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Open Thread 63.5

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

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817 Responses to Open Thread 63.5

  1. JulieK says:

    Fidel Castro is dead.
    Here’s a song about the death of another Communist dictator: “Joe the Georgian,” by Al Stewart:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmvCHwiDjDQ

  2. skef says:

    There’s one procedural issue that I’m curious to get people’s risk assessment on:

    What’s the likelihood that the size of the Supreme Court will exceed 9 in the next four years?

    To counter an initial assessment of “they wouldn’t dare!”, remember that 1) an appointment has already been blocked for [edit: somewhat less than a year] and 2) there was open talk during the election of blocking all of Clinton’s appointments, only some of which was later repudiated. We live in interesting times.

    The 9 number is just a matter of statute; pass a federal law and it’s different. Barring dramatic changes in the Senate, that would probably require nuking the filibuster, so let’s add that in:

    What is the likelihood that the filibuster will either be eliminated or made ineffective for blocking legislation in the next four years?

    [This isn’t really relevant, but I favor getting rid of the filibuster.]

    • HeelBearCub says:

      SCOTUS: <1%
      Reason: It would be incredibly, explosively divisive and there has been no building of consensus for this. No need to upset the apple cart when your side holds the cards, plus there are too many old school senators in Republican positions of power.

      Filibuster: <10%
      Reason: Mitch McConnel and others would have to push it. They have taken it off the table for now. It's a useful tool in order to be able blame the minority for blocking that which you don't actually want to do. Democrats might have done it, as there has been consensus building within Democratic circles for doing so.

      • I believe the last president to expand the Supreme Court in order to put someone on it was Lincoln, who in 1863 made Stephen Field the tenth justice. I don’t know if there was any strong public reaction at the time.

        • skef says:

          The overall political reaction was enough to pass a law shortly thereafter that still stands today, so that’s something.

          But I don’t put much trust in arguments based on what would be “incredibly, explosively divisive” in the present climate.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Skef – I’d second HBC’s assessment.

            “But I don’t put much trust in arguments based on what would be “incredibly, explosively divisive” in the present climate.”

            I would argue that a lot of the divisiveness we’re currently seeing is, to borrow from the previous discussion, still in the range of Gay Pridw/Open Carry. There’s a great deal of hostility, but there are still fundamental rules in place that limit the mayhem.

            Trump packing the SC, or Hillary convincing the EC to elect her rather than Trump, say, are the ruin of those fundamental rules. If these sorts of things happen, it probably really is time to start fleeing for Canada.

          • skef says:

            @FacelessCraven

            I want to follow this line of reasoning through a bit further.

            How much pre-violence headroom do people think we have in the U.S. at present? Several commentators have noted that the current rhetoric is at “11”. More specifically: wasn’t a big part of the idea of the appeal of Trump that he would violate “fundamental rules”; that such rules need to be violated? Is your thought that we’ll just go another cycle with of the Republicans saying they’ll do stuff for their base and then not really doing anything? Or that it really is all identity politics on all sides and the base doesn’t care what actually gets passed?

          • “The overall political reaction was enough to pass a law shortly thereafter that still stands today, so that’s something. ”

            Judging by a little googling, that isn’t quite correct. “An Act to fix the Number of Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, and to change certain Judicial Circuits” which was passed in 1866 reduced the court to nine justices immediately, seven ultimately. The further reduction was cancelled a few years later. So the act does not still stand today.

            More important, what is the evidence for the political reaction as the cause? The two arguments I found, attributed to Chief Justice Chase, are that the number should be odd to prevent ties and that a reduction to seven would permit an increase in judicial salaries. Chase was himself a Lincoln appointee.

          • skef says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I based that statement entirely on the fact (which I came across for different reasons last week) that the current statute was apparently passed in 1869, which seemed to me to count as “shortly thereafter”.

            I’m not sure the intervening legislation counts against the spirit of the thought, though. If the Lincoln appointment prompted thoughts along the lines of “the number really shouldn’t depend on current politics, we should just settle on something”, and then there was a law along those lines in 1866 and a tune-up in 1869, it still seems reasonable.

            [And if we’re being super-pedantic, if 1869 does count as “shortly thereafter” the existence of a more-shortly-thereafter law does not contradict the statement.]

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Skef – Disclaimer: I voted Trump.

            “How much pre-violence headroom do people think we have in the U.S. at present? Several commentators have noted that the current rhetoric is at “11”.”

            Much less than I’d like, but a fair bit yet. There’s been a ton of irresponsible rhetoric and a fair smattering of actual street violence, But the vast majority of the country seems obviously and totally invested in playing by the rules: protesting, lobbying, voting, courts and so on. Secession is not an idea anyone who matters is pursuing seriously. Ditto for organized violence against the opposition.

            “More specifically: wasn’t a big part of the idea of the appeal of Trump that he would violate “fundamental rules”; that such rules need to be violated?”

            Very much no. Politeness and even decency aren’t fundamental rules. Neither are Treaties or international commitments; what has been made can be unmade, and we have a right as a nation to change policy. Trump supporters joke about him being the God-Emperor, but I don’t think any appreciable fraction of them want him to actually declare himself President-for-life, suspend democracy, dissolve congress or ban all political parties other than the GOP. Packing the court seems much more like the latter than the former.

            “Is your thought that we’ll just go another cycle with of the Republicans saying they’ll do stuff for their base and then not really doing anything?”

            If that’s what happens, I’d expect it to destroy the Republican party. And honestly, they more than deserve it. This would seem to be a fairly good outcome to me.

            “Or that it really is all identity politics on all sides and the base doesn’t care what actually gets passed?”

            I think this would be a bad outcome, as I’d expect it to lead to endless escalation, and eventually we’d run out of headroom and have some sort of split.

            Last thread, the whole Gay Pride/Singapore thread started with the premise that groups should signal unity and not division, that signalling division is bad. I disagree. What’s dangerous, in my opinion, is convincing people that they have no recourse through the existing system, that the game is already over and they lost. The only response left at that point is to flip the table, which is what we really want to avoid. Signalling division is a way for the group to prove to itself that it still has moves available, that it’s still in the game. As long as the game is still in progress, there’s hope, both for the group’s values and for society as a whole.

            What we can’t afford is seventy or eighty million Americans coming to the unshakable conclusion that *voting itself* no longer has anything to offer them. That’s when things get bad.

          • “the existence of a more-shortly-thereafter law does not contradict the statement.”

            Fair enough. But since you were attributing the law to “the overall political reaction,” presumably to adding a tenth justice, I assumed you were referring to the change that undid that.

            And there was already a law that specified the number of justices. Lincoln got Congress to pass it.

            “An Act to provide Circuit Courts for the Districts of California and Oregon, and for other Purposes.”

            There were earlier laws setting the number of circuits and justices.

          • skef says:

            @FacelessCraven

            In that case I think our different assessments trace to what you see and I see as the rules at issue. You think the list (which is after all based on some sort of consensus view) includes unwritten conventions, I am not convinced of that. If Congress passes and the President signs a law that increases the number of justices to 11, you think that would violate the rules at question. But it’s entirely constitutional. Given that Trump was specifically elected to break rules (as we seem to agree) that seems entirely like the sort of thing that would be on the table. It seems to fall entirely into the category of “what has been made can be unmade, and we have a right as a nation to change policy”.

            What puts this particular convention on the other side of the line?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Skef – “If Congress passes and the President signs a law that increases the number of justices to 11, you think that would violate the rules at question. But it’s entirely constitutional.”

            I think I chose my examples poorly.

            Having the electors vote for Hillary would be Constitutional and legal and so forth as well. It would still run us clear out of headroom, I think. People have had decades to get used to the idea of the Supreme Court being a political football in the culture war. They may not like it when the other side gets the Presidency and gets to fill vacancies, they may fight bitterly over appointments, but the basic rules are set: President makes appointments, congress can cooperate or block. Adding additional justices wasn’t an option under Reagan, or Bush, or Clinton, or Bush the Lesser, or Obama; suddenly deciding to make it an option now is *cheating*. It doesn’t matter if it’s legal, it doesn’t matter if it’s constitutional. The government didn’t make this norm, so it’s not empowered to unmake it without massive backlash.

            Simply put, it is obvious to me that either the left wouldn’t stand for it, and we’d have massive escalation on the spot, or the left would stand for it and then do the same but worse once they got in office, leading again to massive escalation four or eight years from now. And for what? We’re talking about effectively destroying the Constitution as a political force in American politics; what could possibly be achieved in four or even eight years that would be worth that?

          • skef says:

            @FacelessCraven

            I agree with a portion of your reasoning. If enough Republicans think that taking this step would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back (and those Republicans don’t feel threatened by the potential for someone running against them on the right), then it won’t happen. If they think it can be just a further step, I’m not confident they won’t do it if things evolve so that there’s movement pressure to.

            [Edit: To expand on this a bit, I guess the reasoning would amount to a simple sort of game theory. If you think X won’t break the system, but the system is close to breaking, you do X. The system’s being close to breaking will be what prevents the more extreme later response Y.]

            In retrospect I should have asked a third question in the OP:

            What is the chance that packing the Surpreme Court enter the Overton Window in the next two years?

          • MugaSofer says:

            @FacelessCraven

            “organized violence against the opposition … is not an idea anyone who matters is pursuing seriously.”

            I know antifa types are very enthused about this whole thing, at least. What would you expect it to look like if “anyone who matters” was seriously considering “organized” violence?

          • rlms says:

            @MugaSofer
            I imagine there would be loud voices in the media warning people against joining in the organised violence, and probably arrests of high-profile organisers.

        • BBA says:

          I’ll point out again that the 1862 growth of the court to 10 justices was in line with norms – a new justice was added for each new judicial circuit to be organized. At the time each of the justices was assigned a circuit where they’d serve as a trial court judge for part of the year. It was the 1866 act, eliminating one circuit and three seats on the Supreme Court, that broke the norm. (Two of the three were then restored in 1869, once Congress had a President they trusted again.)

          Or you could accuse Jefferson, Jackson, and Van Buren of packing the court, since they added the seventh, eighth, and ninth seats respectively. (And Washington added SIX seats, what a naked power grab…oh wait.)

      • skef says:

        The problem I have with that filibuster assessment is that I think it depends on the Democrats doing some really significant dealing. That might be right; for all the talk of liberal ascendancy, the Democrats do generally roll over when in the opposition. But things are divisive right now.

        My sense is that if the Republicans don’t deliver something really significant in the next four years, they’re completely dead as a political entity. They’ve done that for decades, and that’s part of how the party’s establishment lost control over it. They must know this. So what is that thing, and why will the Democrats sign off on it? Or worse: at this point, can that thing even be what it needs to be if the Democrats sign off on it?

        My reasoning does have a big hole, which is the dodge of the Budget Reconciliation process. That would probably work to get what they need through. On the other hand, I can also see things evolving so that everything controversial winds up going through that process. That would basically be a cumbersome way of the filibuster staying but becoming practically ineffective.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I’d say losing the filibuster is reasonably likely, given how much heat it’s drawn from both sides of the aisle at one point or another. Although I also don’t think the congressional democrats are stupid: I expect them to pick their battles rather than going all-in on filibusters and being crushed immediately.

      Court packing has only ever been attempted once as far as I know, by a much more popular president with far greater control of the government, and didn’t succeed then. It’s possible in the same way that it’s possible that the electoral college will throw the election for Hillary. That is, it’s highly unlikely to happen and it would be a very bad sign for American democracy if it happened.

      Edit: David Friedman is a ninja. So apparently it happened twice? Though Lincoln and FDR both fit the same “popular and powerful wartime president” mold.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Note that FDR was successful in getting his agenda through, but not in packing the court, and wasn’t likely to actually succeed in packing the court (he did not actually have enough support for it in his own party). Perhaps in a counter-factual world where the court holds firm and the depression deepens we do see court packing though.

      • skef says:

        I’m not an expert on this, but my understanding is that in Lincoln’s time the size of the court was more of a convention. So his doing that was more like FDR running for a third term, both in that it involved no change of law, and prompted the convention to become law shortly after.

        [Edit: Looking into it, it does seem that a legal change was necessary.]

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          And it also seems like the way he chose to violate convention was really stupid.

          If he had added two justices instead the court would still be able to avoid deadlock, but having an even number is a big risk. Unless you’re deliberately trying to sabotage the Supreme Court’s effectiveness there needs to be an odd number of justices.

    • sflicht says:

      It would be great if SCOTUS were considerably expanded. Maybe 27 justices who hear oral arguments in groups of 9 (selected randomly), but all of whom get to vote on each case. We’d immediately triple the productivity of the court! What’s not to like?

    • John Schilling says:

      What’s the likelihood that the size of the Supreme Court will exceed 9 in the next four years? […] The 9 number is just a matter of statute; pass a federal law and it’s different

      True, but the bit where the Supreme Court gets to declare laws unconstitutional and both the Federal and State governments have to accept that, doesn’t even have a statute behind it. The SC has no budget, no battalions, very little explicit authority even under the Constitution, but nonetheless has a great deal of real power derived from its perceived legitimacy. Nobody who plans to use the power of the Supreme Court to their own ends, will be eager to risk breaking that power by anything as transparently de-legitimizing as court-packing.

      Trump/Pence will have a legitimate 5:4 majority from the start and a better than even chance of making it 6:3 by 2020. From their prospective, the court’s not broke so why fix it?

      What is the likelihood that the filibuster will either be eliminated or made ineffective for blocking legislation in the next four years?

      For SCOTUS nominations, I think it’s about a 50:50 split that either the filibuster goes away or the threat of nuking the filibuster is used to get the Democrats to sign off on a justice they’d otherwise have filibustered. Their own use of the nuclear option for all the other judgeships makes this look legitimately bipartisan enough to be seen as a safe and useful tool.

      Filibuster for legislation is I think safe for now, particularly as the GOP may be reduced to minority status in the Senate in 2018 and will probably want a more reliable defense than Trump’s veto pen.

  3. Jaskologist says:

    The Last Question, read by Asimov himself. And also by Leonard Nimoy.

  4. Alethenous says:

    So, the UK has gone full Orwell recently, and nobody seems to care very much.

    The government now has warrantless access to 12 months of Internet history. (MPs are, of course, exempt.) Additionally, “adult websites” without age verification can be blocked by ISPs, and the same body that gives films age ratings will now be inspecting the Internet. Theoretically, this could result in anything involving “obscenity” being blocked if the board feels like it, without having to prove anything.

    What I don’t understand is the lack of protest. A while ago, the government in its infinite wisdom banned certain types of pornography from being produced in the UK, and there was quite a furore with people facesitting outside Parliament etc., which still changed nothing. This is far, far worse, and nary a murmur. There’s a petition with 100,000 signatures to repeal the Snoopers’ Charter, but barely anything about the kinky porn block. What on Earth is going on?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Outrage fatigue? There’s been outrage about the other things they’ve done, it’s not done much, people are just tired of being outraged over things they can’t change.

    • Anon. says:

      The UK has been going full Orwell for quite some time. People are probably used to it by now.

    • Mark says:

      If I was the CIA, I would set up free porn websites, record the information about people’s fetishes and then use that to blackmail them.
      Is there any reason to think that this isn’t what happens with the major free porn websites?

      Might be a matter of national security.

    • Tekhno says:

      For a lot of englanders it’s probably kind of embarrassing protesting for pornography to go uncensored. The politicians have chosen the backdoor on purpose, because if you start with things people are more guilty about then you have the perfect place to insert the thin tip of the wedge.

      The police state cometh.

    • John Schilling says:

      So, the UK has gone full Orwell recently, and nobody seems to care very much.

      Recently?

      I do recall at least some degree of concern when the ubiquitous cameras went up, but not enough dissent to matter. Possibly by now everyone is resigned to the inevitable, and the few who actually cared enough to do anything about it have left?

      • suntzuanime says:

        The people who actually cared enough to do anything left centuries ago. Proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…

        • sflicht says:

          Alan Moore cared enough to write V for Vendetta before the CCTV policy even was put in place. AFAIK he still lives in the UK.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            When I read it, it seemed to me that V for Vendetta was about freaking out about Thatcher, not about the hazards of government encroaching on people’s rights as such.

          • sflicht says:

            It’s true that it was actually a reaction to Thatcherism, but in an ironic twist of history it anticipated the mass surveillance state put in place (I believe) by Blair.

          • keranih says:

            I was at a con where Moore said it didn’t matter that Thatcher hadn’t brought about the Norsefire, that the USA had Bush and that was just as bad.

            (This was at a US con, whilst Bush was still in office. One of the louder audience members called Bush’s term “terrifying.”)

            I was already a pretty cynical sort by then, and had given up on AR-teests having the courage of their convictions, but dang, I had thought V for Vendetta pretty ballsy.

            *shrugs* Whateva.

          • sflicht says:

            Was this con during Bush I’s or Bush II’s administration?

          • keranih says:

            Heh. Bush II.

            I *think* it was during his second term, given which con it was/which cons I was going to, but it would take some thought to figure that out.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Combination of Tekhno and Anon./John’s comments:

      This is not a new trend, it’s an area that is increasingly hard to defend, and the people who worry about things like “Liberty” in the UK are generally considered fringe kooks at this stage. They might exist, but they’re so marginalized as to be meaningless to mainstream political discourse.

      • DavidS says:

        I think it’s more complicated than that. Lots of people care about it at least somewhat, and very possibly a majority would be for less snooping etc. The issue is that
        1. We don’t have any constitutional protections so can easily have incremental change (including the ratchet effect)
        2. It’s not the top election-deciding issue for most people
        3. Being seen as weak on terrorism/crime is probably more likely to turn the classic Tory/Labour ‘floating voter’ than civil liberty issues.

        • Autolykos says:

          Yup, I think having a solid constitution is what saved Germany the UK’s fate. Our Junta tried just as hard as your Junta, but most of their attempts failed at the constitutional court, and the rest got at least substantially defanged. Plenty of bad shit still got passed in the last fifteen years, but not nearly as much as could have been, and way less than in the UK.

  5. Sandy says:

    Trump is now saying he won the popular vote if the “millions who voted illegally” are subtracted. I don’t doubt that there are illegal votes, but “millions” seems unlikely to me. I really want Kellyanne Conway to take away his Twitter account forever.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      It’s going to be quite something watching all the people who were shouting unsubstantiated accusations that the election was rigged five minutes ago, flip instantly to white-hot outrage over Trump doing exactly the same thing.

      • beleester says:

        Before you try to snipe at Clinton supporters, think back to October, when Trump was behind in the polls. He was talking a lot about how the election was going to be rigged, to the point that he wouldn’t even say he would accept the results if he lost. I’m not surprised that he’s still tweeting about illegal voters, even though he’s won.

        (In fact, I should turn your accusation around on you: When Trump was behind, the election was rigged, but now that he’s the winner, it was totally fair?)

        Also, I haven’t seen Clinton supporters arguing that the election is rigged, anyway. Or rather, we’ve been complaining about legal ways of rigging the election, like reducing the number of polling stations, cutting early voting hours, or making it hard to obtain IDs. But claiming that the election was shifted by a bunch of dead guys voting twice is something I’ve seen mainly from Republicans.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Dead guys voting is a traditional Democratic way of rigging elections, at least in Chicago; making it harder to vote is a traditional Republican way.

          There have been suggestions of mass rigging via electronic voting machines from both sides. Mostly Trump supporters before the election, mostly Clinton supporters now.

          • Autolykos says:

            Maybe we could learn from that, and stop using voting machines?
            Just kidding, that would be way too sane. Eroding away the foundations of democracy by questioning the legitimacy of elections is way more fun, after all…

        • Fossegrimen says:

          (In fact, I should turn your accusation around on you: When Trump was behind, the election was rigged, but now that he’s the winner, it was totally fair?)

          Nope, it was still rigged against Trump, but he won anyway ’cause they couldn’t rig it enough.

          (Or at least that’s what’s being said on those areas of the ‘net, personally I couldn’t care either way.)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’m not surprised that he’s still tweeting about illegal voters, even though he’s won.

          Hey, I’m happy to agree that Trump is being a hypocritical jackass if you’re willing to agree that the Democrats are also being just as much hypocritical jackasses. Shall we shake hands on it?

          • beleester says:

            I’m still a bit miffed, actually. You weren’t actually calling out someone being a hypocritical jackass, you were saying “I think the Democrats are going to start being hypocritical jackasses, so I’d better get my shots in before they do.” You attacked the strawman that exists in your head, not anyone on this board.

            (Yes, that strawman probably is a real person somewhere, because every party has at least one hypocritical jackass. The fact that a potshot sometimes hits a target doesn’t make it any less of a potshot.)

            So I’m sorry, but I really don’t feel like shaking hands on this one. Your post was the equivalent of “DAE think liberals are all hypocritical jackasses?”, and I don’t think being allowed to say “DAE think Trump is a hypocritical jackass?” in response helps any. This board should be better than cheap shots like that.

          • gbdub says:

            To be fair, the Recount Dems are already being hypocritical jackasses by doing exactly what they called “horrifying” and “talking down our democracy” when Trump hypothetically kept his options open to challenge the election results back at the third debate.

            Thirteenth Letter is just hypothesizing that they will go second (or is it third now?) order hypocritical when they criticize Republicans for saying the election is rigged after Democrats said it was rigged after criticizing Republicans for saying it was rigged.

            Then again there is a fine line between “hypocrisy” and “holding your opponent to their own standards” and it’s been repeatedly muddied this post-election.

          • Iain says:

            To be even more fair: the “Recount Dems” are currently being led by the Green Party, because the Democratic party itself doesn’t want to get involved in any of this. I am not aware of any high-level Democrats who have been pushing this line. Can you point me to one?

            Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the person calling the election rigged was Trump, as high-level a Republican as it is possible to get. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that it is Trump, given that he has been tweeting about voter fraud in an election he won.

          • Randy M says:

            I heard that Hillary Clinton was in some way supporting Stein’s recount. Is that accurate?

          • Iain says:

            Here is the campaign’s official statement. Summary: we have been looking at this. We don’t think there is any evidence of wrongdoing. We don’t expect Stein’s recount to accomplish anything, but now that she has started it, we will participate in the process (loud subtext: “… to make sure that there is an adult in the room.”)

            Obama’s camp hasn’t even gone that far.

          • Sandy says:

            Jill Stein is now saying she needs $2.4 million more for the Wisconsin recount.

            I respect her hustle, at least she’s trying to get something out of this election cycle while Hillary’s literally taking a hike.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Sandy – From the sound of it, taking a hike is the much more constructive thing to do. But generally, Republicans have been pushing a voter fraud narrative for the last several election cycles, on pretty much no evidence, and have been engaging in more or less naked voter suppression. I don’t think this is the time to be throwing stones.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Actually, I’ve mostly seen crowing about how Trump’s statement “proves” there needs to be a recount. Even the winning candidate agrees, after all…

        • John Schilling says:

          Trump’s statement that millions of illegal aliens illegally voted for him? How does that even suggest a recount? The supposed ballots that were illegally cast and counted for him the first time around, will still be there and still add up the same in a recount.

          I am always annoyed by the instinctive “recount!” response to any suggestion of electoral fraud. Do people not understand that most competently-executed electoral frauds (paper or electronic) will not be detected by a recount? It’s a tool that has some specific and narrow applications, and when used outside its niche seems likely if not calculated to reduce confidence in the results.

    • Well... says:

      Can someone summarize this issue for me? I don’t read the news (but I see headlines once in a while) and internet searches don’t provide summaries of these kinds of things better than what a knowledgeable human can type in 30 seconds.

      Specifically, I’m curious why this is news at all:

      We elected Trump via the Electoral College. As I understand, individual votes are still being counted and Hillary won the popular vote. But so what? Are we learning there were EC votes that went to Trump that should have gone to Hillary instead? Is a serious attempt being made to retroactively do away with the EC? What is newsworthy here??

      Or is it just that most journalists don’t like Trump and so anything that might possibly deflate Trump’s victory is being shoved behind the megaphone?

      • shakeddown says:

        Doesn’t it bother you that the election winner has less popular support than the election loser? This doesn’t mean overturn the election – we committed to these rules in advance – but it does bother me.

        To give an opposite example: A few years ago, in the israeli election, the centre-left party gained one more seat than Netanyahu’s right-wing party, but right-wing parties gained the majority overall. If Israel had the same laws as Canada, that would automatically give them the prime ministership. Israeli law is more flexible (basically, the mainly-ceremonial president gets to decide), so Netanyahu became PM despite that. I think Netanyahu’s almost as bad as Trump, but I still think the president in that case made the right call, and it would have bothered me somewhat if the election had gone for the party with less popular support because of a technicality.

        • Well... says:

          Doesn’t it bother you that the election winner has less popular support than the election loser?

          No. First, because “less popular support” is actually a different thing from “fewer overall votes”, and second because we have an electoral college system which means the popular vote winner isn’t always the one who wins the election. It’s happened numerous times.

          (Third because I predict President Trump will be a lot like President Hillary would have been.)

          I’m basically agnostic about the electoral college, having not heard many persuasive arguments for or against. (I have yet to read David Friedman’s defense of it on his blog.) If you have an argument against the electoral college system then you should make it.

          • shakeddown says:

            There seems very little justification for it, aside from “It helped my preferred candidate win”. Why should voters in some states have more power than voters in others? Can you imagine that in a world where we went by the popular vote, people would go “but wait, we should change to an elaborate EC system”?

          • Well... says:

            It seems extreme to claim that, although deep and meticulous thought was given to many other aspects of our country’s founding documents, the EC was thrown in thoughtlessly as a needless complication.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            It seems extreme to claim that, although deep and meticulous thought was given to many other aspects of our country’s founding documents, the EC was thrown in thoughtlessly as a needless complication.

            Presumably it has something to do with the idea that most other countries, to the degree that they are made of smaller regions each giving their population a say in choosing the leader, can redistrict their voting regions when the population becomes disbalanced between them, but the USA has the idea of the existence of the states as quasi-autonomous sovereign territories baked into its politics such that, although you can redistrict within states as much as you like, redistricting at the federal level so that the borders don’t align with the existing states would be really unpopular.

            Still, I don’t think it’s a terrible idea if people are sufficiently annoyed at eg. Wyomingers having a far bigger say in who gets to be President relative to Californians.

          • Brad says:

            It seems extreme to claim that, although deep and meticulous thought was given to many other aspects of our country’s founding documents, the EC was thrown in thoughtlessly as a needless complication.

            The EC as originally envisioned didn’t last three elections. If we were still going off that model we wouldn’t know who was going to be President yet.

            It’s odd how many people — mostly Christians, but also atheists — seem to think that the “Founding Fathers” were either demigods or at least divinely inspired. You’d think it’d be heresy for both.

          • JulieK says:

            Why should voters in some states have more power than voters in others?

            The Senate is an even stronger instance of that, by the way.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ JulieK

            In the Senate this makes more sense than in the POTUS election, which has a binary outcome that lasts for at least four years. The Senate as a whole is non-binary, and you can never step in the same Senate twice.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Brad
            The EC as originally envisioned didn’t last three elections. If we were still going off that model we wouldn’t know who was going to be President yet.

            So? Finest kind. Plenty of time to sort things out,* perhaps do some parliamentary-style compromising (hopefully creative) between factions. With benefit of hindsight, now knowing which districts actually turned out and voted, and for whom.

            * Including having calm recounts in close margin cases, so the NPV people won’t feel railroaded.

          • Mary says:

            The historical reason for it is that the smaller states would have refused a Constitution that put them at the mercy of the more populous state.

            Philosophically, its reasons revolve around its being an anti-majoritarian protection. That is, not representing the popular vote is its reason for existence. Among other things, people in different states are more diverse, and have more interests, than those in a few. This means that promises have to be crafted to a more diverse group of voters.

          • herbert herberson says:

            The EC made sense when the states were more genuine sovereigns and were more culturally distinct, similar to how no one gets too bothered by the fact that the UN General Council gives the same vote to Tonga and China. Now, when the cultural diversity within most states is far greater than between them, it is an anachronism.

        • keranih says:

          Doesn’t it bother you that the election winner has less popular support than the election loser?

          Most of the popular vote “over” support comes from CA going something 64% Hillary/30% Trump, rather than the far closer margins in most other states (including NY) that Hillary won.

          I feel the frustration of CA voters, but they don’t run the rest of the country, and I think that’s a good thing.

          (Note: there are a whole lot of suppositions and accusations that one could make re: the CA vote and who is allowed to vote, but I’m not making them.)

          • shakeddown says:

            And aside from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @shakedown

            Mrs. Lincoln says she wasn’t very fond of “Our American Cousin”, and that bit where the actor ran up and fired a blank pistol at her husband was very upsetting.

            Which is to to say, Trump’s victory is the opposite of that joke. If you’re looking for an equivalent, it would be “Aside from that [the matter of the electoral college], Mrs. Clinton, how did you like the election?

      • The argument is that some of the states where Trump won and got the electoral votes might have gone for Hillary were it not for vote fraud associated with computerized voting.

        • Well... says:

          Weird. A lot of the right-wing websites I read are only talking about the illegal votes Hillary got. I’ve never heard about any computerized voting fraud in this election until right now.

          I know partisans talk past each other a lot, but sheesh.

          • I am not saying it is true, only that it is the argument that some partisans are making. Among others, Moon here.

          • Well... says:

            Yes, I understood that. I meant it was weird that neither side seems to be addressing the accusations made by the other.

            (“Weird” does not mean “surprising” in this case; it means something more like “an astounding reminder.”)

          • Brad says:

            There were some computer scientists that claimed some time last week to have found statistical anomalies in districts with touch screen voting machines, but other experts (including Nate Silver) claim that the anomalies go away when you correct for obvious confounders.

            As far as I can tell, the weight of the evidence is with the skeptics. That said, I’d love to see more transparency regarding the security of these voting machines going forward. Schematics and source code at the absolute minimum. (Before anyone makes the obvious objection, the computer security industry rejects security through obscurity).

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I’ve never heard about any computerized voting fraud in this election until right now.

            There’s very little to it. IIRC, the fulcrum of the theory is that Trump did better in counties in Wisconsin that had electronic voting. However, it turns out that Wisconsin has a mix of electronic and paper voting, and for whatever reason the counties he was likely to do well in (rural) tended to have electronic voting while the counties Clinton was likely to do well in (urban) tended to have paper voting. Plus, the voting fell into exactly the same patterns as in other states which are all-paper. There’s no there, there. Nate Silver has a good deconstruction of it, as do the Decision Desk HQ guys.

            That hasn’t stopped shady organizations like the Green Party from raising millions of dollars for a “recount,” though, or motivated journalists from writing stories blaring EXPERTS CLAIM RUSSIANS HACKED ELECTION FOR TRUMP. So I’m sure we’re going to be hearing about this for years. It’ll be the new Obama’s birth certificate, unless another shiny object comes along.

          • Autolykos says:

            @Brad: Yup, not publishing schematics and source code of voting machines is utter insanity. That is like having the paper ballots counted in secret by a private company. At that point, it doesn’t even matter whether there is fraud or not – there is just no way you can trust the results any more.

      • beleester says:

        You’re right that the EC result won’t change. The recount efforts almost certainly won’t have an impact either (his margin of victory in the swing states is bigger than the amount that any recount has ever shifted the outcome). So in that respect, it’s not important.

        But the fact that the less popular candidate won the election is something that bothers a lot of people, because that seems to go against how democracy is supposed to work. Also, Trump wants to claim that he’s got a mandate, that people support his agenda, and it’s hard to claim that when more people voted against you than for you. Which is why he’s still tweeting about illegal voters.

        • Well... says:

          We don’t have a democracy, we have a representative republic. I’ve even heard the soft-voiced liberals on NPR remind their listeners of that fact.

          • beleester says:

            *sigh*

            I knew when I wrote that that some pedant was going to call that out. It doesn’t make a difference in my argument. Because what’s in the first word of that phrase? “Representative.” And it’s hard to claim you’re representing the people when more people voted against you than for you.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Which people are we referring to?

            As keranih said above…

            Most of the popular vote “over” support comes from CA going something 64% Hillary/30% Trump, rather than the far closer margins in most other states (including NY) that Hillary won.

            I feel the frustration of CA voters, but they don’t run the rest of the country, and I think that’s a good thing.

          • StellaAthena says:

            I think that’s a useless complain. It also goes away if you exclude (making this data up, but if it’s wrong just flip the category): Non-Christians, POC, second-gen or more recent immigrants, and people whose last names start with A-M. Why should I care about the fact that Californians tend to vote democratic and not the fact that people with names A-M do?

            Suppose we deleted California and redistributed its people uniformity at random among the other states. I would still be against the electoral college. Would you still be for it? We have the same voters, just different labels for them.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think it does.

            Even if you delete California and redistributed the population you’d still see tension between “region with small/dispersed population and lots of resources” and “region with large/dense population and fewer resources”.

            Like I said below, these conflicts are as old as mankind itself.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Like I said below, these conflicts are as old as mankind itself.

            Agreed (well, not as old as mankind, but as old as cities) . I keep short handing it as “urbane/not urbane”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @HBC fair point

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            And it’s hard to claim you’re representing the people when more people voted against you than for you.

            [Not that it should matter, but for the record I was a NeverTrumper/Clinton supporter]

            Can I push back against this for a sec?

            By this standard, Clinton herself would be unable to claim that she represented the people. More people voted for Not Clinton than voted for her. Similarly, Bill Clinton failed to achieve a majority in either election – and in fact his percentage of the vote in 1992 was lower than Trump’s in 2016. Many Presidents have been elected while having a majority of the voters vote for someone else.

            Thus, Trump is no more illegitimate than Clinton would have been, to my mind.

            Sure, Clinton had more votes, but the President is not elected by popular vote, never has been, and I see no compelling reason why she should be. So what if Wyoming voters have individually more sway over some electoral votes than Californians? They have a larger chance to influence 3 electoral votes, while Californians have a somewhat smaller chance of influencing 50 something (and, of course, no voters’ individual vote truly matters anyway so the wailing and gnashing of teeth over “why do their votes count more than mine?” is pretty meaningless regardless).

          • Drew says:

            @StellaAthena

            The relevant difference is that Californians already have the ability to choose their laws. There are very, very few questions that have to be decided at a Federal level.

            So, most federal decisions aren’t really, “Should we have Law X?” but rather, “Should we impose Law X on states that wouldn’t otherwise pass it?”

          • rlms says:

            ^This is the kind of content I would like to see less of on SSC.

          • StellaAthena says:

            The relevant difference is that Californians already have the ability to choose their laws. There are very, very few questions that have to be decided at a Federal level.

            So, most federal decisions aren’t really, “Should we have Law X?” but rather, “Should we impose Law X on states that wouldn’t otherwise pass it?”

            Thanks for replying to my point.

            This seems difficult to argue with, because there are widely diverging views in this country about the role of the federal government and we could just be coming at this with wildly different assumptions.

            That said, the archetypical and commonly debated topics are either ones in which the states can rarely act on their own meaningfully, or ones in which the states have a history of being bad at it. Settling issues about environmental protection on a state level seems like a bad idea, as companies can easily move locations within the US if they must and most environmental things are mutistate issues anyways. Other major topics this election include: ISIS and Syria, which the states can’t handle on their own; immigration which the states can’t handle on their own; and minority rights, which the states have a long history of being bad at handling on their own (“states rights” has been the refrain of people in favor of discrimination from slavery to NC’s recent controversial bill).

            Can you name some example of current important issues that that you think the states can handle just fine on their own? Particularly ones in which the President’s role is important in some way.

          • Drew says:

            @StellaAthena

            Can you name some example of current important issues that that you think the states can handle just fine on their own? Particularly ones in which the President’s role is important in some way.

            Sure. Let’s use Hillary Clinton’s ‘All Issues’ page to get a sample of things that are topical and addressed in the presidential campaign.

            I’d divide those issues into the following categories:

            Changes to Criminal Law. Criminal law is mostly state law. So, states can implement: addiction and substance abuse, campus sexual assault, criminal justice reform, and gun violence prevention.

            Community Investment: States can spend money as well as the federal government on: fixing America’s infrastructure, heath care, housing, k-12 education, making college debt-free, mental heath, poverty, protecting animals and wildlife, rural communities, and workforce skills.

            Changes to Civil Rights Law. States can pass whatever sweeping protections they wish. This covers: disability rights, jobs and (miniumum?) wages, labor and worker rights, LGBT rights, paid family and medical leave, racial justice, voting rights, and women’s rights.

            Federally Coordinated Research I agree that states are less good here. This covers: an end to alzheimer’s disease, autism, hiv & aids, and technology and innovation.

            Military & International Relations: Again, states are less good. So: Combatting terrorism & keeping the homeland safe, immigration reform, manufacturing, military and defense, national security, national service?, and veterans affairs.

            Macro Econ Also federal: A fair (federal) tax system, an economy that works for everyone, climate change, jobs and wages?, small business, social security, and wall street reform.

            —-

            So, I think there’s quite a lot that can get done at the state level. And I suspect that many of Hillary’s proposals amount to writing grants for state programs.

            I think our core disagreement is less about state’s ability to handle key issues, and more about the idea that states will make the “wrong” decisions.

            Given the option, some states will invest too little in their roads. Others will protect minorities less than you or I would like.

            Escalating things to a federal level gives us a chance to re-litigate those issues. We might be able to override the will of “wrong-voters” who chose different policies than the ones we’d prefer.

            That’s not necessarily bad. But it’s not particularly democratic and really runs counter to the idea that laws should reflect the people who are governed by them.

            I also think that this impulse is probably unwise in the long term. Short-run, sure, my policies will benefit. Long term, it means that people can override the decisions of my community and impose things on me.

          • skef says:

            @Drew

            Community Investment: States can spend money as well as the federal government on: fixing America’s infrastructure, heath care, housing, k-12 education, making college debt-free, mental heath, poverty, protecting animals and wildlife, rural communities, and workforce skills.

            There’s a big caveat here, though. What money? Does this include stopping inter-state redistribution, or keeping redistribution and just letting the states decide how to spend the money they receive? Because life in some states would be substantially different if they had to self-fund.

          • “and minority rights, which the states have a long history of being bad at handling on their own”

            That’s tricky. Do you mean “the states that handled it worst have a long history of …?”

            There were lots of states that didn’t have segregated schools, lunch counters, buses, etc. In a world where all such decisions were made nationally, we would presumably have gone from a situation where all states did those things to one where none did them, without an intermediate period where some did and some didn’t. I don’t think it’s obvious that the average would have been better. One could even argue that permitting diversity made it easier for more and more people to conclude that such policies were a mistake, since nothing catastrophic was happening in states that didn’t have them.

          • Drew says:

            @skef

            There’s a big caveat here, though. What money? Does this include stopping inter-state redistribution, or keeping redistribution and just letting the states decide how to spend the money they receive?

            I’m not sure I see the problem either way. People make money. Money gets taxed. Taxes are used for community projects.

            We could move infrastructure-supporting taxes to the state level. Then states could set their tax rate however they wanted. And they could build the amount of infrastructure they felt appropriate.

            There’d be some kinks to work out in the transition (64% of Fortune 500 are incorporated in Deleware), but its nothing philosophically hard and could be done gradually.

            Alternately, if the states want to do some kind of income re-distribution or smoothing, they could do that, too.

            Are there things on that list that the states couldn’t address, given an appropriate adjustment in tax collection?

          • skef says:

            @Drew

            My point is that part of the role of federal level currently is redistribution of wealth, particularly as it comes to infrastructure. Complete state control makes that redistribution less likely. Positive-balance states aren’t likely to be happy with a system where a pile of money is handed to negative-balance states every year just to do whatever they want with. So with total local control probably comes total local financial responsibility.

          • BBA says:

            In Canada the federal government makes unconditional grants to the provinces to equalize their per capita budgets nationwide. There are also conditional grants for specific purposes, healthcare being by far the largest, but e.g. there is no specific federal support for K-12 education and no federal interference in the provincial education systems.

            (On the other hand, the Canadian federal government has far more control over certain matters than the US federal government. Canada has one national penal code and only the federal government is allowed to pass criminal laws; any provincial law that imposes a criminal penalty is unconstitutional and void. Honestly, I like having a clear delineation of federal/local policymaking areas and this is one way that later constitutions are a major improvement over the US constitution. But don’t tell anyone else I dared to criticize the Almighty Infallible Founders.)

          • StellaAthena says:

            Changes to Criminal Law. Criminal law is mostly state law. So, states can implement: addiction and substance abuse, campus sexual assault, criminal justice reform, and gun violence prevention.

            Not particularly knowledgeable about this, so I’m going to pass/concede for now.

            Community Investment: States can spend money as well as the federal government on: fixing America’s infrastructure, heath care, housing, k-12 education, making college debt-free, mental heath, poverty, protecting animals and wildlife, rural communities, and workforce skills.

            Someone already brought this up, but interstate funding is an issue here. To quote the West Wing “you want to eliminate the Department of Education, but your state of Florida received 12 million dollars from the federal government for education. Can we have it back?”

            Another issue is interstate projects. I live in the DC metro area far more than I live in Virginia, and the major infrastructure project where I live has been expanding the DC metro, which exists in two states plus DC. The recent expansion was funded in part by an increase in the tolls on a local toll road, but the federal government gave 900 million dollars for it too. How can you make funding such a project a state issue? Should people who live in Richmond have to pay their tax money towards something that doesn’t affect them? It seems like the same argument that says “make it a state problem” also says “make it a local problem,” but having seven counties in two states and DC coordinate such an effort is a logistical nightmare. Plus you run into issues of who is close enough. The DC metro exists in Alexandria, but the Silver Line expansion is only in Fairfax. Should Alexandria residents have to pay?

            The current mode of thought seems to be to direct multistate projects to the federal government. We all pay into a pot of money and trust the government to redistribute it in a manner to improve people’s lives. Obviously you don’t like this plan, but I’m not sure why. Can you elaborate on that?

            Are you against the interstate highway system and the TVA? Or the existence of national parks? I understand following the “more decisions are made locally” mantra but it seems to require you to be against things that are, in my experience, widely popular. I’m more “trying to understand” than particularly trying to argue with you here.

            Changes to Civil Rights Law. States can pass whatever sweeping protections they wish. This covers: disability rights, jobs and (miniumum?) wages, labor and worker rights, LGBT rights, paid family and medical leave, racial justice, voting rights, and women’s rights.

            Here I think you’re wrong. I think that human rights are important, and therefore want to see them protected. Historically speaking, there has always been push-back against human rights from the people who already have those rights (here’s a fun game: try to tell apart opinion poll data on BLM vs opinion poll data on MLK and the Civil Rights movement). Human rights is usually understood as a moral imperative. Why should living in NC afford me less rights than living in NYC? Morally, how is that defensible? What if Mississippi decides to bring back internment camps? Is that okay because the majority of people in Mississippi want it?

            I think the opinion expressed by DavidFriedman is morally bad. If you recognize something as a human right, then I don’t think it makes any sense to say “it’s okay for some people to not get these because their neighbors don’t want to give them to them.”

            Federally Coordinated Research I agree that states are less good here. This covers: an end to alzheimer’s disease, autism, hiv & aids, and technology and innovation.

            What is the conceptual difference between this and infrastructure?

            Military & International Relations: Again, states are less good. So: Combatting terrorism & keeping the homeland safe, immigration reform, manufacturing, military and defense, national security, national service?, and veterans affairs.

            Yup

            Macro Econ Also federal: A fair (federal) tax system, an economy that works for everyone, climate change, jobs and wages?, small business, social security, and wall street reform.

            Yup
            —-

            So, I think there’s quite a lot that can get done at the state level. And I suspect that many of Hillary’s proposals amount to writing grants for state programs.

            I think this is good. Spending federal money to support state programs seems like a win.

            I think our core disagreement is less about state’s ability to handle key issues, and more about the idea that states will make the “wrong” decisions.

            Given the option, some states will invest too little in their roads. Others will protect minorities less than you or I would like.

            From a moral point of view, those two things are extremely far apart. You’re rather blase about human rights.

            Escalating things to a federal level gives us a chance to re-litigate those issues. We might be able to override the will of “wrong-voters” who chose different policies than the ones we’d prefer.

            That’s not necessarily bad. But it’s not particularly democratic and really runs counter to the idea that laws should reflect the people who are governed by them.

            I also think that this impulse is probably unwise in the long term. Short-run, sure, my policies will benefit. Long term, it means that people can override the decisions of my community and impose things on me.

            There are a lot of things about this country that aren’t particularly democratic, but I don’t understand highlighting “national human rights protectons” as one of them.

            Let’s say I don’t know much about history and so I foolishly assume that I have the right enlightened opinions and everyone else is wrong. I don’t see why it follows that if most people on a national level disagree with me, it’s bad for things to not follow my opinions. Maybe this is just the kinds of people we are… if I had a proof of the One True Objective Morality I wouldn’t go conquer the world and impose it on other people. Maybe you would?

            Why is it bad for others to impose on me on a national level but not on a state level? Why can’t (morally, obviously legally we can’t) my apartment building get together and decide to reinstate Jim Crow Laws within our building complex?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @StellaAthena:

            To quote the West Wing “you want to eliminate the Department of Education, but your state of Florida received 12 million dollars from the federal government for education. Can we have it back?”

            “Sure! The state of Florida’s education budget is $32 billion so we’ve probably got $12 million lost under the couch cushions!”

            (Or alternately, they could demand back a refund for the amount Florida taxpayers paid in taxes that went to funding the Department of Education.)

          • StellaAthena says:

            Sorry, that was supposed to say “billion” not “million”

          • Controls Freak says:

            Why is it bad for others to impose on me on a national level but not on a state level? Why can’t (morally, obviously legally we can’t) my apartment building get together and decide to reinstate Jim Crow Laws within our building complex?

            The basic idea is that as the domain of a government increases, the less power it should have or the process for exerting that power should be more difficult. Bring the international level into the question. Surely you would agree that there are things which are alright for others to impose on you at the national level that should not be fair game (or which should be more difficult) at the international level, yes?

            Smaller communities are more likely to have cohesive norms, and it is easier to exit a small community if you don’t like their particular norms. If everything worked swimmingly with just entirely small government, that would be awesome. However, due to economic matters, defense matters, and a desire to have some additional uniformity, small governments tend to make agreements with other small governments. Sometimes, those agreements are substantial enough to form a larger government.

            If this larger government is easily co-opted by a faction of the group, it’s going to piss off all the others when they impose their desires on everyone. So instead, we limit their powers or make it so they have to justify that a high enough portion of everyone really does want whatever is being enacted. The Constitution’s solution to this is enumerated powers, expressed limits, and requiring agreement from multiple branches. If you can get this to all come together, then, yes, a suitable portion of the population likely desires it.*

            We can see a divide in international treaties. Self-executing treaties are very much on the federal side of things – you basically assume that the authority of the head of state is sufficient. These tend to be the most problematic, because they doesn’t require an additional check to make sure a suitable amount of the population is on board. If they’re not, then they’ll rabble against their leader. Non-self-executing treaties require some legislative process, and the hope is that countries have honed their legislative process to a point where it ensures that a sufficient portion of the population is on board.

            Assume now that a treaty relinquishes some power or authority to an international body. If the people aren’t really on board with all that this could entail, they could run into a scenario where the international body tries to do something they absolutely reject. Now, they’re stuck with a choice – do we live with something we hate… or do we leave the treaty? Foreseeing this possible situation (and thinking that neither option is good), the nation is going to try to only give up powers/authorities in such a way that ensures that enough people are agreed.

            This is no different than the state/nation divide. If the nation exercises a power in a way that a state hates, they either have to live with something they hate or consider leaving the union. Foreseeing this possible situation, states are going to try to only give up powers/authorities in such a way that ensures that enough people are agreed.

            In sum, all government is going to perform some manner of imposition on people (that’s kind of the point). There is no reason why one manner of imposition is “better” than another manner of imposition. Instead, there are very good reasons to be more careful about the types of things that larger government can impose than smaller governments.

            *Note that in almost all cases, requiring multiple authorizations increases the portion of the population which is required to be on-board. For example, if you put an issue to a national popular vote (and for the moment ignore voter population/turnout issues), you’ll know that 51% of people are on board. If you also require that 51% of statehouses are on-board, it’s almost certain that you need some portion of the population further above 51% on board. The way you design these routes of authorization determine the balance involved.

          • Aapje says:

            Smaller communities are more likely to have cohesive norms, and it is easier to exit a small community if you don’t like their particular norms. If everything worked swimmingly with just entirely small government, that would be awesome.

            I think that you are placing small communities on a pedestal too much. They tend to be very susceptible to corruption and a take over by a faction, probably more so than big government.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Oh, they’re plenty likely to get overtaken by faction (every scale of government is), but given that they’re smaller in number and usually linked by closer cultural norms (..and easier to exit), the damage is generally less. Even if the damage is large, it’s takes fewer people being damaged to stand up and fight back.

            I’m definitely not saying small governments are perfect. No government is perfect (just necessary). I’m all for setting up governmental limits and checks at small scales as well. My point is that as you scale up, these features become more important, and it’s sensible that they’re more prominent in existing larger government structures.

          • Aapje says:

            The issue is that at the local/small level, you simply have a much smaller pool of talent to draw from, which means that the politicians will generally be worse, the journalists will generally be worse, there will be fewer engaged/talented/willing civilians to take a stand, etc, etc.

            My municipality is run worse than the national government, has worse checks and balances, gets less push back from citizens, etc. The same is true for the municipality next to mine. The same is true for my coworkers that I questioned.

            You are right that small government should have the same checks & balances as big(ger) government. You are wrong when you assume that this necessarily possible.

            PS. The caveat with the above is that my country is about the size of a large US state, so we may interpret ‘small’ and ‘big’ differently.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I think that while there is some aspect of talent pool involved, the biggest component is engagement. As Brad pointed out, state governments here have been neutered in a lot of ways… and that leads to citizens simply not caring about it. That leads to bad state government. That’s why I think an important part of the project isn’t simply giving state governments more power, it’s about making them a point of relevance to voters.

            I think that there are definitely major inefficiencies in local government, but again, they can be better tolerated due to the smaller domain in which they’re operating and the smaller effort it takes to overcome those inefficiencies. Again, I have absolutely no claim that is of the type, “Smaller governments are better,” and I think that’s where you’re faulting. All governments are going to have problems, and specific circumstances will determine whether smaller governments actually run better or worse than larger governments. That’s all immaterial to my claims. We could situate a country such that the local governments all work swimmingly and the national government is dysfunctional right next to a country where the local governments are all dysfunctional while the national government works swimmingly… and it won’t change a thing about the relative need for limited powers and checks.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ beleester
          Trump wants to claim that he’s got a mandate, that people support his agenda, and it’s hard to claim that when more people voted against you than for you.

          If the states that Trump won are clumped together and similar in other ways, it might make sense to say that he has a mandate in those states to do certain projects that appeal to those voters.

        • Drew says:

          But the fact that the less popular candidate won the election is something that bothers a lot of people, because that seems to go against how democracy is supposed to work

          I think this is less clear than people make it seem. Democracy is supposed to be fair. But it’s also supposed to reflect the will of the governed.

          Whenever we aggregate power, we make things more fair. But this fairness limits the flexibility of the law, and people’s ability to influence the laws around them.

          I’m imagining a debate about a national speed limit.

          California: Speeding kills. The nation should follow our lead and have a national 55 MPH speed limit.
          Wyoming: Rural highways aren’t congested. Our 90 MPH limit works fine.
          California: How can you be so callous? And anyway, we have more people than you. Democratically, you should accept our decision.
          Wyoming: Why should we? You already have a 55 MPH limit.
          California: Yes, but we’re voting on if you should adopt one, too.

          • bean says:

            I take it you haven’t done much driving in California. The speed limit is often above 55, and honored in the breach, except when there’s a traffic jam.
            A better example would be air quality legislation. Yes, there’s reason to prevent people in Wyoming from doing things that would cause massive amounts of pollution, but the lower population density means that subjecting Wyomingans to a California-style Air Quality Gestapo is completely stupid. If you’re the only car for 10 miles, nobody really cares what’s coming out of the tailpipe.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Drew, bean

            Both those might better be handled by a lasting states’ rights approach, rather than by alternating a POTUS who wants a national no-55s with a POTUS who wants a national no-69s.

          • John Schilling says:

            History says that you’ll get alternating presidents that lean vaguely one direction or the other but don’t care enough about speed limits to do anything about it when there’s so much else on their table. When the Brownian motion of politics pushes the issue onto the national agenda for a moment, the consensus of that moment is likely to be locked in for a generation.

            States’ rights, sure. But actually maintaining that in practice, particularly in a nation as heterogenous as the USA, seems to require things like the electoral college, disproportionate representation in the senate, maybe appointment of senators, and a consistently conservative judiciary. These things tend to be denounced as intolerably undemocratic.

          • StellaAthena says:

            Is there a debate about a national speed limit? I’m imagining debates about immigration, minority rights, and foreign policy because those seem to be the debates that we have. What debates are we having on the national field that should be settled at the state level?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            probably minimum wage is a good example, though you’re right that it’s a generalization which doesn’t perfectly map to our real debates

          • The Nybbler says:

            @StellaAthena

            There’s currently little debate over a national maximum speed limit because it’s been played out. A national maximum speed limit law was passed in the US in 1974 (after being imposed by executive fiat in 1973), setting the limit to 55mph. It was originally justified as a gasoline-conservation measure but later was mostly supported as a “safety” measure, having gained insurance companies as a constituency. It was repealed in 1995.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Relevant to this conversation.

            I believe the national drinking age of 21 is not actually national law, but set individually at each state. It was “encouraged” because federal highway funds were withheld for any state that did not change their legal drinking age.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ John Schilling
            States’ rights, sure.

            Having grown up as a Goldwater Girl (hi, Hillary) in Redneck Red Tribe open spaces, I’ve got a lot of sympathy for ‘the land should have a vote’. People who’ve never lived outside of a city don’t know reality. (We may get back to reality when we get to the Cold Equations.)

            But actually maintaining [states’ rights] in practice, particularly in a nation as heterogenous as the USA, seems to require things like the electoral college, disproportionate representation in the senate…

            Fine, to a point. A minority of the Senate, and of the EC, which is worth courting and not stepping on.

            …maybe appointment of senators….

            Lose me there. I think the muddy hands on have got enough power already. When the EC overturns a National Popular Vote of two million margin and counting (after overturning another NPV less than two decades ago) — that’s too much power.

            In my usual gentle approach, I’d say first institute mandatory recounts whenever the EC and the NPV are heading for an overturn, or even relying on some very tight margins. Find out what is really going on; why such deep disputes this time. There might be some win/win bargaining areas.

          • John Schilling says:

            In my usual gentle approach, I’d say first institute mandatory recounts whenever the EC and the NPV are heading for an overturn, or even relying on some very tight margins. Find out what is really going on; why such deep disputes this time.

            I am unclear as to what you imagine the mandatory recounts would accomplish. “What is really going on” is (this time) marginally more people in red and purple states voted for Trump, lots more people in blue states voted for Clinton, and those “lots more” contribute to the NPV but not the EC. Any future NPV/EC mismatch is going to be more of the same – and we’ll know it when the initial count is done. Large-scale electoral fraud being a thing that basically doesn’t happen in the United States, and vote counts being accurate to +/-0.1% or better, the recount will just tell us exactly what we already knew.

            If you want any deeper understanding than that, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Enhanced exit polling, maybe?

            Again, I am persistently baffled and annoyed by people demanding “recount!” as if it resolves all election-related suspicions or controversies, without clearly explaining what they expect the recount to accomplish and how.

          • Brad says:

            Having grown up as a Goldwater Girl (hi, Hillary) in Redneck Red Tribe open spaces, I’ve got a lot of sympathy for ‘the land should have a vote’. People who’ve never lived outside of a city don’t know reality. (We may get back to reality when we get to the Cold Equations.)

            This is completely insufferable by the way. It’s especially annoying from people that revel in all the products city based civilization. It might be a different story if I was visiting you on your ranch, sitting on a chair you had carved, and eating a meal made from food you had raised.

            When your dreamed for teotwawki comes then your land can dominate the vote as the rest of us will presumably be dead. Until then maybe we should vote based on who actually produces the goods and services that all of us, including the vast overwhelming majority of rugged individualist types, actually consume on a day-to-day basis:
            https://static2.businessinsider.com/image/5304e18eeab8ea155501f9fa/half-of-us-gdp-comes-from-the-orange-spots-on-this-map.jpg

            Or maybe we should just have one man, one vote and call it a day.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Until then maybe we should vote based on who actually produces the goods and services

            Bring back the poll tax!

            Restrict the franchise to landed gentry!

          • hlynkacg says:

            This is completely insufferable by the way

            I find your apparent lack of perspective equally insufferable if not more so. Yes the US GDP is highly concentrated. So what? The blue zones on your map need the internet and hybrid cars a lot less than the orange zones need food, water, or electricity.

            Edit: @ Jiro
            I know right?

          • bean says:

            Bring back the poll tax!

            Restrict the franchise to landed gentry!

            I’m actually in favor of restricting the franchise to those who pay net taxes (minus transfer payments). It makes runaway welfare a lot harder to do, and probably improves the quality of the electorate. No representation without taxation and all that.

          • Brad says:

            We collectively measure value in dollars, not what you personally think ought to be most important. If hybrid cars and internet are so unimportant than why is the exchange rate in food, water, and electricity so high?

            As I said, if the rapture or the zombie apocalypse or whatever else you are fantasizing about comes you get to be smug and tell us all “I told you so”. Until then you are just being smug with nothing to back it up. Which is both annoying and pathetic.

            @Jaskologist
            Did you miss the next sentence, or did you stop reading to immediately type up your clever quip?

          • skef says:

            @bean

            Is removing most of the elderly from the electorate a bug or feature of that idea?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad
            I am not the one fantasizing here.

            I am speaking of the world that you and I are living in right now. The cities and their immense concentrations of wealth would not exist without the vast distributed networks and infrastructure that you so casually dismiss.

            As I said above “…if LA disappeared tomorrow the Central Valley would be largely unaffected (at least in the near-mid term). On the flip-side, if the Central Valley were to suddenly disappear the absence of food water and electricity would turn LA into a charnel house in short order.”

            You are assuming that our current era of plenty is the natural order of things rather than a victory that had to be won, and now maintained.

            In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
            By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
            But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
            And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

          • Brad says:

            I don’t causally dismiss them. Through the system of mutual and voluntary trade, I give them exactly as much due as they are due. Not the extra special consideration you think deserve in your own private metric of value based on counterfactuals.

            You may find this video by Milton Friedman enlightening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Gppi-O3a8

            Edit in response to stealth edit:

            As I said above “…if LA disappeared tomorrow the Central Valley would be largely unaffected (at least in the near-mid term). On the flip-side, if the Central Valley were to suddenly disappear the absence of food water and electricity would turn LA into a charnel house in short order.”

            This is exactly what I was talking about in terms of fantasizing. It is basically a superhero fantasy — “You all really need me, and should worship the ground I walk on. You just don’t know it because you are blind sheep.”

            Your mistake is assuming that our current era of plenty is the natural order of things rather than a victory that had to be won, and now maintained.

            We pay for what we use by doing things other people find valuable and then trading with the people that have what we want. It seems you are rather upset that people collectively don’t value what you have to offer more highly. Feel free to keep it all for yourself and quit paying your ISP so much extremely valuable food for frivolous internet access. I doubt the world will notice.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Through the system of mutual and voluntary trade, I give them exactly as much due as they are due.

            …and part of that “system of mutual and voluntary trade” is you agreeing to grant disproportionate political representation to the people who make your wealth possible.

            If you want to re-negotiate the terms of the deal that is fine. Let’s negotiate. Just stop pretending that your preferred outcome is presumptively justified.

            Edit:
            Apologies for the stealth edit, I was actually going to revert it before you responded. But seeing as you have I’ll let it stand.

            That said this example is not fantasy, it is an illustration that while LA may have political power over the Valley, the Valley has corporeal power over LA. One of the “compelling oughts” for disproportionate representation is the fact that such discrepancies in political vs corporeal power often lead to bloody rectifications.

          • “Until then maybe we should vote based on who actually produces the goods and services ”

            If that’s the fundamental principle, we could get a good deal closer to it by not letting anyone on welfare vote, or anyone with a reported income less than some X. Is that what you want?

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg

            Through the system of mutual and voluntary trade, I give them exactly as much due as they are due.

            …and part of that “system of mutual and voluntary trade” is you agreeing to grant disproportionate political representation to those who make your wealth possible.

            If you want to re-negotiate the terms of the deal that is fine. Let’s negotiate. Just stop pretending that your preferred outcome is presumptively justified.

            It’s bizarre that you are conflating the details of our political system with capitalism. In an anarchocapitalist society that would be a true statement, but our political system is in no way the result of mutual and voluntary trade.

            @DavidFriedman
            Keep reading all the way to the end.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s bizarre that you are conflating the details of our political system with capitalism.

            Bizarre? You’re the one who brought up concentrations of wealth/GDP in the context of how to allocate political power. I just rolled with it.

          • John Schilling says:

            When your dreamed for teotwawki comes then your land can dominate the vote as the rest of us will presumably be dead. Until then maybe we should vote based on who actually produces the goods and services that all of us, including the vast overwhelming majority of rugged individualist types, actually consume on a day-to-day basis

            On a day-to-day basis? Wouldn’t that be, like, mostly food?

            As a city dweller who is somewhat sympathetic to your argument, I have to acknowledge that I “consume” city-made goods on maybe a weekly basis, and my main city-provided daily service is the convenience of having people cook and serve that rural-sourced food for me. I do like the plan of negotiating an agreement where we can all peaceably trade what we are best at for what other people are best at, and cities have a lot to offer in that context. But we did negotiate that deal, and it does include the EC and two Senators per state.

            If we want to renegotiate it, the land-dwellers do have the advantage that if the deals break down they’ll be severely inconvenienced at about the time most of us city-dwellers are literally starving.

          • Brad says:

            @John Schilling
            How is it that we are all communicating with each other? Into what bucket does that consumption fall?

            @hlynkacg
            I suggested that it is more reasonable for money to vote than it is for land to vote (houseboatonstyxb’s suggestion which got this whole discussion going). At the end of that comment, which apparently no one got to, I said neither are as reasonable as people voting AKA democracy.

            At no point did I suggest that are current system is the result of mutual and voluntary trade. You can’t “roll with” something I never said.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            At no point did I suggest that are current system is the result of mutual and voluntary trade.

            I made that suggestion, as did several others, and you appeared to agree when you called disproportionate geographic representation a result of “pragmatic horse trading”.

            As John Schilling said above; I do like the plan of negotiating an agreement where we can all peaceably trade what we are best at for what other people are best at, and cities have a lot to offer in that context. But we did negotiate that deal, and it does include the EC and two Senators per state.

            Once again, If you want a more democratic approach, you’ll have to justify it. Otherwise we’re back to horse trading.

          • @Brad:

            “@DavidFriedman
            Keep reading all the way to the end.”

            I did. You offered a criterion for who should vote. You then proposed a system that made less sense in terms of that criterion than the one I offered. You didn’t offer a justification for doing so.

      • DavidS says:

        The unpopularity of Trump isn’t necessary to explain this: it’s always news. Trying to change the rules after the election is obviously crazy and I think very few people would seriously say that.

        What it is relevant for is when people start talking about ‘the will of the people’, ‘what the US people want’ etc. as opposed to ‘who is legally President’.

        I’m interested in the arguments being referenced but not made in the thread about the benefits of the EC. My understanding was it was designed on the basis that electors would decide who to support after being elected, to give a bit of a safety margin between the mass of the people and power, and that now that’s gone it’s just a relic and doesn’t really add much. If the EC was functioning according to its original constitutional intent it may well choose Hilary (although I hasten to add that given current convention and the clear expectation of voters, doing so would be an incredibly radical and dangerous move!)

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          Also, travel and communications were slower in those days, and politically the trend has been to phase out representatives and make more decisions by popular vote.

          I think we need the ’rounding off’ function, where each state (or each congressional district) is winner take all, and the EC mechanism is very useful for that. Otherwise we would have recounts of hanging chads everywhere, always.

          • DavidS says:

            Seems a pretty weak basis to set your electoral system on, though: the practicalities of dealing with ‘hanging chads’ (presumably only in very close races?) compared to whole states being locked up from the start?

            On the decisions by representatives, I recently listened to a podcast on the French Revolution and the Assemblies then were indirect in that sense – which sometimes made things conservative and sometimes radical. One constitution had the public choose electors, who chose more senior electors, who chose members of the National Assembly. I think the nearest we get to that sort of thing now is probably in the EU where it’s a product of the fact it’s made up of sovereign countries.

          • lhn says:

            I think the nearest we get to that sort of thing now is probably in the EU where it’s a product of the fact it’s made up of sovereign countries.

            And the US is a federal union made up of formerly sovereign states plus states that were created to have equal status with them. The EC is, like Senate apportionment, an incentive for small states to be part of the Union by ensuring that they won’t be entirely drowned out by their larger neighbors. It’s not necessarily the perfect compromise, or the only one that might have been come to. But Rhode Island’s concerns re Virignia in 1789 aren’t all that different from Wyoming’s re California in 2016.

            (My condo association gives each unit one vote, whether it houses a family of eight or a single person. A large family could assert that they should have a greater voice due to their numbers, but I don’t think the other units are bound by justice to give it to them.)

            Abolishing the EC only makes sense in the context of transitioning from a federal union to a unitary state. While there have obviously been moves in that direction, we’re not there yet.

            (And I suspect a lot of people who’ve looked primarily to Washington are going to rediscover the virtues of federalism over the next 4-8 years, if only until the White House changes hands again.)

          • skef says:

            Personally, if I thought that some aspect of Homeowner’s Association contract law supported a position I held, I would keep it to myself.

          • Brad says:

            One of the implicit requirements of our electoral system is that the TV stations be able to tell us all the winners of the election by midnight on election day. I think we should examine that requirement and if it would be helpful in advancing other interests, discard it. It doesn’t strike me as particularly important.

          • Brad says:

            And the US is a federal union made up of formerly sovereign states plus states that were created to have equal status with them. The EC is, like Senate apportionment, an incentive for small states to be part of the Union by ensuring that they won’t be entirely drowned out by their larger neighbors. It’s not necessarily the perfect compromise, or the only one that might have been come to. But Rhode Island’s concerns re Virignia in 1789 aren’t all that different from Wyoming’s re California in 2016.

            “Created to have equal status” is doing a lot of work there. Wyoming was never an independent state. It never had a choice whether or not to join the union and can’t leave. There wasn’t and isn’t any need to woo it.

            Also, Rhode Island didn’t voluntarily agree to the Constitution, it was coerced into it. So the story that these were the concessions necessary to get it to sign is ahistorical.

          • lhn says:

            The later-admitted states are, of course, free to give up the powers granted to the original states by the Constitution on the grounds that they aren’t needed to retain them in the union. They’d only need one of the original states to sign on.

            But the system was designed as a federation of states subordinating their sovereignty to the federal government in exchange for a few protections for the smaller ones in the Electoral College and the Senate, and the smaller ones thus far have mostly been disinclined to forego that protection. (Or an amendment would be possible and end-runs like NPV legislation wouldn’t need to be proposed.)

            Or we could have changed the state admission process to create new states with lesser protections. (Which doesn’t have the same collective action problem– if anything, the reverse, since it privileges the states voting on the change over future states not yet represented.) But we had a century and a half to do that between the adoption of the Constitution and the admission of Hawaii, and evidently chose not to.

          • Brad says:

            That there are those that benefit and can block changes is an explanation but it isn’t a justification, much less a compelling one. Which I suppose is fine as far as it goes, but those relying on it have to hope that the conditions that give them a veto never shift since they can’t or won’t get actual buy-in.

            I’m totally unconvinced of the justice of someone from Wyoming having 3.5x the representation I do in the EC and 14x the representation I do in the Senate. Nothing you or the other fine people here have said thus far has moved the needle on that. Maybe that’s fine with you, I don’t know.

          • DavidS says:

            Sorry, missing something as a Brit. How does the electoral college support state’s rights/power/independence? I thought that bit in practice was the Senate?

          • Brad says:

            Every state gets electoral college votes equal to the sum of its Senators and Congressman. Wyoming gets 3, which is 1 per ~190,000 residents, while NY gets 29, which is 1 per ~680,000.

          • lhn says:

            @Brad I’d imagine the citizens of Wyoming likewise wouldn’t appreciate being effectively run by the coasts. Any more than the US would sign onto a one-person, one-vote union with India without protections. Even assuming a perfectly honestly administered democracy, the system would be run entirely based on the interests of a faraway territory with a different economic and political makeup.

            We’re a union of disparate states– it says so right in the name. If we want to be the Democratic Republic of America, that’s the job of a new constitutional convention. Though I can’t imagine why the citizens of a small state would choose to trade in statehood and still remain part of it.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Brad

            I agree with you, and do not like the Senate or the EC for that reason.

            That being said, I also think that we are better off the more individual the states are, the more control the states have, the more the US can be like the Archipelago the better, IMO. So, if the senate/EC have(and I don’t know that they have) supported greater self determination at the state level, than I can see a potential positive effect.

            However even then, these seem like bad systems for achieving those ends and I totally disagree with the value of their stated ends(making small states disproportionately important in the federal government).

            @lhn

            How is a larger number of people having their government dictated to them by distant outsiders better than a smaller number of people having their government dictated to them by distant outsiders?

          • Brad says:

            @lhn
            Is American “effectively” run by the brunettes? By the right handers? By the whites? Why would blonds ever agree to be ruled by brunettes? Ought not lefties have disproportionate political power so as to protect their interests?

            As for a new Constitutional Convention, there’s precedent for ignoring the rules of the old regime and simply going back to first principles. That was done to Great Britain and to the entity created by the Articles of Confederation. A majority rules plebiscite would be plenty legitimate for supplanting the Constitution.

            @Spookykou
            What we have now is the worst of both worlds. A unitary government in practice, with vestigial rotten boroughs. I’ll believe in the genuineness of the widespread support for federalism when the elected officials of states dominated by the self professed party of federalism quit running to Washington DC for handouts because it rained too hard.

            That’s not to say that there are no principled federalists, I certainly believe there are some such individuals. Just not very many.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A majority rules plebiscite would be plenty legitimate for supplanting the Constitution.

            You might think so, but will the people with the guns think so? Because if you’re going to ignore the Constitution (which to supplant would require going through one of the amendment processes, which require much more than a plebiscite), your only “legitimacy” over those you’ve overruled is through force.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Brad Says: That there are those that benefit and can block changes is an explanation but it isn’t a justification, much less a compelling one.

            The justification, is that the president should have a (geographically) broad base of support.

            As lhn notes above, Rhode Island’s concerns regarding Virginia in the 18th century apply just as well Wyoming and California in the 20th. The Rural/Urban divide is as old as humanity itself and there are clear precedents for trying to avoid the strife that arises when 1 side gets a monopoly on power. As has been noted before, Illinois’ is not a blue state Chicago is a blue state.

            Along similar lines, a large part of what makes a nation a nation is it’s territory and resources. One of the quirks of rural dwellers is that they represent a far larger portion of territory and resources per capita than urban dwellers do.

            Edit:
            Lots of people replied while I was typing and now I feel like I may be piling on.

            That said I feel the need to point out to Spookykou that the EC does not lead to a larger number of people having their government dictated to them by distant outsiders because Wyoming et al don’t actually have enough votes to force anything on California. What they have is effectively veto power.

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler

            You might think so, but will the people with the guns think so? Because if you’re going to ignore the Constitution (which to supplant would require going through one of the amendment processes, which require much more than a plebiscite), your only “legitimacy” over those you’ve overruled is through force.

            At the end of the day, that’s the only “legitimacy” the Constitution has going for it also.

            @hlynkacg

            The justification, is that the president should have a (geographically) broad base of support.

            That just begs the question. I could equally claim that the President should have a broad base of support among people of different eye colors.

            Along similar lines, a large part of what makes a nation a nation is it’s territory and resources. One of the quirks of rural dwellers is that they represent a far larger portion of territory and resources per capita than urban dwellers do.

            The most important resource by far in the modern era is people, above all educated and skilled people. The cities (Edit: make that non-rural areas) dominate that resource.

          • lhn says:

            @Brad The US wasn’t formed by the merger of blond and brunette communities negotiating their respective interests. If it had been, perhaps things would be different. But every state became part of the US under the existing rules, with full knowledge of the process to change them and full expectation that they could rely on them.

            But sure, obviously a revolution (which extralegally supplanting the Constitution with a majority plebiscite would be, however much or little violence were involved) is another way of altering the deal. I’d guess that would take more political effort for that to be seen as legitimate (especially without bloodshed) than getting an amendment through would.

          • Spookykou says:

            What is it about ‘geographic diversity’ that makes it so special? If the EC had a proviso that weighted Asian voters at 5 times that of white voters, I don’t think many people would defend it, but give [insert small state here] voters 5 times the weight of [insert large state here] and suddenly everything is just peachy?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Actually I think there’s a pretty good argument for switching election of legislators and electors from being based on now-somewhat-arbitrary geographic groupings to being based on demographic groupings that more closely reflect actual communities. “The junior Senator from Jews” makes more sense as a particular viewpoint that ought to be represented than “the junior Senator from New Hampshire”. And once you look at it as ensuring representation of diverse viewpoints, you can see why you might not want it to be proportional to population.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad

            But we’re not at the end of the day. We have the Constitution, and a working government, and the people with the guns are going to support it bar some major event. Attempting to replace the Constitution through a majority plebiscite counts as a “major event”. So again I ask: will the people with the guns back up the new government?

          • lhn says:

            Because states are the fundamental recognized legal entities out of which the US is constructed, and races aren’t. Races also don’t make laws, collect taxes, send delegations to Congress, etc.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That just begs the question.

            Does it? To argue otherwise seems like it would be strong endorsement of Imperialism and Colonialism. I don’t mind going there, but I do mind beating around the bush.

            Likewise I strongly disagree with your assertion that people are the most important resource. People especially the sort of “educated and skilled people” you are referring to require water, food, shelter, energy, and a vast support network of other people and machines to protect and provide for them.

            I know it’s a cliche’ by this point but if LA disappeared tomorrow the Central Valley would be largely unaffected (at least in the near-mid term). On the flip-side, if the Central Valley were to suddenly disappear the absence of food water and electricity would turn LA into a charnel house in short order.

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler
            We’d just have to see if it came to it. Impossible to predict in advance. Personally, I don’t think it is going to happen in the near or medium future.

            Anyway, this is off on a whole is tangent. I was hoping there was some kind of compelling ought justification. Doesn’t appear to be much of one. You could substitute the House of Lords for the Senate in this discussion and almost nothing would change.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Brad or Spookykou
            I’m curious as to your opinions on districting rules that require districts be drawn such that racial&religious minorities get proportional representation. Is it really so alien an idea to include geography in those criteria?

            Because it sounds like y’all’re suggesting we should just get rid of the State-level institutions altogether. If the only thing that matters for representation is that we’re all Federal citizens, why bother having them?

          • BBA says:

            In the abstract I’m all for federalism, just because it’s how the system was laid out originally and how it’s “supposed to work”. In practice, though, state governments are awful. Terrible. I mean, they make the federal government look good, which is no easy task. A typical state’s public policy consists of 10% meaningless tribal applause-light measures and 90% graft. The federal government is big enough to get national press attention, cities and counties are small enough that grassroots efforts can effect change, states are not just unaccountable but ignored. Why the hell would we give more power to those assholes?

            And it’s not like this is a new issue, either, why do you think the 17th Amendment got passed?

            The 13 colonies, Vermont, Texas, Hawaii, and maybe California and Alaska were pre-existing polities. The rest of the states were made up from whole cloth by somebody in DC drawing lines on a map. The Dakota Territory was specifically divided into two states simply because it was uniformly Republican and the party wanted to get two more safe seats in the Senate. It’s a really meaningless principle to “live up to conditions of admission” when the reasons for admission were that arbitrary.

            Sorry to ramble. My point is that federalism isn’t half of what it’s cracked up to be, and certainly no reason to stick to outmoded, irrational policies in itself.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gobbobobble:

            The issue with one is the lack of equal representation (for various subgroups).

            The issue with the other is excess of representation (for low population states).

            If the EC was not skewed to overrepresent low population states, your argument would hold more water, I think.

            I actually think the EC vs. popular vote conundrum is actually one of those hard problems that has tradeoffs akin to “Type 1/Type 2”. The more you try and eliminate one bad outcome, the more likely it is that a different bad outcome can occur. But I don’t like that it over represents low population states. But I think we are stuck with it.

          • Spookykou says:

            I am expressly pro state, and I wish that states had more autonomous control.

            I don’t think the senate or the EC really achieve that goal, but they might.

            I don’t think that people who live in a smaller state should have a vote that is weighted more than my vote because I live in a larger state, when it comes to federal elections.

            @suntzuanime

            I actually kind of agree, but I assume it is a pretty fringe position.

            @hlynkacg

            Fair

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble
            I’m not a huge fan of those rules, or FPTP single member districts for that matter. That said there’s a difference in kind between gerrymandering and throwing out the one man, one vote principle altogether.

            A lot of times people like to parrot this business about “we are a republic not a democracy” as if it were a trump card. But how many of them have really engaged with what they meant by that in the 18th century? It wasn’t really about disproportionate geographic representation — that was just pragmatic horse trading (see also the 3/5ths rule).

            What was supposed to happen was for a natural and national elite to form and for that elite to dominate institutions like the Senate and the Electoral College. Our system was supposed to combine the best parts of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. No one today openly defends the aristocracy part (well maybe They Who Must Not Be Named, I don’t know). We are all basically democrats now. But when a rebuttal is needed to defend some obviously non-democratic element of the status quo out comes “we are a republic not a democracy” as if that were somehow convincing.

            As to your second paragraph, I think we should either have a much much weaker and smaller federal government — one so weak we’d have to give up on our hyperpower status — or we should abolish the states. As between the two I’d prefer abolishing the states.

          • lhn says:

            I actually think the EC vs. popular vote conundrum is actually one of those hard problems that has tradeoffs akin to “Type 1/Type 2”. The more you try and eliminate one bad outcome, the more likely it is that a different bad outcome can occur. But I don’t like that it over represents low population states. But I think we are stuck with it.

            Of course the EC and the bicameral house were already a compromise between the tradeoffs. After all, an obvious way to arrange a combination of states is one state, one vote. States as sovereign entities are nominal equals (modulo the realities of the biggest guns, but that doesn’t necessarily go by population). If they’re going to sacrifice their sovereignty to form a combine, it makes some sense for them to do so as equals. (Just as my aforementioned condo doesn’t change representation when more people move into an apartment.)

            And of course that obvious arrangement sounds great to small states and not so good to larger ones, just as pure popular vote does the reverse. So we’ve got a hybrid system. Naturally that’s something that can be renegotiated, but now as then it’s down to a negotiation of conflicting interests, not a moral imperative.

            Conversely, if we restarted from a sort of blank slate as Brad seems to suggest, it’s not clear why the Constitution is up for grabs but the national borders that place Wyoming and California in the same polity aren’t. (One suspects that a national plebiscite designed to strip the small states of their electoral influence wouldn’t be the only vote going on in those states, if things reached that point.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            Brad Says: A lot of times people like to parrot this business about “we are a republic not a democracy” as if it were a trump card.

            I will admit to being one of those people and I feel that you are ignoring the core of the pro-EC position and broader “anti-democratic” arguments to focus on minutia.

            As such I will cut to the chase. Do you think it is possible for a minority to be oppressed by the majority? and if so do you see this as a desirable state of affairs?

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think disproportionate representation is a good or just solution to the problem of minorities in democracies. Not for racial minorites and not for geographic ones.

            (On mobile, sorry for no quote and attribution.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            In that case I think you need to come up with an alternative method for rectifying the “democratic” vs “corporeal” balance of power, because that where the “compelling ought justification” is coming from.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Every state gets electoral college votes equal to the sum of its Senators and Congressman. Wyoming gets 3, which is 1 per ~190,000 residents, while NY gets 29, which is 1 per ~680,000.

            If states aren’t actually the relevant scoping unit, why are you using state population to determine “representation”? Further, why are you using total population instead of citizen population, registered voter population, actual voter population, a host of other denominators… or just Nate Silver’s voter power index? Some of these differences may matter, as states currently have a fair amount of ability to push these numbers in different directions for different reasons. If we had a national popular vote, we’d almost certainly have to also implement a federal election law, and make a bunch of contentious choices nationwide.

            I’ll believe in the genuineness of the widespread support for federalism when the elected officials of states dominated by the self professed party of federalism quit running to Washington DC for handouts because it rained too hard.

            I think you missed the point of federalism. Justice Kennedy opined in Bond v. United States: “The federal system rests on what might at first seem a counterintuitive insight, that “freedom is enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one.” The Framers concluded that allocation of powers between the National Government and the States enhances freedom, first by protecting the integrity of the governments themselves, and second by protecting the people, from whom all governmental powers are derived.”

            Our system was supposed to combine the best parts of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. No one today openly defends the aristocracy part (well maybe They Who Must Not Be Named, I don’t know). We are all basically democrats now.

            The main tension driving the split was national/federal. See Federalist 39. I know people have tried reading this triad into it, but I don’t see it. Federalist 63 argues that “the federal Senate will never be able to transform itself, by gradual usurpations, into an independent and aristocratic body”.

            Yes, I’m one of those “few principled federalists”. Just a couple weeks ago, I proposed a grand bargain with a Blue Tribe friend of mine to simultaneously repeal the 17th Amendment and implement an algorithmic redistricting formula. Maybe I also want people to care about local politics.

          • skef says:

            @Controls Freak

            Our system was supposed to combine the best parts of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. No one today openly defends the aristocracy part (well maybe They Who Must Not Be Named, I don’t know). We are all basically democrats now.

            The main tension driving the split was national/federal. See Federalist 39. I know people have tried reading this triad into it, but I don’t see it.

            The fact that the right to vote was at first largely restricted to (white) male property owners might be seen as relevant to this question. That doesn’t get you to “aristocracy” but it’s in the neighborhood.

          • suntzuanime says:

            From the perspective of our highly-enfranchised society it might look close, but to real aristocrats, including a bunch of fucking merchants and freehold farmers is an insult. That would be like the hypothetical future 2150 America saying “back in 2016 only people over the age of 18 could vote. not quite an aristocracy, but close.”

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m no fan of race/sex bars (I wouldn’t include repeal of the 15th/19th Amendments alongside the 17th). Property owners is a misguided attempt to ensure that individuals have a stake in the state… perhaps a primitive form of a residency requirement (after all, land was far more plentiful then; it just wasn’t the society we have today where massive portions of the populations rent; I mean, we’re the same country that said, “Free land! Just go take it!”). Coincidentally, residency requirements (and a unique legal residence) are really important today.

            Anyway, I don’t think this gets us close to an aristocracy at all. I would really question what you mean by “aristocracy” if you think so. Further, it’s worth noting that while we often shorthand early voting rights to “(white; really free) male property owners”, it actually varied a lot. Different states had different rules, and they changed through the years. Race, sex, ‘investment’, residency, and many many more. Many states even let some noncitizens vote at times! (The Constitution doesn’t restrict voting to citizens, and we didn’t even have a federal statute making this illegal until 1996! (And even so, given the history, I really wonder if this would be considered an unconstitutional infringement on state sovereignty.)) Reality is just so much more diverse than people think, and given that the founders’ arguments specifically argued against aristocracy (arguing that the Senate couldn’t devolve into aristocracy as I had mentioned above, and that even if it did, the state legislatures and as a last resort the House of Representatives would stop them from doing evil aristocracy things), I just don’t see how we get to, “Oh yea, they totally wanted some aristocracy.” Especially when they made an explicit argument along the lines of national/federal instead.

          • keranih says:

            @ skef

            The fact that the right to vote was at first largely restricted to (white) male property owners might be seen as relevant to this question. That doesn’t get you to “aristocracy” but it’s in the neighborhood.

            As others have noted, this rests on a completely ahistorical read of what “aristocracy” meant.

            I am invested in the ideal of a far more universal suffrage than what the Founding Fathers thought prudent – but that doesn’t mean that I think it need extend to the borders of infinity. I strongly resent the idea that this means I want suffrage to only apply to homosexual females whose last 4 of their SSN is 0000. (or to any other limit of dubious merit)

            We can talk about these things with a minimum of hyperbole, and I would like it better if we did.

          • skef says:

            @keranih

            Maybe you’re offering a more broad response in this last comment, but since my name is on the top: However right or wrong my observation was, it concerned a) the possible attitudes of the founding fathers, or really more accurately b) an explanation for other people’s attitudes about the founding fathers’ attitudes. And as I understand the thread, no one seems to disagree that aristocracy is a dead issue now; the question was whether it was ever a live issue in the U.S.

            The more general argument is about the significance of votes for President counting to different extents. It doesn’t seem to me like anyone is arguing about who should be able to vote now, and certainly not about who you think should be able to vote now. And I personally haven’t even said anything in relation to that general argument, other than expressing a view earlier that the EC giving the election to Hillary would result in unrest. So it seems to me that you’re manufacturing your own “hyperbole” out of whole cloth.

          • “I mean, we’re the same country that said, “Free land! Just go take it!””

            The Homesteading Act was passed in 1862, by which time there were no longer any states which restricted the franchise to property owners.

          • Controls Freak says:

            The Homesteading Act was passed in 1862, by which time there were no longer any states which restricted the franchise to property owners.

            This is true, and if there is reason to believe that land was scarce enough in the preceding 75 years that land-owning requirements functioned more like aristocracy requirements than residency requirements, I’ll retract my point.

          • Rob K says:

            @Controls Freak
            My impression (this is mostly based on “Empire of Liberty”, I’m not super-informed about this period) is that the more aristocratically inclined founding fathers (including, amusingly, contemporary pop hero Alexander Hamilton) were counting on a mix of property qualifications and customary habits of political participation to create their preferred balance of power.

            This is part of why the Federalists vanished as rapidly and thoroughly as they did; in many states their leaders were at least skeptical of if not outright hostile to mass political participation, which made them ineffective at, you know, mass political outreach.

            If you want a good type of an American would-be aristocrat, Philip Schuyler’s not a bad example, nor is Jame’s Fenimore Cooper’s dad William. Large landowner with many non-landowning dependents on the British model, who expected that after independence he would exercise the same sort of power that a British landowner and JP might in his community. In retrospect it seems clear that these people misunderstood what this whole American democracy thing was going to look like, but they were definitely a significant faction at the time the constitution was written.

          • skef says:

            @Controls Freak

            We could certainly sit around arguing about what wasn’t true in late 1700s North America all day.

            Personally, when I brought up the link between property ownership and aristocracy, I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of numbers, or assuming other people would. I was thinking of it more in terms of attitudes about the proper arrangement of one’s immediate surroundings. Say you make a comfortable living in the 1780s. You have some household servants. If you’re outside of a city, also some people to tend to the land. If they’re not slaves, you support them in more conventional ways, including a place to live. You think you should have a voice in politics. The servants? Well, no. That was the thought.

            So it seems to me that the relevant statistic isn’t scarcity of land or how much renting was going on, but what sorts of white men didn’t own property, and why.

          • Brad says:

            @Controls Freak

            If states aren’t actually the relevant scoping unit, why are you using state population to determine “representation”?

            Because that’s how the disproportionate representation is allocated. If the system was that all people whose last name started with the same letter got to elect one member of the electoral college then I’d be saying something like: “Why do people whose last name start with X get 400 times the representation of people whose last name start with S? That’s unjust.”

            People v citizens v voters is fair point, but it isn’t nearly enough to overcome the very large differences we have.

            I’ll believe in the genuineness of the widespread support for federalism when the elected officials of states dominated by the self professed party of federalism quit running to Washington DC for handouts because it rained too hard.

            I think you missed the point of federalism. Justice Kennedy opined in Bond v. United States: “The federal system rests on what might at first seem a counterintuitive insight, that “freedom is enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one.” The Framers concluded that allocation of powers between the National Government and the States enhances freedom, first by protecting the integrity of the governments themselves, and second by protecting the people, from whom all governmental powers are derived.”

            First of all, The Framers, Peace Be Upon Them, had many reasons for doing what they did. The Federalist Papers aren’t a direct window in their collective soul.

            In any event, I don’t see how this is much of a response. In order to actually serve as a counterweight and bulwark of liberty state governments need to be more than supplicants begging for scraps at the federal table and that then turn around and dole them out the received largess to their populations. They need to be have at least some areas of exclusive responsibility and power over some non-trivial areas of governance. That doesn’t describe the status quo.

            Look at some of the issues that are percolating for the first hundred days of unified Republican governance: a plan to encourage / coerce states to voucherize public education, a plan to force states to recognize other states concealed carry permits, a possible crackdown on marijuana stores in states that have decided to authorize them, and a plan to coerce states and cities to force their civil servants to be at the beck and call of ICE. Whiter federalism?

            Our system was supposed to combine the best parts of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. No one today openly defends the aristocracy part (well maybe They Who Must Not Be Named, I don’t know). We are all basically democrats now.

            The main tension driving the split was national/federal. See Federalist 39. I know people have tried reading this triad into it, but I don’t see it. Federalist 63 argues that “the federal Senate will never be able to transform itself, by gradual usurpations, into an independent and aristocratic body”.

            I looked at Federalist 39, the first half is all about what makes the contemplated system a Republic and does not at all mention the national federal split. It is only in the second half, after Madison concludes firmly that the system is a Republic that he goes on to address the complaint that the proposed Constitution would not preserve the federal form.

            From the first half:

            What, then, are the distinctive characters of the republican form?

            If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. It is SUFFICIENT for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified;

            That said and as a concession: I was unable to source my blend of three statement back to a founding father. Maybe I’m was remembering Montesquieu or Locke rather than a FF.

            Yes, I’m one of those “few principled federalists”. Just a couple weeks ago, I proposed a grand bargain with a Blue Tribe friend of mine to simultaneously repeal the 17th Amendment and implement an algorithmic redistricting formula. Maybe I also want people to care about local politics.

            How about the fourteenth amendment and with it incorporation? Are you willing to rely on your state for the protection of most of your rights? What about the standing army, are you okay with going back to state militias called up from time to time?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Brad Says:

            The Federalist Papers aren’t a direct window in [the framers’] collective soul.

            No they aren’t, and thus far no body in this thread has claimed that they are. But they do document the reasoning behind many of their decisions regarding the framing, including the point currently under contention.

            If you want to fight disproportionate representation, you need to address the reasoning behind disproportionate representation, and provide some “compelling ought justification” beyond “this policy benefits brad and brad’s allies”.

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg
            They represent the thinking of their authors. Which is three men, with most of them written by just two. There’s some kind of availability bias at work here — what have must be enough because it is what we have.

            To your second paragraph, post-enlightenment democracy is presumptive justified. Today it is departures from democratic rule that need justification. You’ve provided nothing compelling. Just some chest beating about how LA is going to starve when Farmer Atlas shrugs. I don’t know exactly what you expect me to do with that, which is why I ignored it the first two times.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Rob

            Empire of Liberty

            I really don’t see how this fits in. I’ll need you to explain some more.

            American would-be aristocrat, Philip Schuyler

            Were there people who thought, “Oh goody! New government in the New World! I want to be an aristocrat!” I guarantee it. Was the Senate and Electoral College structured to facilitate this desire? I doubt it.

            they were definitely a significant faction at the time the constitution was written.

            At the time the constitution was written, a third of the people supported independence, a third of the people supported the crown, and a third of the people didn’t care (coarsely, of course). I’ll still take the explicit public arguments of the drafters of the constitution.

            @skef

            If you’re outside of a city, also some people to tend to the land. If they’re not slaves, you support them in more conventional ways, including a place to live. You think you should have a voice in politics. The servants? Well, no. That was the thought.

            That may be the case. I’m sure they had baked in ideas, but in the same vein as suntzuanime mentioned, I still don’t think this really gets us to aristocracy. And like I mentioned above, even if we have vague notions of an elite class, it doesn’t mean that the Senate/Electoral College were designed for the purpose of creating an aristocracy. Do you think that it’s possible for someone to want a national popular vote and simultaneously want the president to be someone vaguely in the elite ruling class?

            @Brad

            People v citizens v voters is fair point, but it isn’t nearly enough to overcome the very large differences we have.

            Nate Silver’s voter power index certainly is. We can construct a hundred different metrics that ‘value’ everyone’s votes in entirely different ways. The point is that all of these methods are flawed, because the relevant scoping unit is the state. We don’t even have a unique alternative. You want to say X-times more than a popular vote (modulo imagining a federal election law), but we could also compare to systems where states allocated votes to districts… or a slew of other alternatives.

            The Framers, Peace Be Upon Them, had many reasons for doing what they did. The Federalist Papers aren’t a direct window in their collective soul.

            Obviously. That said, they can help give us a pretty decent idea, especially since the reasons given are a major part of why the country adopted the Constitution. If they explicitly say they’re pro-X and anti-Y, we probably should have a liitle pause in adopting a tenuous connection implying they were looking to accomplish Y.

            In order to actually serve as a counterweight and bulwark of liberty state governments need to be more than supplicants begging for scraps at the federal table and that then turn around and dole them out the received largess to their populations. They need to be have at least some areas of exclusive responsibility and power over some non-trivial areas of governance. That doesn’t describe the status quo.

            Agreed entirely. Would you like to subscribe to my newsletter? I kid. I kid. But your solution to us having broken federalism is to throw it away. My hope is to fix it. Maybe you think it’s just a lost cause, but I don’t see that as a reason to make the nationalism problem worse. (Edit: General police powers is something that is still mostly reserved to the states.)

            How about the fourteenth amendment and with it incorporation?

            I’m on board with selective incorporation, yes. The idea of incorporation is right there in the text (most strikingly in privileges/immunities), but there are also solid reasons why not everything is incorporated (especially if you believe that state sovereignty is a thing at all).

            Are you willing to rely on your state for the protection of most of your rights?

            I’m willing to rely on the systems of checks/balances between governments and within governments along with Constitutional guarantees… on top of the fact that it is all rooted in the power of the people.

            What about the standing army, are you okay with going back to state militias called up from time to time?

            Re-appropriation is a massive textual loophole that I’m 100% fine with. We’ve achieved norms that greatly reduce the risks that this bargain was meant to mitigate. Given the trajectory of world history, if this loophole didn’t exist and everyone wasn’t pretty much fine with just exploiting the loophole, we definitely would have adopted an amendment changing it, anyway. I think you said something about not everything being received wisdom from the Founders (praise be upon them)…

          • Brad says:

            Agreed entirely. Would you like to subscribe to my newsletter? I kid. I kid. But your solution to us having broken federalism is to throw it away. My hope is to fix it. Maybe you think it’s just a lost cause, but I don’t see that as a reason to make the nationalism problem worse. (Edit: General police powers is something that is still mostly reserved to the states.)

            I guess this is the crux of our disagreement. I don’t think you can draw a straight line from federalism to nationalism and say it gets worse as you go left.

            In my opinion:
            nationalism > federalism > broken federalism (status quo)

            If your preferences are instead:
            federalism > nationalism

            then I get that, and think it is a reasonable position to hold.

            But if you want to put broken federalism there in the middle, then I don’t think it is reasonable. If we were to make a list of the pros and cons on federalism vs nationalism, then I think the broken federalism we have now would have most or all of the cons and few or none of the pros.

            Even if we agreed that broken federalism is in last place, we still might disagree over what the best course of action would be to get away from it (which would mostly boil down to which pole would be more achievable). Again, I see that as a reasonable disagreement. But when I read “but I don’t see that as a reason to make the nationalism problem worse” that’s not the message I am getting.

            How about the fourteenth amendment and with it incorporation?

            I’m on board with selective incorporation, yes. The idea of incorporation is right there in the text (most strikingly in privileges/immunities), but there are also solid reasons why not everything is incorporated (especially if you believe that state sovereignty is a thing at all).

            I guess I wasn’t being clear. If you want to abolish the 17th amendment to get back closer to the federalist ideal, do you also want to abolish the 14th amendment and with it SCOTUS protections of (most of) your rights as against state governments?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Brad says:

            They represent the thinking of their authors. Which is three men, with most of them written by just two.

            They represent a good deal more than that. They document the state of the debate at the time of the framing. The best arguments both for and against.

            As Controls Freak said above; the reasons given are a major part of why the country adopted the Constitution. If they explicitly say they’re pro-X and anti-Y, we probably should have a little pause in adopting a tenuous connection implying they were looking to accomplish Y.

            post-enlightenment democracy is presumptive justified.

            No it isn’t. Post-enlightenment democracy, so the old joke goes, is 3 wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner. Which is why we are a republic not a democracy.

            If you believe that a more democratic approach is justified, you actually need to argue that point instead of begging the question.

          • Controls Freak says:

            There’s not really one dimension, so I was imprecise in saying “the nationalism problem”. I should have said “the problems of nationalism”. Before you take that too harshly, I think there are problems of federalism, too. I should note that I’m not advocating a ‘pure’ federalism, either. There is a balance, and we have nationalist elements (I wouldn’t advocate for uprooting the House, for example, even though it exhibits all kinds of problems).

            When it comes to the specific act of beginning at the status quo and uprooting the electoral college and the senate, I think it exacerbates the problems of nationalism with very little real benefit. I don’t count, “Someone on the internet can’t claim that they have X-times less ‘representation’,” as a real benefit… especially because I’m sure they could still find some other metric by which they have ‘less representation’.

            I guess I wasn’t being clear. If you want to abolish the 17th amendment to get back closer to the federalist ideal, do you also want to abolish the 14th amendment and with it SCOTUS protections of (most of) your rights as against state governments?

            I guess I wasn’t being clear. No.

            (Fine; I’ll expand. The goal is not to promote state government for the sake of powerful state government. The goal is, as Justice Kennedy put it, enhancing freedom by creating two governments instead of one.)

        • The advantage of the EC that I mentioned on my blog a while back is that it reduces the problem of vote stealing. It’s easiest to steal votes in a one party state where the Republican poll watchers are probably Democrats (or vice versa) and the judges who will deal with any complaints are part of the dominant machine.

          With the EC system there is no payoff to stealing votes in a state where your party already has a large majority.

          That doesn’t eliminate the problem, because one party might dominate a city in a state where it is balanced by the other party in a rural area, giving both an incentive to steal votes. But it reduces the problem.

          • Drew says:

            Related to this: the ECs votes are public, so there’s no ambiguity about who won.

            If we remove that step then Vote Theft becomes much more dangerous. Not only could it steal an election. It could make it impossible to know who actually won.

        • Garrett says:

          Another benefit to the electoral college is that it reduces opportunity for voter fraud. If you only count total votes you can swing influence the election by providing fraudulent votes from anywhere. But with the electoral college system as it exists, it isn’t worth trying to engage in election fraud. It’s pretty much guaranteed that California is going to go Democratic, so trying to sneak in a few thousand votes either way won’t make a difference. Likewise Wyoming for the Republicans.

          The electoral college concentrates the areas where voter fraud can influence the election to a number of swing States. This allows for much more concentrated scrutiny. It also means that the population is likely to be more moderate, evenly-divided and less “true believer” making it less likely for the average person to care enough to engage in voter fraud or to be able to find enough safe co-conspirators with which to do so.

      • gbdub says:

        The most credible claim seems to be by a Prf. Halderman, whose position is basically that 1) all electronic voting systems have exploitable flaws, 2) the DNC hacks show there are foreign agencies willing and apparently able to interfere in our election, 3) we should audit the electronic results against the paper ballots where possible to eliminate the possibility of hacks, 4) due to election laws in most places such an audit can only be triggered at the request of one or more of the candidates, therefore Hillary should request recounts.

        As far as his points go I don’t have an issue, but I do question his motivation and tactics – where was he before the election? No new evidence for hacking has come up since the third debate, except that Hillary lost (ergo what’s his motivation?) Why did he non-publically go to the Hillary campaign first (which allowed for a bunch of sensational “Professor proves Russians hacked the election!” headlines)?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Hillary losing is weak evidence of shenanigans, because it disagrees with the polling.

          Please note, I am saying weak evidence. The more likely explanation is that the polling was either wrong, or that events immediately before the election moved enough people to change the results.

          I have always been against completely electronic voting machines because I think they have a destabilizing effect on the perceived legitimacy of election results. There are ways to detect that a machine is faulty (by randomly pulling machines on election day and performing a trial election), but even that can be gamed. (Think of what VW did with their diesels).

          Whereas paper ballots totals can be randomly audited after election day. This should be done as a matter of course, by some neutral, professional party with party observers. Some places already do this.

          Also, somewhat secondarily, electronic machines can be used to implement a subtle form of voter suppression by changing the ratio of machines to voters. Less populated precincts have short wait times, over populated precincts have very long wait times.

          These critiques have been out there since 2001, at a minimum. The fact that they didn’t get much consistent media play doesn’t say much about whether the people making the critique have been consistent.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – Very much agreed, especially your point about the machines themselves. It’s honestly infuriating that we haven’t sorted this out yet.

          • Brad says:

            The optical scanner type of voting machine is compatible with a verifiable record, though it is a bit superfluous. It’s not *that* much labor to just count manually filled out ballots with a team of three people (R, D, neutral). And in terms of voting, manually filled out ballots are cheap and embarrassingly parallel.

            All the election technology is mostly a solution in search of a problem.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            I’m strongly in favor of optically scanned paper ballots, filled out in a manner similar to any multiple choice bubble test. I’m not sure whether that was clear from my post above, so I wanted to clarify.

            Hand counting ever single paper ballot for every single election is not really possible in the US, as the number of elections/questions on a single ballot in most places is too numerous to allow this. There might have been 70 choices on my ballot spread out over 30 contests.

            Not having fairly accurate counts on election night is also something that, at this point, would likely hurt the perception of legitimacy of elections, which is something that I think needs to be taken into account.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            When you say “this” hasn’t been done, I’m not sure what “this” you mean.

            Most of the efforts of various BOEs to ensure fair and accurate elections is pedestrian and non-partisan, and therefore gets no coverage.

            Part of the issue here is that post-2000, with the punchcard and butterfly ballot fiasco in FL, one thing that was successfully argued was the ability of pure electronic machines to prevent voter mistakes (over votes and unintentional under votes, for instance.) I happen to disagree that this advantage of pure electronic machines is worth it, and it can be somewhat ameliorated by having the tabulation machine check for over votes and offer the voter a chance to correct their mistake (which machines in my country do).

  6. Perfume And Cortisol says:

    Any thoughts on this curious guest essay at R. Scott Bakker’s blog, Three Pound Brain? Does it make sense? Specifically, does the author get away with ascribing some sort of high-level causality to semantic meaning? (This might just be an unusual formulation of compatibilism, but I am not well-versed.)

    • skef says:

      What’s the essence of postmodern, scientific mysticism, as we might think of it? In other words, what will the posthuman be doing once her vision is unclouded with illusions of personhood and so is filled with mechanisms as such? The answer must be put in terms, once again, of causality. Scientific enlightenment is a matter (literally) of being able to exercise greater control over certain systems than is afforded by those who lack scientific tools. In short, assuming we define ourselves as a species in terms of the illusions of a supernatural self, the posthuman who embraces radical naturalism and manages to clear her head of the cognitive vices that generate those illusions will be something of a pragmatist.

      But the point is that for the eliminativist, an illusion-free individual would think purely in terms of causality and of materialistic advantage based on a thorough knowledge of the instrumental value of systems.

      I agree that there are interesting, tricky issues in this general area. But I don’t think any of this both follows and is relevant. For one thing, according to the view being criticized “individuals” might not “think” in any meaningful sense, so the author’s subsequent attempts to build on internal contradictions may depend on smuggled-in question-begging intuitions. For another, even if an “illusion-free individual” might “think” in this way, it’s not a consequence of the theory that there could be an illusion-free individual. The position being criticized is meant to be descriptive, not normative. There may simply be no “shoulds” beyond those of function, and I don’t see the author as quite managing to grapple with that.

      This is a very common problem — it tends to be difficult to follow through the implications of eliminativist views. Take free will: I’ve read a number of papers that pose the problem as a partly moral one. If there is no free will, how can we punish people for doing bad things? Grant for the sake of argument that there bad things if there is no free will. The “model” for that question is something like this one: Is it right to punish someone for some loss of personal control, such as that caused by a brain tumor? That’s not obviously a bad question, and most people would say “no”. The first question is a bad one, but apparently not obviously. If there is no free will, we’re just going to punish them or not. The question is based on premises of our own self-regulation and responsibility that are negated by the other premise of the question. Here’s something you might say that isn’t obviously wrong: “Isn’t it elegant that this system has evolved to function in a way that takes into account a certain truth [such as our lacking free will]?”

      • Perfume And Cortisol says:

        Thanks for this.

        It would seem that the author meant by “thinking” what we would casually just call thinking, without the need for scare quotes, and that that distinguished it from whatever superstitious, contra-causal process is being criticized. But your free-will/punishment example was illustrative as to why that distinction is probably question-begging.

        The thing I mostly found interesting was its attempt to define everything in terms of instrumental rationality, after having given up on theory. But that might just be because I’m a sucker for minimalist ontologies.

        This is a very common problem — it tends to be difficult to follow through the implications of eliminativist views.

        Agreed.

    • The_Other_Brad says:

      Specifically, does the author get away with ascribing some sort of high-level causality to semantic meaning?

      It honestly looks like he’s just saying that the logical implication of the proposition “the self is an illusion” is the return of that old chestnut from Mr. Crowley: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

      I mean, I guess for me the real issue I have with that statement is that I sorta assumed this is how materialistic naturalists already thought.

  7. Tekhno says:

    As a follow up to the left wing reply train… Let’s have a right wing reply train. Quick head count!

    Please reply below if you are part of the right wing faction of the SSC parliament.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Hard-hearted right-leaning libertarian you’ve been warned about, right here.

    • If libertarians count as right wing, I am on the extreme right.

      Perhaps more relevant, my gut reaction to news stories starts with the assumption that right=good, left=bad, an assumption which sometimes turns out to be mistaken on further examination of who is being labeled how and why.

    • Sandy says:

      Bismarckian traditionalist-aristocratist reporting in.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Do we really have to do this?

      It seems really unhelpful. At least Moon had the excuse that she didn’t think there were any open liberals around. We know that we exist, that’s not a point of contention. But it’s easier to get along with other posters when we’re not making gang signs at each other.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Agreed.

        That said, old fashioned god-and-guns Republican checking in.

      • NIP says:

        Ay yo famalam, don’t be like that. No enemies to the right, ‘nawmsayin’?

        http://i.imgur.com/Iyg3nqA.gifv

        *beatboxes*

      • keranih says:

        Thing for me is that making it into a binary (or tri-) based division locks people’s positions into either/or across a whole spectrum of topics. Which is, at a minimum, bad because it means discarding at least half of the available options.

        I hold that the conservative position is more generally likely to be right, but it’s not always right, and it’s frequently not as right as we like to think. Sharply dividing people is probably not as useful as looking for common ground.

      • Deiseach says:

        But it’s easier to get along with other posters when we’re not making gang signs at each other.

        Dr Dealgood, you can’t leave it there. You are now contractually obligated to describe the relevant gang signs for each side! I was never in a gang, I don’t know the etiquette! I need to practice!

      • albertborrow says:

        I think we do. I mean, from my perspective liberal ideas on this blog are pervasive. That being said, even if I didn’t believe that SSC was liberal, I think we need a reminder every once in a while that people actually hold different opinions.

    • sflicht says:

      I self-identify as libertarian, not as right wing, although like David my “gut feel” response to news has been right wing — especially for the last year or two.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I’m with the good Doctor. Not sure what this really accomplishes given that we know there are plenty of quote-unquote right wing posters here, given a sufficiently all-encompassing definition.

      The people critiquing the commentariat have a very wide net, the people arguing back, not so much, so what good is this sort of listing going to do? Especially since it’s “I identify as” statements, which aren’t really all that helpful in categorizing ideological groups.

      I’d suggest just waiting until the next time Scott decides he wants to try a SSC Survey, and suggest that it include something that allows the results to be filtered by post frequency (actual post frequency, not self-report) and compare that to the general “readership” numbers.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Well, on the one hand, I have a lot of contempt for people with less money, edcuation and taste than I do. But on the other hand, this contempt extends to people who are not white, so I guess that makes me right-wing.

    • Deiseach says:

      Consider myself centre-right, would describe myself as “socially conservative, fiscally liberal” but it’s been argued on here that such distinctions are currently meaningless; did a few of those online “what’s your politics?” tests and got results that make me consistently a good liberal in American terms, and apparently have managed to get myself tagged as a rabid anti-Hillary pro-Trump supporter. Sorry people, it’s even worse than that; when I vote, I vote Fianna Fáil 🙂

    • albertborrow says:

      I’m conservative, but most conservative politicians are hardly conservative about policy, so in practice I am a libertarian. Definitely right-leaning.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I would have described myself as a center-rightist when I started coming here, but I think Prof. Friedman has gotten me 90% of the way to full-blown anarcho-capitalism.

  8. Atlas says:

    Does anyone have reading recommendations about culture as it impacts group outcomes, in the style of Albion’s Seed or Thomas Sowell’s books?

    • Well... says:

      I enjoyed a book by Bruce Schneier called “Liars and Outliars”. It’s about trust and security and how those work in society. That’s not exactly what you asked for, but certainly in the same direction.

  9. Anonymousse says:

    With the thin margin of victory and media discussion of mandates, I am curious about how much consideration should be given to the losing side’s views post-election.

    What is the historical precedence for Presidents making overtures to the other side and incorporating opposition views, particularly in close contests? For that matter, what do people here view as the President’s primary role?

    • keranih says:

      President’s primary role is to faithfully execute the duties of his office, most of which involve the enforcement of the laws passed by Congress.

      I think it’s a mistake to assume that narrow margin – such as Trump just had – is an indication of broad public support for the policies of the winner. I think that even broader margins (Clinton, Obama) don’t grant outright license to fail to look for compromise.

      • Anonymousse says:

        I asked this question because I have been wondering why the President’s personal politics should be so important. Your first point suggests that the President should function as an executor, rather than a legislator, which mirror’s my opinion.

        Recent memory has Obama functioning like a legislator to try and achieve campaign promises. Why should the president be making campaign promises he doesn’t have the ability to enforce? I can’t figure out why congressional elections shouldn’t be more important than presidential ones, or why people should put so much stock in presidential campaign promises.

        I believe this ground is likely well-tread; have you any literature to share?

        I agree with your second point.

        • Garrett says:

          It’s a big deal because the President is the Head of State. This means he represents the nation as a whole. And because he has the bully pulpit of the office to work with.

          Otherwise your point stands. Most Presidential authority could be yanked my Congress in short order, were they of one mind to do so.

    • S_J says:

      Obviously, President-Elect Trump should follow the example of the great Uniter, President Obama.

      You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.

      This speech doesn’t sound very conciliatory. Come to think of it, neither Obama nor the GOP Congress of 2013 were very good at reaching compromise with the Opposition.

      Perhaps we should reach further back, to G.W. Bush in 2006, or Bill Clinton in 1994, for examples of cooperation with the Other Party.

      However, President-Elect Trump looks to have a large partisan majority in his favor in Congress…so his position doesn’t look like that seen by many Presidents in living memory.

      • DavidS says:

        Isn’t that in the context of a very unusual show-down and resistance though? And it talks about ‘argue for it’ as well as ‘go and win elections’. It’s just saying ‘don’t hold the economy and people’s pay cheques to ransom’

        (view from a UK observer here…)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Isn’t that in the context of a very unusual show-down and resistance though?

          There was nothing especially unusual about that particular situation. The government has shut down lots of times in recent memory; most famously for an extended period when Clinton and Gingrich were feuding, but also something like seven or eight times when the Democrats in Congress were disagreeing with President Reagan. ISTR that Carter ended up in a fight with his own party that led to a shutdown as well. Somehow, the world continued to turn after all of these events.

          Journalists’ portrayals of these events as somehow unusual was one of the more vile examples of media bias in recent memory.

          • What bothered me about the public treatment of the most recent such episode was that everyone seemed to be claiming that if the debt limit was not raised, the U.S. would have to default. I don’t think I saw anyone explain why it would be necessary to stop paying interest on the debt instead of cutting some other expenditure instead.

            I think there was also a claim by Obama that Social Security was at risk, which is false for a somewhat complicated reason.

  10. Anon. says:

    The cyberpunk future is now: SF’s transit system hacked with ransomware, rides are free until it can be restored. Hacker’s demands currently unknown.

    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/11/26/you-hacked-cyber-attackers-crash-muni-computer-system-across-sf/

  11. Wander says:

    Here’s a question about consciousness and personal experience: do your thoughts have a “location”?
    For me, it definitely feels like my thoughts are physically contained inside my brain, that “me” as a discrete entity is “sitting behind my eyes” as I tend to describe it. I only realised how strange this is when I read a fantasy novel in which the first step of learning magic was learning to move your thoughts to other parts of your body, which really got me thinking. If thoughts are just abstractions of concepts, then why do they feel anchored on the physical world?

    • Wrong Species says:

      How much of that intuitive thinking comes from being raised knowing that thought originates in the brain?

      • A fact established in the 10th century by experiment.

        At least according to the jomviking saga.

      • Wander says:

        So would this have been a different experience back before we knew about what the brain actually does?

        • Iain says:

          You see through your eyes, hear through your ears, and smell through your nose, all of which are in close proximity to the brain. It is unsurprising that it feels like “you” are in your head, even if you have no idea what the squishy grey stuff in the middle does.

          And if you buy that, then it is interesting to speculate about how Helen Keller might have experienced the world…

          • AnonEEmous says:

            also, if your head gets hit then you have trouble thinking, in addition to usually seeing, moving, and so forth

            if it gets hit really hard, “you” stop thinking at all

            also a lot of people I think, though I’m not sure, will instinctively protect their heads, even the back part and so forth, probably more than other body parts. Why? Except we know instinctually it’s important

            then again didn’t most people in egypt think the brain was a cooling mechanism and then a lot of people thought the heart was the brain, or maybe even the soul was the brain, and so on and so forth

            that doesn’t invalidate an auto-bias towards thinking you think with your head but it does warrant some skepticism

          • But only the Norse, specifically one Jomviking, were willing to apply the experimental approach to the question.

    • skef says:

      Vision is generally considered to be the dominant perceptual capacity (in those who have it, of course). To the extent that holds, it could explain a subjective sense of one’s location as being behind one’s eyes.

      Along the lines of Wrong Species’s point, though, the heart was traditionally taken as the location of feelings, probably because strong emotions tend to be associated with somatic feelings in that area (I’ve heard arguments that emotions are those feelings). So these conventions do change.

    • Well... says:

      First off, I’m curious if you feel like your thoughts are literally behind your eyes, or just somewhere in the center of your skull. Where EXACTLY in your brain do they feel like they’re coming from?

      Second, do you also think “I’m hungry…what do I want for lunch today…” behind your eyes, or more down in your stomach?

      • hlynkacg says:

        For me discrete thoughts definitely originate “in my skull” somewhere behind my eyes/between my ears. This includes thoughts like “I’m hungry…what do I want for lunch today…”.

        On the other hand I perceive emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, rage as full body phenomena.

      • Wander says:

        My eyes feel like the front edge of “me”. The thoughts feel like they take up pretty much the entire space of my brain, not reaching my spinal cord or being anywhere else in my head e.g. jaw. They kind of have a… shape? Sometimes it’s like a line between my eyes, but it’s hard to really describe any of this stuff.
        When I feel hungry, it’s like a message relayed from stomach, then decoded and realised in my head.

    • Tekhno says:

      For me, it definitely feels like my thoughts are physically contained inside my brain, that “me” as a discrete entity is “sitting behind my eyes” as I tend to describe it.

      Yep. I think the reason for this is that when you think of yourself as a conscious entity, you think of your brain, and if your attention is drawn to a particular area, your proprioceptive attention increases in that area, causing an association to be built up between the neutral feeling of your face, eyes, head, and the concept of you being self-aware, in your memory.

      If I think about thinking, my eyes tend to subtly roll up to the perceived source in the center of my head. In a sense, you also think with your body.

      EDIT:

      To get into a little more abstract and hard to communicate realm; I have quite a few “modes” of “feeling” associated with different thought patterns I have, but they actually feel a little arbitrary to me. I feel like I could switch them if I wanted by rearranging the association between different facial expressions, proprioceptive feelings, and my thoughts. I’m scared of doing this though, because the few times I’ve actually done this it’s felt like I’ve been hacking my brain, and the change of feeling afterwards is like I’ve entered a whole new epoch of me, as if I’ve become a fundamentally different person. I’m worried that doing this will have downstream effects on the way I think of things and might decrystallize some associations I want to keep.

      If this all sounds like insane gibberish, that’s because it’s impossible to communicate things to others that they cannot themselves already experience (all explanation is ultimately intuition). So we are at the limits of language with this stuff.

      Rest assured, however, that this is how it subjectively feels inside. I have the sense that I can modify subtle aspects of consciousness that don’t even have names. The only point of connection with others is that you may also have this hard to describe feeling.

      The other explanation is that I’m completely insane and need to see a shrink pronto.

      • carvenvisage says:

        You’re definitely not insane. (based on this post). Some topics and concepts are fuzzier than others. 1 + 1 = 2 has basically no fuzzy edges. Speaking about particularities of your mind for which there is no formal/shared name would almost necessarilly involve gesturing and illustration rather than precise delineation. Anyone who takes umbridge at this is probably a superstitious moron.

        And in any case I don’t think your post even crosses very far into this illustrative realm, if at all. -It’s just abstract and hard to communicate like you say, without reading like you’re writing to yourself without regard for a more universal audience

        -I don’t know exactly what a proprioceptive feelings are, but I do know that they’re proprioceptive. and that they’re feelings, which actually narrows things down to a fairly definite area. -It’s not a poetic illustration but a delineation. But a poetic illustration would be fine too if you ask me. As would vague gesturing or even just ‘stream-of-consciousness’. I mean, who does it hurt?

    • Acedia says:

      Same here. That’s why I’ve always found it odd that supposedly some peoples in history believed the seat of consciousness was the heart or some other area – surely they could feel, as we do, that they were inside their heads?

      I’ve seen the suggestion that maybe we only feel this way due to what our culture tells us about our biology, but that doesn’t seem intuitively plausible to me.

    • dndnrsn says:

      My thoughts “feel” like they are inside my head. I imagine this is a culturally-based thing – haven’t some cultures taken the view that it’s your heart, or your guts, that are the important bits?

      Possibly related: I tend to have images come up “in my mind’s eye”, almost exclusively of places I’ve been, generally indoors. Sometimes in a way that is obviously how memory works – I associate a given subject I studied with the classroom I studied it in. Sometimes in a way that has no rhyme or reason – there is no reason that a lot of the time the “background image” is of a games shop I frequent (used to go a lot more, and the image I have of the place is actually from before it was rearranged a few years back.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      To some extent, yes; to the extent my thoughts are in physical reality, they are in my head. If I try to think of my thoughts as being in my foot, it feels innately ridiculous and nothing happens except me being amused by how ridiculous the idea is, whereas in my head in some ways makes sense. They mostly don’t feel as if they’re in physical reality, though – thoughts aren’t in the same physical realm I’m observing, they’re in the layer that is doing the observing (think of it briefly with the reality-level as the Matrix – my thoughts are part of the me that exists as a distinct entity within the Matrix, not the Matrix around me. Even though I don’t actually think I am in a VR system without my knowledge, I still think that distinction makes sense) – and “me” at least frequently feels like all my body – if anything anchored more in my torso? For whatever help that may be.

      (Sorry if that is not ideally clear, it’s a bit late here.)

  12. keranih says:

    A question raised up thread:

    How much pre-violence headroom do people think we have in the U.S. at present?

    Two thoughts – First, I find Skef’s trail from “Trump giving the R base what they want” to”open violence in the street” to not being well laid out. I don’t think that fulfilling conservative principles means doing violence as a matter of course.

    Secondly – yeah, I do think the head room is reduced. I think it’s worrying. Two of the metrics I’m using are the Bundy action in Oregon, and the shootings of cops – both in Dallas and the more recent spate before Thanksgiving. One is “regular” anti-establishment action against the government – but on the part of right-leaning groups, rather than the left-leaning college students/BLM/etc. This is a new move by that side of the house. The other is also a new move – direct lethal attacks are very different from sit-ins, preaching at people with bullhorns, and blocking traffic.

    I think there is still quite a bit of room for people to be yelling at each other and filing frivolous lawsuits and voting for last hopes in the ballot box. But no, I don’t think that there’s as much room as there used to be.

    • skef says:

      In my defense, I’ll point out that FacelessCraven said “Trump packing the SC, or Hillary convincing the EC to elect her rather than Trump, say, are the ruin of those fundamental rules. If these sorts of things happen, it probably really is time to start fleeing for Canada.” So I’m not the only person who has the sense that passing laws by a standard constitutional process could result in violence.

      • keranih says:

        In which case, I think that FC is overstating it as well.

        Not because “passing laws by a standard constitutional process” is, in and of itself, evidence of lack of strong reason to oppose those laws. But because volunteering to participate in evaporative cooling of one’s nation is self-serving, and expecting the country to do for you, rather than vice versa.

        (Besides, as a conservative with an interest in freedom of speech, religion, and the right to bear arms, the options for immigration are pretty short. Like, non-existent.)

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Kerinah – Canada’s not that bad, really.

          If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @FacelessCraven

            If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

            Near-certainty: Riots in the red states. Possibly termed “armed uprising”, but still the same thing.

            10% probability: actual armed uprising somewhere, with some of the military involved. Quickly crushed by the rest of the military.

            1% probability: Attempted secession of Texas, failing due to mostly-internal-to-Texas reasons.

            0.01%: Effective secession of Texas, and civil war.

          • Well... says:

            If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

            Depends where you look. If you looked in your browser window, you’d see Mad Max (or, depending on your perspective, the final scene in a Disney movie). If you looked out your actual window, you’d see life continuing as normal.

            Just like when Trump won.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

            I think that A LOT would depend the Democrat’s response. The red states would be pissed but I don’t think that it would be enough to trigger widespread riots/uprising on it’s own. However, I do think that it would be something akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis or Able Archer ’83 where any single misstep has a very high probability of turning the “cold” war “hot”.

          • onyomi says:

            As someone who thinks Americans’ faith in the US federal government is a bad thing, the EC handing the election to Hillary would actually probably be the best case scenario.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nybbler – “Near-certainty: Riots in the red states. Possibly termed “armed uprising”, but still the same thing.”

            I don’t think red tribe has much of a culture of rioting.

            …In general, though, all of the above answers seem reasonable to me. We’re in uncharted waters here, after all. My suspicion is that norms have a lot to do with what people find acceptable or unacceptable, that we are generally running short on patience with each other, and that violations of norms deplete patience, whether or not they’re technically legal.

          • skef says:

            Obviously it’s hard to predict specifics accurately, but I would put the highest probability on something like this:

            1) Riots, certainly much larger than what happened in Portland. Not necessarily dramatically more (physically*) violent. More property damage to the extent there are local symbolic targets. (Federal buildings?)

            2) A subsequent combination of a) areas of individual states that fall out of state government control and b) state governments that refuse federal authority to a much greater extent than we’ve seen in recent history.

            #2 would pose the problem of Federal response. Ignore it and the nature of government substantially changes, I would guess in a much more unstable way. Intervene with Federal troops of some sort (National Guard from selected states? Looks terrible. Carefully selected individuals from the Army? Ugh.) and you have something like The Nybbler’s 10% scenario (but not necessarily at that probability). But given the time delay I’m imagining, I’m not sure it could just be “crushed” without causing a chain reaction in other areas.

            * I’m very depressed that this qualifier is necessary. There should really be a short word that unambiguously refers to a person physically harming another person.

          • Well... says:

            Why do so many of y’all think there’d be riots? I’m surprised to see thoughtful people make that prediction. Even the protests over Trump’s winning were pretty tame compared to what many people were expecting.

            If the EC vote gets overturned I could see there being a few isolated acts of violence–imagine that yahoo who got taken off the Delta flight wandering over to the local college bar with a gun in his pants–but as FacelessCraven said, the red tribe doesn’t have much of a culture of rioting.

            I think one or both of these things is going on:

            1) We just aren’t very much a culture of “get out there and break stuff” type action, and the things we think would spur lots of people to that kind of action (maybe because of the dramatic depictions of it in movies and TV) simply don’t end up doing that. I’ll go out on a limb and say even inner-city blacks probably riot less than you’d predict given their circumstances.

            2) The kinds of things needed to spur people like us into that kind of action are much more serious than a contested presidential election. (If the USA was made up of Brazilian soccer fans, on the other hand…)

          • skef says:

            Lexington, Kentucky excepted, for some reason.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Skef – Oh yeah, sports riots. I feel dumb; that completely slipped my mind. In my defense, I don’t really follow sports, but I think that’s more than enough to shoot down my “red tribe doesn’t riot” hypothesis.

          • Well... says:

            Except sports riots happen because of sports, not because of that boring stuff that happens on the news channels.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I expect it would go to the courts and the end result would be a judicial interpretation that the legislatures of the various states did not actually intend to allow electors to be faithless. This decision might be made at a lower court level, and if so the SCOTUS would not intervene. Absent a clear ruling against faithless electors which they can simply confirm, SCOTUS steps in and resolves the question. Faithless electors become not even theoretically possible.

          • skef says:

            @FacelessCraven

            Maybe, but not according to that link. I meant “Lexington, Ky excepted” literally. They’ve had four major riots (college basketball related, apparently) in the last decade, but other than that it all seems to be more north-ish towns (and some places in Canada).

            Regardless, that was a comment in partial confirmation of @Well …’s observation about the past. I think he’s seriously underestimating the perceived significance of the EC throwing to Hillary, and therefore the probability of results that have been improbable until now.

            Still, any good balancing sports riot info? Is that list just reporting-biased?

          • skef says:

            RE @HeelBearCub

            My prediction is based on the premise that the EC result stood; I’m not sure what might happen during the period when there was still a question. I would guess that’s also true of the other predictions.

          • Well... says:

            I think more people than you imagine will have a reaction approximately like this: “Oh, so Trump didn’t win after all? Oh well, that’s too bad. Now, where’s that TV show I was watching…”

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HBC

            That is a possibility that I had not initially considered but now that you mention it, it strikes me as eminently plausible.

            That said, if the EC gives the Presidency to Clinton and the USSC overturns it, what do the “Blue States” do? That will be second election in 20 years that the court has “stolen” from the people and I’d expect the resulting civil unrest to make anything we’ve seen thus far look positively tranquil.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Honestly, I don’t know.

            The scenario where somehow the EC, with electors chosen by Republicans, is convinced to vote against Trump is so bizarre, that now that I think about it, it could only really happen if Trump did something absolutely unspeakable. Standing in the middle of fifth avenue and murdering someone in cold blood. Ripping of the rubber mask to reveal he is really Putin.

            So, in that kind of a scenario, the courts don’t stop the electors.

            But if somehow George Soros planted Ds managed to infiltrate the EC? Then I think mainstream Ds basically say, no, that’s really not how our system works, and millennial get really pissed off and a bunch of them get cynical and the populace at large becomes even more susceptible to Trump’s demagoguery.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think red tribe has much of a culture of rioting.

            Right; the riots would be in the blue states that went Trump. Labor has a long cultural history of something close enough to rioting as makes no difference for our purposes, and the unemployed coal minors and factory workers who voted for The Donald have nothing less to lose and nothing better to do with their time.

            There would probably be a few red-tribe militia types who used this as cause or cover for their own version of armed resistance, which as Nybbler has noted won’t go anywhere.

            But more importantly, what are the odds that 40+ of the most loyal party members the GOP could find, are going to cast their ballots for Hillary Rodham Clinton? Not-Trump, maybe, as an extreme long shot, but to a GOP loyalist, the Not-Trump ticket is either Pence/Ryan or Pence/McMullin.

          • DavidS says:

            @JohnSchilling: regarding electors not voting for Hilary: presumably if enough voted for a third candidate she’d still get in as she’d have most votes?

            In general on this, I think overturning the EC would be massively damaging to long-term stability, trust etc. rather than likely to provoke immediate war. In this case the popular vote is a figleaf that would be used, but I think you’d definitely need to see something new and really bad to make it at all likely. E.g. Wikileaks show emails of him and Putin plotting election fraud.

          • keranih says:

            Canada’s commitment to free speech is less than impressive. Also, excessive amounts of snow. Things would have to get really bad down here for me to make that trek.

            I think lawsuits would be the first step, and threats of succession and a sharp increase in interest in forcing state/fed separation. (Think governors & state houses passing laws like the sanctuary cities have, only more so.)

            The bigly downsides is that the obvious way to distract the public from internal mudslinging is foreign adventurism, and the globe’s not short of places itching to give the next president an excuse to intervene.

            So long as the conservative wing owns most of the states (as they do) it’s not going to go to riots.

            (God, I hope I’m right.)

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Rats, ninjad by HBC. Mine was simpler and more cynical:

            It would go to the Supreme Court, which would drag things out till those of the 1% who are always keeping an eye on the main chance, had each decided how best to serve his own interest — then they would consolidate enough to keep the peace and stabilize the country.

          • John Schilling says:

            @JohnSchilling: regarding electors not voting for Hilary: presumably if enough voted for a third candidate she’d still get in as she’d have most votes?

            For that, you’d need 270 faithless electors to all defect to the same third-party candidate. Any lesser number of faithless electors, at least 37 of whom are Republicans, just throws the election to the House of Representatives(*), which is going to chose either Trump or Pence because they want a Republican president without a constitutional crisis.

            * Unless 37 faithless Republicans decide to vote for Hillary for the instant win, which is about as likely as 270 faithless electors deciding to vote for anyone. These things are not going to happen.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well

            Why do so many of y’all think there’d be riots?

            Because this would be a major violation of the rules-as-understood. We have elections; elections decide the Presidency and other offices. There are quirks like the electoral college. Often some amount of chicanery goes on; if it decides the election there is grumbling and lawsuits and the losing side decides to try to cheat a little harder next time.

            But for 30+ Republican electors to switch from the winning candidate to the losing would be a much greater violation. Many people would draw the conclusion that the electors were coerced or that they’d been Democratic “sleeper agents” to begin with. This would mean the whole election was a sham, and undermines the legitimacy of the whole system. That’s where you’re going to get riots. Whether from labor organizations or the various already-paranoid “militia” groups or ad-hoc groups.

            @John Schilling

            Right; the riots would be in the blue states that went Trump.

            I think the riots would start in whichever states went Trump which had electors switching to Hillary, but would probably spread more generally.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the riots would start in whichever states went Trump which had electors switching to Hillary, but would probably spread more generally.

            Quite the opposite, I should think. The electors are for the most part active players in local party politics, and they aren’t going to lock themselves in a room and hide from the outside world while pondering their votes. If e.g. Florida and Arizona electors defect en masse to Clinton, this would probably be a reflection of “buyers’ remorse” not just on those forty electors, but on the population that elected them.

            If that is the case, the Republican voters of Florida and Arizona probably aren’t going to riot. And the disenfranchised Trump voters of Michigan and Wisconsin, aren’t going to wait on Florida or Arizona to give them permission to riot – it’s Florida and Arizona they are going to be rioting against.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If e.g. Florida and Arizona electors defect en masse to Clinton, this would probably be a reflection of “buyers’ remorse” not just on those forty electors, but on the population that elected them.

            I expect such defection to be more likely (and we’re still talking tiny probabilities) as a result of some sort of corruption or compromise of the electors themselves.

          • “presumably if enough voted for a third candidate she’d still get in as she’d have most votes?”

            No. If no candidate has a majority of the electoral votes the election goes to the House, which gets to choose among the three candidates with the most votes.

          • Garrett says:

            Datum:
            I grew up in Canada.
            I moved to the US due to a set of factors including those listed.
            The US may be more chaotic, but I largely prefer it.

          • “The US may be more chaotic, but I largely prefer it.”

            I can resist anything but temptation. A passage from my first novel:

            “Vales less orderly than kingdom. Kingdom than Empire. Like it that way.”

  13. shakeddown says:

    So, what odds do people here give for the US splitting up within the next fifty years? (I give it about 25%).

    • hlynkacg says:

      Depends, are we counting failed rebellions?

      I think the odds of a state trying to secede and getting brutally crushed are higher than an actual break-up.

      • shakeddown says:

        Would you expect a failed rebellion to be fully annexed? It happened in the American Civil War, but most civil wars seem to be followed by some form of separation.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I honestly don’t know.

        • sflicht says:

          Would be interesting to see some political science data on that. Scanning the book of knowledge, it looks like civil wars that result in a new state (not subsuming the previous state) are the exception rather than the rule. Starting from 1550, major examples seem to be

          * The American Revolution
          * Spanish American wars of independence
          * Chinese Civil War
          * 1948 Palestine war
          * Bangladesh war of independence

          I don’t know enough history to evaluate the various civil wars in Latin America and Africa.

          Many of the most famous civil wars had more or less total victory for one side. (Arguably China’s, above, is a case of this.) E.g. English Civil War, French Revolution, Russian Revolution, …

          • shakeddown says:

            I don’t know if I’d count 1948 – It wasn’t really a rebellion, since the British pulled out before the war. (You could count it as an arab rebellion, but the arab pieces were annexed by Jordan and Egypt, so that doesn’t quite work either. 1967 is more complicated).

            Would you count the Yugoslav wars? they seem like a better example.

          • sflicht says:

            I’d say the Yugoslav wars count.

            There are also some interesting edge cases (pun intended), I believe, relating to the Caucasus border territories of the Russian Empire after the October Revolution.

          • keranih says:

            Sudan?

          • Sandy says:

            Some civil wars lead to a territory with policy powers devolved from the larger state as a concession — Northern Ireland seems like a good example, if the Troubles can be considered a civil war.

          • sflicht says:

            Sudan, I’d say, is still TBD (sadly).

      • James Miller says:

        I think if California voted to leave the Union it would probably happen since Republicans would be thrilled to get rid of so many left-wing voters.

        • CatCube says:

          Well, if it really got to that point, the parts that went for Trump form several contiguous blocks that border the rest of the country. Would they pull a West Virginia and hive off from the rest of the state? It’d mean that their votes would stop getting buried by the city-dwellers they’re sharing a border with.

          Heck, if you count the ones that went for Hillary with <50% of the vote as maybe not wanting to follow the rest of the state out of the Union, East California would be contiguous, and still pretty large physically.

          • The Nybbler says:

            East California would be contiguous, and still pretty large physically.

            And has the food and the water.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Would they pull a West Virginia and hive off from the rest of the state?

            As a resident of one of those blocks, I think that a serious attempt by SF and/or LA to leave the union would exacerbate the existing tensions between the “Urban Archipelago” and the interior and likely result in the Central Valley and Inland Empire breaking off to form their own state.

            Relations between LA and the interior have been strained for years by cultural differences, and legal battles over water rights, to the point where there has already been some half-hearted muttering about breaking California into several smaller states. Any serious talk of “Calexit” would bring these roaring back with a vengeance.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Not a Republican, but to my mind that is -another- good reason to support Calexit. Mostly I just want to normalize/regularize secession.

      • Autolykos says:

        Is there any principled argument for crushing secessionist movements supported by a majority? It seems to me that when people in a region decide that they are no longer part of a country, that country’s government loses its legitimacy for them kind of by definition (although it may be a bit more fuzzy in practice since you rarely have 100% of people wanting to leave).

        I don’t doubt that governments make up excuses (any bureaucracy will fight tooth and nail to become and stay as large as possible), but I have yet to hear one that holds water – it seems most of them could just as well justify wars of conquest (i.e. they prove way too much).

        • onyomi says:

          A majority of people who live in my house think we should be able to secede from the United States and be our own nation.

          Seriously, though, the question would be where you draw a non-arbitrary line? I don’t think there’s a principled reason to force anyone to be a part of a political organization they don’t want to be a part of, which is why I’m an anarchocapitalist.

          But assuming one has some principled objection to individual secession, presumably that objection could apply to a group of any size, unless you see some non-arbitrary line where a group or region above a certain size deserves the power of self-determination, while one below that size does not.

        • skef says:

          One problem with thinking in these broad terms is that there is no one natural form of “secession”. If the idea of the people in the relevant region is “we’re leaving now and keeping the Army divisions and aircraft carriers on this list. No debt please k thx” then there is plenty of space for argument, principled and otherwise.

          • onyomi says:

            This seems like a good reason to develop norms and conventions relating to secession, rather than a justification for the status quo, which is mostly to never allow secession under any circumstances or terms. Sort of like how we have norms and conventions about declaring bankruptcy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There are norms, but you don’t like them, onyomi.

            The norm is that secession has to be negotiated and cannot be done unilaterally. You hate that norm, but that is how skef’s complaint is dealt with as a practical matter.

          • onyomi says:

            What are the norms surrounding negotiated secession? How much does one have to be willing to “negotiate” in order for it not to count as “unilateral”? I can’t think of any obvious, peaceful, successful historical examples.

            The usual historical reaction of a territorial sovereign to suggestion of secession seems not to be “wait, you have to negotiate!” but rather, “send in the tanks; crush the rebellion.” It seems like the negotiation only happens if you repel the tanks long enough to make it not worth the trouble.

          • Iain says:

            One secession in recent history is South Sudan. Whether it counts as peaceful or successful is in the eye of the beholder.

          • onyomi says:

            I will say that it seems like most Americans, due to the Civil War (and ironically, considering the Revolutionary War), have more anti-secession priors than most others in modern, liberal democracies. Though secession of Quebec and Scotland have failed at the ballot box, for example, there didn’t seem to be any sense that Canada or the UK would be justified in using military force to stop those things happening had initiatives succeeded.

            But many or most Americans still seem to expect the tanks should, or at least, would roll, were say, Texas to secede (I disagree with this intuition, though).

          • skef says:

            @onyomi

            Sure, but historically there’s typically a real rebellion to crush. If the stance starts out with the use of force or the threat of it, things are already somewhat past the kind of “negotiation” that (I take it) you have in mind.

            I’m not sure I agree with your pessimism, though. Especially in the present climate, if Texas, say, were to deliberate and make an offer, and it were an attractive offer, I’m not completely convinced it would be rejected out of hand. But I also expect that the exercise of coming up with that offer would be pretty sobering.

            And that scenario would just be giving an individual economic powerhouse what they want! How much more sobering would it be to contemplate a bunch of red states leaving together? Does Texas want to continue to transfer the revenue streams to which some of the other states have become accustomed?

          • onyomi says:

            Though I think there would be a lot of dire warnings and hand wringing, I actually don’t think the US federal government would use military force to stop the secession of a state today, so long as it were attempted peacefully and obviously represented the will of a majority of residents (could not be construed as just fringe weirdos). Many on here have disagreed with this intuition of mine, however.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Well, look at Scotland and Brexit.

            In the one case, Scotland, we had a clear indication that the ruling government was open to a negotiated secession if it was approved via plebiscite. Had the plebiscite succeeded, you were unlikely to have seen tanks rolling in to crush the Scots.

            In the other, negotiated secession was baked into the original charter, and now those responsible for negotiations are thinking about starting to commence. The right of secession was pre-negotiated, but still not expected to be immediate or absent further discussion. I would argue that the degree of unilateral freedom in that arrangement is only made possible by the individual European states not being joined as a nation, but only a fairly loose coalition.

            South Sudan, as Iain pointed out, is an example of a negotiated secession that has not had a very positive in outcome.

            Kurdish Iraq seems like it is arguably in a far better situation by being nominally part of Iraq than it would if it had attempted to actually secede, but its autonomy is the result of both “facts on the ground” as well as negotiation.

            Think of it this way, if you can’t negotiate secession, how will you negotiate as new autonomous political entity on a new, poorly defended, political border? If I am happy to have you as a new neighbor state, why would I not negotiate your exit. If I am not, what prevents the shooting from starting?

          • skef says:

            Oh … but my optimism does ignore the tricky problem of nukes. Presumably Texas would want to be a nuclear power, but a stipulation that any country gaining independence from an existing nuclear power gets nukes as a freebie would at least complicate some aspects of present international relations.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            What I have repeatedly said is that the Texas secession would be illegal, and ruled as such. The US govt wouldn’t recognize it and Texas would be forced to shoot first.

            In fact, any binding secession plebiscite would probably not happen unilaterally, as it would likely fail at SCOTUS.

          • Iain says:

            If we’re going to talk about Quebec, I should probably mention the Clarity Act. After the 1995 Quebec referendum almost succeeded, despite (or because of) notoriously fuzzy wording on the question, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Quebec was not allowed to separate unilaterally, but that if a clear majority of Quebecois voted “yes” on a clear question, the Canadian government would be required to enter good-faith secession negotiations. The Supreme Court left some of the details of “clear” up to the legislative branch; in 2000, the Liberals passed the Clarity Act to fill in the gaps. (Somewhat ironically, the Clarity Act itself is somewhat unclear about what constitutes a “clear majority”.)

            In the end, devolution of more power to the provinces and a symbolic resolution recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada have quelled separatist sentiment for now, so the Clarity Act has never been directly relevant.

          • John Schilling says:

            But many or most Americans still seem to expect the tanks should, or at least, would roll, were say, Texas to secede (I disagree with this intuition, though)

            Note that the tanks (well, caissons) conspicuously did not roll when South Carolina seceded. Nor was there, in most contemporary accounts, any expectation that they inevitably would.

            Rather, any secession that is not accomplished by negotiated consent and/or some prior established mechanism, from a long-established political sovereignty, will inevitably result in numerous and contentious disagreements over who owns what piece of “community property”, who is responsible for what debts or obligations, etc. Some of which will be intrinsically military from the start – who owns Fort Sumter, or Pantex?

            And any group of secessionists who lack the Negotiation Fu to establish mutual consent up front, are almost certainly not going to successfully negotiate every such dispute after the fact. Sooner or later, some hothead is going to start shooting.

          • John Schilling says:

            A key difference between the US and various other secessionist movements cited as examples, is that in the other cases the secessionists represent a clear minority of the parent nation, and live in a clearly-defined geographic region. If the UK loses Scotland, we know what the result is going to look like and it’s still going to be “the UK” even if the name isn’t literally true. Canada without Quebec, ditto.

            And the United States could lose Texas, but what then for the rest of the red states? Their position in the present arrangement is tolerable with Texas’s senators and electors maintaining the political balance of power. Absent that, every force that argued for Texas seceding argues even more strongly for Oklahoma, South Carolina, Idaho, etc, etc.

            One possible outcome is that the Feds find some legalism that says Texas can go but anyone else tries it and the tanks do roll – then stamps a Blue foot down on every Red face left in the Union. Or vice versa if it is California that secedes. The other possibility is that a couple dozen states secede, representing roughly half the former US population but not in a contiguous block, and neither the United States nor the Seceded States form a viable nation. Balkanized America, with enough sources for conflict to guarantee a state of affairs comparable to the Balkanized Balkans.

          • The secession of South Sudan followed a long and very bloody civil war, so not peaceful in any reasonable sense of the term.

            The division of Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, was peaceful.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, in Czechoslovakia it was quite simple:”The Czech republic has this many people, the Slovak Republic has this many people, let’s divide everything among them based on that, except for things that cannot be moved which just stay where they are”.

            Perhaps it was not exactly 100% fair, Slovakia was poorer, so one could have argued it contributed less and hence deserved less. But it was a simple Schelling point and everyone got to agree on that easily. It was also much easier (hence also cheaper) to do in practice than more complicated schemes.

            You could have a Californian secession based on that as well – they just get to keep the proportion of federal property based on their population. California is probably one of the richer parts of the US, so it should be easy to get others to agree to that just as it was easy for the Slovaks to agree to the rules above (except that it was mostly Slovaks who wanted to split).

            Also, unlike (I think) in Sudan, the borders were very clear in the Czechoslovak case and would be clear in the Californian or any other state secession case in the US.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tibor:
            Which made the negotiations easy, Czech wanted partition from Slovak and vice-versa (random factoid, I’m 1/4 Czech through my father’s mother, daughter of Czech immigrants. Weird family origin story was told at her funeral involving the royal guard.)

            Onyomi is asserting a universal right of secession at any and all times. No negotiation needed.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I am 1/4 Slovak! Fight me!

            … or I guess we could just put a big duct tape line down the middle of the room.

          • onyomi says:

            “Onyomi is asserting a universal right of secession at any and all times. No negotiation needed.”

            I think that is the ethical, logically consistent stance, but I’d settle for a shift of norms away from “no secession until you win a civil war” to “secession is okay so long as you negotiate in good faith on certain important matters with the group you’re leaving.”

            Though, as I said, I think we’ve already made some progress toward that in liberal democracies insofar as the UK and Canada would not likely have stopped Scotland or Quebec from seceding.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Onyomi is asserting a universal right of secession at any and all times.

            I don’t think this is quite the eccentric, extremist view you’re making out; rather, it’s implicit in the political views of most modern people, certainly in the West. If you believe in self-determination and democracy, and one part of the country votes to form a new country, then the only principled response is “Yes, you do have the right to do that.”

          • Tibor says:

            @HeelBearCub: My understanding of the split is that the Czechs would have preferred the Slovaks to stay but their attitude was more like “well if you really want to go so much, then we guess we can’t do anything about it”. Why do you think the US would want to fiercely keep California (or any other state) inside? Maybe they would though, I never understood this sentiment well. I’d be happy if the Czech Rep split into Bohemia and Moravia or even further. Smaller autonomous countries means more options for its citizens to choose the one whose laws they like. Slovaks voted introduced the Euro and they have (out at least had) a public support to back that decision. the Czechs are about 70% against the Euro currency. the way things are both can be satisfied at the same time. that wouldn’t be possible without the split.

            Similarly, I support the Scottish and Catalonian separatists. Catalonian secession might hurt Spain in the short term but I think it would be good for everyone in the long term.

        • Brad says:

          The Wilsonian self determination of peoples project has never been fleshed out in a way that it can be implemented. It sounds good, but in practice you get the Balkans.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t doubt that governments make up excuses (any bureaucracy will fight tooth and nail to become and stay as large as possible), but I have yet to hear one that holds water

          This is pretty good argument against California secession.

          • skef says:

            Mostly for the Central Valley, though. Urban areas aren’t the major users of water, and a lot of what stands in the way of desalination is uncertainty: you spend a lot of money on the plant during the drought and then it ends and you look dumb.

    • onyomi says:

      Ironically, I think a Trump presidency delays it, assuming he turns out to be less than Hitler. Because, previously, I would have guessed a Red State would sooner secede, or try to secede than a Blue state. But now Red States feel like they are in the ascendant, so it’s California’s turn to ponder secession (yes, this will be true even if many of Trump’s policies are very Democrat-y; people care more that their team is “winning” than about what their team is really doing, at least when it comes to secession-level discontent).

      But I feel like secession is less a part of Blue DNA than Red. The greatest possible accelerator would be something like the EC giving presidency to Hillary scenario mentioned above. I think the chance of that is <1%, but were it to happen, I'd say it pushes up the first serious attempt at "Texit" or something similar by 20-40 years (with Trump, I'd guess some attempt is 51% probable in the next fifty years; without, next 10-15).

      • shakeddown says:

        I agree that Trump lowers it, but I think for a different reason – I suspect he’s going to screw up pretty epically, but through corruption or personal incompetence rather than ideology. As a result, I think it’ll unify people, because they’ll be able to oppose him for nonpartisan reasons together.

    • Well... says:

      I give it 0.00001% [edited from 0%] with pretty high confidence.

      I would be more surprised if the US split up in the next 50 years than if the US grew to 51 or more states in that same time period–either by states splitting apart or by non-states becoming incorporated as states (e.g. DC, PR, etc.).

    • BBA says:

      If it does happen (which I consider extremely unlikely), it’ll be like the early Roman Empire, when they still held elections every year and claimed to still be the same Republic with its Twelve Tables and all. A state may become functionally independent but they’ll still vote for the President, fly the Stars and Stripes, and so on.

    • onyomi says:

      A related question: if you are now younger than 35, what do you rate the probability of your receiving social security and medicare in some meaningful sense (not counting disability; and by “meaningful,” I mean that if, in 2060, you start receiving SS checks for $2000/mo., but in 2060, $2000 buys a cup of coffee, I count that as not meaningful)?

      I rate it <25%.

      Which is why I rate likelihood of secession as highly as I do: we currently have unfunded liabilities equal to the value of the whole Earth. And I think it highly unlikely we'll do something about that until we're forced to. When we're forced to, it's not going to be pretty. It may not result in a secession, but I think it makes it a lot more likely than people are guessing.

        • onyomi says:

          So you see it as highly unlikely that you’ll receive social security and medicare yet also extremely unlikely that a state or group of states will secede? How do you see the liabilities getting resolved in a non-disruptive manner?

          • Well... says:

            A lot of other social programs will provide essentially the same thing.

            There might also be some generational wisening about saving for retirement.

            Kinda the same way people already get less social security than they’d hoped yet there hasn’t been a big uprising over it.

          • Brad says:

            They aren’t legally liabilities. And in the more abstract sense, the more people that don’t believe they will ever receive them the less liability-like they actually are. Cynicism, at least in this case, is a conservative (anti-revolutionary) force.

            For myself, I expect some sort of government health care in old age (if I live that long) whether it’s medicare or some more universal program. I expect social security to eventually be means tested, gradually phased in. I don’t foresee any significant disruptions related to that.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m honestly surprised the widespread cynicism isn’t already more corrosive. I, personally, think it highly unlikely I will ever benefit from SS or medicare in a meaningful sense, yet big chunks are taken out of my paycheck each year supposedly to cover them. But what I’m actually doing is just funding welfare for old people, many of whom are in much better financial shape than myself. That annoys me. And annoys me more than if it were just labeled “the being young and healthy tax.”

            Why are people not more annoyed at paying large chunks of money into a system in which many have so little faith in (and I don’t think it’s just libertarians, I think young people are broadly skeptical they can count on these programs).

          • hlynkacg says:

            I am 35 and I would put my odds of collecting SS at < 25%. I fully expect to be dead, or to have the system collapse before I am old enough to collect.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If you pay income tax, why is social security tax any different? In theory it’s supposed to be better because you get back out what you paid in, but once people stop believing in that theory, it’s still just another tax you gotta pay because otherwise they’ll yell at you, it’s not any worse than the other taxes. Now some people will consider any taxation worthy of secession, but that’s a fringe opinion.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @onyomi

            I am not annoyed about this thing, but here is some reasons why I’m less annoyed about some things than I might expect me to be:

            1. what am I going to do, start a revolution? If I’m going to be angry about my tax money being wasted then, well, I’m going to be very angry. I’m not very concerned with either my tax money being wasted or people being slaughtered by ISIS, because those events lie outside of my sphere of influence. Also, I can do a decent job of self righteous/entertaining/inspirational anger, or similarly entertaining annoyance of e.g. a disdainful kind, -so I can have a certain amount of anger/annoyance at things without it disrupting my ability to fit in socially, but I think that I am thereby limited in how annoyed I can get. That is by how much I can avoid letting such frustration show in a negative way.

            2. Cultural factors: I’ve been raised almost since birth with the idea that government is stupid and inneficient most of the time but that taxes, like death, are an inevitable, eternal, immutable institution. -Which I suppose is true in a way. But also, that their being wasted and inefficiently disposed of is, too.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Onyomi

            I don’t have sufficient lawyers, money, or guns to do anything about the issue, and as noted elsewhere when people were discussing fleeing the US, there really isn’t anyplace else to flee TO that wouldn’t be worse from the perspective of an American libertarian-ish type.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ hlynkacg
            I am 35 and I would put my odds of collecting SS at < 25%. I fully expect to be dead, or to have the system collapse before I am old enough to collect.

            In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.

          • Aapje says:

            Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.

            It’s doing fine in the sense that the retirement age is going up, which is a cut to social security. So while you are correct that there is no sudden collapse, there is a gradual reduction in benefits.

            What most people here seem to argue is not that it will go away completely, but rather, that there will be huge cuts. If these cuts are selective (like with means testing), it’s possible that some people will see far bigger cuts than others.

            For them, that can mean that they get no meaningful SS payments.

          • onyomi says:

            “If you pay income tax, why is social security tax any different? In theory it’s supposed to be better because you get back out what you paid in, but once people stop believing in that theory, it’s still just another tax you gotta pay”

            In practice I do just think of it as another income tax, but I am in favor of rectification of names. The payroll tax for social security is especially egregious and deceptive in at least a couple ways: first, I think the average person has a vague sense they are paying into some fund, and that the money they paid in comes back to them: hence eyeroll-worthy comments like “keep government out of my Medicare!”

            I don’t think most realize that the young people of today are just paying for the promises made to old people before they were born, and that to the extent the young people currently paying in can hope to benefit, it will not be because of their own payments, but because of the productivity of their as-yet unborn children and grandchildren.

            Second, there’s the charade where you “contribute half” and your employer “contributes half” for the payroll tax, which makes it sound like you and your employer are working together to plan for your retirement. In reality, of course, your employer pays all of it, which is another way of saying you pay all of it, because the cost of the payroll tax is a cost of employing someone no matter how you slice it. The “half and half” thing is entirely meaningless and deceptive.

            It’s one of the many ways, along with withholding, progressive taxation, and deficit spending, that the federal government hides its true cost from voters. I have ethical problems with taxation in general, but I can’t even think of a good steelman for why, assuming one thinks taxation is justified, that it might further be justified to hide from taxpayers just how much they’re really paying, and what for (other than “the voters are stupid and don’t know what’s good for them,” which would raise the question as to why they are allowed to vote at all, and undermines e. g. social contract-type justifications).

          • onyomi says:

            “In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.”

            I am a little surprised to hear that. I think my parents, who were in their 20s in the 70s, always expected to receive SS? What made you think in the 70s you wouldn’t?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I mean I’m in favor of the rectification of names too of course, but I don’t think it’s likely that a state or group of states will secede over it.

          • onyomi says:

            Oh no, I don’t think anyone would secede over sneaky taxation methods and nomenclature, nor even about gradual reduction in expected benefits.

            But if there comes a time when SS and Medicare fail in an obvious way it will not likely be happening in a vacuum. It might be the result of a sovereign debt crisis coming on the heels of a big recession or something. One of the main things keeping people in the Federal system other than inertia, patriotism, etc. is that, if Texas threatens to secede, the first thing the Federal government will say is “well I guess you won’t be needing your SS, Medicare, Medicaid grants, and highway funds, then?” If those promises are perceived as worthless, one of the biggest things keeping people in the system will be gone.

            I’m not saying faith in the Federal government depends (entirely) on the solvency of SS and Medicare, but rather that, if you don’t expect those things to be working in 50 years, I don’t think you should have a really high degree of certainty that the States will all stick together for 50+ years, because obvious failure in those systems would likely be symptomatic of some other, big problems.

            To the extent you think the Federal government can/will manage its debts and obligations in, if not a responsible manner (and I don’t think completely reneging on SS and Medicare-type promises will be perceived as “responsible,” though perhaps a partial renege could be), than at least not in a calamitous manner, then that would be a better reason to have more faith in no Balkanization in <50 years.

            The reason I brought up the whole naming issue, though, was just because I think that, if SS were perceived as just another welfare program paid for by the same taxes which pay for everything else, then I think the government could more easily cut it without people feeling a promise had been broken. But that’s not how most perceive it, I don’t think.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            “In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.”

            I am a little surprised to hear that. I think my parents, who were in their 20s in the 70s, always expected to receive SS? What made you think in the 70s you wouldn’t?

            I am 60 years old. I find the comments here very humorous, because they are pretty much identical to what I heard (and said myself) when I was in my 20’s (in the ’70’s). Have you specifically asked your parents what they thought back then? Although that was a lo–ong time ago, and it is hard to get back into one’s head from back then. I think one reason we thought that was because it was “obvious” that the government wouldn’t have enough money to pay SS to the baby boomers when our huge bulk became old. Now it seems like SS will happen to me in a few years, so it is a bit hard to remember my skepticism 40 years ago.

          • Tekhno says:

            In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.

            Welfare programs are doing fine, because deficits and the attending debt largely don’t matter. Countries almost always outgrow their debt (it’s actually the maturity and interest payments on the debt that matter, but the media and politicians never seem to focus on that for some reason).

            However, given that a declining population is a greying population, the issue this time around is not so much about money but about manpower. A lot of the welfare state becomes dysfunctional if you don’t have enough young people to spoon soup into grandma’s mouth.

            Money isn’t that much of an issue because you can always just extend credit so long as the underlying productive factors are available. If your population greys, the dependency ratio rises, which asides from the solvency issue, creates big problems with administration. For example, you physically can’t have everyone retire, because then who is going to work for those that have retired? As the population declines, you’ll see a smaller and smaller percentage of retirement that is even physically possible.

            Age demographics for the West don’t look good, and looking over to Japan – with their abysmal age demographics – we get a decade’s glimpse ahead of where we are now. We need to watch closer and learn from the mistakes they will make, but we already have a few of our own in mind.

            You can bring in millions of immigrants as a “solution”, but whichever leader is left holding that hot potato is then kicked out in favor of a right wing populist.

            You can commence a massive die-off, but then whichever leader is left holding that hot potato is kicked out by Immortan Joe.

            In the long run, I’m optimistic about it, because I think we’ll fix the solvency problem which is really a dependency ratio problem with automation. But yeah, if we don’t go full automation before we go full grey, we’re screwed, absolutely screwed.

          • onyomi says:

            “Countries almost always outgrow their debt”

            Wait, what? I think Weimar Germany, Greece, Cyprus, and much of Latin America and Africa might have a word to say about that?

            Also, if the US gets into trouble, who’s going to bail us out? The IMF? Isn’t that mostly funded by us?

          • rlms says:

            Weimar Germany had an arbitrary amount of non-self-inflicted external debt, and should not be counted.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            You can count it all you want; even before the NSDAP came to power and decided not paying was a good idea, the republic had already paid more than half the debts imposed on them.

          • John Schilling says:

            The war reparations imposed on the Weimar republic, as of 1921, came to 41 billion gold marks plus some fake bonds that nobody actually expected them to repay. Germany’s GDP in 1921 was 79 billion gold marks, for a debt-to-GDP ratio of 52%. The US currently stands at 33% for external debt alone.

            And I’m not sure why you are counting external vs. internal debt as different things, unless you are suggesting that the United States is going to keep Social Security solvent by repudiating its internal debts. On the whole, the United States is more heavily indebted than the Weimar Republic ever was. We do have more competent and less corrupt bankers and bureaucrats, which gives us a bit of margin.

            Anyone saying, “Countries almost always outgrow their debt”, I expect to blow through that margin as fast as they can find sympathetic recipients for Other People’s Money.

          • Aapje says:

            The Weimar republic got into trouble because they had to repay in foreign currency, but they didn’t have enough trade to get that foreign currency in a normal way.

            The result was hyperinflation, which started directly after the first payment was made.

            Their debt-to-GDP ratio was mostly irrelevant to this.

          • Iain says:

            The difference is not between external and internal debts, but between debts denominated in your own currency and debts denominated in a currency you don’t control.

          • John Schilling says:

            The German war reparations were specified in German marks, not dollars or pounds or francs. Of course, these were gold marks, so ultimately the Germans had to pay their war debts in a physical commodity and the currency was merely a convenience.

            The United States ultimately has to meet its social-security obligations in commodities like Florida condominiums, buffet meals, and face time with senior citizens’ favorite doctors. Nobody cares whether the dollar value of a social security check is $X or $Y, only whether it buys the standard of living the retirees believe they were promised. And indeed, cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security are automatic and mandatory.

            So, unless you are suggesting that the United States should or will forcibly downscale the retirement lifestyle of its senior citizens, this also is a difference without a difference.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        equal to the value of the whole Earth

        No. You are confusing stocks and flows. The liabilities are $100 trillion and the world product is $100 trillion. But the Earth is worth a lot more than its one year income.

      • sflicht says:

        I think the odds that I (age 29) personally receive meaningful benefits from Social Security are ~5%, maybe lower. (This is partly because I suspect they will be means tested eventually and I won’t qualify. Of course it’s plausible that means testing will erode support for SS and it will be abolished completely, but that process could take a long time to unfold.)

        Medicare seems more likely to be around in some form, but even if I qualify for benefits I expect to be paying out-of-pocket for specialized maintenance services when one of the physical avatars of my uploaded consciousness requires a tune-up.

      • Iain says:

        we currently have unfunded liabilities equal to the value of the whole Earth

        [citation needed]

        From Wikipedia:

        The annual cost of Social Security benefits represented 4.0% of GDP in 2000 and 5.0% GDP in 2015. This is projected to increase gradually to 6.4% of GDP in 2035 and then decline to about 6.1% of GDP by 2055 and remain at about that level through 2086.

        Bear in mind that Social Security is already indexed to inflation.

        Edit to add: this part also seems relevant:

        The present value of unfunded obligations under Social Security was approximately $11.4 trillion over a 75-year forecast period (2016-2090). In other words, that amount would have to be set aside in 2016 so that the principal and interest would cover the shortfall for 75 years. The estimated annual shortfall averages 2.49% of the payroll tax base or 0.9% of gross domestic product (a measure of the size of the economy). Measured over the infinite horizon, these figures are 4.0% and 1.4%, respectively.

      • skef says:

        Last I heard, the uncorrected gap in the SS rates would result in payouts around 70% of the committed rates. Has that changed, or are thinking that that money would be diverted elsewhere? (Inflation doesn’t seem like it would necessarily change that equation: payouts go up but so do contributions.)

        Edit from the same Wikipedia article:

        The balances in the Trust Fund are projected to be depleted either by 2036[20] (OASDI Trustees’ 2011 projection), or by 2038[21] (Congressional Budget Office’s extended-baseline scenario) assuming proper and continuous repayment of the outstanding treasury notes. At that point, under current law, the system’s benefits would have to be paid from the FICA tax alone. Revenues from FICA are projected at that point to be continue to cover about 77% of projected Social Security benefits if no change is made to the current tax and benefit schedules.

        So 77% eventually with the trust fund, but no figures if you assume the trust fund is fake (with the effective result of a huge regressive adjustment in overall tax rates stretching back decades into the past.)

      • BBA says:

        There is zero chance that I personally would get anything, simply because means-testing will sharply increase in the next thirty years, and I’m a man of means.

        For a typical American my age, earning median income over the course of a career and with modest financial assets, 90%.

        • onyomi says:

          Are these increases in means testing already baked in or are you just guessing they will be passed?

          • BBA says:

            I’m assuming the projected 30% shortfall will be addressed by eliminating benefits for the richest 30% rather than by cutting everyone’s benefits 30%. (Well, more likely a gradual phase-out about a certain income level than a hard cut-off, but you get my drift.) The easiest way to do this is through the tax code. I’d still get a monthly wire from the SSA, but at the end of the year I’d have to pay it all back on some obscure schedule to my 1040.

      • shakeddown says:

        Pretty high by value – as technology goes up, the cost of providing absolute (as opposed to positional) goods decreases, so SS/medicare will probably be able to cover at least what it can now, in absolute (if not neccessarily relative) terms.

      • skef says:

        I realize onyomi is asking about perspectives in this sub-thread, but since there’s a lot of pessimism, I really am interested in the rationales.

        The question is about social security (and medicare) “in some meaningful sense”. Based on current projections, it seems that incoming payroll taxes can cover about 70-80% of projected benefit levels during the retirement periods for people under 35. That seems like a still “meaningful” level. So what specifically do the people putting the chances below 25% think will happen?

        Will benefits be eliminated but the payroll tax continue, and go into the general fund? Will the payroll tax be eliminated and income taxes be increased roughly the same amount? Will taxes just go down? If not the first, why will this happen? What would be the rationale, besides making the prophecies here self-fulfilling?

        • Aapje says:

          @skef

          Medical costs will also go up greatly when the boomers collectively get old, with few working people to pay for them. So realistically, either you divert a lot of those payroll taxes to medicare; or you cut medicare; or you tax the remaining working people so heavily that they’ll get really upset.

          Polling in my country shows that people care about healthcare the most, so I strongly suspect that the first option is chosen. In fact, we are already increasing the retirement age, which does exactly that: reduce social security. It also has the added benefit of increasing the number of years that people pay tax. So it provides double the benefits of most other solutions, which makes it the obvious outcome. It’s also easy to argue for, as you can just claim to link the retirement age to the life expectancy (ignoring that the ‘healthy life expectancy’ doesn’t go up as fast).

          I fully expect that I’ll have to work until I’m so decrepit that I can’t enjoy my retirement very much, which to me, isn’t meaningful social security.

          • skef says:

            OK, I can see that. But then strictly speaking your answer to onyomi’s question should be a pretty high probability, because it was about “social security and medicare”.

            Even so, I’m not sure I see how that would work. If it’s the boomers in particular that’s of concern, it would be your pre-retirement contributions that were diverted. To have the Boomers substantially affect your retirement benefits (they’ll almost all be dead when you retire) would require some sort of debt arrangement: The “trust funds” go negative, and when you retire you’re told that you don’t get any benefits because payroll taxes then just go to paying off that debt. That’s possible, but it strikes me as less politically tractable.

            Or you might be thinking that it wouldn’t really have anything to do with the boomers, but medical costs will be so high then relative to everything else that all payroll taxes will need to be diverted to medicare for retirees at that time. I don’t find that as likely, because it would also likely mean a similar proportion of funds going to medical costs for non-retirees, which doesn’t seem tenable.

          • onyomi says:

            I would say that if it gets so heavily means tested that only the poor receive it, or if the retirement age gets pushed up to 90 by the time someone in their 30s is 90, that would be another way of saying most of us currently in our thirties or younger will not meaningfully benefit from SS or Medicare.

          • Brad says:

            I would say that if it gets so heavily means tested that only the poor receive it

            I don’t think that will be the case, but I don’t have nearly as expansive a view of what “poor” means as some do.

            I’m not trying to imply that you are such a person, I have no idea, but there are a non-trivial number of people out there that are so desperate that their own top quintile incomes be classified as middle class that they push poor all the way up to the median and beyond.

          • keranih says:

            @ onyomi

            I would say that if it gets so heavily means tested that only the poor receive it

            Eh. I’m starting to come round to the idea that obstructive red tape overly hampers the poor with weak time management skills and lower education. I am not convinced that means testing means that the poor will get aid.

          • Garrett says:

            I expect that we’ll end up having basic Medicare not covering some of the more expensive parts of getting old. High-cost chemotherapy, elderly hip replacements, that sort of thing. It’ll be based on QALYs or something else bureaucratic, but will boil down to cutting benefits.
            Looking at the data I was surprised that nursing comes only accounted for about 5% of expenditures. I’d love to see where all the money’s going.

      • Cadie says:

        I’m slightly above that (37) and I’d rate my chances of getting actual payouts that one could potentially live on at 5-10%, and of getting more-than-a-coffee Social Security at ~80%. My prediction is that Millennials and the youngest Gen-Xers will get a very watered-down form of Social Security, because we did pay into it and it’ll stay afloat long enough to pay some back to us in pathetic amounts. I could see getting a monthly check for about $100 (in 2016 dollars). That’s enough to cover your groceries or, if you live in an apartment, electric bill. But there’s absolutely no way you can use that as your main source of income.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I’m certainly not counting on it.

        If I’m wrong about it still existing and I live long enough to collect it, I’ll be very pleased. But until then I’ll operate under the assumption that I’ll never see a dime from social security. I’m aiming to follow family tradition and set aside enough to support myself without needing any external help. If it can be done on a blue collar mechanic’s salary it can be done on a PhD’s.

    • Rowan says:

      A fifty-year timescale means we have to consider Weird Shit like a near singularity; the odds of the US splitting up into into its constituent atoms so they can be made into paperclips has to be considered along with the odds of, say, Texit. I think with various types of Weird Shit that could happen over the next 50 years, esp. a gengineered pandemic, I have low enough confidence either way to say it’s around 50/50.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t think it’s at all likely that SS and Medicare go away in anyone here’s lifetime, at least not due to simple budgetary problems. I could see Ryan (or some future “starve the beast” adherent) managing to intentionally kill Medicare with a thousand cuts. I could say a true UBI making SS irrelevant and phasing it out. But “the money isn’t available” makes no sense as a reason for the program to fail.

      Just lift the cap on payroll deduction (as one example) and the budgetary problem goes away, and in a hurry, certainly for SS and probably for Medicare (although, more money for Medicare means more health inflation unless we continue to take steps to lower health inflation, something the ACA has done quite successfully). Raise the cap substantially and lower the rate (less substantially) if you want to make it really popular.

      In any case, I’m not saying that will happen, just saying that the budgetary problems are relatively minor, no matter how they are played up by people who actually want to exploit fears of the loss. There are too many ways to fix the issues.

      And it’s not like killing the programs for future beneficiaries really helps you. The people paying the taxes that support current benefits would be PISSED.

      • sflicht says:

        Lifting the payroll tax cap would raise marginal taxes on income over $106K by 15%. The top bracket marginal tax rate (income + payroll) would be well over 50%, which is in the region where even progressive economists might start believing in a Laffer curve effect.

        More generally, I don’t think this sort of fix would be at all easy to effect, politically.

        I also find Larry Kotlikoff somewhat persuasive in characterizing the US fiscal gap as a large rather than a small problem. For example table 2 of his 2015 congressional testimony compares its magnitude to the analogous gaps in other developed countries.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          More generally, I don’t think this sort of fix would be at all easy to effect, politically.

          But it’s a damn sight easier than lowering SS benefits for existing or near future retirees, which is what you will have to do otherwise. Or taking away their Medicare.

  14. cassander says:

    There was some extensive discussion of the inherent evilness of white nationalism in the last thread that I thought was misplaced. I’m not a white nationalist,but I want to steelman it, because I think many of the arguments against it were hyperbolic.

    Say I believed that, on the whole, homogenous polities function better than non-homogenous ones. That because of this, the ideal state is the nation state, that is a polity consisting, as much as possible, of people who identify as members of a single ethno-cultural group, and that state policy should encourage homogeneity rather that multi-anything.

    With those beliefs, what policies would I call for, in order of severity? Substantial limits to immigration from those outside the volk, however it’s defined. Public endorsement of the cultural morays of the volk and lack of recognition of other cultures. Financial incentives and subsidies for non members to emigrate, either from one part of the country to another or out of the country entirely.

    Now, personally, I support none of those policies, but none of them can I say rises even close to the level of evil. Frankly, none of them even rises to the level of racist, at best, they’re separatist. And yet we still had people claiming they can’t imagine a white nationalist movement that wasn’t literally drenched in blood. A little perspective, perhaps?

    • Fossegrimen says:

      In my country, there is a program for refugees that basically pays out enough money for a person to fund a small business in the home country. This is funded over the foreign-aid budget and actually seems like a sane idea. (for values of ‘sane’ that includes ‘better than depositing aid money in Swiss bank accounts belonging to dictators’ which is more or less the traditional approach.)

    • sflicht says:

      There’s of course a Caplanian reply that “substantial limits to immigration” applied to anyone (regardless of volkdom) is evil. However we can bracket that viewpoint because so few opponents of white nationalism would subscribe to it. Always worth mentioning when discussing the inherent evilness of an ideology, though.

      More substantively, maybe an interesting point of comparison is Brezhnev-era Russia’s attitude towards Jews. Obviously even post-Stalin the USSR was illiberal in a number of bad ways. But my understanding (possibly false) is that while Khruschev overturned a number of explicitly antisemitic Stalin-era policies (with the noteworthy exception of restricted emigration — until Jackson-Vanik), the Soviet regime’s ideology still led to a lot of “soft” repression, e.g. universities manipulating entrance exam results to exclude Jews.

      So the generalized form of that example, as an objection to white nationalism, is that even if the white nationalist government doesn’t explicitly permit or endorse Jim Crow laws, extralegal but pervasive repression of nonmembers of the volk is a likely consequence of the ideology being espoused by TPTB. So to the extent this is a predictable outcome of the ideology, the ideology itself is evil.

      Obviously this argument can be taken too far. Maybe the place to look for concrete evidence is at liberal, ethno-culturally homogeneous societies with smallish minorities. I’m thinking of Japanese discrimination against Koreans and Ainu, and Taiwanese discrimination against aborigines. Does anyone know enough about those societies to comment meaningfully on the analogy between (past or present) policies in those countries and “soft” white nationalism of the sort cassander is discussing?

      I have a feeling that this argument’s weak point is in characterizing the nature of what I referred to above as “extralegal but pervasive repression” that’s supposedly the inevitable consequence of the white nationalist ideology being in power. It’s a potential weak point because it’s hard to draw a clear line between the sort of stuff I’ve heard about from Soviet Jews in the ’70s and ’80s (which strikes me as pretty unpleasant), and the sort of stuff people talk about in the context of America’s “structural racism” problem (which is often quite vague and tends to end up encompassing some stuff I don’t believe is racist at all).

    • Aapje says:

      @cassander

      Say I believed that, on the whole, homogenous polities function better than non-homogenous ones. That because of this, the ideal state is the nation state, that is a polity consisting, as much as possible, of people who identify as members of a single ethno-cultural group, and that state policy should encourage homogeneity rather that multi-anything.

      The obvious counterpoint is that the real issue here is culture, not skin color/ethnic group.

      You can have a (semi) mono-culture with different ethnicities.

      Of course, in practice, there is some link because the people from other cultures who want to migrate to the West generally are ethnically different as well.

      • keranih says:

        You can have a (semi) mono-culture with different ethnicities

        I really want this to be so – America! – but am dreadfully short of examples, and the obvious counter is Bosnia.

        • Aapje says:

          @keranih

          Well, in practice it doesn’t last very long, because when people share that mono-culture, there is no barrier to procreating with each other, intermingle, etc. So within a few generations you get so many mutts, different people living and working together, etc, that there is no longer an identifiable ethnic group.

          I would argue that Irish-Americans are like that for example. I get the impression that most Irish-Americans are pretty much indistinguishable from other white people, aside from on Saint Patrick’s Day (and many people without Irish blood are happy to join in on the drinking).

        • The Nybbler says:

          America is the main example. We’ve incorporated people of all the European ethnicities and many Asian ones. I suspect the main reason Hispanics haven’t been as well-incorporated is we keep getting more; secondary reasons include a misguided multiculturalism which discourages incorporation, and the fact that many are not legally in the US. We haven’t done so well with the African-American population; I think that’s for obvious historic reasons.

          I would institute only the second of cassander’s ideas, “Public endorsement of the cultural morays of the volk and lack of recognition of other cultures.” Number one on the list would be “learn English; we won’t accommodate other languages to any great degree”.

          I’m not sure the US can assimilate devout Muslims, however. There’s not enough give in their culture to reach a point compatible with the US mainstream (Note there are problems with some groups of ultra-Orthodox Jews as well, main example being Kiryas Joel. And of course the Amish remain unassimilated).

      • cassander says:

        Culture is distinct from ethnicity in theory, but in practice it’s so persistent that it might as well be hereditary in the vast majority of cases. And even if you’ve achieved a mono-culture with different ethnicities, the multiple identities will still present a persistent opportunity for identity politics to rear its ugly head.

    • Anon. says:

      It’s also worth nothing this already exists. Japan is >98% Japanese and severely restricts immigration.

      That being said, if you start off with a diverse society and want to end up with a homogeneous one, there’s probably going to be trouble.

      • Aapje says:

        That being said, if you start off with a diverse society and want to end up with a homogeneous one, there’s probably going to be trouble.

        and vice versa.

        • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

          Really? The UK hasn’t really seen much trouble.

          • Sandy says:

            The UK is 87% white, last I checked.

          • NIP says:

            One word:

            Rotherham.

          • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

            The UK is 87% white, last I checked.

            Sure, that’s a lot less than 100 years ago. Or you could just take London as a more dramatic example, and London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole.

            One word:

            Rotherham.

            I’m not sure that’s ‘trouble’ in the sense that Aapje intended.

          • Sandy says:

            I’m not sure that’s ‘trouble’ in the sense that Aapje intended.

            Not sure why it wouldn’t be; Rotherham seems like a golden example of collapse in civic trust and corruption of institutions in the wake of multiculturalism.

            Or you could just take London as a more dramatic example, and London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole.

            Does it? As I recall there were some pretty major riots back in 2011 following a police shooting; for sheer scale, they seemed to outdo anything that happened in Ferguson or Baltimore.

          • NIP says:

            >Sure, that’s a lot less than 100 years ago

            And the U.K. crime rate has skyrocketed in that time despite medical, criminal justice, and other advances as the social fabric has started to come undone.

            >London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole

            That’s an awfully confident assertion without evidence. How would you even measure that?

            >I’m not sure that’s ‘trouble’ in the sense that Aapje intended.

            In what sense did you think he intended it?

          • Aapje says:

            Really? The UK hasn’t really seen much trouble.

            The 2005 London bombings killed 56 and wounded 700. Since then, there have been a decent number of attacks and attempts (also by anti-Muslim people), although fortunately they were often amateurish.

            Aside from actual violence by a small minority, migration issues clearly played a big role in the Brexit. Half of the population being so angry that they reject the establishment like that, counts as ‘trouble’ for me.

            And of course, there is more than just the UK. France has its banlieues. The Netherlands has a migrant underclass with high crime and is spiraling into a culture war. The anti-Muslim party is polling at 1/5th of the votes. In many European countries, anti-migration political parties are gaining a lot of ground.

            A bit further in the past, we have the history of Irish and Italian immigrants to the US, where there was severe racial animosity. It also brought the mafia to the US.

            In general, the best case scenario after the migration of large number of migrants seems to be several generations of social unrest and mutual animosity.

          • Aapje says:

            @asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations

            Sure, that’s a lot less than 100 years ago. Or you could just take London as a more dramatic example, and London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole.

            London is a very globalist city. Race relations tend to be relatively good between white people who benefit financially from open borders and migrants, weirdly enough.

            Also, it is a very expensive city, so the migrants that live there will surely be upper/middle class more often than elsewhere. If you live in an area with the best specimens of any group, you will be a lot happier than when you live in an area with average or below average people of a group (just like it’s more pleasant to debate here than at StormFront).

            I’ve been to Bradford recently, which was clearly quite diverse and had severe riots in 2001.

            PS. Also note that white flight happens and can cause unexpected results, like most anger against migrants being in non-diverse places where people have fled to.

          • John Schilling says:

            One word:

            Rotherham.

            Aren’t there a lot of cities in the UK that aren’t Rotherham? That have large multiethnic populations but not rape gangs, such that we might reasonably suspect the latter to be a rare anomaly rather than an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism?

            Or is that too many words?

          • Mark says:

            Rochdale, Oxford, Leeds, Derby, Bristol, Peterborough, Telford…

            It does seem to be something of a trend.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            I don’t think the migrants who live in the Tower Hamlets and Newham are particularly upper/middle class.

            Sporadic riots in UK inner cities have occurred since 1189, and probably earlier. Luckily, todays rioters are rarely armed with polaxes (and don’t number in the tens of thousands). I do not think immigration is particularly relevant here. Regarding Bradford, I am confident it would still be generally unpleasant even with a 100% white population (if that is what is being gotten at here). But Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool etc. also have relatively high immigrant populations, and are relatively nice.

          • John Schilling says:

            Rochdale, Oxford, Leeds, Derby, Bristol, Peterborough, Telford…

            …are all of them combined maybe a few hundred milliRothherhams, and lost in the noise of England’s hundred thousand or so or so annual rapes. Your “trend” looks like one data point, plus noise.

          • Mark says:

            http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/publications/“i-thought-i-was-only-one-only-one-world”-interim-report

            OK, I’m no expert, so excuse me if I’m getting this wrong, but as far as I can see, the children’s commission found that around 2500 children a year were sexually exploited by gangs and groups, and around 2/3 of the perpetrators are various types of immigrant. Being generous and saying that all perps commit the same number of crimes, if each child is raped 5 times a year, you’re already getting up to a figure of about 10% of all rapes in the UK committed by immigrants involved in group exploitation of minors.

            Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but that seems like a bit of a problem to me – especially when there was no particular need to have these scum-bags anywhere near us.

            There will always be evil bastards out there, doesn’t mean we need to bring in more.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark

            I’m not quite sure how you calculated those figures, and in any case I’m dubious about the utility of that source, since it states that the vast majority of perpetrators could not be identified. But in any case, even if a very disproportionate amount of child abusers were from an immigrant background, it would still be the case that they would form a very small proportion of the South-Asian population as a whole (specifically 0.01%). If you don’t support deporting Catholic priests, who about 30x more likely to be child abusers than South-Asians (by a conservative estimate based on the Murphy Report), it is highly inconsistent to support immigration restrictions on other groups.

          • Sandy says:

            Oh, please don’t do what the BBC does and use euphemisms like “South Asian” — virtually all of these cases involve Pakistani Muslims, there’s no point lumping Hindus and Sikhs in with them.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Aren’t there a lot of cities in the UK that aren’t Rotherham? That have large multiethnic populations but not rape gangs, such that we might reasonably suspect the latter to be a rare anomaly rather than an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism?

            Given that the police in Rotherham were actively trying to prevent people from finding out about/acknowledging the city’s rape gang problem, how do we know that organisations in the rest of the country aren’t simply engaged in similar cover-ups?

          • rlms says:

            @Sandy
            The report linked breaks down Asian perpetrators as follows:
            Bangladeshi 5
            Chinese/Japanese/South East Asia 1
            Indian 6
            Pakistani 35
            Sri Lankan 1
            Vietnamese 1
            Undisclosed 366

            Do you have any extra information about the distribution of the 366 undisclosed perpetrators? If you don’t, the obvious thing to presume is that they have roughly the same proportions as the specified ones (3/5 Pakistani, 2/5 other). If we’re rounding that off to “Pakistani”, we might as well for instance round off child sex abuse gangs in general to “non-Asian”.

          • Mark says:

            they would form a very small proportion of the South-Asian population as a whole (specifically 0.01%). If you don’t support deporting Catholic priests, who about 30x more likely to be child abusers than South-Asians (by a conservative estimate based on the Murphy Report), it is highly inconsistent to support immigration restrictions on other groups.

            I don’t know – it’s a fair point.

            I feel like immigrants should be significantly better than the local population, otherwise, what’s the point?

            As for Catholic Priests – I’m not particularly worried. Maybe it’s because I’m not a Catholic and I figure they’ve got it covered?

            Though I guess, if a significant portion of jesuit priests were stealing into Glasgow to abuse local protestant children, and the Catholic church wasn’t doing too much about it, I probably would be in favour of the wholesale deportation of the Catholic clergy (assuming there was somewhere to deport them to).

          • Aapje says:

            I want to point out that for me, ‘trouble’ starts at a way lower threshold than Rotherham or big riots. Those kind of things are outbreaks of strong simmering issues, which in themselves are ‘trouble.’

            Again, you only have to look at how upset many people are getting over immigrants, they are seriously pissed off. Now, you can either assume that these are all hateful people who get upset for no reason or that they feel that these experience major negative effects. My argument is that the latter makes most sense and that this is ‘trouble.’

          • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

            That’s a pretty weak standard for ‘trouble’ that would seem to warn against any change ever. You can find a large chunk of people ‘seriously pissed off’ about pretty much anything.

          • Aapje says:

            @asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations

            There is obviously a spectrum of anger, going from mildly annoyed to genocidal anger.

            My belief is that anger can create a feedback loop, where people start behaving badly against people of the group they feel wronged them, which causes the people in that other group to behave worse as well, etc. So then people radicalize more and more.

            The result of these things is that the overall level of anger in society increases and you get narratives about who is to blame. This tends to result in people discriminating, expressing their anger in riots & the voting booth, individuals using violence, etc.

            Note that this is not just targeted against immigrants, Rotherham, Islamic terrorism and such are targeted against the native population.

            Now, I would argue that we have created too much friction in Western society (not just due to migration), which causes many of these feedback loops, which is bad.

            Reducing friction doesn’t mean that no change is possible, just that there should be less and even more importantly, the elite should recognize that certain groups that they don’t empathize with much, experience a lot more friction than themselves.

      • Brad says:

        It’s also worth nothing this already exists. Japan is >98% Japanese and severely restricts immigration.

        I found it really odd that the OP in the last thread claimed that everyone is okay with Japanese nationalism. All of Asia is not okay with it. Just witness the perennial Yasukuni Shrine issue.

        • NIP says:

          It’s less that everyone is “okay” with Japanese nationalism, and more that there’s nothing that multiculturalists can do about it. I imagine that in the rare instance when a western academic might have the chance to try to lecture a Japanese about their uninclusive and racist society, they would be told (in the most polite and circumspect way possible) to eat a bag of dicks.

          • Brad says:

            Assuming there’s an actual point in there at all, it is your point, but it wasn’t Atlas’ point from the last thread. So I’m not sure why you put this reply here.

          • NIP says:

            Come again? Is there some esoteric structure behind the simple nested comments that I’m looking at and just can’t see? I thought I was replying directly to you.

          • Brad says:

            The reply is a non sequitur as far as I can tell. Just a free association rant against “western academics” who must have run over your cat or something.

          • NIP says:

            Let’s do a quick replay.

            You: “Someone in another thread claimed everyone is okay with Japanese nationalism. This puzzles me. (Tangent into Yasukuni Shrine issue, which has nothing to do with immigration or Anon’s point.)

            Me: “When whoever it is you’re talking about (it doesn’t much matter) was saying ‘everyone is okay with Japanese nationalism’, I take it that he was probably actually implying that multiculturalists don’t make too many serious murmurs about it, because there’s jack shit they can actually do about it.”

            No one is making non-sequiturs. You, however, are being rude and obtuse, no doubt because a shitlord like me ran over your cat or something.

        • John Schilling says:

          Just witness the perennial Yasukuni Shrine issue.

          The Yasukuni Shrine issue is, at least overtly, about Japanese militarism rather than Japanese nationalism per se. And having visited the shrine and associated museum myself, I can see the point.

          Possibly there’s a second level where “Japanese militarism” is a dog-whistle for “Japanese nationalism”; I’m not well-versed enough in Japanese culture to say. But even if so, it would imply that Japanese nationalism is sufficiently entrenched and respectable that it can’t be simply attacked head-on.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I agree — Chinese aren’t upset about the shrine because of Japanese nationalism. Those Chinese don’t want to live in Japan — they want Japan to feel guilty about WWII.

    • hyperboloid says:

      White nationalism would define the only fully legitimate subjects of the state as people of biologically of European descent. Because they can’t except the assimilation of racial undesirable elements that might pollute the racial purity of the population, the only way for white nationalists to create a homogeneous polity is genocide, or massive ethnic cleansing.

      The long history in the United States of white supremacists using terrorist violence to oppose the integration and assimilation of African Americans is indicative here.

    • skef says:

      Where do people of mixed racial heritage go in the this society? What about existing couples of different races?

      • BBA says:

        Are Jews white? What about Catholics? In the mainstream the answer is obviously yes to both, but a lot of white nationalism harks back to 19th century nativism, which was explicitly arguing for a white Protestant America.

    • dndnrsn says:

      @cassander

      My position was that white nationalism, beyond being morally and intellectually indefensible, would be bloody and disastrous were it to gain power because white nationalism only exists in places that are, at least on a national level, already multiracial.

      There are places there there is a single numerically overwhelming majority group – but those places tend not to have white (or black, or East Asian, or whatever) nationalism – they have a nationalism based around the identity of the majority group. A Japanese nationalist who wants to keep Japan Japanese, keep non-Japanese out, put pressure on non-Japanese already there to leave, promote Japanese culture, is not an East Asian nationalist, and would not be happy if Japan in the future was equal parts Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

      White nationalism in the US as it exists today would involve the subjugation or deportation of almost a third of the population if done on a national level. It is implausible that this could be done without suffering and bloodshed. I have seen WNs pitching the idea of abandoning parts of the country, but I think that’s a red herring – it would involve abandoning several of the cities that play an outsize role in the national economy, for one thing.

      You are presenting a hypothetical generic nationalism – I am saying that in the context of the United States as it exists today, white nationalism would be ruinous.

      • cassander says:

        >My position was that white nationalism, beyond being morally and intellectually indefensible, would be bloody and disastrous were it to gain power because white nationalism only exists in places that are, at least on a national level, already multiracial.

        This comes dangerously close to “this animal is dangerous, when attacked, it defends itself.”

        > It is implausible that this could be done without suffering and bloodshed.

        It’s implausible that it would be so done, but it definitely could be. I outlined how above.

        >it would involve abandoning several of the cities that play an outsize role in the national economy, for one thing.

        It’s the people in those cities that make them valuable, not the dirt the city’s built on.

        • suntzuanime says:

          … isn’t that a big part of how we decide what animals are dangerous? Like, rattlesnakes don’t just slither up and bite people for fun, but we still don’t want them in our children’s playgrounds.

        • dndnrsn says:

          This comes dangerously close to “this animal is dangerous, when attacked, it defends itself.”

          How so? If white nationalism were to take power in the US, it would not be self-defence, it would be deportation or relegation to de jure second class citizens 2/3 of the population. Not self defence, except in a really twisted understanding of defence.

          It’s implausible that it would be so done, but it definitely could be. I outlined how above.

          You gave a generic example of how nationalist goals could be pursued, an example that explicitly stopped short of defining what the “people” represented by that nationalism would be. Given that white nationalism only exists in places that are already multiracial, I don’t see how it could be implemented bloodlessly.

          It’s the people in those cities that make them valuable, not the dirt the city’s built on.

          For one thing, infrastructure, for another thing, location. Cities are where they are for a reason.

          • cassander says:

            >How so?

            In a polity where everyone is one ethnic group, there’s no need for an ethnic nationalist party. Such parties only emerge when there’s a threat of that homogeneity breaking down.

            >it would be deportation or relegation to de jure second class citizens 2/3 of the population.

            how would white nationalists come to power in a country that was 2/3s not white?

            >For one thing, infrastructure, for another thing, location. Cities are where they are for a reason.

            Infrastructure is far cheaper than the costs of living in a non-homogeneous society. And while some cities are where they are for reasons, most are not, or are where they are for a reason that was really good 50 or 100 years ago but is now irrelevant.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s no such ethnic group as “white”, and the US has not been homogenous for a looooooooooong time, if it ever was.

            As for the 2/3, that was a typo, it was meant to be 1/3.

          • skef says:

            Infrastructure is far cheaper than the costs of living in a non-homogeneous society.

            It never takes long for the “I’m just asking about this academically” facade to crumble.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There’s no such ethnic group as “white”

            At the moment, not really, but the advocates of Identity Politics are trying very hard to change this. Give them time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Can an ethnic group be created out of thin air? Race is one thing – it’s a socially determined thing; someone could be considered black in one place and white in another – but there’s no ethnic group as “white” or “black” – those are racial categories. If Serbs and Croats, or Irish and English, are different ethnic groups, there can hardly be one “white” ethnicity.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            Sure, for instance the US government has created the ethnic group “Hispanic” out of thin air (it includes everyone from fullblooded Taino to the Portuguese). It doesn’t have to make sense.

          • Aapje says:

            If Serbs and Croats, or Irish and English, are different ethnic groups, there can hardly be one “white” ethnicity.

            If the Norsemen and Anglo-Saxons were different ethnic groups, there can hardly be one ‘English’ ethnicity.

            Ethnicities are not static, they develop. Go back far enough and none of these ethnic groups existed.

          • BBA says:

            how would white nationalists come to power in a country that was 2/3s not white?

            Through a flawed electoral system that allowed a party that won fewer overall votes to gain power.

            Okay, fine, those were Afrikaner nationalists, but close enough.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler:

            My impression was that the US government counts Hispanics as a cultural group, which is different from how “Hispanic”, “Latino”, etc is usually considered in the popular imagination – as a racial group.

            @Aapje:

            Yes, they develop, but slowly, and organically. You can’t just say “white is an ethnicity now”.

          • onyomi says:

            @dndnrsn

            But there already arguably is such a thing as “white American culture” as distinct from any particular European culture (though often called “Anglo-American” culture due to greater similarity and shared language), as there is definitely such a thing as a distinctive Afro-American culture as distinct from any particular African culture.

            Despite progress on racial issues, I think this process has, to some extent, even accelerated, with black Americans developing their own culture distinct from white culture, but which displays a lot of consistency from region to region in terms of speech patterns, dress, choice in music and movies, etc.

            For example, talking to old black people in the south and old white people in the south, I actually find them to be more similar to one another than young black people in the south and young white people in the south. Related, I find young black people in the north to seemingly have more in common with the black people in the south than with the white people in the north.

            I feel like there is a weird way in which these things become self-fulfilling prophecies: northern, rural white people may hear music produced in Nashville and be like “I guess this is our culture,” and southern rural black people may hear rap created in the Bronx and think “I guess this is our culture.” Which makes it sound artificial, but I think culture has sort of always been like this; maybe the weird thing is that now people who are very geographically dispersed can pick and choose the culture they want to identify with.

            That is, in the past, when differences among states and regions were greater and communication and mobility less, and regardless of institutionalized discrimination and attitudes, there was a sense in which black and white Southerners were, in reality, Southerners/natives of e. g. Louisiana first, and black or white second (maybe American third). Now, it seems to be shifting to where people are American first, black or white American second, and Southern/Northern/New Englander, Louisiana native, third.

            For this reason, though I don’t think white American nationalism or black American nationalism are good ideas, I also don’t think it’s incoherent to say that there is such a thing as a white American identity or a black American identity. A group identifying with such an identity could try moving “back” to Europe or Africa, but the difficulties would probably be somewhat analogous to European Jews moving “back” to Israel.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I would argue that the construction of ethnic groups is often greatly shaped by how other groups interact with people. IMO, identity politics is accelerating this process greatly. After a certain amount of ‘white privilege,’ ‘angry white men,’ ‘affirmative action,’ etc; many white people have gained a shared experience.

            Also, as onyomi has argued, these kind of entities are often relative (within a certain context) and badly named.

            I’ve often heard (children of) immigrants say that they feel like a member of their origin country when in their new country and feel like a member of their new country when going back. This illustrates how these identities are relative to the surroundings, rather than absolutes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi

            Is there a distinct “white American” culture? It seems to me like there are considerable regional differences, a major rural/urban divide, etc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            A shared identity group is different from an ethnic group.

            I agree that this election is likely an indicator that you have a growing number of whites who are now considering themselves as part of an identity group – vs considering themselves the “unmarked default”, “just Americans”, etc.

            But if this were to mean that there is a distinct “white American” ethnicity, that would be an ethnic group that would have popped up awfully quickly.

          • onyomi says:

            “Is there a distinct “white American” culture?”

            Yes, it’s called “NASCAR.”

            Joking aside, I’m referring to a kind of distinctive “rural, white American” culture which I think has developed. Related, I think differences among Southern accents have weakened, though “a southern accent” is still very much a thing. Conversely, it seems like, to the extent a distinctive “pan-Afro-American” culture has developed, it is more urban.*

            Which is not to say that all white Americans or black Americans share these culture, nor that there is nothing distinctive about the cultures of urban whites or rural blacks, nor that all regional differences have been effaced, just that these seem to be the more noticeable ones, and that regional differences seem to be weakening, as, unfortunately, racial identity may be strengthening (another reason I want more “melting pot” and less “salad bowl”).

            *Edit to add: after doing everything they could to cultivate a pan-Afro-American identity and a general pan-everything-but-rural white American identity block, Blue tribe is now freaking out that rural white people in Michigan and Pennsylvania may be starting to identify more with rural, Red America than with Blue, Northern, pro-labor, party of FDR America.

          • onyomi says:

            “A shared identity group is different from an ethnic group.”

            How? How do you define “ethnicity”?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Wikipedia defines it so:

            “An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities, such as common ancestral, language, social, cultural or national experiences.”

            I don’t see why white Americans can’t be seen as an ethnic group under this definition.

            Ultimately, ethnicity is something that exists when people think it does anyway. Furthermore, people can belong to different ethnicities, depending on the context.

            If a white or black American comes to my country, they will probably feel ‘American.’ If you put that white American in a black gospel church, he will probably feel ‘white.’

          • dndnrsn says:

            There are well over 200 million white Americans, descended from many different identifiable European cultures, ethnic groups, whatever you want to call them. It’s a vast agglomeration of different people who live under the same national authority and speak the same language, in a way that’s pretty unusual (considering all of human history). I think that, although there are commonalities, it’s stretching the definition of “ethnic group” a bit much – if however many million Irish are an ethnic group, and both the descendants of Irish immigrants and first-generation Irish immigrants are present among “white Americans”, as an identifiable ethnic group (after all, there are plenty of Americans who will answer “Irish” if you ask them what their ethnicity is), then surely “white American” is not an identifiable ethnic group.

            In any case, this is a red herring. Even if all 2/3 or so of Americans who are white are members of one ethnic group, it doesn’t change the considerable intellectual and moral failings of white nationalism in the US, or that any attempt to deport or subjugate the other 1/3 (and, realistically, those among the 2/3 who didn’t want any part of that) would lead to blood and chaos.

          • onyomi says:

            “There are well over 200 million white Americans, descended from many different identifiable European cultures, ethnic groups, whatever you want to call them”

            There are close to 50 million black Americans, descended from something like 46 ethnic groups who originally probably spoke >30 languages. Yet would you deny there is such a thing as a distinctive Afro-American culture?

            Again, I’m not arguing that white American nationalism or black American nationalism are good ideas; just that there is such a thing as white American culture and black American culture as distinct from any of the European and African cultures from which they descended (noting, of course, that white American culture has some African influences and black American culture some European influences as well).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            Hispanics are an “ethnicity”. But the concept is not very coherent. It cuts across races, cultures, and nations.

            https://www.census.gov/population/hispanic/about/

            The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires federal agencies to use a minimum of two ethnicities in collecting and reporting data: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. OMB defines “Hispanic or Latino” as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. Hispanic origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be any race.

            The 2010 Census question on Hispanic origin included five separate response categories and one area where respondents could write in a specific Hispanic origin group. The first response category is intended for respondents who do not identify as Hispanic. The remaining response categories (“Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano”; “Puerto Rican”; “Cuban”; and “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin”) and write-in answers can be combined to create the OMB category of Hispanic.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Onyomi:

            I’m not saying there’s no distinctive American cultures. That would be a bizarre claim for me to make. I would argue that “ethnicity as culture” works well in Europe, or Africa, or Asia, but breaks down once you get to the New World, especially the US and Canada.

          • onyomi says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m still finding the whole concept of “ethnicity” to be murky. Insofar as we use the Wikipedia definition Aapje provided, I don’t see why it would apply any better or worse to New World groups with shared cultural, linguistic, historic, and/or genetic roots than to Asian, African, or European groups with the same?

            If anything it seems to me like the concept of ethnicity, which I tend to view as being somewhat broader than “culture,” but narrower than “human,” applies more to New World groups, due to the history of migration, than to Europe, Asia, and Africa. For example, it makes little sense for me to describe “Vietnamese” the culture as an “ethnic group.” It might make sense to describe “Indo-Aryan” as a broad ethnic group as distinct from e. g. Dravidian Indians, but that’s precisely because of a history of broad migration patterns which brought two large, but not at all internally homogeneous groups into contact.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It is murky, and I’m not the one who brought it up in the first place.

            I do however think that the extent to which “all white people in the US” can be said to have shared roots is far, far weaker than the extent to which “all Irish” can be said to have such shared roots.

            Regardless, this is a bit of a tangent.

          • skef says:

            “A shared identity group is different from an ethnic group.”

            How? How do you define “ethnicity”?

            Project this question back on to what you’re most familiar with (and probably somewhat annoyed by): Is stuffy, knee-jerk academia, and the larger social milieu it’s a part of, an ethnicity?

          • John Schilling says:

            There are well over 200 million white Americans, descended from many different identifiable European cultures, ethnic groups, whatever you want to call them. It’s a vast agglomeration of different people who live under the same national authority and speak the same language, in a way that’s pretty unusual (considering all of human history).

            My ancestors came from four different European countries. I can tell you what countries those are, but I cannot find any way in which this significantly affects my beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts in any way, nor my interactions with other Americans. I cannot see how there would be any substantive difference if my ancestors had come from four different European countries.

            If my ethnicity is not “American”, what is it? If there is an “African-American” ethnicity which I am not, then is my ethnicity not necessarily “White American”?

            Or are you going to deny me ethnicity altogether? That would make it convenient for people who insist that ethnic groups have rights that need to be protected but that white people only have privileges that need to be rescinded.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Related to what John Schilling just said… one of the ways to encourage people to form groups is to give them a common enemy.

            If there’s a group which represents the interests of “people of color and LGBTQ*”, this encourages the formation of a group of “straight white people”.

            In practice this group claims to represent “women, people of color, and LGBTQ*”, which muddies things a lot as men and women are difficult to separate this way. Still, it has some effect.

          • StellaAthena says:

            My ancestors came from four different European countries. I can tell you what countries those are, but I cannot find any way in which this significantly affects my beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts in any way, nor my interactions with other Americans. I cannot see how there would be any substantive difference if my ancestors had come from four different European countries.

            Out of curiosity, when did your family come to this country? My family came here in the 1960s and 1970s from Nicaragua and it’s really hard for me to imagine feeling like this.

            If my ethnicity is not “American”, what is it? If there is an “African-American” ethnicity which I am not, then is my ethnicity not necessarily “White American”?

            I think there are political reasons that people don’t like to consider “American” an ethnicity, as the implication is that other ethnicities are “less American” than the “true american” one. Speaking as someone who isn’t part of this “true american” ethnicity, I don’t find it particularly uncomfortable, but I see why some people do.

            What do you think of as being important to your ethnic heritage. Maybe if you made a list, we could work on describing your ethnicity.

            Or are you going to deny me ethnicity altogether? That would make it convenient for people who insist that ethnic groups have rights that need to be protected but that white people only have privileges that need to be rescinded.

            Calm down and at least try to keep your strawmans directed at people who are in this thread rather than some SJ boogeyman.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling:

            What European countries someone’s ancestors come from could easily determine their religious affiliation. Some European countries – Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, among others – seem to have far stronger identification among subsequent generations.

            I’m a random NW European mishmash. If I’m “white Canadian” as an ethnicity, am I the same ethnicity as a Portuguese-Canadian person who is very, very clearly “Portuguese”, and who is white, and a Canadian? Am I “White Canadian (NOS)”? If I had to describe my ethnicity, I would probably say just that – “NW European mishmash”.

          • Randy M says:

            Out of curiosity, when did your family come to this country? My family came here in the 1960s and 1970s and it’s really hard for me to imagine feeling like this.

            My most recent immigrant ancestor was my father’s maternal grandmother from Denmark (at a young age, so maybe 1930s?); I believe there is German and English ties going back much further.

            At this point I wish we’d had a slightly stronger connection to the old world, but there was very little. I never heard growing up “We’re English” or “We’re German” etc. Other than the genetic influence, all contributions of our nationalities are filtered through American culture. So I resonate pretty well with what John said there.
            Growing up, culture didn’t mean much to me, because the US was more of a WASPy monoculture then, and because my family emphasized our religion more (which was fairly typically American). Also, I think connecting with one’s ancestors matters more once one has children.

          • skef says:

            @John Shilling

            If my ethnicity is not “American”, what is it? If there is an “African-American” ethnicity which I am not, then is my ethnicity not necessarily “White American”?

            Or are you going to deny me ethnicity altogether? That would make it convenient for people who insist that ethnic groups have rights that need to be protected but that white people only have privileges that need to be rescinded.

            I wouldn’t deny someone an ethnicity, but I wouldn’t necessarily grant someone’s sense of what their ethnicity is. “Ethnic” seems to me to be a success term. It’s not enough for a group of people to think “we are united by what our ancestors having done these sorts of things, which were distinct from what other people were doing”. It also actually has to be the case that the ancestors did distinct things. Confusingly, they don’t necessarily have to be the same things the present group has in mind. It’s probably possible to “whip up” a new ethnicity, but it would take at least few generations, and I suspect more than a few.

            A lot of what’s going on now in the U.S. is not really ethnic because there isn’t the right kind of connection between the present and the past. The claims are that the current developments are continuations of already existing ethnicities, and that the people with mis-matching heritage are “posers”. But the current practices didn’t really come about in that way.

          • skef says:

            @The Nybbler

            If there’s a group which represents the interests of “people of color and LGBTQ*”, this encourages the formation of a group of “straight white people”.

            In practice this group claims to represent “women, people of color, and LGBTQ*”, which muddies things a lot as men and women are difficult to separate this way. Still, it has some effect.

            Or you could give people a book full of statements about what is good and bad, partly constituted by such group memberships, and say “this is the law”. That might also have an effect.

          • Brad says:

            @John Schilling

            My ancestors came from four different European countries. I can tell you what countries those are, but I cannot find any way in which this significantly affects my beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts in any way, nor my interactions with other Americans. I cannot see how there would be any substantive difference if my ancestors had come from four different European countries.

            It probably depends on which four others and when. I imagine if your grandparents were from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro that might well affect your “beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts” and “interactions with other Americans”.

            If you want to say that the “White American” ethnicity is made up of those whose ancestors were all or mostly in the United States prior to 1890 and aren’t black, Native American, or Hispanic that’s a coherent notion. But you shouldn’t be surprised that people that don’t fit that definition — which includes quite a lot of people otherwise considered “white” — aren’t too happy with the implications of a “White Nationalism” based on such a definition.

            I wonder if an ethnicity so defined is a majority of the population even today. The Census Bureau claims that as of 2012, the White Non-Hispanic population of the United States was 62.8%. Start carving off significant chunks like Italian-Americans and that is going to drop quickly.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you want to say that the “White American” ethnicity is made up of those whose ancestors were all or mostly in the United States prior to 1890 and aren’t black, Native American, or Hispanic that’s a coherent notion.

            1890 is too far back; America is good at assimilation, and by this point I think almost everyone whose vaguely-European ancestors arrived prior to WWII is a Generic White American who maybe celebrates St. Patrick’s day a bit more vigorously than their neighbors or the like.

            For post-WWII immigrants, yes, it probably does matter where in Europe they came from.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s probably possible to “whip up” a new ethnicity, but it would take at least few generations, and I suspect more than a few.

            European-Americans have been at this for quite some time, you know.

          • skef says:

            @John Shilling

            Which is one reason “I wouldn’t deny someone [in this case of European extraction in the U.S.] an ethnicity”. That in and of itself doesn’t get you a distinction between, say, a Brooklynite disdainful of chain stores and NASCAR/country music enthusiast.

          • John Schilling says:

            Out of curiosity, when did your family come to this country? My family came here in the 1960s and 1970s from Nicaragua and it’s really hard for me to imagine feeling like this.

            Nicaragua not being a part of Europe, I am not surprised. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I think pretty much every European who arrived prior to 1945 has assimilated as a generic American, and most of the Northern Europeans who arrived later.

            My own ancestors arrived in 1870 on my mother’s side and 1930 on my father’s….

            What do you think of as being important to your ethnic heritage. Maybe if you made a list, we could work on describing your ethnicity.

            …and we don’t need your help or permission to define our ethnicity. We’re Unhyphenated Americans, and if it seems exclusionary to just call us “Americans”, well, the vast majority of Unhyphenated Americans are White.

          • John Schilling says:

            Some European countries – Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, among others – seem to have far stronger identification among subsequent generations.

            I have Scottish-Americans and Irish-Americans in my extended family; at this point that “identification” is basically a hobby for most. Hmm, maybe we could call David Friedman a Medieval-American?

            Recent Italian-American immigrants probably do constitute a distinct ethnicity in some places. Not sure about the Portugese, but I’d generally caution against presuming too much in the way of the descendants of immigrants not being actually just Americans.

          • Brad says:

            1890 is too far back; America is good at assimilation, and by this point I think almost everyone whose vaguely-European ancestors arrived prior to WWII is a Generic White American who maybe celebrates St. Patrick’s day a bit more vigorously than their neighbors or the like.

            For post-WWII immigrants, yes, it probably does matter where in Europe they came from.

            That doesn’t ring quite true to me. Descendants of Italian, Jewish and non-Jewish Eastern Europeans immigrants from 1890 to and during WWII seem to be on one side of a real line from descendants of Germans and Irish immigrants that dominated the prior wave. Maybe in another generation or two the former groups will be where the latter groups are now, but that remains to be seen.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling:

            I live in a neighbourhood that is heavily Portuguese, and the younger generations – born in Canada – are distinctively Portuguese. They speak the language, for instance. Nobody would say they aren’t Canadians, though.

            Meanwhile, my family is entirely post-WWII immigrants, and I get the feeling that we are more assimilated – not speaking the Old Country languages, not eating the traditional cuisine much – than some Europeans who came over before WWII. The dividing line seems to be that the latter are mostly South or Eastern Europeans.

            Of course, the cuisine thing could be thrown off by Italian food, which is on average markedly better than the food of NW Europe.

          • “maybe we could call David Friedman a Medieval-American?”

            Hobbies do, to some extent, play the role of ethnicity. Fellow SCA folk are likely to feel closer to me than random strangers. Also fellow libertarians. Also fellow SF readers. Also fellow economists. When we were looking at colleges for my kids, one of the things I would do was wander around the econ department getting in conversations, in part because economists will view other economists as members of the same ethnicity and so talk to them.

            I think the only conventionally defined ethnicity other than American with any salience for me is Ashkenazi. Israel felt to me more like family than other foreign countries I have visited.

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t like how some people in this thread seem to equate white ethnicity with white nationality, as if the people that recognize that there is a shared element, will then en mass break out the swastika’s.

            Anyway, I would argue that integration happens in phases, where the first wave generally defines their identity primarily by their home country. Then you get one or more generations that are between cultures and don’t feel they belong in either. Then at one point, a new generation sees themselves primarily as members of the culture of the country they migrated to and their heritage becomes more like something fun that they can dip into or out of.

            The actual speed of this process depends on many factors, including the gap between the cultures, their acceptance in the new culture, whether the old culture supports or fights against integration, whether they stand out (by skin color for example), etc, etc.

            I would guess that StellaAthena is very much in this middle generation or barely edging out of it, while Randy M is fully on the other side.

            Finally, I would want to agree with the earlier comment(s) that stated that white ethnicity is developing more and more due to exclusion and ‘othering’ by other groups. You don’t need a strong shared history, if you get lumped together by others.

            African-Americans that descend from slaves clearly have developed an ethnic awareness in the same way, despite having very different source cultures (their ancestors having come from various parts of Africa).

          • bean says:

            African-Americans that descend from slaves clearly have developed an ethnic awareness in the same way, despite having very different source cultures (their ancestors having come from various parts of Africa).

            I’d argue that their source culture is that of slavery, not the African places the ancestors of the slaves came from. I bet virtually every unhyphenated American here has at least one ancestor who came over after 1865, and that doesn’t seem to have stopped the melting pot getting rid of hyphens. The same melting pot would have been working on them both during and after the abolition of slavery.

    • Dahlen says:

      Say I believed that, on the whole, homogenous polities function better than non-homogenous ones.

      This very premise is probably the shakiest part of the white identitarian ideology. It’s just so easy to nitpick. Not only does homogeneity not necessarily entail homogeneity on the basis of whiteness or ethnicity, i.e. people might have different ideas of their primary identity group than you’d expect them to, but people vary on so many traits, that it’s possible to employ additional similarity filters to group people up until you hit the limit of the individual, and if you do so, it’s debatable that the resulting groups are doubleplusgood than they would be if more intermixing were allowed.

      But wait, it gets better. Sometimes, for some traits among some groups, people evaluate homogeneity as desirable, sometimes as undesirable — but this varies in a complex way with social distance from the group. Say, within a peer group, people simultaneously try to conform to the group norm in some ways and to differentiate themselves as individuals in other ways, all the while trying to distance themselves entirely and unambiguously from a disliked outgroup.

      But we’re not done yet this time either! Once a group reaches a critical size, cliques form within groups, and what would otherwise be a very homogeneous bunch starts to blow out of proportion tiny splits and differences that exist between them even though an outsider wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the cliques (e.g. black metal and death metal), and then they start disliking each other even more than they dislike people way more different from either of them (-> Balkanisation, Post-Partisanship is Hyper-Partisanship etc.). If we insist upon talking about race, look at the virtually all-black countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, surely the racial homogeneity must be working out wonderfully for them, that’s why they don’t splinter into thousands upon thousands of tiny tribes. Or, pick some random Eastern Bloc country (super-majority white, I bet nobody would list “white” as a primary identity group) and count the minutes until somebody starts telling jokes involving regional stereotypes.

      Sociology 101, that’s all I’m sayin’.

      Diversity always exists. Where there’s no diversity, people will work hard to create it ex nihilo. For most of us, the mention of the words “state policy should encourage homogeneity” gives us the heebie jeebies. Given that, of course some people will suspect that picking a category such as race as the foundation of social trust is more likely to come from a place of irrational bias.

    • Brad says:

      With those beliefs, what policies would I call for, in order of severity? Substantial limits to immigration from those outside the volk, however it’s defined. Public endorsement of the cultural morays of the volk and lack of recognition of other cultures. Financial incentives and subsidies for non members to emigrate, either from one part of the country to another or out of the country entirely.

      Now, personally, I support none of those policies, but none of them can I say rises even close to the level of evil. Frankly, none of them even rises to the level of racist, at best, they’re separatist. And yet we still had people claiming they can’t imagine a white nationalist movement that wasn’t literally drenched in blood. A little perspective, perhaps?

      It’s a real puzzle.

    • ChetC3 says:

      White nationalism is no more or less evil than communism.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Do you mean this in a “No such thing as evil”, or in a “They’re both pretty damn terrible” sort of way?

      • cassander says:

        White nationalism doesn’t want to invade the none white parts of the world, murder most of the people who live there, and convert them to whiteness.

        • ChetC3 says:

          Ideologies don’t want things, people do. The people who’ve espoused the ideology of white nationalism have a lousy track record.

          • cassander says:

            Not anywhere near as lousy as that of communists. Like, an order of magnitude less lousy.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            After a few million bodies, the difference is barely perceptible.

          • ChetC3 says:

            White nationalists have been “better” than communists not because they’re less malevolent, but because they’ve managed to be even less competent. I mean, communists have at least managed to win a war or two. What have white nationalists ever accomplished?

    • oneoff2 says:

      You say that you want an all-white nation, but you’re talking about these policies like “limit immigration”, and I can’t help but notice that these policies won’t accomplish your goals. This makes me worry that you have a separate, hidden set of planned policies which will accomplish your goals, but you’re not telling us about them because they’re basically genocide. If you don’t have those policies yet, I’m worried that, after a few years of trying to limit immigration, you’re going to say: “oh, limiting immigration isn’t working, let’s come up with something that will work, it’s time to try genocide”.

      Sometimes I see articles like http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/alt-right-salutes-donald-trump.html, claiming that the alt-right are coming unnervingly close to endorsing Hitler. This make me worry that, although you personally are describing very mild policies like limits on immigration, the bulk of the people calling themselves “white nationalists” are in fact thinking about genocide.

      Honestly this feels like a motte-and-bailey to me: you’re here in the comments section telling us that white nationalism means we should limit immigration, but the white-nationalist “National Policy Institute” is in Washington shouting Nazi slogans. Which is the real white nationalism?

    • oneoff2 says:

      Also: “cultural morays” are not a thing. A “moray” is a kind of eel. I’m pretty sure you meant “cultural mores”.

  15. Sandy says:

    Something quite remarkable seems to be unfolding in France. The presidential election has come down to center-right (Francois Fillon) vs far-right (Marine Le Pen); no one seems to think the left-wing candidates and parties have much of a chance to take the presidency. There were quite a few people who claimed Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump was a case of the center-right vs the far-right — I think these people were wrong, but it should be noted that when it was believed the Republicans were going to suffer a landslide and possibly lose both houses of Congress, many commentators on the left believed Hillary should embrace a sweeping progressive agenda and offer no concessions to Republicans at all, sort of as a punishment for picking a candidate like Trump. Right now there is very little talk of anything like that in France. Fillon is a nationalist and soft Eurosceptic with a particularist and Catholic approach to French identity; on issues such as trade he is closer to Thatcher than Trump, but when he talks about the decline of France and his plans for a restoration to greatness, it is hard not to see the similarities to America’s orange roi. Or for that matter when he talks about renewing France’s relationship with Moscow, which might further isolate Germany in the EU; his critics are so alarmed by his intention to seek a detente with Putin that they are now claiming Europe is in danger of becoming a Russian vassal state.

    What is particularly interesting is that Fillon is not really courting left-wing voters; if anything he is moving further to the right on issues such as multiculturalism, Islam and immigration, in an attempt to attract some of Le Pen’s voters. It is a shame he has not yet moved to abolish laïcité, but nobody’s perfect. I cannot remember the last time in a major Western democracy that the left seemed a barren force on the national stage while the center-right and the nationalists were in a position to divide up the power among themselves. And unless I’m very much mistaken, it seems that come election time, the socialists will swallow their pride and urge their voters to back Fillon; they are so anxious to stop Le Pen from moving into the Élysée Palace that they might empower a man who seems positively Trumpian in many regards.

    Of course, the possibility exists Fillon is just jumping on hot topics to get elected; the same could be said for Trump, so who knows?

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Seems like the French left really lacks effective leadership. With the right wing vote split between two parties they could easily get a candidate to the runoff if they had one party, but they’re fragmented into like five parties.

      • quarint says:

        You are right that the French left lacks effective leadership, but there is also a real ideological divide at work between the socialists and the progressists.
        The right wing vote is not really divided between two parties. The Front National is actually only right wing because they’re anti immigrants, but economically they are close to the far left wing. That’s why the working class, which was previously voting left, is now supporting the Front National. The Front National is still appealing to some of the right-wing voters who are mainly focused on immigration, but really their electorate comes from both sides of the political spectrum.

    • cassander says:

      Part of it, I think, is an artifact of the french voting system, which all but ensures there will be a runoff between the center right and far right candidates.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      It seems to me that you are incorrectly conflating US left and right with whatever it is that France has. My first thought when you talked about the weakness of the left was — “yay, maybe they will decrease the size of the porcine French government.” But then I realized that neither of the “right” parties in France are in favor of smaller government, I don’t think (well, I realize that in practice the Republicans don’t decrease the US government when in power either, but at least that is their position, so I am forever hopeful). Doesn’t “right” and “far right” just mean against more immigrants and really really against more immigrants? They are like Trump in that way, but in any other way? What do these parties stand for other than immigrants?

      • Judging by news stories, Fillon is an admirer of Thatcher who wants to scale down current employment rules claimed to be responsible for the very high unemployment rates. Also described as a soft Euroskeptic. Probably in favor of a mild shift in a free market direction on issues other than immigration.

        • Tibor says:

          Of course, one thing are campaign promises and another is Realpolitik. Especially in France it seems to be notoriously hard to reform anything without large scale protests and strikes. Also, Angela Merkel is supposedly a center-right politician, although her recent policies included bailing out Greece (instead of letting it go bankrupt), instituting a minimum wage in Germany, increasing the state pensions and I think taxes were also increased during her chancellorship (I’m not sure if it was in this or one of the two previous periods).

      • Sandy says:

        But then I realized that neither of the “right” parties in France are in favor of smaller government, I don’t think

        Fillon is — he’s planning to eliminate half a million government jobs and remove several labor regulations.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Oh so that is good. I am glad to hear it. After all I’ve heard about France more or less forcing employees NOT to work hard, it is time for a reaction to that. I hope Fillon is successful.

          But isn’t France a parliamentary system, so the head of government can’t do a whole lot on his own? You say Fillon wants to do this, but is this just rhetoric on the campaign trail, or does his party agree? Also, does the winning party in France usually have a majority, or does it have to build a coalition with other parties that might have different views? I’d just like to know how optimistic I should be. There are many Europeans in the commentariat here, but I can’t recall anyone saying there were French.

          • quarint says:

            France has many laws protecting the workers from their employers, this is true. And Fillon is indeed planning to weaken, or suppress some of those.
            The parliamentary elections are scheduled right after the presdential election, so the winning party usually has a majority. If Fillon wins the presidential, his party will without a doubt get a majority in the parliament.
            However, the more liberal propositions of Fillon will without a doubt cause a huge uproar if he does try to pass them (some in his own party are already asking for cuts in his program). There will be monster demonstrations and strikes. Even the current, center left govt had to deal with big protests when they passed some moderately liberal laws on work conditions. With Fillon extremely liberal propositions, it will be a million times worse. It could really be chaos.

          • @quarint:

            I note that you are using “liberal” in the European sense, not the current American sense. I conjecture that you are not an American.

            I, of course, approve. From my point of view, “we” gave “liberal” a strongly positive connotation during the 19th century, and our enemies than stole the name to take advantage of that connotation.

            Which is why we now have to call ourselves “libertarian,” a name we stole from … .

          • Tibor says:

            France has a semi-presidential system. The president has less power than in the US but more than in other countries in Europe (several European countries have monarch instead of a president and in most others the president’s office is mostly ceremonial. In Switzerland they have a federal council of 7 members instead and the ceremonial function corresponding to presidency rotates between them every year). I think the only other European country with a strong presidency is Romania (I don’t count Russia or Turkey as a European countries since most of both are in Asia)

            @quarint: if he wins I hope he has balls like Margaret Thatcher. If France doesn’t overcome this socialist gridlock and liberalise, it will end up just like Greece (or Spain or Italy at best). But since it’s the second most populated European country that wouldn’t be very pretty.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            if he wins I hope he has balls like Margaret Thatcher.

            I love the visual on this.

    • I got to witness in the past decade france turn into islamic terrorism playground funzone. I’d be right-wing* too there, even though i’m very sympathetic to the green party.

      Is greenery separated in France and the European countries the same way its happened here?

      *or at least, heavily anti-immigration.

      • Tibor says:

        I think that partly it is, but not entirely. My father is quite conservative and fairly against non-European immigration, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, he seems to be quite fond of the Vietnamese for example, (when I inquired further, it turned out he cares mostly about people living off welfare, especially those who come from areas with a very different culture and are unlikely to assimilate, he is ok with qualified immigrants even from non-European countries, so let’s call it “soft anti-immigration”).

        At the same time however, he is quite concerned about ecology, global warming and environmentalism -he supports nuclear power, but he is against fracking oil, and generally supports abandoning fossil fuel. Partly these two are aligned – he notices that there is a lot of oil in countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia and would like them to have less economic (and hence political, since the oil is mostly owned by the state in those countries) power because of the ideologies of those countries. Also, one reason for why he is concerned about global warming because it could mean another wave of immigration to Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

        I’m not sure how representative he is in this respect, but I would say that conservatives in Europe do not necessarily share the US conservative views on ecology (I believe they are much more likely than the left to support nuclear power though).

      • quarint says:

        Not sure how it is in here (which i take to be the US), but I’ll tell you how it is in France.
        Greenery is mostly a left thing in France. During the debates for the primary elections of the main right wing party, there was no mention of the environment at all.
        Ex-president Sarkozy, which was a candidate at this election, even adopted a climate change denier position during the campain for a few days, before retracting. It was clearly a demagoguery outburst. Overall, climate change denial is rare on the political scene, been this way for a dozen years probably. The right wing doesn’t deny climate change, but usually argues that there are more important issues.
        The right is usually pro nuclear, but pro fossil energies as well. They are heavily favored by hunters, and the hunter lobby (which is very powerful) is very influent on them. The hunters and the ecologists loathe each other.
        The main left party, currently in power, is pro nuclear as well, but anti fossil energies and overall more concerned about the environment than the right wing.
        The green party, which is very often allied with the former (there were several green minister during Hollande’s mandate), is anti fossil energies and anti nuclear. They don’t have much of an electoral base, usually totalling less than 5% of the votes in the first round of the presidential election. Their other policies besides the environment, are definitely left wing.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          @quarint. thanks a lot for these comments. I take it you live in France? So maybe that’s why you originally replied to my earlier comments asking for French input.

          I kind of wish everyone would say where they live, as that would clarify a lot of comments, although I realize that would weigh down conversations.

          By the way I do live in the US, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But Tibor, who I think you were replying to, is a Czech living in Germany I believe. It certainly gives a different flavor talking about Vietnamese living in the Czech Republic (who probably moved there when both countries were communist), versus Vietnamese living in the US.

  16. IrishDude says:

    Does anyone have a good summary of the Dakota pipeline protests that can give each side’s argument? Do the protesters have a leg to stand on?

    • skef says:

      The pipeline issue was recently discussed on the reddit sub here. I have no view on the accuracy of the commentary either way.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I was following it out of professional interest before the story blew up, and my general impression was that the parties on both sides acted foolishly, and then doubled-down admit that they might bear some responsibility for the misunderstanding.

      The issue has since been seized upon by third, fourth, and fifth parties and it’s now pretty much impossible to sort truth from toxoplasma.

    • Brad says:

      I found the district court judgement helpful in sorting out what was going on, though obviously focused on legal questions instead of larger historical context.

      http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/order-denying-PI.pdf

      • IrishDude says:

        Thanks Brad! That opinion was cited in the reddit sub that skef pointed me to, and I read most of it.

        It seems that the Standing Rock tribe was disorganized and unhelpful in many instances, by not agreeing to meetings, cancelling them once agreed to, or not sending a representative out to help identify important tribal sites at a point in the process, and that the Army Corps of Engineers reached out to them many times to get their input. In one instance, they even changed the path of the pipeline in response to a concern voiced by the tribe archaeologist, an action they took at least 100 other times in response to concerns by other tribes.

        I was actually pretty impressed with the level of engagement between the company, the Corps, and the tribes, and it seems like tribes were often able to influence the path of the pipeline to address their concerns. It doesn’t appear to me like Big Corporate or Big Government running amok over native tribes.

  17. rlms says:

    Thoughts on whether it is ethically required to put “the author was not paid a fee for this piece” at the end of anonymous thinkpieces?

    • Sandy says:

      See, I don’t think associating Sam Harris with the alt-right is a strategically sound move. What next, Bill Maher is basically Richard Spencer on HBO?

      • skef says:

        This is a weaselly use of “associating”. If the author is unfair to Harris it’s through uncharitable use of scare-quotes.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Sam “If you have a green frog in your Twitter bio, or use the word “cuck” without irony, please unfollow and block me” Harris is fairly obvious not on board with the Alt-Right … but I’m not convinced that that piece is mistaken that there’s a lot of nasty stuff that’s only a few clicks away from him, which is all that that piece seems to be trying to claim.

        Of course, to the degree that Harris is right, this is a problem that arises largely because so many voices on the left instinctively conflate criticism of Islam with bigotry against Muslims … but to the degree that that article is right, because of the way human brains work, it’s probably impossible to maintain an absolute intellectual quarantine between criticism of an ideology and prejudice against people who hold it, such that the spread of Sam Harris-type criticism of Islam will inevitably embolden genuinely bigoted opponents of Muslims to some degree, no matter how careful you are.

        Still, I don’t think Harris himself could be accused of failing to stress the importance of that distinction. It is a confusing issue.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Bill Maher — HBD on HBO.

    • Mark says:

      It’s not ethically required, but it’s pretty sensible. You certainly don’t want customers to think you’re employing murderers, rapists, or near racists.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If you’re publishing a completely phony cautionary tale like that one, whether or not the author was paid for it is the least of your issues.

    • Deiseach says:

      For that particular piece, it’s less “the author was not paid” and more “they had to pay us to publish this”.

      Good God Almighty, was that written by a man or a sponge (I mean the sea creature, not what you use to scrub out the bath, because at least a bath sponge has some point and usefulness). Maybe I have warped standards, but this kind of bleating makes me go “What is wrong with kids today?” (Not that I know the person’s age, but I’ve encountered three year olds with stronger sense of standing up for themselves):

      On one occasion I even, I am ashamed to admit, very diplomatically expressed negative sentiments on Islam to my wife. Nothing “overtly racist”, just some of the “innocuous” type of things the YouTubers had presented: “Islam isn’t compatible with western civilisation.”

      She was taken aback: “Isn’t that a bit … rightwing?”

      I justified it: “Well, I’m more a left-leaning centrist. PC culture has gone too far, we should be able to discuss these things without shutting down the conversation by calling people racist, or bigots.”

      The indoctrination was complete.

      Yes, it’s indoctrination into the foulest propaganda of the most wicked racist bigot scum to think “hey, calling people who disagree with you ‘racist bigot scum’ maybe doesn’t convince them to vote for your candidate, you know”?

      I haven’t yet told my wife that this happened, and I honestly don’t know how to. I need to apologise for what I said and tell her that I certainly don’t believe it. It is going to be a tough conversation and I’m not looking forward to it. I didn’t think this could happen to me. But it did and it will haunt me for a long time to come.

      Oh no, what will his wife do in that conversation? Will she…drink her tea in meaningful silence? Tsk-tsk at him? Could it possibly go along the lines of:

      “Darling, I need to confess something. I’m an idiot.”

      “Darling, I already knew that”.

      Hitherto I have defended the sanctity of marriage but my advice here is missus, divorce this guy quick-sharp, if you end up with a parrot or a teddy bear as your only company, you will still be doing better.

      Honestly, I fear for this chap’s safety should he walk outside his front door and a mild breeze blows, as he could be snapped in two by the force of the mighty zephyr! ‘I was very nearly almost radicalised by a few Youtube videos and now I feel that in some minor way I have contributed to the coming apocalypse in America when the death camps get into full swing, even though nobody in the United States either knows or cares about my existence’. How full of your own assurance that you are the absolute centre of the universe do you have to be to write this bilge?

      Forget getting paid to write chin-stroking self-flagellating articles, I should be bloody well compensated for the emotional trauma caused by reading that article as it caused me to endure the suffering of being feebly smacked around the face a couple of times by a damp face flannel!

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Interesting. ‘Alt-right nearly turned me into a racist’ factoid actualy just trolljob, according to Godfrey Elfwick.

  18. Mark says:

    Just spent the morning reading r/futurology.

    People are very worried about the automation of jobs/UBI.

    Isn’t the main point this – where automated processes allow us to make everything more cheaply, we are also able to make new pieces of machinery more cheaply too.

    Each of them will sit under his own vine, with his own replicator.

    Problem is that capital is a social relation, and that some people might be motivated to prevent more widespread ownership of capital.

    • John Schilling says:

      Each of them will sit under his own vine, with his own replicator.

      In the interim state where the replicator still requires expert human assistance and/or cannot provide some vital services (e.g. medical care), there will be the issue of persuading replicator technicians and doctors to devote their time to people who do nothing but sit under a vine with a (likely broken) replicator.

    • psmith says:

      In addition to John’s point, automation will not necessarily occur in a form amenable to decentralization, and if it doesn’t you’re ultimately relying on nothing but the continued good will of the robot owners.

      Also a mighty optimistic take on the continued availability of natural resources.

      • Mark says:

        Yes, that’s true, but centralisation of production doesn’t suggest centralisation of ownership. If production can only occur in some specific social context, or in some particular location (so that owners require broad agreement to produce) that improves the ethical case for shared ownership.

        “Also a mighty optimistic take on the continued availability of natural resources.”

        Maybe, but that’ll be a problem whatever happens.

        • John Schilling says:

          Yes, that’s true, but centralisation of production doesn’t suggest centralisation of ownership. If production can only occur in some specific social context, or in some particular location (so that owners require broad agreement to produce) that improves the ethical case for shared ownership

          But it improves the practical case for centralized ownership. You have the profound ethical argument and the good will of the unemployed masses. I have the replicators, the replicator technicians, the ideal spot to set up the replicators, and so at the push of a button I will have a very large force of autonomous combat drones. Have fun contesting my ownership of, well, everything.

          I’d like to think the plucky heroes of La Resistance will defeat the Evil Drone Overlords if it comes to that, but I’m not optimistic.

  19. Randy M says:

    Recently I ordered a package from an online secondhand store. The package I got was addressed to someone with a similar name in another state, and worth 20 times as much. These are game components for which there is a market, so it would be fairly easy to liquidate them. I sent them back to the store, of course.

    But a it came up in conversation with a couple of friends, and I was disturbed that both of them shamelessly said they would certainly have kept the valuable items. We’re all adults with kids, but no one’s starving. Actions speak louder than words, however, words are cheap and I would expect it to be easier to lay claim to the virtue than follow through, so I’m more worried that no one recognized the virtuous action as being something to associate with. My response was pretty much “Oh, sure you would have returned it,” passing off the talk of keeping it as simply fantasizing, but that’s not really what it came off as, and it wasn’t dressed up in any utilitarianism of selling it an giving the money to the poor, or even justification of the company not noticing the loss, or even an admittance of weakness. Simply a failure or refusal to recognize a higher principle at work.

    I’m curious how you all react. Kind of surprised (at their responses) like me, or more savvy (as to what people now profess)? Or surprised at me for being the sucker?

    • skef says:

      I think social attitudes about this sort of thing are a mess right now. (What I see as) a related phenomenon is people who favor broad deregulation arguing that some action is fine on the basis that it’s “not illegal”. Is legality the relevant barrier for action or not?

      But a “mess” like this is an objective phenomenon, so I don’t really blame people for small stuff like keeping packages or staying silent about restaurant bills with missing items. I have my view about the right thing to do, which aligns with yours, and I do it.

      • I think part of it may be that a lot of people distinguish between their moral obligations to identifiable human beings and their moral obligations when dealing with firms. There is an implicit assumption that the firm is a morally irrelevant being with resources, so stealing from it harms nobody who matters.

        In a way, the same attitude explains the corporate income tax. People talk about corporations paying taxes as if the wealth wasn’t ultimately coming from human beings.

        • Brad says:

          Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Consider strategic default, people are subject to some opprobrium despite the counterparty generally being a firm. On the other hand firms seem to be less likely to be condemned for the same thing.

        • skef says:

          To add to what @Brad says …

          I would say that this is one of the issues that is part of the “mess” I cited earlier. But you make it sound as if business were a passive victim of changing attitudes, and that this change has nothing to do with the more-than-rhetorical shift from:

          In a free-enterprise, private-property sys­tem, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct re­sponsibility to his employers. That responsi­bility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while con­forming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.

          of your father’s (day) to

          The social obligation of business is to sustainably maximize long-term profits for shareholders. Nothing more. Nothing less.

          of present times.

          When the executive of the mortgage company makes a public statement about the ethical responsibility of paying off one’s debts, and it’s pointed out that the same company just strategically defaulted on its lease for a huge amount of office space, what should the individuals holding that mortgage think?

          From what I can see, the lines of implication point the other way. “Firms” are leading this change. Individuals have had to decide how to adjust. The emerging pattern is as @The Nybbler expresses: draw the line at family and immediate community.

        • skef says:

          To amplify what Brad says, part of the “mess” I alluded to earlier is that business culture is leading this change. The shift from

          In a free-enterprise, private-property sys­tem, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.

          to

          The social obligation of business is to sustainably maximize long-term profits for shareholders. Nothing more. Nothing less.

          Is more than rhetorical.

          When the executive from your mortgage company emphasizes the social responsibility of paying one’s debts, and it turns out that company just strategically defaulted on a huge lease, what should you think and do?

          A popular answer is @The Nybbler’s: reserve the older customs for family and close-knit community.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A popular answer is @The Nybbler’s: reserve the older customs for family and close-knit community.

            I think that’s Dr. Dealgood, below, though I’ve expressed similar sentiments in the past. Strategic default on a loan from JPMorgan? You betcha; after all J.P. himself would have done it in a heartbeat. But not to someone I knew personally (though I follow the advice of never borrowing money from or lending money to friends anyway)

            I don’t think this is necessarily as big as “corporations exist to make money for stockholders”; it could just be that ethical custom when dealing with commercial banks includes strategic default; you are not backing up the loan with your word or your honor, just your collateral.

          • CatCube says:

            The thing to be cautious about when talking about how only suckers wouldn’t “strategically default” on a mortgage because companies strategically default on their own leases: the terms of their lease are much more onerous because strategic default is culturally acceptable, and that gets priced in.

            If you encourage people to mail in the keys to their house as if they were renting commercial office space, then the terms of your next mortgage might be a little closer to the terms of a commercial lease than you might like.

          • skef says:

            Indeed: My mistaken attribution.

          • skef says:

            @CatCube

            But the relevant point of comparison in that case is the onerousness of the contract in contract-world compared to the onerousness of the social convention in social-convention world.

            The broad argument for the law/contract world, in which you just write down and enforce what needs to happen, is that the rules are explicit and there are costs for violating them. So you remove the “chump factor”. Of course, then you have piles of regulation and little flexibility.

            As far as I can tell, holding these two attitudes simultaneously is very common in the business world:

            1) A company should try to maximize profit as long as doing so is within the law.

            2) Regulations are an unnecessary and counter-productive fetter on business practices.

            Call me a socialist, but I really think that at most one of these should be on the table.

            The similar dichotomy on the personal level is “lawyers shouldn’t be involved in every aspect of life” vs “I don’t ever want to be a chump”. I solve this conundrum for myself by not worrying that much about chump-dom on the personal level.

          • Brad says:

            Skef, the way you put that reminds me a little of how many, though by no means all, Americans feel about haggling. They don’t want to haggle but they don’t want to feel like they got ripped off either. So the most preferred situation is one where no one can haggle.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            As far as I can tell, holding these two attitudes simultaneously is very common in the business world:

            1) A company should try to maximize profit as long as doing so is within the law.

            2) Regulations are an unnecessary and counter-productive fetter on business practices.

            Call me a socialist, but I really think that at most one of these should be on the table.

            Well I personally believe in some give on #1, that is when I do business with others, even as a fiduciary for someone else, I do think I should be fair even if it doesn’t maximize profit.

            However, even without my personal hedging, I think the two propositions as stated above are perfectly compatible. Most regulations are indeed unnecessary and counter-productive to general prosperity, because most regulations are written to maximize benefits for the politically powerful or knowledgeable, not for the benefit of most people. When it comes to business regulations, it is the businesses being regulated that are most knowledgeable, so they receive most of the benefit.

            And proposition #1 is mostly beneficial too. I agree that we will end up better if not everyone is trying to cheat everyone, but even complete and total profit maximizing would have a better result than with any other type of incentive.

            Of course the crux of the matter is what you mean by #2. IF you mean that ALL laws are bad, then yes it is a bad idea. So really the discussion is about where to draw the line. I am confident in my opinion that we’d all have better lives if we could eliminate 90% of the regulations out there. (But of course which 90% is crucial).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      You aren’t a sucker. You have to live with yourself. Every single day.

      Generally speaking, I think the mindset that says “keep them” is one that views that package as good luck for the receiver, and that the sender is one of:
      a) a nameless/faceless “other”, a corporation run by elites and fat cats,
      b) the “universe”, “god”, etc., or
      c) someone who has suffered the consequence of their own “unfitness” (they are incompetent, lazy, stupid, etc.)

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        I’d look at the actual consequences (in lost time, distraction) to the various individuals involved.

        I’d put the package away and see if anyone contacts me. Or, go ahead and use the stuff but keep the box in case someone does want it back.

        If the vendor contacts me, I’d ask them to send a pre-paid Return Invoice and packaging. On their site, complain about the whole thing and get them to commit to sending me the product I originally ordered, or refunding my payment. This is a little extra work from me, but it’s going through their conventional, default channel, so should settle the matter with no further thought needed from me.

        There’s always the chance that they will just tell me to keep the bigger order, rather than having to pay for their extra shipping and time for an exchange.

        Dunno if any individual employee will get in trouble for the mistake. Seems unlikely, as long as it’s all being handled by the robots. So, I’d prefer to use my time and thought on my own garden or family, where I know the result will have some effect, and the effect will be positive.

        • Randy M says:

          FYI, the company was TCGplayer, and I can’t fault how they handled it. When I went to contac them, I found a message asking me if I’d gotten the wrong package. When I said I had and also hadn’t gotten what I’d ordered, they told me to hold onto it until they could send an envelope and postage, and offered me my choice of an immediate refund or fulfilling the order as soon as they could, which ended up being the next week.

          Plus a little bit of store credit, which wasn’t really comparable to the price of the item I got, but I don’t expect outfits like this have great margins. (Compare to Scott’s Amazon story on his tumblr today.)

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        You aren’t a sucker. You have to live with yourself. Every single day.

        This. Money is nice, but the ability to live with yourself is one thing it can’t buy.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      It all depends on how much faith you have on the package getting to the original reciever once you send it back.

    • Dahlen says:

      Hmm, there seems to be a decline in the condemnation of moral and personal shortcomings (as long as you’re not the aggravated one); moreover, there’s a degree to which people relish in admitting to them, because it represents a basis for relatability.

      I notice this sort of thing in the stupid image macros people share/like on FB. Nobody likes to come off as a sanctimonious fuddy-duddy with a stick up his ass. And so, people humble-brag about flaws. About how much they suck at losing weight, how bitchy they privately are, how hard it is for them to switch into work mode after a weekend or just before it… It’s not just the internet, real-life conversations seem to flow along similar lines. So somehow it’s no surprise that profiting off someone else’s loss is acceptable now as well, it seems to play into the larger trend.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      You did the right thing. That shows admirable self-discipline, following a code even at cost to yourself. But is it your code that you chose or the one-sided ‘social contract’ imposed on you?

      Modern society will not reciprocate your loyalty. It is in fact incapable of loyalty. And thus it deserves no loyalty from you. Giving it the minimum required to participate peacefully and nothing more beyond that is eminently reasonable.

      Corporate and government bureaucracies aren’t people even if they employ people. Sacrificing your own interests for theirs is insanity because the favor won’t ever be returned. Take what you can when you can, because that’s what they will do to you.

      Obviously none of this holds for family, friends or actual communities.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      The package I got was addressed to someone with a similar name in another state, and worth 20 times as much.

      A few decades ago there were televised public service ads deliberately educating people that “if you receive something in the mail that you didn’t order, it’s yours to keep, free!”. One I recall had an eskimo, in a blizzard, receiving an electric cooling fan – when he hears the tagline he smiles at the camera and says (sincerely): “gee, thanks!”

      If most people have been trained not to send it back, that would seem to properly incentivize senders (and mail services) to be extra-careful not to screw up orders. From a Coasean bargaining perspective, that makes sense – allow small short-term inefficiencies to maximize bigger longer-term efficiency.

      I gather these ads came about in response to earlier scams involving billing people for stuff they didn’t want (relevant FTC page) but it would seem to apply to your situation too: They are obligated to send you the thing you actually ordered. If they happen to send something else, your returning it is supererogatory.

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t recall any such ads. I think one can make a distinction between clear cases of screw-ups and plausible cases of fraud.

        If most people are trained not to send it back, that would seem to properly incentivize senders (and mail services) to be extra-careful not to screw up orders. From a Coasean bargaining perspective, that makes sense – allow small short-term inefficiencies to maximize bigger longer-term efficiency. No?

        Could not the same reasoning, regarding efficiency gains, be pointed at to counter one of the archetypal examples for teaching honesty, returning excess change to the cashier? Keep the $10 when you should have gotten the $1, and hopefully the store will begin to employ more efficient cashiers.

        In any case this helps clarify why I am not a consequentialist/utilitarian (though it does provide useful insights). I feel a stronger duty to provide grace than a possible imperceptible economic signal.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          Returning excess change is easy because you are right there. Returning excess packages (unless you are in the habit of regularly mailing stuff) is a pain in the neck. If the social norm is that you HAVE to send it back, people who screw up orders are inflicting a cost on others – a negative externality.

          The optimum result is probably that some people – those for whom returning things is especially easy – should return it whereas those for whom returning stuff is especially difficult should not. Kant’s Categorical Imperative notwithstanding.

          • Randy M says:

            I do agree that one’s mistakes shouldn’t impose a burden on others to rectify; as mentioned upthread just now, they paid postage and sent an envelope.
            If you find, say, a watch in the mall you can take it to the lost and found; no need to hire a detective to track down the original owner. If the owner did track it down, though, fess up and return it, even if the owner is a shop that was using it for a display or something.

      • Deiseach says:

        If most people have been trained not to send it back, that would seem to properly incentivize senders (and mail services) to be extra-careful not to screw up orders. From a Coasean bargaining perspective, that makes sense – allow small short-term inefficiencies to maximize bigger longer-term efficiency.

        As long as you are happy to take the risk that, should your order go astray through error, or you get something different than you ordered, the company/seller gets to keep your payment because “Ha ha, sucker, we have your money, what are you gonna do about it?”

        I mean, that would train you to be extra-careful in choosing honest and effective sellers, would it not?

        • Garrett says:

          In the US, I’d call my credit card company and file a dispute because they didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain.
          And if I’m shipping something, I can take out insurance on delivery to cover any loss or damage in-route.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        i prefer that society function based on Coadse of honor

    • hlynkacg says:

      @ Randy M

      You are a sucker, but then so am I. I wouldn’t be surprised, but that’s only because I’m the sort who expects people to be selfish and petty.

      That said, I’m with Skef on this one; I have my view about the right thing to do, which aligns with yours. Add this data-point to your internal dossier on the friends in question and move on.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It’s not unsurprising that a lot of people would have kept it. I would have returned it, due to a combination of “I would feel bad” and “it might come back to bite me somehow”.

      • Randy M says:

        The surprising thing is not that people are weak, of course. But I would expect people to expect to gain status from signalling virtue–as loaded as the phrase “virtue signalling” has become, it’s better than a society in which one is proud of their vices. I think I’ve discussed hypocrisy here before as being not the worst of situations.

        Gaining intimacy by admitting to a fault is a possibility but requires granting the shortcoming, not wishing for the opportunity to exercise it.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I might expect some people to say they would return it, but be matched by people who would present keeping it as “getting one over” on someone else, as proving their savvy.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Finders keepers, losers weepers” is an old attitude. I’m not shocked, but then again I’m very cynical about human nature. There certainly are people who think honesty is for suckers, all that stuff about keeping your word and trustworthiness and the rest of it is old-fashioned baloney that went out with the ark, and if something falls off the back of a lorry or gets dropped into your lap, it’s to your advantage and too bad for the company or the other customer who have to stand the loss.

      They really don’t think it’s stealing, though they’d be very indignant if they were on the opposite side of the transaction and something valuable they ordered went astray like that. “What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is my own”. Saying you wouldn’t keep it/re-sell it and would send it back is saying you’re not smart, cool, clued-in and you are a sucker to be taken advantage of.

      Unfortunately, I can only say that if you think your friends really do think like this, count the spoons next time they’ve been over. They’re willing to at least have the name of “pickers-up of unconsidered trifles” so treat them accordingly.

    • Acedia says:

      As a little kid (about 8 or 9) I was once given too much change by the school bus driver, so the next day when I got on I returned the extra to him and explained why. He laughed at me, called me an idiot and said I should have just kept quiet and spent the money.

      Describing it now it sounds like a vaguely comical moment even to me, but it did a lot of damage to my faith in the trustworthiness of adults.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I wouldn’t even open a package that wasn’t addressed to me. That’s Tampering With The Mail, which one mustn’t do.

    • keranih says:

      Dude, even if I don’t know whose that thing is, I know it ain’t mine.

      It didn’t fall out of the tree, didn’t just magically appear from the sky – someone made that thing, someone else bought it, someone shipped it to someone else.

      I have a pay-it-forward, I-am-a-self-responsible-adult-in-a-community basic responsibility to a) not take shit that doesn’t belong to me and b) return shit to the rightful owner.

      This is not that freaking hard, and it really irritates me to see so many people who figure that they deserve to keep everything they can get their grubby mitts on. It’s a cross-income thing – I see it in rich ratbastards and I see it in poor ratbastards, and I see it in immature self-centered entitled little teenaged shits (but I repeat myself) most of all.

      Gah.

    • moridinamael says:

      It seems obvious* to me that I would be engaging in a potentially huge and entirely unnecessary hassle by failing to act the way you acted. As such, I would do what you did, but I would do it mainly out of an expectation of negative consequences if I kept the package.

      *I notice that people’s assumptions about potential likely consequences tend to vary a lot, partly due to innate paranoia and partly due to varieties of life experience.

  20. garrettmpetersen says:

    Key & Peele did a sketch where a school bully frankly states the reasons for his bullying. Internalized self-hatred and all that. I’m wondering what you all think of the pop psychology behind the sketch.

  21. Moon says:

    Realized I was on the wong (earlier) thread, so am transferring this post over to the current open thread for comment:

    Trump voters, and many other Republicans, are an interesting study lately. Incredibly sore winners. Incapable of positive emotion. Their idea of happiness is feeling vengefulness and exhibiting cruelty. They are addicted to their own adrenaline, and addicted to conflict with, and abuse of, the other political tribe.

    Have you ever seen a sports team, that after winning the game, can not be happy for their success, but is instead is completely obsessed with bashing the other team that just lost to them, and with gloating over that team’s sadness? Of course not. This is highly dysfunctional behavior.

    After an election, if one’s candidate wins, a healthy individual might be expecting and hoping for their candidate to do good things for the whole nation, including the seventy something percent of eligible voters who did not vote for their candidate– because the other voters either stayed home, or else they voted for another candidate.

    Divisiveness does win elections. And the GOP is most expert at divisiveness. But once the election is over, divisiveness can destroy the country, if people find themselves incapable of constructive behavior, cooperation toward common goals etc.

    But humans are incredibly tribal. Since Big Money and mega-corporate donations rule politics, the political parties do not actually have much to offer ordinary voters– although I would argue that the Dems throw ordinary voters a bone much more often the the GOP does.

    Since the GOP offers absolutely nothing to ordinary voters, voters can’t be pulled together through a focus on the positive constructive aspects of their own political tribe, because there aren’t any. So the way the GOP activates its voters’ tribal instincts, to get them to the polls, is to get them to hate the other tribe through fear and hate mongering fake news.

    Thus you have the spectacle of HRC having lost the election. And then are Right Wingers talking about the wonderful things their GOP candidate is going to do? Not so much. They’re mostly focused on bashing the one remaining acceptable scapegoat in the country– liberals and liberal politicians.

    How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part– but she’s a liberal politician, so you have to give in to your urge to chant “Lock her up” nevertheless. It makes your day and gives meaning to your life, doesn’t it?

    Having a bad day? Bash a liberal. That will make you feel better.

    Under Trump, certainly those social justice believers who use extreme tactics aren’t going to have any power– perhaps not even in the expensive universities where they have had power in the past, and where they had secluded from the outside world. They were so secluded that 99% of liberals living outside of San Fran and very expensive universities had never hear of them. I had never heard of them either, until I came to this site.

    But who cares that HRC, and extreme social justice tactics practitioners, and Dems in general have no power? That makes it even easier to bash a scapegoat, if that scapegoat has no power, doesn’t it?

    As I said, carry on. When one party gets almost all the power and the other is the scapegoat and gets all the blame, history shows that this works out just fine, doesn’t it?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Trump voters, and many other Republicans, are an interesting study lately. Incredibly sore winners. Incapable of positive emotion. Their idea of happiness is feeling vengefulness and exhibiting cruelty. They are addicted to their own adrenaline, and addicted to conflict with, and abuse of, the other political tribe.

      You need to adjust your model of reality. This is not true, not even on /r/the_donald. You get both the positive (“we’re going to make America great again”, “We did it! We elected a president with meme magic!”) and the negative (jail Hillary, throw out those illegals).

      How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part

      You can keep saying there’s no evidence, but it won’t make it so. In any case, the main person discussing those here was not a Donald Trump supporter and said he’d prefer Clinton to win over Trump.

      Under Trump, certainly those social justice believers who use extreme tactics aren’t going to have any power– perhaps not even in the expensive universities where they have had power in the past, and where they had secluded from the outside world.

      One can hope, but I rather doubt it will be that clean a reversal.

      They were so secluded that 99% of liberals living outside of San Fran and very expensive universities had never hear of them. I had never heard of them either, until I came to this site.

      I’m not willing to accept either your estimates or your implicit claim to be typical. Certainly many of these liberals outside SF had heard of Justine Sacco and Tim Hunt. Any of them who read the Guardian would be very familiar with their beliefs and actions. Perhaps they hadn’t heard the term SJW (a term mostly used by their opponents, though they have made some attempts to either muddy or reclaim it), but many were familiar with the phenomenon.

    • cassander says:

      >Trump voters, and many other Republicans, are an interesting study lately. Incredibly sore winners.

      What on earth are you talking about? Last I checked, it was democrats complaining, not trump supporters.

      >Incapable of positive emotion. Their idea of happiness is feeling vengefulness and exhibiting cruelty. They are addicted to their own adrenaline, and addicted to conflict with, and abuse of, the other political tribe.

      what does this even mean?

      >Divisiveness does win elections. And the GOP is most expert at divisiveness. But once the election is over, divisiveness can destroy the country, if people find themselves incapable of constructive behavior, cooperation toward common goals etc.

      Divisiveness, like, say, accusing Trump of stealing the election? Of saying he’s a Manchurian president elect? Or divisiveness like Barack Obama saying “elections have consequences, I won”?

      >But humans are incredibly tribal.

      But not you moon, no, you are capable of seeing only the pure light of reason…

      >Since the GOP offers absolutely nothing to ordinary voters,

      Lower taxes? fewer regulations? not importing millions of foreigners they don’t like? not bragging about making their jobs illegal? These things are nothing?

      >And then are Right Wingers talking about the wonderful things their GOP candidate is going to do?

      Really now?

      >How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part– but she’s a liberal politician, so you have to give in to your urge to chant “Lock her up” nevertheless. It makes your day and gives meaning to your life, doesn’t it?

      How dare we try to arrest criminals! Who do we think we are?

      >Having a bad day? Bash a liberal. That will make you feel better.

      And you’d never bash a conservative…..

      >But who cares that HRC, and extreme social justice tactics practitioners, and Dems in general have no power? That makes it even easier to bash a scapegoat, if that scapegoat has no power, doesn’t it?

      Right, no power, just passing laws.

      >As I said, carry on.

      You most certainly do.

    • Wander says:

      After six months of one side being insufferably smug, and then the other side wins, what do you expect to happen? This is just smugness changing foot.

    • Aapje says:

      @Moon

      They were so secluded that 99% of liberals living outside of San Fran and very expensive universities had never hear of them. I had never heard of them either, until I came to this site.

      That might be because you don’t read any news sources that tell you about them. They pop up in quite a few places, if you pay attention.

      For example, BLM was started by three extremist SJ people (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi), who cite Assata Shakur as their inspiration. Shakur was a member of the Black Liberation Army, which murdered several police officers.

      Note that these 3 women say that Shakur inspired them and use a quote from a letter she wrote defending her membership of the Black Liberation Army during their events, interviews, etc. Some BLM protesters have been wearing ‘Assata Taught Me’ hoodies.

      Now, there is no proof that this directly inspired the Dallas shootings, but these people have been telling people to get their inspiration from a cop-killing terrorist, which is completely irresponsible.

      When one party gets almost all the power and the other is the scapegoat and gets all the blame, history shows that this works out just fine, doesn’t it?

      As a white man, that is why I am afraid of the extremist left.

    • shakeddown says:

      SJWs probably have more power than you say, and I suspect a Trump presidency will give them even more power, in the form of a convenient strawman to attack. And I don’t really buy your corporation conspiracy theories.

      But aside from that, you’re frustratingly right about republicans. I’d hope some of that christian charity you always hear about would come out somehow, but it seems like that’s been completely thrown out in favour of gratuitous pointless gloating and outgroup-bashing.

      • keranih says:

        I’d hope some of that christian charity you always hear about would come out somehow, but it seems like that’s been completely thrown out in favour of gratuitous pointless gloating and outgroup-bashing.

        Well, the fabled democrat “reality-based” rationality and sympathy for the underdog seems curiously absent, as well.

        My guess? Ds and Rs are both made up of humans. Both have been dealt a shock. Give them space to settle down, and come ’round to heeding the better angels of their natures. It will work itself out.

        • shakeddown says:

          Well, the fabled democrat “reality-based” rationality and sympathy for the underdog seems curiously absent, as well.

          I suddenly understand much better what the people above meant, about the republican aggressiveness seeming much worse if you live in a liberal bubble. I’d say this goes both ways – some democrats I know match this behaviour, but I think the majority don’t. (Unfortunately, the main behaviour of people who don’t is to mostly stay quiet, so you don’t hear them much).

          My guess? Ds and Rs are both made up of humans. Both have been dealt a shock. Give them space to settle down, and come ’round to heeding the better angels of their natures. It will work itself out.

          I think you’re probably right. I’ve been trying to push the people I know in this direction lately, and to my surprise, have actually been at least partly successful.

          If the Trump administration does end up being as corrupt as I think, I hope the reaction will be mutual embarrassment and reduced partisanship. I don’t know too much about watergate history, but considering the seventies were calmer than the sixties, I’m hopeful.

          • keranih says:

            I suddenly understand much better what the people above meant, about the republican aggressiveness seeming much worse if you live in a liberal bubble.

            I grew up in a heavy Red Tribe household/community. The Bluest people I knew were a married pair of deeply treasured teachers. I thought all Blue people were like them – inquisitive of all unknowns, tolerant of all ideas, dedicated to protection of the weak.

            It was a very unpleasant experience, coming into contact with a more average sort of Blue.

            I think you’re probably right.

            Yes. No matter where you go, there you are.

            Trump is more likely to cleave to the pattern of history than not, because averages. Based on that, he will neither be as awesome as his supporters hope, nor as horrible as his detractors fear.

    • Deiseach says:

      How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part

      What I am finding interesting is the drop in donations to the Clinton Foundation now Hillary is never gonna be president now – why, an uncharitable liberal-basher like myself might almost think such donations were never about the good charitable work that foundation does, but a quid pro quo for influence-peddling! 🙂

      • rlms says:

        Well I’m just glad you’re referencing Hamilton.

      • If donations drop sharply over the next year or two, that will indeed be evidence that the Foundation was selling influence. But your two links only point to two countries whose contributions have dropped. We don’t know if the pattern holds more generally.

        Question: Suppose that contributions over the next five years are less than half contributions over the past five years. Will people here who have defended the Foundation concede that that is strong evidence they were wrong?

        • Iain says:

          Weak evidence, maybe. It’s been enough of a political football lately to scare off even purely philanthropic donors. Nobody wants their name dragged across the nightly news.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It would also be evidence that elements within the Trump administration are willing to punish entities which donate to the Clinton Foundation. Or that they are perceived to be willing to do so. Or that donors are worried about this possibility.

            Or that the Clintons aren’t putting energy into getting donations (perhaps because other Democrats would like that story to go away).

            Or any number of other possibilities.

            So no, a drop in donations is not strong evidence of anything.

            But the evidence we do have of communications around donations indicates that seeking favors for donations wasn’t common, and where it happened favors were not forthcoming.

          • cassander says:

            >It would also be evidence that elements within the Trump administration are willing to punish entities which donate to the Clinton Foundation. Or that they are perceived to be willing to do so. Or that donors are worried about this possibilit

            Donations dropping on their own is not evidence of this. Donations dropping because of things trump said or did, or at least, perceived to be because of things he said or did is.

            >Or that the Clintons aren’t putting energy into getting donations (perhaps because other Democrats would like that story to go away).

            they’re a charitable foundation. getting donations IS their business.

          • DrBeat says:

            Donations dropping on their own is not evidence of this. Donations dropping because of things trump said or did, or at least, perceived to be because of things he said or did is.

            I believe the point HBC is making, and it’s a fair one, is that it isn’t really possible to separate one from the other. With no metric to tease out why people stop donating — and there isn’t, all we have is the end result of fewer donations — you can’t definitively say it was due to any cause you can name.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >But the evidence we do have of communications around donations indicates that seeking favors for donations wasn’t common, and where it happened favors were not forthcoming.

            Sorry, what evidence is this?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @MugaSofer:
            For example, emails released by Judicial Watch that purport to show favoritism.

            Let’s look at that story. It mentions three specific requests sent to Clinton aide Huma Abedin by Doug Band, an executive at the Clinton Foundation, on behalf of people who had contributed to the Foundation:

            – A sports executive who had donated to the foundation wanted to arrange for a visa for a British soccer player to visit the United States; he was having trouble getting one because of a criminal conviction. Abedin said she’d look into it, but there’s no evidence she did anything and the player didn’t get his visa.

            -Bono, who had donated to the foundation, wanted to have some kind of arrangement whereby upcoming U2 concerts would be broadcast to the International Space Station. Abedin was puzzled by this request, and nothing was ever done about it.

            – The Crown Prince of Bahrain, whose country had donated to the foundation, wanted to meet with Clinton on a visit to Washington. Abedin responded to Band that the Bahrainis had already made that request through normal diplomatic channels. The two did end up meeting.

          • @HBC:

            So your interpretation is that the Clinton Foundation sold favors but then routinely reneged on the deal and didn’t deliver them?

            Or, alternatively, that various wealthy donors thought they were buying favors but were mistaken? All three of your examples sound as though that’s what the donors believed.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @David Friedman

            Or, alternatively, that various wealthy donors thought they were buying favors but were mistaken?

            There are two accusations that have been made against the Clinton foundation. The first, and by far the most common, is that the Clintons traded influence for donations. Now, this may or may not be true, but so far there is no good direct evidence for it. Furthermore it seems to me to be an oddly public way of soliciting bribes. Bill and Hillary received very little direct financial benefit from the foundation, and there are well established discreet ways for retired politicians to monetize their access to power; some of which the Clintons are known to have used (in particular giving highly paid speeches).

            The second argument made about the Clinton global initiative is that the operation of the foundation created an appearance of impropriety, and that donors may have believed that contributions would guarantee special treatment. Appearance is a subjective thing, so in one sense this is hard to deny.

            Bill Clinton has a long history of behaving in a secretive and opaque manner. He collected huge donations for his charity, some of them form people who don’t seem like very charitable types. It’s likely that it appeared to at least some of them, at some point, that they were buying something other than a good name for themselves. But that doesn’t prove that the former first couple is guilty of anything beyond poor judgment.

          • “Bill and Hillary received very little direct financial benefit from the foundation, and there are well established discreet ways for retired politicians to monetize their access to power; some of which the Clintons are known to have used (in particular giving highly paid speeches).”

            I don’t think the theory is direct financial benefit. It’s control over a flow of money that can be used to help maintain political power.

            The Clinton Foundation’s revenue in 2014 was a bit over two hundred million dollars. Hillary got significant flack for being paid in the hundreds of thousands for speeches. It might be possible for the two of them to manage to get paid in the hundreds of millions a year in ways that were neither illegal nor politically expensive, but I don’t think it would have been easy.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @ David Friedman

            I’t’s control over a flow of money that can be used to help maintain political power.

            Maintain power how? because there are two ways of interpreting that claim.

            If you mean that funds were being diverted to hire sinister community organizers to rig the election(….or something) then the answer is no, we know what the Clinton foundation spent the money on, and a a lot of it was very important humanitarian and development work.

            If on the other hand you mean that the Clintons plained to curry favor with the public by creating a philanthropic image for themselves, well of course they did. Mind you, I don’t think that’s all there was to it, it was likely a mixture of genuine concern, narcissism, and (inept) political calculation.

            After Bill Clinton left office he saw the work done by the Bill and Malinda Gates foundation and the effect that it had, both in fighting poverty, and in boosting Gates’ then sagging reputation. At some point he decided he wanted part of the action. Since he isn’t a Billionaire like Buffet or Gates, he cashed in on his most valuable assets, his charisma and personal connections, to raise millions; and to spend those millions making a name for the Clintons as humanitarians.

            Of course he forgot that the public applauded Gates because he was spending his own money, and not flying around the world soliciting donations from the rich and powerful, who might expect favors in return.

            But to him that was a mere detail.

            Frankly if a right wing politician had raised millions from the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer, and Paul Singer, and spent it giving school vouchers to kids in west Baltimore, you’d be singing his praises right now, and telling us all how it proves that we don’t need a welfare state. And the minute anybody raised concerns about a conflict of interest, you’d say they were at best a conspiracy theorist, and at worst a heartless statist monster who hates private charity.

            Don’t get me wrong I think the Clinton foundation was a disaster waiting to happen. At some point one of those donors was going to want something, maybe even something entirely legitimate, but even the appearance of corruption can be toxic to the norms of a well functioning democracy.

            But given that you hold, from what I understand, orthodox libertarian views on campaign finance I think you’re being a little bit hypocritical in denouncing the Clintons for raising private funds to support their political ambitions.

          • @hyperboloid writes:

            (quoting me on the Clinton Foundation)

            “It’s control over a flow of money that can be used to help maintain political power.”

            And asks:

            “Maintain power how?”

            By providing jobs for supporters. By paying the cost of transportation and meetings and such. By keeping in existence a political organization.

            The Clinton Foundation tax documents are webbed. You can look over them for yourself and see how much of the money could fit that sort of pattern vs how much is handed out to organizations overseas doing good things.

            Of course, the travel and meetings and such could be in pursuit of doing good things–the documents don’t let you tell. I’m not claiming that we know that’s what is happening, only that it is one possible interpretation.

  22. Moon says:

    Frederik Deo Boer’s blog post today is relevant to the social justice issue that’s been discussed here It’s entitled: There’s no conflict here (between economic populism and identity politics.)

    http://fredrikdeboer.com/blog/

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I thought he quite blogging? Did he unquit?

      Edit:
      I do like this sentence:

      Racism and sexism and homophobia are uniquely pernicious and require our special attention; that special attention presents no conflict at all with our absolute need to help those white or straight or male people who suffer too.

      • Acedia says:

        He became active on the blog and Twitter again after Trump was elected.

      • Rob K says:

        Wish he would have stayed out of it, tbh. I’m largely with him on substance (I think?), but he seems to be mostly motivated by scorn for a set of liberal writers he really dislikes, and it animates his work in a way that turns every conversation he’s in into a shitfest.

      • keranih says:

        HBC –

        Can you flesh out how you think execution of that principle would work in practice?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @HBC. Why is racism and sexism and homophobia uniquely pernicious? Why more special attention to that than when people are nasty to others because they are short or fat or talk funny or talk well or are too smart or Republican or just because the nasty people are just nasty? Why is it more important to deal with groups that are treated badly instead of people that are treated badly? It seems pretty ineffective to me to help groups of people when some in the group might be doing fine, and some outside the group doing badly.

        I don’t want to start a culture fight here. I am trying to understand.

        • skef says:

          Personally, I doubt that racism, sexism, and homophobia are essentally or intrinsically uniquely pernicious in comparison to (for example) “heightism” or “weightism” . The relevant distinction is whether the attitudes involved include giving no or almost no weight to some large set of feelings on the part of the group in question. I think I’ve talked to people who do that with weight (and who really shouldn’t), but it doesn’t seem to be all that common. There’s a difference between not wanting to associate with Xs and wanting Xs not to associate with Ys. Some issues seem to fluidly move past “I don’t want to interact with you” to “get out of my town” or “you’re not allowed to do that” in a way that others don’t.

          That standard can go both ways, of course. Arguments that homosexuality must be legally tolerated, even at the level of individual businesses, give little or no weight to the feelings of those who think homosexuality is very wrong. That provides one reason for dispensations: InterVarsity can fire all of those folks, not even for being gay, just for thinking gay people should be able to marry. But I think meaningful distinctions can be drawn about how much of a person’s life is affected, and whether group X gets to be a utility monster by really, really hating that group Y is Zing somewhere.

          How to determine what issues have this property isn’t entirely clear. It’s evident that gun ownership is playing this sort of role in many American lives these days. It’s also evident that that’s a cultural attitude that has changed and probably could change again. How relevant is the latter? Probably less than I would like.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Uniquely pernicious due historical weight, especially as the government has committed injustice in the name of the people, under color of law, and therefore has special responsibility to attempt to rectify these harms.

          Of course, the government only broadly reflected the will of the enfranchized in these actions, so we can also clearly see that these injustices arose from the fabric of society itself, and further we may observe that have not yet been fully removed from the weave.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            What I often see in SJ, is mixing up reparations for past harms with new harms being committed. Then discrimination of the supposed historical oppressors (where entire groups are stereotyped) is defended as being necessary to fix historical wrongs for the supposed historical oppressed (where again entire groups are stereotyped).

            One of the major problems I have with this model is that most historical and contemporary oppressors had or have a similar justification, where it is only right to discriminate against Jews, intellectuals, black people, the bourgeoisie, etc because of a vague mix of historical and contemporary oppressive behavior that these groups supposedly engaged in collectively. Of course, those justifications tend to be based on false historical and contemporary narratives, but IMO, most of SJ has a false historical and contemporary narrative as well.

            These false narratives are very hard to debate against because it is always possible to just cherry pick historical facts and spin a narrative. They generally tap into feelings of ressentiment, which makes the biased interpretations seem logical.

            So I think that it is crucial to separate historical and contemporary injustices and for the latter, not to distinguish between groups. Otherwise you go down a dark road.

            That also means being just as willing to look for signs of oppression of groups that are not traditionally considered oppressed.

            Let’s say that we have evidence that progressives are severely discriminating against conservatives in colleges. Isn’t that an unfairness that ought to be addressed? Or do you see it as making up for past injustices and injustices elsewhere in society? If it creates ideologically cleansed college environments, is that beneficial to society?

            further we may observe that have not yet been fully removed from the weave.

            My worry is that instead of focusing on actions that actually remove those things from the weave, we are weaving in new injustices. Then the people who are hurt by that develop more ressentiment, which doesn’t help.

          • Incurian says:

            My worry is that instead of focusing on actions that actually remove those things from the weave, we are weaving in new injustices. Then the people who are hurt by that develop more ressentiment, which doesn’t help.

            I’m using this as an excuse to quote Bastiat some more:

            It is in the nature of men to react against the iniquity of which they are the victims. When, therefore, plunder is organized by the law for the profit of the classes who make it, all the plundered classes seek, by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter into the making of the laws. These classes, according to the degree of enlightenment they have achieved, can propose two different ends to themselves when they thus seek to attain their political rights: either they may wish to bring legal plunder to an end, or they may aim at getting their share of it.
            Woe to the nations in which the masses are dominated by this last thought when they, in their turn, seize the power to make the law!
            Until that time, legal plunder is exercised by the few against, the many, as it is