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Open Thread 61.25

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480 Responses to Open Thread 61.25

  1. Deiseach says:

    I’m going to flail and gibber a bit on here, because I can’t do it over on the place I saw this nonsense, so you lucky people get the benefit instead.

    Can we kill this particular idea with fire, or at least educate the youth? (though they’re not the only ones who uncritically swallow this tripe). This is why, on the humanities side, I wish there was proper teaching of history and encouraging people to examine sources where they can, or at least the other side of a question where their natural bias is to nod in approval and say some version of “Of course I always thought that and now this proves it!”.

    I’m talking about the nine million killed in the Burning Times (and believe me, I’m sighing as heavily as any of you about this already).

    Now, there’s the faintest glimmer of an actual fact at the base of all this, but the tower of tripe erected on that tiny foundation soon buries it, and that has to do with the medicalisation of childbirth and moving from midwifery to doctors, and yes, that does mean that it was from female-directed to male-directed. All that is true. It’s even true to say that there may have been some downsides to this, the most egregious of which was the increase in puerperal fever and other post-partum infections. We don’t need to thrash this out again. You could, perhaps, argue over the increase in caesarean sections, which is not alone a USA but increasingly a global trend, is the natural outcome of turning pregnancy and childbirth into a process to be monitored, managed, and made revolve around convenience and schedules of the medical personnel involved (or not, there’s the opposing view that women are the ones driving the demand for various reasons).

    But what you don’t need to discuss is the baloney about (let me quote directly from the source which aggravated me here) “I bet a few hundred years ago a mid wife might actually have some kind of knowledge about conditions that affect women exclusively which we still haven’t bothered to research in our modern society” and the concomitant claptrap about witch burnings (which often weren’t burnings, but hangings and other methods of execution) “It is hard to arrive at a figure for the whole of the Continent and the British Isles, but the most responsible estimate would seem to be 9 million”.

    Argh. Argh, argh, argh, argh *accompanied by tearing out of hair*

    Why do people still believe this garbage? What is wrong with the youth of today? Why do young women feel the need to puff themselves up with nonsense on stilts about Special Sekrit Magickal Women Mysteries that the mean ol’ male-dominated Church and Society destroyed?

    God-Emperor AI turning us all into computronium can’t come fast enough!

    EDIT: I did a bit of a response and am now sitting back awaiting the fiery condemnation for being a misogynist woman-hater liar for contradicting reputable sources like Andrea Dworkin (for whom I have a great deal of sympathy due to her horrible personal life which plainly affected her outlook on the world and diverted her thinking into a particular channel, but telling us nine million women were killed because they were abortionists, euthanists, doctors, surgeons and drug dealers who provided medical and reproductive care for women and were blamed for victimising men is not what I’d call rigorously sourced history).

    • dndnrsn says:

      The European witch craze, which in some places killed more women than men, in some places more men than women, and in some places roughly equal, had absolutely nothing to do with midwives, or some Secret Pagan Religion that had somehow survived (reality: no pagan religion survived, and Wicca was made up from whole cloth). Source: a course on witchcraft, plus the texts, and the professor was a strong feminist of the academic variety, so I highly doubt she was out to hate on Wymynkynd.

      It’s the same as anthropological stuff that claims humans before agriculture were matriarchal Earth Mother worshippers. It’s based on extremely sketchy sources, and you sometimes still see people citing Robert Graves, which, uh, no.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        reality: no pagan religion survived

        That would depend on your definition of either “survived” or “pagan”. Saami Shamanism is still going fairly strong. Of course it has nothing to do with either witch burning, wicca or feminism, so your actual point is still valid.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Dang, I didn’t know there were still any.

          OK, to amend what I said: the witch craze wasn’t a suppression of some surviving pagan religion, Wicca isn’t a revival of some ancient pagan religion, and pagan religions weren’t proto-feminist.

          • Tibor says:

            By the way, it can be argued that catholicism itself is a little bit pagan. After all, there definitely is a lot of idol worship, there are pagan rituals adopted to catholicism in various countries (not just in Latin America, in Europe too – for example the Alpine Krampus and Frau Perchta/Pehta Baba). The saint worship make catholicism a half-polytheistic religion, you certainly don’t have anything like that in strictly monotheistic religions like Judaism, Islam or Protestantism.

            Ironically, Catholicism is the closest you can get to a living pre-christian European religion.

            Actually, this is also one reason why (despite being an atheist) I hold Catholicism quite dear (especially when it morphs into a tradition and leaves the religious aspects behind, ignoring the Bishop of Rome for the most part) whereas I have quite a distaste for Protestantism. It seems to me that Protestants care way too much about God and his rules and too little about the rituals and traditions.

            This is also seen in the way Catholic churches differ from the Protestant ones. Catholic churches are often opulent pieces of art, Protestant ones tend to be brusque and drab (unless they are repurposed Catholic ones). In the language of the Civilization series, a Protestant church produces +2 faith per turn but 0 culture whereas a Catholic one produces +1 faith and +1 culture, some even +2 culture 🙂

            Sure, their Protestantism might be a little more believable and “sensible”, but since from where I stand neither makes a whole lot of sense anyway, I prefer to forget about logic and enjoy the fun bits.

            Umm, I guess I’ve drifted off the main topic quite a bit. Sorry for that 🙂

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Tibor: Surely a similar point could be made about the Orthodox churches? Again, a lot of ritual, beautiful and highly-decorated churches, and veneration of saints. The sacraments are even referred to as Mysteries.

            Plus there are other things like the churches which are repurposed pagan temples.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            The word ‘pagan’ was invented by Catholics to separate the Abrahamic religions from the rest. It was little more than a term to identify these three groups:

            – Right God, right beliefs (Christians)
            – Right God, wrong beliefs (heretics)
            – Wrong God(s), wrong beliefs (pagans)

            In the language of the Civilization series, a Protestant church produces +2 faith per turn but 0 culture whereas a Catholic one produces +1 faith and +1 culture, some even +2 culture 🙂

            That culture was often very one-dimensional. The middle ages produced enormous amounts of religious paintings, sculptures, music, etc, but relatively few major advances in culture. It’s fun for us to experience it, because we have a ton of other culture next to it. Back then, it was a fairly stagnant mono-culture where people didn’t have rap music, rock music, jazz and church music. They mostly just had the latter. Boring.

            Protestantism was a major factor in getting Enlightenment and much faster progress on many terrains. The Protestant idea that Christian truth is not decided by the church, but derives from scripture alone, allowed for much more diversity of interpretation, which gave people much more freedom. I think that you fail to appreciate the many cultural and non-cultural benefits that Protestantism brought to the table, exactly because those benefits were not confined to the church buildings, but had much more impact on greater society.

            Judging a religion by how pretty their churches are is extremely superficial, IMO.

            (especially when it morphs into a tradition and leaves the religious aspects behind, ignoring the Bishop of Rome for the most part)

            Protestantism has had a major impact on Catholicism, especially in the way that most Catholics today think for themselves. I think that you’d be much less pleased by Catholicism if the Protestant influences had been missing.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That culture was often very one-dimensional. The middle ages produced enormous amounts of religious paintings, sculptures, music, etc, but relatively few major advances in culture. It’s fun for us to experience it, because we have a ton of other culture next to it. Back then, it was a fairly stagnant mono-culture where people didn’t have rap music, rock music, jazz and church music. They mostly just had the latter. Boring.

            No, that’s just flat-out wrong. There was plenty of secular music, art, poetry, literature, etc. in the Middle Ages.

            Protestantism was a major factor in getting Enlightenment and much faster progress on many terrains. The Protestant idea that Christian truth is not decided by the church, but derives from scripture alone, allowed for much more diversity of interpretation, which gave people much more freedom.

            Protestant countries were every bit as eager on enforcing doctrinal uniformity as Catholic ones. And if you believe, like Luther did, in the perspicuity of Scripture, it follows that anybody who disagrees with your (obviously correct) interpretation is either lying, stupid or evil — hardly an argument for allowing diversity of opinion in religious matters.

          • Tibor says:

            @Aapje: I think the superficial part is my point. To me the religious part of religion holds little value. The pretty buildings do.

            Also, similarly to Mr. X I am very skeptical about the whole “protestantism leads to enlightenment” idea. Many of the thinkers of the enlightenment were French for example, and France has always been catholic (and when not, then the protestants were quickly exterminated). Similarly, Italian renaissance city states were all catholic but also very liberal for their time (also innovative, the concept of banking comes from Italy for example). In fact, while it is probably true that protestants today (except maybe for the Bible belt protestants in the US, the Amish etc.) are less religious than Catholics, the original protestants were much more zealous.

            There are two things I actually like about the catholic doctrine – first is the idea that if you truly repent, your sins are forgiven. This element of forgiveness is what is missing in many protestant denominations (as far as I understand it). Another thing is the confession itself. I’ve never been to a confession (I am not even baptized) but it seems to me to be an early form of psychological counseling. The protestants are left alone in this.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s kind of misleading to talk about “secular” vs “religious” in the context of a lot of times and places. Dividing stuff up like that is a fairly modern thing – arguably a Western thing, arguably even a Protestant thing.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            No, that’s just flat-out wrong. There was plenty of secular music, art, poetry, literature, etc. in the Middle Ages.

            I think we disagree on ‘plenty’ here. The Middle Ages lasted for many centuries, but if you compensate for that and look at how much cultural artifacts were made per year, I think that the non-religious cultural output pales in comparison to the Age of Enlightenment.

            Protestant countries were every bit as eager on enforcing doctrinal uniformity as Catholic ones. And if you believe, like Luther did, in the perspicuity of Scripture, it follows that anybody who disagrees with your (obviously correct) interpretation is either lying, stupid or evil — hardly an argument for allowing diversity of opinion in religious matters.

            Even in it’s most oppressive period, The Netherlands allowed Catholics to practice their faith in secret and they never killed entire groups of ‘heretics’ like happened in Catholic countries. Furthermore, under Protestantism no man can dictate dogma, like the Pope. Luther was quite a hardliner (and an anti-semite), but none of his writings are considered dogma by Protestants. They see him as a man with an opinion, not a prophet or uniquely infused with the Holy Spirit. That matters.

            @Tibor

            I’m not arguing that Protestantism is better in all ways and I agree that it can be a depressing faith (that I do not believe). It was more that I thought that your ‘review’ of the faith didn’t do it justice, even by your own standards.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, similarly to Mr. X I am very skeptical about the whole “protestantism leads to enlightenment” idea.

            I am much less skeptical of the “competition in religion leads to enlightenment” idea. Protestantism in isolation may be the less enlightened branch of Christianity, but introducing it as a credible option I believe forced Protestant and Catholic alike into a more enlightened mindset than either would have chosen in isolation.

            Certainly when I think of great intellectual work coming out of the Catholic tradition, it mostly comes in the eras when the Catholics were actively competing with other faiths for mindshare.

          • Nyx says:

            If Popery was really keeping Europe in the Dark Ages, we should expect France and Italy to be cultural backwaters and Germany and Britain to be flourishing after shaking off the shackles of Rome. This is, uh, not what happened.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Even in it’s most oppressive period, The Netherlands allowed Catholics to practice their faith in secret and they never killed entire groups of ‘heretics’ like happened in Catholic countries.

            Protestants did more fun things, like throwing Catholics out of windows.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think we disagree on ‘plenty’ here. The Middle Ages lasted for many centuries, but if you compensate for that and look at how much cultural artifacts were made per year, I think that the non-religious cultural output pales in comparison to the Age of Enlightenment.

            On what grounds do you think that? And what exactly counts as a “cultural artefact”? (Would, e.g., a folk song that’s circulated orally but never written down count? Why/why not?)

            Even in it’s most oppressive period, The Netherlands allowed Catholics to practice their faith in secret and they never killed entire groups of ‘heretics’ like happened in Catholic countries.

            And in England, being a Catholic was considered high treason and punishable by death. Plus, “You can practise your faith, provided you do so in secret and never tell anybody” isn’t exactly a tolerant, pluralistic attitude to have.

            Furthermore, under Protestantism no man can dictate dogma, like the Pope.

            Luther, Calvin et al. did dictate dogma (Calvin even set up his own theocracy in Geneva), even if they denied that that was what they were doing. Just try publically disagreeing with the established Church in Elizabethan England, and see where that gets you.

          • Deiseach says:

            Back then, it was a fairly stagnant mono-culture where people didn’t have rap music, rock music, jazz and church music. They mostly just had the latter. Boring.

            No jazz? Oh well, throw it all out then! 🙂

            I know nothing about rap, so I’m going to have to randomly google for rap lyrics and do a comparison. Okay, so this is apparently the current number one rap song, some sample lyrics:

            Hey lil’ mama would you like to be my sunshine?
            Nigga touch my gang we gon’ turn this shit to Columbine
            Ice on my neck cost me 10 times 3
            30, 000 dollars for a nigga to get flee
            I just hit Rodéo and I spent like 10 Gs
            I just did a show and spent the check on my mama
            When I go on vacay I might rent out the Bahamas

            The nearest to this would probably be the Goliard songs and poems of the 12th century, as in the famous Carmina Burana. There were secular musicians as well as church ones; secular dance music, songs both folk and art, and other kinds of music.

            Indeed, in the later mediaeval/early renaissance period, secular songs were often (to the scandal of some) used as inspiration for church music; see L’homme armé, a very famous example widely used by many composers over a long period (and indeed by the pop-classical Karl Jenkins in his 1999 commission The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace).

            I tend to prefer the original composers 🙂

            But yes, imagine having to live without jazz music. Oh, the humanity! How would I ever survive? (Jazz is very much not my genre, in case you didn’t know).

          • rlms says:

            @Deiseach
            You might prefer this rap music (spot the sci-fi references).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Or this one.

            And, if you want a bit of non-religious mediaeval music, here’s a few jolly dance tunes.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            Good point, but Protestantism still deserves credit for being that competition, which was not without cost.

            @Gobbobobble

            Protestants did more fun things, like throwing Catholics out of windows.

            I was talking about situations where believers were killed for their faith. In cases where people in government use their power to enforce a faith, they open themselves up to the same kind of revolutionary violence that has happened to secular leaders. I think that there is a huge difference between killing someone who forces you to be Catholic than killing people who practice Catholicism, but don’t particularly bother you.

            The victims of both the 1st and 2nd Defenestration of Prague were political leaders who were considered oppressive by the people who killed them.

            @Nyx

            If Popery was really keeping Europe in the Dark Ages, we should expect France and Italy to be cultural backwaters and Germany and Britain to be flourishing after shaking off the shackles of Rome.

            My argument was that Popery stimulates a monoculture. You can still have a rich monoculture and a poor multiculture.

            There are other factors involved, of course. Holland and Germany both had Protestantism and yet were quite different.

            @The original Mr. X

            And what exactly counts as a “cultural artefact”? (Would, e.g., a folk song that’s circulated orally but never written down count? Why/why not?)

            It’s clearly a very subjective argument, but I was thinking more about ‘high culture.’ Folk songs seemed to have little cultural development in general, regardless of which faith was in charge.

            And in England, being a Catholic was considered high treason and punishable by death.

            I don’t think that the early Anglican church can be called Protestant and in fact, it prosecuted both Protestants and Catholics.

            There was a lot of history involving protestant reforms and counter-movements that I’m not very knowledgeable about, but I don’t think that your example is very good.

            Luther, Calvin et al. did dictate dogma (Calvin even set up his own theocracy in Geneva), even if they denied that that was what they were doing.

            If a (smallish) subset within a religion have dogma, that is a cult. Luther and Calvin may have tried to establish dogma, but they failed.

            It is fundamentally different for a religion to have an authority whose dogma you have to accept to be considered part of the church, than to have people with no special authority claim an interpretation and try to get people to accept this interpretation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s clearly a very subjective argument, but I was thinking more about ‘high culture.’ Folk songs seemed to have little cultural development in general, regardless of which faith was in charge.

            And on what grounds do you say that the Middle Ages produced less “high culture” than the eighteenth century?

            I don’t think that the early Anglican church can be called Protestant and in fact, it prosecuted both Protestants and Catholics.

            The Anglican Church explicitly supported sola sciptura and sola fide, and rejected the authority of the Pope. Later Anglo-Catholic revisionism aside, the Anglican Church is and was a Protestant body.

            Plus, persecuting both Protestants and Catholics doesn’t prove anything. Calvinists and Lutherans did the same because, as mentioned above, Protestant states were equally keen to enforce doctrinal unity as Catholic ones. Or are we not counting Calvin and Luther as Protestants now?

            If a (smallish) subset within a religion have dogma, that is a cult. Luther and Calvin may have tried to establish dogma, but they failed.
            It is fundamentally different for a religion to have an authority whose dogma you have to accept to be considered part of the church, than to have people with no special authority claim an interpretation and try to get people to accept this interpretation.

            The Reformers would have denied that they were preaching an “interpretation”, and instead say that they were preaching the clear, objective meaning of the Bible, as is obvious to anybody who’s not evil. Saying that your views are obviously correct and only a depraved person could possibly disagree isn’t really conducive to pluralism and freedom of thought.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t think that the early Anglican church can be called Protestant and in fact, it prosecuted both Protestants and Catholics.

            Anglicanism has its own problems; Henry VIII never meant to establish a ‘new’ church, he was claiming political authority to decide the governance of the church in his realm (and also some questions of theology, where he got his tame bishops to agree with him – he did dabble in theology and had a good opinion of his learning, perhaps due to being awarded a papal title as fidei defensor, which – ironically, as English law does not allow its subjects to accept or use papal titles nowadays – has been kept as a title of the monarch and may still be seen on the coinage as the letters F.D.) He was traditional in his dogma (save for one or two innovations as noted) and the political and religious struggles around influencing him to be sympathetic to the Continental Reformers were often fraught; the marriage with Anne of Cleves being one such attempt. Struggles for religious influence were also struggles for political influence and vice versa in Henry’s court. He sacked the monasteries because he needed money to prosecute his wars on the Continent, and repressing vice and purifying religion were convenient excuses. His last wife, Catherine Parr, was very much sympathetic to the Reformed cause and was much more Protestant herself, urging the king to take the Protestant view in matters, which got her into trouble as the anecdote about her astute management of the aging, ailing and tyrannical Henry (and preservation of her head on her shoulders) shows when her enemies at Court had persuaded him to sign the warrant for her arrest in 1546:

            In 1546, the Bishop of Winchester and Lord Wriothesley tried to turn the king against her. An arrest warrant was drawn up for her and rumours abounded across Europe that the King was attracted to her close friend, the Duchess of Suffolk. However, she saw the warrant and managed to reconcile with the King after vowing that she had only argued about religion with him to take his mind off the suffering caused by his ulcerous leg.

            After Henry’s death and the accession of his son, Edward VII, to the throne, the fledging Anglican Church was pulled in a much more ‘Protestant’ direction since Edward – under the influence of his maternal uncles – had been educated in a much more Reformed faith. This influenced the further purification and purging of the Anglican Church. Mary Tudor, who was Catholic, and Elizabeth I who was brought up in Catherine Parr’s Protestant household but whose own attitudes are hard to tell, also set their stamp on the matter.

            Because of the intermingling of Church and State in Anglicanism, where the State (in the person of the King) had asserted its right of governance over church matters, and extended this to oversight of theological matters, the poor old Church of England has been pulled backwards and forwards between various strands of belief and doctrine, not alone from the monarchs and governments of the day but from within. The song “The Vicar of Bray” satirises the entire affair by delineating the twists and turns by which a clergyman manages to keep his position in his local church by altering his stated theology and doctrines to the prevailing winds of fashion under each succeeding reign:

            In good King Charles’s golden days,
            When Loyalty no harm meant;
            A Zealous High-Church man I was,
            And so I gain’d Preferment.
            Unto my Flock I daily Preach’d,
            Kings are by God appointed,
            And Damn’d are those who dare resist,
            Or touch the Lord’s Anointed.

            (Chorus) And this is law, I will maintain
            Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
            That whatsoever King may reign,
            I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

            When Royal James possest the crown,
            And popery grew in fashion;
            The Penal Law I shouted down,
            And read the Declaration:
            The Church of Rome I found would fit
            Full well my Constitution,
            And I had been a Jesuit,
            But for the Revolution.

            When William our Deliverer came,
            To heal the Nation’s Grievance,
            I turn’d the Cat in Pan again,
            And swore to him Allegiance:
            Old Principles I did revoke,
            Set conscience at a distance,
            Passive Obedience is a Joke,
            A Jest is non-resistance.

            When Royal Anne became our Queen,
            The Church of England’s Glory,
            Another face of things was seen,
            And I became a Tory:
            Occasional Conformists base
            I Damn’d, and Moderation,
            And thought the Church in danger was,
            From such Prevarication.

            When George in Pudding time came o’er,
            And Moderate Men looked big, Sir,
            My Principles I chang’d once more,
            And so became a Whig, Sir.
            And thus Preferment I procur’d,
            From our Faith’s great Defender
            And almost every day abjur’d
            The Pope, and the Pretender.

            The Illustrious House of Hanover,
            And Protestant succession,
            To these I lustily will swear,
            Whilst they can keep possession:
            For in my Faith, and Loyalty,
            I never once will faulter,
            But George, my lawful king shall be,
            Except the Times shou’d alter.

          • rlms says:

            @Mr. X
            If you compare the Wikipedia pages of 15th and 16th century English writers, there is a dramatic difference between them (and the trend continues in both directions). There is a clear correlation between the introduction of Protestantism and an increase in secular English literature, but I don’t think there is a causal relationship; there are lots of confounding factors and counter-evidence (such as Dante and Petrarch living in 14th century Italy).

          • Anonymous says:

            Could it be the invention of the printing press?

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            And on what grounds do you say that the Middle Ages produced less “high culture” than the eighteenth century?

            I didn’t claim that they produced less high culture in quantity, but rather less diverse and free-thinking high culture. I don’t have hard evidence, but when visiting art museums, the medieval paintings seem to be mainly portraits and religious imagery.

            There seems way more diversity in the depicted images for later periods.

            Later Anglo-Catholic revisionism aside, the Anglican Church is and was a Protestant body.

            The history of the Anglican church is very different from the Reformed, Calvinist, etc churches. The former broke away mainly over the desire by Henry VIII to annul his marriage, which wasn’t really a theological disagreement.

            As such, the Anglican church was much closer to Catholicism at first than the Reformed, Calvinist, etc churches were right away. In fact, the Church of England became Catholic again in 1554 and then split away again in 1559. So I think that it is unfair to take the behavior of the early Anglican church and call it Protestant (or Catholic). It was still moving away from Catholicism to Protestantism and thus was somewhere in between.

            Deiseach explains this more in detail above.

            Saying that your views are obviously correct and only a depraved person could possibly disagree isn’t really conducive to pluralism and freedom of thought.

            There is a difference between:
            – I know better than you, because the Bible clearly favors my interpretation
            – I know better than you because God chose me as a special messenger and what I say is right

            The former allows much more for disagreement by doing exegesis differently.

            Also, my claim is not that all Protestants were pluralist and favored freedom of thought, but rather that it was much harder for less freedom-loving Protestants to suppress the more freedom-loving Protestants.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ rlms:

            @Mr. X
            If you compare the Wikipedia pages of 15th and 16th century English writers, there is a dramatic difference between them (and the trend continues in both directions). There is a clear correlation between the introduction of Protestantism and an increase in secular English literature, but I don’t think there is a causal relationship; there are lots of confounding factors and counter-evidence (such as Dante and Petrarch living in 14th century Italy).

            And as the Renaissance link below points out, the period from 1550 onward was culturally fertile compared to the previous period across Europe, not just in countries which converted to Protestantism.

            @ Aapje:

            I didn’t claim that they produced less high culture in quantity, but rather less diverse and free-thinking high culture. I don’t have hard evidence, but when visiting art museums, the medieval paintings seem to be mainly portraits and religious imagery.

            That remains the case well into the 17th century, long after the Middle Ages ended.

            So I think that it is unfair to take the behavior of the early Anglican church and call it Protestant (or Catholic).

            The Church of English was Protestant from at least the reign of Elizabeth; Catholicism was illegal until the late 18th century, and Catholics and Nonconformists faced a variety of legal disabilities until the late 19th century.

            The former allows much more for disagreement by doing exegesis differently.

            Again, the Reformers’ belief was that Scripture was so clear that anybody could understand it. Hence, anybody who claimed to have a different interpretation was either lying or had their minds clouded by evil. If anything, the Catholic view that the Bible is often hard to interpret allows for more plurality, outside of a few official dogmas.

            Also, my claim is not that all Protestants were pluralist and favored freedom of thought, but rather that it was much harder for less freedom-loving Protestants to suppress the more freedom-loving Protestants.

            You haven’t given any good evidence that this was in fact the case.

          • Tibor says:

            By the way, there is also the Old Catholic church, which is catholic while it does not recognize the Pope. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Catholic_Church

            However, they split off from Rome much later than the Protestants and are more similar to Roman catholics than (probably, hard to say since there are so many protestant churches) any protestants.

      • Aapje says:

        @dndnrsn

        The European witch craze […] had absolutely nothing to do with midwives

        I have some experience debating feminists and I’ve seen witch prosecution used as feminist evidence for the patriarchy (although not often); but never this connection to midwives.

        I suspect that Deiseach encountered one kook who combined his/her anti-modern medicine beliefs with feminism and ended up with this nonsense.

    • Randy M says:

      Wasn’t there a thread here recently about bringing up Dworkin as an authoritative feminist being a straw-man?

      • Corey says:

        I did that, sorry. But this doesn’t seem to be one of the problematic cases.

        The only times I’ve ever seen her cited is in rape discussions, as “see, feminists believe that all male/female sex is rape” when that position is pretty fringe.

        • Randy M says:

          But this doesn’t seem to be one of the problematic cases.

          No, rather it is an example of random internet feminist didn’t get the memo that Dworkin is fringe.

    • Corey says:

      You may be overestimating how common this belief is. I’m pretty SJWey (a Social Justice Squire, at least), and this is the first I’ve heard of it.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Agreed. People say stupid things on the internet. It’s too much to expect that not to be the case.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Really? I’d heard of this belief long before I’d heard anyone say “social justice” in the modern context, or see people use the epithet “SJW”. It predates the internet by a long time.

        There’s some old early-to-mid-20th-century academic theories that were a weird mix of speculation, Robert Graves being wacky, and some kind of weird Rousseau/Marx mishmash (admittedly, the last one more in the “hunter-gatherers were peaceful!” line than the “hunter-gatherers were matriarchal goddess-worshippers!” line).

        I remember being rather peeved that the witch museum in Salem, MA had some line in there about how Wicca was a survival of ancient pagans, the European witch craze was an attempt to wipe them out, etc. Just completely wrong.

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh, I’m not saying it was in a SJ context; it was a random post on Tumblr which was reblogged by a mutual. What got my entire herd of wild goats was the jumping in from original “midwives better than obstetricians because wimmins!” (which is an arguable point, at least for the very early period) which then dragged it off to witchcraft, the alleged Burning Times, and somebody then brought up the Voynich Manuscript.

        Gentles, I know ye are all well-acquainted with that mysterious and disputed work, but did ye know the riddle has been solved? Hearken, wisdom! Quoting verbatim (God help us all):

        Ever heard of the Voynich manuscript? Big, huge, herbal / medical / astronomical lexicon from the 1400s, depicting lots of naked women clearly performing rituals that serve medical functions, lots of them pretty clearly related to childbirth.

        You know, this book that is written in a language that nobody has been able to read for 600 years, but nobody, and I mean NO MAN has ever even thought about the simple reality of WOMEN having written it.

        I found one blog post by a woman about how this text is very clearly written by women, and the knowledge within it has been completely annihilated or co-opted by men who now don’t even consider the possibility that a woman, or multiple women, could have written something like this.

        Seriously, look it up. Naked women. Fat, short, in baths, all of it. And the entire academic world is absolutely convinced this must have been written by a man. In the wikipedia article, only male linguists and historians are mentioned, because only they matter. And every single one of their theories is laughingly phallocentric and simply wrong.

        They go so far as say that aliens wrote it before they consider that women actually had herbal and medicinal knowledge and passed that knowledge on, in secret, written in languages only they knew, so that no priest or holy man or inquisitor could read it and kill them.

        Open your eyes. This has been going on for hundreds of years. Women had to hide in the shadows, had to invent languages, just to avoid being killed by men for trying to help themselves and other women. This is reality.

        Now I have to go find a wall to bang my head against 🙁

        • dndnrsn says:

          Wait. This is completely wackadoodle. If there’s some secret women’s language, than why doesn’t some female academic solve the problem and translate the Voynich Manuscript? She’d be famous, for a given quantity of “famous”. And it’s not as though cryptographers have not been able to crack the code because cryptography differs based on the sex of the person who made the code.

          • Deiseach says:

            This is completely wackadoodle.

            You see why brain damage by concussive force is more appealing?

            On the bright side, Jose Mourinho is not having a nice time in Manchester, the poor love. Ah, poor guy, stuck in a tatty only-five-star hotel, a measly £12 million a year salary to scrape by on (no wonder he has to make up the shortfall with sponsorships and endorsements), living on take-aways, can’t even cross over a bridge without being recognised and chased by press – somebody take up his cause immediately! Free The Lowry One! 🙂

    • J Mann says:

      I haven’t checked Wikipedia’s original sources to see if this checks out, but it’s too hilarious not to quote. According to some Wikipedia editor, the nine million number arises from a 1784 article by Gottfried Christian Voigt, who reached that number by extrapolating 20-40 cases across the entire European population and just over a millennium of history.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_interpretations_of_the_Early_Modern_witch_trials#.22Nine_million_women.22

    • John Schilling says:

      Can we kill this particular idea with fire? […] I’m talking about the nine million killed in the Burning Times

      Well, let’s see. Wikipedia suggests that there may be over 800,000 wiccans worldwide. If we assume that every wiccan believes this nonsense, and that each of them has ten close friends or family members who aren’t going to take up the faith themselves but kind of buy the historical claims because they are too lazy to check and/or don’t want to make a fuss…

      Yes. We can “kill with fire” the nonsensical idea that nine million people were burned for their beliefs, by burning nine million people for their beliefs. I’m going to suggest going with your Plan B, Educate the Youth.

      I’m also going to question the numbers, because while this belief is clearly common among a vocal subset of wiccans and wiccan-adjacent feminists, it isn’t universal. Indeed, among wiccans of my acquaintance it is unheard of, but “of my acquaintance” is a filter that likely skews the results too much to be of use. There is certainly a market for books, movies, etc, pandering to this belief, but that’s not a very high bar and it could still be down in lunatic-fringe territory. Or it could be something that, like Galileo being burned at the stake, lots of people sort of kind of believe happened in the bad old days but they don’t much care.

    • S_J says:

      About witchcraft/feminism/wicca, I don’t have much to say.

      I found it odd when I realized that

      (A) the Catholic church discouraged persecution of witchcraft, especially in the centuries between years 500 and 1400.
      (B) the witchcraft craze was limited to the period of 1400-1600…that is, the Reformation era
      (C) in the only witch-craze of North America: after a number of suspected witches were executed in Salem, the leadership of the regional Puritan church stepped in to stop the mess. [1]

      Most of which argues against the assumption that Religious Authority was the reason for the anti-witchcraft craze.

      [1] Generating such quotes as “It is better to let ten witches go free than to execute one innocent person”. Yes, this formulation of legal principle was stated in opposition to witch-craft trials before it was stated in the world of criminal law.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I would have to double-check this, but my understanding is that the witch craze was driven as much by civil as by church authorities, and by community dynamics as much as religion.

        There’s a reason that “witch hunt” is such a good metaphor for communities turning on themselves and tearing themselves apart hunting for enemies that may not even be there.

      • “[1] Generating such quotes as “It is better to let ten witches go free than to execute one innocent person”. Yes, this formulation of legal principle was stated in opposition to witch-craft trials before it was stated in the world of criminal law.”

        For an extensive summary of the history of various versions of the principle, see “n Guilty Men” by Sasha Volokh. Increase Mather’s witch version is dated to 1692. Earlier versions in English law include:

        “In 1471, English chief justice John Fortescue suggested n = 20 for execution: “Indeed I would rather wish twenty evil doers to escape death through pity, than one man to be unjustly condemned.”

        “In the seventeenth century, Matthew Hale used n = 5 for execution, “for it is better five guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should die.” ”

        It’s true, however, that Mather’s version predates Blackstone’s, which is the most often cited.

        • S_J says:

          I stand…er, sit…corrected.

          I was very surprised when I found that Mather’s statement predated Blackstone’s. That, plus the fact that they both used the ratio of 1-vs-10, is probably why this detail sticks in my mind.

      • Matt M says:

        I recall reading something (disclaimer: can’t recall the exact source, so may be wrong) that witchcraft accusations were common before the (organized) church was really involved with them at all – and that the church decided to get involved specifically to bring some order to a process that usually went something like

        1. Person X has some sort of grievance against or dislike towards Person Y
        2. Person X calls Person Y a witch
        3. Assuming X has more/stronger friends than Y, the town gathers up Person Y and executes them

        The claim was that in most locations, “the inquisition” actually led to a decrease in witchcraft-related executions because a neutral arbiter sent from Rome actually needed to see at least a little bit of evidence and brought some sort of order and process to something that was formerly essentially nothing more than riling up an angry mob.

        • A couple of points:

          1: “The inquisition” is an ambiguous term, since it could be either the label for a particular organization (“The Spanish Inquisition”) or for a legal process.

          2. The Spanish Inquisition took a skeptical position on witchcraft accusations, requiring serious evidence and mostly refusing to convict or imposing light penalties. One explanation is that they were concerned with the more serious matter of secret Muslims and Jews remaining in Spain after the expulsion.

          • Matt M says:

            If it helps, the piece I am recalling was referring to some sort of general Rome-based inquisition and not the Spanish inquisition, which AFAIK was perpetuated largely independently by the Spanish monarchy for the reasons you describe.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Ah, so you didn’t expect we’d bring up the Spanish Inquisition?

          • bean says:

            If it helps, the piece I am recalling was referring to some sort of general Rome-based inquisition and not the Spanish inquisition, which AFAIK was perpetuated largely independently by the Spanish monarchy for the reasons you describe.

            The Roman inquisition was generally a much less harsh organization than its Spanish cousin. I won’t claim that they were a modern police force, but their treatment, of, for instance, Galileo, was much nicer than popular history says.
            In fact, it’s still in existence today.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. I listen to a lot of Tom Woods who is Roman Catholic so he MAY have been my source on this. But the general point was something like “Popular culture throws out ‘the inquisition’ as an example of shameful and evil behavior on the part of western civilization that we should all feel ashamed of – yet in reality, the organized catholic inquisition actually took a pre-existing terrible situation and made it a lot less terrible”

          • Deiseach says:

            Professor Friedman is correct; there were several Inquisitions – the Spanish, the Roman and the Venetian, as well as temporary local ones.

            The Spanish one actually had a lot of insistence by the monarchs of being under their control, not the pope’s, and was obsessed with the political situation and the fall-out of the Reconquista. More “reds under the beds” rather than “witches and heretics”.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I have seen that too. I need to get into my books on witchcraft. Very often there were incentives to make accusations. The accuser might get something out of it, or the local civil authorities might. Even if there was no material benefit, being able to get someone you didn’t like in trouble by saying “I saw them consorting with THE DEVIL!” was a powerful motivator.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The claim was that in most locations, “the inquisition” actually led to a decrease in witchcraft-related executions because a neutral arbiter sent from Rome actually needed to see at least a little bit of evidence and brought some sort of order and process to something that was formerly essentially nothing more than riling up an angry mob.

          That’s probably true. I also recall hearing similar things about heresy trials, where before the Inquisition came in the procedure was often as not something along the lines of “Your local Lord decides he wants a bit of land you own, but you tell him you’re not interested in selling it. Entirely by coincidence, one of his other tenants comes forward a couple of days later claiming you recently suggested that this ‘Arius’ guy really has some interesting ideas, meaning that you now have to stand trial for heresy in a court where, coincidentally, the local Lord is presiding. He finds you guilty, and — what a coincidence! — it turns out that the penalty for heresy is to have your lands confiscated, so he ends up getting the land he wanted after all.”

          • Deiseach says:

            Also complicated by the fact that punishment for heresy (be it burning at the stake or whatever) was carried out by the civil arm. The church court might be able to convict you, but they couldn’t execute you. So the local secular authority, whoever or whatever it might be, had the duty instead. Heresy, atheist, etc. being seen as threats to the body politic because of their capacity to introduce division, this was treated seriously (perhaps we see this in how Elizabeth’s regime didn’t have heresy trials but converted them into treason trials – you might still be executed for being Catholic, as Mary had burned people for being Protestant, but this time the reason wasn’t religious oh no no no – it was because you were opposing the lawful monarch and giving comfort to foreign enemies).

    • nydwracu says:

      Why do people still believe this garbage? What is wrong with the youth of today? Why do young women feel the need to puff themselves up with nonsense on stilts about Special Sekrit Magickal Women Mysteries that the mean ol’ male-dominated Church and Society destroyed?

      ’60s leftists backed outbreaks of demographic-supremacist pseudohistory among demographics they liked.

      (Hilariously, “we are a race of superhumans oppressed by a Jewish-led ethnic conspiracy which we must fight against with street violence, glorification of thuggery, and calls for genocide” was the worst thing in the world when Germans did it, but is actually good when blacks do it.)

  2. qwints says:

    I’ve actually found it pretty fascinating to trace errors like that. People repeat what they hear from “authoritative” sources” and no amount of scholarship can displace it from being accepted wisdom in certain subcultures.

    Was this in a neo-pagan context?

    • Deiseach says:

      It was in a Tumblr context, so I suppose par for the course 🙂 Just popped up out of nowhere in particular I can see; plainly some young person feeling her first feminist oats. And then the usual suspects jump in with this balderdash.

      The killing thing is, there’s all this information more widely available for free (apart from the cost of an Internet connection) that was ever before possible, and yet there seems to be less reliable information, more uncritical swallowing of “if it’s in the papers on the telly on the Internet it must be true” and apparently even less natural born bullshit detection – I’m not asking people to know things that are impossibly abstruse and obscure, but something as simple as “a man from that society/culture/19th century would not have used that kind of language” when evaluating the inspirational ‘quotes’ attributed to everyone from Lincoln to Gandhi.

      ‘Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet – Nero, Emperor of Rome’ 🙂

      • dndnrsn says:

        Something I’ve had to break myself of is seeing someone make some authoritative statement online, and having a voice in my head saying “well, it’s so easy to fact-check, and they must know this, so they must be telling the truth, because why would they lie when it’s so easy to find the truth?”

        • oldman says:

          I so agree with this. I remember that the last time there was an election in my country, every time I heard “all serious economists think that <> is the best pick” a part of my brain just believed them.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s not even lying, at least in a lot of cases, it’s more “person with bee in their bonnet, axe to grind, and crow to pluck produces densely-written tract with lots of attributed but not annotated quotations and extracts from sources not linked to back up their argument that Bigfoot is a timetraveller from the sixth parallel dimension come to teach us how to open our chakras to the mystic cosmic energy of Nibiru and evolve into Star Beings”, which is then repeated, remixed, extracted, passed around, and treated as an authoritative source by others, ending up uncritically quoted and swallowed by people who, for whatever reason (often because they’re young enough to be in that “question authority, distrust The Man, take the contrarian position on everything” phase of teenage rebelliousness) believe outrageous things because they’re outrageous.

          Nobody at any particular stage is flat-out lying (though it can happen), they’re simply all riding their individual hobbyhorses. And if you’ve (for example) decided that MEN and THE PATRIARCHY are the root of all evil, why would you believe the official line written and promulgated by lying women-hating MEN when the real truth is out there discovered and fought for and reconstructed by brave fearless imaginative creative daring enlightened women?

          • Tibor says:

            Yeah, it is infuriating, I mean it is so easy to check that The Bigfoot really comes from the Seventh parallel dimension.

          • Deiseach says:

            it is so easy to check that The Bigfoot really comes from the Seventh parallel dimension

            Hah! That’s what the Reptiloids want you to believe, so they can continue to harvest humans as their prey! Everyone knows what kind of entities come from the Seventh parallel dimension, and they’re not going to help us evolve into Star Children!

            What are you, Tibor, some kind of Reptiloid stooge? I have my suspicions about you!

          • Tibor says:

            Oh please, the evil reptiloids, really? Come on, it’s the current century! Yes, reptiloids also come from the Seventh dimension but fortunately The Bigfoot is not as bigoted as some commenters here and does not have a problem with sharing a heritage with them!

          • Deiseach says:

            Come clean, Tibor: do you have a hole in your tongue?

          • Tibor says:

            @Deiseach Almost

        • Autolykos says:

          I’m also continuously shocked how brazenly people assert flatly wrong statements they could have checked and should damn well expect anyone to check. Just recently I had someone claim in my face that the US and UK had more military losses in WW2 than any other party (he trying to argue that the British singlehandedly saved Europe from the Nazis)…

      • Spookykou says:

        I am not convinced that people are worse at this then they used to be. I don’t know for sure but I imagine most people through most of history believed a bunch of nonsense.

        I could however see an argument for our bull shit memes being better now than ever before. Still I imagine this is a general escalation on both sides, like suddenly moving from a rural to an urban society, and disease and immune systems both go crazy at about the same time. I think our meme defense is also getting better than ever before.

        Re:Re:Fw:Re:Fw:Fw ‘News-Bloggers hate Scott Alexander who found this one weird trick to get HUGE comment sections. Local blog readers wanting to engage with your blog now!’

        • oldman says:

          I agree. Simon Schama writes about such widespread misinformation during the French revolution that many people believed that a “Royal veto” some sort of mystic superweapon, rather than a legal procedure. That seems more mistaken than almost all mistakes we see today.

        • Deiseach says:

          I agree people have always believed crap. But given that we literally have the Internet at our fingertips, why nobody ever goes “nine million? that seems like a rather high figure, where are they getting their numbers?” and hits up Google to check it out – I can’t work that one out.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            It’s my impression that people believe what they want to believe. If 9 million burned fits in with their worldview, why would they want to go to the Internet to find out otherwise? Most people don’t really care much about the truth, especially if it doesn’t affect them directly. Maybe it is only intellectuals that care about true knowledge for its own sake. Politics works the same way. Sometimes I find it incredible that democracies work as well as they do.

          • Matt M says:

            Have YOU tried googling that specific term, D?

            My guess is that depending on how you construct your search/what you want the result to be, you could almost certainly find authoritative-looking information either way.

            And I think everyone intuitively knows this so most people don’t Google because they (largely correctly) surmise that getting to the truth of the matter isn’t just an issue of looking for “the” facts but carefully pouring over a wide variety of sources to try and intuit which facts are legit and which are political ax grinding, and most people just don’t have time for that nonsense when they can turn to the closest talk radio host/politician/tumblr page that matches their tribal affiliation and claims to have already done that exhaustive research and determined the 9 million number is totally legit.

        • Aapje says:

          @Spookykou

          I am not convinced that people are worse at this then they used to be. I don’t know for sure but I imagine most people through most of history believed a bunch of nonsense.

          I think that the biggest change is that dumb people have much more opportunity to find echo chambers where they can uncritically spout their nonsense. So these people get positive feedback, which spurs them on.

          • Matt M says:

            Really? How often do you think medieval serfs had enlightened political and philosophical discourse with the gentry?

            My feeling is that prior to widespread literacy, virtually the entire world lived in an echo chamber that was based on their class in their particular region.

          • Aapje says:

            Not all serfs had the same views though. If they gathered, there would always be people with different ideas, surely.

            Nowadays you have people within the same class who socialize with either tribe A or tribe B online.

    • ChetC3 says:

      I’ve actually found it pretty fascinating to trace errors like that. People repeat what they hear from “authoritative” sources” and no amount of scholarship can displace it from being accepted wisdom in certain subcultures.

      Maybe that’s because your so-called “scholarship” is just a load of Cathedral propaganda.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        I think that sort of error is a human failing, probably applified by literacy.

        Stephen Jay Gould

        Just before going into any of the theory, here is an example of Gould’s approach. He is discussing the origins of the horse species, equus. Not only does he destroy the reader’s half-formed idea that evolution is a sequential process, starting with one proto-horse and progressing through to the modern horse, but he reveals to us the whole evolutionary tree, including the branches which have died out, those which evolved into something else and other aspects. The combined result of this is to show that the modern horse is far from the main line of evolution, but rather a small twig on the end of an obscure branch of the evolutionary bush. Most of the rest of the bush is already dead.

        However, to leave it at that would be to write little more than dry theory. Gould goes further. In looking at all the modern texts, he notices that they all describe the size of the original proto-horse Eohippus with the same analogy: ‘The size of a foxhound’. His mind emphatically does not remain in neutral when he reads this, as so many did before him. How big is a foxhound? Why choose a breed of dog that is relatively unfamiliar in modern society? Why that particular breed?

        Gould follows these questions through, looking at all the textbooks he can find, going back to the early 1800s, and the first discovery of the Hyracotherium skeleton. He tells us who found the skeleton, why it was so-named, and then explains why a new name, Eohippus, was proposed. In other essays he has told us about the naming conventions, and why the formal name for Brontosaurus was changed to Apatosaurus. All this detail helps to convince the skeptic of the depth of his knowledge. Then he looks at the different textbooks from previous centuries and plots a graph of the number of mentions of each analogy against date of publication. Early on, the authors tended to use cat breeds as the best analogy, but then one author — an English gentleman known for his love of fox-hunting — uses the foxhound analogy and 150 years later, all authors talk about the same breed of dog when describing Eohippus.

        In doing this, Gould has exposed the laziness of textbook authors. Each of them has used an identical analogy, copying from previous authors, ignoring their own ability to use critical thought. Simultaneously, he has given some fascinating insights into the habits of textbook authors and some snippets of historical fact and custom.

        • I cannot resist my favorite quote from an author I am otherwise not fond of:

          “Now it is not very hard to find out, if you spend a little while reading in evolution, that Gould is the John Kenneth Galbraith of his subject. That is, he is a wonderful writer who is beloved by literary intellectuals and lionized by the media because he does not use algebra or difficult jargon. Unfortunately, it appears that he avoids these sins not because he has transcended his colleagues but because he does does not seem to understand what they have to say; and his own descriptions of what the field is about – not just the answers, but even the questions – are consistently misleading. His impressive literary and historical erudition makes his work seem profound to most readers, but informed readers eventually conclude that there’s no there there.”

          (Paul Krugman)

      • qwints says:

        Maybe in some cases? But there are certainly claims about the world that are repeatedly and demonstrably untrue that spread through subcultures despite a complete failure to explain or predict reality. For example, it doesn’t matter how many times someone complains in a US court about fringe on the flag or that the capitalization of their name matters, it won’t get the judge to do what they want.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I will have you know that I am a real life flesh and blood person, not some corporation created by the government when they went off the gold standard, thank you very much.

        • ChetC3 says:

          And if there were more Sovereign Citizen types among the death-eaters, they would dismiss your example as just more proof of the Cathedral’s nefarious influence.

  3. Wrong Species says:

    I want to go back to a previous conversation that I never replied to.I want to go back to a previous conversation that I never replied to.

    To recap, I suggested that the difference between property rights(what I call propertarian authority) is not that much different than what philosopher Michael Huemer refers to as political authority. Also, I believe that while yes, there is not much of an objective difference between a state and a mob that does state-like things, the subjective difference is incredibly important. Here’s what I want to reply to:

    “This gives them “Propertarian authority”.

    The “propertarian authority” you describe is different from the “political authority” Huemer describes. Part of Huemer’s definition of “political authority” is content independence: that is, whatever the state decides to pass as a law, it is de facto legitimate if it goes through e. g. the Supreme Court. When I sign up for a HOA, I am agreeing to the terms set out explicitly in that contract and nothing more. They can claim whatever power is stated therein to e. g. kick me out of my house for failure to comply, but they can’t just pass a “mandatory bake sale” law and expect me to follow it if no provisions for such were in the original contract.

    The US Constitution is arguably supposed to function like the HOA contract in that it specifies what sorts of laws the government can pass, but that would only be truly analogous if each individual citizen individually consented to the US Constitution. And if a team of experts chosen by the HOA itself were the only authority to which you could appeal in case of a dispute over the terms of the contract with the HOA.

    “If our society became as violent as farming societies I would still consider that a step back and I think most people would agree. The burden of proof is much higher than a step above a war on all against all.”

    Even with a higher burden of proof, 90% of what most government do today doesn’t qualify as “imminently necessary to prevent society being much more violent than it is now.” “Would make society a somewhat nicer place” (which I think is the tacit standard most people have for a law) clearly isn’t good enough to justify violent coercion, because no one would accept me, say, collecting “donations” at gunpoint for a community garden. Yet using taxes to pay for a library or park is seen as totally legitimate.

    Even “would make society somewhat less violent” isn’t good enough, because people wouldn’t tolerate me rounding up vagrants who might commit crimes and locking them in my basement (and charging my neighbors for the service).

    “Would make society a whole lot less violent” is arguably good enough justification for vigilantism and, therefore, for government coercive action, but I think most people have a really high bar for tolerance of violent vigilante justice, so they should have a really high bar for tolerance of government coercion. (Pace Scott’s “Be Nice Until You Can Coordinate Meanness,” coordination doesn’t make meanness less suspect, just scarier).

    • Wrong Species says:

      When I sign up for a HOA, I am agreeing to the terms set out explicitly in that contract and nothing more. They can claim whatever power is stated therein to e. g. kick me out of my house for failure to comply, but they can’t just pass a “mandatory bake sale” law and expect me to follow it if no provisions for such were in the original contract.

      And what happens if there is a clause that says that new rules can be added as needed? And more importantly, what happens when the children of the original signers come of age and take over the household when their parents die? They never agreed to anything. They are facing the exact same situation as people who live in a state.

      You’re right that no one would accept me taking donations at gunpoint. But that’s my point. It would terrible if everyone decided to act like a state and use violence to do what they think is necessary. But if we had no one doing it, then certain things that we as a society would like to carry out may never happen. Most people don’t see government in the same way that libertarians do. It’s not just a necessary evil to prevent chaos. It’s a tool to accomplish goals that might not otherwise be accomplished. When a vigilante robs me but says he is going to put the money for good use, I have no way of knowing whether that’s true or not. Imagine that we had a million vigilantes doing the same thing. But there are certain things that simply might not get done without coercion. The purpose of government is to coordinate that coercion to one organization with much more predictability and base it on what our society values. If frequently fails to live up to that expectation but that doesn’t mean it’s futile.

      Now I’m sure that libertarians would say that the government doesn’t need to do all of these things because they can be done by private actors, which may be right. But that doesn’t mean the government is an evil on par with a thief. It just means that we have given legitimacy to something that is actually unnecessary. It’s like if we invested in a company that had a bad business model. It doesn’t mean all companies are bad, just this particular model.

      • Aapje says:

        The purpose of government is to coordinate that coercion to one organization with much more predictability and base it on what our society values.

        And put checks and balances on them!

        It frequently fails to live up to that expectation but that doesn’t mean it’s futile.

        Nor are those flaws proof that government is unnecessary and/or that going without will improve the outcomes for people.

        I would also argue that it’s impossible to have a non-flawed system, as humans are flawed. If we make our system work in ways that are less flawed than the average person, that is a huge victory.

      • onyomi says:

        “The purpose of government is to coordinate that coercion to one organization with much more predictability and base it on what our society values.”

        I’m not seeing the difference between this and “Be Nice Until, At Least until you can Coordinate Meanness,” to which my answer is still basically the same.

        Regarding the HOA with strict rules inherited by the children of its owners, it’s telling that no existing state I’ve ever heard of came about this way. It’s certainly not as if everyone living in the US territory signed the Constitution, for example. Because it’s extremely unlikely for people inhabiting a large swath of land to unanimously, voluntarily agree to any sort of contract which would even approach giving e. g. a HOA council this kind of general, content-independent, comprehensive, supreme power over themselves and their descendants.

        There’s nothing stopping people right now, for example, from entering into some sort of binding contract with a company whereby they are required to pay for the company’s service in perpetuity and regardless of how much they chose to charge or whether or not they do a good job. But no one in their right mind would voluntarily sign up for the deal every government already has with its citizens.

        I guess there’s nothing stopping anyone, in ancap world, from signing a contract which says “I hereby give the Southern Mississippi HOA supreme authority over me and my descendants for all eternity,” but I can’t imagine any critical mass of people doing that, nor any later legal experts taking such a contract to be enforceable with respect to one’s descendants who didn’t chose it. Governments basically get to enjoy an extremely one-sided “contract” (the validity of which they themselves stand in judgment over) with respect to their citizens because of a mythology which surrounds them and their right to rule (whether that comes from “God” or “The People”). It’s a kind of deal which would never stand on its own merits, nor be voluntarily, unanimously chosen, on its own merits, by a critical mass of people.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Regarding the HOA with strict rules inherited by the children of its owners, it’s telling that no existing state I’ve ever heard of came about this way.

          That’s beside the point. If we started all over again and property owners eventually coalesced in to states, then you wouldn’t really have a viable objection anymore, even if there was no effective difference between those property owners and the states we see now. You’re taking it for granted that “no one in their right mind would voluntarily sign up for the deal every government already has with its citizens.” I don’t see why not. People in general would rather have a state than not have one and in democracies people generally vote for more government. There would have to be a viable alternative proven before most people would choose otherwise. Maybe anarchocapitalism is that model but it doesn’t matter if no one wants it.

          I guess there’s nothing stopping anyone, in ancap world, from signing a contract which says “I hereby give the Southern Mississippi HOA supreme authority over me and my descendants for all eternity,” but I can’t imagine any critical mass of people doing that, nor any later legal experts taking such a contract to be enforceable with respect to one’s descendants who didn’t chose it.

          HOAs are notorious for having ridiculous rules but they are still enforced by courts. On what basis do you think those rules shouldn’t be enforced? And assuming that’s true, you have to admit that exception applies to both states and property owners because there doesn’t seem to be a principled distinction between saying states can’t make these rules and the property owners can’t make these rules. In our hypothetical scenario, property and state are one and the same. You keep assuming what people would do if they had a choice but what if you’re wrong? What if the government disbands and everyone decides voluntarily to agree to a state?

          I think the most damning part of libertarianism as a moral philosophy is simply while they say the state is illegitimate because of its origins, the exact same can be said of private property. Probably all the land that we use was stolen from someone else at some point. The only way you can be consistent is to admit that both states and property need a reset. If you dismiss that for not being practical then you leave yourself open to the exact same criticism.

          • onyomi says:

            “That’s beside the point. If we started all over again and property owners eventually coalesced in to states, then you wouldn’t really have a viable objection anymore”

            If we got a redo of the Atlantic slave trade and all the slaves came over voluntarily to work on plantations you wouldn’t really have a viable objection to slavery anymore.

            “You keep assuming what people would do if they had a choice but what if you’re wrong? What if the government disbands and everyone decides voluntarily to agree to a state?”

            Well, why don’t we try it? Let’s take some uninhabited portion of e. g. Wyoming and declare the US and all other existing governments have no claim over it. Would anyone move there? If they did would it become a hellhole? Or would it become Las Vegas and Macao on steroids? If you asked the people living there after 50 years whether they wanted a government do you think they’d unanimously vote “yes”?

            This is just a thought experiment in a way, but also, seriously, why can’t we do this? Are statists so afraid of competition they can’t let a tiny part of Wyoming be stateless and see what happens? I’m sure the state will quickly come up with some justification to shut it down: all the drug dealers lived there, etc. but will that be their real reason?

            “Probably all the land that we use was stolen from someone else at some point.”

            I don’t think this can at all be taken for granted and also assumes a certain theory of land ownership which is not uncontroversial (that if you own it, you own it for all eternity even if you never use it). Certainly the vast majority of non-land property has never been stolen from anyone.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If we started all over again, and people voluntarily chose states, how is that slavery? If someone has parents that make a choice to sign some contract, then when the parents pass and leave them the property, they have just as little choice as the someone who lives in a state.

            Certainly the vast majority of non-land property has never been stolen from anyone.

            How can you be certain of that? And even if you were right, there would still be a lot of land that needs to be redistributed.

          • onyomi says:

            “And even if you were right, there would still be a lot of land that needs to be redistributed”

            I’m not sure why this would be a problem for the concept of property in general, or for ancap.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Because libertarians generally spend all their efforts denouncing the illegitimacy of the state with a passing mention of redistributing land, if it even gets mentioned. I really want to make the point that I don’t think the difference between state and land is as large as you presume. In a world without official states, property owners are de facto state rulers, just on a smaller scale. And if it ever got scaled up, then even those superficial differences would erode as property owners begin to look more and more similar to monarchs. You can go on all day about consent, but the fundamental problem is that children of tenants never officially agree to anything. And if you won’t accept tacit consent for states, you can’t accept it for private property either.

          • onyomi says:

            If someone has a better claim to a piece of land than the existing owner they are welcome to press that claim in private or public courts in ancap world or today.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Regarding the coordination of coercion, I think you concede too much by admitting that coercion is needed. The whole point of libertarianism is to denounce it. But if you say it’s needed, then why is your idea of necessary coercion anymore legitimate than mine? And practically speaking, I don’t think you really mean all that you say about predictable coercion being worse than the unpredictable. Would you rather have the mob come by once a month to take your money or a constant fear that you are going to get mugged and possibly killed every time you go out? Predictability and consistency are not always better but there are times when they are. That’s why we have the rule of law. It is much more preferable to have ground rules set out to know what to avoid than be subjected to the whims of individuals. Mob justice would be a terrifying prospect.

          The thing about government is while yes, it has a mythology around it that other organizations don’t, that doesn’t mean we should do away with it. This goes back to my point about money. If any organization besides the government started giving me paper for my goods, I wouldn’t take it. I would be really upset. But when the government prints out paper, I don’t mind. Why is that? There’s no objective reason. The subjective reason is that everyone else does and that’s all that matters(Of course, this would also apply to something like bitcoin if it ever became a significant object of exchange). That subjectivity gives money a legitimacy it otherwise would not have. That doesn’t mean our money is inherently fraudulent. It just means our society runs on transcendental ideas. And I don’t think it could work without those.

          • onyomi says:

            “Regarding the coordination of coercion, I think you concede too much by admitting that coercion is needed. The whole point of libertarianism is to denounce it. But if you say it’s needed, then why is your idea of necessary coercion anymore legitimate than mine?”

            I think your idea of what the “whole point of libertarianism is” is a bit too simplistic.

            As for my idea of when coercion is or is not justified, I’m just asking statists to justify the double standard: why does the state get to tax and I don’t? Total pacifism may be a noble goal, but insofar as we assume some coercion is necessary, shouldn’t the default assumption be equality as opposed to “some people get to coerce in cases others don’t”?

          • Wrong Species says:

            What I’m telling you is this: there is no objective reason that makes state coercion legitimate compared to non-state coercion. I never claimed that there was. But it’s the subjectivity that is incredibly important. The double standard is there because people want a state. And while it’s not exactly the way they want it, they prefer it’s existence to it’s nonexistence.

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            why does the state get to tax and I don’t?

            Democracy. “No taxation without representation” was a good slogan because people tend to see a big difference between taxes that are demanded and spend by a representative body than by a non-representative entity.

            insofar as we assume some coercion is necessary, shouldn’t the default assumption be equality as opposed to “some people get to coerce in cases others don’t”?

            In a (perfect) democracy, each eligible voter has the exact same influence on the coercion that happens.

          • onyomi says:

            “In a (perfect) democracy, each eligible voter has the exact same influence on the coercion that happens.”

            I’m not sure what this “perfect” democracy looks like (everyone votes on everything the state ever does?), but in all actually existing democracies, generals, soldiers, police, tax collectors, and many other people all have a lot more say than me about when and how coercion gets used.

          • onyomi says:

            “people want a state.”

            Not everyone wants it. And most of those who do want it due to conservatism, inertia, and never having thought there was any other choice.

            But okay, I agree that right now, most people want a state.* I don’t want a state. Why do I have to be subject to the state they want? If lots of people want to be in an implicit or explicit contract with an entity which bosses them around all the time, then that’s their choice, but why does it apply to me?

            Let’s say we go out to a restaurant with several friends. After we sit down, someone says “okay, we’re ordering lots of Dom Perignon, and since Onyomi’s had a good year, he’s picking up the cost of that! Who’s in favor?” And everyone but me votes yes. I say, “uh, I’m leaving…” and everyone says “wait, you can’t go. This is what WE’VE decided. This is what WE want. You can’t just leave and mess it up for us. Don’t you respect democracy and the will of the people?”

            *Edited to add: most people do want a state in the sense that, if you asked them, “do you want a state?” They’d say “yes, well we can’t just have anarchy, right? That means chaos.” But, every time people have a choice in history, they tend overwhelmingly to move to the place with fewer state controls over individual freedom (assuming that lack of control isn’t the result of e. g. a civil war): East Germany to West Germany, North Korea to South Korea, PRC to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong to the Kowloon walled city.

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            I’m not sure what this “perfect” democracy looks like (everyone votes on everything the state ever does?), but in all actually existing democracies, generals, soldiers, police, tax collectors, and many other people all have a lot more say than me about when and how coercion gets used.

            I was talking about the purely theoretical concept of democracy, which can be representative, but where all government actors have no more influence than any other voter.

            Reality can never achieve that ideal, but no system can be perfect in an imperfect world.

            In my opinion, a decent representative democracy is sufficiently close to the ideal, that it justifies the coercion that happens, based on the same reasoning that makes it justified in the ideal case. The imperfections just make it less justified, but not unjustified.

            Of course, my preference for this system is dependent on my belief that no better systems exist. If you can provide sufficient evidence for a better system*, I will gladly adopt it. But I will not accept a system that is less justifiable, which is my current opinion about ancap.

            * Preferably by testing it in a country where I don’t live, given the high risk of failure and the high risk of my death if it does fail.

          • onyomi says:

            “Preferably by testing it in a country where I don’t live, given the high risk of failure and the high risk of my death if it does fail.”

            Do you expect a high probability of your death if an ancap experiment failed in the middle of currently uninhabited Wyoming?

          • “I was talking about the purely theoretical concept of democracy, which can be representative, but where all government actors have no more influence than any other voter.”

            Quite aside from whether it is possible in an imperfect world, what does that mean?

            Suppose we have a simple majority vote system. You want a legal change which about half the population favors, half opposes. I want one that ninety percent of the population opposes.

            Your vote affects the probability of the change you want happening. My vote does not affect the probability of the change I want happening. Do we have equal influence? The same is true if ninety percent of the population favor what I want–my vote still has no influence.

            Try imagining an actual experiment to test the claim “everyone in society X has equal influence.” It’s an approach that I find clarifies thinking, forces you to replace fuzzy verbal ideas with something more precise.

          • Matt M says:

            “I don’t want a state. Why do I have to be subject to the state they want?”

            Because their desire for a state is contingent on its ability to boss around the people who DON’T want a state as well.

            This is also my explanation for what is discussed above – why we can talk about how nobody in their right mind would give up all of their rights until the end of time to some faceless bureaucracy, and yet, at every possible opportunity, people vote to expand and cede more power to said bureaucracy.

            It’s because the issue is not framed that way. The person voting for more government does so not while thinking “I need to give more of my rights away” but rather “To protect myself, I need to ensure someone holds down those rich people.” If the state stopped having the power to dominate those who disliked it, those who like it wouldn’t like it anymore. They like the state because it oppresses the outgroup, not in spite of that…

          • Wrong Species says:

            @onyomi

            You can come up with a thousand examples and I’ll say the same thing every time. No, what your friends do in this scenario isn’t right. But the state can because we view it differently. You may not, but the legitimacy of the state doesn’t rest on one individual.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Wrong Species

            people want a state.

            It seems obvious to me that almost all people want the services a state provides for them, but in theory ancap should provide those services.

            Is there some inherent quality of a state that people want that you are referring to here. Or are you just assuming ancap wouldn’t be able to provide the state services that people care about.

          • Matt M says:

            “Is there some inherent quality of a state that people want that you are referring to here. ”

            Yes, the ability to boss around other people (see my comment above).

            It’s not JUST that people want roads and military defense, it’s that people want to be able to force *you* to pay for their roads and military defense. That is literally the only thing the state offers that an-cap cannot easily reproduce or replicate.

            People support the state not under the assumption that they will get services in proportion to their taxes, but under the assumption that they will get MORE services than their taxes could otherwise purchase, with the difference being paid for by some sort of hated “others” (and for most people, this is, technically speaking, almost certainly true in most current western governments)

          • onyomi says:

            “But the state can because we view it differently.”

            Yes, because people view it as having political authority. Which, as Huemer shows, is not ethically justifiable.

            “You may not, but the legitimacy of the state doesn’t rest on one individual.”

            No, it rests on the perception of political authority, which is not ethically justifiable.

            Imagine the following debate taking place in 17th c. France between someone who supports the divine right of kings (A) and someone who does not (B):

            B: The divine right of kings is not a legitimate justification for rule because of ethical reasons x, y, and z.

            A: But most people believe in the divine right of kings.

            B: But what about x, y, and z?

            A: Say what you will, the legitimacy of the crown doesn’t rest on the opinion of one individual.

            Can you see why A’s is not a good justification for the divine right of kings?

          • Spookykou says:

            @Matt M

            That explanation seems a little overly specific to be applicable to all people or all democratic governments.

            Also pretty obviously false, the US government spends considerably more money on old white people(technically a minority group) and the military than they do on the poor and the downtrodden. The working class who pay the most in taxes get the fewest benefits.

          • Matt M says:

            spooky,

            I think in general everyone believes that they will get more out of the system than they put into it – otherwise why would they continue to support it?

            Whether or not this is actually true of course varies greatly depending on the circumstances of the individual. I would think in most cases it is true, but we could debate all day over the meaning of “most” and the relative value of various government services and so on and so forth.

          • nancylebovitz says:

            Spookykou

            The really cynical but plausible take is that social security is a way of taking money from black men and giving it to white women.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Matt M

            Well some possible alternative.

            I want a government for resolving dangerous externalities; lead paint, leaded gas, CFCs, Asbestos, etc.

            I want a government for maintaining a monopoly on force, which in my estimation maintains peace in a region shaped like the united states better than ancap would be capable of.

            I want a government for public goods, it is my understanding that infrastructure promotes growth, so it is hard to say this is an example of other people paying for something for me, because we are all elevated by it.

            I would like a government to more aggressively attack status games, so I can stop buying flowers, but that is not very likely.

            When I think of the government I think of a lamentably inefficient tool for really important good in the world.

          • Spookykou says:

            @nancylebovitz

            A classic example of why we need ancap, the externalities from social security are egregious when considering it’s ‘true’ purpose, a wise man once said, political market failure is the rule not the exception.

          • Matt M says:

            All of those things could be done privately.

            You prefer them to be done “publicly” because you think it is more efficient, but said efficiency depends on the ability to coerce others into using the same service provider that you use.

          • rlms says:

            @onyomi

            A’s justification of the divine right of kings is poor, because it is basically argumentum ad populum which is in general fallacious. But their assertion that the legitimacy of the crown doesn’t depend on one person is true! It depends on whether God exists, and whether She endorses monarchs. A single person’s opinion is still irrelevant under the “legitimacy of government is derived from general popular approval” theory. If someone was pushing the “legitimacy of government is derived from unanimous popular approval” theory then it would be relevant, but no-one seems to be endorsing that idea.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Matt M

            I must confess I am confused how dangerous chemicals get banned in ancap? It is obvious from the real world that people will not switch away or stop using a cheap efficient product because of externalities, and the company producing them wont either.

            If you don’t mind I would love an explanation of how ancap deals with CFCs before they generate irreparable damage, keeping in mind that it was public institution researchers who first discovered the danger, and international treaty that resolved it.

          • “I want a government for …

            I would like a government to …

            When I think of the government I think of a lamentably inefficient tool for really important good in the world.”

            The question isn’t whether there are any good things that a government could do and an A-C system couldn’t. It’s whether the good things the actual government does, net of the bad things the actual government does, are an improvement on the same calculation for the alternative. You need to base your views of both not on what they could do but on what you predict they will do.

            A hammer is a good tool for driving nails. If what it is actually going to be used for is hitting people on the head or hitting your thumb while trying to drive a nail, it’s better not to have it.

          • Spookykou says:

            @David Friedman

            I agree if the net positive of ancap was greater than the net positive of government that would be a reason for change. But getting to the net positive and net negative is pretty tricky stuff. My position is the net positives generated from the things in my list are pretty enormous. If ancap is offering a general improvement to the efficiency of every aspect of my life, while never regulating CFC’s. Then ancap is offering a horrible deal, by my estimation.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I should clear something up. When I say “legitimacy” I mean it in a positive sense, not a normative one. I don’t mean “this person has a right to rule” in some cosmic sense, I mean that the person is considered legitimate by the people they rule. So why should we care if the people view their ruler as legitimate? I can think of three reasons. First, a legitimate ruler brings forth a peaceful kingdom. Second, it makes governance that much easier. If people are only obeying you out of fear, then they’ll constantly undermine you and make it difficult to accomplish anything. A good example is probably what is happening in America right now. The country is ideologically polarized, which makes it nearly impossible for the federal government to effectively achieve any of its goals.* Third, and this is really the most important, a government that everyone hates is simply not a good government. Institutions are supposed to work for the people. If no one is happy with it, it doesn’t matter what achievements it accomplishes, it means nothing if everyone is miserable.
            *But wait, am I saying that the US is not considered legitimate? I would say it’s a spectrum. The federal government is certainly less legitimate than it was 50 years ago.

            All other things equal, a legitimate government is superior to a non-legitimate government. For example, if there was a kingdom that had an incredibly popular monarch, I would advise against trying to overthrow him and establish democracy. All that would achieve is a revolt, especially three hundred years ago. It’s all context dependent. Various mythologies need to be considered. The United States has the Constitution. It has been the one stable thing about America from the very beginning. Trying to scrap it away would bring chaos. Of course, how the people view the government is not the only thing that matters but I do believe it is something that needs to be carefully considered and change should generally be gradual. If anarcho-capitalism ever comes about, it won’t be because the state collapses and capitalists pick up the pieces. It will be because a sufficient number of people have read Rothbard and become disillusioned with the state. Anyways…

            I have not read Huemers book but I do believe that his main point is that the state is not fundamentally different than a mob and that the only reason we don’t see it as so is because of the mythology we have surrounding the state. But as far as I know, he doesn’t disprove that the mythology itself is bad. Here’s an example: look at the relationship between parent and child. If you really think about it, we’re basically locking up children for 18 years while their parents (and teachers) have complete authority over them. If you said that we don’t treat other people in this way so why should treat them so, you’re completely missing the point. Parents have the right to tell their children what to do because they’re the parents. And society is arguable better off for it. Of course, this doesn’t mean that parents should be able to treat their kids however they want. It just means they have a special “parental authority” that they don’t hold over anyone else. Right or wrong, the existence of this “double standard” is not bad by itself. It just means that you need to show the existence of the state is unequivocally worse than the alternative. And I’m simply not convinced of that.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @Wrong Species

            The federal government is certainly less legitimate than it was 50 years ago.

            Amongst white males that is probably a fair statement, and maybe even among whites in general, though I think it might understate the unrest that occurred in the decade of Vietnam and Watergate. But to many minorities the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the slow rise of minority legislators and executive appointees that followed was the beginning of an increase in legitimacy that is still in progress.

            As to your larger point, I think an analogy exists between the ‘legitimacy’ of the state and the ‘legitimacy’ of fiat money (and a direct relationship thereto). Those who dispute one tend to dispute the other, sometimes for the same bad reason. But fiat money works, illusion and all. And so does a respect for the laws of the state. Forced compliance to laws for more than a few percent or so of the population at any one time would be unsustainable in a modern or densely populated society. Even slavery required a large degree of resigned acceptance amongst the enslaved to be viable.

          • onyomi says:

            @Wrong Species

            Ethical double standards are in need of ethical justification. Actually, I think the mythology about permissible treatment of children is pretty problematic, and has come a lot closer to treating children with the same respect one would treat adults. But beyond that, there is a ready explanation for a double standard with regard to treatment of children: children are much weaker and dumber than adults. They lack, e. g. ability to give informed consent. At least some degree of double standard can be fairly well justified with appeal to the special nature of children.

            With statism you have a double standard where some people get to use force in situation others would not even though they are all just people of presumably equal moral authority and worth. Actually, divine right theory would be far more defensible than democracy if (big if) we could be certain that God exists and has an opinion about e. g. who should be king we can reliably know. Because God, if He exists, is a very different and presumably greatly superior being as compared to us. So it would make sense to have a different standard for him (though one can at least conceive of God doing something “wrong,” which is problematic for divine command theories of morality, even for theists, I believe). With democracy all you’ve got is just regular people. Justifying why something which would be wrong if some people did it is right when certain other people do it is a much taller order.

            I guess if you’re a pure utilitarian “having this double standard increases utils,” is sufficient. But on such a view, if the data shows that a belief that rich people or white people or men have more moral worth than others results in more utils then you are committed to saying such a belief is good.

            The fact that you chose the double-standard which exists with respect to children is telling, because agents of the state do, indeed, treat everyone else much like children. But I find “they were elected by a majority of people who live in your geographic territory” a highly insufficient justification for some adults to treat other adults like children.

            Moreover, I and others have offered many reasons to believe ancap would produce better results–people having an incentive to make rational decisions, people in charge of decisions being able to take advantage of specific, localized expertise, etc. etc. The probable upside of allowing it to be tried somewhere uninhabited to begin with, at least, seem to greatly outweigh the probable downsides.

            I also don’t necessarily agree that having a ruler who is seen as legitimate (as a matter of fact) is better than having a ruler who is seen as illegitimate (or no ruler at all). Yes, there may tend to be more peace under a government with a perception of legitimacy, but that could very well be bad! I think it is very bad, for example that the people of North Korea see their government as legitimate (to the extent they actually do and aren’t just playing along to avoid getting shot). A good system which is widely perceived as legitimate is best, but a bad system perceived as illegitimate is probably a better situation in most cases (at least, long term) than a bad system perceived as legitimate.

          • Spookykou says:

            @onyomi

            But beyond that, there is a ready explanation for a double standard with regard to treatment of children: children are much weaker and dumber than adults.

            Children like all age related laws, are bright-line rule situations. Infants rely totally and completely on their parents for many years and then develop, at different speeds, sometimes into functioning adults. Rather than wasting the time and effort trying to adjudicate in every single instance when and if someone is actually ready to, vote, have sex, drink, drive, live on their own, and risk getting the judgement wrong, we just use clearly defined conservative age cut offs so everyone knows where they stand.

            With statism you have a double standard where some people get to use force in situation others would not even though they are all just people of presumably equal moral authority and worth.

            It is permissible under statism(in the US) for you personally to use that most significant of ‘forces’ and kill another person, in self defense. Statism is not about creating different classes of people, it is about a system of laws, and the administration of those laws.

            In the olden times, or right now in Papua New Guinea, if I thought somebody put a curse on my family, (breaking the law) I would get my friends together and go kill their kid(minimum sentencing). Over the years societies tended to agree that this situation was not ideal, and so they constructed laws to specify who should be administering the laws. But this is not about elevating any particular person, it is about elevating those laws, and insuring that they are carried out correctly, by someone trained to carry them out.

            Actually, divine right theory would be far more defensible than democracy if (big if) we could be certain that God exists and has an opinion about e. g. who should be king we can reliably know. Because God, if He exists, is a very different and presumably greatly superior being as compared to us. So it would make sense to have a different standard for him (though one can at least conceive of God doing something “wrong,” which is problematic for divine command theories of morality, even for theists, I believe). With democracy all you’ve got is just regular people.

            The god of democracy is Law, we worship in the court houses, and we train priests all over the land(not very popular priests though). The highest voice in a democracy is not some person, it is the Law. The Law is a manufactured deity, a god made of paper given life by countless people over the history of civilized humanity and imbued with divine right by that most divine of creatures. No person is above the law, and the law is above all people.

            You have lost your faith, but that doesn’t mean god is dead.

          • onyomi says:

            “It is permissible under statism(in the US) for you personally to use that most significant of ‘forces’ and kill another person, in self defense. Statism is not about creating different classes of people, it is about a system of laws, and the administration of those laws.”

            As I said before, a private mall cop, or you or I, even now, could use violence and have it widely perceived as legitimate, in certain situations: bodily throwing a violent customer out of our home or business, or even killing someone if we had a reasonable belief he was about to kill us or someone else.

            Ancap isn’t about having no laws, nor is it about everyone being a pacifist. Ancap just means not creating a special class of people who get to use force in situations others would not get to use force in, and not having geographic monopolies on the creation and enforcement of law.

            Re. the idea that we “worship” “the law” in some figurative sense; I think you’re a bit off: we used to worship God and the right to rule came from God. Now we worship “The People” and the right to rule comes from “the Will of The People.” I’m familiar with the idea of “rule by law, not by men,” but “The Law” isn’t above “The People”; rather, in democracies, “The Law” derives its legitimacy from “the Will of The People.” If you think legislators are just “discovering” some kind of “natural law”… well, maybe some of the founding fathers would have agreed with you, but I’d say your notion of why the vast majority of Americans and Europeans perceive their governments to be legitimate today is very out of date.

            But if what we want is for real, individual people (not “The People” as some reified abstraction) to get the laws they want, then allowing them all to voluntarily chose for themselves seems a much better way to attain the desired result than arbitrarily declaring that everyone who lives within x geographic territory must give “The People” its say after each individual person has had his or hers.

            “The People” as a decision maker is actually sort of the exact opposite of “the wisdom of crowds.” The wisdom of crowds comes about when, for example, you have something like Wikipedia, where people who know things about things all contribute to and make decisions about the things they know in a decentralized manner. What if everyone got an equal vote on everything in Wikipedia? Would that make it better? Does giving me a vote in how you spend your money harness “the wisdom of crowds”? No, it’s the exact opposite. By letting me decide how to spend my money and you decide how to spend your money the actual collective wisdom of people emerges.

            To the extent it is useful to think of groups of people producing some kind of emergent knowledge greater than the sum of their parts, democracy is precisely the wrong way to go about harnessing it.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Onyomi

            I was being a bit facetious, I just got caught up in the fun of writing the law as god stuff.

            Now we worship “The People” and the right to rule comes from “the Will of The People.” I’m familiar with the idea of “rule by law, not by men,” but “The Law” isn’t above “The People”; rather, in democracies, “The Law” derives its legitimacy from “the Will of The People.”

            This is almost exactly what I was trying to say. People created and gave ‘divinity-legitimacy’ to the law, as a result the law is above any given person. I thought this would be clearly different then saying it is above ‘The People’.

            While I was being facetious, there was a reason for the metaphor. You make the point that Divine right with a knowable god would not have the same ethical dichotomy as democracy because the god is ‘different’ so it is not a situation of people arbitrarily having power over other people. My proposal is that the Law is a manufactured deity that fills the roll of god in a democracy. That the Government rules by ‘divine right’ as bestowed upon it by the Law which indicates how we select our Government and what they are expected to do.

            Imagine we create a god like AI and place it as our ruler, it would occupy a different ethical position than just any given person, even though it was created, and could even be informed and modified by people moving forward. I view the Law as being an early version of a ruler AI.

            This idea is intended only to address your ethical concerns, it speaks solely to the legitimacy of a system of government.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If I throw someone out of my house, what right do I have to use violence to do so? It’s the same situation between a state and it’s subjects. Property rights is just as mythical as the state. You can’t say the state has no right to a monopoly of force in an area but say that property owners do without some explanation. You don’t have some god given right to exclude people from resources that you think you should have control over. It’s a tool we use to get things done in society. And in both cases, it results in situations that are unfair. So it’s not a situation in which the state is at best a necessary evil and property is an unalloyed good. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. And we establish them because of their usefulness. You should get in debates with communists. They are wrong on pretty much every empirical fact but they are the only people who take a step back and question the purpose of property rights.

            If you could convince me that the state is wholly unnecessary to achieve what I consider as good, I might be open to it. But if I could convince you that the lack of a state would lead to terrible consequences then you should do the same. Of course, then the question of the state switches from a philosophical one to an empirical one and resolving that would take far longer than a comment section of a blog post.

          • onyomi says:

            “If you could convince me that the state is wholly unnecessary to achieve what I consider as good, I might be open to it. But if I could convince you that the lack of a state would lead to terrible consequences then you should do the same. Of course, then the question of the state switches from a philosophical one to an empirical one.”

            If you can convince me that the lack of a state would lead to terrible consequences then that would only justify whatever level of state power is the minimum to prevent those consequences. If having a minimal state-funded military, police, and court system, for example, is necessary to avoiding a terrible disaster, then that would be justified, but no more than that. Currently the standard for whether or not government should do something seems to be no more than “is it a good idea?” I’m saying it should be “is it a good enough idea to justify using force?”

            I am only trying to convince you that states should allow anarchocapitalism to at least be tried on currently uninhabited land, given that, prima facie, people should have a right to try it insofar as their doing so won’t cause terrible consequences for others. That is the only way to truly test the empirical question of whether or not it would be a disaster or a huge success. It’s pretty clear in my mind it would turn uninhabited Wyoming into some kind of Las Vegas on steroids, but even if it turns it into a Mad Max hellhole, I don’t see how a disaster in currently uninhabited Wyoming would much affect anyone who didn’t advisedly choose to be there.

            Some opponents of such a plan will say that it undermines the state somehow, but to the extent that is true, it only shows another flaw in statism: ancap doesn’t require the whole world, the whole country, or anybody who doesn’t want to be involved get involved in order for it to function within whichever area it’s allowed. I’m not even suggesting we turn a currently inhabited place ancap; just that one or more places far away from any habitation should be allowed to try it. Traditional political authority, conversely, demands supremacy and brooks no competition, at least within traditional geographic borders (which, together, now cover all the land space in the world).

          • “If you could convince me that the state is wholly unnecessary to achieve what I consider as good, I might be open to it. But if I could convince you that the lack of a state would lead to terrible consequences then you should do the same. Of course, then the question of the state switches from a philosophical one ”

            I am sympathetic to this view, but I think it’s a little too simple. The question of the state is in part empirical, in part philosophical.

            The values of different people have a lot in common but they are not identical. Make one alternative enough better than the other by shared values, as in your “terrible consequences,” and almost everyone will agree. But if the difference is not that great, then the philosophical differences come into play.

            If you have strong moral intuitions in favor of a libertarian perception of rights, you will prefer the stateless society to the state even if you believe that (say) per capita income and life expectancy are a little higher in the state. If you have strong moral intuitions in favor of egalitarianism of outcome and think the state gives more equal outcomes even if the average is somewhat worse, you will prefer the state.

            Which is why one of the tasks for those of us who prefer the stateless society is to argue that states are much less egalitarian in practice than in theory, and very possibly less egalitarian than markets.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @onyomi

            With statism you have a double standard where some people get to use force in situation others would not even though they are all just people of presumably equal moral authority and worth.

            That is weakmanning in my opinion, because it is pretending there is no such thing as agency. Your employer grants you agency to act on his behalf, and you grant agency to your realtors and attorneys to do things they could not otherwise do. The state grants agency to its officers and employees.

            People who are police officers have no special rights. People acting in their official capacity as officers do. It is not the personal authority and moral worth of a person arresting you and putting you in handcuffs, it is an agent of the state. The state can rescind that authority if it is abused, and laws restrict how the authority of the state can be employed, and grant you rights to challenge whether the use of force was consistent with law.

            AnCap is far more guilty of over-empowering individuals, as it envisions private police forces (these might have more descriptive terms such as private militias or roving street gangs) that will use force as the clients of those private police forces deem necessary, with no recourse to the victims except to pay for and hire an even bigger private police force of their own. The highest authority is whoever can apply the largest amount of force with the most brutality.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Which is why one of the tasks for those of us who prefer the stateless society is to argue that states are much less egalitarian in practice than in theory, and very possibly less egalitarian than markets.

            The dominant ‘Third way’ politics of the past few decades have caused greater wealth and income differences, so you either have to deny reality to make that argument or argue that those politics are non-libertarian deregulation.

            @onyomi

            Is ‘uninhabited Wyoming’ the same kind of thing as ‘uninhabited North America?’ These kinds of Utopian experiments tend to come up with fake realities and then use violence to make actual reality conform.

          • IrishDude says:

            @spookykou

            The problem with the idea of law as God is that people have different preferences for rules of interaction. There isn’t one God, but many. Some people like Coke and some like Pepsi, and instead of only having one soda for everyone (say by voting on it), it’s better for each person to satisfy their soda preference.

            Similarly, there are many different sets of preferences for rules, changing over time, and the closer we can get to satisfying everyone’s preferences by allowing law to vary by person the better off we’ll all be.

            Last, I’d like to note that law is always rule by man, and is the reason the Supreme Court, with very experienced judges, so often has 5-4 splits on matters of law. There are competing precedents in law and preference for one precedent over another can lead to justification for any outcome. See this really nice article on The Myth of the Rule of Law for how this argument gets fleshed out: http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythWeb.htm

          • onyomi says:

            “Is ‘uninhabited Wyoming’ the same kind of thing as ‘uninhabited North America?’ These kinds of Utopian experiments tend to come up with fake realities and then use violence to make actual reality conform.”

            You think it was a bad thing that the early history of the United States allowed for people to voluntarily experiment with novel forms of socio-political organization?

            I skimmed the histories of all the communes on this list and only one mentions any violence (sounds rather tame). Most of them sound, if anything, much more dedicated to non-violence (and often racial/gender egalitarianism and vegetarianism) than the average 19th c. American. Sure, some of their ideas about social organization proved unworkable, but I don’t see any cases of these experiments going horribly awry in such a way as to seriously harm many of the participants, much less uninvolved third parties. In most cases even those who participated in a failed experiment apparently report looking fondly upon the experience.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Onyomi

            I’m certainly not opposed to anarchocapitalist experiment. You don’t need to convince of that. All I was hoping from this conversation was to make you see why “the state is this special group that uses violence when no one else can” is simplistic when considering how private property can be thought of as a mini-state but I have obviously failed at that. I would suggest looking at other proposals for how to deal with property such as Georgism(which I’m sure you have at least a passing familiarity) and especially Mutualism. I don’t agree with them but it certainly is interesting. It made me realize how much we take our contemporary version of property rights for granted and how we shouldn’t. I found a good article on the subject. It was written to criticize the non-aggression principle but it’s making the same points I’ve been trying to get across.

            @David Friedman

            What I meant was “terrible consequences(from your perspective)”.

            @Everyone else

            You all mention the important point that people have different values and the difficulty of promoting one over the other. The easy answer is that there is no easy answer. The only way we as a society can get along is to have a common ethical belief. Especially in our modern secular society, I believe that such mythologies as “the rule of law”, “political authority”, “property rights” and “human rights” are necessary to keep the peace. But this sub-thread has already gone on for quite a while so I’ll save that discussion for another day.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Wrong Species

            You say “The only way we as a society can get along is to have a common ethical belief.” However, people with similar ethical beliefs can still have different law preferences. Suppose 0.01% of the population prefers nudity being allowed in public while 99.99% are disgusted by it (though might not find it necessarily immoral). One-size-fits-all rules would ban public nudity to satisfy majoritarian preferences, while polycentric solutions would allow nude enclaves for the tiny minority to express themselves as long as it wasn’t at the expense of harming others.

            Would you like to see one world government with one set of laws for the globe? If not, do you think the 196 sets of nation state federal laws are the optimal number? If not, why not devolve all the way down to allowing individuals to purchase the laws they prefer, with the constraint that they have to compromise with others? Maximizing choice among rule sets, to the extent possible, seems like an obvious improvement to social interactions to me.

          • Spookykou says:

            @IrishDude

            I was only proposing a very narrow idea in direct response to a statement made by onyomi. I am not talking about the general legitimacy of law or rule of law.

            Onyomi puts forward that democracy has an ethical dilemma because people administer force over other people who can’t do the same, but all people should be of equal moral weight. (I don’t agree with this idea, but I am attempting to engage with it assuming it is true and working from there.)

            He then says that Divine Right does not have this dilemma, assuming god is real, because a god would occupy a different ‘ethical space’.

            So, assuming both of these claims are true, I think one can make an argument for the Law as being an entity that operates in a different ‘ethical space’ and thus resolves the ethical dilemma.

          • onyomi says:

            @Wrong Species

            As Tibor described, there is definitely a sense in which ancap is equivalent to “[number of people living in ancap region] tiny states coexisting” (“and to go on a date you have to contact the other person’s foreign minister,” a friend often jokes).

            Sovereign nation states currently exist in a state of anarchocapitalism with respect to one another: some may be much bigger or more powerful or control more land/property than others, but none occupies a philosophically privileged space. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan depend heavily on the US military for protection, for example, yet no one would think that the US government has the right to tax Japanese citizens. America would win in a war with Canada, but no one thinks the US can pass laws which Canadians (in Canada) must obey.

            As for the more fundamental philosophical justification of private property as a concept, you’re right that is a bigger question than I want to go into here, but I will note that you won’t see me appeal to the “non-aggression principle” as if it can just be stated axiomatically (as some libertarians, indeed, do). It is, really, overly simplistic and often insufficiently supported, though I think it can be a good heuristic notion for introducing libertarianism/voluntarism: one can just say “I’m in favor of all human interactions being as voluntary as possible.”

          • “The dominant ‘Third way’ politics of the past few decades have caused greater wealth and income differences”

            You have access to a parallel world in which those politics did not occur, so that you can tell what the cause was of the changes?

            On a world scale, almost certainly the opposite of what you describe happened, since China, which was a very large and very poor population, is now a very large and substantially less poor population. That change was associated with, and almost certainly caused by, a very large change in Chinese policy in the direction I advocate. Something similar seems to be happening on a small scale in India.

            And, of course, the fraction of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has fallen sharply over the last few decades.

            So far as the U.S. is concerned, government spending as a share of GNP has not declined, total regulations have increased, so I don’t see what reason you have to think that that the U.S. has shifted in a pro-market direction. The only substantial change I can see is in political rhetoric.

          • I have not read Huemers book but I do believe that his main point is that the state is not fundamentally different than a mob and that the only reason we don’t see it as so is because of the mythology we have surrounding the state. But as far as I know, he doesn’t disprove that the mythology itself is bad.

            Indeed. Cf “natural rights”. Of course they don’t *really* exist…but the question is whether they are useful fictions.

          • @Irish Dude

            If not, why not devolve all the way down to allowing individuals to purchase the laws they prefer, with the constraint that they have to compromise with others?

            You need to solve the the problem of needing polycentric laws in geographically coherent units, since you can’t have the nudists and the nudity-haters in the same street. And you need to solve the problem of people going beyond the pale and setting up deeply racist, sexist or whatever societies. I suspect that when those problems are solved, what you end up is not radically different to what exists.

          • IrishDude says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            You need to solve the the problem of needing polycentric laws in geographically coherent units, since you can’t have the nudists and the nudity-haters in the same street.

            Some laws have a strong geographic component and some don’t. Social norms vary across the internet, where much social interaction takes place, and increasingly so. Different ‘laws’ exist for how to interact on Facebook, SSC, Amazon, Ebay, and 4chan, allowing polycentric law to be free from geographic constraints.

            Other laws are minorly geographic dependent. Different rules of interaction exist depending on if you’re at home, at work, at the store, or at a bar, and all these different rule sets can exist within the same city limits. Only some sets of laws are highly geographic dependent across a wide geographic area, with most laws being able to be determined at very low levels of geography.

            And you need to solve the problem of people going beyond the pale and setting up deeply racist, sexist or whatever societies.

            I don’t see this as a major issue. I think open racists and sexists are a tiny minority, and social ostracization works well to keep this tamped down. Government follows society on these types of issues, where cultural changes first start to occur and then government steps in as ‘savior’.

            To the extent people are racist/sexist on private property, I don’t see coercion as morally justified to correct their backward beliefs. People are free to allow who they want to in their homes, as sexist and racist as they want to be even under statist regimes, and extending this freedom of association to private commercial transactions accords well with most people’s moral beliefs about the use of force. The fact that people can outsource their coercion to state agents makes them more supportive of corrective coercive actions than they’d be if they were closer to using the physical force themselves.

            In the absence of the state, I think the appetite for using force or directly paying to use force to stop non-violent racists and sexists would plummet.

            Edit: On the specific issue of nudist/non-nudist preferences, this can get resolved by thinking about how much each person is willing to pay to satisfy their preference. It would be costly for a nudist to satisfy their preference in a conservative christian town where most the townspeople would be willing to pay a lot to their Rights Enforcement Agency to prevent nudists from galavanting. The cheaper alternative is to buy private land in an enclave where fellow nudist travelers share your preference. Economics guides solutions that help satisfy preferences for people with varying tastes. Of course there would be conflicts, but this happens with government solutions as well.

    • Skivverus says:

      And now for a different sort of ideological horseshoe-ing – the arguments for anarchy seem to me to be pointed towards government being, in effect, a monopolistic conglomerate with shady revenue generation methods.
      The conclusion anarchists draw from this argument is that government should be dismantled – but what about introducing/increasing competition instead? Polyarchy rather than anarchy, so to speak.

      (Yes, yes, there will no doubt be good arguments against this too, or that it merely reflects the status quo of multiple countries; still I think a useful way to think about it)

      • dragnubbit says:

        At that point why not just have democratic elections and political parties?

        There is competition in government. It is just that the front lines are not anywhere near where radicals wish they were.

        • Tibor says:

          By the same argument you could say why have different companies, we could just vote who gets to be the director of the one company which makes everything. Or, since there are many people in the government who you don’t vote for directly (this differs by country of course), you could simply vote for the politicians the way you do now and they then appoint the company directors.

        • At that point why not just have democratic elections and political parties?

          It’s amazing how libertarians ignore democratic competition.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There is a huge difference between market and democratic competition. With the market, you can choose whatever options are available or start your own company. In a democracy of millions of people, your vote is almost useless and you’re stuck with what’s chosen.

          • Tibor says:

            Think about how much time you spend on buying a car or a house and how much time you spend on who to vote for. Arguably, who forms the government is a much more important thing that what car you’ll own. But in your car decision you a) get what you choose, b) bear all the benefits and all the costs of your choice. Neither is true in democratic elections. It is actually worse than that, since unless you are Swiss, you will usually just vote for people (or political parties), not for laws. It is like saying that voting for which car company everyone has to buy cars from (and the companies only make some vague promises about what cars they’ll actually make) and buying a particular model are pretty much the same.

            Of course, there is some amount of competition in democracy, but it is very weak. It is usually enough to prevent outright totalitarianism (but sometimes the totalitarians get enough votes to take over anyway) but that’s about that.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, as I say here, it’s not that we ignore democratic competition, it’s that ancap asks everyone to buy their own car, while democracy amounts to giving regular people one of 100 million votes in who gets to be CEO of General Motors. Which competitive process is likely to produce a more qualified CEO of GM?

          • dragnubbit says:

            @onyomi

            If the only vote that was ever held in our democratic system was for the office of President, you might have an analogy.

          • onyomi says:

            Most people pay little attention to the presidential elections and even less to all other elections. Many, many people only vote once every four years, and that only to turn out for their party’s presidential nominee.

            Also, as I said in the linked comment, it is better the closer to the local level it gets (in terms of actually voting for someone to do a specific job, like chief of police, where your vote has at least a tiny potential to affect your real life). Still the vast, vast majority of government employees are not elected, but appointed by the few people we do vote for.

            But does the analogy make democracy look any better if not only the CEO of GM, but also the VP of this that and the other, as well as the regional manager of this that and the other were also selected democratically? This seems like it would only make GM even worse.

          • Spookykou says:

            @onyomi

            They would be democratically elected from a short list of existing GM employees who normally have the skill set necessary for the job and are supported by a decent amount of GM employees. I doubt GM would be that much worse off for the democratic processes.

            Edit: I realized after posting this that my point might not be clear. I am just trying to say that I think you are being a little uncharitable to the democratic process in terms of selecting people who are fit for the job.

          • onyomi says:

            @Spookykou

            Point taken, but remember that the measure of success is getting re-elected, not profit or efficiency. Which means the people who have been doing it a long time and are there on the inside to pick the “best” candidates for the voters to chose among, are themselves there because of ability to get elected, which only somewhat correlates with ability to actually do the job.

            And to the extent some of the party insiders are there because they were appointed for competence and not elected, and to the extent those insiders chose candidates not for ability to get elected, but for ability to do the job, it sounds like another way of saying democracy works to the extent it isn’t democratic.

            In an article I can’t find right now, I think Bryan Caplan puts it something like “thank goodness we don’t get all the government we deserve.”

          • Spookykou says:

            @onyomi

            I agree with you in general that selecting people for a job based on competence and merit is better than selecting them based on those traits plus electability, and this will create some loss in a democratic system. I would add that corporations are hardly meritocracies (My old boss), but still I am willing to concede that they are probably better at selecting people for competence than the democratic process in general.

            However I think it is important to acknowledge that, at least in theory, politicians have a ‘higher obligation’ to the people, which occupies a similar ideological space as the ‘political authority’ assumed by the people (If that makes any sense at all?). Which could be seen as an advantage outside of competence that corporations probably wouldn’t capture.

          • Yes, as I say here, it’s not that we ignore democratic competition, it’s that ancap asks everyone to buy their own car, while democracy amounts to giving regular people one of 100 million votes in who gets to be CEO of General Motors. Which competitive process is likely to produce a more qualified CEO of GM?

            And the commons? Does everyone get their own roads and bridges?

            There is a huge difference between market and democratic competition. With the market, you can choose whatever options are available or start your own company. In a democracy of millions of people, your vote is almost useless and you’re stuck with what’s chosen

            .
            Not all goods and services *van* be chose individualy. If a town wants a new bridge, they are all not going to get the individual perfect bridge of their dreams. That is true even if they are buying the bridge from a private contractor.

            However I think it is important to acknowledge that, at least in theory, politicians have a ‘higher obligation’ to the people, which occupies a similar ideological space as the ‘political authority’ assumed by the people (If that makes any sense at all?). Which could be seen as an advantage outside of competence that corporations probably wouldn’t capture.

            There’s a more cynical take on the same problem. If you government is based on selection by (theoretical) competence, ie a self-perpetating oligarchy (in practice), what is to stop that turning into a system whereby policitiancs (who cna no longer be removed by the electorate) just turning it into a means of enriching themselves?

      • Tibor says:

        This is what some anarchists, for example David Friedman, argue for. A competition of entities which provide the useful functions of our current governments but which do not hold the special unique status the state has.

        • dragnubbit says:

          You can change cities, counties and states quite easily. And they do compete on very important policies that affect your daily life (taxes, education, crime, environmental regulation, transportation, housing, economic development, union laws, marijuana legalization, etc.). National elections are conducted largely with candidates that gained experience and credibility by their performance at these levels.

          Anarchists are left arguing that nation-states should not exist. I do not like mean people and believe they should not exist either, but I would not try to build a political philosophy based on the belief I could will them out of existence.

          • onyomi says:

            Ancap does not assume everyone is nice. It’s the opposite. Democracy works if we can elect omniscient angels. Ancap only suggests people research and pay directly for the things they want, including protection from mean people.

          • ChetC3 says:

            You seem to be using a highly non-standard definition of “works.”

          • Spookykou says:

            @onyomi

            Democracy works if we can elect omniscient angels.

            Democracy has worked in many places up until the moment of me writing this, and unless something very strange happens as a result of me posting, will continue to work for a while. On the other hand, I am not aware of any lawless/government-less civilization in the history of humanity. From what I understand even egalitarian hunter gatherer societies without a chief system still have communally enforced laws and rules of engagement when dealing with outsiders.

          • shakeddown says:

            Kowloon kinda was. It worked about as well as you’d expect.

          • onyomi says:

            @Spookykou,

            I am, of course, exaggerating to some degree, given that representative democracies have at least sort of worked for a couple of centuries. But then, the USSR “sort of” worked for seventy years, largely because of black and grey markets undermining the principles it was founded on. And, as I say, democracies may sort of work to the extent they aren’t thoroughly democratic.

          • Spookykou says:

            @onyomi

            Totally on board with democracy working because it isn’t totally a democracy. I think the democratic aspects of the government do a different kind of work, and the non-democratic parts do most of the real work.

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            Western democracies clearly only work by virtue of cultural factors that cause leaders not exploit the powers they have been granted maximally.

            When countries without these cultural factors have elections, the outcomes are quite different and more oppressive.

            This is why I don’t just define democracy as ‘do elections,’ but see it as a cultural phenomenon.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Aapje

            Tentatively agree, in an earlier comment to onyomi I reference those cultural factors as being a reason one might prefer a democratic selection process.

            However Japan and South Korea strike me as pretty strong examples of new and successful non-western democracies. Obviously every attempt by America to build democracy around the world does not turn out like Japan, but I would want a much deeper understand of both the culture and the technical details of the governments in question before I was willing to say that some populations of humanity are simply incompatible with a democratic system.

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            The allies forced certain decisions on Japan, including writing a constitution for them. After the occupation ended, Japan became an important member of the anti-communist bloc, which tied Japanese and America closely together. Due to not being allowed to have a real army, Japan was dependent on American favor against Russian and Chinese aggression, which created a strong incentive to support the core Western ideals.

            A similar argument can be made for South-Korea.

            So I’m not sure that you can reasonably call their democracies non-Western. It’s more of a hybrid where the elements that are important to Western democracy were mostly copied.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Aapje

            Yes the structure of both governments is informed by western democracy, I think I misunderstood your comment. I thought you were saying with,

            clearly only work by virtue of cultural factors

            that the culture of the population being governed by a democracy dictated if the democracy would work, and Japan and South Korea are culturally fairly different from the west.

            Instead maybe you are saying the structures of western democracy are culturally informed, which is a position I probably agree with, but as Scott recently talked about in the post about western culture, it can be difficult to pen down what elements of modern society are derived from ‘western culture’.

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            The only cultural traits that matter are fairly high level ones. It doesn’t matter that the Japanese like sushi, for example. So cultures can be very different and yet be democratically compatible.*

            Japanese culture is/was very bureaucratic, law-abiding and anti-individualist, which are traits that make it very compatible with Western democracy. The main element that produced incompatibility was their belief in ‘a great leader,’ in the form of the emperor. It was basically just a monarchy.

            Western monarchies were also turned into democracies in one or both of these two ways:
            – The monarch became regarded as corrupt and thus the concept of the ‘great leader’ was removed from the culture
            – The monarch was (gradually) separated from power, becoming a symbolic position, in part to protect him

            In Japan, the secondary strategy was the main way that democracy was embedded in Japanese society. The deal was that those who loved the emperor could hide all the evidence of the bad things that he did in World War 2, in return for making the emperor into a symbolic leader.

            Note that culture is not static. Western countries were not compatible with modern democracy at first. There were a variety of developments that changed Western culture to be more compatible (including feedback loops where the introduction of democratic elements caused people to support more democracy).

            * Once upon a time, the Dutch were the only nation being allowed to trade with the Japanese, despite the Dutch being known as the rudest Europeans and the Japanese never wanting to give offense. They were still trade-compatible, because other factors mattered way more.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Aapje

            Yes I think I am agreeing with almost everything you are saying, I am just proposing that for any given population, with a thorough understanding of their culture it could be possible to devise a democratic form of government that would work specifically for them.

            I would not be confident enough to rule out the possibility that any given country could have a working democracy without a very deep understanding of their culture and history that would convince me that they were somehow fundamentally incompatible with democracy.

            I am including the possibility for iterative steps to transition a population into a democracy over many years, and literally any conceivable form of ‘democracy’ here. I am not trying to cheat here though, and say something like ‘just turn them into Americans and then import American democracy’. I am willing to accept the idea that, maintaining their core cultural values, some populations would be fundamentally incompatible with democracy.

            You seemed to be putting forward the idea that it is ‘impossible’ for non-western countries to be democratic, which seemed a bit much.

            With regard to Japan in particular it seems to me that individualist verse collectivist is one of the most important cultural differences it is possible to have with regard to a culture-to-government compatibility test. They are also isolationist, these both feel like significant cultural traits that differentiate Japan from the standard western democracy. The only major ‘cultural factor’ that I can think of that strikes me as possibly being more important, and which Japan was on the right side of, is religious versus secular. A constitutional monarchy happened to work out for Japan and a different flavor of democracy worked for South Korea, this kind of tailoring the government to the situation is exactly what I am talking about with attempting to create democracy in non-western, non-democratic countries.

            Not that I think nation building or democracy building are worthy or worthwhile goals, I just think it is theoretically possible.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @onyomi

            You seem to have missed the second half of my point. Willing nation-states out of existence is just as futile and pointless as willing mean people out of existence. Both are reality, the nation-state is just the evolution of the inevitable control that ‘mean’ people exert over ‘nice’ people. Kings did not start out as altruists, but over generations they became culturally normed into thinking of themselves as patrons of their nation. Early kings were nothing better than mafiosos travelling around exacting their protection money and fighting off rival mafiosos for their territory. But to maintain legitimacy and avoid a violent end, they eventually had to become more and more responsive and create the concept of a national polity.

            We get to choose between representative democracy or exploitative warlords. But they are two sides of the same coin – reality. Ancap is just saying ‘lets turn back centuries, if not millenia, of political evolution towards representative democracy, go back to the age of warlords, and see if it evolves to end somewhere better over the next few centuries. If a few eggs like constitutions, legal institutions, etc. get broken along the way, well it was all so unfair anyway how those things got decided so nothing of value is being lost.’

          • Spookykou says:

            @dragnubbit

            It seems obvious that he misread that part, to be fair, the ‘ancaps just assume everyone will be nice’ is a stock standard criticism that gets leveled against him(something I am guilty of as well), so I think using mean people in particular in your example dramatically increase the chance of this confusion.

            We get to choose between representative democracy or exploitative warlords.

            This is a little uncharitable, I think that it is possible for an ancap society to devolve into exploitative warlords sure. Ancap is just so fundamentally different from anything in human history though, I wouldn’t feel comfortable making any high confidence assessments of how it would turn out.

          • Tibor says:

            I think you overestimate the amount of competition in the democratic process and underestimate the costs associated with moving and especially with moving to another country which usually speaks a different language and has a different culture (which you might not prefer to yours). This limits the amount to which governments have to compete for citizens.

            I like to describe anarchocapitalism as a limit of Switzerland. That is, Switzerland is a relatively small country on its own, but it is divided into 26 highly autonomous cantons and even within them the local communes have a lot of individual power. Since they are so small, the costs of moving decrease a lot compared to say moving from France to Germany. You can move 50 km one way to have a a bit different government or 50 km the other way to have a yet another one. In anarchocapitalism, you tak the size of cantons and send it to zero. As is often the case in limits, some things change a bit, so that for example you have to solve new problems (interaction of all those different law systems operating in the same realspace, or the rather difficult problem of national defence – “defence against nations” as David Friedman is fond to define it). Of course, there are a way more dogmatic and ideological approaches to anarchy such as those of various left-anarchists or people who like Murray Rothbad (and himself). I am not a big fan of those.

            The reason I like to describe anarcho-capitalism in this way is that it shows that it is not completely alien and in some ways actually similar to a system that exists and that works extremely well (I am absolutely convinced that Switzerland is a model state for all of Europe if not all of the world). Of course, the Swiss have other things, such as direct democracy and the closely related Konkordanzsystem (which I think is sort of a necessary measure to introduce when you have a strong direct democracy). But I also think that the strong federalization of a small country into really tiny areas, which are yet at least as independent as the US states (possibly more so, at least when measured by the ratio of federal and cantonal taxation in Switzerland versus the ratio of federal and state taxation in the US) is a very important element and one of the main reasons behind the Swiss success story.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @Spookykou

            Yes I oversimplified the dichotomy. But if we revert to a world of anarchy as an initial condition, a budding ancap society would lose quite quickly to any other governing philosophy that was better able to organize for conquest and exploitation, unless we gifted that ancap society with a tremendous starting advantage in resources, capital and social cohesion.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @Tibor

            Switzerland is not ancap. It is an isolationist representative democracy with very stable social demographics that freeloads off of the rest of Europe for its defense and market access (the latter of which it is slowly and inevitably being made to pay its share for). I do not think it makes a good example of ancap philosophy other than showing that isolationism is viable when you are a mountainous country in the middle of modern peaceful democracies.

            There is no doubt in my mind that Switzerland would have become another Nazi country once the Third Reich got around to it.

          • “Ancap is just saying ‘lets turn back centuries, if not millenia, of political evolution towards representative democracy, go back to the age of warlords”

            Could you specify what “the age of warlords” was–what and where? What preceded the nation state in Europe was feudalism, which had a reasonably well defined structure so I don’t think is what you are describing. What followed that was absolute monarchy.

            In Southeast Asia, at least if you accept James Scott’s account, states coexisted with stateless areas for a couple of thousand years, and his description of the latter doesn’t sound like warlords either.

          • Spookykou says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of.

            But seriously, feudal lords are functionally warlords.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @David Friedman

            By age of warlords I meant a situation where there was no monopoly on ‘legitimate’ violence within a stable geographic region. Instead you have areas with potential unrestrained violence from multiple parties and must either pay off everyone or keep your productivity and investments so low that you are not worth plundering (e.g. a typical stateless area). If I am taken for a slave, why should my ancap protection agency spend more resources getting me back than I paid in dues? If you say ‘to protect their reputation’ you are ignoring how mafiosos treated their ‘clients’ who became more trouble than they were worth. He who has the guns, rules.

            Feudalism would be superior to ancap. And feudalism sucked for the 99%. But at least there was someone who felt it was their responsibility to stamp out banditry and maintain a semblance of justice if for no other reason than it cut into their profits to have undeveloped lands and rampant violence.

            Ancap would be more akin to warlords fighting over the same turf for the right of monopoly taxation. As soon as one of them kicked out the rest within a defensible perimeter there would some hope of property rights and the society could advance into feudalism.

            Now if your definition for ancap equates to feudalism, then I am using someone else’s definition for ancap, and instead you might be arguing for the merits of feudalism. I find discussions on ancap to go in a lot of contradictory directions simultaneously because it is sort of a cafeteria of anti-statism concepts. I tend to revert to assuming the society depicted in a post-apocalyptic Vernor Vinge novel with private security forces of overlapping ‘jurisdiction’ who somehow decide not to compete for clients using their core competency (violence).

          • “And feudalism sucked for the 99%.”

            Compared to what followed it, which was absolute monarchy?

            One of the problems with all such arguments is disentangling different causes. Developed countries in the modern world have a real per capita income about twenty to thirty times what it was through most of history. You could argue that our higher incomes reflect a better form of government–but there were non-feudal societies, such as the Roman Empire or the Greek city states, in the distant past, and they were desperately poor by our standards.

            If you take everything other than the political structure as exogenous, you need to ask how well different political structures would do starting with the same level of technology, human capital, etc. We don’t know the answer, because the experiment isn’t done.

            So I don’t see how you can know that feudalism was worse for 99% of the population than alternative political structures. If you look at population growth estimates, it looks as though feudal Europe was doing better than the Roman Empire, not worse.

            The rest of your argument would require a long response, and since I published a good deal of it more than forty years ago and it’s available to read–the second edition for free, the third edition as an inexpensive kindle–I don’t think I’ll attempt it here.

          • Artificirius says:

            If AnCap is most succinctly expressed as no government, all goods and services in society are the result private enterprise.

            (There seems to be some allowance, sometimes, for small government like town councils?)

            How exactly does this state of affairs continue? It does seem workable on a small scale. A couple hundred people could very easily work merrily along without creating, participating or benefiting from a state or state like analogue.

            But how well does it work across two small towns? Or a small city? Large city? What happens in multicultural areas? How do your coordinate across something the size of a country? Can you?

            If you can’t, how do you stop someone from taking over?

            Even if we do not allow there to be states nearby, IE, that the world goes ‘AnCap’ simultaneously and perfectly for some period of time, what prevents me, hypothetical Not Very Nice Guy from going around, recruiting some like minded fellows, and using force to extract value?

            “That’s a nice town/farm/factory/etc, it would be a tearing shame if it mysteriously caught fire.”

            A private police force -might- be able to deal with that level opposition.

            So now go up some number of levels, and you have someone in the mold of Alexander the Great/Napoleon/etc.

            “I feel like this place has ‘My Glorious Empire’ written all over it, and lads, there is a princedom waiting in every rucksack.”

          • Tibor says:

            @dragnubbit I never claimed that Switzerland is an anarchocapitalist society, that would of course be a ridiculous statement. I said that if you take Switzerland as a function of canton size and , the limit of that function at zero is ancap. Now, that limit would in some ways fundamentally different, but in others Switzerland is a reasonably good approximation.

            As for your other two claims – Switzerland was not attacked by Hitler for a reason. Of course, had he wanted to he could have defeated a country 10 times smaller that his own. But it was simply not worth it. Swiss highway tunnels have explosives and machinegun nests in then so that they can stop an invasion force. Every Swiss citizen has to either have a bomb shelter in his house or pay for an access to one elsewhere. Also, the Swiss men have military weapons at home so that in case of an emergency mobilization they don’t have to go to a distribution center first. For the Swiss it is also a sign of respect towards it people – from their point of view, only a state which is afraid of its people is going to take the weapons away from them. Counting in the civilian reservists, the Swiss have one of the largest armies in Europe (although not fully professional) and a terrain that is easy to defend. They are hardly freeloading on the rest of Europe in their defence. Btw, as a part of their armed neutrality, Swiss forces actually ended up shooting down both German AND allied warplanes. Naturally, they were more concerned about the Germans but when the US airplanes started bombing Swiss cities by mistakes, they forbade them access to the Swiss airspace and shot at planes that did not respect that. The Swiss may be neutral, but unlike the neighbouring Austria, they are not toothless. Singapore has a similar idea behind its defence – you don’t have to be able to beat the potential aggressors to deter them, it is enough to make it too costly for them to bother attacking you. China could gobble up Singapore, but it is simply not worth it. That said, yes, in a hypothetical scenario what Hitler or Stalin conquer the world, Switzerland would end up being conquered too. A hypothetical anarchocapitalist country would have an even bigger problem, since it cannot force people to military service and since defence is a public good (the military cannot really defend me but not my next-door neighbour). So that is a hard problem. David suggested some ideas about how it could be dealt with, other people too, but none of them would obviously work. But even if national defence is what necessitates the existence of a state, one can have a state with a government whose sole purpose is the defence and there is just one tax from which the military is financed. Since the government is so simple, you might have legislation done through referendums only, avoiding the need to vote for people.

            As for the economical freeloading, I am not quite sure what you mean by paying their dues and how they are freeloading exactly? As far as I know the Swiss do not get any subsidies from other countries in Europe. This kind of rhetoric reminds me of the Brexit phrases of German politicians who keep talking about “rosinenpicken”. A common market and zero tariffs is something that benefits everyone, not just the Swiss or the British, it is not a grace bestowed on others by the benevolent EU or a privilege that has to be earned by some political means. And if you are talking about comparatively low taxation, this argument has also always struck me as strange. “Oh look at those evil bastards and their economically attractive system, they should have loads of bureaucracy and high taxes like us so that companies don’t prefer them to us”. The reason given for why everyone can’t just also lower their taxes and bureaucracy is usually something like a race to the bottom – if I reduce my taxes, they will reduce them even more to attract the investors and suddenly taxes are zero and mission accomplished the state breaks down. But this assumes that there is a certain number of companies, one fixed-size pie the countries have to fight over, which is obviously not true, and it also assumes that the tax money is actually put to a good use, i.e. that not collecting the higher tax would harm the country had it not been for the foreign investors. That is also a very dubious statement, in my opinion.

          • Tibor says:

            @Artificirius: A short answer would be “read David’s machinery of freedom for one possible sketch of an anarchocapitalist society”.

            A slightly longer (but still short and simplified) answer is that you could have private companies which provide the useful functions of government (most notably law enforcement) who you sign up to. Their advertise their laws and they also, based on the preferences of their respective customers, arrange for inter-company laws whenever there is a legal conflict between customers of two different companies. Since you cannot cover every aspect of law on paper, there would be arbiters (judges) these companies agree upon and who work as judges between than, taking into account the law the companies agreed upon. Of course, nothing forces anyone to cooperate, except for the tit for tat. If your company stops respecting the rulings, nobody will want to cooperate with it any more, your customers will become pretty much lawless and they will then switch to a competition, leaving you broke at best. If a judge accepts a bribe from a company to rule in its favour, his reputation is in tatters (not to mention the company’s) and nobody will agree to have him as an arbiter any more (this is how private arbitrage already works nowadays). What the laws actually look like is based solely on the market demand. But since people tend to value their own freedoms more than oppressing others, you would expect them to be at least as liberal as the laws today. If you have a KKK majority in a democratic state, it will be racist, if you have a KKK majority in such a society, it might still be racist, but now the KKK members don’t get to be oppressive for free and at the cost of those being oppressed, just by voting for oppressive policies or political candidates who then vote for oppressive policies, they have to pay for it and they have to be able to pay more than those people who don’t want to be oppressed).

            At the same time a relatively minor inconvenience of how your country is being run today is not going to convince you to move to a different one. But it is usually enough to, say, switch the company which administers your house (I am talking about houses with flats where the ownership is shared between the owners, then typically the owners’ collective hires a company to do the administration). So the element of competition is much stronger there than it is today, when you either have to move to a different country which is costly not just in terms of money, or you have to elect a better government and you have only a negligible say in who actually ends up forming the government (not to mention that that is already one step away from what laws will end up being passed, which is what people actually care about).

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            I believe that a cultural necessity for democracy is that people cannot believe in ‘might makes right.’ The Peace of Westphalia is a discrete point that you can point to where the Western world moved away from that idea.

            I can’t point to something similar in Japan, but they clearly have a very strong moral code which limits how one may treat others, although it’s not necessarily fully compatible with Western ethics.

          • “I believe that a cultural necessity for democracy is that people cannot believe in ‘might makes right.’ The Peace of Westphalia is a discrete point that you can point to where the Western world moved away from that idea.”

            I can’t see any historical evidence supporting a shift of the sort you describe. Under both feudalism and absolute monarchy, partisans routinely offered arguments for why their side was right, whether divine right of kings or Salic Law inheritance.

            Have you read Orwell’s essay on Kipling? It implies just the opposite of your claimed change–that Kipling was less fascist than moderns because he had the old fashioned idea that might did not make right.

          • he KKK members don’t get to be oppressive for free and at the cost of those being oppressed, just by voting for oppressive policies or political candidates who then vote for oppressive policies, they have to pay for it and they have to be able to pay more than those people who don’t want to be oppressed

            It’s scant comfort that you can only be oppressed by majorities and rich minorities!

        • dragnubbit says:

          @David Friedman

          Feudalism sucked for the 99% relative to the 1% it was geared for (as in, the 1% who had political rights beyond pitchforks). There are bad outcomes in representative democracy as well, and we still have ultra-rich, but those ultra-rich act within legal frameworks voted on by everyone.

          I have read some on your blog, but I have not read your books. I also believe you are an incrementalist (e.g. try to evolve from modern government towards AnCap principles), so we probably even agree on some short-term reforms. I will try to take some time to read sections of Machinery of Freedom so I can pinpoint my future comments in your direction to areas where I believe our premises diverge. I know by the time you get to elimination of state force that we parted ways a while back.

      • Autolykos says:

        This is what pretty much any semi-coherent school of anarchy wants. They only disagree about how these competing mini-governments should work, and how they should divide land and people. Some prefer lots of small, decentralized communes, some prefer what is effectively multiple countries on the same territory, with people free to associate with any (or none) of them, plus some other varieties or flavors.

        • dragnubbit says:

          It will always be might makes right. Every time tribal order breaks down in third world countries it is those most willing to chop off the limbs of their detractors who come out on top.

          Constraining those impulses is the state that can exert a monopoly on violence within its territory. If only one actor has that ability, it may suck but it is better than the only real alternative (two or three or even more). Hobbes may not have had a complete theory, but he had a better starting point than almost anyone else for why government emerged.

          • “It will always be might makes right.”

            In a well functioning feud society, right makes might.

            For details, see chapter X of the book I’m currently writing. Which includes multiple real world examples of how that works.

  4. theppo says:

    I’d like to discuss intelligence, holistically. I don’t want to minimize the significance of IQ, but there’s more to the mind than one number. The most effective people are high in empathy, humor, creativity, aesthetic taste, mood control, or charisma. These terms are hard to define and harder to measure.

    What studies of the softer facets of human cognitive performance are worth reading?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is this really the case? There are plenty of people who made their way to the highest levels of politics, business, the arts, etc who were completely lacking in at least one of those areas.

      • theppo says:

        I added an “or.” Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Well, definitely. Some things are much easier to quantify than others. IQ tests tend towards measuring various measures of problem-solving ability that are easier to quantify than, say, determining someone’s Poetic Quotient.

    • shakeddown says:

      Related: Is there a measure analogous to IQ for physical ability? You’d expect most physical ability measures to correlate in the same way that you do for mental ability (and you’d expect people who are better at sports to have higher physical ability in the same way that you expect people who do well in math class to have higher IQ), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a “strength quotient.”

      • dndnrsn says:

        Well, you can measure strength, you can measure reaction time, you can measure balance, you can measure short-term and long-term cardiovascular endurance… Some are easier to measure than others (because some are easier to decouple from skill).

        Generally though measuring them like you do IQ seems kind of silly, because you can improve some of them so much more. You can’t make someone smarter by very much, if at all, but it’s possible to increase the amount someone can lift significantly with training.

        Some of them can’t be improved – balance and coordination might not be improvable, although skills involving them can be.

        • Gazeboist says:

          It seems to me like you’re needlessly blackboxing intelligence. Like, sure all these things are correlated, but how do those correlations relate to each other? How does one trait influence another? Which ones can be improved or trained, and which ones can’t (if any)? Where (if anywhere) are we mistaking skill for baseline ability, or vice versa?

          These are interesting and important questions, but a lot of the arguments on intelligence (and other mental traits) that I see seem to be people on one side yelling “Everything is mutable and unrelated!” and people on the other side yelling “Everything is fixed, and it’s all one thing!”

          Why do you think it’s so hard to make someone smarter? Is it just because things where we *can* make someone smarter don’t count? Memory, long term and short, is to some extent a skill that can be taught and/or practiced. But it doesn’t come up in intelligence discussions. What about working memory? That looks immutable to me, but maybe it isn’t, or maybe there are techniques for spilling working memory into short term memory. Or consider ADD. Before it became a psychiatric diagnosis, ability to focus and sense the passage of time were considered key components of intelligence. Now, they’ve become personality traits, and nobody seems to have noticed that we found a group of people who got way smarter when we gave them a certain drug.

          We seem to be stuck on “IQ works” vs “IQ doesn’t work”, with nobody asking “how does IQ work?” Imagine if a bunch of physicists accused Geiger and Marsden of denying the existence of atoms instead of accepting that atoms were objects with parts.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Good points.

            It’s probably possible to increase tested IQ. I find it hard to believe that, say, you couldn’t drill people on the sort of “what shape comes next” tasks and get them to test better. But whether this will actually make them “smarter” in terms of things like correlations to life outcome, I don’t know.

            On the other hand, we know that someone who spends a few years lifting weights can get considerably stronger – several times stronger. The improvements for someone with ADD who is given dexies or whatever is considerably smaller, as I understand it.

      • Corey says:

        “Physics Girl” stumbled upon this in an Olympics-themed episode about whether being tall is an advantage in sports. The answer being, of course, that it depends on the sport.

        In gymnastics, power-to-weight ratio is key, which favors being short, all else being equal. In swimming, it’s power-to-cross-section and weight is not too relevant, which favors being tall. In volleyball, height’s an advantage. Etc.

        • Aapje says:

          @Corey

          For female gymnastics, there is even an advantage to being pre-puberty, which is why there has been age-fraud in the past (they don’t want very young children to compete in the Olympics, to prevent abuse).

      • psmith says:

        The closest thing is probably standing vertical leap. Not very trainable, closely related to genetic potential for a whole bunch of sports.

        You may want to read up on the NFL combine if you don’t know much about it–it includes a Wonderlic test, to bring us back to psychometrics.

        • Gazeboist says:

          Wouldn’t that depend a lot on things like body fat percentage and the relative density of your leg vs other muscles?

          (I know next to nothing about biology and would like to be enlightened)

          • psmith says:

            Leg strength and body fat percentage do matter, especially if you are very weak and/or very fat. And to the extent that stronger legs and lower bodyfat improve standing vertical they also improve performance at most sports. But the returns to both increased strength and decreased bodyfat drop off pretty rapidly after a point, and most athletes will already be about that strong and about that lean. (Compare: knowing how to use a pencil will improve scores on written IQ tests–this has been a problem for field studies in some undeveloped areas, IIRC–but a six-week handwriting course probably won’t.).

            This also ignores the extent to which strength and leanness predict athletic success independent of standing vertical leap, which they do to varying degrees depending on the sport.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          The closest thing is probably standing vertical leap

          C.B. Fry, perhaps the greatest all-around sportsman of all time, was known for his “party trick” of leaping from a stationary position onto a mantelpiece and turning round in mid-air so he landed facing his audience. He also represented England at cricket (in which he still holds the record for most consecutive centuries) and football, played rugby at a very high level, and held the world record for the long jump.

        • nancylebovitz says:

          There was something in The Sports Gene about a foundational athletic ability– highly predictive, and the author didn’t know of any way to train it. I don’t have the book handy, but I *think* it was the ability to change direction easily while running.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        I’m reminded of a silly book, which I now discover was later made into a film, called Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, in which Tony Hawks, a comedian with a fair amount of tennis training (not to be confused with the skateboarding guy), held that compared to many other sports, tennis is quite a specific skillset, and simply being good at another sport does not give you much advantage over a trained tennis player. His friend thought that a professional footballer ought to have enough ‘sports quotient’ to generally beat an amateur tennis player, and challenged Hawk to beat every member of the Moldovan national football team at tennis. Outcome, according to the book: in favour of Hawks’s hypothesis.

        • SUT says:

          I think a lot of this has to do with the “parametrization” of tennis – the court size, net height, the way you must serve – are all setup to severely disadvantage anyone without a few weeks weeks practice of hitting a ball into the opponents court.

          A good example of a parameterization of a game changing who would win – “limit” hold’em poker is a pure probability game that should always be won by a mathematician/computer even on the first try. “no limit” hold’em poker is game-theoretic, usually taking years of experience to play at a professional level.

          So if tennis was setup differently, to favor athleticism – what they call “defensive play” – it’s likely a Moldovan would have put up a good fight even with limited offensive hitting abilities.

        • dragnubbit says:

          People with high IQ believe they can substitute speed of logical deduction for knowledge and wisdom. In the software field, it is quite common for some amateur to look at a software product and boast ‘I could make something better in a long weekend’ and sadly believe it.

          • Deiseach says:

            People with high IQ believe they can substitute speed of logical deduction for knowledge and wisdom.

            I think you’ve just summed up what the author was trying to do* in HPMOR 🙂

            *That is, if you believe he planned it to turn out the way it did, and didn’t switch from Harry being an annoying know-it-all who actually didn’t know it all due to audience reaction and necessity of plot.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is something I’ve noticed Death Eater types, especially ol’ No-Nose himself, of the STEM variety do with humanities/social science scholarship. You’ll have some smart comp sci type, completely untrained in dealing with primary sources and so on, find some memoir from 1837 that goes against the “official” story, and they’ll decide this proves that history is all a Whig hoax.

            Because, of course, no historian has ever seen anything going against the official version…

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t know if there are any actual measurements of it out there, but it certainly feels to me like such differences in e. g. coordination exist. Having done a fair amount of dance and martial arts I have often felt frustrated by how learning a new complex movement seems to come more easily to many than to myself. I feel like saying I’m not very coordinated doesn’t quite capture it, because it’s not like I can’t, e. g. rub my stomach and pat my head. It’s more like there’s a physical mimicry circuit in the brain and some people have much better ones than mine.

        On the other hand, I am much better than most people at language, and especially at learning foreign languages. I have also worked as a language teacher and have done a fair amount of research into language acquisition, etc. in an effort to get better at it. Nevertheless, I still find it frustrating much of the time because most people just don’t “get” language nearly as quickly as myself, meaning that I have to go over things not just a little more than I’d think necessary (as should be expected because I’m teaching something I already know but the students don’t), but way, way, way more than I’d think necessary. And they still forget it next week if I don’t review it.

        One time in a dance class I was feeling frustrated because it was taking me what felt like a ridiculously long time to master a fairly easy maneuver. Then I thought to myself: this must be what my language students feel like.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I do BJJ and one thing I’ve found is that I’m really bad at watching something and replicating it – I need to have something done on me to start learning it. I also get more out of thinking of the “principles” of what I’m doing (eg, a shoulder lock is about getting a 45 or so degree angle with their forearm and upper arm then using that to wrench on their shoulder, be sure to get their elbow off the mat, thumbless grips, “throttle” with your wrists) instead of thinking through step one, step two, etc.

          Overall I’m an uncoordinated and unathletic guy. There’s definitely some kind of overall “body sense”.

    • Sandy says:

      The most effective people are high in empathy, humor, creativity, aesthetic taste, mood control, charisma. These terms are hard to define and harder to measure.

      Who are you thinking of?

      • theppo says:

        Nobody is strong in all dimensions, but the vast majority of successful people don’t fit the mold of 150 IQ nerdy math professor. By successful people I mean anyone who leads an industry, is a rightful object of attention, or otherwise is effective at achieving their goals.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I would estimate that most people who are successful in “worldly” terms are in the 125-135 range. Most high-level politicians, at any rate. Smart, but not so smart as to be stupid enough to create special clubs for themselves, thereby telling everyone else “we think you’re dumb”.

          • Chalid says:

            If there is some component of luck (or other non-IQ factors) to success, and the number of people with a given IQ drops off rapidly at higher IQ levels, then you’d expect that most successful people would not be extremely high-IQ even if higher IQ always increased the chance of success.

          • shakeddown says:

            not so smart as to be stupid enough to create special clubs for themselves

            You do realize that’s a contradiction, right? And people who create specific clubs for themselves (whether it’s mensa, “the academic bubble”, or the green bay packers fan club), generally have a clear purpose in mind, and those who want to get into politics or something know well enough to avoid it (in the same way that the president isn’t vocal about his most hated sports team).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @shakeddown: Yes, the contradiction was intentional. I make the mistake of trying to do deadpan humour on the internet a lot.

            There’s just … aren’t smart people supposed to realize at some point in elementary school that pointing out how smart they are makes people hate them?

          • Spookykou says:

            @dndnrsn

            I assume they just value the gains of the club over the downsides, not that they are unaware of them. It is nice to be able to meet like minded people, and I imagine it might be particularly difficult for the non-STEM high IQ crowd to make meaningful friendships with the people they otherwise would meet in their day to day.

          • bean says:

            There’s just … aren’t smart people supposed to realize at some point in elementary school that pointing out how smart they are makes people hate them?

            Past a certain IQ gap, pretending to be normal is pretty much impossible. If you’re always going to be the weirdo, why bother caring what the peons think of you, anyway? Add in that said gap makes it hard bordering on impossible to develop normal social skills, and I’m not surprised that people who are on the high end of normal tend to be the most prominent in non-STEM fields.

          • Aapje says:

            I suspect that people with very high IQ are less likely to lead an industry, be a rightful object of attention, etc.

            Being a nerdy math professor is surely much more intellectually stimulating than doing those things.

          • Autolykos says:

            It’s hard to get reliable numbers on this, but at least the Allies tested the IQ of all the Nazis they had at the Nuremberg trials, and most of them do indeed fall into the 125-135 range (Dönitz a little bit above, Hess a little bit below). So I guess that’s a pretty decent ballpark estimate for political or economic elites.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Spookykyou: Academia? I mean, for someone who is very smart, but isn’t into STEM, I’m not sure where else they’d go. Probably the biggest manifestation I saw of “wow, this person is smart” outside of STEM was people with a real gift for languages. Turns out I was better than I thought with languages (previous attempts to learn them being hampered by laziness and sloppy study habits, not stupidity) but while I never really ran into anyone humanities or social science where I had no ability to grasp what they were talking about, I did meet several people where I was really envious of their ability to learn languages.

            @bean: Does it really make it hard to develop normal social skills? Absentminded professor is an archetype, but there are plenty of incredibly intelligent people who are also witty, charming, etc. And I’d put “thinking of people as peons” down as one of those “only smart people can be so dumb” things – no level of IQ will protect against pitchforks.

            @Aapje: Yeah, some of that stuff is likely boring. Politicians give the same speech over and over, etc.

            @Autolykos: That, plus the handful of presidential IQ tests we have (there’s one guy who estimated presidential IQs but his methods seem really fuzzy and dodgy, and I’m pretty sure he has an axe to grind – I think he was part of the “Bush is a complete moron” crowd) are where I got the ballpark estimate from.

            The Nuremberg defendents ranged from Streicher (106, and I suppose being of slightly-above-average intelligence made him talented at targeting propaganda to average and below average people) to Schacht at 143 (not a big surprise, and he was acquitted of all charges, given that he hadn’t been in the government since the 30s). I’m always surprised Goering scored 138, because a lot of sources made it sound like wasn’t especially competent, but then again he was in a morphine haze for the entire war probably, and was weaned off in captivity.

          • Adrian says:

            @bean

            Past a certain IQ gap, pretending to be normal is pretty much impossible. If you’re always going to be the weirdo, why bother caring what the peons think of you, anyway?

            I don’t think that being arrogant and condescending is a necessary consequence of having an IQ >= 130 (Mensa’s membership threshold). I’ve known several highly intelligent people who were also very sociable; they didn’t have to “pretend to be normal”, they were normal. And no, that does not mean that they hid their intelligence or held back in school – they just didn’t rub it in.

            A well-known example would be Richard Feynman.

          • bean says:

            Does it really make it hard to develop normal social skills?

            It certainly did for me when I was in a regular classroom (K-3rd). During that time, I was so much smarter than almost everyone else in the room that it was genuinely hard to be friends with them. I’m also a serious introvert, which didn’t help.

            Absentminded professor is an archetype, but there are plenty of incredibly intelligent people who are also witty, charming, etc.

            Granted. But all we need to do to resolve this is to assume that natural social skills are at least somewhat independent of IQ, and introvert/extrovert comes very close to this. Someone who’s an introvert and doesn’t have a good social module will not be able to bridge gaps that a person with a good social module could. High IQ makes the gaps bigger, which could leave you stranded on your own island until some time in middle school, and in the meantime, everyone else has been practicing building bridges.

            And I’d put “thinking of people as peons” down as one of those “only smart people can be so dumb” things – no level of IQ will protect against pitchforks.

            I was exaggerating slightly. But when you’re the sort of person who doesn’t inherently care what random people think of you and you’re in an environment where it doesn’t matter too much because you’re not at risk of more than being teased on the playground (and teasing can be ignored if you have a good book), then it’s easy to just not try.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Adrian:

            I think it’s sort of the same as when someone with depression seizes on “depressive realism” as though it’s a superpower. A lot of people who think “I’m smarter than those normies, no wonder I can’t relate to their puny minds” are also really crappy at relating to other smart people.

            @bean:

            Fair. I think I’ve been lucky in that I’ve mostly been in educational contexts where the “dumb kids” were average or above-average by a “general population” standard. Also, for whatever reason, other kids through K-12 didn’t give me much trouble.

          • bean says:

            @Adrian

            I don’t think that being arrogant and condescending is a necessary consequence of having an IQ >= 130 (Mensa’s membership threshold). I’ve known several highly intelligent people who were also very sociable; they didn’t have to “pretend to be normal”, they were normal. And no, that does not mean that they hid their intelligence or held back in school – they just didn’t rub it in.

            Looking back, I regret using the word ‘peon’, because it gave entirely the wrong impression. I wasn’t advocating for Mensa-style arrogance, or suggesting that it was in any way good or necessary. Let me try again:
            Imagine that you’re in an environment where everyone is very obsessed with the celebrity of the week, and almost nobody cares about what you’re interested in. Even the people who care a little bit about things you like can’t understand your books, because their understanding is based entirely on clickbait articles and you’re working on a near-professional level. And when you try to be friends with them anyway, you sometimes get caught up in spats between them over the celebrity of the week, and everyone ends up mad at you for no apparent reason.
            That’s pretty much what my time in regular elementary school was like. Yes, some people are naturally personable enough to become interested in the ‘celebrity of the week’. I’m not one of them. I try not to rub my IQ in people’s faces, but that isn’t the only way it can interfere with socializing, particularly at an early age.

            @dndnrsn

            Fair. I think I’ve been lucky in that I’ve mostly been in educational contexts where the “dumb kids” were average or above-average by a “general population” standard.

            Some of it may also be (genuinely not trying to sound arrogant here) that the gap between you and average is smaller than the gap between me and average. And another slice is that I’m a pretty serious introvert, which didn’t help. My brother, who’s very close to as smart, isn’t, and didn’t have nearly as much trouble.
            For more evidence, one of my friends (who is hands-down smarter than me) was the unrelateably smart kid even in the gifted program, and he carried a reputation for being difficult through high school, when the rest of us finally got in range of him.

            Also, for whatever reason, other kids through K-12 didn’t give me much trouble.

            It wasn’t even trouble, so much as a lack of social skill development when you’ve agreed to benign neglect.

          • Spookykou says:

            @bean

            I am not even close to Mensa smart but I am a pretty A-typical nerd, and I work with a bunch of 50 year old blue collar guys. I have no idea how smart any of them are, but I sure can’t have a meaningful conversation with them about the things they care about or the things I care about. When they do talk about stuff I am aware of though, I constantly have to hold my tongue. They can be wildly wrong about even the most basic elements of an issue, but if I try to explain anything to them they just get upset(One time I tried to explain why the Ebola outbreak in the states was not something to worry about, big mistake). So instead I just smile and nod and give monosyllabic responses till they go away. They seem to like me well enough but I certainly don’t have any friends at work.

            Which I think is kind of similar to what you are talking about, but I think there are lots of different factors that can be socially isolating. It seems reasonable that IQ or just different interests can make it almost impossible to have normal social interactions with the people you are forced to be social with, school or work.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            Some of it may also be (genuinely not trying to sound arrogant here) that the gap between you and average is smaller than the gap between me and average. And another slice is that I’m a pretty serious introvert, which didn’t help. My brother, who’s very close to as smart, isn’t, and didn’t have nearly as much trouble.
            For more evidence, one of my friends (who is hands-down smarter than me) was the unrelateably smart kid even in the gifted program, and he carried a reputation for being difficult through high school, when the rest of us finally got in range of him.

            Could be. You don’t sound arrogant – no worries – if someone’s smarter than me, that’s a factual issue. It’s not a question of personal worth – in my experience, being dumber than average screws people up more than being smarter than average helps them. Like I said, I’ve never taken a proper IQ test. From what I’ve seen of your posting, I’d wager good money that you’d score better on anything remotely related to mathematics and so on. (Plus I’d throw those portions to be sure of the bet). I have no idea how ordinary battleships work, let alone IN SPAAAAAAACE. I’m mediocre to crummy at anything that isn’t the humanities – for reading comprehension, verbal ability, reading speed, some forms of reasoning, I’m your guy. Don’t ask me for directions, to estimate distances, to do anything more complicated than algebra, or to play Tetris.

            I don’t know your educational history, but mine is of a highly selective elementary school (that honestly was kind of a bad fit because they didn’t really believe the “learn whatever you want” rhetoric they spouted), a high school with a lot of rich kids who at their dumbest were clearly regressions from the mean with smart parents, number one college (another college will say they’re number one but they’re wrong, I tells ya) at a university that is either 1 or 2 in the country depending on the year for undergrad, and arelatively elite (although not selective purely on academics – I got in with relatively low undergrad marks, due to drinking, but had lots of social involvement, which is another word for drinking, and also legacy status) multidisciplinary grad student community. I’d say that everywhere but the last case I was above average, in high school significantly above average, and in the last case I don’t think I was below average (although it seemed like a fairly narrow range – I can’t really think of anyone as being clearly smarter than anyone else, with the exception of some of the law students, some of whom were really quite dull).

            You might be smarter than me – I’d guess you are overall, just by virtue of not sucking as hard as I do at most anything that isn’t humanities territory – but it sounds like I benefited from being … maybe not less socially isolated at times, but better at rolling with it. High school was the only time I was really socially isolated, but I didn’t really care, got most of my socialization from adults, and managed to build a reputation as a “lovable eccentric” rather than a weirdo – plus, people don’t really mind a teacher’s pet if they’re not a narc. I also think that I’m a lot less introverted than I once thought I was – I really like talking to people, I genuinely enjoy public speaking, etc.

            Or it’s just possible that I’m actually not that bright, and just have a high Bullshit Quotient. BQ is an as-yet unresearched element of the human mind, valuable mostly for showing up hungover to humanities-courses exams you didn’t study for. Anyone who scores a 145 or better can join my special club, Solum, named for the fact that people who can’t figure out how to put together an Ikea table have to put their beer on the floor.

          • shakeddown says:

            I suspect ability putting together an IKEA table may be almost entirely genetic math sense: When I was six or seven we moved and got a bunch of IKEA furniture, and my dad asked me to explain to him how to put it together – it took me years to realize that it wasn’t just his way of humoring me as a child, he genuinely had a harder time figuring it out.
            Maybe we should have an IKEA-based math-IQ test. (For the record, I have about the same level of IKEA-ability now as I did when I was seven).

          • bean says:

            @Spookykou:
            That sounds almost exactly like what I was describing.

            @dndnrsn:

            I don’t know your educational history

            K-3 in a relatively average elementary school. 4-12 in the regional gifted program (IQ cutoff of 140). 4-5 were full-time pullouts. We ‘interacted’ with the general student body once a day, for art, music, or PE. In middle school, we were effectively grade-skipped 2 grades in most places, and put in honors classes. Eventual actual grade-skip was only 1 grade, but I stayed well ahead in a lot of subjects. High school was the top public one in the state, probably because of all the gifted students and their families. By that point, it was basically just special scheduling privileges.
            Good but not great state engineering school, no grad school (yet).

            it sounds like I benefited from being … maybe not less socially isolated at times, but better at rolling with it. High school was the only time I was really socially isolated, but I didn’t really care, got most of my socialization from adults, and managed to build a reputation as a “lovable eccentric” rather than a weirdo – plus, people don’t really mind a teacher’s pet if they’re not a narc.

            That sounds pretty much right. Part of it is natural introversion. And it’s hard to get adults to take you seriously in 2nd grade. I wasn’t a weirdo in high school, although it helped that the high school in question had a really high concentration of really gifted people.
            I will say that almost all of my interaction with normal people these days is at the USS Iowa (battleship) where I volunteer. It helps to have something I can talk about, and a script to work off of. Outside of that, I have serious trouble dealing with normal people.

            Anyone who scores a 145 or better can join my special club, Solum, named for the fact that people who can’t figure out how to put together an Ikea table have to put their beer on the floor.

            See, I love Ikea stuff. It’s beautifully engineered, for manufacturing, shipping, and assembly. I had to assemble a knockoff once, and it was horrible. I only had trouble once, and it was my own fault for misreading the directions.
            I’d fail the test for the club horribly. My tolerance for humanities BS is basically zero.

          • Deiseach says:

            Imagine that you’re in an environment where everyone is very obsessed with the celebrity of the week, and almost nobody cares about what you’re interested in.

            I don’t have to imagine, I lived it (still do). I’m not sure how much that has to do with intelligence gaps and how much that is with me just being weird.

            Don’t ask me for directions, to estimate distances, to do anything more complicated than algebra, or to play Tetris.

            Tell me about it. I still sometimes mix up right and left giving directions 🙂

            But things like this are what fascinate me about the whole problem of measuring intelligence, which I don’t know if they’re even considered: it seems to me you can very roughly break down “intelligence” (or whatever is measured by IQ tests, and calling it “g” doesn’t get us much further forward) into categories all lumped together under, on one side, Maths/Spatial manipulation skills/STEM territory and on the other, Language/Humanities territory. And there’s some overlap; “what shape comes next?” can be a spatial manipulation problem, but a talent for solving this kind of problem can occur in someone who’s an artist (I imagine for sculptors it’s something very necessary) rather than solely in “Spatial aptitude is required in technical and design jobs, for example; architecture, engineering, surveying and design. It is also important in some branches of science where the ability to envisage the interactions of 3 dimensional components is essential.”

            Then you get things which plainly are very important like processing speed, ease of acquiring and retaining new information, memory capacity and accessibility, ability to make connections, coming up with novel insights and ideas, but which don’t belong exclusively to one or the other camps and which perhaps are at the core of what we’re talking about when we’re talking about “intelligence” (and not necessarily “can manipulate numbers and mathematical concepts easily”). I suppose this is what “g” is?

          • bean says:

            @Deiseach:

            I don’t have to imagine, I lived it (still do). I’m not sure how much that has to do with intelligence gaps and how much that is with me just being weird.

            That was an analogy, not what the 2nd grade boys actually cared about. (I believe that was Pokemon, which was always less interesting to me than airplanes.) The point was that an intelligence gap, combined with some slightly odd interests, can form a very big chasm between you and everyone else in the class. They’re just boring, so you ignore them.

            But things like this are what fascinate me about the whole problem of measuring intelligence, which I don’t know if they’re even considered: it seems to me you can very roughly break down “intelligence” (or whatever is measured by IQ tests, and calling it “g” doesn’t get us much further forward) into categories all lumped together under, on one side, Maths/Spatial manipulation skills/STEM territory and on the other, Language/Humanities territory.

            I’m pretty sure they have considered it. I’m not a huge fan of multiple intelligence theories (they always seem like an attempt to kill of IQ testing and the current concept of giftedness, which have been incredibly helpful to me) but that distinction is very obvious. I think IQ/g is an attempt to point out that these two things are pretty well correlated, even if it doesn’t always look like it. The SAT and GRE make this split explicit, and while it’s sometimes easy to fall for the ecological fallacy, there’s a definite correlation between the two sides.

            Then you get things which plainly are very important like processing speed, ease of acquiring and retaining new information, memory capacity and accessibility, ability to make connections, coming up with novel insights and ideas, but which don’t belong exclusively to one or the other camps and which perhaps are at the core of what we’re talking about when we’re talking about “intelligence” (and not necessarily “can manipulate numbers and mathematical concepts easily”). I suppose this is what “g” is?

            It’s been a long time since I had a formal IQ test, so I can’t say for sure, but I think this is pretty close. These kind of skills are basically necessary to be good at either field, and even though we appear to have radically different skill packages, I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy an in-person conversation with you more than I would with an average person. The best model I can come up with right now is that you have g, along with two different talents for STEM and humanities. Some level of g is required to unlock the levels of the talents, which is why STEM nerds and humanities nerds get along better than either does with jocks, and you generally see a correlation between the two. Testing for g alone is hard, so IQ tests report a mix of g, and an average of the two talents.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean:

            See, I love Ikea stuff. It’s beautifully engineered, for manufacturing, shipping, and assembly. I had to assemble a knockoff once, and it was horrible. I only had trouble once, and it was my own fault for misreading the directions.

            I’ve managed to screw up Ikea furniture 1/5 times I think. It was a pretty funny scene, because someone was coming over in about an hour, and I, uh, had reason to make use of the bed, ifyouknowwhatImean. So I’m sitting there realizing “oh shit, I have fucked this up, oh shit” trying to do what I could with hand tools and duct tape. Eventually managed to jury-rig it together, and so far it hasn’t collapsed.

            Ikea stuff is well engineered, but putting it together is basically a test of the sort of way I’m dumbest. Ikea’s Progressive Matrices.

            I’d fail the test for the club horribly. My tolerance for humanities BS is basically zero.

            One thing I think humanities teaches – or maybe just that I’m good at – is being able to pick up little nuggets of information, and quickly pick up a superficial understanding of things. I’m good at parties. For pretty much any “soft” subject, and some “hard” subjects, you can plop me down next to someone, and as long as we’ve both had 2-3+ drinks I can nod, make observations, remember something I read once, recap what they’re saying simpler, and basically keep them from thinking they’re talking to a brick wall.

            Worst case scenario, I can say “oh, you’re talking about virology? Hm, how does that connect to public health and wider society?” and then steer it briefly to a book I read about the plague of 1346 (bacterial, not viral, of course) and its effects on Europe. Climate change? Talk about dendrochronology used to measure temperatures, the cold snap that led to famines, how it contributed to the plague of 1346. Stay there for a minute, keep myself from nerding out about one thing nobody else cares about (this is half the battle), shut up for another 5 minutes as they talk about what they want to.

            They want to talk about football? I don’t know anything about football, but I did once read something about how adding helmets and padding made it less safe in some ways. Also, boxing gloves. Did you know MMA is probably safer than boxing because the gloves are smaller, there’s less “guy is knocked out but has 8 seconds to recover”, and there’s less punching in general? (It’s the only sport I know much about). Again, back off and let them pick the next subject. Or, if they give a hoot about it too, talk about the next big fight coming up.

            I’ve had a lot of people I’m pretty sure are as smart or smarter than I am tell me they think I’m really smart. One ex, amazing with languages (learning three at once, stuff like that), near perfect marks, complete academic superstar, would say she thought I was smarter than I was … no, but definitely more comfortable socially, and better at bullshitting. As long as I never actually have to deliver anything of actual usefulness, I’m gold.

          • bean says:

            One thing I think humanities teaches – or maybe just that I’m good at – is being able to pick up little nuggets of information, and quickly pick up a superficial understanding of things.

            What I don’t understand is why humanities people think this sort of thing is their exclusive domain. (This is not meant as an attack on you, just an observation.) There have been quite a few times, both in and out of school, when I’ve been handed something I knew next to nothing about and was told ‘go understand this and get back to me soon’. (That said, it’s possible that I tended to accept these kind of assignments instead of dodging them because I’m good at dealing with them and find them more fun than certain other things I could have done instead.) I’d say that the big difference there is that it’s not possible to get a STEM degree doing only that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Oh, it’s not only something that humanities people can do, but it’s something that we (or I, at least) do without it being assigned. Not like “ah, I need to learn everything I can about concussions”, more like “shit, I read an article in the paper about concussions 5 years ago, I can BS until the next conversational topic comes up.” This might of course be typical mind fallacy, and I’m just great at BS’ing.

            I wouldn’t say it’s possible to get a degree doing this – although before I attended my university, they had an option to get a degree by taking four minors without a single major, so presumably one could get by with very actual deep knowledge, taking only 100 and 200 level courses.

        • Randy M says:

          I agree that there is likely another axis than just computational power–charisma or empathy perhaps, maybe willpower or time-preference as well–but those with the intelligence to leverage them will be more successful (obviously?).

          While not identical, I expect that any such measures are quite related either genetically or developmentally, in that there are probably a lot of ways to be stupid that also make one unempathic and soft-willed as well.

  5. M.C. Escherichia says:

    This is not all there is.

    Either there is a creator, or not.

    If there is (and this includes the simulation case) then that is a remarkable fact.

    If there isn’t, fine-tuning needs to be dealt with: it’s remarkable that physical constants should allow life. Far-and-away the most likely explanation is a multiverse of possibilities. In that case, there are surely other civilisations, perhaps zillions.

    I find either possibility profoundly comforting. I suppose most theists are happy to discuss the invisible realm, but few non-theists really talk about this, I think. Am I mistaken? Fine-tuning seems like it’s treated as an embarrassment to be hushed up, rather than a profound fact about all there is…

    [Note: the simulation case ultimately collapses into either the case of a top-level creator, or the case of a multiverse; since one needs to explain why there is a universe capable of conducting simulation.]

    • Deiseach says:

      Fine-tuning seems like it’s treated as an embarrassment to be hushed up, rather than a profound fact about all there is

      I think non-theists dislike it because it seems to be selling the pass to theists; often fine-tuning is used in apologetics along the same lines as Intelligent Design: do you really think all this ‘just happened’? If you calculate the odds of …. you can fill in the rest yourself 🙂

      Same way as the Big Bang was unpopular at first amongst some because it seemed to be giving the theists their Creation moment instead of an always existing, eternal universe.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I don’t see the problem. The answer is simply the Weak Anthropic Principle:

      The argument can be used to explain why the conditions happen to be just right for the existence of (intelligent) life on the Earth at the present time. For if they were not just right, then we should not have found ourselves to be here now, but somewhere else, at some other appropriate time. This principle was used very effectively by Brandon Carter and Robert Dicke to resolve an issue that had puzzled physicists for a good many years. The issue concerned various striking numerical relations that are observed to hold between the physical constants (the gravitational constant, the mass of the proton, the age of the universe, etc.). A puzzling aspect of this was that some of the relations hold only at the present epoch in the Earth’s history, so we appear, coincidentally, to be living at a very special time (give or take a few million years!). This was later explained, by Carter and Dicke, by the fact that this epoch coincided with the lifetime of what are called main-sequence stars, such as the Sun. At any other epoch, so the argument ran, there would be no intelligent life around in order to measure the physical constants in question — so the coincidence had to hold, simply because there would be intelligent life around only at the particular time that the coincidence did hold!
      — The Emperor’s New Mind, Chapter 10

      • M.C. Escherichia says:

        Of course sentient entities, if they exist at all, will find themselves in a universe where life is possible, but why should they exist at all? I am more or less convinced that one of (multiverse || God) is needed, otherwise it’s an insanely unlikely coincidence.

        i.e. If there were just a single universe, with no intelligent creator, the odds are hugely against life being possible. So, by modus tollens… (or indeed Bayesian logic…)

        • andrewflicker says:

          Depends on your definition of “universe”. If you mean the universe as it’s usually used in Physics literature, then sure. But let’s postulate a universe in which multiple “big bang” events happen, each generating sub-universes that are forever cut off from each other, and have differing physical laws.

          This isn’t a multiverse in the quantum sense, nor a multiverse in an “alternate dimension” sense, but it still could contain many, many bubble universes, of which our’s is one. Given long enough time / many enough such bubbles, the anthropic principle can take over.

          But many people mean some version of this when they say “multiverse” anyway, and so I’m just rambling about on definitions.

          You could also postulate an eternal universe that slowly changes physical laws over time, at a rate undetectable by current theories. This is basically unprovable- but it’s the same “multiverse” idea, just time-separated instead of some other fashion of separation. This is all rather unproductive noodling, I’m afraid.

          • M.C. Escherichia says:

            Yes, I would take the first suggestion to be within my definition of multiverse.

          • dragnubbit says:

            Exactly. Some people say multiverse and they mean some sort of quantum branching of the timeline. Others mean some parallel universes that we can somehow peer into like in SF.

            Tautologically, the universe is a closed space. A single closed space does not prevent the existence of an uncountable amount of other closed spaces (the big bang is not necessarily a singular event). At that point it falls into the same category as the watchmaker God as far as its utility in philosophy (which is, to say, zero).

        • Spookykou says:

          I don’t think we have really good information on how common life is in the universe in general, it is still at least feasible that life evolved independently on more than one planet in our own solar system. So I would not be convinced of how insanely unlikely life, in general, is.

          The Fermi Paradox is a bit troubling when it comes to ‘sentient entities’ but not all together damning.

          An interesting anecdote though, is the behavior of neanderthals here on earth, in the same time that our ancestors struck out to every piece of land they could get to, the neanderthals stayed in a relatively isolated area, seemingly content with their situation. If our ancestors had never come around, it seems at least possible that neanderthals could have continued to modern times, stuck in western Europe, with stone age technology maybe, but still probably sentient by our standards. Maybe life is common and maybe even sentient life is common but some random mutation in humans that makes us curious or explorers or never satisfied or something, is what caused our story to be so different. The great filter might already be behind us, maybe the step from sentient to global civilization is the hard part. (ok probably not, but its a fun theory)

          • M.C. Escherichia says:

            > So I would not be convinced of how insanely unlikely life, in general, is.

            Right, but that’s a different debate; my point was that the physical constants that make life possible seem to be a tiny subset of all possible constants. In any given universe with the right constants, life may indeed be plentiful. But such universes should be rare.

          • Spookykou says:

            My physics knowledge is not good, so this question might be totally stupid.

            But what method did we use to find that the observable universe was rare for any given universe?

            I understand that if some of the constants in our universe were even slightly different, matter would never form, or something.

            But do we actually know how a universe is created or how those constants are input?

            It seems to me at least theoretically possible that ALL universes, if we accept that there is more than one, could share our universal constants. They are simply an intractable part of the processes that causes a universe to exist.

          • M.C. Escherichia says:

            Well, it would seem like amazing luck if the constants needed for life were somehow necessary, would it not?

          • Spookykou says:

            I guess it seems weird for me to look at an output and say, this output of all possible outputs is super unlikely, while knowing nothing about the input process.

            I think part of the problem is the idea of the constants being the right constants for ‘life’ when to me it seems that they are just the right constants for creating order, and life is just a result of order being possible.

            That the fundamental inputs necessary to create a universe are such that the output supports the sublimation of order from chaos.

            Doesn’t really feel like amazing luck, at least to me. But honestly this is now the realm of personal opinion.

          • Aapje says:

            Well, it would seem like amazing luck if the constants needed for life were somehow necessary, would it not?

            Yes, but luck happens. At most you can argue that it makes a multiverse more likely, but it is not hard proof. If other universes do exist and have no impact on our universe at all, then the entire question is meaningless, anyway.

            Secondly, with different kinds of constants, you might end up with a universe that supports completely different forms of sentience. Just because the current constants are necessarily for life as we know it, doesn’t mean that other constants cannot support life as we do not know it.

          • smocc says:

            There is a rigorous sense in which some parameters are “rare.”

            Almost all quantum field theories, including the one called the Standard Model that describes our universe’s particle physics, are effective theories. This means that the parameters of the theories depend on the energy scale at which you do your experiments. Tthere are calculable relationships between a given parameter at one energy scale and another energy scale.

            The usual interpretation of this is that the parameters of the Standard Model are determined by some unknown unified physics theory that is active at higher energies than we currently have access to. The issue is that for some parameters, the relationship between the high energy and low energy versions of the parameter implies “fine-tuning.” That is, a very very small change in the high energy version gives a huge difference in the low energy version. Thus, we can say with confidence that if there is any mechanism at all whereby a fine-tuned parameter can be even slightly different at the fundamental level then it will be very different at our level.

            The most important fine-tuned parameter that I know is the mass of the Higgs boson, which also determines the electroweak symmetry scale, which determines in part the strength of weak nuclear interactions. If the Higgs mass is determined by quantum gravity (the only high energy theory we have really solid reasons to expect to exist), then the Higgs mass is tuned to one part in one hundred million billion (10^17). It’s possible that the HIggs mass is actualyl determined by some lower energy physics that leads to much less fine tuning, but we’re getting to the point where our experiments are ruling out any theory that doesn’t leave the Higgs mass at least moderately fine-tuned.

            Moral: fine-tuning is a well-understood phenomenon in quantum field theory, which gives us a real reason to be bothered by the apparent “niceness” of the parameters of the universe. If some of these parameters are determined by fundamental processes at high energies then any slight deviation in the fundamental process leads to huge deviations in the parameters that we measure.

            This still doesn’t imply that fine-tuning is an actual problem (it could be that there is some unknown reason the fundamental theory produces exactly the right parameters, or there could be a metaphysical mechanism that selects parameters randomly in different universes, etc.) but in my mind it does suggest it’s a problem you can just ignore.

          • Corey says:

            A recent episode of PBS “SpaceTime” had something about life’s frequency. It looks like single-celled life came about on Earth pretty much as soon as conditions were right (liquid water, volcanoes quieted down some, etc.). In fact, there was some evidence that we could have had bacteria before an event called the Late Heavy Bombardment, which would sterilize the place, so life may well have evolved *twice* just here.

            Also, in geologic time, life going from single-celled to multi-celled may be the Great Filter; it happened pretty recently, geologically speaking.

            If we examine some exoplanets and find a bunch of “slimeball” planets with bacterial life, that would be evidence that the tricky bit is going multicellular.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            or panspermia

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’m not sure that’s a very satisfying answer. After all, suppose you went up before a firing squad of 30 men. They stand you against a wall, all take aim, fire — and miss. Every single one of them. The firing squad don’t have the heart to shoot at you again after the amazing escape you just had, so they let you go on your way.

        Now, you might well think it remarkable that all thirty men could miss, and try and come up with an explanation (e.g., maybe they deliberately missed for some reason). Obviously you wouldn’t be able to do this if you’d been shot and killed. But I don’t think that “Well, for you to wonder why they all missed you, they’d have to have all missed you, right? Problem solved!” would be a very satisfying answer.

        Ditto, mutatis mutandis, with the universe.

    • beleester says:

      The existence of creators who are purely ontological (they don’t interact with the universe except to make it exist) isn’t really that interesting, IMO. We can’t interact with the creator, he never interacts with the universe, the universe looks exactly the same whether it was created by the Hand of God or by some random multiversal fluctuation.

      Indeed, even if we somehow discovered another universe where the observable laws of physics were different, there would have to be some greater set of laws of physics that explains how both those universes came to be. We would still have scientists asking “Gosh, isn’t it convenient that the laws of physics make it possible for us to travel to parallel universes?”

      Even if we broke out of the universe and talked to God face to face, we would be able to ask that question – Who wrote the laws of physics that God abides by? What gave him the capability to create the universe, and what gave us the ability to talk to him? Scientists would say things like “Gosh, if the gematria of “Moses” was slightly different, it would be impossible for us to enter the divine realm!”

      I know the “Non-overlapping magisteria” argument isn’t really satisfying, but if there’s ever a place to use it, it’s here. If “the universe” is “Everything that we can observe,” then asking “What exists outside the universe?” is by definition a question that science can’t answer.

      • Deiseach says:

        Who wrote the laws of physics that God abides by?

        The general answer to that is “God did”; that is, God as Creator created everything, including those universal laws, because for realms outside of our space/time such rules are unnecessary and meaningless. It’s not that “there are these fundamental principles of universe-creating which God has to abide by”, it’s “God creates a universe in which these are the fundamental principles”.

        • beleester says:

          God might be all-powerful, but we mere mortals do abide by the laws of physics. If we’re able to interact with something outside our universe, we can observe what happens, and come up with laws that describe that interaction. Even if the law turns out to be “God does whatever the hell he wants to people who step outside of the universe,” we would be able to study that, and perhaps observe that, say, God prefers turning people into pillars of salt. “Laws of physics” is just a nice way of saying “Our predictions for what will happen to us.”

          That’s why I said “if we talked to God,” we’d be able to ask that question. Emphasis on if. Your answer works so long as God and mortals don’t directly interact, but if there’s some observable interaction between them, we can make predictions about it. You can never say “This defies the laws of physics,” only “Huh, I guess we need to revise the laws.”

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Deiseach
          It’s not that “there are these fundamental principles of universe-creating which God has to abide by”, it’s “God creates a universe in which these are the fundamental principles”.

          That’s why I’ve always disagreed with Lewis’s argument in The Problem of Pain and elsewhere, which I’d snark as, “Don’t blame God, He’s doing the best He can in a system He never made, poor fellow.”

          Does this go deeper than just the laws of, er, physical physics?

        • onyomi says:

          I feel like if God were making the rules he’d have made just intonation and equal temperament the same.

    • Gazeboist says:

      This is not all there is.

      This needs either some justification or some definitions. From the rest of your post, I take it to be a proposition you are arguing for, rather than an axiom, but you still need to define “this” (or “the universe” or whathaveyou) in a definite way. Do you mean “all things that exist”? Do you mean “all things reducible to physical or mathematical laws”? Do you mean “the Hubble bubble we inhabit”? Be specific, unless you’re willing to just hide behind the ambiguity of the terms you’ve picked.

      Fine tuning is generally viewed as a flaw in present models of physics (as is the fact that they are computationally intractable in most interesting cases, and other similar problems). The goal of physics, after all, is to eliminate the inexplicable.

    • Izaak says:

      Why is it remarkable that physical constants should allow life? Is there some reason for this, or is this simply one of the assumptions on which your argument rests?

      Should I also consider it remarkable that 1 + 1 = 2, or that every (differentiable) symmetry of action corresponds to an invariant, and take that as evidence for God?

      • M.C. Escherichia says:

        > Why is it remarkable that physical constants should allow life?

        The idea is that, of all the constants that could have been, few would allow life. Now, it’s possible in principle that, once we understand everything, it will be seen that the seemingly arbitrary constants we have are somehow forced to take on their life-allowing values, but this seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

        > evidence for God

        I’m taking it as evidence for [God or multiverse].

        • lvlln says:

          The idea is that, of all the constants that could have been, few would allow life. Now, it’s possible in principle that, once we understand everything, it will be seen that the seemingly arbitrary constants we have are somehow forced to take on their life-allowing values, but this seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

          Not at all. We have close to zero knowledge on the mechanism by which those constants were set in our universe. It’s possible that the probability of those constants being what they are was vanishingly close to 0%, and it’s also possible that the probability was literally 100%, and we have no way of knowing which is the case. The only thing we know is that it was >0% and less than or equal to 100%.

          When you state that this seems unlikely, you are stating that you believe that it’s >0% but less than or equal to 50%. You have no basis with which to state that, other than the fact that “of all the constants that could have been, few would allow life.”

          But that level of analysis is about as meaningful as observing a 20-sided die land on 12 and declaring that an unlikely event while having zero clue on how the die is weighted or even whether the die has machinery inside that adjusts itself to have 12 on top no matter what it initially lands on.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      I remember reading somewhere that someone proposed that the universe goes through a cycle of big bang/big crunch, and each big bang has a different values for the laws of physics. Not quite multiverse in the simultaneous fashion, but still allows for the possibility of multiple universes diachronically.

      If that’s the case, then we’re in the iteration of the universe that allows for pockets of stability (and eventual heat death of the universe).

      Though saying that this particular universe was meant for life, when 99.99% of the universe is hostile to life seems like a stretch. It’s like the universe is the anti-bacterial soap that kills 99% of germs… we’re the 1% (much less than 1% really).

    • S_J says:

      M.C.:

      It may be worth comparing statements about Creators or Simulation-Designers to discussion of the concept of the Prime Mover, as discussed by many thinkers of the past.

      Modern author Mike Flynn (who often refers to himself as The O’Floinn, or “TOF”), attempts to explain this concept in a series of posts.

      His posts begin here. It’s a long read, with the following section usually linked at the bottom of the each post.

      The discussion touches on a very basic observation: if most of the motion (change in position, change in form, or simple change) in the visible world can be described as effects that have causes, and most causes have previous causes…then what Cause was the First Cause that began the universe of cause/effect events that we see?

      This First Cause must have the ability to cause things to happen without being acted on by any outside cause…

  6. maybe_slytherin says:

    Re: Fabulous Ones

    I just realized that Scott’s inclusion of Unsong under that tag isn’t self-aggrandizing bragging that his story is fabulous. It’s simply that it’s a fable.

    Groan. Now, what’s the moral of this fable?

    • Gazeboist says:

      It’s not a fable in modern literary terms, but it is fictional (ie fabulous, in the old sense of the word). Also, it’s only half over, so we don’t know what the moral is.

  7. rlms says:

    Anyone like to idly speculate about the purpose of Erdstalle (networks of narrow tunnels found across central Europe, probably dating from the Middle Ages, which don’t seem to appear in any records)?

    • Deiseach says:

      this has engendered the suspicion that the tunnels were used for a non-Christian cult that developed in the 10th century and later disappeared

      And this is where I’ll disagree, because the go-to answer where anthropology/archaeology has no bloody idea what the hell this is for is always “ritual purpose”.

      A non-Christian cult that conveniently popped up out of nowhere for a couple of centuries and then as conveniently disappeared? With nobody in that time making notes of a new cult, or “travellers say that…” or anyone at all noticing that “hey, all these guys are digging tunnels all over the place! what’s that about?”

      10th century is an interesting time, there was certainly an element of millennial panic around then (think Y2K only “end of the world, second coming, this is the end of the thousand year kingdom!”) so it’s possible some of these tunnels were dug then, or old tunnels repurposed for shelter/religious gathering/cultic purposes. But there doesn’t seem to be a definite dating on when they were built, so I’d say that for all we know, some of them could be older than the mediaeval date assigned to them. Finding artefacts dated from 10th to 14th century only means people of those dates visited the tunnels, the same way as finding a modern flashlight discarded in one of them wouldn’t mean “aha, that’s when it was built!”

      As for unknown cults – yeah, well, we tend to have a reasonable idea of historical heresies of the times, and since these tunnels aren’t confined to a single location, any cult or non-Christian whatsit would have had to be sizeable enough to attract attention. The only major heresy of the 10th century was the Bogomils, and though there may have been minor local heretics/breakaway denominations, we don’t really have any solid candidate for “mysterious tunnel-diggers”. Things were actually pretty quiet on the heresy front until Luther and company kicked off (okay, dial it back to their precursors such as the Lollards, let’s say):

      It is certainly, as far as we can tell, a fact that no-one was burnt for heresy in the Latin West between the fifth century and 1022 when some lively guys at Orléans met their end in fire after being penned up in a house as part of the sentence on them for their sect.

      • DavidS says:

        And if it is ritual, isn’t it more likely that it’s some monastic group that just doesn’t write about them (or writings haven’t survived)

        On ‘quiet on the heresy front’, I’d have thought that was more about people not seeking out heretics, or not burning those they did find. My understanding (basically entirely from this book is that for a long time the Church only really labelled people as heretics and persecuted them if they were
        1. leaders of groups
        2. knowingly committed heresy
        3. ‘stubbornly maintained’ said heresy when told it was wrong and they should stop.

        Whereas later you get more of the mass persecutions and killing heretics who didn’t know they were heretics (or even might be: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Whereas later you get more of the mass persecutions and killing heretics who didn’t know they were heretics (or even might be: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”)

          I’m not sure that’s the case — the Spanish Inquisition, for example, gave each accused person a trial and opportunity to repent (maybe multiple opportunities, I can’t remember off the top of my head), so I don’t think it would be possible to get executed without knowing your were a heretic.

          That “Kill them all; God will know his own” quote comes from the sack of a town during the Albigensian Crusade. Whilst this undoubtedly resulted in a lot of indiscriminate killing, sacking a town which refused to surrender was standard procedure from pretty much the beginning of warfare down to about the 19th century, and I’m not sure it can reasonably be called a persecution of heretics. At the very least, it’s a rather non-central example.

          I do agree with you, though, that proactive heresy-hunting was less prevalent during the Middle Ages. At a guess, I’d say the Reformation really kicked things off in that regard, because (a) the Reformers’ emphasis on personal faith encourages emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy much more obviously than the Sacramental view they were protesting against, and (b) the Catholic Church drew the conclusion that part of the reason why the Reformation was initially so successful was because lots of people had received highly rudimentary instruction in Catholicism, if they’d received any at all; again, this puts more of an emphasis on personal belief than had previously been common.

          • That “Kill them all; God will know his own” quote ”

            As best I can tell, there is no good evidence that the Legate actually said it.

            One example of my general rule of thumb: Distrust any historical anecdote that makes a good enough story to have survived on its literary merit.

          • DavidS says:

            I’m basing this mostly on memory of that one book I linked to! But I had the impression you got some people executed for heresy in a model more like witchcraft trials (i.e. others say they heard them say/do something etc.), to the point that it may well have been used to frame political opponents/threats. That doesn’t work if you can just recant!

          • DavidS says:

            @DavidF: you may well be right (and as original Mr X says, you don’t really need a special reason to explain a brutal sack in that period). I find it interesting though that it the allegation was made so close in time to the event. Mainly because I always wonder how much people apply that sort of outside, cynical reasoning to religious beliefs (e.g. ‘it’s good to kill people the moment after baptism so they go to heaven’)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m basing this mostly on memory of that one book I linked to! But I had the impression you got some people executed for heresy in a model more like witchcraft trials (i.e. others say they heard them say/do something etc.), to the point that it may well have been used to frame political opponents/threats. That doesn’t work if you can just recant!

            Maybe in some times and places. Then again, the Inquisition was set up specifically to stop abuses of the heresy laws (like, as you say, using accusations as a way of hurting your opponents), so it makes sense that it would use procedures which would make it harder to frame somebody.

          • Skeltering Lead says:

            The memory is a little hazy, but I read (a translation) of a diary written by a monk or priest following the Albigensian crusade for an undergrad research project. The author recorded that phrase as if it was a direct quotation – I believe this is the original source. He certainly could have embellished things a little, as he was apparently fond of wordplay. About the only other thing I remember from the book was the repetition of the phrase “dolorous Toulouse,” which apparently sounds nice in Latin.

          • Jaskologist says:

            One example of my general rule of thumb: Distrust any historical anecdote that makes a good enough story to have survived on its literary merit.

            This is one of the most disappointing parts of delving into history. All of the snappiest anecdotes turn out to be unsupported.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            About the only other thing I remember from the book was the repetition of the phrase “dolorous Toulouse,” which apparently sounds nice in Latin.

            “Tolosa dolorosa”, I would guess.

            This is one of the most disappointing parts of delving into history. All of the snappiest anecdotes turn out to be unsupported.

            “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to misattribute it to Voltaire.”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ The original Mr. X
            >> This is one of the most disappointing parts of delving into history. All of the snappiest anecdotes turn out to be unsupported.

            > “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to misattribute it to Voltaire.”

            Or — as a titled lady in Thirkell’s Barsetshire might have settled the question — “Well, if he didn’t, he should have!”

            Or, or, as a Northern language teacher with pale blue eyes more recently said:*

            “Of course the X have only one word for snow. The problem is, that Americans think ‘snow’ means ‘anything white that falls from the sky.’ ”

            * According to a student’s blog which I could probably find again, on a worthwhile bet.

          • Si non e vero e ben trovato.

    • Autolykos says:

      My guess would be hideouts used by bandits and smugglers, or possibly a kind of “cargo cult” mine dug as a get-rich-quick scheme by people who didn’t know much about mining.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        I think that if the tunnels were used by bandits and smugglers, there’d be some stuff left in them by accident.

        • Autolykos says:

          Good point. Only know what the Wikipedia article said, though – so I have no idea what exactly wasn’t found in them…

        • Matt M says:

          It’s been 1000 years. More than enough time for latter bandits and smugglers (or random farmers checking out their land) to find the stuff and claim it for themselves, all while having essentially zero motivation to tell anyone about it.

          • nancylebovitz says:

            It seems unlikely to me that all the tunnels were found, nor that every scrap has been cleared out, though I agree that all the obvious stuff would have been taken.

            I await further developments.

  8. Dabbler says:

    Requesting advice on the issue of discrimination against a potential employee on the grounds of Aspergers Syndrome. As a person with Aspergers but with very little experience of the workplace I think it happens, my parents think it doesn’t, and since I have plenty of reason to be emotionally biased on the subject despite the fact I reckon I’m right anyway I’m looking for people who would know more.

    • Autolykos says:

      My guess would be that this kind of thing is practically impossible to prove. The candidate wouldn’t be denied because of Aspergers, but because he “doesn’t fit into the company culture” or some similar explanation. Heck, the HR guy making the decision might not even know what Apergers is, or that the candidate has it, and simply didn’t want to hire awkward, socially inept people.

    • Aapje says:

      Discrimination happens pretty much over every difference between people, so it has surely happened. But the primary reason why many people with Aspergers don’t have a job is a lack of social skills, not discrimination. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you can do your job well, if you disrupt your co-workers so that they stop being productive. No sane boss will keep an employee that makes the other co-workers unhappy. If you want a job, your goal must be to ensure that your social skills become sufficient.

      Aside from that, the same goes for you that goes for every other person: you have your strengths and your weaknesses. The trick for getting a (good) job is figuring out where your strengths are especially valuable and your weaknesses aren’t big problems.

      There are professions that are extremely suitable for people with Aspergers and those that are quite unsuitable. If you still have to decide on a profession, I would look at lists like these to figure out what may suit you. I think that it is very important for people with Aspergers to find a profession that matches their abilities.

      Nowadays, there are several companies that actually seek out people with (high-functioning) autism to do software testing because they perform better than others (more diligent, more likely to interpret the specifications literally, less likely to get bored with it, etc). So there seems to be a growing understanding that people with Aspergers have strengths as well and for some jobs, make for better employees (perhaps with some accommodations being made).

      What you should avoid is becoming fixated on the idea that you will face discrimination, which often tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy (if you expect being discriminated, you will interpret events as discrimination that often have other causes, which will harm you in your interactions with people, which make other people treat you worse).

      TL;DR: Stop fixating on the idea that you will be discriminated and start focusing on what you can do to improve your odds at getting a job.

      PS. This page lists some resources that you may want to hunt down and read.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        “No sane boss will keep an employee that makes the other co-workers unhappy.”

        It depends on how you define sane, I suppose, but evidence suggests that there are a lot of bosses who aren’t sane in that sense.

        Workplace bullies are moderately common, and they aren’t always the boss. Sometimes they’re people with good social skills which are spent on keeping the boss happy while making one or more co-workers miserable.

        Sometimes the boss isn’t paying attention, or the bully would be inconvenient to replace, or the bully is the boss’s relative or somesuch. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if sometimes the boss is too afraid of confronting the bully to fire them.

        People with Aspergers do tend to make neurotypical people uncomfortable, and I’m sure that’s a serious detriment to getting hired, but you’re way too optimistic about bosses.

        • Aapje says:

          @nancylebovitz

          I was talking more about people who make all coworkers unhappy, not bullies who pick on a single person. The latter case is far more complex. For example, bullying can result in group unity, which can help job performance.

          • nancylebovitz says:

            “For example, bullying can result in group unity, which can help job performance”

            Evidence?

          • Aapje says:

            I assume that you agree that bullying tends to target outliers and tends to get them to leave. Furthermore, it strongly incentivizes witnesses to ensure that they aren’t outliers, by behaving more in socially acceptable ways (relative to what is the culture in the group, so that behavior isn’t necessarily socially acceptable elsewhere).

            So groups become more homogeneous due to bullying.

            Homogeneous groups have higher trust and more altruistic behavior (non-selfish behavior that benefits the group). The famous research by Robert Putnam showed this on the local community level. I also believe that hazing is such a common practice in part because the bullying aspects create more homogeneous groups.

            Note that this is not a defense of bullying, as I consider the downsides greater than the upsides (and believe that homogeneity can be achieved by better means), but it’s a common fallacy to be unwilling to see the upsides in the things that one personally dislikes.

      • Dabbler says:

        The problem is precisely that I don’t want to be stereotyped based on autistic traits. This is partially emotional, admittedly. I faced intense pressure, for instance not to even start trying to use the tram system myself based on autism, which was proved unfounded when just gaining some self-confidence allowed me to master navigation in a week or two, my parents and a psychologist they sent me to were putting pressure on me not to date on the basis of Aspergers even when I was 22 when I wanted to at least try and start learning what I didn’t understand but at 23 when I finally stood up to them I managed to start a relationship with a woman in a wheelchair that lasted months. Now I’m a relationship with a non-disabled woman that has lasted a month. This was a cycle of intense control based on prejudice that admittedly makes me much more sensitive to it.

        But it’s also true that the stereotypes are unfair in my case yet can lead to pre-judging. Most people don’t even realize I have Aspergers if I come prepared. I am socially inept yes, but when I am unprepared I am inept more on the level associated with “socially awkward nerd” than what people think of in their mind when they think of Aspergers syndrome. But Aspergers might lead people to make far more unfavorable assumptions about what I can do, especially with Sheldon Cooper being the popular Aspergers stereotype. The same reasons to worry as in racial or sexual discrimination apply.

        In broad terms- Stereotyping is not considered acceptable with regards to men v.s women or race, in theory is illegal on the ground of disability, and yet people tell . There is a case for discrimination existing on all three grounds, and a case for it not existing in any. But the double standard that exists is unacceptable.

        • Aapje says:

          The problem is precisely that I don’t want to be stereotyped based on autistic traits.

          No one is forcing you to disclose it, if you can hide it, as you claim. In general, I think that it is a good idea to avoid self-labeling and be more concrete.

          So if you have trouble with interruptions during work, don’t say “I have autism, can you mail your requests rather than showing up at my desk,” but say: “I have trouble with interruptions during work, can you mail…”

          The latter statement doesn’t depend on the person having a good understanding of autism and is easier to relate to, as non-autistic people also dislike too many interruptions.

          Of course, this only works if you have ‘autism-lite,’ for people further along the spectrum, it may be better to disclose and try to find a job where they are willing to accommodate quite a bit.

          But the double standard that exists is unacceptable.

          My worry is that you are focusing on something that you cannot change and as a result, you will undermine yourself.

          Finally, even if you don’t want to defined by your autistic traits, you still have them and being successful in life generally is far easier if you make choices that work with your traits. Note that the exact same thing is true for non-autistic people. They also have specific traits that limit their options.

          • Dabbler says:

            I made a major mistake by revealing it and yes, that’s not going to happen again. The problem is that now I’m dealing with an employment agency that is pushing me to reveal it.

            Yes I have autistic traits. But it is a fallacy to believe that those traits are the only traits I have. I have experienced problems in life analogous to those traditional for women and femininity- people mentally exaggerating the prevalence of autistic traits and putting me far too much in a box because of it.

            It also affects things that right now I’m looking for a job as a functional means of income, nothing more. Autistic stereotypes narrow my options significantly.

            Finally, those stereotypes are not fair with regards to me. I’m very articulate but not good at math or organisation. My social skills are worse than most but not greatly so. I go to the gym regularly for both muscular and cardio training so my capacity for more manual jobs and stamina-based jobs is better than you’d think.

          • Gazeboist says:

            The problem is that now I’m dealing with an employment agency that is pushing me to reveal it.

            It sounds like they’re just wrong (to push you to reveal your diagnosis). To the extent that you can, it seems like you should fight this. You shouldn’t have to fight with the employment agency you’re using, but that sounds like the best option based on what you’ve been saying.

            Unless maybe it’s possible to switch agencies? But I don’t know how easy that would be for you.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        But the primary reason why many people with (common disability typified by a lack of social skills, to the point where it’s used as an all-purpose insult for people lacking in social skills) don’t have a job is a lack of social skills, not discrimination.

        This seems to me like a distinction without much meaning.

        • Dabbler says:

          The distinction is (a) If I’m not there to meet them in person they are likely to make assumptions about my social skills worse than are actually justified and (b) If they didn’t know I had Aspergers Syndrome, they would probably make more generous, and likely more accurate, assumptions about my level of social skills.

        • Autolykos says:

          The distinction is that you can sue people over the latter, but not the former…
          But yeah, the hard issue with discrimination against disabilities is that they usually *do* make you less suited for the job, all else being equal. So it’s really hard to find a good solution.
          I’d prefer a solution proposed on this very blog: Offer tax breaks for each category, and try to balance them so employment rate reaches the same average level as for the general population – that way nobody has to prove or disprove any discrimination, and not hiring people with disabilities where they matter little would be a plain dumb business decision.
          As long as that isn’t implemented, you’d just have to put up with a lower salary. Sucks, but what can you do?

          • Aapje says:

            That seems very sensitive to fraud (it gives a big incentive to exaggerate your problems to get in a category with more subsidies). It’s also questionable whether, as a society, we should want to replace people who are suited for a job, with people who are less suited (assuming that there is not ‘full employment’).

            There was a recent study that found that handicapped people have far less happiness benefit from having a job (on average), so it may be better to give them more welfare and push them more to volunteer work.

            Note that the above is a more general remark, not specific to autism. And note that for some jobs, some disabilities are a benefit.

          • Autolykos says:

            I think an efficient economic and social system should maximize people using their comparative advantages, while trying to split labor as evenly as possible*. Which is exactly what this system would help with, unless you already have full employment (in that case, it would be superfluous, but this system would reflect that by making the actual tax breaks approach zero).
            Fraud would be a problem, but it is a problem for any type of welfare system. And in most cases, the problem is small enough that it isn’t really worth going after all but the most egregious offenses. I don’t see this as being any different.
            Of course I’m also much in favor of UBI (which would make most social interventions in the labor market superfluous), but I don’t see that happening any time soon, so we’d have to go for a more short-term fix.

            *At least as long as it is based on the assumption that most people are required to work and able to find a job. Post-scarcity, you work if you want to, and are not in it for the money anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            I think an efficient economic and social system should maximize people using their comparative advantages, while trying to split labor as evenly as possible*. Which is exactly what this system would help with

            Your system reduces people’s comparative advantages.

            In a non-full employment world, some people are permanently jobless. Optimal efficiency is when replacing a working person with a jobless person will always lower productivity. In other words, the jobless people are the least productive people in society. Such a society has maximum productivity and thus maximum material wealth.

            When you give a salary subsidy to a person that is less productive, so he gets a job over a person who is more productive, less is produced overall, so material wealth goes down.

            This doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t do it, but if you do, you can’t claim to create both a more efficient economic system and a more social system.

            I also don’t believe in a binary distinction between abled and disabled. There is a spectrum and everyone is disabled to some extent, even if they are not part of a formalized category. If you subsidize autistic people so they are jobless less, the people they push out of the workforce will not be the most productive people. The newly jobless will have less intelligence/talent/etc than average. So where previously the born trait of autism caused high joblessness, you just traded it in for more joblessness for people with the born traits of low intelligence/talent/etc.

            I’m not convinced that this makes society more social.

          • Autolykos says:

            Yes, I do recognize that balancing two parameters (comparative advantage and even split of labor) will usually fall behind optimizing for a single one on that parameter. No free lunch, and all that.

            Having someone who is only slightly inferior at a job not work at all is most definitely not optimal (and having the slightly superior person not work obviously isn’t, either). The optimal solution in this “economy of three” would probably be that both work part-time for the employer, perhaps with a slightly unequal split of work time and salary.
            Any other outcome is indicative for a failure in coordination somewhere, and intervention is sometimes necessary to fix that. I am also open to other forms of intervention (e.g. reducing weekly hours until you have effectively full employment). All of these interventions are fixes to problems that should not exist in theory, but still somehow do in practice. Mostly due to complex interactions between overhead costs, Schelling points, coordination problems and plain old laziness and human fallibility.

    • qwints says:

      If you’re in the US, are you familiar with ODEP and the EEOC?

    • Matt M says:

      This article may be relevant to your interests.

      It seems that corporate America has figured out that you can get credit for hiring “disabled” people by grabbing a bunch of high-functioning autistics and sticking them in front of a computer and telling them to do math – which they’re generally good at.

  9. nancylebovitz says:

    Argues that the Renaissance was a period of stagnation for everything except visual art

    I’m not qualified to judge most of the claims, but I’m interested in the idea that maybe the Renaissance wasn’t an era of striking progress. I got on to the subject because of a book about books of hours. I noticed that there wasn’t a big jump in the quality of representational art. Instead there was gradual improvement from the clumsy early medieval drawing to very skilled Renaissance work. (Sorry for lack of details– I can’t find the physical book and I haven’t been able to find a mention on line either.)

    Witch-hunting was a Renaissance thing, not medieval.

    The Inquisitions got started in the middle ages, but mostly happened during the Renaissance.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      The Renaissance was also a time of great superstition. In the Dark Ages, you had people like Charlemagne outlawing witch burnings because everybody (or at least everybody who wasn’t an ignorant peasant) knew that magic and witchcraft was just a silly superstition and obviously real witches don’t exist; in the Renaissance, belief in magic and occultism was widespread among the most educated circles, and no less a figure than James I & VI wrote a book about how to identify and defend against witches.

      ETA: Plus, there’s the whole Reformation business. A lot of people nowadays see Luther as a paragon of reason and free-thought sweeping away the illogical superstitions of Popery, whereas in fact one of Luther’s big complaints was precisely that the Catholic Church overthought things and put too much stock in fallible human reason.

    • cassander says:

      Witch hunting being a largely, though by no means exclusively, protestant vice, it is much more correctly called a reformation thing than a renaissance thing.

      • DavidS says:

        Not sure how much two can be separated (not saying they can’t be, but I think it’s a fair question).

        And yes, you can make at least a prima facie case that e.g. the Spanish Inquisition saved lives (net) because when witch-trials started in Spain, they turned up, pointed out why the evidential standards and trial processes were terrible, and got a few instigators executed for general trouble-causing. Whereas in Germany…

        • dndnrsn says:

          Wasn’t the Spanish Inquisition more about going after converts to Christianity who were supposedly continuing Jewish or Muslim practices in secret?

        • DavidS says:

          I know there was a big thing with first demanding Jews converting and then persecuting the ‘conversos’ and looking for evidence that they were secretly still Jewish. As upthread, basing this again largely on one book about Spain at the time of Columbus! But from that, this apparently included not just outright ‘they secretly have a synagogue and celebrate Jewish festivals’ but some really quite marginal cultural things (clothes etc beyond the really obvious). Presumably some degree of tension over levels of integration etc. (plus the fact that there were some conversos in pretty high positions caused populist religious leaders to attack them).

          Not aware of the same for Islam but wouldn’t be hugely surprising. For what it’s worth, Wiki says the following: Unlike Marranos (Jews who’d become Christian), Moriscos (Muslims who’d become Christian( were subject to an edict of expulsion even after conversion, which was implemented severely in the eastern region of Valencia and less so in other parts of Spain. Nevertheless, overall Moriscos were subject to considerably less suspicion and hostility from the wider Christian community than the Jews and Jewish-descended Marranos.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        There’s an essay that I’d love to find again which argued that the big correlation for witch-hunting was with lack of centralized authority rather than with Protestantism or Catholicism.

        The author went over court records county by county to gather information, and also concluded that the dead were in the hundred of thousands (I think, might have been tens of thousands), not in the millions.

        It was first published in a non-scholarly pagan publication (in the 80s or earlier, I think), and was later put on line.

        • cassander says:

          10s of thousands, yeah. Almost certainly not hundreds. Definitely not millions.

          But quantity of centralized authority is a tricky thing. Large parts of france were basically lawless for a lot of the 16th century, but they aren’t exactly famous for witch burning, and neither was famously disunited Italy. Color me skeptical on this theory.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Italy was divided into lots of little city-states, but these states tended to be quite centralised by the standards of the time. Don’t know enough about France to comment.

        • Autolykos says:

          Well, a decentralized country tends to have more outliers, via a higher chance of a wacko getting a high governing position somewhere. And outliers tend to really drive up the average.
          Case in point: Bamberg

    • onyomi says:

      It’s an interesting idea which probably has some merit, though I do think that Shakespeare guy was pretty good.

      More generally, I do tend to notice in general cultures following wave patterns of invention and refinement. There are periods which seem to do more raw inventing, which, on my very vague subjective impression, often correspond to periods of political instability, and there are periods which seem to do more refining, which, on my very vague subjective impression, often correspond to periods of relative stability.

      In China, the Warring States, Six Dynasties, and Song Dyasties feel more to me like “raw invention” periods, while the Han, Tang (though famously cosmopolitan compared to later dynasties), and Ming feel more like “refinement” periods. In Japan, the Nara, Asuka, Kamakura, Muromachi more to raw invention, the Heian and the Edo to “refinement.”

      It may be that the political disunity causes more cultural exchange due to dislocation and porous borders, while the more “closed” empires of e. g. the Ming, Qing, Edo, and Choson are conducive to refining things which already exist but not inventing a whole lot of new things.

      In the case of England, the Norman Conquest is obviously a time when you’re going to have a lot of cultural exchange compared to e. g. the stable Elizabethan era.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Necessity is the mother of invention”, possibly? In a turbulent period, when supplies are likely to be cut off (not to mention your head), you need to find new ways to do things with what you have on hand, as well as the boost to productivity war economies seem to produce.

        Were early period war economies productive, is now the next fascinating question to ask. If you have a system like China, where there were states with established bureaucracies and the ability to order mass population behaviour, could they swing into “we need X hundred tailors making uniforms” mode as easily?

        • onyomi says:

          The Qin Dynasty seems to be something of an argument in favor of this idea: they succeeded in uniting China by virtue of having by far the biggest army and military apparatus; once they won, they seem to have converted that might into building some of the earliest parts of the Great Wall, building the Emperor a crazily huge tomb, and maybe some useful things like standardizing writing and weights and measures (though that probably didn’t require so much manpower per se).

          Though very good at producing monuments, however, I don’t think the Qin economy worked for your average Joe (Zhou?) given it was overthrown in 15 years…

      • Aapje says:

        @onyomi

        More generally, I do tend to notice in general cultures following wave patterns of invention and refinement. There are periods which seem to do more raw inventing, which, on my very vague subjective impression, often correspond to periods of political instability, and there are periods which seem to do more refining, which, on my very vague subjective impression, often correspond to periods of relative stability.

        The same pattern is seen in evolution.

        • onyomi says:

          That is a good point.

          I was thinking recently about how many freshwater fish look like dinosaurs. I realized that, in some sense, it’s probably due to fewer novel evolutionary pressure as compared to the ocean.

      • onyomi says:

        Related, in China and, I think, elsewhere, the stable periods of refinement tend to get more “credit” as “golden ages” of a sort as compared to the periods of instability which might, paradoxically, see more major innovation. This could be the issue with the reputation of the Renaissance relative to the middle ages.

        Though if you become stable and refined too long you definitely start to develop some dinosaur-like traits, as did the Qing Dynasty, Choson Korea, and Edo Japan (the fact that East Asian empires all closed off around the same time can’t be a coincidence, though? Probably contact with the West was seen as too politically and culturally destabilizing; ironic, considering that one of the stereotypical qualities of East Asia from the perspective of the West is supposed cultural stasis; but that stasis itself might have been a reaction to the influence of the West).

    • dragnubbit says:

      The difficulty begins with anyone trying to set hard dates for the beginning and end of the Renaissance, as if it were a discrete event rather than a mixture of gradual and punctuated developments. The printing press is an example of both a discrete event (combining movable type + wine press) and a very gradual spreading of its use. Same with the fad of classical education. Happened very quickly in certain northern Italian cities than spread gradually for centuries thereafter.

      Art and architecture are just cultural hallmarks of a change in attitude among elites. Why were realism and humanism, and emphasis in technique over sentiment, showing up in art? Because of cultural developments, not just artistic sensibilities. There was now widespread availability of written works.

  10. Deiseach says:

    Oh, yeah. Now this is the kind of Tumblr content (even if not an original post but reblogged) that I got onto Tumblr for, not flightiness about midwives and witches.

  11. JulieK says:

    Anyone remember a series of kid’s mystery stories where you had to find the clues in in the illustrations to solve the mysteries? I’d like to get them for my kids and can’t remember title or author. They were on the same reading level as the Encyclopedia Brown stories.

  12. Mark says:

    I have to say, I think the “#Hillbullies” thing that Scott Adams is doing is great.

    One thing – when I searched for the hashtag “#hillarysbullies” it auto completed with “trump is a bully”. Searched it and pretty much nothing came up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before – is it possible that someone at twitter has added that in as a snide response to the hash tag, or are there lots of people searching “#hillarysbullies trump is a bully”.

    Seems like a bit of an unlikely search to me. And searching for “trump is a bu” doesn’t autocomplete to “trump is a bully”…

    • Brad says:

      Is he going to admit he was wrong after Trump loses? What was his prediction again, 99% chance of a landslide victory? So much for master persuader “theory”.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I predict either he will say we’re in the 1% universe, or he won’t. You can tell my prediction is going to be correct, because I am a Trained Hypnotist.

        • Brad says:

          I seriously have no idea what people see in that guy. As an analogy seeing all these posts on SSC about stuff he says is kind of like if there were a ton of posts about what Kim Kardashian thought of the election and it turned out to have a lot to do with crystals and auras. I just don’t understand how we got here.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Well, if Kim Kardashian had predicted the outcome of the primaries, and had a semi-plausible explanation for why…

            His “Trump is a master persuader” thing was sort of a very ramped-up version of part of what actually happened in the primaries. Adams presented it as the only thing that happened in the primaries. Whether he actually sees it that way or not is up to me – he’s very prone to “oh well I was just trolling, I am an entertainer, not an expert” type bafflegab, so he might just be presenting what he knows is the most attention-getting hypothesis, or he might actually believe that Trump alone was the reason for his success in the primaries.

          • ChetC3 says:

            @Brad: Identity politics.

          • Protagoras says:

            Dilbert used to have more geek humor and less office humor, and Adams developed a substantial geek fanbase as a result. Lots of geeks in the SSC reader base. I imagine if more geeks were Kardashian fans, you probably would actually see the kind of discussion in your analogy.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            I seriously have no idea what people see in that guy.

            He is a non-orthodox thinker who addresses things that don’t get much attention elsewhere.

          • Brad says:

            @Aapje
            Hypothetical crystals and auras Kim Kardashian would be an unorthodox thinker too. Unorthodox is a negative signal to be overcome, not a positive one.

            @Protagoras
            I’m older than the median poster here (mid 30s) and I think you are overselling things. Even limiting the relevant population to geeky types in the right age bracket you are talking about a roughly c list celebrity.

            @ChetC3
            I guess. Just seems odd to me.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            I think that people with an open mind are generally happy to read something new. Of course, new ideas are often half-baked or simply bad, which then creates a negative reaction.

            And some people might lose their open mind after reading too much crap.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I wrote that last post in a hurry and it is kind of incomplete.

            In retrospect, Trump was a perfect storm in the primaries:

            First, a big chunk of the Republican base wanted America-first right-wing populism. The Republican leadership, which seems to have postmortemed the 2012 election and decided that the only problem was that Romney turned off Hispanic voters too much by being against illegal immigration, was dead wrong.

            Second, there were so many Republican candidates in the running that Trump could get away with big gaps in his knowledge. If there’s a dozen people onstage, no one is going to get all the attention. The presumed frontrunners all seem to have hoped that Trump could knock out their competition, then they could beat him. By the time they realized what was going on, it was too late.

            Third, Trump is good at hammering a point, making complicated things sound simple, and in general BS’ing. He’s good at projecting confidence. He’s really good at bullying other men – doesn’t come off well when he tries to do it with women (eg Fiorina and being nasty to Kelly, and how disastrous his debate performances vs Clinton have been).

            Adams basically was saying that it was all the third point, and then some – at one point, wasn’t he referring to Trump as a “wizard”? I got the sense he was thinking of it like an RPG – high enough Persuade skill and you can just roll and win anyone over.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            The Republican leadership, which seems to have postmortemed the 2012 election and decided that the only problem was that Romney turned off Hispanic voters too much by being against illegal immigration, was dead wrong.

            They’re exactly right from the perspective of a general election.

            At the end of the day I don’t think the Trump calculus is complicated: he threw away the general to win the primaries.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Anonymous Bosch:

            It kind of seems like a major problem with the primary system that you can’t win the (Republican) primary without doing stuff that will make the general harder to win.

            I’m also honestly not sure how exactly the Republicans would appeal to Hispanics. What can they offer them the Democrats don’t? Getting people to switch parties isn’t easy.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            I’m also honestly not sure how exactly the Republicans would appeal to Hispanics. What can they offer them the Democrats don’t? Getting people to switch parties isn’t easy.

            GWB got 45% of the Hispanic vote. It really is as simple as supporting immigration reform, not being a condescending ass, and actually trying to reach out to them (Spanish-speaking surrogates and Spanish-language ads, etc.)

          • Chalid says:

            It’s important to keep in mind that the Republicans’ electoral problems with Hispanics are just a subset of their problems with everyone who isn’t white. Before, say, 2004 there were plenty of minorities who voted Republican, but they’ve all swung Democratic recently.

            I do think there’s a self-sustaining process here to some extent – the Republican party gets whiter, white identity politics becomes more valuable within the party (e.g. “real America,” apocalyptic immigration rhetoric) which alienates more non-whites, which makes the Republican party whiter, etc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            TL;DR the national-level Republicans are dead already, they just don’t realize it, and flailing in the direction of trying to not be the white people’s party is going to do them no more good than flailing in that direction. I don’t mean any of this in an “ought” sense, but rather an “is” sense.

            Looking at the numbers, yes, Bush was the smallest gap. But that gap was always in favour of the Democrats. Unless the Republicans can make the Hispanic vote count in primaries, they’re between a rock and a hard place: piss off their traditional base to appeal to people who at minimum have gone 55% (I’m seeing some say Bush 44%, but this site say 40%) for the other party? Immigration reform is a massive gamble for the Republicans – the Democrats will support it far more, so I don’t see how the Republicans get more of a boost from that than the Democrats do. That site even has the results of an NBC/Telemundo poll from September 2015, where Clinton beat Jeb by almost 2-1. Jeb, supposed to be even more Hispanic-friendly than his brother.

            The Republicans have painted themselves into a corner at the national level. At the lower levels, geographic patterns and their superior gerrymandering skills mean the Republicans survive. At best, they’re going to be taken over, in the same way that the Canadian Alliance took over the moribund federal Progressive Conservatives and rebranded themselves as the Conservatives – just buying up an old company with a valuable brand but little else (the PCs came in 5th in the 2000 election!). The PCs still exist at the provincial level. Meanwhile, for another Canadian parallel, the NDP, who briefly were 2nd place federally, tried to move to the right to compete with the Liberals, got smashed, and ended up being shunted back to 3rd place, with a Liberal majority.

            The Canadian Conservatives, however, do not have the same problem the Republicans have – they are not dependent on a shrinking % of non-Hispanic white voters (in fact, the situation is even worse than that, as they are starting to bleed out non-Hispanic white women and non-Hispanic white people with college degrees). Given that Canada does not have the hot-button issue of illegal immigration, the Conservative party is way better at courting what in Canadian politics is usually called “the ethnic vote” (probably the political affiliation least popular with visible minorities, the Quebec separatists, saw the provincial-level leader blame the failure of a leave-Canada referendum on “money and the ethnic vote”) than the Republicans are. In fact, one of the big surprises to anyone who forgot that religion is still a thing is that a major force for social conservatism is Muslim, Hindu, and Chinese Christian communities.

            The Republican party’s problem is far, far worse. They have been a borderline white nationalist party for some time now, but somehow, their leadership didn’t figure that out, and now it’s too late to win nationally with that platform. They’re dead already, though the heart hasn’t stopped beating, but the leadership and the think-tankers and so on do not feel it personally, and want to hold on to what they have, so they pretend they can right ship. The Republicans won’t be able to survive in the US’ current demographic reality, at least not at the national level. This is true whether they try to double down on Trumpism (imagine what would have happened if they had run a candidate this year who was Trump but with a modicum of self-control and no army of skeletons in their closet regarding women – maybe that would have worked) or try to attract people who don’t vote Republican already. Likewise, if they were going to try to attract Hispanic voters, the time to do that was a while ago. It reeks of desperation now.

            I think there’s going to be a right-wing party that attracts Hispanic voters, maybe even a majority of Hispanic voters, but it’s going to be more socially right-wing than economically right-wing, and it’s probably going to result from a split in the Democrats after the Republicans are clearly gone. It’s not as though winner-take-all (first past the post or the electoral college type deals) systems haven’t had parties die and new ones appear before.

          • Mark says:

            Hmmmm… I think it’s the same reason that this – https://www.reddit.com/r/StarWars/comments/3qvj6w/theory_jar_jar_binks_was_a_trained_force_user/ – was popular.

            If you’re talking more generally, I agree, in that I’ve never seen the appeal of Dilbert.

            I did think that “hillbullies” was pretty good though – I mean – they are hillbullies. It’s perfect.
            And, I agree with his ‘reasoning’ for supporting Trump – Clinton has poisoned the well – if Clinton wins in a landslide, I think life might be unbearable for anyone who stands in opposition to the more extreme Clintonites. They’ll feel they have a clear mandate to crush dissent.

            Brexit 2 would be healthier to make sure the zeitgeist doesn’t swing too far to one extreme.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The GOP has a better opportunity trying to win over smaller batches of white voters, like, say, the Polish Vote:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish-American_vote#Presidential_voting_results
            This is 10% of the electorate, which means they are actually larger than the Hispanic vote, around 9% in 2012. This is actually a voting bloc that the GOP has WON, in the RECENT past, which has recently voted Democrat.

            White People are not a homogenous group and there a lot of smaller White groups that the GOP can possibly win over.

            The idea of Hispanics voting (R) as a majority seems fanciful. The best bet is to reach out to the ones who are, say, converting to Evangelical Protestantism.

            Certain blocs of Asians voting (R) is more likely though not with the current Primary Environment.

      • Aapje says:

        @brad

        Is he going to admit he was wrong after Trump loses? What was his prediction again, 99% chance of a landslide victory? So much for master persuader “theory”.

        He hedged his prediction on:
        – Hillary not adopting persuader tactics (well) herself
        – A lack of big revelations/game changers

        He argued that after Sanders gave up, her campaign adopted persuader tactics. Most likely a person that came over from the Sanders campaign.

        I think it’s clear that the ‘Trump is a sexual harasser’ thing was a big revelation.

        • J. Mensch says:

          The polls didn’t really change much after the tape came out.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Didn’t his 538 chance of winning go from about 25% to about 15%? Not as huge a drop as after the first debate, but still, it looks like it was an excuse for a lot of Republican elites getting nervous about him going down to jump ship.

          • dragnubbit says:

            Exactly. The first debate was the game changer. By the time polls that showed the effect of the tape came out nearly all the gains in now-cast were already baked in.

            At best you can argue the tape delayed Trump’s reversion to mean.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ve been watching the Polls-Plus model more than the Now-Cast. That first debate really sunk him. I don’t think the recording of him describing his, at best, lack of respect for affirmative consent, and at worst, habit of sexually assaulting women, would have hurt him anywhere near as much had it not been for his first debate performance.

            Before I sat down to watch it, my prediction was “he will win if he can make her look weak or arrogant without looking like a bully”. He came off looking like a bully, and I think a lot of people reacted really badly to watching this big guy interrupting, talking over, and insulting her. Even though her performance wasn’t that great – obvious flashes of “why do I have to share a stage with this buffoon; why are the voters such idiots” and of “you should vote for me because I am smarter than you and I know facts and the experts like me” – his was horrible.

        • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

          Sure, he hedged. But after he decided that Clinton has a ‘master persuader’, and after seeing the sexual harassment revelation, he still gave Trump a 98% chance of winning as recently as October 25th. Somewhat uncharacteristically, he’s made a prediction he can’t easily back out of.

          • Aapje says:

            @Rebel with an Uncaused Cause

            I think that he got so upset at being harassed by Clinton supporters that he decided to use his persuasions skills for Trump. I don’t think that the prediction in that post was serious, but rather that it was an attempt at using persuasion.

            In his earlier prediction, he actually explained why he thought that Trump would win. Here he uses the nonsensical argument ‘Something just changed.’ Here he no longer hedged. I think that’s because the goal of this post is not to inform, but to manipulate.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            That’s fair. From where I’m standing, however, I parse pretty much everything he says as an attempt at persuasion; the fact that he provided reasons is just an extension of the persuasion attempt. In the past, he’s made predictions and made a show of checking his score against them, but he does so with low rigor. Thus, I would view both of these predictions as roughly on the same footing.

            With that said, I can see how the former appears to be structured more as an argument and less as a rhetorical tool, and concede that should Trump lose the election, he will likely (truthfully) claim as much. In the event of a Trump victory, however, I expect him to stand by the prediction.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Didn’t he have a post about how Clinton had brought Cialdini onboard and now it was some kind of wizard battle?

  13. John Schilling says:

    For those who recall Scott’s discussion of the EpiPen pricing controversy, a bit of good news.

    This is the competing epinephrine autoinjector about which our host wrote:

    In 2011, Sanoji asked for permission to sell a generic EpiPen called e-cue. This got held up for a while because the FDA didn’t like the name (really!), but eventually was approved under the name Auvi-Q, (which if I were a giant government agency that rejected things for having dumb names, would be going straight into the wastebasket). But after unconfirmed reports of incorrect dosage delivery, they recalled all their products off the market.

    Same dumb name, but either they’ve fixed the dosage-delivery problem or their lawyers are letting them say that there never were any such problems, either way they are un-recalling the device next year. No information on pricing yet, but having three competing providers is probably a good thing. Having congress, insurance companies, and the media all looking for evidence of a price-fixing cartel probably won’t hurt either.

  14. sflicht says:

    I recommend this video of historians/archivists discussing Nate Jones’ new book on the Able Archer 83 scare.

    While there’s no scholarly consensus, it seems, as to how scary AA83 really was, the event probably did have an important effect on Reagan’s attitudes about Soviet perceptions of the threat posed by NATO. I think now is an important time be thinking about this topic, given the current tensions with Russia — and specifically the possible breakdown of the 1987 INF treaty.

    Also given that influential neoconservatives are tweeting stuff like this.

    • Deiseach says:

      While there’s no scholarly consensus, it seems, as to how scary AA83 really was, the event probably did have an important effect on Reagan’s attitudes about Soviet perceptions of the threat posed by NATO.

      And things like this, kids, are why back in the 80s some of us felt sure that the Big One was going to kick off. Having come out of that, this is why current scares about how[ particular event] is “no, really, it’s the end for sure!” are less impressive to us fossils 🙂

      • sflicht says:

        That’s the sort of argument that sounds really reasonable until it sounds dangerously dumb.

      • Protagoras says:

        So because we got lucky in the 80s, no need to worry now? Because we’ll probably get lucky again? Or what’s the reasoning exactly?

        • Deiseach says:

          If it’s me you’re addressing, no more than “You can be absolutely convinced the worst is about to happen, and have reasons why you think so, and be wrong”.

    • bean says:

      America and Russia have historically found each other pretty much incomprehensible, often without realizing it. The idea that the US would launch a first strike in the 80s is laughable to Americans. The Russians believed it could happen, and we didn’t realize they did.
      (The best way to deal with this is to treat Russia as contrarian-land.)
      This continues to today. It took the Obama administration at least 6 years to realize that even though it looks superficially like a modern country, it just isn’t. I’m not sure they’ve fully figured it out. If they did, the obvious strategy is to announce that if Russia wants the Cold War back, we’ll be happy to oblige. And then start investing in our nuclear arsenal again, along with a strong missile defense system.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ bean
        If they did, the obvious strategy is to announce that if Russia wants the Cold War back, we’ll be happy to oblige. And then start investing in our nuclear arsenal again, along with a strong missile defense system.

        Can’t we fast-forward to the Space Race and who can first put a man on Mars?

        • bean says:

          Can’t we fast-forward to the Space Race and who can first put a man on Mars?

          I’d prefer not to. Not because I’m against space exploration in general (I’m very, very much not), or even against going to Mars in particular, but because the last one really screwed up our progress in space. Space Race II: Let’s Go To The Red One will result in some incredible TV, and some nice red rocks in the planetary science laboratories to go with the grey ones we got 45 years ago. And then we’ll be back where we are now. If we’re to go into space long-term, a race is exactly what we don’t need.
          (Hmm. Now I’m thinking of the parallels with the race to the South Pole. The third group to reach the pole wasn’t until 44 years after the first two.)

          Also, we’ll need to find somebody else to race. The Russian space program has been propped up by American money since the mid-90s.

  15. Controls Freak says:

    In the last open thread, I posted a top-level comment on SIGINT. I know old open threads die down extremely rapidly, but I also ended up far more busy this week than I thought I was going to be. So, if you replied to me and were hoping for more back-and-forth, I’m probably still getting to you. I had started off trying to do it chronologically, but that got screwed up. There were some really good comments. Some made me think, “I need to go find some links to the sources I have in mind,” and one even made me think, “I need to go back to some old newspaper articles and make sure this chain of events went down like I’m thinking.”

    Either way, please excuse my lateness, and please keep checking back to that thread. I’m hoping to have some free time tomorrow afternoon through this weekend.

  16. shakeddown says:

    Grammatical Things I am frustrated about today:

    I’ts not “macbook pros”. It’s “macbooks pro”, goddammit.

    • sflicht says:

      Disagree, and I also disagree with the official answer regarding attorney generals, lord regents, etc.

    • Autolykos says:

      Although I think it really should be “pro macbooks”, “general attorneys” and “regent lords”.
      Put the word that defines what the thing is in the back, dammit.

      • Jordan D. says:

        This.

        Although in the case of general attorneys, I think it could possibly also be correct to say “Generals Attorney”, meaning high-ranking military officers appointed to represent someone else in legal matters.

    • Aapje says:

      A modifier can stop being a modifier and then the grammar rules change.

      ‘macbook pro’ does not mean ‘pro macbook’. Blackberry does not mean ‘black berry’.

  17. Controls Freak says:

    In the last open thread, I posted a top-level comment on SIGINT. I got a lot of great replies! Unfortunately, I ended up being far more busy this week than I had anticipated, so I haven’t gotten to respond to all of them, yet. I need to go find appropriate links for sources for some, and one even made me think, “I need to dig up some old news articles to make sure I’m remembering a sequence of events correctly.” I know open threads tend to be discarded rather quickly, but if you had commented on that thread and anticipated a response, please swing back by it in the next few days. I’d like to keep some of the back-and-forth going.

  18. nancylebovitz says:

    Podcast about gung ho meditation— how much careful introspection can find out about how experience is constructed.

  19. odovacer says:

    Do you think this analogy is true?

    Welfare Queens : The Right :: Legacy Admission: The Left

    I mean that welfare queens and legacy admissions are boogeymen to right and left, respectively. Both welfare queens and legacy admissions are fairly small percentages of people who receive welfare and those admitted to college, but the mention of them stir up a lot of feelings in particular groups, i.e. very negative feelings that make people advocate for political/policy changes. They get/got outsized attention in many circles.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Are legacy admissions much of a bugbear on the Left? I would say “trust fund kids” are much more so. Overlap, obviously. Still, I would think the direct comparison is the archetypal “awful cishet Christian white man out in the countryside”. Occupies the same place in the Democratic imagination as the black woman with an expensive manicure and a Cadillac on food stamps does in the Republican mind.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t think it is quite right. The only time I really hear about legacy admissions is as riposte to critiques of affirmative action. Something like “the 1%” might be closer, but still not quite there because it doesn’t capture the social dimension as well.

    • rlms says:

      Do legacy admissions stir up massive negative feeling among the American left? From a British perspective they seem like abhorrent nepotism, but I’ve not got the impression that they are particularly disliked in the US.

      • Chalid says:

        I think if you asked your average lefty about legacy admissions they’d say something like “yeah they are unfair and help perpetuate inequality,” but they’re a very small issue and no one cares enough to put any energy into fighting them.

    • dragnubbit says:

      A more apt analogy might be between affirmative action admissions and legacy admissions, because at least then you are trading similar goods.

      But legacy admissions does not move the needle much anymore. Many schools specifically deny that legacies get real preferences (my alma mater claims they do not score legacies any differently, but it does offer them extra counseling and insider advice for application prep as an alumni service).

      The bugbear of the left for the last 5 years has, pretty clearly to me at least, been the 1%. Probably white privilege comes second.

    • cassander says:

      In my experience, “welfare queens” is a term that’s in the modern right wing vernacular. I hear it far more often from the left as part of some criticism of the right than I do from people actually complaining about them. I’m much more likely complaints about people on disability or section 8

  20. Well... says:

    I’m looking for a visual artist who can create an illustration for an album cover. The image I have in mind is a sci-fi landscape inspired by part of a Neal Stephenson book. I can’t afford to pay anyone, but I would give credit wherever I could (e.g. in the description if I post tracks to Youtube, etc.).

    Does anyone here know an artist, or is anyone here themselves an artist, who’d be able and willing to help me out?

  21. sflicht says:

    Anyone interested in discussing a powerful female politician embroiled in a career-threatening scandal after reporters discovered she handled certain confidential electronic files improperly?

    • suntzuanime says:

      It seems like the real angle there is the cult aspect, which doesn’t really mirror the case you’re alluding to at all. Unless you buy into the conspiracy theory that Huma Abedin has secretly converted Hillary Clinton to Islam…

      • sflicht says:

        Haha no, I don’t think the parallel is actually very strong. Except insofar as both cases seem to vindicate David Brin’s perspective on the future of radically transparent government. Hopefully.

        But seriously this story is crazy, extremely interesting, and I’m amazed by the Western press’s slow reaction to it. Was the Seoul bureau chief for the NYT totally asleep at the wheel? True, NYT had a fairly anodyne article about the scandal 24 hours ago, but it was totally lost in the shuffle of the FBI thing and the Apple ESC-gate brouhaha.

        • Deiseach says:

          Radically transparent government? Doubtful. Not with Hillary’s campaign fizzing over with indignation that this is interference by the FBI in politics, which leaves us with the only inference to draw from that is that they think the entire FBI is composed of Trump supporters who are out to get Hillary so their man can win. Or that Obama is not doing his job and quashing this stuff so she can have a clear run at it*. Neither of which sounds much like “in the near future, government will of necessity be much more open and transparent because there are too many ways for the public to find out how the sausage is made”.

          *The fun thing there is wondering if this is traditional political “patting your opponent** on the back with a knife in your hand”. If we take it that Obama is being hands-off, that could be seen as payback for “You tried to take my moment away from me in 2008, how do you like it now? Karma’s a bitch, baby!”

          **”Opponent” does not mean “guy from the other party”; often your worst rivals and opponents come from within your own party. There have been quite a few cases on this side of the water, both in Ireland and the UK, of party leaders promising – or seeming to promise – support to potential upstarts when it comes to successors, and then they quietly go and support another contestant when it comes time to swing the power and connections and networking behind them for the campaign. To get all conspiracy theory about it, Obama might prefer to be succeeded by Trump, because by comparison with President Trump’s administration, his two terms would look like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln combined, and his legacy and place in history as Great Statesman would be assured. Being followed by dull but competent Democrat and First Woman President Clinton – not so much opportunity. You don’t want two “Firsts” in close proximity – first non-white and first female presidents – as that dilutes the historical impact for both of them.

  22. Tekhno says:

    Let’s say I want a program to auto-generate words for a new language pairing them up with English words.

    What are the general characteristics of intelligible words? Obviously every word needs to have vowels otherwise it would just be like fffdqytprf, but you also can’t have too many vowels in a row, otherwise you’d get words like gooiiiiaioop. Even so, you can have words with repeated vowels as in vacuum, so maybe the minimum should be two or three in a row? You’d also need to exclude any random words that ended up the same as English words.

    How would you do it?

    • sflicht says:

      Maybe write the program in terms of phonemes rather than letters?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Why would you need to exclude any random words that ended up the same as English words? Many, perhaps most languages have words that are the same as English words, there’s just not that much space to play around in when it comes to short words.

    • Mark says:

      Why are you doing this?
      If it’s a new language, that’s supposed to seem like a natural language, wouldn’t you want a random sound in the new language to associate with a sound in English?
      For example, to have some relation between the words for “fire” and “man” and “fireman” ? (“Ogle” “Boogle” => “Oggleboogle”)

      If you were attempting that, I think first of all you might want to break words down into their constituent parts, and then replace each of those constituents with a random new sound.
      And also decide upon grammatical rules.

      If you are only using sounds that are available in English, I would use the rules of English in deciding which sounds are permissible, otherwise, doesn’t anything go? Is there any reason why a sound with no vowels couldn’t be intelligible?

    • rlms says:

      When I did this, I made a list of consonant-consonant (‘bb’, ‘dr’), consonant-vowel (‘di’, ‘sha’), vowel-consonant (‘ies’, ‘at’), and vowel-vowel pairs (‘a’, ‘ei’) and then generated words by combining pairs by following a pair ending with a vowel with one starting with a consonant and vice versa. I was doing this to simulate different kinds of languages, so I hand-picked the phoneme pairs to have the right sound (‘el’ and ‘ae’ for pseudo-Elvish, ‘ei’ and ‘sch’ for pseudo-German). Unfortunately I lost the code when moving computer, but it was fairly simple and worked pretty well. An alternative would be explicitly using a context-free grammar (which my method uses implicitly).

    • Autolykos says:

      I second that regexp/context-free grammar is generally the way to go. When I have to make a list of Names fitting a certain scheme, I usually go for the RPG Map-making tool AutoRealm, which has a built-in name generator: https://www.rpglibrary.org/software/autorealm/
      I start with defining what syllables look like in the language I want. Some are easy, like Japanese, which is (almost) always consonant+vowel with a rather small selection of consonants. Others are more complex – for German, I’d go with a random selection of (maybe) CV, VC, CVC, CCVC – but “consonant” and “vowel” would also include a few common compounds like “sch”, “ng” or “ei”, and I’d occasionally sprinkle in random consonants from a smaller selection. Then, you might want to define a handful of common suffixes (or prefixes) to tack onto your nouns or verbs.
      And the final touch is almost always by hand. Depending on how good your rules are, you’ll still need to throw out 20-50% of the words because they look weird or are completely unpronounceable.

  23. Deiseach says:

    Well, looks like the emails thing is not going away. Storm in a teacup or crap, this is serious? (I’m going to admit up front I am deriving a whole heap of amusement from this, since Hillary’s campaign is furious about how very dare the FBI and this is interfering in the election, never mind that (a) she was quite happy to call Trump a criminal tax dodger with the implication that he should be hauled into court and maybe even do time for it and (b) this looks awful like using your connections with power to get inconvenient charges quashed – Grade II clerk would have their backside canned for this kind of behaviour, let alone be facing the serious possibility of court, but ex-Secretary of State is too important to be held accountable to the same standards. So tell me again, Hill’s campaign, how you’re all about standing up to the big guys for the sake of the marginalised?)

    Is this story true, or kinda true, or “yeah, but that’s not how it really went down”?

    Also this, from the “New York Times” story behind a pay-wall:

    The presidential campaign was rocked on Friday after federal law enforcement officials said that emails pertinent to the now-closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server were discovered on a computer belonging to Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide.

    In a letter to Congress, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said the emails had surfaced in an unrelated case, which law enforcement officials said was an F.B.I. investigation into illicit text messages from Mr. Weiner to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. Mr. Weiner, a former Democratic congressman from New York, is married to Huma Abedin, the top aide.

    Mr. Comey’s letter said that the F.B.I. would review the emails to determine if they improperly contained classified information, which is tightly controlled by the government. Senior law enforcement officials said that it was unclear if any of the emails were from Mrs. Clinton’s private server. And while Mr. Comey said in his letter that the emails “appear to be pertinent,” the F.B.I. had not yet looked at them.

    So people not themselves working in the State Department but related to people working for Hillary in the State Department could have access to these private emails. Well, I’m certainly convinced of the careful safety and security measures to keep these private, confidential, state-related information secure that they put in place! 🙂

    As an aside, Weiner was sexting a 15 year old? What a star! Tell me again about how all the misogynistic rapists are Trump and his guys?

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Didn’t Weiner previously get in trouble for sending pictures of his, erm, wiener to various ladies? Always good to see a bit of nominative determinism going on.

      • Deiseach says:

        And immediately we’re getting the party line that this is political partisanship:

        “It is absolutely absurd that FBI Director Comey would support Donald Trump like this with only 11 days to go before the election,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor to the Democratic Coalition Against Trump.

        “It is an obvious attack from a lifelong Republican who used to serve in the Bush White House, just to undermine her campaign. Comey needs to focus on stopping terrorists and protecting America, not investigating our soon to be President-Elect Hillary Clinton.”

        Considering Comey seems to have done his utmost to bury this (even allegedly provoking dissent from disgruntled agents), that’s rather ungrateful, Mr Dworkin. If it’s laughable nonsense when a Republican candidate says that the Dems are using dirty tricks to undermine their campaign, it should be the same when it comes to vice versa. Otherwise, it sounds like paranoia: they’re the bad wicked nasty guys who use dirty tricks and persecute us, but when we’re in power at any level, we’re nice and pure and impartial and disinterested!

        Maybe you should have made sure your candidate had cleared away all the skeletons from all the closets before she started her campaign? This strikes me as another example of what is Hillary’s greatest weakness: her attitude that “What I do and say and think is right, why do I have to explain myself, why don’t you all just do what I tell you to do?” She plainly is stone-cold convinced she did nothing wrong at all in the slightest in any fashion, so she’s ignoring this issue because in her mind it’s case closed – she decided what course of action to follow and she always knows best so she can’t have possibly been mistaken in what she did. Not much help when she’s not telling people on her own side what they badly need to know in order to fire-fight, and when stuff like this keeps leaking out. It makes her own campaign look like idiots when they swear blind everything was top top security and secrecy, then it turns out “oh hey, unauthorised guy with no clearance could have read all the private correspondence and passed little nuggets of information on in chats with honeytraps because he’s a skirt-chasing hound with no sense of proportion”. (Honest to God, your four year old child gets into bed with you because mommy’s away and you’re supposed to be looking after him, and you continue sexting a woman not your wife, including sending a picture intimating you’ve got a hard-on? While your kid is in bed with you?)

        Because we’re talking about an agency operating under a second-term Democrat president, so unless what you really mean is “We’re the party in power, they’re supposed to do what we say”, you are laying the foundations that in future, government bodies should not do their job disinterestedly, they should first serve the interests of the incumbents and/or their party. That cuts both ways: you then can’t complain if a Republican president/candidate gets scandals buried because the relevant agency/court should “do its job” which does not mean investigating Presidents-Elect even if there is a likelihood of wrong-doing.

        Do you want the IRS to stop investigating Trump if he’s President-Elect? Yes or no?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Yeah I don’t find the claims that this is politically-motivated very convincing either. If Comey were really trying to sink the Clinton campaign, he’d surely have pressed charges against her after his first investigation.

    • BBA says:

      The emails were not to or from Clinton and appear to be duplicates of emails the FBI has already examined. So the chances of finding anything new and significant that can be pinned on Clinton are quite remote.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Here’s the thing…

        The initial investigation established that someone in Clinton’s office committed multiple felonies but was unable to establish who, or whether they were committed on Clinton’s say-so. The FBI’s decision not to prosecute was not the “exoneration” that some of Clinton’s supporters try to paint it as. It was a case of not having the evidence needed to meet the “reasonable doubt” standard required to secure a conviction. I don’t like the fact that Comey declined to prosecute, but I can understand why someone in his position might make that call.

        As for this new development. If these emails are duplicates that means Abedin made copies of classified material, and then made those copies available to an unauthorized third party (her husband). That’s a crime. If they aren’t duplicates there might be something in them relevant to establishing who did what. I would presume this is why the FBI has reopened the case.

        Beyond that I pretty much agree with everything Deiseach said here.

        • dragnubbit says:

          You are going pretty far beyond the findings of the FBI (which was not that they lacked information about who did what, but that they found no criminal intent) and the facts available about the latest emails, which are still under review.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think I am.

            Finding no criminal intent simply means that a prosecutor would have had to show that Clinton displayed “Gross Negligence” to secure a conviction. Gross negligence is a lot more open to interpretation, and thus much harder to prove in court than criminal intent is.

            Likewise who made (and later attempted to destroy) the original copies of the TSC material the FBI found is currently unknown or otherwise not being released.

      • Deiseach says:

        Here’s the thing: the emails were found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, who I am going to assume Huma Abedin kicked out of the house for being such a sleazeball (because if he’s still living in the same place with her and the kid, what the hell woman???), who was being investigated for completely different matters.

        That means Ms Abedin brought home, or had on her/the family computer, work-related emails that were supposed to be confidential private nobody not at the State Department gets to see these. And it also means Mr Weiner had access to them, even if he never ever looked at them.

        In my last job (in social housing, before I moved to another department), the day I finished up, I had to clear up all the files I’d been using. Including wiping and handing over to the section head the flash drive I’d been using to transfer files between our office and the city office when going to the monthly meeting. Because that information about peoples’ names, addresses and grant applications was confidential, and even though I was only (especially because I was only) a lowly Grade III (I don’t know how the American civil/public service works but this is bottom of the ladder), I wasn’t allowed to leave with any possibility I had information pertaining to the job in my possession.

        If it had turned out I had files on my home computer that anyone in the house could access, I would have been hauled over the coals in a quite serious disciplinary meeting.

        Imagine if I’m in an important job working for, as well as being a very close friend and confidante/advisor of, the Secretary of State and my sleazebag husband, who has proven time and again he’ll fall for a pretty face, has the possibility of access to confidential documents from my work. We’ve had a commenter on here describing what and why SIGINT is so important, and that routinely governments spy on friendly, allied states as well as enemy ones for exactly this kind of inside information. A honeytrap is the first thing that should leap to mind.

        We’re not talking about some junior clerk Hillary never even met, we’re talking about the husband of the woman who is so close to Hillary, some worry she’s a Svengali figure.

        That’s why it’s a potential big scandal.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Yeah. I don’t work for the government, but I do handle potentially sensitive stuff. Not “security” stuff but stuff like you deal with – stuff that could compromise somebody’s identity, their finances, etc. I don’t take that shit home. My ass would get fired if I did.

          Clinton and her supporters are acting like this is “everybody steals Post-It notes from the supply closet, don’t make a big deal of it” business.

          Meanwhile, a guy who figures “if women on the internet like pictures of guys with cats, how much more will they like pictures of guys with babies?” and texts his junk without realizing that grown men shouldn’t wear tighty-whities had access to some pretty serious stuff it seems.

          • Deiseach says:

            Meanwhile, a guy who figures “if women on the internet like pictures of guys with cats, how much more will they like pictures of guys with babies?” and texts his junk without realizing that grown men shouldn’t wear tighty-whities had access to some pretty serious stuff it seems.

            Yeah. Supposed to be looking after his four year old child while his wife is away working, and instead he’s sending dick pics to another woman. Then the kid gets into bed, and daddy thinks it’s a great idea to lie there in his underwear with a hard-on and send photos to the woman he’s trying to chat up instead of covering himself the hell up and ending the call. An adult in a state of sexual excitation sharing a bed with a child and thinking this is a cute photo opportunity and anecdote? If he wasn’t the ‘proper’ class and well-connected, but one of the clients we deal with, Social Services would have been called in to take the kid away and Daddy would be talking to the police about neglect, child endangerment, and maybe we should be asking serious questions about what the hell kind of behaviour you think this is?

            And his wife left sensitive emails on a home computer that he (seemingly) used for his porn and sex emails. But hey, no big deal, right?

        • hlynkacg says:

          ^ Exactly ^

        • dndnrsn says:

          Also, isn’t a horny guy basically the dream of a rival spy agency?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I really wish people would maintain clarity when talking about this issue.

          Any email sent to or from Hillary that was not sent on the hardened system designed for communication would have needed to contain only unclassified information. It does not matter whether the email stayedon state.gov servers and devices or not.

          Anything that was legal to be sent could be sent to anyone on any server or device anywhere. In fact, all of it was/is subject to FOIA so it is essentially public info already (although, frankly, I’m not sure that it’s wise for FOIA to apply to emails. It’s a little like saying every government phone call should be recorded and transcribed).

          In fact, I believe the .gov servers are confirmed to have been hacked at various points. So the idea that the private server could have been spraying secrets that would have been kept buttoned up otherwise seems like an exceedingly weak argument.

          So the only question is whether the very few emails that were either retro-actively classified or confidential at the time amount to a prosecutable offense. Regardless of whether Clinton had a .gov account this would be the same issue.

          • Deiseach says:

            So the only question is whether the very few emails that were either retro-actively classified or confidential at the time amount to a prosecutable offense.

            No, the question is lying about who had access to what, the level of security, the level of classified or not documents kept on private servers, and what the hell else is floating around out there. Even if the emails were nothing more than “our embassy in Borogrovia has too high an entertainment budget, tell the attaché to buy cheap plonk for the next party”, that should not have been stored at home on a computer everyone in the house had access to.

            Again, if this had come out on the Republican side (had a candidate other than Trump been running), this would be called evidence that they were unfit for the position they were seeking and they should withdraw. Hillary is running on a platform of “I know what’s involved, I’m experienced, I was in government myself” and then this kind of revelation keeps dripping out, where a junior clerk in the civil service would be looking at losing their job for this kind of carelessness but we are supposed to shrug and ignore it if the woman in charge of the State Department did it.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ HBC
            In fact, I believe the .gov servers are confirmed to have been hacked at various points.

            And the DNC’s, and Sanders’s(?), and a few other dinosaurs were hacked, some by Russians. The Clintons’ equipment apparently was not hacked, as they bought more recent equipment and maintained it well.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HBC
            There are numerous of problems with this line of reasoning.

            First off, all this talk about “retroactive classification” and “Clinton being a classification authority” is a red-herring. As per the FBI’s investigation report classified material was found on her server, including material that had originated outside the State Department and marked for compartmentalization at the time it was sent. Nobody within the State Department would have had authorization to make copies of that material, which means someone on Clinton’s staff had to commit multiple felonies.

            Secondly, using a personal account/server for official business is still illegal, even if it isn’t considered espionage.

            Thirdly, emails sent to or from a private account are not subject to the FOIA as the FOIA only applies to official government channels. In fact, many have suggested that avoiding FOIA scrutiny was a major reason for the server’s existence in the first place. This ties in with my second point.

            Finally, someone tried to wipe the server’s hard drives in March of 2015 (a week after the New York Times broke the story of the server’s existence). The FBI collected many of the emails in question via secondary sources (ISP logs, people’s phones, etc…) which means someone else could have done so as well and that there may be even more emails out there somewhere.

            And that’s before we start getting into the issues Deiseach raised. Would you really be ok with bank or hospital employees making copies of your personal information and taking it home with them?

            @ houseboatonstyx

            The FBI does not share your assessment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:

            Secondly, using a personal account/server for official business is still illegal, even if it isn’t considered espionage.

            I have seen numerous citations to the contrary. Powell only ever used a personal account for instance and no one is suggesting prosecuting him.

            And Deiseach, despite your protestations that surely something is illegal about conducting politics using private accounts, I don’t believe that to be the law.

            Again, if I am HRC@state.gov, I can legally send email to deiseach@gollygee.com. The restriction is if it is classified, not whether it is work related.

          • dragnubbit says:

            Hopefully the FBI can stick to the facts and evidence that is before them better than the internet.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes you could legally send an email to Deiseach, but as a personal communication it would not be subject to FOIA. That’s the problem. It becomes doubly a problem when you start conducting state business entirely off the record by sending your emails to Deiseach from HBC@fluffy.com instead of your .gov account.

            Likewise, as I understand it Powell used his personal phone to access a government network which at the time, was perfectly legal because the three letter agencies hadn’t really started cracking down on internet security yet.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkach:
            No. Colin Powell used an AOL account. None of these emails have ever been turned over for purposes of FOIA disclosure or any other reason. In addition he was extremely cavalier about other security related issues, such as PDA physical security.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Ok that’s news to me, but I’m confused. Why would you expect Powell’s emails to have been turned over if they aren’t subject to FOIA?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            This is a goose/gander situation.

            Colin Powell did the same things Hillary did, with the further step of actually hiding all of his emails and submitting none of them for archival, so we can’t determine how many of those communications were classified.

            Either you think Powell and Clinton both did something illegal, or you think neither of them did.

            As a further aside, you seem to think that someone did something illegal in sending HRC classified info, but HRC didn’t receive any classified info from anonymous sources. If Comey or the justice department thought any of the activity was criminally prosecutable, they would have charged whoever sent those emails.

            I’d wager that most high-level accounts at state have sent or received emails that contain some information that becomes or even is classified at the lowest level.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Colin Powell was secretary of state from 2001- Jan 26, 2005.

            When did the policies Hillary violated get established?

            The State Department has had a policy in place since 2005 to warn officials against routine use of personal email accounts for government work, a regulation in force during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state that appears to be at odds with her reliance on a private email for agency business, POLITICO has learned.

            Back in the early 2000s, my laptop with 256 MB of RAM was hot stuff. Cell phones were barely a thing, and smart phones unheard of. We were just starting to become aware of the security implications of the internet. It took some time for our policies to catch up.

          • hlynkacg says:

            To my knowledge, Powell was not accused of, or investigated for, illegally copying and distributing classified material. If he had, and the FBI found the sort of material on his AOL account that they reported finding in Clinton’s emails, I would absolutely agree that he ought to be prosecuted for it.

            In fact the whole goose/gander issue is precisely why I think Clinton should be prosecuted in the first place. I have a huge amount of respect for David Petraeus, and was kind of hoping he’d run for president, but I didn’t complain about him being investigated, and subsequently being forced to resign over a breech that was completely innocuous compared to the one being discussed here.

            I mean come on, a former coworker of mine spent 18 months in prison for an unauthorized photo-copy that never left his possession, and we have sailors getting court-martialed for taking selfies at work. How can you maintain that neither she nor any of her staff did anything illegal? How do you think special access material got on her home computer?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            A) Policy and law are two different things.

            B)

            After this story was first published, a State Department official acknowledged the 2005 policy but emphasized that it is limited to records containing such sensitive information.
            “Under State Department policy in the FAM referenced in news reports tonight, sensitive but unclassified information should be handled on a system with certain security requirements except in certain circumstances. That FAM policy pertains solely to SBU information,” the official said. “Reports claiming that by using personal email she is automatically out of step of that FAM are inaccurate.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Powell said: “I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders”

            What are the odds that some of that would not have been classified at the confidential level? The reason he isn’t being accused is because it’s ridiculous to suggest that he should be prosecuted for it. Bringing his PDA inside Mahogany row? Same thing.

            As to the selfies in nuke submarines, I have a feeling that’s all top-secret level stuff. Nothing on the HRC level is anywhere close to that.

            I don’t know what your friend copied, so I can’t really have an opinion.

            But both of those are good examples of behavior that is plausibly a preface to intentionally selling a secret, which is very, very, very different than anything we are talking about with HRC.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Actually, 8 emails (email chains?) on Clinton’s server were top secret. 7 of them were of the form: Pentagon/CIA wants to bomb someone in Pakistan on real short notice, please decide if this is a bad time. Apparently State makes such decisions all the time, but usually with more lead time to get a hold of the Secretary and transmit the details through proper channels. (I don’t think that the leak indicated if the details were in the email, but the very fact that CIA might bomb Pakistan in the next day is top secret. Also the fact that CIA ever bombs Pakistan is top secret, but that’s bullshit and FBI doesn’t care.) I don’t think details of the 8th top secret email leaked.

          • hlynkacg says:

            What are the odds that some of that would not have been classified at the confidential level?

            I would say mid to high, but discussion of classified material, or generating material that probably ought to classified, is covered under a different article from making unauthorized copying and distribution of material that has already been classified.

            To use a personal example, the law differentiates between me talking to a friend about my time in Iraq, and me giving my friend a copy of the official After Action Report for a given incident with explicit names, dates, operational details, etc…

            Nothing on the HRC level is anywhere close to that.

            As Douglas Knight already noted, this is just plain false. As per page 21 of the FBI’s report, 8 of the email chains recovered contained material that was classified Top Secret at the time they were sent. What’s more, 7 of those 8 had been marked Special Access, and 3 were supposed to be compartmentalized.

            I get that most people don’t really understand or care about the various levels of classification or what all the different stamps and stickers mean. But this is some serious shit. This is the sort of “none of what we are about to discuss leaves this room” level stuff you see in spy movies and political thrillers. If you have compartmentalized information that Sec. State needs to know about, you don’t send an email, you either call them on the big red phone or you write it out on a piece of paper and have an armed courier hand deliver it.

            Someone had to break compartmentalization, and that person ought to be in prison right now.

            As for my former coworker, it was study material for a certification exam he was about to take.

          • dragnubbit says:

            We can never know whether classified information was present in Powell’s AOL account. Because he destroyed ALL of his emails during and after he left office. This was a gross violation of the record-keeping laws, but (a) the GOP administration at the time did not press the issue, and (b) when Obama took over he did not go about recycling scandals from the previous administration. Powell’s destruction of all of his emails compromised the Senate investigations into the Iraq War intelligence fiasco, to name just one area. No investigation was ever done of whether classified information was sent to Powell’s AOL account from other government accounts, but since all the classified emails in HRC’s server were on chains that were originated by others, it is very arguable that Powell could have received some himself.

            HRC, on the other hand, retained all (or at least 99%) of her official emails that constituted records for proper archival. There actually is no equivalence to how the two handled their official records.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Point of order: Powell deleting emails from his AOL account was not a violation of federal record-keeping laws because the law as written does not include personal communications or accounts.

            Furthermore, deleting the emails was arguably far better from a security standpoint than retaining them and then leaving them unsecured as Clinton did.

            Finally, none of this addresses my core point which is that someone broke compartmentalization, and assuming the FBI knows who that person, or people, are the “political consideration” is the only credible explanation for why they haven’t already been arrested.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @hlynkacg

            By ‘breaking compartmentalization’ you mean someone wrote an email with compartmented data in it? The FBI knows who wrote every email (at least I assume they can read SMTP headers). If they have not prosecuted it might be more likely due to a mundane reason such as the lack of criminal intent or inability to prove significant harm to national security than it was to some political suppression (Occam’s razor).

            Have you read the NYT or WaPo lately? If you had forwarded text from one of their articles on drones or Snowden revelations in an email to HRC, you would be the subject of calls for felony prosecution for generating highly classified emails. And it would not matter if it was to .gov address or a clintonemail.com address.

            And Powell used AOL not just for personal, but for many of his official emails as well (he boasted about how using the AOL account allowed him to bypass automatic archiving of some of his work correspondence). The obligation to archive federal records is not specific to government accounts – those laws are written broadly at a level well above that of naming email domains, and encompass any records of official government business that meet certain guidelines (are they unique, do they record official discussions, decisions or actions, etc.). Policies that mandate use of government email accounts for official business are not laws, they are regulations intended to facilitate compliance with record-keeping laws. Failing to follow those policies is not a crime (though it may subject you to administrative sanctions such as being fired) – the crimes would be destroying government records or providing classified data to uncleared persons with mens rea (criminal intent).

          • hlynkacg says:

            Like I said before. I understand that most people don’t ever handle sensitive information as such they don’t pay attention to or really even care about what all the weird stamps and stickers mean.

            Compartmentalization is a concept in information security where access to specific data is limited to a given “compartment”, see the old cliche’ about “need to know”. Simply put the Secretary of State doesn’t need to know the who our agent in the Kremlin is, or where that agent’s kids go to school, to make decisions based on information that agent provides. Because it is taken as a given that everyone spies on everyone, there is a specific weird stamp for things that really ought to only discussed face to face with people whom the information is immediately relevant. (See Controls Freak’s bit on SIGINT in OT 61) and specific procedures for handling compartmentalized information. People go to jail for failing to follow those procedures. The FBI does not need to show criminal intent, or prove significant harm. The simple fact that compartmentalized material was removed from its compartment and found on a private server is proof enough that a felony occurred.

            You compare Clinton’s actions to forwarding an article from the NYT, but this is precisely the sort “everybody steals Post-It notes from the supply closet” mentality that those of us who’ve actually had to deal with this sort of thing find so frustrating.

            Reading something in a newspaper, or discussing something in a bar is on a different level from having a official document containing names, dates and sworn testimony signed by multiple witnesses, and the law treats it rather differently.

          • hlynkacg says:

            In addition, whether or not Powell used his AOL account for federal business is irrelevant. It was still personal communications in the eyes of the law and thus not subject to the same accountability requirements that a government account would have been.

            If you don’t like it, you need to push for a change in the law.

          • John Schilling says:

            And in fact the law (or at least State’s internal regulations) was changed right after Powell left office, in large part because of his bad example. Some of the things he maybe got away with, subsequent SecStates don’t get to get away with. Powell still gets to have gotten away with them because of that pesky Consitutional bar on ex post facto laws.

            Unless we do away with rule of law in the name of political expediency.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @hlynkacg

            I am familiar with what is meant by compartmentalized information. Are you familiar with ‘over-classification’ as well as ‘plausible deniabilitiy’, ‘organizational inertia’ and ‘inability to retreat’?

            Compartmentalized information has been printed in the NYT and WaPo. Top secret information is also routinely printed. No one was sent to jail for this (yet), and if it were that serious we should be rounding up those publishers and reporters don’t ya think? Nor have the relevant classification guides been altered to lower the classification of that material because to do so might reward the leakers, confirm something that is best left unconfirmed, or require the US to admit to something it is publicly denying. Nor has the responsibility of federal workers to adhere to those rules been altered, even though that often mean they cannot discuss an article in the newspaper that someone else is discussing, or discuss topics with regular people who send you unsolicited emails about activities on the wrong side of a border, or about something reported in foreign press. It can get pretty confusing for non-career officials (especially Congress-critters who routinely blab classified information in press conferences or ask classified questions in hearings on C-SPAN).

            I am not arguing that our classification system needs to be loosened in the age of many unofficial sources of information, but we do need to avoid hyperventilating about a few classified items without knowing the full context or having read the items ourselves (which presumably the FBI does know, has read, and has weighed). Some highly classified facts are actually common knowledge, and having one of your email buddies talk about them in your inbox is not an assault on national security, though certain motivated reasoners seem to turn off their brains once they hear a buzzword like ‘compartmentalized’ and think they know more about what constitutes a threat to national security and a prima facie felony than the investigatory team trained in the law, the relevant classification guides, and which has actually read the offending emails and conducted interviews of the subjects.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ dragnubbit

            I am familiar with the concept of “over classification” in fact I have been personally affected by it. I’m still kind of miffed that I wasn’t allowed to keep copies of my own log books, and pictures that I took when I left the service.

            That said one could easily make the case that the tendency of bureaucrats’ to slap a classification sticker on anything is precisely why a “no seriously guys, we really do mean it this time” level of classification had to be introduced in the first place.

            I don’t know if your continued equivocation between different levels of classification stems from ignorance or partisanship but in either case I find it frustrating.

            You say “no one has been sent to jail (yet)” are you fucking kidding me?

            The last time Compartmentalized information made the news without executive approval (that we know of) was the Snowden leaks and in case you hadn’t noticed Edward Snowden is currently a wanted fugitive who’s been forced to flee the country.

            The time before that was Manning, and Manning’s currently in the process of serving a 35 year prison term.

            In the mean time, we have numerous other poor saps currently serving time for breeches that never made the front page.

            Finally, even if we were to rewrite the entire book on information security tomorrow the fact of the matter would be that Clinton and her staff broke the law, not just once, but habitually.

            Fuck that noise.

          • dragnubbit says:

            I am only arguing that the only people who know the seriousness of the emails in question, who know who wrote them (in all reported cases I read it was not HRC but other apparently less interesting subjects who originated the classified info), and whether intent to release classified information to uncleared people existed have done a very long investigation and found no case worth prosecuting. Not even the people who WROTE the classified emails were recommended for prosecution, much less HRC who received them without realizing their classification.

            People who have not read the emails but only know the classification level, who have not read the testimony of witnesses, who are not charged with making these decisions, want to not only substitute their judgment for that of career investigators and prosecutors, but believe their superficial knowledge of the facts of the case are dispositive and trump the decisions of those who have all the facts at their disposal.

            I do not believe this is further evidence of how corrupt the system is, with now the FBI added to the conspiracy against the American public. I believe it is probably evidence that these were not emails the government wants on unclassified systems but that were not the end of the world either and that they were generated and responded to without criminal intent.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t know how I can make this any clearer than I have already but
            “lack of criminal intent” is not the only standard that has to be met. As I said above, someone broke compartmentalization, and regardless of intent they committed a felony.

            The DOJ under the Obama Administration has been extremely aggressive in prosecuting procedural violations and security breeches. Multiple examples of been provided (both in this thread and others) of breeches much smaller than this one where the FBI found no criminal intent and yet still recommended prosecution.

            You observed accurately that not even the people who sent the emails in question were recommended for prosecution. But you seem to have completely missed the significance of this fact. Well-connected Democrats are being let of the hook in circumstances where everyone has gotten nailed to the wall, and you expect me to believe that “political considerations” have nothing to do with it?

            I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

    • onyomi says:

      If this does turn out to be a big deal, Trump is going to end up looking really smart for having chosen to label her “crooked Hillary” (as opposed to other negative labels one could imagine; “crooked” does also offer the bonus of possibly implying “old and sickly”), given that, thus far, these things haven’t stuck to her, but now, the confluence of what may be a “last straw” in some voters’ minds with his repetition of the label may make the label and the accusations finally “stick.”

    • beleester says:

      The FBI’s statement was basically “We found emails that may or may not be related to the investigation. We are investigating.” It was about as vague as you could possibly make it while still using the words “Hillary Clinton,” “emails,” and “investigation.”

      Now, I hate accusing the FBI of getting political, especially since my position through the whole fiasco has basically “Let the FBI do their jobs and accept the verdict, instead of being a back-seat driver,” but I don’t see what this statement does except drive up suspicion.

      • dragnubbit says:

        It seems to provide a nail upon which everyone who thinks it was not settled properly the first time to re-hang all their grievances. Lot of pent up anger just exploded all over the interwebs over a basic statement that a few more emails surfaced that have not yet been reviewed.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It’s another example of broken political norms.

          Regardless of intent, Comey broke with political norms. Just as announcing, for example, that he was examining claims of sexual assault cagainst Trump 11 days before the election would violate norms.

          • onyomi says:

            Would you have considered it a violation of political norms had he decided to prosecute her back in July (serious, non-rhetorical question)?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            First off, it’s not his decision whether to prosecute. That decision belongs to the justice department.

            Given the evidence, as near as I can tell, it would have been a violation of norms to recommend prosecution because the evidence isn’t there. Prosecutions that are an attempt to incent testimony happen, but that doesn’t apply here.

            But, given some other set of evidence, July might be fine. The key thing is that prosecutions should not be made into a feasible political weapon and candidates should have access to the case against them.

            Essentially the “no prosecution activity around elections” is a Schelling fence that everyone should stay well away from.

          • dragnubbit says:

            Comey violated norms once he held a press conference laying out public accusations and his personal feelings in a case that was ending without any criminal charges. That has gotten him sucked into partisan warfare in a way that hopefully he regrets by now. It was never his job to pass judgment or even to decide whether to prosecute.

      • Deiseach says:

        Problem was, they found these emails on the guy’s computer when investigating him for an unrelated matter (unless someone is going to claim that it’s all one ‘vast right wing conspiracy’ to drag down Hillary and her allies; given the context – sexting a 15 year old – I’m going to presume they were looking for child porn or at least underage stuff, which is a charming idea*).

        What do they do – sit on this info? That really is political interference, pretending you didn’t find stuff because it’s going to make someone look bad in an election campaign. They passed it on to the boss (which in my opinion was the right decision) and now he’s got the ticking time bomb in his hand. What does he do? After he’s done all he can to say “we’re not going to investigate, there’s no reason to charge anybody with anything”? Because if this turned up, maybe there’s more stuff out there liable to turn up. If he says nothing, then he’s going to look every bit as partisan for the Clinton campaign as Scott Dworkin claims he’s in the tank for Trump. Plus he’s not doing his job. I don’t know how better he could have handled it, but given the sensitivity of the entire mess, informing Congress is probably the lesser of two evils.

        (*Also, imagine what would be said if – I’m pulling a name out of nowhere here, this is not to say anything about the guy – but what if Rubio were the opposition instead of Trump, and the husband of a close ally/advisor did crap like this. All the people I’m seeing cheerleading for Hillary would be screaming for his head on a pike, saying “This guy is a paedophile!” and claiming this proved what terrible people the Republicans were, that their presidential candidate had somebody (married to someone) who was a paedophile in his inner circle, and that he should immediately pull out of the race. Instead, I’m hearing nothing from anyone on the “Trump is a rapist, Hillary stands with women” side demanding Hillary dump Abedin and maybe even pull out of the race herself. Partisanship trumps social justice, it would appear).

        • beleester says:

          Why couldn’t they investigate it without informing Congress, then disclose what they found once they’d investigated? AFAIK, that’s how investigations normally work – the police/FBI don’t announce every action they take, they gather the facts and then lay them out at the end.

          He only would have looked like he was hiding something for Hillary if it turned out to be relevant to the investigation and he never brought it up. Then he’d be actually covering something up. But refusing to bring up something that isn’t incriminating isn’t a scandal. And neither is waiting a few days to check if there’s anything incriminating. Refusing to announce every last thing that could possibly make a suspect look guilty isn’t a coverup, outside of the minds of the GOP.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Why couldn’t they investigate it without informing Congress

            Because they already did that and told everyone that the case was closed. Now the case is being reopened.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The case is not being re-opened.

            The have some information that might lead to it being re-opened.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think informing Congress was an over-correction to the criticism he’d been getting about going easy on Hillary because of her position and connections.

            It’s tricky being in a government organisation having to investigate former members of government during an election. Comey was criticised for appearing to be influenced by political considerations in his decision that there was no reason to prosecute over the emails; now he’s been called a Trump stooge who did this to sabotage Hillary’s chances by at least one pro-Clinton campaigner. You can’t win.

            I think, because these emails turned up in an unrelated investigation, and because he had been hammered (and allegedly there was resentment from a number of agents about what was seen as letting Hillary and her crew off the hook about the earlier investigation) that he decided to lean in the other direction, tell everything from the start, and have it all out in the open step by step so nobody can say it’s all being hushed up in secret.

            That they weren’t looking for more emails but found them is the troubling thing here; it knocks on the head the claims that the emails were all tightly controlled, on secure private servers, and only a few people had access to them (and by the way they were no big deal anyway).

            It is almost secondary, at this point, whether they contained classified information or were on the lines of “change our wholesale coffee suppliers for European embassies” – the important part is that either copies of the originals, or new emails, have been found in the possession of somebody who shouldn’t have had them in the first place, and even if that’s only an accident of “he was married to a State Department staffer”, that undermines the whole ethos of workplace confidentiality that all government employees are supposed to adhere to.

            As I said in my own example, I’m not allowed take information out of the office, and I’m only a peon. The Big Bosses at the top deciding the rules don’t apply to them is not a reassuring omen for how they’ll act if “our soon to be President-Elect Hillary Clinton” and her entourage get the top job!

          • Brad says:

            beleester

            AFAIK, that’s how investigations normally work – the police/FBI don’t announce every action they take, they gather the facts and then lay them out at the end.

            They only lay them out at the end if they decide to prosecute and then they do so in court, not in the press.

            If the people decline to prosecute than all the otherwise private information obtained by law enforcement using the coercive power of the state is supposed to remain under wraps, not be exposed to the world. The FBI are a law enforcement agency, not a newsgathering one.

            Comey never should have made himself the face of this story to begin with. He shouldn’t have held a news conference announcing non-prosecution and sharing his opinion on the underlying conduct. He shouldn’t have testified before congress on the subject. He shouldn’t have publicly released the FBI investigation file.

            If he had employed the discretion appropriate to his position and the circumstances, he might well have been subject to partisan attacks. That comes with the territory. Now he is subject to partisan attack and has nothing to fall back — such as law enforcement tradition or long standing DOJ rules.

        • dragnubbit says:

          Well, when the former Republican Speaker of the House, who was as inner circle as it gets in GOP politics, was discovered to be a pedophile I do not remember a lot of the scapegoating you seem to be projecting onto Democrats. Everyone felt that Hastert was responsible for his own crimes and that the rest of the GOP were not in fact pedophiles-one-step-removed for having let him be the party’s Congressional leader.

          In fact I have seen little evidence that any Democratic campaign tried to smear Republicans very much over Hastert at all. We should not base our opinions on some alternate reality we think up and how the caricatures in ours mind behave in that fantasy.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I completely agree that Hastert was scum, and I agree that the general consensus was that Hastert was responsible for his own crimes and that the rest of the GOP were not in fact pedophiles-one-step-removed. That said, I don’t recall anyone (aside from Hastert himself) seriously arguing that he’d done nothing wrong, or that his prosecution was part of some vast conspiracy either.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            This is, I assume, a response to the following statement by Deiseach.

            All the people I’m seeing cheerleading for Hillary would be screaming for his head on a pike, saying “This guy is a paedophile!” and claiming this proved what terrible people the Republicans were, that their presidential candidate had somebody (married to someone) who was a paedophile in his inner circle, and that he should immediately pull out of the race.

          • Deiseach says:

            Everyone felt that Hastert was responsible for his own crimes and that the rest of the GOP were not in fact pedophiles-one-step-removed for having let him be the party’s Congressional leader

            Salon disagrees with you.

            My point, though, was that in a polarised election campaign, where I have seen people calling Trump not alone a rapist and child molester but that this is the ugly face of Republicanism, the Evil Party, and this is why his victory would be the destruction of women, minorities, LGBT, reproductive rights, sexual freedom, any kind of freedom, that if this was a scandal on the Republican side we’d see people calling for action, but they’re not prepared to do so on the Democratic side

            Equally, of course, the Republicans would not do the same thing to one of theirs as they’d beat the Democrats over the head for. But it’s pretty two-faced coming from the Democrats, since they loudly claimed the mantle of respect for women and minorities and opposition to the influential abusing their power. Do we really think The Huffington Post would run a story about a Democrat figure as they do here?

            No outsider can say whether Mr. Trump is innocent or guilty of these new rape charges. But we can look at his record, analyze the court filings here, and make a determination as to credibility – whether the allegations are believable enough for us to take them seriously and investigate them, keeping in mind his denial and reporting new facts as they develop.

            I have done that. And the answer is a clear “yes.” These allegations are credible. They ought not be ignored. Mainstream media, I’m looking at you

            And item number one of their proof is that Trump is a misogynist. So of course he’s willing to have sex with underage girls!

            Well, we’ve got a guy married to Hillary’s closest advisor who’s willing to have sex with an underage girl. He’s being investigated for it. Should his wife be guilty by association, as in the lurid reportage of alleged rape and murder further down in that HuffPo article? Or that they’d try ‘guilt by association’ on Huma Abedin and say that whatever the truth of the matter, for the sake of running a campaign and administration that cannot be reproached, Mrs Clinton should cut her loose and separate herself from her influence?

            Mr. Epstein’s own sexual crimes and parties with underage girls are well documented, as is Mr. Trump’s relationship with him two decades ago in New York City. Mr. Trump told a reporter a few years ago: “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

            Now, if these disgusting charges are true, Tump should indeed be prosecuted and sentenced if guilty. But allegations of rape and ‘disappearing’ a 12 year old girl, with an adult witness who was Epstein’s procuress, and that they’re all in fear of their lives because Trump might have them murdered? Renders the charges credible? Come on, if I were a wealthy, powerful, psycopath rapist and assumed murderer, would I let a woman who has the goods on me walk around free for years, or would I have her ‘disappeared’ as well? Seeing as how I apparently got away with it the first time?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Bill Clinton was buddies with Epstein too… A lot of people want to be friends with the incredibly wealthy and powerful, and incredibly wealthy and powerful people tend to keep each other’s company. One of the accusations is that he provided rich and powerful men with underage girls and then used that as blackmail material.

            The stuff that Epstein went to prison for is incredibly sleazy. The further allegations fall into that area of “these allegations are lurid, but lurid allegations have found to have been true before” – you’ve got cases where powerful men (Jimmy Savile, for one), not so powerful men (Rotherham, etc), or men who are not so much powerful as protected by institutions (eg, religious communities from the Catholic Church to among the upstate NY Orthodox) have gotten away with high degrees of sexual abuse of children, with authorities either completely unaware, or doing nothing, for whatever reason.

            Given that this guy is a New York financier who hangs out with politicians from both parties, showbiz figures, at least one royal, and even an academic or two, I highly doubt that if the allegations are true, that he divided up his activities based on political affiliation.

          • dragnubbit says:

            @deisach

            That Salon article you linked was describing the efforts of Republicans to defend Hastert. That seems pretty far from Democratic campaigns trying to smear Republicans by trying to tie them to Hastert. If you write a letter in support of a pedophile after his crimes are revealed, having a left-leaning magazine print an article pointing out that fact is hardly a smear. A smear is showing pictures of you being chummy or printing quotes about how you liked the guy that dated before his crimes were revealed.

  24. The original Mr. X says:

    So, it seems the FBI have reopened their investigation into Hillary’s e-mails.

    Any thoughts?

    ETA: Ninja’d by Deiseach.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Your first link should probably be to here.

      It is striking that “halftime” at crooked timber immediately identified the source of the raw data, but no one at ct realized that the raw data was from 2012 and it took the original author to discover that, which is not something he knew when he made the original images.

    • suntzuanime says:

      One of the real downsides to using the 2016 election to make maps like that is that the 2016 election hasn’t happened yet.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        You could use polls, and label it clearly.

        More generally, I need to be more sensitized to the difference between hypothesis and facts. Or maybe, since there can be some hypothesis lurking in facts, where some claim falls on the spectrum between probably-a-fact and guessing.

        For what it’s worth, when I first saw that map I thought something like “looks surprisingly extreme” then didn’t think any more about it and didn’t pass it on.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If your reaction was that Trump can’t make things this extreme, your reaction was exactly the backwards. This is the map for the perfectly ordinary Obama-Romney election. (Which is not to say that Trump made thing any more extreme, but that is certainly the point of the map.)

          • nancylebovitz says:

            My impression was that the real world isn’t that extreme. I’ve been wrong before.

            On the other hand, Purple America.

            Purple America source, with a gif showing change over time.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            If you have trouble reconciling a map of red and blue with a map of shades of purple, maybe you don’t understand what the maps show. The whole point of the original purple maps was that people didn’t understand the red-blue maps, not that the red-blue maps are false. On the contrary, the red-blue maps are correct, including these.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Not really. This model uses two inputs: voter turnout and support by demographic.

        In principle voter turnout is public information, but in practice turnout by demographic is determined by polls months after the election, which probably aren’t very accurate.

        Support by demographic is determined by exit polls. An individual is probably more likely to accurately report his vote to an exit poll than a poll before or after the election, but the samples are unrepresentative due to clustering.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Are people really confused or shocked by those maps? Republicans have a recent heavy advantage in the white vote overall. It gets weaker for the cohorts that restrict on women and/or college education. Stronger for the male, non-college educated cohorts. You would find something else similar if you split on age

      The Democrats voting coalition depends on the minority of white liberals and moderates melded with the very strong support of minorities.

      This is not dispositive for any given election, but it is the trend.

      This is poli-sci 101 level stuff.

  25. Deiseach says:

    As a relief from scandals and allegations, a current re-election campaign for a Republican candidate for local government. Hilarious and, for anyone who’s ever had dealings with their local representatives, killingly accurate.

    • John Schilling says:

      So, the South Koreans are fine with their presidents stealing the odd billion dollars here and there so long as they do it for themselves or their families, but $70 million for an inscrutable cult leader is over the line? That’s actually a fairly pragmatic and sensible attitude, and in hindsight I’m not surprised to hear it coming from Korea.

      And the one truly unforgivable thing being fudging the college admissions process to get the political favored son (er, daughter, this being the 21st century) into the local equivalent of Harvard, that’s not so much uniquely Korean as generically Asian I think, but yes, big cultural difference there.

      The Sewol incident as ritual human sacrifice on behalf of the aforementioned cult makes birtherism look downright sane and reasonable; I’m looking for anything that would suggest that belief has climbed above the lizardman-constant range, but coming up blank so far.

      How much does a presidential wardrobe cost, that after you’ve already siphoned off seventy million dollars it makes any sense at all to dress the president in shoddy clothes and pocket the difference yourself?

      And most importantly, how did any of this come as a surprise to South Korea? POTROK’s closest confidant since childhood being the daughter of an active cult leader was not exactly a state secret, and paying any attention to that element seems like it would have unveiled some of the other unseemly connections well before now. Though South Korea doesn’t have as strong a tradition of government transparency and press freedom as the US.

      • Loquat says:

        How much does a presidential wardrobe cost…

        After reading that article, I got the sense that Choi did not give a single fuck about anything to do with Park, aside from extracting as much money and power as possible, and was confident she had a strong enough hold that she could get away with anything. From that point of view, NOT embezzling every last cent you think you can get away with is just leaving money on the table.

  26. onyomi says:

    I couldn’t have thought of a better title for an article about this guy.

    My gut reaction is to really dislike this guy because he is basically the kind of Republican I hate running in such a way as to hurt the chances of a kind of Republican I hate slightly less running against a big government status quo I also hate.

    Yet as someone who typically votes third party, I can’t exactly complain too bitterly about people who have no chance running for president.

    That said, perhaps something more interesting to me about this guy is it looks a lot like Utah just picking their own president. He’s not just some guy who is running in Utah and might get a few votes in Utah. He is some guy who might literally win the state of Utah while getting basically no votes anywhere else. That seems kind of interesting in and of itself. Insofar as I actually would like the US to break up into smaller nations, it might be a step in the right direction.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Isn’t that what a Governor is supposed to be?

    • CatCube says:

      What a goofy article. I actually just got back from dropping off my ballot in Oregon, and I voted for McMullin as a write-in. I did it for pretty much the reason he said he was running–those of us who are conservative want an actual conservative, and he threw his hat in the ring. Hillary Clinton is an incompetent criminal, Donald Trump is a megalomaniacal hedonist who doesn’t seem to have many articulable principles (and those that he does are mostly the same as Clinton or purely self-aggrandizing), so neither of them is getting my vote. Johnson has mostly served to remind me why I’m not a libertarian.

      I’ve held my nose to vote for Republican candidates before, but there’s a limit. Trump is a bridge too far. Therefore, McMullin.

      Of course, I voted in Oregon, so my vote won’t make a difference. It still felt better. Besides, if something truly stupid happens with a split electoral college and McMullin’s Utah votes make him candidate #3 in the house, he’s got one more tick in his box for the nationwide popular vote. (Though his total support won’t be more than a rounding error there, anyway.)

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Does Oregon count write-in votes? It looks to me that they will only count the total write-ins and only break them down by individual candidates if the total number of write-ins for all candidates exceed the least popular candidate on the ballot. That’s a lot better than in some states. Maybe it’s even likely.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I suppose total write in-votes might exceed Jill Stein’s total?

          Edit:
          I’m assuming that Stein and Johnson will outdo their respective totals from 2012.

          Johnson: 24K
          Stein: 13K
          Write-Ins: 9K

          • IrishDude says:

            Since Johnson is on the ballot in every state, can you even write in his name and have it counted as a write in?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you voted for Johnson as a write-in in Oregon, I think it’s possible the vote would count as a vote for him, but only if the write-in ballots were actually counted.

            Different states probably have different rules for this. One classic mistake is to vote for the candidate and write them in, which is an “over vote” and usually does not count.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @CatCube:
        Unfortunately, your vote for McMullin will likely not be specifically tallied, according to Oregon law:

        The write-in votes will be tallied together except if the total number of write-in votes equals or exceeds the number of votes cast for any candidate printed on the ballot of the same office, then the tally will show the total number of votes for each write-in candidate.

        • CatCube says:

          *shrug* It’s not like it’d make any difference anyway. If Trump was doing well enough to get within 6 votes of victory for McMullin to snatch away, he’d probably win in Utah.

          Like I said, it’s more about feeling better about my own vote.

      • onyomi says:

        Aside from personal conduct, what makes McMullin more conservative than Trump?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @onyomi:
          Well, there is the “personally social conservative” aspect that is probably playing a large role. Trump doesn’t even really try and fake being humble before God, a sinner in need of redemption. He repeatedly talks about women and sex, especially his own wife and daughter, in a manner that is generally considered beyond the pale for faithful adherents (unless it is in the process of condemning said women as unfit to consort with).

          Mormons also tend to be very sensitive to specific issue of persecution for religious beliefs. His policy positions on Muslims look like a gun that used to be pointed at them. From a Mormon’s perspective, respect for religious choice is part of the conservative package.

          And then there is the fact that he does not seem reliably conservative in any of his policy positions. He is not so much a flip-flopper as a Moebius strip.

        • CatCube says:

          Firstly, his personal conduct is probably the biggest factor, so I don’t know why you’d care about “aside from personal conduct.” Unless he’s suffering from multiple personality disorder, how he behaves in private is going to give you a good idea of how he’s going to govern. There’s not two Donald Trumps–we’re electing just the one guy, and if he’s a shitweasel to those close to him, he’s probably not going to be a great man for those of us he doesn’t know personally. Further, you can’t find out about what positions somebody has on every single thing, because the world is too complex. You have to find somebody who’s judgement you can trust will align with what you want, and Trump is not that man.

          HBC is mostly right about the second. What positions I can tell he has he seems to flip-flop on based on his audience. He was a big booster of adding LGB rights back in 2000, he was a supporter of Clinton back in 2008, and he seems to have only discovered most of his conservative positions when he got the Republican nomination. I don’t trust him to keep to the line on any of it once he’s in office. See my last sentence to the above paragraph.

        • Tekhno says:

          @Catcube

          HBC is mostly right about the second. What positions I can tell he has he seems to flip-flop on based on his audience. He was a big booster of adding LGB rights back in 2000, he was a supporter of Clinton back in 2008, and he seems to have only discovered most of his conservative positions when he got the Republican nomination.

          In 2008, he supported McCain, but yes, from 2001 to 2008 he was a registered Democrat. Maybe he just really hated Bush?

          I must say that as a non-conservative, non-progressive, socially liberal nationalism sounds pretty awesome, so Trump not being a “real conservative” would be a plus to me.

          The real problem is that he’s an idiot.

  27. dndnrsn says:

    The Ontario government has earmarked $25 million to establish a minimum income pilot project. Seems kinda vague how it might work. (Although do be aware that the Post is a Tory paper).

  28. This is one of the best summaries of my own overall view of politics I have seen published in some time:
    In Defense of Politics, Now More Than Ever (Peter Wehner, NY Times op-ed).

    Politics is less than perfect because we are less than perfect. We therefore need to approach it with some modesty. Politics is not like mathematics, where clear premises and deductive reasoning can lead to exact answers. We would all do better if we took to heart the words of the political scientist Harry Clor, author of “On Moderation.” “There are truths to be discovered,” he wrote, but they are “complex and many-sided; the best way to get to them is by engaging contrary ideas in a manner approximating dialogue.”

    In the throes of partisan disagreements, it can be tempting to think of American politics as a Manichaean struggle of good versus evil. As someone who has been involved in his share of intense political debates, and has been a senior White House aide, I’m keenly aware of how easy it is to adopt this parochial mind-set, to feel that one is part of a tribal community.

    Instead, we need the self-confidence to admit that at best we possess only a partial understanding of the truth, which can be enlarged by refining our views in light of new arguments, new circumstances and new insights. But this requires us to listen to others, to weigh their arguments with care, and maybe even to learn from them.

    • dragnubbit says:

      I like that quote. It also reminds me of Chesterton’s Fence in that, while our status quo is extremely messy, it came about because of a lot of history that does encapsulate some wisdom, even if every individual along the way acted in some ways stupidly. Politics is a random walk with (sometimes weak) attractions towards positive outcomes. What goes around will, on average, come around.

  29. Tekhno says:

    Could monopoly taxes or merger taxes be an alternative to classical progressive era trust busting (which might make a comeback at some point)? It’s generally better to put in place penalties to discourage activities rather than to outright ban them, simply because you can dial up financial penalties over time and get a better cost/benefit analysis.

    Could tying taxes to market share work, or would that be disastrous?*

    *It’s often hard to work out what counts as a particular market/what level of analysis is appropriate. Is a rideshare service monopoly significant, or only part of the much wider array of options when considering the transport market? The other option is considering the flat size of companies rather than their share of a perceived market.