not necessary for immigrants to fight to push their political preferences; it is really only necessary to find sympathetic politicians who want to fight for them and feel like pushing some of these preferences, in some form or the other, is a good way to do it. And while the numbers who turn out at the polling booth are significant, sheer numbers in general can be influential too. The town of Brentwood, New York has a heavy concentration of immigrants from El Salvador; as a result, it has its own branch of Mara Salvatrucha. Gang violence in Brentwood is bad enough that the school superintendent has warned local children not to wear the color blue, or clothes with the Salvadoran flag on them. I think that is an example of a negative cultural change that is not easily resolved at the polling booth. Similarly, on a semi-regular basis you hear ridiculous stories coming out of Germany of the government’s attempts to tackle sexual assault by Arab migrants; anti-rape tattoos and mandatory sex ed and so and so forth. I think that if you had 10,000 migrants, it would have been relatively easy to expect assimilation into German norms regarding sexuality simply out of the pressure resulting from being surrounded by German culture and isolated from their own. With over a million migrants and counting, such pressure is not so easy to exert and authorities have to do ridiculous things to accommodate.

    Every now and then, somebody writes something about the sleeping Latino giant and how he continues to remain asleep. I think this is an example of how the size of a community can be politically influential even when that community has low voter turnout. Everyone wants to appeal to Latinos because of how many of them there are. They tailor their policies to try and appeal to the sleeping giant, even if he continues to remain asleep, because on the off-chance that he ever wakes up, they don’t want to run the risk that he decides against them.

    • SilasLock says:

      I think Caplan’s pretty cool, but his analysis of open borders is necessarily constrained by a lack of empirical data. We simply don’t know the effects of free immigration/emigration if adopted by a single country.

      We can guess, of course. We have data on effects similar to those of open borders; immigrant voting habits, cultural externalities, labor market disruptions, etc. But nothing quite like the real thing.

      I’m personally in favor of open borders combined with a slowly decreasing immigration (and emigration) tax, to make the change as smooth as possible. But that’s just me. I’d love to see an SSC discussion about open borders in general!

      • Sandy says:

        I don’t know if Caplan’s said so, but I’ve seen open borders advocates argue that there is empirical data: up until about 1921, America had open borders and most people can agree that America is more or less a good place to live today.

        Another quibble I had that I didn’t remember before posting was Caplan’s “If you’re so worried about the voting decisions these immigrants make, just deny them the right to vote because the right to work and live here is the really important bit”. Which, I mean, come on….. sooner or later, some of these immigrants are going to demand the right to vote, more likely some of the native-born bleeding hearts are going to condemn such a policy, and you will never be able to uphold it because it goes against your moral and political tradition, the same one Caplan is sure won’t be affected by immigration. It’s an idiotic idea and Caplan is smart enough to know it’s an idiotic idea.

        • Jiro says:

          up until about 1921, America had open borders and most people can agree that America is more or less a good place to live today.

          America had open borders under different circumstances that we have today. There were no social services for them to use up, and their home country was across the ocean (which also means more when there’s no Internet or cheap phones).

          • Not all were from across the country. Mexico was adjacent to the U.S. then too.

            During the period just before and after WWI the U.S. was receiving about a million immigrants a year into a population of about a hundred million, so equivalent to three million a year now.

            Current immigration is a little over a million a year.

            I agree that the existence of a welfare state poses problems for open borders. My preferred solution is that new immigrants should not be eligible for welfare for a considerable period of time–and should get a discount on their taxes to reflect the fact that they are not eligible for one of the services those taxes pay for.

          • The Nybbler says:

            My preferred solution is that new immigrants should not be eligible for welfare for a considerable period of time–and should get a discount on their taxes to reflect the fact that they are not eligible for one of the services those taxes pay for.

            But under this rule, because they’re paying less taxes (substantially less, if we have our current welfare state), they can afford to undercut native workers on wages. Which leads us back to where we are.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @TheNybbler Though there are costs to displaced workers, it seems to me that it is not overall it is not a bad thing, for the same reason that it is not a bad thing that textile production or the building of electronics is outsourced elsewhere where labor costs are cheaper. The problem David’s proposal addresses is with the incentives created for immigration by a heavily redistributive welfare state.

          • Aapje says:

            @Philosophisticat

            I bet that you’d have a different opinion if your job was the one being displaced.

          • onyomi says:

            “…and should get a discount on their taxes to reflect the fact that they are not eligible for one of the services those taxes pay for.”

            Can I become an immigrant to my own country?

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Aapje – Yes, I would probably be much more susceptible to the cognitive bias that comes with being personally negatively affected, and overlook the benefits to others. I’m glad we agree.

            This is one of my least favorite types of bad reasoning, by the way. “I bet you’d feel very differently about [the dangers of terrorism/the threat of gun violence/the politics of sexual assault/criminal justice reform/loosening FDA regulations] if [you/your son/your daughter] had been [killed by a suicide bomber/shot in a school massacre/raped in college/killed by a violent criminal paroled early/born defective due to thalidomyde].”

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            How is voting in one’s self interest a cognitive bias…

            Everytime I see some intellectual try and handwave the downsides of free trade or open borders they frame it as a failing of reason on the part of the working class that opposes them.

            Yes, you benefit from free trade more than you are hurt. You were never going to go into a career in manufacturing, or manual labor. You benefit more from cheaper goods and services than you are hurt by lowered wages for unskilled labor.

            But don’t sit their and pretend that the reason people disagree with you is a failing of rationality.

            It is entirely rational to be born to a lower class family, in a dead town and notice the glaringly obvious fact that you are getting fucked, and cheap disposable goods don’t make quality lube.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Newtonian Ethicist – I didn’t say voting for your self interest was a cognitive bias. It’s morally reprehensible (and stupid, incidentally, given the insignificant influence of a single vote on a single person’s welfare), but that’s a different thing.

            What’s a cognitive bias, here, is having one’s judgment of the effects, social value, or moral correctness of some proposed policy disproportionately influenced by one’s own acute experiences.

            Also, if you want to say that I’m not giving lower class people enough credit, there’s something a bit odd about doing it in a way that implies they are evil.

          • baconbacon says:

            It is entirely rational to be born to a lower class family, in a dead town and notice the glaringly obvious fact that you are getting fucked, and cheap disposable goods don’t make quality lube.

            It is not rational to look at something, jump to a wild conclusion, and then jump to another wild conclusion. Saying “Look our town has gone downhill and manufacturing has moved to another county, therefore Free Trade fucked us” isn’t rational, its anger jumping on any semi plausible explanation for their bad luck. Further saying “fuck Free Trade, if we get rid of it manufacturing will come back and give us a better life” is also a wild jump.

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            What’s a cognitive bias, here, is having one’s judgment of the effects, social value, or moral correctness of some proposed policy disproportionately influenced by one’s own acute experiences.

            That word is doing far too much work in that sentence.

            I didn’t say voting for your self interest was a cognitive bias. It’s morally reprehensible (and stupid, incidentally, given the insignificant influence of a single vote on a single person’s welfare), but that’s a different thing.

            Can you tell me how I would differentiate the intellectual class voting based on naked self interest on the side of open borders and free trade vs a less “morally reprehensible” reason?

            It seems to me a group of people who accrue all of the benefits of these policies while never having to suffer any of the downsides (In fact they rarely spend even a small fraction of their time acknowledging there are any.) need to do at least a little bit of work to justify holding the moral high ground.

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            @baconbacon

            It is not rational to look at something, jump to a wild conclusion, and then jump to another wild conclusion. Saying “Look our town has gone downhill and manufacturing has moved to another county, therefore Free Trade fucked us” isn’t rational, its anger jumping on any semi plausible explanation for their bad luck.

            Free trade may not be the only reason for the decline of the American working class, but it is certainly a reason.

            Working class Americans have been besieged by at least 3 sides. On one front you have American jobs being out sourced to other countries, on another you have illegal immigrants driving wages through the floor for unskilled work, and finally you have automation.

            Is it any wonder that Trumps platform which focuses strongly on 2 of these (when no one else will) gets support from exactly the people harmed?

            Further saying “fuck Free Trade, if we get rid of it manufacturing will come back and give us a better life” is also a wild jump.

            No argument here, those jobs are gone for good. There will be no unfucking for the working class, it won’t get better. Their best hope of eeking out an existence in their post fucked world is probably a UBI.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Newtonian Ethicist

            You’re focusing on something tangential, because my reference to cognitive bias was only meant to illustrate the general lousiness of addressing a question of policy by imagining yourself in the position of the person most directly harmed and asking what you’d think then.

            But if you want to continue on this digression – I’m not the one who thinks that people vote on self-interest – you are. I have more respect for them than that. I think people typically vote according to what they think is right and just, as decent people should, but that their opinions about what is right and just are colored by biases of various sorts. This is true of the poor and the rich alike. You seem to think I’m doing something asymmetrical, but I wasn’t arguing for open borders by asking anyone to imagine what they would think if they were well-off. That’s just a bad way to decide things.

            The case for immigration I find compelling is all the stuff that economists will tell you about how much greater the benefits are to others than the costs to those who are negatively affected. Maybe you don’t agree with those reasons. Fine. But I hope you can understand that there can be policies that are justified by their positive effects on others even if they make some people worse off.

          • Jiro says:

            Mexico was adjacent to the U.S. then too.

            But the immigrants that people mean when they say “look at all those successfully integrated immigrants from the 1920’s” are mostly not from Mexico and their countries really are far from the US.

            A quick Google shows that according to https://blogs.loc.gov/kluge/2015/03/the-history-of-mexican-immigration-to-the-u-s-in-the-early-20th-century/ there were about 20000 immigrants from Mexico per year in the 1910s and 50000-100000 during the 1920’s. If the US was receiving a million total per year, that amounts to 2% during the 1910’s and 5-10% during the 1920’s. Also, a lot of them returned during the Depression. (No social services, remember?)

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            “Not paying taxes for services you don’t use”, while appealing to me, would seem to defeat the entire point of having government services and taxes.

            Maybe that’s your goal? Get more and more of the population accustomed to the idea of lower taxes and independence from government?

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            @Philosophisticat

            I apologize for dragging you into this, you ended up being a target for my frustration with a group of people that sound like you rather than anything you yourself have said or done.

            It just gets my hackles up when I see it implied or often even outright stated that opposition to open borders and/or free trade are an intellectual or moral failing rather than what seems clearly to me like a rational stance based on self preservation, or even empathy for one’s countrymen.

            It seems to me that when discussing the cost and benefits of a policy for a country, those of that country who will be tasked with bearing the costs should have a say. Rather than being lectured to by those that will reap the benefits.

            It just so happens that the people in a position to have a voice on these matters in our society are the ones for whom, there truly is no downside to these policies. Then they have the audacity to paint themselves as paragons of virtue willing to sacrifice (other people’s) livelihoods for the common good of mankind (and much larger profits for the richest people in the world).

            End of ranting, sorry for jumping down your throat.

          • ““Not paying taxes for services you don’t use”, while appealing to me, would seem to defeat the entire point of having government services and taxes. ”

            What I was proposing was not paying taxes for services you ware not allowed to use.

            But not paying taxes for things you don’t use is not all that odd an idea–consider the gasoline tax, for instance. One argument for taxation is to deal with problems of market failure, such as a public good problem due to the transaction cost of charging for the use of all highways. If that’s the idea, then you want the nearest you can get to charging for use.

            A different argument is the desirability of redistribution.

          • baconbacon says:

            Free trade may not be the only reason for the decline of the American working class, but it is certainly a reason.

            Working class Americans have been besieged by at least 3 sides. On one front you have American jobs being out sourced to other countries, on another you have illegal immigrants driving wages through the floor for unskilled work, and finally you have automation.

            This is going to come across as lecturing, but whatever.

            The major problems with this position are as follows. The first is that industries in the US were largely built on free trade*, arguing that those hurt by free trade now should be protected is basically saying “free trade when it benefits me, protectionism when it doesn’t”, if that is your position you have no claim to rail against those who aren’t hurt now as they are expressing basically the same viewpoint, but that is small potatoes.

            The big problem is that there really isn’t much evidence for you view of what is happening to this economic class. The free, or freest, periods of immigration to this country coincided with manufacturing booms, and (not perfectly coincident) increasing wages. Wages also did not collapse after WW2 when large numbers of women remained in the workforce. If there is a correlation between free entry into the workforce it is that many manufacturing centers started falling when immigration into the country became harder, the explanation that follows isn’t rigorous, and isn’t meant to make you go “oh, this guy is clearly correct”, but to highlight how complicated economic relationships are in reality and how counter intuitive results are common.

            Manufacturing is highly capital intensive, building a plant isn’t like starting a farm, if you build an assembly line for cars and go bust a large amount of the value has to be stripped away to repurpose your machines and your space. If you grow strawberries on your farm and go bust there is still a good chance that another crop could work for the person who buys it. Manufacturing plants (or at least companies) have long lives, so ensuring a continual labor supply is very valuable. Ford discovered that paying employees more (to a point) was better than churning employees, virtually every (every?) manufacturer takes this as fact these days. The difference between illegal and legal immigration in this context is large. Legal immigration allows for longer term upside, a company can reasonably look toward growth and expansion without exploding labor costs, while illegal immigration is frequently transitory. You don’t want to show up one mooring with a federal agency asking questions, or to find that a portion of your experienced employees were deported. The more capital intensive an industry is the more these concerns limit your willingness to invest.

            There is a decent to good case that restrictions on legal immigration were a part of the decline in manufacturing jobs in the US, and the same logic applies to automation. Its damn expensive, and restricting the labor pool has the adverse effect of moving companies in that direction, good in the short term for those who keep their jobs, bad in the short and long term for everyone else.

            These relationships are not easily untangled at all, but the three sides that you think are besetting you could probably be rephrased as “protectionism of pro union laws, protectionism against free immigration and protectionism against competition” with as much or more evidence.

          • baconbacon says:

            It seems to me that when discussing the cost and benefits of a policy for a country, those of that country who will be tasked with bearing the costs should have a say

            If someone demonstrated that women in the workforce was lowering mens wages and employment opportunities, would you expect people to listen to men who griped that women should be banned from working?

          • LHN says:

            @baconbacon I wouldn’t personally support such a policy, but that was pretty much the post-WWII response to Rosie the Riveter: “Thanks! Now go home so that a returning veteran can have your job.”

          • onyomi says:

            A serious, non-rhetorical question: which would be better for the people who are already US citizens now:

            a. US companies continue to outsource everything to foreign countries with cheap labor, wasting money, essentially, by sending raw materials out of the country, dealing with the logistics of doing things thousands of miles away, and then shipping it back to the US to sell it to Americans

            b. US government relaxes immigration and labor restrictions enough that it stops being worth the increased logistical and transportation costs to produce things sold in the US outside of the US. Supply of cheap labor skyrockets, but so does demand for local US land, goods, and services, as does the tax base which may be drawn upon to pay the US citizens unemployment, welfare, subsidized insurance…

            I think everyone assumes A is better for current US citizens, especially blue collar citizens, albeit probably not better in a world-utilitarian sense, but I think even that is actually kind of non-obvious?

            I mean, what is optimal about producing things in Vietnam which could be produced here merely because the government basically won’t allow the people willing to do the work for the low pay, many of whom would probably love to come here and put up with a standard of living most Americans would consider unacceptably low, to come here and do it? We wouldn’t even need to pay to fly people from Vietnam. In Haiti, for example, we have a much nearer population of desperately poor people who’d love the opportunity to produce stuff in a US factory for US consumers at wages most Americans would consider “criminal” or “exploitative.” But just not letting them come at all isn’t criminal somehow.

          • Skef says:

            onyomi:

            I think the those jobs aren’t coming back point is germane to your question. Globalism isn’t just about hunting for cheap labor, it’s also about centralizing functions. It’s organizationally simpler and allows for economies of scale to have the (higher-level) design countries and then the sophisticated manufacturing countries and then the lower-level manufacturing countries. The garment industry keeps chasing the cheap labor but not so much tech manufacturing. It’s probably not worth lowering standards for the jobs that would move back.

          • JayT says:

            @NEWTONIAN ETHICIST
            Couldn’t it be viewed as immoral when you’re complaining about free trade when the effect it has on you is that instead of making $50K a year you’re making $30K, but in exchange many people are lifted out of abject poverty? It’s not like these people that don’t have manufacturing jobs are starving to death. They just have a lower quality of life than they want, but it’s still better than the majority of the world.

            It’s a very common view that the rich should pay “their fair share”. Why does that end at an imaginary line in the dirt?

          • Jiro says:

            What I was proposing was not paying taxes for services you ware not allowed to use.

            That allows gerrymandering the reference class. “Yeah, I know we don’t allow use of minority scholarships by Asians. But you are allowed to use at least some of the items in the category “scholarships”, so you have to pay taxes for that category.”

            It also allows a loophole where the service is pretty much only used by one group even though technically it is permitted to anyone. The government could subsidize gay porn, for instance, or Communion services, and make everyone pay for it according to your rule.

          • Eccdogg says:

            I’d be fine with open borders and an immigrant minimum per capita tax (say 10k/year) combined with zero welfare or voting rights. Government spending at all levels is about 20k/person but a bunch of that goes to SS/Medicare/Medicaid/Welfare etc which the immigrants would not be eligible for and another sizable chunk goes to defense where I don’t think immigration increases cost on the margin.

            Pay 10k get a one year worker visa. The cost of the visa is then a non-refundable credit on your income taxes. Then make it nearly impossible to do anything here unless you had a visa or proof of citizenship.

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            @JayT

            It’s a very common view that the rich should pay “their fair share”. Why does that end at an imaginary line in the dirt?

            When someone says the rich should pay their fair share in the context of government tax policy, the implication is:

            “These people have benefited greatly from our society and they have an obligation to help their fellow citizens, in order to have a stable and prosperous society”

            Nobody is asking Wang Jianlin to contribute his fair share to the American people, it would be an absurdity.

            Couldn’t it be viewed as immoral when you’re complaining about free trade when the effect it has on you is that instead of making $50K a year you’re making $30K, but in exchange many people are lifted out of abject poverty? It’s not like these people that don’t have manufacturing jobs are starving to death. They just have a lower quality of life than they want, but it’s still better than the majority of the world.

            I personally am not a Universalist Utilitarian so I would be confused, and angry if the Government of my country were making decisions about economic policy that sacrifice the interests of citizens for the sake of foreigners. Lucky they aren’t doing that, it is simply a case of cheap labour being extremely lucrative for the people with power in the country.

            If a government doesn’t privilege the wellbeing of its citizens over everyone else in the world, in what sense do you even have a country?

          • Aapje says:

            @Eccdogg

            And tax businesses where they operate, so they can’t cherry pick (sell their products in one place, ‘pay’ tax elsewhere).

          • Aapje says:

            @NEWTONIAN ETHICIST

            I personally am not a Universalist Utilitarian so I would be confused, and angry if the Government of my country were making decisions about economic policy that sacrifice the interests of citizens for the sake of foreigners. Lucky they aren’t doing that, it is simply a case of cheap labour being extremely lucrative for the people with power in the country.

            It’s actually getting remarkably close to that as the 1% is globalist and often spends a lot of time abroad and if not; away from anything resembling normal life for other citizens. So for the majority of citizens, they could as well be foreigners.

          • JayT says:

            @NEWTONIAN ETHICIST

            I’m not talking about what a government should do or what is proper policy. I’m just talking about whether or not it is moral to be against something that has such massive benefits for so many just because you want to be really rich on the global scale instead of just rich.

          • Randy M says:

            If a government doesn’t privilege the wellbeing of its citizens over everyone else in the world, in what sense do you even have a country?

            You’ve pretty much just described the political question of the year perfectly.

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            @baconbacon

            If someone demonstrated that women in the workforce was lowering mens wages and employment opportunities, would you expect people to listen to men who griped that women should be banned from working?

            That analogy might work if women weren’t already citizens of the country that the government has a duty to work in the interests of.

            Do you think that the United States government has a responsibility to put the interests of its citizens before non citizens, or should theoretical future immigrants to America be given equal weight?

            I have no problem with someone making the argument that on the balance free movement of goods and people is a net win. Infact I actually believe that in a global sense.

            Where I disagree is that it is a net win for America, and I don’t think the government should be in the business of improving the world while harming the country.

            When these issues are framed in an honest way acknowledging that there are tradeoffs being made here, that there are winners and losers in this, I have no problem.

            Put the truth before the American people and let them decide if they want to sacrifice their standard of living for the very rich and the very poor to benefit.

            The problem I have is until recently you couldn’t even get economists to admit that there were tradeoffs being made. They would spin some bullshit about how low skilled American workers were suddenly going to find new exciting opportunities in Silicon Valley or some other such nonsense.

            Now I could be wrong, and it might be worth throwing a large chunk of the American electorate under the bus in the name of economic efficiency.

            However don’t be surprised when you end up with Donald Trump having a real shot at being President when you hold to this course of action.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            @David Friedman

            “What I was proposing was not paying taxes for services you ware not allowed to use.”

            I am not allowed to use a great many government services. I am not old, or disabled, or a student, or poor, or someone with kids, for example.

            “But not paying taxes for things you don’t use is not all that odd an idea–consider the gasoline tax, for instance. One argument for taxation is to deal with problems of market failure, such as a public good problem due to the transaction cost of charging for the use of all highways. If that’s the idea, then you want the nearest you can get to charging for use.”

            That’s true. Dealing with externalities is a reason to tax only the users of a good or service. However, that’s not what welfare or similar programs are. It would make no sense to fund welfare solely from a tax on welfare users!

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            @JayT

            I’m not talking about what a government should do or what is proper policy. I’m just talking about whether or not it is moral to be against something that has such massive benefits for so many just because you want to be really rich on the global scale instead of just rich.

            I could make a decent argument that going from subsistence farming to sweat shop work isn’t an increase in well being even if they are making more money, but I’m too lazy for that and it would border on being disingenuous.

            The problem when this gets turned into a moral argument is that it is always someone in a class of people unaffected by the downsides of these policies preening about how morally superior they are to make the heroic choice to sacrifice the livelihoods of other people in their society, never their own.

            How many economists would favor free trade if it put them out of work?

            How many journalists would favor open borders if suddenly there were millions of Mexican reporters flooding in ready and willing to do their jobs for $6 an hour?

            Please by all means put up refugees in your home. Give your job to a poor third worlder. Then you can take the moral high ground, I’ll be the first to praise you for your charity.

          • Anonymous says:

            The problem I have is until recently you couldn’t even get economists to admit that there were tradeoffs being made.

            Economists have long acknowledged this. Kaldor and Hicks wrote their famous papers before WWII. Your ignorance isn’t the economics profession’s fault.

          • JayT says:

            I never said I was moral 😉

          • baconbacon says:

            When these issues are framed in an honest way acknowledging that there are tradeoffs being made here, that there are winners and losers in this, I have no problem

            Framed in an honest way, and framed in the way you see it, are not synonyms. Saying there are winners and losers from free trade accepts a static model of the world that doesn’t match reality. Those manufacturing jobs only existed due to free (isn) trade practices in the US, and they declined with the decline of free trade.

          • “The problem I have is until recently you couldn’t even get economists to admit that there were tradeoffs being made. They would spin some bullshit about how low skilled American workers were suddenly going to find new exciting opportunities in Silicon Valley or some other such nonsense.”

            Conveniently enough, you have an economist present. In arguing for free immigration in a book published more than forty years ago, I wrote:

            “The new immigrants will drive down the wages of unskilled labor, hurting some of the present poor. At the same time, the presence of millions of foreigners will make the most elementary acculturation, even the ability to speak English, a marketable skill; some of the poor will be able to leave their present unskilled jobs to find employment as foremen of
            ‘foreign’ work gangs or front men for ‘foreign’ enterprises.”

            I don’t think that is consistent with your claim about what you couldn’t get economists to admit.

          • Skef says:

            David Friedman:

            Your reading of that point strikes me as over-literal to the point of being uncharitable. Wouldn’t you say that it was conventional wisdom in the public-facing rhetoric of economics that free trade would benefit not just the economy but U.S. workers?

          • I think the common belief was and is that immigration will provide net benefits to Americans in the usual (Marshall or Kaldor Hicks) sense, as well as benefits to the immigrants. But the positive sum will include some negative terms, as with most economic changes. As I said in the quoted bit from my old books, one would expect some low skill workers to have lower wages as a result.

          • John Nerst says:

            “Benefit” is a bit of a slippery word. Cheaper goods would be a benefit available to everyone, so you can indeed say it benefits everyone if by that you mean “there will be benefits that everyone can take advantage of”.

            If policy X has both benefits and costs to group Y, there are two possible intepretations of “X benefits Y”:

            1. The benefits are greater than the costs.

            2. The benefits exist.

            Often in the “free trade benefits everyone, even the working class in manufacturing” case, there seems to be an equivocation between them, with 2 and 1 being in a motte and bailey position, respectively.

          • NEWTONIAN ETHICIST says:

            @John Nerst
            @Skref

            Basically said it better than I could.

            I jumped into this comment chain because I saw something that was similar to an all too common position on public discourse in this area.

            That resistance to having your livelihood destroyed is a moral or intellectual failing rather than perfectly rational point of view to hold.

            The mendaciousness of this argument is so infuriating because the people who benefit from these policies are rarely in a position of honest discourse with the public.

            If only the working class truly knew how much better their life is from cheaper walmart products and how much better the lives of third worlders are in sweatshops, surely this tiny misunderstanding would go away and they would be all for economic efficiency! (/s incase this is somehow needed)

            You can be all for fucking a large part of the American population. However, when they complain about it, you have to be a really special type of scum to gaslight them and pretend their lives really are better, and if they can’t see that they are just too stupid or evil.

            I have a lot of respect for you Dr. Friedman, but the people negatively impacted by these policies and the people that read your books have basically 0 overlap.

          • Anonymous says:

            That resistance to having your livelihood destroyed is a moral or intellectual failing rather than perfectly rational point of view to hold.

            What does that livelihood consist of exactly? Forcing other people to buy from them at above market prices? How is that different from what the mafia does? How can anyone delude himself into thinking that’s a good honest living?

          • hlynkacg says:

            The irony of someone who complains about the “entitlement” of the lower classes turning around and making that argument is quite rich.

          • Anonymous says:

            Entitlement is exactly what it is. Not only are they demanding we pay them above market rate for their marginal skills, they are also demanding we collectively help them lie to themselves.

            Jobs that only exist because of trade barriers aren’t real jobs. They are thinly disguised, highly inefficient, make-work welfare.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Even if I conceded the premise, your argument would still boil down to “other people’s sense of entitlement is impinging on my entitlement! Boo entitlement!”

            Like I said, that’s pretty rich.

          • Anonymous says:

            Feeling entitled to the use violence to prevent other people from trading consensually and feeling entitled to not be violently prevented from trading consensually are not symmetric situations.

            Although maybe the “virtue” of tribal loyalty makes them look the same.

          • hlynkacg says:

            So you support the repeal of all trade subsidies and restrictions along with heavy curtailment of federal authority over local production then?

            After all, it’s kind of hypocritical to complain about being prevented from trading consensually when you and yours are imposing those same restrictions on others.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure. You’re barking up the wrong tree with the union stuff. That’s exactly the type of extortion I’m talking about.

          • Furslid says:

            @Alex Zavoluk

            “I am not allowed to use a great many government services. I am not old, or disabled, or a student, or poor, or someone with kids, for example.”

            The obvious response to this is that you are a potential user of these services. If you become disabled, you can apply for and get disability. If a barred immigrant got disabled, they couldn’t. Welfare isn’t funded by taxing current welfare recipients. Welfare is funded by taxing potential future recipients.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pretty sure I’m never going to be a user of paid maternity leave; can I at least opt out of that one? Ooh, and I am past enlistment age, so no fair using my taxes to pay for Veterans’ benefits, right?

            (Answer: No, but you’re going to need a better argument than saying that everybody is a potential recipient of all of these services)

        • nimim. k.m. says:

          >I’ve seen open borders advocates argue that there is empirical data: up until about 1921, America had open borders and most people can agree that America is more or less a good place to live today.

          I’m sorry to be captain obvious, but doesn’t that empirical data has a period of not-open-borders for almost a century (from 1921 to 2016)?

          • John Schilling says:

            More than a century; prior to 1921, border control was implemented at the state rather than federal level. It is surprisingly difficult to get good information on the details; I seem to recall Dr. Friedman and I trying to dig into that in another forum some decades ago and finding hazy references to at least informal border controls back to 1885 or so. If you’re looking for truly open borders, you’re going to have to go back a century and a half I think, with implications for both the quality and the relevance of the empirical data you find.

            Better than nothing, though. Things were pretty good for white citizens during much of that era, so “open borders just means immigrants mess things up for us Real Americans” is going to be a hard sell.

    • Blue says:

      Regardless of all of the other points in this comment, a class of people who don’t vote can be incredibly destablizing. Voting is one way of letting steam out your frustration at society. People violently rebel when they feel they have no other options. If you never consider any intermediate options (voting, writing letters to your representative, volunteering for campaigns) then you can jump straight from sitting on the couch to rioting in the streets.

      • pku says:

        One of the counterarguments I use for people who want to outlaw the Israeli Arab parties.

        • Wow, is there actual discussion of that? I think most Arabs already believe that Israel discriminates against its native Arabs; I guess that is a way to prove them right.

          • Sandy says:

            I think most Arabs are going to have a bad opinion of Israel whether or not Israel discriminates against its native Arabs; outlawing Arab political parties isn’t going to cause some radical shift in their opinions. I believe the main argument put forward for outlawing the Israeli Arab parties is that Israel is intended to be a Jewish ethnostate, while the Arab parties are committed to eliminating that distinction.

          • pku says:

            Israel does discriminate against native arabs in some ways: At best, it’s defined as a Jewish state that tries to treat non-Jewish citizens fairly (and “and you will also get fair treatment” is never quite ideal for someone in the country they were born in). At worst, all arabs are suspected of being potential terrorists (not entirely unfairly: while most aren’t, their ingroup is probably more the palestinians than Israeli jews, and some of them do actively hate Israel.
            The main argument for outlawing Arab parties is that they are constitutionally opposed to Israel (they have at least one MP who’s openly pro-terrorism, for example, though it’s questionable how representative she is). Trump got significant support for banning muslims despite terrorist attacks being comparatively rare here; imagine the kind of support that kind of statement would get if they were considered a fact of life.

      • Nyx says:

        Classical Athens had “metics”, which covered immigrants and the children of immigrants. They were in practice second-class, with no political rights and higher tax obligations and yet nearly half the population of Athens were metics. So I think there is no barrier against the concept of a lower class except for our own prejudice against it.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          I wonder if there’s any data on how many metics had citizenship in other cities.

          • My impression is that most metics did not have citizenship elsewhere.

            But metics were not “nearly half the population.” They might have been nearly half the free population, but slaves were a large part, very possibly half or more, of the Athenian population.

    • Jiro says:

      When people say that immigrants don’t vote, always keep in mind Evenwel v. Abbott. (This applies both to immigrants who can vote but don’t, and immigrants who can’t vote.)

    • baconbacon says:

      I don’t know if Caplan thinks it’s a good state of affairs when a growing section of the American populace is increasingly indifferent to electoral politics or feels disengaged from the polity; I don’t even know if that really is a bad state of affairs, although my gut thinks that it is. My main issue with this line of thinking is that it presumes the only way to affect politics or culture is the voting process.

      Caplan is mostly arguing from the moral position, so he basically doesn’t care about this. Imagine if taking the lock off the gate to your yard would allow a dozen people to cut through your property to get to work faster, and that would allow them to rearrange their lives in ways that allowed them to escape poverty. If you rejected that argument with “those trespassers would break into my house and rape my wife, kill my dog and burn down everything I hold dear”, Caplan’s point is that they probably won’t do those things, and that the rejoinder of “well they would almost certainly step on my flowers, and I really like my petunias” is unconvincing since we are talking about allowing people to pull themselves out of poverty compared to you having EXACTLY what you want in life, and not just approxima