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Open Thread 60.75

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

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1,244 Responses to Open Thread 60.75

  1. The Voracious Observer says:

    [This post has been deleted, with the consent of the original author, due to the Unabomber’s lawyers threatening to sue for copyright infringement (which is not a sentence I expected to be writing today). I’m just grateful that the cease-and-desist letter arrived via email – SA]

    • Tekhno says:

      @The Voracious Observer

      I’m totally opposed to the conclusions of the book

      Well, I read Industrial Society and Its Future, and what I gleaned from that is that even if you completely accept Ted’s conclusions about what technology does to us, his agenda still has no legs whatsoever.

      Okay, so techno-civilization is restricting our freedom and alienating us from our true nature – now what? It’s amazing that someone with such a high IQ could conclude that the solution was sending bombs to Universities and airports. In his new book has Ted come up with a new solution that doesn’t involve such tepid methods?

      The only way I can think to stop technological progress is some sort of global luddite dictatorship, since if one country goes luddite it would get its ass kicked by the others. Even then, you are only talking slowing things down a bit, since the government would have to keep ahead of dissidents who try to advance computer technology. It would be really hard to keep track of that. In addition, there would be all the activists trying to get the government to change its mind so as to solve social problems with technological advancement. Technology is driven by the needs of the very mass population it enslaves.

      I think you’d need to go further and enact some sort of massive population reduction scheme so as to reduce the population to a level where technological society is hard to maintain and where political activists for technological growth can’t coordinate and push back against the regime, but not so far that the regime can’t control the world.

      The problem is that it would be really hard to get to the stage where you can do all this, since out in the open the agenda is politically untenable. You’d literally need to set up one of those illuminati Georgia guidestones secret cults Alex Jones is going on about and run as a regular left wing candidate slowly (but not too slowly or tech growth will outpace you) coordinating to enact global government.

      • gbdub says:

        I’ve dabbled with a sci-fi idea of an AI that takes over the world, and then basically nerfs itself in such a way that advanced networks / AI can never be rebuilt on its ashes. The populace had become sufficiently dependent on the AI that they lost the ability to recreate it from scratch, so they carry on as semi-Luddites, in the sense that they can use and to some degree reproduce existing tech but can’t advance it.

        Anyway at this point I think that’s the only non apocalyptic way to end up in Ted K’s preferred world, since it basically requires forgetting everything we know about tech (otherwise someone will recreate it for advantage).

        • Lumifer says:

          I am the Eschaton; I am not your God.
          I am descended from you, and exist in your future.
          Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else.

          : -)

          Also see David Weber’s Heirs of Empire.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Why is it hard to believe that somebody could be both extremely intelligent and mentally ill?

        Some theorize that Kacyznski’s mental illness and the form it took were due at least in part to his involvement as a subject in some fairly unethical psychology experiments while a student.

        • Tekhno says:

          Why is it hard to believe that somebody could be both extremely intelligent and mentally ill?

          All too often, “he’s mentally ill” is just a cop-out. Mental illness is just the codification of types of mind which either cause difficulty in specific functions or simply deviate from the typical person in such ways as to be socially incompatible.

          What specific impairment is causing Ted to believe that he can take on technological progress itself with IEDs? He seems perfectly cogent when describing what is wrong with society. I wonder at which part in his agenda his “mental illness” suddenly kicks in.

          Perhaps this is willful disbelief. The harsh truth that there’s no way to stop this machine is too much.

          Some theorize that Kacyznski’s mental illness and the form it took were due at least in part to his involvement as a subject in some fairly unethical psychology experiments while a student.

          SCIENCE CREATED HIM

          NOT HE’S OUT TO DESTROY SCIENCE

          ONE UNIVERSITY AT A TIME

          TED KACZYNSKI IS

          “THE UNABOMBER”

          RATED R

          (Come on. It sounds like an origin story.)

          • Sandy says:

            I believe Kaczynski actually was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by a court-appointed shrink before his trial. That said, this description of what is wrong with society is not new — Gandhi expressed similar horror over industrial civilization and was the mascot of “burn the cities” before the frogposters got into it — but no one has been able to come up with a way to fix the problem. Even in his own lifetime, nobody in power took Gandhi’s views on the matter seriously.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Wasn’t his intention to get attention through the mail-bombs, with the ultimatum being made that he’d stop sending them if newspapers agreed to print his manifesto?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Technological progress is obviously really hard to stop. What was he supposed to do? Run for President on the platform of stopping technology? Of course that wouldn’t work. The only thing he could do is get the word out on his ideas to a large audience. But if he simply wrote a book, people might simply ignore it. But the manifesto of a terrorist? That would certainly ensure at least some curious people read it. Was it the most effective way to promote his ideas? Maybe, maybe not. But I think it was a rational decision that doesn’t imply any kind of mental impairment.

          • Anonymous says:

            What specific impairment is causing Ted to believe that he can take on technological progress itself with IEDs?

            The impairment where you believe that because you’re really smart, you can succeed where everyone else fails and use violence for positive change well.

          • LPSP says:

            What specific impairment is causing Ted to believe that he can take on technological progress itself with IEDs?

            Mental illness doesn’t mean impairment. Ted is imbalanced.

      • Alex S says:

        > The problem is that it would be really hard to get to the stage where you can do all this, since out in the open the agenda is politically untenable.

        If the assumption that technology harms us became widespread and acknowledged as correct, at that point it’s hard to say what is or is not politically untenable.

    • Plagiarizing the Amish says:

      I hope David Friedman will show up to put in his two cents here, but I think a happy medium between blind enthusiasm for the latest gadgets and Ted K’s subsistence lifestyle is a more widespread creation and use of ordnungs that specify the cultural direction we want to take and how various technologies might help or harm that. These ordnungs could easily exist at the household or family level. Companies should have them too. They might even be doable at the “niche movement” level.

      • Wrong Species says:

        127. A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of technological support-systems. When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man’s freedom. They took no freedom away from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn’t want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel much faster and farther than a walking man. But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man’s freedom of locomotion. When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car, especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one likes at one’s own pace one’s movement is governed by the flow of traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that they HAVE TO depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they must use public transportation, in which case they have even less control over their own movement than when driving a car. Even the walker’s freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually has to stop to wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous and unpleasant to walk along the highway. (Note this important point that we have just illustrated with the case of motorized transport: When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily REMAIN optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves FORCED to use it.)

        128. While technological progress AS A WHOLE continually narrows our sphere of freedom, each new technical advance CONSIDERED BY ITSELF appears to be desirable. Electricity, indoor plumbing, rapid long-distance communications … how could one argue against any of these things, or against any other of the innumerable technical advances that have made modern society? It would have been absurd to resist the introduction of the telephone, for example. It offered many advantages and no disadvantages. Yet, as we explained in paragraphs 59-76, all these technical advances taken together have created a world in which the average man’s fate is no longer in his own hands or in the hands of his neighbors and friends, but in those of politicians, corporation executives and remote, anonymous technicians and bureaucrats whom he as an individual has no power to influence. [21] The same process will continue in the future. Take genetic engineering, for example. Few people will resist the introduction of a genetic technique that eliminates a hereditary disease. It does no apparent harm and prevents much suffering. Yet a large number of genetic improvements taken together will make the human being into an engineered product rather than a free creation of chance (or of God, or whatever, depending on your religious beliefs).

        129. Another reason why technology is such a powerful social force is that, within the context of a given society, technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed. Once a technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it, so that they can never again do without it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation. Not only do people become dependent as individuals on a new item of technology, but, even more, the system as a whole becomes dependent on it. (Imagine what would happen to the system today if computers, for example, were eliminated.) Thus the system can move in only one direction, toward greater technologization. Technology repeatedly forces freedom to take a step back, but technology can never take a step back—short of the overthrow of the whole technological system.

        I don’t agree on dismantling modern technology but I do agree with the fundamental point being made here:

        185. As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial society—well, you can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.

        • Plagiarizing the Amish says:

          Is that quoted from Kaczynski? I like the way the author thinks, in any case. The fact that with each technology adoption we also lose something has been pointed out by other writers (e.g. Neal Stephenson) and people in the tech field (e.g. Kim Goodwin). It would be mantra #1 in my ordnung!

          • Yes he does make good points that technology becomes other than voluntary and has a lot of drawbacks that often don’t occur to us as we rapidly accept one advance after another. The guy isn’t an idiot.

            Not that I buy for a minute that losing all that tech would make the world a better place, even if it were possible. Does he actually want to go back to a hunter gatherer society? There were certainly benefits to such a society, but there were also lots of diseases, tooth decay, periodic famines, childhood deaths, deaths in childbirth, etc. Not to speak of no Internet, travel, or literature.

          • Anonymous says:

            tooth decay

            In this specific case you’re probably wrong. It’s very likely that the move to agriculture and consequent reliance on high-carbohydrate food was the direct cause of tooth decay as a problem, while someone who eats a diet consisting mainly of leafy greens, nuts and various meat doesn’t have that problem at all.

            Think about it: it doesn’t make sense for teeth to have evolved to be shit and rot in your mouth before age 20, so it ought to be the product of an evolutionarily recent change; also, when was the last time you heard of a dog getting a cavity, despite them not exactly brushing religiously twice a day?

          • JayT says:

            When your life expectancy was in the 20s it didn’t really matter that your teeth rotted out by then.

            As for dogs, they get cavities all the time. Also, they only live to be like 10 years old, so even if they had the exact same tooth life expectancy as human teeth, they would never get old enough for it to be a big problem.

          • Plagiarizing the Amish says:

            Chimps live to their 30s in the wild. I’d guess prehistoric humans and our bipedal ancestors lived at least that long, maybe a lot longer.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Older dogs do get lots of tooth problems. Mine is thirteen now and at least 1/3rd of his teeth are chipped or broken (and they were all fine until a year or two ago). I’m not sure about cavities, but you’d probably never notice unless it got really bad – dogs tolerate mild pain far better than people, so you’d only notice once it gets bad enough that they stop taking food or treats (which would mean it was really bad), or if the gums became visibly infected. Some breaks are bad enough to need veterinary treatment, or the roots or gums can become infected. Fortunately hasn’t happened to mine yet, but I wish I’d paid more attention to his teeth over the years.

            If you have a breed that’s likely to live past 8 or 10, brushing their teeth semi-regularly (or getting a professional cleaning) is probably a good idea.

          • Anonymous says:

            When your life expectancy was in the 20s

            I have to admit, I genuinely thought there was nobody on this site who would make the “paleolithic man had a very low life expectancy”/”paleolithic man typically only lived into his 20s” mistake. That’s a mixup based on high infant mortality; once you got past age six or so you were likely to survive into your forties, and it’s probable that even in the very ancestralest environment some people survived into their seventies at least, although they’d be exponentially fewer than now, of course.

            (Ötzi the Iceman was admittedly neolithic, but he was about 45 when he died and apparently healthy enough to try to cross the Alps, fight an unknown number of attackers, wound or kill three guys, lug a wounded friend around, then flee from his future murderers some way before they shot him in the shoulder, caught up to him, and bludgeoned him to death. Also, as a note on the tooth thing, “Ötzi’s teeth showed considerable internal deterioration from cavities. These oral pathologies may have been brought about by his grain-heavy, high carbohydrate diet“, according to Wiki. Emphasis mine.)

          • Anonymous says:

            this paper claims that the proportion of people reaching age 30 skyrocketed c 30kya

          • Anonymous says:

            Aha, but “Here, we examine when changes in longevity occurred by assessing the ratio of older to younger adults in four hominid dental samples from successive time periods, and by determining the significance of differences in these ratios. Younger and older adult status is assessed by wear seriation of each sample”! So it’s just that their teeth started wearing out faster from bad diets! 😉

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t imagine that you’re serious, but… I am not aware of a dietary change 30kya. Agriculture is usually dated to 10kya. Also, wear could be calibrated by looking at children, or something, but I don’t think that they did that (nor know that they had enough samples).

          • JayT says:

            Eh, I just grabbed a number out of thin air. It doesn’t really matter if the average hunter-gatherer lived to their twenties or forties, the point still stands. For the most part, if you don’t do anything for your teeth the chances are you aren’t going to die from dental-related issues in your first forty years.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s likely that tooth decay would occur at some rate on any diet, but I’ve seen some children with mouths full of silver before they even lose their baby teeth.
            Diet plays a big role in the rate of tooth decay.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @mark

            Lets say you were the richest man in the world and could afford anything you wanted. But the downside is that no one ever wants to be around and you will die alone. The other option is that you live a lower class existence filled with violence but everyone looks up to you and wants to be your friend. Which option would you pick?

            I’m not saying that our choice is exactly that but it’s clear Kaczynski sees a trade-off between technology and social capital and believes the latter is more important than the former.

          • @Wrong. Yes I have gathered from the comments that TK believes that tech has ruined a lot of human relationships. And I agree in the extreme situation that all the benefits of tech are not worth it if all human to human contact is severed, because it is human contact that is the most important part of being human.

            But one only needs to look at this extreme situation if it is remotely plausible, and I don’t think it is. Tech has decreased human contact to some degree, but much of that is because most people don’t like constant human contact, and the paleolithic life probably did require that for survival. And human contact is much less violent than it was in paleolithic times, IMO, so the contact we have now is more satisfying. I think overall tech has slightly increased the value of human contact, not decreased it.

          • I do want to follow up a bit on the benefits of a hunter gatherer society. I have read theories that in many ways it was a pleasant way to live, and the theories sound correct to me. Generally one worked fewer hours than we do today, hunting with a pack of fellow tribal members was probably exciting and bonding, and gathering food would be a pleasant social event. This all assumes that food was easily available and not constantly at risk from competing tribes, and I suspect that was true most of the time. Of course it is also true that this only worked if population didn’t increase beyond the limit the area could support, so diseases, childhood deaths, and inter-tribal warfare needed to continually do their dirty deeds for it all to work. Overall, I prefer tech.

          • onyomi says:

            Hunter-gatherer life seems to me to depend a lot more on luck than farmer life or post-industrial life. If you made it past childhood, didn’t get killed or brutally raped by a local tribe, didn’t ruin into any serious famines or changes in climate, didn’t catch any horrible diseases, etc. etc. it was probably pretty decent while it lasted–maybe a good deal more enjoyable in some ways to be a lucky hunter-gatherer than a lucky farmer. But I feel like the farmer was a little less vulnerable to catastrophic failure, albeit less mobile and also subject to famine and disease, of course (and urbanites maybe even more subject to, though also resistant to, disease, it seems).

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Mark

            I do think to some degree we have been conditioned to enjoy our alone time. Maybe conditioned isn’t exactly the right word, but are there any introverts in hunter gatherer societies? Maybe there are some who are less social than others but my bet would be that the majority of them don’t find interacting with others to be mentally draining. It’s just what they are used to. I think we’re also predisposed to fighting and the lack of violent conflict in our lives could contribute to feelings of alienation.

            I could be wrong on all of this but I do think there is something that is deeply wrong with contemporary society that bewilders any rational understanding. It seems like the more objectively better society gets, the worse we feel. Assuming that’s true, what do we do about it? I don’t know. I certainly don’t feel like getting rid of everything civilization has accomplished is the right approach but I don’t see what else can be done. Religion may help by giving some transcendental ideology to work towards but as Nietzsche famously said, God is dead. What about other ideologies? They don’t seem to have the same psychological effect and they can also be incredibly destructive. I know communists believe that capitalism is to blame, but when the robots come take our jobs and reduce the majority of people to being economically useless, the average person is going to feel just as lost and aimless as the cog in the machine, even in a theoretical communist society. In the future, we may be able to actually engineer people in to feeling satisfied with their lives but that future isn’t here yet and I’m not sure how desirable that is.

            So what other options do we have? I don’t know and while I don’t agree with Kaczynski, I can’t blame him for thinking the way he does.

          • onyomi says:

            Someone on SSC, I forget who, introduced me to this guy’s work a while back (yes, “really narrow streets” guy), and it seems relevant here, especially as it seems to offer better options for reclaiming some of the pleasant aspects we associate with premodern life without going full-luddite.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Wrong Species:

            Assuming that’s true, what do we do about it? I don’t know. I certainly don’t feel like getting rid of everything civilization has accomplished is the right approach but I don’t see what else can be done.

            It doesn’t seem like getting rid of all of civilization’s really necessary; I’d say that’s more of a panic overreaction on Kaczynski’s part. Was any of the misery associated with modernity and technology that Ted rails against present in the 16th century? It doesn’t seem like it, going by available sources. Do the Amish suffer from them? That doesn’t seem to be the case either. So apparently the sweet spot’s somewhere between Renaissance Italy and pre-industrial 19th century rural Germany. We could try to narrow it down; or, we could assume that whole span of time’s basically fit for purpose. That’s actually a pretty wide range of cultures and even technologies, and would allow a lot of variation and collective choice between nations, or regions, or groups, or whatever. It’s not exactly utopian but at least it leaves some room for preference, and I think almost everyone in the world would prefer it over a hard-reset to paleolithic conditions. It seems like a voluntary agreement that steam engines, cartridge-loading firearms and everything that comes after is verboten would be a lot more doable politically as well; which isn’t to say it’s remotely doable, of course.

            Still, it’s in no way as bad as a strict choice between techno-doom and an eternal stone age.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Anon

            Imagine there’s a leisure-drudgery scale and a social-asocial one. Throughout history, the majority of people were very social. However, farmers also harder work and less pleasant work. In today’s society we may work similar rates but the lack of community pushes us to spare. So maybe we could pick the farmer life and be more happy but overall less satisfied than the hunter gatherer life. I don’t think is completely speculative. Apparently many new Wørld settlers defected to Native American society.

          • Anonymous says:

            Apparently many new W[o]rld settlers defected to Native American society.

            Yes, regardless of the rest of this discussion, that was an established problem in early America: Indians that the colonists attempted to forcibly civilize would run off to the woods at the first opportunity, while colonists kidnapped by Indians would refuse to come back under any circumstances (and if forced to return via counter-kidnapping or an exchange of captives or something, would run off to the woods at the first opportunity).

            So clearly there’s something about civilized life that sucks to an staggering degree compared to even fairly squalid hunter-gathering, such that once someone learns there’s another option, they take that option. And yeah, that should probably alarm all of us a lot more than it does, or seems to do.

            (I think Scott might have written a post about this, even?)

          • Artificirius says:

            Do we have any idea if this was at all prevalent, or just sensation enough to warrant disproportionate attention?

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            (I think Scott might have written a post about this, even?)

            Yeah, “Book Review: Empire of the Summer Moon” which gets a little mention in “Meditations on Moloch”.

        • MereComments says:

          Yes, he was basically describing Moloch in 1996.

        • LPSP says:

          In other words, technological advances inherently create externality traps that people are too recklessly acquisitive to coordinate in avoiding.

          All those episodes of the power rangers where it’s stressed that they can’t use the giant robot all the time, but just when the baddies grow huge – we should’ve listened.

        • J Mann says:

          “well, you can’t eat your cake and have it too”

          I have to give TK props for this one – IMHO, it makes the point much better than “have your cake and eat it too”, because the phrase suggests sequential operations. As a kid, I always asked “how can you possibly have cake if you don’t have it first?”

      • Deiseach says:

        use of ordnungs that specify the cultural direction we want to take and how various technologies might help or harm that

        Good luck with that; see all the disapproving harrumphing from the science side when non-scientists such as ethicists, even worse those hick religious types, dared propose that stem cell research maybe should be subject to some constraints. “You can’t hobble progress” and “science is neither moral nor immoral, it is simply factually true” were some of the attitudes on display. “Only scientists have the right to opinions on this subject” was another one. And of course the old favourite “If we don’t do it, someone else will, and then we’ll fall behind and they’ll have all the benefits and profits”.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          I think you possibly overestimate the amount of harrumphing in this case if you sympathise with the harrumphers. The belief that non-scientists shouldn’t have opinions on the ethics of certain types of research is a pretty obscure one; how many people think that only scientists should hold opinions on animal testing? Some people in favour of stem cell research might put forward general arguments about the amorality of science, but I think they would mostly withdraw them if they realised that they implied they couldn’t call the Tuskegee syphilis experiment unethical.

          • Deiseach says:

            These guys sounded pretty upset; granted, it was in the context of a court case:

            Scientists said the ruling, which came as a surprise to many in the field, highlights the danger of having medical research policy that is subject to the whims of the judicial system.

            Michael West, CEO of Embryonic Sciences, Inc. and adjunct professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley likens this kind of ruling to playing “political football” with medical research and says he is “ashamed of our government.”

            “These roadblocks and delays could well mean the unnecessary suffering or death of a fellow human being some day in the future. We should not allow political differences to encroach on our moral duty to alleviate human suffering when it is in our power to do so,” he adds.

        • Plagiarizing the Amish says:

          An ordnung is inward-facing. It says “This is the technology we will not adopt because we value too highly what we would have to give up as a result.” You just have to draw the line around “we” correctly. (The Amish draw theirs around their particular local community.) If it’s going to be practical, this means the line probably has to be drawn around small groups of people who have a lot in common, at least to start with.

    • LPSP says:

      Ah, good old Ted Kaz’, the ultimate in educated paranoid. Nice to hear he’s still updating his content for newer concerns.

    • As an author of a book on the future of technology, I greatly resent that a competing author, with a competing vision has a publicity advantage over me because I’ve never tried to kill.

      • Anonymous says:

        So what you’re saying is, you think Ted K’s publicity drive worked?

        • His ideas certainly have far more publicity than if he didn’t bomb anyone, and this might well have been the driving motivation behind his terrorist campaign. We create horrible incentives when we give the ideas of terrorists serious attention.

          • onyomi says:

            But do they really? This is the first time I actually read anything by him with any attention. I recall a long time ago him getting some sort of manifesto published in a paper due to a bomb threat or something. I was probably a bit young, but I don’t think it even occurred to me to read it, because I was expecting something like Time Cube at best. Ideas about how to make the world a better place coming from a bomber are prima facie highly suspect. Being a terrorist might, in some ways, increase the probability of getting your ideas into print, but it greatly decreases the probability of them being taken seriously.

            Of course, nowadays he could just write a blog, but that would be a bit ironic…

          • He made the cover of Time Magazine at a time when this mattered:
            http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19960415,00.html

          • onyomi says:

            Well, he got publicity, but for his ideas or himself?

            That said, I do think I myself may be underestimating how hard it was to get an idea out there at all in the pre-internet era.

          • The Time Cover reads “Mad Genius” implying his ideas are worth taking seriously. Certainly Time would never describe an ISIS leader as a mad genius.

          • onyomi says:

            It’s definitely possible I was just too young at the time to realize the extent to which his ideas got somewhat of a serious hearing as a result of his terrorism, though I certainly don’t remember him mentioned in any other context than “did you hear they caught the unabomber?”

  2. dndnrsn says:

    What can people tell me about sun protection?

    I know that I should be putting some kind of sun protection on, but I’ve heard so many different things about the best way to do this. The WHO says a broad-spectrum SPF15+ sunblock, applied every 2 hours – is this excessive?

    For reference: Pale skin, I don’t burn easily or tan much, but I don’t spend much time outdoors.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      You shouldn’t be using any skin protection.

      • Odoacer says:

        I’ve heard this before, most notably from some paleo bloggers, but given the fact that, IIRC, the vast majority of skin cancer is caused by UV-radiation, I am skeptical.

        • The Voracious Observer says:

          Skin cancer is the least dangerous, most easily treatable form of cancer, more a nuisance (like the flu) rather than a significant danger.

          • Odoacer says:

            The flu kills hundreds of thousands people per year worldwide. Melanoma kills ~10,000 people per year in the US, and I believe is the major source of skin cancer death.

          • Anon9 says:

            Voracious Observer: Basal cell carcinoma is 99%+, as you say, a nuisance, and squamous cell carcinoma isn’t much worse, but melanoma, while the rarest of the three, is extremely bad news and sunburn is in fact a direct trigger of the mutation cascade involved.

            I don’t use sunscreen for the <30 minutes I'm out in mostly shady daylight on a workday but I do recommend it if you're Going Outside and will be in the sun for any length of time to speak of.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            All else being equal, don’t get sunburned. More for the short term discomfort than for the cancer. If you can predict your sunburns, use sunscreen. But all else isn’t equal. Sunscreen probably causes more cancer than it prevents, but that’s negligible compared to heart disease.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Which is worse (assume a light-skinned phenotype)?
            1. Maintaining enough of a tan to keep you from getting burned.
            2. Hiding from the Daystar as much as possible, but getting burned the one or two times you poke your head outside.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Jaskologist, why do you ask? Do you think that there is a tradeoff between two different harms? No! #2 is bad on both counts. It has both limited sun exposure and more sunburns. But the good effects of the sun are more important, so #1 would be better even if it produced more burns in the process of acquiring the tan.

        • Sfoil says:

          Paleo is basically about replicating your ancestral environment. If you’re a white American, given the fact that New York is at the same latitude as northern Spain (look at a map), you are getting way more UV radiation than the ancestors who experienced selection for paleness, I don’t know why paleo bloggers would oppose protecting your skin from the Sun. Also, I’ve seen many guys who’ve spent their lives outdoors without sunscreen/a broad-brimmed hat, and the skin damage is quite visible and obvious.

    • bean says:

      I’d tend to say that application every 2 hours is probably intended to cover almost everyone in almost every situation. If you burn easily and are getting sweaty playing sports, then it’s probably the appropriate interval. If you’re not sweating much, then you can go longer. I’ll often use 3-4 hour intervals in such situations, and I don’t get out much except about every other weekend, which is just long enough to not build up immunity.

    • Lumifer says:

      You should if you expect to get a sunburn. You shouldn’t otherwise. If you don’t spend much time outdoors I don’t see any need to worry about this.

      The general trade-off is that people who are religious about sun protection tend to end up vitamin D deficient which is a bigger threat than skin cancer.

      People who spend a lot of time outside in the lower latitudes should use sun protection on a regular basis. People who work in the office and see the sun only during their commute have no need for sunblock.

      • gbdub says:

        That’s pretty much where I’m at – I’m in AZ so it doesn’t take much time to get burned, but still, you’re average day-to-day office worker is probably more likely to get too little sun than too much (to some degree AZ might be worse, since in the hot summer you stay indoors as much as possible).

        If I’m going to be outside for an hour or more, I apply sunscreen at least once, and usually only reapply if I get in/out of water. So far that’s been enough to avoid anything but very superficial burns (as long as I don’t miss a spot).

    • Cadie says:

      You don’t need it unless you’re actually going to be outside with exposed skin for enough time that it might be a problem. If you’re only outside for a few minutes to walk from your car to the grocery store doors and back, sun protection is overkill. Sunlight exposure helps you produce vitamin D and it’s good for you in small amounts. With pale skin, you don’t need much – but you do need a little.

      I never bother with sunscreen unless I’m going to be outside in minimal clothing for several hours, like a day at the beach/pool. But I’m olive-skinned and very resistant to sunburn, so the point at which sunscreen isn’t worth the hassle and might give fewer benefits than skipping it is different than for someone with much lighter skin.

    • Cheese says:

      Where do you live and what is the UV index, on average?

      As we are the Melanoma and indeed skin-cancer capital of the world, I feel like the Australian cancer council is probably the best positioned to detail the risks. Here is the position statement which I feel is fairly detailed and well referenced: http://wiki.cancer.org.au/policy/Position_statement_-_Risks_and_benefits_of_sun_exposure

      The tl;dr is basically if the UV index is below 3, don’t bother with sun protection.

      If it is above 3, especially well above 3 (it regularly cracks 12-14 where I live, sometimes touching 16), you should wear sun protection if you’re outside for more than a few minutes – you’ll be quite easily exceeding your required amount of sunlight for Vitamin D synthesis after a few minutes of exposure to the face and hands.

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      I tend to be worried about such things like sunblock. Exactly how were they tested?

      Just build up time in the sun to avoid burns, and don’t stay out for too long.

      • onyomi says:

        My impression is that the physical sunblocks like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are pretty inert and harmless, in addition to being more effective. Only problem is they tend to be thicker, greasier, and more opaque. Have heard that the other, non-physical blocks may achieve some degree of systemic absorption and may possibly have an effect on hormones. Don’t know if that’s correct, but generally I avoid them.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I have considered getting zinc oxide for times when I must be outside in the sun for extended periods of time, for similar “oh no what’s in it” reasons.

          I mean, I have only had one sunburn in recent memory. I was so unused to the sensation that I thought it was poison ivy or something.

          • onyomi says:

            I am extremely pale and use this stuff on my face when I know I will be in the sun for a while. It contains only zinc oxide but is roughly skin-colored, and so less noticeable than the thick white concoctions you’re likely to find at the drug store. For the rest of my body I tend to figure I’d rather a little burn than have low vitamin D and/or suffer hormone disrupting chemicals.

  3. Odoacer says:

    Bullying

    The zeitgeist in schools seems to be that of completely eliminating bullying. Bullying is seen as bad, and bullying based on race/gender/sexual orientation is seen as really bad. This always struck me as strange, not because I think bullying is great, but rather because I was bullied when I was younger, and I think that most bullies, aren’t really homophobic/racist/etc. Instead they find salient things about others to bully them about. E.g. if a kid is fat, then a bully will call him fatso, if a kid is Asian, then probably racial slurs will be involved, redhead, ginger, etc. Also, the excess media focus on sexual orientation/race is silly because it ignores the fact that the majority of bullying is not based on that.** Straight white kids bully straight white kids all the time. Black kids bully black kids, etc.

    However, I ask you, does bullying serve a greater purpose? Would the elimination of bullying be an unalloyed good?

    I think that mild bullying can have some positive effects. It got me to stop acting in a certain way, and it also made me speak up for myself without having an adult do it for me. I don’t have the evidence for it, but I think that mild bullying might even help kids develop a thicker skin and be more able to function as adults.

    Note: I think bullying can and has gone too far in some cases. I’m not advocating for outright abuse; I’m just wondering if there are some benefits to mild bullying.

    **I don’t have numbers for this, but I’m betting I’m correct.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      To beat an extremely dead horse: zero tolerance policies on bullying are a much bigger threat to bullied kids than bullying itself.

      I went to a fairly diverse public school, but I’m huge and inherited a bit of a mean streak so mostly got left alone. My little brother had neither advantage and aspergers to boot. So when he came up through the system he was relentlessly bullied by the black and hispanic kids in his grade.

      Going to the administration didn’t work. And when he fought back and won he was the one who got in trouble for it. The policies which are in theory supposed to help vulnerable kids in practice just give cover for burgeoning thugs.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Interesting. When I was at school and ended up hitting a bully, the teacher saw it, came over and told the other guy off, on the grounds that “You’ve just provoked a reaction from Mr. X I wouldn’t expect, so whatever you were doing to provoke him, stop it!” The moral of the story: being a teacher’s pet has its upsides.

        • gbdub says:

          Mine were mixed. The one time I can recall responding in kind to provocation from a bully resulted in him crying to a teacher and both of us getting called to the principal’s office. I think I had to write an apology / explanation of some kind.

          Still, the other kid was a known agitator so I was really given the bare minimum punishment – I don’t think he faced more for that particular incident but he did receive more scrutiny subsequently.

          This was in elementary school – I had something of a bully in middle school but he was such a dumbass that I had a hard time taking his almost exclusively verbal taunting too seriously (also he was huge so fighting back physically would likely end poorly).

    • 2stupid4SSC says:

      I was a bully in elementary/middle school.

      Personally, being a bully is one of the things I regret most in my life. While I doubt that anything schools are doing now would have stopped me, or would have stopped me soon enough for it to matter. I really hope that a proactive treatment might be possible for the future.

      edit: This is a complicated idea to express in a single sentence. I guess what I am saying is, I don’t think ‘cracking down’ on bullies will work, but it might be possible to make changes to the education system that make it fundamentally harder for bullies to start, discourage bullying, something?

      • Pan Narrans says:

        “I was a bully in elementary/middle school.”

        It’s interesting how incredibly rarely you hear people say this when bullying is raised as a topic among adults, even though a decent proportion of them must logically have been bullies. I basically just wanted to say kudos to you for being open about it.

        • Artificirius says:

          The bullies who reformed feel ashamed, and do not wish to admit they were once bad. The ones who didn’t don’t want to admit or don’t recognize their actions are bad.

          Paired with the fact that your classical bully is a vanishingly small minority of children.

        • LPSP says:

          In fairness, a lot of people with personality types that would facillitate childhood bullying probably have little reason to move among the kind of circles prone to analytic debate, or any meaningful openness whatsoever. There’s a selection against them. Regretful bullies are probably also rare.

          • Pan Narrans says:

            @ Artificirius and LPSP

            I don’t necessarily mean the archetypal idiot thug beating you up and stealing your lunch money. I mean people who just took pleasure in being cruel to others as children. Jeering at the less fortunate, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t say that group was either vanishingly small or that unlikely to repent. I reckon at least 30% and a lot of those would grow up to be decent enough adults.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If “jeering at the less fortunate” is defined as bullying there are perhaps four or five children in all of human history who were not bullies.

          • 2stupid4SSC says:

            Regretful bullies are probably also rare.

            Unexpected.

            I think you are probably right about the personality thing, honestly the situations that lead to me being a bully are still something of a mystery to me. I was a fairly shy kid who spent most of my time drawing or playing pokemon with the other ‘nerd’ kids, I went to my first MTG proQ when I was seven.

            For reasons I still don’t fully understand I managed, in elementary, middle, and highschool, to end up being very good friends with the most popular boys in my grade (three different people all together). Through those friendship I gained a sort of ‘following’ and social status of my own which I then leveraged for the purpose of bullying a few kids, and honestly I have no idea how or why I picked the kids I bullied. That selection process was so organic or natural or something that I have no memory of it at all.

    • Mammon says:

      Since bullies focus on salient points, racial/gender/sexual minorities are low-hanging fruits (pun not intended). They are probably disproportionately bullied. The focus on eliminating bullying along those lines is trying to compensate for that.

    • Matt C says:

      I got picked on quite a bit as a kid. It made me pretty miserable. It’s possible that it pushed me to some positive changes, but I think it’s likely those would have happened anyway without the bullying. A lot of minuses for some debatable pluses.

      Seems likely that being exposed to a little bit of bullying or unfair treatment is a useful experience, a net positive over the long run. The problem is that the kids that really get picked on get it relentlessly, every day, on and on, over and over. If that teaches anything, it’s nothing good.

      As an adult I still feel very out of place and uncomfortable in groups of more than a few people. I sometimes blame this on being a despised outsider as a kid. But I’m aware I was going to be kind of weird no matter what. Social unease is a pretty common thing and maybe it was always in the cards for me.

      I’m very skeptical of loudmouth proclamations about ending bullying in the schools. If school officials want to end bullying, they’re in a position to do so without constantly announcing it and congratulating themselves for it. They’ve always been in a position to do it. They didn’t really want to do it before and I doubt they really want to do it now.

      Often teachers dislike weak and misfit kids the same as the other students do, and think the misfits kinda have it coming. Sometimes they chip in. I watched (and occasionally suffered) teachers ridiculing and picking on students and enjoying it.

      I imagine most, maybe not all, anti bullying initiatives are just noise intoned over the top of whatever the schools would have done anyway.

      • MattC, that’s pretty much where I stand.

        I don’t know what counts as mild bullying. I was relentlessly insulted by a group of girls from fourth grade through high school. Most of it was about my height (I’ve always been short), that my feet turn out, and that I like reading. Nobody seemed to think I was being unfairly mistreated. Many years later, one of the bystanders apologized.

        I think I was in my 40s before I more or less calmed down about my height. I think I still have some despair about adults and relationships that I *might* be able to clean up as a result.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Social status is a strong motivator. Bullying just seems like diminished marginal returns.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I don’t think you’re completely wrong. Kids need to learn to stand up for themselves and be able to deal with minor interpersonal problems without running to an authority to take care of it. Consider it an analogy to the theory of how if you aren’t exposed to allergens when you’re young, you’ll have more allergies later on because your body never learned to deal with them. (I have no idea if that’s true, but it sounds true, which is just as good, right?)

      However, most of the time this is not how it’s applied in schools: if bullied kids actually do stand up for themselves, as they should be doing, they’re the ones who get punished, and as Dr. Dealgood points out it’s usually the bullies who are the best at working the system to their advantage.

      It’s probably also worth pointing out that if bullies are allowed to get their way all the time without worrying about punishment, that’s teaching them bad lessons about life. They’ll eventually act out outside of school and probably end up in the criminal justice system for it. The bullies may benefit in the short term but they, too, suffer in the long run.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Consider the effects of the typical school reaction to bullying. If the bullied child complains, the authority refuses to do anything about it, and allows the child to suffer retribution for being a tattle-tale. If the bullied child retaliates in any way but completely ineffectively, the bullied child is punished for it by the authority. This teaches the bullied child that authority will not protect them and they are not permitted to protect themselves; that is, they fulfill the role of the lowest-status member of society and they had better get used to it.

        Society needs people at the lowest status level, and it is better for the order of society if the status hierarchy is stable. Therefore, the schools by enabling bullying are simply doing their job of producing the next generation in a stable society.

        • “Society needs people at the lowest status level, and it is better for the order of society if the status hierarchy is stable. Therefore, the schools by enabling bullying are simply doing their job of producing the next generation in a stable society.”

          That was my situtation in elementary school through high school.

          In college, I found (sf convention) fandom. More recently, I found the rationalist community, and I’ve got some moderate status in both of them.

          Sorry about upsetting the order of society.

          Did it occur to you that you might be talking about real people?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Did it occur to you that you might be talking about real people?

          I _know_ I’m talking about real people. I’m saying the real world isn’t as far from Omelas as one would prefer.

          • It probably wasn’t a good idea for me to claw a little.

            Actually, the real world is *worse* than Omelas– more children are sacrificed and the outcome isn’t as good.

            However, I don’t think there’s some large goal behind schools facilitating bullying. I think it’s just hard work to prevent bullying, and harder if your heart isn’t in it. Also, if a bully’s parents are also bullies, it can be even more difficult for the school to do something about it.

        • Pan Narrans says:

          “Consider the effects of the typical school reaction to bullying. If the bullied child complains, the authority refuses to do anything about it, and allows the child to suffer retribution for being a tattle-tale. If the bullied child retaliates in any way but completely ineffectively, the bullied child is punished for it by the authority. ”

          I am very unclear on what that would be typical, unless the school has an overt “ignore bullies, punish the victim” policy. I’m sure it happens – a very mild version has happened to me – but to present this as the standard way schools operate seems way out. It’s incompetence, not malevolence.

          Obviously none of the above applies if the bully is the headteacher’s child or something and hence immune from the law.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            …to present this as the standard way schools operate seems way out. It’s incompetence, not malevolence.

            As Solomon Short put it, sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malevolence. I don’t think it genuinely is the goal of the schools which are like this to indoctrinate certain students that they have no choice but to take their abuse… but if it was, I’m not sure what they’d do differently.

    • Autolykos says:

      The only possible advantage I can point to is that it got me to pick up martial arts sooner than I would have otherwise. I’m not generally a big fan of Judo any more, but it is very well suited for that purpose. It doesn’t look as brutal as socking someone in the face, and it cuts bullies down to size quite effectively when the small, nerdy kid throws them halfway through the room and then explains that the next time, it will *really* hurt. Never had to fight anyone twice.

      Only had a teacher come by once. But he knew that I don’t start shit (and he probably knew the other guy as well), so he just glanced over to make sure I was winning, smiled and went on his way.

    • Rock Lobster says:

      I think that the adult world is kind of ridiculous on this (and other kid-related issues).

      If a prison didn’t take steps to prevent violence among the inmates or deliberately cultivated it, it would be considered a human rights violation. How often do we hear about that in the context of US prisons?

      If you worked in an office and somebody “bullied” you repeatedly, you would do some escalating combination of: telling a superior and expecting them to deal with it, finding a new job and telling them in the exit interview that you left because of a hostile work environment, or even calling the police if the person were violent. Any company nowadays would respond vigorously to this, partly out of threat of being sued, but also just to keep talent. Occasionally a person is so valuable that they get to act like a prima donna and get away with it, but in most hum-drum office life this behavior would be grounds for disciplinary intervention.

      You also in daily life should not be “solving your own problems.” Admittedly I live in NY which colors my views here, but if somebody yells at you on the street, you DO NOT ENGAGE. You say nothing and keep walking. If the person follows and harangues you, you run and find a cop ASAP.

      My point of all this is to say, I find it strange that we encourage kids to be more mature, and yet when it comes to bullying the mature adult thing to do is the opposite of what kids are encouraged to do. The idea that kids, who have no exit options to leave the school for another one, should just “deal with” abusive behavior because it’ll teach them not to be such dorks who talk about Star Trek all the time, is in my opinion absurd.

      • Anonymous says:

        You also in daily life should not be “solving your own problems.”

        Strongly disagree. I agree with almost everything you say about it being ridiculous what a gross double standard adults apply to school and other kid-related institutions, but this reliance on others and the System is truly terrible, a learned helplessness. People shouldn’t be acculturated to solving problems by submitting the correct form to make Authority drop a ton of bricks on the offender.

        Really, the loss of tacit or even formal legal acceptance of dueling was one of the gravest wounds to Western culture. The proper response to someone giving you shit at work is to slap him in the face, get your friend to talk to his friend, kill or maim him with a cavalry sabre. It doesn’t take many of those fights to put all of society on a much higher average level of respect and cordiality.

        • LHN says:

          Except for people who are known to be expert duelists, who can bully the less skilled with relative impunity, and maybe corner them into a devil’s choice between being a public coward and a corpse.

          • Anonymous says:

            That to me is somewhere between “acceptable losses”, “can you demonstrate this having happened historically to any meaningful extent”, and “maybe if you can’t be bothered to learn to fight you kinda deserve being a public coward and a doormat”.

            I think maybe the second one most of all; there is to my (I believe relatively considerable) knowledge no great occurrence of this, especially not as done systematically by one bully against whoever’s unfortunate enough to fall foul of him. The reason appears to be twofold: first, there’s always a bigger dog — if you make a name for yourself as an intolerable bully, eventually some guy who’s better than you will figure you need taking down a peg, or a few feet below ground level. Second, every duel is a grave risk. You can always get unlucky. When bullying comes down to constantly waging your life for the privilege of being a huge unlikeable dick, it begins to look really unappetizing even if the risk in each individual instance of hazard is low.

          • Jiro says:

            When bullying comes down to constantly waging your life for the privilege of being a huge unlikeable dick, it begins to look really unappetizing even if the risk in each individual instance of hazard is low.

            But the same applies if you replace “bullying” with “defending yourself against bullying”. The duels would have to involve the victim as well, after all.

          • gbdub says:

            You’re proposing dueling as an alternative to the “System” as a means of solving problems, and indicating a belief that dueling is preferable to our current approach.

            But it doesn’t seem like most of the problems addressed by deuling are even things we see as “problems” anymore, much less things we go run and get the cops for. Most duels seem to be over minor disputes, insults, and reputation. Actual crimes were still dealt with through a legal system of some kind.

            Nowadays, we’d be expected to blow off half the crap that caused duels. The rest – well, if it’s really egregious, maybe a defamation suit. But most would be handled by telling your mutual acquaintances (or your boss, if it’s at work), “hey, this guy was being an asshole” and he’ll either get shunned / socially punished, or you’ll get laughed at and told to suck it up. Problem resolved, nobody dies.

            Duelling strikes me as profoundly unfair in any situation where one party is agreed by all to be in the wrong. Why should the obviously wronged party have to risk death? Like, if Fop A tells Fop B, “verily, sir, your mother ’tis a slatternly whore”, Fop B can demand an apology, and, if he doesn’t get one, the two will fight. But why should Fop A be allowed to either kill B or insult B’s mother? Everyone already agrees that both are bad!

            The whole thing revolves around the idea that some sort of cosmic fate will guide the blade or ball of the pure party, but that doesn’t seem to be the way things always turned out.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Jiro

            But the same applies if you replace “bullying” with “defending yourself against bullying”. The duels would have to involve the victim as well, after all.

            Not so. It is I think very likely that the average bullying victim has fewer bullies than the average bully has victims, over so to speak the active timespan.

            Moreover, the victim has more at stake: he wants to get a dreadful weight off his back. He wants revenge on his tormentor. The bully has only a vague amusement or sense of superiority; he is less emotionally invested, and therefore less desperate.

            Dueling is thus more discouraging of bullying than it is of standing up for yourself.

            @gbdub

            Nowadays, we’d be expected to blow off half the crap that caused duels. The rest – well, if it’s really egregious, maybe a defamation suit. But most would be handled by telling your mutual acquaintances (or your boss, if it’s at work), “hey, this guy was being an asshole” and he’ll either get shunned / socially punished, or you’ll get laughed at and told to suck it up. Problem resolved, nobody dies.

            Yes, and all of the above is bad. If I was in a trolling mood I might say the problem isn’t resolved until somebody dies. In a more serious frame of mind, however: blowing off insults is not a healthy habit; bringing them into court is profoundly unwholesome (invoking Authority to solve your problems, in the worst way); counter-gossiping is profoundly repugnant and rather constitutes exacerbating the problem than solving it. There are worse outcomes than a guy dying now and then.

            But why should Fop A be allowed to either kill B or insult B’s mother? Everyone already agrees that both are bad!

            In fact, one of the more common immediate replacements for duels was for everyone to shun any “Fop A” type who started talking shit, on the understanding that it expedited things without anyone dying. But of course then not everyone likes B, so they’ll want to take A’s side, so eventually the social contract disintegrates. In other words, the answer is that the risk of B dying is one that must be put up with in order for A to know that in exchange for the privilege of talking shit, he’s going to have to put his head in a noose, every time.

            The whole thing revolves around the idea that some sort of cosmic fate will guide the blade or ball of the pure party

            No it doesn’t. That’s a common assertion, but it’s really not the raison d’être for dueling. It’s the result of a confusion between trial by combat (which I believe was no longer in use by the mid-16th century) and aristocratic gentlemen’s way of settling private disputes. Trial by combat had the idea that God would preserve the righteous and was abolished for the obvious reason; dueling has no more complex or metaphysical justification than “talk shit, get hit”. The latter has an obvious and enduring appeal.

          • Nyx says:

            I don’t think that “formal” or “legal” acceptance has that much to do with it. Rather, people in general are less attached to their reputations than in the past; they would prefer to be thought of as a coward than to risk their life (and very few people would think of you as a coward anyway for avoiding a duel). Dueling is all very well for wealthy aristos who have nothing better to do than to play endless social games, but I have work tomorrow morning and I spent my last paycheck catching up on the rent, rather than investing in a cavalry sabre.

            > In a more serious frame of mind, however: blowing off insults is not a healthy habit

            And duelling is? I’ll take my chances with the insults.

          • Jiro says:

            In a more serious frame of mind, however: blowing off insults is not a healthy habit

            I think most people would find the health consequences of blowing off insults to be preferable to the health consequences of duelling.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe not most, but certainly 50%.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I recall reading somewhere or other that duelling with pistols was actually much less lethal than people usually think – with the caveat that this was old-timey pistols. As technology advanced, duelling got more lethal, and disappeared.

          Was duelling with swords usually lethal or severely maiming, or was there some minor level of injury that satisfied all concerned?

          • Psmith says:

            I recall reading somewhere or other that duelling with pistols was actually much less lethal than people usually think

            See Mark Twain’s “The Great French Duel“.

            At last he was successful. He fished out of his vest pocket a couple of little things which I carried to the light and ascertained to be pistols. They were single-barreled and silver-mounted, and very dainty and pretty. I was not able to speak for emotion. I silently hung one of them on my watch-chain, and returned the other. My companion in crime now unrolled a postage-stamp containing several cartridges, and gave me one of them. I asked if he meant to signify by this that our men were to be allowed but one shot apiece. He replied that the French code permitted no more. I then begged him to go and suggest a distance, for my mind was growing weak and confused under the strain which had been put upon it. He named sixty-five yards. I nearly lost my patience. I said:

            “Sixty-five yards, with these instruments? Squirt-guns would be deadlier at fifty. Consider, my friend, you and I are banded together to destroy life, not make it eternal.”

            But with all my persuasions, all my arguments, I was only able to get him to reduce the distance to thirty-five yards; and even this concession he made with reluctance, and said with a sigh, “I wash my hands of this slaughter; on your head be it.”

          • Gazeboist says:

            That came up here, and I remember it being false. Basically, at dueling range, smoothbore pistols were more accurate than the designs that eventually became modern pistols, even though they were crap past about 20 yards (I think), and old lead bullets produced fairly lethal wounds. But one of the actual participants in that discussion would be in a better position to say. Here, though, is Ye Wiki on dueling pistols and their ammunition.

            I know sword duels did at least sometimes go to “first blood”, but I don’t know how common that was, relative to duels to the death, and “first blood” doesn’t include any kind of guarantee that the first injury will not be lethal.

          • Anonymous says:

            Pistols are kinda shit, but as Gazeboist says, the Twainian parody falls well short of the truth — they were good enough to kill Alexander Hamilton, to take a currently-popular example.

            Swords, as long as you don’t use the unhelpful and enfeebling first blood standard, are pretty final instruments for the most part. Louis XIII’s edicts against dueling, which are a notable plot point in The Three Musketeers, were passed in response to the fact that his entire officer class was killing itself off in fighting to show their valor. (The Thirty Years’ War-era French did take the sensitivity of their honor a touch too far, perhaps.) In the actual novel people tend to stop once they’ve inflicted a bad enough wound to put the enemy hors de combat, but that was probably an innovation too, either an invention for narrative purposes on Dumas’ part or (if authentic) an attempt to respect the spirit of an edict whose letter couldn’t possibly be respected. The French fencing master François Dancie (1623) makes a particular point of telling the reader to wound the enemy several times and if possible to use it to goad him into committing some folly that will let you stab him in a good and decisive way two or three times; so apparently that was regarded as well within parameters.

            And those fights were with rapiers, which make wounds with generally very little stopping power that kill slowly by sepsis. When you start getting into fights with sabres even a first-blood blow might take your hand off or put a deeper gash in your torso than you can really shake off. They’re serious business, not some frippery.

          • I think how dangerous dueling was depended on the rules as well as the weapons. Some duels were to first blood. One version of the Norse Holmgang involved fighting in vary small area. Whoever drew blood first won, unless he killed his opponent, in which case he lost. An elegant incentive system.

            Casanova fought a number of duels. One with guns resulted in the death of his opponent. There is another duel he mentions in which he was not a party, I think also with guns, where one person died. I don’t remember any deaths in duels with swords that he mentions.

        • Gazeboist says:

          “Authorities” are a tool. You can use your own words or actions to deal with a harasser directly, or you can use a cop if that’s more convenient. Why should I waste my time punching out the guy who’s following me around screaming, when I can just call a cop and let them deal with it? That’s what cops are for in the first place.

          If the problem is “some asshole is bothering me”, I’d prefer to just summon another asshole to get them out of my way, rather than have to spend time and energy getting rid of them. If I have to work to get rid of someone who’s genuinely a problem, that’s losing, so far as I’m concerned.

          • Randy M says:

            “Authorities” are a tool.

            When all you have is a cop, everything looks like a robber.

          • Gazeboist says:

            If you’ve read Larry Niven – “My evolution includes a society”.

          • Randy M says:

            I think the devil’s in the details. We don’t want adults to be sparring over any irritating tone of voice. But if “call the cops” comes before “use your own words” you have misunderstandings turn into criminal matters on a daily basis; and at the same time you empower aggressors to get away with anything short of illegal.

            Adults, like children, have a variety of conflict resolution tools that can solve *some* of their own problems, and for some others seeking authorities are the best choice.

            Saying that we adults have ridiculous double standards here is kind of wrong, because the frequent refrain in school settings (& media, etc.) is “Go tell a teacher!” “Sticks and stones etc. but words will never hurt me” is old, old school, and the pendulum has probably swung too far away from the philosophy of resilience, since being able to ignore jerks is a useful skill even if in the perfect world we’d have Navy Seals on speed dial ready to take out the guy who flipped us off over a parking space.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I would agree that the devil is in the details. I was definitely exaggerating in my post up there. Generally, I think the order of escalation should (subject to modification given a specific example, of course) be:

            (1) “Do nothing.”
            (2) “Apply words.”
            (3) “Exit.”
            (4) “Apply the relevant authority figure.”
            (5) “Apply violence, as minimally as is feasible.”

            You escalate as options fail to work, and skip any that aren’t available. In a school setting, we’ve generally removed option (3) from the kids’ toolboxes, which is what creates the double standard. “Sticks and stones” is option (1), or maybe (2). Anon up there seems to believe that (4) isn’t or shouldn’t be an option because … dueling is honorable? Which I found to be nonsensical and worth pushing back on.

            Some guy flips you off in the parking lot? Yeah, whatever. Some guy is following you around calling you a pedophile, on the grounds that you look funny? Go find the person in charge and tell them, “Get this fucker out of here,” or at least try that before you shoot the dude.

          • Autolykos says:

            Option (4) is also often impractical because most teachers either don’t think they can find out who started it, or try to appear “fair and balanced” by punishing both parties, or just don’t give a shit. And then there’s the worst kind of teacher that mostly wants to be popular and thus always sides with the popular kids.
            It can work for some (my brother was always small and cute, so it was a viable strategy for him to make sure the bullies always caught him in front of a teacher, preferably female…), but there are plenty of cases where this option fails or backfires predictably.
            In civilized society, the police *have* to get involved when you tell them. And while going to courts may be a horrible, soul-sucking process, the main motivation of judges is not to be left alone by those pesky kids so they can continue to chat with their colleague.
            But schools (and prisons) are not civilized society. The authority figures there can often do as they damn well please, and the inmates have no option to exit the situation or appeal their judgment.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Yeah, I think school structures need substantial revision for this reason (among others). Students should have these tools available to them, but often don’t. I just think it’s absurd to claim that challenging someone to a duel is the proper way for an adult to respond to an insult, perceived or actual.

        • Alethenous says:

          And if you happen to be being bullied because you’re in a wheelchair? Blind? Dyspraxic?

          You don’t even need to go that far. I once saw a sparring match between a 1st kyu and 3rd dan karateka; the latter was clearly more skilled, but he was barely holding his own because the opponent had a massive size advantage. That’s not “being bothered to learn to fight” – it’s just the luck of the genetic draw.

          Making it even easier for physically powerful people to throw their weight around is about the worst possible response to bullying as a social problem.

          Also, your solution results in an awful lot more people ending up dead than the current status quo. Being bullied is a profoundly awful experience, but not one meriting death. The cost of a small percentage of the people involved dying at the point of a sword far outweighs the benefit of the cool factor of duels this tenuous link to decreased bullying.

          • Anonymous says:

            And if you happen to be being bullied because you’re in a wheelchair? Blind? Dyspraxic?

            Men who are disabled fall into the same category as women and children: persons who cannot fight and cannot be expected to, and thus can absolutely not be treated badly. Part of the whole structure whose loss to us is grievous was that it’s every man’s responsibility to redress such injuries, and also that causing them in the first place makes you an intolerable shitbird. Women would blank you, your friends would abandon you even if you won any fight that resulted, and so on. You’d become an outcast.

            Simply put: in a system where you’re allowed and able to fight to redress wrongs against you, picking on someone who can’t do so is the height of infamy, sanctioned so heavily that it’s unappealing even to someone of a bullying bent. (In the case of some bullies, it also helps in an oblique way, by letting them think of themselves as being on a level above people who can’t defend themselves, satisfying their egos without the need for any bad behavior — but that’s incidental and also a bit intuitively distasteful, since it lets douchebags be smug. Still, it works, so…)

            Or of course there’s the older mode where if you’re a cripple or a woman you’d better keep your head down and stick close to someone who’ll cover your shit, since you clearly can’t fend for yourself. If you’re weak you’re a second-class citizen and you’ll have to take what you can get. But I expect you’d like that one less. It’s not the way that I’m lamenting the loss of, at any rate.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Men who are disabled fall into the same category as women and children: persons who cannot fight and cannot be expected to, and thus can absolutely not be treated badly.

            ‘Cause people totally obey zero-tolerance anti-bullying rules, and the people who are supposed to be fair arbiters of the system never use it to shit on people they don’t like.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think you’re missing the point.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            Men who are disabled fall into the same category as women and children: persons who cannot fight and cannot be expected to, and thus can absolutely not be treated badly.

            This seems like a completely arbitrary and unfair distinction, when reality is that there is a spectrum of unfair match ups, not a clear fair vs unfair dichotomy.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            You don’t even need to go that far. I once saw a sparring match between a 1st kyu and 3rd dan karateka; the latter was clearly more skilled, but he was barely holding his own because the opponent had a massive size advantage. That’s not “being bothered to learn to fight” – it’s just the luck of the genetic draw.

            Making it even easier for physically powerful people to throw their weight around is about the worst possible response to bullying as a social problem.

            “God created men. Sam Colt made them equal.”

          • Anonymous says:

            “God created men. Sam Colt made them equal.”

            I think it’s a reasonable idea that if a huge guy challenges you to a fight you pick pistols, yeah. There’s a reason those old codes involved either the challenged party picking the weapons, or the seconds arranging that between themselves to ensure fairness.

      • Lumifer says:

        You also in daily life should not be “solving your own problems.”

        *blink* Really? You should not?

      • Rock Lobster says:

        I guess I should respond on the pushback to “solve your own problems.”

        I put that in scare-quotes which is admittedly not fair. Obviously basic squabbles with friends and family should be handled privately with words. However, in the adult world it’s generally considered unacceptable to escalate violence when it’s not necessary for immediate defense. “He insulted me” is not going to get you off of an assault charge, and slapping a coworker in the face is not an appropriate response to being called a nasty name, even repeatedly.

        Maybe that’s not always fair but that’s the modern world. The kid being told to just take it or alternatively to fight back, is not something that would ever fly in adulthood. It’s understood that physical violence is a serious police matter and not just a joke, and turning around, brandishing a knife, and saying “You got somethin to say to me pal?” is the wrong way to deal with a difficult person.

        • Iain says:

          Heartily co-signed. The dramatic reduction in the scope of acceptable violence is one of the great successes of modern civilization, and I’m bemused by the people who think it would be nifty to go back to dueling in the streets instead.

        • Lumifer says:

          Standing up to bullying does not mean escalating violence. In most cases where there is violence, it is, as you put it, “necessary for immediate defense”. Fighting back is the proper response to aggression.

          If the kid cannot handle other kids being mean to him/her, adulthood will be painful as well.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            This is exactly what I’m talking about with making excuses when it happens to kids but not adults.

            Adults don’t actually tolerate other adults being mean to them. If you have a job where people are mean to you, you’ll look for a new job, barring certain high-pressure industries. If you have friends or acquaintances that are mean to you, or even family a lot of times, you can write them off and stop seeing them. If a stranger gives you a hard time you can walk away, and if he attacks you the police will take that very seriously.

            Most adults don’t put up with abuse from other adults, and to the extent that they do, the exit option is still valuable. Kids are pretty much stuck where they are and can’t count on their authority figures to help them. And on top of that people such as yourself trivialize their abuse.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Rock Lobster

            Adults don’t actually tolerate other adults being mean to them.

            Oh, you sweet summer child…

            people such as yourself trivialize their abuse

            *grin* Trivialize? No, hitting back hard is serious business. “If you don’t want to be food, don’t act like it”.

          • Rock Lobster, workplace bullying can be quite serious.

            Adults do have better opportunities for getting away from abuse than children do, but those abilities still might not be adequate– sometimes for practical reasons and sometimes for emotional reasons.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lumifer

            Not everyone can hit back hard, either due to a lack of ability or because they can’t bring themselves to use violence.

            A society where only the strong and/or violent are safe from abuse is not one that I desire.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            Nancy,

            I don’t mean to imply that workplace bullying doesn’t exist or isn’t serious. I’m just pointing out that this is a problem that does have effective safety valves to mitigate it, most importantly exit, appeals to workplace authority, and appeals to law enforcement in cases of violence. Kids typically have none of these and are expected to just endure or fight back or hope it gets better, often for years at a time.

      • Aapje says:

        Rock Lobster

        and yet when it comes to bullying the mature adult thing to do is the opposite of what kids are encouraged to do.

        And when the kids engage in vigilante justice beyond what is considered acceptable, like shooting up a school, people are shocked that the kid would consider violence a valid solution to their problems…

        Even as the school environment has been teaching the (bullied) kids exactly that.

        • The Nybbler says:

          What the school environment has been trying to teach the bullied kids is to accept that they are there to be bullied. If the bullied kids decide they’d rather break with society than accept their place at the bottom of it, that’s on them and that’s what the SWAT teams are for. And in case such kids have any empathy for others in their position, we’ll apply deterrence by punishing all bullied kids whenever one of them “acts out” that way.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        AntiDem makes a similar argument in an Ask.fm response:

        How to prevent bullying in a non-Pozzed manner?

        Bullying is pretty much entirely the result of negligent parenting. Not that I’m pointing fingers here; in our age, negligent parenting is pretty much mandatory. To avoid exposing your child to bullying… DO NOT send your child to a public school. “They won’t learn to socialize if you don’t!”, you’ll hear. But the “socialization” they learn in school is just as useless in the real world as every other time-wasting thing they learn in public school. In the real world anyone who, past their sophomore year in college, socializes the same way that they did in high school, is going to have a very hard time of things. But most especially, learning to “deal with bullies” is useless. In the real world, if someone verbally “bullies” you, you tell them to fuck off, and if they don’t, you call the police; if someone physically “bullies” you, well, that’s what concealed-carry permits are for.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Obviously AntiDem hasn’t been in a real employment environment. If you’re verbally bullied and you tell the person bullying you to “fuck off”, you’re going to get in hot water for it. Been there and done that, in exactly those words. Guy started in on me for the way I was driving in the parking lot, when he didn’t give up after I ignored him, I told him to “fuck off”, he went to my boss.

        • Anonymous says:

          non-Pozzed manner

          Checks urban dictionary:
          “To be intentionally infected with a viral disease, typically Aids. Seen as a “bad beat”, especially in poker circles”

          You have one fucked up reading list.

      • LPSP says:

        You also in daily life should not be “solving your own problems.” Admittedly I live in NY which colors my views here, but if somebody yells at you on the street, you DO NOT ENGAGE.

        That is one swift way to mark yourself as an easy and amusing target. “Hey look, it’s the runs away from everything guy! See if we can get him to flee from literally “boo!”!”

        • Rock Lobster says:

          No it’s not….

          I’m not even sure what to say to this, frankly. Has that happened to somebody you know? If somebody is crazy or drugged out enough to be yelling at you on the street, this is probably somebody you don’t want to turn around and start trying to lecture or fight, and it’s not somebody where you have to worry about your rapport with the guy, especially in a giant city. Plus, like I said, the police aren’t gonna give you a medal for getting into a fight. Probably they’ll arrest you and you’ll spend X number of months or even years of your life dealing with the legal fallout of that, even if you have a decent case for self-defense.

          • LPSP says:

            If somebody is crazy or drugged out enough to be yelling at you on the street
            I would love to visit your home planet. It sounds like a fascinating place, where people never get angry or vocal without chemical assistance, and objections are a sign of mental illness.

        • Brad (The Other One) says:

          @ LPSP

          Tyler: This week, each one of you has a homework assignment. You’re gonna go out, you’re gonna start a fight with a total stranger. You’re gonna start a fight and you’re gonna lose.

          Narrator: [voice over] Now this is not as easy as it sounds. Most people, normal people, do just about anything to avoid a fight.

    • multiheaded says:

      People who approve of bullying: what do you think of homeschooling/unschooling, then?

      …Nevermind. That was a bad question to ask, and I can imagine a fairly nasty answer.

      • suntzuanime says:

        You know you can delete your comments, right? If you actually regret asking a question, rather than wanting to darkly hint about how terrible all the non-communists are.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I can think of some nasty answers too, but this sort of petty sniping lowers the level of the conversation so either quit beating about the bush or GTFO.

      • “People who approve of bullying: what do you think of homeschooling/unschooling, then?”

        I don’t approve of bullying, but I do have experience with unschooling. Home unschooling, or home schooling in general, I would expect to result in less bullying, since kids are not forced into routine association with other kids they don’t want to associate with.

        The case of unschooling in a school is not so clear. One disadvantage of the Sudbury model is that someone, student or staff, who is good enough at small group politics to get effective control over the in school judicial mechanism is in a position to do quite a lot of bullying. That problem was a good deal of the reason we switched from a Sudbury model school to home unschooling.

        • Aapje says:

          @David Friedman

          As long as they stay in that environment, yes. However, these people generally have to go to regular schools/colleges later in life and I’ve heard stories about them having a lot of trouble fitting in. That may increase the chance of being bullied.

          • onyomi says:

            Maybe, but as someone who was bullied a fair amount in middle school and high school and basically never bullied thereafter, I don’t especially credit my experience with bullies then to my ability to avoid bullying now. The reason I’m not bullied now is because, as an adult, I’m not forced into social situations with assholes.

            I enjoyed the Haidt lecture recently linked, but I think he thinks too much of “antifragility” as a reason to let children “fight their own battles.” I agree in the sense that sheltering children from the kinds of different opinions, criticisms, failures, demands, etc. they’ll face in “the real world” doesn’t do them any favors and that children today probably don’t get enough unsupervised time.

            But the thing is, school isn’t the real world. In the real world you aren’t forced into social interaction with a randomly-selected group of people your own exact age every day. I am therefore skeptical of the “they need to learn to socialize” justification for traditional schooling. The type of socialization I’m called on to engage in as an adult bears little resemblance to the socialization I experienced in high school, and I doubt there’s all that much overlap in terms of skills.

          • bean says:

            But the thing is, school isn’t the real world. In the real world you aren’t forced into social interaction with a randomly-selected group of people your own exact age every day.

            No, but you are forced into social interaction with randomly-selected people every day. And when you’re young, your peer group is fairly narrow. In early elementary school, I recall people two grades above being impressively godlike and people two grades below being sort of like monkeys.
            I’ll come down pretty firmly on the side of homeschooling being bad for socialization. I started off in regular school, and was smarter enough than everyone else that I usually had about one friend, and everyone else in the class were peasants. Then I went to the regional gifted program, and it was an amazing difference. There were enough people who were my peers that we started to form actual social dynamics instead of looking on the peasant games with incomprehension. Based on homeschooled kids I’ve met, their experience isn’t that much different from what I did through 3rd grade, except for the lack of peasants.

          • onyomi says:

            If you have the option of going to a school with a lot of the sort of people you are apt to form friendships with, then that may be better than homeschooling. But many people don’t have that option.

            Re. interacting with strangers: my interactions with random strangers are generally brief. They don’t bear much resemblance to school, where you are forced into close quarters every day with people you may hate. Of course, there may be people you hate at your workplace, too, but you don’t have to eat lunch with them or play on the softball team with them if you don’t want to.

            It can be a burden to find enough socialization time for homeschooling children since the responsibility is on them or their parents to arrange things. But this is like adulthood! Many adults gradually lose friends as the decades go on precisely because they’re bad at the skill of keeping in touch, arranging to do things, etc.

            People argue that homeschooling is sheltering children from the burden of socialization, but a case could be made for the reverse! As an adult, you don’t automatically go to a place with a bunch of your peers every day, though, again, you may make friends with coworkers depending on your situation; rather, homeschooling more nearly replicates adulthood in this respect.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ll come down pretty firmly on the side of homeschooling being bad for socialization.

            Anecdotes and all that. You really haven’t given evidence or reasoning to support this. I and probably some others here are happy to debate this.

          • bean says:

            @onyomi

            If you have the option of going to a school with a lot of the sort of people you are apt to form friendships with, then that may be better than homeschooling. But many people don’t have that option.

            That’s a good point, actually. I did homeschool for one semester before I went to the gifted program, and probably would have stayed there if I hadn’t gotten in. I’ll agree that homeschooling is probably better than a regular school for the sort of kids that readers here are likely to have, but worse than an appropriate school.

            Re. interacting with strangers: my interactions with random strangers are generally brief. They don’t bear much resemblance to school, where you are forced into close quarters every day with people you may hate. Of course, there may be people you hate at your workplace, too, but you don’t have to eat lunch with them or play on the softball team with them if you don’t want to.

            No, but you do have to be polite to them when you’re working on a project together.

            People argue that homeschooling is sheltering children from the burden of socialization, but a case could be made for the reverse! As an adult, you don’t automatically go to a place with a bunch of your peers every day, though, again, you may make friends with coworkers depending on your situation; rather, homeschooling more nearly replicates adulthood in this respect.

            Granted. But I don’t think you can assume that the best outcome will result in training in the exact same environment you’ll have to work in. Yes, in adulthood you normally don’t have to deal closely with people you hate. But you do it once in a while, and it’s better to have to do it for the first time when there’s no long-term consequences.

            @Randy M

            Anecdotes and all that. You really haven’t given evidence or reasoning to support this. I and probably some others here are happy to debate this.

            What is the reasoning that it doesn’t? I’ll agree that it’s probably not much worse for socialization than being stuck in a regular classroom, and better in other ways. But pushing it as the best option misses the point.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ll come down pretty firmly on the side of homeschooling being bad for socialization.

            But pushing it as the best option misses the point.

            Isn’t that shifting the goal posts a bit?

            What is the reasoning that it doesn’t?

            Define socialization in a way such that it is a clearly desirable trait. Say, the ability to contribute to society being more pleasant and productive via everyday interactions, and to navigate social situations well enough to accomplish one’s own goals.
            Homeschooling children have, as onyomi points out, opportunity for more varied interactions with members of their community of varied demographics.
            They can have much more direct observation and feedback on their behavior by someone with a more vested interest in their good behavior. They aren’t expect to pick up norms from the rest of the young savages or the artificial structures of the school environment.

          • bean says:

            @RandyM
            Isn’t that shifting the goal posts a bit?
            I’d prefer to call it realizing that my original position was incomplete. I was originally thinking of homeschooling as an alternative to the sort of school I had from 4th grade on, not as an alternative to regular school. This was a mistake. But I do still believe that an appropriate school is better than homeschooling, and object to homeschooling being pushed too strongly because it might dissuade people from looking for appropriate schools.

            Define socialization in a way such that it is a clearly desirable trait. Say, the ability to contribute to society being more pleasant and productive via everyday interactions, and to navigate social situations well enough to accomplish one’s own goals.
            Homeschooling children have, as onyomi points out, opportunity for more varied interactions with members of their community of varied demographics.
            I’d call this a case of theoretical homeschooling beating real-world regular schooling, which is not particularly fair. Yes, I’m sure it is possible for parents to put their kids in a position where they get the kind of socialization that school usually provides. In fact, I suspect that may have been the case for the one set of home-schooled kids I know that came out basically normal. But that’s hard, and most of the families I know of that have homeschooled haven’t managed it. It’s hard to describe, and I can see the same problems being somewhat common among those who were really smart and went to regular schools, which might be skewing our samples.

          • Randy M says:

            I’d call this a case of theoretical homeschooling beating real-world regular schooling

            Shrug. I call it my wife’s schedule.

      • LPSP says:

        I’d say the risk of losing the parental lottery, and having to put up with a nasty abuser 24/7 is a far greater threat than any bullying. Similar to being left alone with one tutor, no other kids, who could be in good books with your parents and thus get away with abuses.

    • LPSP says:

      I have little problem with the concept of bullying. The anti-bullying material forced down everyone’s throats in school always vaguely embarassed everyone – not only was it based on no real scenario, it was extremely excessive for even a reasonable case and yet narrowly focussed at all times. Racism was a none issue, beyond a few people who liked curries also liking the word “paki” in an appropriate accent, and sexism a myth.

      I had maybe one major “bully” during my time in secondary school. He was the smuggest chav in our class, and was just kind of a dick to people (not specifically me) as a rule in order to curry favours. He’d sometimes orbit around me as I provided interesting reactions; I was bothered more by the inherent contradictions in his statements and actions that the intended “attacks”, and I neither realised he wanted me to be unhappy nor that my unusual response was exactly what he kept coming back for.

      One day towards the end of compulsory education, at a point where I was coming out of my shell and developing a more cheeky and dominant persona, I poured myself a cup of water from our tutor’s special mug he had printed with his face on it. By this point I, completely oblivious of it, had started some kind of dominance struggle with the chav, as my sect of the form was now the noisier, more interesting and happier of the two. So he waddled over and tipped my cup over my lap. Without a moment’s thought I got up and smacked him in the face. We then proceeded to get into what I thought at the time was an ungainly headlock dance, with me ramming him sideways into desks and trying to gouge an eye out with my middle finger. The class joker – a neutral figure between all the various factions – came in and broke us up before any teacher could intervene, and I sat down, feeling a little shaken. I’d had horror stories about thugs and gangs drilled into me, and so calmly prepared for the worst – an assault by the chav’s horde of chavvy friends and relatives, launched at any point I could be walking home in the next month. See, I believed in honour, consistency and loyalty, and I so reckokend that, had I the ego and nastiness of a chav, I’d round up a posse to strike down whoever stood up me up like that.

      But nothing ever came. Everyone who I asked about the incident years later described my act of defiance in (what I believed to be exaggeratedly) epic terms, like I was slaying a dragon. I swear to god, I just punched him once and then headlocked-flailed for a bit. I knew nothing of fighting. But I had no idea how precarious the chav’s social stance was. It turns out, bullies have to continuously maintain the bully facade at all times. They don’t ever rise in the social order from this – bullying merely treads water. The moment it doesn’t work, they sink like stones. Chavvy never, for the remaining 1.5 years of school, made eye contact with me again. Genuinely, he kept his head low whenever he walked past me, had to sit near me or pass me something, and avoided me wherever possible. He lost all his popularity with the boys, and he lost all his popularity with the girls. The chavvy girls started making moves on me! Which was horrific, but I got over it. By the end of it, I could’ve got away with calling the chav any kind of name I wanted. I didn’t, because I’m not puerile and honey catches more flies than ointment.

      This isn’t actually the main point of the text here. It’s just to show that even actual, proper bullying largely persists only from a misunderstanding between bully and bullee, and that it is perilously-easily resolved. Bullies walk on a knife’s edge – they put themselves on the line for a tiny bit of rep, and you can topple them so easily.

      The main point is – not only do the anti-bullying campaigns fail to capture real, actual bullying behaviour at all – in their over zealousness, they proceed to capture all teasing in the fold. This is the major problem. Teasing is hugely beneficial. I was teased mercilessly throughout my secondary education. And thank fuck for that. I deserved it, and so did my friends. The chav never teased anyone he didn’t like, and us neither. No, in order to tease, you must like the target. My lovely little circle of friends were relentless teasers. I was the moodiest one, the closest thing approximating a leader – so I got the MOST! It’s just like political humour – I came off as dominant, so that meant whenever I was typing something, fucking with my mouse and clicking off into empty space while I wasn’t looking was the gang’s utmost priority. And it worked a fucking treat. I learnt to keep an eye on people in the background, block my keyboard, respond with handslaps sharpish, steal sandwiches as punishment and play impromptu food tennis the moment shit went off. It was the most fun I had in secondary school; I would argue it was the only form of real play I ever experienced in all my compulsory education. And in hindsight, it was the factoring missing the most from a largely-genial, but so very toothless, uni experience.

      I can’t think of a neat way to summarise all this. Tl:Dr; Bullying isn’t a big deal, teasing is really good, zealous campaigners are exaggerating things to draw attention to themselves and signal how beneficent they’re being, waddelseznyu. Stuff isn’t that black and white. Most people know when abuse crosses the line and needs an intervention. In my entire time at secondary school, one kid in an older year once planned an attack on a younger student, and he lost his entire life while the victim got payouts. Non-issue.

      • onyomi says:

        I think there is a very big difference between teasing/good-natured ribbing and bullying. If you think the bullying you experienced was a good thing, it probably wasn’t bullying.

        It’s like saying “rough sex can be great”=”spousal abuse is not a big problem.” The two might share some superficial similarities, but intention is key.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yeah. If, when you don’t respond correctly to the teasing, the physical abuse starts… well, it probably wasn’t good-natured teasing to begin with.

    • Anonymous says:

      Anecdotes aren’t data yet somehow every single one of these discussions devolve into excruciatingly detailed discussions of posters’ own childhood experiences.

      It’s just group therapy trying to pretend to be a policy discussion.

      And bring back dueling guy must have had one fucked up childhood.

      • TheWorst says:

        I think it’s mostly that a lot of people seem to have really, really intense fantasies about being The Punisher.

        Personally, I’ve managed to avoid that particular fantasy, and I’m glad. The Punisher’s life really sucks, if you’ve read the comics.

        • LPSP says:

          While I’d almost certainly say everyone has had that fantasy at least once in a lifetime, the idea that many people continue to have throughout their lives is worryingly possible.

          When you stop and examine it, it’s deeply unsatisfies. No-one wins, you have no-one to enjoy the fruits of your miserable wages.

        • People think that if you fight back , you will invariably win because everyone sees themselves a s heroes their own stories, and in stories, heroes win….so the other guy isn’t going to beat you to the draw….but the problem is that every one thinks that!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Outcome A: Don’t fight back, get a beating.

            Outcome B: Fight back, lose, get a worse beating

            Outcome C: Fight back, neither win nor lose, get a same or lesser beating.

            Outcome D: Fight back, win, get hurt less.

            You don’t have to “invariably” win to prefer the chance of outcome B, C, or D over the certainty of outcome A. You only need some positive probability for outcome C and D.

            This changes when B,C, and D come with “and then authority comes down on you like a ton of bricks for fighting back.”

      • dragnubbit says:

        This is a topic where too many people believe their personal experience, often from 20 or 30 years ago, are the right models for modern childhood. The world needs fewer assholes nowadays, especially on the internet where the supply is already ample.

      • Anonymous says:

        And bring back dueling guy must have had one fucked up childhood.

        Maybe I was just a bully… 😀

        No, actually, I had a very happy childhood. My friends and I ran around outdoors playing Robin Hood and such in the old ruins in the woods. (Not a castle or anything; I think now it had been some kind of 19th century industry, a foundry or something. But to a ten-year-old, any crumbling stone wall is a castle ruin.) I think you’d rather have to try to trace it back to those games, or watching reruns of that old Zorro TV show or something like that.

        It just happens that I think there are serious problems now which our ancestors had already solved, and that strikes me as unnecessary and a shame. People can disagree with you, even quite radically, without being fuckups, you know.

        • gbdub says:

          serious problems now which our ancestors had already solved

          Apparently enough people were getting killed in duels (to the point where it threatened military readiness / an effective ruling class) that it became its own problem that needed to be solved by banning it (centuries ago in many cases). The problems that it solved were basically “people being rude”. Doesn’t seem to be a good trade off.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Anonymous
        Anecdotes aren’t data yet somehow every single one of these discussions devolve into excruciatingly detailed discussions of posters’ own childhood experiences.

        How many anecdotes would it take to make a counter-example?

      • multiheaded says:

        Bingo.

      • Jiro says:

        Anecdotes aren’t data yet somehow every single one of these discussions devolve into excruciatingly detailed discussions of posters’ own childhood experiences.

        I would expect that if someone started a Holocaust denial discussion, at some point, people would start saying “I’m a Jew, and I have family members who died in the concentration camps”, even though anecdotes about your family members don’t prove anything about how many people died or what the Nazis’ intention was,

        The anecdotes are not being offered as proof, they are being offered as a reality check to people who fail to do reality checks.

  4. Jordan D. says:

    Like a case continued for twenty years at the trial court and forgotten by all parties only to spring up and threaten the world of the living anew, the law thread rises once again!

    As usual, a selection of vintage cases from the Institute For Justice’s Short Circuit newsletter, available here:

    From the DC Circuit – you may have seen this opinion, which strikes down the statutory scheme in which the Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is removable only for-cause as violating the separation of powers. Is this a real, live anti-delegation case?

    From the Seventh Circuit – it does not violate the Equal Protection Clause to allow ride-sharing companies like Uber to operate within your city without subjecting them to taxi regulations. This case rubs me the wrong way- not because I think Uber should be subject to those regulations, but because if those regulations weren’t so vital to the safety and health of the city that they needed to be extended, what justification is there for them? Anyway, interesting note for those as-yet unaware: the ancient and venerable franchiser Yellow Cab is re-vamping itself into a ride-sharing company, intended to compete by becoming more convenient to use than Uber.

    From the Ninth Circuit – An issue the court will be re-hearing en banc; can the federal government classify chronic drunks as intrinsically lacking “good moral character” and therefore being easily-deportable? The original panel held that there was no rational basis for that finding, over a dissent. I think we need more RCTs measuring the innate goodness of people who are totally sloshed all the time vs. the general population.

    Another article about the case I mentioned a while back, in the case where the US Supreme Court will decide whether a cause under the 4th Amendment lies against a border guard who shot and killed a Mexican teenager without cause. Notable in this case- the United States submits an amicus brief arguing that the US shouldn’t decide the case out of respect for the sovereignty of Mexico. Mexico’s government submits an amicus brief assuring the Court that its sovereignty would be totally fine with punishing the border guard in the US. (Presumably the reason is that the US won’t extradite the man to Mexico in any event)

    You’ve probably all heard, by now, the claim on CNN that only the media is privileged to possess leaked documents and that they can then give them to you. You’ve all also probably seen the one zillion articles explaining why Chris Cumuo was wrong about that. But here is another, just in case.

    The most important fallout of Brexit yet- the possible return of Great Britain’s Royal Yacht. I fully endorse the objection of the learned MP who wanted to clarify the pronouns for the Royal Yacht, although I also suggest re-naming it to Windoc, just to see what happens.

    Finally: those not in law school right now may not realize this, but a number of states are going through crises when it comes to the bar exam. To be specific, people keep failing it in larger numbers. Still, even in this declining climate, please think very hard before attending an institution in which 3/4ths of the first-time bar takers fail.

    Have a good day!

  5. gbdub says:

    Related to the bullying post above, and inspired by a weeks-old Ozy blog post. Ozy posited that heteronormativity in general (and homophobia in particular) is detrimental to developing deep same-gender friendships (particularly for males). Basically, the theory goes, boys won’t be emotional friends with other boys for fear of being seen as gay (women, being “expected” to be emotional, don’t face quite the same problem). Superficially, this makes a lot of sense.

    But then I look around and note that a lot of male institutions famous for being particularly homophobic (e.g. football teams, military units) also seem to feature some of the deepest male bonding. And frankly, some stuff that out of context could look, well, a little gay (e.g. slapping asses after a good play). Could it be that homophobia isn’t preventing deep male friendships, but actually enabling them?

    Consider that deep, emotional friendships are more fraught when there’s a possibility of romantic interest. And it’s not just jealousy – unrequited love hurts (often both parties) and so we tend to be more guarded around possible romantic partners than were are with comfortable “just friends”. (Note: I’m straight, so I lack experience with how/whether deep platonic friendships work between gay males).

    Perhaps open homophobia among male social groups basically serves as a signal that everything is platonic, so it’s okay to open up? “No homo” is not just a glib joke, but an actual reassurance that feelings can be expressed honestly without needing to consider the possibility of a romantic motive?

    Obviously this isn’t an ideal adaptation, since it hurts gay men in mixed gay/straight environments and contributes to actual anti-gay sentiment. But still, it seems that homophobia may be a symptom of / adaptation to gender roles rather than a cause of them, and may be serving an important function in enabling platonic bonding.

    And I wonder if even post-homophobia we’ll still need a gay-friendly version of a similar function, basically a way to signal that this is a non-romantic “safe space” for deep platonic relationships.

    Note: These are my independent thoughts, but it seems obvious enough to me that it’s likely I’m not the first to think along similar lines – if there is such literature I’d be curious to see it.

    • nimim. k.m. says:

      Interesting point. I’m not familiar with the male institutions you describe, but I’ve been slightly uncomfortable about similar issue in the popular culture lately: it’s now difficult to portray deep male friendships that are not romantic.

      Many works of fiction that were once famous of their portrayal of deep male friendship now either get depictions with erotic undertones or are actively read as so by fans. Some iconic examples would be either the LoTR movies’ portrayal of friendship between Sam and Frodo (and how that is often interpreted by the audience), or the modern BBC Sherlock. Sherlock even lampshades this constantly (everyone assumes Watson is in the closet / denial and that’s why he keeps swapping girlfriends while living with Sherlock; restaurant owner assumes Sherlock and Watson are on date when they go to eat, etc).

      Friendship is one kind of love, but today it seems nigh impossible to talk about any love that does not imply romance and sexual relationship.

      • gbdub says:

        Yeah, that was one of the things I was thinking of. Sam and Frodo were clearly not intended by Tolkien (a WW1 veteran) to be lovers, but, now that homosexuality is more mainstream, we start to see their relationship through that prism.

        Older (e.g. Victorian) literature seems to fairly commonly depict male bonding in a way that might seem gay to our modern sensibilities. But, in not even allowing for the possibility of guy-on-guy romance, their men are freer to express platonic sentiment. Obviously hard to tell from novels, but I don’t get the sense that “no homo” signaling was something that happened much until relatively recently.

        So, ironically, as homosexuality got more visible, mainstream, and accepted, it actually became more important to signal straightness between men, and “locker room talk” got more blatantly homophobic.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Additionally, consider that all-male spaces are fewer and fewer: there are fewer and fewer boys’ schools and colleges, fewer people participate in organized amateur sports, the military participation ratio is down in a lot of places (and there are a lot more women in the military), sex-segregated clubs have declined (either by just fading away, or by becoming non-sex-segregated).

        • Jaskologist says:

          Right, you only need to signal against things which are seen as a realistic possibility.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think that’s a bit too pat. Consider the English public school (i.e. boarding school) which for a hundred plus years had homosexual sex, close platonic male friendships, and varying degrees of homophobia all living side by side.

          • Kind of Anonymous says:

            That’s still consistent. The proposition, I think, is that strong platonic male friendships are facilitated by homophobic social norms, not the actual absence of homosexuality. In this framework, any interaction that could be ambiguous is given the benefit of the doubt and judged to be platonic and heterosexual.

            This checks with my own experience in the Navy (DADT-era), a work environment that was all-male, socially homophobic, and highly conducive to strong platonic male bonding. Coupled with submariner culture being additionally focused on relentlessly trolling people and also being generally weird, these norms even gave cover to interactions like “gay chicken,” where one submariner initiates some type of minor but unambiguously homosexual interaction, and the only acceptable action for the counterparty is to escalate in return. This would go back and forth a few steps; first one to recoil in disgust loses.

            I had left shortly before Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell ended, but I heard from some friends that once it did, the collision between the existing culture and their now-out gay shipmates was a bit awkward.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Basically, countersignaling creates some really weird effects, which then get compounded when the social ground changes.

            I think this is neither good nor bad, in itself, but there probably needs to be an adjustment period where we figure out close male friendships, and maybe close friendships generally – consider all the drama about the “friend zone” and “beta orbiters” in heterosexual nonromantic relationships, vs the relatively drama-free “gay best friend”.

      • Lumifer says:

        Tolkien is pretty much asexual, but in the books (much less so in the movies) it’s clear that the dynamic of the Frodo-Sam relationship is based on the class difference. Frodo is, basically, a gentlemanhobbit and Sam is very much a servant.

        • dndnrsn says:

          With reference to WWI, it’s a sort of officer/officer’s-batman relationship.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            For anyone else who was as confused as I was, a batman in this context has nothing to do with the Caped Crusader.

            Evidently it refers to the manservant of a military officer.

          • gbdub says:

            Presumably WWI would have ended much more quickly if every British officer had a Batman.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I wanted to doublecheck I had it right and of course had to search for “officer’s batman”.

            If they had served in a war together, this would make Alfred Batman’s batman.

          • Randy M says:

            Because sometimes even Batman needs a batman.

          • dndnrsn says:

            And if Alfred was given a battlefield commission, his soldier-servant would be Batman’s ex-batman’s batman.

          • gbdub says:

            So when Alfred takes his turn in front of the stumps in a friendly Gotham cricket match, he becomes Batman’s batman batsman.

          • dndnrsn says:

            And if they took a trip to Venice and Alfred hired a gondola, the gondolier would be Batman’s batman’s boatman.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If Christian Bale confused his roles, and acted like he was going to comfort Alfred but was actually reaching for the ax, it would be Patrick Bateman’s Batman’s batman pat trick.

          • Tibor says:

            According to Wikipedia

            Before the advent of motorized transport, an officer’s batman was also in charge of the officer’s “bat-horse”

            Of course, today’s officers use a bat-mobile instead.

          • Anonymous says:

            “bat-horse”

            Hey, I’ve read some of those comics!

            Sixties Batman was real corny.

          • TheWorst says:

            If Christian Bale confused his roles, and acted like he was going to comfort Alfred but was actually reaching for the ax, it would be Patrick Bateman’s Batman’s batman pat trick.

            This is phenomenal.

          • Jaskologist says:

            We can do better.

            As before, suppose Christian Bale confused his roles, and acted like he was going to comfort Alfred but was actually reaching for the ax. Suppose further that this happened on a fishing trip, wherein Bruce Wayne had declined to do any fishing.

            That would Patrick Bateman’s Batman’s batman’s bait man’s pat trick.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ve created a monster.

          • Lumifer says:

            I’ve created a monster.

            You’ve created a monster with a batman!

        • nimim. k.m. says:

          Isn’t part of the point that it still is a friendship, not some merely professional master-servant relationship?

          Sam might be a servant, but isn’t just a servant. He even becomes a Ringbearer for a non-negligible time (and is the only one relinquish it willingly).

          • Chalid says:

            Bilbo gave up the ring willingly too.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Bilbo had to be cajoled. He doesn’t quite accept it until he sees Frodo under the Ring’s power at Rivendell.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Isn’t part of the point that it still is a friendship, not some merely professional master-servant relationship?

            I’d expect that master-servant relationships could be quite friendly at times: most servants would spend most of their lives working at a single house, so would most likely have grown up with their masters.

            Plus, friendly master-slave relationships weren’t by any means unknown in periods where house slavery was common, and if two people can be friends when one of them literally owns the other as a piece of property, I’d be very surprised if a mere long-term employment contract could stop friendly feelings from developing.

      • Tekhno says:

        @gbdub

        Ozy posited that heteronormativity in general (and homophobia in particular) is detrimental to developing deep same-gender friendships (particularly for males). Basically, the theory goes, boys won’t be emotional friends with other boys for fear of being seen as gay (women, being “expected” to be emotional, don’t face quite the same problem).

        My first thought is that I’ve never actually experienced this lack of deep friendship. I always see this theory coming from the outside, from women observing the male gender from the outside and spinning out theories that are as silly as the ones r/theRedPill comes up with for women.

        My second thought is that I’m lucky to have gone to boarding school and had a shared experience in which to gather close friends.

        For many people, there are no close friends of any kind in adulthood. I refer back to a discussion we all had in a previous Open Thread on the affects of techno-capitalism on alienation and atomization.

        When technology reduces the dependency of people on others, it reduces the need for close knit social groups. People are able to retreat from all the difficult and annoying aspects of friendship, and treat other people as commodities, having fluid and shallow relations instead. However, this deeper level of interaction is still missed by people. There’s a kind of cognitive dissonance created by modern convenience where we retreat from the slightest discomfort, but then complain about having an empty life lacking fulfillment.

        Technology has destroyed friendship and deep relations for many people by freeing them from being forced into living situations with others, but at the same time, a small part of the human brain yearns for this kind of interaction. It’s like exercise; being fit feels great, but few people are fit now because it’s so easy to be a fat sack of lard, even with the lack of accomplishment drilling into the back of your brain like a tick. We’re in a pre-wire head stage where all social relations are slowly melting away before the need for sugar and flashing lights on a screen.

        So the dissolution of male friendship is just part of the larger dissolution of human relationships.

        @nimim. k.m. says:

        I’m not familiar with the male institutions you describe, but I’ve been slightly uncomfortable about similar issue in the popular culture lately: it’s now difficult to portray deep male friendships that are not romantic.

        I would say that it’s difficult to portray deep friendships that are not romantic full stop. It’s hard to portray platonic friendships between men and women now, because we’re altogether cynical about the concept as a society.

        • nimim. k.m. says:

          >I would say that it’s difficult to portray deep friendships that are not romantic full stop. It’s hard to portray platonic friendships between men and women now, because we’re altogether cynical about the concept as a society.

          Oh, I don’t disagree. I’ve just encountered more depictions of same-gender friendships that are so obviously so non-sexual non-romantic that it even does not need to be pointed out than similar friendships between men and women: former were more usual than they nowadays are, the latter have always been rare in comparison.

          I don’t think there was much opportunities for male-female friendships, really, in the 19th century Europe, or in any age. On the other hand, maybe some Victorians viewed marriage, especially a “sensible” marriage more like a friendship than we do.

          • Alethenous says:

            >I don’t think there was much opportunities for male-female friendships, really, in the 19th century Europe, or in any age.

            I don’t think I buy that for 19th century Europe, and it certainly doesn’t apply for every age before this one. Just off the top of my head, I think Lucy in the novel Dracula describes someone as a platonic male friend.

          • Anonymous says:

            Just off the top of my head, I think Lucy in the novel Dracula describes someone as a platonic male friend.

            Lucy Westenra, the girl whose main trait is that she’s so beautiful and vivacious she has tons of suitors? Maybe she’s just misinterpreting the intentions of a nice guy…

          • Cord Shirt says:

            As for 18th and 19th century America…that Harriet Beecher Stowe novel that was quoted in Albion’s Seed (Oldtown Folks, written in 1869 but set in the 1790s, and based largely on her own family’s recollections) also has:

            Girls like Tina are often censured as flirts, – most unjustly so, too. Their unawakened nature gives them no power of perceiving what must be the full extent of their influence over the opposite sex. Tina was warmly social; she was enthusiastic and self-confident, and had precisely that spirit which should fit a woman to be priestess or prophetess, to inspire and to lead. She had a magnetic fervor of nature, an attractive force that warmed in her cheeks and sparkled in her eyes, and seemed to make summer around her. She excited the higher faculties, – poetry, ideality, blissful dreams seemed to be her atmosphere, – and she had a power of quick sympathy, of genuine, spontaneous outburst, that gave to her looks and words almost the value of a caress, so that she was an unconscious deceiver, and seemed always to say more for the individual than she really meant. All men are lovers of sunshine and spring gales, but they are no one’s in particular; and he who seeks to hold them to one heart finds his mistake.

            Like all others who have a given faculty, Tina loved its exercise, – she loved to influence, loved to feel her power, alike, over man and woman. But who does not know that the power of the sibyl is doubled by the opposition of sex? That which is only acquiescence in a woman friend becomes devotion in a man. That which is admiration from a woman becomes adoration in a man. And of all kinds of power which can be possessed by man or woman, there is none which I think so absolutely intoxicating as this of personal fascination. You may as well blame a bird for wanting to soar and sing as blame such women for the instinctive pleasure they feel in their peculiar king of empire.

            Yet, in simple good faith, Tina did not want her friends of the other sex to become lovers. She was willing enough that they should devote themselves, under all sorts of illusive names of brother and friend and what-not, but when they proceeded to ask her for herself there was an instant revulsion, as when some person has unguardedly touched a strong electric circle. The first breath of passion repelled her; the friend that had been so agreeable the hour before was unendurable. Over and over again I had seen her go to the same illusive round, always sure that in this instance it was understood that it was to be friendship, and only friendship, or brotherly or Christian love, till the hour came for the electric revulsion, and the friend was lost.

            Tina had not learned the modern way of girls, who count their lovers and offers as an Indian does his scalps, and parade the number of their victims before their acquaintances. Every incident of this kind struck her as a catastrophe; and, as Esther, Harry, and I were always warning her, she would come to us like a guilty child, and seek to extenuate her offence. I think the girl was sincere in the wish she often uttered, that she could be a boy, and be loved as a comrade and friend only. “Why must, why would, they always persist in falling into this tiresome result?” “O Horace!” she would say to me, “if I were only Tom Percival, I should be perfectly happy! but it is so stupid to be a girl!”

            (Tina and the male narrator attend a traditional New England boarding high school together; the narrator says these were in the 1790s, and had long been, coeducational, with only Andover and Exeter as exceptions. The narrator also falls in love with Tina, but knows she wouldn’t be interested, so remains just friends. She falls in love with the novel’s Aaron Burr expy, who is 25 years her senior, and she only learns after marrying him how much worse a person he is than she’d imagined. After he gets himself killed in a duel, ten years after her first marriage, she marries the narrator and they live happily ever after.)

        • “It’s like exercise; being fit feels great, but few people are fit now because it’s so easy to be a fat sack of lard,”

          There are fat people who exercise. Some of them are impressively physically capable.

          There are thin people who don’t exercise, but would probably feel better if they did.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          So the dissolution of male friendship is just part of the larger dissolution of human relationships.

          The impression I’ve always got is that close platonic female-female friendships were more common than close platonic male-male friendships, so I think there must be some other factor affecting men more than women.

      • wintercaerig says:

        I suspect the LOTR re-read has more to do with an audience demographic (probably especially women but not only):

        – wanting to see more women in the story
        – wanting to see love as they experience it, or expect/wish to experience it, in their own lives: namely, a couple as two protagonists, rather than a quester and the barely-explored object of a quest, or even worse, prize for the quest)

        And this ends up bending the lens of the reader in a way that makes Sam and Frodo a couple. See also why a male-dominated Enterprise attracts this whole phenomenon, but nothing parallel is apparent for, say, Picard and Riker, as far as I can tell.

    • Sandy says:

      Ozy posited that heteronormativity in general (and homophobia in particular) is detrimental to developing deep same-gender friendships (particularly for males). Basically, the theory goes, boys won’t be emotional friends with other boys for fear of being seen as gay (women, being “expected” to be emotional, don’t face quite the same problem). Superficially, this makes a lot of sense.

      That theory seems really stupid to me. You know how MRAs sometimes complain that they can’t understand why so much literature that pathologizes masculinity comes from women who have no idea what it’s actually like to be a man? Something similar comes to mind.

      I don’t think deep male friendships are stigmatized as gay; I think they’re fetishized as gay. This is pervasive across popular culture – men get into deep male friendships and see nothing homoerotic about it; women look at these friendships and write slash fiction. I’m not sure heteronormativity is to blame; I have no doubt that circa-2000 BC, Sumerian women were carving Gilgamesh/Enkidu slashfics on cuneiform tablets.

      • 2stupid4SSC says:

        I had a very close male male friendship in highschool and we never got ‘bullied’ for being gay by anyone, but all of our mutual female friends would joke about us being gay and how we should hook up.

      • gbdub says:

        I think they’re fetishized as gay. This is pervasive across popular culture – men get into deep male friendships and see nothing homoerotic about it; women look at these friendships and write slash fiction.

        I think you have a point there, although it’s not like only women see Sam and Frodo and think, “heh, gayyyyyy”.

        Certainly men can and do have deep friendships, but it takes a long time to develop them organically. Straight men can have deep platonic friendships with straight women as well, but those can take even longer for both parties to feel things out and safely enter the “just friends” phase (even then there’s the possibility of the occasional spontaneous hookup).

        In the context of something like a sports team or fraternity, where you’re expected to get close with a bunch of guys that you didn’t directly select and start off as strangers, I’m wondering if blatant homophobic signaling short circuits through the “don’t worry, this is all platonic” phase and helps bonds form more quickly.

      • Acedia says:

        I’ve observed many progressives doing this and it annoys me a lot. They see emotional intimacy between men and do essentially the same thing that homophobes do, which is to (metaphorically) point at them and yell “Gaaaay!” But they think it’s okay when they do it just because their unspoken subtext is “…and that’s good” rather than “…and that’s bad”. Not seeing that it can be just as damaging to the ability of straight men to enjoy close friendships.

        • Tekhno says:

          Not seeing that it can be just as damaging to the ability of straight men to enjoy close friendships.

          *tinfoil hat mode*

          Seeing perfectly well.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Patriarchy Delenda Est.

          • Alethenous says:

            >Patriarchy Delenda Est.

            I was about to say that the Patriarchy would logically be masculine (so delendus), but actually amusingly enough the Latin word for manliness is feminine.

          • Anonymous says:

            amusingly enough the Latin word for manliness is feminine.

            Out of curiosity, what’s that even based on? Going by my vague recollections of high school Latin, don’t third declension masculine and feminine nouns decline the same? So how would they be able to tell that virtus is feminine rather than masculine?

            I’m sure there is something, you understand; I’m not questioning it, I know perfectly well what the dictionaries say.

          • rmtodd says:
            amusingly enough the Latin word for manliness is feminine.

            Out of curiosity, what’s that even based on?

            My guess would be seeing the word used in a sentence modified by some adjective that isn’t third declension and thus makes obvious from the ending what gender the noun is.

          • Scanner says:

            Gender of virtus is evident in Cicero, Leg. 1.16.45 suā virtute valeat, where the agreeing adjective suā is feminine.

            Most abstract nouns in Latin are feminine, so it’s not particularly surprising.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Patriarchy” comes from the Greek πατριαρχία (patriarchia), so it would be feminine.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Strictly speaking, virtus is courage, valour or virtue, although it does relate etymologically to vir (man). Manliness specifically would be virilitas, which is also feminine.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have no doubt that circa-2000 BC, Sumerian women were carving Gilgamesh/Enkidu slashfics on cuneiform tablets.

        I woner whether Sumerian women were even allowed to learn to write. Spontaneously I lean toward probably not.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          The first author of anything whose name we know was Enheduanna, a Sumerian priestess who composed hymns.

          Now, I’m not sure whether Enheduanna could or did physically inscribe anything on a tablet, but there certainly were female scribes. The Sumerian deity associated with writing was female.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Sumerian deity associated with writing was female.

            That doesn’t necessary mean anything. Athena was the Greek goddess associated with wisdom and warfare, but the Ancient Greeks generally thought that women were rather stupid and irrational, didn’t normally educate them, and certainly didn’t let them fight in war.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            You say that, but there certainly were literate Greek women. Assuming AlphaGamma isn’t fooling us all, it would appear the same goes for Sumerian women.

          • Anonymous says:

            The Sumerian deity associated with writing was female.

            Enki was a woman? First I’ve heard of it.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Anonymous- I’m talking about Nidaba (Enki’s half-sister) who was specifically the goddess of writing and the scribe of the gods.

            And beyond her, there are other attestations of female scribes.

        • Anonymous, you may be assuming that the Victorian model of maintaining status by incapacitating women is typical. It does happen (see footbinding and Boko Haram), but it’s hardly the only model for relations between men and women, and it doesn’t necessarily get stronger as you go farther into the past.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I wonder if there’s ever been a society that did the Sanderson thing and incapacitated men to show their status. None come to mind, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if someone else here knows of one.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nancy
            I am assuming that, and my own understanding of history suggests that it doesn’t grow linearly stronger necessarily, but certainly rapidly grows to a high strength as you go backward and then stays there forever the whole way back.

            @Gazeboist
            I’ve never read Sanderson, so I don’t know what “his thing” is, but maybe you could count the habit of Mandarins of growing their fingernails long to show that they didn’t have to engage in manual labor?

          • Gazeboist, offhand I can’t think of any societies which incapacitated men to show status– maybe you could count Hasidic subcultures which educate girls more than boys because women are supposed to get jobs and men are supposed to study Talmud.

            I know of a moderate number of societies which try to turn women’s bodies into supernormal stimuli, but only one– ours– which does this to men by way of body building.

          • Anonymous says:

            I know of a moderate number of societies which try to turn women’s bodies into supernormal stimuli, but only one– ours– which does this to men by way of body building.

            It’s not a case of “does”, just “did”, but by many accounts Classical Greek men seem to have been much more into bodybuilding than we are now. Socrates notably suggests it’s foolish not to get as ripped as you can, as I recall.

          • Gazeboist says:

            @Anon

            In the Stormlight Archive, the dominant civilization has a taboo on male literacy, and a strong bias against male education (except in military arts). It’s a little more complicated than that (male religious devotees are both high status and educated; there’s a simplified ideogram system males are allowed to learn which is about halfway to being a real alphabet; …), but as a general rule the high status men are all fairly ignorant of their own technology, and most can barely read, while the women are the ones developing that technology, not to mention any fashionable literature the society has.

            Nancy’s example of Hasidic groups that promote extra education for women are a good example, actually, and match almost perfectly. I wouldn’t count older cultures where being literate was generally frowned upon, but the kings all had scribes, unless all the scribes were women for some reason.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            maybe you could count Hasidic subcultures which educate girls more than boys because women are supposed to get jobs and men are supposed to study Talmud.

            I think that these people value Talmudic study over ‘worldly’ studies though, so they consider the men better educated.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @Anonymous: You recall correctly.

            No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.

          • LPSP says:

            I wonder if there’s ever been a society that did the Sanderson thing and incapacitated men to show their status.

            You’ve described ritual combat, duels, sports, contests, the Olympics, and pretty much most forms of male play. That’s why rules make things fun – they test men to see what they can do with limited resources or under highly particular circumstance. This served the purpose of signalling male quality very well, and so has reach fixation and high development across the populace.

          • One more, possibly. Should brain damage from contact sports count?

            Aaapje, women with bound feet were higher status, but they were still crippled. In those Hasidic subcultures, men are less capable of earning a living, and that might turn out to matter.

            Gazeboist, if we’re doing fiction there’s Brin’s Glory Season. Men are expected to be able to do a wide range of things. Women get to specialize, and women are in charge. I’ve wondered whether this is a criticizism of Heinlein’s list of what people ought to be able to do.

            Anyone remember details about Cherryh’s hani? As I recall, the males were considered too unreliable to be trusted with responsibility, but not actually damaged.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy,

            I think you are conflating different kinds of status.

            In general my belief is that gender norms give men more status in some situations and women more in other situations. Whenever I see a declaration that men or women have higher status, that generally is only valid for the situation for which their status is compared.

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy Hani males weren’t physically damaged, but I think the lack of access to education you talk about in other cases might apply. When an ousted male winds up on a starship, he knows less than a newly recruited hand might. Even when he held an estate, IIRC it’s his sister who handled most of the business end, so it’s not necessarily a matter of having comparable knowledge in a different sphere. His job, as I recall, was mostly fighting other males attempting to usurp him. While that involved weapons and tactics I get the impression that it was learned ad hoc rather than intentionally transmitted. (Since the ones who had succeeded have no incentive to pass on the knowledge to someone who would at best only try to unseat him.)

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I have no doubt that circa-2000 BC, Sumerian women were carving Gilgamesh/Enkidu slashfics on cuneiform tablets.

        What makes you think that? (Putting aside an argument over whether or not your average Sumerian woman could write or had access to a cuneiform tablet.) The roles and behavior of men and women have changed quite dramatically over times and cultures; it’d be a bit bizarre for Sumerian women in 2000 BC to be sharing the attitudes of American teenage girls posting SuperWhoLock slashfic on Tumblr in 2016.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Check out “Stiffed” by Susan Faludi. It includes a chapter about the forced coed-ization of a military academy. She comes to the conclusion that when women aren’t around, men behave differently towards each other – in many ways, far more tenderly. She also makes it sound quite homoerotic – apparently, the academy’s traditions included such things as on-the-mouth kissing in greeting and wrestling that somehow always ended up with people taking their clothes off. (I might be remembering this a bit fuzzy, since I read it years ago).

      As for homophobia, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the most violently homophobic societies feature interactions between men that come off as homoerotic. Take all those photos of Bush holding hands with the Saudi prince. Compare also to the way that female-female relationships that are sexual/romantic are often read as not (witness bemusement/annoyance of some lesbians at being asked about their “friend”, getting referred to as “gal pals”, etc) – while I have no direct experience, my understanding is that non-sexual physical closeness between women is much more common than between men. Is there an equivalent for boys of girls braiding each other’s hair or whatever at a sleep-over? Recognizing relationships that are sexual as sexual leads to relationships that aren’t sexual being seen as sexual, and to some extent squishes them out.

      Your hypothesis doesn’t really conflict with Ozy’s, anyway. When they are assured (whether that assurance is real or not) that the absence of women and gay/bisexual men means the space is “non-sexual”, men behave more intimately with each other.

      Extra credit assignment: Watch “Top Gun”.

      • gbdub says:

        Ah, Top Gun (a perfect 1980s bromance action flick), which inspired the Cards Against Humanity card “A homoerotic beach volleyball scene”.

        Is there an equivalent for boys of girls braiding each other’s hair or whatever at a sleep-over?

        The frat party version is pantsing a guy after he passes out and drawing a dick on his ass in marker (and not thinking too hard about the irony).

        Your hypothesis doesn’t really conflict with Ozy’s, anyway. When they are assured (whether that assurance is real or not) that the absence of women and gay/bisexual men means the space is “non-sexual”, men behave more intimately with each other.

        I don’t know, I think we’re still in conflict. My take was that Ozy believes that homophobia makes it harder for men to have deep friendships, and therefore in a non-heteronormative/non-homophobic world male friendships would be easier. I think outward homophobia enables male friendships by signaling that a space is non-sexual, even though gay men are a thing known to exist. In hetero/cis-normative world, it’s easy to immediately see that a space is free of women – but allowing for gay men makes it harder to tell if the space is truly non-sexual.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The pantsing though is a fairly aggressive and adversarial thing to do. If that’s a direct parallel, what does that indicate?

          Homophobia makes it harder and easier, in an odd way, I guess is the way to put it. If you could wave a magic wand and just make all the homophobia disappear, presumably men could have intimacy with each other, regardless of sexuality, without being worried about being seen as gay.

          Within a society that is homophobic, ramping up the homophobia in male-only spaces allows intimacy that would be otherwise read as homosexual to occur.

          • gbdub says:

            The pantsing bit was something of a joke. Still, describing male bonding as more “(physically) aggressive” than typical female bonding would not, I think, be particularly controversial.

            If you could wave a magic wand and just make all the homophobia disappear, presumably men could have intimacy with each other, regardless of sexuality, without being worried about being seen as gay.

            It might be easier, in the sense that homophobia makes being seen as gay inherently bad. But intimate platonic relations between straight men and women are difficult in a way that relationships between straight men are not, and that’s obviously not due to negative stereotypes of male-female relationships. That aspect might make between-men relationships become more difficult absent homophobic signaling – you’d be worried about being seen as gay, not because being gay is bad per se, but because being gay creates the possibility of romance and the associated relationship pitfalls.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Not just aggressive, but adversarial – at least in a “play” way. Male bonding certainly is more aggressive and adversarial than female.

            I suppose that regarding male-female friendships, I’ve had more of those than most guys have, so I’ve got a different view than most.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Gdub’s hypothesis and Ozy’s appear to be mutually exclusive from where I’m at.

        • dndnrsn says:

          See my response to his response above – if there was no homophobia at all, there would be (fewer) issues than there are.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I disagree, not unless you have some way of removing the questions of sex and physical intimacy/trust completely from the equation. (which granted, is one of the advantages the internet has over meat-space)

          • Deiseach says:

            if there was no homophobia at all, there would be (fewer) issues than there are

            Not necessarily – if closeness, emotional intimacy, and freedom of physical touch are still seen as primarily indicating sexual/romantic intimacy, the fear (though I do think “fear” is a strong word to use here) would not be “Oh no, he’ll think I’m gay” (because nobody cares a bean if you’re gay, straight, ace, bi, pan or something different every second Tuesday) but “Oh no, he’ll think I’m into him romantically”.

            There’s enough confusion about mixed signals between men and women who want to be close friends – everything from “leading the other person on” to the kind of jealousy seen about “my boyfriend/girlfriend is still really good friends with their ex and now they want to meet up with them and they say it’s just a friendly thing but is this okay?”

            Remember a previous commenter commenting on here before about “Veronica” and “Betty”, and how he was torn about starting up the friendship again because he thought he might want to rekindle the romance with his ex if they got in touch and started meeting again? Getting rid of homophobia is not going to fix that kind of problem if one of the (or both) parties is worried about being mistaken for expressing romantic interest where such is not intended.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Deiseach:

            Then why do women behave so much more comfortably with non-sexual physical intimacy?

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            @dndnrsn

            Do they? I’m hear this a lot and the only examples that come to mind are from popular media and movies, as opposed to anything I’ve seen in my female friends or relatives.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Anecdotally, I’ve seen young women get a lot closer together, just sitting together, than young men. Maybe it’s just that women are socialized to take up less space? I’ve seen three women sit in a space that two men would be cramped in, and it’s not like the sexual dimorphism is that major.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ve also seen women holding hands but not acting in a way that was in any other way “coupley”. Mostly East Asian, but given that I’ve seen male-male and male-female East Asian couples acting coupley, as people tend to do regardless of ethnic group, I’m guessing they weren’t couples.

      • Anonymous says:

        witness bemusement/annoyance of some lesbians at being asked about their “friend”, getting referred to as “gal pals”, etc

        Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up a second. I thought “gal pal” was an established euphemism for “we’re as lesbian as the day is long” used by lesbians who want to distance themselves from the U-Haul dyke stereotype making “girlfriend” mean instant cohabitation?

        I may have to revise a few of my ideas about my social circles.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I was under the impression that it was a sort of in-joke on that basis, like how referring to someone as a “confirmed bachelor” or a gay guy talking about his “roommate” is no longer a euphemism where there’s any pretense but rather a sort of pseudo-euphemism used for humourous effect.

          EDIT: I might be wrong on this one. Someone with more relevant experience, feel free to correct me.

          But I have to assume that’s what’s going on when the guy who is openly gay introduces another guy, with whom he is acting super couply, whom he has brought to a party as his +1, as his “roommate.”

          • Anonymous says:

            Phew. Change of ideas: aborted!

          • dndnrsn says:

            Based on the example I edited in above, I think we might both be right – it’s used humourously, but is a way of saying “person I am dating/hooking up with” a step or two short of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “partner” or whatever.

            Of course, this is amateur hour non-participant-observer anthropology. I could be completely wrong.

          • Anonymous says:

            Of course, this is amateur hour non-participant-observer anthropology.

            Well hell, at least it isn’t auto-ethnography.

      • LPSP says:

        Compare also to the way that female-female relationships that are sexual/romantic are often read as not (witness bemusement/annoyance of some lesbians at being asked about their “friend”, getting referred to as “gal pals”, etc)

        That’s an interesting grain around which to wrap a thought. Consider that in heterosexuality, men are the more physical sexual partner. They actively touch the partner’s body more, they visually value the physique more, the parts of the brain responsible for assessing visual stimulae go into overdrive during sex (the same parts diminish in women during sex). You could see why women might think that men touching each other would be seen as sexual, and also why they might be surprised by why people fail to read into hand-holding as lesbianism. But in truth, men are just more physical in general. They’re touchy-feely and visual end-of-story. A bit of rumpus-pumpus thus doesn’t mean as much to men as to women – it takes full on SEX to mean sex to men. But as physicality is much rarer among women, a bit of touching means A LOT to them. Usually women are more action-oriented in their judgement, hence why gifts carry so much valency. Men aren’t very overwhelmed with gifts from each other, unless they’re vast.

        • Creutzer says:

          But as physicality is much rarer among women

          But it isn’t. We all perceive that female friends touch each other more frequently. If touch is so deeply meaningful to women, why would this be?

          • LPSP says:

            We all perceive that female friends touch each other more frequently.

            Except for all of us who don’t. I think you’re missing the picture here about how much male touching relative to female touching has changed.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m confused now. What does the picture look like to you?

          • Anonymous says:

            He’s saying physicality isn’t rarer among women now, here, but only because men have been effectively forced to dial their naturally much higher level of physicality down to a level of absolute and unnatural austerity.

            I’m far from sure he’s right about it, but the concept as such seems straightforward enough: women remain at their natural low level of physical intimacy, men have been pushed down below that to nil, from a natural baseline (friendly grappling, backslapping, even “getting into serious fights with enemies” might be included) that’s far higher.

          • LPSP says:

            Anonymous gets what I’m saying. I’m not asserting 100% definite-this-is-it, just that it aligns with my experience firmly and I see patterns in the discussion to this effect.

            Sometimes, you have to try and see a picture.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve had similar thoughts: that the downside of sexual liberation is now that every intimate relationship, or expression of affection, is seen as sexual (whether heterosexual or homosexual). It doesn’t help when you have gay rights people (either LGBT themselves or straight allies) claiming that any depictions of male/male or female/female friendships as “just” good friends is enforced heteronormativity, ignoring the possibility of romantic/sexual interest between same-gender people.

      If what formerly was seen as close friendship now gets read as “repressed same-sex desire”, no wonder people – and men in particular – are not willing to engage in the same expressions. It used to be acceptable for two men (or two women) to walk arm-in-arm; try it now and you’d be presumed to be a couple in the romantic sense.

      • Izaak Weiss says:

        Contrast this, of course, with male/female friendships. It used to be that women and men could not be friends; any relationship between them would be assumed to be romantic. It’s still hard for close male/female friendships to exist without everyone assuming they are romantically involved. (or that one member longs for the other).

        This is, from my point of view, a tradeoff along two axis*:

        1) Male/female interactions are always coded as (a) romantic vs (b) ambiguously romantic/friendly
        2) Same sex interactions are always coded as (a) friendly vs (b) ambiguously romantic/friendly
        3) Gay people are (a) shunned vs (b) accepted

        Maybe I’m missing some other tradeoff here, but I would select society (b) over (a), even given the downsides mentioned in this thread.

        *These are most likely more complex than a simply linear interpolation between two societies, so there’s room for more exploration there, but I think it is a decent approximation for this thread’s purposes.

        • dragnubbit says:

          I think this is a good depiction of the two ends of the axis, and I agree these all will tend to move in tandem. In Roman times for example it was quite normal and accepted to bunghole other men or even young boys, and you were not considered gay for doing so. But if you allowed yourself to be penetrated by another man you were stigmatized and feminized. Reportedly this is also a common social dynamic in modern tribal societies – as long as you are on top fucking anything that moves is ok and it does not impugn your manhood.

          That freedom to openly engage in gay sex without being gay is not really present in Western culture, though if Deliverance is accurate it might still persist in Appalachia.

          • LPSP says:

            The same thing was true of ancient Norse culture. Honestly, it echoes with my own thoughts on the matter. I’m not a big fan of the idea of anal sex to put it lightly, and whether it’s a man or a women doesn’t seem to have much impact on that decision. But the idea of another man touching me with his penis is consternating.

            I reckon this ties in to the point about male circles with a lot of physical friendliness stressing “no homo”; it puts everyone at ease that no-one will whip their chesterton out and start having a go.

          • John Schilling says:

            In Roman times for example it was quite normal and accepted to bunghole other men or even young boys, and you were not considered gay for doing so.

            I believe you need to strike the “other men” part of that. Literally every time I have followed up on claims that some ancient society considered male homosexuality to be normal or acceptable, and this includes a brief look into Roman customs just now, I find that what was considered normal or acceptable was specifically pederasty, sex between an adult man and a boy at most a few years past puberty.

            If there was a society anywhere prior to the 20th century that considered it respectable for an adult man to submit to penetrative sex by another man, I haven’t seen any evidence of it.

          • dragnubbit says:

            My knowledge is most recently based on the books Rubicon and Dynasty, by Tom Holland which I read this year. In them he recounts quite a lot of the sexual practices of the Roman ruling elite, including some of them having close relations with low-social-status adult males in addition to their wives (like Sulla). The shame was only associated with being on bottom, and it would be an insult to a man to suggest he was penetrated. The part about patrons of younger men was also mentioned, but the implication was that, again, the younger man was supposed to play the role of the woman in any sex for it to be socially acceptable as an appropriate dominance relationship.

            So I agree with your statement that in those societies it would not be respectable for an adult man to submit to penetrative sex by another man for the one submitting. The one doing the sex may be the subject of tittering and gossip, but he would be accepted in society, could command armies and could even be named dictator.

          • John Schilling says:

            In them he recounts quite a lot of the sexual practices of the Roman ruling elite, including some of them having close relations with low-social-status adult males in addition to their wives (like Sulla).

            But Sulla, at least, tried to conceal his sexual relationships with adult men out of fear for his reputation and political career. Are there any examples where this was not the case, where a high-status Roman man retained that status in spite of an open sexual relationship with another
            man(*)?

            I’d be interested to hear if that were true, but I’m skeptical. The general rule is that ancient societies were OK with pederasty but considered adult male homosexuality shameful or disgusting – more so for the penetratee, but the penetrator doesn’t get off unless maybe there were no women or boys available. Modern liberal societies have reversed that – adult homosexuality Good, pederasty Bad – and modern conservatives don’t much care for either one.

            * Of any status but clearly past the “beardless youth” phase.

          • dragnubbit says:

            The impression I got from Holland was that any concealment was similar to that of an extra-marital affair. You could not have a romantic relationship (e.g. boyfriends), but sexual gratification was an open secret (e.g. subject to gossip but not condemnation).

            If you are saying it was not allowed to be an open acknowledged relationship, I agree. But you would also not acknowledge a relationship with a prostitute, and that is effectively what Metrobius was considered. There were no co-equal male homosexual relationships, they could only exist in dominance of an inferior of a lower social status. Gay sex was degrading, but far more so to the dominated.

    • 2stupid4SSC says:

      I don’t know enough about South Korea to make a solid argument of this but from what I understand they are not especially sexually liberated or repressive, compared to other similarly developed countries.

      That being said, watching Korean E-sports it seems that the young men constantly engage in activity that goes well beyond US standards of platonic friendship. There seems to be lots of touching, holding hands, hugging, and the like between the guys. This does not feel like normal sports touching, as I have seen footage of professional E-sports players just holding hands in their normal life.

      I am sure the general take on homosexuality is different there, but it is hard for me to believe that they are different enough for them to mesh with you or ozy’s hypothesis.

      Basically, by the respective standards of the two theories, for men to behave the way that these South Korean men behave their culture would either, not care about distinguishing between sexual and platonic relationships, or they are in a state of Victorian style ‘denial’ of male on male sexuality to such an extent that the idea simply does not resonate with them as a realistic concern when two men are very close.

      I guess a very large number of South Korean E-sports players could also just be romantically involved with their teammates?

      Maybe somebody with a deeper understanding of South Korean culture can comment?

      • lvlln says:

        I was born in Korea but spent most of my childhood and all of my adulthood in the USA, so I don’t have the best personal knowledge. The sense that I got from my times going back there was that Korean society was far more homophobic than American society. While I was being taught in American middle and high school how normal and un-noteworthy homosexuals were, in Korea I saw any hints of someone being homosexual as being completely unacceptable and worthy of derision.

        On the other hand, the male-male contact was far more intimate in Korea compared to the US. I used to hold hands regularly with my male friends (I’m male) when growing up in Korea, and I would see adult men walk arm in arm. One memory of American elementary school that stayed with me was when I was walking from one room to another with my male friend, and I instinctively tried to hold his hand. He snatched it away and laughed at me, asking me if I was gay. Another data point is that, growing up in Korea, it was normal for boys to go together to public baths to play and hang out fully naked. In the US, even in locker rooms it seemed there was a taboo against exposing yourself to others.

        This seems to be somewhat consistent with gbdub’s theory. But it’s just anecdote based on my own personal experiences.

        • 2stupid4SSC says:

          I guess this could work with Gbdud, in the basic terms ‘homophobic group can display male closeness’, but I think part of his idea is that these particular groups are extra homophobic so they can be closer. Maybe all of Korean society is so homophobic all the time so that all the men can be closer? It could work, maybe I was wrong about it conflicting with Gbdud.

          I think it doesn’t work with Ozy’s idea that homophobic behavior precludes male closeness though.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think Ozy is falling for the typical mind fallacy. Ozy concludes based on their own experience that hetero-normativity is an obstacle to forming relationships, but Ozy’s experience is not a representative sample.

        • Tibor says:

          If you go to a swimming pool in the US are the individual showers separate? In Europe you have usually one big room with many showers (of course, the dressing rooms and the showers are still separated by sex) and you are usually supposed to take a shower before going to the pool for hygienic reasons.

          The same often holds for showers and locker rooms of other sports facilities, although not always (a gym might have separate shower booths).

          • Skef says:

            Group showers in locker rooms used to be the norm but individual stalls are more common in recent construction. Even so, some places don’t bother installing doors or maintaining curtains on the stalls and the changing areas are generally common anyway.

          • lvlln says:

            In my experience, we had shared large showers, but no one ever showered naked, always with a swimsuit. We did not look at each other when showering, we just faced the wall and washed off as quickly as possible. When we changed our bottoms at our lockers, we did it as quickly as possible and always facing the lockers. Many of us kept a towel wrapped around our waist through the entire process.

            It was quite shocking to me as someone who was used to just romping around buck naked with other buck naked male friends in Korea (a semi-common term in Korea for male childhood friends is “scrotum friends” – 불알친구 – because it’s expected that you’ve seen their scrotum).

            This was just my experience. It may not be typical of male locker rooms in general in schools in the USA.

          • Tibor says:

            @lvlln: In Europe some people might actually be angry with you for wearing a swimsuit in the showers (I don’t know if that holds for women’s showers too) because you are supposed to enter the pool clean. It would be very bad manners to stare at other men in the showers though, most people also face the wall, but otherwise nobody is too much concerned about being there naked.

            In some swimming pools, clothing is actually restricted so that swimming shorts which are too long are not allowed, again for hygienic reasons. The main point, I think, is to make sure that everyone actually wears a swimsuit and not sort of swimsuit-like shorts. And of course now there is that burkini thing going on, at least in France, although those bans do not seem to be motivated by concerns about hygiene.

            I’m not sure if it is sensible but I guess that if you make people wash properly you don’t have to use as much chlorine which makes swimming more pleasant and possibly also more healthy.

          • onyomi says:

            I was told that, before it went co-ed, the Yale gymnasium was a literal gymnasium in the sense that men walked anywhere in the building naked.

          • hlynkacg says:

            On a similar note, When I first entered active duty there was a lot of casual nakedness in the barracks and berthing areas by the time I got out it was viewed as kind of weird and gay. I think the big integration push and pressure to repeal DADT had a lot to do with that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi:

            One of the major athletic buildings at the university I went to banned women until some point in the 60s or 70s.

            Supposedly one of the objections of men to letting women in was “but now we can’t swim naked!”

          • onyomi says:

            In their defense, swimming naked is very pleasant!

          • hlynkacg says:

            Feels good man.

        • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

          Somewhat counter to your locker room point; I go to a gym a few times a week, and there’s inevitably a ton of middle-aged testicles on display. It does seem less common among younger guys, but my sense of it is that there’s no locker-room nudity taboo for the older cohorts.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah! I noticed when I was at a university gym that the old guys mostly did not have a single fuck to give about walking around fully naked. Not like they didn’t have towels, either – they’d just carry them, while younger guys would wear a towel.

          • lvlln says:

            I’ve noticed this in the USA as well as I’ve grown up. And I’ve gone through it as well. Now in my 30s, I just don’t give a shit if someone sees my junk in the locker room. And in general, my perception is that the older someone is, the less they care. I think age might play a factor in this phenomenon which complicates things.

          • onyomi says:

            The question about old people always, though, is: did they act like this when they were young, or did they start not caring about walking around nude after they got old and weren’t so self-conscious/had no possibility of unintended erection? Given old pictures like this (may be situational: just no room for privacy in such circumstances), it certainly seems to be something of a generational thing, though I think there’s also a tendency, ironically, to get less self-conscious about your body as you get older.

            I think younger people tend to look in the mirror and think “ugh, why aren’t my abs more defined, etc.??” While older people look in the mirror and say “well, haven’t completely fallen apart yet!”

          • dndnrsn says:

            I notice that amoung younger guys there’s a widely varying amount of people being OK with nudity. From the guys who put a towel on, take off their underwear, go to the shower, come out with the towel still on, put on their new underwear under the towel, and only then take the towel off.

            Me, I don’t want the nice clean towel I’m going to use coming into contact with my sweat/other people’s sweat (BJJ is disgusting) and I just don’t care that much. I’ll turn away from people if I’m naked because politeness, but it’s not like someone who sees my junk knows my True Name and has sorcerous power over me.

          • onyomi says:

            @Dndnrsn

            My experience of variability is roughly similar to yours and I feel similarly to you, though I think this level of comfort with nudity among same-sex friends would be weird by any standard today in the US. Like, seriously, what is going on here??

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not sure if that’s a matter of cohort or a matter of age/experience. I used to have a greater taboo about such things, now I just don’t give a shit if some other guy sees my balls while I’m changing.

          • Aapje says:

            Women have also been less willing to go topless on the beach, so IMO there is a return to more prudish norms.

            Perhaps the fact that most people now carry a camera and can easily share pictures with a wide (Internet) audience played a role in that.

          • Anonymous says:

            Perhaps the fact that most people now carry a camera and can easily share pictures with a wide (Internet) audience played a role in that.

            Agreed. Nothing stays in Vegas anymore.

    • Jiro says:

      Basically, the theory goes, boys won’t be emotional friends with other boys for fear of being seen as gay (women, being “expected” to be emotional, don’t face quite the same problem).

      The original argument is like that, but the conclusion is opposite. It’s not heteronormativity that causes this. It’s making homosexual relationships acceptable that’s causing this. If homosexuality is acceptable, then emotional relationships with other boys might be mistaken for homosexuality. If homosexuality is unthinkable, emotional relationships with other boys have to be taken at face value.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        But if homosexual relationships were ~truly~ acceptable, then there would be no need to worry about the relationships being mistaken for homosexuality. I think dndnrsn has it right–high levels of homophobia enable nonsexual relationships in the way you describe, moderate levels of homophobia inhibit it in the way you describe, but non-existent levels would remove that inhibition.

        • lvlln says:

          But if homosexual relationships were ~truly~ acceptable, then there would be no need to worry about the relationships being mistaken for homosexuality.

          Is this true? Heterosexual relationships are generally considered truly acceptable in most societies today, but I get the sense that when someone wants to be close to a friend of the opposite sex in a only-friends-not-at-all-sexual way, they do worry that they may be mistaken for heterosexuality. So it seems to me that the worry isn’t just from the stigma of being labeled in a certain way, but also from the social cost of accidentally signalling sexual interest when you don’t actually have it.

          • Chalid says:

            If there was really no such thing as homophobia, then simply saying “I’m not gay” would actually be credible. So (for straight people) there wouldn’t need to be any concern about intimate friendship being mistaken for romantic interest.

            It’s the existence of homophobia that creates doubt about whether someone is gay – if gays fear stigma then they would have an incentive to lie about their orientation. So no one’s denial can really be believed. The anti-gay macho posturing then is a way to signal “I’m not gay” in a stronger way than just saying so.

          • 2stupid4SSC says:

            @chalid I don’t think “I’m not gay’ would ever be totally credible. Much like a male female close friendship will cause suspicions even if both say they are just friends. I think in general people will have reasons for not wanting others to think they are in a romantic relationship and so will always have reasons to lie about being in romantic relationships and so, such denials will never be credible.

            There is also a second concern here, which has nothing to do with how society views the relationship. It seems to me that the biggest ‘risk’ with platonic male female friendship actually comes from one of the people in the relationship thinking there is a chance for a romantic relationship where there is none.

            So it is always valuable to be able to signal ‘nothing romantic will happen in this space’.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            Also, one may worry about unspoken and unanswered assumptions.

          • Chalid says:

            @chalid I don’t think “I’m not gay’ would ever be totally credible. Much like a male female close friendship will cause suspicions even if both say they are just friends. I think in general people will have reasons for not wanting others to think they are in a romantic relationship and so will always have reasons to lie about being in romantic relationships and so, such denials will never be credible.

            I don’t think the analogy is right. One can see lots of reasons to deny a particular relationship, sure. But in the absence of homophobia there are not a lot of reasons to hide your sexual orientation.

            It’s not that in our hypothetical homophobia-freee society the two men would be saying “haha no, we’re not attracted to each other, we’re straight,” which as you say is not 100% credible. It’s that they would have publicly lived their whole prior lives as straight people, openly telling and demonstrating their straightness in many contexts. In a homophobia-free society that would be a very strong signal of straightness.

          • 2stupid4SSC says:

            It’s that they would have publicly lived their whole prior lives as straight people, openly telling and demonstrating their straightness in many contexts. In a homophobia-free society that would be a very strong signal of straightness.

            @Chalid that is a very good point, as somebody who has often faced ‘accusations’ of being gay, I am sure many of the people assumed that I was closeted and their ‘acceptance’ of my sexuality would be welcomed, or in the case of my family(extended) they just assumed that I was closeted because to them gay=bad. But in a world with zero homophobia it would be considerably weirder for someone to go their whole life without revealing their sexual preference and it being generally taken as true.

          • youzicha says:

            Even disregarding the rest of society, it seems to me that people would worry that their intentions would be misinterpreted by their friend. Like, in a friendship between two heterosexual people of opposite sex, I would not try to hold their hand, because it would be interpreted as a romantic overture rather than as a friendly gesture.

          • JayT says:

            I would guess that in a homophobia-free world that there would be significantly more people that are fluid in their sexual preferences, so while you wouldn’t have any reason to hide your homosexuality, there would also be a lot fewer “purely straight” people.

          • Anonymous says:

            @JayT:
            Why would you guess that? None of the actual statistics available seem to bear that out at all. As far as we can tell empirically, most men especially are just straight and that’s it.

            It seems to be an article of faith among the gender crowd that tons of people who are so totally comfortable with their sexuality that they helped construct and maintain the strict binary of heterosexuality throughout tens of thousands of years would in fact turn queer at the drop of a hat if only all gender norms were washed away, but why would they? There’s no proof of it. It seems to be just a (fairly odd if you ask me) utopian fantasy.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Because making out, holding hands, and having sex are all in fact different things, for which individual people may or may not have different preferences.

          • Anonymous says:

            individual people may or may not have different preferences.

            Okay, but as far as we can judge, they don’t, though. The question was why do you guys keep insisting on this “may or may not” when actually studying the real, non-hypothetical situation strongly indicates “not”? It’s like constantly saying that “humans are a species which may or may not have anywhere from 0-18 arms” when in fact, no, human beings always have two arms, barring horrible accidents or severe birth defects. You don’t have any proof or even sturdyish indication of 15-limbed men, why is your instinct to insist on the pretense that they might? They might be giants, okay, but no, they are windmills! They’re windmills, Quijano! You’re wearing a shaving bowl!

          • JayT says:

            @anonymous, my understanding is that Millennials self report as bisexual far more than previous generations. That’s what I was thinking of.

          • Anonymous says:

            Does anyone have a breakdown by sex of the increased millennial bisexuality?

          • Gazeboist says:

            I expressed this badly:

            One individual person may or may not have different preferences about who they hold hands with, who they make out with, and who they have sex with.

            For example:
            – I want to not have sex with men.
            – I am less likely to make out with a man than with a woman, but probably would under some circumstances.
            – I want to hold hands with exactly nobody. (Seriously it’s a logistical nightmare) (Also my hands get sweaty)

            There is no definition of “romantic activity” (or even “sexual activity”) that properly captures the feelings of all humans in modern Western culture. Elsewhere somebody argued that a man who masturbates is by definition not asexual. I know a man who, when shown the definition of an asexual, said, “Yeah, that’s me,” and who masturbates regularly.

            The coding of different things as “romantic” or “sexual” varies with society. Friendship among people who might plausibly be sexually or romantically attracted to each other works fine as long as they don’t insist on communicating entirely by subtext.

            (I will admit that this is something of a general reaction to this thread, rather than a response to your post specifically)

          • onyomi says:

            I can’t resist the joke, but I’m also genuinely curious: what do asexuals think about when they masturbate? Electric sheep?

          • Skef says:

            I can’t resist the joke, but I’m also genuinely curious: what do asexuals think about when they masturbate? Electric sheep?

            If asexuality is a lack of interest in having sex with other people, there are a lot of different ways that can arise. One way someone can wind up homo- or hetero-romantic but “functionally asexual” is by having a fetish that doesn’t involve another person or even something that exists in real life.

          • Gazeboist says:

            In this particular case, he considers sex and romance to be net negative, but would otherwise be heterosexual (I think).

        • Jiro says:

          I doubt that.

          Heterosexual relationships are acceptable, but close nonsexual opposite-sex friendships are a problem for exact the same reason as close nonsexual same-sex friendships: they can be mistaken for heterosexual relationships.

          (Ninjaed)

          • LHN says:

            And certainly in fiction, it’s really hard to keep opposite sex characters’ relationship platonic over a long run. The emergence of homosexuality has conversely helped some there,[1] especially as it’s become less acceptable for characters to be “won over to the other team”, just this once.

            (Though the increased visibility of bisexuality and other nonbinary orientations may make it more difficult again.)

            [1] The Showtime comedy “Episodes” dealt with the adapation of a standard short-run British TV show to an open-ended US sitcom. Matt LeBlanc, playing himself, convinced the reluctant writers to change a the orientation of a character (the male protagonist’s unrequitable crush) from lesbian to (IIRC) bi. His reasoning: “That whole worship from afar thing is fine for the, what, ten episodes you did over there. But this thing could run for years– there has to be someplace for the story to go!”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @LHN:

            I’ve always been under the impression that when a show does will-they-or-won’t-they, it usually kills something for the show to say “yes, they will”.

        • gbdub says:

          Again, male-female friendships are entirely acceptable, but the possibility of sexual attraction can make them difficult. Removing homophobia removes the “unacceptable” problem but creates the “possibly romantic” problem.

          Remember, I’m positing that in a sufficiently homophobic/exclusively-hetero environment, between-male intimacy is not seen as sexual. In a fully gay-accepting environment, between-male intimacy is seen as possibly/probably sexual.

          Fully accepting homosexuality destigmatizes actually sexual behavior between men, but creates the new problem of mistaking nonsexual intimacy as sexual.

          (double ninjaed)

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “creates the new problem of mistaking nonsexual intimacy as sexual”

            But this is not going to be a problem between the individuals in the relationship if they are both confident in their heterosexuality–it’s a totally different situation than male-female platonic relationships.

          • gbdub says:

            But this is not going to be a problem between the individuals in the relationship if they are both confident in their heterosexuality

            This requires a degree of closeness and trust that doesn’t exist until you’re already friends. It’s not like a shy straight person never hides or laughs off their sexual interest in an opposite sex friend. You need to be confident not only in your own sexuality, but theirs as well.

            In practice, it’s admittedly less of a problem – you can almost always take someone’s word that they aren’t gay, simply because 95% of people aren’t gay. For a randomly selected person, the chances that they both are gay, and are lying about it, are very small, and even smaller if no one has reason to be closeted (of course, social groups are not randomly selected, so YMMV).

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @herbert herbertson,

            Wouldn’t you also have to be confident in the other guy’s heterosexuality?

            Otherwise you’re just ensuring any attraction will be unrequited. For all you know the guy subscribes to gay ladder theory and is trying to get out of the friendzone.

            To eliminate the possibility, you need both guys to be assumed straight.

          • Acedia says:

            But this is not going to be a problem between the individuals in the relationship if they are both confident in their heterosexuality – it’s a totally different situation than male-female platonic relationships.

            This is just flat out wrong. It’s quite common for heterosexual friends to feel uncomfortable when people mistake their friendship for romance.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ herbert herbertson

            In addition to what gbdub and Dr Dealgood said above you also need to keep in mind that being perceived as gay limits a single straight man’s ability meet women.

          • Skef says:

            hlynkacg:

            To the extent there are such limits they’re clearly cultural. There are plenty of pockets of the country in which straight women pine over gay men, and straight guys who hang out with gay men often benefit from the phenomenon.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Skef

            I’m not saying that the latter does not happen, but I would assert that it is the exception rather than the norm. Most guys don’t have the luxury of looking like Zachary Quinto or Wentworth Miller.

          • smocc says:

            Everyone seems to also be assuming here that our current notions of sexuality are all there is. Does two men having sex make them gay? Does my friend have to be gay to desire a relationship in which we have sex?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ smocc

            Assuming you are using “Gay” as a synonym for “homosexual” yes, that’s pretty much the definition.

            What exactly would a non-gendered concept of sex (or non-sexual conception of gender) even look like?

          • smocc says:

            @hlynkacg

            I have been told there are cultures (past and present) where men sometimes have sex with each other but do not think of themselves as “gay” or “homosexual.” Homosexuality as phenomenon is distinct from homosexuality as identity.

            What do things look like in a culture where there is little stigma against homosexual sex but stigma against being gay in the sense of never having sex with women? Or no stigma against homosexual sex but no concept of “being gay”?
            I guess what I am really wondering is whether there are reasons I might not want my male friend to desire me sexually besides the worry that people will think of me and my friend as gay.

          • Jiro says:

            In practice, it’s admittedly less of a problem – you can almost always take someone’s word that they aren’t gay, simply because 95% of people aren’t gay. For a randomly selected person, the chances that they both are gay, and are lying about it, are very small, and even smaller if no one has reason to be closeted (of course, social groups are not randomly selected, so YMMV).

            The probability that someone is gay, conditional on them being close to someone of the same sex, is greater than the probability that a randomly selected person is gay.

          • Tekhno says:

            @hlynkacg

            In addition to what gbdub and Dr Dealgood said above you also need to keep in mind that being perceived as gay limits a single straight man’s ability meet women.

            This is a really good point that rarely seems to come up in these discussions.

            I remember in another forum I was on there was a discussion of a news story in which a guy had his Facebook hacked to make him look gay. The guy in the story claimed he had nothing against gay people but that this accusation had “ruined his life”.

            This was taken by most people on the forum as being a homophobic statement, as if no one could have any reason to not want to be perceived as gay outside of hostility to gay people.

            I feel that he may have meant that women think he’s gay now, ruining his chances at fulfilling relationships and inducing doubt in his partners. I wonder how much homophobia is not signalling to men but signalling to women. This aspect isn’t discussed enough.

            @Skef

            To the extent there are such limits they’re clearly cultural. There are plenty of pockets of the country in which straight women pine over gay men, and straight guys who hang out with gay men often benefit from the phenomenon.

            There is a subculture of women who fetishize homosexual men, but they are not the majority of women by any means. A typical woman who feels like she’s not attractive to her partner is generally not going to get much out of the experience, and the gay fetishists are generally going to be interested in getting the guy to have devil’s threesomes. There’s also very little basis for a long term relationship there outside of being fetishized by in real life fujoshi.

          • Deiseach says:

            Does two men having sex make them gay?

            According to The Advocate, having sex with other men doesn’t mean you’re gay, it just means you’re a man who has sex with other men. You’re only gay if you have the correct political opinions:

            By the logic of gay liberation, Thiel is an example of a man who has sex with other men, but not a gay man. Because he does not embrace the struggle of people to embrace their distinctive identity.

            In a very telling moment, Thiel referred to the devastating legislation that North Carolina and Mississippi passed prohibiting transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice as a “distraction.” Thiel also endorsed a political platform and party that includes the vice-presidential nominee who has voted aganst hate-crime laws, opposed HIV funding, and supported a law allowing businesses to deny services to people who identify as gay.

            In this way, Thiel reaffirmed his own sexual choices — while separating himself from gay identity. His notion that transgender people’s predicament is somehow a distraction effectively rejects the conception of LGBT as a cultural identity that requires political struggle to defend. For a technologist who sees himself as defining the future, it is a very premodern sentiment.

            Thiel’s comment is also a too common statement. Since the end of the ’70s, many gay people have not invested in the creation of a cultural identity to the extent that their forbears did. Part of the success of gay liberation meant that they no longer needed to do this kind of cultural work.

            But there are real human consequences to this retreat. And those consequences go beyond someone like Peter Thiel endorsing a platform that is actually dangerous to LGBT people. In the recent aftermath of the Orlando massacre, the media began to claim Omar Mateen, the terrorist who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in that city, was also gay. This identification failed to recognize the cultural meaning of the term. “Gay” does not simply mean sex with another man or even interest in another man physically, as in Mateen’s case, but rather “gay,” as defined by the liberation movement, meant an open declaration of acceptance within a community of people who understood that their sexual orientation made them a part of distinct culture.

            So we’ve gone so far in the direction of progress, we’re back to where we started? You can have sex with people of your own gender but that doesn’t make you homosexual; in order to be “gay”, you have to adopt a certain cultural identity.

          • dragnubbit says:

            I mentioned this in a reply upthread, but in lots of older societies the distinction was not whether you had gay sex or not, but what position you were in. The penetrator was still male/straight/normal. The penetrated was gay.

        • Deiseach says:

          but non-existent levels would remove that inhibition

          But would it? The old model was “man and woman who are not blood relations hold hands in public = romantic couple; man and man or woman and woman who are not blood relations walking arm in arm = good friends” because homosexuality being disapproved of and not talked about meant that only different gender couples were interpreted as romantic relationships.

          But if “man and woman/man and man/woman and woman holding hands = romantic couple” because everyone is completely chill with all kinds of sexual orientations, then the inhibition becomes not “don’t be affectionate to each other because it will be interpreted as romantic and that’s a forbidden, perverse, unnatural relationship”, but “don’t be affectionate to each other because it will be interpreted as romantic and you’ll have to spend all your time explaining that no, Joe is not your boyfriend, Tom is”.

          There have been cases where tabloid newspapers (at least in Britain) have published photos of celebs with another person and headlines about “Is this So-and-So’s new love?” And then it turns out that “No, this is So-and-So’s sister or cousin”. That’s an exaggerated form of it, but the same general principle: if all expressions of affection or closeness are assumed to be romantic/sexual, regardless of sexual orientation, then the non-sexual/romantic interpretations get driven out and repressed.

          It’s not about acceptability or homophobia, it’s about interpreting all non-blood relation/non-parent and child physical closeness as being romantic/sexual. Getting rid of homophobia won’t get rid of “If I take their hand, will they/others think I’m romantically interested in them when I’m not? Will some busybody tell my partner I’m cheating on them because they saw me hugging another person in a way they thought was too intimate for ‘just’ a friend?”

          • hlynkacg says:

            ^ All of this ^

          • Gazeboist says:

            Can’t we just … not make these assumptions? Like, what’s wrong with “two people who hold hands are reasonably close”?

            I feel like if two people are in a relationship, they’re perfectly capable of telling you if it’s relevant.

          • Creutzer says:

            Can’t we just … not make these assumptions?

            No, we can’t. We’re humans and we’re hard-wired to be, well, prurient. What the social world around us looks like is interesting and important to us and we’re not going to leave it to others to tell us what we’re supposed to find relevant.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Hard-wired to be interested, sure. Hard-wired to guess, even. But not hard-wired to always blithely assume that two people who could plausibly be attracted to each other must be boning if they demonstrate some degree of closeness and affection, nor to act on that assumption.

          • Creutzer says:

            You’re right, I was being sloppy.

            I think there is a feedback loop here, in that everybody making these assumptions incentivises people to behave in such a way that these assumptions are warranted. So the problem is, how do we make a whole culture jump to a different equilibrium? I don’t know. Hope for enough random noise to knock us out of the current one?

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “The old model was “man and woman who are not blood relations hold hands in public = romantic couple”

            And what do people think would happen if sexual relations between blood relatives was not taboo?

          • Deiseach says:

            Can’t we just … not make these assumptions? Like, what’s wrong with “two people who hold hands are reasonably close”?

            Oh, I really wish, but that’s probably the asexuality/aromanticism talking. I have absolutely no interest at all in the gossip rags that endlessly dissect celebs’ private lives, because (a) so what? (b) it’s none of my business (c) I don’t care if they’re in love, having sex, both, neither, see point (b), and little to no interest when it’s closer to home about who is or isn’t going out with whom in a circle of acquaintance or neighbours.

            I’d be just as happy if expressions of affection were considered as simply that with no further speculation about what’s ‘really’ going on, but that doesn’t seem to be how the majority of humans are wired. I suppose it makes sense, in a mate-searching, offspring-desiring, is this person available or not sense, to be curious about other people’s sexual status. But it’s annoying for those of us who aren’t playing that particular game.

          • LPSP says:

            And what do people think would happen if sexual relations between blood relatives was not taboo?

            Tangential to the main topic – that’s never going to happen. Human instinct to not mate with people who we knew and/or knew us as children is way too strong, and siblings etc. seperated and birth is too rare a subset to budge inertia.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @LPSP,

            You could have made almost exactly the same argument about transgender two decades ago or homosexuality four decades ago.

            The reality is that it’s not clear whether or not the occaisonal feelers about normalizing adult incest or pedophilia are going to pay off in new social movements. It’s entirely possible twenty years from now we’ll be awkwardly shuffling away from our siblings on the couch or (more) hesitant about tickling our kids.

          • LPSP says:

            You could have made alm9st exactly the same argument about transgender two decades ago or homosexuality four decades ago.

            No, no you couldn’t’ve. There is no correspondingly a) strong and/or b) specific reaction to those topics. Certainly transgender is far too abstract a concept for human instinct to have adapted around it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ LPSP:
            I know several married couples who knew eachother as children (or at least since adolescence). I don’t think this “instinct to not mate with people who we knew and/or knew us as children” you describe is anywhere near as strong or universal as you’re making it out to be.

          • Anonymous says:

            Certainly transgender is far too abstract a concept for human instinct to have adapted around it.

            Are you for real here? Are you seriously saying that you don’t think there’s evidence that (especially) a man wearing women’s clothing or otherwise using effeminate expressions doesn’t provoke an instinctive revulsion reaction in many-to-most people? Why do you suppose trans women who don’t disclose are at risk of getting beaten to death if the guy they’ve been making out with finds out?

            My impression is that binary gender sorting is a really damn deep instinct which we’re primed to reinforce as much as possible (segregating clothes, colors, hair styles, on and on and on) and react very harshly to transgressions against.

          • Anonymous says:

            hlynkacg, LPSP is talking about the Westermarck effect which claims a threshold of about age 6, not adolescence.

            Funny that I should post about reverse sexual imprinting on the day that Scott posts about forward sexual imprinting.

          • LPSP says:

            I know several married couples who knew eachother as children (or at least since adolescence).

            (or at least since adolescence).

            Are you seriously saying that you don’t think there’s evidence that (especially) a man wearing women’s clothing or otherwise using effeminate expressions doesn’t provoke an instinctive revulsion reaction in many-to-most people?

            Are you seriously conflating transgendered or transexual people with transvestitism and general effeminity? This shit is mind-boggling.

            Thank you, anon.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @LPSP,

            Unless you know the person and have asked it’s genuinely pretty unclear.

            It’s not uncommon to see a guy in a dress on the subway and be unable to tell whether or not you’re dealing with a drag queen or a transgendered person passing badly. It doesn’t actually matter either way but the point is that transvestites and the transgendered are for the most part indistinguishable.

          • Anonymous says:

            Are you seriously conflating transgendered or transexual people with transvestitism and general effeminity?

            For purposes of the human instincts, yes I am. I realize that you have a political movement in modern society which places a great import on these distinctions, but in the human instinctual fabric I don’t think those distinctions exist. It’s all the same. (Consider for instance how, before let’s say the mid-’70s, maybe? gay men, drag queens, and transsexuals were pretty much all considered to be the same type of person with the same disease, just on a sort of sliding scale of how gay they got.)

            I think it’s going a bit far to expect the 100ky+-old reptile brain reactions to respect postmodern identity politics.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Anonymous
            I’d never heard of that before.

            @ LPSP
            I have quite a few co-workers and ex-military buddies who ended up marrying their “high school sweethearts”, and know at least one who’d known his future (now) wife going all the way back to kindergarten.

          • LPSP says:

            Power of anecdote, hlynky. Some parts of the world may vary in this trait from others, incidentally.

          • hlynkacg says:

            At the very least it provides us with strong evidence against the hypothesis that the “Human instinct to not mate with people who we knew and/or knew us as children is way too strong“, bringing us right back to Dr Dealgood’s comment here.

          • LPSP says:

            At the very least it provides us with strong evidence against the hypothesis that the “Human instinct to not mate with people who we knew and/or knew us as children is way too strong“

            Except for the part where it doesn’t, because it’s a complete and utter anecdote. Not going to repeat that point, your “I knew a guy” line is dead. Just accept it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Are you really expecting me to post a copy of his marriage certificate along with his class attendance lists from age 5 on, so the fact that he has indeed known his wife that long can be “proven” to some rando on the internet?

          • nimim. k.m. says:

            @hlynkacg

            No, it would achieve nothing, because a sample of size of N=1 is still an anecdote, not enough data to argue how strong Westermarck effect is.

          • hlynkacg says:

            How many times does a hypothesis have to be falsified?

            On one hand we have LPSP making blanket declarations about the entirety of humanity while providing very little in the way of examples to back them up.

            On the other, we have the fact that Oedipus complexes and incest porn are a thing, coupled with the existence of my friend’s kids (and I hardly think his relationship is a unique one).

            I don’t think I’m the one exercising poor epistemological form here.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            The Westermarck effect hypothesis suggests that people are not attracted to those they were raised with (siblings, or equivalently close non-relatives in kibbutzim). It does not apply to childhood friends etc. (quite obviously I’d have thought, since relationships between those don’t seem that uncommon). For that matter, it probably doesn’t apply to cousins.

        • LPSP says:

          There’s a big difference between “I accept X” and “I am X”. I accepted several uni acquaintances’ consensual BDSM practices, but like-hell am I doing anything that would lead others to think I was one. Hanging out with them was fine – I had a gay roommate in my first year for that matter – but letting the furry guy frisk me with his gloves was another matter.

          The reason with these cases is there’s something to lose – if women think a straight guy is gay, they *might not assess him as a mate*, and that’s just a disastrous situation to a man looking for a mate. Similarly, someone who isn’t into a deviant practice wouldn’t want feasible partners turning off from misunderstanding, or unwanted attention either.

          The solution to this is to extend the good practice of tolerance a step further. We tolerate homosexuality now where we didn’t used to, and that’s great. Now we need to tolerate “no homo” as a phrase and social ritual as well. We have to tolerate selectiveness about sexual expression, without seeing it as an insult or attack on the deliberately excluded possibilities. Someone can strongly signal “I’m NOT gay” without it being seen as homophobic.

      • Nyx says:

        That’s absurd. If you’re living a life of loneliness because someone might see you in conversation in another man and assume that you exchange body fluid, then the problem is you, not society. I’m gay, and I don’t avoid women because I’m scared that people might think I’m heterosexual.

        Rather, this seems to be a result of an increasingly atomized and individualized society that makes it difficult to hold onto long-term friendships in general. People move and rent more often, and hold down jobs for shorter periods of time (if they even have formal employment). This isn’t helped by a culture that treats marriage and the resulting nuclear family as the sine qua non of human intimacy. And then there’s the Internet. I mean, just look at us. We could be talking to our real friends, and yet we choose to communicate with faceless screennames on the other side of the planet. The thrill of human communication, without the dreadful risk of intimacy.

        (This applies just as much to women as men; the difference is that we are trained culturally to examine men for “problems”, but not to apply that same scrutiny to women. If a man is lonely, that’s because of heteronormativity, or feminism, or toxic masculinity, or lead in the water supply. If a woman is lonely, that’s her problem.)

        • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

          “If a woman is lonely, that’s her problem.”

          No, if a woman is lonely, it’s also the fault of men.

          • Nyx says:

            That’s actually a really interesting article. Some takeaways:

            * The differences between male and female college graduation rates are chalked up to “well, women are just that awesome”. Somehow, I doubt the interviewee would say the same thing about white college applicants.

            * Male abandonment increases when there are more women. With millions of black men languishing in prison, what does this mean for black families? Nothing good, I should think.

            * “It’s hugely reassuring, I think.” Because it’s reassuring to learn that your inability to get laid is a result of demographic factors outside your ability to control, and not because you’re overweight.

            * The whole article comes off as well, a little bit condescending. Gee, it’s just so hard being a rich, white college-educated women who can’t find her very own Christian Grey to sweep her off her feet! What about the flipside; the implicit hundreds of thousands of non-educated men who have a life of eating ready meals alone in a crummy apartment to look forward to.

    • Skef says:

      A number of contributors to this thread are proposing something like the following explanation:

      1) At an earlier time, men could have a close emotional relationship without being concerned that it will be interpreted as sexual or romantic.

      2) Now, with more acceptance of homosexuality in culture, these relationships tend to be read as sexual or romantic.

      3) 2 offers some degree of explanation for 1.

      In my view, 3 is totally nutballs.

      1 does seem accurate; there was such a time. That was followed in at least the U.S. and perhaps Great Britain (my info is spotty here) by a time in which policing any possible appearance of homosexuality became one of the primary characteristics of male culture. Like, a driving force of the culture. Older people here may remember a “gay or eurotrash” meme from some years ago. This had to do with fashion of all things. If a guy in Italy found a hat he thought looked good on him he might buy it and wear it. Good god, not in the U.S. You might look like … well you know.

      If you add “could this make me look queer?” to “is this pleasant whilst drunk?” and general background knowledge you can deduce around 85% of male heterosexual U.S. culture. (Dubstep: Tolerable and possibly pleasant while plastered!™)

      The reason that emotional male bonding was still permissible in certain amped-up situations was because they were sufficiently amp-ed up to put off worries of bad interpretations. “You can hug when your team wins the Superbowl” is a cultural cliche, not some careful anthropological reading.

      There was absolutely a time in this country when almost all male intimacy was suspect but before any broad acceptance of homosexuality.

      Also: “Note: I’m straight, so I lack experience with how/whether deep platonic friendships work between gay males.” How about deep platonic friendships between straight and gay males?

      Anyone?

      And BTW to those noting/complaining about the effects of slash readings of relationships: Lesbian “action”, particularly in porn, is a much, much more prominent feature of the culture. Note that close female friends don’t typically obsess about being thought of as lesbians. And yet it seems completely natural to many people here that readings of male closeness as sexual or romantic would discourage closeness. That’s so natural because everyone was already worried about that.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I think the confusion here is between awareness and acceptance.

        Of the three periods you mentioned, the first had no awareness and no acceptance. The second period has awareness without acceptance. And the current period has both.

        In Ozy’s acceptance-based model, we would predict that the current period would have the most intense male friendships and neither of the past periods would have them. In the comments section awareness-based model, we would predict that period 1 had the most intense male friendships and neither of the later periods would have them. Which is closer to reality?

      • 2stupid4SSC says:

        With regard to the note. My roommate in college and best friend is gay and I am straight* and the friendship is very normal for me, like my high school straight straight friendships in almost every way.

        The only thing that was weird for me about my close platonic gay friend was that he constantly used f*g and gay as a synonym for bad, which made me slightly uncomfortable because I grew up in an environment where talking that way was considered totally inappropriate.

        *my sexuality might be considered bi by some people, in any case I was not attracted to my roommate*

      • gbdub says:

        There was absolutely a time in this country when almost all male intimacy was suspect but before any broad acceptance of homosexuality.

        When? If there was, it seems very short – like, maybe a couple decades in the mid-twentieth century. (I think acceptance is less important as a driving force for this phenomenon, if it is real, than awareness of homosexuality as a common, widespread thing).

        “Gay or Eurotrash” is a poor example – the issue there is not between-male intimacy, but seeming effete. Masculine-signaling with fashion is a related but distinct problem.

        Also: “Note: I’m straight, so I lack experience with how/whether deep platonic friendships work between gay males.” How about deep platonic friendships between straight and gay males?

        Anyone?

        You seem to be implying that I have a hard time getting along with gay guys. No, I’m just asking if friendships between two gay men have the same difficulties that mixed-gender straight friendships have. It’s impossible for me to experience that first hand for obvious reasons, so I was looking for someone willing to share that experience.

        And yet it seems completely natural to many people here that readings of male closeness as sexual or romantic would discourage closeness. That’s so natural because everyone was already worried about that.

        That’s my whole point! Eliminating homophobia doesn’t fully solve the problem, because “platonic intimacy is mistaken as sexual” is a separate issue from “homosexual intimacy is considered bad”.

        • Skef says:

          When?

          I would say at least the 1950s through the ’80s, probably increasing through that time period.

          “Gay or Eurotrash” is a poor example – the issue there is not between-male intimacy, but seeming effete. Masculine-signaling with fashion is a related but distinct problem.

          I’m not sure where your confidence that “between-male intimacy” can be separated from “seeming effete” comes from. Suppose your close straight relationship were mistaken for a gay relationship. What would be problem with that? What’s the problem with being effete? Aren’t all those vectors kind of pointing to the same general area?

          You seem to be implying that I have a hard time getting along with gay guys.

          I’m actually more implying that straight men’s individual experiences with such relationships would be more likely to help sort through these questions than speculation.

          That’s my whole point! Eliminating homophobia doesn’t fully solve the problem, because “platonic intimacy is mistaken as sexual” is a separate issue from “homosexual intimacy is considered bad”.

          I thought your point was this:

          Perhaps open homophobia among male social groups basically serves as a signal that everything is platonic, so it’s okay to open up?

          I’m pointing out that the time-period of “peak homophobia” coincided with the period of least acceptability of behavior that might be mistaken for intimacy and most social monitoring of such behavior. And I still see no explanation on offer for why such mistakes are a big deal in the first place. Is that supposed to be an innate psychological law?

          • gbdub says:

            I would say at least the 1950s through the ’80s, probably increasing through that time period.

            Then we are mostly in agreement. I think I said “a couple of decades” – I’d peg it a bit later than the 50s as a start.

            I’m not sure where your confidence that “between-male intimacy” can be separated from “seeming effete” comes from.

            Not all gay men are effete, certainly they don’t all participate in “feminized” fashion / grooming. And being seen as womanly or over concerned with appearance is traditionally a flaw for men separate from orientation. Fops and ninnys were mocked without necessarily the implication that they were gay. Anyway, point there was that that’s part of homophobia but not really the part we’re talking about.

            I guess I shouldn’t have said “my whole point”. But that is certainly important to my point – homophobia may act as a signal that any implied intimacy is nonsexual, and that might be useful, such that removing homophobia without replacing the signal is not a complete solution to acceptable platonic male intimacy.

            I’m pointing out that the time-period of “peak homophobia” coincided with the period of least acceptability of behavior that might be mistaken for intimacy and most social monitoring of such behavior.

            I think I need to explicitly distinguish actual anti-homosexuality and homophobic signaling. I think we can safely say that the Victorian era was more anti-gay than say the (19)90s, yet there was probably more homophobic signaling in the (19)90s.

            In my theory, peak homophobic signaling should coincide with declining platonic male intimacy, because you’re signaling to maintain the intimacy (previously, blatant signaling was unneeded because homosexuality was unthinkable). The question is, does the final post-homophobia stage have more or less platonic male intimacy than the initial anti-gay but low-signaling phase?

            And I still see no explanation on offer for why such mistakes are a big deal in the first place. Is that supposed to be an innate psychological law?

            You’ve never experienced awkwardness with possible unrequited love? Or with an attraction to someone you know you shouldn’t be (e.g. a subordinate coworker, a married friend, etc.)? These are very common feelings. Certainly, overcoming the “is this just friends or something else” stage of getting to know a person is emotionally fraught, and the possibility of mistaking friendship for sexual interest makes it harder.

            Yeah it would be great if no one was ever hurt or awkward about such things, but that’s not where most of us live – and the problem is deeper than just anti-gay sentiment.

          • Skef says:

            RE Victorian era: Seems right in relation to England, not sure it was as much on the radar in the U.S. at that time. People can simultaneously object to something categorically when it comes up and not much care about it.

            Re: worries about mistaken intentions. Sure, but worrying about that in platonic heterosexual relationships in particular implies an already screwed-up backdrop of relationships. Shouldn’t that come up most often in male/female platonic relationships? Something less than 5% of guys are gay. Of those, a good portion won’t be into you anyway. And actually “no, I’m actually straight/gay” is the best, least hurtful reason for clarifying those problems because it isn’t interpreted as a personal rejection. So it’s about the least problematic or common version of the mistaken intimacy problem. (The numbers are much, much worse for gay people when you think about it.) Why the focus on that possibility in particular?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Why the focus on that possibility in particular?

            Because it has a sizeable influence on the rest of the dynamic.

          • neptunepink says:

            High levels of homophobia may be a counter-attack to increasing/intruding cultural acceptance of homosexuality. “Ignore, laugh, fight, win.”

        • Skef says:

          As far as gay male platonic relationships go, no, they don’t tend to have these issues. If someone wonders you can just clarify. It’s also very common for gay men who were formerly intimate to remain friends.

          Actual intimacy is usually fairly easy to interpret correctly, which is another reason I have trouble crediting the idea that a loss of homophobia could be a cause of these problems. Unless there’s some reason to think that people are disguising or “toning down” their relationships, it’s usually not that hard to figure out how people feel about each other.

          • Randy M says:

            Unless there’s some reason to think that people are disguising or “toning down” their relationships, it’s usually not that hard to figure out how people feel about each other.

            This is funny because in a different context dndrsn notes he doesn’t think its trivial to tell the difference “scared to death” and “into me”.

          • gbdub says:

            it’s usually not that hard to figure out how people feel about each other.

            The problem I’ve been describing is mostly an issue in the making friends / getting to know you stage, and there – yeah, it is that hard for a lot of people and a lot of situations.

          • Skef says:

            In fairness, contemporary “western” heterosexuality does seem to be a bit of a disaster zone. It doesn’t help that men and women generally hate each other as groups these days, reserving enthusiasm for some individuals. But I hold out hope that these problems aren’t innate and can be sorted out over the next few decades.

          • Skef says:

            gbdub: Hard for the people involved or hard for third parties? Why would third parties even have a strong impression during that stage, regardless of the genders involved, unless one or both people were obviously “mooning” over the other?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M:

            I’m not sure what my opinions about male-female sexual interaction have to do with somebody else’s views of same-sex non-sexual intimacy, but:

            There is a difference between a third party observing two people, and those two people observing each other. Especially if motivations are coming in to it.

            Surely you’ve seen cases where one person is trying to flirt with another, and it is blatantly obvious to you that person B is not into person A, but apparently not to person A?

            And, someone who is trying to get laid (regardless of the gender of the people involved) will probably have a tendency to avoid clues that might get in the way of that.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Skef

            men and women generally hate each other as groups these days

            I would really recommend you try to find yourself a different social group, one where men-women relationships are not so, ahem, fucked up.

          • Randy M says:

            @dndnrsn
            I know you and skef are different people, but the juxtaposition between “people can usually tell the difference between flirting and friendship” and “people can’t usually not tell the difference between terror and lust” was quite amusing to me.
            fwiw, I disagree with both.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M:

            I don’t think it’s a “people can’t usually not”, but some number people can’t, or pretend to not be able to. The percentage of people who unintentionally or intentionally violate other people’s boundaries, personal integrity, etc does not have to be high for a lot of harm to occur.

          • Randy M says:

            Sorry about my mistaken double negative.
            I guess re-reading your original, you mean something like “based on accounts after the fact?” I haven’t observed much of either case in person, but I do find it hard to believe one could mistake the “frightened into it” with the “into it”–nonetheless, it isn’t relevant to pursue here and you’re right, there wasn’t much good in bringing it into this discussion.

    • hlynkacg says:

      So I started to write a response, but got interrupted and in the mean time this thread has blown up, so I no longer feel quite as motivated to reply.

      That said, I think gbdub is on to something and feel inclined to echo Deiseach’s comment above.

      I do have experience with several of those “male institutions” gbdub mentions, and there definitely a distinct dynamic to them than does not seem to manifest in more “integrated” groups. The difference is complicated and hard to describe but I am somewhat reminded of a comment Scott made a while back to the effect of “Being asexual, it never occurred to me that others cared that much about sex”. I remember reading that and both wanting to both hug and slap him at the same time. Something similar is happening here.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      [Epistemic status: trolling for the most part; conjecture will offer nobody insight here]

      Hey, now, if you’re going to reminisce about ‘that time culture was homophobic, and we could have closer male-on-male friendships’, you’re just not looking back far enough. The military may be homophobic now, it may have been so in 1800, but the Spartans’ most humiliating defeat came when they outnumbered a bunch of gay dudes and lost.

      • Autolykos says:

        Heh, don’t forget that the Spartans would be considered flaming gay by any modern standard as well…

        To bend it back to topic, I think the ancient Greek idea of homosexuality being “chic” and almost expected in civilized society might also work as an alternative social norm. Why should you fear being seen as gay when it’s actually the higher-status thing to do?

        Anyway, I had deep platonic relationships with both men and women and never found anything weird about that. OTOH, I’m mostly unfazed by what some random schmucks think of me, and while I’m not quite asexual, that’s the cluster I’d be most likely to get rounded off to, so I’m probably not the most representative example here.

        • Psmith says:

          the Spartans would be considered flaming gay by any modern standard as well…

          I don’t believe this is true, actually:

          I think I ought to say something also about intimacy with boys, since this matter also has a bearing on education. In other Greek states, for instance among the Boeotians, man and boy live together, like married people;7 elsewhere, among the Eleians, for example, consent is won by means of favours. Some, on the other hand, entirely forbid suitors to talk with boys. [13]

          The customs instituted by Lycurgus were opposed to all of these. If someone, being himself an honest man, admired a boy’s soul and tried to make of him an ideal friend without reproach and to associate with him, he approved, and believed in the excellence of this kind of training. But if it was clear that the attraction lay in the boy’s outward beauty, he banned the connexion as an abomination; and thus he caused lovers to abstain from boys no less than parents abstain from sexual intercourse with their children and brothers and sisters with each other. [14]

          I am not surprised, however, that people refuse to believe this. For in many states the laws are not opposed to the indulgence of these appetites.

          (Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians)

          • Autolykos says:

            Good point. Note, however, that the quote speaks of this as a new law someone introduced. Which would not be necessary or noteworthy if it wasn’t widely practiced before, and something people would want to do if there wasn’t a law.

          • Anonymous says:

            the quote speaks of this as a new law someone introduced

            Lycurgus was the semi-legendary lawgiver and effectively the founder of classical Lakedaimon (i.e Sparta). It’s not a “new” law in any sense relevant to the concept of “the Spartans”. Before Lycurgus there was a city-state there, sure, but there was no Sparta as anyone understands it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Good point. Note, however, that the quote speaks of this as a new law someone introduced. Which would not be necessary or noteworthy if it wasn’t widely practiced before, and something people would want to do if there wasn’t a law.

            Lycurgus lived in the ninth century BC, four hundred years or so before the period most people think of when they think of Ancient Greece.

          • Autolykos says:

            Okay, then I stand corrected on this.

        • Tekhno says:

          @Autolykos

          the ancient Greek idea of homosexuality being “chic” and almost expected in civilized society

          If homosexual sex can be so popular that the majority of men engaged in it, then that puts paid to “born this way”. It would show that cultural pressure is sufficient to change sexuality.

          Yet, this is contradicted by our more recent Christian dominated times in which suppression of the sexuality of gay men proved impossible. Ex-gay was a farce and laws criminalizing gay sex were ineffective at making homosexual men into heterosexual men. All the pressure in the world couldn’t do it.

          Still, it remains an established historical fact that homosexual relations were popular among Ancient Greek societies. If it were merely the case that homosexuality was accepted(officially) but a minority activity, as in our time, then there would be no confusion. Would historians looking backwards interpret our official enthusiasm for gay rights and gay pride as proof that most men engaged in homosexual activity? No.

          We know that in Greek societies pederasty was a thing and a read of Wikipedia will tell you that it was almost always treat as erotic. For homosexuality to be popular enough to be institutionalized into a right of passage implies either that we’ve got sexuality radically wrong, or that we’ve got Greek primary sources radically wrong. Have people just been running away with a weird interpretation of the word “eros” for hundreds of years?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Or maybe the Hellenes were just weird.

            If male homosexuality is a heritable trait, populations could differ in the frequency of that trait. The Gay Uncle hypothesis seems silly but there might be heterozygote advantage or some other handwavey reason why it could remain in the gene pool despite the obvious fitness hit.

            Hell, if the Gay Germ hypothesis is right it could have literally been a Greek epidemic.

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure that it has to be entirely one or the other. Most things are combinations of genetics, random chance, and environment. In the environment where homosexuality is criminalized and suppressed, only the 1-2% who are that way due to genetics or chance (irrelevant for this discussion) would show any interest in men. When it’s socially encouraged, you’d get much higher numbers. The LGBT community has reasons to push ‘born this way’ as the exclusive reason, but I don’t think it’s true. It’s not true of anything else. (Think of polyamory if this doesn’t make sense.)

          • Lumifer says:

            @ bean

            When it’s socially encouraged, you’d get much higher numbers.

            This would imply that as homosexuality became fully socially acceptable in the West over the last few decades, the number of LGBT people should have increased considerably. I do not think this is the case.

          • Anonymous says:

            I do not think this is the case.

            It’s not. A couple OTs ago someone brought this up and expressed his dismay that the incidence of homosexuality was apparently an order of magnitude lower than authority figures had always been telling him. These are some of the newest statistics available anywhere and they don’t appear to be, or even have much room to be notably higher than when homosexuality was both criminalized and pathologized.

          • bean says:

            These are some of the newest statistics available anywhere and they don’t appear to be, or even have much room to be notably higher than when homosexuality was both criminalized and pathologized.

            First, that’s people who identify as LGB, not people who do LGB-type things. I think we can all agree that the Greeks/Romans under discussion didn’t identify as anything other than ‘normal’, which broadly corresponds to ‘straight’ today. Second, in direct contradiction to your point about the rate not increasing, that report has 16-24 year olds as identifying at 3.3%, as opposed 1.7% among 35-49s. That’s nearly doubled in the space of 10-20 years (and well over doubled compared to their parents). Unless we totally reject any effect of social environment on people’s sexual actions (counterexamples are numerous) and assume that young people are just less likely to lie (and that the true rate of LGB is somewhere at or above 3.3%), then the obvious conclusion is that increased acceptance of homosexuality is going to make more people take homosexual actions. Someone who, 100 years ago, would have suppressed urges/curiosity as sinful and repugnant, might now act on them.
            Edit:
            If this still doesn’t make sense, consider the following:
            1. Why do so many people in the Bay Area rationalist sphere practice polyamory? The most likely answer is that the social environment encourages it, and most people are not so inherently monogamous that they’ll resist. Other answers require some amusing logical contortions. Why should homosexual leanings work differently from polyamorus ones?
            2. The sexual revolution. It happened way too fast to be genetic, and is universally agreed to be a result of changing social mores, mediated by the invention of birth control, which lead to lots of people having more sex than they previously had. Why wouldn’t we see a similar dynamic in sexual orientation?

          • Randy M says:

            Other answers require some amusing logical contortions. Why should homosexual leanings be different from polyamorus ones?

            Other than the obvious, you mean?

          • bean says:

            @Randy M

            Other than the obvious, you mean?

            That was slightly phraseology on my part.
            Edited to read “work differently”.

          • Randy M says:

            I guess being coy doesn’t work too well. The obvious reason why polyamory should work differently than homosexuality is that one should logically have been selected for, and one against, so barring any just-so stories, one expects a high, perhaps nearly unlimited ceiling on polyamorous behavior (under social circumstances that promote it) and a rather low ceiling on homosexual behavior, one which may not be amenable to social control in any sort of analogous fashion.

          • bean says:

            @Randy M
            Ah.
            I’ll absolutely agree that selection would have altered the distributions, but claiming that the ‘floor’ and ‘ceiling’ are exactly the same, and totally indifferent to social control seems to both defy what evidence we have on the issue (it’s pretty uncontroversial that women work the way my model predicts) and require homosexuality to work entirely differently from every other remotely similar trait. Everything from propensity to violence or theft to interest in, say, STEM seems to be a combination of heritable distribution and social pressure. The relative size of the effects varies, but you’re setting social to absolutely zero.

          • Randy M says:

            claiming that the ‘floor’ and ‘ceiling’ are exactly the same,

            Didn’t so claim.

            and totally indifferent to social control

            Likewise, not.

            My counterpoint to your earlier post is no more than I said–we have an obvious reason why the leanings should work differently, and so one can’t reason from one to the other without showing evidence that they can be treated similarly.

            you’re setting social to absolutely zero

            Nope! I’m setting social to “probably something different than polyamory.”

            it’s pretty uncontroversial that women work the way my model predicts

            There’s pretty much nothing one can say about gender differences that comes anywhere near “uncontroversial”, is there? 😉

          • bean says:

            My counterpoint to your earlier post is no more than I said–we have an obvious reason why the leanings should work differently, and so one can’t reason from one to the other without showing evidence that they can be treated similarly.

            What does ‘the leanings work differently’ mean, though? If you’re just trying to point out that you’d expect fewer people to become gay for a given amount of social pressure than would become polyamorous, I won’t disagree.

            Nope! I’m setting social to “probably something different than polyamory.”

            Different how? How does a ‘low ceiling immune to social pressure’ even work? Where is the floor? Is it immune to social pressure, too?

            Let’s try to simplify this with pseudomath:
            S is societal acceptance of homosexuality. High values mean society is more accepting, low values mean it is less.
            H is the prevalence of homosexuality in society.
            I’d expect that H would look something like a logistic function with a small constant added, said constant being the ‘floor’. How would you expect the model to look?

          • Randy M says:

            Different how? How does a ‘low ceiling immune to social pressure’ even work? Where is the floor? Is it immune to social pressure, too?

            You’re the only one to say immune in this thread so far. So I don’t feel the need to defend immune. What I said was “not amenable to social control in any sort of analogous fashion.” the latter clause was vital to the meaning (enough that I looked up how to spell analogous correctly!).

            Basically, I think constant social pressure is needed to keep human society mostly monogamous. I think constant social pressure would be needed to keep human society mostly homosexual, likely far more than the other. So you don’t get to (convincingly) use one to reason about the other. Beyond that, we’re not really disagreeing, just being disagreeable. (pointing at myself here).

          • bean says:

            Ah. That makes sense, and I’m a bit annoyed at myself for not considering that as an explanation for what you are writing. I was coming from monogamy and heterosexuality as baseline, and my explanation for your writing was that you had baselined homosexuality instead of polyamory, which didn’t even pass the internal consistency check.

          • JayT says:

            RE polyamory in the Bay Area, I would guess a big reason that people that are attracted to that lifestyle will gravitate towards a place that has more people that are attracted to the lifestyle. The Bay Area has a very large number of residents that weren’t born anywhere near it.

            With the Greeks, I wonder if male on male sex was more prevalent because they didn’t have reliable birth control.

          • Autolykos says:

            If homosexual sex can be so popular that the majority of men engaged in it, then that puts paid to “born this way”. It would show that cultural pressure is sufficient to change sexuality.

            Not necessarily. It could also mean that the majority of people is at least somewhat bi, and cultural pressure only affects which parts of it they live out (openly).

          • Aapje says:

            Or that they are not bi or gay, but they can only get the physical intimacy and sexual release they need through contact with men, at that stage of their life.

            I’ve seen claims that unmarried men often have sex in highly gender-segregated societies, as that is the only option they have.

          • Anonymous says:

            Or that they are not bi or gay, but they can only get the physical intimacy and sexual release they need through contact with men, at that stage of their life.

            But that’s still gayer than choosing celibacy because other men are gross and unthinkable as sex partners, though.

          • bean says:

            @JayT

            RE polyamory in the Bay Area, I would guess a big reason that people that are attracted to that lifestyle will gravitate towards a place that has more people that are attracted to the lifestyle. The Bay Area has a very large number of residents that weren’t born anywhere near it.

            I was speaking specifically about the LW-sphere, not the Bay Area in general. I’m pretty sure the LW-sphere filters heavily on other things than interest in polyamory, and even if polyamorous leanings are connected to those other things, most people who would fit the normal filters don’t seem to be polyamorous.

            Autolykos

            Not necessarily. It could also mean that the majority of people is at least somewhat bi, and cultural pressure only affects which parts of it they live out (openly).

            How is that different from what he said, though? The whole point of “born this way” seems to be that there’s no choice in the matter, both to keep LGBT people in the movement and reassure those outside that they aren’t trying to spread it.

          • Autolykos says:

            It would mean that being homo- or heterosexual is a lot more elastic to societal pressure than the stance of “everyone who is gay was born gay, and there is no way to affect this” implies.
            It would of course be politically inconvenient if it was that way, and it might not be a good idea to advertise this to people who actually want to affect the ratio of homo- and heterosexuals via societal pressure. But that does not affect its truth value.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      These are my independent thoughts, but it seems obvious enough to me that it’s likely I’m not the first to think along similar lines – if there is such literature I’d be curious to see it.

      Pretty sure I’ve seen exactly this hypothesis put forward somewhere in the not-too-many-clicks-from-this-blog reaches of the Reactosphere. I think it might have been somewhere on The Future Primaeval, or maybe Free Northerner (though I have only skimmed the latter; I can see why someone might be attracted to Death Eaterism and I can see why someone might be attracted to Christianity, but I cannot wrap my head around how someone can be both, and I can only read someone blithely advocating Death Eaterish ideas while simply taking the truth of Christianity for granted for a short time before my brain goes all Y U wtf i literally can’t even)

      [Edit: I think this is the one I was thinking of]

      • Jaskologist says:

        It’s fairly common. I think all of the guys at Ascending the Tower are some variety of Catholic or Orthodox, and I suspect the future of deatheating lies in that direction, given how bad atheists are at reproducing.

        I am not one myself, but I can see how one would get there. The key step is to let go of the idea that racism is the greatest of the sins.

        • Jaskologist says:

          (Content warning: this is the more snarky reply)

          Conservatives work mainly to conserve the mistakes of the left. Deatheaters, in seeking to be more conservative than conservatives, look much further back to find mistakes to conserve, in this case all the way back to 1 Samuel 8.

        • Anonymous says:

          The key step is to let go of the idea that racism is the greatest of the sins.

          Racism by what definition? I’ve seen mention of racism in the CCC, but I’ve not unearthed a **definition** of it. I suspect that the CCC means racism being bad for some definition of racism that is divergent from what a modern person means when they say it.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I am not one myself, but I can see how one would get there.

          What, a death eater or an atheist? 😛

          But seriously, I think my issue is that (based on my probably sketchy understanding of both), mainstream Death Eaterism posits an indifferent universe that does not give a toss if we destroy ourselves, but in which some forms of organising societies are compatible with their long-term survival and others are not, and that something akin to Darwinian selection will weed out the societies that veer away from the forms of organisation that allow for long-term survival, and that while religions can be useful in reinforcing the norms of those societies that have hit upon long-term viable ways of running themselves, as long as those norms are workable, it doesn’t really matter what specific gods or what specific theological claims are involved.

          Whereas mainstream Christianity posits a universe presided over by an infinitely loving supernatural sentience who is already on record as being willing to drastically intervene for our benefit, with a set of instructions for organising society that represented a radical break from the past, and that believing the right set of theological claims is anything between above-averagely useful and catastrophically-more-important-to-get-right-than-you-could-possibly-imagine.

          Even if in practice the sort of norms that a Death Eater would support may turn out to be quite similar to the sort of norms a traditionalist Christian might support, the routes to getting there are so different that I cannot square them.

          [Edit – part-ninja’d by MereComments – yes, the gap between the focus on the maintenance of civilisation on Earth and the triviality of anything that happens on Earth by comparison with getting into Heaven / avoiding Hell, is an important one. I can see why a Death Eater could think that traditional Christian beliefs are instrumentally useful to the maintenance of civilisation, but I can’t see why a Death Eater would think that those beliefs are factually correct.]

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Christians don’t usually take all that “radical break” stuff very seriously though, especially not Traditional ones.

            The first century Church, the early Protestant sects, Christian Communists and modern Christian Fundamentalists all have something in common. They were zealots and profoundly antisocial.

            A Traditionalist understands that esoteric aspects of a religion are not for everyone. Orthodoxy is important internally, but orthopraxy is what matters externally. Demanding that the tides stop coming in because of some obscure bit of scripture is anti-Traditional.

          • Jaskologist says:

            God is willing to intervene on our behalf, but He is also on record as being totally willing to destroy your civilization, especially if it turns wicked. Israel was His chosen people, and God still cursed them with a king, then split the kingdom, and then smashed it several times culminating in the most recent 1800 year exile.

            Christianity doesn’t teach that we shouldn’t try to build good societies and lives on earth, and it certainly doesn’t teach that you won’t face consequences for your errors.

          • Anonymous says:

            The first century Church, the early Protestant sects, Christian Communists and modern Christian Fundamentalists all have something in common. They were zealots and profoundly antisocial.

            I would not say that the 1CC was antisocial. They were very social. Within their own group.

            Even if in practice the sort of norms that a Death Eater would support may turn out to be quite similar to the sort of norms a traditionalist Christian might support, the routes to getting there are so different that I cannot square them.

            If two people working in isolation were to devise two different mathematical proofs that 1+1 = 2, would you be unable to square that both of their beliefs are true? Speaking as a Death Eater (though obviously not for all Death Eaters), I find it entirely obvious that if the Creator God exists, He would not be in opposition to the rules He Himself had built into Creation. They just are, and we ignore them at our peril and the exasperation of a Parent watching His children eat glue.

            Christianity doesn’t teach that we shouldn’t try to build good societies and lives on earth, and it certainly doesn’t teach that you won’t face consequences for your errors.

            Just so.

            Furthermore, the existence of God gives meaning and purpose to our struggles. After all, if there is no God, what’s the difference between living well and living poorly, or between a life of hedonism and a life of sacrifice, or living long and putting a bullet through one’s brain cavity? In this scenario, I find no difference in outcomes: it all ends with the cold of entropy consuming us all, and none of our gyrations matter in the slightest.

            If I did not believe in God, I would not be a Death Eater – I would find the exercise pointless; far easier, and more pleasant, to simply take to the nearest primitive wireheading substitute and press that button until I starve.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Sorry to be late back to the party; this is mostly a reply to Jaskologist, but also some of the other comments further down the page:

            I can sort-of see why someone who was already a Christian could sign up to most core Death Eater beliefs and thus consider themself part of the tribe, but still not vice-versa. Maybe it’s just an artifact of which writers I read first (basically Scott’s accounts here, plus most of the Future Primaeval, plus a smattering of others; I never could sit through a whole Moldbug essay), but it still seems to me that where a lot of it is coming from is that it’s precisely because we live in an indifferent universe that cannot love us that we need to stick to what works if we are to preserve civilisation.

            And there’s the idea that ‘The Cathedral’ is just a form of transmogrified Christianity (which implies that keeping your traditionalist Christianity traditional in the long term is unstable; it could presumably degenerate into the Cathedral again).

            Plus the embrace of HBD, or race realism or whatever, which, as far as I can tell, is predicated on a strongly Darwinian view of the forces shaping human populations. You can, in a wishy-washy sort of ‘evolution is the method God chose to bring about the current forms of life’ way, kind of fudge the differences between natural selection and divine creation, but surely you cannot deeply grok the sheer awesome/terrifying mindlessness of the force of natural selection while also deeply believing that the universe was deliberately made by a benevolent sentience.

            Light blue Anonymous says

            If two people working in isolation were to devise two different mathematical proofs that 1+1 = 2, would you be unable to square that both of their beliefs are true?

            Well, if one of those groups started with an axiom that X is true, and the other started with an axiom that X is false, even though both of them came to a correct conclusion, at least one of them must have got there by faulty reasoning. They may be happy to work together against people claiming 1+1=3, but they’d still have some fairly fundamental differences. The example of Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists and conservative Christians making common cause in favour of the norm that your choice of public toile should be determined by your genitals and not your self-identification comes to mind (though I’m not sure how much that is actually actually happening)

            … likewise traditionalist Christians may well be happy to consider themselves allies with the Death Eaters on some policy areas, but when it came to the crunch – some situation where you believed that your choices were preserve civilisation but damn everyone to Hell, or destroy civilisation but get everyone into Heaven, your choice would depend very strongly on whether you believe Heaven and Hell even exist, and what your highest values are.

            Several of the Christian commenters here seem to be of the opinion that if they didn’t think their god existed, there’d be no point in even trying to maintain civilisation at all. I have to confess to being deeply baffled by this – just because something won’t matter when the universe winds down, doesn’t make it unimportant to make the parts of the time continuum where we do have an environment capable of sustaining life as good as we can – just because I will have no experience of joy or suffering after I’m dead, doesn’t make me indifferent to joy or suffering now (with all the usual caveats that I’m not just talking about short-term hedonism; short-term suffering for the long-term maintenance of civilisation also counts if I think the people who come after me have greater-than-zero moral worth) – and my model of a mainstream Death Eater would agree.

          • Anonymous says:

            And there’s the idea that ‘The Cathedral’ is just a form of transmogrified Christianity (which implies that keeping your traditionalist Christianity traditional in the long term is unstable; it could presumably degenerate into the Cathedral again).

            It compares favorably with most other institutions. Few things make it as far as 1000 years, much less double that. In fact, I don’t know an example of any institution in continuous operation for as long as the Church has been, and the in that perspective, the current upset seems like a localized wobble without major impact on the general trend (to take a page out of Caplan’s betting book).

            Well, if one of those groups started with an axiom that X is true, and the other started with an axiom that X is false, even though both of them came to a correct conclusion, at least one of them must have got there by faulty reasoning.

            Or X is irrelevant to the proof.

      • MereComments says:

        [tangent] I have this same problem. Even strict, orthodox Catholicism and orthodox Orthodoxy seem ultimately incompatible with death-eaterism, despite having a whole lot of overlap.

        Death-eaterism seems to say that the highest good is worldly civilization, whereas orthodox Christianity says the highest good isn’t even of this world. Faced with (admittedly theoretical) choice of committing evil, or having your culture/religion/tribe destroyed, death-eaterism seems to be an obvious “do eeeeiit”, whereas Christianity seems to be an obvious “nah”.

        • Anonymous says:

          The way I see it, without faith, there is zero point in defending one’s culture/religion/tribe from being destroyed. Faith provides the ‘why’, “deatheaterism” (not all Death Eaters are atheist!), provides the ‘how’.

          Faced with (admittedly theoretical) choice of committing evil, or having your culture/religion/tribe destroyed, death-eaterism seems to be an obvious “do eeeeiit”, whereas Christianity seems to be an obvious “nah”.

          Sounds like game theory. Do you commit evil (defect), or decline to (cooperate)? Committing evil risks receiving the just desserts for said evil, given how often evil is pudding farming, while cooperating risks failing to do your duty towards that which you are called to defend. I don’t find this scenario different in either the Christian interpretation or the Death Eater interpretation – as in many of these trolley-alikes, you’re fucked whatever you do or don’t.

          • Creutzer says:

            The way I see it, without faith, there is zero point in defending one’s culture/religion/tribe from being destroyed.

            Perhaps you think that people in your culture in general have better lives because that culture causes improved economic and social conditions, so you fight for everyone to be allowed to benefit from that. Perhaps you believe people of your ethnicity improve the lives of everyone in their country because they are especially industrious or cooperative. If the relevant facts do not obtain, then of course two of these three aren’t good reasons.

            Whether humans are psychologically capable of acting on such reasons or require faith in order to be sufficiently motivated is another question. One interpretation would be that some death eaters think the latter is the case and take christianity as the default choice because it happens to be the most wide-spread religion in the west. If you take christianity seriously, that seems rather obviously bonkers to me, so I can never help suspecting that they’re just putting on an act.

            Sounds like game theory.

            Not really, does it? The whole thing doesn’t have the form of a prisoner’s dilemma, that’s for sure. Who’s the second agent even?

          • Anonymous says:

            I can imagine a bunch of reasons, many of which, however, depend on factual questions. Perhaps you think that people in your culture in general have better lives because that culture causes improved economic and social conditions, so you fight for everyone to be allowed to benefit from that. Perhaps you believe people of your ethnicity improve the lives of everyone in their country because they are especially industrious or cooperative. If the relevant facts do not obtain, then of course two of these three aren’t good reasons, but death eaters tend to believe they do obtain.

            But why would you care? These reasons are all object-level, but fail to have any justification just one meta-level up. Why is living a ‘better life’ good in the first place, as opposed to living a miserable one? Why would you care that everyone be allowed to benefit? Why would you care to improve the lives of others, or even yourself?

            In the moderately longer run, you’re dead – we’re all dead – anyway. How you lived your life is of no consequence whatsoever. You might as well not have tried; whether you did or not has no meaning or moral value.

            Whether humans are psychologically capable of acting on those reasons or require faith in order to be sufficiently motivated is another question. One interpretation would be that some death eaters think the latter is the case and take christianity as the default choice because it happens to be the most wide-spread religion in the west. If you take christianity seriously, that seems rather obviously bonkers to me, so I can never help suspecting that they’re just putting on an act.

            Yeah, I can see how you can feel that way.

            Not really, does it? The whole thing doesn’t have the form of a prisoner’s dilemma, that’s for sure. Who’s the second agent even?

            Everyone who interacts with you, your society and other societies – both full of individuals capable of reasonably observing, making decisions and effectuating them. (Not to mention future-you, who now has to live with the knowledge of having commited evil, and is at least partially habituated in it.)

            Bystanders will see your actions, and reasonably infer that you are evil, and start defecting on you at a greater rate than before.

          • Creutzer says:

            But why would you care?

            Why would I not care? Or for that matter, once we’re at that fundamental level of doubting whether it’s worth caring about anything at all, why would faith make me care? (Or, what would “faith” be other than the plain restatement of the fact that I do, indeed, care?) I don’t really think this is too productive a line of thought.

            To the extent that you can even conceptualise their situation as a prisoner’s dilemma, I think the death eaters would argue that you’re playing against defect-bot. I don’t quite see how one would conceptualise death eater policies as defecting against someone who is playing cooperate – for the reason that I don’t see who that someone is supposed to be. I generally doubt trying to frame this in game-theoretic terms is helpful.

          • Anonymous says:

            Why would I not care? Or for that matter, once we’re at that fundamental level of doubting whether it’s worth caring about anything at all, why would faith make me care? (Or, what would “faith” be other than the plain restatement of the fact that I do, indeed, care?) I don’t really think this is too productive a line of thought.

            No, it is not productive at all. Neither I, nor you (nor, I suspect, anyone else), have a justification on that level. All we do have is reasonable suspicion that making an effort is, in fact, important. If it is important, what does that imply? The existence of a Creator God is the best explanation* I have found for this. Christianity is the best outcome-producer I’ve found in the domain of monotheism. (I am somewhat torn between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, admittedly. Maybe I should switch churches to one of the Eastern Catholic to split the difference.)

            * (In before “evolution made you that way, that you care; what you say is just your adaptation execution”: If you make that argument, you are back at square one, where nothing matters at all.)

            To the extent that you can even conceptualise their situation as a prisoner’s dilemma, I think the death eaters would argue that you’re playing against defect-bot.

            Game theory is not just prisoner’s dilemma, the field concerns much more:
            Game theory is “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers.”

            Committing good/neutral/evil acts definitely involves conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers.

            I don’t quite see how one would conceptualise death eater policies as defecting against someone who is playing cooperate – for the reason that I don’t see who that someone is supposed to be. I generally doubt trying to frame this in game-theoretic terms is helpful.

            Deatheaterism includes strains of nationalism, and they are generally much more ethnocentric than is standard in intellectual circles (not a nationalist myself). The logical conclusion of that line of thought is attempting the complete annihilation of all competing groups. This is an evil. The response to that evil, from everyone else, in the real world, was to band together and destroy the attempters.

            This is just an example of a policy that a Death Eater (though obviously a particular kind of Death Eater, given the variety) might take up, that is evil, which purportedly benefits the undertaker’s tribe, and which yields observing rational agents to see where things are going and take appropriate actions, doing more harm than good to everyone, including the tribe that started it.

          • Creutzer says:

            Game theory is not just prisoner’s dilemma, the field concerns much more

            I know, but “cooperate” and “defect” is prisoner’s dilemma terminology (isn’t it?), so I assumed that’s what you were talking about.

            I’m not denying that game theory is very useful for viewing foreign policy. But death eaterism isn’t particulary about foreign policy – at least not the parts that are remotely interesting. Don’t they usually say Hitler was an idiot for trying to conquer Europe? And how to phrase, for example, your attitude towards immigrant populations in game theoretic terms is already less obvious. Perhaps you view the natives as one agent and the immigrants as another – that’s what I had in mind when I said above that death eaters think you’re playing against defect bot, because they basically believe that immigrant populations are defect bot. And when it comes to whether or not we should have democracy – I don’t see how that can be usefully phrased in game-theoretic terms at all.

          • Anonymous says:

            I know, but “cooperate” and “defect” is prisoner’s dilemma terminology (isn’t it?), so I assumed that’s what you were talking about.

            I think that’s where it originates, but isn’t specific to it (anymore). For example, a tragedy of the commons scenario: bunch of fishermen agree to limit their fishing in a lake in order to preclude their livelihood going extinct (cooperate), but each individual fisherman is incentivized to overfish for personal gain (defect).

            I’m not denying that game theory is very useful for viewing foreign policy. But death eaterism isn’t particulary about foreign policy – at least not the parts that are remotely interesting. Don’t they usually say Hitler was an idiot for trying to conquer Europe?

            They generally do. You probably wouldn’t have to search far, though, before you found one who thinks that it was only wrong because he failed.

            I’m not sure what kind of example you’re looking for. What evil-to-save-your-people act do you have in mind?

          • Creutzer says:

            I think that’s where it originates, but isn’t specific to it (anymore). For example, a tragedy of the commons scenario

            The tragedy of the commons is just a multi-agent prisoners dilemma. What I mean that in games that have a different payoff structure, the terms “defect” and “cooperate” to describe strategies aren’t readily applied.

            I’m not sure what kind of example you’re looking for. What evil-to-save-your-people act do you have in mind?

            Well, two evil ideas to save your people that one sees thrown around: expelling immigrants (from certain cultures of origin) and taking away the vote or reproductive freedom from women. From the point of view of the proponents, you could conceptualise these as PDs, I guess. Cooperate for you: keep the immigrants. Cooperate for the immigrants: assimilate. Cooperate for you: keep women suffrage. Cooperate for women: vote sensibly. They’re just telling you that immigrants and women won’t do this, and that therefore you should defect in order not to be completely screwed over. They would say that what is currently observable is the situation where you cooperate and they defect. So mutual cooperation is, empirically, not on the table. With respect to future generalisability, all that your defection in this scenario will tell anybody else is that you’re an agent who defects against others who observably defect against you. It’s not like you’re demonstrating a general factor of evil; you’re just making clear your unwillingness to be screwed over in the interest of being a saint. (That’s why I, personally, think the tenability of such policy proposal depends on the factual questions of whether the groups in question are, in fact, defect bots.) Which, of course, is unchristian, hence our puzzlement at christian death eaters.

            I’m just not sure that any insight is gained by describing the situation in the PD language as above.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ah, OK, I understand where you’re coming from now. (That is a rather good explanation of the DE arguments concerning immigration and female suffrage, too.)

            I’m just not sure that any insight is gained by describing the situation in the PD language as above.

            It’s not so much the insight, as the ideas aren’t difficult to grasp, but the phrasing has the definite utility of not triggering tribal hostility. The way you presented the two problems above does not press berserk buttons that might have been pressed had you described the same things in terms that are getting tossed around on the mainstream political scene. It permits better discussion and analysis of the issues, rather than re-enacting calling one another a Nazi or a Communist. It shows them as ideas a reasonable person can have, rather than strawman drivel of one’s hated enemies.

            Which, of course, is unchristian, hence our puzzlement at christian death eaters.

            I don’t think it is un-Christian. After all, Christians are supposed to defect in matters of import. The classical example is declining to offer incense to the Roman Emperor. Self-defense, to the point of slaying the aggressor, being fully permissible is another. Christians are even permitted armed rebellion in certain strict circumstances.

            There isn’t a direct mapping between cooperation=sainthood, defection=sin.

            And since when is “getting screwed” a core Christian value? Even in the case of martyrs, where they are going above and beyond the call of duty, they are merely choosing a course of action of greater value (going to Heaven), rather than one of lesser value (keeping their life for the moment).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s not like you’re demonstrating a general factor of evil; you’re just making clear your unwillingness to be screwed over in the interest of being a saint. (That’s why I, personally, think the tenability of such policy proposal depends on the factual questions of whether the groups in question are, in fact, defect bots.) Which, of course, is unchristian, hence our puzzlement at christian death eaters.

            The common responses I see to this are:

            1.) You personally are expected to choose sainthood over not-being-screwed-hood, but you don’t have the right to impose that choice on the rest of society.

            2.) Not letting in high numbers of immigrants (or whatever it is that’s under discussion) isn’t inherently evil. Whilst you’re not allowed to commit evil in the hopes of achieving a good outcome, you *are* allowed to not do something that is at best supererogatory if not doing it will lead to a better outcome.

            3.) Screwing people over is bad. If you let in high numbers of immigrants (or whatever), you will end up screwing over society, i.e., everybody living in the country. So, it’s not actually moral to let in high numbers of immigrants in the first place.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And since when is “getting screwed” a core Christian value?

            I think the standard belief is that, if the only choices are committing evil and getting screwed, it’s better to let oneself get screwed.

            Then again, I *also* think that most Death Eaters wouldn’t view reducing immigration or restricting the franchise to be evil, so for them the question would be moot anyway.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think the standard belief is that, if the only choices are committing evil and getting screwed, it’s better to let oneself get screwed.

            Then again, I *also* think that most Death Eaters wouldn’t view reducing immigration or restricting the franchise to be evil, so for them the question would be moot anyway.

            :nod:

          • Creutzer says:

            @Anonymous: I see your point that there is value in discovering that there is this formulation. I think we’ve reached agreement.

            I was being a bit snarky when I equated christianity with sainthood. I do think that the “highest value is civilisation in this world” vs “highest value is not even of this world” formulation captures the clash better.

            @The original Mr. X: I intentionally chose the expulsion of immigrants as my example (I was thinking of something like deporting all first and second generation muslim immigrants from France) as an example because that does seem pretty evil. Mere restrictions on future immigration don’t even strike me as particularly death-eatery, to be honest.

          • Anonymous says:

            I intentionally chose the expulsion of immigrants as my example (I was thinking of something like deporting all first and second generation muslim immigrants from France) as an example because that does seem pretty evil. Mere restrictions on future immigration don’t strike me as particularly death-eatery, to be honest.

            I also view a blanket expulsion as evil, but the devil is in the details. Simply declaring legal residents to be unwelcome, dispossessing them and throwing them out – that’s wrong. A better solution would be reinstituting exile as a punishment; indeed, the state is permitted to lay down punishments up to and including the death penalty in service of keeping peace and order. Getting exiled for committing crimes in one’s new home seems lenient, even. (If it needs to be said: immigration would have to be restricted as well.) Over time, this would clear out the number of actual troublemakers among the immigrant population, and the rest, who are not troublemakers, could simply stay. After all, who complains of immigrant groups that have lower criminality than the host population?

          • Creutzer says:

            After all, who complains of immigrant groups that have lower criminality than the host population?

            Don’t East Asians have lower crime rates than whites in the US? Still, not everybody seems to be okay with them.

          • Anonymous says:

            This kind of reminds me of Asimov’s zeroth law gambit. Jesus pretty clearly wasn’t a zeroth law kind of guy. The gospels aren’t particularly ambiguous.

            Christian morality and Roman morality aren’t compatible. Roman morality won, fine, but don’t pretend there’s any of Jesus in it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Creutzer:

            Bigotry against Asians in North America mostly seems to be of the “they are so industrious and they are taking over because of that” variety, along with lots of ignorant stereotyping.

          • Anonymous says:

            Don’t East Asians have lower crime rates than whites in the US? Still, not everybody seems to be okay with them.

            Bigotry against Asians in North America mostly seems to be of the “they are so industrious and they are taking over because of that” variety, along with lots of ignorant stereotyping.

            Yeah, if the complaint is “they’re better than us”, that’s not much of a complaint. It can become a problem – see: American Indians and European settlers – but it’s unlikely to matter for sufficiently small minority counts, or for sufficiently orderly societies. Some Singapore-style media suppression may be advised in order to nip ethnic unrest in the bud.

            This kind of reminds me of Asimov’s zeroth law gambit. Jesus pretty clearly wasn’t a zeroth law kind of guy. The gospels aren’t particularly ambiguous.

            Christian morality and Roman morality aren’t compatible. Roman morality won, fine, but don’t pretend there’s any of Jesus in it.

            You’re going to have to expand that for me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s not much of a complaint, but jealousy/envy/fear of being overtaken is a powerful motivator to bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination.

          • Anonymous says:

            Of course. It’s part of why large scale migration should be discouraged.

      • Deiseach says:

        I can see why someone might be attracted to Death Eaterism and I can see why someone might be attracted to Christianity, but I cannot wrap my head around how someone can be both

        I don’t know that particular strain, but I think this is the kind of thing that Lewis describes in “The Screwtape Letters”, where your Christianity gets more and more watered down and tacked on as an adjunct to what you really think important and valuable, so it ends up being used as a prop to support and propagate the Real Doctrine, instead of being the primarily important set of beliefs:

        What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring.

        • This last sub-thread is a good example of why it would worth while to build a glossary of SSC terms. I have no idea what everyone means by Death Eater. I’ve seen it in the comments before, but I haven’t understood it then either. I go to Google for Death Eater but it is exclusively about Harry Potter. I know what those Death Eaters are.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It started as an inside joke where M. Moldbug would be referred to as “he who shall not be named” (because it will probably start a massive flame-war/circle-jerk in the comments). Naturally, HP being really popular at the time, this got shortened to “Voldemort” which made his allies and supporters “Deatheaters”.

            Things have since mellowed out, but the name stuck.

          • Anonymous says:

            Isn’t the word n**r**ct**n*ry still in the list of banned words, as well? I thought the reason for the Death Eater euphemism was partially that, thay you just can’t say the real word here.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Hmm. Seems it is, well I guess that explains how/why the euphemism persisted.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @hlynkacg: You’ve got it backwards. Scott banned the n-word, which led to people referring to the term with various euphemism, including “The-Ideology-That-Must-Not-Be-Named” (an obvious reference to Harry Potter). That evolved into calling the followers of the ideology “Death Eaters”, which further mutated into calling Moldbug “Voldemort” even though his name has never been banned.

    • Anonymous says:

      Could it be that homophobia isn’t preventing deep male friendships, but actually enabling them?

      Yeah, of course. I mean, of course. This is so obvious to me that I guess it’s one of those “others actually inhabit a totally different world, but… you live in the same one” moments.

      There’s an absolute and direct connection between homosexuality being more okay and male friendships becoming less emotional and more generally superficial, I’m genuinely baffled that someone could claim that heteronormativity of all things could be the problem. One of the deep problems of gay acceptance, on the contrary, is that it improved the lives of about 1.5% of men at the expense of making the lives of the remaining 98.5% measurably worse (although in a way where they mostly can’t really tell, so they’re less likely to object to it).

      As late as the mid-19th century men would kiss each other on the mouth, call each other “dear beloved X” in letters and so on, safe in the knowledge that since homosexuality was impossibly repugnant and entirely way way out of the remotest realm of possibility, nobody would take innocent protestations of affection for some kind of unmentionable sin. Now, as you say, it’s absolutely requisite for all involved to express deep homophobia as simple signaling if they want to be even a bit closer to their friends than “H.P. Lovecraft would only touch his wife while wearing gloves”, and then of course they get it in the neck from people who DEFINITELY DON’T DISREGARD THE PROBLEMS OF MEN UGH.

      • Skef says:

        This is just crazy talk. All of the social conventions you’re complaining about were already in place by the 1980s before there was any significant acceptance of homosexuality. It makes absolutely no sense to blame the subsequent acceptance since then for those conventions. Blame awareness of the existence of homosexuality if you want to, but straight people screwed this up for themselves long before anyone cared about what gay people thought or even if they had tolerable lives.

        • Anonymous says:

          before there was any significant acceptance of homosexuality

          Who’s talking crazy here? Stonewall was 1969, after that it’s just been rolling steadily in one direction. Despite AIDS there was a hell of a lot more acceptance in 1985 than in 1895.

          • Skef says:

            You seriously want to date the start of acceptance to the first instance of forceful public push-back?

            This wasn’t the exception.

        • Outis says:

          Yet it’s well-documented. It’s not just in older Western society; you can see similar patterns of male behavior in strongly homophobic society in the present day (e.g. Arab countries, India), and you can actually see things change as Western cultural attitudes to homosexuality become more widespread. There are well enough natural experiments to consider the point proven.

          In the 1980s there may not have been social acceptance, but there was certainly awareness. In fact, one of the first steps towards acceptance of something seems to be to put it front and center in the culture. Consider how homosexuals are overrepresented amongst TV characters, and how people vastly overestimate the percentage of homosexuals in the general population (as well as that of many other categories, so this is partly a more general problem, but still). The result is that what was unthinkable is suddenly on everyone’s mind all the time.

          The only questions is whether this is a permanent state of affairs, of whether it is a feature of the transition to acceptance, and will go away later.

          • Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality argues that the idea of (some) people being exclusively heterosexual is fairly recent, only about 150 years old.

          • Randy M says:

            200 years ago, everyone was open to some homosexual acts now and then? I certainly would find that surprising, were I to be convinced of it.

          • It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but I think the idea was that pre-1860 or so, it wasn’t a matter of identity if some people had occasional same-sex sex and other people didn’t.

          • Randy M says:

            That could be taken to argue for homosexuality being even rarer as well. Fish don’t notice the water is wet.
            After all, fifteen years ago (to be generous) very few people conceived of themselves as “cis-gendered.”

          • Anonymous says:

            Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality argues that the idea of (some) people being exclusively heterosexual is fairly recent, only about 150 years old.

            That requires a very, very selective reading of history. There are three metric fuckloads of laws prohibiting male homosexual sex on pain of death from Europe alone.

          • The claim is that homosexuality was seen as a behavior rather than a personality type.

          • Anonymous says:

            The claim is that homosexuality was seen as a behavior rather than a personality type.

            You wrote “exclusively heterosexual”, not “exclusively homosexual”.

            I would agree with the assertion that homosexuality was often seen as a behavior, specifically a Satanic behavior engaged in by people who wanted to deliberately transgress against the laws of God and Man. However, in these societies it was understood that everyone was exclusively heterosexual and that only a corrupt person’s thirst for evil produced homosexual behavior.

            You can’t just go “well they thought gay stuff was a behavior so it follows that they thought heterosexuality was a behavior”, that doesn’t follow. The fact is they thought people were exclusively heterosexual much more strongly than we do.

          • Skef says:

            Consider how homosexuals are overrepresented amongst TV characters

            I’ve seen this claim a few times in various threads here. Are you saying that more than 1 in 50 (say) TV characters are gay? Are other people thinking that? Or is it something more specific, like shows that explicitly take a line on diversity include a gay character?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Nancy Lebovitz
            The claim is that homosexuality was seen as a behavior rather than a personality type.

            In some cultures, [adjective] sex is not something you are, it’s something you do.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            1982.

            The religious right was up in arms about the song at the time.

            The phenomenon illustrated in / mocked by the video is also something feminists of the time opposed (as Nancy mentioned). Feminism was a nerd-created movement; back when nerds were still in charge of it, the nerdgirls running it were sympathetic to nerdguys, including the group who were reserved and didn’t like to be touched and were also straight. (Who seem to today get the label “nice guys.” It’s a big change.)

            Back in the ’80s one of the points feminists pushed was that being reserved and not liking to be touched, or FTM turning down sex for any other reason, should not cause you to be given a label which was not accurate–if you’re straight, you shouldn’t be labeled gay just because you turned down sex one time. Feminists made a big deal of the issue at that time. As I recall anyway.

      • Nicholas says:

        Weren’t men at the time also in the habit of kissing female friends on the lips? I’m definitely certain that at the time, it was a platonic gesture to kiss a woman’s hand: I can’t think of any context where that would be read both genuinely and also non-romantically if I did it.
        I wonder if there’s an alternative mediator: touch came to be viewed less platonically in the aftermath of the sexual revolution, for both genders. Is it possible that the earlier assumption of platonic male-male contact came from the idea that physical contact wasn’t inherently romantic?

        • Anonymous says:

          Weren’t men at the time also in the habit of kissing female friends on the lips?

          No, I think I’m not overreaching in saying that in 18th- and 19th-century Europe kissing a woman on the mouth was way, way the hell out of line for a man who wasn’t married to her, and would in fact have terrible repercussions on the woman’s reputation if she didn’t react very negatively to it. (Of course men and women who were in love but not married (either because they hadn’t gotten that far yet or because they were having an affair) would kiss anyway, but it would have to be far beyond the reach of witnesses.)

          In the 18th century you could probably kiss a woman on the cheek if you were some extent acquainted with her; in the 19th century that was right out as well, at least in Society.

          • Deiseach says:

            No, I think I’m not overreaching in saying that in 18th- and 19th-century Europe kissing a woman on the mouth was way, way the hell out of line for a man who wasn’t married to her

            That was in contrast to the free and easy English custom of women kissing men in greeting of the 15th and 16th centuries, at least as noted by Erasmus in a letter of 1499:

            To take one attraction out of many; there are nymphs here with divine features, so gentle and kind, that you may well prefer them to your Camenae. Besides, there is a fashion which cannot be commended enough. Wherever you go, you are received on all hands with kisses; when you take leave, you are dismissed with kisses. If you go back, your salutes are returned to you. When a visit is paid, the first act of hospitality is a kiss, and when guests depart, the same entertainment is repeated; where ever a meeting takes place there is kissing in abundance; in fact whatever way you turn, you are never without it. Oh Faustus, if you had once tasted how sweet and fragrant those kisses are, you would indeed wish to be a traveller, not for ten years, like Solon, but for your whole life, in England.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, I plased my cutoff point rather deliberately. Although even in Erasmus’ letter, you can see the seeds of the change in mores: he clearly doesn’t regard the kissing as an entirely innocent and unremarkable habit. Admittedly he’s a foreigner, but still, it’s clear that it’s possible to find something in it which complicates matters — and rather apparently it eventually was found.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The cheek kiss (2 or 3 times, I think it usually goes one side, then the other, then maybe the first side again), with actual contact or air kissing, is a thing I associate with Europe.

          In person, I’ve only seen it done male-female or female-female, I think.

          • Anonymous says:

            The cheek kiss […] is a thing I associate with Europe.

            You should associate that with France, not with Europe. If you go for a cheek kiss in Sweden, Finland, or Germany, unless they think of you as a delightfully French character with continental airs, you’ll either get angrily rebuffed or shit will properly hit the fan.

            Also, yes, if you try to do it to another man, even in the appropriate area, you’re going to look weird. Not gay necessarily, but certainly effete; you’ll be breaking the relevant social norm and people will most likely get a bit uncomfortable.

          • Lumifer says:

            You should associate that with France, not with Europe.

            These guys don’t look all that French to me…

          • Anonymous says:

            They’re Commies! Those guys will do whatever transgressive shit they want. 😀

            No, seriously I have no idea what’s going on there, but speaking as a Western European, it looks well gay from here and now.

          • Anonymous says:

            These guys are also not kissing (or rather, pretending to kiss) each other on the cheek. It’s a completely different thing which is also a political demonstration (the socialist fraternal kiss), not a simple greeting.

            Across genders and between women, the cheek kiss is very common in several European countries (though not Russia). Between men, I’ve only seen it in France (it’s not too common there, either, but not near the level of weirdness it would be in the other countries).

          • dndnrsn says:

            The people I’ve seen do it in real life have been, at most, one party French. It might be a generational thing though.

          • Anonymous says:

            I can vouch for Italy and Austria besides France, though it may not be as obligatory there as in France. Not sure about Germany.

        • Deiseach says:

          Kissing the hand was more about status than gender, I think; low-status men kissed the hand of high-status men in greeting, so kissing the hand of women was more for high-status women and as a general sign of respect.

          I read an anecdote about Leo X, the 16th century Medici pope, who was the despair of his chamberlain as he loved hunting, spent as much time as he could on a horse, and was nearly constantly in hunting boots “so how are the people supposed to kiss his feet?”

        • Touch being viewed less platonically (I blame Freud, but I’m not sure I’m right) fits with my notion that what counts as sexual is surprisingly varied.

          Is seeing a woman’s hair a sexual thing? Her face? Her arm? Her breasts? Not all societies agree on the answers.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s pretty obvious desensitization going on. Consider how pornography has gotten more explicit.

          • Creutzer says:

            How do you explain the fact that touch is more sexually connotated now than it used to be as desensitisation?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Some forms of touch. It’s far more acceptable for a man and a woman, unrelated and not in a relationship, to hug publicly now, isn’t it?

            EDIT: Touch between men, more sexual connotations, perhaps, although maybe not in other ways – I do think it’s probably more acceptable for men to hug than it used to be (perhaps there was a dip in acceptability from the olden days when naked hijinks with your bros was A-OK and then an increase in the acceptability, but not to the old levels). But men and women having physical contact is more acceptable.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Another relevant thought – when men talk about friendships with other men … I don’t know. Honestly, it seems to me like the secondhand sense I get of female-female friendships is that they are much closer and more intense.

      What men mean when they say “best friend” might be different from what women mean.

    • Plagiarizing the Amish says:

      When you un-taboo a taboo, everything that could be possibly confused with the former taboo becomes a new taboo. In Saudi Arabia, where being gay gets you executed, straight male friends walk down the street holding hands. In the US, straight male friends might feel just as close, but they don’t want to be mistaken as gay, since that’s a legitimate possibility in a country where gay guys are free to walk down the street holding hands and (in certain places at least) frequently do.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Interesting article about homosexuality in Saudi Arabia.

      “But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role. This attitude gives Saudi men who engage in homosexual behavior a degree of freedom. But as a more Westernized notion of gayness—a notion that stresses orientation over acts—takes hold in the country, will this delicate balance survive? “

      • anon says:

        I’m always surprised when this notion is “startling, at least from a Western perspective”. Kinsey had categorized MSM (men who have sex with men) as distinct from gay decades ago and even the CDC tracks it as a category for STD rates. It’s as promiscuous as a category as one would expect.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yeah, it’s as though you classified men who jack off as not being heterosexual. They probably are! It’s just that for the moment, they have failed to procure the real deal (women), and are therefore satisfying their needs with inferior substitute goods (their hands).

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think it’s just that. You’re talking about situational homosexuality: on a ship, in prison. Some place with no access to women.

            But historical pederasty among non-desperate men with wives is definitely a Thing. The situation described is exactly the same for premodern China: an act, not an identity, and generally totally fine so long as you are the “top.” Though whether or not they could really be called “straight” or even bisexual by our definition may be questionable. Regardless, “penetrator” and “penetratee” seem to be the more important identities for many premodern cultures. The penetratee could be a woman, but also could be a low-class man, like an actor.

            That said, we see many examples in premodern China of, i. e. elite men sleeping in the same bed: Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang in Three Kingdoms “sleeping together” in a way which made Liu’s other “brothers” jealous. I don’t think we are expected to think that Liu and Zhuge are getting it on. Rather that it just wasn’t weird for adult male friends to sleep in the same bed.

            There are also cultures like ancient Greece where even elite adolescents sometimes had sexual relationships with older men, in which case it seems to be conceived as more of a “mentorship” kind of thing. Perhaps a bit different from the above. And, again, these older men probably had wives: part of the issue may have been that many educated men’s wives were not educated, so while they were good for sex, they were not good for talking about philosophy, and sometimes you want to have sex with someone who can have a good conversation about philosophy.

            I think a similar issue may have partially motivated courtesan culture, at least in the cultures I know relatively well, such as Japan and China: your wife is for having babies and running the household. Want to sleep with someone who’s great at convservation and dancing and singing: go to people who are paid to do such things, i. e. courtesans.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think a similar issue may have partially motivated courtesan culture

            What you describe there is also exactly how it worked in Classical Greece. A hetaira or high-class courtesan had infinitely more freedom than a typical woman and also an elite-man-level education (you can read about Thaïs, Phryne and a few others on Wikipedia most likely). There were also “flute girls” who were just regular whores, however. (The flute thing appears to have been a sort of pretext that you technically hired them to play the flute and dance, especially at parties, but everybody knew what they were really there for.)

        • Anonymous says:

          The CDC does not distinguish MSM from gay/bisexual. When asking people it asks about the behavior of MSM rather than identification, but when reporting on them it usually labels them gay/bisexual. Of course, the reason it asks MSM is because that gets different (larger) answers than gay/bisexual.

      • “Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role.”

        I believe this was the normal attitude in classical antiquity. The division was dominant/submissive not male/female. See the relevant volume of A History of Private Life.

    • Adam says:

      I’ve played sports and been in the military. It never seemed like outward homophobia was what enabled deep bonding. You’re just together all the damn time and go through a lot of shared adversity.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, maybe a big part of it is just that situations in which men are required to work at close quarters together for extended periods are getting fewer as manual labor becomes less common (and increasingly assisted by e. g. forklifts). Though I would say that those complaining about the elimination of all-male spaces may have a point. Homophobia may not be required for close male bonding, but perhaps such spaces are, or, at least, make it easier.

        Interestingly, I’ve heard that in the military, women are strongly discouraged/disallowed from making themselves appear more like men a la G. I. Jane by e. g., getting a buzzcut. This seems a desire to keep distinctions clear within a traditionally male space.

        • hlynkacg says:

          It’s not disallowed per se, but as of the late 00s (when I left active duty) there was definitely a cultural taboo against it.

        • dndnrsn says:

          One thing I’ve noticed is that women doing martial arts don’t seem to get short haircuts as much as you would expect – I mean, it’s way more manageable, people can’t grab it intentionally/by accident, etc. If they’re practicing, women with long hair will ponytail it or whatever (which is never really 100% effective). Female MMA fighters with long hair seem mostly to have it put in cornrows (there’s a few male fighters with long hair who do this also) which looks a lot more effective than tying it back.

          My guess it’s they’re doing something usually read as masculine, and want to avoid being read as overly masculine. Masculine, rather than speculations about their sexuality – Liz Carmouche is an open lesbian and wears her hair long. Probably relevant: ex-Marine.

          • Aapje says:

            Competitive MMA fights are relatively infrequent (fighters seem to do 2-4 fights a year when healthy), which plays a major role in this, I think. I completely understand why they would optimize their looks for the 99% of the year when they are not fighting, when they can change their haircut temporarily for the fight.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But they are training almost year-round.

          • Aapje says:

            A lot of training is fitness training and boxing training, where a basic ponytail or bun should work.

            In grappling training it would be more of an issue, although there are options.

            Of course, short hair is always superior with regard to maintenance, but that also goes for short hair in normal life.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Part of the reason I switched from a fairly normal men’s haircut to shaving my head was grappling-related. Women with long hair seem always to be getting it in their faces, getting it grabbed, losing whatever those hair elastics are called on the mats, etc. I’m honestly surprised that short hair isn’t more common among female grapplers.

          • Aapje says:

            It shows the power of gender norms…

          • dndnrsn says:

            Indeed it does. It’s a definite data point showing the importance of socialization.

        • sam says:

          It varies by branch of service, but a conserative interpretation of the army’s female hair regulations would prohibit shaved heads on women. Seems a little bit of a gray area though, so I suppose it’s probably up to the individual’s chain of command.

          And anyway, the above comment about female MMS hair probably applies here too. 99% of the time, a shaved head doesn’t give an advantage over a ponytail/bun/shortish hair, so you probably wouldn’t choose your hairstyle based on that 1% (exception: ranger school, apparently).

      • hlynkacg says:

        It never seemed like outward homophobia was what enabled deep bonding.

        I partially disagree.

        In my own experience, the group dynamics change a great deal between segregated and mixed company, and former is much more conducive to “deep bonding” than the latter. Allowing open homosexuality, seems to shift the natural dynamic from segregated to mixed.

        • onyomi says:

          But having having all-male spaces (or all-female spaces) doesn’t necessarily imply anything about homophobia?

          • Randy M says:

            Depends on what the salient feature of “men” and “women” is.
            Is it “people choosing this particular socially constructed gender tag?”
            Or “people who may be interested in intercourse with others of the group?”
            (Not, of course, the only options)

          • hlynkacg says:

            But having having all-male spaces (or all-female spaces) doesn’t necessarily imply anything about homophobia?

            I would argue that it does.

            If you’re going to allow same-sex relationships outside said spaces you need to institute a taboo against such relationships within them.

            As per the current usage any taboo against homosexual relationships is homophobia so yes homophobia plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of these spaces.

          • onyomi says:

            “If you’re going to allow same-sex relationships outside said spaces you need to institute a taboo against such relationships within them.”

            Why?

          • 2stupid4SSC says:

            @onyomi well, I could imagine a desire for the all-one gender spaces to also be non-sexual spaces. In the case of team sports or similar constructs I could see a risk from romantic relationships between members, particularly a danger with break ups.

          • hlynkacg says:

            2stupid4SSC hit the nail on the head, as I said before.

            the group dynamics change a great deal between segregated and mixed company, and former is much more conducive to “deep bonding” than the latter.

          • onyomi says:

            I just don’t see a necessary connection between a single-gender space and a sexuality-free space. There are four possibilities here. I’m just trying to disentangle to what extent the purported benefits of single-gender spaces and sex-free spaces are a result of which aspect.

          • Anonymous says:

            They gotta be both. It’s impossible in practice to have a mixed-sex space that’s desexualized because animals are heterosexual and the sexual urge is unconquerably powerful unless someone’s shelling you at this very moment.

            If it’s single-sex but there might be gay people in the space (and/or gay expression isn’t sanctioned so hard that any gays around are guaranteed to conceal every sign of it), the problem still appears, at least in the form of a suspicion, and that alters the dynamic.

            That’s the necessary connection. Your hypothesis that they could possibly be disentangled is not accurate. (I realize, or at any rate read you as saying, that it wasn’t the null hypothesis on your part, just one postulated possibility; nevertheless, it’s wrong.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ onyomi

            Humans are sexual animals, stressed out, physically fit, 18 – 24 year-olds even more so.

            Maintaining that sexuality-free space is the whole point. You loose the benefits of a sexuality-free space when you start injecting sex into it.

            Edit:
            Ninja’d by anon

          • onyomi says:

            I dunno. If sex is ever-present in our minds to the extent that an asexual, mixed gender environment is inherently impossible, then I sort of doubt even a single-gender asexual environment is possible.

            But okay, let’s assume, due to the presumption of heterosexuality, that an asexual, mixed environment is impossible, but an asexual, single-sex environment is possible. That still leaves a third possibility: a sexualized or, at least, not strictly asexual, single-sex environment.

            My point is just that providing the possibility of an asexual space isn’t necessarily the only benefit, nor even necessarily the primary benefit of a single-sex space. There are certainly other conceivable reasons a single-sex space might be desirable: being around people who share a certain aspect of your life experience, for example.

            Sure, if we assume having an asexual space is an end in itself then single-sex spaces seem like as good a way as any to try to achieve that. But I’m not sure a lack of asexual social spaces is the primary thing to blame for the relative lack of male closeness today. Maybe people are just physically less close in general, for example?

            I’m not unsympathetic to this idea; I’m just trying to be clear about what we’re looking for: an asexual space or a same-sex space? The latter might conceivably be a prerequisite for the former, but the former may not always follow from the latter, nor, necessarily, be the desired end goal.

    • onyomi says:

      There are also cultures where touching among people in general is more permissible/expected than others. Apparently Japan keeps the greatest average difference between conversation partners, but there are other places, e. g. Sri Lanka, a friend tells me, where everyone is totally in your face when talking, and groups of friends (maybe not even always same-sex friends? Though not sure) walk down the street in dogpile masses of intertwined hands and arms. But I’m not sure if there’s any correlation between general distance among people and attitudes about sex or homosexuality.

      • 2stupid4SSC says:

        I think they are unrelated, which is why I imagine close (physical) friendships and homophobia are largely unrelated in general. It seems to me that physical closeness is an orthogonal cultural aspect, it just changes too drastically from country to country where I don’t see equivalently different amounts of homophobia/acceptance.

        However this could be conflating concepts, I am willing to entertain the idea that cultures with more physical contact might not have more deep emotional friendships. That deep emotional friendships could be the primary topic of discussion, and physical closeness is just its own thing.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        there are other places, e. g. Sri Lanka, a friend tells me, where everyone is totally in your face when talking,

        I remember once I was in rural South Africa, sitting on the steps up to the public library. A complete stranger came up to me, put his hands on my legs, leaned forward so his face was a couple of inches from mine, and said, “Do you know what the Wi-Fi password is?”

      • LPSP says:

        there are other places, e. g. Sri Lanka, a friend tells me, where everyone is totally in your face when talking, and groups of friends (maybe not even always same-sex friends? Though not sure) walk down the street in dogpile masses of intertwined hands and arms.

        Well that sounds like pick-pocketing heaven. Remind me not to carry any goods not attached to me by-chain in Sri Lanka.

    • LPSP says:

      Yeah, Ozy’s completely cooked the goose there.

    • onyomi says:

      One other thought: perhaps the recently problematized “locker room talk” is one way of signalling heterosexuality among men. In fact, I think it highly likely it functions that way at least some of the time. “I love grabbing pussies”=”you can get close to me without worrying I’ll grab your dick.”

      • HeelBearCub says:

        No.

        It might function that way for people who are actually gay and closeted, as an over-enthusiastic performance, but not anyone else.

        Trump’s words tell us specifically what he is claiming. He is claiming high status.

        Trump: “Yeah that’s her with the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”

        Bush: “Whatever you want.”

        Trump: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

        • onyomi says:

          “It might function that way for people who are actually gay and closeted, as an over-enthusiastic performance, but not anyone else.”

          This statement is far, far too general. Maybe you’re right about the specific Trump case, but I don’t see how you can possibly claim that no straight man ever makes lewd jokes about women as a means of signalling heterosexuality. Maybe to do so indicates insecurity, but can you claim there exist absolutely no insecure straight men, only closeted gay men?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @onyomi:
          I’m saying that anyone who thinks they are signalling heterosexuality via excessive performance of lewd talk is simply mistaken. That isn’t how it will be read.

          If I already think you are heterosexual, and you try and oversignal heterosexuality in this way, what am I to make of it? Either that you are claiming high status, and if that is not plausible, that you doubt your own claim to heterosexuality.

          Edit: I’m leaving out the idea that your aren’t trying to signal at all. I think most who talk lewdly just enjoy it, much as they might enjoy talking about a great game or movie or book or TV show.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, but you are stating this at a time when such “locker room talk” has already become weird and gauche and unacceptable relative to times past. Now it might be interpreted as you say, but this is, in some sense, the complaint.

            If the assumption is heteronormativity, then lewd talk about women can be taken as part of that which reinforces that assumption and allows men to be close to one another without fear of being misunderstood. Once that assumption is gone, a stereotypically very “straight” behavior, ironically, can become a “try hard” signal of insecurity.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think HBC’s edit has it. Most men engage in lewd talk for the same reason they watch pornography. It’s not about signalling.*

            *Putting aside the fact that everything is about signalling, of course.

          • onyomi says:

            I would agree that the primary function of lewd talk among anyone, first and foremost, is that people enjoy lewd talk. But it’s possible it might also signal as I suggested.

          • TheWorst says:

            @HBC:

            I might be missing this, but it seems like you guys are leaving out the interpretation that seemed most likely to me: The 14-year-old in the locker room who keeps insisting that he’s banged every cheerleader (which is how Trump’s comments read, to me) doesn’t strike me as gay, he strikes me as sexually unsuccessful – and trying to overcompensate for that, not for lack of heterosexuality.

            (And I think there are a lot of negative consequences to conflating those two.)

            It’s more like the guy (also Trump) who’s constantly telling you he has lots of money. He’s not a closeted communist, he’s a closeted business failure. Or thinks he is.

          • LPSP says:

            I’m with onyomi on this one; while it is possible to overshoot the locker-room talk, just saying “I’d have fucked her senseless, n’a mean?” and leaving it there wouldn’t set anyone’s gaydar off. You’d have to go deep into the “Hey everyone, who wants to spank me? I want to be spanked first!” territory.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheWorst:
            Correct. Over signaling status is easy to understand as a perception of a lack of status.

            It’s plausible to read Trump that way even now. Note how seriously he takes even the most immature of slights about penis size, literally holding his hands up to show their size during the introduction at one of the debates.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @LPSP:
            That’s not really the kind of over signalling that Trump was engaged in.

            If I start to talk about muscle cars, guns, football, baseball or just about any other topic in the locker room or in some other all male gathering, the most likely reason is that I like the subject.

            If I’m trying to signal something about myself, rather than actually enjoying the subject, it’s because I don’t feel comfortable that I am perceived as belonging to the group. Frequently this will have the opposite to the intended effect.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Lawdy, this thread is a bit of a dumpster fire:

      1) Ah yes, women seem to have the exact same problem with forming deep friendships in spaces where there are lesbians or bisexuals. Oh wait, no they don’t.
      2) Ah yes, the gay and lesbian communities seem to have the exact same problem with forming deep friendships in spaces where everyone else in the community could be romantically/sexually into them. Oh wait, no they don’t.
      3) Ah yes, bisexuals and pansexuals are DOOMED! DOOMED I SAY! to friendlessness. Oh wait, no they aren’t.
      4) Ah yes, clearly the solution is for gay men to form deep emotional friendships with straight women, and for straight men to form deep emotional friendships with lesbians. As per point 3, clearly bi/pan men are DOOMED.
      5) Ah yes, asexual men must rule the world and be every charismatic world leader ever, considering that they’re the only people who can form deep emotional bonds nowadays.
      6) Conventional attractiveness trumps any slashing. After all, the males most likely to get shipped with each other outside of a fictional character context are boyband members. This has not impacted their ability to get women in any way. Similarly, shipping of internet celebrities is really really rampant (like for Rooster Teeth or TGWTG), and said celebrities are very aware of it, to the point of gleefully reading the smut of themselves, and it has not necessarily tanked their friendships with each other.

      And as per when this topic was previous brought up except more targeted on the slashing bit, this is solved by more canon representation of fictional queer relationships that don’t end with one of the people getting killed off. tl;dr a lot of the support for new subtext ships that would have done gangbusters in fandom back in the day have gone fairly ignored in favor of canon queer ships. (Sherlock, Supernatural, Sterek, LotR, etc. got started before canon ships became more common) If you put an actual queer ship in your show and give it its due, people will be much more less likely to slash the friendship characters together. (I mean, it’ll still happen because of Rule 34, but not as a “serious” ship)

      So basically, only a subset of men are having this problem, y’all are kinda being special snowflakes about it.

      • nimim. k.m. says:

        This seems a bit overblown. The theory outlined in the root comment does not entail that ones personal identity would have much effect in the general dynamics of a locker room, but the general perception what kind of male-male interactions are within the realm of possible.

        About the fiction, I’m quite ready to grant your explanation credence. But whatever is the actual cause, it makes for some frustrating (internet) discussions about Victorian fiction if you just want to take the relationships as given.

        • Anonymous says:

          it makes for some frustrating (internet) discussions about Victorian fiction if you just want to take the relationships as given.

          Yeah, there’s definitely a problem where people (honestly, women) refuse to admit that they’re making shit up and pasting it onto the real narratives because they like it better, rather than reading something that’s actually in the work. That can get damn annoying.

      • Jiro says:

        Sherlock, Supernatural, Sterek, LotR, etc. got started before canon ships became more common

        It usually takes a certain length of time for something to become this kind of pop culture phenomenon, so it can’t be too recent. If you start saying that only recent shows count, you just end up making your claim unfalsifiable.

  6. cassander says:

    This might be a duplicate, the comment wasn’t showing up before.

    A radical reform proposal: http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/05/ol6-lost-theory-of-government.html

    I must admit this idea is not just a deatheater idea, but straight from the pen of Voldemorte himself. . It is typically overlong and over broad. The interesting core of it is thus:

    Split the state in two, create part which is a pure libertarian fantasy night watchman state in the traditional fashion. It taxes, enforces the law, adjudicates disputes. It would have one additional role, though, voting funds for the second half, the welfare state.

    The welfare state would have no privileged access to state coercion or regulation. It’s sole task would be spending the largess voted to it by the actual state. It would have its own elected legislature and executive completely independent from the state proper.

    I see a few benefits from this arrangement. One, it makes costs visible and explicit. There’s one budget for the welfare state that everything comes out of, which makes tradeoffs more visible. Two, it would produce a more coherent institutional culture for each state. Three, it creates strong disincentives to try to do welfare policy by tax or regulation, a practice that should be considered harmful.

    I’m curious what people here think.

  7. cassander says:

    This might be a duplicate, the comment wasn’t showing up before.

    A radical reform proposal:

    I must admit this idea is not just a deatheater idea, but straight from the pen of Voldemorte himself. . It is typically overlong and over broad. The interesting core of it is thus:

    Split the state in two, create part which is a pure libertarian fantasy night watchman state in the traditional fashion. It taxes, enforces the law, adjudicates disputes. It would have one additional role, though, voting funds for the second half, the welfare state.

    The welfare state would have no privileged access to state coercion or regulation. It’s sole task would be spending the largess voted to it by the actual state. It would have its own elected legislature and executive completely independent from the state proper.

    I see a few benefits from this arrangement. One, it makes costs visible and explicit. There’s one budget for the welfare state that everything comes out of, which makes tradeoffs more visible. Two, it would produce a more coherent institutional culture for each state. Three, it creates strong disincentives to try to do welfare policy by tax or regulation, a practice that should be considered harmful.

    I’m curious what people here think.

    • gbdub says:

      Seems unwieldy. The welfare branch is still going to have to present a budget to the taxing branch, and presumably the taxing branch can say, “well, we’ll give you the whole budget, but only if you promise not to do X”. This is basically what already happens when the President proposes a budget to Congress, and everyone fights back and forth and threatens to scuttle the whole thing if certain earmarks aren’t added/removed.

      You could achieve much the same thing in the current system by basically only allowing Congress to appropriate at the Department level, and make the heads of departments elected rather than appointed (they are already political) positions. But earmarks / logrolling / etc. are a natural outgrowth of that and would need to be fought constantly. I’m not sure there’s the willpower to do that.

      • cassander says:

        >Seems unwieldy. The welfare branch is still going to have to present a budget to the taxing branch, and presumably the taxing branch can say, “well, we’ll give you the whole budget, but only if you promise not to do X”.

        I don’t see why. I imagine it functioning along the lines of the way SS functions. the taxes are established, the money is collected then given to the SSA automatically.

        • 2stupid4SSC says:

          I don’t know much about SS but they basically just give people money right?

          Is there any reason to assume the Wellfare state, based on the proposed system, would adopt a universal basic income model? If not, then they would have to figure out what to do with all their money, which could create the problems gbdub is talking about.

          • cassander says:

            I already said it would have its own internal systems for spending the money, presumable a legislature and executive. the important thing would be that it has zero control over how much money it gets, just what do do with what it has.

          • 2stupid4SSC says:

            I think the idea is that the other government who controls how much money they get would have motivation to try and control where it went. But I guess if there is no offical way for them to do that it might help? The welfare state does not propose a budget or anything they just get a check in the mail, so to speak. So any control the issuing government has would have to be through back end deals made with welfare government.

        • Aegeus says:

          The problem is then you have no way to adjust taxes in response to welfare demands. If the economy crashes and you want to pass a stimulus, or if there’s a natural disaster and you’ve got big repair bills, you’d probably want to raise taxes to pay for that, and then lower them once the crisis is gone.

          For Social Security, the system works because it has no decisions to make – it pushes out the money it takes in according to a predetermined plan. But the government as a whole, ideally, should only collect enough taxes to pay for what it does, which means that the two branches need to coordinate.

          • cassander says:

            >The problem is then you have no way to adjust taxes in response to welfare demands. If the economy crashes and you want to pass a stimulus, or if there’s a natural disaster and you’ve got big repair bills, you’d probably want to raise taxes to pay for that, and then lower them once the crisis is gone.

            there are worse fates in the world. but they can always ask for more money. It’s just that the people who give it don’t have any control over who spends it and vice versa.

            >For Social Security, the system works because it has no decisions to make – it pushes out the money it takes in according to a predetermined plan

            It’s more complicated than that. the SSA gets money from the treasury to pay for its expenditures these days.

    • Lumifer says:

      In which sense are you using the word “state”? Your “welfare state” looks just like a large independent agency. Besides, what will enforce the separation between the two? Why wouldn’t these two branches separated by a revolving door be cooperating BFFs?

      • cassander says:

        >In which sense are you using the word “state”?

        either, really. doesn’t matter for the purpose of this discussion

        >Your “welfare state” looks just like a large independent agency. Besides, what will enforce the separation between the two? Why wouldn’t these two branches separated by a revolving door be cooperating BFFs?

        Very different cultures, lack of overlapping responsibilities.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          What causes them to have a different culture, other than hoping that the roles are different enough to prevent people from wanting to be in both?

          • cassander says:

            being focused on entirely different missions. Having different internal structures and personnel systems. Hell, you could even bar movement between them if you wanted, might not be a bad idea.

          • Anonymous says:

            It would seem to me that Congress and the bureaucracies it creates to implement things already have different structure, hiring systems, and missions. So, again, what is the difference between what you’re suggesting and what we have, other than electing heads of bureaucracies.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      I’m kind of curious how the “second state” is different from just a normal bureaucracy, other than I guess being run by elected officials instead of bureaucrats appointed by elected officials? It’s already the case that welfare departments within the federal (or state) government(s) do not have the ability to set taxes or regulations like licensing, minimum wage, etc. They don’t set their own budget, either.

      I don’t see how it prevents the “first” state from attempting to do welfare via tax policy, since you don’t mention that they must do taxes a particular way. And officials in the “first” state still have the ability to buy votes. If it’s a democratically-elected government with the power to do X, individual politicians will be incentivized to promise that they will use X to benefit marginal voters.

      I guess it allows more granularity in the sense that you can choose a primary legislator with one set of beliefs and a secondary legislator with a secondary set, rather than being locked into whomever your primary legislator appoints, but I’m not sure how much that benefit is compared to the cost of increasing the number of elections and candidates each person has to pay attention to. There can also be some benefit to insulating certain positions from the electorate, particularly in technical fields (which may be more of an argument for keeping the government out entirely, but that’s beyond the scope of this question).

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re just describing the secular state and the Catholic Church.

      (And my assumption is Moldemort did that on purpose.)

      • cassander says:

        I don’t recall him making the split explicit, but yes, it’s very much a separation of church and state, and I’m sure the thought occurred to him.

    • youzicha says:

      So, is the set of people voting for the two states the same or different?

      If they are the same, then I would not expect any big difference from just having one state. It’s like countries with separate elections for parliament and presidency: in practice the same parties run for both positions, with the same policies and elected by the same voters.

      • cassander says:

        Presumably you’d vote for both with the elections alternating by year. That said, the idea of only being able to vote for one or the other appealing.

      • JayT says:

        I assumed that if you were taking the transfers then you can only vote for the government that sorts the transfers out. If you are in the libertarian group, then you get to vote for the libertarian state.

    • Yeah like others I don’t see how this is different than just a separate agency that handles welfare. But it is true that this in itself is a very good idea. I have argued myself in these comments that welfare should be relegated to just one agency, so that it is accountable for what it does, and so voters know how the government spends on welfare. Currently in the US, we have 78 different means tested programs in just the Federal government, and it seems almost every agency with fees adjusts them for “ability to pay,” which amounts to welfare too. It is a major point in my book “Simplify Government.” Not that I would shill for my book here 🙂

      So I think the idea of having separate bureaucracies for welfare and everything else is a good one, but calling them two separate governments doesn’t sound like how you describe their actions.

      • cassander says:

        The difference is that the people in charge of spending the money have absolutely no say over how much gets spent, and vice versa.

  8. sweeneyrod says:

    Possibly amusing to some SSC readers: a Beowulf/Hamilton crossover.

  9. LHN says:

    The new TV show “Timeless” has time travelers running around with modern guns in (so far) the 1860s, 1930s, and 1960s, and the heroes not necessarily always able to fully clean up after enemy mooks.

    Suppose that one of them drops a modern firearm in one of those decades. How much could they reverse engineer, and how far would that advance the state of the art in 2016?

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      I would suspect surprisingly little, actually. Guns don’t change that much. Aesthetics, minor design elements, etc. sure, but not the major components. Gun technology today is stuff like that Israeli gun that can shoot corners–knowing how to make a semiautomatic earlier wouldn’t have sped up the need to develop rifles for urban warfare. It wouldn’t be anything like dropping a modern car or computer into the 1930s. Guns are extremely simple and quality designs are used for decades and decades; if they’re carrying 1911s–not even that unlikely–someone from the 30s could look at it and say, “oh, yeah, I have one of those right here!”

      Maybe if you drop modern automatics in the 1860s, you could advance technology forward, but it honestly hasn’t gone that far in the last few decades.

      Now, the effect of having those weapons earlier could be tremendously important. If France has machine guns in 1870, and Prussia doesn’t, and France can stop the German unification, *that* alters all of history since.

      edit–I’m not really an expert in this field, just someone with an interest.

      • JayT says:

        There’s also the issue that the biggest advancements in guns in the last 100 years or so are almost all related to manufacturing advancements. You could have the blueprints for a better gun, but if you can’t machine it well, it’s not going to be much better than what you already have.

        Obviously, if you go back to the black powder days, then it might make a difference.

        *edit* I should have read on, pretty much everyone else had the same thought, only better presented.

    • gbdub says:

      Well, the only real advances in handheld firearms since the early 1900s have been materials (e.g. polymers, aluminum, exotic alloys) and manufacturing techniques. The key tech for modern guns, auto-loading and self-contained metallic cartridges, were basically solved by the turn of the 20th century.

      I honestly don’t see much changing. I guess the Civil War might be a lot different, but I think it unlikely that they could manufacture advanced firearms in more than novelty numbers. Maybe you end up with WWI being fought with assault rifles, but without a commensurate change in tactics the results are the same (most casualties were from artillery or fixed machine guns – having an assault rifle doesn’t change the equation on those much). By the end of WWII firearms could do basically everything modern versions can (even the assault rifle was limited more by a good idea (fast firing sub-caliber ammo) than tech). Even if you dropped an assault rifle, it’s not clear that they would think it a great idea as a main battle weapon, and even if they did most of the combatant nations would have a hard time cranking them out in sufficient quantity. Consider that the US Marines (and basically every country except the US) were initially opposed in WWII to arming the average soldier with a semi- or fully-auto battle rifle. The thought was they would just waste (expensive and hard to supply) ammunition.

      TL;DR version: gun design has not been the limiting factor since basically pre-WWI. Motorized mobility, aircraft, and modern communications have made a much bigger difference to warfare.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Nothing in the 1930s or 1960s. Drop it in the 1860s and maybe 30 years at best. Certainly they could reverse-engineer all the mechanical parts, though they wouldn’t be able to make the plastic parts in a gun which used them. They might be able to advance the development of smokeless powder. Maybe the non-corrosive primer.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The limiting factor would be the manufacturing technology required, I imagine. In the 1860s certainly. The 1930s, less so, and the 1960s not at all.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Honestly not by much.

      While things like, material, manufacturing methods and quality control have advanced a great deal, things like ammunition and general operating principals have not. The Browning Model 1911 is named for it’s year of introduction and it’s still in widespread use today. Sure the modern versions are probably lighter, more reliable, and sport some fancy accessories like integrated lights, optics, etc… but the basic gun itself hasn’t changed.

      Actually, now that I think about it, things like batteries, radios, and flashlights probably carry a far greater risk of “contamination” at least as far as the late 19th/early 20th century is concerned than the guns do.

      Edit: Ninja’d by everyone.

    • bluto says:

      Gun owners are very conservative. One of the most popular pistol designs today was created in 1911 another in 1870! By the 1930s most of the actions we still use were developed and used many still in use today, the aforementioned 1911, Browning Hi-Power (1935), Mauser 1898 (which is the inspiration for many bolt actions still made today. If the setting was before 1934, the designers would probably wonder why modern semi-auto rifle actions are so complicated (the reason is legal to prevent easy modification of semi-auto actions into full automatic actions). They would likely be quite interested in how polymer gun frames can be strong enough to withstand designs, and potentially in bullet/projectile developments. They might also be interested in our steel metallurgy and quality control.

      In 1860, a modern example would have the potential to make the Civil War something more like World War I (if both sides develop machine guns), or a much shorter fight (if only one side can produce the technology), rather than the something that only shows the transition to machine gun/trench warfare beginning. It also could pull WWI to an earlier period.

      I’m not sure dropping a modern firearm in any times changes the state of the art all that much, gun tech really hasn’t advanced much in the last 70 years (mostly due to the average seems to be over in gun designs at least until someone comes up something better than brass cased cartridges).

      • Garrett says:

        I’m not sure conservative is the right word. I think it’s more a matter that material science and manufacturing matter a lot (compare an AR to an AK and you’ll know why the US was going to win the cold war), and that it is rare to find a lot of benefit to new designs.

      • Aapje says:

        @bluto

        until someone comes up something better than brass cased cartridges

        The Heckler & Koch G11 was a rifle using caseless munition, but the advantages (much lower weight, so more ammo could be carried) were mostly offset by the downsides (less reliability as a brass case seals off the chamber, so a caseless rifle need very tight tolerances to achieve that without a case, which makes it very sensitive to fouling).

        As part of the OICW program, the US military tried to design a rifle with two barrels: one being a traditional rifle and the other an airburst mini-cannon that allows killing people behind cover. However, this rifle suffered from the same issues as the Joint Strike Fighter: wanting to do to much in 1 package, thus being mediocre at everything.

        Personally I think that the next real innovation is not going to be the rifle, but rather, replacing the soldier with a drone, robot or such.

    • John Schilling says:

      The standard military pistol cartridge of every major military power in the modern world was developed for the armies of the Second, not Third, Reich. In 1902. As others have noted, handgun design is an intensely conservative field – mostly I think because it is rare to win a gunfight by virtue of having a better gun but easy to lose one by having a gun that doesn’t work. And most of the changes that do matter, have followed from materials science. Toss me back in time to Tombstone, AZ, in 1881, and the things that might give me an edge over the Earps would be smokeless powder, advanced polycarbonate plastics, and tritium(*). A 19th-century gunsmith would recognize what had been done and why it was better, but the best 19th-century research labs would have difficulty duplicating it.

      Harry Turtledove’s Guns of the South gets this about right. Robert E. Lee can sort of accept an AK-47 as something a very clever 19th-century gunsmith could have invented, but he’s suspicious and inquisitive in ways that don’t bode well for the time travelers. And within two years, the Union is making knockoffs that work OK until they jam due to black-powder fouling.

      That said, I noticed the same thing in Timeless, and would have been impressed if the writers had noticed it and thought to insist that Action Hero Dude carry an M1911, customized to his taste. That weapon isn’t horribly out of place or more than slightly outclassed any time in this century or the last, and for half a century before that it can more plausibly be explained as the work of a Very Clever Gunsmith than any modern polymer-framed weapon.

      (*) Also the Weaver and other two-handed firing stances, but that’s another issue.

    • Plagiarizing the Amish says:

      I’ve been reading a book about Samuel Colt. He wasn’t just a pioneering and innovative gunmaker, he was a pioneering and innovative industrialist. Henry Ford was a faint shadow by comparison.

      My impression from this is that great technological leaps require great individuals. So, an awful lot depends on where exactly the time travelers left the modern gun and whose hands it fell into.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Assume the 1860s ones fell into the hands of a young John Browning. And that he arranged to have sufficient samples of the ammo sent to Alfred Nobel.

      • Montfort says:

        I’ve been reading a book about Samuel Colt. He wasn’t just a pioneering and innovative gunmaker, he was a pioneering and innovative industrialist. Henry Ford was a faint shadow by comparison.

        Have you read a book about Henry Ford yet?

        (I’m just kidding around, I don’t know enough about the two to have a strong opinion)

    • Autolykos says:

      1930s or later? No effect whatsoever. Pretty much all the relevant technology was already there at the point, it only needed to be put together, and the doctrine adapted to it.
      And throwing, say, a Kalashnikov into the 19th century would probably not change much on a large scale, either (even though they could probably copy them – gunsmiths at the Khyber pass are working with even worse equipment). Automatic weapons eat insane amounts of ammunition, which is a logistical nightmare to deal with if you don’t have trucks and only few railway lines. You would not want to give one to every single soldier.
      Also, ammunition would probably be a lot more expensive to manufacture back then. And finally, blackpowder and automatics don’t mix well, while smokeless powder requires a solid chemical industry.

      Showing them the weapons would not have much effect. The weapons are mostly a function of what your industrial base can keep up with in terms of manufacturing tolerances and supply consumption. They don’t need the guns, they need the machines that are making them and the infrastructure that can supply them.

    • Aegeus says:

      Not a history expert, but…

      1860 – As far as I know, they don’t yet have the machine tooling to build a good automatic weapon (or mass produce the ammo), even if they know the design, so it’ll take a while to advance the state of the art.
      1930 – Probably could bump the technology forward a decade or so. Germany’s Sturmgewehr 44, in WWII, is considered the first assault rifle; work started on the project in 1923 and getting a working example in 1930 would probably shave some time off the development time.
      1960 – Marginal benefit, but apparently the M14 issued in Vietnam was a bit crap for jungle warfare, so improvements in their design would probably make life a bit easier for American infantry.

      The latest improvements have been in optics and electronic enhancements for your gun, like smart grenade launchers or night vision scopes. Those could be a boon to whoever gets them, but I think they’re harder to reverse-engineer than mechanical mechanisms, and they have even less of the necessary industry to manufacture them.

    • LHN says:

      Thanks to everyone for the responses. That was pretty much what I figured, but it’s not an area I have much expertise in, and I was seeing other online discussions where losing a future gun was treated as a potentially destabilizing event.

    • LPSP says:

      To compound what Alex said, consider that the Mosin Nagant is considered among the big 3 general purpose combat rifles. It was developed by the Imperial Russian army in 1882.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      I think the biggest impact *might* be actual rifles, but they already had those in the 1860s.

      IIRC, firearms that rifled a bullet provided a noticeable impact on the USA civil war; the north had them and the south didn’t, which meant that the north had longer range when firing. I was told that when I was a docent at a museum that had some civil war rifles on display.

      • dndnrsn says:

        That sounds doubtful to me – I’m pretty sure both sides had Minie-ball rifled muskets, which is one of the reasons Civil War musketry was so deadly compared to previous wars. The North maybe had more breech-loading rifled weapons, but that was still a fairly minor thing, I’m pretty sure. The next major advance was cartridge rifles, and after that magazine cartridge rifles.

        • John Schilling says:

          Both sides had some rifled muskets during the American Civil War. The United States Army, after an abortive experience with the Hall breechloading rifle earlier in the century, had adopted its first rifled musket only in 1855, meaning most of the militia armories and reserve stockpiles were still smoothbores.

          The Union, with most of the manufacturing capability and control of the seas, was able to fairly quickly replace most of its smoothbores with rifles, and in the cavalry with breechloaders. The Confederates couldn’t, and fought with a mix of rifled and smoothbore muskets to the very end. This probably didn’t matter as much as the Union’s superiority in artillery and railroads, but it did matter.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Source? I’m not doubting you – I’m just intrigued, because I’ve always seen stuff like “the rifle musket made musketry much more accurate at range” etc.

          • John Schilling says:

            The rifle did make musketry much more accurate at range. This fact does not magically conjure rifles into existence in the hands of every soldier who might benefit from one – and the benefit is somewhat overstated, because most battles are not fought at long range.

            Sources here, here, and really any third issue of the NRA’s house magazine, “American Rifleman”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Thanks. I had thought they were standard-issue, for whatever reason, and no source I’d seen had disabused me of that idea.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The impact of rifles on the ACW is often over-estimated. Because both sides were scrambling to raise mass armies essentially from scratch (the pre-war US army was too small to provide a proper cadre), soldiers didn’t generally have enough training to actually fire accurately. Units opened fire at distances not much greater than their Napoleonic predecessors, and even then were less accurate than contemporary European troops firing over far greater distances.

  10. cassander says:

    A while back I made the assertion that the revenue neutral carbon taxes (that is, passing carbon taxes but lowering other taxes an equal amount) were a good policy, but they would invariably be blocked by the left. This position was challenged.

    As much as I am loathe to have anything nice to say about Vox, this appeared today vindicating my position. The proposal is not purely revenue neutral, but it’s quite close, and the left is trying to defeat it. The article does a good job of showing how little anti-carbon measures motive the organized left when there are going to be no revenues to distribute, and the true venality of an opposition whose proposal is short on details for carbon mitigation, but long on how they’re going to spend all the money their measures raise.

    The conclusions to be drawn from this exercise (besides making clear the folly of doubting Cassander) are open for discussion.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      …making clear the folly of doubting Cassander

      Is that why you (almost) chose the name, then?

    • Carinthium says:

      Reading the article as of right now. Will edit this post to include a view on the matter.

      EDIT: The issue seems rather confusing to me. I would have said the alliance was straight up wrong- after all, there is no reason why you can’t simply start with a revenue neutral carbon tax then attempt something else later.

      Yes this means abandoning coalition allies, and I can understand why you’re reluctant to do that. But the more states of America have their own climate taxes the more momentum the environmental movement gains.

      What I’m confused by is the fact that the revenue neutral carbon tax didn’t win over Republican voters, who would rather a carbon tax that wasn’t revenue neutral. I simply don’t understand that, meaning I scrap all the above as a position and don’t know what to think.

      • Nathan says:

        At a guess, I’d expect that Republican voters are sceptical of punitive taxation in general and supportive of renewable energy subsidies in general.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        What I’m confused by is the fact that the revenue neutral carbon tax didn’t win over Republican voters, who would rather a carbon tax that wasn’t revenue neutral. I simply don’t understand that, meaning I scrap all the above as a position and don’t know what to think.

        Republican voters are for the most part not principled capitalists (see: Trump) who can be appealed to with ECON 101 lessons about the efficiency of Pigouvian revenue mechanisms. They are sufficiently dumbed down at this point that they will reject any proposal that includes the term “tax” out of hand, and if a politician steps out of line (as Bob Inglis did) he will get primaried with ads that use the term “tax” (as Bob Inglis was).

        • Jiro says:

          So many taxes share the traits that they don’t like that the fact that something is a tax is Bayseian evidence that it is one of that set. Even a non-objectionable-seeming tax is highly likely to be a disguised objectionable tax rather than a really non-objectionable one.

        • “What I’m confused by is the fact that the revenue neutral carbon tax didn’t win over Republican voters”

          Consider all the taxes passed as temporary taxes that are still around fifty or a hundred years later. If someone asks you to support a tax on carbon to be balanced by a reduction in other taxes, one plausible response is “I don’t believe you. Once the tax is passed, the other taxes will come back up again.”

          The political system doesn’t have good commitment mechanisms, ways of making promises you can’t break.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            If someone asks you to support a tax on carbon to be balanced by a reduction in other taxes, one plausible response is “I don’t believe you. Once the tax is passed, the other taxes will come back up again.”

            Isn’t this a universal argument against all tax reform? Other than abolition, I suppose.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yep. NJ just passed a massively increased gas tax along with two small reductions in the sales tax. I posted an informal poll on a NJ forum about when the sales tax would return to present levels. A clear majority said we’d never see the second reduction, with a large number saying we’d never see the first.

            @Bosch:

            It says you can’t reform taxes by adding new ones.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            It says you can’t reform taxes by adding new ones.

            Earlier in that same post you also used an example where two existing taxes were adjusted, so this smells like a motte.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Supposedly temporary taxes being permanent isn’t the same as supposedly permanent tax cuts being transient. Is there a history of the latter?

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Supposedly temporary taxes being permanent isn’t the same as supposedly permanent tax cuts being transient. Is there a history of the latter?

            Wouldn’t any tax hike qualify as this?

    • Nicholas says:

      As I understand it from a few other article, this is all inside baseball: the person who spearheaded the measure is not liked, and his coalition is not trusted. The opposition is more about denying them a feather in their cap, out of fear that they can leverage demonstrated legislative victories to increased strength inside the movement.
      In the same way that health care is not about being healthy, environmental regulation is not about regulating the environment.

      • cassander says:

        I fear regulation much more than taxing and spending. There are many more limits on the taxing power than the regulatory power, and far more attention is paid to taxation. As long as the rates are fixed in law, the carbon tax is no more dangerous than any other.

    • Wrong Species says:

      The thing about the Carbon tax is that while it sounds good, there is simply no way that the left can be trusted to keep their part of the bargain regarding revenue neutrality. If given control of the legislative and executive branch, how long would it take for them to suddenly find new excuses to increase the tax without a reduction in another tax? To some extent, I would actually prefer some of the other regulations proposed. At least they can’t be used as a slush fund for whatever new craze the federal government “needs” to fund.

      • cassander says:

        I fear regulation much more than taxing and spending. There are many more limits on the taxing power than the regulatory power, and far more attention is paid to taxation.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I read that article and the distributing-tax-revenues thing seemed to be only a small part of what seems like an internecine conflict between climate groups, played up for culture-war-ish-ness and clicks.

      • cassander says:

        If it’s culture war, it’s of the blue on blue variety.

        • Outis says:

          That’s what culture wars are going to look like going forward. Red is dead.

          • cassander says:

            It never dies, it just gets a few left wing positions shoved onto it over the course of a generation, then blue moves the goalposts.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        The revenue neutrality thing is pretty tied to the core disagreement: a narrow, focused, potentially bipartisan effort to fight climate change versus a big intertwined progressive agenda.

    • Cheese says:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_pricing_in_Australia may be interesting to you.

      Initially we had a much more extensive ETS (not revenue neutral in any way if I recall correctly), proposed by a government which had an electoral mandate for it, which was destroyed by fuckery on the left (TL;DR: Green party voted against it as they felt it didn’t go far enough, they had balance of power in the senate, this precipitated a series of events that eventually resulted in a reduction in power of, and finally an electoral defeat of the centre-left government after further term in which for a while we did have an ETS/Carbon Tax).

      The second attempt, detailed in the wiki. Was sort of a revenue neutral carbon tax. Not quite though. It’s main step in that direction was made by a massive increase in the income-tax free threshold (5k -> 18k) and a variety of other tax cuts/payments made to lower and middle income earners. Plus also a lot of subsidies and exceptions. No political fuckery on the left, everything seemed to work pretty well in terms of effects and results until its eventual repeal by a new centre-right government.

      Probably not so much relevant to your hypothesis because in effect the tax reductions were in accordance with the previously existing tax-reduction aims (i.e. reducing low to middle earners income tax burden) of the left leaning parties who brought it about. However one could make an argument against your hypothesis based on the fact that even the more ‘extreme’ left Green party was pretty damn happy with it (voted for it the second time around after thoroughly learning their lesson about shooting themselves in the foot).

      It’d probably be at least interesting to look in to if you want any more data.

      Several disclaimers if you do have a look into it:

      -I have some fairly strong biases on the issue (member of said Greens party, strong supporter of carbon pricing inc. revenue neutral tax), which probably creep into the above narrative.

      -The debate around the introduction and repeal of the Carbon Tax (sorry, ETS with initial fixed price period transitioning to a market based pricing mechanism) is so soaked in populism and weird contradictions on both the left and the right side of politics (both major parties have opposed and supported it and then flipped themselves back again as opportunities to score electoral points occur, and different factions within them gain and lose power) that it’s hard to tell whether it actually worked. The talk page on the wiki is a pretty good example of this.

      -Australian politics are generally a bit more left than the US as a whole, and some of our names are inverted (e.g. Liberal party being the ostensibly centre-right party opposed to the ostensibly centre-left Labor party)

      • cassander says:

        I am somewhat ware of the Australian example. My understanding is that the tax that actually passed had a very large rebate program attached to it that they called revenue neutral but which was, in effect, a new entitlement program, and as you say, a lot of other subsidies thrown in. I consider it evidence for my thesis, which is that the organized left (as opposed to the voters) will go along with such programs only if they benefit from the spoils.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          My understanding is that the tax that actually passed had a very large rebate program attached to it that they called revenue neutral but which was, in effect, a new entitlement program, and as you say, a lot of other subsidies thrown in. I consider it evidence for my thesis,

          The Washington state program referenced by the Vox article also contains a rebate program (specifically a state supplement to the federal EITC). So if Australia isn’t evidence against your thesis, Washington isn’t evidence for it.

          • cassander says:

            The Washington share is small, 15 percent, with no subsidies. The Australian one was larger.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            The Washington share is small, 15 percent, with no subsidies.

            While I fully understand our host’s reluctance to allow them, this blatant goalpost-move really warrants a reply consisting solely of an in-line animated GIF.

            And it certainly doesn’t warrant anything more than that.

    • Anonymous says:

      One example of a thing being opposed by some members of group A does not demonstrate that group A will always oppose all things like it, especially when it’s a group that roughly half of the world belongs to.

      (The revenue-neutral carbon taxes that have been passed – which side of politics is responsible for them?)

      • cassander says:

        I am not aware of any that has passed, and, no, the Australian version was not revenue neutral.

    • SUT says:

      I’ve always claimed it’s unclear which side would actually go to the mat to prevent catastrophic global warming, if and when it became apparent.

      It is quite likely that the only effective way to prevent significant worldwide emissions is through military force directed at non-compliant blocs of nations. I mean you go tell the House of Saud they’ve had a nice run, but it’s time to leave the rest of their reserves in the ground and figure out a new national revenue source. Or maybe Jill Stein and Banksy can convince with them with street art?

      And “bombing the brown people” is just the start: If and when we cut off cheap energy, food prices, transportation costs, and heating, the core of the working family’s budget, are going to be largest drop in real standard of living for the lower middle class in the modern era.

      Oh, or we could [just / in addition] do some geo-engineering! Scatter kilotons of *chemicals* into the wind everyday. Cue the pictures of cleft palette children.

      Did I mention all these sacrifices and calamities will be incurred while the US, or large regions within the US, remain completely ecologically neutral or even are slightly positively affected by the changes (up to +2C). “We do all this”, they’ll say, “to preserve the albino water buffalo, so some rich guy on the safari can shoot one.”

      • dragnubbit says:

        The more likely scenario to me is that a motivated state actor would just engage in its own climate forcing effects. Seeding algae blooms or sulfur injection into the upper atmosphere at scales expected to have serious climate effects I believe are already within the economic and technical capacity of modern nation states and would fit the psychology of a nation like China (which has shown little concern for ecological devastation).

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      A while back I made the assertion that the revenue neutral carbon taxes (that is, passing carbon taxes but lowering other taxes an equal amount) were a good policy, but they would invariably be blocked by the left. This position was challenged.

      As much as I am loathe to have anything nice to say about Vox, this appeared today vindicating my position.

      In the previous discussion I offered the examples of British Columbia’s carbon tax, which was implemented by the Liberals, Australia’s carbon tax, which was implemented by Labour, and several Congressional bills put forward by leftist Democrats.

      These examples alone are sufficient to disprove your statement that such proposals would invariably be blocked by the left. The resistance Vox cites to a separate carbon tax proposal in Washington State does not vindicate your proposition. It vindicates a weaker bordering on trivial proposition (that such proposals are not invariably supported by the left) which you did not advance and I would not dispute.

      • cassander says:

        I don’t know about B.C. was it revenue neutral? I doubt it. Australia definitely wasn’t.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Yes.

          Hopefully revision 4 of your proposition fares better than revisions 1-3.

          • I am a bit skeptical of that short article. It says that the BC carbon tax must be revenue neutral by law, but a lot of folks have different ideas on what is revenue neutral. For example, Washington’s proposed law was said to be revenue neutral, but a piece of it included an additional credit related to the EITC. That is part of tax returns, but in substance is welfare and not a reduction of tax.

            Although it does appear by the figure on page 7 of this pdf that the offsets are mostly taxes.

          • cassander says:

            According to BC’s budget, about a third to half of the money raised was turned into highly specifc tax credits, not general reductions in taxes. When you pay people to do specific things, it is still spending even if you call the payment a tax credit. So I stand by my original assertion, which remains unaltered.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            According to BC’s budget, about a third to half of the money raised was turned into highly specifc tax credits, not general reductions in taxes. When you pay people to do specific things, it is still spending even if you call the payment a tax credit. So I stand by my original assertion, which remains unaltered.

            At this point I’m pretty comfortable leaving veracity of your assertion and the extent to which it is unaltered to the reader; I see nothing to gain from engaging further.

          • cassander says:

            @Anonymous Bosch

            No, more engagement would just make you look even sillier. I feel for you though, nothing sucks more than having a lovely theory wrecked by anything as sordid as official budget documents.

          • “At this point I’m pretty comfortable leaving veracity of your assertion and the extent to which it is unaltered to the reader”

            This reader looked at the budget document that your opponent linked to.

            Total reduction in revenue due to designated measures 2012/13:
            1.323 billion

            Tax credits under personal tax measures: 301 million
            (Items listed as tax credits or homeowner benefit)

            Tax credits under business tax measures: 101 million

            So almost a third of the supposed tax reduction consisted of tax credits given to various groups.

            Do you disagree?

          • Iain says:

            In case you have not been following the entire conversation, David, the original assertion was “revenue-neutral carbon taxes will invariably by blocked by the left”. It has now been reduced to quibbles about whether or not tax credits really count as revenue-neutral. Nobody disputes that BC used tax credits to offset its carbon tax. The real disagreement appears to be whether we grant cassander the fig leaf of pretending that this was his true argument all along. Given that he demonstrably knew nothing about the BC tax cuts before Anonymous Bosch brought them up, I know which way I lean.

          • Jiro says:

            Whether a particular tax disproves a statement about revenue-neutral taxes depends on whether the tax counts as revenue-neutral. Arguing “that isn’t revenue neutral” isn’t a quibble; it’s a relevant factor that if true would make the example inapplicable.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            It does, however, depend on a definition of “revenue-neutral” which is different from the standard definition of “no net change in government revenues.” At this point in the discussion, spanning multiple threads, cassander has rejected:

            – Targeted tax credits, which do not provide revenue to the government, but are “paying people to do specific things” and therefore the same because Reasons
            – Fee-and-dividend rebate systems, because these supposedly create a new entitlement (even though they are based on revenues and not a statutory requirement to $X)
            – Actually new rebates are fine as long as they don’t exceed 15% (upthread when I pointed out the WA example wouldn’t fit his proposition under those standards either)

            So now the definition of revenue neutral is something like “a tax resulting in no net government revenues where no more than 15% is distributed as flat rebates and the remainder is cut exclusively from general taxes.”

            An infinitely malleable definition is not worth debating. I wouldn’t like a carbon tax which was offset exclusively by increases in badly targeted tax credits to various Stuff I Don’t Like. But I would attack it on those grounds, not pretend that bad tax credits means it somehow doesn’t count as revenue neutral.

          • cassander says:

            >Nobody disputes that BC used tax credits to offset its carbon tax. The real disagreement appears to be whether we grant cassander the fig leaf of pretending that this was his true argument all along.

            If you use the money from a carbon tax to create a massive hole digging tax subsidy, you’re not doing anything significantly different from taxing the money than paying people to dig holes. Calling the former revenue neutral and the latter not is confuse accounting with reality. the carbon tax expenditures include an 88 billion subsidy for filmmaking, 69 billion for northern and rural homeowners, 63 billion for interactive digital media, and numerous other subsidies. It is not revenue neutral, except in the narrowest possible sense.

            >Given that he demonstrably knew nothing about the BC tax cuts before Anonymous Bosch brought them up, I know which way I lean.

            I didn’t demonstrably know nothing, I said I knew nothing. Then I investigated and found that it does, in fact, include large targeted subsidies. That it is named the revenue neutral carbon tax does not make it so.

          • “Targeted tax credits, which do not provide revenue to the government, but are “paying people to do specific things” and therefore the same because Reasons”

            You don’t think the reasons are obvious? Do you assume that the reason government collects taxes is to put the money under its mattress? If the idea of government revenue is to give the money to the government to spend, why does it matter whether the expenditure is labeled a payment or a tax credit?

          • Jiro says:

            An infinitely malleable definition is not worth debating.

            Of course it is.

            As an exercise, try to define the classic example, “chair”. When you do this with most people, they’ll end up having to modify their definition with more and more subclauses just so it precisely covers what they want it to mean. A chair is an object which is meant for sitting, or which is designed such that people think of its use for sitting, which is not as long as a bench or as narrow as a horizontal pool, and which has legs but is not a stoool, except for beanbag chairs, etc.

            The fact that someone defines “revenue neutral tax” in a similar way is no more of a problem than the fact that they define “chair” that way, and only indicates a problem with the way everyone uses definitions and semantics, not a problem with their understanding of revenue neutral taxes.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      One moral is that if you suspect that climate change is being used to push a broad liberal agenda, some environmentalists aren’t doing that and some shamelessly are. Supporting the former might be a way to head off the latter.

  11. Carinthium says:

    Question in case anyone here would know. I’ve been looking at various sources which say that executives in the triple A gaming industry are irrational and grossly out of touch with what is actually profitable and what gamers actually want, due to being old men inexperienced with actual gaming. And I have seen very odd signs, such as Koonami with Hideo Kojima, the destruction of the Sims brand, Square Enix doubting the profitability of the JRPGs that made them famous etc.

    On the other hand, the reasons why microtransactions and DLC are implemented seem to make perfect sense. Further, it seems a good general rule not to assume that the entire industry is run by idiots despite the intelligence necessary to become an executive in the first place without very strong evidence.

    Can anyone help me out here? How out of touch are gaming executives, really?

    • Anonymous says:

      How out of touch are gaming executives, really?

      I think they might well be hideously out of touch with what gamers want in many cases — although I’m not on a first-name basis with a majority of them so I won’t try to determine that — and still be very clear on what makes money in a concrete sense, e.g. “charge $60 for the game that took 200 000 man hours to make, then charge another ten bucks for a horse that one of the art guys bashed together in three hours”.

      On the economic end the good practice (for making money hand over fist, that is) is much more clear-cut than it is on the artistic end, not to mention that what gamers want often conflicts with the economics (DLC horses being an obvious example: gamers want that shit right in the box, or for free if it’s a downloadable upgrade. But they’ll still fuckin’ pay, at least some of them, so automatically the more profitable route is to fuck the gamers over).

      • Carinthium says:

        That sounds logically like it makes a lot of sense. That being said, I find it hard to believe that sacking the guy that made Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill profitable and cancelling the Silent Hill games made any sense. Or that it was a good idea for Square Enix to abandon the JRPG gamers, as proved by the success of Bravely Default. Or that the way EA acted when they bought Maxis regarding the Sims as a franchise made sense.

        That’s why I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong- I’m on the fence on this one.

        • Space Attorney says:

          I feel like a lot of these supposed discrepancies can be explained either by “good art isn’t profitable”, which extends to every entertainment industry, or “the target market for most of the ‘bad’ decisions happens to be significantly larger and less vocal than the target market for the ‘good’ decision”.

          Case in point on the second one is Konami. By dropping Kojima and Silent Hills they’ve drawn the ire of a lot of people (and rightly so). But they did this because they were dropping standard video game development altogether to focus on pachinko (think Plinko from The Price is Right turned into a slot machine), which is a far simpler and far more lucrative endeavor. I’m not sure what catalyzed this change, but no matter how much backlash it garners it’s a near certainty that it’ll be profitable. Pachinko is huge in Japan.

          How this affects other companies and games I’m not quite so sure. Nowadays I generally just default to the position of “there must be some huge, nebulous fargroup that makes X baffling decision make sense economically”.

    • BBA says:

      Well, maybe the execs have a point in ignoring what gamers want. I have it on good authority that gamers don’t need to be the audience for video games, and in fact gamers are over… right, I’ll get my coat.

    • Equinimity says:

      I left the industry in 2010, so I’m not up to date on current trends but this stuff didn’t change much over the years I was a code monkey.

      My experience was the people who ultimately paid my rent back then have a fair idea of what’s profitable, but not why. As a result, you get a lot of grasping at something that ought to be profitable but then focusing on the wrong aspect. One of the more bizarre bits of my career was working 22 hours straight to change the menus from a pastel cartoonish style that matched the level design to a brushed metal style the night before we shipped. Why? Because a senior exec had seen his nephew playing whatever the FPS of the month was at the time and wanted our game to ‘look like that’. He was right that it sold 20 times as much as we did, but the art style wasn’t the reason.

      So, microtransactions and DLC are a straight financial decision that they’ll make pretty accurately. Choosing IP on the basis of previous sales is something that they’ll project fairly well too, barring the unforeseen. (*) When execs meddle in game design though, it’s a cargo cult style of decision making.

      * – Don’t be working on a ‘survive the disaster’ game when an identical disaster kills tens of thousands. We canned the game, there was no way to finish it without looking like we were trying to cash in on people’s deaths.

    • Anonymous says:

      http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011/02/02/making-crash-bandicoot-part-1/

      ^ Andy Gavin, maker of Crash Bandicoot tells his stories from the trenches ^

      Its a long read, but contains a lot of stories about clueless and malicious execs. He says that his entire team had to threaten to quit in order to force them to avoid naming the game Willy the Wombat.

    • MereComments says:

      Long time industry veteran here. I would echo what Equinimty said about execs knowing what’s profitable, but not why. I’ve worked for 4 different publishers (two now defunct) over the past decade and a half, and there’s a spectrum of competence and out-of-touch-ness among the execs. Clueless businessmen who think they’re creative and make terrible strategic decisions (“we’re making the next World of Warcraft/GTA/Call of Duty! But with none of the experience and with 1/3rd the budget”) are definitely a real thing. But so are execs that are very clear about being the business end, and the developer being the creative end, and making that relationship function well and profitably.

      Two points that are tangential but related to your question. “What gamers want”. It’s pretty common wisdom in game development that the most vocal and hardcore gamers are a tiny percentage of the overall gamer population. Yes, they are a critical demographic, and yes, they can drive the narrative, but conflating what people are screaming about on the most hardcore of the hardcore forums with “what gamers want” will give you disastrous tunnel vision. The devs themselves are prone to this sort of thinking as well (and generally more aware/in touch with the most hardcore viewpoints), and part of the job of the leads is to keep the eye on the big picture.

      The “cluelessness” of execs. Even for the savvy execs who generally make smart decisions and allow the devs of a lot of creative freedom, AAA games are essentially a crapshoot. Unless you’re on your 4th iteration of a title with a familiar team and familiar tech, you are investing a HUGE amount of money into a project with a multi-year time horizon and more unknown unknowns than any other media, like say film. The burn rates for large AAA projects can be jaw-dropping, and if the devs start hitting significant roadblocks in terms of tech or quality, you are going to panic unless you have nerves of steel. Even granting that some execs are as clueless as they seem, a lot of stuff that seems incomprehensibly dumb from the outside comes out of this pressure cooker environment.

    • LPSP says:

      Oh boy, one of my old pet topics! The line to draw in the sand here is between business decisions and game decisions. The major powers at the head of video gaming’s triopoly – and that includes legendary veteran designers like Shigeru Miyamoto of Mario and Zelda fame – are almost all criticised as being out of touch with the gaming experiences player’s want. The strongest recent example in the Nintendo camp is the fiasco over a fan-made Metroid game, AM2R, which basically satisfied what everyone wanted from the franchise and has wanted for decades, unlike the games Nintendo actually releases. Similar parralels can be made with Valve’s attitude towards TF2, towards Games Workshop’s attitudes towards its flagship settings in the world of table-top gaming, and the examples listed in your own post et cetera.

      The thing people aren’t complaining about are how keen executives are to adapt their business models. No, the criticism there is at the decision-makers for being too sharp. Most executives are old and basically-obviously not in it for the joy of creating a dynamic, trailblazing or even solid product any more. They’re hedging nests for their grandchildren, pouring all their efforts into milking micro-transactions and what-have-you gimmickry without putting a jot of thought into what the games are actually like. This, they delegate to cheap, superficial colour-by-numbers design processes, and low-paid or outsourced groups that plainly got into the business for the money, or certainly at least not to do what they’re presently paid to do. So we get Final Fantasy mobile apps that resemble the games only at the cheapest level, with hordes of spammy soulless artwork collectibles not tied to any meaningful game decisions or compelling story developments, the equivalent of cheap plush collectibles. That’s largely what companies like Nintendo now furnish – they know their name and brand has huge innate pull, that everyone recognises Mario and Yoshi, and that people will fork out for safe nostalgia. The games are just plush toy adverts, or the experiences there-in are just plush-toyism to coin a phrase. All rounded corners and funny squeaky buttons, no meaning.

      I could go into many of these points in more detail. It’s a significant problem at the heart of most gaming, video or not, today. Video games as attire is more profitable/stomachable that video games as video games, and the people at the top are just plumping their reputations and lining their wallets now in any case. The best game design these days is done non-for-profit like AM2R, as the indie scene is rife with signally bullshit and SJWism, has been for years (that’s how many people became aware of SJWism, through the disconcerting events in inbred indie game circles and journalism). There’s a paucity of genuine thoughtful design where it counts in the high-powered industry, and perhaps it’s just because all the low-hanging fruit have been taken and no-one cares enough about the fringe cases to fill out of them. But a lot of people, especially people most-centric to “plays games for the depth” crowd, are dissatisfied and spend little on big budget productions, which reinforces the situation as the triopoly focuses on ever more superficial audiences. ‘S a clusterfuck.

      • Zorgon says:

        It does, however, present a number of opportunities to those who can figure out what that dissatisfied customer base want and – absolutely crucially – somehow cut through the unbelievable noise level to let them know that satisfying options exist.

        Unfortunately that latter is made more difficult by essentially every single force in play in gaming right now. Cash-in crap, shovelware, SJW indie shit, AAA loudhailers, media gatekeeping, and even the snarling anger of the dissatisfied core gamers themselves all serve to make it very hard indeed to get attention for your core-pleasing game.

        • LPSP says:

          Honestly Zorg (heh, I used to go by a name similar to that many years ago), I don’t see those clusterfuck forces going anywhere, anytime soon. The idea of some snappy startup turning the market upside down is a fantasy. The best thing that can happen – and arguably the source of the best things that have happened recently – is for an already-wealthy entrepeneur to pursue a vision and coordinate all the pieces together without being slaved down by the bullshit. Which raises the question of how to spontaneously generate philanthropic millionaires with gaming interests? Charity? Think of people without good games to play!

          (I thought of another item to add to my earlier list of “once-great companies gone completely soggy”, but I’ve forgotten now. Nintendo, Valve and Games Workshop are my typical big three examples, and now I can add Konami and Square-Enix to that list.)

  12. Alex S says:

    Nuclear weapons came up at the debate. Maybe it’s just motivated reasoning but the more I think about it, the more I think Trump is actually the safer candidate on foreign policy. Yes, he is proposing a radical departure from the status quo but the status quo seems irrational. We’re agreeing to launch nuclear weapons to defend countries and maybe get blown up ourselves. Why? What is worth that risk? Trump has also identified the most dangerous threat to the United States, which is Russia. A more Russia-friendly policy sounds smart. Liberal commentators say ambiguity about the Baltic states is bad, but there’s ambiguity about the ambiguity. A more charitable interpretation is Trump would just kick the Baltic states out of NATO. I don’t understand what’s coming out of some of these Democratic-leaning think tanks, either. Supposedly, it’s more dangerous if, say, Japan gets nuclear weapons. I don’t see why. The UK has nuclear weapons. That doesn’t mean the UK is going to attack America. Japan using nukes on another country would be awful, but the US agreeing to potentially launch them to defend Japan is also risky. It’s not clear why one is worse than the other. Nuclear proliferation is bad in general but that’s because it’s a proxy for the real problem, the risk of using the nuclear weapons.

    • jsmith says:

      I agree with you.

      I actually agree with Trump pretty strongly on lots of issues but he has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth and making reasonable stuff sound unreasonable. (This debate was a big example of that.) The media doesn’t help either.

      An example: Everyone is kvetching about his “we’ll see” answer about accepting the election results. If he reframed his answer in terms of the 2000 election, I think a lot less people (media excluded) would be angry.

      If I was running I would’ve framed my response along the lines of: “The integrity of the electoral process is very important, and when people lose faith in their electoral process, it should be taken very seriously. In 2000, we saw an election won by a very narrow margin, and the Gore campaign rightly raised the issue of the legitimacy of the election. With that in mind, we should take issues of voter fraud very seriously.”

      But of course, he answered in a way that could be interpreted as anything from revolution to ignoring his voters.

    • Sandy says:

      I don’t think it’s “dangerous” if Japan gets nuclear weapons because I think Japanese leadership is fairly stable, unlike say Pakistan. However it’s likely unhelpful and would aggravate tensions with China and South Korea for no good reason. Perhaps a nuke-sharing agreement like the US has with the EU and Turkey would be somewhat better (but probably not).

      • Wrong Species says:

        And what about Saudi Arabia getting nukes? Most people would be terrified. Trump says “absolutely”.

        • Alex S says:

          And Kerry says maybe we’ll give them a nuclear umbrella.

          • Wrong Species says:

            From what I can tell, nuclear umbrella just means a nuclear country using it’s military to protect a non-nuclear state. Provocative to some degree but certainly not outside the status quo and not alarming enough compared to Saudi Arabia actually having nukes. This whole thing where Trump supporters tell me about how much more peaceful Trump is going to be than Clinton is probably the most bizarre aspect of this race.

          • youzicha says:

            The point of the nuclear umbrella is to encourage states to not develop nuclear weapons. Extending it to Saudi Arabia is an anti-proliferation move.

        • Deiseach says:

          How would you stop Saudi Arabia getting nuclear weapons of its own? What pressure could you exert on them? If they said they felt their security depended on it, what could the USA realistically do about it – and what about “we’ll send our troops/drones in if you choose to do this”, is that a possible threat?

          I absolutely do not want Saudi Arabia to get nukes, I absolutely think IF Trump is thinking of helping them or not standing in their way it’s a dreadful idea*, but how are you going to stop them, given that American policy to date has been to try every avenue to keep them as an ally? Perhaps what Trump meant was “If they go ahead and get their own nukes, at least if we help them, we’ll have some input and some control over it rather than letting them do it on their own”.

          *I’m not at all sure what exactly he meant by the answer to those questions in that interview; it sounded more like he was saying “Yeah, if they get nukes, why not?” rather than “I’m going to give them nukes when I’m president”.

          • Anonymous says:

            Saudi Arabia isn’t Japan, Germany, or South Korea. Those countries just need to decide they want to build one and having done so it would be near trivial given their scientific, technological, and scientific capacities.

            The Saudis are in a position more like Iran where they’d have to import a great deal of the know-how and fiddly parts. That importation process is something that can be slowed down by external powers if probably not stopped altogether.

          • Deiseach says:

            That importation process is something that can be slowed down by external powers if probably not stopped altogether.

            But Saudi Arabia is a Western ally, not a presumed hostile state like Iran. How are you going to meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation that is an ally, by stopping them importing know-how and parts?

            That’s where the nitty-gritty of the matter lies, and where things start to unravel: either it’s made explicit that the West sucks up to the Saudis because of oil, influence in the region, and not wanting to piss them off and drive them to something more extreme than merely tolerating and promoting Wahhabism, or the gloves come off and Saudi Arabia is now an enemy or presumed hostile state and sanctions are imposed – have fun with that, the London property market won’t be very happy!

          • John Schilling says:

            But Saudi Arabia is a Western ally, not a presumed hostile state like Iran. How are you going to meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation that is an ally,

            By ending the alliance, among other things. My own expertise is in East Asian nonproliferation rather than Middle Eastern, but it seems to be universally understood that the US alliance with South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan is contingent on their not attempting to build nuclear weapons of their own and vanishes immediately if they do. I cannot imagine that, particularly in this post-frakking world, our alliance with the House of Saud is stronger than that with Japan.

            Most nations seem to believe that a strong alliance with the United States is a better defense than whatever sort of nuclear arsenal they can cobble together in isolation.

          • bean says:

            Most nations seem to believe that a strong alliance with the United States is a better defense than whatever sort of nuclear arsenal they can cobble together in isolation.

            This is actually really important. There’s a lot more to a nuclear deterrent than just the devices themselves, and to some extent, they are the easy part. The hard part is maintaining security and control when you have them dispersed and ready to respond. Outsourcing that to the US is really sensible, if you can trust the US to respond. Our current administration has damaged that trust badly.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ John Schilling

            Most nations seem to believe that a strong alliance with the United States is a better defense than whatever sort of nuclear arsenal they can cobble together in isolation.

            Israel certainly doesn’t.

            South Korea and Taiwan both have a particular situation where they may be subject to an overwhelming conventional attack and the US (conventional) firepower is a better bet than a suicidal nuking.

            Japan has a certain history with nuclear weapons.

            UK and France have nuclear arsenals, Germany doesn’t for obvious reasons, and there doesn’t seem to be any point for other Western European countries to have them.

            As to the strong alliance with the US, well, Philippines just told the US that it doesn’t need it any more : -/

          • sweeneyrod says:

            “Our current administration has damaged that trust badly.”
            How so?

          • bean says:

            @sweeneyrod

            How so?

            Their constant bungling in Syria springs to mind. The fact that they let the Russians move in and run the show despite talking a lot, and specifically the ‘red lines’ on chemical weapon use that didn’t actually get enforced.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @bean
            OK, I agree, I thought you were talking specifically about nukes.

          • John Schilling says:

            Israel certainly doesn’t.

            Israel got a unique deal where they can have an alliance with the United States and a nuclear arsenal, so long as they never openly test a nuclear weapon.

            Britain and France owe their thermonuclear arsenals, at least, to deliberate US assistance as a way of establishing a sort of political triad – even if e.g. the Russians can neutralize the US government by putting a Russian mole in the White House, there are three independent western leaders who can turn any Russian bid for world conquest into a game of Global Thermonuclear War.

            Pretty much everybody else signed the nonproliferation treaty, which rules out that sort of favoritism unless the US is willing to see the entire nonproliferation regime collapse.

          • bean says:

            Britain and France owe their thermonuclear arsenals, at least, to deliberate US assistance as a way of establishing a sort of political triad – even if e.g. the Russians can neutralize the US government by putting a Russian mole in the White House, there are three independent western leaders who can turn any Russian bid for world conquest into a game of Global Thermonuclear War.

            Even then, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for them. During McNamara’s tenure at the DoD, he tried to put together the MLF as a political weapon against those forces, because he was concerned that they might fly off the handle and start a nuclear war by themselves. (That makes little sense, I know. Welcome to McNamara’s DoD.)

        • The Nybbler says:

          We’ve been through this. Trump did not say Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons. He was asked two questions (one about Saudi Arabia and one about nuclear weapons) in a kind of an interview shorthand, and answered the one about Saudi Arabia with “absolutely”:

          http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2016/03/29/full-rush-transcript-donald-trump-cnn-milwaukee-republican-presidential-town-hall/

          TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have…

          COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

          TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

          COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

          TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Yes, I’m aware that in the previous conversation there was the strange interpretation that the moderator was asking two questions on whether Saudi Arabia should be allowed to protect itself and whether it should have nukes. But since no one is saying Saudi Arabia shouldn’t be able to use conventional military