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Open Thread 64.75

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

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624 Responses to Open Thread 64.75

  1. Anonymous Bosch says:

    I enjoyed In Defense of Identity Politics.

    The Niskanen Center is rapidly becoming my new favorite think tank, just because they steelman liberal concepts for libertarians (and the other way around). Trump has, I think, finally repudiated the usefulness of conservative-libertarian fusionism so it’s good to see people reaching to the other side.

  2. Jordan D. says:

    I’d like to try a Ken Bone-esque experiment today. Everyone who responds to this thread, please post one thing which you admire about your ideological enemies. Don’t cheat by saying ‘I’m X tiny subgroup and we don’t have any ideological enemies’, just identify the largest outgroup you can and find something you genuinely like about it.

    You’ll know it’s real if it hurts a little to say it!

    (I know this sounds really corny but I honestly do want to see what people come up with)

    ~

    I’m a moderate leftist, so I’ll go for Republicans-

    I do think people to the right are more willing to have discussions about issues than my ingroup, to adopt a little less orthodoxy, to accept a little less authority. I find something really healthy and refreshing about that kind of open, independent approach towards evaluating the world. There’s a stubborn streak through America which is a thousand miles wide, and if I find it frustrating, I would never wish it away.

    • mtraven says:

      Those alt.right fascists sure seem to have a lot of energy and are making creative use of new media and memes.

    • Mark says:

      Open borders advocates are … cosmopolitan. They’re aiming for Star Trek.

      I like Star Trek.

      And, they could well be right.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I’ll go with the deeply religious as my outgroup, for the sake of this post: I admire their willingness to help each other, to have a “common brotherhood”. Most of the “weakly secular” I know (obviously not true about all) aren’t very quick to drop everything to help their community.

    • psmith says:

      Quite a lot of gun control advocates are very intelligent and successful in worldly affairs.

    • Extremists are never short of answer. Whether you think everything should controlled by the state, or nothing should, you an readily say so in response to any problem.

    • roystgnr says:

      Hmm… I just angrily ranted to a friend yesterday about the damaging and dangerous unintended consequences of minimum wage laws and about the awful attempts at “empirical” dismissal of those effects, so let’s start there:

      To find minimum wage advocates who have willfully hurtful motivations, you pretty much have to either go back a hundred years in history or scrape the very bottom of the white nationalist barrel. The vast vast majority of contemporary people who disagree with me do so out of only the best of intentions for the broadest group of people. Moreover, either a majority or a large minority disagree after making sincere attempts to find out the truth or falsehood of the facts we dispute. Even the most poorly designed studies appear to be conducted, not as deliberate attempts to obfuscate, but as sincere attempts to seek truth which are only foiled by the most natural of human biases and by the extreme difficulty of performing rigorous social science.

    • NIP says:

      I genuinely admire rationalists’ ability to at least attempt to place themselves in others’ shoes, as well as their strict adherence to the rules of thinking and behavior they’ve set for themselves. These two attributes create a mix of mental flexibility and rigidity that is simultaneously very admirable and infuriating.

      • Callum G says:

        … Rationalists are your ideological enemies???

        • NIP says:

          Quite. The rationalist endgame of a world in which everything that makes us human has been elided and replaced with computronium, and decisions are based on a precise measuring of metric utilon ratios is the closest thing to hell on earth that I can imagine. I’d much rather be ruled over by Nazis – at least the attributes that they fixate on to the exclusion of all others are *human* attributes.

          But, as the old saw goes, it’s good to keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

          • Spookykou says:

            I didn’t think that rationalists as a group were cohesive enough to have a singular vision of the future, but preference utilitarianism’s end game is essentially the closest thing to heaven on earth that you can imagine, by definition, right?

          • NIP says:

            @Spookykou
            By preference utilitarianism, I suppose you mean Scott’s weird utopia where Fnargl/the NWO are social liberals who only allow communities to self-govern insofar as they adhere to a set of moral priciples that none of them would realistically agree to?

            No, not really. My idea of heaven on earth is laid out in the catechism of the Catholic church; which is to say, it’s not going to be made by man, ever. Until Christ comes back, the closest we can get might resemble a world that follows classical international law, in which everybody minds their own damn business until they don’t, and then they fight. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking of it.

          • Spookykou says:

            I just mean that little blurb that comes up at the top of the page when you google ‘preference utilitarianism’.

            And please forgive my sacrilege, I did not mean to literally refer to heaven on earth, it was just a play on your ‘hell on earth’. It seems to me that any system of governance with preference utilitarianism as it’s guiding principle would in theory strive to meet as many of your preferences as possible.

            In as much as your preferences conflict with other peoples preferences, and in as much as this world currently denies people their preferences in such a way that meets your preferences more than they would be met in the alternative, then I guess this could still be worse from your perspective.

          • NIP says:

            >that little blurb that comes up at the top of the page when you google ‘preference utilitarianism’

            You mean “the moral theory according to which the good consists in the satisfaction of people’s preferences”? Yes, I suppose that, in theory, it would strive to meet as many of my preferences as possible. Unfortunately, according to my moral theory, the satisfaction of “preferences”, mine or anyone else’s, is completely orthogonal to the fulfillment of the moral good, except insofar as my or anyone else’s preferences happen to align with it.

            >please forgive my sacrilege

            Kek. Don’t sweat it, fam. It’s 2016; having chosen to be a Christian, I’m fully prepared to witness casual sacrilege on a minute-to-minute basis for what is likely to be the rest of this Godawful, shitty timeline. Besides, if I really wanted to go all holier-than-thou on you, I’d have to remind you that forgiving sacrilege is up to God, not me 😉

            Also, what you said wasn’t sacrilegious in the slightest as far as I can tell.

            >In as much as your preferences conflict with other peoples preferences, and in as much as this world currently denies people their preferences in such a way that meets your preferences more than they would be met in the alternative, then I guess this could still be worse from your perspective.

            I assure you that this world rarely adjudicates priveleges to my kind that others do not have. In fact I can’t think of a single instance in which the current regime has deferred to the wishes of Catholics over anyone else, possibly never in the last fifty years or so in fact. But even if we were living under some sort of hellish hyper-Puritan timeline in which Mecha-Cromwell was out to stomp popery for good, I would still prefer that world to one in which people’s preferences won out over their morals.

          • Spookykou says:

            In theory the 1.2 billion or so Catholics out there would share your preference for a society that is morally good, as defined by Catholicism. The other billion or so heretics are at least similar in most of their observances, and I was under the impression that their hatred of the Catholic church had been tempered a bit of late.

            Obviously we are talking about hypothetical Utopian societies, but having almost one sixth of the population of the planet living in accordance with Catholic preferences sounds at least a little better than Emperor of Mankind Stalin, maybe?

            Re: forgiveness
            As somebody who was raised Catholic, my understanding was that if my repentance was genuine then a priest could absolve me of my sins and offer me forgiveness, through the sacrament of confession.

            Edit: I interpreted it is irreverent to imply that human action could result in the creation of heaven on earth. I was raised not to blaspheme, and you are the first person that I have communicated with on here who identified as Catholic, and I might have overacted a bit as a result.

          • shakeddown says:

            @NIP: I’m not religious, but I see what you mean about preferences being orthogonal to the right idea of Good, in a way. I think there’s a meaningful distinction between casual preference and true need (though I guess some preference utilitarians disagree), and the second one is what we should be striving for.
            I think that, while not orthogonal, “True preference”-utilitarianism is positively correlated with most abstract notions of Good, so that a true-preference-utilitarian-utopia scenario would be, if not perfect, better than what we have now.

          • NIP says:

            This is straying far into the realm of personal opinion, but since you are so very curious about my personal opinion I guess it’d be rude not to answer.

            >In theory the 1.2 billion or so Catholics out there would share your preference for a society that is morally good, as defined by Catholicism

            In theory. Practically speaking, IMO, there are about 1.2 billion “Catholics”, the majority of whom can be divided into cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose what to believe based on how much it impacts their worldy life, cultural Catholics with very confused theology who are no better than pagans, and outright heretics in sheep’s clothing who are trying to bring the Church over to the right side of history. Note that I’m not talking about garden-variety sinners, here: those have always existed and are who the Church was created to accomodate. Christians are by definition supposed to be worse people than their priciples. I’m talking about people who say they are Catholic, but literally profess beliefs that the Catholic church has at no time held and are not afraid to do so, since the Church is too timid and compromised to chastise them. I know this sounds judgemental, but it is unfortunately true.

            >The other billion or so heretics are at least similar in most of their observances

            – which unfortunately won’t save their souls, or convince them that ours aren’t in danger –

            >and I was under the impression that their hatred of the Catholic church had been tempered a bit of late

            It’s more like their relative influence has been tempered of late, so that nobody important cares about legislating Catholic-bashing. Now all Christians are equally low-class and undesirable. Pose as a Catholic and talk to a modern Protestant sometime and tell me how much their hatred and suspicion of “The Whore of Babylon” has lessened.

            >having almost one sixth of the population of the planet living in accordance with Catholic preferences sounds at least a little better than Emperor of Mankind Stalin, maybe?

            As I said, I’d rather live under a regime that actively attempted to destroy me based on their own consciences and at least gave me and future generations the chance to fight for mine, than a future in which Catholic morals have been eternally relegated to a sort of utilitarian memetic quarantine zone. At least the first option leaves me my dignity before I die.

            >my understanding was that if my repentance was genuine then a priest could absolve me of my sins and offer me forgiveness, through the sacrament of confession

            Yes, but ultimately that authority comes from God. They’re absolving you on His behalf.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @NIP, I’m not sure whether we’re just thinking of different people, but in my experience as a Protestant, there definitely isn’t anywhere near as much hatred and suspicion of Catholics.  Pretty much every Protestant I know in my generation (20-somethings) treats them as just another denomination (yes, I know that’s nowhere near your view, but it’s still pretty good.)  Even among older people, the worst I’ve seen is treating the institution as a dangerous heresy while being perfectly fine to treat individual Catholics like any other Christian.

          • NIP says:

            @Shakedown
            A true-preference-utilitarian utopia would be nice – for the first generation. Then all the true believers of every ideology and religion would realize that they’ve effectively been tricked into signing off on their version of utopia in return for a permanent freeze on everyone else achieving theirs. It’s less of a moral utopia than a moral myopia – a stalemate. I suppose I understand why some people think that’s a wonderful solution to conflict, but my worldview supposes that moral conflict is to be desired, not avoided with clever engineering.

            @Evan Þ
            It’s entirely possible that we’re just meeting different people, as it’s a big world out there. I never did say that there aren’t tolerant Protestants out there, either. Also, perspectives differ wildly based on denomination, church, and individual. But the majority of ones I have met have not been shy in telling me that I am not, in fact, a Christian at all. On the internet this is usually not communicated in as circumspect fashion as in public, but the sentiment is the same. Note that I’m not complaining about it; they believe what they believe, as I believe what I do. But I think it’s not true to say that Protestants who hate Catholics are thin on the ground compared to yesteryear, at least in my experience.

          • Callum G says:

            Yeah, I see what you mean. It sort of follows from most rationalist beliefs to min/max this life because you’re not going to get another chance. And because we’re very aware of our flaws/think computers are the shit, this leads to a life dictated by HAL 9000. Sounds very efficient. But I understand how it causes existential threat, and in religious circles it’s a very unwarranted threat because efficiency isn’t really the end goal.

            > Pose as a Catholic and talk to a modern Protestant sometime and tell me how much their hatred and suspicion of “The Whore of Babylon” has lessened.

            These days active Catholics are the cousin who’s cool most of the time, but occasionally you catch him praying to a piece of bread.

            >As I said, I’d rather live under a regime that actively attempted to destroy me based on their own consciences and at least gave me and future generations the chance to fight for mine, than a future in which Catholic morals have been eternally relegated to a sort of utilitarian memetic quarantine zone. At least the first option leaves me my dignity before I die.

            I get that, at least hate is a strong emotion that takes the opposite side seriously. Especially given the Christian reverence of martyrdom. I don’t know how that could be generalized without being equally demeaning though. All religions should be persecuted to the extent it makes them happy?

          • NIP says:

            >These days active Catholics are the cousin who’s cool most of the time, but occasionally you catch him praying to a piece of bread

            That one made me laugh.

            >All religions should be persecuted to the extent it makes them happy?

            My face when Scott’s Elua AI is realized and does exactly that until the heat death of the universe:

            http://i.imgur.com/Oz0Zj9h.jpg

    • Spookykou says:

      The libertarians on SSC in particular seem to extend an enormous amount of patience when talking with me which I appreciate. I don’t engage with any of these topics except on SSC so in general I think everyone who disagree with me seems pretty reasonable, with well thought out positions. I would like to believe I can extend this to the broader population of people who disagree with me about things.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Libertarians are the best internet debaters. They know exactly what they are arguing for and the implications that follow. They are also more much more likely to continue a long conversation.

    • Brad says:

      Social conservatives are in my experience disproportionately nice in one on one or small group personal interactions.

    • Deiseach says:

      I suppose my worst disagreements are with the socially liberal/left; I can be a lot more flexible on economic leftism 🙂

      They genuinely believe in equality and fairness and want to make the world more equitable.

      I disagree about what they think are and are not basic human rights, or that their methods can never be misapplied, or that the latter state of affairs after they get their dreams will be 100% superior to the former state of affairs, or that they’re the only ones who care about fairness and justice, but in general the majority of them do want to help and do think they are helping and that their values are helpful. (And correct and on the ‘right side of history’, of course, but that’s part of the row and we’re not supposed to be rowing in this exercise, right?).

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Thank you Deiseach. I can stop trying to think up an answer and just say “ditto.” It’s a good thing to be
        sincere.

    • Tekhno says:

      Illiberals make great propaganda and are able to really tap into people’s emotions.

    • onyomi says:

      Unfortunately, it wasn’t Ken Bone who asked that question, though it should have been…

      I guess my diametric political opposite would be Stalinist, and I don’t have much good to say about them. Fortunately there aren’t a lot of them outside North Korea, at least not people who intend it.

      Of the more mainstream opinion with which I’m likely to disagree (let’s say somewhere around “Elizabeth Warren” on the ideological spectrum), probably the most nice or appealing idea to me is the idea of free, open-to-all, well-maintained, well-designed public spaces and transportation: urban and national parks and wildlife preserves, squares, clean subways, zoning laws which preserve the quaint character of an old neighborhood, etc. I ultimately lack faith that government policies are a good way to create and maintain such desirable spaces and services, but I can understand why people would think they would be.

      Maybe it’s surprising, but I’m actually a bit of a hippy/granola-ish person in some ways–love farmers’ markets, local business, etc., and often probably have an end-state in mind closer to Blue tribe’s than Red tribe’s, though I more often disagree with Blue tribe on how to get there. Like I very much sympathize with the people who hate generic Wal Marts taking over everywhere, though I usually disagree about why it happened, why it’s bad, and what could be done.

      This is probably most frustrating to me when debating with self-described socialists whose idea of socialism is “more like Sweden”–you know, clean, orderly, culturally rich yet tolerant, quaint, good social services and public transportation, etc. I feel like “I agree so hard with what you want, but disagree so hard with your prescription.”

      Edit: to try to add one more, unqualified good thing about Blue Tribe (not appended by “but here’s why they’re wrong”), I’d say that I like what seems to me their average higher receptivity to new experiences and to cultures and mores different from those they grew up with.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Fortunately there aren’t a lot of them outside North Korea, at least not people who intend it.

        Look up “Tankies”, there’s still a lot of them. Well, at least for a niche ideology.

      • Of the more mainstream opinion with which I’m likely to disagree (let’s say somewhere around “Elizabeth Warren” on the ideological spectrum), probably the most nice or appealing idea to me is the idea of free, open-to-all, well-maintained, well-designed public spaces and transportation: urban and national parks and wildlife preserves, squares, clean subways, zoning laws which preserve the quaint character of an old neighborhood, etc. I ultimately lack faith that government policies are a good way to create and maintain such desirable spaces and services, but I can understand why people would think they would be.

        That reason being principally that your nirvanic end state is standard in “socialised” Europe.

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, mistaking correlation for causation is an understandable error.

          • Spookykou says:

            I didn’t catch it before, but zoning laws? I never would have taken you for a Nimby.

            Edit: Ok that makes sense.

          • onyomi says:

            No, I don’t actually like zoning laws and am a fan of Kowloon Walled City. My ideal is probably closer to Blade Runner than well-manicured suburbia (though if you look closely at e. g. medieval cities, they are usually more of an organic, ordered chaos than a centrally-planned affair; probably most of the beautiful old neighborhoods which survive today could never be built new with today’s codes).

            I just mean that I can understand thinking that strict laws and public funding are necessary to create pleasant urban spaces. But I don’t agree with it.

          • Medieval cities in medieval times were terrible.

            Zoning laws which preserve the quaint character of an old neighborhood

            I don’t actually like zoning laws and am a fan of Kowloon Walled City.

            Well make your mind up.

            In the real world, unplanned cities look like shanty towns, well planned cities look like the best european cities, and badly planned cities look like the worst US cities. If you think there is a way of getting results equivalent to the best planning with zero planning, then you are privileging untested theory over empirical evidence in true libertarian fashion.

          • “well planned cities”

            Brasilia? Chandigarh?

            Having just recently read Seeing Like a State, which discusses such in some detail, I don’t think they are evidence for the virtues of planning.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            Sapporo is a planned city that somehow managed to not be Brasilia…

          • onyomi says:

            I mean, I like this better than this. Of course one can find giant intersections in Tokyo, and Sapporo is no Brasilia, but it still seems kind of weird and artificial to me.

            Kyoto is one of my favorite cities, but that was only planned in a very broad sense and according to the rules of medieval fengshui (like Chang An). But most of what filled up the grid would have been the accumulated centuries of individual decision making.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            When it comes to Japan both of those are probably planned, don’t they rebuild everything constantly cause they think it is gross to live in a house other people have lived in or something?

            I am down for all future city planning of all cities being managed by the Japanese with an eye towards wabi sabi.

          • onyomi says:

            Unless you’re the Sun Goddess or a pre-Nara emperor, I don’t think the Japanese have any strong need to constantly move or rebuild residences. If anything, Japan is home to some of the oldest structures continuously in use in the world, especially wood architecture.

            It is unfortunately true, however, that many Japanese have a negative, if not entirely baseless stereotype about old Japanese homes being dark, drafty, expensive to maintain, and possibly spooky.

            That said, I am largely in favor of the Japanese designing anything that needs to be designed.

    • cassander says:

      I can’t stand the puritans, but they try to do good*, and make others do good, more than any other tribe of people in history. We’d be better off if they weren’t in charge, but we’d be much worse off without them.

      *do good, in this case, is defined as “Make what I believe to be the morally correct choice in the given situation.”

    • Randy M says:

      I wonder if this is secretly a test as to who can rise to the challenge of finding the cleverest back-handed compliment and who succumbs to expressing mere empathy?

      • nyccine says:

        It sure looks that way.

      • Reasoner says:

        People who do that discredit their own side more than they discredit the other side.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Empathy” would just be “Oh, they’re all humans too!” and would be functionally meaningless. If we (for whatever outgroup we individually have) did not have a more than cosmetic disagreement on principles, then this exercise would be the kind of “one day workshop laid on by the company to get all you drones fired up and pulling together without expecting better pay and conditions” nonsense that most people simply roll their eyes at and suffer through. If my only disagreement with my outgroup is “That’s not eggshell, that’s Dutch white“, then there is no really meaningful disagreement between us and we are not really outgroup/ingroup, so saying what I admire about them is really saying no more than what I admire about us including me.

        “I think you’re wrong, but I can appreciate why you want to achieve these ends” is more honest, and with all the foo-faw-raw over fake news, hacking, disingenuous attribution of malicious motive, etc., a little honesty is no bad seasoning.

    • shakeddown says:

      I’ll do a twofer: Despite there being enough angry Trumpers/SJWs whose response to the election is “Haha we won suck it”/”I hope everything becomes terrible now so we can gloat”, the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats (including angry Trumpers/SJWs) seem to genuinely be hoping things will be better (or at least not too much worse) for everyone, including their ideological opponents. (It’s just that dealing with the first variety is so aggravating that it makes them seem like an evil majority).

      Also a special call-out to Mormons (who I actually like despite voting for the other guys, so this doesn’t really count). Last summer I got lost hiking in the Rockies near Salt Lake City, until I ran into a church picnic who spent ten minutes helping me get my navigation straight, planning my route to avoid still-snowy paths, and giving me smores. As far as I can tell, Mormons actually are exactly as nice as their stereotype suggests (which clashes weirdly with the concept of Evan mcMullin as a former CIA assassin).

      • hyperboloid says:

        There are very few actual assassins working as staff officers at the CIA. I don’t know the details of Mr McMullin’s career, but he served in the national clandestine service for seven years between 2003 and 2010, mostly in the middle east and south Asia, including some time in Iraq.

        So he has probably had a hand in someone, somewhere, meeting an unnatural end. He also most likely never actually pulled a trigger on anyone, just gathered information that was given over to other people who did the killing. The actual scalawags in question were probably JSOC operators, but they could have been ex military personnel on contract to Langley. Blackwater ran a lot of the security for the state department, so they probably also put in work for the company.

      • Deiseach says:

        Evan mcMullin as a former CIA assassin

        Killing them with kindness? 🙂

    • Jiro says:

      ISIS has shown great dedication to their cause and have been forthright about their goals even when those goals are not politically correct.

      • Zeno of Citium says:

        I now feel a little bit intellectually cowardly for choosing the mainstream right as my outgroup.

    • I’m not sure it counts as “ideological enemy” to disagree with someone on one very important question (religion) but agree on others. But if it does …

      I greatly admire G.K.Chesterton, not only for his brilliant writing but his perceptive mind.

      And, for another sort of disagreement, I think Ayn Rand was brilliant, courageous, and a very effective writer, although I believe her central philosophical claim was wrong.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      I don’t think “ideological enemies” and “outgroup” here are quite synonymous.

      • shakeddown says:

        Try one of each then?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          OK.

          The “Alt-right” has the best memers, their memes are the dankest and have consistently outperformed other political factions’ memes.

          Social Justice people have some stated goals that I agree with, and on the individual level, there’s a lot of them who’re very nice and likeable people.

    • Nyx says:

      I’ll say “nothing”, because my ideological enemies are not homogeneous or consistent enough as a group for me to generalize about them, and I think that generalizing about such groups is sloppy thinking. I suppose that could be taken as a compliment, in it’s own way.

    • Reasoner says:

      People on the far left are making an effort to help others, which is more than can be said for a lot of people. They also produce some cool art.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I think I’m pretty tolerant, but I do get pretty pissed at the kind of SJ leftist who thinks hatred is an obligatory emotion in response to the world’s injustices.

      I imagine at least some of them feel that way primarily because they feel those injustices more keenly, more accurately, than I do.

    • Cary says:

      I’ve noticed (and am not sure if anyone else has noticed) that people on the SJW/politically correct left tend be extremely funny (often funnier than [some of] their opponents).

      My sense here is that SJW/politically correct folkies actually tend to have a lot of social capital (contrary to the increasingly popular caricature of them as “outsiders”/”losers”) and humour has been part of acquiring this.

      Some people, of course, might have discerned the opposite (e.g. there are some pretty dour HuffPo articles).

    • sflicht says:

      Statists seem to have a deeply held, genuine faith in the decency, patriotism and competence of the typical public servant. I think it’s nice to believe nice things about the government, and sort of unpleasant being a cynic, but alas I can’t help it.

    • blacktrance says:

      The average work of art produced in authoritarian/totalitarian regimes tends to be much better than that in liberal societies.

      • sflicht says:

        Wha?!? That I have to challenge. In 2014 I saw an exhibition in Manhattan regarding this, contrasting the art produced before and after the Nazis came to power. Hitler had shit taste.

        I do like tsarist/Soviet metro stations. But I don’t like Brutalist architecture, which was (I gather) even more popular in the USSR than it was among academic architects in the US.

        Hong Kong has had a more vibrant artistic / film / fashion scene than mainland China, although this may be starting to change.

        There’s probably something to your point. A lot of people think America and the UK in the ’60s and ’70s produced such great music because of social unrest and economic malaise. I’m not sure I buy that thesis, but I could imagine it holding up with additional evidence from other countries and time periods. In that case, to the extent totalitarianism provokes social unrest and a corresponding dissident art scene, you may be on to something.

      • cassander says:

        Someday, some brilliant economist/sociologist/anthropologist will explain why the USSR, a state that did literally nothing else well, was so damned good at propaganda.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          i have heard that Russia was good at propaganda pre-communism.

          I also think that a lot of communist states come with pre-propaganda, in the form of willing believers

          both make it difficult to judge the situation, assuming the truth of the statements i have made (which I do, you may wish to differ)

        • Incurian says:

          I think some of it might just be the will to do so.

        • James C says:

          Theory: If your propaganda is good enough, you don’t need to do anything else well.

        • hyperboloid says:

          The USSR was pretty damn good at waging war; especially accounting for their various handicaps, including the fact that one of their most prominent leaders was a literal crazy person who had most of their best officers shot.

          Let’s not forget that the old Sovetsky Soyuz had an economy the size of Turkey’s and was able to maintain a consistent credible military threat to the United States.

          They also had an extremely low crime rate. It turns out that Socialist welfare state plus gulags is a pretty effective carrot and stick formula for keeping the streets safe at night.

          It is kind of odd that Communists were much better at optimizing for what most people would see as right wing goals, like military strength and social order, then stereotypically left wing things like political and economic equality, multiculturalism, or individual self expression.

          • LHN says:

            They also had an amazingly good space program, especially given the state of their industrial production generally. (With, surprisingly, a better overall safety record than ours.) Their ability to get crew to LEO is still evidently more sustainable than any of the ones we’ve tried thus far.

            (SpaceX or Blue Origin or whoever may manage to lap them in the future, but not this year or next.)

          • Jiro says:

            You can be good at anything if you have a command economy and can pour as many resources as you want into it while ignoring your other needs. It’s routine for dictatorships to have one or two really good things for this reason.

          • cassander says:

            >The USSR was pretty damn good at waging war; especially accounting for their various handicaps, including the fact that one of their most prominent leaders was a literal crazy person who had most of their best officers shot.

            The massively disparate casualty rates they had vs. the germans would argue that they weren’t particularly good at war, especially when you factor in that at least 1/3 of their war material was provided by the western allies.

            >They also had an extremely low crime rate. It turns out that Socialist welfare state plus gulags is a pretty effective carrot and stick formula for keeping the streets safe at night.

            Safe from street thugs does not mean safe.

            >It is kind of odd that Communists were much better at optimizing for what most people would see as right wing goals, like military strength and social order,

            They weren’t good at those things. They required vastly more inputs to achieve western levels of output.

          • cassander says:

            >) Their ability to get crew to LEO is still evidently more sustainable than any of the ones we’ve tried thus far.

            @LHN

            A substantial reason for that was a (IMHO very sensible) plan in the 90s for the US to subsidize the russian space industry to keep their rocket engineers from going to work for Iran or North Korea.

      • Mark says:

        I don’t know about it being a general rule, but when I was at school, our history classroom had propaganda posters from the 30s – 40s on the walls. This was definitely my favourite, I think really effective for a 15 year old boy – just two rock hard buds in cool coats hanging around in the snow with their guns, taking a rest from burning a few cities… Made becoming a SS soldier look kind of cool. I don’t think the allies had anything quite as good.

        • Tekhno says:

          I think it’s the purity aspect of totalitarianism. It maps somewhat to the pop culture idea of the heroic.

          Mostly popular culture promotes the idea of “heroes”, but what tends to be particularly popular is the so called anti-hero, who is enabled to enact justice unencumbered, and is able to escape the restraints of society, checks and balances, and “procedures”. What if instead of having rule of law, and rights, we could just go and enact our personal notions of justice? Even straight and pure heroes like Superman, who act according to a strict moral code, are working according to their own self-affirmed morality and not popular vote or constitutional principle. In the end, the difference between The Punisher and Superman is that The Punisher kills more people.

          Fiction with a sophisticated, contemplative approach to morality obviously exists, and even on the low pop culture end, you have characters like Jean Luc Picard, who struggle to follow legal prerogative when confronted with taxing situations, but certainly characters who “don’t play by the rules” are by far more popular and form the bulk of low culture. The reason is obvious; conflicted narratives create conflicting emotions in the viewer, whereas pure and resolute narratives create a feeling of catharsis, particularly if they resolve a previous feeling of conflict. We are allowed to enjoy this in fiction, but we can’t think about real morality this way. When thinking about morality for real with all its tangled exceptions and contradictions, the conflicted feeling of tension never goes away.

          What the extreme totalitarian movements were doing was offering to cut the Gordian Knot for us, and put to bed the moral question. Liberalism requires moral grayness, and both Nazism and Bolshevism provided clear and stark colors. That’s the answer to why totalitarian propaganda is so appealing on a gut level; it provides an answer, regardless of whether it’s a good answer, and it’s primary way of attacking Liberalism is to portray it as empty. The Nazis and Fascists portrayed Liberalism as empty of heroism, and the Bolsheviks portrayed Liberalism as empty of justice.

          When you look at a poster made by the Nazi regime, or by the USSR or other socialist states, you are essentially reading a one panel comic book (Che Guevara is basically a superhero at this point).
          All these movements have the clear cut moral appeal that can be gleamed from an image of a heroic clean cut man punching a hideous Jewish or capitalist goblin in the face. You can’t do the same for the liberal concept of rule of law, or of freedom of the press. A movement that simply allows things is empty. Only movements that demand action can produce great propaganda.

          The exception is when liberal countries are pushed into total war, and must suspend liberal openness. The allied countries (excluding the USSR) may not have had much as good as the Germans, but there was still some pretty stirring stuff. It’s the same heroic clear cut appeal. This does not prove that liberalism itself can compete in propaganda production though, since total war makes liberal countries into totalitarian states by the very nature of total war. It’s in the name; total war. A controlled rationed economy, and a single national direction dominated in the Fascist/Nazi, Socialist, and liberal-capitalist countries during WWII.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Western Allied propaganda wasn’t about suspending liberal openness, though – a lot of it was “we are fighting for freedom; time to put those values to the test”. (Not that they didn’t suspend openness – but the propaganda wasn’t about that).

            Consider Norman Rockwell’s WWII propaganda – there’s nothing like it, as far as I’ve seen, coming from Nazi Germany or the USSR.

          • Tekhno says:

            Of course the propaganda itself was liberal, I’m saying that the society that produced it wasn’t, because the society that produced it had entered a total war phase.

          • shakeddown says:

            What the extreme totalitarian movements were doing was offering to cut the Gordian Knot for us, and put to bed the moral question.

            I think this, in a nutshell, is why people feel Trump is totalitarian – it’s not that he has some crazy militaristic ideology. It’s that his whole campaign was to cut the Gordian knot by “making America great again.”

        • Adrian says:

          @Mark: That’s a good point. While watching The Man in the High Castle, I noticed that the SS men (particularly Rufus Sewell’s character) radiate charisma and authority in a way which I found intriguing, even though they’re the bad guys and they can be seen doing horrible things to people. I suppose it’s because of their uniforms and their aesthetics, and I can very well imagine that a boy or a young man would have been strongly influenced by this.

          @Tekhno: Excellent analysis.

    • chariava says:

      This comment thread warmed my heart in time for the Holidays. Thank you for asking this question.

    • chariava says:

      Though I feel social justice advocates occasionally go too far, they’re people trying their best to speak up and give a voice to parts of society that have too often been ignored or let down. I respect their determination in speaking up and helping these people in what they see the best manner possible

      I admire the strong the social ties amongst religious republicans and religious people in general. I am amazed at their willingness to help out their neighbors or community and how far they are willing to go in order to help others.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I’m a Blue Tribe conservative, so I’m focusing entirely on ideology here (it’s kind of cheating to compliment liberals for liking cities, which are objectively awesome):

      I truly believe that the great majority (>80%) of Americans who are left-of-center (relative to the median American) want poor people to have good-quality food, clothing, shelter, and education, and more than that, happiness. I think this is also true of the majority of those in the top Left quintile, not just those toward the center.

      Going further afield to more polar-opposite ideological enemies, i.e. Communists: the vast majority of them have had the decency to die. Ditto actual Nazis and no-really-that’s-a-term-with-an-actual-definition Fascists.

      Also, the other side is much better at back-handed compliments than our side is.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      SJWs are often genuinely kind

    • Salem says:

      Let’s try for three!

      Christians are incredibly nice. I would much rather have a Christian as a neighbour than an atheist like me.

      Leftists typically have a far more sophisticated view of political economy than us. We do not think enough about how to make our policies self-reinforcing, whereas for leftists this is elementary.

      Bohemians have managed to place themselves at key chokepoints in our culture. I (half-)jokingly complain that everything is written by childless communists, but it’s really a mark of their admirable success.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Christians are incredibly nice. I would much rather have a Christian as a neighbour than an atheist like me.

        I need to challenge this. It has been my impression that religious Christians are not as nice as those less religious. They seem to think that because they are more moral than other people, they don’t have to be nice. Some religious people are nice, but it isn’t because they are religious. Christianity isn’t about being nice. I have absolutely no evidence for this, but it is my impression.

    • keranih says:

      Blue tribe urbanites at their best create a really amazing swirling storm of different ideologies, preferences, priorities, and impulses. It’s confusing and sometimes distressing, but it’s also invigorating and (I think) sheds chaos in the form of innovation and novel concepts.

    • J Mann says:

      Judgmental, angry (and until recently smug) progressives in my Facebook circle are personally some very nice people, who do great volunteer work, care about the people they know, are frequently interesting, and are fairly intelligent and interesting when not talking about politics.

    • Iain says:

      I don’t know if this is really in the spirit of things, because I hesitate to call Mormons my ideological enemies, but they are certainly on the opposite side of the aisle from me on a lot of issues. Really I’m picking them because I have a bunch of nice things to say.

      My girlfriend’s mother is the lone apostate in a large clan of Mormons, and they are all incredibly friendly, welcoming people. Everybody should get the chance to attend at least one family Thanksgiving dinner large enough to play “guess whose baby this is”. I have a lot of respect for the way that Mormons take their professed principles seriously and practice what they preach; I may disagree with them, but Mormons are certainly not hypocrites. The Mormon commitment to large, tightly knit families doesn’t work for everybody, but it does work very well for a lot of people and provides very strong social support structures.

      I have a weird soft spot for Mormons, is basically what I’m saying here.

      • Zeno of Citium says:

        Mormons, as individuals, all seem to be genuinely nice people (warning, I’m working from a pretty small n here). The organized MormonChurch seems to be the thing that’s actually objectionable to most people who say they have a problem with Mormonism.

    • Callum G says:

      I’ll choose anti-vaxxers.

      Hmm, I admire that they’re interested in put in work beyond the norm to find the best way to look after the health of their family.

      • moridinamael says:

        If you want to gain even more sympathy for anti-vaxxers, try asking doctors or even just random people to explain why exactly they’re so sure that vaccines are safe. They’re much more likely to just dismiss your question and obliquely insult you than to address the question with correct science.

        It’s always annoying to me when the majority is on the right side of an issue but can’t explain why, and then acts like you’re stupid for asking.

        • Garrett says:

          I suspect that this has to do with people broadly being bad at probabilistic thinking. Looking at a similar question: “are cars safe?”
          On one hand, no. There are about 30k traffic fatalities in the US every year. Yet we consider that to be an acceptable risk because of the risk/reward. Alcohol is something like 88k deaths/year and is still considered to be an acceptable risk. But is a literal poison for ingestion “safe?”

          Most routine vaccines are rare enough that they get lost in the background of general weird medical events that they are hard to tease out causation. Is that “safe?” But the benefits are also uncertain, on multiple fronts, including the likelihood that you would be exposed to the illness, that exposure would lead to significant harm, that the vaccine is effective, and the vaccine prevents significant harm.

          Weighing all of this is hard for people who are specialized in this area and have a spreadsheet in front of them. It is unreasonable for the average person to be able to work this out from primary data themselves. So we fall back on heuristics of “if you can’t tell me flat-out it’s safe, I assume you’re hedging to screw me over”.

        • Callum G says:

          I’d say it’s appropriate deference to science. I have no idea how paracetamol works, but it certainly seems safe. Same with most medicines. Even away from medicine I rely on deferring to authority on safety issues: electrical plugs, cosmetics, wifi, microwaves etc. I probably can work out why some of these are safe, and some of them I’ve known in the past why they’re safe, but I couldn’t explain why now.

    • albertborrow says:

      If there’s one thing I like about social justice, it’s the fact that the fundamental tenants are apolitical, even if that doesn’t extend to its practice.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Many of the Republicans I know personally are nice, empathetic people who care about their community, view charitable service as either an obligation or at least highly desirable, and take their commitments to family, faith, and responsibilities seriously.

    • eh12 says:

      There’s a group of people who reject the validity of stats, logic, etc., and just go with system 1 thinking most of the time. I’ve been genuinely enraged by this group more than any other.

      They’re less prone to making obvious mistakes and to self-deception than their opponents, in the realm of things they understand well. Nobody who thinks like this would end up deciding that the Holocaust didn’t happen based on a theory about tuberculosis, for example.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ eh12
        There’s a group of people who reject the validity of stats, logic, etc., and just go with system 1 thinking most of the time. [….]
        They’re less prone to making obvious mistakes and to self-deception than their opponents, in the realm of things they understand well. Nobody who thinks like this would end up deciding that the Holocaust didn’t happen based on a theory about tuberculosis, for example.

        Could you give some examples of them using this System 1 thinking about real life practical decisions? Such as, on safety, giving less weight to recent stats and studies, and more to “This herb has been tested for hundreds of years on human beings.”

    • ChetC3 says:

      I am sincerely grateful to Lord Moldemort for introducing me to Carlyle. And more generally, I can’t agree more that people should read more old books, especially the ones that have fallen outside of the canon.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      The right are mostly fargroup for me – I’m not entirely sure they exist – so I’ll stick with factions of the left even though I regard myself as left-ish. So…

      I admire the enthusiasm that left-wing activists in general (specifically including social justice people and pro-minimum wage people) apply to attacking the problems they perceive. I especially admire the art produced by leftists, including but not limited to folk and protest songs.

      • cassander says:

        >I especially admire the art produced by leftists, including but not limited to folk and protest songs.

        Then you’ll love this.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      American mainstream right: You guys understand the hunting and nuclear power are both pretty great. And you – anecdotally – fall for the general category of hippy nonsense woo woo pseudoscience much less than the American mainstream left.

    • Nornagest says:

      I probably have the most object-level disagreement with Pat Buchanan theocrat types, but they haven’t really been on my radar for years; the closest people to them in my current circles I find more entertaining than infuriating. So I’ll go for the social-justice left instead.

      I like their willingness to experiment. They come up with radically different forms of social organization and they actually try to put them into practice, which is rare in other political corners and practically unknown on any kind of large scale. However misguided the theory, however messed up the practice, however premature the declarations of success — just having the courage to do that kind of thing in the first place deserves congratulation.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think the typical liberal is more likely to have well thought out positions than the typical conservative. I still feel like the latter is my ingroup but I’m cautiously leaning towards the liberal side on certain issues.

    • Cold Black Mirror says:

      I am Catholic; nonetheless I admire the zeal with which the self-identifying atheists of my acquaintance commit themselves to reason, scientific inquiry, and intellectual rigor.

    • 27chaos says:

      I guess my outgroup is just noncentrists?

      I think that ideologies are very helpful libraries of ideas that have been honed in response to competitive pressures and so can often usefully explain a wide variety of concepts. Many of the problems with ideology occur only as the result of bad deployment of concepts, and the concepts themselves are not necessarily to blame. Sometimes.

      Also, people who respond to ideas they disagree with with violence or disdain rather than tolerance and debate: In my heart, and many times in my head, it feels like you are right, and I acknowledge I might be tearing myself apart for nothing.

    • tgb says:

      Climate deniers are totally correct that I just parrot what the mainstream media tells me scientists say with regards to climate science. I did read a few parts of the IPCC report a couple years ago… but that’s as close to actually looking at the facts as I’ve really come. Furthermore, I have a lot of sympathy for the “it’s really easy to make a model say whatever you want it to say, even without explicitly aiming for that” viewpoint.

      And to anyone who says I just believe X because that’s what I’ve been told by authorities to believe: you’re generally right, whether it be about big-government programs, vaccines, or climate change. Things that don’t fall into this category are pretty much just value-judgments, not statements of fact.

      • More generally, most people, including most of us, believe many things on second hand information from sources they trust. That’s why I don’t regard creationists and the like as necessarily stupid or irrational. Most of them have had no good reason to spend time and energy going over the relevant arguments and evidence carefully. People they have reason to trust on other grounds tell them things and they believe them.

        How many of the people who say they believe in evolution could give a reasonably competent explanation of the content of the theory and the evidence for it? How many people who cite statistical results could actually explain what a p level means? How many of the people who talk about global warming actually understand how the greenhouse effect works at even a simple level? I have evidence on the last, and it suggests that the fraction who do, on either side of the debate, is small, probably under ten percent.

        I take two different dietary supplements, each on the basis that there is no reason to think it is bad for me and some reason to think it might be good for me. I have never looked at the evidence for either. One is something devised by a researcher at Stanford my father knew and thought well of, so I am going on two levels of trust. The other is something which has an impressive list of endorsers.

        I’m currently writing a book that covers a bunch of different legal systems. For a few of them I can work off primary sources. But I am largely going off secondary sources and judging them mostly by internal evidence–how competent and intelligent the author seems to me to be, as judged by the writing. How is that different from someone who finds his local preacher to be intelligent, honest, and benevolent, and so believes what the preacher tells him about religion or evolution?

    • Deiseach says:

      The following rant kicked off by encountering today a sample of what I’m raving about.

      Admiration for ideological enemies (though I think “enemies” is pushing it in this case) – atheists.

      Good old-school “to hell with religion, it’s all fairy stories” atheists, who plant their feet on the solid ground of material, empirically measurable reality and refuse to have anything to do with sky fairies or flying teapots. I can respect you because you look at the claim and go “It’s all bunkum, I don’t believe in gods, miracles, or any of the rest of that fol-de-rol”.

      I will 200% appreciate your attitude more than the progressives of any denomination (though often none, falling into the “spiritual but not religious” camp) who will strain, warp, twist and otherwise shove through a sieve the scriptures (of any and all denominations and faiths) and traditional understanding of same in order to force the square peg into the round hole of “what I like to do is not a sin, in fact, it is blessed!”

      I won’t go into the details (it’s a culture war topic) but I am grimacing like a Gorgon* here as I have to say if they are correct “Well, gorsh: that means that for five thousand years or so over three faiths everyone has been getting the entire topic completely wrong and it was all down to a mistranslation that nobody noticed until today when Topic is very much the in-favour thing? Silly us!”

      Even Bertrand Russell is more appealing to me than that. Even Richard Dawkins is a breath of fresh air by comparison. Believe it or don’t believe it, but don’t go “Actually, when they said “up”, what they realllllly meant – which nobody all this time realised until clever old us – was “down”!”

      *Expression of Yr Obt. Svt. whilst reading post in question

      • ““Actually, when they said “up”, what they realllllly meant – which nobody all this time realised until clever old us – was “down”!””

        I advise you, for your health, to avoid the Talmud.

    • Dog says:

      I find the cunning and adaptability of cats impressive.

    • yodelyak says:

      I admire Milo Yiannopoulis’s and company’s commitment and discipline in selecting and pursuing a strategy with regard to effectiveness, not whether their strategy is likely to be easy or popular.

    • Adam says:

      About the only firm stance I hold is not voting, so I’ll say for voters that I much prefer this to periodic military coups and civil wars.

  3. Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

    The lying post made me want to ask: Is there anything like a good storyteller’s club? I don’t mean good writing, but more along the lines of chatting with friends or co-workers and being able to tell a good story or anecdote in that context.

    There seems to be a skill with this, and I completely suck at it. When I was in college I joined the singer/songwriter’s club, and that (I think) helped me at writing better songs, since we would come together and share/critique each others’ songs.

    Is anyone here actually good at telling stories? I always noticed that the most popular people in the various groups I interact with are also the best storytellers.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but “good storyteller’s club” translates pretty directly to “socially outgoing group hanging out at the pub”. Back when I lived in NorCal, we had a Single Malt Club that basically functioned as a storyteller’s club, well-lubricated.

    • gronald says:

      Would that be Toastmasters? I think they mostly do public speaking, but the one time I watched a meeting the public speaking was mostly stories.

      In Seattle there was the “Fresh Ground Stories” meetup group but I think that might be too large for what you want.

    • I have entertained people as a story teller at least since I was a teenager entertaining the other members of my cabin at summer camp. I host a bardic circle at Pennsic for about a week of evenings each year, and during each evening probably spend more than an hour telling medieval stories (and poems).

      If you happen to be in the SCA, my circle at Pennsic is a sort of story-teller’s club, constrained by the attempt to maintain the illusion that we are period people entertaining each other around a campfire.

      But I don’t think I am the most popular person in the groups I interact with, unfortunately. Or perhaps not unfortunately.

    • Wander says:

      I’ve only ever seen them in the context of European nationalist groups reviving storytelling traditions. Telling Beowulf around a campfire, and such.

      If you were interested, it really does seem like the sort of thing that you could organise yourself. Just have people come in with a story to tell each week and give each other feedback.

    • Well... says:

      I’d describe myself as fairly popular, and I’m often the “life of the party”. But I’m the worst story teller ever.

    • Callum G says:

      My mates and I bought a friend a few drama lessons because he was horrible at story telling. He was offended at first, it took him a good half hour to tell us why, but it helped in the end.

    • WashedOut says:

      Try the Moth Podcast.

      • yodelyak says:

        Seconded. There’s local Moth events where you can add your name to the hat, when you feel ready–but in the meantime it’s a good place to see different amateur story-tellers bring their best game.

        In my experience The Moth in NYC was much better than The Moth in Portland, so your mileage may vary.

  4. Anonymous Bosch says:

    NISKANEN YO

  5. psmith says:

    One periodically sees articles making the case for the skilled trades as underappreciated but lucrative career paths (e.g. 1, 2, Mike Rowe’s entire career, arguably The Millionaire Next Door). How legit is this? In particular, there are two sometimes-encountered subclaims that I’m curious about.

    The first is about just how much money a skilled tradesman can expect to make relative to the alternatives. Are the trades a good idea relative to a McJob? Or are the trades a good idea relative to a graduate degree? The pro-trades thinkpieces seem to equivocate between various points on this spectrum, or answer “yes” to the second question by assuming that grad school is paid for with student loans instead of fellowships and TA/RA jobs. BLS metro area wage data (not linking for spam filter reasons, but easy to find) show that tradesmen usually make less than white-collar professionals in comparable areas, but don’t adjust for opportunity cost of grad school, changes in wage across the life cycle, or cost of living by area.

    The second is about automation. It is sometimes claimed that, paradoxically, even quite high-paying white-collar work is more vulnerable to automation and offshoring than the trades, the idea being that many white-collar jobs can be automated with a Python script or two but that automating boiler repair or whatever requires substantially more sophisticated portable robotics than are in the near-to-medium term pipeline. So too with offshoring: “If you need a deck built, or your car fixed, the Chinese are of no help. Because they are in China.” (From Matt Crawford’s excellent Shop Class as Soulcraft, see also “you can’t hammer a nail over the Internet”.). How plausible a prediction is this?

    • Aapje says:

      I think that you will probably keep needing people to install & repair the robots, but not necessarily for many administrative jobs which are not much more than applying the rules.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        Speaking as someone introducing automation in a very large bureaucracy you’ve probably heard of:

        At least today, 90% of the actual value of having people in the administrative jobs I see is to have a way to bend rules when they’re stupid or counterproductive. When I was younger, I used to try to make IT systems completely prevent actions that are against the rules—that is, build rigid systems. Now… not so much.

        • Aapje says:

          @Machina ex Deus

          You can make rules to describe which exceptions to the rules are allowed 😛

          • Skivverus says:

            And then you end up having to approximate pi via binary search…

          • Aapje says:

            Well, in practice a lot of customer oriented jobs work like that anyway: the worker has a specific limit to the lenience that they can give and have to escalate to a higher-ups if they think that more is warranted. A robot administrative worker could work the same way, with a limited number of humans for the decisions that the robots escalate upwards.

            And what I see in a lot of (government) bureaucrats is that they only bend the rules in their benefit, not to the benefit of the citizens. I might prefer a more strict robot who is even-handed over that.

    • Spookykou says:

      I think Automation is hard to predict, however the impression I get at this point is that jobs which combine reasonably complex physical and mental tasks will be the hardest to automate, mostly because I think software will progress faster than hardware(robots). For example, it seems to me that a program that function as a diagnostician could be better than most doctors at diagnosis and designing treatment plans in the not too distant future. Where as a robot that could do the physical tasks of a nurse, in a variety of different environments, seems complicated and very expensive, and people still might not like it because they want actual human interaction.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Spookykou

        Something that records what the patient says and then edits it in the direction of things that Health Care Professionals like to hear, could be helpful in several ways.

      • Aapje says:

        @Spookykou

        Perhaps, in the future, many jobs will become purely social and divorced from income (via UBI or such). Then it will only matter if people prefer human interaction in a certain aspect of their lives.

        • albertborrow says:

          Aye. I’m a die-hard capitalist in just about every way, but if we’re planning any kind of long-term future we’re going to have to decouple work from income. That isn’t to say we should do it now (I think Lenin is a good indication of what happens when you pretend modern society is post-scarcity) but certainly necessary in the long term.

          • To a significant degree we already have decoupled work from income.

            I’m thinking mostly of the people I have known in the SCA who do some boring job to make a living, but put their energy and interest into their hobby. That doesn’t mean income without work, although that has long existed for a small minority with inherited wealth, but work done for reasons other than income.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            Was it ever that coupled? It seems to me like it’s only a small proportion of people who actually get to do something they love. Now or whenever.

          • Spookykou says:

            While it is only a small number of people who would describe their job as ‘what they love’. My experience is that a lot of people do end up living for their work. They don’t really have hobbies, don’t know what to do with free time/vacation, watch a lot of TV, etc. I am not sure if this is relevant though.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that ‘I have to do the job for the income, but I prefer to do something else’ is the opposite of decoupling work from income, just as ‘I have checked out and am not much more than a machine working and then decompressing by numbing myself’ is also a life centered around work.

            As for UBI, my main worry is the transition to it. For example, in the medium term it may lead to hybrid system where we pay people more based on the shittiness of their jobs, than their education or such. In part, this may lead to an inversion of incomes, where a lot of shitty jobs that we currently pay poorly are/have to be paid much better. This means that a lot of winners of the current system may need to accept far lower pay. Will they accept this? Or will we make immigrants do these jobs and exclude them from UBI?

    • Deiseach says:

      If you’ve ever had experience of a bodge job done by a so-called tradesman, you will definitely appreciate the properly trained and skilled one more. I don’t think they’ll ever make as much money as a white-collar professional in certain jobs (unless you open your own plumbing or construction business) but if a pipe springs a leak and there is water pouring down the wall, even the most well-paid and high-status professional will be more than happy to hire Joe The Plumber to fix it quick for him.

      So someone who’s good with their hands, as they say, will probably do better to go for learning a trade than a college degree (unless they have a particular aptitude for a certain subject and can be reasonably sure that the degree at the end of it really will get them into a good job that won’t be outsourced or downsized six months after they start).

      And yeah, in the near future, it’ll probably be still some time before they invent robot plumbers and builders. It’s easier to automate a production line in a factory, not so easy to get a robot that can climb scaffolding and put up trusses and slate a roof.

    • John Schilling says:

      Repair and maintenance is going to be one of the last physical occupations to fall to automation, with the caveat that maybe half of that field can fall to automated diagnostics. If your car is smart enough to tell you what’s wrong with it, that cuts the mechanic’s labor time (and thus pay) enormously. By much more than half in the ideal case, but there’s also the parts where your car is saying, “what’s wrong with me is that one of the sensors for figuring out what’s wrong with me is broken”. And sometimes even with all the sensors working it will require extremely clever eyes and hands on the scene to figure out what’s wrong. Fixing what’s wrong, will sometimes mean an automatable task of replacing a standardized, modularized turboencabulator unit, and some other times will mean developing and debugging a new procedure on the spot. So, handwave all of that together and we can maybe automate half of the repair-and-maintenance skilled trades but the other half will be with us until well beyond the singularity.

      These trades can pay very well, with six-figure salaries and good benefits, but they are biased towards working in unpleasant environments because that’s where things are most likely to break, and working odd hours because things that break during normal business hours often need to be fixed before the start of the next business day.

      There are also manufacturing trades, e.g. machining and welding. These presently pay quite well for known high-skill workers, but are more susceptible to automation. Not so much so as assembly-line work, and there will long be a need for at least a few specialists to do one-off jobs where just building the thing is easier than specifying exactly how a robot should build it. And some of them overlap with the repair trades.

      • Spookykou says:

        This fits with my thinking, I work at UPS and so the fear of being automated out of a job actually comes up some times, and I always tell the mechanics that they would be the last to go.

      • Chalid says:

        Also note that much of repair will be obsoleted (and indeed already has been obsoleted) by the prices of the goods becoming more reliable and/or cheaper (why repair when you can replace).

        • psmith says:

          I don’t know how heavily I’d bet on that, actually. ISTR that garbage per capita has declined since ~1998, for instance.

          • Chalid says:

            I’d guess that there are too many other constituents of garbage to infer anything about repair from garbage per capita.

        • John Schilling says:

          So, in the future, when someone sees a termite, they’ll burn down their house and have a new one built on the spot? Possibly you have discovered the secret of the Burned House Horizon from a few open threads ago…

          Also, when the “check engine” light in your car comes on, drive it straight to the nearest junkyard and demand a replacement from the dealership. When United Airlines gets a squawk on a 787, they’ll just scrap it and have Boeing fab another one in the giant 3-D printer at Everett.

          I think you are generalizing far too much from your experience with cheap consumer electronics. Capital goods still get repaired, not discarded and replaced, and that’s not likely to change this side of the Singularity. Even commercial or industrial electronics. When my home printer stopped working a few months ago, one call to tech support did indeed result in “that’s not trivial, so here’s your free replacement”. When my admin person’s high-capacity office unit stopped working, they sent people to our office to fix it.

          And that’s always been most of the work for tradesmen; fixing radios and TVs was never the biggest part of the field.

          • Chalid says:

            Huh? You handwaved “about half”, I wrote a single sentence about an effect you didn’t mention, and you react as if I’d claimed that the effect I mentioned was the most important thing ever in all circumstances and proved that your estimate was wildly off.

            I don’t know how important the effect is relative to other effects and I don’t feel like doing a research project on it. But I will remind you that even for expensive capital goods, an increase in quality and cheapness will affect repair vs replace decisions *at the margin.* Surely some cars are replaced now for faults that would have been repaired 50 years ago.

            And increased reliability of course directly reduces demand for repair work – compare breakdown rates for cars 50 years ago vs today.

        • Deiseach says:

          why repair when you can replace

          Opens up a whole new antiques market in nostalgia: wow, here’s an actually working toaster from 2074, lovingly restored by a trained specialist! *speaker is living in the far-flung year of 2078*

          May be a future in presenting the kind of “find ’em and fix ’em” shows that are all over the satellite channels for tradespeople who will know how to fix a non-automated machine.

          Then again, Watchmen had the original Nite Owl retiring to what he thought was a sound job as an auto repairman, only for all the cars to be replaced by electric vehicles (that never quite rang true to me, because if he was able to be a car mechanic, surely he could have re-trained on the new engines? it’s not like ’25th June – all vehicles are powered by internal combustion engine’ ’26th June – all vehicles run on electric power’).

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think “lovingly restored” is about right; unless labor becomes much cheaper, it’s typically going to be uneconomic to hire someone to repair things, it would only be done as a labor of love.

            Current example is my wife’s Pixma Pro9000 printer. It’s a professional model from a few years back, so not just consumer throwaway. It stopped printing two, then three colors. She was able to buy a new printer with a new set of ink and some paper for about the cost of the ink and paper — $130. I did attempt to repair the old one, but at any reasonable rate, just the time I spent disassembling and re-assembling it would be a significant fraction of that cost.

          • LHN says:

            Then again, Watchmen had the original Nite Owl retiring to what he thought was a sound job as an auto repairman, only for all the cars to be replaced by electric vehicles (that never quite rang true to me, because if he was able to be a car mechanic, surely he could have re-trained on the new engines? it’s not like ’25th June – all vehicles are powered by internal combustion engine’ ’26th June – all vehicles run on electric power’).

            It was fast enough that the limo JFK was assassinated in eighteen months later was electric. (Though of course that could have been a prominent demo of emerging tech.) But Mason did open a garage anyway, didn’t he? “Obsolete models a specialty”, but not necessarily to the exclusion of the other sort– unless I’m forgetting something. IIRC he was retired from that as of 1985, but that’s more than two decades later.

      • psmith says:

        A mighty interesting post. Do you think it’s worth trying to predict what fields are least likely to be automated in planning one’s career, beyond avoiding assembly-line work and supermarket cashier jobs and such?

    • Brad says:

      The most lucrative skilled trades jobs requires you to be a business owner or the moral equivalent. Which means aside from skill in a particular trade you need a variety of other skills, attributes, and talents. You probably would do pretty well regardless.

      The next most lucrative skilled trade jobs are obtained through various types of nepotism and cronyism. You need to have an in to get a union longshoreman or heavy crane operator job.

      Below these two categories are the bulk of skilled trade jobs which require some combination of soft skills and/or connections as well as the skills needed for the actual job. The pay is going to be a factor of all three.

      At the bottom rung are jobs that require virtually no soft skills or connections. These can still be fairly lucrative *if* the skill in question is difficult and/or expensive to obtain. A top welder can make six figures even if he is a friendless orphan and nasty sonofabitch (though he’ll probably have to travel some).

      The bottom line is that they can and do work well for many people, but the stories that somehow it is a secret path to success that is being overlooked are way overblown.

      • psmith says:

        Fair points. As far as I can tell, most or all training for a lot of trade jobs is done through union apprenticeships, including jobs like welding and machining that take quite a bit of training, so it is to some extent a matter of what you know not just whom.

        The most lucrative skilled trades jobs requires you to be a business owner or the moral equivalent. Which means aside from skill in a particular trade you need a variety of other skills, attributes, and talents.

        Shame this sort of thing is so hard to teach, ain’t it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Shame this sort of thing [running a business] is so hard to teach, ain’t it.

          If it wasn’t hard to teach (or hard to learn), more people would do it and it would become less lucrative. One of many reasons “the dismal science” is an appropriate descriptor of economics.

      • shakeddown says:

        For money (but sadly, not irreplacability), Another option is being willing to work crazy hours – There was the story of the BART Janitor who got over 200k by working 100-hour weeks, and both the welders I’ve met told me about working for decades without taking time off.

      • Deiseach says:

        the stories that somehow it is a secret path to success that is being overlooked are way overblown

        I think – though this may be only the impression I’m getting from the equivalent situation in the UK – that the “secret path to success” was aimed more at middle-class parents who would otherwise have steered little Tarquin or Saskia to go on to college and look for a white-collar job, and the notion was maybe Tarquin is thick as a brick academically so he’ll never get the high-flyer job, but he could be a dazzling success as a chef, oh and did you know plumbers make really decent money?

        That is, it wasn’t aimed at the working class/lower middle-class who would naturally have thought of these jobs, but at the middle-middle class and even upper-middle class who would never have considered not going to college but doing vocational training instead.

        • Brad says:

          I agree that’s the intent, but I think it is misguided.

          Dylan, whose parents are a college professor and psychologist, in theory could go off to trade school and learn to be a plumber. But he doesn’t have any connections to plumbers and he isn’t going to fit in culturally either in trade school or in the job he eventually lands. He might well end up making a decent living, but he is less likely to excel because of those two factors.

          On the other hand suppose he goes to a college which is little more than a finishing school for upper middle class kids, continues building a network there while amassing a b- average, and then lands a job as a financial adviser. Most financial advisers don’t actually need to know anything about finance or investing. They are salesman. But instead of being a fish out of water, he’s in a field where his connections are relevant and where his clients and co-workers are from the same world that he is from. He is more likely to excel in this milieu.

          • Matt M says:

            Agreed. I think this path is a better option for people of lower/middle class backgrounds with some intelligence/work ethic/ability, but still not “competitive at a respected university” level.

            The “everyone must go to college” crowd is constantly pushing everyone of even the slightest amount of ability/potential to strive for the highest level of education someone is willing to give them – when in reality, the “kinda bright for a blue collar kid” student might be much better off (especially from a cultural assimilation standpoint) in one of the skilled trades.

          • Deiseach says:

            But he doesn’t have any connections to plumbers and he isn’t going to fit in culturally either in trade school or in the job he eventually lands.

            Posh Plumbers 🙂

            Though granted, this is from 2004 so who knows what the current view is?

          • Mark says:

            It’s a bit of a problem if you’re from a lower/middle class background, but not really into bullshitting or networking, though.

            If you don’t like bullshitting, and you’re not a genius, don’t go to college. If you don’t have trade connections, getting a job as a maintenance technician for a large company, or something similar, is probably a good alternative.

          • Matt M says:

            “getting a job as a maintenance technician for a large company, or something similar, is probably a good alternative.”

            My dad started off in a new town with no connections and nothing more than a high school diploma, he got a job as a night-shift janitor at an elementary school and by showing up on time and not being arrested eventually rose to the “head custodian” position which was fairly comfortable, had decent wages, and great benefits.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Mark

            >It’s a bit of a problem if you’re from a lower/middle class background, but not really into bullshitting or networking, though.

            The problem is if you are not into bullshitting / networking, no matter your background (unless it’s the very top of the society, I guess).

            There’s actually a certain niche of white-collar lower middle class, often with ‘minor’ academic degrees, that was “comfortable living” a couple of decades ago (when my parents got there) but is slowly and steadily declining. (Think about librarians, reporters, low-rank bureaucrats and office workers, teachers … in general, people who were likely to have a large bookcase or several in their house and even had read most of the books in there …okay I guess teachers are exception in that they still have career prospects…) But from that background, on the one hand, you will not fit in the “tradesmen” class, but on the other hand, your family hasn’t got the connections or maybe can’t even teach the skills you absolutely need to make it into upper (middle) class (where connections, references, socializing and bullshitting is far more important than e.g. your GPA … unless you’re exceptionally bright, the next Ramanujan of your field … but in general, that class isn’t growing in the size, so it can feed itself with its own offspring).

        • “but he could be a dazzling success as a chef”

          The subject comes up in Sayers’ Gaudy Night. Written quite a while back.

      • eh12 says:

        The most lucrative skilled trades jobs requires you to be a business owner or the moral equivalent. Which means aside from skill in a particular trade you need a variety of other skills, attributes, and talents. You probably would do pretty well regardless.

        I think there’s a group of people who can’t flourish in large corporations and formal environments, but do extremely well as owners of a small business where they’re never more than one step removed from their workers and customers.

    • Incurian says:

      In addition to comparing their salaries, compare the rates at which job seekers in of each type are successful.

    • Cadie says:

      On the automation and jobs part: I think that service jobs will never be fully automated – at least not until society changes dramatically in a certain direction that may never happen. There are people who really like being “served” by others and don’t like using automated tools in their place – a self-service checkout instead of a cashier, an order kiosk instead of giving your order to a waiter, robots doing some maid service work, etc. IMO there will always be a group of upper-middle-class to lower-upper-class people who feel insecure in their position and want someone to talk down to and order around, but they can’t quite afford their own personal home staff, and service workers are better than nothing. Robots can’t fill that function for them; they could do the job, but not provide the satisfaction. So while MANY service jobs will disappear, there will be a few left, as those customers gravitate towards the couple of remaining establishments that staff human workers.

      Most people of that tier aren’t like that, of course. It’s just that IME there are enough of them in any medium to large city to support a few human-staffed businesses regardless of how good automation is. Whether that applies to skilled trade work or not I don’t know, and I suspect not, or at least not as much.

      • psmith says:

        Whether that applies to skilled trade work or not I don’t know, and I suspect not, or at least not as much.

        Yeah, maybe in the context of e.g. motorcycle and classic car repair but at that point you’re already trafficking in deliberate anachronism. (Which is great! But not necessarily indicative of how it will work out in fields where that isn’t the norm.).

      • JayT says:

        I don’t know if I agree with that. In general, my experience with younger people is that they will take an automated system over talking to an actual person nine times out of ten. I know I would rather go online to pay my mortgage rather than go into the bank, wait in line, and hand a check to the teller. My coworker that I sit next to, who is 20 years older than me, would disagree.
        Now, I still want to talk to a real person for certain things, so while I’m alive there will need to be certain businesses that cater to me, but I’m not sure that will be the case for people that are 20 years younger than me.

      • Loquat says:

        There’s also a need for live customer service people if there’s any possibility customers might have complicated issues. If all I’m doing is making my usual mortgage payment, that’s easy enough to do with an automated system, but if I have a question on some language that looks ambiguous on my insurance policy, or the company withdrew the wrong amount from my bank account, or something else unusual where I want to be able to explain the details to a mind that can comprehend them, a human is necessary. Until such time as really good AI becomes a reality, I guess.

      • Deiseach says:

        The snob value in “And our six-star hotel is staffed by real humans” may indeed kick in there; if the common thing is that everywhere is automated, a mark of exclusivity and personally tailored service will be having an actual human to take your requests and cater to your needs.

        It may not be so much about needing the satisfaction of having someone to boss around, but since I’m nowhere near the kind of boss class individual this envisages, I can’t comment on the psychology 🙂

        • Nornagest says:

          I think that sort of thing might be more susceptible to cultural change than is generally assumed.

          A while back I ended up staying with a well-off-by-local-standards family in the Philippines for a while. They had servants, which is normal in that place for people of that class: a cook, who doubled as a maid, and a driver, who doubled as a gardener.

          Now, I’m American, and my upbringing is such that I’ve hung out with people of equivalent class before, though my own class background is a bit lower. But in America in 2016 you don’t have servants, unless you’re the kind of out-of-sight rich that I’ve never even talked to. You might hire a maid service or a gardening service or a chauffeur service, but employee/client is a completely different social relationship from master/servant. I found it very hard to adjust to.

          The service drone/irate customer relationship might be as central to class relations now as the master/servant one was a hundred years ago, but I can definitely see it being obsoleted in a similar way.

    • Well... says:

      Skill in a trade can at least SAVE you a lot of money, even if you can’t make a lot of money at it. E.g. fixing your own roof or car.

      • Aapje says:

        But that is worth less when tradespeople get lower salaries, like may happen when migrants that are mostly tradespeople come in.

        Hence, downward pressure on tradespeople salaries actually hurts them twice (their own salary goes down and they also save less by fixing their own stuff).

        • Well... says:

          Has getting your car or roof fixed become cheaper since low-skilled immigration has gone up? Doesn’t seem like it, though I guess I could be wrong.

          Anyway, I should have been less specific. It can save you money…it can also endear you to your family (and even neighbors?), give you a sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency, etc. Those, to me anyway, are worth at least as much as the time and energy needed to learn the skill “well enough.”

    • IrishDude says:

      Personal anecdote: I’m a white collar professional with a graduate degree but almost all my friends are blue collar with no college degree. They work in HVAC, elevator maintenance, escalator repair, and as a car mechanic. We all make similar salary, in the high 5 figure, low 6 figure range.

      The biggest difference in our jobs is I can work from home in a comfortable environment and surf the web significant portions of the day, while they work in more uncomfortable environments and don’t have as much leisure time during work. Adjusted for leisure time, I probably make a decent amount more per hour for actual effort spent working than they do.

      • Matt M says:

        Irishdude – I generally agree with this (I’m in a similar situation myself, white collar but most of my friends/family are blue), but I think there’s a different tradeoff the white collar folks make.

        Not sure if this is true for you, but most of my blue collar associates have a very explicit 8-5, 40 hr/week schedule. They may occasionally be required to work overtime, but are always compensated for it. There aren’t any particular continuing education or outside of work training requirements. Basically, they’re “on the clock” in a predictable manner and outside of that, their life is their life and the company has no influence.

        Whereas, virtually every white collar job I’ve ever held, even low pay/low status ones, the company basically treats you like they own you, can and will call you up after hours/on weekends with demands of work, which won’t carry any extra money because you’re salaried and that’s “just part of the job.” Even aside from clear examples like that, there are general expectations that you, on your own time if necessary, stay up to date with industry news, complete various required training, etc. Your job has a certain hold over your *entire life* and unless you’ve specifically requested vacation time, you’re never really “off the clock.” When I describe this to my blue collar friends they seem to find it entirely repulsive and can’t imagine how I tolerate it.

      • Adam says:

        I’m in somewhat of this situation as a software engineer with a plumber for a dad. I make more than him even though he’s quite a bit older, but this is offset by the fact he never had to pay for school in either opportunity cost or monetary cost, and he got into the LA housing market in the early 80s, putting us at roughly equivalent levels of post-rent disposable income. But I have a pretty severe spine condition and couldn’t be a plumber even if I wanted to be. My job is posh as shit. I pretty much come in and leave whenever I want and I’m never required to work overtime, though that’s also an artifact of being paid by a government contract and not true of most white collar work. He, on the other hand, has to occasionally literally wade through knee-deep pools of shit. And he’s been coming home totally exhausted for 35 years.

        I do suspect plumber will remain extraordinarily resistant to automation. Building a robot that could do it would be absurdly expensive. It can’t be offshored, either. My specific specialty – algorithm design – is likely to be one of the last IT functions that can be automated, but I have no honest prediction of when that will be. At least I can’t legally be offshored because I’m entrusted with state secrets, though. I am expected to do a lot of continuing education, but I actually enjoy most of it anyway. Plumbing involves a shit-ton of technical knowledge, but I’m not sure how much it changes year to year.

  6. miko says:

    What do you think of the H.R. 34 – 21st century cures act?
    Obama said he would sign it, I think. This looks like it could finally make me lose faith in the medical industry entirely.
    If I’m not mistaken, this would allow corporations to sell drugs to consumers with only proof of “safety” and little to no proof of efficacy, among other problems. So, basically, they would be legally allowed to sell phony drugs for billions of dollars and then maybe pay out a couple million in court fees later on for false advertising. We all know these corporations fudge their data in their studies CONSTANTLY and then pay off the regulatory industry, is this just a formalization of big pharma’s methods?

    My question is, would this even change anything? Don’t they already do this with nothing but a slap on the wrist from time to time? Would this actually help smaller drug companies or generics? How can we learn what is genuinely useful and what is simply a product for profit?(besides the obvious answer; experience) What am I missing?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5m19khJd2Y
    Here’s a short video on it, seems to be pretty fair.

    • DrBeat says:

      This blog has hosted many posts about how awful and destructive the “proof of efficacy” standard is. Because the testing to prove efficacy is so astonishingly expensive and time-consuming, there are a great many things that we know are effective for certain maladies, but nobody can make enough money off of them to justify paying the exorbitant costs for certification. And because insurance companies only pay for things that have jumped through all the hoops, there are certain medications that cannot ever be certified for what they DO, and other things that cannot ever be prescribed as medication. Even if they totally solve the problem.

      If you think this allows them to “sell phony drugs for billions of dollars” you must think doctors and other medical providers have zero factual knowledge and are incapable of discerning phony drugs from real. And if you think that there already is no difference between phony drugs and real, how is this law a problem? It by definition cannot make the situation worse because it’s already happening! Either doctors are incompetent and this law makes no negative change but does allow the situation where it is easier to prescribe things that we know are functional but it’s too expensive to test their efficacy. Or doctors are not incompetent, can discern phony drugs from real, and this law makes no negative change but still allows a positive one!

      Also, every single person who talks to you about how “Big Pharma” is doing something malicious is telling you something untrue. Every single one. People who talk about Big Pharma know less than nothing about medical science or the pharmaceutical industry. Mentally replace the phrase “Big Pharma” with “The Bildebergers” to know how much credence you should give claims of the shadowy influence and malice of this group.

      • Matt M says:

        “you must think doctors and other medical providers have zero factual knowledge and are incapable of discerning phony drugs from real.”

        Even setting the doctors aside, the patients should be able to do this after some use.

        If I have a headache, and I take some advil, and my headache remains – I probably won’t buy any more advil for my headaches any longer – and may even leave a one-star review on amazon saying “my headache did not go away”

        The notion that the majority of people are making decisions about which drugs to take based on FDA efficacy standards is completely absurd. Also keep in mind big phrama loves to give out “free samples.” This seems like a VERY poor marketing strategy if your drug is phony and not actually effective…

        • Jon S says:

          There’s a long history of sham medicine, and plenty of non-scientific garbage out there that people still buy. It’s really hard to discern small effects on an anecdotal basis.

      • Tekhno says:

        Couldn’t there be a compromise position with two tiers of drugs, one line marketed as regulated by the proof of efficacy standard and other standards, and one line marketed as a lower cost option outside of those standards, regulated by having the risks or lack of proof of efficacy well signposted by government requirement? This is kind of like Eliezer’s “shop for banned goods” idea.

        In theory, everyone’s happy. Most people will want to be assured by officialdom, so will get drugs from the standard venues, and then those who have nothing to lose – because none of those drugs worked on them – will choose to make it past all the blaring signposts warning them the item isn’t regulated by those standards, and get the drugs they need from the niche daredevil side of the market.

        • IrishDude says:

          That’s my proposed compromise for most government regulation of products and services. Turn it into a voluntary certification process (for occupations, products, etc.) instead and then let people decide if they want to take the risk of using a non-government approved product or service. How highly valued is the government seal of approval, especially compared to potential private alternative certifications?

      • Jiro says:

        Either doctors are incompetent and this law makes no negative change but does allow the situation where it is easier to prescribe things that we know are functional but it’s too expensive to test their efficacy. Or doctors are not incompetent, can discern phony drugs from real, and this law makes no negative change but still allows a positive one!

        If doctors are completely incompetent, they can’t get worse, so the law won’t make things worse. If doctors are completely competent, they can’t be fooled, so the law also won’t make things worse.

        But that ignores the intermediate position. If doctors are partly competent, there can be a situation where there is room for the doctors to get worse and it is also possible for them to get fooled.

        • Some time back there was some discussion of Peltzman’s old article on the effect of the addition to the requirements of evidence that the drugs were useful as well as safe. His conclusion was that the change cut the rate at which new drugs were coming to market roughly in half while having no observable effect on their average quality.

      • If you think this allows them to “sell phony drugs for billions of dollars” you must think doctors and other medical providers have zero factual knowledge and are incapable of discerning phony

        But in the US you could have patients demanding phony drugs they seen advertised. It might be a good idea to ban prescription pharma advertising at the same time.

        • Matt M says:

          “But in the US you could have patients demanding phony drugs they seen advertised.”

          Why is it wrong to sell people something they want?

          The doctor probably has some sort of moral obligation to say “but I’m telling you this thing doesn’t work” and if the patient demands it anyway then fine, let them waste their money. Why should this bother me?

          • Why is it wrong to sell people something they want?

            People aren’t isolated atoms. Your Granny buys a a phony drug and dies, your mom and dad and brother and sister all cry.

          • Matt M says:

            Assuming the doctor tells her “this drug is phony, if you take it you will die” why did she buy it? Because the commercials were just that good? Where were mom and dad and brother and sister while she was doing this? Did they not ask her what the doctor said?

            How does this drug that kills people continue to thrive in the market such that it can support glamorous ad campaigns when all the relatives of dead people can easily communicate with each other online?

            I mean, a few crackpots have managed to convince a non-insignificant number of people to not vaccinate their children through the power of social media anecdotes. You think “drug that kills your grandma” is going to coast through with no problems?

          • Jiro says:

            I mean, a few crackpots have managed to convince a non-insignificant number of people to not vaccinate their children through the power of social media anecdotes. You think “drug that kills your grandma” is going to coast through with no problems?

            Instead of comparing refusing to use a drug with refusing to use vaccines, do it the other way around: compare willingness to use a drug with willingness to go unvaccinated. People will ignore all medical advice and do something that endangers themselves and others (go unvaccinated), because of some nonsense they heard through the rumor mill or on a talk show. So why wouldn’t people take a drug that kills them based on the rumor mill or talk shows? The danger of communicable diseases didn’t keep them from going unvaccinated; why would the danger of the drug keep them from taking the drug?

            Also, most drugs aren’t 100% safe, so any information online about this drug killing people would be lost in the ocean of reports about good drugs killing people in outlier cases.

          • Matt M says:

            Because “not taking a drug” is basically the natural state of things and requires no effort whatsoever.

            Taking a prescription drug requires a certain amount of effort. You have to make a doctors appointment, pay him some money, convince him to prescribe you the drug, pay him more money, etc.

            And the reason I used vaccines as a comparison is that the opposite of what you suggest has happened. It’s not that complaints about vaccines causing problems are “lost in the sea of stories of them working effectively” but rather the exact opposite. Complaints about complications are sensationalist, and will stand out compared to anecdotes of “I took this thing and nothing happened, yawn”

            I just find it implausible that government regulation is the only thing preventing people from going out and buying a bunch of “phony” drugs that are useless or even actively harmful.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s hard to know. Right now the Irish health service is embroiled in a mini-crisis over Orkambi. The media have not been wanting in producing stories of “my child will die unless they get this drug”, the Department of Health’s response has been (a) it’s too expensive for our drugs budget (b) it only works for a percentage of Cystic Fibrosis patients, so funding it for everyone is not feasible.

      And that’s probably true, but what parent is going to turn down the gamble that “maybe my child is one of the lucky 30% who will benefit”? And this is not a phony drug, it’s one that does have some efficacy.

      Desperate sick people will want anything that they think will help them, so they’ll try any drug as long as it might work. And maybe some of these drugs will work for a certain percentage of sufferers. The problem will be “This drug can help someone with your condition, but a specific version of your condition. It won’t do anything for you”. Well, drug companies are not likely to trumpet that part of the results.

    • Reasoner says:

      We all know these corporations fudge their data in their studies CONSTANTLY and then pay off the regulatory industry

      Wouldn’t it work better for the company to pay the FDA to hire a third party to do trials of their new drug? Why haven’t we moved to a system like that?

    • JayT says:

      If someone wants to take an unproven (yet safe) drug as a last resort, why should the government stop them? What is being gained?

      • Deiseach says:

        I imagine the argument there is that with the cost of healthcare and health insurance, a person could be spending a lot of money on a drug that won’t do anything to help their condition.

        To take the example of Orkambi, the cost the manufacturer is seeking is €160,000 per patient annually (that’s $166,835). That is an effective drug that is effective for one particular form of cystic fibrosis, but not for all.

        So if a desperate patient is asked to pay out $100,000 a year for a potentially-life saving drug, where do they raise the money? Or how badly do they go into debt? And if the drug is not effective for them, do they have any recourse? I’m assuming their doctor will advise them, but given that people are desperate enough to try laetrile clinics and give their autistic children chlorine dioxide, people will try anything.

  7. Something I have been meaning to ask for some time is whether Overton windows are a good thing.

    The argument against seems to be that elites set them up to rule out perfectly
    good ideas, for their own ends.

    The best defence I can think of is that some political ideas are memetic hazards,
    that, as an objective fact, they will wreck the economy or destroy democracy.
    Both of those outcomes have happened after all.

    • andrewflicker says:

      If you think of an Overton Window as a collection of ideas pre-approved for public discussion instead of as some sort of spectrum segment, then it makes sense as a way to optimize political debate and decisionmaking. It’s a way of efficiently reducing the number of positions before contrast, where trying to contrast every possible idea/position might have been prohibitively confusing or time-consuming.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is the Overton window a thing “set up”, or is it just a way of describing that any given social group is going to have a limited range of what can be discussed, proposed, etc?

      • ChetC3 says:

        Whether it’s deliberate or not, any social group that doesn’t accept the TRUTH (aka my opinions) are evil oppressors who are opposed to free speech and all the other rational virtues. Haven’t you read Moldbug? Just because it isn’t literally a conspiracy doesn’t mean its not essentially the same thing, like with the Cathedral.

        • NIP says:

          Moldbug isn’t the only one making the argument that organic self-regulating memetic firewalls are a thing. Chomsky, for one, makes pretty much the same argument but from the other political direction.

          May I ask what you find so ridiculous or implausible about the idea?

          • ChetC3 says:

            The idea itself is fine, if trivial, but at least in this community, it pretty much only gets used as a cheap ploy for sympathy. And not by people who make approving references to Noam Chomsky.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m not really sure what this has to do with my post – you’re clearly being facetious but I’m not sure whether you are doing so in agreement with me or what.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Local luminaries have already mastered the doublethink required to simultaneously acknowledge that something isn’t a conspiracy, but go on treating it as a conspiracy anyway.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Ok now you’re just mocking him. Cut it out, or put up an actual argument.

          • dndnrsn says:

            OK, that’s true. There is a tendency to model as conspiracies things that aren’t.

        • Tekhno says:

          who are opposed to free speech and all the other rational virtues. Haven’t you read Moldbug?

          Yes, but I didn’t think his big issue was free speech and rational virtues.

          • ChetC3 says:

            His big issue changes from moment to moment. In some moments, he very much acts the part of a voice in the wilderness championing free thought against the godless forces of Universalist oppression.

        • That’s just making the case for one side of the argument. You need to make the case against the other side.

          Yes, I have read Moldbug.

    • NIP says:

      >some political ideas are memetic hazards, that, as an objective fact, they will wreck the economy or destroy democracy

      The problem still remains – who gets to decide what is and is not a memetic hazard, and that the status quo is acceptable? Usually, it’s the people who brought about whatever the status quo happens to be. It’s kind of a circular argument:

      “This idea is hazardous to the status quo and must be made into thoughtcrime!”
      “Okay, but didn’t the ideas that make up the status quo destroy the previous one? Did the current order win because they’re right, or because they fought harder and dirtier?”
      “This is exactly the kind of subversive fringe nonsense I’m talking about!”

      • sweetcandyskulls says:

        Believing in and enforcing thoughtcrime is a hazard to democracy.

        I will try really hard to convince you of this, but ultimately never endorse the idea that ‘Believing in and enforcing thoughtcrime’ is a thoughtcrime, see above.

        If we will use all of their methods to win, then why does it matter if we win?

    • Jaskologist says:

      At it’s base, the Overton Window is just a metric measuring what a given culture/religion forbids. In this form, relatively uncontroversial.

      Having identified the metric, however, some people decided to start gaming it, using their power to force (more and more) things outside of it. It turns out that this is dangerous. If you’re lucky, it just inspires a backlash. If you’re unlucky, the window breaks and a new one has to rebuilt from scratch.

      I think when we talk about the Overton Window, we’re usually talking about attempts to game it. Which isn’t unfair; I’m pretty sure Overton was suggesting doing precisely that when he named it.

    • Drew says:

      I think @andrewflicker is basically right. The Overton Window is a useful way of filtering out vast numbers of bad, irrelevant ideas. It happens to also filter out a small handful of good ideas.

      This isn’t that bad, so long as society has some forums that are exempted from Overton-window pressures. Universities, for example.

      Society gave academics a social pass to debate weird ideas. Some of those ideas caught on. They’d pass to public intellectuals. And then they’d filter their way into the broader debate. Eventually the idea would get considered as a serious policy.

      The thing I’m worried about is not having an Overton window, but the gradual trend towards enforcing it in historically-open forums. That’s what will really cause problems.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Good way of thinking about it- yeah, I’d agree, it’s important there be “safe spaces” where outside-the-pale ideas can get a hearing. The irony isn’t lost on me.

        However, it’s also true that where those historically-open spaces are located has changed over time. It wasn’t always the universities – so maybe it won’t be in the future, as the culture shifts into different modes.

    • cassander says:

      Keeping the Overton window small is one of the traditional arguments for aristocratic government. If change is considered dangerous, then rule by a clique of people who were all raised with the same manners, sent to the same schools, and married to each other’s cousins is a great way to minimize it in a naturalistic way.

    • The Nybbler says:

      As others have said, the Overton window isn’t good or bad, it just is. I think gaming it by attempting to deliberately narrow it on one end is generally bad; it means your society is not confronting the ideas at the old edge of the window, but simply rejecting them. It leads to rigidity, and (if the gaming works) it leads to policies changing not because the new policies are better, but because the new policies are further from the tabooed policies. This doesn’t seem like a good way to make policy.

      Attempting to deliberately narrow it symmetrically might make sense for a society in a very unstable situation with a very wide window, but I’m not sure such a society would have a group with the ability to do so.

      • Aapje says:

        @The Nybbler

        it means your society is not confronting the ideas at the old edge of the window, but simply rejecting them

        That may be a feature, rather than a bug. At one point, you may want to decide that certain ideas have been discussed enough and no one was able to make a good case for them, so you may not want to keep discussing them in the mainstream.

        The Overton window is also strongly related to social shaming and I can see a case for shaming people out of seeing certain actions as valid, like terrorism.

        • The Nybbler says:

          At one point, you may want to decide that certain ideas have been discussed enough and no one was able to make a good case for them, so you may not want to keep discussing them in the mainstream.

          Yes; that would be how the Overton window would narrow normally. But by “gaming” the window I mean you’re not doing that; instead of discussing them in the first place you taboo them pre-emptively (e.g. with disgust reaction).

          • Rob K says:

            What do you envision the natural process, distinct from “gaming”, would look like?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think the more “natural” process is that the window moves by moving the center (policy), not the edges. As policy moves in one direction (pushed by means other than tabooing), ideas in the other direction that were formerly radical become taboo.

            What I mean by gaming is doing the opposite — declaring ideas that are on one end to be taboo, in order to get policy (which tends to be the center of the window) to move away from them.

          • ChetC3 says:

            What makes you describe that alternative as the “natural” one, other than an inversion of the naturalistic fallacy?

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            Natural as in no direct intervention.

            The Overton window moves in a particular way.

            People become aware of the Overton window and the power it has.

            People try to move the Overton window directly.

            Unnatural.

    • Reasoner says:

      Yes, it’s good to have a restricted Overton window. If the window is sufficiently wide that you’ve got many people who believe capitalists should be killed AND many people who believe communists should be killed, you’ve got a civil war on your hands.

    • Wrong Species says:

      How about a wide Overton window for academics and a smaller one for everyone else? The main benefit to free speech comes from the proliferation of ideas that would normally be restricted. Even the ideas that seem completely indefensible could have some small truth to them. But the ordinary person isn’t really capable of coming up with new ideas that are likely to be true. They probably aren’t coming up with any ideas at all so social order seems more important in that regard.

      Honestly, fighting the Overton window seems pointless. It’s a natural feature of the human race in the same way that signaling is. People can rail against it all the want but it’s not a concept that’s going away. The best you can hope to accomplish is moving it one way or the other.

      • Anon. says:

        >How about a wide Overton window for academics and a smaller one for everyone else?

        That’s why academics have tenure.

  8. Quantum computing note: Scott Aaronson collaborated on the lastest episode of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

    • Randy M says:

      Geez… I realize that there is absurdity in the set-up, but at some point he/they really need to cash that out with a punchline or something remotely funny. Otherwise it just looks like “Hey, look at this kid saying smart things, and aren’t I smart for being able to make them say these things? Quantum!”

      • Deiseach says:

        That was the most boring, unfunny way to explain a concept I’ve encountered. About half-way through I was losing the will to live, but I struggled through, hoping there would be a pay-off at the end.

        Nope, just some back-patting for how clever they are (really, that’s the kind of thing that should be done in private).

        We didn’t even get a zombie cat leaping out of a box under the kid’s bed to devour the bespectacled mother’s brains out of it!

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I mean, the humour is in the parallelism between people’s approach to quantum mechanics and teenagers’ approach to sex. It could’ve also worked with “Big Data”, “cryptocurrency” or whatever state of the art technology that everyone needs to be doing right now but few people actually know what it’s about.

        You can find it not funny, but there’s at least a joke there.

        • gbdub says:

          It needed to be broken into parts, with a punchline for each. There was way too much content for the payoff, which makes it fail as a joke. And the attempts to shoehorn it into the “sex talk” form detracted from the actual explanatory content.

          • Well... says:

            It seemed like they tried to do that with little subtle allusions to things a kid might ask about sex and sex organs, and ways a mother might respond, but it was really weakly done.

        • Randy M says:

          I didn’t say there was no joke, I said there was no punchline. No pay-off.
          The fact that a mother is talking to a child about advanced physics as in the same tone as if it were sex is the absurdity, but that’s funny for, like, 1 second (“Imagine talking about quantum dynamics and computing as if it were sex!” “Okay… heh.”).
          There wasn’t enough parallelism or clever wordplay to sustain 62 (sixty-two!) panels. Even the mouse-over text is self-indulgent.

          You can find it funny, but you are meeting him well more than halfway there. And I read SMBC most days already–I’m not predisposed to object to his style.

      • roystgnr says:

        I counted 14 punchlines, 13 of which I found funny; I was literally laughing out loud by the end. There were more scattered lines which were amusing but didn’t have the “suddenness” that partly defines a punchline.

        it just looks like “Hey, look at this kid saying smart things, and aren’t I smart for being able to make them say these things? Quantum!”

        Eliezer Yudkowsky once came up with what at the time I thought was a pretty self-serving theory to explain one fraction of the HPMOR hatedom. Paraphrased (because again, at the time I didn’t think it was worth writing down or even saving a link), it was something like “There is a demographic who sees displays of intelligence, knowledge, etc. primarily as attempts to grab at unearned status.” He claimed that this was a natural human emotion that he’d been blind to.

        Ah, that’s the clincher term to add to my Google searches: “yudkowsky harry status emotion”. You may want to read the original rather than my poor paraphrase.

        I no longer believe this to be mere rationalization; thank you. In return, please take my word for it that there are people who legitimately find such status-seeking to be completely alien. In particular, I swear to you that, just as “Harry Potter fanfiction” is not a form of literature that anyone would ever ever delve into in order to make themselves look smart in front of others, web comics full of dick jokes are also not an avenue by which people compete to win serious intellectual acclaim.

        • Mark says:

          I swear to you that, just as “Harry Potter fanfiction” is not a form of literature that anyone would ever ever delve into in order to make themselves look smart in front of others, web comics full of dick jokes are also not an avenue by which people compete to win serious intellectual acclaim.

          Hmmmm… sometimes people just can’t help themselves. I mean, you wouldn’t think that going to the local pub and trying to bamboozle a bunch of half-cut idiots with brilliant arguments would be, you know, exactly a royal road to winning intellectual cred, but people still do it.

          We really can’t help ourselves.

        • Spookykou says:

          The hover text and red button text both seem to heavily imply that this comic is specifically trying to signal ‘nerd status’ in general I think you are wrong about people not trying to signal they are smart conditional on what they are engaged in. I would assume that no matter how small the pound, some people are going to be fighting over who gets to be the biggest fish.

          Would you be willing to actually pull out some of these punchlines and if possible explain them?

        • Said Achmiz says:

          In particular, I swear to you that, just as “Harry Potter fanfiction” is not a form of literature that anyone would ever ever delve into in order to make themselves look smart in front of others, web comics full of dick jokes are also not an avenue by which people compete to win serious intellectual acclaim.

          No, they compete to win adoration and status among the more shallow parts of the geek population pool.

          If you think Randy M’s response is a reaction to a “grab at unearned status”, you’re being ridiculous.

          • roystgnr says:

            If you think Randy M’s response is a reaction to a “grab at unearned status”, you’re being ridiculous.

            Amusingly, this seems to have been written at the exact same time Randy M was typing a paragraph about how “EY & ZW are sill human; they still seek status”. But please, do go on.

          • Spookykou says:

            roystgnr,

            Said Achmiz is contending two points, they clearly say that status is a factor, and that it is not Randy M’s complaint.

            Randy M, at almost the same time, posts that the grab for status is not his main complaint, and also you are wrong, they are grabbing for status.

            Said Achmiz and Randy M seem to be on the same page here.

          • Deiseach says:

            a quantum computing professor can’t make jokes about quantum computing

            A joke implies something funny, humorous or witty. That wasn’t a joke, that was an info-dump about quantum computing wrapped in a not-very-funny “let’s compare this to talking about sex” frame.

            Info-dumps are often a necessary evil. But you show me a joke about quantum computing that is a joke and I’ll laugh. Don’t try to convince me a mini-lecture is a joke, though.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t doubt your sincerity; in the same way you take three paragraphs to deliver a minor insult, Zach manages to squeeze a punchline out every eight to ten verbose word balloons.
          Alas, though, I am unmoved by either. (Now, watch me belie that…)

          I swear to you that, just as “Harry Potter fanfiction” is not a form of literature that anyone would ever ever delve into in order to make themselves look smart in front of others, web comics full of dick jokes are also not an avenue by which people compete to win serious intellectual acclaim.

          You assert that because Mr Weinersmith (the second of the name to suffer nominitive determinism?) uses low-brow humor he is thus clearly not signalling, but must obviously be employing clever wit for our amusement. You are assuming too much.

          First that I object for the sake of some anti-intellectualism rather than to the dearth of actual wit extending beyond the premise. I can elaborate. Double entendre, to amuse me, must make sense in both contexts; it has to embody the duality of the Schrodinger’s Cat referenced in this comic. The dialogue here rarely makes sense in terms of a talk about quantum computing (for what actual dire consequences does the child face for his ignorance? What cause does he have to hide this from his mother?), leaving the only funny bit the set-up which wears out it’s welcome around the second time one needs to hit page down. The concept is also not particularly new; “little kid speaks like an academic” was done better by Calvin & Hobbes, and SMBC returns to this well often enough to need to bring something else.

          In return, please take my word for it that there are people who legitimately find such status-seeking to be completely alien.

          You’re cute. EY & ZW are sill human; they still seek status, similarly to how you are seeking status by taking pains to explain to me how there’s some group evolved past it. Weiner, like the somewhat more talented Monroe, wants to be the comedian to the nerds. I’m not saying in this case he isn’t trying his hardest to be funny, but if you think there’s no signalling going on there, that’s a bigger punchline than “I know what particles do when no one’s looking.” No, “Comedian of the Nerds” isn’t the most high status of positions, but everyone needs a niche, and with the tech industry greatly adding to the cachet of nerds everywhere, one can’t fault Zach for trying to squeeze his way in.

          • roystgnr says:

            Zach manages to squeeze a punchline out every eight to ten verbose word balloons.

            That’s still about a 33% underestimate, but it’s a big step up from your original complaint of “no punchline”, so I’ll take it.

            You haven’t backed down on your second complaint, wherein a quantum computing professor used the word quantum and the only explanation you can think of is that it’s an attempt to show off… but how can I argue with that? Honest question – I can’t think of anything to say right now that wouldn’t be interpreted as a “minor insult” or “seeking status” at the very least.

            In the spirit of the Ken Bone-esque question above, pretend for a minute that *you* are the one who thinks it’s completely asinine that a quantum computing professor can’t make jokes about quantum computing with being accused of “aren’t I smart”. How would *you* convey this proposition without having it ignored or rationalized away as “seeking status”?

          • Randy M says:

            That’s still about a 33% underestimate, but it’s a big step up from your original complaint of “no punchline”, so I’ll take it.

            I was making a rough estimate based on your count of 13 funny bits. I doubt I could identify which parts those are supposed to be, though.

            You haven’t backed down on your second complaint, wherein a quantum computing professor used the word quantum and the only explanation you can think of is that it’s an attempt to show off

            That only looks like my original complaint because you cut short the quote you posted of me. I said “he/they really need to cash that out with a punchline or something remotely funny. Otherwise it just looks like ‘Hey … aren’t I smart'” I didn’t say that was his motive, I said since the joke/technical explanation ratio was so low, it came off as bragging, which you reduced to “Randy thinks anyone saying anything smart is looking for status” which I don’t think is fair but I’ll leave for others to decide.

            It’s like if you went to see a comedian and he stopped his act to explain how microprocessors work for ten minutes, and you followed along, expecting something hilarious, and no hilarity was forthcoming, you might idly wonder the reason for the digression and think perhaps the comedian wanted his audience to be impressed with his knowledge. But that doesn’t mean the comedian’s desire to be thought well of is the complaint–his poor execution of comedy is the complaint.

            In the spirit of the Ken Bone-esque question above, pretend for a minute that *you* are the one who thinks it’s completely asinine that a quantum computing professor can’t make jokes about quantum computing with being accused of “aren’t I smart”

            A bit hard to parse with the double negatives. I think he’s welcome to make jokes, he just failed to make them funny here. Reading sixty two panels on how quantum computing is different from common perceptions of quantum computing with the promise of something funny at the end only to be disappointed was what I was objecting to.

            Whatever other inquisition you think I want to hold, I don’t.

            If Zach wants to make an informational pamphlet on the proper use of the word Quantum, more power to him, I won’t utter the word status once! That’s just not why I go to webcomics.

          • Iain says:

            I mean, it’s fairly clearly an attempt at the “funny, then not funny, then funny again” long-joke. Tig Notaro has a bit where she pushes a stool around the stage for several minutes listening to the sounds it makes. It doesn’t always land — it sounds like it didn’t land for a bunch of people here — but it’s not like this is unprecedented humour territory. This isn’t some weird status ploy to be elected Official Nerd Comedian; it’s just a joke that didn’t work for you.

          • Randy M says:

            This is pretty close to my position, and I’m kinda sorry I threw up so many words implying I though otherwise. I guess I was expecting more.

          • Spookykou says:

            Reading that link, it seems like the main thrust of the ‘long joke’ is an awkward thing that goes on for just the right amount of time. Your example seems to reinforce this idea, but does that really describe what is happening in this comic? Even with the framing as a sex talk I never really got the impression that any of it was that awkward, the kid, at least metaphorically, jumps straight into a long winded explanation of sex to his mom without a hint of red in his cheeks and with what I imagine would sound like excitement in his voice.

          • Iain says:

            It doesn’t have to be an awkward joke. The idea is that you take a comedic bit, and it is funny, and then you keep it going, and that is funny, and then you keep doing it more, and it stops being as funny, and then you keep doing it for even longer, and at some point the absurdity of how long it has been going on starts to be funny all by itself.

            I never watched more than a couple episodes of Family Guy, but apparently Family Guy did this a lot.

        • DrBeat says:

          People don’t sit down and think “I want to increase my status. What would be the best avenue to do so? Hmm, well, I better not spend any effort on a web comic or Harry Potter fanfiction, that would be a waste!”

          They just compulsively engage in status-seeking behavior in everything they do, no matter if that thing is or is not something you would consider “worth it”.

      • m50d says:

        Maybe his priority was being informative rather than funny? I mean most SMBCs aren’t funny.

  9. Spookykou says:

    Can anyone give me a good book recommendation on the efficient markets hypothesis, this holiday season I want to try and buy my father freedom from those very expensive ‘one weird trick’ stock advice programs/books.

  10. moridinamael says:

    Poster “Anonymous Bosch” is having trouble posting, and asked me to share this link:

    The Defense of Liberty Can’t Do Without Identity Politics.

    Mr. Bosch says this site is generally good for libertarian-oriented steelmen of left-wing ideas, and this is of a piece with that.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Testing a reply

    • gbdub says:

      Identity politics at its best, in other words, isn’t just a matter of being on some group’s side. It’s about fighting for political justice by drawing on the commitment that arises out of targeted injustice, and about having the intellectual resources to let us diagnose that targeted injustice. It lets us spot the majority group’s identity politics rather than treating it as the normal background state of affairs, and to recognize the oppression and injustice that it generates.

      That’s to me the strongest line of the essay. But I didn’t find the essay overall particularly persuasive. First, the author correctly notes that Trump’s overall share of the white vote wasn’t particularly impressive, and that ultimately the election swung on a narrow margin of 80,000 or so votes in the Midwest. But I think that case is overstated precisely by looking through a lens too focused on identity: white Americans are not a unified indistinguishable block, and the shifts in which whites voted Republican this time around were somewhat more profound.

      That’s a common flaw, and what annoys about the “white privilege” discussion – certainly white Americans have historically benefited from prejudiced policies. But that benefit has not been evenly distributed, and assuming that the needs of a white community are less pressing than the needs of a minority community because of that historical privilege is going to leave some legitimately hurting people feeling ignored.

      The essay also begs the question about Black Lives Matter, calling it a powerful and important movement for freedom, because obviously police militarization is mostly about oppressing black people. But precisely the sort of voter who swung this time doesn’t see it that way – they see a disorganized mob throwing riots every time a black person gets shot, regardless of whether they deserved it (and the riots seem to be worse when they do). Those voters don’t think “the drug war is a war on black people” is an obvious truth. BLM might have an important message, but it’s not being delivered in a way that speaks to those voters – and I think the explicit racialization of that message, i.e. identity politics, is part of why it doesn’t.

      In any case, I’m not sure identity politics per se are the problem, so much as focusing on identity politics to the exclusion of (or sometimes directly in opposition to) issues that matter to white working class voters who used to be part of the Democratic constituency. One argument I hear frequently is “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression” – this is used as a sneer against any push back on a proposed policy favoring a minority. There is truth in the statement, but that should serve as a warning to the reformer: it’s always much harder to take away than to give, and even if you really are only pushing for equality, you’re still taking away something and making the “privileged” worse off. If you want people to go along with that, you need to offer something positive in return. All the current strain of identity politics has to offer white Americans is the smug satisfaction of being “on the right side of history” and a temporary (very temporary, lately) respite from shaming. But you can’t pay bills with smug, so white Americans who really are hurting need more than that, and Hillary (and the identity politicians) failed to offer a positive vision for it.

      There has also been a seeming shift toward increasing negativity and militancy on the progressive side of identity politics. Back in high school and college, I remember the case for gay rights being very much about equality and a “live and let live” mentality. One of the more compelling arguments was “Why do you care what these adults do? Their relationship doesn’t harm yours and has no impact on your life. You don’t need to change, except to tolerate their rights. It’s not like anyone is going to force you to host a gay wedding!” And then as soon as gay marriage was a fait accompli, we’re suing cake shops and trying to destroy pizza joints for not hosting gay weddings.

      The timeline from “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” being a remarkable progressive achievement to “donating to an anti-gay marriage amendment gets you fired” has been remarkably short. As has the timeline from an anti-gay marriage amendment passing in California to North Carolina getting boycotted for not wanting penises in their ladies’ rooms. Hell, Barack Obama didn’t come openly in favor of gay marriage until 2012, and now in 2016 we’re trying to run TV hosts off the air for attending a church that doesn’t approve of it. We’ve gone from live-and-let-live to “believe what you want, but keep it a secret or we’ll hurt you” in an extremely rapid time frame. That’s bound to cause friction and backlash, and identity politicians have aggravated rather than alleviated those feelings.

      Overall I think the author made the case that “social justice” requires being conscious of marginalized groups (and therefore being conscious of racism, anti-gay sentiment, etc, and the impact that has on laws). But when I think of “identity politics”, I think it goes farther than that. Social justice can be cooperative, but identity politics, to me, is inherently confrontational, us-vs-them.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        We’ve gone from live-and-let-live to “believe what you want, but keep it a secret or we’ll hurt you” in an extremely rapid time frame.

        So, stop letting them.

        The part of your country disagreeing with this mentality won an election on all fronts. Similarly, I doubt even 50% of people voting the other way thinks the actions you’re referring to are particularly necessary. There is a small group of people in your nation, 20% at most, who do such things, and they hold very little political power as of now. If you have ever been afraid of these things, now is probably your best shot at not being so.

        Screamingly hysterical people on matters of race and gender may be a majority in some media and educational areas, but they hold very little tangible, structural power, and all you need to do for their influence to wane is to fund places where they’re not around.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @Stefan Drinic

          The part of your country disagreeing with this mentality won an election on all fronts.

          On all fronts? As I heard it, the Republicans won seven states, and the Democrats won the other 40 or so.

          The 40 states that the Democrats won, are spread out making a thick rim around the (landlocked) cluster that the Republicans won. The Dem states are diverse in cultures, economies, and political views. They better represent America as a whole, and show us the policies that _have_ kept peace with each other for a long time.

          • “The 40 states that the Democrats won”

            ???

            Here is a map showing which party won each state. By my count, the Democrats won 18 states.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David

            Do you have a link handy? It’s way past my bedtime.

          • Montfort says:

            I think at least one poster here is referring to the 2016 American presidential election (though the Democrats won 20 states plus DC). I’m not sure which election you’re talking about, houseboat, but I’m guessing it’s a different one.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            What on earth are you talking about?

          • The Nybbler says:

            On the map I have, in the Presidential election, the Democrats took the Northeast, the West Coast, two Southwestern states, two Midwestern states, and Hawaii. The Republican states are connected (except Alaska), have both Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico water borders, and a Pacific border via Alaska. The Democratic states are split into two major contiguous groups, one minor contiguous group, and three individual states (including Hawaii)

            As for diversity, the Republicans have the Deep South, part of the Southwest, most of the Midwest, and many of the mountain states. This seems no less diverse than the Democratic states.

          • I thought I had a link to the map, but I must have forgotten to put it in.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Montfort

            Elegantly charitable. But no, it was 2016 US, just in an alternate universe.

      • Brad says:

        And then as soon as gay marriage was a fait accompli, we’re suing cake shops and trying to destroy pizza joints for not hosting gay weddings.

        It’s now been 18 months and we are a country of hundreds of millions. How many cake shops have been sued and how many attempted pizza joint destructions have there been?

        Why always the same recycled stories over and over and over and over again? If shit was anywhere near as bad as you guys make it out to be there’d be new ones coming out every week. No one is still talking about that time in June 2014 when someone was killed in Aleppo.

        • The Nybbler says:

          In these days of ubiquitous media coverage, it only takes a few well-known instances pour encourager les autres. Nowadays someone calls up a cake shop and asks for a gay wedding cake, the shop owner falls over herself agreeing.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Prove it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            So the person criticizes Stalin when the wrong person is listening… then just disappears. That’s not proof. Who knows where they went, or if it had anything to do with what they said about Stalin? So… “prove it”.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Stefan, let’s be clear on this point.

            If you refuse to serve a gay couple, then you have committed a violation of civil rights, and an easily documentable one at that, for which you can be sued in civil court to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is known. Most importantly, you can’t possibly fight it in court – you’d think you could say that you never interacted with this couple, but then they could just ask you to bake them a cake right there and you’re back to square one.

            So yes, given that I imagine a lot of people have…oh, dear…shut their cake-holes and made with the baking. How many people are willing to take a $100,000 fine for their beliefs?

          • Brad says:

            AnonEEmous wrote:

            If you refuse to serve a gay couple, then you have committed a violation of civil rights, and an easily documentable one at that, for which you can be sued in civil court to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is known.

            I’m sure it is known, but just for us benighted ignorants, which law(s) specifically are you talking about?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            probably whichever law people have been successfully sued under my dude

            you want me to quote statutes? too bad, I don’t know them, but I really think “people have been successfully sued” is a strong enough case that I don’t need to

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            The US isn’t the USSR, and social justice’s hold on your nation is much, much less absolute than you imply. As in every other place in this world, being gay is a thing that gets people kicked out by their parents, fired from their jobs, and ostracised from their communities. The US isn’t uniquely or even especially bad about this, mind you, but pretending that gay people are completely sacred and those who dare be mean to them are always punished is stupid.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            dude

            the law states that you can sue people for not baking you a gay cake

            there is no way to defend against this legally

            I don’t even think a jury gets involved at any point

            so please for the love of crap explain how your post interacts with this argument

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I don’t think it’s a law which is enforced nearly as much as you might think it is. I also don’t think there’s a good way of ensuring that it is, mind you, and society has bigger problems than wedding cakes, but comparing this to stalinist hellholes is dumb.

          • Brad says:

            You haven’t said which law(s) and to which jurisdictions it (they) apply.

            Maybe you shouldn’t have such strong opinions about subjects you know so little about. Also you should probably find the shift key and quit calling people ‘dude’.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “I don’t think it’s a law which is enforced nearly as much as you might think it is.”

            Again: no jury is involved. The law is entirely clear on the main point, and you have provided no convincing argument to defeat a case in court – probably because none such exists. Once you refuse, you are in violation. Where does the human element even enter in?

            “I also don’t think there’s a good way of ensuring that it is, mind you, and society has bigger problems than wedding cakes, but comparing this to stalinist hellholes is dumb.”

            Where does the human element enter in? Can you please just explain this point?

            “You haven’t said which law(s) and to which jurisdictions it (they) apply.”

            well let’s see

            “Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act”

            for the colorado one

            and for Oregon, looks like

            http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2015/09/sweet_cakes_owners_who_refused.html

            let’s just go with the article’s description of “anti-discrimination laws”

            “Maybe you shouldn’t have such strong opinions about subjects you know so little about.”

            Dude, it’s a law that makes not baking gay cakes illegal, because you have to bake gay cakes. I’m assuming your argument was “but it doesn’t necessarily apply to all jurisdictions” except come on, pretty much every jurisdiction has laws like this one. That’s why Republicans have to craft special laws explicitly allowing people to discriminate on the base of sexuality, even in deep red states; because if they didn’t, the existing laws would make doing so illegal.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think it’s a law which is enforced nearly as much as you might think it is.

            I don’t think the old anti-sodomy laws were enforced all that often, but people still agrees that they were a bad thing.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I personally know one person who was considering going into the wedding-planning business, but decided against it due to the baking-cakes-for-gay-marriages rules.

            Considering how few would-be wedding planners I know, and how IIRC a few of the people who’ve been in the press over this have also closed their businesses…

          • skef says:

            It’s been suggested elsewhere on this thread that a utilitarian solution to the services-for-gay-people problem would be preferable to one in which business X is forced to bake a cake they would rather not to when business Y is right down the road and would be happy to. I would like to add that a) I agree, and I expect many gay folks would also be happy with that kind of solution but b) an arrangement like that isn’t readily available under U.S. law. So what we’re seeing with these lawsuits isn’t just the result of a newly recognized principle, but the combination of that recognition and standard legal practice.

            One problem with the simplest version of the utilitarian solution is that it puts too much burden on the other side: If the idea is that a plaintiff can collect evidence that all businesses in a certain radius won’t serve them and then sue, that’s a huge burden that’s not likely to change the status quo. And if they sue, then what happens, a lottery? Does that one business then have to serve that group until it closes? Or for some fixed period of time? Or is the law-suit only work for the one case? Making each person in an area sue for their cake is just pretending to change things.

            More likely, you’d wind up with some government office charged with ensuring an acceptable distribution of willing bakeries (and wedding photographers, and …). All the relevant businesses would probably have to fill out an official form every year. And how would the state determine the list of businesses — perhaps with licencing? Ugh.

            A system of voluntary positive reporting “Yes, we do that for these folks” backed up by the threat of a heavier hand might be the happy medium, and one happier than the current rule-based system. But I think it’s fair to say that the tendency to resort to absolute rules for this sort of thing comes less from absolutist beliefs on the part of plaintiffs as from legal principles to keep things simple and avoid new kinds of tracking and bureaucratic regimes.

            Added a few minutes later: I also want to say that the trial-and-error solution for the customer is at least sub-optimal. I know that many people here think that if you’re planning your wedding and a couple businesses tell you to your face that you’re too gross/immoral/perverted/whatever to serve, you just need to suck that up. But almost no one applies this principle to his or her own life. Hence: a small group of people yelling at all whites that they’re racist calling for political change. You might not think it’s reasonable for the overall system to allow individuals to avoid such encounters, but I would disagree on that point. If it’s OK for X to avoid baking because Y will, there should some means of letting people find Y without having to deal with X.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The US isn’t the USSR, and social justice’s hold on your nation is much, much less absolute than you imply. As in every other place in this world, being gay is a thing that gets people kicked out by their parents, fired from their jobs, and ostracised from their communities

            .

            In my part of the US (and I rather suspect similarly in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon), opposing social justice (whether by refusing to make gay wedding cakes or some lesser offense) is more likely to result in firing and ostracism than being gay; in fact, being gay means you can participate in various sub-communities where heterosexuals aren’t welcome. I haven’t heard of parents kicking their child out for opposing SJ, but I expect if the SJWs can keep it up long enough for their children to rebel, we’ll get there.

          • @Skef:

            I think part of the outrage some people feel over the gay wedding cake issue reflects how implausible the claim “they couldn’t get a cake baked for their wedding” looks. In most places there are multiple bakeries, few of which are run by committed Christians. Even if all of them are, it isn’t as if the customers have to tell the baker that the cake is for a gay wedding.

            So it ends up feeling like the majority using the pretext of protecting one minority as an excuse to oppress a different minority.

            I should add that my own objection is on a more general basis–I think non-discrimination laws are violations of the individual right of association. But I suspect that what I described above is behind a good deal of the felt outrage.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            They refused to serve me because I am Jewish.

            They refused to serve me because I am black.

            They refused to serve me because I am gay.

            Now some people here are OK with all three of these, but I submit most people aren’t. And you can’t separate them.

            More to the point, the U.S., as a political entity, isn’t OK with the first two. There aren’t any mechanisms to give gay people half a loaf, and I don’t think, when you really examine the consequences of it, that there should be any mechanism that distingushes between them in so far as they have a right to service.

          • skef says:

            They refused to serve me because I am Jewish.

            They refused to serve me because I am black.

            They refused to serve me because I am gay.

            Now some people here are OK with all three of these, but I submit most people aren’t. And you can’t separate them.

            Keep in mind that if this were OK in the present day, the general pattern would almost certainly be “weaponized”, with lots of lists of people who have this or that belief, of dubious accuracy, used to deny service for this or that political reason.

          • “any mechanism that distingushes between them in so far as they have a right to service.”

            If you (or anyone) have a right to service, that means that someone has an obligation, in this context an enforceable obligation, to serve you. The institution that lets some people be forced to serve others is called slavery.

            You have a right to consensual transactions with those willing to make them with you. Similarly for everyone else.

            Would it help you understand my moral intuition if we took the case of sex? It seems reasonable enough to say that I have a right to have sex. Does it follow that if nobody is willing to have sex with me someone can be compelled to?

            There should be no difference among people insofar as their right to have sex. None of them have a right to have sex with anyone not willing to have sex with them. Each of them has a right to have sex with anyone who is willing (subject to previous agreements, of course, as with other rights–I don’t have a right to have sex with anyone other than my wife because those were the mutually understood terms of our marriage).

            This is not a utilitarian argument, although I think a utilitarian case can be made for freedom of association. It’s a description of my moral intuitions.

          • skef says:

            If you (or anyone) have a right to service, that means that someone has an obligation, in this context an enforceable obligation, to serve you. The institution that lets some people be forced to serve others is called slavery.

            A very simple argument, and deceptively so, given that if things were this simple then either a) you could abandon your child or b) are the slave of your child.

          • Montfort says:

            Would it help you understand my moral intuition if we took the case of [activity people are famously touchy about compulsion in, much more so than other activities]

            Can’t say that that helps for me, no.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            I already acknowledged that some people here are fine with black people not receiving service. You are one of those people.

            Now, taboo the word “slavery” and what is your argument? It’s nothing other than people should be allowed to refuse service to whole classes of people, for any reason whatsoever.

            Other than specific instances, sex is not a commercial transaction available freely to the public as a whole. Thus your example is poor.

            The fact that you need to resort to an emotionally loaded word which you are redefining, and that your example is specifically also designed to provoke an emotional response while not engaging with actual concept of public accommodation is a sign of a weak argument.

          • Brad says:

            Principled libertarians as far as the eye can see is certainly one hypothesis.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            They refused to serve me because I am gay.

            In at least one of the cases, the baker in question knew the gay couple, had sold stuff to them before, and only baulked when they asked for a wedding cake.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            Compare to “only refused to serve them when they were marrying outside their religion or race”

            It’s a distinction without a difference.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC:

            It’s not a distinction without a difference. There’s a difference between refusing to serve Jewish people and refusing to cater a Bar Mitzvah (or other Jewish religious observance). I don’t think there’s an equivalent for black people, so your three cases perhaps aren’t as inseparable as they appear.

          • Brad says:

            There’s an exact equivalent, interracial marriage, which some Christians think is an abomination.

            Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s a distinction without a difference.

            If a baker is willing to serve a gay couple whom he knows to be gay, then clearly his unwillingness to bake a cake for their wedding isn’t “just because they’re gay”, because he’s already demonstrated that he’s willing to cater for gay people.

          • smocc says:

            Am I supposed to think it should obviously be illegal to e.g. refuse to cater an interracial marriage as long as you will cater a marriage between two members of any race? Or serve only marriages of a certain religion? It is not obvious to me.

            An interesting example is of a t-shirt printing business that was required by the local Human Rights Commission to print t-shirts for the local gay pride festival. The ruling was recently overturned on the notion that there’s a difference between refusing someone service because of their sexual orientation and refusing service because of one’s beliefs and the message it would send.

            This sort of thing seems very reasonable to me. On the other hand, it’s not obvious how to avoid the argument “I’m not refusing you a hotel room because you’re black, but because I think it’s wrong to house people of different races in the same hotel.” The lines are fuzzy for sure.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            An interesting example is of a t-shirt printing business that was required by the local Human Rights Commission to print t-shirts for the local gay pride festival. The ruling was recently overturned on the notion that there’s a difference between refusing someone service because of their sexual orientation and refusing service because of one’s beliefs and the message it would send.

            There was a similar case recently in Northern Ireland, where a baker was taken to court for not baking a cake with “Go Gay Marriage!” written on it, although in this case the baker lost their court case.

          • “It’s nothing other than people should be allowed to refuse service to whole classes of people, for any reason whatsoever.”

            That’s not the argument, that’s one of the conclusions.

            The argument is that exchange should be voluntary.

            And the fact that slavery is involuntary exchange is, I think, its defining characteristic. There have been lots of societies where some slaves were reasonably well off, not routinely mistreated, yet were still slaves.

            I picked the sex example because it is one most people will agree with that demonstrates the problem with “everyone has a right to X” as an argument. “Everyone has a right to sex” sounds emotionally right–after all, who would want to say that some people don’t have a right to sex. But it confuses the situation where someone is forbidden from sex with the situation where someone is unable to find anyone willing to have sex with him.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            No one forced anyone to open a bakery, nor are they forced to keep the bakery open. This feature of slavery, the complete absence of choice, is lacking for bakers.

            Like I said it’s a weak argument that you try and bolster by using a word with an extreme negative valence. Safety standards, fire codes, labeling laws … all slavery according you. This is not slavery as anyone other than extremely blinkering libertarian idealogues define it.

            And it’s neat distraction from the issue at hand, which is that refusing to serve gays and refusing to serve blacks are of a piece, which you in fact freely admit by calling both slavery. So thank you for proving my point.

          • Iain says:

            “Voluntary exchange” is not a terminal goal. Autonomy is the goal: giving people the tools and opportunities they require to be able to control their own lives, under the assumption that individuals will be better at assessing their own needs than an external actor. This is, I think, the great insight of libertarianism.

            The great error of libertarianism is that it confuses the tool for the goal. Sometimes collective action is necessary to maximize real autonomy. By any reasonable metric, the total increase in autonomy gained by requiring black citizens to be granted full access to society significantly outweighs the lost autonomy of those who are no longer free to discriminate. Ensuring that every child gets a reasonable education maximizes autonomy. A strong social safety net maximizes autonomy. Too often, libertarianism justifies itself with the importance of letting people make choices about their lives, but ignores the essential groundwork that is necessary to make those choices meaningful.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            To call an argument weak because it associates a compulsion to serve gays with a word with negative valence (slavery), while assuming your argument is strong even though it associates not serving gays with a phrase with negative valence (not serving blacks), is unfair.

          • “And it’s neat distraction from the issue at hand, which is that refusing to serve gays and refusing to serve blacks are of a piece, which you in fact freely admit”

            Freely. Also of a piece, for these purposes, with refusing to serve Jews or libertarians.

            People choose to have sex. So while you may not be in favor of compulsory sex to provide for those in need, on your principles it wouldn’t be slavery.

            “No one forced anyone to open a bakery, nor are they forced to keep the bakery open.”

            You claim people have a right to have certain things, for instance to have someone willing to bake a wedding cake for them. So if nobody chooses to bake wedding cakes, what happens?

            And why should someone agreeing to a voluntary transaction with one person obligated him to agree to the same transaction with other people, which is what your argument seems to imply?

            I am not arguing that all forms of coercion are slavery. Forcibly stopping a murderer is not. Do you have difficulty seeing a difference between that and forcing someone to work for you? Between telling someone he doesn’t have to work for you, but if he does any kind of work he can be compelled to do that same kind of work for you?

            Do you see a moral distinction between action and inaction? In other words, do you think the harm I do to you by failing to do something for you is, morally speaking, of the same nature as the harm I do by doing something to you? If not, I don’t see how you will get from justifying restraints that prevent me from harming you to justifying restraints that compel me to help you.

          • @Iain:

            There are two different strands to the libertarian argument, both of which I have touched on. One is the moral strand, which distinguishes, among other things, between freedom and power. The ability to do things you want to do is power. Robinson Crusoe on his island had very little power but, in the sense in which libertarians use the term, complete freedom, since no other person was constraining him. From the standpoint of a libertarian moral theory–in my case moral intuition, since I don’t think there is a good way to derive moral conclusions from facts–reducing A’s freedom in order to increase some measure of the combined power of A and B, which I think is what you are arguing for, is still a violation of freedom and so still a wrong.

            Do you agree that your autonomy is what I am describing as power?

            The other strand, and the one I usually argue from, is consequentialist. I have already touched on why I think the consequences of the principle embodied in non-discrimination law, that individuals’ are only free to decide wither to accept or reject proposed transactions if the state approves of their reason for doing so, is very much worse for autonomy than the alternative.

            Don’t assume that the state is a philosopher king. It’s human beings all the way down. There is no reason to expect the state to choose on better grounds than individuals, and its bad choices can do much more damage than bad choices by individuals, since the state will make one bad choice for all, individuals different choices for each.

            Anti-miscegenation laws, to take one example, are an implication of your principle, as applied by people with different views than yours. Two people want to get married, the state disapproves of their reason for doing so, so it does not permit the marriage.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            No one forced anyone to open a bakery, nor are they forced to keep the bakery open.

            Well, if it comes to that, no one forced the gay couple to try to buy a cake, either. Now what?

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Would it still be slavery if only bakers that were incorporated as limited liability entities were required to serve all commers, but unlimited liability sole proprietorships or partnerships would be free to serve or refuse to serve whomever they liked?

            Wouldn’t that be a voluntary trade of value for value between society and the baker?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:
            That’s a decent argument, but I think you are incorrect. I am describing the exact same behavior “refusing to bake a cake”. David is describing highly different things using the same word, slavery.

            Consider if I said that you should be forced to go to the wedding as a guest. If I said the government should force people to attend weddings of their friends who were marrying a same sex spouse in order to prevent illegal discrimination, I would be making a similar argument as David is making.

            I admit that I am saying “Here are two different groups that could be discriminated against. You should regard them equally”. However, that argument rises and falls not on whether you think it is OK to discriminate against those who are black, but whether you think it is OK to discriminate against those who are gay. Consider a wedding involving a child bride, as an example.

            If I, in support of child-brides, just kept repeating “that’s discrimination” it would be a poor argument, as roughly no one would accept that it’s actually discrimination to make child brides illegal. If we started talking about 15 year olds, we would be arguing about the definition of the world child.

            If I started making an argument that 20 year old girls shouldn’t be able to be married to adult men because they are child brides and also it’s pedophilia, it would be clear that I was trying to expand the definition of child to include 20 year olds. When you start trying to say that the definition of slavery should include government mandated electrical codes, you are really expanding the definition.

          • Iain says:

            @David Friedman: I agree that your notion of “power” and my notion of “autonomy” are mostly describing the same thing. However:

            a) It’s obviously difficult to debate moral axioms, but I think libertarians tend to place more value on freedom and less value on power/autonomy, relative to the average person. I do not think it is completely coincidental that libertarianism tends to be more concentrated in social strata where increases in “freedom” are most likely to be positively correlated with increases in “power”. (To be clear, I am not ascribing malevolent motives to libertarians. It is a natural human instinct to generalize from one’s own situation to the situations of others. I am just pointing out that when other people don’t find libertarian arguments as compelling as you do, it may be because they have perspectives that you don’t.)

            b) I agree that the ultimate arbiter should be pragmatic results. I disagree, however, that the libertarian side has a monopoly on the strong pragmatic arguments. For example, I don’t think libertarianism has a good answer to environmental issues. Even setting aside the problem of global warming, which I know you think is controversial, I find the libertarian answer to issues like air pollution deeply unsatisfying. As an external observer without a deep-seated commitment to libertarian principles, I too often find that libertarian answers contort themselves into knots to avoid having to concede the pragmatic utility of government action.

            c) I concede that non-libertarian forms of government have failure modes, and that anti-miscegenation laws are an example of a failure. However, I think libertarians underestimate the probable failure modes of their own ideology. It is easy to compare existing governments, forced to engage with the messiness of real life, with the nice clean libertarian government living in your head. In the real world, I think there is a pragmatic benefit to not ruling out some tools of government a priori.

          • “For example, I don’t think libertarianism has a good answer to environmental issues.”

            Anarcho-capitalism does not have a good answer to environmental issues, for reasons I explore in the third edition of Machinery of Freedom–it’s one of several examples of what I describe as market failure on the market for law. My argument is that other forms of market failure in the alternative systems are worse.

            I don’t see that libertarian minarchism has a special problem with environmental issues, however. Once you concede that having a government is legitimate to prevent force and fraud, there is no obvious reason why that government can’t restrict diffuse forms of force/property rights violation, such as my sulfur dioxide blowing over onto other people’s property.

            Getting back to our argument … . The claim I want you to defend (or concede) isn’t “this particular law has good effects for autonomy.” It’s “a society without the restrictions on government implied by freedom of association produces, on average, better results for autonomy than one with those restrictions.”

          • @Brad:

            I wouldn’t describe that as slavery. Nor would I describe a requirement that government offices not discriminate on grounds of X as slavery.

          • Iain says:

            My claim is that freedom of association is important and worthy of protection, but not to the exclusion of all other concerns. Freedom of association is not a black box: we can peek inside at the various different forms of association and make judgements about which ones are more valuable than others. I am comfortable asserting that my freedom not to associate with black people is less pragmatically valuable, in terms of meaningful autonomy, than the ability of black people to be equal participants in the national economy.

            The pragmatic downside of this sort of civil rights legislation basically boil downs to a handful of cases where enforcement is over-zealous: gay wedding cakes, and so on. The pragmatic downside of an absence of civil rights legislation would have been an extended period of continued discrimination in various areas of the country, significantly impacting the autonomy of black citizens.

            As far as I am concerned, the pragmatic case for civil rights legislation is clear. We have already agreed that the rights case is largely a matter of individual moral feeling, but if my moral commitments required me to oppose this kind of legislation, I might start rethinking my system of ethics.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If I said the government should force people to attend weddings of their friends who were marrying a same sex spouse in order to prevent illegal discrimination, I would be making a similar argument as David is making.

            This is true; you would. But it is not the only argument you could be making. You could also make the argument that someone has to accept a specific exchange of goods and services (including exchange of a minimum amount of resources for a given type of labor), and it would also be the type of argument David is making.

            You then admit you’re making an argument against discrimination that depends on whether I think the particular type of discrimination is acceptable. We probably agree in large part on what types of discrimination are and are not acceptable. But I think you’re overlooking the ability of anyone to discriminate on grounds we consider unacceptable (e.g. gender, ethnic phenotype) but declare it’s for grounds we consider acceptable (e.g. pedophile, “not a good fit for the team”).

            This is a large part of the reason to argue in favor of all discrimination: it’s too easy to fake the type. So instead, the free marketeer says: discriminate all you want, and I’ll use free speech to opine on what I think your real discriminator is, report who you treated how, look for correlations, etc.

            When you start trying to say that the definition of slavery should include government mandated electrical codes, you are really expanding the definition.

            I’ll concede that there’s a cohort of people who equivocate “slavery” with the particular type of chattel slavery practiced in the Deep South prior to 1865, but if so, there will need to be a term for the type of practice where someone is forced to perform labor or else put on a ladder of progressive disincentives starting with fines, going through forced shutdown, and ending with people with big explosive sticks.

            There will also need to be a term for the type of practice where someone is treated differently by someone else on the basis of some phenotypal observation, that is distinct from the term “discrimination”, to which the above cohort has also apparently attached emotional valence.

            Finally, there will have to be a concession that aforesaid cohort has been benefiting from such emotional valences to magnify the perceived strength of its arguments beyond what is observed in the functional distinctions between the acts it has been trying to oppose or support. If it doesn’t, then I see a logical inference from that to the suggestion that it should be a crime to offend, and then in turn to that it should only be a crime to offend certain people, and then to that aforesaid cohort isn’t really in support of equal treatment under the law.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ll concede that there’s a cohort of people who equivocate “slavery” with the particular type of chattel slavery practiced in the Deep South prior to 1865,

            It’s a big cohort. But this argument is also weak-manning me. There are many examples of slavery, chattel slavery is one of them.

            But “has to comply with electrical codes” does not comport with any of the examples of slavery, chattel or otherwise.

            People in the left try and talk about “wage slavery”, which, while making the same fundamental kind of argument as David is making, at least has the decency to modify the word so it is clear that we are talking about a non-standard definition of slavery.

            As to the argument whether it is better to allow all discrimination, on the grounds that some people might still be discriminated against even if we have made said discrimination unlawful, no one ever said this was going to result in perfect outcomes. Trying to reduce harm can be done even when it does not eliminate harm.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It’s a big cohort. But this argument is also weak-manning me. There are many examples of slavery, chattel slavery is one of them.

            Aye; I’ll cop to that weak-manning. But then I think you’re not only weak-manning in the other direction when you claim the other side equates “comply with electrical codes” with slavery, but also mischaracterizing somewhat.

            David never mentioned electrical code compliance; as far as I can tell, only you did. The ancap argument against complying with code is only that it’s set by a third party. It says that if I pay you to install wiring in my office building and I’m willing to assume the risk of it being faulty, including catching fire and harming others’ property, then I should be allowed to make that offer. You, as the electrician, OTOH, are free to decline that offer, even if you might save a lot of money spent on compliance, whether it’s because you fear my terms are not ironclad and you will be held liable despite my hiring a dozen widely esteemed lawyers to assure you you’re crazy to believe that, or because you fear your reputation will be harmed by mere association, or because you take pride in your work even if no one else knows, or because I’m an unbridled capitalist and you feel like that’s one of the things most wrong with society today and would rather work with co-ops. Or because you noticed me kissing my male spouse and you think that’s what’s wrong with society today, which is what Dr. Friedman was alluding to.

            According to the ancap argument, I have no right to legally obligate you to wire my office building, even if I dropped a check on your desk for more money than you accepted to wire someone else’s. Who you do business with matters to you; it bears utility; that utility may be greater than the utility of whatever money I’m offering.

            I repeat my claim before: we need a term for the practice of forcing someone to accept a specific exchange. How would you feel about “exchange slavery”?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:
            If you want to legally work as an electrician, you have to comply with the relevant regulations. You must be licensed. You must work with the electrical inspectors. You are compelled to do various labor and have no choice in the matter if you wish to do (many kinds of) electrical work. This is compulsion to do certain kinds of work if you wish to do other work, and it certainly looks like the same kind of compulsion that is being characterized as slavery when it is simply being asked to bake the same cake you would for any other couple.

            Again, I think it’s ridiculous to call either “do your electrician job correctly” or “do your bakery job correctly” slavery. But it’s not my argument.

            I believe that if Mr. Friedman had objections to my assertion that he would call this slavery, he would have voiced them, as he is quick to object when he believes himself to be mis-characterized.

          • CatCube says:

            @HBC

            Maybe I’m confusing David with somebody else (onyomi?), but I’m reasonably confident he’s come out against building codes here before.

            If I understand the ancap viewpoint correctly, they believe that no code for building, electrical work, etc., should be obligatory, but an Owner should be free to require their Contractor to build to NFPA 70 if they want to, or if they want to save a few bucks/think it’s overbuilt they should be free to disregard it as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @CatCube:
            Right. He (Friedman) is an Anarcho-Capitalist. He believes in complete freedom of contract and the abolition of all government, the functions of which would theoretically be available through the free market.

          • “I am comfortable asserting that my freedom not to associate with black people is less pragmatically valuable, in terms of meaningful autonomy, than the ability of black people to be equal participants in the national economy.”

            As I think I already said, that’s the wrong question to ask.

            Consider a clearer case of the same problem. There are surely some people whose death would improve the world but who have not yet committed any capital crimes. That’s not an argument for allowing the government to identify such people and assassinate them.

            Similarly here. There may well be some violations of freedom of association that would make the world a better place. That isn’t an argument for a legal/political system in which the government is free to violate freedom of association unless you have a good reason to believe that only the good violations will result.

            I have sketched the reason why I think that, on average, the opposite will happen. The violations of freedom of contract that you like only become important when a large majority of the population share the prejudices whose expression you are trying to prevent. But they only become politically viable when a majority opposes those prejudices. Compare the downside of freedom of association in a polity where 60% of the population is prejudiced with the downside of the rule that freedom of association only applies when the government does not disagree with the reasons on which the individual choices are based in that same polity.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @HeelBearCub:
            Sorry; I thought you were referring only to work one was compelled to do in order to do a specific job for a specific customer.

            Yes, the ancap argument opposes compelling an aspiring electrician to do other types of work not directly supportive to work done for a specific customer. CatCube is correct; an ancapper has no problem with a customer requesting work be to a certain spec of the customer’s choosing. And if all of the potential customers in a locale declare that they are unwilling to hire an electrician who hasn’t gone through a lot of preliminary work, then that electrician effectively has a licensing rule in place.

            But if there is even one customer who is willing to do with less, and isn’t likely to cause harm to others, or is willing to assume the risk, then the ancap argument says it is unfair to hold that customer to the standards of the others. …So yes, licensing rules amount to work one is forced to do under penalty of “violence ladder”, even though the parties demanding the forced labor are different – the state in the licensing case, individuals in the other. So I guess, by your rules, we have two new phrases to coin instead of just one: “license slavery”, and “exchange slavery”.

        • CatCube says:

          It’s still wrong, and it’s still the law. Just because the law only oppresses religious small business owners occasionally doesn’t obviate the need to fight it, or the fact that the law was written as is so the Left could rub its balls on the faces of the religious.

          • shakeddown says:

            We do spend large amounts of time in our leftist conspiracy meetings plotting where to rub our balls, inbetween drinking our fair-trade organic coffee and declaring wars on Christmas.

          • Is the opposite extreme — businesses being allowed to systematically discriminate against groups to the extent that they cannot obtain a decent quality of life and become de facto second class citizens — acceptable then? Is there a compromise that is acceptable from both POVs?

          • CatCube says:

            As a matter of principle, I’m not a fan of the Civil Rights Act. However, there was a real problem that in many areas, a black traveler couldn’t find accommodation fit for habitation, or even a bathroom. I’m willing to bend principles there, given the scales being discussed.

            However, the classical example of “bakery run afoul of Diversity Star Chamber” was in Gresham, a suburb of Portland, Oregon. You’re going to tell me that you need the fist of the government to ensure that lesbians can find a cake in Portland? That’s not ensuring access in the face of widespread discrimination, that’s an end-zone dance.

          • Brad says:

            “It” isn’t federal law. It’s a state law in at least two states — Oregon and New Mexico. It might be in other states, but I don’t know because in hundreds of posts about “bakers being forced to bake cakes!!1!” by people that seemed quite concerned about the issue, I have yet to see anyone take the time to compile a fifty state list.

            Furthermore this “balls” interpretation is completely ahistorical. New Mexico and Oregon, like many states, had a public accommodations law for decades. In the early and mid 2000s respectively, sexual orientation was added as protected class. At the time these legal changes were made same sex marriage was not legal in either state.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            As a matter of principle, I’m not a fan of the Civil Rights Act. However, there was a real problem that in many areas, a black traveler couldn’t find accommodation fit for habitation, or even a bathroom. I’m willing to bend principles there, given the scales being discussed.

            +1

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            It’s a state law in at least two states — Oregon and New Mexico.

            And in the remainder of the United States, the law is enforced by BuzzFeed.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            to CatCube: This is the standard I use as well. I like to call it after the internet DDoS, Distributed Denial of Service: if you can’t go to one pizza joint, then sucks but oh well. But if you can’t get pizza in the entire city…then we might have to do something.

            To me, this really stems from what is being taken away versus what is being given. In my eyes, going to an establishment where the owner hates you gives you only a kind of bitter joy, which in the end is fool’s gold. It would be better if you stayed away from this bigoted person. However, if all of the business owners within an area will not serve you, then what you have lost is the ability to eat pizza, or wedding cakes, or purchase clothing. It’s no matter an issue of feelings vs. feelings, and thus arrangements have to be made. Personally, I suspect that this will almost never be an issue – certainly in the state I inhabit, any kind of racialised ban would be a death sentence, so the worst we should see is denial of gay weddings, and it’s not like you have a wedding every day.

          • Tekhno says:

            My problem is that I think discrimination is a very good thing. Fundamentally all it involves is people making choices based on their likes and dislikes, and expressing freedom of association with its corollary freedom of disassociation. The problem for me is when those decisions impoverish people to death. This leads me to want to draw the line based on the kind of DDoS standard Anon described, as well as being based on the kind of goods in question, and their necessity for life. I’m a fan of having progressive regulation, as well as progressive taxation, so big companies would bear substantially more responsibilities in regard to how much of the industry they control.

            A lot of people seem to dislike discrimination itself, and believe that emotional harm (which is hard to create objective standards for compared to physical harm, and easier to game to cheat the system) is the grounds on which to regulate.

            I find this thinking kind of asinine, because the logical conclusion wouldn’t merely be drawing the line at business if discrimination was the problem. Private clubs would be a no go. Even refusing to let certain people into your home would theoretically be a problem. The end game of this would be kind of like anarcho-communism.

            I can tell that most people who find discrimination objectionable, do not advocate for this, and would call it a strawman, but I do think that discrimination law will keep pushing outwards if discrimination itself is the problem and not physical harm which may be facilitated by discrimination in some contexts.

            Actually, I don’t just think that it will, I know that it already has been pushed further over time. The other problem with the discrimination standard is that if you want to be consistent, you have no grounds to just limit antidiscrimination efforts to special protected identities, if other identities are still being discriminated against. In a free society where people can experiment with identity, this is a problem. As a society’s list of identities expands, the more identities become protected under the legislation, and the easier it is to run foul of the law. Canada’s C-16 bill now brings gender identity under the protection of antidiscrimination legislation. In a society where gender is self-affirmed, this is highly gameable. On the other hand, if you use discrimination as your standard, what is your justification to these people to exclude them and just include “special protected groups”?

            I understand that there are pragmatic grounds for being inconsistent, but it will be very hard to uphold an inconsistent application of the discrimination principle with new identity groups popping up and wanting a piece of the pie. Having special groups only which get protection from discrimination just creates a caste society, while extending them to everyone creates an unworkable gameable mess. Perhaps something is wrong with the underlying metric?

            Perhaps you believe that if we changed existing discrimination laws to depend on physical harm facilitated by exclusion, instead of mere exclusion, then it would be too short a step from Jim Crow, and have to oppose my proposal on pragmatic grounds, but can’t we at least agree that discrimination alone is a terrible standard, and creating “special classes” isn’t a fix for its flaws? You discriminate if you pick apple juice over orange juice. You discriminate if you pick a blond partner over a brunette.

            Discrimination is life.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tekhno

            As a society’s list of identities expands, the more identities become protected under the legislation, and the easier it is to run foul of the law.

            As the list of protected groups expand, the more isolated and unfairly treated the remaining people become.

            This is very visible in social justice heavy environments, where all kinds of accommodations are made for protected groups, but where white men are explicitly denied these things based on their race and/or gender.

            IMHO, this just introduces overt discrimination that is supposed to balance out the discrimination of others, but doesn’t do so.

          • I am thinking of this in terms of what fences you need to optimise everybodies preferences about discrimination and non-discrimination. not in terms of conditions on the ground. Libertarians are too ready to solve sysemeatic discrimination by saying that it probably won’t happen.

          • Brad says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            And in the remainder of the United States, the law is enforced by BuzzFeed.

            Name three bakeries that have had the “law” against them “enforced by BuzzFeed”.

          • roystgnr says:

            As a matter of principle, I’m not a fan of the Civil Rights Act. However, there was a real problem that in many areas, a black traveler couldn’t find accommodation fit for habitation, or even a bathroom. I’m willing to bend principles there, given the scales being discussed.

            I wonder if it would be possible to rewrite the Civil Rights Act in such a way that it preserved freedom-of-association rights in cases of sufficiently competitive markets but still maintained public services for all in cases of local monopoly? Throwing out ideas: maybe you’re allowed to be a bigot with your own business, but if-and-only-if you at least provide all customers with directions to a nearby competitor who has previously agreed not to discriminate against the demographic(s) you refuse? And if the recipient of your referrals changes their mind, or goes out of business, or if for some other reason you have nobody to whom you can send discriminated-against customers, then we’re back in “local monopoly” status and you’re compelled not to discriminate based on forbidden criteria. This seems like it would be an improvement not just for bigots, many of whom would now be freer to bigot, but also for their victims, most of whom would probably prefer to more often give their money to worthier recipients. For that matter, the joy of being able to force someone who hates you to serve you food is probably more than outweighed by the fear of what they might have done to your food while you weren’t looking.

            That sounds too complicated and arbitrary, though. How do we define “nearby” and “competitor”? If a pizza place sends gay people to the hamburger place 2 miles away, is that good enough? And of course this is an intellectual exercise, not preparation for the day when libertarian-leaning pragmatists rule the country. (“There are dozens of us. Dozens!”)

          • Randy M says:

            A lot of business codes and regulations are based on the number of employees. It might not satisfy a strict libertarian desire for freedom of association, but it would be a useful schelling point–under 25 or 50 employees, do what you want, over that and you are sufficiently large to be in danger of being a local monopoly. (This might be the way things are in places already? I don’t think so)
            But I don’t think there’s a non-gameable way to do it; after all look at how widely interstate commerce is interpreted.
            (Props on the reference, too)

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Randy M, I don’t think your standard does what it says. How many employees does the average specialty bakery have? The average wedding planner? Sure, there’s more than one in the average city, but not in a smaller town.

            Personally, I’d be willing to accept it anyway as a hacked-together approximation anyway, but maybe roystgnr’s would be better? Though his is vulnerable to people trying to open new lines of business: suppose I call myself a Pastifarian Placebo Joint Therapist, but refuse to work with federal bureaucrats (they oppose piracy!). Can I do that when there’s no other Pastifarian Placebo Joint Therapist in the world? Or do I need to convince my friend to become one too so I can refer the bureaucrats to him?

          • Richard Epstein, who is a libertarian academic, defends the Civil Rights act on the grounds that what it was preventing was not really private discrimination but discrimination enforced by local government. There was no law against letting blacks sit at the same lunch counter as whites, but if your restaurant did it there were lots of ways the local authorities could make life difficult for you.

          • Matt M says:

            David,

            IIRC the famous “Plessy v Ferguson” was about a company that wanted to integrate its train cars, but state law forbade them from doing so.

            So rather than the infamous assertion that “if left to their own devices, businesses will discriminate” the exact opposite was happening.

          • shakeddown says:

            @roystgnr

            Those are ideas that would technically work if people followed them honestly, if the reason people have for discrimination is “I guess there’s nothing wrong with them, but I don’t want to associate with those people myself.”
            Imagining this in the Jim-Crow-Era south though, what I get is a bunch of racist store owners referring black customers to their racist friends back and forth, having fun with making the black guys run around never getting anything, and law enforcement that looks the other way because the cops enjoy it too. You need tough laws because you need to make it simple and straightforwards in order to get unfriendly people to cooperate.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’ve found this particular aspect of civil rights laws to be one of the most difficult in terms of reconciling my political and philosophical principles with my desired outcome. On the one hand, their structure is morally indefensible (coercing someone to violate their own values under thread). Then again, so is a situation where coordination among multiple actors with those same values can completely shut out people from the basic functions of day-to-day society.

            As others have said, I cannot see any way other than the 60s style CRA to oppose ACTUAL institutionalized bigotry (not “disparate impact” racism, but “I can’t call the cops about the KKK because they’re senior members” and Jim Crow laws) in a fast and effective manner as opposed to simply hoping that the slow erosion of cultural liberalization will eventually turn the tide…

            …and on the other hand, I think that it is inevitable that once those laws are on the books, they will be gamed and exploited to shift from “Live and Let Live” to suppression of dissent.

            I’d prefer a situation where store owners are free to be bigoted assholes if they so choose, and everyone is free to choose to take their business elsewhere and let that person reap the consequences in the marketplace rather than in court. Which would work NOW almost anywhere in the US, but wouldn’t have worked in the 1960s south, much less the 1860s US.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Imagining this in the Jim-Crow-Era south though, what I get is a bunch of racist store owners referring black customers to their racist friends back and forth, having fun with making the black guys run around never getting anything, and law enforcement that looks the other way because the cops enjoy it too.

            Some businesses would do that, no doubt; but one of the reasons why Southern legislatures passed laws mandating segregation, rather than just leaving it up to social pressure and racist businessmen, was precisely that at least some companies would rather take black people’s money than turn them away out of racism.

          • Brad says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            I’d prefer a situation where store owners are free to be bigoted assholes if they so choose, and everyone is free to choose to take their business elsewhere and let that person reap the consequences in the marketplace rather than in court.

            At least you are consistent. My favorite are the people that complain about boycotts of businesses that refuse to serve all commers.

            Freedom of association for me, but not for thee.

          • Matt M says:

            “Then again, so is a situation where coordination among multiple actors with those same values can completely shut out people from the basic functions of day-to-day society.”

            Did this really happen to any significant extent?

            Not that I’m in favor of Jim Crow or anything, but I feel like this is overstating the case a bit. We’re all familiar with legends of Jackie Robinson being unable to stay in the same hotel as his teammates while playing baseball in the south, but it’s not as if a black person traveling through Mississippi had no place to stay whatsoever. There were huge populations of blacks in every southern state and they absolutely had access to the “basic functions of society,” just limited to within their own communities and/or of a worse quality than what whites had access to.

            Remember – Rosa Parks was told to give up her seat and move to a different one, she wasn’t told “black people aren’t allowed to ride in motor vehicles in this here state.”

          • Andrew G. says:

            @ Matt M:

            but it’s not as if a black person traveling through Mississippi had no place to stay whatsoever.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Negro_Motorist_Green_Book

          • Brad says:

            Did this really happen to any significant extent?

            There’s now thirty some odd comments in this sub-thread to the effect that the number of incidents don’t matter.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            Not that I necessarily agree but the number of incidents doesn’t matter because it is a law on the books =/= the number of incidents doesn’t matter because it is discrimination carried out by private citizens

          • Spookykou says:

            Did this really happen to any significant extent?

            I don’t particularly care if it ever happened.

            The relative quality of life gains from Jim Crow “freedom of association” versus the relative quality of life gains from it’s removal is not, by my math, even kind of close.

            Other than freedom of association, the argument is all slippery slope right? How many of the classes protected by the federal government do you think shouldn’t be protected from discrimination i’m currently at 0%, I would be worried if it got up to 50%, if that happens before the singularity/anything else the fundamentally changes the world enough for this to no longer matter, I would be shocked.

          • Matt M says:

            Andrew,

            So, all one had to do was purchase a small book to virtually guarantee this would never be a problem no matter where they went?

            Yeah, that seems like sufficient grounds to eliminate the concept of freedom of association nationwide.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            Did you actually read the article?
            There were no hotels open to blacks in Salt Lake City whatsoever. Only 6% of the motels along the Albuquerque stretch of Route 66 served blacks. There were only 3 motels in New Hampshire that served blacks. Purchasing a book would not have obviated the difficulties caused by a lack of hotels and restaurants.

          • Matt M says:

            New Hampshire hardly strikes me as the heart of Jim Crow. Why do you suppose there were only three hotels there?

            In any case, my how the goalposts have moved. We’ve gone from “the civil rights act was necessary because otherwise blacks would regularly be forced to go without the basic necessities of life” to “the civil rights act was necessary because without it only a small number of blacks would be able to fully enjoy their road trip to Albuquerque”

          • skef says:

            @Matt M

            Do you think it might be prudent to think through a few simple examples before blithely making statements like this?

            Suppose you’re hiring for a job that involves some travel, and the best qualified candidate happens to be black. Does it make sense to hire that person in light of a) the whole group having to restrict themselves to the businesses that serve black people or b) arranging for separate accommodations at every point? One of the problems with segregation is that each instance materially justifies each other instance. “I’m not racist but it’s just too much bother making an exception. I wish things were different.”

          • @rlms:

            I haven’t read the book. Does it claim to be a complete list of all motels etc. in a state that accept blacks or only a list of ones that they know accept blacks? I would be quite surprised if all New Hampshire motels but three refused to serve blacks. Checking that it was true would have been a lot of work, but I could be mistaken.

            Also, following your link, I note:

            “By the start of the 1960s, the Green Book′s market was beginning to erode; African-American civil rights activism was having effects, even before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit racial segregation in public facilities. ”

            That’s interesting, because it suggests that the change in attitudes that made the Civil Rights Act possible also made it less necessary. To put the point a little differently, the problem being discussed may have been a serious one only under circumstances in which it was unlikely to be corrected by political action.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Imagining this in the Jim-Crow-Era south though, what I get is a bunch of racist store owners referring black customers to their racist friends back and forth, having fun with making the black guys run around never getting anything, and law enforcement that looks the other way because the cops enjoy it too. You need tough laws because you need to make it simple and straightforwards in order to get unfriendly people to cooperate.

            If the police are happy to look the other way at violations of this law, why wouldn’t they be happy to look the other way at violations of much tougher, more clearly written laws? If we’re at the point where the police pick and choose what the law is going to be in practice, then the details of the law on paper aren’t going to help you anyway.

          • shakeddown says:

            Evidently they did. (I’m not an expert on sixties history, but I have the impression federal forces, or the threat of federal action, was occasionally involved).

          • I think it’s important in these arguments to distinguish between two sorts of propositions:

            1. It is good to have law X.

            2. It is good to have certain decisions made by the state rather than private parties, and law X is an example.

            It matters because a lot of the discussion of 1 ignores the possibility that if the decision is made by the state it will make the decision you disapprove of rather than the one you approve of. That gets back to my earlier point that, once public opinion had shifted far enough to make it possible to pass the Civil Rights law, it had shifted far enough so that much of the reason to pass it was no longer there.

            Consider the simple case of a single polity under simple majority vote. Suppose all the relevant decisions are made by individuals. In order for blacks to be unable to find a place to eat, or sleep, or a job, or someone willing to rent to them, a sizable majority of the white population has to want it that way–want it enough so that restaurants, hotels and the like are willing to lose the money they could get serving black customers.

            Now consider the same polity, with decisions of that sort made by the state. A bare majority is probably enough to make services unavailable to the blacks. And the individual who votes for such laws doesn’t himself suffer any cost due to his vote, although he may bear costs due to the laws, making people more willing to vote for them.

            So blacks are more likely to have the sort of problem we are discussing under the second rule than the first.

            Things are complicated in the real world case by the fact that the U.S. was not a single polity. At the point when the Civil Rights Act passed, it would not have passed in the South. So a less prejudiced national majority was forcing its preferences on a more prejudiced regional majority.

            But there again, you have to think of the general question, not just the specific. If such decisions are made at the national level, the result is more attractive when the national majority is less prejudiced. But move back a ways to a time when the national majority was sufficiently prejudiced to enact the sorts of laws the southern majority did enact. If the decision is made at the national level everyone has those laws. If it is made at the state level, some states do, some don’t, and the victims of the laws have the option of moving to the more favorable states–as, of course, large numbers of blacks in the early 20th century did.

          • Jiro says:

            My favorite are the people that complain about boycotts of businesses that refuse to serve all commers.

            Freedom of association for me, but not for thee.

            Unless “complain” means “wants to make it illegal”, this has nothing to do with freedom of association.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Thirteenth Letter

            If the police are happy to look the other way at violations of this law, why wouldn’t they be happy to look the other way at violations of much tougher, more clearly written laws?

            Some were, and you got the logical extension of federal power. US Marshals and Federal Soldiers getting involved. FBI Getting Involved. National Guard getting federalized.

            Interestingly enough, all those examples were PRIOR to passage of the Civil Rights Act. The CRA post-dated the famous Birmingham Campaign with Bull Connor ordering firehoses and police dogs turned on protesters (and the campaign ostensibly succeeded in starting a wave of desegregation in Birmingham). So I think David has a point when he says that the conditions that made it possible for the law to be passed are the same ones that made it less necessary.

            However, David, you also noted that this was a case of a national majority imposing its will on a regional majority. Absent that external coercion, how long would Jim Crow have held out in the south? Only another two years? Another five? Another 10? A lot of blacks were poor enough that interstate mobility wasn’t necessarily practical.

            And in the meantime, in a reality where the SCLC, its allied organizations and movements, and the counterculture of the day were fighting this battle without national-level assistance and top cover, what does that process of slowly repeating the Birmingham campaign again and again and again through city after city in the South look like?

            Personally, I think it looks like a slow-burning, low-intensity, but very real Culture War at a level of nastiness we’ve only had glimpses of in the decades since. The worst parts of 1963-1968, simmering away year after year at least into the 1970s. Mind you, I still think that you’re right, and eventually, the combination of social and economic pressure from the rest of the country and the efforts of the civil rights movement would wear it away.

            At the end of that long, grueling fight, do you think we’d have an America with LESS identity politics than we do right now? I don’t think so. Long periods of conflict help to stabilize and crystallize existing ingroup/outgroup distinctions.

            As I said, I’m actually not a fan of civil rights legislation for the most part, and I think that given where we are as a society NOW, we should be looking into reforming or outright dismantling it. I think that in the areas where there is still improvement needed, social and economic pressure, especially in the world of social media, are strong enough to keep things moving where they need to, and I think that we have a varied enough economy that no one now is in danger of getting shut out of civil society by non-legal, culturally coordinated segregation.

            But I have no idea how that project can even be started without the person suggesting it being crucified as the worst sort of sexist, racist, homophobic bigot.

            And again, 2016 isn’t 1964. I admire the hell out of Barry Goldwater (if I were a Republican and not an independent, I’d definitely wear “Goldwater Republican” as an aspirational label), and I understand and sympathize with his decision to vote against the final version of the CRA after supporting its initial versions, based largely on the freedom of association issue…

            …but I’m not confident that there was a better option on the table at the time.

          • “A lot of blacks were poor enough that interstate mobility wasn’t necessarily practical.”

            I wanted to focus on that one point in your longer post.

            In the early 20th century, there were people in the business of connecting black workers in parts of the South where they were badly treated with employment opportunities, generally in other parts of the South, where they were better treated. They were shut down by state regulation. The same Supreme Court that, in Lochner v. New York, found that a restriction on the hours of work of bakers was a violation of their constitutional rights upheld those regulations, to its discredit.

            So if the question is not state vs federal but government decision vs freedom of association, I think the history supports my position. There were market mechanisms to deal with the problem, to some extent they worked–consider the mass migration of blacks north in the early 20th century–and to some extent they were prevented from working by government interference with freedom of association.

            Giving governments powers that can only be used for good isn’t an option, unfortunately.

        • gbdub says:

          My point is that the gay rights movement decided that that was an important case to set a precedent over, which was a shift in messaging from “everyone can live their lives the way they want”. The publicity and change in messaging was more important than how many people were directly affected by the law (either way). I think it was negative for sympathy toward the gay rights movement despite sympathy toward gay rights improving.

          Likewise, taking the literal Little Sisters of the Poor to court in order to force them to pay for birth control pill insurance was a bad look, and probably hurt sympathy for that cause.

          • Brad says:

            The “gay rights movement” decided no such thing. You’re pretty clearly seeing exactly what you want to see. Facts be damned.

          • Matt M says:

            Brad,

            There may not be explicit coordination, but it seems to me that some 95% of people who would self-identify as “supporters of gay rights” cheer loudly and vigorously whenever something like this happens.

            Those who said “I am in favor of gay rights but maybe we shouldn’t be harassing small bakeries” were an extreme minority.

          • Brad says:

            This is bootstrapping as an extreme sport. You can’t point to more than one or two examples. You can’t point to the one or two examples and claim they were explicitly brought by a large organized movement as test cases (a la Brown v Board of Ed). You can’t even point to widespread post hoc publicity of the cases as major civil rights victories. Instead what you have is a personal intuition that if asked 95% of people that identify as gay rights supporters would say its a great thing.

            Upon this thin reed, and others of similarly insubstantiality, is built a florid all-consuming narrative about the radical transformation of the left.

            I’m calling bullshit and will continue to do so.

          • Jordan D. says:

            @gbdub

            Wait, hold on a moment, didn’t the Little Sisters of the Poor take the government to court, not vice-versa? As I recall, they sought an injunction against HHS to stop it from enforcing that regulation against any non-qualifying nonprofit held out as a religious organization, so the only way HHS could have avoided taking them to court is to capitulate and ask the court to void its own regulation.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            An accepted standard of what counts as the actions that can be attributed to an organization seems like it would do a lot of work clearing these issues up.

            Why can’t we have nice things?

        • Jordan D. says:

          Just to provide a very shallow answer, a quick search on Lexis and Google only turn up two cases- the Oregon case of Sweetcakes by Melissa, where a state administrative tribunal found the business in violation of ORS 659a.403 and ORS 659a.409. That resulted in a fine of $135,000, which was remitted to the state but it looks like it’s still in escrow pending the result of an appeal in state court by the owners, who argue that the fine was excessive.

          The other case, from Colorado, is Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which is pending a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court on the obvious free speech/free exercise question. In that case the Commission doesn’t appear to have imposed a fine, but did order the cakeshop to actually produce the cake. Relevant argument on that case is available on Scotusblog’s site.

          Unless I’m missing something (and I could be!) this looks like an unsettled issue which happened twice and produced a large fine once, and even that fine is not entirely final. (The Oregon commissioner here has a history of imposing large fines for civil rights violations, and I’m nowhere near familiar enough with Oregon law governing damages to say that these will or won’t be upheld)

          It certainly doesn’t look to me as though there was an institutional push behind these cases, although I think the ALCU got involved in the Colorado one. Both incidents happened years before Obergefell, though.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Jordan, I think you need to make your search terms a little broader.  I’m remembering the clearly-similar Elaine Photography v. New Mexico, where Elaine the wedding photographer refused to photograph a same-sex wedding (and the state sued her for it, the state court ruled against her, and her appeal to SCOTUS was denied).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            This is a pretty good list, though it mixes together magistrates with private services; suits by AG with suits by individuals; and fines, settlements, and bluffs. More common than bakers/florist/photographers are wedding venues.

          • Jordan D. says:

            @Evan – you’re right that there’s a lot more than just cake cases, and the photography case is famous enough that I considered adding it instead of just sticking to the cake cases. I ended up sticking to cakes because it seemed to me that there was a focused discussion on that upthread.

            I do feel that Douglas Knight’s article sort of illustrates everyone’s point at once, though- if you go down that list you can see cases like the photography case, the two cake cases and possibly the chapel cases (although I haven’t done any research into those) which could paint a plausible picture of “government forcing private religious folks to upend their morals”. Then there are other worthy cases, like Eich’s or the people who got harassed for their beliefs. On the other hand, there are questionable cases (for example, I have less sympathy for the judges and clerks who don’t want to perform marriages, although I think if they can arrange for an alternate, that should be permitted) and stuff like boycotts mixed in indiscriminately.

            This, I think, is sort of why @brad is objecting to general complaints about the topic. One could plausibly criticize the ALCU for a few of those, and condemn harassers, and so on, but blaming the Left for ‘this general style of thing’ is the sort of accusation which can’t be answered.

      • Matt M says:

        “believe what you want, but keep it a secret or we’ll hurt you”

        Even this is probably too charitable, imo.

        If SJWs could build a mind-reading device and broadcast it large-scale over the entire population for the express purpose of “outing” racists – they would. They absolutely do not think people should “believe what they want.” Certain beliefs are correct and other beliefs are evil and the only thing holding them back from hurting everyone with the evil beliefs is their inability to detect who is who – but lord knows they’re trying, and coming up with increasingly broad categories in order to classify (hence, all the articles suggesting how it’s impossible to vote for Trump without being a racist)

        • Brad says:

          I hear SJWs eat babies in the secret satanic rituals.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          i see people in the comments below talking shit but of course they would

          the entire reason that social justice is witch-hunty is because it’s like a game of mafia. racists are bad and need to be rooted out but they’re difficult to find because the racism lurks within SO you have to watch every word.

          i’m not even mad, it’s how I used to be before I realised the folly in what I had become. if you really believe that racism is uniquely damaging, why would you not try to root out its adherents, anyhow? Iain, if you had a murderer-detecting device, and it actually, actually worked, like there are no loopholes, no grey areas, it just flippin’ works, wouldn’t you use it on people? Maybe you would feel really bad about doing so and you’d stop as a result, but you have to admit that it would make a ton of sense, right?

          • Iain says:

            Just to clarify: you are asking me whether, given a hypothetical device that allows me to solve crimes, I would use it? And you think that my answer is going to reflect poorly on my ideological commitments?

            Or are you just asking me about Minority Report? If so, I thought it was a pretty good movie, but I had to turn away during the bit with the eyeballs.

            Serious answer: In case it is not clear, I think your question is silly. Your premise seems to be that “SJWs” see racism as a uniquely heinous crime, on par with murder. I think a more reasonable summary would be that social justice people believe that racism is more widespread and pernicious than people on this blog do. They therefore ascribe more importance to solving it.

            Many people in this community, when pressed, will say that they oppose the “W” part of SJWs — that they think social justice aims at good ideals, but that zealots do bad things in service of those ends. (I don’t know if you are one of those people; if not, put yourself in their shoes for the sake of argument.) If you had a magical “W”-detecting device, which would allow you to flawlessly distinguish “people who oppose racism the right amount” and “people who take their opposition to racism too far“, would you use it? If so, does that prove that you are engaged in an anti-SJW witch hunt?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “Serious answer: In case it is not clear, I think your question is silly. Your premise seems to be that “SJWs” see racism as a uniquely heinous crime, on par with murder. I think a more reasonable summary would be that social justice people believe that racism is more widespread and pernicious than people on this blog do. They therefore ascribe more importance to solving it.”

            Look, I had a girl who sat across from me and once told me “Racial discrimination is the worst thing ever”. “Sacred Values” can be reasonably taken to infinity – I might be able to find you an essay explaining it like it did for me. One of the SJWs’ “Sacred Values” is that racism is bad, and so I have no doubt that a very large proportion of them would be all-too-willing to use the device, just as you would be willing to use a murder-detecting device on anyone close to you or anyone important, just to check.

            “Many people in this community, when pressed, will say that they oppose the “W” part of SJWs — that they think social justice aims at good ideals, but that zealots do bad things in service of those ends. (I don’t know if you are one of those people; if not, put yourself in their shoes for the sake of argument.) If you had a magical “W”-detecting device, which would allow you to flawlessly distinguish “people who oppose racism the right amount” and “people who take their opposition to racism too far“, would you use it? If so, does that prove that you are engaged in an anti-SJW witch hunt?”

            I don’t…I don’t really think that I would do that. But even if I would, it would be just for personal knowledge. I’d rather convince those people and those around them via sound arguments, especially those around them. Besides, most SJWs are pretty out and proud about it, just like most serious racists ironically – I’m not sold that any such device is necessary.

            (And one of the largest problems with SJWs is that they inevitably take it too far because there is no corrective measure – complaining about a culture or a set of beliefs is just racism, women are 100% similar to men, and so forth. Arguing against a lot of their crazier beliefs is tantamount to racism, so the movement cannot self-correct and inevitably adopts crazy beliefs.)

          • Spookykou says:

            If you had a magical “W”-detecting device, which would allow you to flawlessly distinguish “people who oppose racism the right amount” and “people who take their opposition to racism too far“, would you use it?

            Use it to do what?

            I think there is a lot of ambiguity going on in this thread, starting with Matt M’s accusations that SJW will ‘hurt’ people.

            I am generally apposed to censorship and if I had a device that showed me people who thought censorship was ok when used to censor really bad things, I would use my detector to try and find and then explain to them why I think censorship is more dangerous than whatever dangerous speech they want to censor. I obviously wouldn’t use it to try and censor them directly, or by proxy(black lists etc).

            If somebody agrees with the aims of SJ but think zealotry is bad, it is probably safe to assume they wouldn’t, or at least they really shouldn’t, resort to zealotry to deal with the zealotry problem.

            Edit: well I wouldn’t really use it because I am SHY AF, but in theory, a hypothetical alternate version of me who is willing to talks to strangers.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @spookykou:

            Is somebody agrees with the aims of SJ but think zealotry is bad, it is probably safe to assume they wouldn’t, or at least they really shouldn’t, resort to zealotry to deal with the zealotry problem.

            Zealotry deployed as a response to zealotry is … as old as the hills. You seem to be asserting that people aren’t blind to their own biases. Or I am misunderstanding what you are saying.

          • Spookykou says:

            @HBC

            I added the “really shouldn’t” bit, do I need to specifically say ‘unless they are hypocrites’?

            I mean if you actually think that all liberals who are otherwise liberal but think the W in SJ goes too far, are all secretly W’s just about zealotry instead of racism, then I don’t know what to tell you. I have no research or data to support my assumption, but I don’t assume that.

            Edit: I had to run away halfway through this reply so I just hit post.

            You seem to be asserting that people aren’t blind to their own biases.

            I don’t think this what I am asserting, instead I am saying that people can actually hold an ideological position.

            Somebody could be a full blown racist, and still think the death penalty is never ok, and argue against the death penalty, even in a case where the person who is being put to death is a minority. Or at least I think this is possible.

            By the same token, somebody can think censorship is never ok, and fight for peoples freedom of speech even if they just want to advocate for censorship. Or at least I think this is possible.

            I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

            Or something.

            Does that seem reasonable, at least if you assume that people hold the ideological positions they claim to hold?

          • Aapje says:

            I think that it is obvious & logical that people base their support for ‘policing’ on:
            1. The level of harm that they believe is happening
            2. The belief they have that the policing will reduce the harm
            3. The belief they have that the policing will produce harm

            The bigger they think that 1 & 2 are and the smaller they think that 3 is, the more forceful policing they tend to support.

            IMHO, SJ people tend to somewhat overvalue 1, greatly overvalue 2 and extremely undervalue 3.

            @Iain

            Many people in this community, when pressed, will say that they oppose the “W” part of SJWs — that they think social justice aims at good ideals, but that zealots do bad things in service of those ends.

            I oppose the often bad theories, the strong resistance to improving these theories and strong group biases that mean that the theories are often applied in biased ways. So even the better SJ theories tend to result in severely discriminatory actions, as they tend to be applied in a discriminatory manner.

            I believe that these reasons are good enough to oppose the mainstream of the SJ movement, because even as these SJ people aim at good ideals, their beliefs are so flawed that their actions will not achieve these ideals.

            The SJW part of the movement take these same things to an extreme where bullying becomes a virtue, but essentially, this stems from the same problems that plague the mainstream of SJ, but with less empathy and humanity to hold them back. They deserve greater push back for their willingness to be abusive, but all of SJ deserves push back for their wrong beliefs.

            If so, does that prove that you are engaged in an anti-SJW witch hunt?

            If I’m not mistaken, the term ‘witch hunt’ refers to much more egregious acts than merely disagreeing with people on the internet, in this context. I fail to see how AnonEEmous is engaging in a witch hunt.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I mean, if actual, literal witch hunts is the standard by which we measure people, SJW’s come out looking pretty good also. I’m pretty sure at least nobody has yet been burned at the stake.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Calling for the literal interpretation of witch hunt is dumb when pro-SJ people do it, and it’s dumb when used against them as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @spookykou:
            I am going to highlight a couple of phrases that caused me to react as I did:

            I obviously wouldn’t use it

            it is probably safe to assume they wouldn’t

            Those phrases seemed to me to indicate that you were discounting as unlikely that people will engage in hypocritical behavior.

            In your response you engage in a sort of phase shift:

            think the W in SJ goes too far, are all secretly W’s

            instead I am saying that people can actually hold an ideological position.

            You go from an implied assertion that hypocritical behavior can be assumed to be rare, to simply saying unhypocritical behavior is possible.

            I completely agree that unhypocritical behavior is possible (although I doubt anyone is never hypocritical). But I think it is a long stretch to say that it can be assumed.

          • Spookykou says:

            I used obviously in reference to myself because I have a, probably biased, opinion of my own adherence to my own ideologies.

            I really do think, in the specific case of liberals who agree with SJ aims but disagree with the actions of SJW that it is probably safe to assume that most of them won’t then engage in those actions against SJWs. When I think of the professors at liberal universities who are fighting for freedom of speech, even when they lose their jobs over it, who disagree with SJW and get a lot of push back I find it hard to believe that they would just turn to SJW tactics if given the chance.

            My phase shift was a bit too much! I started with a hedged position(I tend to hedge most of my positions and I genuinely believe the hedge version of my position, but on SSC I have seen a few instances now in which people just assume that a hedged position is a lie, I guess I need to hedge even harder!? I use obviously way too much in any case…), and so when you say I am ‘wrong’ because people are hypocrites, and I feel like I have allowed for that possibility, then I interpreted you to mean that I was wrong on the proportions, as such instead of all I should have said most, or a lot. Sorry.

            Edit I don’t actually think SJW’s are a big problem and I think my language was a bit overly dramatic.

            Edit Edit Actually I think I need to just make a full retraction.

            I am a liberal who lives in a pretty conservative place, my outgroup is still conservatives as far as I am concerned. I think SJW go a bit overboard and I think censorship is wrong, but I don’t actually ever interact with SJW or SJ, I could ask every mechanic in my shop and not a one of them would even know what it was.

            From what I have heard, worker ants are predominately Democrat, I have no idea if this is true, but if it is, it seems like a clear example in direct contradiction to my assumptions.

            I think I was conflating liberals who don’t like SJW with liberals who don’t care about SJW. I imagine most liberals, like most conservatives, actually just never interact with SJW’s. This belief is based on assuming that SJWs tend to exist in liberal bubbles, and liberal bubbles are probably not great for generalizing about the rest of the united states.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            Maybe you would feel really bad about doing so and you’d stop as a result, but you have to admit
            that it would make a ton of sense, right?

            Why would anyone feel bad about this?

            Am I missing something here?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Serious pushback on this – how do you think that “SJWs” (it’s a term I prefer not to use myself) have that much power?

          There are certain spheres where a certain sort of left-wing activist type has a lot of power (universities, mostly) and the internet lets small bubbles have a big impact (how many people exactly are “alt-right”?)

          But most spheres aren’t those spheres, and even in those spheres there’s lots of people who just roll their eyes and look the other way (but would band together if everyone’s opinions were out in the open), and even within left-wing activism there are people who dislike these tendencies (a majority of people I’ve heard say “SJW” in person are themselves left-wing activist types).

          These views, however, are a small minority. If everybody’s thoughts were broadcast openly, we’d realize:

          1. People are a lot more perverted than we all thought
          2. People are a lot more bigoted than we all thought
          3. People are a lot more sad and messed up than we all thought
          4. A lot of people who thought “I am the only one” with regard to one of the above will realize, no they’re not.
          5. A lot of people will have no reason any more to pretend they’re not 1, 2, or 3.

          (And this goes for any “mind scanner” scenario)

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            Bullies always seem larger than life to their victims.

          • Matt M says:

            “There are certain spheres where a certain sort of left-wing activist type has a lot of power (universities, mostly) and the internet lets small bubbles have a big impact (how many people exactly are “alt-right”?)”

            Given that universities are basically gatekeepers to the wealthy/ruling class, and that “small bubbles” on the Internet have proven effective at getting people fired for opposing SJ, is this really no big deal?

            Like, I think you’re right that the majority of people respond to SJ by rolling their eyes. But that’s the majority of all people. It’s not the majority of college professors, journalists, politicians, and corporate executives.

            If you control the environment at all the institutions that give a rubber stamp of approval to all of our future writers, journalists, artists, politicians, bankers, and corporate officers, you might as well control the populace at large, no?

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            @Matt M

            And that’s why we are a communist country today!

            Universities are fucky, we don’t need a moral panic every time they find some new thing to be fucky about.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            But, as sweetcandyskulls points out, universities are indeed fucky. Plenty of wacky shit goes on in universities that doesn’t affect the outside world.

            They’re the gatekeepers to the wealthy/ruling class – or, really, more confirmation than gatekeepers – but there’s a ton of people just hold their tongue throughout. Lots of people make it through university without getting indoctrinated by the gender studies department or whatever. Trust me, future bankers and executives, at the very least, are not getting indoctrinated.

            Besides, I met professors who “oppose SJ” and didn’t get fired. I’m in a left-wing city in a country more left-wing than the US. (Although maybe that has something to do with it – it’s a contrast thing?) And you can find people who will oppose a certain sort of left-wing activist, just fine. Sure, they control the student union, but the student union is mostly a nepotism factory.

            If universities really did control everything, professors would stop complaining that nobody listens to them.

            EDIT: And honestly the internet is part of the problem. There is a grand total of one person I know who is a left-wing activist of that certain sort of type that some apply a three-letter acronym I know who is actually an unreasonable and unpleasant person. There are many who would fall into that category, but they are not the same sort of boogeyperson. Being unreasonable is a problem with people on the internet, not people who hold whatever given opinion.

          • Matt M says:

            “Trust me, future bankers and executives, at the very least, are not getting indoctrinated.”

            I don’t have a link handy, but the student paper of the Harvard MBA program (as good of a proxy for “future bankers and executives” as any) found support for Donald Trump at less than 5%.

            But I’m sure they hated him because of their opposition to tariffs, right?

          • dndnrsn says:

            That’s the Harvard program though. What % of the future executive class is that?

            Additionally, for one thing, yes, I imagine a future exec might prefer a less anti-globalist candidate. For another, how many “shy Trumpers” were there in that group? We’ve already seen polling fail about this.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            How does Scott feel about Trump/SJW?

            I know I know it’s the worst kind of wishful thinking to assume other people are as wonderful as our host, what can I say, I’m a dreamer.

          • On the subject of universities and professors with heterodox views …

            I have a very small sample size. I teach at a Jesuit university. It has two ideologies–Catholicism and soft leftism. I share neither of them, and have never concealed the fact. I have never gotten any pressure from the university as a result.

            My law school is proud of, among other things, its social justice program. I haven’t gotten any pressure from those folks either, not even when I occasionally ask what “social” adds to “justice.”

            A story I have probably told here before … . Some years back the school devoted a week to sustainability and asked professors if they would like to give a talk on the subject. I emailed back asking if they minded my giving a talk against sustainability. They didn’t, so I gave it. Very small audience but no hostility.

            Judging by my daughter’s experience at a different school, the student body there was left and bigoted, the faculty was left but tolerant.

          • Matt M says:

            I see no particular reason to assume the Harvard business school would be especially more SJ-leaning than any other business school. Would you care to offer a theory?

            The polling about the general populace was off by what, a few percentage points? We’re talking about the Harvard MBA class being nearly an order of magnitude less likely to support Trump than the general populace.

          • Spookykou says:

            Assuming that SJWs are an elite left problem, then the most elite and very left university is probably more SJ-leaning than the average university.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, and elite bankers and executives are disproportionately likely to have gone to elite universities. If not Harvard, than Wharton or Chicago or Stanford.

            Look, my intent here is not to convince you that SJs completely and totally rule the world. I just think that saying “come on, they ONLY have influences at universities” as if that’s some small thing is a little bit naive.

          • Chalid says:

            I don’t have a link handy, but the student paper of the Harvard MBA program (as good of a proxy for “future bankers and executives” as any) found support for Donald Trump at less than 5%.

            The Harvard MBA program is probably a pretty good proxy for future bankers and executives. But opposing Donald Trump is a really bad proxy for attitudes toward social justice.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I don’t really get the blase attitude here from some of the people who agree that social justice has a whip hand in the universities. Elite universities are indoctrinating the students who will make up the nation’s future elites with destructive ideas, but it’s okay because a lot of the students just “roll their eyes” and ignore it? Is the number of students — i.e., our future rulers — who pick up these terrible ideas instead of ignoring them really going to be zero, or so close to zero as makes no difference? And even if it was exactly zero, how is this staggering waste of time, money, and effort in attempting to indoctrinate them not bad all by itself?

          • skef says:

            @thirteenthLetter

            The word “elite” is doing almost all the work in your argument. Lots of people go to colleges that aren’t particularly fixated on these issues one way or another. There are also plenty of colleges and universities with explicit religious affiliations, most of which lean if anything towards indoctrination in the other direction. Also, the current movements are (outside of certain departments many students will take few or no classes from) largely student-driven, which doesn’t really count as “indoctrination”.

            Setting all that aside (why I’m not sure), how effective is Harvard and Yale’s indoctrination on the students going into finance? Has finance become a hotbed of SJWs? Does that look likely to happen? What is the hinge point of elite power supposed to be? The federal government? Yeah, lord knows those folks are just tools of the elite. Hollywood? Yes, very liberal, also very interested in the bottom line — and China.

          • “There are also plenty of colleges and universities with explicit religious affiliations, most of which lean if anything towards indoctrination in the other direction.There are also plenty of colleges and universities with explicit religious affiliations, most of which lean if anything towards indoctrination in the other direction.”

            I teach at one of those schools–it’s run by the Jesuits. The ideology it indoctrinates students with is left of center. It’s what I think of as soft left, so not really SJW, but very strong on “social justice.”

            How typical of religious schools that is I don’t know. But you might consider the politics of the current Pope.

          • skef says:

            I consider the politics of the current Pope to be somewhat to the left of mainstream U.S. Catholicism, setting certain issues aside.

            I would certainly not claim that religious colleges and universities overwhelmingly lean conservative on social issues, but I do think that’s the trend, partly for market differentiation reasons.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            The question of how much harm is caused aside, I’m a touch curious to know why it’s apparently so easy for a movement of angry people to hijack an entire nation’s education system.

            Fund your own universities. All you need to do is pay qualified people to teach you what they know.

            And yes, we’re blase about some kind of indoctrination going on, since that hinges on such a thing happening. Indoctrination would be much harder than you might think. Anyone outside of certain social sciences or humanities can never once at all be involved with social justice and graduate easily. This leaves a number of people who want to study X studies or sociology, who are exactly the people you’d expect to endorse social justice in the first place.

            So yes, social justice is more powerful at universities. You probably shouldn’t make a whites-only or straights-only student club at one, even if technically having the possibility to do so would be better. Some people to the left of us can be very shrill, as they have been for fifty years, but it turns out that people are very good at rolling their eyes and being annoyed about that. It is almost as if college is full of adults who are decently good at thinking for themselves and not mindlessly absorbing everything. It may even turn out that some students won’t listen to professors they dislike. Who’d have thought that?

          • Matt M says:

            “Has finance become a hotbed of SJWs?”

            You wouldn’t think so, and yet here we are, with Harvard MBAs preferring Hillary to Trump at a ratio of 85:5 whereas nationally it’s more like 51:49. It’s true that there are non-SJ reasons to prefer Hillary to Trump, but enough to explain that big of a difference? When SJ was probably the single area/theme where there was clear and obvious contrast between the candidates? When both of them routinely campaigned on SJ terms and themes (“Trump is a racist” was an appeal to SJ so much as “Build a wall” was an appeal to anti-SJ)

            “Does that look likely to happen?”

            I just recently graduated from business school – not Harvard – but top 20. The politics of my class were overwhelmingly left-leaning. Not fanatical SJ, but there were a few such people. There were no real obvious far right people though. I was probably the closest. A few military veterans and mormon guys who clearly leaned conservative but were also accommodating to PC. Our class was about 200 and there were probably less than 20 that I would consider as “people who might, even for one second, have considered voting for Trump”

            The corporate world already bends over backwards for SJ issues. Remember the issues Pence had with his religious freedom bill in Indiana? One of the largest corporations in Indiana is Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company. As soon as Pence signed the bill, they issued a press release denouncing it. Over the summer they changed up the lights on their building to those of a rainbow flag during the city pride parade in support of LGBT. This is a conservative company with almost all of its major operations located in the middle of a pretty red state. You think it doesn’t “look likely” that SJW ideology will take over the corporate world? I submit to you that it already has.

          • Brad says:

            When SJ was probably the single area/theme where there was clear and obvious contrast between the candidates?

            Seriously?!? There’s was a heck of lot more difference between the candidates than that. And “build a wall” was not “anti-SJ” it was anti-immigration.

            The candidates for President weren’t stalking horses for 4chan vs tumblr! Come on!

          • Iain says:

            I second Brad’s “Seriously?!?”. If you can’t think of any other reason that somebody might have supported Clinton over Trump, you are experiencing a severe lack of imagination.

            You don’t even have to like Clinton to come up with alternate explanations. For example: if you believe that Hillary Clinton is a creature of the establishment, and Donald Trump is a bold outsider, it should not be difficult to figure out why Harvard MBAs preferred Clinton.

          • psmith says:

            And that’s why we are a communist country today!

            We just finna let that slide?

            What this means is that if you look for Americans in 1913 who have the same basic worldview of an ordinary American college student in 2013, you can find them. But you can’t find a lot of them. The cultural mainstream of 2013 is not descended from the cultural mainstream of 1913, most of whose traditions are entirely extinct. Rather, it is descended from a very small cultural aristocracy in 1913, whose bizarre, shocking and decadent tropes and behaviors are confined almost entirely to exclusive upper-crust circles found only in places such as Harvard and Greenwich Village.

            What were these people called? By themselves and others? Communists, generally. Though when they wanted to confuse outsiders, they’d say “progressive” – and still do. But poking at this paper-thin euphemism, or any of its friends – “radical,” “activist,” and a thousand like it – is “Red-baiting” and just not done. You’ve got to respect the kayfabe.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            Chalid, Iain, and Brad all make the good point that, well, there’s obvious reasons that an MBA person would prefer Clinton over Trump that are far more obvious than “has been indoctrinated with a certain package of academic-left ideas”. Someone doing a business degree likely views right-wing populism as a threat to their pocketbook, just like left-wing populism. The stereotypical business student would probably have supported an establishment Republican if that had been available, but would take a predictable establishment Clinton over an unpredictable ran-as-an-outsider Trump.

            National Review dedicated an entire issue to being against Trump – are they indoctrinated with left-wing activist ideas?

            To say that, say, a business pushes back against social conservative legislation is because the business is indoctrinated – I would counter that one thing businesses are very good at is following the money. Bud Light and TD don’t sponsor Pride because LGBT rights are dear to them – they sponsor Pride because it brings them more money than it costs them, overall. Eli Lilly is probably more worried about potential hires being turned off from working for them.

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            My experience in university was, simply, that you didn’t run into this stuff unless you wanted to, for the most part. Sure, if you got involved in student politics past a certain point, you’d be deep in the wacky world of left-wing student politics that never actually accomplishes much except sinecures for those individuals who play the game best. If you’re in the fields of study that are big on a certain type of academic left-wing thinking, well, you signed up for it.

            I took a humanities degree and did graduate work and I never really ran into any of that stuff, even in courses where you might expect I would have. The atmosphere was left-wing but it was not a dictatorship of the Studies Studies crowd.

          • Matt M says:

            ” Eli Lilly is probably more worried about potential hires being turned off from working for them.”

            Yes. yes yes yes. And this is my point exactly.

            The fact that they assume their potential hires (which include many Harvard MBAs) will automatically want them to side with the LGBT rights argument rather than the argument that enjoys great popular support among the rank and file citizens of the state where the vast majority of their workforce lives and comes from suggests something, does it not?

            The fact that you HAVE to take the SJ side on any and every issue in order to appeal to likely candidates suggests something about the likely candidates, does it not?

            If it was true that most future executives simply rolled their eyes at SJ and didn’t care about this stuff, why would every large company on Earth feel the need to proudly display the rainbow flag at any and every opportunity?

          • skef says:

            @Matt M

            The relevant question is whether your classmates would for a second consider voting for McCain or Romney, not Trump. Conservative-leaning business types tend to either be Libertarian or not have any real problem with the establishment. The establishment will probably treat them pretty well!

            And you’ve now entirely switched the topic of the conversation from the dangers, real or imagined, of SJWs to a more general complaint about how “elite” universities tend to be liberal and have liberal students. The latter predates the former for decades. You could entirely eliminate the far-left social justice movement and that could remain.

            And anyway, check back with your classmates in ten years.

          • Matt M says:

            “The relevant question is whether your classmates would for a second consider voting for McCain or Romney, not Trump.”

            No it’s not, because McCain and Romney are “acceptable” opponents. Trump support is a pretty good proxy for anti-SJ in a way that those two (both of whom were constantly denouncing Trump on explicitly SJ-inspired terms) are not.

            I easily admit that Trump support isn’t a perfect proxy for SJ, but it’s about as close as we’re likely to get and have data on.

            You’re probably right that my future classmates will get more conservative after a few years of actually being in that top tax bracket. On economic issues at least. But on SJ ones? Nah, I don’t think so. They’ll seem to be non-SJ in 20 years only because 20 years from now, all the things SJs fight for now will be codified into law and the new battleground will be some weird thing that none of us today even consider an issue at all. I can’t even imagine what it might be.

          • skef says:

            The fact that they assume their potential hires (which include many Harvard MBAs) will automatically want them to side with the LGBT rights argument rather than the argument that enjoys great popular support among the rank and file citizens of the state where the vast majority of their workforce lives and comes from suggests something, does it not?

            The fact that you HAVE to take the SJ side on any and every issue in order to appeal to likely candidates suggests something about the likely candidates, does it not?

            Has Eli Lilly instituted a white employee shame day recently, and somehow the news just skipped reporting it? Are their lobbyists arguing for reparations? Are they about to restructure their board out of its 90s-style blandly smiling token diversity?

            Is it possible that these companies have just done the game theory and determined that the (probably not overwhelming!) benefits of being able to also hire gay people outweigh the grumbling-but-not-quitting of some of their other employees? You do realize that many “social justice” issues are not coffee room discussion topics for some people, right?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            But Eli Lillly is hiring from across the US, isn’t it? If it was only hiring people born and raised in Indiana, things would likely be different – is the majority of its workforce from Indiana? Support for same-sex marriage is a majority opinion in the US as a whole (whereas a minority of people have university degrees, and “supports same-sex marriage” is hardly a view restricted only to campus left activists or whatever). I would imagine it is higher among the sort of people who have the skills a major pharmaceutical company is looking for – even for STEM people, university degrees are associated with social liberalism, right? It’s not the actions of people who are indoctrinated, it’s the actions of people following the money.

            “MBAs like Clinton more than Trump” and “Eli Lilly opposes laws largely written against gay people” are not huge data points in favour of the view “the campus left is indoctrinating all who ascend the ivory tower”.

          • skef says:

            @Matt M

            What you’re basically saying is that Trump is close to being a single-issue anti-SJW candidate. If that’s true, there is no reason to vote for such a candidate unless SJWs constitute some sort of unique danger to the Republic. Some people on here think they do; I think and have argued that position is unhinged: Having a group of people who say you do immoral things is not the end of the world. It certainly doesn’t justify voting a narcissistic clown with no attention span into a role where he will occasionally have to do things. Maybe your classmates agree with that assessment.

            For more people, “SJWs” are just being used as a proxy/smoke-screen for “gay rights”. People against that issue might be heading towards marginalization. I think things are better now that people against interracial marriage generally keep that to themselves, or talk to each other in Takimag or whatever. Cultures change over time. And Trump himself isn’t offering any active help with gay rights anyway, so he isn’t a good proxy for that issue.

          • ” Anyone outside of certain social sciences or humanities can never once at all be involved with social justice and graduate easily.”

            I think that depends on the school. At the two schools I know most about (Oberlin from one of my children, SCU because I teach there) I don’t think that’s true. In both cases social justice issues, left wing ideas more generally, show up in classes outside those fields and are highly visible outside of class in the university culture, both official and unofficial.

            I’ve mentioned the week on sustainability we had a few years back. All faculty members got the suggestion that they give a talk on sustainability, although nobody was required to. My daughter’s story about a professor who took it for granted in what he said that everyone in the class agreed with left wing positions (and, to his credit, was apologetic when my daughter pointed it out to him) was teaching geology.

            In most fields one can reject such ideas and graduated easily but, in at least some schools, one cannot avoid all involvement with them.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The word “elite” is doing almost all the work in your argument. Lots of people go to colleges that aren’t particularly fixated on these issues one way or another.

            And are the ranks of the federal courts, corporate executives, Congress, and the top of the executive branch selected from those non-elite schools?

            No?

            I dunno, I just don’t get this. It’s like if Harvard and Yale and every liberal arts school had a Department of Astrology which received uncritical support from the school administration, substantial subsidies, and was required to exist by Department of Education directives; a supermajority of college students expressed enthusiastic belief in astrology; faculty who were publicly skeptical, even if they don’t (usually) lose their jobs, would still face harassment from the students, the media, and other faculty; speakers from JREF and CSICOP were chased off college campuses by violent mobs; and 85% of Harvard MBAs would not vote for the loudly pro-business Presidential candidate who happened to be born under an unlucky star sign. And if you complain about this, people just roll their eyes at you and say it doesn’t have any effect on anything.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @skef:

            Has Eli Lilly instituted a white employee shame day recently

            I wouldn’t actually be that surprised. I don’t know pharmaceutical, but I could name three tech companies that might as well, even if they don’t call it that. And one issue no one’s mentioned so far is that Human Resources (in all fields), which often sets such policies, recruits strongly from completely SJ-controlled university degrees.

            Are their lobbyists arguing for reparations?

            Here we have them funding the mayoral campaign of the chief strategist for Black Lives Matter:

            http://nlpc.org/2016/05/17/social-media-ceos-embrace-black-lives-matter-censor-critics/

            Are they about to restructure their board out of its 90s-style blandly smiling token diversity?

            Ha ha, no; Social Justice is useful for the board in keeping potential usurpers controlled, and keeping up the whole “corporate responsibility” thing to avoid campaigns against them. If they restructure their board it’ll because they let it get out of control.

            Having a group of people who say you do immoral things is not the end of the world. It certainly doesn’t justify voting a narcissistic clown with no attention span into a role where he will occasionally have to do things

            That all depends on whose ox is being gored. The SJWs demand I keep all my beliefs about the issues they care about to myself or face permanent excommunication from the workforce and society. To put that more concretely, they would have me die in the street because I openly disagreed with them. If what it takes to stop them is a narcissistic clown as President, then a clown it is.

          • Matt M says:

            ““MBAs like Clinton more than Trump” and “Eli Lilly opposes laws largely written against gay people” are not huge data points in favour of the view “the campus left is indoctrinating all who ascend the ivory tower”.”

            I feel like you’re still moving the goalposts.

            The issue isn’t “some MBAs like Clinton more than Trump” but rather “the people who will soon be in charge of every major corporation are 10x less likely to support Trump than the general population”

            And the issue is not “Eli Lilly sometimes flies a gay pride flag” but rather “every major corporation takes the SJW side of every major political issue 100% of the time”

            And my original point was not “the left succeeds in indoctrinating everyone who passes through” but rather “universities are uniquely positioned to at least try to indoctrinate, and to whatever extent they succeed, that means SJ won’t hold power ‘only at the universities.'” Like, influence is relevant here. It would be dumb to claim something like “sure professors are universally left-wing, but all plumbers lean right so it evens out on net”

          • skef says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            The justification for a candidate because he’s a businessman is about as good as the justification for voting for a candidate because she’s a woman. What exactly is the case for Trump being “pro-business” beyond his running a business? The main business-related issue he ran on was protectionism. Is that likely to be in the economic interests of your classmates, or the GDP? Good or bad, protectionism is basically a form of redistribution through social engineering. Trump also seems like someone who would be just fine with a shift towards more blatant crony capitalism. The Carrier stunt exemplifies that model.

            As far as the rest of it, there are any number of worries one could raise about the influence of elite institutions, and that have been raised over the decades. I don’t like the concentration of power either. But I don’t see any evidence that social justice issues have more cultural influence at elite institutions now than, for example, fraternities (or “eating clubs” or skull-and-bones or whatever), the appeal of which at that level is the combination of partying now and influence peddling later. If the concern is supposed to be that social justice issues are particularly toxic, many people on this thread have pointed out that college “indoctrination” even at its most effective doesn’t move the needle very far.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The main business-related issue he ran on was protectionism. Is that likely to be in the economic interests of your classmates, or the GDP?

            Are you going to tell me with a straight face that corporations don’t like protected markets and government subsidies?

            many people on this thread have pointed out that college “indoctrination” even at its most effective doesn’t move the needle very far.

            Even if true, which it’s not, how would that make it okay? If it was the officially-supported, well-funded, and corporate- and media-endorsed Department of Race telling college students how black people were inferior, would that be perfectly fine if most — not all! — college students just “rolled their eyes” and ignored it?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            The issue isn’t “some MBAs like Clinton more than Trump” but rather “the people who will soon be in charge of every major corporation are 10x less likely to support Trump than the general population”

            OK, but you were using this as a proxy for “MBAs = SJWs”. There’s other reasons why MBAs might be 10x less likely as the voting public to support Trump, some of which have been given here.

            And the issue is not “Eli Lilly sometimes flies a gay pride flag” but rather “every major corporation takes the SJW side of every major political issue 100% of the time”

            I think you’re equivocating between fairly standard issue social liberal stuff, like same-sex marriage, and serious heavy-duty left-wing activist stuff. What has Eli Lilly done to put them beyond standard issue social liberal opinions?

            Look, I think there should be more ideological diversity at universities. But they aren’t ruled with an iron fist by campus left-wing activists.

          • rlms says:

            @ThirteenthLetter
            “Are you going to tell me with a straight face that corporations don’t like protected markets and government subsidies?”

            Are you saying that Hillary wanted significantly freer markets than Trump? My impression was that the candidates had similar positions on government subsidies, but Trump wants to discourage companies using cheap foreign labour. So someone who runs a company that would affect would prefer Hillary. As would someone in a senior role at one of the large law firms or banks that donated to Hillary.

          • Matt M says:

            “I think you’re equivocating between fairly standard issue social liberal stuff, like same-sex marriage, and serious heavy-duty left-wing activist stuff. What has Eli Lilly done to put them beyond standard issue social liberal opinions?”

            Is it not worth asking why every major corporation (including ones whose major operations are concentrated in the middle of deeply red states) takes the left-wing side of every social issue 100% of the time? Even if they’re just “regular left” and not “radical left” this is still noteworthy, is it not?

            My suggestion is that it just might have something to do with the fact that these companies are run, exclusively, by people who have spent 4-6 years in an environment that everyone readily admits is dominated by left-wing thought and is actively trying to indoctrinate its students to agree with them. You seem to be taking the position that these two things are wholly unconnected. I challenge you to submit a better theory then…

            The fact that they only succeed in moving everyone to “standard left” (although I would suggest “this religious freedom law is so offensive we’re going to flee the state” is somewhat radical….) rather than complete total radical left is not the concern here.

          • Iain says:

            Is it not worth asking why every major corporation (including ones whose major operations are concentrated in the middle of deeply red states) takes the left-wing side of every social issue 100% of the time?

            Chick-fil-A.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Okay, 99.5%.

          • @Iain re Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby:

            The U.S. has about 19,000 firms that employ 500 or more people. To get above the .5% conceded by ThirteenthLetter, you need another ninety-three counter-examples. Considerably more if we don’t limit it to firms that large.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            Is it not worth asking why every major corporation (including ones whose major operations are concentrated in the middle of deeply red states) takes the left-wing side of every social issue 100% of the time? Even if they’re just “regular left” and not “radical left” this is still noteworthy, is it not?

            First, 100% of the time? Second, what social issues are coming up? I would argue that they fall into line on things where the national public opinion has already changed, mostly.

            Ask what their incentive to do that is. It can’t just be something to do with corporate executives.

            My suggestion is that it just might have something to do with the fact that these companies are run, exclusively, by people who have spent 4-6 years in an environment that everyone readily admits is dominated by left-wing thought and is actively trying to indoctrinate its students to agree with them. You seem to be taking the position that these two things are wholly unconnected. I challenge you to submit a better theory then…

            But you’re equivocating between “left wing” and “SJ” again – a standard social-liberal view of things is left-wing but unremarkably so. Universities being left-wing is not a new thing.

            The fact that they only succeed in moving everyone to “standard left” (although I would suggest “this religious freedom law is so offensive we’re going to flee the state” is somewhat radical….) rather than complete total radical left is not the concern here.

            What do you mean by “radical left”? I would argue that a lot of the campus-variety left wing activist types are anything but radical in their demands. Their flavour of identity politics goes along well with neoliberalism, which is part of the reason it’s flourished.

          • Iain says:

            @David Friedman:
            I will be sure to do so as soon as ThirteenthLetter comes up with 18,905 examples of his claim. Or, if we want to stay proportional, perhaps he can come up with a mere 398 examples of major corporations taking a strong stance in favour of access to abortion?.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Can we not take this mindlessly literal attitude, please?

            Obviously “100%” of major corporations are not on board with “100%” of social-justicey thought. “100%” of anyone isn’t anything in any context, ever. It’s an exaggeration, it’s a metaphor. And you can’t trumpet a few counterexamples and then insist this somehow erases (for example) the way, after Obergefell, so many major corporations rushed to paint a rainbow on their logo, despite the fact that a large chunk of the population — and of the corporations’ customers — weren’t on board with Obergefell.

          • rlms says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            Maybe you/Matt M shouldn’t make hyperbolic claims about how many companies speak out in favour of left-wing issues then. If he’d made a defensible claim like “many companies spoke out in favour of gay marriage, and far fewer spoke out against it” there would’ve been no pedantically “literal” quibbling.

          • Iain says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            I can never remember: is this the motte, or the bailey?

            You keep falling back to Obergefell. This is because same-sex marriage is your only example. Your purportedly ironclad rule doesn’t even extend as far as abortion, which should give you pause about how widespread this phenomenon you claim to have discovered really is.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            What was the point of the pedantically literal quibbling, other than to avoid the issue?

            If I said to you “I just couldn’t get out of bed this morning” would you start demanding proof that I was literally tied down? Or would you be able to make the connection that no, it’s not that it was genuinely impossible for me to get out of bed, this is just how human beings talk?

            Your purportedly ironclad rule

            And now we’re back to the pedantically literal quibbling again.

          • Iain says:

            Nobody has engaged with the substance of your claim because you have not yet made the claim in a form that is possible to engage with.

            You pointed out that major corporations have embraced LGBT rights. This is true. This embrace occurred around the same time that public support for same sex marriage crossed the 50% mark nationally. This is your only evidence. From this flimsy basis, you extrapolate a claim that “every” major corporation is dominated by left-wing ideology on “100%” of social issues. We have already established that by “every” you mean “some”. I will take your refusal to respond to my questions about abortion as an implicit concession that “100%” is also ridiculously overblown.

            If you want me to stop “avoiding the issue”, then instead of complaining about how mean I am for taking your words at face value, you could tell us what specifically you think “the issue” is. Don’t make me guess how seriously I am supposed to take each individual adjective.

          • The Nybbler says:

            After Obergefell? Major corporations were jumping on the gay marriage bandwagon _before_ Obergefell. And there’s the North Carolina transgender bathroom law; major sports franchises boycotted, PayPal pulled out, 68 companies signed a DoJ amicus brief against the law:

            http://www.hrc.org/blog/68-companies-sign-hrc-amicus-brief-to-block-HB2

            Financial firms, tech firms (including not just the Silicon Valley firms but IBM), an insurance company, and even Corning and GE.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Didn’t Obergefell happen after support for same-sex marriage crossed the 50% mark?

          • Matt M says:

            But why is U.S. popular support the relevant metric?

            Lilly manufactures and sells it drugs all around the world – is global support for same-sex marriage above 50%? (I suspect not, but I honestly don’t know)

            But of course, the vast majority of its operations (and nearly all of its corporate stuff) happens within Indiana, where we know it’s below 50%. Why doesn’t that matter?

            Why is the nation the particular jurisdiction of relevance for a company with a global presence broadly but a hyper-concentrated red-state presence specifically?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Are the vast majority of its sales in Indiana? The American market is probably the most lucrative, pound for pound. Additionally, where does it recruit from?

          • Jaskologist says:

            If polls were any good these days, Hillary would be president-elect.

    • Iain says:

      This is a great article. Thanks for posting it.

      • sweetcandyskulls says:

        Meh, I think you could write a more rigorous and persuasive defense of Identity politics if you really tried Iain. You stand heads and shoulders and most of a torso above the other liberal writers I’ve seen.

        *awkwardly flirting

        • Iain says:

          Do you have me confused with somebody else?

          Assuming that you are serious, although it seems somewhat implausible: I have no illusions that I am a better writer than Jacob Levy. If you find me more compelling, I can only credit the fact that I am writing for a particular audience in this comments section and can target my arguments accordingly.

          But: thanks, I guess?

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            100% serious, cmon that article takes every single important point for granted! It’s not going to convince anyone who doesn’t already believe all the assumptions. You on the other hand have actually made me question my beliefs before, no contest.

    • Spookykou says:

      There is something particularly absurd in the post-election morality plays that say “whites [or white Christians, or white Christian men] have now learned how to do identity politics and how to vote like an aggrieved ethnic group, because that’s what other groups have been doing all these years.” White identity politics is a constitutive fact of American politics, and if an election in which the Republican got the normal share of the white vote counts as white identity politics in action, well, that suggests a deep problem, but it doesn’t suggest a new problem.

      White identity politics has moreover been a constitutive fact of the illiberal expansion of state power. The effect of some of the oldest instances of this are still with us, as is seen in the recent struggle over placing the Dakota Access Pipeline on lands that were reserved to the Sioux nation in an 1851 treaty that was subsequently violated but never voided. The effects of the decades-long white welfare state and the redistributive subsidizing of white wealth accumulation through housing policy are very much still with us in the wealth gap between whites and blacks, to say nothing of the enduring effects of racially discriminatory housing and urban policy on the shape of American cities. But the most currently politically salient effect of white identity politics as a source of state power is the combination of policing, imprisonment, crime policy, and drug policy.

      Can someone clarify exactly what they are saying is ‘white identity’ in this section. As far as I can tell the examples of white identity are basically just racism in america? To be clear, I don’t dispute any of the particular claims about racist policies and practices in America, and I don’t actually think this election has much to do with white identity, it just seems weird to try and argue that white identity is a thing, when apparently it’s only salient quality is racism.

      I might just be confused on what ‘identity’ means here, but I assumed it had something to do with culture, and it seems to me that white america is probably one of the least culturally homogeneous groups in the world. At least for groups as divided by national boarders.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It appears (baed on the paragraph before) the article considers “identity politics” to be the situation where race is the fundamental line of political division. He goes on to claim that most post-Jim Crow American domestic policy was done “in order to persuade white voters that blacks were being kept under control”.

        • Spookykou says:

          I have only seen the term identity politics as it is used here on SSC, where it mostly seemed to be a proxy for SJ, and I assumed it just refereed to cultural appropriation and things like that. Which is where my assumption that a shared culture was needed or involved came from.

          A google search of the term returns,

          a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.

          From what I understand white people are not particularly lumped into one political party or the other. So this is also no good.

          I think you are onto something, I imagine the author is using identity politics to refer to any instance in which a political action is racially motivated, and since so many political actions in american history are racial motivated (At the expense of non-whites, or to the benefit of Whites) then this is a clear indication of identity politics in favor of the ‘white identity’ which seems to just mean white people.

          • John Schilling says:

            From what I understand white people are not particularly lumped into one political party or the other. So this is also no good.

            “lumped into” suggests that someone else is doing the lumping; identity politics is I think generally used to refer to the claim that members of identity groups are themselves choosing one political party or the other based on that party’s perceived policy of supporting the interests of their race (or whatever) as such. It is pretty clearly the case that lots of black people, and the vast majority of LGBT people, vote for Democratic politicians because “Democrat” is seen as an identifier for “supports specifically black/LGBT interests”.

            “White identity politics” refers to the contentious but not universally accepted claim that white people are beginning to do the same thing with the Republican party. It is a particularly popular theory among the What’s the matter with Kansas crowd, who are certain that the Democratic party best represents the true interests of working-class white people and can’t think of any reason other than racism / identity politics for white people to vote Republican.

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            I see identity politics as stereotyping groups by claiming that people of a certain race, gender, etc are stereotyped. Sometimes this is right. It is true that people regularly get treated differently by their race, gender, etc.

            One problem with this is that the same tendency to attribute things to ‘identity’ unfairly (which we call racism, sexism, etc) is also a common failure mode by advocates of identity politics. In social justice, you see this very strongly, where all kinds of questionable assumptions are made. An example is the assumption that the gender earnings gap is caused primarily by discrimination, rather than by men and women making different choices that affect pay.

            Another big problem is drawing conclusions about individuals from statistical differences. Just because white people benefited from redlining on average, doesn’t mean that each individual white person benefited.

            A third problem is that identity politics often ignores context and different treatment that people who are not in their ingroup face. An example is that people from lower class groups are often looked down on, including by many left-wing people and especially in certain places, like universities. Advocates of identity politics are fairly often guilty of similar behavior against these groups as they claim is unfair against the groups that they like.

            Ultimately, the biggest problem is that it tends to condense complex reality into a simplistic model that sorts people into ‘the oppressed’ and ‘the oppressors’ based on their born traits, rather than their actual beliefs and behaviors. Such models tend to lead to tribal warfare, where people feel the need to pick a side and adopt extremist policies, in defense against perceived aggression by the other side (which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as that behavior is interpreted by the other side as aggression, so they do the same thing).

        • gbdub says:

          And if “white identity” can only manifest as racism, why would we expect “black identity” or “gay identity” to manifest as anything other than anti-white/het-bigotry? Certainly it could be bigotry against a historic oppressor, with a net effect of increasing equality, but it’s still bigotry and will elicit the same negative reaction from its target.

          Honestly the major success of the civil rights movement was largely came from fracturing “white identity” and reducing its importance among white Americans. The potential danger of strong identity politics is that if you outgroup white people qua white people, they can start thinking of themselves as an identity again. You’ve reminded them of their race, made them race conscious while simultaneously telling them the only role for their race is negative.

          Historically, white people are pretty damn good at oppressing other people, and there are still a lot of us.

          • cassander says:

            >Honestly the major success of the civil rights movement was largely came from fracturing “white identity” and reducing its importance among white Americans.

            I don’t by that, at all. Pre-1960 America was not made up of some pan-white alliance. It was about one group of whites decided to start caring about the plight of blacks, most of whom lived in a part of the country dominated by another group of whites that they didn’t much like to begin with. If any identity was shattered, it was southern identity shattered for a second time by utter defeat.

            >Historically, white people are pretty damn good at oppressing other people, and there are still a lot of us.

            This is a vacuous, meaningless statement. A silly left wing piety.

          • gbdub says:

            Well, pre-Civil Rights (which I’d say goes back farther than 1960, but call it what you will), there was inter-white tension but they could mostly agree that black folk were definitely inferior.

            In any case I think we do agree that the Civil Rights movement succeeded due to white people willing to place the plight of black people ahead of other white people, because their whiteness was not the key to their identity. An actual “pan-white alliance” would have been fatal.

            I agree my last statement is vacuous, but I actual did not intend it as left wing. Rather, I meant it as something of a reminder / threat – if we really have a race war, white people will win, and win hard. I’d prefer we not do things that might push towards that.

          • cassander says:

            > there was inter-white tension but they could mostly agree that black folk were definitely inferior.

            sure. They also agreed that catholics, jews, and women were inferior. What of it?

            >In any case I think we do agree that the Civil Rights movement succeeded due to white people willing to place the plight of black people ahead of other white people, because their whiteness was not the key to their identity. An actual “pan-white alliance” would have been fatal.

            Again, sure, but that was hardly a new thing.

            >I agree my last statement is vacuous, but I actual did not intend it as left wing. Rather, I meant it as something of a reminder / threat – if we really have a race war, white people will win, and win hard. I’d prefer we not do things that might push towards that.

            My apologies then, that’s a much more interesting point than what I thought you were saying.

            Of course, I’d argue that identity politics DOES push you towards race war. [Literally](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakup_of_Yugoslavia), in some cases. Politics is always mostly about identity, but the fig leaf of ideology or interest goes a long way towards keeping things civil. Naked identity is a dangerous thing.

    • cassander says:

      This article ignores the biggest problem with identity politics, that they increase the salience of tribal identities and divisions. Identity politics does not sometimes “go wrong”, as he puts it, it constantly makes things worse As a rule, we should strive to reduce the salience of identity, not highlight it, because people do not trust the other.

      Now, there are times when identity politics is called for. For example, I would certainly say that benefit from eliminating jim crow was much greater than the cost of racialized politics in the 50s and 60s. The trouble is, once that genie is out of the bottle, it doesn’t go back in. the author suggests that students picking fights over pronouns is some aberration, but it isn’t. It’s the logical consequence of a polity geared towards accepting and encouraging fights over identity rather than issues. A diverse society needs incredibly strong norms against identity politics or it will tear itself apart.

      It does not help that much of Levy’s argument is based on a history of the war on drugs that doesn’t mention the 60s massive rise in crime once.

      • gbdub says:

        For example, I would certainly say that benefit from eliminating jim crow was much greater than the cost of racialized politics in the 50s and 60s

        I agree in part, but ultimately Jim Crow was eliminated because black people convinced enough white people to be less racist and force the rest of the white people to go along. In other words the civil rights movement worked against white racial unity – the politics were “racialized” but were targeted at reducing the prominence of race as a defining feature.

        “Identity is the key to everything, and race is the most important part of your identity, unless you’re white, in which case the most important thing is to not be racist and help dismantle your unfair privilege” is not really sustainable unless you have a critical mass of white people willing to accept that things are (still) unfair enough to justify policies targeted to help other races. Using “white” exclusively as an outgroup and insult is going to erode that critical mass.

    • Salem says:

      I guess Lebanon must have the most liberty in the world, then.

      In addition to the points already made, I’d add that all the “good” instances of identity politics he lists are just responses to other, “bad” identity politics, racism being the most obvious one. Identity politics is brutal and destructive of the polity. In particular, democracy relies on people being able to change their minds, while identity politics relies on people not being able to change their identity. Turning all politics into identity politics will ruin us all.

      Now, that doesn’t mean that any side should unilaterally disarm, but it does mean we should all work to reduce the salience and pervasiveness of identity politics. Unfortunately, the left generally views identity politics as a positive thing and tries to encourage it; until they change their minds on that, any possibility of gradual detente is a non-starter.

      • Tekhno says:

        Unfortunately, the left generally views identity politics as a positive thing

        The post-2010 illiberal left. I think the other leftists are still around.

  11. TheLogologist says:

    Hi! It’s my first time commenting. (Been lurking for a few weeks/months.) I probably won’t say much (I’m a grad student, so little time for non-school-related writing), but I enjoy reading and learning from the posts and comments threads.

    Also, it’s my birthday!

    That’s all.

  12. cassander says:

    I’d be interested in discussion the David Friedman/James Scott debate here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXn2FH4hvn4

    particularly with those inclined to support Scott’s side of the argument. On purely stylistic grounds, I’d have liked to see a little more direct back and forth. The gold standard for this sort of thing, in my view, is this debate, about naval policy. That aside, I can’t find much to disagree with David on. I’m a big fan of Scott’s, I like the way he thinks, and I think it’s a shame he imbibed so much bog standard leftism in his youth because he really is an interesting thinker.

    • I like James Scott too. On subjects he has devoted serious thought to his views are original, interesting, and may well be correct. On everything else he is a conventional leftist.

      There was supposed to be more interaction but something went wrong with the timing, I’m not sure what, with the result that our rebuttals were drastically shortened.

      • sflicht says:

        Did you ever publicly debate your father on anarchism?

        • No.

          He thought my system might work but probably would not. I thought it might not work but probably would. Hard to make a debate out of that.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            are you some kind of big shot or something

            if so why are you just out here in these streets commenting

            and if not whats up with that

          • onyomi says:

            It’s probably news to him, but apparently he’s the new ambassador to Israel, so definitely a big shot. (I think I need a screenshot before someone fixes this… “Trump nominates anarchocapitalist…”)

          • Not news to me–I got an invitation to a Hanukkah event from the Indian Embassy. I emailed back that they had the wrong David Friedman.

          • onyomi says:

            Oh wow, that’s pretty funny that even official organs have the wrong guy.

          • LHN says:

            While it would involve a different brand of anarchism, I’m entertained by the image of simply going with it and attending the events, to engage in freelance diplomacy in favor of one’s preferred policies.

            There have been a few superheroes who sometimes effectively serve as ambassadors without portfolio in that way: either notionally representing a country that doesn’t otherwise have normal diplomatic relations with the world but really representing a philosophical stance (e.g., Wonder Woman) or operating through sheer moral authority in much the same way they fight crime or alien invasion (Superman frequently winds up in this position, though unfortunately the most prominent instance was the terrible fourth Christopher Reeve movie).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @LHN:

            Are you saying that just because his name ends in “man” he’s a superhero? That’s a pretty offensive assumption to make.

          • Randy M says:

            “Look! Holding an economics text and a battleaxe!”
            “It’s a bird!”
            “It’s a plane!”
            “It’s…. DavidFried Man!”

          • LHN says:

            @dndnrsn I observe that he also has an alternate identity (in which, as I recall, he doesn’t wear his glasses!), is known to dress in unusual garb (I don’t know if it ever includes a cape, but it certainly has incorporated armor), and is publicly engaged in a never-ending struggle.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            OK, now we definitely need to see this through to Issue #1 (Instant Collector’s Item! Astounding Origins Story!).

            Doesn’t Byran Caplan write comic books in his spare time? Seems like a libertarian economist would be an obvious pick to write it.

            Now we just need a penciler, an inker, and a colorist. I’d like somebody who can give it a Kirby-like vibe.

            Oh, and a villain. All of the good ones are dead, except maybe Kim Jong Un.

            And stakes—say, the fate of a major metropolitan area. Pittsburgh seems like the logical choice.

            Anybody have a Kickstarter account?

  13. onyomi says:

    Does anyone know any good studies, scientific or humanistic, quantitative or qualitative, on the cognitive challenges of urban life as compared to agrarian and/or hunter-gatherer life?

    • Reasoner says:

      I’ve heard In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life recommended.

    • Well... says:

      Maybe try Desmond Morris’s “The Human Zoo”

      …I read it back in college and thought it was interesting but more applicable to prison than urban life. But my views might be different now that I’m far more anti-urban.

      PS. Also, find some of Sherry Turkle’s academic papers and raid the citations. I’ll bet there’s at least one or two in there along the lines of what you’re looking for.

    • onyomi says:

      Hi, thank you, these are helpful, though to be more specific, I’m looking more for work on the transition from agrarian feudalism to early modern urbanization (like, the Elizabethan era, but could also be e. g. rural India more recently), as opposed to the transition from the industrial age to the digital age. Weber comes to mind, of course, but I’m not up on more recent work, ideally of a more psychological/cognitive bent.

      • Aapje says:

        I believe that you are asking about a transition that didn’t happen, as feudalism typically ended before proper urbanization began.

        My current understanding is that urbanization is usually driven by both push and pull factors, where the former is often because of agricultural reforms that improve farmer productivity, causing unemployment among farm hands and/or causing small farms to lose out to bigger, more efficient ones.

        This important factor seems to be severely under-examined, including by Weber.

        • onyomi says:

          More than a few people, it seems, credit the Black Death for reducing the population enough that the drop in supply of labor allowed farmers, previously stuck at subsistence, to command higher wages and attain a degree of freedom from their feudal landlords previously impossible. Both because it’s gruesome, and because I generally buy into the Julian Simon “man’s creativity is our greatest resource” argument, I feel somewhat loathe to believe this. But I’m also not sure it’s wrong.

          However, I’m here not talking about big historical trends, though a discussion of such would be interesting; I’m talking more about this: in the Elizabethan era, for example, stats I’ve found say the urban population increased from 5 to 15% of the total (and not because of mass farmer death). All those new people in the city were having a very different experience of daily life than they were in the country: different social interactions to navigate, different kinds of jobs, quite literally different landscapes and sights and smells greeting them each day. In some ways seemingly much more complex, though, maybe in some ways also simpler (I’m struck when I take a walk in the woods by just how much more complex that environment is in some ways: just to avoid tripping on a branch or slipping on a wet rock requires a lot more attention than on a city street).

          I’m especially interested in thinking about those differing cognitive demands and expectations and how they might have shaped thought more generally (for example, if suddenly you are paying a lot more attention to social hierarchy by necessity, this will affect the type of literature and philosophy and art you produce, potentially).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            More than a few people, it seems, credit the Black Death for reducing the population enough that the drop in supply of labor allowed farmers, previously stuck at subsistence, to command higher wages and attain a degree of freedom from their feudal landlords previously impossible.

            I’m not saying this is wrong, but at first blush it seems like reductions in population due to acute diseases would hit demand harder than supply. I realize the Black Death wasn’t directly human to human transmitted, but my sense is that it flourished in dense areas?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            I can’t remember the economics of it – took the relevant university course long ago – but the general historians’ consensus is that the plague put European peasants and labourers at an advantage afterwards. It could be wrong, of course, but it’s fairly uncontroversial.

            I have to imagine that the generally poor infrastructure of Europe during that period would complicate supply/demand calculations quite a bit.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Onyomi, right, there was urbanization in the 12th and 13th centuries, followed by deurbanization and the breakdown of feudalism in the 14th century.

            HBC, there are two claims: (1) that farmers acquired more food and freedom; (2) deurbanization. The quoted passage is about (1), which has a simple economic explanation. (2) is more complicated and uncertain. Maybe it is just that concentrations were vulnerable to the plague.

            Yes, the claim is basically that reduction in population hit demand for food harder than supply, reducing its price and allowing poor farmers to buy more. But it is probably better to phrase this in terms of supply and demand of land and labor, not food. The supply of land was unaffected, but the supply of farmers was reduced. So the value of land fell and with it the wealth of the landowners. The value of labor rose and thus the calories consumed by the farmers. Of course, feudalism isn’t a market economy — serfs aren’t supposed to move to better offers — but the owners of unoccupied land broke the rules.

            But what about the urban poor? Could they afford more food? If the farmers have abandoned the less productive land, they are more productive per capita, so they should be able to support a larger urban proportion. But I think urban populations decreased, not just in absolute terms, but also as a proportion. I think that the standard explanation is that cities produced goods for landowners, who were now poorer.

          • Chalid says:

            But wouldn’t the urban laborers also become better off? I think that was a time when physical capital was relatively more important than human capital. So after the Black Death you suddenly have the same number of tanneries, mills, smithies, etc as before but half the people to work them, and labor productivity goes up across the board.

          • “I can’t remember the economics of it – took the relevant university course long ago – but the general historians’ consensus is that the plague put European peasants and labourers at an advantage afterwards.”

            The plague killed people but not land, so increased the land to labor ratio, which decreased the equilibrium rent, which meant that more of the return from farm labor went to the farmer, less to the owner of the land.

            And, since more land meant less need to work relatively marginal land, output per farm worker went up.

            My view is that a large part of the “peasant bound to the land” idea came from the consequences of that change. Rent, in the form of feudal dues, was customary rather than continually renegotiated, so when market rent went down and wages went up, many peasants were paying more than the market rent for their land, which meant that they had an incentive to find a different lord, or a city job, that would pay them more. Lords had an incentive to try to poach peasants from each other to cultivate land that was now out of cultivation.

            So the lords tried to get the legal system to prevent peasants from moving. Given the lack of a strong central government, they were not very successful.

            That’s based in part on a comment by Bloch that legal definitions of serfdom in France do not describe serfs as “attached to the soil” prior to the fourteenth century.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, Bloch says that the “attached to the soil” was a new development, in place of attached to the master. But either way, the serfs weren’t supposed to run off to the city or to better offers.

          • keranih says:

            Part of the transformation of European ag post-plague was an increase in farmer efficiency and production – as stated above, the number of farmers decreased while the amount of (cleared) land remained static. This allowed each farmer to control more land, so that the three-crop system came into its own. The amount of work each farmer/farm laborer could do didn’t increase(*), so more land was allowed to lie fallow each year, with a resulting increase in crop yield per acre worked.

            (*)Additionally, the plague didn’t impact livestock nearly as much as humans, so draft animals (and deer, and pigs, etc) could be put to better use. But human/livestock cycles closely interact, more so than farmers/land. The livestock of sick/dead people was unlikely to all prosper, particularly when whole villages died off.

            These *probably* had a larger impact than abandoning less productive land, but it’s hard to say with a TARDIS.

            The same sort of thing happened cyclically in China (and probably any other place with long-term established property rights) during their peace-famine-war-peace rotations.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Keranih, people in this thread have proposed several different mechanisms by which reduced labor might have increased per capita productivity: abandoning unproductive land, more plows per capita, more smithies per capita to build plows faster, and crop rotation. More productivity per capita should increase the ability to support non-farmers, a proportionately larger urban population. But I claim that the opposite happened. Abandoned farmland might not be so important to productivity, but it is important to the bargaining position of the farmers, which produced the major effect — more calories for farmers.

          • ChetC3 says:

            The other part of this is that for some things, like wages (as observed by Adam Smith), the rate of economic growth is more important than absolute wealth. While in the wake of the black death total wealth declined, the growth rate went up.

  14. KG says:

    There was a comment thread in an earlier open thread where I think someone who was thinking of going vegetarian was asking about vegetarian foods, perhaps asking what vegetarians like to eat, and people replied with a bunch of culinary vegetables and beans (I have a bad memory so this might be wrong on various points).
    Anyway I vaguely remember wondering why nobody was mentioning any of the foods I like, which, aside from cheesy pastas and Mexican and Thai food, mostly are prominently fake meat. As someone who used to eat meat, this seems like the most obvious thing to do if you like protein products with sauce, and it occurred to me to wonder if maybe not that many people even understand fake meat?
    As a kid I thought “veggie burgers” were literally hamburgers without the meat patty, and it took me maybe a year into vegetarianism to realize that there was a vast diversity of fake meats, many of which I quickly began to prefer to real meat. As far as I’m concerned it’s mostly the sauce that makes the taste anyway.
    So I guess my question is, do people generally not realize that fake meat exists or isn’t just plain vegetables, or has the fake meat market simply vastly expanded relatively quickly? Or are there indeed a bunch of vegetarians that eat fake meat who I just never virtually meet?

    • Well... says:

      If, like an alcoholic who resorts to drinking mouthwash, you miss meat so much you feel compelled to nibble the rotten garbage they try to pass off as fake meat, then maybe you should just eat meat.

      Your mind should be honest with your mouth about the decision to become vegetarian. I don’t know why you’d want to live with one part of yourself lying to another.

      • sflicht says:

        I think this is an area in which there has been genuine technological advance in recent years. Reports suggest that Impossible Foods, specifically, by incorporating heme into its fake meat, has achieved a vast improvement in quality.

        That said, I’ve not tried it myself, and I share your opinion about most fake meat / TVP / etc.

        • JayT says:

          I’m curious to try the Impossible Foods stuff as well. I’ve heard some good reviews, but it’s hard to know if the people that like it have a similar palate to me or not.

          I’ve tried may different fake meats, and they all tasted either like garbage or overly spiced meat that has had all the flavor boiled out of it. I have a lot of vegetarian friends, and they are always amazed that I can tell when something like a casserole is made with fake meat instead of the real deal, and, in turn, I’m always amazed they think it tastes anything like meat.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @JayT

            This may be expensive … but I suggest trying some really good veg dishes at really good restaurants. Ideal would be a long buffet hour where after sampling to find out which ones you like, you can go back for more.

            You seem to be putting a lot of attention into this. In your position, I’d pay much attention to what features of meat you like best, and look for some of them in veg or ‘fake’ meats. My mistake was in trying to find one single product that resembled meat in all respects. With hindsight, I’d start out at a buffet and fill my plate with grilled eggplant (for texture and juiciness), portabello mushrooms (similar texture with decadent musty taste), tempura with things other than meat, lentils stewed* in ‘gravy’ of ginger, garlic, etc, and ‘meat masala’. Anything flavorful with firmish chunks of paneer or tofu.

            Do you need tips on how to find deeper info?

            * aka ‘dal makhini’

          • JayT says:

            Oh, I have no problems with vegetables, and I eat vegetarian fairly often, I just haven’t ever tasted fake meat that was appetizing. Tofu stir fry is a go-to meal for me. I wouldn’t have much trouble going full vegetarian, it’s just that I would eat actual vegetables, not processed soy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Tofu stir fry is a go-to meal for me.

            I would eat actual vegetables, not processed soy.

            Um, I hate to break this to you, but….Tofu

          • JayT says:

            Haha, fair enough. You know what I meant though. Soy processed to be meat-like. I have no problem with processed foods, I just have a problem with crappy processed foods.

          • beleester says:

            Weird. I hate the texture of tofu, so I always look for fake meat when I can get it. I wish I could get seitan reliably; it’s the best meat substitute I’ve tasted, but none of the stores near my house carry it.

          • onyomi says:

            Chinese v. Japanese Buddhist cuisine provides an interesting case study, the stereotype being that the Chinese Buddhists were masters at creating “fake meat”–things that look and taste like meat, while the Japanese Buddhists focused more on bringing out the flavors of the non-meat things they were allowed to eat.

          • Skivverus says:

            @beleester

            Was a staple for me growing up; didn’t really register that it was called “seitan” until relatively recently, though: the words on the cans were always “Chai Pow Yu” (with apostrophes I don’t presently remember the position of; also, the ch and p were pronounced j and b respectively).
            Don’t know if that’ll help you find any, but might be worth a fresh look.

        • Loquat says:

          My husband really wants to try the Impossible Burger, and is currently a habitual consumer of unconvincing fake burgers and chicken strips/nuggets. It probably helps that he tends to douse them in various strongly flavored sauces.

          Me, I tend to agree with Well that if you want to cut out meat you should learn to like vegetables and beans for themselves rather than eat fake meat all the time. I happened to read this Vox article by a woman who gave up meat for fake meat earlier today, and my primary reaction was annoyance that she seemingly felt like she had to eat either real or fake meat at every meal and never once mentioned eating a legume.

      • Montfort says:

        This post is just baffling. Is your mind lying to your mouth when you eat food that tastes like other food generally, or only in this one specific case? Should we stop combining foods to produce flavors the constituent ingredients lack? What, exactly, is inherently wrong with liking (allegedly) meat-like flavors and textures and believing one of the various non-flavor-related arguments against eating meat?

        • rahien.din says:

          > Is your mind lying to your mouth when you eat food that tastes like other food generally, or only in this one specific case?

          The point isn’t that the food is altered at all. The point is the intent of that alteration. One who objects to practice of harvesting and consuming flesh and yet seeks out food with the taste and texture of harvested flesh… it may be too strong to call that “lying” but it’s at least a little dissonant.

          That said, I’m not a vegetarian but I can think of plenty of “honest” reasons to eat fake meat. Maybe they grew up eating meat and that sensory/cultural experience is still important or habitual. Maybe there is a bit of delight in the scandal of having that experience, in the very slight violation of one’s principles. Maybe there is some value in teaching their children about the appearance and flavor of meat, which they will undoubtedly encounter in the larger culture.

          In that case, if the mouth says “Give me meat” and the brain says “We shall not slaughter animals,” then fake meat seems a good compromise.

          • Montfort says:

            One who objects to practice of harvesting and consuming flesh and yet seeks out food with the taste and texture of harvested flesh… it may be too strong to call that “lying” but it’s at least a little dissonant.

            Sorry, I don’t think I see the dissonance. We have some experience X which is usually achieved by action A. Arguendo, A is bad for some reason – morality, health, environmental concern, whatever. But there’s some other action, B, that can achieve almost-X, and shares none of the characteristics we object to about A, as far as I know. I cannot understand what is wrong with doing B to get something like X. Is X (the experience of meat-like taste) inherently bad? Is there some facet of B that actually is objectionable in the same way as A?

            Or to fill in the blanks another way – lots of people like living in big country manors. The easiest way to do so (in this hypothetical) is to enslave some unfortunate people and live off their labor. What is so wrong about living in a big country manor with money you earned with your own two hands, without enslaving anyone?

          • Well... says:

            My original comment was meant to be somewhat tongue in cheek. (It was late and I was a little drunk with fatigue.) But, there’s a kernel in it that I do feel pretty genuinely strong about, and you summed it up nicely: “One who objects to practice of harvesting and consuming flesh and yet seeks out food with the taste and texture of harvested flesh…” Yes, dissonant is the right word for it.

          • rahien.din says:

            Thanks Montfort. Let me know if this is not a fair summation of your argument :

            If we seek a certain object/experience, there may be ethical ramifications to the method of obtaining that object. In certain circumstances, the possession of a certain object/experience could indicate that one has engaged in certain practices (EG, living in a big country manor in the age of feudalism indicated that the owner had exploited some vulnerable workers) which would be ethically compromised. But, outside of those circumstances, if more ethically-sound methods of acquisition exist, then possession of that object/experience does not necessarily indicate ethical compromise. Thus an object/experience does not necessarily enjoy a certain moral status independent of the method of obtaining it. A person who works hard to become wealthy and buy a manor house is not the same as a person who becomes wealthy by enslaving people.

            To that I would wholeheartedly agree. However, my point is different.

            Fake meat is not an independent object like a manor house – it is a simulation. Thus, the value of fake meat is not merely in its mere deliciousness, or in the constellation of gustatory sensations it induces. Instead, the value of fake meat is in how authentically it simulates the experience of eating meat, IE, the degree to which it lets you pretend to eat harvested flesh. All of its other characteristics (texture, flavor, smell, deliciousness) are subject to the overriding purpose of simulation. Because it is a simulation, this pretending is the only possible use that would cause a person to choose fake meat over other similarly-delicious non-meat-like foods. Furthermore, if two fake meat products of similar deliciousness are compared, and one of them is a more convincing simulation of harvested flesh, then it is definitively the better product.

            Moreover, the act which it simulates is not merely the eating of flesh, but the harvest thereof. The degree to which one can pretend that a certain fake meat product was acquired through butchery is the degree to which it achieves its purpose of simulation. This is identical to how the ethical objections to eating meat pertain inseparably to the consumption of the flesh and to the method of its harvest. Therefore, one can not separate the experience of eating meat from the experience of being convinced that flesh has been harvested. The inescapable purpose of fake meat is to simulate a single method of acquisition.

            It is ethically dissonant to hold that {action} is ethically wrong, but simultaneously to strive for the authentic experience of {action}. It doesn’t matter if the experience’s method of acquisition is sterilized with respect to consequentialist ethics. The desire for the experience of the violation of ethical codes is still consequential, if only to produce a slight dissonance.

            In contrast, because a manor house is not itself a simulation, it can be put to many uses, including the enjoyment of the nice things therein, a nasty delight in lording over one’s servants as though they were slaves, converting it to charitable purposes, or simply burning it to the ground. Some of those are ethically neutral, some are ethically questionable, and some are ethically noble. Importantly, all are independent of the method of acquisition in both practical and experiential terms. Furthermore, there are ethically-dissonant ways to use a manor house for the purpose of simulation. I believe slavery is ethically wrong. I was to buy an old manor house and hire a bunch of people to act the part of slaves, I could do so with their consent, I could guarantee their health and safety, and I could compensate them generously. In doing so I would not truly be engaging in slavery. But if my purpose is to faithfully simulate the experience of owning slaves, then there is a dissonance between my ethical values (slavery is wrong) and my actions (to live like a slaveowner to the greatest degree possible).

            So the more faithful comparison may be between a manor house and soybeans. If I use a manor house for the delight of using the nice things therein, there is no dissonance, but if I use it to pretend to be a slaveowner while simultaneously holding that slavery is ethically wrong, there is ethical dissonance. If I use soybeans for the delight of eating soybeans or some other product chiefly identifiable as a soybean derivative, there is no dissonance, but if I use them to pretend to eat harvested flesh while simultaneously holding that harvesting flesh is ethically wrong, there is ethical dissonance.

            It’s worth pointing out that a person who had no concept of the harvest of flesh (such that they could neither intend to have that experience nor realize they were having that experience) could eat a fake meat product with no ethical dissonance.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            you know, I never ate meat and I still like fake meat a lot, because it tastes pretty good

            does that put a big hole in your theory? And I ask that seriously because I’m a bit tired and don’t want to digest the whole post, it seeming a bit below-caliber to me, but if it does, then consider your theory holed

          • Skivverus says:

            @rahien.din

            Thus, the value of fake meat is not merely in its mere deliciousness, or in the constellation of gustatory sensations it induces. Instead, the value of fake meat is in how authentically it simulates the experience of eating meat, IE, the degree to which it lets you pretend to eat harvested flesh.

            I’m pretty sure the objections to fake meat from meat-eaters mostly fall under the “insufficiently similar-tasting” heading; I don’t think there’s much in the way of concern towards the authenticity of the item as “coming from a real, brutally|humanely slaughtered animal”. Citation: prepackaged meat, of the sort you find in supermarkets and thus of the sort first-world meat-eaters mostly consume, bears very little resemblance to the animals it was presumably produced from. It remains easier to simulate this kind of meat than the less processed varieties so far as I’m aware, but neither avenue has come up with something indistinguishable on the taste front.

          • Montfort says:

            Thanks, rahien.din, I think we understand each other. In fact, I now can identify a quasi-empirical (I think) claim that we disagree on:

            Thus, the value of fake meat is not merely in its mere deliciousness, or in the constellation of gustatory sensations it induces. Instead, the value of fake meat is in how authentically it simulates the experience of eating meat

            To the contrary, I would suggest that various meat products occupy pleasant locations in flavorspace[1] (which has dimensions corresponding to the eating experience like smell, texture, savoriness, etc. but not abstract knowledge like the known or assumed source of the food), and fake-meat eaters are primarily attempting to get something that occupies a similar space. That is, I think people are pursuing a particular combination of flavor and mouthfeel and so on, not the authentic quality of meat.

            I admit that right now most criticism of fake meat is that it doesn’t taste close enough to real meat, but I maintain that that’s because fake meat isn’t currently very good at fitting into the same niche as meat. The difference here is that I think it’s conceivable one could improve on real meat without harvesting flesh, for instance a version of venison that is much more tender, or a more savory chicken-substitute. And I maintain that essentially no one would complain that these were “inaccurate,” and they would generally prefer them to more-authentic substitutes[2] (or, for carnivores, prefer them to real meat).

            Similarly, I would agree with Skivverus that generally people don’t seem all that interested in being convinced that fake meat is like meat in aspects other than the eating experience.

            Now, it’s true your objections would apply to a cottage industry of vegetarians who strive to make the perfect simulation of eating meat, but I don’t think that’s really a thing most people do, and certainly not what I expect KG is trying to do. (And if people were doing that I might have more to say on that subject).


            1: As an aside, I’m not totally sure what you mean by “similar in deliciousness” – but if you mean what I think you might, I don’t think ranking foods based on one-dimensional “deliciousness” is very helpful. Very few, if any, foods are strictly dominated in eating pleasure, and even that small set is not the same for everyone. Most people would agree that pancakes are more delicious than plain oatmeal, but those same people occasionally prefer plain oatmeal to pancakes.

            2: To be more precise, probably once fake meat got close enough to the established “good” area of flavorspace, I expect some number of people might still prefer food more like real meat than the generally better fake meat. And those people, as a linguistic shortcut, might say “it doesn’t taste like the real thing” or “it’s not enough like real meat” rather than “I would prefer for this to taste a little bit more salty, and also without the faint hint of hickory-smoke, etc, etc.”, but I expect most or all would really mean the latter.

          • rahien.din says:

            I think I follow you (and Skivverus) better now. Your claim seems to be that fake meat could occupy a culinary niche similar to but distinct from the simulation of harvested flesh. And that point is well-taken – that is indeed a different use to which the product could be put. But, I limit my claim to people who A. hold that the harvest of flesh is morally wrong, and B. want to experience a convincing simulation of eating harvested flesh. That’s what I find ethically dissonant, and though we might quibble about how often it actually occurs, we seem to agree about that dissonance.

          • Montfort says:

            I wouldn’t say I totally agree about the dissonance, though I can certainly see where you’re coming from. It seems inconsistent with other things I believe and parts of my preferred moral framework, depending on some fine-grained distinctions on what “simulation” means and how convincing something has to be to be morally relevant. If you’re really interested, I can expand in the new OT, but I currently haven’t gotten my thoughts together well enough that they can be written sufficiently briefly.

            (And technically, I think the meat and the replacement could occupy the exact same culinary niche without producing dissonance if the hypothetical fake-meat eater were pursuing the niche for the niche itself, independently of how well meat occupied the niche, but you might agree on this point)

            But I don’t want to make it sound as though we’re still dramatically at odds. Overall I think we’ve converged quite a bit in understanding, thanks for taking the time to explain.

          • rahien.din says:

            Likewise, thanks for taking the time. This has been quite a lot of fun.

            If you do write further, I would certainly find what you had to say interesting and would try to respond – but don’t feel obligated.

      • Brad says:

        Your mind should be honest with your mouth about the decision to become vegetarian. I don’t know why you’d want to live with one part of yourself lying to another.

        I think this boils down to some system of morality in the virtue ethics camp vs one from the consequentialist camp.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I don’t see the issue here. Every functioning adult has animal urges they need to suppress. It’s hardly hypocritical to think eating meat is bad while also recognizing that meat is delicious. If you can approximate the taste without the ethical issues, why not?

        • rahien.din says:

          Every functioning adult has animal urges they need to suppress… If you can approximate the taste without the ethical issues, why not?

          I don’t know that fake meat qualifies as suppression of an urge. Maybe the subversion of that urge? On could compare this to thoughtfully and safely practiced consensual BDSM. BDSM isn’t a compromise between the desire to rape someone (or be raped) and a faithfully-embraced ethical code. It’s playing with one’s own quirks of physiology. Fake meat, in contrast, is subverting the desire to consume harvested flesh.

          Imagine a food that could induce a similar mouth-state of deliciousness as meat, but without even a passing resemblance to meat. If one was to choose the food that resembled meat instead of the food that didn’t, then something other than pure gustatory experience would be at work. And the ethics of eating the meat-like food while denouncing the harvest of flesh could be questioned.

          To take the meal out of the question, imagine a person for whom the following things are simultaneously true : 1. the act of slaughtering pigs with a hatchet gives them a singular feeling of delight, without which their life is genuinely and significantly diminished, and 2. their ethical code forces them to recognize this act as cruel and impermissible. So they don’t do it. But let’s say there was a VR game wherein they engaged in the realistic slaughter of simulated pigs. Or there was a drug which would replicate the brain-state they experience after slaughtering a pig.

          It would definitely be more ethical for them play the game or take the drug than to slaughter an actual pig for the sheer joy of it, but it might be less ethical than abstaining from the impulse entirely. At the very least, if one is to simultaneously denounce the impulse to hack up a pig while engaging in either of those replacements, it would beg some slight justification. Engaging in a simulation of the impulse’s fulfillment is still, in some sense, to fulfill that impulse.

          But that still isn’t consequentially unethical per se. Playing Assassin’s Creed doesn’t make one a murderer, nor reveal some deep impulse to murder. It’s just on a grayscale of ethical dissonance – an ethical blue note on the continuum from ethical to unethical. We should just acknowledge that people are wired up funny in terms of their ethics and preferences, and be glad that we can prevent negative consequences of that funny wiring.

      • Jon S says:

        I’m not a vegetarian, but I find this comment bizarre. If you like the taste of X, but can’t eat X, enjoying something which tastes similar to X is not a lie. Your comment makes me think that we evaluate food on orthogonal dimensions – I genuinely don’t understand where you’re coming from.

    • Chalid says:

      What types of fake meat do you recommend?

      • KG says:

        I typically use Morning Star’s beef crumbles as a ground beef substitute for pasta, that’s pretty generically useful, and their buffalo wings are good (not that spicy, I actually add hot sauce, but still something). Morning Star in general has fairly decent products I think, though Quorn is sometimes tastier albeit more expensive.
        From Quorn I think my favorites are their fishless filets and turkey roast things, though the latter needs proper seasoning I think.
        Outside home, my favorite restaurants with fake meats are probably “Mint and Basil” and “Ike’s”. Neither is very widespread unfortunately.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          yes, yes, yes, to everything you said about morning star

          their chipotle black bean burgers are also pretty dang good. the beef crumbles are great for Home Made Nachos <3

      • tgb says:

        Field Roast smoked apple sage sausage. If only it were cheap…

    • Spookykou says:

      Speculating, personally I find that most fake meats are aesthetically unpleasing, and the particular combination of flavors can be achieved without resorting to pre-made fake meats. There might be a decent portion of vegetarians who feel the same way? Overlap between people who hate ‘processed’ foods and vegetarians seems reasonable to me at a glance.

    • Matt M says:

      I feel like non-vegetarians don’t always know that all vegetarian options are not necessarily “fake meat”

      At least speaking for myself personally, I always assumed a “veggie burger” was attempting to replicate the taste of a beef hamburger through some sort of weird soy compound, and I had no interest in that. It wasn’t until I was at a school cookout and was late getting in line such that all the beef burgers were out and all they had left were “veggie burgers” that I was basically forced to try one. It was some sort of spicy black bean-based patty and was actually quite tasty, even though it didn’t really taste like a beef patty whatsoever.

      • Randy M says:

        Likewise, I think that an appealing vegetarian cuisine should play up the strengths of vegetables rather than try to mimic meat, although if fake meat is what some vegetarians prefer, I have no honest objection to such a thing.

        • keranih says:

          This. I love well done veggie-based meals. Granted, I think they are even better with pig grease than with olive oil, but that’s because of BACON.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        To be fair, both kinds of veggie burgers exist.

        I’m a much bigger fan of the ones that are a vegetarian patty that isn’t trying crappily replicate a meat experience. We have literally thousands of years of experience with things like falafel.

    • rlms says:

      I eat fake meat relatively frequently, and so do most vegetarians I know. Most people (including non-vegetarians) seem to agree that it varies in quality a lot (e.g. fake chicken/beef mince is a lot nicer than fake bacon).

  15. Odovacer says:

    Kids and Consent.

    I’ve seen several permutations of this article pop up online over the past year. I’m ambivalent about it. On one hand, sure, I remember sometimes hating to have to hug my aunts and grandma and get kisses on the cheek as a kid. I would run away and act very difficult. My mom didn’t like me behaving like that, but she didn’t want to fight every time about it. I recall that my grandmother, a woman who would often watch me when I was younger and changed my diaper when I was a baby, passed away when I was going through that phase. It makes me a little sad to realize that I didn’t want to spend less than 5 sec of being a little uncomfortable giving her a hug; this woman had done a lot for me in my early life and I was very selfish not wanting to make her happy by giving her a hug.

    I mean, I understand that some families have sexual abusers in them and kids should definitely be kept away from those people. However, I think kids can sometimes be selfish little savages who would need to be taught to be civilized. Yes, teach kids about good touch and bad touch, but also teach them that sometimes their feelings aren’t the most important thing in the world. A hug from a loved one is different from a molestation.

    What do you think? How were you as a child and how do you (or did you) plan to raise your children regarding showing family members affection?

    • Odovacer says:

      Also, I think the foundation of the article “teaching kids bodily autonomy and consent” is a bit weak. Parents violate kids’ autonomy and consent all the time. They force them to eat at certain times, making kids put disliked food into their very bodies. Parents also force kids to take time-outs alone in their rooms, suspending their freedom of movement. Hell, parents will often pick up and move children who are having temper tantrums in public. If physically moving them against their will doesn’t violate their bodily autonomy and consent, then I don’t what does. Not to mention making kids do chores (slave labor).

      Also, the entire premise of these articles strikes me as very weak:

      For so many reasons, it’s important that we respect a child’s wishes when it comes to who touches them. If we want them to make healthy choices as they get older in regard to sex, we need to show them now that they needn’t please anyone with their bodies; no matter how innocent and loving the request. Hetter says, “Would you want your daughter to have sex with her boyfriend simply to make him happy? Parents who justify ordering their children to kiss grandma may say, ‘It’s different.’”

      As the author notes, it really isn’t. We’re giving them the tools now to make healthy decisions about their bodies and in their relationships down the road. These are habits that, as the meme suggests, will keep children safer for the rest of their lives. It’s a great lesson to teach, no matter your parenting style..

      I’m very skeptical that forcing a kid to hug a loving relative will cause any sexual/psychological damage to them or lead them to making bad decisions. Besides, what’s wrong having sex with a significant other to make him/her happy? There have been multiple occasions where I’ve not been in the mood, but will have sex to make a gf happy, and I’m sure the reverse is also true. My feelings and wants aren’t always the most important thing in my relationships.

      • Chalid says:

        I generally agree with what you say. But on the other hand, does a forced, reluctant hug actually make anyone happy?

        My kids aren’t old enough for this to be an issue yet. But in general my thinking on parenting is that you give kids autonomy unless there is a good reason not to. I don’t think the slight embarrassment of having to tell grandma “she’s been shy about touching people lately” rises to the level of a good reason.

        (To be clear, looking at your other examples, I do think that “you need a balanced diet, not all cookies all day” and “you can’t yell in this restaurant and disrupt everyone’s meal” do rise to the level of good reasons to override kids’ autonomy.)

        • Randy M says:

          I generally agree with what you say. But on the other hand, does a forced, reluctant hug actually make anyone happy?

          Miles of difference between forced and reluctant. A reluctant hug is “I’m sacrificing my comfort to make you happy.” A forced hug is “My parents like you and I have to do what they say” which is a much less endearing message but still might beat out “This family doesn’t care for you,” which the old aunt denied affection might read into it.

          My children have very different levels of comfort with physical affection, and I don’t think there’s been much situations where they have been pressured to hug or kiss someone else, though we’ll sometimes ask the older one for a hug whereas the younger ones are sometimes asked to stop clinging or jumping on us parents for a bit.
          Concern for their bodily autonomy doesn’t extend to letting them throw fits around other people, though.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Chalid
          But on the other hand, does a forced, reluctant hug actually make anyone happy?

          I hope not. That would train the child to ignore her own feelings to match the signals from the father and from the grandmother — which are probably fake also.

      • J Mann says:

        It really depends on the kid. Some kids find it so traumatic that they really do need to be excused.

        But in the general case, I agree with you. Hugging someone even when it makes you uncomfortable is a good exercise in giving a crud about how other people feel, and claiming a hug veto is a good exercise in narcissism. I suspect most people with kids have had a discussion about how courtesy, small talk, etc., is how we signal that we give a crud about how people feel.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ J Mann

          Then use tasks like writing postcards, giving little gifts, repeating a joke or poem.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I agree with the article. Kids have the right to have their own likes and dislikes. When you as a parent over-ride these things, you should be doing it because the kid doesn’t understand what is good for them. Getting a hug the kid hates isn’t “good” for the kid — it is self-absorbent on behalf of the relative that insists on it.

        Yes, the article over-states its case. But in general it is true that you are building up self esteem for a kid when you let them have their own likes and dislikes. When kids are forced to do what adults like to do even when kids hate it, you are teaching them that some people’s desires don’t matter. I think you are more likely to have them become neurotic adults or cruel adults.

        • Matt M says:

          “When kids are forced to do what adults like to do even when kids hate it, you are teaching them that some people’s desires don’t matter. ”

          Is “sometimes your preferences don’t matter and it’s fine to do something you dislike for a few seconds to appease someone with significant power over you” not a valuable lesson with wide-ranging application in adult life?

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t have kids, so my ideas can be taken with a grain of salt, but my personal feeling based on having once been a kid myself, is that, as a kid, though I was more impulsive and selfish and high-time preference relative to now, I still was a lot more willing to do things I didn’t like if someone explained to me why it was a good thing to do.

            For example, I do recall adults sometimes making me do things I didn’t like on the simple theory that “being miserable builds character.” I don’t think this was very effective, and tended to make me resentful. On the other hand, if you told me, for example, “Aunt Alice likes you a lot and you will hurt her feelings if you don’t let her give you a hug,” then I think I would probably be more okay with it.

            So to my mind, with my hypothetical future kids, if they say “ewww, I don’t want to hug grandma,” my feeling is that I’d try to ask them why. If the answer is “grandma smells weird!” then I’m going to say “well, being an adult means thinking about other peoples’ feelings, so I really think you should just tough it out and don’t tell her she smells weird, because she loves you and that would hurt her feelings.” If the answer is “Uncle Bob touches me in a way which makes me feel weird,” then, obviously, something more significant may be up (even if only from the child’s perspective) and the child needs to be taken seriously on that preference.

  16. J Mann says:

    Does anyone know if there’s a reasonably credible tally of hate crimes that appear legitimate after investigation or look like hoaxes? Anecdotally, it seems like there are definitely some of each.

  17. Anonymous Bosch says:

    Test post please ignore

    EDIT: That’s odd, I can suddenly comment again, but all day yesterday my comments were being swallowed into nothingness after I hit “Post,” across multiple computers and browsers

    • AnonEEmous says:

      did you change your login e-mail

      I had a similar issue but going from Chrome to Firefox fixed it; changing my login e-mail seemed to fix it (though I can’t prove that 100%, posted right after but it might’ve been a confluence of events)

      it may have come as a result of one of my comments being manually deleted, as well – look into that

  18. razorsedge says:

    Have any of you read the book a first rate madness? What do you make of the theory that great leaders in times of chaos function better when they are mentally ill?

    • cassander says:

      Geniuses and madmen both see things other people don’t. In normal times, status quo bias and peer pressure act to strongly suppress both. Anyone shouting that the emperor is naked is hauled off by the guards or scorned by his friends. In chaotic times, those mechanisms break down, allowing space to proclaim that the emperor is naked, whether he is or not.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      Winston Churchill – Wikipedia

  19. Back in January of this year, on the SSC subreddit, we were invited to make predictions for 2016, and assign percent chances for each one.

    My approach was to list 20 low-probability events, assign each of them 5% probability, and expect that ONE of the twenty would occur during 2016.

    And that is exactly what happened: only #12 occurred.

    Admittedly, there is a chance that #19 will also occur, but the December unemployment numbers won’t be released until some time after the end of the year, so arguably that wouldn’t count.

    • Spookykou says:

      I heard that the fire in Tennessee was up to half a billion in property damage?

    • shakeddown says:

      Nice. Are we doing one for 2017?

    • Callum G says:

      >(17) During 2016, in the U.S., there will be ZERO mass shooting events with >10 fatalities.

      What about the Orlando night club shooting? Arguably that would tick off #18 as well.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      (20) Strong evidence will be found that life exists (or has existed) on another planet.

      This had a 5% likelihood? I think the others made sense. This is more 0.01% in any given year.

      • This had a 5% likelihood? I think the others made sense. This is more 0.01% in any given year.

        You’re right, of course. I think I threw that one in because I was having trouble filling out a list of 20 possible dramatic events (or non-events).

    • AnonEEmous says:

      as a nod to my own personal worldview, it would definitely count even if the numbers were released afterwards – the rate is determined by events and metrics, not by when those events are interpreted by people using the metrics and the world is informed of the results

  20. Tibor says:

    @John Schilling: (This belongs to the Dutch thread in the previous OT…I figured that it’s more likely to be read here)

    It’s not an EU law. I was actually quite confused by that statement. The only thing the EU tried to do was to introduce mandatory quotas for the minimum number of refugees for each EU country. But those quotas were not passed (by a wide margin…I think mostly because it is quite unclear how you could even keep the people in place – a lot of them come without a passport or any kind of ID, so they could always just leave and come to another Schengen country, registering themselves under a new name) and currently there is basically no EU-wide refugee policy. Technically, the Dublin agreement is still place according to which the first countries the asylum seekers come to have to register them and either decide to send them back or provide them with asylum. However, this is how it is on paper, in practice it doesn’t work and it is kind of amazing that anyone thought it could work (in case of a huge influx of refugees, like today), since this would basically mean that this is a problem of Italy, Greece, Spain, maybe France and Portugal. Landlocked countries which are completely surrounded by other EU countries would never take anybody.

    In practice, the people come to Italy or Greece, the local police just lets a large number of them through, then everyone does the same thing in the next country and eventually they reach Germany. It is not just Germany, but mostly it is. However, the policies of each country are not governed by any EU-wide laws. The conditions the asylum seekers get also vary a lot by country. Naturally, regardless of whether you’re an actual refugee or a welfare immigrant pretending to be a refugee you will want the best deal, so most of them come to Germany, since it has been (at least so far) the most generous.

    In terms of what to do, there are basically two mainstream opinions in the EU. Austria, Visegrad countries (Czech republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary), Denmark and now maybe some other countries as well have negotiated with countries in the Balkans and closed down the route through there – by building fences and supporting the local border patrols. Most of it was done by Austria and Hungary. The second approach is spearheaded by Angela Merkel – an agreement with Turkey (which is proving to be an extremely unreliable partner, if one can even call Erdogan a partner at all) which should stop the influx of asylum seekers – the Greeks should send back to Turkey the people who arrive on their islands and take Syrians (only Syrians) who were nice enough not to try to come to the EU illegally and they should only take a certain number (while it is not specified what happens after that number is reached). So far, the first approach seems to be working better and there have even been some reports that Erdogan is sorting people by qualification and forbidding the more skilled to leave to Europe. I’m not sure that’s true but it would not surprise me. However, the Turks want visa-free access to the EU (and also money) for their part of the deal (they also wanted to move on the Turkey EU-entry talks, but after the failed coup in the summer and the subsequent purges, Turkey is as far from EU membership as ever). It was supposed to fulfill some criteria first, which it has not and currently the deal doesn’t really work.

    Either way, I don’t understand it at all, especially not what Merkel is trying to do. On one hand she is trying to make it difficult for people to come to the EU, on the other hand she is not willing to set up any limit on the number of refugees or making the asylum conditions strict enough so that only people would apply who are reasonably surely war or political refugees. This way, it looks very hypocritical to me – we are going to make it hard for you to come here, but when you manage to do that, you are almost guaranteed to get an access to the welfare state. The other people have simply built a fence. That works a bit better than relying on a whim of an aspiring dictator, but still the same point applies – we build a fence so that people don’t come here and we don’t “have to” give them welfare. So that’s supposedly fine and noble, whereas setting up more strict conditions on who actually gets asylum of those who come is not.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Actually I think this should be directed not to John Schilling, but the Dutch person (I don’t remember the name) who seemed to be saying that it was an EU law that the Dutch had take refugees and subsidize them (or something like that).

      On a more general note, I would sure like to see more European topics on this comment board. There are enough Europeans commenting here that we should get some good discussions going. I couldn’t contribute much, but I would find it very interesting to see what Europeans think. I think our news in the US is very filtered so it is hard to know what is really going on outside the US.

  21. Tekhno says:

    Has there ever been a time when conservatives were mostly happy with the way things are?

    • onyomi says:

      If we’re talking mainstreamish US convservatives, they seem to have been pretty happy with the Reagan years. “Morning in America,” etc. Hence the tendency for recent GOP nomination contests to turn into “who can best imply that they are like Reagan without sounding immodest” contests.

      Maybe ditto Thatcher and Tories?

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t think conservatives were happy in the 80’s. People were still having more premarital sex than the 50’s, homosexuality was less repressed, and the government was a lot bigger.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’m kinda going to guess you weren’t around for the ’80s.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            is it possible they were happier in the sense of Reagan but maybe unhappy with the underlying society, such that if Reagan had been in the 50s they would have been much much happier comparatively

          • Wrong Species says:

            Are you suggesting that Reagan was able to roll back the Sexual Revolution and Great Society programs? That the newly popular evangelical movement didn’t grow as a reaction to a “godless society”? Or that the record high violence didn’t concern conservatives? I’m trying to figure out what was so wrong about my comment that you thought a snide remark was all you needed, as if it was that obvious.

          • Sandy says:

            Reagan very publicly opposed the Briggs Initiative near the beginning of his campaign for President in 1978, so I don’t think social conservatives could have seriously believed he was going to start persecuting gay people for them.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Wrong Species, it sounds like you’re asserting what conservatives must have thought about Reagan, based on your own image of what conservatives believe the most. My recollection of the era is that conservatives as a group were pretty happy with the guy, because conservatives are human beings, human beings like winning, and Reagan was a winner who was on their team.

            (It doesn’t hurt, too, that he actually did accomplish some conservative goals, which puts him head and shoulders above a lot of other presidents who had an (R) after their name.)

        • The Thatcher years had two major recessions, and saw the advance of gay rights due to a grassroots movement. Even the boom between the depressions saw the winners spending their money on hedonism (sniff, sniff) rather than investing wisely as per the plan. Conservatives were left with the reduction in union power and victory in the Falklands to comfort themselves with. Of course, Mrs T was found to be dispensible in the end.

    • Urstoff says:

      Has there ever been a time when any political ideologue was mostly happy with the way things are?

      • Spookykou says:

        There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

        And more recently, the 90s, when fashion died, Clinton was just playing the saxophone on TV and having a great time as far as anyone could tell, we had no real problems, the crime bubble burst, Japan wasn’t going to conquer the world anymore, and we had Clarissa to explain it all.

        • LHN says:

          “There was”. I think there are plenty of times people are nostalgic about in retrospect, especially in comparison to current troubles. But while there was a brief post-Cold War euphoria, the 80s and 90s were otherwise full of people across the spectrum unhappy with the direction of things. The 90s only really became acknowledged as “good” after 2000, and particularly 2001.

          (In particular, during the 90s, conservatives could point to and worry about Clinton, and liberals the first Republican Congress in four decades.)

          • Spookykou says:

            I am sure there are measurements that we could look at to get a more quantitative look at this although I am not sure what they are, polling or something. I would be really surprised if the 90’s didn’t represent a relative high point in liberal satisfaction over the last 50 years.

          • LHN says:

            Probably– of the two two-term Democratic presidencies in that period, I’m guessing liberals were happier during Clinton’s term than Obama’s.

            (Though I could be wrong– Obamacare in its early days looked like a bigger legislative accomplishment than any of Clinton’s, and the relief over the end of the second Bush administration was plausibly stronger than the first, so it wouldn’t shock me if the peak were early in that term.)

            But I’m guessing it would still come out as “less dissatisfaction”, versus actually being pleased with the state of the nation.

          • onyomi says:

            Unless you’re Noam Chomsky, in which case you’re never happy.

      • Wrong Species says:

        What about British liberals around the year 1850?

    • hyperboloid says:

      You’re making the mistake of imagining that the definition of conservative is constant with respect to time.

      Of the various groups of people we now think of as conservatives some were happy under Herbert Hoover, some were happy under Reagan, and some are nostalgic for the days when everybody liked Ike. But at the time none of them were exactly conservatives. If you support all of the ideas of a popular administration you are almost by definition a moderate, at least relative to the political fashions of the time.

      If it’s the 1950s , and you’re on board with Eisenhower’s policies then you are that most elusive of creatures, a median voter. You have a neatly mowed garage, a two car lawn, and two point five white picket children. You enjoy a regularly scheduled twice a weak missionary position screw with your adequately attractive wife. You go out of your way to make small talk with that friendly negro fellow who works behind the counter at the Woolworth’s.

      “Joe lewis, is the bast damn boxer I’ve ever seen, a great American to, raised a hell of a lot of money for war bonds, credit to your race,” you say “and don’t you forget it.” One day your daughter suggests inviting him over for dinner. You glare at her in silence, the issue is never discussed again.

      To your left are ban the bomb beatniks, and labor union pinkos, to your right, John Birch crackpots, and crazy Texas oilmen who want to take away your social security. Society would be better off, you often think, if someone would just tell the malcontents and trouble makers to shut up. Why after all, you wonder, can’t people just be reasonable?

      (…..uh where was I going with this)

      Any way…

      In a very important sense politically active people are never happy. If you’re basically okay with the way things are going then you probably have better things to do with your time. Politics is a business for two kinds of people, the ambitious, and the discontented.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The fellow you describe might still have a German Shepherd instead of a Labrador Retriever, and thus be a dangerous subversive.

        (For a second I was confused as to why his daughter would be inviting Joe Louis to dinner)

        I’d agree with your final statement. I went to school with people who are probably going to be MPs and such, and noticed two kinds of people into politics – people who didn’t seem to have any political beliefs they were passionate about so much as a general passion for careerism, and people who had a passion for politics, but were very unhappy about politics.

      • sweetcandyskulls says:

        Shit, in my short life I have gone from liberal!! to centrist to right leaning centrist without changing my mind on much of anything. Cthulhu swims on.

  22. GiantPredatoryMollusk says:

    I have made and then broken enough trivial promises to myself to finally lose trust in my ability to act in my own self interest, now or in the future. For the last month I have been promising myself that I will begin applying to basic jobs online tomorrow, or within the next week, or within the next hour. I think my problems are rooted in a lack of understanding of time. Memories from years ago will still physically affect me when I think them. When I worry, I can’t imagine the future well enough to see how things will work out, or to feel consequences coming when I have to do something for a really good reason. And I think that staying awake will keep the morning from happening. Is modern psychiatry/psychology eqipped to deal with me?

    • AnonEEmous says:

      is this thing on

      (taps microphone)

      if you’re reading this

      do it right now

      right now boi

      do not pass go do not collect $200 just do it right now

      i can’t solve your other problems except by this mechanism, because I have similar if not identical issues. The solution is just do it right away.

    • moridinamael says:

      #1 AnonEEmous is basically right

      #2 When this happens to me, I identify it as a mismatch between my high-level prefrontal-cortex-optimized planning and the implicit predictions of my deep subconscious inner bullshit detector.

      Like, if you have never gone to the gym before, but your plan is to start going to the gym 5 days a week starting tomorrow, your inner bullshit detector will call bullshit immediately because it knows you can’t do that, and your brain will just not even bother doing all the subconscious cognitive work of making that happen. (A plan isn’t really a plan unless you’ve set up the situation such that a particularly stupid pigeon would still implement the plan if placed in your shoes.)

      Separately, if your plan is something more modest, like going for a walk after work “because it’s good for you”, but you don’t really expect any benefit from the walk on a visceral level, you probably won’t do it, even if it seems easy to do. This can be addressed by focusing your mind in advance on the the physical pleasures of going for a walk rather than the abstract not-genuinely-felt expectation that it will be “good for you”. Again, stop seeing yourself as a rational being that can be reasoned into things, and think about how to trick yourself into viscerally wanting to do it. Your work isn’t done until you successfully make yourself viscerally want it.

      Basically, “promising yourself things” is a dopey thing to do. It doesn’t even mean anything. Who is making the promise? To whom? You’re just a meat robot that’s either going to do the thing or not for completely deterministic reasons.

    • onyomi says:

      This is only a technique for forcing yourself to concentrate on specific tasks, as opposed to upholding bigger commitments, but if you haven’t tried it, the pomodoro technique can be helpful.

      Like, if I find myself procrastinating too long by reading SSC when I should be working (like now), I’ll just crank up the little timer and for the next 15 or however many mins., at least, I feel psychologically obligated to actually work. Make sure to use something which audibly ticks, as I think that’s part of the effect.

    • Incurian says:

      Go do it now, please.

      Psychology and psychiatry are overqualified to deal with you.

      Are you still reading this? Go get a job!

    • skef says:

      Almost every large, long-term change I’ve made in my own life has come about in the following pattern:

      1) I do something for short-to-medium term benefit (e.g. lose a bunch of weight so I can be thin(er) for a period of time, not for the rest of my life (which fails as a motivation)).

      2) I eventually stop doing that thing and go back to my old ways

      3) Repeat #1

      4) Repeat #2

      5) Now having a good experiential grasp of the contrast between the two ways of life, I can see the benefits of the second way not as some abstract and difficult ideal, but as doing a certain set of things I’ve already done twice, that will be annoying but have certain benefits that outweigh the annoyance.

      6) Do those things, possibly prompted in part by another short-term goal, and continue to do them with occasional stumbles.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If your problem is you break promises to yourself, then why not make promises to other people?

      Don’t say “I will apply for jobs tomorrow”. Tell someone who will keep you honest that you’ll apply for a job every day for the next week, and if you don’t, you owe them five bucks or a beer or whatever.

    • Reasoner says:

      For the last month I have been promising myself that I will begin applying to basic jobs online tomorrow, or within the next week, or within the next hour.

      Did you promise yourself that you would do this at an undetermined time tomorrow, or at a specific time tomorrow? This can make a big difference. I recommend being specific in your promises to yourself. Promise yourself that you’ll spend half an hour applying for jobs first thing after turning on your computer next morning. Then put a sticky note on your computer to help you remember. You can eat breakfast and stuff, it just has to be the first thing you do after turning on your computer.

      Although if your situation is as dire as you say, you might want to start with something even smaller. It sounds like you might be suffering from some kind of internet addiction. I recommend getting a pen and a notebook, then spending all day at a park just writing about your life in the notebook. If you spend the entire day doing this, you will most likely get at least a few ideas for how to make your addiction more manageable. If those ideas don’t work out, you can go back to the park on another day and think about why.

      (Taking a laptop to a place far from home with no internet access works just as well.)

  23. Tekhno says:

    Reddit just banned /r/leftwithsharpedge. I mourn.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      i heard it was due to onsite harassment

      however what i’m hearing is also kind of vague, so what’s your take on that excuse for banning

    • Sandy says:

      Tankies, I’m guessing?

    • Tekhno says:

      @AnonEEmous

      I’m pretty sure it got banned for similar reasons to fatpeoplehate and coontown, but I don’t know the exact story. I’m not so sure there is a left wing bias in our institutions, so much as a big soft wimpo bias. The beige dictatorship strikes again!

      @Sandy
      Mostly “propaganda of the deed” anarchists being internet tough guys. Tankies, I’ve found, tend to want violence to be more organized and view such activity with disdain.

      It was pretty cool because it was much more like a left wing version of /pol/ in spirit, than /leftypol/ is.

  24. Raph L says:

    Is anyone else gobsmacked that our own David Friedman has been nominated as US Ambassador to Israel? Josh Marshall calls him “The Worst of the Worst” but I’m hopeful based on his interactions here. Even though he sometimes shows signs of highly motivated reasoning (such as cherry-picking Hillary’s cattle futures controversy, a speck of sand compared to, say, the collision of PEOTUS into the Emoluments Clause), I’ve found him to be reasonable. David, I wish you the best of luck, and hope that the corruption of power touches you lightly.

    • onyomi says:

      They have the wrong David Friedman. Not sure if you’re joking, but if not, you’re not the only one to make that mistake.

      It is, however, funny to me to imagine a major anarchocapitalist working for the Trump admin.

      • Matt M says:

        Some of the libertarian pages I follow on social media are reporting that Judge Napolitano is under serious consideration for the Supreme Court. I refuse to get myself excited about how awesome that would be – the confirmation hearings alone (which he almost certainly wouldn’t get through) would be glorious.

      • Raph L says:

        Oops. I searched the thread but somehow missed that. Ah well.

      • bean says:

        David, this does raise a question. Let’s assume that through some horrible error, the position was actually offered to you. Would you take it?

    • Randy M says:

      I believe I saw some commenters express some surprise about it upthread.

    • shakeddown says:

      Indeed. Hopefully his respect for personal freedom and property rights will encourage him to push against the amuna law. And David, if you do move the US embassy to Jerusalem, please at least avoid putting it downtown. Jerusalem downtown road traffic is badly planned enough as it is.

      • I’m afraid I don’t know Jerusalem geography very well, having only visited once. Can I put it next to the wonderful two block wide and several block long street market that I discovered on my visit? That’s where I discovered loquats, so when I got home I planted a couple of loquat trees.

        • shakeddown says:

          My dad would not be happy. He goes there every weekend and it’s impossible to get parking there as it is.
          (Also, it’s neat that California climate is similar enough to Israel that you can plant loquats there. I don’t think you could get them in New England).

          • Actually, after planting two loquat trees, one of which has now died, I discovered a couple of small self-seeded loquats on my property. Somewhat later my daughter discovered a large loquat tree in a public location about a mile from us, and I picked a good many.

            It turns out that loquats were grown as ornamentals in California a century or so back. But I had to go to Israel to discover them.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I for one look forward to seeing him explain his innovative “no state” solution for Mideast peace to baffled congressmen.

      • shakeddown says:

        I’m guessing he’d approve of our lack of ability to decide on a constitution, though. No laws is best laws.

        • As an admirer of Maimonides, I have some reservations about what I know of current Israeli law. They have the best documented legal system in the world to start with, and what do they do? They make a kludge between that and modern legal fashion.

          Not that I don’t have reservations about Rabbinic law. As I like to say, by the standards of the Rabbis every Supreme Court justice in history was a strict constructionist.

  25. Deiseach says:

    So Coca Cola started as a knock-off brand!

    Originally marketed as a digestif, an aperitif, and a general cure-all, Vin Mariani became a huge hit across Europe and America when it first came to market.

    Efforts to essentially copycat the product proved successful for John S. Pemberton in the 1880s who initially developed Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.

    But when prohibition came into force in Atlanta – around the same time – Pemberton came under pressure to create a non-alcoholic version and Coca Cola (still containing the ingredient cocaine) was born.

    I know the real thing (sorry) was endorsed by the pope 🙂

  26. Mark says:

    Thoughts on Kant:

    So, an analytic a-priori statement takes the form “x = x” or “x = y” where y is already understood to equal x.
    A synthetic a-priori statement could be demonstrated by working out the truth table for some complex logical statement.

    Am I right in saying that the main criticism of this system is that equivalence is doing too much work?
    There may not be a ‘real’, fundamental, concept of equivalence/identity, it may be more of a learned linguistic convention. If I have one apple and one pear, I learn that I can say the word “one” for both, and it’s this combination of experience and language that enables me to count, to have a concept of number and equivalence.
    So, equivalence itself is synthetic a-posteri knowledge. To the extent that a term means something, it is related to experience – that is as true for logical rules as it is for content. Ever more complex systems of logical reasoning are just learned associations of sounds, which only have meaning to the extent that they are mentally associated with experience.

    So number is a property of the world, not the mind. And yet… it seems to me that a fly, for example, might not have the same experience of number as me, and that there might be some other amazing creature to which we humans are the equivalent of a fly.
    So, if number cannot exist except for a certain mind, if we cannot know what we don’t know, why shouldn’t it be the case that the structure that makes number possible is something based in the mind? There is a danger that the statement “number is a fundamental property of the universe” is just covertly anthropocentric, rather than true. The safest route is to say that number is fundamental for me, with my mind, and not try to speak for the universe.

    • Charlie__ says:

      I think one of the big lessons for philosophy of modern psychology and AI work is that early philosophers had a poor understanding of the difference between features of human psychology and general principles of making good decisions. Things were getting better by Kant, but only somewhat (and he may have been a local high point compared to his continental successors).

      And remember, Critique of Pure Reason was published 1781. The Origin of Species was published 1859. To basically the whole philosophical tradition including Kant, humans were not smarter than monkeys due to time and selective pressure, but because the designer had imbued us with some fundamental essence of smartness and understanding, or perhaps with a couple different essences.

      Anyhow, all of which is to say, I think concepts of quantity and equality is useful for good decision-making and therefore something that is a priori to a hypothetical understanding-essence. But humans might actually learn them through a combination of inclination and experience, and that’s fine.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I think you’re misunderstanding the distinction. A complex tautology is not a synthetic a priori statement.

      • Mark says:

        The example that Kant gave was “7 + 5 = 12”

        My thinking was that having to construct a truth table for a statement with 16 variables, or whatever, is less clearly analytic/tautological.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          Tautological doesn’t mean “easy” or “obvious”. Kant thought (controversially, even for people that accept his general distinction and the existence of the synthetic a priori) that arithmetical claims weren’t tautological or analytic. But an actual tautology, however complex, however, is.

          • Mark says:

            Does it not depend on what you are associating the terms with?

            “That bachelor is an unmarried man”
            The term “bachelor” can only be associated with the same (sensory or abstract) things as “unmarried man”.

            5 + 7 = 12

            I think is somewhat unclear – I think this avoids tautology if you can’t actually use 5 + 7 without turning it into 12. If 5 + 7 is an operation that must be performed rather than a simple term, then the things that we can relate to the unperformed operation (5 + 7) and the things that we can relate to its solution (12) may well be different.
            If you are able to use 5 +7 in exactly the same way as 12, to relate it to exactly the same things, then I would think it is tautologous.
            The simplicity of the operation means that the unperformed operation may, in our mind, be equivalent to its solution, even if unperformed mathematical operations in general are not equivalent to their solutions.

            Which is why I think the point might be better made by using a more complex statement.

  27. Iain says:

    In “did Russia hack the election” news, the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence have confirmed that they concur with the CIA’s assessment:

    The positions of Comey and Clapper were revealed in a
    message that CIA Director John Brennan sent to the agency’s workforce Friday.
    “Earlier this week, I met separately with FBI [Director] James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election,” Brennan said, according to U.S. officials who have seen the message.