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OT66: Thread Lang Syne (+ Irvine Meetup)

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

1. Happy new year! And thanks to everyone who read, contributed to, and supported this blog during 2016.

2. I’ll be in Irvine, California early next week. If anyone there wants to meet, I can make the Peet’s Coffee at 4213 Campus Dr, 7:00 PM on January 4th. Don’t expect many posts during that time.

3. I’ve updated the Mistakes page with a few new mistakes and metamistakes.

4. I know that raikoth.net is down. I think I am going to let it disappear quietly. It was poorly organized and too linked to my real name. I’ll repost the non-libertarian FAQ and other interesting stuff here sometime soon. Thanks to everyone who pointed this out to me.

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959 Responses to OT66: Thread Lang Syne (+ Irvine Meetup)

  1. Deiseach says:

    Okay, the three Open Threads for left posters are done so I can give up my self-imposed non-commenting and annoy even more people!

    Happy New Year to everyone. I have long since given up making resolutions because I never stuck to them and events eventuated anyway in such a manner that “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley”, so I’m not going to make any predictions or claims. May it all go well with us all, and if it cannot go well, at least no worse than need be.

    • Tekhno says:

      I’m giving up my self-imposed exile too, though I was posting in the non-OTs. I think we might be the only two who behaved so honorably and gallantly.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Not quite.

      • Tekhno says:

        We three musketeers.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          hey don’t forget me

          all i did was complain about primogeniture and kurt eichenwald, hopefully that counts

          🙂

        • hlynkacg says:

          four, five?

        • Deiseach says:

          I’m definitely Athos (not that I’ve hanged any spouses but, y’know, I can see the reasoning behind it) 🙂

          As to how it worked, I think it would be interesting to try it again later if we could get a firm commitment or plan that only the left-leaning commented and took the discussion wherever they wanted, to see how it would go. I think it was interesting, but more from my position of voluntary exile where I was restraining myself from jumping in for a couple of places where I badly wanted to go “That is not it, that is not it at all!”

          • hlynkacg says:

            I sympathies. It took a lot of will-power to keep from jumping on the “women in combat” thread.

          • hlynkacg says:

            “Sympathize” I was on my phone and auto-correct/complete seems to have jumped the gun. The edit button also appears to be non-functional.

      • Fahundo says:

        I was gone so long I don’t know what you’re referring to.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I am making a resolution to be earnest on the Internet in 2017.

      I have seen quite a lot of arguments and discussion turn sour when one party turns on the snark and makes the discussion about performing for their in-group. So, I am resolving to proceed from the assumption that I am having a good-faith conversation with everyone I’m interacting with.

      My real goal here is that when I get to the point in a conversation when I’d feel like it was worth it to turn to snark and debate gotchas, I will instead ask myself “Wait, if I don’t feel like I can continue conversation with this person in good faith, why am I doing this at all?” and seek greener and more rational pastures.

      Given that it is often really, really hard to spot sarcasm on the internet anyway, I’d like to encourage other people to embrace this more, albeit temporarily.

      • pseudon says:

        Oh, a sarcasm detector-commentor, that’s a real useful invention.

        (Just kidding, sounds like an awesome idea!)

      • The original Mr. X says:

        That’s a good resolution; I may have to steal it for myself.

      • Cold Black Mirror says:

        I find it helpful to see if the snark at issue can be reduced to some non-snarky core disagreement, maybe a simple error of fact on the other person’s part (or mine). How would I discuss the same thing with a person who hadn’t pissed me off?

        How would I work through the same question with my teenage kids?

  2. R Flaum says:

    How come when I take my dog for a walk and it’s cold enough that I can see my breath, I can’t see my dog’s breath?

    • Gazeboist says:

      Two possibilities come to mind:

      1) You just aren’t close enough to your dog’s mouth to see it.

      2) Your dog’s mouth opens on three sides, allowing warm, moist air to spread out so much that it will essentially never fog up the way air from a human’s mouth would. You might be able to see a bit of fog coming from your dog’s throat and then rapidly dispersing if you looked very closely and it had its mouth open for a long time, but even then maybe not.

      I just made both of these up right now, so it could be something entirely different.

      • R Flaum says:

        I can see humans’ breath at that distance. Though my dog’s a lot smaller than I am, so there’s presumably less breath coming out total.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        The shape of his nose might be a factor. A Bulldog would let out breath warmer than a Siberian(!) Wolfhound.

    • rahien.din says:

      I’ve seen a crow’s breath. So it stands to reason that one could see a dog’s breath in the right cirucmstances.

      • R Flaum says:

        Yes, I’ve seen photos of huskies with freezing breath. But that’s in much colder situations than the one I’m in.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      The dog’s breath must not have as much water vapor in it. That would make sense in view of the fact that panting is a dog’s main way of dumping excess heat, which would only work properly if its body is able to modulate the amount of water it evaporates into the air on its way out.

    • yodelyak says:

      I had the opposite experience today. Driving past a dog and two humans at a street corner, the dog’s breath was visible, the humans’ was not. I suspect that there are a number of factors to consider: dogs’ internal temperature is (I think) hotter than people, and (most important, and as mentioned by Cerebral Paul) the dog’s breath’s moisture content is potentially an important part of how the dog regulates its temperature.

      • R Flaum says:

        dogs’ internal temperature is (I think) hotter than people

        I’m almost certain that this is not true (though their mouth temperature could be). According to a biology teacher I once had, all warm-blooded animals maintain exactly the same internal temperature as each other. The thing is, it’s a local extremum; if you change your internal body temperature, you change the way all your internal chemical reactions work, so once your species gets locked in to a specific temperature range it’s very difficult to change it. And I guess all warm-blooded animals share an ancestor.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s a fairly tight range, but it is a range, and dogs and cats run a few degrees hotter than people.

        • CatCube says:

          I don’t remember the exact value of a dog’s core temperature, but I *do* recall it’s a little over 100°F.

          They have some greater difficulty thermoregulating in hot temperatures, which sort of makes sense, because fur. (I was assigned to a military working dog unit for a while.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            They don’t sweat, which is the big reason they don’t thermoregulate as well. Their primary means of dumping excess heat comes from panting.

          • CatCube says:

            Well, yeah, they use a less-efficient method of thermoregulation (panting) because of their fur.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @CatCube:
            I’m not sure that is correct. According to this Quora post only primates have a great number of the sweat glands that produce human sweat. Primates can be quite furry.

            Cows, sheep (maybe) and horses (defintely) all sweat for thermoregulation using a different kind of sweat gland.

            With a brief glance around, it seems like sweating for thermoregulation is essentially a primate thing. So, in that sense, dogs don’t sweat because most animals don’t. It’s not a “because fur” thing.

            But maybe I am misinterpreting.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      There is a huge difference between breeds. Extremes would be the samoyed and the pharaoh hound or Ibizan hound. The former has extremely good insulation, tiny ears and a relatively short snout. The latter has huge cooling fins on top of its head and very little fur.

      The samoyed depends almost purely on panting for evaporative cooling, the Ibizan hound not so much (it uses the snout as a heat exchanger in order to retain heat when cold and relies a lot on the ears for cooling). I have one of each and the samoyed will have visible breath in relatively warm temperatures, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the breath of the Ibizan.

    • Urstoff says:

      your dog is a robot

  3. Tibor says:

    I am trying to spend my free (and partly even working) time more efficiently. One (and pretty much the only) huge waste of my time is either playing computer games or perhaps even worse, mindlessly browsing the web. Both can be easily solved outside of work – I just leave the computer in the office. While the office is only something like 10 minutes of walking away from my flat, it is enough for my laziness and my long-term utility maximizing selfs to join forces and do something else instead of coming for the computer. If I need to look up something online, I can usually use my phone, a device awkard enough to use (as is any phone) that I don’t tend to waste too much time using it.

    So this works fairly well. But I don’t like it for two reasons. First, I sometimes actually do need the computer for something. When I bring it home, I usually end up wasting a lot of time as well, sometimes even without accomplishing what I wanted to do. Second, I would prefer to have a strong enough willpower to just leave the computer at home and use it only when I actually decide to do it (in the sense of planning to do it, not deciding at a weak moment when I feel bored and too lazy to do something more demanding).

    Any suggestions on how to build a willpower to do that? For the moment, I can treat myself like an addict and keep leaving the computer in my office. Even there, I prefer to keep the computer turned off whenever it is possible – while I am able to control myself enough not to play games at work, I sometimes browse the web and spend an hour or two (without realizing it) doing nothing. Turning it off at work is usually enough for me not to turn it on just to check out the SSC or some other stuff, but sometimes I need to have it turned on either to look something up, to run some simulations (less often) or to write things in LaTeX and them my productivity suffers.

    • Gazeboist says:

      I’ve gotten into the habit of setting loose alarms for when I decide I should do some particular task. When the alarm goes off, I either snooze it or switch to the task, and don’t worry too much about which. Partially this is just about giving myself a better sense of time (I was recently diagnosed with ADD, my experience of which has been “I do not feel the difference between 5 minutes and 20 minutes”), but snoozing the alarm means that after the alarm has started going off, it’s more annoying to do whatever I was doing before (which is usually goofing off on my computer) than it otherwise would have been.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        i’ve recently implemented a system where I have a morning alarm and an evening alarm, at which time I must do certain things (brush teeth, shower, hair regrowth medicine). I think you need a routine more than willpower because willpower is tough.

        • Tibor says:

          I guess so. Willpower is something that you can exercise on a short-time basis, but you cannot just go on willpower forever. But a routine is easy to get used to – for better or worse.

    • Matt M says:

      I always think of “lack of willpower” as a psychological/subconscious “check” on how much you really want something.

      I wonder – why specifically do you consider computer games and web-surfing to be “inefficient?” With what will you fill the void of free time that you expect to receive? Why is the substitute clearly superior? How is this exercise expected to improve your quality of life in general?

      If you don’t have really good and thoughtful answers to these questions, it could be that you don’t really want to change at all, you are fooling yourself into thinking a change is required for reasons that might not be sound (e.g. peer pressure, unreasonably high standards for efficiency, etc.)

      • nelshoy says:

        It definitely doesn’t have to get as complicated as that. I don’t want to web browse excessively for the same reason I don’t want to do heroin. It’s just my easy way of quickly stimulating pleasure centers instead of any activity that includes real connection or long term self-improvement.

      • Tibor says:

        There is a clear difference between games and web browsing and say practicing Portuguese (which I classify as leisure since I don’t really get to use it professionally) or learning a new song on a guitar. The first two are much easier to start, because they require very little effort and provide instant gratification. The latter two require more effort, but are fun too. But the main difference is that the latter provide me with a long term satisfaction whereas the former don’t.

        I think one can take clues from how games work though. One reason I stick to practicing languages every day is that I use Duolingo – it’s a free language learning app which is made in a very “gamey” way, giving you a lot of minor goals to “check” and thus providing you with instant rewards. And one reason why I manage to work out reasonably regularly (even though I usually don’t really enjoy such exercise, save for the endorphin wave you receive as a reward afterwards :)) is that I use another app (“YAGOG” – you are your own gym) which is also structured a bit like that. So maybe a good idea would be to give other things I want to do a more “game-like” structure too. It is easier with some things than with others. But still, the main thing is that the things I want to reduce or avoid require very little effort, so if you’re lazy like me, you are more likely to do them than other things. That does not mean that I want to do them more.

        I tend to imagine you have two personalities – a short term pleasure maximizer and a long-term utility maximizer. It’s probably healthy to listen to the first one sometimes you need to just relax (although at least web browsing is rarely very relaxing) but he should be kept at bay 🙂

        • nelshoy says:

          Yeah, I do Duolingo for Spanish too. It’s fairly enjoyable, but starting up again is usually something I avoid if I haven’t been on the ball in a while. I like the idea of bundling education and game elements, but often feel like the game-y aspects in many cases is half-assed.

          Look at those fort building cell phone games that people spend 100s of dollars on that don’t involve much actual gameplay at all. They use all manner of Limbic-system exploits to keep players coming back (social cooperation and competition, daily rewards, penalties for failing to harvest whatever, constant accumulation of different visceral resources). There’s a lot of overlap with memorization techniques like spaced repetition, and I’d like to see some company really try to bridge that Fun Gap. It’s kind of Dark Arts, but if kids (especially bored game-obsessed boys) get addicted and learn a ton by doing so, is that really so bad?

          • Tibor says:

            I also started with Spanish in Duolingo. Learned more Spanish that way in a year than German in four years at the high school. It helps that I know a lot of native Spanish speakers and I only write them in Spanish now…I finished the Spanish Duolingo tree and there was not much more to learn in Spanish that way. But it definitely helped a lot in the beginning. I never even had to take any course or buy any books on Spanish. It is still far from perfect, but now I am improving pretty much without putting any effort into it. Duolingo is definitely enough like a game for me to grab my attention 🙂

            They keep sending you the reminder e-mails every day, which also helps. The only thing I miss is that you cannot really have a week-long pause or something – I lose my progress every time I go on a longer hiking trip (the one day streak-freeze is not enough if you don’t have any internet connection for a couple of days). But I guess it doesn’t matter that much.

          • nelshoy says:

            My account’s talkshower, add me!

            Do you still keep up the spanish? I also finished my tree a while ago, and it’s the keep up that I’ve struggled to motivate myself to do. I can read and write a lot of Spanish now, but I struggle a lot with understanding native spanish speakers and don’t have a fantastic vocabulary. At this point, I almost feel it would be a better use to learn with other methods to get more vocab, but I’m still locked in due to beeminder.

          • Montfort says:

            If we’re talking about duolingo, can I get some opinions on their speech recognition? Back when I used it I didn’t have a microphone and so I don’t know if it’s a good teaching tool or not.

          • secret_tunnel says:

            I’ve heard that a good follow-up to the “Spanish for English speakers” Duolingo course is, oddly enough, “English for Spanish speakers.” Haven’t tried it myself because I’m still stubbornly trying to make my entire tree gold before moving it, but it seems like it’d work, aside from those questions where you listen to a phrase in the “foreign” language and type it out as is.

          • Tibor says:

            I turned off the speaking exercises, because the speech recognition is terrible (or was a year ago at least). Basically anything you say is accepted – I tested it by saying random nonsense. And luckily, with Spanish this is not a problem, it is a very phonetic language. Rolling r might be a problem for some English native speakers (although you can hear it in a very posh received pronunciation English…also Scottish 🙂 ), but speech recognition is light years away from being able to teach you the right accent.

            I have more problems with the Portuguese suffix -ão, I always think I say it right but native speakers tell me it’s not. I think I can get it right now after several attempts if I concentrate a lot, but it is difficult.

        • nelshoy says:

          You could also check out Beeminder if you haven’t already. It tries to bridge that gap in a low maintenance way and it’s helped me stay on top of Flashcards, my Duolingo, and running in med school. It’s quite flexible, but I’m not sure how one would set it up to help with your particular problem though.

        • sierraescape says:

          Is https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bodyweight-training-you-are/id416981420?mt=8 the app you’re talking about? Apologies, I can’t figure out the link formatting.

          • Tibor says:

            Yes, it is. It’s very good. I prefer bodyweight exercises to using equipment and working out at home to going to the gym. It is both cheaper (the app costs something like 3 USD and that’s all you ever pay this way…well,there’s also a book with the same name but you don’t strictly need it) and saves you the time you need to travel to the gym and back. I am also more likely to make myself work out when I don’t have to go anywhere first.

            Of course, if you have a personal trainer who checks you’re doing the exercises right, it’s probably even better, but also much dearer.

        • caethan says:

          I used to feel bad about playing video games or watching TV because I wasn’t being maximally productive – I could be studying, or working, or learning a new skill, or whatever. But every time I tried cutting those out entirely I started feeling burnt out and would end up being even less productive. So now I try to split my time into work (things I have to do), rest (things I need to do so that I continue to do my work well) and leisure (everything else). I found that video games and TV are, for me, pretty useful components of my rest time, and if I’m using them to destress and relax then I don’t feel bad about it. Where I did cut them out is of my leisure time, which I try and use to practice my cooking, or read some new books, or other things that are more personally productive. That meant changing the way I play video games quite a lot – I used to lead a raid guild in Warcraft, for example, which was not only not relaxing, it was actively stressful. Instead if I need some downtime, I’ll play a couple days of Stardew Valley or work on a castle in Minecraft or something.

          • caethan says:

            If your mindless browsing is on websites you don’t need to visit for productive reasons, I recommend the Timewarp extension for Chrome. On a couple of websites (reddit and this one, mostly), I have it set up to show a little timer in the upper left corner of how much time I’ve spent there today. When it gets too high, I quit.

    • My daughter’s old solution was to carry a netbook, a very small computer adequate for word processing, taking notes in classes, and the like, but inadequate for playing WoW or serious web browsing. I don’t know if anything along similar lines would work for you.

      • Tibor says:

        It looks pretty much like what I’m doing already, except that my solution is even more low-tech. Thankfully, I’m not a programmer and mostly I can work with just a pen and a piece of paper while printing out everything I want to use for reference or getting it from the library in our institute, so I can keep the computer off unless I put things to LaTeX afterwards. I don’t have so many problems with web browsing at work (although it still eats maybe 30 minutes of my workday on average, so ideally, I’d like to get rid of that too) and I never play games in the office. My issue is that I come home and sometimes waste the whole evening like this even though I wanted to do other things.

        Increasing the cost of doing that by leaving the computer at the office works well but I’d prefer not to have to do that by learning to be more disciplined at home as well (and slightly more even at work).

    • Anonymous says:

      Keep a visual chart where you mark off every day you succeed in taming your passions. If you succeed in a day, mark in green. If you fail, mark it red. The point is to build your confidence that your resolution is effective, that you’re making progress, until you form new habits and can stop keeping track.

      You could also get a computer that’s incapable of running games much, it will help with staying off games. Also with the web somewhat, since it’ll probably be modem-grade slow rendering stuff.

      • Tibor says:

        This actually reminded me of these old Czech books by Jaroslav Foglar, who basically wrote about the boy scouts and even more about his own version of boy scouts (which actually used to exist, mostly when Scout was forbidden by the Nazis and then again by the communists) where he has this concept of a “blue life” – where you do pretty much exactly the thing you suggest, except that you mark it in blue. I’ve never tried it, maybe it could work. Duolingo (a language learning app) shows you your streak of successive days you met your daily learning goal (for me it is about 5 five minute lectures) and that definitely helps me to keep practicing languages every day, so it might work.

  4. Gazeboist says:

    Question(s) for Deiseach:

    How is your handle intended to be pronounced? For a while I parsed it as DEZ-EE-ACK, but then I looked more closely and that didn’t seem right. For reference, I’m a monolingual mid-atlantic US English speaker with some vague memories of Latin and Spanish and 2-3 words of Japanese.

    (Also, does it mean anything?)

    • Silverlock says:

      I have been wondering this too. I have been pronouncing it in my head as something like “Day-shack.”

    • Deiseach says:

      Silverlock is right, it’s pronounced something like “Day-shock” and it does have a meaning; it’s not a family surname at all but it does link to where I come from 🙂

      What kind of people are we? We eat babies:

      Ethne Uathach ‘horrible’, why so called? Easy to say. When the Déissi took the girl to rear her they used to give her the flesh of children (to eat) so that she might the more rapidly grow up (and be married). For it had been determined that they would get land and a settlement as her bride-price. Or, again, she used to cut off the ends of the little-fingers of her own children so that they might be the longer-lived: for at first no children were left to her, (but all died prematurely). For that cause the children felt a great horror for her. Wherefore she is called Ethne the Horrible.

      As to the Déise, they inquired of their filí whether they were fated to have rest or dwelling in Munster; and the filí told them in reply to stay in the country, and that the wife of Criomhthann son of Eanna Cinnsealach, king of Leinster, whose name was Congain, was pregnant, and that it was a daughter she would bring forth, and that they should ask the daughter in fosterage, and give a fee in order to obtain her. After this the daughter was born; and she was fostered by the Déise. The daughter’s name was Eithne Uathach, and she was fed by the Déise on the flesh of infants that she might grow up the more quickly; for a certain druid had foretold that they would get territory from the man whose wife she would be. And when she was of age to wed, she was married to Aonghus son of Natfraoch, king of Munster. And Aonghus gave them, in consideration of getting her to wife, Magh Feimhean, that is, Trian Chluana Meala, and the Trian Meadhonach after the expulsion of the Osruighigh from these territories. And a long time after this Aonghus and Eithne were slain by the Leinstermen in the Battle of Ceall Osnadh, four miles east of Leithghlinn.

  5. ruelian says:

    I’m finding myself more and more intrigued by the idea of nootropics, to the point of approaching Happy-Death-Spiral. I don’t believe I have enough pharmacology knowledge to accurately assess the possible detriments and/or risks of nootropics in general, or of any particular nootropic (modafinil being the one I’m currently most interested in). Help would be helpful.

    • US says:

      One textbook that I would definitely recommend is Michael Coleman’s Human Drug Metabolism. There’s a lot of biochemistry in that book and it’s perhaps somewhat technical for an introductory text, but in my opinion you really need to know the sort of stuff included in that book to even be considering experimenting with drugs on your own. People who experiment with nootropics and do not know the kind of stuff that book covers are almost certainly taking a lot of health risks the existence of which they’re unaware of, which seems sub-optimal. Any introductory pharmacology text will probably do, but I’ve read Coleman’s book and it’s pretty good. Reading the book will both enable you to lower some types of risks (e.g. by helping you understand how important it is to inform your doctor about which drugs you are taking, as any pharmacologically active compound can cause drug interactions and side effects, regardless of whether it’s prescribed by a physician or not – this may help you avoid an unpleasant drug interaction), as well as making you more aware of the risks which you cannot avoid (making you better informed and thus better able to correctly assess the costs and benefits of the potential nootropic regime contemplated).

      (I don’t know if this is at all relevant, but I am incidentally not taking nootropics.)

      • ruelian says:

        Thanks, I’ll definitely add that to my reading list!

        On reflection, I pretty much agree with the value of gaining a base level of technical knowledge before highly specialized research, it provides valuable context and seems like a good way of avoiding the failure mode I currently find myself in.

      • albertborrow says:

        Heh. I don’t know why this wasn’t included in EY’s original article on Happy Death Spirals, but encouraging someone to read a book on a subject before trying it might actually be a good technique for avoiding death spirals. I know I always procrastinate when I need a book to further my studies!

      • caethan says:

        > by helping you understand how important it is to inform your doctor about which drugs you are taking

        This is really, really important. Don’t be too embarrassed to talk about it with your doctor. Preferably discuss it before you start taking them. Drug interactions can be very dangerous. For example, did you know that grapefruit can block metabolism of a wide class of drugs, with a single grapefruit potentially turning a normal dose into a lethal overdose?

        • Matt M says:

          When you say “talk to your doctor about what drugs you are taking” do most people think that the category of “drugs” includes grapefruit?

          • caethan says:

            No, but it should include those that could potentially have bad interactions with grapefruit or other diet, and your doctor can tell you to, e.g., avoid those things.

    • You can more or less assume anything besides a nutritional deficiency (vitamins, minerals, protein, omega fats) is a scam.

      Anything not diet-exercise-sleep related, that isn’t a *temporary* stimulant like caffiene, nicotine exists in the “Land of studies that are rarely replicated, or do nothing for creatures that are not rats with brain damage”

      • ruelian says:

        [Intention: genuine curiosity and a desire for inquiry, not quibbling in any way.]

        Can I get a source on that?

    • Dog says:

      This is an area of interest for me as well, and I tend to roughly categorize any drug or supplement as 1) having a history of human use either traditionally or in clinical trials, or 2) as a novel compound.

      It is possible to make relatively informed choices about substances in category 1, even without extensive knowledge of pharmacology. With modafinil for example, you can simply read the monograph, see what the likely problems and side effects are, and evaluate if it is an acceptable risk. There are also websites that track reported side effects for approved drugs after the fact, in case something was missed in the trials. The longer the history of use for a substance, the more you are likely to know about its risk profile. We have about 20 years of data now on Modafinil, so I would be much more comfortable taking it than something that was just approved.

      I believe novel substances with no history of human use and no clinical trials present a very real danger, and I think that danger is routinely underestimated by the nootropics community. Two examples:

      JDtic: This compound is a long acting antagonist at the k-opioid receptor, and was under investigation for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and addiction. Early results were quite promising, so the folks over at Longecity had a batch cooked up and were taking it before trials were completed. Those trials ultimately revealed that it causes ventricular tachycardia, a potentially fatal heart arrhythmia, and development was stopped. Fortunately no one died.

      C60 Olive Oil: There was an interesting study some time ago in which a combination of C60 and olive oil seemingly extended the lifespan of rats. Extending the lifespan of mammals is not an easy thing to do, so on the strength of this single, small, unreplicated study, a whole C60 olive oil cottage industry sprung up, and people have been taking the combination for years now. A recent attempt at replication however showed not prolonged life but massively increased tumor growth, possibly due to contaminants in commercially available C60 (the same C60 used by said cottage industry). So now we have a group of people who have maybe been taking a strong carcinogen for years.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        There was an interesting study some time ago in which a combination of C60 and olive oil seemingly extended the lifespan of rats

        Did they have a possible explanation in the form of a metabolic pathway for the C60? I guess Buckyballs could possibly work as a very weak antioxidant, but I don’t see how vitamin C wouldn’t be better? I’m sceptical of dietary studies that does not have both an observable effect and a technical explanation for said effect…

        Olive oil is a healthy source of fat that I guess rats don’t get a lot of naturally, so my first guess would be that this would explain the life extension in this particular species, much the same way margarine made from whale oil vs olive oil explains the different prevalence of Alzheimer’s in Norway and Greece.

        • Dog says:

          This is the original study.

          I am deeply skeptical as well and am withholding judgement until it has been replicated on a larger scale. That said, there are a few reasons why this generated more excitement then the typical nutritional study might. I believe the study was not originally intended to investigate life extension – it was a toxicity study on C60, with olive oil being used as a presumably neutral carrier (current theory is that the olive oil is not neutral but forms an adduct w the C60). This perhaps means there is less danger of motivated analysis like you might see in e.g. a drug trial. Also, the rats lifespans were nearly doubled, which is very dramatic, almost shocking, if it is a real effect. IIRC the study had a control group with olive oil only, which also showed some life extension, but not as much as the C60 olive oil group.

          As far as I know there isn’t any solid evidence how this might work, if it does work. There has been a lot of speculation about antioxidant effects, as you mention. One theory is that C60 acts as a sort of catalytic antioxidant that is not consumed, and that it also tends to localize in the mitochondria.

  6. Gazeboist says:

    Repost from tail end of prior open thread:

    Can an economist (amateur or otherwise) recommend a good introductory text for general equilibrium theory, or some background to help build up to it? Also, what work has been done on game theory outside of turn-based or two player contexts?

    • This isn’t really what you are asking for–general equilibrium theory isn’t my field–but you might find David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy interesting. It is, so far as I know, the first worked out general equilibrium theory ever, done with no mathematics beyond arithmetic, which is obviously impossible. He does it by the combination of simplifying assumptions, whose consequences he discusses, and extraordinarily good mathematical intuition.

      If you want to try reading it, you might find the lecture notes from my old history of thought class helpful.

    • David Manheim says:

      I’ll recommend this: http://www.mcafee.cc/Introecon/ – Even though I haven’t used it.
      First, because it was recommended by the Lesswrong “Best Textbook” thread – http://lesswrong.com/lw/3gu/the_best_textbooks_on_every_subject/ , which is a good list generally, second, because it’s free, and third becasue I have met Mcaffee, and his explabnatinos are very clear – and from glancing through the book, it seems the same.

      Edit: Fourth, because it has a section on game theory which covers a bit of multi-player and continuous games.

      OTOH, if you want THE graduate intro textbook, Mas-Collel is fantastic, if dense and expensive. (Varian’s book is also canonical, if even denser.)

  7. Bakkot says:

    This is your periodic reminder of various features of the comment system here.

    These all require JavaScript. If you have JavaScript disabled, you’re missing out.

    • You can click “hide” at the bottom of any comment to collapse that subthread.
    • Comments posted since the last time you visited a post are outlined in green.
    • They also have the text “~ new ~” added, without the spaces. You can search for this text to cycle through comments in page order.
    • In theory, posting a comment or logging in shouldn’t reset the comments marked as new. Let me know if this isn’t working.
    • The box in the upper right shows the date after which comments are marked as new. You can edit it to change what’s marked.
    • If you click the [+] next to the box, it will expand into a chronological list of new comments. You can click on items in this list to scroll to that comment.
    • There is an arrow at the bottom of child comments which can be clicked to go to its parent comment. This is useful if you get halfway through a thread and then decide you don’t want to read it anymore.
    • When posting a comment, there are formatting buttons below the input.

    Bug reports and feature requests are welcome here or as replies to this thread, although I’m very conservative about changes to the UI.

    • Matt M says:

      Has any thought been given to tying “new” comment tags to a user account, rather than a cookie on a specific device?

      First-world problem I know, but I often browse from both home and work computers which makes it difficult to find truly “new” comments.

      Under the old system this was obvious impractical, but now that I’m logging in with a username/PW…

      • Bakkot says:

        Thing is, it’s currently all done in your browser. Tying it to your account would require getting the server to remember everyone’s last visit instead of just having your browser do it, which would be way more work and kinda impractical with WordPress.

      • Placid Platypus says:

        I think your best bet is remembering when you last logged on and putting that into the box at the top right.

    • Bakkot says:

      Also, here’s a few extensions which add optional features.

      This will let you block (= collapse by default the subthreads of) users. (Userscript for Firefox.)
      This will add an arrow on child comments to go to the top-level comment in the the thread.
      This will put a golden crown over your avatar on your comments. (Only you can see it.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Thank you again for doing this– I don’t think ssc would be usable for me if it weren’t for your reading management tools.

      The thing I’d like wuld be email notifications to chosen comments and/or threads. I would probably like being able to get email notifications of all replies to my comments with one request.

  8. Matt M says:

    France has passed a law giving employees the right to ignore work-related emails after hours.

    My knee-jerk libertarian response was “clearly this makes French labor less competitive, but hey, if they’re ok with that who am I to judge?”

    Thinking about it a bit more though, I wonder if this policy might fail even under its own terms. The justification seems to be that the constant requirement to be at least available (if not explicitly on-call) to ones employer 24/7 is increasing stress and is likely harming worker health and/or productivity. But I wonder…

    From my own experience in an industry famous for working long hours/weekends, my experience with our phone app that allows us to check out e-mails on our phones (along with the expectation that we will do so) has been universally positive. This sort of thing enables the ability to work remotely (which is also something “workers rights” advocates seemingly want more of) and time-shift certain non urgent functions to promote flexibility. I’ve had days at the office where after six hours, the boss sent everyone home because “We’re waiting to hear back from the client, might not be for a few hours, I’ll send out an e-mail with stuff for us to do once I get word.” So instead of sitting in the office with nothing to do, we can go do other things, and the manager has the confidence in letting us leave because he knows he can contact us and re-start the work process whenever it needs to be re-started.

    I feel that a policy like this might just increase the amount of time someone has to sit around the office doing nothing productive at all. Maybe employees don’t care that much (because hey, in most offices you can at least check your Facebook account and argue about economics in blog comments). But I’ve personally never minded being “on-call to do work when work needs to be done” as opposed to “sit here for this arbitrarily defined period even though we know work demands are highly variable and do not fit nicely into a repeatable and predictable schedule.”

    There’s also the question of busy-work. If you have employees who must sit at their desks 8 hours a day M-F no matter what, and the workload is highly variable, you inevitably end up with employees who, at any given time, have no legitimate work to do. What happens in those situations? The boss intuitively resents paying you to be on Facebook, so he creates work for you to do. Everyone generally resents this practice, but there isn’t much to be done about it, and you can’t exactly argue with the boss and say “No, I insist on being able to do nothing right now even though you’re paying me to do work.”

    I’ve rambled on enough about this though. Anyone have any thoughts?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      “France has passed a law giving employees the right to ignore work-related emails after hours.”

      Misleading headline, given:

      Companies with more than 50 employees will be obligated to set up hours — normally during the evening and weekend — when staff are not to send or respond to emails.

      (my bold)

      An obligation is not a right. As an obligation, it should only apply to paid-hourly labor (at most).

      I understand the rationale behind making it a mandate though. It would be hard to show retaliation for those exercising it as a right.

      I don’t understand the “50 employee” limit. How arbitrary is this (has anyone done studies on company sizes with respect to this topic)?

      Does this law apply to all communications, or only literal emails? Is a text or discussion thread an email?

      • BBA says:

        France has a lot of onerous regulations that only apply to businesses with 50 or more employees. The natural effect is that the country has a disproportionate number of businesses with exactly 49 employees.

        The old joke about the French economy is that it works in practice but nobody’s been able to make it work in theory.

        • Matt M says:

          The U.S. has plenty of these too.

          As far as I can tell, it comes down to “small businesses are really popular and politicians don’t want to be on the hook for doing anything that might harm them somehow”

          Whereas large corporations are outright disliked by about half the electorate and grudgingly tolerated by the other half, so nobody is particularly worried about a negative campaign ad where the CEO of Wal-Mart complains about how your new regulation was bad for his business.

          • Mary says:

            There’s also the matter of economies of scale such that a big company might survive a regulation that will drag a small one under.

          • John Schilling says:

            Tekno:

            Libertarian rhetoric about the market applies [mostly] to small businesses. Large business is more governed by what is usually called “oligopolistic competition” where there are fewer suppliers and high barriers to entry

            Mary:

            There’s also the matter of economies of scale such that a big company might survive a regulation that will drag a small one under.

            Between the two of you, you’re circling an important point that you’ll never reach because of the simplistic insistence on treating all businesses as “large” or “small”.

            Aside from retail chains, large businesses rarely face direct competition from small businesses. In order for there to be competition at the top levels, in order to break up the “ologopoly”, you need to get new large businesses into play. And those are rarely created ex nihilo; they have to grow. Which includes a stage where they are neither large nor small.

            In the name of protecting The People from the horrors of The Oligopoly, you all are finding arguments to support regulations that will strangle potential new entrants and competitors before they can enter the game.

          • baconbacon says:

            This started as a reply to John Schilling, but turned into a broad tangent, but I’m leaving it here anyway.

            The trouble with these conversations is that they tend to take on a narrow focus, while the economy is broad and extremely varied and complex. You will rarely, if ever, hear an economist discussing competition in the auto industry mention building regulations, but an apartment building is a competitor for the auto industry. Denser living allows more people the option of going without cars, and it is the with/without competition that is probably the main driver (no pun intended) of economic growth in modern societies.

        • Tekhno says:

          @Matt M

          Whereas large corporations are outright disliked by about half the electorate and grudgingly tolerated by the other half

          Harsher (RELATIVELY speaking) regulations on larger businesses also makes sense. Libertarian rhetoric about the market applies most to markets with many buyers and sellers, and low barriers to entry and exit, which describes most small business. Large business is more governed by what is usually called “oligopolistic competition” where there are fewer suppliers and high barriers to entry and exit (sunk costs).

          The main reason to hate big business is similar to the reasons to hate government or nationalized business. Larger businesses with less competitors and high barriers to new competitors are much more isolated from market competition, and so arguments of the form “but this will cause market distortions” tend to have less weight in the debate, since the megacorps are subject to less pressure to begin with, so there is a lot more room to even things out and give smaller businesses some growth room. A regulation that hurts a big business might actually be helpful for the economy in the long term.

          Of course, the reason to like big business is that economies of scale are a thing, so big business can often supply things at a lower price than small business. However, there are downsides to giving any organization so much power and higher prices and less convenience may actually be worth it. I personally think it’s a good trade if done moderately, since you are reducing the influence of single economic organs. It’s also the case that diseconomies of scale exist, and its likely that many megacorps are highly bloated at this point, especially with special favors, and that smaller competitors could replace them if they just had the room.

          In any case, like government, large corporations should bear more responsibility than small corporations that exist in great numbers and are thus far more subject to market pressure from people easily being able to choose alternatives, and so having limited price setting ability. It’s difficult to know exactly where to draw the line, but it’s right to be lenient with those on one end of the scale and suspicious of those on the other end of the scale. If anything, I’d say that we aren’t lenient enough on small businesses, and that the market could be far freer if a lot of occupational licensing could be reduced.

          • Libertarian rhetoric about the market applies most to markets with many buyers and sellers, and low barriers to entry and exit, which describes most small business.

            Market power depends on relative size not absolute size. A firm can be quite large and still part of a highly competitive market. The only general store in a small town has more market power than one of the several supermarkets within easy driving distance of my house.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Every time you add a business regulation, you make it slightly harder to do business. And the more complicated the regulation, the more difficult you make it to do business. Having an employee threshold is one of the more complicated rules, because defining how many employees a particular business has is rarely simple. How do you treat partial year employees, contractors, part-time employees, etc.? And a firm which has 60 employees certainly isn’t large enough to have the specialists to decipher these rules.

            Also, it doesn’t make sense to add onerous regulations to big business just because they have other advantages. It still adds costs to everyone in the economy. Bottom line: the French are doing their best to be become non-competitive amongst the advanced economies. Although based on my experience in an anti-business US city — we are trying our best to keep up with France.

          • Mary says:

            It does mean that you can have all the fun of ladling on the onerous regulations without driving all the businesses out of business and dying of hunger.

        • Noah says:

          It seems like the issue is high marginal cost to adding the 50th employee. Ideally, the regulations for big businesses should be phased in as your business grows. Of course, having more complicated regulations like that also has its costs, by making it harder for people to understand and comply.

      • Matt M says:

        “An obligation is not a right. As an obligation, it should only apply to paid-hourly labor (at most).”

        Fair enough. I saw another headline calling it a “right to ignore” on a different article and thought that was simply easier to understand and went with it.

        As far as I can tell, it applies to everyone (but please correct me if I’m wrong). Paid hourly labor are the ones least in need of something like this, are they not. Are fry cooks at McDonalds really getting grief from their managers about not checking their work email when they’re at home?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I wasn’t calling you out about the headline, because your interpretation really seems to be the gist of the two headlines on this topic that I’ve seen. I was calling out the editors who wrote those headlines.

          Paid hourly labor are the ones least in need of something like this, are they not.

          I was an hourly Research Technician in a sci/tech company (technically a permatemp, but equivalent). There are many other skilled blue-collar workers (e.g. manufacturing) who are also hourly.

          • Matt M says:

            In your capacity as a research technician, was it common that you would get after-hours e-mails where immediate action was expected?

            Is this true of “skilled blue-collar workers” either? Most of my friends are skilled blue-collar and seem to have an incredibly predictable 8-hour schedule where once they’re off the clock, they are entirely off the clock. It tends to be WHY they remain blue collar (at least for my friends). One of my cousins was offered a management position and turned it down explicitly because he didn’t want to become a “slave to the company”

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            In your capacity as a research technician, was it common that you would get after-hours e-mails where immediate action was expected?

            Not at that place. I’d occasionally have to send one out since I couldn’t badge back into the building after 6 PM or on the weekends, and needed someone who was there to do something.

            The contractor technician at my current place does come in on the weekends to check the emails he’s been too busy to address during the week.

            Laws don’t need to exist for common events. They can also exist for uncommon exploitations. How many unpaid interns are expected to be on call for emails?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Laws don’t need to exist for common events. They can also exist for uncommon exploitations.

            No, this is absolutely wrong. Laws are a blunt instrument. They only work for common situations. We have many thousands of laws and regulations out there already, most of which nobody’s heard of, because legislators try to cover every situation. Laws don’t work when nobody has heard of them. And you can never catch every bad situation in the law, because that would require constantly changing the laws, because new and unusual situations keep happening.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            No, this is absolutely wrong. Laws are a blunt instrument. They only work for common situations.

            Murder is very uncommon. Treason even less so.

            Pollution on the scale of a burning river even less so.

            Yeah, it’s nice to have sufficiently few laws so that everyone can remember those which are pertinent to them, but this is one of the reasons job specialization exists.

            I’m sure that everyone in France has heard of the recent law change. And I’m even doubly sure that HR specialists will have heard of it, and all of the rest of the laws pertinent to HR.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            In your capacity as a research technician, was it common that you would get after-hours e-mails where immediate action was expected?

            @Matt M- I certainly know research technicians that is true of. Often the email is an automated one saying “the temperature in the cryostorage tank is dangerously high” or something of that sort.

            I don’t think they’re hourly though.

          • Matt M says:

            ” I certainly know research technicians that is true of. Often the email is an automated one saying “the temperature in the cryostorage tank is dangerously high” or something of that sort.”

            I can’t imagine the law would make THIS sort of thing illegal – unless France is fine with having zero medical research take place in the entire country.

      • Furslid says:

        So, what happens if an employee sends an email at 7:00 on a Sunday? Does he get punished? Does his company get punished? Can he sue his company for sending it?

        I can’t see any good way to enforce this.

        • rlms says:

          I assume (based on no evidence) that the employee could sue if they had evidence that they’d been forced to respond to emails (and would likely only do so as part of a general complaint about the way their company was treating them).

          • Furslid says:

            That’s exactly the problem. Someone who wants to sue their company can send emails and create the cause for their own lawsuit. To prevent this, the company must be able to prevent being sued even if the worker sends emails. This means having an official policy against out of hours emails. There’s no way to stop a company from having an official policy against out of hours emails while preferentially treating those dedicated workers who ignore it.

    • Ug. Time for me to pop out the bertrand russell essays.

      The virtue of idleness

      Real efficiency won’t reduce, in the meaningful sense. The people who truly *have* to work emergency on-call (surgeons, fire fighters) this rule doesn’t apply.

      If the GDP declines by 2 percent, but people live their lives with less stress, more pleasure, with no threats of starvation and just as much food to pass around, who cares.

      • Matt M says:

        This is not my question.

        The question is – can we simply assume that employer/employee after-hours communication inherently causes more stress than it prevents? I know they have a study about people checking their emails – but that’s only considering one effect. I’m thinking of all of the various other things that are enabled by after-hours communication (such as time and location shifting).

        Edit: Also, I don’t think the proponents of this policy would be as charitable as you are. I’m pretty sure they are insisting that GDP won’t decline, because less stress leads to more productive workers and that will make up any difference of lost efficiency.

        • What’s with this insistence on GDP maximization?(not directing that at you) Sure, it correlates with a bunch of other nice figures well…but its just a correlation.

          If I were ruler of a country, I would mandate everyone should buy 100,000$ worth of rubber and steel and just throw it away to make the GDP great for a few years and everyone who mostly looks at that figure would wonder why my country is doing so well.

          • baconbacon says:

            Your inflation rate would be horrendous, you would have to institute price controls etc. Maybe you could fool Krugman for a few years though.

          • Matt M says:

            Didn’t the Soviet Union famously do a lot of this and succeed in fooling a whole lot of people internationally for a few decades?

          • What if I commandeer the natural resources of some third world countries? That could be several decades of doing this without price countrols.

            And much of the inefficincey of the Soviet Union was supposedly the improper usage of sticks and carrots, with so much other stuff thrown in (expansionism of countries that won’t assimilate easily, not actually following the meritocracy principles of “Each man according to his ability” properly…etc) that as a raw economic question, this is effectively unanswered

        • Tekhno says:

          For example, the Soviet Union had pretty good GDP growth for a while. GDP doesn’t tell you how it was produced and what else was going on.

          • Did they actually have pretty good GDP growth, or only appear to in their statistics? My understanding is that, after the fall of communism, it turned out that their growth had been considerably less than generally believed.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            David — I think the USSR GDP had both problems. As you say, there was a lot of fictitious production, since the production managers didn’t want to admit to deficient levels of production. But there was also wasted production. For example, if you grow 1 million tons of potatoes, but 90% of them rot in warehouses, you still include 1 million in GDP. If you produce 2 million left handed screwdrivers, but there are only 100,000 people who want them, you still include 2 million in GDP.

          • @Mark:

            I’m not sure you are correct. In order to measure GDP you need a measure of the value of output. How do you get that without market prices?

            The closest I can think of is to use shadow prices, what the goods would sell for on a market. If you are producing ten times as many left handed screwdrivers as there are people who want them (what, by the way, is a left handed screwdriver?) then the market price ought to be about zero.

            Similarly, if you produce lots of potatoes and most of them rot, only the ones that reach the consumers belong in the GDP calculation.

          • Gazeboist says:

            what, by the way, is a left handed screwdriver?

            A joke, I believe. Standard screws are often annoying to lefties (the left hand exerts less torque in the unscrewing direction), but a special screw driver (perhaps with some strange gearing to reverse the rotation?) would probably not be worth its manufacturing cost.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Yes, a left handed screwdriver is a joke — about places that make things not needed. I know the USSR often made things is very large batches because it was more efficient and looked good on production reports, even though no one needed them. But I couldn’t remember any specifics — hence left handed screw drivers.

            In order to calculate GDP, you have to use prices. And in the US, a product doesn’t become part of the GDP until you sell it. But this isn’t true for government services — the cost is used as the price of the service. I’m not sure how the Soviets calculated GDP, but somehow I figure they would use conventions that maximized it. I bet they got those 2 million left handed screw drivers into GDP even though no one actually bought them. And they probably priced them at the price of normal screw drivers.

          • cassander says:

            @Mark V

            >I bet they got those 2 million left handed screw drivers into GDP even though no one actually bought them. And they probably priced them at the price of normal screw drivers.

            You are precisely correct

          • Matt M says:

            “I know the USSR often made things is very large batches because it was more efficient and looked good on production reports, even though no one needed them.”

            I remember hearing a story (have no idea if it’s true) that in the USSR, output was measured in gross tonnage, so nail factories were instructed to build “10 tons of nails” or some such thing, so as a result they made a bunch of giant nails (because it was easier) even though nobody needed them, rather than constructing small nails that would actually be useful in construction.

          • I have just worked out the nature of a left handed screwdriver.

            The first step is to recognize that there really are right handed and left handed screws. Suppose you want a screw driver that will only turn the screw in one direction. To do that, you make the tip of screw driver of the normal shape on half of one side, slanted on the other half, reversed on the other side, so that if you try to turn a screw the wrong way the screwdriver will slip. Now you have a screwdriver that will screw in a right handed screw but not a left handed screw–a right handed screw driver. Make another that’s the mirror image of that one and you have a left handed screwdriver.

            Of course, this assumes you only want to screw screws in, not out.

            Why would you need such a device? Imagine that you have a million monkeys left over from the unsuccessful attempt to get them to write Hamlet (best sentence so far was “to be or not to be, that is the grglflx”). You need a lot of screws screwed in. Monkeys like imitating humans, but are not too strong on details such as which direction to turn a screw. Provide them with only right handed screw drivers and right handed screws (or the reverse) and set them to work, and eventually your screws will all be screwed in.

            Should I apply for a patent?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Though Friedman’s screwdriver would be pretty useless, the same (presumably already patented) principle can be used to make screws and bolts that can only be turned one way, and there are plenty of uses for those. You often see them used to bolt together cubicle walls in public lavatories.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I wonder whether they consulted the people who this law is intended to benefit first.

      My dad, until this year, worked as an HVAC operating engineer (misleading title: it’s maintenance, not engineering) for an office park. He got an hourly wage and worked regular hours, but was also expected to be on call more-or-less 24/7/365 in case of emergencies.

      A significant chunk of the money he ever made at that job was from those off-hours calls. Overtime pay, plus a minimum of four hours overtime whenever he was called in, meant that thirty minutes on the phone or three hours babysitting contractors would pay as much as a full day of work. Even if his bosses weren’t thrilled paying him for it, they would rather do that than lose million dollar pieces of equipment if something went wrong on at 2am on a Saturday.

      I’m 99% sure that most people who get work calls on the weekends are in worse positions, and it might be that this law benefits the French overall. But it also closes the door on deals like that and I wonder whether the policymakers realized that fact.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        but that’s a call, and the other is an e-mail

        that distinction does matter. Work e-mails are given, almost always, to people on a salary. They present them with some extra at-home work, not an urgent call to go somewhere. I think many people might be OK with work e-mails if it wasn’t for the fact that they basically function as an extension of your job, rather than you acting as a self-employed contractor in your off hours

        now granted, e-mails could be used for that function, but being much less immediate no one expects them to. Similarly phones could be used for office employees, but usually the e-mail contains information they need in order to do the work; also phone calls are too intrusive and a lot of people might not stand for them.

      • Aapje says:

        @Dr Dealgood

        I assume that this laws distinguishes between being ‘on call’ and uncompensated messages.

    • Deiseach says:

      If it’s a flexible system of “we’re not doing anything, go home rather than sit round the office and then if we have news, you get emails at home to work on” that’s fine.

      The thing is that people are supposed to put in eight hour (minimum) work days and still be available even on what is supposed to be time off; after-work hours aren’t and weekends are now treated as workdays as well. There’s never a time when you’re not contactable, and if you do switch off you may get in trouble because even if it’s three in the morning on Sunday you should be contactable.

      I know it does happen that you need to be available because crap, the alarm system has gone off and I’m the keyholder or hey, the production line is stalled, how do we re-set the process again? But for some people it’s constantly on on on when there is no real reason to be, and if you’re constantly in the mind-frame of work work work, when do you turn off?

      And as you say, since work bleeds over into personal life, personal life bleeds into work so people are checking Facebook, sending personal emails, playing games and commenting online when at work “I don’t have anything to do right now, I can’t leave my desk because I’m supposed to be here until six o’clock, and if the office called me at home at seven last night then feck ’em, I’m going to use this idle time to do the personal stuff I got interrupted in doing”.

      Maybe if we’re all going to be contactable 24/7, workplaces will have to accept that people are blending personal and work lives and will be doing their online shopping, emailing their sister in Australia, watching cute cat videos and levelling up during work hours.

    • Matt M says:

      So there’s been some interesting discussion here, but I feel like we’ve drifted from my core question.

      Is it possible (and can anyone share examples), that this policy fails at its stated goal of reducing the total amount of “worker stress” or, that it will decrease a worker’s quality of life (independent from compensation and firm performance) in general.

      • eh says:

        Anecdotally, I’ve left a company which required me to answer work email out of hours. The stressful thing was not answering email, which I’m happy to do on a best-effort basis, it was the requirement to always answer all email. This meant I couldn’t do anything that took me away from my phone or caused me to leave phone coverage on a weekend, which was a gigantic burden. There are also a lot of studies on interrupted sleep and stress, and if you’re required to answer all email outside work hours within a short time then interrupted sleep could be inevitable.

        The average effect is hard to guess at, but it seems very likely that it will reduce stress by a large amount in at least some workers.

  9. carvenvisage says:

    @baconbacon

    My reply to your accusations of narcissism, which I didn’t see until today:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/12/29/book-review-mount-misery/#comment-449175

    • baconbacon says:

      I didn’t accuse you of narcissism, I highlighted a reply of yours, which may, or may not be indicative of your general personality, as an example to discuss someone else’s thoughts on narcissism.

      ‘Sick bizarre shit’ is a delineation, not aggression

      Here is what I quoted

      Serious question- can you get across the idea of sick bizarre shit (or whatever the idea more specifically is) without actually having me read sick bizarre shit?

      and here is what I said

      Tone is a little aggressive, no one actually made him read your writing, but it upset him so a strong reaction isn’t unusual.

      I called it little aggressive/not unusual, you focused on a single word.

      . If you can find a more delicate and flowery way to describe it, I will apologise to Scott, and to your hurt feelings too if you’d like.

      Not a word I wrote could be taken as having hurt feelings, and I don’t have any.

      And yes.. it may objectively improve an article if you can make the same point in a less unpleasant way.

      That is an objective statement.

      It may objectively (obviously if there is an objective standard than any change to an imperfect work “may” make it objectively better) make it better. But unpleasant is a subjective matter, there is no universal code that is agreed on. Some people dislike having their nipples pinched during sex, some people like it, some people don’t care much either way and I am sure for some people it is conditional on what else is going on. Saying “I don’t like having my nipples pinched” is one thing, saying “I think sex is objectively better not having your nipples pinched” is an incorrect use of the term objectively. Either you have not considered that people who like pinched nipples exist OR you are stating that your preferences should be weighted higher than theirs”, either of those could/would be classified as a narcissistic response by TLP (to my understanding of his view on the subject).

      I’m not even going to get into how you compound this aggressive mischarecterisation by saying that I’m appealing to my tastes rather than e.g. good writing (which is implied in any reading with the least entry level smidgen of generosity or basic parsing ability).

      Unless your tastes are held up as a standard they can never be objective. This is literally the definition of subjective, dictionary.com

      existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought

      This is the definition of objective

      being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject (opposed to subjective ).

      Subjective is what you think, objective is the characteristics of the object.

      (which is implied in any reading with the least entry level smidgen of generosity or basic parsing ability)

      I am sorry that I assumed you knew the difference between subjective and objective, I thought that was basic generosity.

      And how else would you have me phrase it? It’s not like I can come out and literally ask, ‘have you consider the possibility that…’ because that will certainly be read as aggressive sarcasm rather than literally.

      Once again, this isn’t specifically about you and me, but about an example of how I understand someone else’s thinking, but since you asked the original quote follows, and a similar quote which represents what I think TLP would not consider a narcissistic statement follows that.

      Is the dad’s penis illustration necessarry?

      Serious question- can you get across the idea of sick bizarre shit (or whatever the idea more specifically is) without actually having me read sick bizarre shit? (that I’m somewhat but not totally desensitized to, and which others may not be at all) If so I think it would objectively improve the article.

      Is the dad’s penis illustration necessary?
      phrases like this bring up some sick, bizarre and shitty images in my mind. I like reading your blog but I would much prefer not to read shit like that, and would rather not choose between the two.

      What’s funny is that your comment is a totally feelings based and projected interpretation, as well as overanalysis, of my literal and direct 30 second comment, -which may have less less than perfect phrasing.

      And yet here you are accusing other people of narcissism. It’s hard to believe.

      What is funny is that I didn’t accuse you of narcissism, and I directly stated as such before you posted this reply

      TLP would never have called a poster a narcissist based on a single quote like this, and I didn’t either*.

      Then you accused me of not being able to parse basic language, exhibit basic generosity, or take what you wrote literally.

      • carvenvisage says:

        I didn’t accuse you of narcissism, I highlighted a reply of yours, which may, or may not be indicative of your general personality, as an example to discuss someone else’s thoughts on narcissism.

        1. Posts don’t just spring mysteriously out of the ether. If my post was narcissistic, it’s because it was a product of narcissistic thinking. Defend your insult or take it back, don’t try to twist and worm your way out of the unfortunate fact that you’ve made it. (and definitely don’t try to do both in the same post)

        2. You didn’t go that step further and explicitly accuse me of being a narcissist the rest of the time, too, but your phrasing was clearly tilted towards pithy rudeness rather than polite clarity.

        3. Your post was was not part of a discussion of TLP’s thoughts on narcissism, it was a standalone assertion that ‘this is what TLP is talking about when it comes to narcissism’. That’s just a lie. And you’re a dishonest person for writing it.

        4. My post’s physical embodiment on slatestarcodex’s server can’t be a narcissist, because it’s a post, not a person. For that reason, apart from all the others, the ‘this’ quoted above cannot refer only to the post and not to me.

         

        And yes I had read your ‘direct statement’ that you hadn’t accused me of narcicism. I just didn’t want to waste my time with such petty, obvious bullshit. I was hoping your lying about that was just you backpedalling, rather than the rather than culpable, malicious dishonesty, characteristic of your personality more generally. Sadly this was a vain hope.

         

        Here is what I quoted

        Serious question- can you get across the idea of sick bizarre shit (or whatever the idea more specifically is) without actually having me read sick bizarre shit?

        I called it little aggressive/not unusual, you focused on a single word.

        Ignoring ‘unusual’, because why would that be relevant? And the fact that I focused on three words, not one, (just can’t help yourself, can you?), what else was aggressive about it? The fact that I said ‘serious question’, to indicate that I was being serious and genuine, rather than sarcastic?

        Or was it, (by a process of elimination) the fact that I said ‘sick bizarre shit’ a second time rather than something less direct like ‘the actual sick bizarre shit itself’?

        Taking you at your word that it wasn’t the delineation that you considered aggressive (nominally- based on your consistent profile you’re probably lying, or dishonestly deluded), the most likely candidate seems to be the fact that I said ‘sick bizarre shit’ a second time rather than mix it up with some other way of saying the same thing.

        Assuming that’s it, though I really can’t be sure- just fuck off with such hypersensitivity. That isn’t aggressive. You can read it that way if you want, but you’re just superimposing your own tone on it.

         

        Also there’s not really such a thing as ‘a little aggressive’, when it comes to a polite conversation. Introducing any aggression into a formerly 100% polite and non acrimonious discussion is a serious thing, not to be brushed off.

         

        You also claimed that I was upset by reading this, which is a very forward assumption to make. It happens to be wrong*, but even if it was correct it would still be rude.

        *I found it irritating for a moment, before I remembered that Scott was a doctor and they’re exposed to sick bizarre shit all the time. (which is the reason, and the only reason, that I bought up that other people might not be.)

        You also said that ‘no one made him read your writing’, which is a really defensive thing to say, (not that defensiveness is a bad thing when justified), so I don’t believe you when you say you weren’t upset. Though I suppose it’s also possible that you’re just really stupid.

         

        As for your essay on objectivity, *yawn*. Obviously I wasn’t using the word in the generally useless ‘we can’t say the nazis were objectively bad because good and bad are subjective’ sense.

        But actually even in that sense, it makes plenty of sense. You just have to take your head out of your ass and realise Scott isn’t writing to cater to people with peculiar, particular, fetishes, but with a wide audience in mind. (Not to mention the fact that we know Scott often goes out of his way not to upset people.)

        So yes, if your goal is to make useful and enjoyable essays, which I’m assuming is an aim of Scott’s, based on his continuous track record, then it does objectively improve one, if you can make the same point, in a less unpleasant way.

        (less unpleasant to a predictable section of the audience, not less unpleasant objectively, because there’s literally no such fucking thing, you retard.)

        To go over it once more: making the same point in a way which is less (duh, subjectively) unpleasant for a portion of your audience, is, -if your goal is to write enjoyable and valuable essays, which Scott’s seems to be, objectively better.

        I hope that was slow enough for you?

        (of course that doesn’t mean it’s possible to do so, or if it is possible, that it’s worth it. This should go without saying)

         

        There’s also a huge difference nipple pinching and sucking your dad’s dick. You using that as your example-comparison is one more case of your constant dishonest twisting. (PSA, If you’re generally like this, -which you may not be, -but if you are, you should either improve, or kill yourself, because a family environment with the-you-I’ve-seen in it is not going to be healthy. Hopefully you’re not, or hopefully you can stop.)

         

        As for your ridiculous and telling attempt to find a better way to say what I said, didn’t you notice that your one has an ultimatum? (LMAO) Yours is like a hundred times worse than mine is in your feverish imagination at its worst.

        Also, jesus christ what disgusting touchy feely crap. ‘I like reading your blog’. Really? Trying to insinuate yourself in there first thing, huh? I guess I had you all wrong.

         

        Okay I take back what I said about your character. You’re clearly just a touchy feely person who has never had a literal propositional thought in their life.

         

        Man, I would edit the post to reflect that newfound understanding, but you did insult me and then lie about and then keep lying about it, so I won’t bother. But I had assumed that you were able to speak english, and not just socialese. My bad.

        ‘bring up some sick, bizarre, and shitty images in my mind’

        BRING UP? IT IS A BIZARRE TWISTED IMAGE. THAT’S LITERALLY THE POINT.

        holy shit.

        Man I’m sorry I really thought you were an asshole. Just turns out we speak a different language.

        _

         

        Then you accused me of not being able to parse basic language, exhibit basic generosity, or take what you wrote literally.

        And boy did I underestimate you. *wipes tear of laughter from eye*

        • Iain says:

          I have not been following this discussion, but I would respectfully submit that you would both be better off if you took a step back and spent some time away from the computer. This is not an argument that will go anywhere useful.

        • baconbacon says:

          1. Posts don’t just spring mysteriously out of the ether. If my post was narcissistic, it’s because it was a product of narcissistic thinking. Defend your insult or take it back, don’t try to twist and worm your way out of the unfortunate fact that you’ve made it. (and definitely don’t try to do both in the same post)

          No, this isn’t true. First your reply could have been something like “obviously I just meant subjectively not objectively (ps you seem like kind of a dick)” or “I meant objectively from a web traffic standpoint, since I won’t link such pieces to other people” or “dude I’ve got 30 years experience as a editor, I know a crap load more than you about editing”, or any number of other responses that could give context to a statement in isolation.

          Secondly it wasn’t about you. This is what it was about. A. I spend the past 3 weeks obsessively reading TLP’s archive, B. The three people I spend the most time with and talk the most with are either working 60 hour weeks recently, or are under 4 years old, C. Whatever specific stuff was happening during the day that day. D. Someone mentioned TLP on a blog I read, whose comments I participate in when I was bursting to talk about what I thought about his writing. E. Someone wrote a short reply that when I read made me go “ah, this is what he means ….”

          Thirdly having some thoughts that stem from a narcissistic viewpoint is closer to the human condition than it is to an insult. Its only a condition or an insult if it is a pervasive part of your personality, which I have no reason to assume.

          ————————–

          You are of course free to take me at my word, or not, assume I was directly insulting you, or not, but I will be taking Iain’s advice above and not responding further.

          I am still itching to talk about TLP’s ideas if anyone else is game, I promise anything I say isn’t a personal attack.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Late reply. I swore off SSC for a bit after I sincerely advised someone to kill themselves, just because they were, to my eyes, being maliciously dishonest, then doubling down on it again and again -which is after all a common human condition.

            And it turns out they were less malicious and more tired. Now in my book that makes little difference to how I should reply, because a person is culpable for what comes out of their mouth, seeing as no one can see their heart. And because sometimes when a person is tired and weak what comes out of their heart doesn’t just look like malice it, it is -for whatever reason. But now that I know, I am reassured. I mean if nothing else it gives me hope that this isn’t a regular habit of yours.

            Anyway, I still feel obligated to reply to your last post here, but this time I don’t mean it personally when I point out what’s false and what’s -to all appearances- dishonest. If there’s something false in front of me, I go after it. That’s the ideal, anyway. I don’t think it’s good to let lies and rudeness stand. What’s maybe less clear cut is that I believe in engaging people at their own level, too. If necessary in a language they can understand. I guess sometimes that means I talk to someone like they’re worse than they are if they act worse than they are.

            ___

            ___

            First your reply could have been something like “obviously I just meant subjectively not objectively”

            I meant objectively, and I explained that for you in my last post, lets be clear, in enough detail for a child to follow.

            carvenvisage: I hope that was slow enough for you?

            -And you just talk on like I’ve conceded the point?

            Seriously, be a better person. That’s all I can say. There’s no point in getting angry again. I’m sure the habits you have with your kids are different than with people you’ve thoughtlessly (lets say unintentionally) insulted and got mad as fuck at you, but even now you should be a lot more honest than that.

            Dishonesty is a bad habit. It won’t bite you immediately, usually, but somebody always has to pay the piper.

             

            .. or any number of other responses that could give context to a statement in isolation.

            My first post did do exactly that. Again, honesty is paramount.

             

            Secondly it wasn’t about you.

            First of all, very funny. With that out of the way, no, if you insult someone, it involves them. It’s not about one person or another. Interactions with multiple people in them… involve all of those people.

            Clearly I have a temper, and what’s worse a short fuse, at least when it comes to (perceived) glib mischarecterisations and dishonesty, but that’s isn’t thinking things are about me. It’s being angered by harmful and potentially evil things. I don’t know if that’s even a flaw, but if it is a flaw, it’s a completely different one than narcissism.

            In this case what’s narcissistic is talking like mitigating circumstances entitle you to be thoughtless (taking malicious off the table, for the sake of argument). “Not to put too fine a point on it”, but: Everyone has mitigating circumstances, not just you.

            But still, don’t worry about it. Like I said in my last post, I thought you were a more literal minded and thoughtful person than you seem to be at the moment, with a 4 year old and 60 hour work weeks to deal with. So I do take you at your word. From the start of this all you had to do was stop digging. This last post wasn’t that, but the volume and aggression of distortions has died down.

             

            Thirdly having some thoughts that stem from a narcissistic viewpoint is closer to the human condition than it is to an insult.

            I addressed that in my previous post, which was quite comprehensive, as you may have noticed. See above.

             

            So yeah,

            No, this isn’t true

            Yes, it is true

             

            Carvenvisage: If my post was narcissistic, it’s because it was a product of narcissistic thinking.

            You’ve seen your way to denying that that’s so (unless I’m misunderstanding you), so I’m off the hook anyway, but here’s my first word again, hopefully as my last:

            My post wasn’t narcissistic, and the reason it wasn’t narcissistic is because zero (or traces amounts) of narcissism, or narcissistic thinking, went into it. It was made primarily out of concern for others. I’ve never spoken up on behalf of my preferences. I’ve never said ‘this makes me uncomfortable’, or so much as challenged Scott’s attitudes /casual, approving references, to polyamorous relationships, homosexuality, BDSM, (partially because I know he’s attached to the whole ‘sex positivity’ thing), -or anything, ever, that made me personally uncomfortable.

            So if posting out of (unstatably) extremely strong personal dislikes means narcissism (which it CLEARLY doesn’t, but whatever, running with the premise), then I’m not just not-a-narcissist, I’m the opposite of a narcissist, and you’ve called a spade a diamond. Water, dry. And self-abnegating, self-obsessed. Self skeptical, self worshipping.

            And that wasn’t (even) what made me ad. It was the bulverism of it. Taking it for granted when you’d never established it. I KNOW we don’t live in a civilised society, but there should be a fucking death penalty for that.

            As far as I can tell, my initial post’s phrasing was not quite perfect, but if it comes to it, I don’t think it was even that far off, either.

            If someone wants to show me I’m wrong, on any front, please go ahead. I’m open to being convinced I’m wrong about any of this, if anyone would like to make a first attempt. In the meantime, I don’t expect to be labelled without first being accused.

  10. dg says:

    What do you all think about the notion of cutting expenses drastically to be able to retire early (or donate more if you’re super awesome)? I’m talking about communities like leanfire, Mr. Money Mustache, ERE, etc. Are any of you trying that? How’s it been so far?

    Similarly, have any of you tried vandwelling? I live in an expensive city, so I’ve been looking into that.

    • MNH says:

      I think it sounds extremely unpalatable on a personal level, since it generally involves keeping your expenses low indefinitely. I’m eager to retire, but only when that retirement is an actually comfortable life. Obviously if you are comfortable living at that low level of expense, though, your opinion won’t resemble mine.

      • dg says:

        That’s true. I’ll just note that hedonic adaptation implies that once certain basics are met that increased expenses won’t yield more happiness. Of course, what are considered “certain basics” will vary person to person.

    • MF says:

      It’s a personal interest of mine. I’m curious as well as to what other people have to think.

      It strikes me that FI principles apply very well to EA – just don’t retire. Giving What We Can has you pledge to donate only 10% of your income to charity. People can donate much more than that without being much unhappier in quite a lot of cases. (Though please don’t take me as saying ‘only’ giving 10% of your income to charity is bad.)

      Because of this, I’m more than a little surprise FI isn’t brought up more in rationalist sphere.

      I’m only starting on my journey, but I enjoyed my experiment saving 50% of my income on a 30k/year salary. I never felt like I wanted for anything except for sushi every night.

      I have a friend who reads this blog (but does not comment) very into vandwelling. I share many of the same impulses that would lead one down that road.

      For example, I live in an apartment with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom and it’s way larger than I’d like.

      I also find the idea of having so few possessions that I could fit them all into a suitcase and move on a whim extremely appealing. Of course, I also have next to no desire to travel, and rather like having a desktop computer, so I’ve been unable to satisfy that particular desire.

      I’m too tall and enjoy having hot showers every morning too much to live in a van. I know vandwellers often buy gym memberships, etc. to get easy access to showers, but that represents a trivial inconvenience to me and thus kills any enthusiasm I’d have at the idea. I certainly have no problems with anyone doing it, though. Perhaps I’ll be much more pro-vandwelling after I get a job somewhere with absurd rent. I’m interviewing in San Jose and the rents there ($3000+) are absurd.

      • dg says:

        I’m surprised by that as well. It may be that those Earning to Give stick to posting about FI in the FI-specific communities. It could also be that many of them think that increasing their income is a higher priority than decreasing their costs. For example, many of them work in software development. There’s a big difference in income between working at a place like Google vs at most other companies. So it initially may make more sense to focus on their careers.

        I am similarly bothered by the size of my apartment. However, I appreciate having a guaranteed place to sleep at night that is quiet. A van may not provide that.

        The showering inconvenience you refer to is even more trivial if you workout frequently. Then the shower could follow the workout anyway.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t hate my job that much. Nor does not spending money bring me intrinsic joy the way it seems to for some. Being unemployed (“retired”) and barely scraping by seems worse than the status quo.

      Normally I’d say live and let live but many MMM acolytes I’ve come across have a vegan/crossfit thing going on that makes me want to push back.

      • baconbacon says:

        I don’t hate my job that much. Nor does not spending money bring me intrinsic joy the way it seems to for some. Being unemployed (“retired”) and barely scraping by seems worse than the status quo.

        I’ve read MMM, but follow very little of his advice (specifically that is, I already did some things he advises before), and this is a misconception.

        The goal of early retirement isn’t to get the bare minimum to scrape by and then scrape by, but to get to a basic point in your life where you can dictate how much effort you put into earning money. Lots of jobs that are pretty terrible full time are actually pretty fun part time, and financial independence means being able to test those waters. I’ve worked bakeries both full and part time, as a part time/summer job its pretty fun, night hours means interesting co workers and having days (especially summer days) almost totally free. Full time its a complete grind, midnight to 9 shifts really suck and put a strain on your relationships, having to work 60-70 hours a week during major holidays basically ruins them and the pay is pretty crappy ($12-15 an hour).

        If you hit financial independence you could pick up a few shifts a week at a bakery, learn a lot about cooking, meet interesting people and have extra spending money. Get bored or decide you don’t like it move on to something else that interests you, decide you really like it and pick up more shifts.

      • MF says:

        To follow up on what baconbacon said,

        I don’t hate my job that much. Nor does not spending money bring me intrinsic joy the way it seems to for some. Being unemployed (“retired”) and barely scraping by seems worse than the status quo.

        Being FI does not necessarily mean ‘scraping by’. The goal is financial independence, ie. the freedom to work as little or as much as you please on whatever you want. If living on nothing but rice and water is your thing, that’s fine. If you want to buy a new yacht every year, by all means. It just means you have to save more. You don’t need to retire!

        There’s a lot of room between vandwelling and working until you’re 70. MMM is on the more extreme side, but there’s plenty of people out there retiring at 50 and living luxuriously. A lot of FI is about spending money on things you get value out of and cutting costs by getting rid of things you don’t, not necessarily living a bare existence.

        (Although I suppose the root comment was specifically talking about the more extreme side of things, and I certainly fall more into that range myself.)

        • baconbacon says:

          A lot of FI is about spending money on things you get value out of and cutting costs by getting rid of things you don’t, not necessarily living a bare existence.

          To add the third way, find alternative ways to get the things you value. I like good beer, I brew decent to good beer for half the price. I like animals, I like fresh high quality food, I have chickens, they lay eggs. The spent grain from beer brewing gets eaten by the chickens.

          Long story short I would probably only save $500-1,000 a year brewing my own beer and raising chickens, but I do so while enjoying myself (and my kids enjoy themselves with baby chicks once a year).

          • Brad says:

            I’ve done some beer brewing. I’m skeptical that you are saving much money. Yes, certainly if you bought as much beer as you are making it would cost more than the marginal cost of brewing. Even the total cost quickly becomes a win unless you quit right away or being really obsessed with new equipment.

            But IME between drinking it themselves and giving it away brewers are consuming a lot more beer than non-brewers. There’s nothing wrong with that — the additional beer is generating additional utility, but it does make apple to apple comparisons of savings tricky.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’ve done some beer brewing. I’m skeptical that you are saving much money. Yes, certainly if you bought as much beer as you are making it would cost more than the marginal cost of brewing. Even the total cost quickly becomes a win unless you quit right away or being really obsessed with new equipment.

            Have you actively tried to cut costs? If you brew regularly you can buy a cheap grinder and bulk base grain and drop $3-5 of each 5 gallon batch easily, you can culture your own yeast for an extra 2 mins of effort, which means another $7-8 off per batch. For a batch of beer that costs you 50-$60 you are talking 20% off right there, if you were already at 85-90% of the cost of similar commercial style beer, then you are doing pretty well at this point. There are a few other tricks but combined with spreading out the cost of your equipment over hundreds of gallons of beer these are the big savers.

          • Brad says:

            It seems like you ignored the most relevant part. Were you buying hundreds of gallons of beer before your started getting into brewing?

          • baconbacon says:

            It seems like you ignored the most relevant part. Were you buying hundreds of gallons of beer before your started getting into brewing?

            The beer I drank prior to getting into brewing probably cost 1.25-2.00 a bottle when bought by the case (30-48 a case), at 10 beers a week (less than 1.5 a day), that is $600-$1000 a year in beer for 1 person, I’m married to a beer drinker so x1.5 (she drinks less) so $900-$1500 a year in beer at that rate, 750 12 ounce beers a year is ~70-75 gallons of beer a year, not hundreds.

            This is a rough calculation, and that was 10 years ago. I don’t drink 10 a week, but I do drink more expensive beer generally now and I wouldn’t also be only paying case rates, ball park estimate seems good enough.

          • Aapje says:

            If you like doing it as a hobby, it seems like a double benefit, as you probably would do a different, more costly hobby instead, if you didn’t brew.

          • gbdub says:

            You can definitely homebrew for (at least a little) cheaper than quality craft brew without too much effort. But not really cheaper than cheap beer.

            To really get significant savings, you kind of need to always be brewing, brew large batches, fully amortize the non-trivial cost of equipment, and stick to similar styles (to make re-using yeast cultures bulk grain purchases feasible).

            For me, I brew occasionally, in small batches and wildly different styles (because experimentation and trying new beer is part of the fun). So I end up at a per-beer cost of just the consumables pretty similar to buying craft beer at the supermarket.

            Anyway it’s all moot since beer is frankly a luxury / pleasure good, and probably one of the first things a truly frugal person would cut from the budget.

          • baconbacon says:

            Although to be totally fair Brad is right, I overstated as my wife and I have never hit 100% of our beer consumption in home-brew, and we probably topped out around 75%, and that fell off after we had kids (though its creeping back up now).

            On the other hand there are opportunities if you have a hobby like this to get value out of it. Between her brother in law and us we brewed 20 gallons of beer for our wedding, and for large family gatherings one of the 4 brewers in the family inevitably brings a 5 gallon keg of something, which is always appreciated and drunk and replaces some other obligation they would have undertaken.

          • baconbacon says:

            To really get significant savings, you kind of need to always be brewing, brew large batches, fully amortize the non-trivial cost of equipment, and stick to similar styles (to make re-using yeast cultures bulk grain purchases feasible)

            While the general thrust is true, I think the word choice is a little misleading. As I posted above consumption for 2 adults in my household is ~70-75 gallons of beer a year, with a 5 gallon setup brewing once a month is ~55 gallons given some losses to bottling etc, that isn’t constantly.

            If it is a long term hobby you don’t have to worry much about amortization as the most expensive parts of your set up (large pots, propane burner, glass carboy’s, kegs) have long life spans (10+ years, although the carboy’s do occasionally break). This means you can either pick up used equipment to start off or you can run thousands of gallons through the most expensive stuff over a long time period, or you can regain a solid portion of the cost by reselling it if you decide to quit in a few years. As long as you aren’t the type to obsess about a new hobby for 3-6 months and then stick the equipment in your garage (know thyself) I wouldn’t worry about having to brew constantly (additionally the equipment can be used for other things as well, making wine, deep frying turkeys etc).

            In some situations grain storage is a no go, if you have an apartment in DC with no AC then its going to rot. If you have a dry basement in most places in the US you can store malted barely for a few years.

            For me, I brew occasionally, in small batches and wildly different styles (because experimentation and trying new beer is part of the fun). So I end up at a per-beer cost of just the consumables pretty similar to buying craft beer at the supermarket.

            I bought my self a 7-1 crockpot last week and am experimenting with the settings to see if I can easily brew 1 gallon experiment batches in it easily.

            Anyway it’s all moot since beer is frankly a luxury / pleasure good, and probably one of the first things a truly frugal person would cut from the budget.

            Yeah, if we hit hard times as a family beer would go quickly, but in the vein of “living a lifestyle you find comfortable more cheaply” was what I was going for.

        • At a tangent, a good deal of this becomes more relevant if we solve the aging problem. One option would be to work and save until you have accumulated enough to provide you with a minimal tolerable standard of living, then only do work you enjoy to supplement that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Seems to me retirement age has been creeping up along with life expectancy. I expect if we managed to solve the aging problem, then expenses and/or inflation would end up rising so much that most people would need to continue to work indefinitely. And employment “gaps” would continue to be looked on negatively, leaving the option of taking a year or two off then trying to come back as dangerous

          • I expect if we managed to solve the aging problem, then expenses and/or inflation would end up rising so much that most people would need to continue to work indefinitely.

            Why would you expect that?

            I can imagine that many people wouldn’t be willing to save enough to retire on, but why would you expect an end to aging to cause inflation?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Certainly price inflation; with fewer people dying, real estate (and anything else depending on fixed resources) becomes more expensive. Taxes also; if people were able to retire indefinitely, states would realize they weren’t getting much income from a lot of biological units and would change the tax structure accordingly.

            But also I’m a pessimist; little good can come of anything, and that seems the easiest way solving aging could fail: you don’t die of old age, but you have to keep working forever just to keep your head above water.

          • with fewer people dying, real estate (and anything else depending on fixed resources) becomes more expensive.

            On the other hand, old people consume a lot of of medical resources, so the demand for medical resources would go down relative to population, making them less expensive.

            Furthermore, an important part of the cost of services, including medical services, is the cost of training, so if the average surgeon worked an extra decade or two the cost of his services would go down. More generally, human capital becomes less expensive because it lasts longer.

            If many people follow the tactic of accumulating wealth when young then living at least in part on interest thereafter the result will be to increase the amount of capital. If most of those people live only on interest the ratio of capital to labor on the market goes up, so capital becomes less expensive. If they keep working, the amount of labor goes up.

            In any case, the only part of your argument that predictably works, so far as I can see, is with regard to fixed resources, which are not a very large part of human productivity. Fly across the U.S. and look down–lots of empty land. And the location of land will become less important as VR and telecommuting and such get more important. Meanwhile there are positive effects from increasing population–more good novels, more inventions, more blogs as good as this one.

            Or perhaps that last is too optimistic.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      Living out of a car can be okay for a short while, but is neither safe nor practical in the long run.

      If you do end up doing it for whatever reason, it will teach you the value of public libraries and how much national holidays suck.

      • yodelyak says:

        Wait. I get the first part. Why do national holidays suck? I was van-bound here and there for poverty reasons (not as a savings plan) for a few days at a stretch a few times as a younger person… I don’t recall having any particular impression of national holidays from that experience.

        • Montfort says:

          Someone in my extended family lives out of his car (and is also unemployed). He likes to spend a lot of time in libraries because they are climate controlled, quiet, have internet access, interesting books, tables, and comfortable seats, and no one hassles him. Correspondingly, national holidays suck because the libraries (and many other businesses) are closed and he has to come up with something else to do/somewhere else to go.

          • Error says:

            Something I’ve wondered: How do people who live that way handle basic hygiene, e.g. showering? My first thought is “they don’t,” but I would expect facilities like libraries to complain if someone regularly showed up smelling like a dumpster.

          • Montfort says:

            I’m not sure exactly how he does it, but gym memberships are common for this reason.

    • baconbacon says:

      What do you all think about the notion of cutting expenses drastically to be able to retire early (or donate more if you’re super awesome)? I’m talking about communities like leanfire, Mr. Money Mustache, ERE, etc. Are any of you trying that? How’s it been so far?

      Lots of people who really get into these things basically make cutting cots their hobby, and they enjoy the feeling of getting something cheaper or going without. It is really hard to do this voluntarily without that feeling.

      The most important advice that I think you can give when starting out is that when you cut a cost you need to immediately shift that money into savings of some kind. Knocking $40 off your phone bill will feel good, but if it doesn’t actually go into savings intentionally most people will just unconsciously spend more on other consumption goods.

      I actually have found the best way to save more is just to automatically save first (say $50-100 from your paycheck goes into a special account you don’t touch or increase the automatic payment for your mortgage), and then try to figure out how to live on your new budget rather than the other way around.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        I endorse this comment. I used to talk a lot about how it was relatively easy to cut costs without putting a lot of work into it, just by putting all of your spending into an application like Mint.com and then doing analysis on what simple changes you can make based on your spending profile, but I did not take into account that not everyone really like data collection and optimization puzzles.

        My own feeling, however, is that just like tracking your weight daily or weekly makes you more aware of the choices you’re making and can have significant effects on your health, so can making yourself account for every dollar you spend, especially the set-it-and-forget-it bills and minor everyday expenses.

        —-

        As for the people worrying about scraping by, well, there’s two sides to this. The first side is the recognition that you can expect to get about X yearly with 20X invested at minimal long-term risk, so if you can save 20 times your needed salary, you have Won At Finances. The second is that if you pay attention to what you’re actually spending on, you can almost certainly get X lower than you think, without actually sacrificing comfort. Part of the constant refrain of Mr. Money Mustache in particular is that he spends money all the time, but only on things that he’s convinced are really worth it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          but I did not take into account that not everyone really like data collection and optimization puzzles.

          That’s not the only problem. I look at my recurring expenses and it’s #1 taxes #2 mortgage. A variety of difficult to avoid bills (power and water) come next; the only easy one to cut would be the landscapers, and I hate yardwork. So the conclusion is that if I want to save significant money, I have to move. This does not count as “relatively easy”.

          • MF says:

            Where do you live that taxes are your highest expense? I’ve heard horror stories about Europe being nigh-impossible to reach FI in because of taxes. At least in the US/Canada, there’s plenty of ways to reduce your tax burden.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I live in the US, and until recently made a decent salary (for now I make nothing but while this reduces tax burden considerably it’s not a long term solution). There are few ways to reduce your tax burden in the US if your income is basically from wages and salaries, aside from either discarding income (i.e. giving to charity) or deferring it.

          • baconbacon says:

            That’s not the only problem. I look at my recurring expenses and it’s #1 taxes #2 mortgage. A variety of difficult to avoid bills (power and water) come next; the only easy one to cut would be the landscapers, and I hate yardwork. So the conclusion is that if I want to save significant money, I have to move. This does not count as “relatively easy”.

            Moving itself is a pain, but the potential payoff is very large for lots of people. If living with a large yard/in your specific area doesn’t have significant benefits, then 3-4 months worth of effort moving could add several years of FI to one’s life.

        • Brad says:

          @Robert Liguori

          endorse this comment. I used to talk a lot about how it was relatively easy to cut costs without putting a lot of work into it, just by putting all of your spending into an application like Mint.com and then doing analysis on what simple changes you can make based on your spending profile, but I did not take into account that not everyone really like data collection and optimization puzzles.

          My own feeling, however, is that just like tracking your weight daily or weekly makes you more aware of the choices you’re making and can have significant effects on your health, so can making yourself account for every dollar you spend, especially the set-it-and-forget-it bills and minor everyday expenses.

          It seems like your second paragraph retreats from the hard won insight of the first paragraph. I don’t want to track my weight daily. I don’t want to think before I eat any little thing “should I be eating this”. I just want to leave it up to my system 1 and go on my merry way.

          Now it may be that some people, including me at some point in my life, can’t do that without it having an unacceptable cost. If I balloon up to an obese weight or I get pre-diabetes or something like that, then I will have no choice but to keep a weight log and watch what I eat. But that’s a crappy situation that I hope doesn’t happen. It is not something I am going to run out of my way to do.

          Now I know that the way I experience these things in not the same as other people do. There are people that love to play the game. More power to them! But I wish they could see that telling me all about how easy and great it is — when it is for them but isn’t for me — is just annoying and not at all helpful. I’m familiar with the benefits of dieting and budgeting but given my preferences it is entirely rational to forgo those benefits.

          As for the people worrying about scraping by, well, there’s two sides to this. The first side is the recognition that you can expect to get about X yearly with 20X invested at minimal long-term risk, so if you can save 20 times your needed salary, you have Won At Finances.

          A 5% real return with minimal long-term risk is not something you can just assume going forward.

          The second is that if you pay attention to what you’re actually spending on, you can almost certainly get X lower than you think, without actually sacrificing comfort. Part of the constant refrain of Mr. Money Mustache in particular is that he spends money all the time, but only on things that he’s convinced are really worth it.

          Like the beer brewer above, MMM has a hobby. What many others would consider work he considers play. Then he turns around and extols all the “free” benefits of his hobby.

          • On the specific subject of watching your weight … .

            I have a very simple system. At my present normal and acceptable if not optimal weight, my belt is comfortable at the second tightest setting, uncomfortably tight at the tightest setting–both varying a little over the day according to when and how much I have recently eaten.

            So when it starts being uncomfortable at the second setting I know my weight has crept up, and adjust accordingly. When it gets comfortable at the tightest setting I know I am making progress getting even lighter, which gives me some inclination, so far inadequate, to see if I can get my weight to stay there.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            It seems like your second paragraph retreats from the hard won insight of the first paragraph. I don’t want to track my weight daily. I don’t want to think before I eat any little thing “should I be eating this”. I just want to leave it up to my system 1 and go on my merry way.

            I think I’ll point at the world ‘relatively’ there. Relative to the goal of “Hacking the eons-old biological imperatives to eat lots of tasty food and not expend energy needlessly”, daily weigh-ins combined with the second-order effect of having to think every time you eat any old thing is an extremely small change, and one which has surprisingly large returns given its small cost.

            A 5% real return with minimal long-term risk is not something you can just assume going forward.

            Why not?

            Or, to be more specific, when do you think that was a safe assumption over, well, a 20-year period, and when wasn’t it actually true? Historically-speaking, investing in an index fund (or just buying loads of diverse stocks and bonds) has returned well above 5% post-tax, through some very large and impactful travails, as long as you were able to actually have that 20-year cushion, and as long as you could counterbalance the lean years in which you had to dip into your principal with disciplined saving and spending in the boom years.

            Now, past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, of course, but it’s the best guide we have. Is there something specific you were predicting which would mess with a long-term 5% return?

          • Brad says:

            Based on these two sites: http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/New_Home_Page/datafile/histretSP.html
            and
            http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/historical-inflation-rates/

            It looks like if you started with 20 units at the beginning of 1930 then withdraw 1 times the cumulative inflation units every year, with the remainder invested in the S&P 500 you would have run out of money by the end of 1946. If you had instead gone with 50% in S&P 500 and 50% in ten year bonds, you’d have run out of money by the end of 1940.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Yeah, those ’30 and ’31 years were indeed killers. If you do invest all of your money just before the Great Depression hits, you will be in sore shape.

            Now, of the past 88 years on record, how many have that property? I would certainly agree with the statement “If you only have 20 times your normal spending invested and you can’t either cut your spending or supplement your income, don’t retire right before a Great Depression”, but historically-speaking, ‘right before a Great Depression’ (and, I’ll note, not during the Roaring 20s where you could earn a cushion of outsized returns).

            I think if you followed the pattern of having 20 times your salary in the Great Depression, you’d be incredibly well-off. And when things recovered (well before 1940), you could un-retire, re-enter the work force, and earn a little money (or at least spend less of it during the boom years), and you’re back on track.

            So, yes, in the specific case of retiring with the minimum recommended amount right before a 2-year period that wipes out 75% of your assets, the 20 year guideline will fail, and you’ll need to adjust things up or down by a bit. But, all things considered, not by that much.

          • Brad says:

            Now, of the past 88 years on record, how many have that property?

            Why would I do additional work when you’ve just so aptly demonstrated that you have no compunction about moving the goalposts?

          • Robert Liguori says:

            My original question was “When is it true, and when isn’t it?” for a reason. The 20x guideline was not true in (I think) 3 of 88 of the past recorded years, and in those few years, the margin you need to adjust your spending by is not large to be able to squeak by.

            If I’ve been giving the impression that I was arguing for the 20x rule being a set-in-stone truth rather than a heuristic which only works with about p = .05, then I apologize; that was not my intention.

          • Brad says:

            Okay, then let’s talk about un-retiring. If X = $15,000 and then sure un-retiring looks feasible. But what about if X = $75,000? You diligently follow FI/MMM guidelines, build up a $1.5MM nest egg and quit your job as a scrummaster at 42. Unfortunately the next year the stock market crashes. Or you wife says she’s going to leave you and take the kids unless you start buying store made mayonnaise again. Anyway, five, six years later you need to un-retire to make your savings stretch.

            Who is going to hire a software project manager with no experience from the last five years? They aren’t even doing kanban boards and stand up meetings anymore. There’s some entirely new fad that you missed while you were off jarring pickles and saving your feces to spread on your home garden.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Well, one issue there is that you need to un-retire at year 1, when you no longer have 20X your yearly income invested. You can still run into functionally the same problem with a really bad crash or sudden medical bills or so on later on, however, and the answer is basically the same as if you weren’t retired; get another job. Learn what you need to learn, buzzword and credential how you need to buzzword and credential, dig back into whatever professional contacts you made as a scrummaster, do side jobs as a freelance web programmer with the IT knowledge you needed to get your foot in the door as a project manager, and so on. In the case of the crash, you ruthlessly trim living expenses (and at a $75,000 yearly budget, you almost certainly have room to trim). And if the wife really wants store-bought mayo, then if that’s what you want to do, you adjust your damn budget, spend less on something that’s worth less to her than having that mayo, and buy the mayo.

            It’s basically the same steps as if you’re being paid by someone else, as far as I can tell; you’d run into the exact same issues if you got fired from that scrummaster job and weren’t investing.

          • baconbacon says:

            Okay, then let’s talk about un-retiring. If X = $15,000 and then sure un-retiring looks feasible. But what about if X = $75,000? You diligently follow FI/MMM guidelines, build up a $1.5MM nest egg and quit your job as a scrummaster at 42. Unfortunately the next year the stock market crashes. Or you wife says she’s going to leave you and take the kids unless you start buying store made mayonnaise again. Anyway, five, six years later you need to un-retire to make your savings stretch.

            Then you need to buy Baconbacon’s investment newsletter just before you retire to make sure this doesn’t happen.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am doing this. High salary country earnings via standard employment, low cost destination country to build a small real-estate business.

      It’s not for everyone. If you have any sort of expensive habits, it’s probably not for you. If you’re the sort of person who can squeeze out 75% savings rate out of a median salary, it’s probably for you.

      I have considered living in a vehicle, but it turned out that I cut costs on regular accommodations enough that it wouldn’t have been cheaper.

      • Matt M says:

        Do you mind if I ask what the destination country is? Or at least how you picked it?

        • Anonymous says:

          My home country. I could go even lower, but those places tend to have civil wars and migrant swarms passing through.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      I’m in the first half (build up money) of FI (financial independence), and what really struck was how easy most of it was. Most people make way, way more money than they need to enjoy themselves and then waste it on positional goods, manufactured crap that doesn’t actually bring them any happiness, and cars. Shucking all of that has made me happier, not less happy – the habits you cultivate try to become FI don’t involve taking on misery to be able to work less, they involve understand what actually makes you happy and cutting out everything that doesn’t that you can. “Low” expenses are relative in a first-world country. I have more than enough luxuries even though I’m saving half my take-home salary, I just spend less on crap.

      This is obviously easier if you have a larger than average salary, but I’d estimate that I spend less than the average person makes in take-home salary and, if I suddenly had to take a perfectly average job, I’d still spend less than I make.

  11. Bakkot says:

    Scott, this thread is missing its “open” tag, which means it isn’t the one you get redirected to when you click “Open Thread” at the top of the page.

  12. anonymousskimmer says:

    I hadn’t heard of the Crying Wolf post until it was mentioned by Sandy in the predictions post comments.

    From that post:

    This is a Vox poll asking how many people had favorable vs. unfavorable views of different groups. 11% admit to “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views of blacks, which sounds bad, except that 7% of people admit to unfavorable views of heterosexuals by the same definition. This makes me think “have an unfavorable view about this group” is not a very high bar. If we restrict true “white supremacists” to those who have only “very unfavorable” views of blacks, this is 3%, well in line with our other sources.

    What percentage of the population are generally misanthropes?

    More importantly, to what extent would classifying/categorical questions which demand classifying/categorical answers mislead in their results? Hypothetically encouraging premature generalization / categorization (or whatever the technical terms are for the related fallacies) in respondents who wouldn’t have otherwise generalized in such a manner.

    • albertborrow says:

      What are you asking here? The slashes are making your question really hard to parse, and your last sentence is a fragment. (if I read it correctly)

      • Montfort says:

        My attempt at a rephrase:

        Does asking the question itself, by identifying categories of people and implying that categorization scheme is relevant, encourage respondents to form opinions about those categories as a whole instead of saying “I don’t think heterosexuals is a useful category for this purpose”? How big is this effect, if present?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Well in that case my gut response would be “Yes, absolutely”.

          Edit:
          Going into a bit more detail, I would say that people are instinctually tribal, but how these tribes are defined is fluid. Emphasizing differences encourages separation along those lines just as emphasizing commonality encourages unity. Granted, this is just one guy’s opinion, but this is one of the major reasons that I regard identity politics and social justice, as not just mistaken but actively malicious / dangerous.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Thank you, this was a hard question for me to phrase, but your rephrasing captures the gist of what I was going for.

          Thinking about it a bit more I thought of a hypothetical way of tackling one part of the issue:

          Come up with, say, 25 distinct descriptors. Randomly assign these descriptors to a person and ask the survey responder what they think about such a person. Do this 10 or 15 times, and ensure that each descriptor is used at least twice. Factor analyze.

          Not only would this flesh a person out a bit, but it would highlight that this is a single person the question is asking about, not a general category of persons. Because honestly, when people answer these kinds of questions about categories of people, aren’t they often generalizing from specific persons that they’ve heard of?

        • Deiseach says:

          I would have thought the “heterosexuals” question acted as a control question, i.e. “most people are heterosexual, most people will not have an unfavourable view of that, so this gives us a basis to check if their answers are consistent when it comes to the racial etc. questions”.

          It’s not impossible but very unlikely that someone will answer “I’m straight, I think being straight is awful, I also think being black is awful”.

          • Matt M says:

            Could it be that the constant barrage of put-downs of “straight white males” by the cultural left is actually working? Or at least, working on 8% of the population?

          • I think it more likely that 8% of those polled misread “heterosexual” as “homosexual.”

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      It seems more likely that this is just a case of bad test comprehension.

      Some percentage of people in the US have an unfavorable view of homosexuals. I can’t find a good poll without expending actual effort, but Gallop says that something like 37% of people in the US thought homosexuality was morally wrong as of May 2016. I wouldn’t bet anything on how that number pans out in real life, but it at least shows that roughly that many poll respondents will express an unfavorable opinion of homosexuals to a pollster.

      So if about one fifth of those people misheard the question about heterosexuals as being about homosexuals, you’d see 7% unfavorability even if everyone polled had a positive or neutral view of heterosexuals. It makes sense too: the words sound alike, the term heterosexual is comparatively rarely used, and in context it makes more sense to be asked about homosexuals than heterosexuals.

      • Matt M says:

        While I find this entirely plausible, isn’t it most likely that in this poll, people were asked about homosexuals and heterosexuals in consecutive questions? Or even if it wasn’t consecutive, if both questions are asked in one survey, most people would intuitively say “wait you already asked me that” would they not?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          It’s possible. I went to the list of questions on the Vox poll to check.

          The heterosexual one was listed on page 1 as question VX1_1A and said:

          Please indicate if you have a positive or negative view of each of the following… People that identify as heterosexual (N=994)

          The homosexual one was listed on page 2 as question VX1_2B and was identically worded except for the word homosexual.

          N for each was roughly 1000 out of 2000 respondents: this and the way the questions are numbered make me think that each person was asked one, but not both, of those questions. I didn’t see their methodology though and I’m not a poll guy. This is amateur hour.

          So on the one hand, it looks like they asked the question in a highly confusing way. But on the other hand, I’m not sure if it’s so confusing that nearly a third of the people who had an unfavorable opinion of homosexuals would get mixed up.

          EDIT:

          I’m dumb. They already seem to have thought of this, as VX1_1B and VX1_2A repeat those questions but with “straight” and “gay or lesbian” respectively.

          Using the word straight entirely removes the three percent of people who were strongly unfavorable to heterosexuals, leaving behind the four percent who had slightly unfavorable views. The margin of error they report is 2% but it does seem like about half of the people who dislike heterosexuals didn’t realize that meant straight folks.

  13. 3rd says:

    The getstungbymillionsofwasps link in the sidebar doesn’t lead to a blog, but a sketchy facebook page. I suggest removing the link.

  14. baconbacon says:

    More on the NYTs article, did anyone else follow any of the links? Look how brazen they are

    In a classic business deal, an entrepreneur puts up collateral to get a loan for a potentially profitable investment. But a teenager can’t walk into a private bank and receive a loan for tens of thousands of dollars based solely on her academic promise, even though a college education is (on average) an extremely lucrative investment.

    Links to This page that claims a completed 4 year degree that averages $102,000 has a return of 15.2%. This is obvious bullshit.

    First the slight semantic point, a COMPLETED degree being worth X does not mean that the average person that goes to college is a good investment because many people go, pay some money, don’t complete their degree and end up poorer. This is misleading but whatever.

    Second, $102,000 compounded over 43 years (graduate at age 22, retire at 65) implies lifetime earnings of almost $45,000,000 MORE than a guy that doesn’t go to college.*

    FORTY FIVE MILLION + is what the AVERAGE 4 years student earns according to this link (and an associates degree earner has lifetime earnings of $36,000,000)

    *you could mayyyyyyybbbbbbbeeeee come up with a scenario where lots of people get 4 year degrees late in life and thus the average compound interest is over a much shorter period, or people with degrees retire way earlier than 65, but even if the average span of compounded interest is only over 30 years then lifetime earnings are still $7 million + which is >$200,000 a year for the average 4 years degree.

    • cafemachiavelli says:

      The estimate seems fairly plausible to me. Here‘s the paper (admittedly light on the math) and here the method behind it.

      Keep in mind that IRR calculation takes the timing of cash flows into account, so only the last payment (your salary before you retire) is compounded over 43 years. The one before is compounded over 42 years, then 41, 40, and so on. That would make an initial investment of $102,000 at an IRR of 15.2% result in a yearly increase in marginal wages of $15,235, which sounds roughly right.

      • baconbacon says:

        The estimate seems fairly plausible to me. Here‘s the paper (admittedly light on the math) and here the method behind it.

        Flaw #1 in the methodology

        An additional cost of college is the foregone earnings or ―opportunity cost‖ of not working. On average, 18 and 19 year olds right out of high school earn about $11,600 per year, while 20 and 21 year olds with a high school degree average about $15,400 per year (this average reflects the fact that high school workers are less likely to find a full-time job and more likely to be unemployed).

        This vastly understates the opportunity cost of going to college, the proper cohort for this paper is not people that didn’t go to college, its people that could have gone to college (and completed it!) but chose not to. Of to a great start.

        t age 22, the average college graduate earns about 70 percent more than the average person with a high school degree only. But that is only the beginning. For instance, in 2010, a college graduate at age 50 (the peak of her career) earns approximately $46,500 more than someone with only a high school diploma.

        Still making the same mistake. There is also another question, is this pre tax or post tax income. It doesn’t say so far, if its pre tax then that is another substantial mistake, if I see that it is pretax I will specifically note later.

        Over a lifetime, the average college graduate earns roughly $570,000 more than the average person with a high school diploma only—a tremendous return to the average upfront investment of $102,000 investment.3

        Where does this $570,000 come from? If you look at the graph titled average annual earnings by education you see that a bachelor’s degree out earns a high school degree by $30,000+ from age 34 through at least age 60 which is well over $570k on its own, let alone with the extra from

        There is more to critize but don’t have the time now. Will get back to the IRR bit soon I hope.

        • cafemachiavelli says:

          > There is also another question, is this pre tax or post tax income.

          If they followed the methodology as indicated, taxation is accounted for, check Appendix A of the Heckman paper.

          > Where does this $570,000 come from?

          Discounted by 5% for time preference, just like in the Barrow/Rouse paper.

  15. JohnL says:

    I’ve got an idea for a basic income / negative income tax alternative tumbling around in my head that I’d love to have someones take on. I am not all that well read on the politics/economics/philosophy of basic income really. I’ve just picked up on it from places like this one, where the subject is sometimes peripherally touched. So it may well be that some of what I’m suggesting has some standard argument against it that I’m not aware of.

    I believe that increasing automation will lead to growing economic inequalities between those who benefit from the automation and those who are made redundant by it. Since automation should scale up efficiency, it should also lead to a surplus of resources that can be distributed to reduce the friction and conflicts I would otherwise expect this to cause. BI/NIT is one way to deal with that problem.

    A related problem is the psychological need of people to be useful in a world of increasing automation, which with BI/NIT is basically put as the responsibility of each individual or their informal community.

    So, to my suggestion: Swap some of the corporate taxes for a requirement on companies to have a certain number of employees, balanced such that basically everyone in the country would be employed.

    Some nitpicky details:
    * The obligation could be traded to another company.
    * The government would offer to buy back the obligation for the cost of one minimum wage and distribute that to those still not employed.
    * Any single person could only count for one full-time employment.

    I would expect this to be balanced so that it gives a lighter total tax burden to labor intensive industries at the cost of a higher one for automation heavy industries and thereby also somewhat slow down the introduction of automation, which I consider a slightly negative effect on the whole, but probably worth it.

    Since everyone is now employed and has the means to pay for themselves, other welfare costs should go down.

    At one extreme–where all companies just sell the obligation back to the government–this basically collapses into the equivalent of BI/NIT again. But this scheme has the benefit of giving a lot of companies an interest in optimizing how people’s time is spent further than that. A company that doesn’t already have it’s minimum number of employees could basically have a minimum wage employee at no additional cost, or increase the pay to get a more skilled employee at a lower marginal cost than it would have been without the obligation. I could even see an increase in companies sponsoring artists, scientists or similar as one of their “employees” and left to do mostly as they wish for the PR benefits.

    So, what do you think? Any exploits you can see? Any of the premises you disagree with? What consequences would you expect this to lead to? Would you like to live in a country there this was implemented?

    • baconbacon says:

      I believe that increasing automation will lead to growing economic inequalities between those who benefit from the automation and those who are made redundant by it.

      If this is your belief then what is your explanation for 1945-2000 where automation and labor force participation grew in concert?

      • John Schilling says:

        If this is your belief then what is your explanation for 1945-2000 where automation and labor force participation grew in concert?

        The grossly oversimplified version:

        20th century automation replaced people doing crappy jobs, that anybody could do but nobody liked doing but which needed to be done, freeing people up for the decent jobs that anybody could do and most people liked doing. Labor force participation went up because the “…and half of you will have to do crappy jobs” part no longer applied.

        21st century automation is replacing people doing decent jobs that anybody can do and most people like doing, leaving only the really good jobs that everybody likes but that most people can’t do. Labor force participation is likely to go down when the “…and you need a 125 IQ and a graduate degree or we don’t want you here” rule is more consistently applied.

      • JohnL says:

        Basically that until automation gets powerful enough it will need a human “manager” to perform at its best. E.g. the factories need their line-workers to produce. At that level human employment is in increasing demand since an employer gets more out of their labor than you could before.

        When it gets autonomous enough that you can have factories, farms, transportation etc run entirely without any human in the loop at all, human employment will diminish in value instead, since there is need for far fewer any more.

        This wouldn’t necessarily apply to all labor, but a significant enough part of it that I expect unemployment to keep rising.

        (Haven’t done any reading supporting this, just my intuitive thoughts, which are prone to be swayed by more arguments or research.)

        • This wouldn’t necessarily apply to all labor, but a significant enough part of it that I expect unemployment to keep rising.

          That assumes that a reduction in the demand for labor means increased unemployment. You might consider that, a century or so back, roughly half the U.S. population was in farming. Now a few percent of the population is. But we don’t have an unemployment rate of 40%+ as a result.

          If demand for labor in one sector goes down that lowers the cost of labor, which results in more people being employed in those sectors where demand has not gone down. Since, in your model, automation has lowered costs, the relative loss to people in the labor intensive sectors may be more than balanced by the lower cost of what they consume.

          • Nicholas Carter says:

            But we don’t have an unemployment rate of 40%+ as a result.

            You’re correct that 40% of the population is not unemployed. A full 63% of Americans have jobs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nicholas Carter:
            You are correct that 62.7% is the latest U.S. labor participation rate.

            Your definition for the labor participation rate is incorrect, as it is not a measure of all Americans, but only those 16 and older.

            You also incorrect that this is the inverse of unemployment. Anyone who does not have a job by choice is not unemployed, but still part of the 37.3% of “adult” Americans who are not participating in the labor pool.

      • Riothamus says:

        Not OP, but addressing the same question: my expectation is that economic growth increased demand for workers and that displaced labor was largely absorbed by the new demand.

        If I may, I will anticipate the question of “What makes this time different?” There are two reasons I believe this wave of automation will be different from the previous waves. The first reason is what precisely we are automating, and the second is how quickly it is adopted.

        Early automation was task-by-task: horses that pulled stuff were replaced by tractors that pulled stuff, and teams of workers planting seed were replaced by trailer attachments that planted seed. More recent automation was job-by-job, which was a combination of machines being able to do more precise or complicated tasks and deploying a system of machines to do all the work: so auto workers were replaced by a line of stamping machines, welding machines, etc. This time we are automating skill-by-skill: driving software, language software, scheduling software. Whereas farm laborers could just move on to manual labor that hadn’t been automated, the problem we must now anticipate is that when our job is automated the same product can plausibly do every job that we can do, because it has the whole skill set.

        Modern automation is also the first to be heavily software. This means that systems for distributing and maintaining the product require less workers than the heavy machinery of past waves, and also radically reduces the timescale of adoption. Production for software is always equal to demand – no need to build new factories, or put on extra shifts and buy additional raw materials. This means little lag between seeing demand and satisfying it, and very little additional labor required to maintain that satisfaction.

        When a job goes, I expect all similar jobs to go soon after. The timescale may even be short enough that wages won’t have time to fall in a way that isn’t severely disruptive in its own right. I have low confidence in society’s capacity for retraining. Therefore, I find social disruption and high concentration of the profits to be plausible concerns.

      • Nicholas Carter says:

        what is your explanation for 1945-2000 where automation and labor force participation grew in concert?

        A great deal of Work didn’t used to have anything to do with having a Job. A tremendous amount of labor in the fields of subsistence-only agriculture, home repair, vehicle and appliance repair, and clothing manufacture, to name a few, used to be done as not-Jobs, in an amateur fashion by the consumers of those tasks’ products. Automation reduced total Work, but it also made most of those tasks into Jobs, done by someone else and tracked for the first time in the size of the market economy. (I don’t even know how to make cotton socks, and supposedly my grandmother didn’t own any socks she didn’t make herself between the age of 9 and 15)

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Any exploits you can see?

      * The obligation could be traded to another company.

      Everyone’s a permatemp in crappy, short-term jobs with no vertical movement potential. Corporations already enjoy outsourcing to “temp” agencies (which is basically an obligation trade which creates, at minimum, two tiers of “employees”). This will incentive that trend even more.

      More transportation is needed, more energy is needed, for what?

      A company that doesn’t already have it’s minimum number of employees could basically have a minimum wage employee at no additional cost

      There’s always an additional cost. People do not work in a vacuum, nor are they employed in a vacuum. At base other people have to manage them.

      • JohnL says:

        Everyone’s a permatemp in crappy, short-term jobs with no vertical movement potential. Corporations already enjoy outsourcing to “temp” agencies (which is basically an obligation trade which creates, at minimum, two tiers of “employees”). This will incentive that trend even more.

        Wouldn’t the fact that you can quit your job and still get minimum wage counteract this?

        More transportation is needed, more energy is needed, for what?

        I’m not sure what this refers to. The employee getting to a work in which he isn’t needed? If it isn’t needed at all, then there wouldn’t be any incentive for the company to offer the job instead of just paying the penalty for not filling the obligation.

        There’s always an additional cost. People do not work in a vacuum, nor are they employed in a vacuum. At base other people have to manage them.

        Well, yes. The company always have the option of defaulting on the obligation, but the entire point of this is that it would lead them to spend some effort considering how they could get some value out of some labor if they’re forced to pay for them anyways.

        And for new companies to make it their business model of getting at least some value, even if less than a minimum wage’s worth and selling relief from the obligation from other companies.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Wouldn’t the fact that you can quit your job and still get minimum wage counteract this?

          Maybe, but I want to address this point instead of justifying mine.

          1) What’s the transition period for getting the new paycheck from the government? What if the company you used to work for is slow in filing the paperwork?

          2) If you can get the same wage and not have the secondary costs (e.g. transportation, work appropriate clothing), why would anyone take the minimum wage job, when you could instead spend the time at home on a social network, gaming, or otherwise doing other stuff?

          Even if many people would prefer the job, maybe the minimum wage plus expenses is really too expensive for them relative to minimum wage and no expenses.

          If it isn’t needed at all, then there wouldn’t be any incentive for the company to offer the job instead of just paying the penalty for not filling the obligation.

          Okay, assume that there would be some minor benefit the company from the jobs. But would this benefit outweigh the negative externalities everyone else pays?

          • JohnL says:

            1) What’s the transition period for getting the new paycheck from the government? What if the company you used to work for is slow in filing the paperwork?

            I haven’t thought of details at that level, and I don’t know enough law to say what would be feasible, but the company would have to either pay your salary or the penalty for not having enough employees, so you’d get the money eventually I imagine, but yeah, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck that could be a problem.

            2) If you can get the same wage and not have the secondary costs (e.g. transportation, work appropriate clothing), why would anyone take the minimum wage job, when you could instead spend the time at home on a social network, gaming, or otherwise doing other stuff?

            Yes, companies would probably have to expect to always pay some premium over the actual minimum to get anyone interested.

            I don’t want to get into any actual monetary amounts for what the minimum wage should be, but feel free to assume that the government payout is slightly lower than what a company has to pay if it helps.

            Okay, assume that there would be some minor benefit the company from the jobs. But would this benefit outweigh the negative externalities everyone else pays?

            Companies benefiting at the cost of negative externalities is a risk with anything they do, right? Maybe there is a higher risk in this case, but I’m not entirely convinced.

    • Tekhno says:

      @JohnL

      A related problem is the psychological need of people to be useful

      Is this a real hardcoded thing? Even if so, I doubt people are going to be rioting over not being useful. I think they can probably suck it up. I wonder to what degree this is something people say they want to cheer themselves up about having to work. In a world where they didn’t have to, would most people have a different opinion?

      I’m certainly longing for the day when work is dead.

      The other problem is that these people wouldn’t be useful for long, since they would need consumers who want what they produce, and in a world where everything can be automated to an indistinguishable level, those consumers might be the eccentric few. Would people for example “feel useful” today if paid to dig holes and then fill them in again? I think they’d probably rather be on welfare and “work” at what they’re actually interested in.

      Besides, I suspect that as soon as people start being able to own armies of home robots, then competition will emerge to create wealth above the level provided by welfare systems. Even if everything can be automated, the one thing we don’t want automated is human control (even if it’s just “Unit H78; do this task!”), so variations in what tasks people set their robots to and what land (possibly in space) they acquire might serve to satiate the desire for comparative actualization, and allow people to generate wealth above the level of the base welfare system. At least, I think that would be the case further into automation when we’ve got through the transitory period of shuttling everyone onto the basic income.

      somewhat slow down the introduction of automation, which I consider a slightly negative effect on the whole, but probably worth it.

      I’m having a similar emotional reaction to this sentence to the one I imagine a Leninist must have when encountering a Social Democrat.

      • JohnL says:

        Is this a real hardcoded thing?

        Maybe not. Thinking on it some more, those who feel it very strongly can probably always find something to do on their own initiative and for the rest, increased comfort certainly helps – but you’d still need a mechanism for getting them the resources to have that comfort.

        I’m certainly longing for the day when work is dead.

        Yes, me too, even if that probably didn’t come across in my post. I do believe that the expectation that everyone should work for 8 hours a day will need to die out sooner or later. I merely see my proposal as a smoother transition to that than the standard BI/NIC.

        I’m having a similar emotional reaction to this sentence to the one I imagine a Leninist must have when encountering a Social Democrat.

        I don’t think I quite understand the comparison, feel free to expand or just drop it if that would spoil the joke.

      • Tekhno says:

        I merely see my proposal as a smoother transition to that than the standard BI/NIC.

        I think smoothly expanding what counts as jobseeker’s allowance in most countries would help, and as automation and technological unemployment increase, relax job searching requirements, until you pass an arbitrary high point of unemployment, where you can just turn off the requirements, transforming the program into an unconditional basic income guarantee.

        It’s going to be a little rocky whatever we do. I just don’t think make-work will help much, because people will see straight through it, spoiling the effect its supposed to have on their ego. I’m also generally not a fan of subsidizing the ego, and more a fan of subsidizing people’s daily bread.

        I don’t think I quite understand the comparison, feel free to expand or just drop it if that would spoil the joke.

        I’m basically saying that “slow down the introduction of automation” triggered me hard, like a Leninist revolutionary hearing a Social Democrat reformist say “slow down the introduction of socialism”.

        • JohnL says:

          I think smoothly expanding what counts as jobseeker’s allowance in most countries would help, and as automation and technological unemployment increase, relax job searching requirements, until you pass an arbitrary high point of unemployment, where you can just turn off the requirements, transforming the program into an unconditional basic income guarantee.

          I guess I just have more faith in the market managing to make that transition in its own self-interest when it can no longer make use of labor it still has to pay for than in the government collecting the same money unconditionally and still managing to do that transformation on its own initiative.

          I’m basically saying that “slow down the introduction of automation” triggered me hard, like a Leninist revolutionary hearing a Social Democrat reformist say “slow down the introduction of socialism”.

          Oh, yeah, I do have a visceral reaction against slowing down automation myself, which is why I brought it up as a negative of the proposal.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Imagine a glossy, perfect world where there are no murders and no one in dire poverty. Everything runs on clean energy, there are no more wars and all their needs can be taken care of through super abundant technology. Also, everyone hates themselves and wants to die.

        I’m less worried about riots and more concerned with a suicide epidemic.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I could even see an increase in companies sponsoring artists, scientists or similar as one of their “employees” and left to do mostly as they wish for the PR benefits.

      Work-for-hire. The company would own all productivity of this free employee.

      Those companies capable of supporting the more valuable free employees would tend to be larger/richer companies.

      In a nation which strongly enforces anti-competitive law, this might work. In any other nation you’re asking for oligarchy & patronage. Especially since it will be more costly for that exceptional “employee” to go out on their own (since they now have to hire a minimum number of employees before they can start their own businesses).

      • JohnL says:

        Fair point. I could see it playing out like that. Although it could also play out with the employee having a choice of employers offering better terms than that if he’s so exceptional.

    • Deiseach says:

      So, to my suggestion: Swap some of the corporate taxes for a requirement on companies to have a certain number of employees, balanced such that basically everyone in the country would be employed.

      Everyone? So a company that is 99% automated is going to hire a human contract cleaner to run a vacuum cleaner in the offices for an hour a day to fulfil their government-mandated “you have to employ people”? Sure, but that is going to be minimum wage or less labour, and if you’re only doing five hours a week, that is not going to give you “Since everyone is now employed and has the means to pay for themselves, other welfare costs should go down” because you will need some kind of supplementary government benefit to give you enough to live on, even in the “Ferraris now cost ten bucks” automated surplus world (if one person only counts as one employee, then having someone doing two or three part-time jobs, as nowadays, would not permit the labour surplus to be soaked up, so everyone can only have one job regardless of whether they’re actually working in a real job full-time or it’s the ‘volunteering at the old folks’ home’ type of workfare job).

      It’s a great system if you’re confident you are someone with enough value to be worth hiring for a ‘real’ job (senior management, really hot-shot programmer, tech entrepreneur type etc.), or if you’re an artist doing this as patronage where you are paid for producing art works by a company as sponsor rather than selling your work on the open market. It’s not so great if you’re semi-skilled labour or even the white-collar/pink-collar workers who can be replaced by automated systems, because why hire a human to do routine work that can be done faster, cheaper and better by a machine?

      This kind of thinking runs on “now everyone will be free to reach their potential!” but not everyone is an artist or inventor that can turn out masterpieces now they have free time and no worries about having to do routine work to live. A lot of us are just ordinary and won’t be creating wonderful breakthroughs, we’ll be puttering around in our garden, taking the dog for a walk, or cleaning the bathroom, none of which will be marketable job skills in the “everything is now done by automation” future.

      The only good thing is that will be some time away; you will still need a human attendant to help Grandma in the nursing home get into and out of bed until the fully automated robot assistants are created. But that type of work is low-paid, private care homes do cut back on expenses by hiring unqualified staff and paring numbers of workers to the bone.

      • JohnL says:

        Everyone? So a company that is 99% automated is going to hire a human contract cleaner to run a vacuum cleaner in the offices for an hour a day to fulfil their government-mandated “you have to employ people”?

        Well, no, everyone who the company can get more value from than just paying out the tax penalty instead. If the economy as a whole can’t make use of you at a premium you’re willing to accept, you are effectively on basic income instead and can putter around your garden all you want. This is an important and intended feature of the proposal, and basically what I expect the end state to be for the vast majority as well.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      A final thought/objection is that current US employment rates are on the order of 60%-70% of 18 to 65 year olds.

      You are asking to implement a system where every company has to increase its employee number by about 50% (adjusting for things such as Visa/foreign/etc… labor).

      Even cutting their federal/state/local taxes to zero, and having all additional jobs as minimum wage jobs, I don’t know if this is doable.

      Using generous assumptions you’re looking at around 50 million people times $15,000/year.

      Ok… this is only about $750 billion, so I guess it might be doable.

      The difficulty would be implementing it in our federalist system.

      • JohnL says:

        Implementing it would certainly be hard and nothing I’m in a position to be actively pursuing.

        Would you make this objection against any form of basic income? If not, how is this different? If you would, I don’t have any better answer at hand than that a lot of the money would be a reshuffling of tax-expenses and welfare payouts rather than either new money taken from companies or existing government spending having to be stretched thinner.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Would you make this objection against any form of basic income?

          The objection has been made by others. Your scheme seems like it would actually be cheaper than a basic income (assuming it doesn’t drive companies to cheaper countries which do not have such requirements).

          The federalist/anti-socialist objections unfortunately will be the big ones. Good luck getting past those in the US. Perhaps this would work better in a social democracy.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      A related problem is the psychological need of people to be useful in a world of increasing automation, which with BI/NIT is basically put as the responsibility of each individual or their informal community.

      So, to my suggestion: Swap some of the corporate taxes for a requirement on companies to have a certain number of employees, balanced such that basically everyone in the country would be employed.

      No I don’t like this idea at all. Yes people do need to feel useful. You think that requiring corporations to give them make-work will make them feel useful? Better to just pay welfare and hope the recipients will find useful stuff to do on their own time.

      I do think that eventually this will be a problem, that there simply isn’t enough work for everyone. I don’t think we’re there yet, because there are still many personal service jobs out there that need doing, which could become paying jobs if our productivity keeps increasing making society richer. At some point, it will be more efficient for robots to do even these personal service jobs, and then we’ll really have massive unemployment. But the make-work idea isn’t the answer, in my opinion, most people will see through it as NOT being useful, and be even more resentful because they’d rather do their own thing.

      • JohnL says:

        My vision for this certainly isn’t that it would create make-work, since if you’re not actually contributing value it would not be in any companies interest to hire you over just defaulting on their obligation.

        My belief is that this would create less make-work and more actual-work than having the government in charge of making the transition to a basic income in another way.

        • My belief is that this would create less make-work and more actual-work than having the government in charge of making the transition to a basic income in another way.

          To me, this has a feel of “everything that isn’t forbidden is compulsory.” If you want people whose productivity is low but positive to be employed, all you have to do is to abolish the minimum wage law. That’s a separate issue from what sorts of income redistribution system you want to have for the benefit of such people.

    • Wrong Species says:

      If mass technological unemployment becomes a problem and it happens before humans can significantly improve themselves , then I believe the best route is social usefulness. Try to bring back more small Dunbar sized groups of people who feel close to each other. Something like church but more palatable for the non-religious.

    • Jacob says:

      How exactly does this “minimum number of employees” thing work? Is it a flat number, like “all corporations must employ at least 100 people”? Because that just makes it impossible to start a business. Or maybe it’s relative to the companies revenue? That indeed makes it sound more like a tax, although it seems like there might be big waves of hiring and layoffs (by different companies) around tax time.

  16. Silverlock says:

    For those of us looking for a good attitude for the new year, Leonardo’s to-do list gives an insight into the value of curiosity and of humility:
    http://www.openculture.com/2014/12/leonardo-da-vincis-to-do-list-circa-1490-is-much-cooler-than-yours.html

    Some of them reach pretty high. (“Draw Milan.”) There are several, though, of the form “Get someone to show me something:”
    Get Messer Fazio (a professor of medicine and law in Pavia) to show you about proportion.
    Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manne
    r.
    etc.

  17. CatCube says:

    The comments above asking about the pronunciation of Deisach’s name reminded me of a question that I’ve been meaning to ask for a while: How did everybody come by their nicks?

    I used to use a stupid, rather generic teenagery nick, until I decided I needed to change it. I didn’t have any particular idea of what I wanted to move to, but when I was staring around the room I saw a little knickknack I had from a job fair: a little foam 3D puzzle in the shape of a cube from Caterpillar, with the “Cat” logo on it. Therefore, CatCube. I actually used a picture of the thing as an avatar for a long while until I realized that since I’m not affiliated with Caterpillar in any way, shape, or form, that wasn’t a good idea (especially when I began to talk politics more). So I fired up a 3D modeling program, made a cube, and slapped some cat memes on the side of it.

    • blacktrance says:

      I was 12 and had just played through Final Fantasy IX for the first time. I thought the Trance mechanic was cool, but that it’d be even cooler if the characters turned darker instead of glowing. I’ve been using it ever since.

    • baconbacon says:

      My two names prior to baconbacon were references to simon and garfunkle songs, after meeting people and realizing that every in person conversation would eventually start with “what does tolbiny mean?” I switched to something generic that no one would ask questions about.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve been namesquatting on the Anonymous handle since registrations were implemented. 🙂

    • devilbunny says:

      I was a big fan of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. I bought an Energizer-rabbit-shaped mini flashlight and hung it from my car mirror as a mascot: the Devilbunny (after MLWTTKK’s song Devil Bunnies).

      The name stuck.

    • ruelian says:

      A university I attended generated it as a logon to their computer system based on my real name, and I thought it sounded cool so it stuck around.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Reference to ancient tools for breaking copy protection (nybble copiers)

    • I barely ever comment, so people probably don’t recognise me as part of the regular SSC crowd, but I’m going to answer the question anyway, because it’s one of my favourite questions to answer. 😀

      “Neike” is a slight variation of my real name “Meike”, which etymologically relates to “Maria”. In combination with a very Christian surname in real life, I didn’t feel it described me. As in, I wasn’t offended, I didn’t want to distance myself to make some kind of point, I just wanted something more with an overall greater descriptive (evocative?) feel. The ‘N’ in ‘Neike’ is for several things – Noko (a musician who has significantly impacted my life), Nietzsche and nihilism; none of which describe me perfectly, either, but it was an OK compromise. 🙂

      The surname “Taika-Tessaro” is stolen from a character of mine for whom it was also a pseudonym (Ciaran Taika-Tessaro, born Ciaran Finn). Loosely, it’s meant to mean ‘magic weaver’.

      (I’m also a/k/a pinkgothic, which relates back to Noko, whom I call Pink Goth the First. I used to be PinkGoth2, but people kept dropping the 2 because they assumed it was a meaningless number, so I turned myself into an adjective instead.)

      I love hearing the stories behind people’s online names – often it tells you a bit about the person behind it. 🙂 Thanks for asking this question! Enjoying the answers!

    • onyomi says:

      The time I started using the internet (AOL dialup…) roughly corresponded to the time I started trying to learn Japanese. I had to pick an AOL handle, and “Onyomi” was the only vaguely interesting sounding Japanese word I could find which didn’t require I add a number or what have you. Later, when I became a Sinologist, it continued to feel vaguely appropriate, because its meaning is “sound reading,” that is, the Japanese term for Sino-Japanese pronunciations of Kanji. It is also a combination of one Sino-Japanese pronunciation (“on”=sound) and one purely Japanese pronunciation (“yomi”=reading). But mostly I just use it out of long habit.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I was making a post comparing something to barter town, and decided to make a handle based on an obscure Mad Max character.

      Now, years later, I still can’t seem to get beyond thunderdome.

    • Montfort says:

      After the extinct noble house, which included a bishop of Paris, a Queen of France, and others of some repute.

    • Nyx says:

      The nickname I use elsewhere is made up from whole cloth. This one (Nyx) is actually taken from a video game, but it also means something in Greek mythology, and isn’t an overt reference, it’s more just “hey, that’s a nice name.”

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Connections to NC (the Tar Heel State) and Chicago make for a somewhat compelling nick that takes the form of a command.

    • rahien.din says:

      Recently come about here. As a teenager I was a big Wheel of Time fan. In the Old Tongue (tWoT’s invented language), rahien din means “brother of dawn.”

      I initially made it for a Wheel of Time message board but it stuck with me. Now I mostly think it sounds cool (while I kind of wince internally about its provenance).

      • AnonEEmous says:

        ay shouts wheel of time gang

        too bad Sanderson kinda ruined it at the end, still a cool name though

        • rahien.din says:

          Thanks!

          I didn’t mind Sanderson’s writing, other than there was so much crammed into each of his books that they read more like timelines than plotlines. And he had plenty of women angrily sniffing, so, it was an adequate pastiche of RJ’s writing style.

          Honestly at the end of A Memory of Light I was just exhausted. I’ll probably never go back and reread them unfortunately, just too much of an undertaking.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            eh, i feel like he relied too much on people getting saved at the last moment, which is kind of dumb in a world where pretty much all the most powerful characters can teleport, meaning “showing up at the last moment” is not only always possible but really flippin’ easy

            also he narrowed the focus down to a few characters, especially by making Rand uber-powerful

            honestly at the end of it i was exhausted in a different way – I had just read the ending of a series that I’d been reading for nearly half my life. Story endings are always kind of sad to me though

        • shakeddown says:

          Oy!
          I actually never read the last one (Didn’t want to have finished it). I thought Sanderson’s writing was a step down in quality (aside from a few scenes I loved, most of which I suspect were written by Jordan), But not by that huge a margin – aside from Mat (who he ruined), he mostly managed to keep up what made the books good.
          Also, I feel bad for not remembering what rahien din means. (I vaguely remember someone named rahien, and I think din shows up in one of the Aiel warrior societies?)

    • Furslid says:

      I decided to use the nonsense phrase “furiously sleeping idea” as a login somewhere. Then I had to come up with a shorter name for a different site. So I took the beginning of each word, and I liked how it sounded and haven’t seen anyone else using it. So I stuck with it.

    • Brad says:

      In some places where I have been for a long time I am stuck with the name of a character from a novel. That seemed like a good idea when I was 15. Places I joined more recently I just use part or all of my real name.

      I do feel a little bad that I just took Brad before checking. I know there’s a “Brad (not that one)” and I’m not sure if he was actually here first.

    • US says:

      US is an abbreviation of a Danish nick-name I used to go by, back when I started out my life online more than a decade ago. I’m not going to tell you what that original nick was, because one of the reasons why I eventually settled with the abbreviation was that I wanted to distance myself from the comments and remarks I had made using that nick while I was young and stupid. When I used the original nick I sometimes abbreviated the nick in my responses to others because this was convenient in some contexts, and that’s where the idea of switching nicks originally came from. I started using it, while I was unfortunately still young and stupid (well, I arguably still am both young and stupid, though I’m admittedly not as young as I used to be), and it sort of stuck. I couldn’t really come up with a great nick and decided to go with it for the time being, and I never got around to finding a better nick, though I probably should have at some point. One of the irrational justifications for not finding a better nick which has stopped me from coming up with something better is incidentally that this nick is impossible to google, which I tend to find advantageous in various contexts (I value my privacy highly and I don’t like the idea of making it too easy for other people to ‘track my online footprints’). One of the reasons I had for not switching to an entirely new nick, rather than the abbreviation, was incidentally that at the time of the switch there were a few people who I didn’t mind knew who ‘US’ was (or, to put it more accurately, knew about my other online persona); I figured the link between the two online characters would over time be completely severed (there was only a minor and transient overlap) and would only be known by ‘the people in the know’, which is pretty much what happened. As time passed, the number of ‘people in the know’ for whom the knowledge was even remotely relevant dropped to zero (making the perhaps questionable assumption that it was ever above zero…); none of the people who originally read the stuff I wrote under the original nick are even remotely interested in the sort of stuff I usually blog or comment about these days.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      It’s a little joke that’s followed me around my entire life, based on my real name.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Ant biologist EO Wilson on Communism:

      “Good theory, wrong species.”

      • US says:

        Ha! I have once or twice wondered how/why you picked that nick. This explanation was not among the list of options I had considered (not that I have given it much thought)…

        • Wrong Species says:

          I’m curious what options made it on that list. It wasn’t until later that I realized my username made me sound far more misanthropic than I intended.

          • US says:

            Heh. Some form of: ‘Humans are terrible’ statement was definitely at the top of the short ‘list’. You wanting to signal that: ‘I am different from other people’ was another related option I remember having considered (related to social adjustment problems or autism, maybe – as in: ‘I don’t understand people’. That was just me projecting, of course – I am mildly autistic myself so that seemed like a likely explanation).

    • sflicht says:

      There was a time, which I know about from my software engineer father, when using your TLA was considered the optimal avatar. So my first email address was sfl@ma.ultranet.com, because of the third-rate Massachusetts ISP my parents subscribed to in the mid-90s dialup era. As time passed, three letter handles became impractical for combinatorial reasons. So when I went to college I added the rest of the first syllable of my last name, and I ended up with the unpronounceable but easily-remembered handle I’ve used ever since. I’m curious to see how my kids – assuming I have some someday – pick their avatars.

    • PDV says:

      I used a shakespeare quote, and still do on tumblr, but have decided that as I move away from considering myself evil-by-fiat (I wasn’t up to trying to be good, for a few years), I should move away from a handle that designates me a villain, so I’ve been abbreviating it to just PDV since I made my wordpress blog.

    • suntzuanime says:

      In college me and my roommate had talked about starting an anime fansubbing group, and the name we’d floated for it was Sun Tzu Subs, on the basis that Sun Tzu was cool and the name had good rhythm and mouthfeel. The group never got off the ground, but when I was looking for a name for my anime blog I remembered it, and still thought Sun Tzu was cool. And of course, if you have a blog, you should comment on other people’s blogs under the name of your blog, so that if people find your comments interesting they can read more on your blog; it helps discoverability.

      My blog is mostly dead and I don’t go by this name anywhere but blog comments, but I’m too invested in the identity to change it now.

    • Sandy says:

      It is an anglicized abbreviation of my first name.

    • Mark says:

      As a young man I liked to view myself as a semi-autonomous agent acting in the intellectual borderlands of the culture wars. “Lord of the Mark” seemed far cooler than “Marcher Lord”.

    • shakeddown says:

      My pre-login times name (pku, which is my general default) is the nickname I tried to get people to call me in elementary school (I made up nicknames that stuck for the rest of our friends group, but somehow never managed to get mine to stick).
      My current nick is the one that eventually stuck to me (where “eventually” means “in grad school”), and is basically my actual name with an extra bit.
      My Unsong nick (the coment king) is a terrible pun I grabbed before anyone else got to it.

    • rlms says:

      This one is my initials. My previous one was a musical theatre pun based on my name.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I named myself after the greatest and most prolific lover of the 20th century, of course!

      In truth, I just never saw a reason to be anonymous. For a while, when I was Very Worried about tripping afowl of my company’s policies about giving financial advice on the Internet, I didn’t, but now that I recognize that basically no one cares, I say what I like, about what I like.

      Plus, having a unified online identity means I can easily code-switch between places like this and, e.g., Facebook groups.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Huh?

        I’m not sure how you mean code-switching.

        If it’s the phenomena of adapting different appropriate, expected mannerisms for different communities, I’m not sure how it applies.

        • Robert Liguori says:

          Sorry, that was a bit of verbal brain-noise that crept in. I meant to say that because I have a unified identity across my various online services (including both the real-name and the pseudoanonymous), I don’t have issues where I might want to talk to someone across multiple services, but doing so might reveal the right conjunction of personal data to de-anonymize me.

    • tscharf says:

      I looked on my birth certificate, ha ha. Try to out clever that!

    • S_J says:

      After a few years of using a nick from a sci-fi novel, I switched to something simple.

      Two initial letters from two parts of my meatspace name.

      (At the time, I was split between something that looked like an Icelandic-style name-plus-patronym, and something that work with one of the Radio Phonetic Alphabets. But “Sierra Juliet” seemed a little off to me, and “Stefan Jeroldson” might be accurate…but felt unwieldy. So I went with a handy “SJ”. The “Stefan Jeroldson” handle still survives on a Blogspot domain somewhere, and in an email address.)

      It worked, until “SJ” became part of the shorthand for talking about Social Justice Warriors.

      So I added an underscore in the middle of my handle.

      I haven’t read anything Icelandic or Norse in a while, but I still like the feel of those languages and stories.

    • Gazeboist says:

      I similarly used a silly preteen nick with a string of numbers after it. My current one is a reference to this famous story (in which I had no part, for the record), which I came up with when I started thinking about publishing some RPG-related stuff.

      edit – Oh, and for a while I commented as (just some) “guy”, but that got *very* annoying to look for on long comment threads.

    • BBA says:

      These are my actual initials. A handle I use elsewhere is an anagram of my (abbreviated) real name. This is probably not the best plan for maintaining my pseudonymity, but I’ve been using both for a while now and it’s too late to change.

    • Controls Freak says:

      Mine is really dumb, and I don’t like it. I was an Anon for a long time before, because I hate picking usernames. I had my SIGINT post all ready to go right when Scott decided to require registration, so I had to go with something rather than have a nice think. It comes from the fact that my specialty is control theory, and in school, we’d often call it “controls” instead of “control” for whatever deep-seated linguistic reasons.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      We used to be able to comment anonymously here.

      Then we couldn’t.

      I wasn’t pleased.

      • Anonymous says:

        But… I recall you having that nickname when we still could post anonymously. Or was it someone else with it?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Once upon a time, you could post Anonymously by simply not filling out the e-mail field, that was what I was referring to.

          Then someone came up with Anonymous through coordinating on a single email, and then that go removed as well.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I like using dead scientists and philosophers as obvious pseudonyms, have a fondness for the sounds of slavic languages, and have always had an ironic regard for Trofim Lysenko as an unsung hero of the Cold War, single-handledly setting back Soviet bioscience years, if not decades…

    • Protagoras says:

      Just a fan of Protagoras of Abdera; despite Plato’s bias against the sophists, his description makes Protagoras seem really interesting. I can’t know for sure that a more unbiased source would have made him seem even more impressive, as there are no unbiased sources still available, but it is at least possible.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I like wordplay. I’m a philosopher. I originally was going to use “philosophisticate” on a different site, but the restrictions on name length cut it short to “philosophisticat” and I realized I liked that even better.

    • Mr Mind says:

      When I was a teenager, I thought very highly of myself. See, I thought I was very clever. A MASTER mind. Then I though of myself of being even cleverer when I punned it into Mister Mind (English is not my native language), thinking that someone would catch it (no one has).
      Only much, much later I discovered it was a worm-like, long-forgotten enemy of Superman…

      • LHN says:

        Nit: Captain Marvel, not Superman.

        (Though since his incorporation into DC’s shared universe the character has certainly fought Superman and other DC heroes.)

    • Fahundo says:

      8 or 9 years ago, Blizzard Entertainment bestowed this name upon me, since the first two names I gave my character violated their naming policy and I guess they don’t follow the three strike rule.

    • Tekhno says:

      When I woke up from my anarcho-capitalist coma in 2013, I needed a name for the “gradualist materialist transhumanist desocietalism in the long term versus short term classical liberal-ishness with social liberal and national liberal tendencies special snowflake wank ideology” I started moving towards when I found out that there wasn’t a pre-existing ideology that fitted what I had come to believe. So I started dubbing this techno-decentralism, similar to the REDACTED IDEOLOGY sub-ideology of techno-commercialism, but with a different emphasis. I think my first post here was arguing for that position under the name “TD”, but I stuck around to discuss different things and then switched to “Tekhno”.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t use a nick here, but I’m using my name because I wasn’t inspired with a nick I liked and so I use my name (nancylebov at Livejournal and Dreamwidth).

        I have a weird compulsion to (almost always) use my name online. I have no idea whether this is actually a good idea, but I’ve been going with it.

        • liskantope says:

          I think I remember Mike Blume posting on Tumblr a while back when he realized that he seemed to be the only person around who used his real name as his handle, but it seems that several others do the same.

        • John Schilling says:

          I won’t call it a “weird compulsion”, just that it’s my name and I don’t see any good reason not to use it online. I’m told that if I had an obviously-female name I would be receiving hundreds of disturbing or threatening emails every day for my trouble, but that strikes me more as (yet another) reason for a good email filter, is all. And doesn’t come up in my case anyhow.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I haven’t been subject to online harassment.

            It probably has something to do with where I hang out (I don’t do gaming or dating sites) and something to do with not posting misandrist material, though I might also be lucky.

            I’ve been commenting elsewher that SJW’s don’t quantify. What’s worse, they discourage being public about *not* suffering from the oppressions they focus on. (Hey, could you post in an MRA forum about having a divorce that went smoothly and equitably?)

            The result is that we don’t have the information I wish we did about the intensity and prevalence of various sorts of mistreatment.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            Studies show that men get a little more harassment, although age seems a much bigger factor (so much of it seems to be adolescents messing with each other, which matches the police statistics about offline threats, which are very often from adolescents).

            Of course, there are many issues with such research and how it is interpreted, so apply skepticism liberally.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aaapje, thanks for the links.

            It’s worth noting (assuming the survey is sound and generally applicable) that young women are slighlty more likely to receive severe harassment than young men, while men are more likely to have been harassed atl al.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            If I look at the first graph on this page and this statement: “For instance, 80% of those who have experienced sexual harassment online have also been called offensive names and 63% have been purposefully embarrassed by someone online.”;

            I get the impression that much of the sexual harassment that they are talking about is name calling or embarrassing a person in a sexual way, where this is rather arbitrarily treated as a separate category that is classified entirely as ‘severe.’ As a non-American, I’ve noticed that America is rather liberal about violence and puritan about sex and tends to treat the latter as ‘more severe.’ This makes me a little skeptical.

            When one category is lower for one group, while that group scores higher for others, the first thing I suspect is that the perpetrators have somewhat different insults for men and women, which they consider equivalent, but which are intended to strike at the weaknesses that gender norms imprints on each gender (for example, women seem to be relatively sensitive to insults about their looks and men to insults about their penis size). So there is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison then, if you hurt men maximally by calling them losers and you hurt women maximally by calling them sluts, is there actually a difference in severity?

            I even wonder if some sexual harassment of men is even counted. For example, my experience in shoot-up gaming is that many young adolescents like sexually explicit trash-talking, like calling each other gay. Is this counted merely as ‘called offensive names?’ There is definitively a sexual norm being expressed in such statements, IMO, although it may be less direct than what women tend to experience (‘slut’?).

            Because of these questions I have, I prefer to draw a limited conclusion: ‘men and women have about the same level of harassment online.’ Although my confidence in the accuracy of even this limited statement is not that high.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I didn’t make it clear, but I take the sustained harassment category most seriously– my impression is that’s the one which causes the most damage.

            Second look– young women are a *lot* more likely to be stalked than young men. Again, this one is more likely to be seriously frightening.

            Still, I was surprised that men reported nearly as much harassment as women. I’ll be keeping an eye out for further information.

          • liskantope says:

            The way I prefer to sum it up is “Men are marginally more likely to be harassed online overall, but women are much more likely to be harassed online for being women.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            I agree that stalking can be very serious, although that seems to mostly be the case when people start taking it offline. If they just start replying to every post of yours, that seems more irritating than threatening.

            @liskantope

            You cannot conclude that from the data. Gendered harassment can happen because someone is angry with a person for a non-gendered reason and then tailors the abuse to their gender; or someone can seek out people of a specific gender to abuse. Only the latter group is harassed online for being male or female.

            Neither of my links collected data on this specifically, nor am I aware of any other study (and I’m not even sure if there is a method to collect this data).

          • John Schilling says:

            The way I prefer to sum it up is “Men are marginally more likely to be harassed online overall, but women are much more likely to be harassed online for being women.”

            Being harassed as women, I think, rather than for being women.

            Much of online harassment is about changing the subject. The harasser is losing an argument, or a game, and resigned to the fact that nothing they can say on-topic or do in-game is going to change that. I see a gendered insult on the internet, and my first instinct is to look for the guy who just got pwnd by a girl in a fair and non-gender-related fight. If he’d lost to another guy, he’d have just had to pick a different insult.

            And then there are the women who are harassed for being women, but I don’t see any good way to distinguish them, en masse, from the more usual sort. Gendered insults are just too obvious, easy, and effective once someone has decided for whatever reason to harass someone who happens to be a woman.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “I agree that stalking can be very serious, although that seems to mostly be the case when people start taking it offline”

            The difference between on and offline is blurry. If somone says “This is your home address. Behold my excellent rape and murder fantasy”, how would you classify it?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            There’s also the rather annoying thing that often gendered insults towards men just aren’t counted as such. I’ve been in a discussion with someone talking about gendered insults towards women, who when challenged called me a “jerk” and a “dick” (the former is possibly gendered, the latter certainly so) and then got REALLY angry when I called her on it.

          • John Schilling says:

            The difference between on and offline is blurry. If somone says “This is your home address. Behold my excellent rape and murder fantasy”, how would you classify it?

            I would classify it as a slightly amusing confirmation that I am dealing with an online total loser, and about as correlated with future real-world outcomes as a straight-up “God Damn You to Hell”. But I understand most people don’t do quantitative risk analysis that way (or at all), and suspect there may be a gender bias in that aspect of the problem as well.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            You might be interested in Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. People generally don’t bounce back well from a big campaign against them.

            You’re probably thinking about how you’d react to one piece of nastiness, but there’s a cumulative effect from trememdous amounts of nastiness, some of it sent to your employer, friends, and family. Also, trolls can do DDOS attacks.

          • Matt M says:

            Nancy,

            At the risk of “victim-blaming”, I might suggest that you haven’t experienced online harassment because you conduct yourself in such a way as to not invite or encourage it.

            You don’t make posts that are particularly flirtatious. You don’t draw attention to yourself or your personal life. Even your use of your (presumably) real name as an identifier implies that you’re likely an older or more mature person with little to hide/fear. I might even go so far as to suggest your first name also implies a certain age grouping (is Nancy a common first-name among millennials? i’d lean towards not).

            You generally act like everyone else here acts – and the fact that you are female is incidental and of little relevance. In many online circles this is certainly not the case – and the results are somewhat predictable (which doesn’t make them appropriate or anything…)

          • Matt M says:

            “There’s also the rather annoying thing that often gendered insults towards men just aren’t counted as such.”

            This also speaks to a broader question. For various cultural reasons, men and women might define things like “stalking” and “harassment” in different ways. Women might report higher rates of stalking simply due to having a lower threshold of what “stalking” actually is. (Personal anecdote, a young woman once accused me of “cyberstalking” her because I said hello to her on skype twice in the same day)

          • John Schilling says:

            but there’s a cumulative effect from trememdous amounts of nastiness, some of it sent to your employer, friends, and family. Also, trolls can do DDOS attacks.

            That’s a different class of harassment; purely online, but actually damaging. I am, generally, more concerned with people who make credible threats against me than those who make ludicrous ones.

            Fortunately, most trolls still seem to lack the skills necessary for these sorts of attack. Unfortunately, it’s the lame death threats that seem to get most of the attention (and response), rather than the ones with the less common but more destructive tactics.

            But, yes, I’ll second the recommendation of Ronson; he’s done a fairly good job at characterizing the whole range of threats I believe.

          • liskantope says:

            Being harassed as women, I think, rather than for being women.

            Yes, that’s exactly what I meant to say… my wording was bad.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            If someone says “This is your home address. Behold my excellent rape and murder fantasy”, how would you classify it?

            This implies a threat to seek someone out in the real world and thus has an offline element.

            I agree with Schilling that in 99.9+% of the cases, this is just a hollow threat, so there is probably little reason to be very worried. The main exception is if you are at the center of a (culture war) shit storm, where many different people direct hatred at you. At that point, the sheer quantity means that there is a non-negligible likelihood that one of those people is crazy enough to actually go after you in real life (although my impression is that it still rarely happens for most people in these kinds of situations).

            @The Nybbler

            There’s also the rather annoying thing that often gendered insults towards men just aren’t counted as such

            My experience is that there are even a decent number of self-proclaimed feminists who use insults that are derived from gender norms against men. One would assume that this group is more aware of gender norms than the average person and is fairly aware of how gendered shaming is bad, so the understanding of this by average people is probably dreadful.

            Some examples of gendered insults against men:
            – You have a small penis (there is a relatively common belief/misconception that the ability for men to satisfy women is highly dependent on their penis size)
            – Virgin (aka: you have failed the societal norm where sexual success with women is proof of your ability to be appropriately masculine)
            – You are living in your parents’ basement (aka: you are unable to provide for yourself, let alone to provide for a woman, so are a failure as a man and you will die alone)

            My observation is that many insults seek to exploit insecurities in people, which are weak spots. When people think bad things about themselves, they are often unable to dismiss it when people say those bad things about them.

            IMO, it’s pretty interesting to unpack insults, as they often point to insecurities created by societal norms.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve seen feminists say that insults about small penises are bad, but this does seem to be a minority of feminists.

          • Iain says:

            It’s certainly fair to say that some feminists use virginity or penis size as insults. I don’t think it’s fair to ascribe this to feminism itself; plenty of non-feminists use the same insults, and my (admittedly biased) impression is that non-feminists tend to do so at a higher rate.

            Flipping the question in the other direction: how many non-feminists are out there saying that insults about small penises are bad?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:

            Flipping the question in the other direction: how many non-feminists are out there saying that insults about small penises are bad?

            Well, for one, the non-feminists who want to hoist feminism on its own petard (seems obvious, given this conversation). They aren’t wrong, frankly.

            I don’t think they would be pointing this out if it weren’t for feminism though. As much as I dislike things like, say, the term “patriarchy”, I don’t think we would see critiques about penis size as bad because it plays on harmful gender norms without feminism having noticed the harm these do and introduced the concept into the culture.

            I think part of the issue is that the most frequent critique of shaming through use of male gender norms is going to come from people who are reluctant to agree that gender norms exist or can be harmful. They make the accusation not because they believe it, but because they only wish to point out hypocrisy. The feminists claim to be ironic, showing how gender norm shaming is harmful.

            This leads to each side simply saying “No, I am using this to show how hypocritical you are”.

            It seems to me that the most effective way to combat use of these slurs from feminists is to be in actual agreement that use of terms like “slut” and “virgin” are using societal gender norm expectations to do harm and point out that this is not OK.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think the “small penis” insults from feminists are mostly communicating to their own in-group (other feminists) how little they value their opponent. Coming from a woman they haven’t had sex with and don’t want to, they’re not really devastating to a guy who is past high-school age.

            (Yeah, Trump makes small penis cracks. It just makes him sound juvenile)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            they’re not really devastating to a guy who is past high-school age.

            I mean, it was unprecedented, but Trump literally started a Republican debate by showing everyone how big his hands were, trying to spread them out to make them look bigger.

            The Enzyte fake product ads weren’t ubiquitous for no reason.

            Obviously there is something potent there, for some significant subset of the population.

          • Iain says:

            @HeelBearCub: Right, yes. I meant to go back and edit my post to include the obvious caveat, but got lazy.

            In many cases of feminist penis-size-shaming, accusations of hypocrisy are probably fair. That’s not an argument against feminism, though — just against one individual hypocrite. It’s not like there is a large body of feminist writing that explicitly advocates for making fun of small penises. To the extent that feminists have written about the issue, they have taken the anti-shaming side; to the extent that people have taken the anti-shaming side (in good faith), they are disproportionately feminists.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:

            To the extent that feminists have written about the issue, they have taken the anti-shaming side;

            I’m guessing this is just poorly worded, given the rest of the post, but clearly not every feminist takes the “anti-shaming of males” side. For specifically feminist academic writings, I mostly agree, although you have hard core radicals that are, I believe, actually anti-male that I’m sure can be pointed to.

            Then you have examples like prominent mainstream feminist academics who are happy to have coffee cups that say “male tears” on them. I think it’s reasonable to assume that there are plentiful examples of non-academic writing by academics that contain examples of the same kind loose use of language.

            Just want to make sure you aren’t engaging in a “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

          • Iain says:

            I’m specifically talking about “not living up to gender norms”-style shaming here: penis size, virginity, and so on. I acknowledge that “male tears”-style rhetoric is common among prominent popular feminists, but I think it’s a different phenomenon. If the frequency of “SJWs/feminists eat babies” posts on SSC increased, and then I showed up to a meetup wearing an ironic “Babies are Delicious” shirt, that would be a closer parallel. (Especially if it went on to become a big complicated Internet Thing and grew wildly out of control.)

            To phrase my point another way: I am absolutely not claiming that feminists don’t engage in gender-norm-shaming behaviour against men. I am claiming that feminism, as an intellectual movement, is not a primary cause of that behaviour. The feminists who make jokes about small penises would be making the same sorts of jokes if they’d never been exposed to feminist thought.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think males and crying and criticizing males for crying has a fairly long gender norm history though. Regardless of the back story, some of the power of that particular taunt is because it is about making men in particular cry, right?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            The reasonable way to put it, I think, is that most of the things that people complainabout in this regard are things that are not the fault of feminism, not in the slightest. In fact, they are the result of the patriarchal culture most feminists have set themselves against. However, there are a lot of people who consider themselves feminists who still do all the patriarchal-culture-driven things (act like men are beasts and women are agency-less perennial victims, mock men for not living up to the expectations set of men by a patriarchal culture, etc) – and the argument is that they are the ones who should know better.

            (I’m going to start a thread in the new OT about this general idea, of people who have absorbed norms that they themselves state themselves to be against, but act according to those norms – please chime in – @HeelBearCub too – it is good to have people around who don’t think feminism is bad).

          • Iain says:

            @HBC: Yeah, it’s a controversial issue among feminists. (See this reddit thread, for example.) The ironic “Yeah, sure, I am a misandrist who drinks male tears glug glug glug” stuff seems basically fine; “go on and cry more male tears” as a response to an actual crying man is clearly awful. Most feminists would likely agree that the line should be drawn at the point where it stops being a joke and starts actually shaming men for displaying sadness, but there’s no consensus on where the line actually is, or how frequently it is crossed. (I was gesturing at this in my previous post with “wildly out of control”.)

            I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase myself.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:

            Yeah, sure, I am a misandrist who drinks male tears glug glug glug

            The problem being that Poe’s law is active. #maletears can never be reliably taken as sarcasm, nor can someone saying it sarcastically know that everyone receiving it will perceive it as sarcasm.

            And while I agree that the majority of feminists would say that there is a line. that line, for most people, has little to do with intent and much more to do with who the the target is. It comes down to basic ingroup/outgroup dynamics.

            Roughly a correlary to “He can’t do that to our pledges. Only we can do that to our pledges.”

          • Iain says:

            I agree that it is prone to misinterpretation. If I had to draw a bright line, it would be “this stops being satire when there is an identifiable individual target”, which cuts down slightly on the potential for confusion. Ultimately, though, it comes down to a question of the intended audience. Nobody has a duty to make sure every word that leaves their lips is carefully calculated propaganda for external consumption. For women who feel like they’ve spent their entire lives seeking male approval, sometimes it is good to spend some time openly not giving a shit what people think, or to interact with other women who do so.

            As I said, I don’t use the phrase myself.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            I don’t think they would be pointing this out if it weren’t for feminism though. As much as I dislike things like, say, the term “patriarchy”, I don’t think we would see critiques about penis size as bad because it plays on harmful gender norms without feminism having noticed the harm these do and introduced the concept into the culture

            I definitely credit feminism with creating many useful concepts for culture criticism. My objections are usually less with the base concepts, but more with the way they are applied (often selectively, to achieve the desired end conclusion, IMO).

            I would argue that the progressive parts of the MRA movement are strongly derived from feminism. For example, Warren Farrell is probably the most respected MRA and the origin of many MRA concepts. He was on the Board of Directors for NOW in NY city in the 70’s. During his feminist period, he worked a lot with men’s and women’s group to discuss gender issues and he was fond of role reversals like putting men in a beauty contest, to teach them about being objectified as a sex object; and a role-play for women, where they take on men’s ‘pursuer role’ during a date and face rejections. IMO, he became a MRA because he stopped believing that women are merely the victims of gender norms.

            I think that he gave the best description of where feminism went wrong, when he criticized his own actions during his feminist period:

            When women criticized men, I called it ‘insight,’ ‘assertiveness,’ ‘women’s liberation,’ ‘independence,’ or ‘high self-esteem.’ When men criticized women, I called it ‘sexism,’ ‘male chauvinism,’ ‘defensiveness,’ ‘rationalizing,’ and ‘backlash’ . . . Soon the men were no longer expressing their feelings. Then I criticized the men for not expressing their feelings!
            ~The Myth of Male Power

            IMO, this is the core problem with feminism: that criticism of female behavior is usually regarded as misogyny, while criticism of male behavior is considered crucial to fighting the patriarchy. The logical end result is that female privileges are not addressed and neither is ‘toxic femininity.’ When men are criticized and it’s demanded that they change for the benefit for women, while women are not similarly criticized and asked to change for the benefit of men, you get an unfair and even abusive theory.

            Anyway, I thought that this might help you understand where I’m coming from and why I consider myself to be much more of a proper egalitarian.

          • Aapje says:

            By the way, it is interesting/sad how my point that ‘when even quite a few feminists fail to see why X is bad, it must mean that non-feminists will surely fail to understand this’; is seen as feminist-bashing, rather than criticism of non-feminists.

            It is merely a claim that not all feminists have perfect understanding of gender norms, but better than most non-feminists, which seems more of a compliment than criticism of the former group and mainly criticism of non-feminists. My argument could in fact easily be used to argue for the spread of feminism (which I do not support, but not because of this issue, but despite it).

            That my comment results in a debate about how bad feminists are at gendered insults is really quite exasperating for me.

            So at this point I fear that feminism is pretty much mind killed on this forum, where any comment referencing the topic is immediately pattern matched as ‘blind bashing’ or ‘blind support,’ resulting in predictable and tiresome tribal behaviors.

            I would prefer attempts at actual enlightenment, rather than these ritual dances.

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje: Would you care to point to a comment that anybody has made that you think is a “ritual dance”?

            You seem to be under the mistaken impression that this entire conversation is about you. My initial comment was at least as much in response to Nancy as to you; since then, HBC and I have been having a very reasonable discussion. This is one of the least angry threads about a social-justice-adjacent issue that I can remember on the site, so it’s strange that you seem so quick to condemn it as “mind-killed”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            I realize that part of it is disappointment at the direction of this thread and of course other people have no obligation to discuss what I want to discuss. However, it was still rather typical what part of my post triggered people to go off on a tangential discussion.

            I am merely calling for some reflection. Your immediate conclusion that I was directing my comment merely at HBC and you is also a good illustration of the tribalism that I’m talking about. Apparently you can’t imagine that I would be unhappy with the behavior of people who are not on ‘your team.’

            Anyway, there has been plenty of grief about the tone of this forum by some left-wing commenters who feel marginalized and now I am having my little temper tantrum. I didn’t see you complain when the tone policing was against your outgroup, so I don’t very bad feel bad about challenging you to reflect in the same way that SJ-critical people like me were asked to self-examine about how we act here.

            This is one of the least angry threads about a social-justice-adjacent issue that I can remember on the site, so it’s strange that you seem so quick to condemn it as “mind-killed”.

            It is exactly because this thread is not angry and that it still is such a ritual dance that makes it so mind-killed. If people have a temporary tantrum, they can sober out of it. When tribalism is the default state, people can never move past it.

            At this point I feel that I have to severely self-censor around certain topics because bringing them up will inevitably result in a certain discussion. More specifically: any mention of imperfection in the SJ movement leads to defensive reactions that not all SJ people are like that, at best followed by a nuanced discussion of how many SJ people have these beliefs.

            Although this is a fine discussion to have, sometimes, it always goes like this. Imagine that every discussion about flaws in libertarianism results in a discussion about how many libertarians have certain poor beliefs; every discussion about flaws in Trump’s ideology leads to a discussion about how many Trump supporters have certain beliefs; every discussion about…

            It is the inability by people to assume that these mentions are not intended as an attack on all SJs, like they seem to mostly be able to do for other groups, that makes me call this topic mind-killed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Iain asked you to point at something specific that you objected to. You aren’t doing that which leaves us in the dark as to who is making comments you think are mind-killed. But given that you seem upset that we are discussing whether feminists are “bad” for using gender norm based insults, that seems to have started with me in response to Iain, with a little bit of dndnrsn thrown in and one question by Nybbler. But mostly Iain and I.

            Specifically, I think you are objecting this assertion:

            Well, for one, the non-feminists who want to hoist feminism on its own petard (seems obvious, given this conversation). They aren’t wrong, frankly.

            That was an answer to Iain’s question.

            Perhaps you feel this mis-characterizes your intent and was aimed specifically at you. My apologies.

            Although, in my defense, Iain was asking a question about the wide world where one might see people raising objections to those kinds of insults and I answered it with the most frequent use I am aware of. Perhaps you want MRAs mentioned as caring about these for actual harm-reduction reasons, which is a fair critique.

            You said:

            By the way, it is interesting/sad how my point that ‘when even quite a few feminists fail to see why X is bad, it must mean that non-feminists will surely fail to understand this’

            And I said:

            It seems to me that the most effective way to combat use of these slurs from feminists is to be in actual agreement that use of terms like “slut” and “virgin” are using societal gender norm expectations to do harm and point out that this is not OK.

            Those points seem to be in broad agreement.

            If you want to be able to discuss feminism or MRA critically without rancor, I’m all for that.

          • Iain says:

            At this point I feel that I have to severely self-censor around certain topics because bringing them up will inevitably result in a certain discussion. More specifically: any mention of imperfection in the SJ movement leads to defensive reactions that not all SJ people are like that, at best followed by a nuanced discussion of how many SJ people have these beliefs.

            I understand and empathize with your concern. I really do. At the same time, I think it would be beneficial for you to step back and get a sense of perspective.

            Several open threads ago, there was a post that implied that the left taught self-hatred. One reply to that post argued that Christianity also taught self-hatred. The post about the left wing got one post of pushback arguing that it was not true of the entire left wing; the post about Christianity got an entire thread with dozens of responses. Do you believe that discussion of Christianity is mind-killed on this forum?

            To the contrary, I would argue that this is what happens when you have healthy representation of Christians. When people make overbroad generalizations about a group, it is good to have members of that group around to present the counterarguments. The existence of the argument means that there are enough people on either side of the issue to sustain discussion.

            To the extent that I support complaints about the “tone” of this forum, it is along those lines: defending SSC as a place with sufficient leftish representation to enable meaningful discussion with the left, not just about the left. Comments that do nothing more than signal hostility to the left as a whole are counter-productive to that goal. I don’t mind defending left-wing arguments against thoughtful right-wing stances; to a first approximation, that’s the entire reason I post on SSC. I do mind wading through a swamp of unsubstantiated nonsense to find the good bits. If that means tone policing, then hand me a badge, I guess.

            Bringing it back to the current issue: I respect your feeling of self-censorship. At the same time, I am struggling to think of a group that has less active representation on SSC than SJ people, relative to the number of negative things said about the group. (Maybe Islam? Arguably black people?) As I have argued before, to the extent that SSC has a single outgroup, it is social justice. There is a lot of shade thrown at SJ here without any response whatsoever, so my sympathy for your feelings of oppression only goes so far. You yourself are, very frequently, prone to making extremely broad pronouncements about “what SJ believes” while rarely pointing to any specific examples. What responses are possible to that, other than “No, that’s not what SJ believes”? Do you just expect everybody to sit around saying, “Yes, Aapje, very good! Such insightful analysis!” while nodding sagely? If you consistently get the wrong responses, consider that maybe you are asking the wrong questions.

            PS: You continue to vaguely accuse me of “tribal dancing”, without being willing to put specifics to your claim. Put up or shut up.
            PPS: If you hadn’t come stomping in complaining about tribalism, then your comment about Warren Farrell might have been interesting to talk about. Right now, though, I have to go to work.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            I made a conscious choice not to call out people specifically, because it was not just one person doing this and I didn’t want to get stuck in a back and forth with one person, debating about specific posts and which person is ‘guilty.’

            Imagine a game of Chinese whispers. Who do you blame for distorting the message? Pointing out any individual is unfair. The real issue is that there is a cumulative error. Each individual retelling error is unintended and so small that confronting someone over it is petty. However, the cumulative error is immense and frustrating (if you care about accuracy).

            My observation is that debates are often derailed/destroyed by this mechanism, where people slightly misunderstand/straw man/cherry pick/derail/etc each other, where these issues are each relatively small and unimportant, yet the end result is a derailing thread that operates along tribal lines.

            Specifically, I think you are objecting this assertion:

            Well, for one, the non-feminists who want to hoist feminism on its own petard (seems obvious, given this conversation). They aren’t wrong, frankly.

            Yes and no. By making that statement, you made the discussion a little more tribal, but you responded to someone who did the same, who responded to someone who did the same. And after your statement, other people came along who made the discussion more tribal step by step.

            It didn’t actually escalate out of control this time, but the entire mechanism just added that final drop to my frustration bucket and it floweth over.

            My apologies.

            Again, it was not my intent to get anyone to apologize. It was not you individually. It’s not even that this thread shouldn’t have happened like this. It’s that I got frustrated that on certain topics (especially SJ), only threads like this ever seem to happen.

            I mean, imagine that someone would have responded with something like: It’s important that we are all more aware of how insults enforce social norms.

            Then you and I could state our agreement with this and we would feel a shared connection. You would probably feel less isolated here with your SJ beliefs. This would make me happy.

            But this chance was squandered, like it usually is.

            I know that I’m too blame for this too, my debating style is aggressive. I try to be better, but it is hard. When I really try and I fail, it hurts me.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            I read your comment and respect your position, but at this point I think it’s better if I don’t respond to it, as I believe that my above comment explains my position better than if I defensively respond to you.

            My statement about not wanting to target people personally, also applies to you and I hope you will believe me when I say that none of my statements were intended to single you out and attack you, without giving you the ability to defend yourself.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            At this point I feel that I have to severely self-censor around certain topics because bringing them up will inevitably result in a certain discussion. More specifically: any mention of imperfection in the SJ movement leads to defensive reactions that not all SJ people are like that, at best followed by a nuanced discussion of how many SJ people have these beliefs.

            Although this is a fine discussion to have, sometimes, it always goes like this. Imagine that every discussion about flaws in libertarianism results in a discussion about how many libertarians have certain poor beliefs; every discussion about flaws in Trump’s ideology leads to a discussion about how many Trump supporters have certain beliefs; every discussion about…

            For one thing, a post that amounted to “Trump supporters are all horrible racist misogynists” would result in a ton of pushback, and a ton of “what % of Trump supporters are xyz” and so forth.

            For another, this is kind of the standard around here. Nitpicking, attempts to quantify things, attempts to sort groups … almost as though we’re all nerds, eh?

            @Iain:

            Bringing it back to the current issue: I respect your feeling of self-censorship. At the same time, I am struggling to think of a group that has less active representation on SSC than SJ people, relative to the number of negative things said about the group. (Maybe Islam? Arguably black people?) As I have argued before, to the extent that SSC has a single outgroup, it is social justice.

            I don’t think either of those groups has a detractors-to-defenders ratio as high as SJ people do here – more a continuum from “mild cluelessness” to “shitty obliviousness”, for the most part. SJ are definitely the default outgroup here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I mean, imagine that someone would have responded with something like: It’s important that we are all more aware of how insults enforce social norms.

            But Aapje, I did respond with what was essentially that.

            That was the conclusion to my post.

            I noted that tribal discussion around the issue occurred, gave a reason for why I thought they continued, and said that I thought the answer was that we should simply assert that engaging in gender norm based shaming wasn’t OK.

            I’m really confused, because it seems to me the entirety of my post should be read as supporting your basic point, however you are saying I was making the problem worse.

          • Iain says:

            At this point I think we are arguably dogpiling, so I will only say: please don’t worry about apologizing or hurting my feelings, Aapje. I wasn’t pushing you to identify examples of “tribal dancing” because I was offended. I was just leaning on a weak part of your argument, to get you to examine why you were making that claim.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            I understand what you are saying. Clearly we are disgreeing with Aapje on this meta point of how “mind-killed” this particular conversation was.

            But is it really dog piling to say “Hey, I agree with your original point and I am confused why you didn’t see it that way?”

          • Iain says:

            Yeah, sorry, unclear on my part. Your comment was fine; the longer comment that I could have written (instead of the one I did write) would potentially have been excessive, particularly after Aapje acknowledged that he had read my previous post but didn’t want to respond to it directly right now.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            For one thing, a post that amounted to “Trump supporters are all horrible racist misogynists” would result in a ton of pushback, and a ton of “what % of Trump supporters are xyz” and so forth.

            I hedged my statement sufficiently that it cannot reasonably be read as a claim about all feminists, IMO. So your example seems incomparable to mine and as such, I don’t think you can reasonably argue that these instances of nitpicking are comparable, aside from a general claim that people here are extremely prone to nitpicking (which I agree with).

            My issue is more that on some topics, people seemingly can no longer interact in any other way than to nitpick (and perhaps cannot even avoid derailing arguments at the mere mention of the topic as a minor element of a different discussion), which I would argue pushes out many interesting avenues of interaction.

            @HeelBearCub

            I agree that your comment was reaching across the aisle. I agree that you didn’t have bad intent (and that goes for everyone in this thread). We agree that the discussion was tribal.

            In hindsight, I agree that I may be unfair to state that your comment was part of a chain that made it worse. Your comment can very reasonably be read as an attempt to end the nitpicking by drawing a bipartisan conclusion. That your comment didn’t have this effect wasn’t your fault and I mistakenly judged your post by the outcome (that the thread continued on a similar vein), rather than the probable intent.

            But now it is all about you (and me) again, rather than the general culture (which is why I tried to avoid focusing on individuals).

            Perhaps this is just an unavoidable cultural trait due to the audience of this site. Any forum will develop a dominant culture after all. There is only so much that one can do to alter this and any action to alter things will have negative consequences as well as positive consequences.

            Perhaps we just have to accept that this forum is what it is. There is value in nitpicking. No forum will be everything to everyone. I may be wrong in thinking that it can be more than what it is.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Our little bit of society is what we make of it.

            And SSC has plenty of making that has already been done on this topic, but I don’t think we are at the seventh day just yet.

            I think it’s probably unfair to expect that the culture wars won’t come up in this kind of conversation, but every mention of it does not mean that is is being actually fought in a particular comment thread.

            In any case, if at some point you want to discuss issues like that, say by posting a top comment, I will endeavor to engage with the ideas, and avoid the rancor. I think there are more and less successful ways to post a top comment so as to promote discussion, and usually the most activity is around contention, but it still can be interesting.

        • @Nancy:

          Using your real name does have some advantages, since there may be (are) people here who know you by it.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        what specifically caused you to wake and what would you tell ancaps in regards to their ideology

      • Tekhno says:

        @AnonEEmous

        1: Ancap and libertarianism more broadly weren’t getting anywhere.

        2: I began to feel that “anarchism” was an incoherent concept and that an absence of a state was just a vacuum.

        3: The account where the state protects and defines the institution of property seems more historically accurate than one in which the state is the enemy of property. This brought me round to a sort of classical liberal minarchism.

        4: I started thinking about how a lot of political issues had an inherent emotional core to them which wasn’t subject to reason, and reading about Jonathan Haidt’s research solidified this to me. I began to suspect that libertarians were a stable minority and that right vs left was strongly historically stable.

        5: When becoming interested in 3D printers/additive manufacturing and automation, I developed a possible solution which would be that since libertarians are trying to sell the public a vision of society that they inherently perceive as having too high a price, what libertarians had to do was lower the price, so to speak, and that once certain thresholds had been met, such as the abolition of poverty and necessary work through automation, it would be easier to get other things in place without triggering the primal reaction of imagining starving homeless people crawling through the gutter.

        In addition, things like additive manufacturing, and the use of singular elements like carbon in different allotropes, such as graphene, to work as all encompassing structural and electronic components, would lower economies of scale, and allow more economic independence, and make it easier to fulfill certain demands. If part of the problem is that people are too weak for libertarianism, and in this decadent society we lack the rugged individuals it seems to require, then radical transhumanism would allow us to “ruggedize”, and perhaps even exit by becoming something beyond human and spreading out into space.

        “He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.” – Aristotle

        6: The final thing I realized is that in the near term free markets were clearly still great, but that you had to make concessions to the overwhelming majority of the populace who were primally left or right. There had to be a pressure valve, and so the left should be appeased on welfare, unions, and trust busting and the right on borders and civic values, while maintaining the core of competitive markets.
        In a crisis time, you have no choice but to offer the moderate version of a policy, or the anger would be bottled up and be expressed in rage and a move towards totalitarian ideologies. I think the establishment reaction to the migrant crisis has produced a strong populist right backlash. Another example is that during the time of the Cold War, social programs and worker’s rights were a good way to stop workers going red. The angry masses must be appeased, even if you have to split the difference, because if you don’t, eventually something will go wrong, and they’ll be activated, and if you don’t do something, you’ll be voted out and the mythology that anger produces will raise someone terrifying to power. Radical centrism seems right to me.

        • Your comments seem to be more about what policies it makes sense to push than about what policies would be best if you could get them. Those seem to me to be different issues, both important, and worth distinguishing.

          On the specific question of defining anarchy and government, you might be interested in the discussion in the third edition of Machinery of Freedom, if you haven’t seen it.

        • Tekhno says:

          I promise to give that a read and make a more substantive reply later. I’m definitely going back and reading more anarcho-capitalist literature that I missed.

          The Art of Not being Governed
          Seeing Like a State (also by James Scott)

          That you suggested are in my backlog to start reading in this new year.

          Your comments seem to be more about what policies it makes sense to push than about what policies would be best if you could get them.

          If you can’t get them, then they aren’t the best policies! 😉

    • liskantope says:

      Throughout high school and college I invented a family of conlangs (at least rough sketches). One of the conlangs in the family was what I call a “push-the-envelope-lang”: I wanted to see how few phonemes I could get away with. I wound up beating Rotokas with only ten: six consonants and four vowels. This allowed me to use a ten-letter alphabet: A, E, I, K, L, N, O, P, S, and T. Just for fun, I started experimenting with coming up with words in the language which would contain all ten letters (how many languages can say they have a word that contains all the letters in their alphabet?). I distinctly remember using “known” roots in the language family and affixes to construct a word using all the letters which meant “not very ladylike” or something like that, but I’m not sure I can recover this word now. I also at that time jotted down the word “liskantope” using no roots and assigning no meaning, just because it looked natural and was an actual anagram of the alphabet. I believe at one point I thought of calling the language itself Liskantope, but around that time I decided to start a blog and decided that Liskantope would make a nice online pseudonym. That was back in 2008, and that blog turned out to be a failed attempt, but upon discovering SSC in 2014 I decided to resurrect the name and here I am today. (Note: in the conlang it would be pronounced “lis-kan-to-PEH” but nowadays in my head I pronounce it in a completely Anglicized way with stress on the first syllable… not that I’ve ever had occasion to pronounce it out loud.)

    • Garrett says:

      It’s my first name. I don’t want to make it easy to identify me, but I also like to remind myself that there’s no such thing as a true deniable pseudonym. Besides, it’s easy to remember and I like it.

    • 57dimensions says:

      It’s a very random and obscure mathematical reference. When I was in middle school (~age 12) I bought The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics. So it does say “57th Dimension” on the cover in the subtitle, but the actual milestone that it is mentioned under is “The Quest for Lie Group E8” (8 is a subscript, idk how to do that formatting here).

      Quote from that page:

      In the late 19th century, the Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie studied objects with smooth rotational symmetries, like the sphere or doughnut in our ordinary 3-D space. In three and higher dimensions, these kinds of symmetries are expressed by Lie groups. The German mathematician Wilhelm Killing suggested the existence of the E8 group in 1887. Simpler Lie groups control the shape of electron orbital and symmetries of subatomic quarks. Larger groups, like E8, may someday hold the key to a unified theory of physics and help scientists understand string theory and gravity.

      Fokko du Cloux, a Ducth mathematician and computer scientist who was one of the E8 team members, wrote the software for the supercomputer and pondered the ramifications of E8 while he was dying of ALS and breathing with a respirator. He died in November 2006, never living to see the end of the quest for E8.

      On January 8, 2007, a supercomputer computed the last entry in the table for E8, which describes the symmetries of a 57-dimensional object that can be imagined as rotating in 248 ways without changing its appearance. The work is significant as an advance in mathematical knowledge and in the use of large-scale computing to solve profound mathematical problems.

      News Article in Nature about E8

      I can’t for the life of me remember why exactly I chose that as my username for just about everything I do on the internet, probably because it sounded (and looked) cool and I liked the number 57, but I still use it for all accounts not connected to my real name 7 years later.

    • Skivverus says:

      Cousin made up a name for herself, and I, fond of said cousin, decided to do the same. Had not created nearly as many game characters at this point, so creativity/practice was lacking; hence, cobbled it together out of my initials and a Latinization of my last name.
      Have since found it amusing to think of it as meaning “the not-quite-naked truth”, but it was composed from utterly semantics-free processes.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        The sidelong glance at Prof. Snape is a nice bonus.

        • Skivverus says:

          Had to think for a moment before I got that reference. Also amusing, but you may be underestimating just how long I’ve had this handle.

    • smocc says:

      After one or two even even more embarrassing preteen usernames I made a new one for the forums of a site dedicated to modding a certain Star Wars computer game. I picked “SMOCK!” thinking at least in part of an old Calvin and Hobbes strip.

      Later when I started participating in the IRC channel for the same site I softened my handle to just “smock.” Then one day I was joking around and changed it to “Sm0cC” because l33t-speak was still funny at the time. That has stuck, though in many places I have softened it again to its current form, “smocc.”

      There aren’t many places left where I go anonymous on the internet, but in most of them I use this handle. I am sometimes surprised at how long my 12-year-old self’s decision lasted.

      • TenMinute says:

        I am sometimes surprised at how long my 12-year-old self’s decision lasted.

        It’s nice to have some sense of continuity with your childhood self though, isn’t it?

    • AnarchyDice says:

      I was using dayzombie for a while as a shortening of zombieforaday which came about from a random hypothetical I debated with some friends in high school about the usefulness of being a zombie for a day (romero or rage zombie, but intelligently directed). Would mostly have been used on a few sites and minecraft servers years ago. I found it funny that many assumed it was a reference to retail-drone type work or something when really it was just some random hypothetical from years ago.

      Got changed to anarchydice when I was trying to figure out a good handle to start blogging about philosophy and gaming stuff. Tried for a bit to create a few plays on it and the phrase “Alea iacta est” ‘The die is cast’ in latin, but nothing seems worth the hassle of changing to.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Obviously, my name here is my RL name. Long ago, I decided that if I’m going to post serious opinions and facts online, I should do it such that I won’t mind if it’s attributed to me in RL, because someone may someday link any pseudonym to my RL persona anyway, and therefore I just use my real name and keep myself in the habit. It also means I won’t say anything about anyone else unless I were willing to say it standing right next to them (in range of a left hook, as it were).

      I do use some pseudonyms on certain forums, mostly out of whimsy. I use “Mehhh” on Steam – read it like a plaintive cry of ambivalence. I also sometimes use BuddyPharaoh on certain gaming sites; it’s a pun on a very short run TV show that amused me, and also contained my father’s nickname.

      I also used to go by pokeyburro on LiveJournal. This dated back to a running joke I had in college where I would sign my emails with some phrase with the initials PB (in turn a riff on an even older ad campaign for PBMax). So, purple barbell, pig brawler, pickle baster, etc. I had a long list. One day, I signed it “pokey burro”, and one of my coworker friends replied and said, “Isn’t that another name for f**king ass?” I laughed so hard I ended up keeping that one a lot longer.

    • StellaAthena says:

      Stella is my real first name, which I decided to use for the same reason that Paul Brinkley uses his full name.

      As a child I was obsessed with classical antiquity, and developed a strong association with Athena (what self declared “smart girl” wouldn’t). I didn’t have a great relationship with my parents and would fantasize about being her demigod daughter actually. I got an Athenean drachma to wear around my neck, which I still wear 24-7 partially because I dislike change in routine and partially because “wears a drachma” has simply become part of my identity. Still a total classics nerd… enough to have /audited/ an entire minor’s worth of courses for it in college.

    • Exa says:

      I was reading Ra, by Sam Hughes, and a character showed up named Exa, which that character said was because it was “the only contraction of Alexander not already taken.” I thought it sounded cool, my name’s Alexander, and there you go.
      (I also went by A Hat Filled With What Appears To Be Salsa for quite some time due to a humorous line in a fanfic, but iirc that overflowed the character limit on some website so I had to use Exa)

  18. Anonymous says:

    I’m reading De Jouvenel’s On Power, and it got me thinking.

    How would one design a government structure if the goal was to a) maximally reduce the frequency of law changes (so for example, a generation or two could pass without substantial changes in what is legal or illegal to do), b) have this type of government be competitive against existing real-world governments (so it could defend itself successfully, rather than be annexed by the first president to look at it funny).

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      My uninformed thoughts:

      1) Make most laws of permanent duration, but adapting to changing circumstances (e.g. adjust for monetary and life-span inflation any laws/fines pertaining to money or incarceration time, respectively). Otherwise a period of inflation or deflation would substantially change things vis-a-vis real-world equivalencies.

      2) As per the US Constitution: Up the relative percentages of aggregate groups which would have to vote in favor of a law change.

      3) A) Keep this relative percentage sufficiently less than unanimity such that a significant enough proportion of the population doesn’t feel the need to revolt.

      B) Allow escape mechanisms (e.g. even up to emigration) for the part of the population that truly will not tolerate unchangingness.

      • albertborrow says:

        I think you’re on to something. I mean, the laws of physics seem to be constant, and yet they allow for variation by being functions of time (roughly). If we had a good enough understanding of the human psyche to create a formula that predicts what legislation we need and when we need it, we can use that formula to keep a single set of established rules for an indefinite period of time.

        Like psychohistory, only even more implausible.

    • Furslid says:

      I think this would require limiting the scope of law significantly. There are lots of societal changes, such as increasing acceptance of homosexuality. There are a lot of social movements with pet causes, like stopping factory farming. You would have to make these changes not require changes in law.

      If each societal change requires changes in law, that’s not good. Also any group that is lobbying for a change in law will need an alternative course of action to advance its goals.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think this would require limiting the scope of law significantly. There are lots of societal changes, such as increasing acceptance of homosexuality. There are a lot of social movements with pet causes, like stopping factory farming. You would have to make these changes not require changes in law.

        Removing the power of people to advance their pet cause of the day by putting the force of state power behind it is the point of this exercise. If these interest groups cannot make due without enforcing their will from on high, they get to take a hike.

        If each societal change requires changes in law, that’s not good. Also any group that is lobbying for a change in law will need an alternative course of action to advance its goals.

        Ergo decedo, suggested above by anonymousskimmer, seems adequate.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          An EU-like confederacy of small governments, some of which are legally conservative, some of which are legally changeable. With no such governments “land-locked” by governments of the same orientation as themselves.

          Have them be large enough that people can live their lives entirely within one government, without significant constraints, but small enough that they can travel to at least a couple of neighboring governments within two hours.

          So something between gated communities and a small US state in size.

          This would largely prevent people from being upset about constraints such as abortion and marriage laws (you’d just move to a neighboring state while retaining your job in the state whose laws you don’t like, or vice versa).

          • Jiro says:

            That has problems with governments that tax people at one point in their life and use it to pay benefits at another point. People will get educated in the free education states and work in the no-school-tax states.

            You could force people to pay back the “benefits” before moving, but that has its own problems.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            People will get educated in the free education states and work in the no-school-tax states.

            Currently, at least everywhere I’ve paid taxes in the US, you pay school taxes in the school district in which you are domiciled, and you also send you kids to school in the same district.

          • Deiseach says:

            you’d just move to a neighboring state while retaining your job in the state whose laws you don’t like, or vice versa

            Where are you taxed? State of domicile or state of employment? Unless there were a standard law, you could end up double-taxed (I can see a lot of tax lawyers becoming very busy with everyone trying to find loopholes in how much and what state they pay tax; I’m thinking of all the Irish businessmen who became citizens of Monaco for tax purposes).

          • John Schilling says:

            Currently, at least everywhere I’ve paid taxes in the US, you pay school taxes in the school district in which you are domiciled, and you also send you kids to school in the same district.

            You send your kids to school for approximately fifteen years of your life; you pay income and/or property taxes for about sixty years of your life. There is no requirement that you spend all sixty years living in the same district. My parents, for example, moved to the congenial suburb with the great public schools when I was about two, and left about a year after my younger brother left for college.

        • Furslid says:

          Right, so how are people who are advocating change going to advance their agenda? Those people aren’t going to go away. I’d love a cultural change from trying to pass laws to trying to convince people. Without that cultural change, I don’t think it could work.

          I’d love to have a society with much less laws and very static ones. However, I think that a majority of the population has a cause that they like well enough to allow legal changes.

    • cassander says:

      Give relatively small minorities the power to repeal laws, but not pass them. After an initial adjustment period, you’d settle into a lower change equilibrium. Probably…..

      • HeelBearCub says:

        That sounds like a really bad set-up. Super majorities to pass, maybe.

        Minorities can repeal is just a call for hostage taking and general bad blood.

        • cassander says:

          Super majorities to pass leads to endless logrolling over basic functions like passing budgets. It also leads to stasis, because once passed, changing laws remains difficult. Minority repeal achieves the same beneficial effect (large degree of consensus needed to sustain legislation) but only if the a substantial minority can be organized around the issue, meaning many fewer opportunities for rent seeking holdouts.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This is my sense as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not seeing how supermajority support to pass a budget is worse than minority repeal of the same budget from an “endless logrolling” perspective?

            I pass a budget. You immediately repeal it. Unlike “supermajority required” we have to go through all of the logrolling for the budget before we can know whether you are going to repeal it. Its the same requirement as “supermajority to pass” but with more steps.

            In addition, any sort of “I will vote for this thing if you vote for that thing” is compromised and unstable because those who are dissatisfied can take many bites at the repeal apple.

            To argue against my own side, there is a small difference in acts of commission and omission, but absent norms against voting to repeal (which you probably don’t want) I’m not really seeing it making a big difference.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HeelBearCub.

            The commission vs omission distinction is precisely why I am inclined to agree with Cassander. That said, you make a fair point about stability and taking “many bites at the repeal apple”. It may be necessary to add some sort of corollary where if a repeal vote fails, you have to wait at least X amount of time before trying again.

          • cassander says:

            >I’m not seeing how supermajority support to pass a budget is worse than minority repeal of the same budget from an “endless logrolling” perspective?

            So in any legislature, the value of a marginal vote rises as you get closer to the passing threshold because you become closer to making or breaking the coalition. the higher the threshold the steeper that curve rises and the higher the peak. This allows individuals to hold out more and more for whatever their parochial interest is. And since not all parochials interests are mutually compatible, the legislative process slows down as every bill requires an exponentially more complicated set of mutual approvals.

            With minority repeal, you get the ability for a minority bloc to stop legislation but you don’t massively empower marginal legislatures the way supermajorities do, because the power isn’t vested in individual marginal members. You’re instead of dealing with X number of members each of whom is a potential veto point, you’re dealing with one potential veto point that requires X votes to exercise.

            > I pass a budget. You immediately repeal it.

            In a legislature of two, you’re right, it wouldn’t matter. In a legislature of more than two, however, it matters a lot. Say the republican pass a budget. The democrats CAN repeal it, but do they? To do that, there have to be enough democrats think they will benefit from doing so. Remember, repealing it doesn’t get them the budget they want, it just kills the existing budget.

            As an example, stipulate a 55/45 senate.

            Let’s say the republicans want to pass a budget that cuts off all federal funds to states that don’t impose the the death penalty for people who say happy holidays instead of merry christmas. This is obviously bad, and you want a system that prevents it.

            You can mandate 66% to pass a budget. That means, in practice, that at least some minority votes will always be required to pass legislation and means the republicans have to drop the proposal, but doing so means that every budget session ends with a massive log-rolling free for all as everyone scrambles to be the last holdout. It actually encourages people to hold out longer and make the process work worse as a way of driving up the price of their vote. For proof of this, see the california legislature.

            With minority repeal, you don’t have the massive logrolling session, because you only need 50 votes to pass, the price of votes is lower. Instead of having to negotiate with 45 members of the minority, each of each of which has their own desires, the majority has to negotiate with the few groups that can credibly threaten to get 34 votes on an issue. These issues, by definition, are going to have to appeal to more than one member, and are thus, by definition, less parochial and of more general concern. You still prevent laws that offend large minorities of members, but without giving them an outsized influence on the process as a whole.

            Basically, minority repeal empowers minority groups of legislators, not marginal members, which is much healthier.

            In practice, you will not need to add such corollaries, because the majority is not stupid. With relatively rare exceptions, they will not bring things to a vote they know will be voted down, for the same reasons they don’t currently do so.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            At the end of the day you need to convince the same 66 senators to vote against repeal. Given a right to schedule a repeal vote, you have exactly the same problem. If you didn’t convince them to vote for the legislation, they can simply repeal the bill and say “I want X in the bill or else we will repeal it again”.

            Unless of course you leave the scheduling of the repeal vote up to the majority leader. Good luck getting any repeal votes at all then (unless they have backing of the majority, which means we are repealing laws for, the last administration.)

            That’s just basically the situation we have already. Except minus the super-majority currently required to pass non budget “repeal” bills in the senate. So I guess on the margin that would lead to slightly “swingier” legislation which isn’t the intent of the OP.

          • Anonymous says:

            Why not the Belgian solution? They didn’t need the government to pass the budget.

          • cassander says:

            >At the end of the day you need to convince the same 66 senators to vote against repeal. Given a right to schedule a repeal vote, you have exactly the same problem. If you didn’t convince them to vote for the legislation, they can simply repeal the bill and say “I want X in the bill or else we will repeal it again”.

            If a bill just passed with 55 votes, you don’t need to convince 66 not to repeal it, 55 want it to pass. Of the 45 not in favor of the bill, you have to convince 11 not to repeal it, which is a lot easier than convincing 11 more to vote for it in the first place.

            >Unless of course you leave the scheduling of the repeal vote up to the majority leader. Good luck getting any repeal votes at all then (unless they have backing of the majority, which means we are repealing laws for, the last administration.)

            how you work the parliamentary procedure is actually a tricky question. Presumably it would function somewhat like a discharge petition.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:

            Of the 45 not in favor of the bill, you have to convince 11 not to repeal it, which is a lot easier than convincing 11 more to vote for it in the first place.

            You say this as if it is an obvious fact.

            Just looking at it strictly from a game theory perspective, I see no reason why if 35 people don’t want the legislation to pass, they don’t simply immediately repeal the legislation. I would expect this vote to become de rigeur.

            You haven’t given me any reason why I, as a person who does not want the legislation to pass, would not make this vote.

          • cassander says:

            I’ve given several reasons. Because you, as a member of the minority, can’t repeal on your own, you need to build a coalition of 34 other members who oppose the bill, and not 34 out of the whole assembly, 34 out of the people that aren’t actively in favor of the bill. Because if there is such a coalition, it is likely to negotiate with the bill before it passes, rather than after, and the majority only needs to peel off a couple members. Because in any legislature “don’t want to pass” and “want to actively oppose” are not the same thing, for all sorts of reasons.

            It’s precisely the game theory that supports me. minority repeal turns opposing a bill from an individual action to a collective one.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            The members of the majority can’t peel you off. They have nothing to offer you. There is no bill through which they can offer something to you. You are voting to repeal a bill that did not contain the things that would have enticed you to avoid repealing it.

            The arguments you are making are the same as would be made if the initial bill required a super majority. You would need to assemble a coalition of the minority members to vote against the bill, the majority would attempt to entice minority members to vote for the bill. But at least when a bill is being passed, the majority can arrange to include things you want.

            I am seriosly confused as to why you think as a minority member I wouldn’t try and leverage my power to repeal.

          • cassander says:

            >The members of the majority can’t peel you off. They have nothing to offer you.

            It’s a legislature, the list of things they can offer you is practically infinite, everything from a nicer office to the support you need for your bills.

            >There is no bill through which they can offer something to you. You are voting to repeal a bill that did not contain the things that would have enticed you to avoid repealing it.

            Why not?

            >The arguments you are making are the same as would be made if the initial bill required a super majority. You would need to assemble a coalition of the minority members to vote against the bill

            No, you don’t, that’s precisely the point. You need members who individually don’t like the bill, for whatever reasons. You don’t need a coalition of members that all agree on a course of action.

            >I am seriosly confused as to why you think as a minority member I wouldn’t try and leverage my power to repeal.

            You certainly would, if you had 34 likeminded friends. That’s harder than it sounds, though.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            What exactly do you think a minority whip does?

            Or, more to the point, when the vote for a bill is 55 aye to 45 nay, and the 45 are all Ds (or Rs), when the vote to repeal is called 5 minutes later, why would those 45 not vote aye? Everything that prompted them to vote nay on the first vote still applies.

          • cassander says:

            >Or, more to the point, when the vote for a bill is 55 aye to 45 nay, and the 45 are all Ds (or Rs), when the vote to repeal is called 5 minutes later, why would those 45 not vote aye? Everything that prompted them to vote nay on the first vote still applies.

            Depends on the bill and why they’re voting against it. Everything might not apply.

            First of all, the whole point of such a system is to prevent bills that are opposed by substantial minorities from passing. So if the republicans manage to get some bill through that 45 senators are passionately against, and it gets repealed, the system is working fine. Of course, the majority leadership knows that such is happening, so probably won’t bring up the bill in the first place.

            Second, there are a whole lot of reasons to vote against a bill besides passionate objection. They include passionate objection to part, but not all, of a bill, wanting to go on record as being against something, because the whip is whipping and promised consequences if you don’t vote against it, personal animosities, and so on.

            Under the current senate rules, there is often a fair bit of negotiation to secure the votes of people who are going to vote against the final bill, but who’s vote is needed for cloture. Similar negotiations would be conducted under a minority repeal system, getting votes from people who will vote against the bill but be mollified enough not to vote for immediate repeal. This will especially be the case with “must pass” bills like budgets and appropriations.

            In sum, the differences between minority repeal and a supermajority system are twofold. First, supermajority rules tend to stasis, even when laws are broadly unpopular, because once passed changing them requires so many votes that minorities in favor of them can preserve them. Minority repeal inverts this.

            Second, they allow more parliamentary wiggle room than strict supermajorities do. Under a supermajority rule, the 66th vote faces immense temptation to hold out against a bills he likes because of the enormous price he can extract by playing spoiler. Minority repeal prevents that, because in order to get rents from spoiling, you need 34 buddies all of whom have agreed on a single price. In case of a legislative poison pill, that’s easy. But most bills are not so simple.

            The problem you are having, I think, comes from viewing legislative preferences as either support or oppose. In reality, they’re a lot more complicated than that. It’s true that at the end of the day everyone votes yay or nay, but there are complicated shades behind that vote. Minority repeal gives a way for those shades to express themselves, super majorities do the opposite.

  19. Anonymous Colin says:

    Any Recommendations for books (or other media) on constructing polls and surveys, or using survey data?

    I’m not looking for anything too heavy. I have a stats background but have never had to get my hands dirty with actual research methods along these lines.

    As a rough signpost towards what I’m looking for: I know what a Likert-type scale is, but I only know that because I stumbled across it in some psych literature, looked it up, and went “oh, yeah, I recognise that”. I would like something that introduces me to relevant terminology and best-practises. I presume there are research method handbooks that will do this, but I don’t really know what to search for.

    • Well... says:

      I’d think a beginner textbook on social research would do the trick. Just use caution, because apparently they are often fraught with the political views of their authors. (The one I’m reading through is by a guy named Rubin Neuman [edit: got the name wrong].)

  20. Acedia says:

    Why is there no grand, coordinated, extravagantly-funded scientific effort to discover the reasons for and combat biological aging and death?

    I know that there are some people working on it, but the number of people and amounts of money involved don’t seem commensurate with the degree to which most humans desire to prolong life and avoid aging and death. Even people who are comfortable with their own mortality tend to be quite bothered by the prospect of their loved ones dying.

    Why no Manhattan Project for senescence?

    • The Nybbler says:

      There is, but the billionaires are trying to keep it on the down low because they definitely don’t want the rest of us to stick around forever; we’re disposable labor, and if they ever get the AI robot thing going they’d rather shrink the population organically rather than get involved in messy genocide.

      Basically the method is that they openly fund these life extension efforts but they make them sound vaguely crackpotty, so no one is surprised when there are no publicly-visible results. Example : http://www.calicolabs.com/

      (Epistemic Status: paranoid)

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        This makes a lot of sense. Although you write this as if tongue in cheek, I would not be surprised if there are various secret research projects going on. Because it doesn’t make sense to greatly extend everyone’s longevity — we wouldn’t have enough space on Earth to put everyone. But if just you and me get to extend our lives — no downside to that.

        • Because it doesn’t make sense to greatly extend everyone’s longevity — we wouldn’t have enough space on Earth to put everyone.

          There is an awful lot of space on Earth.

          The critical question is whether people keep having children, whether after bringing up one family you produce another and another. If they do, you get exponential growth with a pretty fierce exponent, which pushes even my optimistic view of the carrying capacity of Earth.

          If not, all you get is linear growth, which I don’t expect to be a big problem.

          • Matt M says:

            We could have some massive wars to thin out the excess population? That’s how this stuff works, right?

          • Anonymous says:

            It would almost certainly work out that way. Am uncertain whether it’s preferable to aging or not.

          • shakeddown says:

            You’d also get exponential population if the average couple wanted more than two kids (Or in some other conditions, like if there was a significant divorce/remarriage rate and most new couples wanted kids even if they already had them). Of course, this is true even if people die.
            OTOH, if the average couple wants fewer than two kids*, you could get a finite number of people total, which is sustainable.

            *This assumes you don’t start genetically/socially selecting for families that want more kids somehow.

          • roystgnr says:

            You don’t even end up with linear growth if couples all want one child, or if they want less than two children on average and the variance in this desire isn’t correlated from generation to generation.

            (Digression: Is there any less awkward way to say “correlated from generation to generation”? The biologists seem to have appropriated “heritable” to refer solely to correlations with genetic causes.)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Is there any less awkward way to say “correlated from generation to generation”?

            Socially heritable, environmentally heritable, non-genetically heritable (as the catch-all).

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ shakeddown

            *This assumes you don’t start genetically/socially selecting for families that want more kids somehow.

            Social selection has been going on for millenia, and GKC was predicting (and gloating about) the More Children RCs burying the rest of us. Mid-century SF authors were making the same prediction, anti-gloatingly.

          • Deiseach says:

            if there was a significant divorce/remarriage rate and most new couples wanted kids even if they already had them

            That seems to be the more likely route; with longer lives (or even the same lifespan* but no aging so that up to the age of eighty or ninety you are still in the physical state of your thirties), people are going to be breaking up and forming new partnerships even more. If “till death do us part” has already gone the way of the dodo, staying with the same partner for fifty or sixty years is also going to be increasingly rare.

            If fertility is maintained with the anti-aging, then new couples = new kid seems likely, as it does appear to be the first thing that happens when a relationship breaks up – new girlfriend gets pregnant, if she’s not already pregnant (mind you, this is going by social housing client experience, so YMMV).

            But it seems to me more likely that it will go along the lines of Joe had a kid with Sue then they split up after twenty years and he partnered with Jill and she wants a kid, while Sue is having a child with her new partner etc.

            *That’s a point I’d like cleared up: are we assuming anti-aging means indefinitely extended lifespan, or are we saying “you still only live up to a maximum of one hundred years but you don’t get feeble and lose physical and mental capacity as you would if normal aging happened”?

          • @ Deiseach:

            The model I’m mostly going with is one where you get to be in functional physical condition, say somewhere between twenty and fifty, for an unlimited length of time, although of course you can still get run over by a car or have a heart attack.

            Ideally, if you are past that point when the technology is invented, as I already am, it lets you get physically younger again, but that’s only an issue at the beginning.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t think any public figure can take much advantage of secret life extension methods. They could live to be ninety or so in spite of having bad genes, but anything interesting would be conspicuous.

        Maybe they could pretend to be their own heir, but that’s going to get harder as the amount of surveilance increases.

        Even popping into the world as a new person with an inconspicuous financial safety net is going to get harder.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Maybe they could pretend to be their own heir, but that’s going to get harder as the amount of surveilance increases.

          Harder, but likely a problem money and well-connected allies who also want their life extended can’t solve.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Because Aubrey de Gray won’t shave his God damned beard.

      I’m kind of serious. Dude has a thoughtful and intelligent plan for approaching the issue that gets around the seeming impossibility of ending aging — break the problem into smaller ones that are more approachable, even if you don’t like his specific choices, this is a complicated issue with various parts of the body failing in different ways and there may be lots of small solutions we can quickly progress on instead of one big one — but because he looks like a crackpot, people don’t take him seriously, and because someone who looks like a crackpot is the most prominent advocate of the issue (thanks to the media loving to point their cameras at weirdos) people don’t take the issue seriously.

      Elon Musk bangs on about cities on Mars and AI risk. He also combs his hair and wears a nice shirt. This is important.

      • Eh, more quack then anything else.

        You might as well say “Nanomachines, Son” for lots of his remedies. Actually accomplishing the “live-forever” correctly in any meaningful sense implies having post-singularity technology…and who knows what our stupidly arranged atoms can be arranged for.

        For non-post singularity tech, seems like most/all of his ideas are sub-sets of research already being done around the globe. Who isn’t trying to create molecular nano-tech that better interacts with cellular tech these days?

        He isn’t a total quack…which is why he is successful. Another non-total quack who has too much quack for me to recommend is Tim Ferris.

        I disagree that his odd appearance is hurting him. I think it makes him a distinctive media figure.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          It’s not the remedies that he proposes which make sense, so much as just the very, very high level approach and how that would be introduced to the public. Most people imagine anti-aging as some kind of magical fountain of youth formula, which is hard to take seriously. But treating the various aspects of aging as individual diseases? Divide and conquer, in a calm, non-flashy manner? Now you’re talking.

          I disagree that his odd appearance is hurting him. I think it makes him a distinctive media figure.

          It works for him, yes. But it doesn’t work for the respectability of the field.

          • Ok. I think the word “Quack” is unfair in his case. If he didn’t ask for donations, what he is doing could be inspiring.

            Ok. If there was a budget vetted by trusted third parties of where any donations, that was verifiable as to where the money was going to, then it would no longer be quack status.

            I may be a bit cynical, but a mental heuristic for a great deal of anything in medicine is “scammer/quack” status, when perhaps the word doesn’t apply.

            Maybe some of the money in his organization actually *does* go into real research.

      • grendelkhan says:

        Elon Musk bangs on about cities on Mars and AI risk. He also combs his hair and wears a nice shirt. This is important.

        Is it? I just got through Ashlee Vance’s book, and the overwhelming theme is that Musk didn’t really get taken seriously about his non-software stuff until Tesla shipped the Roadster (really, until they shipped the Model S) and until the Falcon 1 launched (really, until the Falcon 9 delivered cargo to the ISS). And really seriously once it landed.

        Results speak louder than clothing, and I think that’s the way it should be. Just speaking about Musk here, it was extremely easy to found an electric-car or aerospace startup; it was much harder to perform the feats of management and engineering required to get it to actually work.

        tl;dr, talk is cheap; if de Grey did something fantastic, no one would care about his weird beard.

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t know, I think having a nice appearance is “necessary, but not sufficient” for being taken seriously.

          Basically, nobody is going to even bother analyzing the credibility and reasonableness if you look like this. Of course some people with sharp suits will still be dismissed as quacks, but people are more likely to at least look at the evidence before doing so.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          And how did Musk get to the point where he was shipping electric cars and launching rockets in the first place? Not by having a weird beard, that’s for sure.

          • rlms says:

            I dare say that he would’ve still got to the same point if he’d had a weird beard when he founded a company that merged into PayPal.

    • Deiseach says:

      Why is there no grand, coordinated, extravagantly-funded scientific effort to discover the reasons for and combat biological aging and death?

      Because it’s very damn complicated and where do you even start? Also, trying to make sure people don’t die of cancers, diseases and disorders in the first place before getting into “there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just getting older, how do we stop that” takes precedence because unless you get that surgery for appendicitis when you’re thirty, you’re not going to be around to worry about “hey, now I’m ninety-five, how much longer do I got?”

      • Matt M says:

        Makes sense. The #1 killers are still things like cancer, heart disease, and auto accidents. Why spend a lot of time and effort on the aging process when the vast majority of people die from other things before they get to the aging process?

        • MF says:

          If we cured “cancer”, life expectancy would only rise by 3 years, as far as I’ve read. I haven’t looked too much into the research behind the exact number. (source, source)

          Heart disease doesn’t kill that many more, or so a quick Google search is giving me. I think you’re overestimating the impact we’d get fixing those things.

          Cancer and heart disease are also linked to aging, so if we “fix” aging we’re likely to mostly fix a ton of diseases which are “caused” by it.

        • MF says:

          Curing cancer only gains you 3.3 years extra life expectancy according to most sources I’ve read, and cancer/heart disease are often “caused” by aging. I think you’re overestimating the impact of those diseases, and underestimating how much would be helped if we understood and could deal with aging better.

          (I had sources in this post but SSC hated them. Sorry about that. Don’t care to figure out which ones it hated.)

          Edit: But try here: http://asserttrue.blogspot.ca/2013/02/taeubers-paradox-and-life-expectancy.html#

        • MF says:

          Curing cancer only gains you 3.3 years extra life expectancy according to most sources I’ve read, and cancer/heart disease are often “caused” by aging. I think you’re overestimating the impact of those diseases, and underestimating how much would be helped if we understood and could deal with aging better.

          (I had sources in this post but SSC hated them. Sorry about that. Don’t care to figure out which ones it hated.)

          Edit: Found this really nice table of life expectancy vs disease limited, but SSC hates it. Have a mangled link:

          http://asserttrue dotgoeshere blog removespacehere spot.ca/2013/02/taeubers-paradox-and-life-expectancy.html#

          Not sure if link mangling is against the rules. I feel uncomfortable having done it. Someone please tell me if doing this was in bad taste.

        • Why spend a lot of time and effort on the aging process when the vast majority of people die from other things before they get to the aging process?

          Do you think that’s true in modern developed countries? U.S. life expectancy is currently about 79. By 79 the aging process is beginning to have a significant effect, in part by making more likely the things people die from thereafter.

        • Mary says:

          Cancer is chiefly caused by the accumulation of mutations over a lifetime. (Or so I was told when I went in for genetic testing.) So there’s going to be no way to handle the aging process that doesn’t tackle cancer.

      • Mary says:

        One also notes that time was that senility was “you’re just getting older.” More and more of the “aging process” might be solved by slipping free of it to become first a disease and then (one hopes) a treatable one or even a curable one.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        There’s a substantial genetic component to aging.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3898394/

        I’ve heard that there are people who are healthy into their nineties and then die fairly quickly, which is about as good a deal as the universe generally offers at this point. They’re being studied. I hope it turns out to be something that can be bottled.

        Substantial gains in longevity– even something modest like living to be 200– are a much harder problem. I believe that most medical ethicists who are alive today won’t live long enough for the question to be a practical problem.

        How much do I really believe that last sentence? Fair-to-middling. I very much doubt that an eighty-year-old medical ethicist will live that long, and I find it conceivable that a thirty-year-old medical ethicist might. I don’t know the age distribution of medical ethicists.

    • Well... says:

      There are some ethical/philosophical/spiritual arguments why it’s a bad idea. I’m not qualified to represent any of them myself, but good arguments should be easy to find.

      • albertborrow says:

        There are plenty of better (personal opinion) arguments for researching medical immortality, I’m not qualified to represent any of them myself, but you could throw two stones in the rationalist community and hit ten of them.

        • Well... says:

          I don’t imagine the rationalist community has any spiritual arguments in favor of medical immortality, since isn’t that community an atheistic one?

    • MF says:

      The big factors I can think of, though people seem to have already mentioned most:

      * It seems weird, the people who support it seem weird. It’s not ‘cool’ to support it. Look at how people who support cryogenics are mocked. (Edit: Cryonics, not cryogenics. Woops.)

      * People don’t believe it’s possible, and it is in fact very hard.

      * (Note: not super confident.) If you believed death was bad and scary before modern science, you were kind of fucked and set up for a life of existential dread.

      (Not that I think it’s very likely we’ll fix aging in my lifetime. The current state of scientific research in general is depressing.)

      Therefore, there’s been strong incentives for belief structures to spring up which explain why death is fine/good. Said systems mean next to no one wants aging cured.

      • Eh. I am very negative on the current state of cryogenics. As I wrote before to another comment, all this “eternal life tech” is all post-singularity tech. Your atoms can be arranged more productively then whatever form *you* take…if it ends up that everything isn’t pointless.

        Cryogenics right now is a million dollar scam for the desperate. I don’t view it more charitably then I would someone offering a million dollars for a ritual of American Indian dancers to take you to the afterlife.(though maybe the Egyptians have something to offer. The Mummy was a good movie)

        • Tedd says:

          The person you’re replying to made the same mistake, but…

          Cryogenics is the science of cold things. Cryonics is the speculative pursuit of preserving humans and other animals for later revival. Cryogenicists will get mad at you if you mix them up.

          It’s also considerably cheaper than a million dollars. As to whether it’s a scam… well, what odds would you give of it working, either in its current state (that is, such that people preserved today could eventually be revived) or in fifty years’ time? One in a thousand? A million? At what odds would it stop being a scam?

        • MF says:

          I agree – and I think most people interested in it do – that cryonics is a longshot. I wouldn’t give it more than 5-10% chances of working at most. But for the incredibly cheap cost ($80k USD for Alcor), I would certainly say it’s worth it.

          Perhaps you’d disagree, and that’s fine – obviously people are going to have different thresholds for when it becomes “worth it”. 5% for $80k just happens to be in the right league for me. Mocking people, like I’ve seen in many places, goes too far in my personal opinion.

          • I’m not talking about it being a longshot or not being a longshot. The technology will work eventually given some rate of scientific progress that isn’t asymptotic, or some catastrophe destroys civilization.

            The technology will work eventually, I believe that. I critique it on other grounds.

            Namely..nobody will revive themselves just to die in another 30 years due to your body breaking down in a variety of ways. Nobody will want, given other options, to live their life as a person with damaged memory, bad knees, if tech can reverse/repair/improve that too.

            The tech to really give eternal life in the way we ask for it gives super-intelligence, physical capabilities around super-power levels…and the both of those in conjunction give…a level of control of the physical world that’s unpredictable, but very very high.

            If your atomic structure can’t be used in some other way better then your measly body and memories…then that’s a worst case scenario, and besides genetic forcing of survival instinct I would not want to live in a world like that.

            If the atoms in your body can be used in some better way then you are now, then the super-intelligences(perhaps made from humans) will do so with them.

            If that singularity tech can’t be made, its someone scamming you.

            If it can be, *you*, in any meaningful sense that anyone talks about… you won’t revive.

          • Tedd says:

            TheBearsHaveArrived:

            I dispute “If it can be, *you*, in any meaningful sense that anyone talks about… you won’t revive”, but that’s a philosophical question. Moreover, it looks like what you’re suggesting is that people will choose a better alternative, instead of merely being revived and cured of whatever killed them. If that’s the case, isn’t that better than the thing people are currently hoping for (mere revival), and so worth more, not less?

            But also, those are some strong assertions about the future. How confident are you in them?

          • The ability to successfully accomplish all the goals of cryonics are nothing less then eternal healthy youth, and a reverse engineering of the brain in order to restore and repair those algorithms and outputs of data structures (memories) within an acceptable boundary.

            With the nano-tech and absurd technology involved in doing that…all you have to do is replace the slow circuitry in the brain with electric circuits 1,000—1,000,000 times faster, with possibly 1,000,000 of those in parallel. Or 1,000,000,000 — 1,000,000,000,000 variants of the smartest human brain of all time working together. That’s not saying about finding algorithms of the same purpose that are more powerful and more efficient then evolution could find.

            With technology that great, that’s when people are asking questions like

            1. Will these absurdly intelligent computer *gods* use all material in the solar system for various purposes? What would they use it for? Have they found a meaning to life, a great meaning to life worthy of pursuit of planetary resources….or have they found the nihilists were right. Or even is 42 the answer?

            Or a slight variation, assuming human life is (somehow) relatable to the current age(and still it would not be at all)

            “Will there be a global moratorium on having babies since people can live forever. Or people now buy years of life (somehow) from those who have been unlucky in an accident or decided to end it all.”

            Not

            “Old jimmy is gonna wake up except now he will be in his early 20’s prime! Lets go listening to our favorite music”

            You can’t really …compute probabilities of waking up normally again of the sort we typically do in real life like “X said he will go the movies. its raining today. Based on what I know about X, I think he has >50% chance of going to the movies” Or even “Country Y and Z chance of war this decade. If so, who wins(an easier question)?”.

            Life in the future with those requisite technologies and capabilities from them will be so removed from life now that you might as well not plan any real decisions anyways relating to now for then. Or, not sign up for cryonics.

            I do view the people involved in the industry a bit negatively. Cryonics is the thing most commonly mentioned in sci-fi to revive the dead, kindof makes sense of a surface level, and regardless of intelligence level human desperation will ensure lots of people sign up…for a hefty price.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think that the most likely outcome for those buying into cryonics, aside from it simply not working (let’s face it, anyone selling cryonics in this day and age is unequivocally full of shit), is something akin to Warrren Ellis’ “Revivals”, and while Ellis works it into a good story it’s hardly what most people would call a desirable outcome.

    • Mark says:

      Well… there are hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in the field at the moment.

      Why not more?

      I think the best example of something like this is probably global warming. You have some people screaming at the top of their lungs that more needs to be done or it’s the end of the world, it becomes a bit of a buzzword, gradually the idea begins to hold some sway over the minds of those in power, but inertia means that not much gets done.
      Meanwhile the rest of us just kind of shrug our shoulders. We’re perfectly happy to accept that global warming is a terrible problem (at least intellectually) but it just doesn’t excite us. Sorry.

      I guess most people feel the same way about ageing.

      • There are arguments purporting to show that global warming will eventually do bad, perhaps terrible, things. Aging is killing fifty to a hundred million people a year, including lots of rich and influential people. I don’t think those are comparable situations.

        • I am convinced by the “eventually” claims. It just doesn’t seem likely that the trends *this* century will be terrible.

          Forgetting about the ocean acidification issue(which I can’t analyze,but everyone says its a really bad thing) my bets would be that for this century, the (slight) temperature increase and increased CO2 levels would be good for overall food production.

          Aging eventually kills every person alive, or will kill every person alive if not killed by another cause. They are not really in the same ballpark of evils right now.

    • Riothamus says:

      The Manhattan Project is a really bad way to conceptualize the problem. It was a single, convulsive effort to solve an all-or-nothing problem that had just materialized in a period of crisis.

      By contrast, people have always aged and died, and the problem is currently the least it has ever been. Why would people even consider an emergency effort to combat it?

      • cassander says:

        It’s worse than that. For the manhattan project, the theoretical basis of a bomb had already been worked out and proved mathematically. The engineering was difficult, but it was engineering, not raw science. Engineering problems can be solved by throwing enough money at them, science problems not so much. Manhattan would only be analogous if we already had, and knew how to make, knew how to make a longevity serum, the problem was just to mass produce it.

      • orangecat says:

        the problem is currently the least it has ever been

        Can you explain that? My impression would be that aging is an increasing problem, because a smaller percentage of people are dying from non-age-related causes.

        • Deiseach says:

          That’s probably the first part of the solution: get people living long enough so that aging becomes a problem. You can only worry about “when I’m eighty I will be wracked with arthritis” if you can be sure of getting to eighty and not dying in your forties.

          And secondarily, people probably are healthier now than they used to be; sixty was considered “elderly” (or at least getting there) but a lot of sixty years old people nowadays are much more active and physically able than they would have been in previous generations.

        • Riothamus says:

          In absolute terms, I agree; a larger population that lives longer makes aging a bigger problem in absolute terms than it was previously. There is also the possibility of average lifespan technically dropping in the U.S.

          I mean this rather in the sense of least worrisome to individuals. Longer lifespans are generally considered a victory. The places in the world where aging affects individuals for the longest period are also the places in the world where the most options are available to combat, treat, and reduce suffering from it. There are also a lot of independent projects that address the big concerns associated with it, like organ failure or Alzheimer’s disease.

          I like the idea of solving the problem of aging, but I am much more preoccupied with the problems of pestilence, famine, and war. Aging is not an emergency, merely inconvenient.

          • I like the idea of solving the problem of aging, but I am much more preoccupied with the problems of pestilence, famine, and war. Aging is not an emergency, merely inconvenient.

            The problem of famine has been solved, except in the special case of engineered famines, generally due to war.

            The other two have not, but neither of them kills as many people per year as aging does.

          • bean says:

            I think we’ve come nearly as far as we have in solving war as we have in solving famine. Wars between major powers used to happen every couple of decades, but we’ve been 70 years without one.

      • Acedia says:

        Why would people even consider an emergency effort to combat it?

        If personal immortality isn’t enough of a draw, not wanting their kids to die, maybe. Most parents I know seem extremely upset by the thought of their children dying, including the ones whose children are adults. The only comfort they have right now is knowing that unless they’re unlucky they won’t be around to see it.

  21. Randy M says:

    On the one hand, I’d like to say hi in person and you don’t seem to get to S California much.

    On the other hand, driving across orange county at rush hour is a chore I dread.

  22. Well... says:

    Question for homeowners/people with plumbing knowledge:

    Is flushing one gallon from a water heater once a month better than, worse than, or about the same as flushing the whole thing once a year?

    • S_J says:

      Not really knowledgable on this…your question inspired me to have a look at my hot-water-heater, and hot-water-based home heating system. It’s been about five years since any flush was done on either, so I’m probably overdue.

      I’m not really sure…my first response would be that a complete flush once a year is better, since the idea is to remove sediment from the tank. But a partial flush ought to remove most of the sediment from the lower part of the tank, near the heating elements.

      However, the work involved in flushing the tank appears to be the same, for both partial flush and complete flush.

      For a complete flush: Close supply valve, turn down tank thermostat, let tank cool, open spigots in rest of house, drain water from tank, close drain valve, close spigots, let tank refill, turn tank thermostat back up…

      The cool-down step may not be necessary for a partial flush, but the rest of the steps appear to be necessary.

      With that amount of work being done, I don’t see the time saving in a partial flush once-a-month.

      • Well... says:

        I’ve read instructions in several different places for doing a full-tank flush. The cool-down step wasn’t listed in any of them.

        Presumably, draining a gallon takes a few seconds, and then maybe a minute for the tank to refill when I’m done. Draining the whole tank takes maybe upwards of 5 minutes, and I’m guessing it could take as long as a few hours to refill the tank afterwards (during which I’ll have no hot water). That could be significant.

        Also, to drain a gallon I just need a bucket, which I can dump in the laundry sink when I’m done. To drain the whole tank I need to unwrap the hose from my hose reel (currently in my garage) and then snake it through my basement making sure one end is over the drain in my garage and the other end is secured to my water heater. Then when I’m done I have to reattach and rewind my hose onto the hose reel, and do so without scalding myself on any hot water still left in the hose–and not spill any out into my basement.

        In fact that difference is the main reason I’m asking in the first place: the gallon-at-a-time thing sounds way easier, but I want to know if it will get me results that are as good or almost as good.

  23. Christian Kleineidam says:

    I put a question on the statistics stack-exchange about how to choose the best metric to measure calibration: http://stats.stackexchange.com/q/253443/3807

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Calibration is a technical term, which should know from reading Tetlock. Brier and logarithmic scoring are not measures of calibration.

      Maybe you want to measure accuracy, not calibration, but I think the general advice is to become calibrated first. Calibration basically means that you know what probabilities mean. If you aren’t calibrated, there is a free lunch of improving your predictions just by translating out of your confusion.

      When it’s time for accuracy, I’d choose logarithmic scoring for its good formal properties, but it doesn’t make much difference vs Brier, except that it penalizes extremes.

      • suntzuanime says:

        You can’t just focus on calibration, calibration on its own doesn’t buy you anything. “Go not to the well-calibrated for counsel, for they will say both no and yes”. Contra Socrates, knowing that you know nothing is just not all that impressive.

        On questions like this, though, where the answerer gets to pick the questions, measuring calibration is just about all you can do, because obviously it’s easy to boost your accuracy by just picking easy questions.

      • rlms says:

        “Brier and logarithmic scoring are not measures of calibration.”
        Are you sure? Quote from Tetlock here: “Calibration is when I say there’s a 70 percent likelihood of something happening, things happen 70 percent of time… Resolution, or discrimination as it’s known in the literature, is another statistical component of the Brier score, and that refers to my skill at assigning much higher probabilities to things that happen than to things that don’t happen.” (my emphasis). He seems to be saying that Brier scores do measure calibration, in the sense that they depend on it and accuracy.

  24. sflicht says:

    Mad props to Tyler Cowen for turning me on to this phenom: Alma Deutscher, a genius (I don’t say it lightly) composer, aged 11, whose first full-length opera (orchestrated on her own) just debuted in Vienna. I recommend this video interview with a famous Israeli music pedagogist, especially if you have at least the pre-K level Hebrew skills I have and can tolerate the incomplete subtitling. Right now I’d say she’s the living artist whose work I find the most interesting in the entire world. And she has only 25K youtube followers.

    Bonus: her father is a linguist who performed an experiment on her, not teaching her that people say the clear sky is blue, in an effort to understand why various cultures come up with alternate conventions for this. (She spontaneously described it as white, and he wrote a 2010 book about it.) So it seems there’s a good chance not only that we have a new (at least) Schubert-level prodigy composer in the Classical tradition, but also that a good book will be written about her gifts, her musical education, etc. from a modern scientific perspective.

    • Creutzer says:

      The fact that her name is Alma is obviously amazing. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to diagnose nominative determinism, because there are much more suitable names; but still.

      • komponisto says:

        The name is neither sufficiently rare nor Alma Mahler sufficiently important for it to qualify as “amazing”.

        However, it does fit insofar as she seems to have some hope of developing a soul.

        • Creutzer says:

          I was under the impression that the name is extremely rare. I may have been mistaken.

          You don’t have that wide a choice if you want to be named after a woman who is known for composing. Though Cecile or Clara would obviously have been much better from the nominative determinism angle. Now, she seems mostly predestined for unhappy marriages.

          • komponisto says:

            Alma Mahler isn’t known for composing; she’s known for being the wife of Gustav Mahler (and, to a lesser extent, Walter Gropius etc.). She wouldn’t make the top ten female composers.

            To be sure, the person to blame for this might well be Gustav.

          • Deiseach says:

            You don’t have that wide a choice if you want to be named after a woman who is known for composing.

            Fanny, then, for Fanny Mendelssohn? Though perhaps “Frances” would be a better version of it for modern ears.

    • komponisto says:

      I agree that Alma is interesting phenomenon, but if you think she’s the most interesting artist in the world, that’s mostly a commentary on the world, as seen by you.

      She may grow up to become an important composer, but it won’t happen by default, and it certainly hasn’t happened yet. Prodigies rarely have much of an impact on the history of musical composition (and virtually never while they’re still children).

      (I find it the Schubert comparison especially odd given that when I last checked, she had yet to get as far as Schubert’s chronological era in terms of assimilation of musical history as reflected in her compositions.)

      None of this changes the fact that she seems to provide a good model for how to live life.

      • Creutzer says:

        Prodigies rarely have much of an impact on the history of musical composition

        This sentence got me thinking. Prodigies of musical performance are almost a dime a dozen, it would seem. Do you know anything about how frequent composing prodigies are?

        • komponisto says:

          Do you know anything about how frequent composing prodigies are?

          It depends on what you mean. Maybe try making the question more specific?
          If it’s “what proportion of major composers in the Western art music tradition have written at least one acknowledged masterpiece in pre-adolescence?”, the answer is zero to within rounding error. (I can’t even think of a single example offhand.) Indeed, we would have to extend the range to high-school age (historical adulthood) before the matter even becomes arguable.

          There are other possible interpretations of the question, but I want to emphasize this one in light of the claim people are always making to the effect that music contrasts with e.g. literature in the extent to which great achievement is possible in childhood. I think when you compare apples to apples, the asymmetry disappears.

          Incidentally, having listened to a bit of the new opera, I should take back what I said above about Alma not having reached Schubert’s era in terms of musical idiom. That seems to be where she now is. (I remembered her previously as writing in a decidedly eighteenth-century style, which of course would make sense given that she was apparently trained on partimenti.)

          • Creutzer says:

            You’re right, I should have been more specific. Let me try.

            There are, in the world as a whole, quite a lot of children who perform music at a level vastly beyond what could normally be expected at their age and who are “prodigies” in this sense. This does not mean that their performances, taken by themselves and not in relation to their age, are truly masterful. (I have not researched the latter point, and you might know much better than me. My judgement is mostly based on hearing a somewhat confused psychologist’s talk about musical prodigies, which involved being shown a bunch of recordings, some by child prodigies and some by famous adult pianists, of which I guessed every single one right and thought it was pretty obvious.)

            What I wonder is, how many children are there who can compose above the level of their age in the same precocious way that they perform above the level of their age?

          • rlms says:

            @Creutzer
            I used to know someone who was both a performing prodigy and a composing prodigy (I never heard any of his compositions, but a local (music) professor apparently liked them so they can’t have been terrible). I think it is probably unsurprising that child prodigies don’t generally sound as good as famous adult pianists, since I expect a high proportion of famous adult pianists are child prodigies (or something close) who have had a few decades to practice more.

            Possibly relevant is Joey Alexander, a jazz piano prodigy. I don’t think his playing is distinguishable from an adult’s. He might also count as a composing prodigy, in the sense that improvisation is like composition without writing, and in the sense that he clearly has a fantastic understanding of harmony, melody etc.

          • komponisto says:

            @Creutzer:

            I think rlms is right to essentially point out that “what could normally be expected at their age” is not a concept that makes sense in this context. As Charles Rosen says, virtually all pianists start when they are very young children. In that kind of domain, the age criterion can only be viewed as inverted: it is more impressive the later someone starts.

            Nevertheless, one can still discuss the relationship between composition and performance in this respect. Rosen’s statement isn’t true for composers — more typically they begin in adolescence, whether early or late — so one could imagine that the concept of “prodigy” makes more sense in that case. However, this may be mostly due to the occupational separation of composition and performance that is specific to “our time” (i.e. since the Romantic period). That is, young children who both perform and compose are a relatively small subset of those who perform, because current musical culture doesn’t expect performers to be trained in composition by default.

            Composition (in the high-art tradition) isn’t considered a mere skill anymore; it has become an identity. To present oneself as a composer is to claim a magical aura of destiny as a Creative Artist (TM). (This is no doubt why people become composers at the stage in life where they develop identities.) Alma Deutscher is exceptional in that she is practicing composition as a skill, like they did in the eighteenth century. She can get away with it because she is young and there is a novelty element, making her into a kind of circus act; but (regrettably) no one would care about the music she is producing if she were older. (At least, not without considerable ad-hoc culture creation — what is variously known as marketing or Assertion of Artistic Identity (TM) depending on the level of cynicism connotationally desired — on her part.)

          • komponisto says:

            @rlms:

            I can’t resist registering an observation about this statement:

            He might also count as a composing prodigy…in the sense that he clearly has a fantastic understanding of harmony, melody etc.

            It implies, of course, that a mere performer would not be expected to have a fantastic understanding of these things, which are nevertheless (a stand-in for) the basic elements of music. This should be very disturbing to whatever extent it is true.

            Alas, I think it is true to a significant extent. Each year legions of music students resent being subjected to instruction in music theory, on the grounds that they have no compositional aspirations themselves. This is the exact opposite of the reason they should be resenting those courses of instruction, which is that they provide far too little insight into composition.

            (Incidentally, I think these are connected: the students expect compositional insights to be incommunicable to them, and so, not possessing them out of the box, they never consider compositional aspirations as an option for themselves in the first place. This is no doubt a very general problem across many fields. But I digress.)

            I should nonetheless point out that it isn’t true at elite levels. I would expect virtually all concert pianists, for example, whether or not they identify as composers, to have an understanding of musical construction that would be considered “composer-level” by the unambitious students referred to above. You simply can’t play their repertory convincingly otherwise.

          • rlms says:

            Eh, I think it’s easily possible to be a very good performer with only very little theory knowledge. I agree that elite levels, performers probably mostly know a lot of theory, but I don’t think that’s necessary to perform well. A good ear and intuitive feel go a long way, especially at levels other than the very top.

          • komponisto says:

            It is equally possible to be a good composer with only very little theory knowledge.

            When I said “knowledge of musical construction”, I was deliberately leaving unspecified whether that knowledge was explicit (“theory knowledge”) or tacit (“good ear and intuitive feel”). It is a fallacy to suppose that composers, but not performers, require knowledge in explicit form.

  25. 27chaos says:

    Please preserve:

    1. The WW2 is unrealistic post.
    2. The nth meditation on X series.
    3. The Timecube steelman.

    • PDV says:

      #ENDORSED

    • Montfort says:

      I thought 1 and 2 were on his livejournal, which isn’t going away as far as I know.

      Incidentally, the internet archive’s robots.txt policy works retroactively, so if there’s something on raikoth (or any other recently/soon-to-be dead website) that you want to archive, consider saving local copies.

  26. AnonEEmous says:

    Off Topic:

    I recently comprehended the idea of the garden of forking paths as it relates to P-hacking, and apparently Scott wrote a piece on it. So is the idea of the garden of forking paths basically that, by looking at a data set in several different ways, you are essentially performing several different experiments, then picking out the one that’s wrong – which should cause the P-value to go up? Assuming it is, does anyone have any objections to this notion being taken seriously?

  27. PDV says:

    I brainstormed some thoughts about seasonal rationalist community rituals beyond Winter Solstice on my blog. The ones I think are most promising are Tarski Day in the spring (mental spring cleaning) and Prepper’s Day in November (taking old seasonal traditions of stockpiling for the winter and spinning them into preparedness for broader classes of bad). I’d like thoughts, feedback on which sound most interesting, alternate suggestions, etc.

  28. Mark V Anderson says:

    I have a question for the SSC commentariat. Do you think you have duty to follow the law? We touched on this slightly in the discussion on whether people would turn in illegal immigrants in Europe and the US.

    I believe I have zero duty to follow the law. I will follow the law if I think it is a good law, or if I think I will be caught. I guess I also follow the law as a default; I only break the law if I have thought about the issue and decide it is best not to.

    When I have brought up this issue in other forums, I find that I am in a small minority (actually I don’t think anyone has ever agree with me). And there are always some folks who are aghast at my attitude. The usual response is “What if everyone did that?” To which I answer, “I wish every one would act under their own conscience and not blindly follow laws.”

    I think almost everyone would agree that there are cases one should not follow the law, such as the classic case where you are a guard being told to shoot the prisoners. But I think this should also follow in more mundane cases. I will definitely go through a red light in the middle of the night if there is no traffic. I will go through a red light as a pedestrian or biker is there is no cross traffic. I won’t do this in a car simply because no one does that, and it would be too dangerous if I missed a car, which would definitely not expect me to do it. I smoked pot in my younger days, and would still do it if I wasn’t concerned about getting caught and if I still had my connections.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      i feel the same way, but it’s probably bad for society that I do

      this may be a function of socialization as well; in Israel, people don’t give a shit about the laws and will, as you say, go through a red light if there is no cross traffic.

    • cafemachiavelli says:

      My perspective is fairly similar to yours. I haven’t done anything that would get me in serious trouble, so my current “I will violate this but happily accept the consequences if there should be any” approach serves me pretty well.

      On the other hand, I try to make sure I do my homework before convincing myself that I’m right and the law is wrong. Before I touched steroids for instance, I read a fair number of endocrinology papers, found a lab to get relevant health markers checked regularly and made sure I had a way to check product quality and rule out contamination.

      I don’t know if Murray is right in saying that a lot of people like simple rules and adding caveats or free passes can make a legal or moral system look unfair, but it would explain a lot of behavior I encounter, and maybe your lack of agreement so far, too.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Everyone has a different idea of what their conscience tells them is good. And it is very good at rationalizing selfishness.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Because you freely chose to remain in the country after having attained your majority, you have entered into a contract with the body politic binding you to its constitution and obliging you to follow its laws. As with any contract, this obligation is only pro tanto– it can be overridden if this is the only way to satisfy other, stricter moral duties– but it extends to every law, no matter how trivial or misguided they may seem to you.

      The usual response is “What if everyone did that?” To which I answer, “I wish every one would act under their own conscience and not blindly follow laws.”

      You are both mistaken. The questioner is falsely presupposing that there is some connection between whether we ought to do x and whether x-ing can be universalized, which there is not. You are wrong because you do not actually believe that someone should follow her conscience if, for instance, it urges her to murder a philandering partner or bomb an embassy.

      • Wrong Species says:

        “Because you choose to continue living with this man after he raped you, you have entered a contract where he is allowed to have sex with you as much as he pleases.”

        It’s funny how the rules governing social contracts have pretty much no relation to rules governing actual contracts.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          “Because you choose to continue living with this man after he raped you, you have entered a contract where he is allowed to have sex with you as much as he pleases.”

          This is a bizarre analogy, because (a) the right to sexual autonomy can’t be ceded in contracts like other right can be, (b) the government doesn’t go around raping people, and (c) laws must be publicly promulgated to bind. Suppose instead that a theater owner posts a list of rules which take effect at, say, 8 PM every night. Doesn’t everyone who lingers on the property past that hour have an obligation either to abide by the rules or to leave?

          • Anonymous says:

            (a) the right to sexual autonomy can’t be ceded in contracts like other right can be

            Not anymore in our legal system. On the camel’s back and all that.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The main difference between most private property rules and the state is that you don’t live in a movie theater, which means that you must go out of your way to go to it.

            On a fundamental level, there is a similarity between states and property in this regard. If Bill Gates decided to buy Cuba he would both be the country’s owner and ruler. In practice, it doesn’t usually work like this and most people move out of their family homes and sign explicit contracts when renting or buying.

            Of course you would see the analogy as bizarre but the point I was making was that just because someone doesn’t fight back or leave doesn’t mean they consent. Lets imagine that Bill Gates bought the entire world except for Syria. He turns everyone in to slaves, stripping them of their autonomy and making them follow his arbitrary whims unless they leave. I have not left this place for war torn Syria, does this mean I consent to all of this?

          • Controls Freak says:

            (a) the right to sexual autonomy can’t be ceded in contracts like other right can be

            Why not? Westen’s book has an entire section opening the theoretical door to prospective consent, and despite the current politicized discourse on the matter, I think it’s a good one. He uses a couple analogies of other prospective consent. The first is from classical literature – Ulysses tied to the mast. He prospectively ceded his negative bodily autonomy, that is, he gave others the right to decide at a later date what he could not do. Normally, tying someone up like that and refusing to let them go might be some form of kidnapping, but his prospective consent could provide a defense for such a charge.

            The second example I recall him using was skydiving. Suppose a person had gone up in an airplane a few times, each time chickening out at the moment of the jump, and returning to the ground inside the plane. Finally, she tells the instructor, “No matter what I say when I’m up there, I want you to throw me out of the plane.” Normally, throwing someone out of plane would be some form of assault, but we are likely to accept her prospective consent, ceding her positive autonomy to perform the jump and providing a defense to such a charge for the instructor.

            He gave a few factors from these examples (and others that I don’t recall offhand) that would make us more/less likely to accept prospective consent, but I see very little reason to draw a bright line around the category of sexual activities in order to make it uniquely immune. The easier case is prospective consent to cede negative sexual autonomy – “You’re my friends, girls. No matter what I say later tonight, don’t let me go home with him again.” We get closer to politicized shouting as we move toward prospective consent to cede positive autonomy.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Controls Freak

            It used to be the case in western Europe until about the middle 20th century that you did cede sexual autonomy when you got married. Adultery and fornication was illegal, and forcible intercourse with ones spouse did not count as rape.

            Come to think of it, you didn’t have sexual autonomy in the first place. Just mostly whether you chose to pair-bond with someone for life, and who that was if so.

          • Controls Freak says:

            First, I think the marital rape exemption gets an unfairly bad rap. I think it’s more similar to discussions we have today about the proper scope of the term ‘rape’. It’s fairly common for people to complain that if we expand the definition too widely, it dilutes the power of the word to describe acts which uniformly have at least some threshold of ‘badness’. While the old discussion of the marital rape exemption didn’t quite follow exactly this line, I don’t think it was ever, “Forcible intercourse with one’s spouse is not wrong.” It was just that the word “rape” did not include it. There are various ways you could go down this path and not be insane. However, they’re mostly foreign if we start from one of the various modernist perspectives.

            I think actual criminal laws against fornication were few and far between. Instead, laws tended to be focused on the legitimacy of children depending on marital status. I think there was less, “If you want to have sex at all, you have to get married,” and more, “One set of the State’s rules will apply to sex (and the possible results of that sex) if you are not married, and another set of the State’s rules will apply to sex (and the possible results of that sex) if you are married.” Remember, much of this law was born out of the Roman tradition, and they were very remedy-focused. There was less focus on, “The Crown v. Individual,” and more on the idea that if you bring a claim to the State, here is the list of things that we’ll intervene in. Much of it was, “Look, if you have sex outside of marriage, here is the set of rules you should expect. You’ll be very vulnerable to rape claims. If you produce children, they will be considered illegitimate (which had its own implications). And so on.” Instead, if you are married, we have a different set of rules/remedies.

            Then, over time, we’ve seen struggles over the necessary formality. There is some drive to, “If we’re going to change State action based on whether or not there is a valid marriage, we need an explicit, formal procedure to make sure we don’t chase our tail trying to figure out if so-and-so’s claim that so-and-so married him to so-and-so is valid.” At the same time, the long history of common law marriage embraces the idea that maybe not everyone wants to go through those formalities, yet we should use Ruleset Two rather than Ruleset One, because it’s just more applicable to their situation. In fact, the very existence of common law marriages pretty much seals the claim that the state was (usually) less concerned about your sexual autonomy… and more just concerned about how to respond to the consequences.

            In sum, while there have occasionally been some laws truly targeting positive sexual autonomy in its purest form, I don’t think they were as all-encompassing as we often imagine. A large part of Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence was trying to show that there wasn’t such a history.

            On the other hand, I think you’re right that enforcing prospective consent to ceded negative autonomy is pretty clearly illustrated in a long history of various treatments of adultery. I also don’t think this difference is insane. Like I said above, it’s generally easier for us to accept ceding negative autonomy… especially when it involves an explicit promise to a known party who might bring claims to the State… and we also throw in the aforementioned interplay between marriage and child legitimacy. Even today, a large portion of people who think that adultery shouldn’t be a legal issue think that it is a moral issue, and that there is some moral way to cede negative autonomy in this way.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Anonymous

            Not anymore in our legal system.

            We are speaking here of “rights” subscripted “moral”, which are, let’s pretend, timeless and unchanging, and exist somewhere up in Plato’s heaven.

            @ Wrong Species

            Lets imagine that Bill Gates bought the entire world except for Syria. He turns everyone in to slaves, stripping them of their autonomy and making them follow his arbitrary whims unless they leave.

            No, but the problem in this analogy is again that there are limitations on what rights you can cede in contracts. My own view is that contracts which are highly exploitative do not give rise to moral obligations, although obviously individuals closer to the libertarian end of the spectrum will not agree. When it comes to the social contract, this will probably require that (1) the constitution respects the individual rights of the country’s citizens, (2) the government’s charter is continually renewed through the democratic consent of the governed, and (3) the government passes and administers laws through processes which respect reasonable standards of procedural justice.

            @ Controls Freak

            I have this idea that when one of the parties revokes his or her consent, sexual activity must cease immediately, no matter what preceded it. Crazy, I know.

          • Controls Freak says:

            So what, exactly, would you say is doing the work to make sexual activity unique apart from other areas where we perhaps can give prospective consent? I’d prefer something other than ipse dixit this time.

            EDIT: You also seem to only be taking such a strong stance on prospective consent to cede positive sexual autonomy. Would you like to take an explicit stance on prospective consent to cede negative sexual autonomy, or would you rather just argue via signalling slogans?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I think there are some categories of rights so fundamental that they cannot be forfeited prospectively and can only be waived by continual, ongoing consent. In addition to the right not to be forced to engage in sexual activity, these will include the right to life and the right not to be subjected to conditions tantamount to slavery. If you are looking for a principled explanation for what sets these rights apart from others, I have none to offer. I just I have a moral intuition that this is so, and am confident that you do as well.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @EarthlyKnight

            You keep conflating “voluntary” with justice. An understandable mistake since almost everyone in contemporary society does it but these are separate concepts. Something can be good and involuntary or bad and voluntary. An obvious example would be children never giving consent to being under the rule of their parents. Another might be a doctor giving a lethal injection to a suicidal patient.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @EK

            Let’s focus of the former example rather than the latter (lest the conversation devolve into determining what precisely qualifies as “conditions tantamount to slavery”). The right to life is so fundamental that they cannot be forfeited prospectively and can only be waived by continual, ongoing consent. I think this sounds pleasant, however, we already have a massive, glaring exception to it codified in law – living wills. Do you oppose these under this rationale?

            The living will likely brings to mind the positive right to life. Do you think there is a corresponding negative right (as there is with sexual activity)? If so, would you also be against, say, a person’s ability to sign documentation when entering drug rehab stating that no matter how much she expresses the will to commit suicide over the next 30 days, her caretakers will attempt to intervene so as to prevent it?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Wrong Species

            I have nowhere used the word “voluntary,” so I’m confused about what you’re saying.

            @ Controls Freak

            I think this sounds pleasant, however, we already have a massive, glaring exception to it codified in law – living wills. Do you oppose these under this rationale?

            I certainly think that it would be murder to kill someone who in sound mind does not consent to being killed no matter what documents they had previously signed. If, on the other hand, someone consents to die under certain conditions at some future time and becomes totally incapacitated by dementia or brain trauma in the interim I have no objection to executing the earlier instructions. Here the individual’s directive in their last period of lucidity can be taken as a substitute for ongoing consent.

            I do not think the distinction between negative and positive rights carves moral reality, such as it is, at any joints, and so I have nothing to say in response to questions formulated in those terms.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I count one acceptance of prospective consent and one question avoidance. I’ll take that as agreement. You may think that you deftly divvied it up into the cases where you wouldn’t accept prospective consent and the case where you can squint really hard and rename prospective consent, but you really just said that you sometimes accept prospective consent.

            And that’s not bad. I really do think we’re in agreement. One of the factors that makes us more likely to accept prospective consent is if it is believed to apply to a time at which the individual is going to be of diminished capacity or otherwise impaired in their ability to stay true to their “real” desires. This vein runs through Ulysses (he would be driven insane by the siren song and would die if let loose), the skydiver (she is paralyzed by fear), the case of the living will, and the case of the rehabbing drug addict who wants to live. It makes no sense to imagine that we can start drawing circles around some situations of diminished capacity and then squint that into ongoing consent. It’s prospective consent… just of the type you’re alright with.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            This is going to depend on how we define “ongoing consent.” Obviously, this is going to have to be something less than ceaselessly chirping “yes”. It seems to me that the following conditions together should be sufficient:

            S’s consent to phi at t is ongoing at t if:
            (1) She explicitly consented to phi at t some time prior to t (while of sound mind).
            (2) She never subsequently revoked her consent to phi at t (while of sound mind).
            (3) Were she of sound mind at t, she would still consent to phi.

            Someone who consents to euthanasia in the event that she suffers catastrophic brain trauma and then goes on to suffer catastrophic brain trauma will satisfy these conditions, and so can be said to offer her ongoing consent to the procedure.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @EarthlyKnight

            In common speech, consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another.

            The two are intrinsically tied together. Do you actually believe in “involuntary consent”? What kind of bizarre abomination would that be?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Your original accusation was that I was improperly conflating voluntariness with justice. This is strange, because I do not think there is any particular connection between acting voluntarily and acting justly. You seem to have meant that I was improperly assuming that consensual contracts are automatically just, which is at least an intelligible complaint. I do believe, like most people, that consensual contracts are prima facie morally binding unless the consent is obtained under conditions of duress or exploitation. This means that the social contract, like any other contract, will have to be non-exploitative to be valid.

            I outlined above three conditions that I think a non-exploitative social contract must meet: first, the constitution must protect individual rights, including the rights of minorities and dissenters; second, the government’s charter must be continually renewed by the consent of the governed through fair elections; third, the processes by which the the state passes and administers laws must abide by standard canons of procedural justice. Do you agree that this is enough to ensure that the social contract is non-exploitative, or do you think additional safeguards are needed?

          • Controls Freak says:

            Stop squinting. We already have a term that works just fine. It’s called “prospective consent”. It’s in all the academic literature and everything. Again, I highly recommend Westen’s book. It’s a fantastic introduction to current thought and terminology (and it’s far more clear than Wertheimer’s book from the year before).

            Anyway, not only does your terminology run counter to the literature, it’s also misleading. For example, we’re shuffling off important aspects to a parenthetical in order to hide how misleading the term is. Consider Ulysses or the skydiver again. Both are actively non-consenting in the moment – Ulysses really wants his crew to untie him, and the skydiver really wants to sit back down and strap into her seat. Nevertheless, we let their non-contemporaneous, prospective consent override their current non-consent. Sure, you can technically say, “But that case is handled by my parenthetical,” but surely you can also see that the term “ongoing consent” is highly misleading here.

            While I think “ongoing consent” may be a fine term for explaining why one doesn’t have to constantly be reciting, “Yes,” at every moment, it’s just not suitable here.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You are taking the idea of the social contract as a consensual contract for granted when that is exactly what the argument was about in the first place. For the purposes of this debate, I don’t care how exploitive or non-exploitive the government is. I’m not answering the question about what makes a good government or what standards of justice it should have. I’m only concerned with one question: does the fact that I remain in the country automatically mean I have voluntarily consented to this social contract? The answer to me is quite plainly no, which is the purpose of my rape scenario as a metaphor.

            Libertarians often ask what’s the fundamental difference between a government and the mob. The answer is that one provides services we like and the other doesn’t. But what they’re really asking is what makes a social contract with the government consensual when there is no such thing with the mob. The answer is that both are involuntary. That doesn’t mean that government is inherently bad. It just mean that we don’t automatically consent to its existence by the mere act of living here. And that’s ok because like I said before, not all consensual acts are good and not all non-consensual acts are bad.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Controls Freak

            We already have a term that works just fine.

            I do not agree. Based on what you’ve said, it appears that your version of “prospective consent” conflates cases where the agent subsequently revokes her consent while of sound mind with cases where the agent does not subsequently revoke her consent while of sound mind. This elides a crucial moral distinction.

            To make the problem more concrete, imagine a man with Tourette’s syndrome accompanied by a tic where he says “No no no!” every so often, regardless of what cognitive state he is in at the time. Suppose this man consents to sexual activity at 6:00, then experiences the tic at 6:01. Your proposed taxonomy of consent classifies his consent at 6:02 as prospective but not ongoing. This is clearly wrong: the man’s consent to sex is ongoing, because the tic counts for nothing.

            Both are actively non-consenting in the moment

            This is not so for Odysseus. Odysseus is incapacitated by the siren’s song, which means nothing he could do could count as giving or withholding consent. Whatever words he mouths amount to nothing more than a tic or reflex with no rational agency behind it.

            I don’t think the skydiving case is very helpful here, just because it’s not obvious to me that it would be permissible to push the skydiver out of the plane.

            @ Wrong Species says:

            I’m only concerned with one question: does the fact that I remain in the country automatically mean I have voluntarily consented to this social contract? The answer to me is quite plainly no, which is the purpose of my rape scenario as a metaphor.

            But we saw earlier that your analogy was flawed. We find implicit consent to a contract which cedes the rights to one’s future sexual autonomy objectionable not because there’s a problem with the implicit consent part but because rights to one’s future sexual autonomy can’t be transferred in contracts. When this defect in the analogy is repaired, we are left with the case of the theater owner who posts a bill of rules which take effect after a certain hour of the evening. Do you have any objection to saying that theater patrons who linger on the premises after that hour implicitly consent to and become bound by the rules? If not, you have no quarrel in principle with the notion of implicit consent.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Like I said earlier:

            The main difference between most private property rules and the state is that you don’t live in a movie theater, which means that you must go out of your way to go to it.

            When you go to a movie theater, that is a fairly good line to draw for implicit consent. Where is that moment when you consent to the state?

            I don’t want to really get in to it but you’re point about sex being different isn’t really helping your case. It just seems to confirm that you view the idea of consent as just being an extension of what you view as just, rather than the separate concept about what people voluntarily agree to. If some women decides to sell her body for sex, then I can say that she consented to the agreement without it being just. You’re telling her that she doesn’t consent to the contract even if she knows exactly what she’s getting in to and explicitly signs up for it.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Okay, then imagine instead that the list of rules is being posted by the owner of an apartment building, or the homeowner’s association for a pod of condominiums.

            If some women decides to sell her body for sex, then I can say that she consented to the agreement without it being just. You’re telling her that she doesn’t consent to the contract even if she knows exactly what she’s getting in to and explicitly signs up for it.

            The point is that the prostitute’s consent must be sustained through the duration of sexual activity or else it becomes rape, no matter what she had antecedently agreed to. This is different than in the case of property rights, for example, if I lease you a pen for the duration of an exam in exchange for $5, I do not retain the right to cancel the deal and snatch back the pen at any time, even if I agree to refund your money.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There’s the point where someone signs a contract to rent the place or buy it. Now lets say that you grew up in one house and live there all your life. At what point do you consent? We have no idea and we can’t tell just by the fact they still live there. This is the fundamental problem of the Social Contract and also, in theory, private property.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Suppose that you are orphaned at age 14 but your parents bequeath you a condominium. Until you turn 18, you are bound by the rules of the homeowner’s association because your parents, acting in their role as guardians, agreed to its terms on your behalf. Once you turn 18, you become bound to the HOA’s rules by your own agency, in virtue of continuing to occupy the condo. This is exactly parallel to the mechanism by which we implicitly consent to the social contract in our nation of birth. There is nothing, so far as I can tell, which is mysterious or vague about either case.

          • Controls Freak says:

            it appears that your version of “prospective consent” conflates cases where the agent subsequently revokes her consent while of sound mind with cases where the agent does not subsequently revoke her consent while of sound mind.

            No, it doesn’t. There can be subdivisions. There is no, “You have to accept all prospective consent or no prospective consent.” Instead, we accept some cases of prospective consent, depending upon various factors that are involved. I mentioned this way back in my very first comment in this thread. Diminished capacity is one of those factors. Prospective consent is merely the term which describes consent that is non-contemporaneous with (in fact, before) the event (retrospective consent is the opposite; note that we accept retrospective consent even less often than we accept prospective consent).

            imagine a man with Tourette’s syndrome accompanied by a tic where he says “No no no!” every so often, regardless of what cognitive state he is in at the time.

            In that case, that particular expression is not related to his factual consent, nor does it come into play for prescriptive consent, which is why

            Your proposed taxonomy of consent classifies his consent at 6:02 as prospective but not ongoing.

            is false.

            Odysseus is incapacitated by the siren’s song

            This is false by, uh, the definition of incapacitated.

            I don’t think the skydiving case is very helpful here, just because it’s not obvious to me that it would be permissible to push the skydiver out of the plane.

            You need to stop handwaving cases away. Not because you’re wrong about them being permissible/impermissible, but because they’re useful to determining our terminology and providing distinguishing features and reasons why we come to a conclusion that something is permissible/impermissible. Again, “prospective consent” is not, “You have to accept all cases of this.” Instead, it’s merely defining terminology, and then we have to go figure out which cases are permissible/impermissible and why. We have to, ya know, do philosophy of ethics.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The age of 18 is for legal purposes, not based on any objective feature. This contract never included my agreement to it. Also the government frequently changes it rules but if the homeowners association decided to enforce a completely new set of rules in this scenario, then it’s more obvious that no, I never agreed to this.

            But if you wanted to go that route, if in a similar situation except it was the mob instead of a homeowners association, then you would have to admit I consent to the Mob’s extortion by the fact that I continue to live there.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Controls Freak

            Prospective consent is merely the term which describes consent that is non-contemporaneous with (in fact, before) the event

            So if I consent to phi-ing two milliseconds in advance of phi-ing, this counts as prospective consent, by your lights? It’s hard to see how so broad and heterogeneous a category could be useful for anything. The important distinction, so far as I can tell, is between consent which is revoked before the act occurs and consent which is sustained through the act (what I am calling “ongoing consent”).

            In that case, that particular expression is not related to his factual consent, nor does it come into play for prescriptive consent,

            Why is this true of the man with Tourette’s but not of Odysseus?

            This is false by, uh, the definition of incapacitated.

            Oh, well, if the dictionary says so. See instead:

            An incapacitated person is defined as someone who “for reasons other than advanced age or minority, has a clinically diagnosed condition that results in an inability to receive and evaluate information or to make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate technological assistance”.

            Odysseus is incapacitated by the siren’s song, and hence incapable of giving or withholding consent. Consequently, his consent to being tied to the mast is never genuinely revoked, and his case should be assimilated to whichever category includes the man afflicted with Tourette’s.

            @ Wrong Species

            But if you wanted to go that route, if in a similar situation except it was the mob instead of a homeowners association, then you would have to admit I consent to the Mob’s extortion by the fact that I continue to live there.

            I agree that if the mob behaves exactly as if they were a homeowner’s association with respect to your condo, including being incorporated contractually into the purchase of the unit, having publicized bylaws, holding elections, and so on, that you are bound by the mob’s rules just as you would be bound by the HOA’s rules. I’m not sure why you think this is a problem, though.

          • Wrong Species says:

            But you said the mere fact that I continue to live there proves my consent. What if the mob didn’t do any of those things like hold general elections, by what you just said, I’m still consenting because I haven’t moved. If simply continued living in a place doesn’t imply consent then you are undermining your own argument.

            You keep using all these other variables other than voluntary agreement to mean consent when they are simply non-sequitors. Elections don’t mean anything unless I already consent to them. If two wolves go up to a sheep and say we’re going to hold an election and decide what to eat, the sheep hasn’t consented anymore than if they simply ate it. Robert Nozick has a good elaboration on this idea.

            http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/nozick_slave.html

          • Earthly Knight says:

            But you said the mere fact that I continue to live there proves my consent.

            Yes, with the caveat that your consent will be invalid if the contract is exploitative. As I noted above, elections and respect for individual rights are ways of ensuring that the social contract is not exploitative. The same holds true for condo boards.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Again, you’re failing to differentiate exploitation and non-consent, with exploitation being defined as “things I think are bad”. You can define words however you want but you should at least be honest about your nonstandard definition when talking about how we all consent to the Social Contract. Because the government may be exploitative or it may not be, but by using the term to mean that when other people think it means “voluntarily agree to” you are obfuscating the entire debate.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I think most people would agree with me that contracts entered into under conditions of duress or exploitation are not morally binding (although many libertarians would not). I am not sure what else your objection amounts to.

            The claim that you implicitly consent to the terms of the social contract by virtue of continuing to reside in a country after attaining your majority turns out to be pretty strictly analogous to the claim that you implicitly consent to the rules of the homeowner’s association by virtue of continuing to reside in the condo after attaining your majority. Do you think that homeowner’s associations are by their very nature unjust? If not, by parity of reasoning, you must also perforce view the state as legitimate.

          • Controls Freak says:

            So if I consent to phi-ing two milliseconds in advance of phi-ing, this counts as prospective consent

            Sure. It’s unlikely that we have to consider such prospective consent, because you probably have contemporaneous consent in this case, too.

            The important distinction, so far as I can tell, is between consent which is revoked before the act occurs and consent which is sustained through the act.

            No doubt that this is often important. However, the point continues to be that sometimes we accept prospective consent.

            Why is this true of the man with Tourette’s but not of Odysseus?

            For the man with Tourette’s, the particular utterance has literally no relation to his mental state. Odysseus’ mental state is non-consenting. We don’t have to appeal to a particular utterance (though we could; if we asked him, “Hey buddy, do you want us to untie you,” he’s probably shout, “YES! BLOODY YES! WHY DO YOU THINK I’VE BEEN BEGGING YOU AND ORDERING YOU AND THREATENING YOU TO UNTIE ME FOR THE LAST TEN MINUTES?!”). We just have reason to let his prospective consent override his contemporaneous non-consent.

            If you’re really hung up on the factual/expressive distinction, we can simply state his factual non-consent as an assumption of the hypo. But just in case you’re still really confused about the distinction, let me mention Westen’s Sleeping Beauty Hypotheticals. Both Sleeping Beauty A and Sleeping Beauty B are conscious, yet unable to provide any expressions of consent/non-consent. They are different in that Sleeping Beauty A has a mental state of consenting to the prince kissing her, while Sleeping Beauty B does not. This is factual consent. Factual consent doesn’t necessarily provide prescriptive consent.

            In any event, we can clearly have a hypo where Odysseus (or a variant of Odysseus) has contemporaneous factual non-consent paired with expressions of that non-consent (“BLOODY UNTIE ME, DAMNIT!”). The entire point of the hypo is that in the face of that contemporaneous non-consent, we have reason to accept his prospective consent instead.

            See instead…

            I’m sure you can find non-standard definitions in law. Remember, the Dictionary Act says that corporations are people. 😉 Either way, let’s just taboo “incapacitated”, because we’re just about to get to what you really mean.

            Odysseus is … incapable of giving or withholding consent.

            You’re missing a qualifier. This is a major reason why Weston wrote his book. Notice that the subtitle is, “The Diversity and Deceptiveness of Consent as a Defense to Criminal Conduct.” People often conflate factual consent, expressions of consent, prescriptive consent, legal consent, etc. We pack a lot of different things into the word, and it’s extremely easy to deceptively hide one or the other concept in an unqualified use of the term. Here, you’re struggling with the distinction between factual consent and legal/prescriptive consent. Usually this comes up in discussing laws against sex with minors, so I’ll use that example (in part because I can copy/paste things I’ve written before…).

            It’s very common for people to say, “Youth are incapable of giving or withholding consent.” At first glance, it really sounds like they have factual consent in mind. However, this is probably not true across the board. Most states have exceptions for underage sex in various forms (e.g., Romeo/Juliet laws, marital exceptions where marital age can be surprisingly young with parental approval). In these cases, the State may think that youth shouldn’t be punished for the infraction (maybe more likely in the case of Romeo/Juliet laws), but they are likely also acknowledging that it is possible for youth to factually consent to sex (this is quite evident in the marital exceptions). This is also not surprising! Teenagers have quite a bit of autonomy in many cases, and they seem to be capable of consenting to all types of things.

            Nevertheless, States may think that sex involving minors is troublesome for a variety of reasons. They may be concerned about exploitation. They may think that some number of minors do not possess the requisite knowledge to factually consent. They can choose to say, “The best across-the-board rule is to make it illegal to have sex with a minor. It’s possible that some minors who are capable, willing participants will have their positive autonomy violated, but it is outweighed by protecting many other youth.”

            Now, it’s important to note that there are multiple ways of structuring the law (and Westen gives examples of the various ways states actually do it). We often assume that the law is structured as follows:

            1) It is illegal to have sex with another person without his/her consent.

            2) For the purposes of (1), individuals under the age of 18 are not considered capable of consenting.

            Here, (2) is referring to legal consent. We could put the qualifier ‘legally’ in there, and it would make sense. We could also structure a law as follows:

            1) It is illegal to have sex with a person under the age of 18.

            2) Consent of the individual in question shall not be considered a defense for the charge of (1).

            Here, (1) doesn’t talk about consent at all. We don’t actually need to. (2) talks about factual consent, for it wouldn’t make sense to think it refers to legal consent. Both structures are capable of accounting for the idea that some minors may be capable of factually consenting (or could actually factually consent), while still rendering such consent invalid.

            Bringing it back to Odysseus, we could probably structure a law either way (and cite different definitions until the cows come home), but the point is that your statement about him being incapable of withholding consent is almost certainly that of the legal (or perhaps more precisely, since we’re not actually drafting laws here, prescriptive) consent. Again, the whole point is that in this particular case, whether he factually non-consents in the moment or not, we have reason to accept his prospective consent as the relevant prescriptive consent.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m not making any kind of argument about justice. I still believe that states are a good thing to have. What I am arguing is that the continued residence cannot properly be called “consent” defined as “voluntary agreement not obtained under duress”, simply because there is no moment that we can point to and say that is when they agreed to the contract. The root of our disagreement can be reduced to two questions. If there is no single moment of consent to a resident, can we easily say that he consents? This is what I’m concerned about. The other is about the validity of exploitation in contracts, which is what you’re talking about. Exploitation is such a subjective concept, at what point can we say that it makes a contract void?

            Lets say that you are an alcoholic who buys liquor from my liquor store. Am I exploiting you? Sure. Let’s say that you are an average guy who goes to my store to buy for a party that you’re throwing with friends. Am I exploiting you? Probably not. Now lets say you are an alcoholic but I don’t know and don’t care. Am I still exploiting you? How addicted do you have to be to alcohol before we can agree that it is exploitation? But regardless of all that, you still don’t have the right to come up to me and demand your money back because even though I exploited you, you still consented to the agreement of cash for alcohol.

            This is why I’m clearly separating the question of exploitation from the concept of consent. While the notion of consent has some subjectivity to it, it is still much more objective than notions about justice. There are two main ways we can determine consent. One of these of course is an explicit contract, where we write down specifically what we can and can’t do and rely on courts for any ambiguities. There’s also the idea of revealed preferences. When I go to the movie theater, I implicitly agree to the rules there on my arrival. The problem comes when neither of these is at play. In both the situation of the homeowners association and the state(which I agree is analogous), there is the problem that someone who was raised there never has a moment of consent. This is why we can’t just look at their continued residence and claim they consent because we can never pinpoint the moment when that consent happened.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Controls Freak

            For the man with Tourette’s, the particular utterance has literally no relation to his mental state. Odysseus’ mental state is non-consenting.

            I seriously doubt there is a meaningful distinction to be effected between a man whose brain has been hijacked by a tic and a man whose brain has been hijacked by sorcery. It is probably not the sort of distinction you want your account to hang on, in any case. Here is wikipedia on tics:

            Immediately preceding tic onset, most individuals are aware of an urge[13] that is similar to the need to yawn, sneeze, blink, or scratch an itch. Individuals describe the need to tic as a buildup of tension[14] that they consciously choose to release, as if they “had to do it”.[15]

            This sounds pretty damn identical to Odysseus, to me.

            Bringing it back to Odysseus, we could probably structure a law either way (and cite different definitions until the cows come home), but the point is that your statement about him being incapable of withholding consent is almost certainly that of the legal (or perhaps more precisely, since we’re not actually drafting laws here, prescriptive) consent.

            My view is that Odysseus is not capable of consenting sans phrase, because his rational agency has been crippled by the siren’s witchcraft. I do not see his mouthing the words “untie me” or what have you as appreciably different than a man shouting “No no no!” in the course of a tic or seizure.

            @ Wrong Species

            What I am arguing is that the continued residence cannot properly be called “consent” defined as “voluntary agreement not obtained under duress”, simply because there is no moment that we can point to and say that is when they agreed to the contract.

            It will also be true of many sexual encounters that there will be no precise instant we can identify as the moment where consent was exchanged. Do you think that all such encounters are rape?

            Exploitation is such a subjective concept, at what point can we say that it makes a contract void?

            Your complaint here is not that exploitation is “subjective,” whatever that might mean, but that it’s vague. I agree that it is vague. Why do you think that’s a problem?

          • Controls Freak says:

            We can probably consider many examples in the spectrum (again, refer to the skydiver and the suicidal drug rehabber… or at the risk of injecting a whole ‘nother contentious bit, think about various other influences on mental states like alcohol/drugs), but I don’t find it problematic to tie factual consent to mental states and then allow external factors to influence mental states. I think we both agree that such factors can rise to the level of us not accepting some factual consent as prescriptive consent.

            For Odysseus, we’ve lost the plot a bit, because it’s not enough to merely not accept his contemporaneous factual non-consent as prescriptive non-consent. It’s not even enough if you simply take the view that he doesn’t even have contemporaneous factual non-consent. Instead, in order to provide a defense for his crew keeping him tied to the mast, we have to accept his prospective consent.

            In any event, I disagree with your identification between Odysseus and Tourette’s. There is nothing in the section you quoted that links the content of the tic to a relevant mental state. Everything about the tic is precisely the same whether the content of the tic is “no no no” or “yes yes yes”. Everything is precisely the same regardless of the context in which the tic is uttered. It is merely, “I felt compelled to say these words,” not, “I felt compelled to want or not want something (in accordance with how you could interpret the words ‘yes yes yes’/’no no no’ in the setting which I uttered them).” I believe the content of the tic is truly unrelated to the individual’s mental state of consent/non-consent.

            And I believe that this is different from Odysseus. Odysseus didn’t just feel compelled to say some words that were disconnected from his desires. He felt compelled to actually desire being untied. Similarly, fear doesn’t compel the skydiver to merely say some words which could be interpreted as not wanting to jump; fear compels her to actually not want to jump. Withdrawal doesn’t compel the drug rehabber to merely say some words which could be interpreted as wanting to commit suicide; it compels her to actually want to commit suicide.

            Finally, I’ll note that I’m not even sure if viewing these things as a total incapacitation is sufficient, anyway. I think there are multiple factors we use in evaluating whether to accept prospective consent. For example, I think one could consider foreknowledge of the nature of the future influence. Consider an instantiation of unconsciousness during sex. I think we can imagine different causes of spontaneous unconsciousness that are previously unknown to the individual… and regardless of how you come down on those cases, I think you would agree that there is a much stronger case for accepting the prospective consent of a narcoleptic who says, “I’m fully aware that I may fall asleep uncontrollably. In that event, I want you to continue.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            There is a single moment of consent to sex, it’s just subtle and varied. It could be the moment when one person invites the other person up for “coffee”, it could be the moment they start kissing, it could be the moment that one touches the private parts of the other. Of course, just because they initially consent doesn’t mean they can’t take it back. And a lot of people get in trouble because of these subtleties. Sex is still a one-off event, just like going to the movie theater. The exact moment may be ambiguous but the general time frame isn’t.

          • Jiro says:

            If the theater owner posts a list of rules which take place at 8 PM, the reason people have to abide by those rules is that the theater owner is an owner, and therefore can eject you from the theater for any reason or none at all unless you have an explicit contract that lets you stay. If the theater owner ejects you, it’s not for “violating the contract”, it’s for not agreeing to one.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Controls Freak

            In any event, I disagree with your identification between Odysseus and Tourette’s. There is nothing in the section you quoted that links the content of the tic to a relevant mental state. Everything about the tic is precisely the same whether the content of the tic is “no no no” or “yes yes yes”.

            If you like, we can modify the case so that the electrical activity from the seizure induces a fleeting aversion to sexual activity. I do not see that this makes any difference– what transpires in an agent’s brain over the course of a tic or seizure just has no bearing on what she has or hasn’t consented to.

            He felt compelled to actually desire being untied.

            You’re making a couple of questionable assumptions here. First, it is not obvious to me why we should take an agent’s mental states rather than her speech acts as constituting consent. Normally, if someone wants to have sex but says “no,” we judge that they have not consented, and if someone doesn’t want to have sex but says “yes,” we judge that they have. If it is the speech acts and not the mental states that matter, Odysseus and the original tic case will indeed come out analogous. Second, and more importantly, I do not agree that Odysseus genuinely wants to follow the siren’s call and perish on the rocks. What Odysseus truly wants it to make it home to Ithaca, and Penelope. The siren’s enchantment is a sort of simplistic, alien stimulus-response mechanism grafted onto his psyche, not genuinely his and not sufficiently integrated with the rest of his cognitive states to count as a bona fide desire.

            @ Wrong Species

            There is a single moment of consent to sex, it’s just subtle and varied.

            You have done nothing to show that this is so. It is not enough to list some times when consent to sex might take place, as I could just as readily list some times when implicit consent to the social contract might be given. So, again, what reason do you have for thinking that there is always a precise instant where each of these sexual encounters is consented to which would not apply, mutatis mutandis, to the social contract?

            @ Jiro

            If the theater owner posts a list of rules which take place at 8 PM, the reason people have to abide by those rules is that the theater owner is an owner, and therefore can eject you from the theater for any reason or none at all unless you have an explicit contract that lets you stay. If the theater owner ejects you, it’s not for “violating the contract”, it’s for not agreeing to one.

            It’s not so clear to me that a paying customer at a theater could be thrown out for, say, using chapstick on the premises if this was not explicitly forbidden in a rule somewhere. Purchasing a ticket presumably gives you some protection against arbitrary treatment by the theater owner, even without a written contract.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Continued in the new open thread here.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The only relevant clause in the “social contract” is “The Sovereign may change any clause in the contract, retroactively, without notification or consent, at any time”. Calling the relationship between the State and an individual a “contract” is merely a way of painting that which is involuntary as voluntary.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The US constitution forbids both the federal government and the states to pass ex post facto laws or bills of attainder. I expect this a general requirement on valid social contracts.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The ink was barely dry on the constitution before it was decided that the prohibition on ex post facto laws didn’t apply to civil cases. Later it was decided taxes based on past income were perfectly OK. More recently the Supreme Court has ruled the State can change the law to add additional punishments (including indefinite confinement) after conviction. The provision is basically dead.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Which leaves the obvious question…

            So what?

      • “Because you freely chose to remain in the country after having attained your majority, you have entered into a contract with the body politic binding you to its constitution and obliging you to follow its laws. ”

        That argument assumes that the “body politic,” presumably meaning the government, owns the country and so can obligate you to leave if you don’t accept the contract. How did it obtain that ownership?

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Well, as far as history goes, in my case it can summarized as follows: there were these guys with swords who said there was this guy called ‘king’ who now ruled over this particular stretch of land, and my ancestors decided to stay instead of moving in some other direction (not that it would have helped much in the long run). The more detailed history of how which various pieces of geographic areas and people were ruled by whom and when would take quite much time.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Let us call the sort of authority that governments exert over their territories “dominion,” and stipulate that the government having dominion over a piece of land is compatible with it also being privately owned but supersedes the private owner’s claims to the property. The US government’s assertion of dominion over all private property in the US can be found in the takings clause of the fifth amendment. This gives the federal government a number of licit paths to acquiring dominion over a parcel of land:

          (1) Explicit consent at the country’s founding. Anyone who voted for a representative who participated in the ratification of the bill of rights thereby ceded dominion over their lands to the federal government in perpetuity.

          (2) Explicit consent through the accession of states. Anyone who voted directly or through a representative for the state they inhabit to join the union thereby ceded dominion over their lands to the federal government in perpetuity.

          (3) Explicit consent through subsequent oaths of allegiance. Anyone who has ever freely sworn allegiance to the US government and its constitution has thereby ceded dominion over their lands to the federal government in perpetuity. This will also include all naturalized citizens, all past and present members of the military, all peace officers, and so on.

          (4) Acquisition by a licensed agent of the state. Naturally, any land purchased or first laid claim to by an agent of the federal or state government acting in his or her official capacity falls under the dominion of the federal government.

          (5) Acquisition through just conquest. Any territory conquered by the federal government in the course of a just war falls rightfully under its dominion (I have in mind here all of the former Confederacy).

          (6) Acquisition through intestacy. The land of anyone who dies heirless and intestate reverts to the dominion of the state to be disposed of as best suits the common good.

          The one big hitch is that all of the country’s land was initially stolen from native americans and so could never have been legitimately ceded to the federal government by its “owners” in the first place. Ah, well. Ignoring this pretty significant complication, though, it seems to me that the federal government will by now have acquired dominion to virtually all of the country’s territory through one or more of channels (1)-(6). Consequently, native americans aside, it has every right to demand that citizens either abide by its rules or vacate the premises.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This is entirely circular. The very question at issue is whether or not “dominion” has legitimacy. There’s no question that governments assert it, but that’s might rather than right.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Do you think that property can be transferred from one party to another by the explicit consent of its current owner? If so, you should have no objection to the legitimacy of the government acquiring land through channels (1)-(3).

            Do you think that property can be acquired by first discovery, purchase, or just conquest? If so, you should have no objection to the legitimacy of the government acquiring land through channels (4)-(5).

            Do you think that property with no rightful owner should revert to the community, to be disposed of in accordance with just procedures in whatever way best suits the common good? If so, you should have no objection to the legitimacy of the government acquiring land through channel (6).

          • Garrett says:

            By that same argument, I’m also justified in going to war with the state in order to establish a positive claim of dominion over territory. Is there a particular member of the government workforce that this doesn’t apply to?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            By that same argument, I’m also justified in going to war with the state in order to establish a positive claim of dominion over territory.

            I’m sorry, I do not see why you think this.

          • IrishDude says:

            Homesteading seems to me the most justifiable way to initially acquire ownership of land, with consensual trades transferring ownership thereafter. Homesteading requires working with and using the land, and not just proclaiming by fiat ownership over vast swaths of land.

            I suspect the vast majority of land the government claims to own was claimed by fiat, not by homesteading, and therefore I don’t find its ownership claims justifiable. Unjust conquest of the other portions of the land also is not justifiable. Given its unjustifiable ownership claims, I don’t think there is any duty to obey government issued rules within its claimed property.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ IrishDude

            You seem to have two objections. The first is that the government cannot acquire dominion over a parcel of land by laying first claim to it, because land existing in a state of nature belongs by rights to whomever first mixes their labor with the soil, so just planting a flagpole is not enough. This is a reasonable objection, but it extends only to part of (4), leaving the other 5 pathways to dominion unaddressed. But the other 5 pathways alone are more than enough to give the federal government dominion over virtually all territory in the US, in most cases many times over.

            The second is that the government cannot acquire dominion over a parcel of land confiscated in the course of an unjust war. This is not an objection to anything I’ve actually said, because (5) specifies that the conquest must be just, as, for instance, with the Union’s victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Earthly Knight

            (1) Assumes those who consented had just ownership of their property. Many property owners probably unjustly owned their land due to either unjust conquest or fiat claims without homesteading, and so couldn’t give government dominion over their lands since they didn’t justly own them.

            (2) Assumes states had legitimate dominion. If they didn’t, their representatives couldn’t cede it to the federal government.

            (3) If the mob takes control of a town unjustly, then newcomers to town give the mob fealty, that doesn’t make the mob’s claims to dominion over the town any more legitimate.

            (4) That works if the land purchased is justly owned when it is purchased, or justly acquired. The Lousiana Purchase, as a big example, does not fit this description.

            (5) As you note, land stolen from native americans was not legitimately ceded to the federal government. I don’t think the Confederacy had legitimate dominion, so there was no dominion for the federal government to gain control of.

            (6) If the land was not under dominion of the state then they don’t get to lay claim to it when people die there. I don’t think very much land has ever been under the legitimate dominion of the state based on (1)-(5).

            Aside from my objections above, any place where explicit consent wasn’t given in (1)-(3) means the federal government had no legitimate claims to dominion. That’s a significant amount of land.

            Also, there’s discussion above about prospective consent, which you seem to be wary of, and ceding dominion to an entity in perpetuity, where consent can never be withdrawn, seems like something you’d be skeptical of as well. It’s certainly something I don’t agree with.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            (2) Assumes states had legitimate dominion.

            The idea is that individual land owners ceded control over their estates by voting directly or indirectly for the state to join the union.

            (6) If the land was not under dominion of the state then they don’t get to lay claim to it when people die there.

            I don’t think this could be right. How would you deal with intestacy in a state that’s already heavily populated? Do you think that each such death should set off a mad scramble to see who can start tilling the deceased’s soil first and so gain right to it by homesteading? As far as I can tell, the only sensible way of dividing up land under these circumstances is to treat it as a windfall for the community and have their representatives distribute it by fair and democratic procedures for the general good. But in so doing, it will pass through the dominion of the state.

            Aside from my objections above, any place where explicit consent wasn’t given in (1)-(3) means the federal government had no legitimate claims to dominion. That’s a significant amount of land.

            This isn’t true. (3) encompasses all land belonging by rights to anyone, living or dead, who ever said the pledge of allegiance as an adult, or took an oath of enlistment, an oath of office, a law enforcement oath… This alone is going to give the government dominion over most of the country many times over.

            Also, there’s discussion above about prospective consent, which you seem to be wary of, and ceding dominion to an entity in perpetuity, where consent can never be withdrawn, seems like something you’d be skeptical of as well. It’s certainly something I don’t agree with.

            There is no prospective consent involved in any of these, only explicit contemporaneous consent. And what is the objection to permanent transfers of land? Aren’t most sales and gifts of land effectively perpetual?

          • IrishDude says:

            @Earthly Knight

            You didn’t address the objection in (1) that most land initially owned was not gained in just manner, and therefore the owners couldn’t legitimately give dominion over it to the state. Nor did you address that large tracts of land that were purchased were never justly owned to begin with, like the Louisiana Purchase and Alaska, which combined is over 1/3 of U.S. land mass.

            You instead seem to make the bold claim that any adult that ever said the pledge of allegiance gave dominion over their property in perpetuity to the state. That they ceded their right to autonomy over their property for the rest of their lives, and any new owner’s lives, by just saying the phrase: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, a rote set of words almost exclusively said by kids in schools. Can you flesh this claim out in more detail, since it seems to be the one you’re most hinging your claim for state control over the entire country?

            I never said the pledge of allegiance as an adult, so are the state’s claims over my property illegitimate?

          • IrishDude says:

            (2) Assumes states had legitimate dominion.

            The idea is that individual land owners ceded control over their estates by voting directly or indirectly for the state to join the union.

            If a state only had legitimate dominion over say 20% of the land mass of a state, based on explicit consent and original just ownership, then that is the only portion of the state’s land that can be given as dominion to the federal government at best. Even for that 20%, it depends on what type of dominion the original owners gave to the state (did they give authority to transfer dominion?), and which owners voted for or against the representatives that actually got elected, and which owners abstained from voting.

            EDIT: I think it would also be helpful to more clearly define the terms. You see ownership and dominion as distinct concepts, so can you define what you mean by ownership and what you mean by dominion?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I never said the pledge of allegiance as an adult, so are the state’s claims over my property illegitimate?

            Given how strictly you’ve set the requirements for just acquisition of property, it’s doubtful you own any land in the first place, because it’s extremely likely that the first link in the chain of possession by which you acquired that land will be (by your lights) defective. And, if you do own any land, it won’t be any of the land you think you own. What’s more, if the rightful owner of a property is indeterminate or cannot be identified, it seems to me we are in the same situation as with intestacy and the property should fall to the dominion of the state. Your argumentative strategy here might succeed in blocking some of the state’s claims to dominion, but it actually turns out to be too powerful and deprives you of most of your possessions in the process.

            Can you flesh this claim out in more detail, since it seems to be the one you’re most hinging your claim for state control over the entire country?

            Sure. Pledging allegiance to the republic commits you to respecting the claims made in the US constitution, the republic’s central charter. The fifth amendment to the constitution asserts dominion over all property falling within the territory of the United States. Hence, a pledge of allegiance to the republic cedes dominion over whatever property you own to the federal government.

            EDIT: I think it would also be helpful to more clearly define the terms. You see ownership and dominion as distinct concepts, so can you define what you mean by ownership and what you mean by dominion?

            I don’t know that there’s much more to say beyond what I set down at the start, that dominion is compatible with private ownership but supersedes it. A helpful analogy is to the authority a homeowner’s association exercises over a pod of condominiums; the owner of the condo is obliged to abide by the HOA’s rules and can be fined or dispossessed of the unit if she violates them.

          • IrishDude says:

            Given how strictly you’ve set the requirements for just acquisition of property

            Do you disagree with what I think is required? Which part?

            What’s more, if the rightful owner of a property is indeterminate or cannot be identified, it seems to me we are in the same situation as with intestacy and the property rightfully falls to the dominion of the state.

            It seems to me that in the absence of the original just owner making a claim to the property, the next best thing is to give ownership to the people currently using the property.

            If a king claimed fiat ownership over 10,000 acres of unclaimed land, a claim I find unjust, and then sold 10 acre parcels to 1,000 people who then actually used and transformed the land, I think the best claim to ownership and dominion over that land are the people actually using it, not the king. The king got lucky that anyone even thought he actually owned the property, and got a windfall of cash based on his spurious claim, but the claim was never valid and the property rights are really only initially claimed in a just manner by the new occupants once they start using the land.

            Your argumentative strategy here might succeed in blocking the state’s claims to dominion over some property, but it actually turns out to be too powerful, and ends up depriving you of all of your possessions in the process.

            I think there’s a decent probability I have a less than fully just claim to my current property, given that it probably was unjustly acquired and sold through a chain on down to me. I think my claims to it are still more just than the state’s.

            If a thief steals a painting from Person A and then sells it to Person B, with Person B having no knowledge of the theft, I think the order of justness for claims to the painting go Person A > Person B > thief.

            Pledging allegiance to the republic commits you to respecting the claims made in the US constitution, the republic’s central charter. The fifth amendment to the constitution asserts dominion over all property falling within the territory of the United States. Hence, a pledge of allegiance to the republic cedes dominion over whatever property you own to the federal government.

            I disagree. I don’t think such a contract binds as I don’t think most people saying the pledge of allegiance, school kids, actually think they’re agreeing to ceding dominion over their property to the state (I don’t buy your interpretation of the fifth amendment, anyways). In fact, they most likely don’t even own any land when they say the pledge, so they don’t have any authority over property that they can then grant to the state. The pledge is mostly mindless regurgitation based on prompting from school authorities.

            If the state wants to claim dominion in a way I’d find just, they should go to all property owners with an explicit contract that states its terms clearly and get an explicit signature. It’s what HOAs actually do, but states don’t, which is one reason why I find HOAs legitimate and states not.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Do you disagree with what I think is required? Which part?

            I reject the view that land can be justly acquired through labor-mixture but not flagpole-planting. Two reasons why. First, this seems to me to arbitrarily privilege sedentary agriculture over all other forms of life. Why should a farmer be entitled to so much more land than, say, a weaver or a cobbler, who needs only a small shop to ply her trade? (I am also suspicious that this line of thinking is designed to exonerate colonists for stealing land from tribes of native hunter-gatherers). Second, I think there are serious problems with applying this view retroactively– if early settlers of this country had known that they could only justly acquire land by homesteading, they would undoubtedly have acted differently, and it seems unfair to change the rules on them after the fact.

            It seems to me that in the absence of the original just owner making a claim to the property, the next best thing is to give ownership to the people currently using the property.

            This can’t be right– it would mean that if I had robbed you yesterday all of the stolen possessions would today rightfully belong to me.

            If a king claimed fiat ownership over 10,000 acres of unclaimed land, a claim I find unjust, and then sold 10 acre parcels to 1,000 people who then actually used and transformed the land, I think the best claim to ownership and dominion over that land are the people actually using it, not the king.

            This is a different and more sensible proposal than the previous one: the land belongs to whomever first mixed their labor with the soil, or to whomever acquired it from them by a chain of just exchanges. Unfortunately, because this is not historically how property rights worked in the law, it will be either indeterminate or impossible to identify the owner of most of the country’s land. If we adopt my suggestion that property should, under these conditions, be disposed of by the community in accordance with fair and democratic procedures, the government will wind up with dominion over all this land in any case.

            I don’t think such a contract binds as I don’t think most people saying the pledge of allegiance, school kids, actually think they’re agreeing to ceding dominion over their property to the state

            I am speaking only of adults here, but this is still enough to ensnare most teachers and a large number of high school seniors. Let’s take stock. By channel (3) alone, the state has dominion over:

            (I) All property which has ever belonged to any schoolteacher at a time when they said the pledge of allegiance.
            (II) All property which has ever belonged to an 18-year-old high school student at a time when they (freely) said the pledge of allegiance.
            (III) All property which has ever belonged to any police officer at a time when they took the law enforcement oath.
            (IV) All property which has ever belonged to any non-conscripted service member at a time when they took the oath of enlistment.
            (V) All property which has ever belonged to a politician or civil servant at a time when they took their oath of office.
            (VI) All property which has ever belonged to any naturalized citizen at a time when they took the oath of citizenship.

            I can’t guarantee this is going to get the federal government control over all of the land in the country, but it’s going to be an awful lot of it. Note that pathway (3) is also independent of whether first acquisition goes by flagpole-planting or labor-mixture; even if everyone is confused about what property they actually own, they still cede whatever belongs to them by rights when they swear to uphold and defend the constitution.

            (I don’t buy your interpretation of the fifth amendment, anyways).

            It reads:

            [P]rivate property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.

            Surely this implies that private property can be taken for use with just compensation! How could this be possible, though, if the government did not claim dominion over all private property within the nation’s borders?

            It’s what HOAs actually do, but states don’t, which is one reason why I find HOAs legitimate and states not.

            Are HOAs obligated to secure the explicit consent of owners who acquire their units by sale or bequest?

          • IrishDude says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            Before I continue arguing, I want to make sure that your claim that saying the pledge of allegiance once is sufficient to give state control over ones property in perpetuity is a sincerely held belief. I’m not interested in arguing with sophistry, and I think you have to admit that this claim is very suspicious. If you believe it deeply, I’ll continue to state further objections but I’m not interested in debating a claim not actually held by someone. So, just let me know.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Don’t people often cede property rights by signing a contract after skimming it, or by checking an “I Accept” box at the end of a list of terms and conditions that, proverbially, no one ever reads? I don’t see why swearing a solemn oath wouldn’t also suffice. It’s not as though the state is trying to conceal the terms of the social contract or something, in most places it requires high school students to study the constitution as part of compulsory civics curricula.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Earthly Knight

            You didn’t let me know if this belief is sincerely held by you. I’m aware of the superficial similarity between the pledge of allegiance and a binding contract, but am not interested in going into a more detailed rebuttal unless I know you’re arguing in good faith. So again, just let me know.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            My view is that anyone who thinks we can relinquish property rights just by checking an “I Agree” box must a fortiori accept that we can relinquish property rights by swearing a solemn oath. Since you and I both sincerely believe the former, you and I must also sincerely believe the latter as well, on pain of inconsistency.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Earthly Knight

            “My view is that anyone who thinks we can relinquish property rights just by checking an “I Agree” box must a fortiori accept that we can relinquish property rights by swearing a solemn oath.”

            I don’t agree with the claim that all that’s need to relinquish our property rights in a just way is to check an “I Agree” box, so your second claim doesn’t follow.

            I’ll list some important ingredients I think are needed in a just contract that transfers property rights from yourself to another. Transactions can have more or less of each of these elements and can slide contracts towards something I consider consensual and binding or something I consider unjust.

            Some elements of a contract that shift it toward more just:
            *Not entered into under duress. If you point a gun at me and get me to check an “I agree” box I consider that a less just contract. I should have the option to walk away from the contract without any threats of aggression against me for failure to enter the contract. I should be able to say “No” to the offer and not have the contract terms imposed on me.
            *No fraud. If you write in invisible ink or some intentionally misleading way on the contract a clause I’m unaware of when I check “I agree” then this is a less just contract.
            *Each party has clear mutual understanding of the terms of the contract+. One reason we don’t allow minors to sign legally binding contracts is that we think they have less capability to understand what they’re agreeing to. Their cognitive function and reasoning ability is less developed. They may have less understanding of what they’re getting and what they’re giving. Similarly, people with a mentally ill state, or under the effects of drugs, are protected when they sign contracts. Contracts can also be written with obscure terms that may mean different things to each party, even when they’re competent adults, making enforcement of the contract less just.
            *The terms of what should happen in the event one party breaches the contract are clearly spelled out. E.g., specifying that Arbitrators R Us will be used to handle contract disputes and agreeing to adhere to its decisions.

            After writing out my above response, I found this nifty website that lists out the elements of a contract:
            “The requisite elements that must be established to demonstrate the formation of a legally binding contract are (1) offer; (2) acceptance; (3) consideration; (4) mutuality of obligation; (5) competency and capacity; and, in certain circumstances, (6) a written instrument.”

            The elements overlap some with what I wrote and I’d just add that giving dominion over your land in perpetuity to the state is one of those circumstances where a written instrument seems like an important requirement to me.

            The vast majority if not all of the kids in school saying the pledge of allegiance (including 18 year olds) do not think that they are agreeing to give dominion over their property to the state in perpetuity, violating the competency and capacity requirement for contracts. This ‘contract’ is not written, and falls under the types of contract that I think should be in writing so as to be clear of the terms. The terms of breach of this ‘contract’ are not well-specified and understood. No members of the state that I’m aware of believe a school kid saying the pledge of allegiance is giving them dominion over that person, so there’s no other party to the contract that we can hold in breach if the terms of the ‘contract’ are violated. Kids not saying the pledge of allegiance will still have the state claiming dominion over their property, creating duress since they’re made an offer they can’t refuse.

            So no, I don’t think checking an “I Agree” box necessarily creates legitimate contracts, and I definitely don’t think saying the pledge of allegiance once gives the state legitimate claim to dominion over the land and property of the ‘oath’ speaker.

            +One reason the CFPB was formed was to have better informed consumers. They’ve created rules to simplify mortgages so the terms are more easily comprehended by borrowers. I actually think the CFPB performs an important role, and when I was a minarchist I thought one of the few proper roles for government was to ensure transparency and mutual understanding in contracts. As an AnCap, I’d prefer to see private competition for the role it plays instead of it having a coercive monopoly.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Here are some of the conditions you listed on valid contracts:

            (A) Absence of duress
            (B) Absence of fraud
            (C) Comprehension of the contract
            (D) Explicit penalties for non-compliance
            (E) Mutuality of obligation
            (F) Competence
            (G) Written signature

            All of these conditions are met for the various oaths I listed except for (C) and (G), which is okay, because (C) shouldn’t be on the list and (G) doesn’t strike me as terribly important. I stipulated that the oaths must be taken freely, by adults, which gets us (A) and (F). The constitution does not defraud anyone, which takes care of (B). (D) is satisfied by the criminal law code for the oath-taker, and by democratic elections and judicial review for the state. The constitution clearly outlines the government’s duties to its citizens, so there goes (E).

            (C) should really require only that the parties to the contract have had ample opportunity to understand it, which will be satisfied by our compulsory civics classes and the universal availability of the constitution to anyone who wishes to read it. Ultimately, though, it is the contracting parties’ responsibility to make sure they understand the contents of the contract they are signing or the nature of the republic they are swearing allegiance to, and the state has done more than enough to discharge that duty.

            (G) is almost certainly there because of the importance in law of having evidence that the agreement took place. But we are not concerned with evidence here, and it’s hard to believe there could be any real moral difference between solemn oaths and signatures.

            I think, then, that according to these standards any adult who freely says the pledge of allegiance does indeed, by way of the fifth amendment, cede dominion over her property to the federal government.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Earthly Knight

            The Pledge of Allegiance ‘contract’ is missing acceptance (among other elements). Per the contract link above “Acceptance of an offer is the expression of assent to its terms. Acceptance must generally be made in the manner specified by the offer. If no manner of acceptance is specified by the offer, then acceptance may be made in a manner that is reasonable under the circumstances. An acceptance is only valid, however, if the offeree knows of the offer, the offeree manifests an intention to accept, and the acceptance is expressed as an unequivocal and unconditional agreement to the terms of the offer.”

            I don’t think any high school 18 year old knows of the offer you think the state is making, and therefore can’t accept the offer. You’re the only person I’ve ever met who thinks the pledge of allegiance is a binding contract between the state and individual where the individual gives dominion in perpetuity to their property. Perhaps you went to a unique high school where this interpretation was made explicit, but I’ve never seen the pledge described in those terms anywhere else.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I think most 18-year-old high school students either know or could reasonably be expected to know that pledging allegiance to the republic commits you to following the constitution, its central charter, and that the fifth amendment asserts that the government reserves the right to take private property in exchange for fair compensation.

          • IrishDude says:

            If you polled 18 year olds after they said the pledge of allegiance in school, what percent of them do you think would agree that their saying the pledge gave the state dominion over their lands and property in perpetuity?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Roughly the same percentage of 18-year-olds who would be able to recite to you the contents of a passage take at random from any other lengthy contract 18-year-olds sign. This problem is not really restricted to teenagers, older adults often sign contracts without having any idea what they’re getting themselves into, too. I am more diligent and cautious than most, but lord knows I don’t read every EULA I agree to.

            This means, though, that if we apply your scruples to every contract and not selectively just to political oaths, it would destroy our existing system of property, and likely lead to the demise of all commerce. There is a substantial fraction of the population who cannot be prevailed upon to carefully read and understand a contract of any length before signing it. Would you have them excluded altogether from the ownership and circulation of property?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Because you freely chose to remain in the country after having attained your majority,

        Out of curiosity, how would one leave a country such as the US, upon obtaining their majority, without violating the immigration laws of the nation to which they are moving? And who pays for this often prohibitively expensive trip?

        • Matt M says:

          It’s not even JUST a matter of violating the laws of the host nation. In order to escape US law/taxation, you have to formally renounce your citizenship, which is a very long and expensive process – the FIRST (but not even close to final) step of which is “prove another country is willing to host you.” I’m pretty sure that U.S. consulates in foreign countries are the only places you can even apply for it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I didn’t mention this since practically all you have to do is never travel back to the US again.

            Though apparently the possibility of extradition for tax crimes is increasing: http://blogs.angloinfo.com/us-tax/2013/06/03/can-i-be-extradited-for-commiting-a-tax-crime/

          • Matt M says:

            “I didn’t mention this since practically all you have to do is never travel back to the US again.”

            I mean yes, practically this is true in that they won’t extradite you just for not paying taxes. But you ARE still in open defiance of the law and they COULD theoretically extradite you.

            And “sure you can leave but you can never return for any purpose even just to visit family” is pretty darn harsh and not exactly what most people probably have in mind when they say “if you don’t like it, you can just leave.” Most immigrants TO the U.S. frequently travel back to their home countries without having to worry about being thrown in jail.

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            That’s not quite correct. Since so many companies, particularly financial institutions, have parts operating in the US and overseas, there are plenty of sticks to make US citizens pay up. Have a look here:
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24135021

            It isn’t just the paying up, it’s the paperwork you have to do as well. I still haven’t quite figured out if I’m supposed to be filling in tax returns even – last time I checked, it wasn’t exactly straightforward to figure out.

          • Matt M says:

            Rosemary,

            Indeed. I also recall that a whole lot of foreign financial institutions simply refuse to do business with U.S. citizens, out of fear of running afoul of some sort of law or regulation.

          • Controls Freak says:

            some sort of law or regulation.

            FATCA.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Out of curiosity, how would one leave a country such as the US, upon obtaining their majority, without violating the immigration laws of the nation to which they are moving? And who pays for this often prohibitively expensive trip?

          Here are some suggestions. You will be responsible for the moving expenses; fortunately, for some possible destinations these will be trivial.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Ok.

            For Candada the average 18 year old is unlikely to qualify: “Points are awarded based on your skills, education, languages you speak, and whether you have a job offer waiting for you in Canada.”

            Mexico might be possible for an average 18 year old, though I can’t figure out if the FMM Tourist Card would allow you to get a job (if not, living expensive would be prohibitive, not to mention FMM renewal), or how easy it is to qualify for a permanent resident visa.

            Good luck surviving in Svalbard (or Antarctica).

            Sweden has it’s own hurdles (an interview only available at certain locations).

            And again, for a typical 18 year old, New Zealand’s hurdles will be similar to Canada’s.

            The 18 year olds who could emigrate the easiest would be those who have applied to, and been accepted by, foreign colleges. AKA the privileged.

            With Mexico the only semi-feasible option for the rest, this is basically a Hobson’s choice.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I agree that you might not be able to maintain your current standard of living if you elected to immigrate to Mexico or Svalbard. I do not see how this impugns the validity of the social contract, however. Do you think it true, as a general rule, that contracts are only binding if the contracting parties have an abundance of good alternatives on offer?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Do you think it true, as a general rule, that contracts are only binding if the contracting parties have an abundance of good alternatives on offer?

            As a personal ethical rule, yes.

            As a categorical imperative, yes, within the bound that the other party to the contract is also similarly constrained or free. (E.g. “You have item X, I have item Y. So let’s agree to work together instead of attacking each other until we’re both free of this active volcanic island.” would be an acceptable contract, even though neither party has realistic alternatives.)

            As a legal rule, obviously not in this nation.

            My argument about moving to Mexico is that you have no legal way of making a living down there, and will thus be violating the social contract (of Mexico) which you speak of in your initial post.

            And that Svalbard will likely leave you dead just trying to get to it.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Securing a work permit in Mexico does not seem terribly burdensome, although some facility with spanish would probably be helpful.

            I had friends in college who had no trouble getting jobs teaching english in South Korea. If you’re not picky about living in a liberal democracy, China and Singapore are also possibilities. This will presumably require a college degree, however.

            Svalbard can readily be reached by plane. Great place to go if you’re fond of seeds, they’re up to their ears in seeds.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Svalbard can readily be reached by plane.

            At at price a typical 18 year old can afford? Maybe.

    • baconbacon says:

      When I have brought up this issue in other forums, I find that I am in a small minority (actually I don’t think anyone has ever agree with me). And there are always some folks who are aghast at my attitude. The usual response is “What if everyone did that?” To which I answer, “I wish every one would act under their own conscience and not blindly follow laws.”

      Everyone does do that. I drive on roads, most people don’t go at or under the speed limit, depending on polls close to 50% of people have admitted to smoking pot, way more people drive over the legal limit for alcohol than admit to themselves, lots of people skirt taxes- and these are just laws that almost everyone knows about. If you included laws on the books that are rarely enforced almost everyone is a habitual law breaker, they just like to keep their illusions.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        If you included laws on the books that are rarely enforced almost everyone is a habitual law breaker, they just like to keep their illusions.

        Exactly. I think most people agree with me in practice. It’s just that they feel guilty about it. I think it is a better thing for folks to admit to it.

        • baconbacon says:

          I think the explanation is more “I’m not a law breaker I’m X, the laws I break are incidental to who I am, those guys, all I know about them is they broke law X, that is who they are, lawbreakers”.

          But as I note elsewhere I have been binging on TLP.

    • Matt M says:

      “I believe I have zero duty to follow the law. I will follow the law if I think it is a good law, or if I think I will be caught. I guess I also follow the law as a default; I only break the law if I have thought about the issue and decide it is best not to.”

      This is basically my opinion as well.

      I differ with you on red lights though. I will virtually never go through a red light, only because I’m worried about developing “bad habits” wherein I give the red light less “respect” than it probably deserves. If it’s the middle of the night in a deserted area, I will still come to a complete stop, look closely, and then I MIGHT proceed through the light if I’m 100% convinced that nobody is around. But I always stop first.

      Of course my hesitation to go through the light has nothing to do with it being “the law” as it is being “the thing that’s designed to keep you from dying in a fiery car crash.”

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Of course my hesitation to go through the light has nothing to do with it being “the law” as it is being “the thing that’s designed to keep you from dying in a fiery car crash.”

        Yes, it isn’t about obeying the law. I didn’t say I wouldn’t stop first, or at least slow down, because other folks don’t expect you to blandly drive through the red, you need to be careful.

    • I agree with your general position.

      At one point in my teens, I thought there was a problem. I could see no good argument for why one was obliged to obey law qua law, but I thought that if people did not believe that the society would not work. My temporary solution was to obey laws until I adequately resolved the conflict.

      Eventually I noticed that other people viewed my policy of obeying laws, for instance not offering a drink of wine to an underage friend, as weird, and I concluded that most people felt free to disobey laws they did not think were important, or morally justified, or likely to be enforced, and the society had not collapsed.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        society had not collapsed

        Out of curiosity, what are your standards for a collapsed society?

    • quanta413 says:

      I believe there is a duty to follow the law as long as the law is not strongly morally objectionable or overly burdensome. So a guard shooting prisoners on just an ordinary day fills the strongly morally objectionable example. As for burdensome, I’d probably give an example of following every rule of the road exactly to the letter. Most humans can’t remember and measure by eye exactly how far away they have to stay from a school bus when children are crossing or whatever. I want people to make a good faith effort to fulfill the spirit of the law here, but I wouldn’t want the government crack down on every minor technical violation.

      However, how strong the duty to follow the law is vs moraltiy etc. I’m pretty fuzzy on. I don’t know how to draw a bright line ahead of knowing the scenario at hand.

      But I definitely don’t want everyone following their own conscience instead of the law. A lot of people strike me as pretty amoral if you only consider their own volition. Leaving aside people who are not merely amoral but downright malicious; a very small number of malicious people can do a lot of damage when unchecked. Also importantly, the lack of law can create huge coordination problems. Is vigilantism ok or not ok? What are the accounting rules? Torts? To some extent these things can be custom or industry/cartel practice, but I wouldn’t want to take a crack at all law being in the from of custom or agreement. I wouldn’t want all custom or agreement to be replaced by law either.

      However, I certainly want people to have a higher morality than the law so to speak if that makes any sense; so I kind of get the sentiment. With what I would think of as ideal humans, law would be much more circumscribed.

      • But I definitely don’t want everyone following their own conscience instead of the law.

        How about everyone following the law when law enforcement is adequate to make it in their interest to do so or when they agree with it, and otherwise not? I think that’s a pretty good description of what I see around me.

        • Garrett says:

          What if the law is unethical? It’s one thing to claim that a law is merely annoying (say, a ban on recreational marijuana) if it’s something you don’t care about. What about laws banning beneficial things (like medical marijuana) or taxation where you are being deprived of your property?

        • quanta413 says:

          How about everyone following the law when law enforcement is adequate to make it in their interest to do so or when they agree with it, and otherwise not? I think that’s a pretty good description of what I see around me.

          In practice, I think that’s not too far off the mark. Although I think that in well functioning areas, Americans are at least a little bit more well behaved than that. For example, in a lot of cities I don’t see as much littering as their could be even though there’s an obvious benefit to the litterer and a very low chance of being caught.

          Part of it may be it’s more like I think people should have an at least deontological view of following the law. Like it may benefit you to litter at a given moment and it’s often obvious you won’t get caught, but you’d be worse off if everyone littered.

          I think enforcement is important for incentives. But I also think that people should still follow the law when it’s relatively neutral or they even mildly disagree. People are not going to agree on every detail of the law, but by having some respect for it outside of threat or self benefit you encourage a social norm of cooperation from others who might not agree with a law you like.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        But I definitely don’t want everyone following their own conscience instead of the law. A lot of people strike me as pretty amoral if you only consider their own volition. Leaving aside people who are not merely amoral but downright malicious; a very small number of malicious people can do a lot of damage when unchecked. Also importantly, the lack of law can create huge coordination problems. Is vigilantism ok or not ok? What are the accounting rules? Torts?

        I wasn’t saying that I don’t believe in laws. I am not an An-Cap. We need to have laws about driving for example. And for things like murder, theft, fraud, etc. There are malicious people out there. I assume they are kept in check because they are concerned about the consequences of their bad acts, such as getting caught by the police. Are we being protected from malicious people because they respect laws? Perhaps sometimes, but I don’t think there is much protection there. I think there is more downside to people following laws blindly when they don’t make sense, than the rare occasion when a bad person doesn’t do a bad thing not because he thinks he’ll get caught, but simply because he feels he must respect the law.

        Someone upthread mentioned Murray. Was this a reference to Charles Murray, and his book “Coming Apart?” He did have a somewhat convincing theory that the upper classes have revolted against blindly following cultural rules, but that they still do follow most of those rules, presumably because they are mostly rational. I think the cultural rules he referred to were things like don’t have children before getting married, don’t commit crimes that will get you put in jail, and study in school. The problem is that the lower classes have followed the lead of the upper classes in not following the rules blindly, but don’t have the discipline or the rationality, or something like that, to still do the right thing when it is needed. Thus the lower classes are a lot more dysfunctional than they were decades ago. There may be some truth to this, but not enough that I am willing to change my mind on this issue. For one thing, crime has decreased a lot in the last couple of decades, so it seems maybe the lower classes are as bad off as he says.

        • quanta413 says:

          I wasn’t saying that I don’t believe in laws. I am not an An-Cap. We need to have laws about driving for example. And for things like murder, theft, fraud, etc. There are malicious people out there. I assume they are kept in check because they are concerned about the consequences of their bad acts, such as getting caught by the police. Are we being protected from malicious people because they respect laws? Perhaps sometimes, but I don’t think there is much protection there. I think there is more downside to people following laws blindly when they don’t make sense, than the rare occasion when a bad person doesn’t do a bad thing not because he thinks he’ll get caught, but simply because he feels he must respect the law.

          I assume respect for the law doesn’t matter for the case of thieves, etc except as avoidance of punishment. But among the more average citizen, I think respect for the law helps decrease things like littering, may encourage people to do jury duty even though it’s a pain, may be the nudge they need to at least use their phones a little less while driving etc. It’s more public goods type problems or laws/customs that exist that humans tend to ignore because they are famously bad at understanding the cost of low probability risks with huge downsides (doctors not washing hands, texting and driving, etc.) that I’m hoping some amount of respect for the law will make be a bit easier.

          I’m honestly having a really hard time though thinking of a law I wish people would routinely break instead of blindly following. And my thought process in this sort of case runs more towards the side of trying to understand what the responsibility of lawmakers is, law vs. custom, complexity of law etc. so as to avoid making bad laws and knowing how to repeal them. Off the top of my head, I suppose segregation laws are an example of laws that I’m glad people made a concentrated attack on including things like ignoring them in protest, but those laws and white Southern custom were largely self-reinforcing. I don’t think that segregation laws didn’t align with what many Southerners thought of as moral. Could you give me a different example of a law you wish people would break more? Ignoring laws that most people of that society would find strongly morally objectionable as I already have a caveat for defying those. I’d appreciate it if the example was contemporary, but it doesn’t have to be.

          EDIT (half baked thoughts): As for Murray, it wasn’t I who mentioned him. I don’t think that much of what Murray said had to do with law, but I see the connection between respect for law and respect for custom. I would argue that falling crime is not the thing to focus on in Murray’s case. Instead look at the stagnation of income in the lower social strata over the last several decades. There’s a strong argument to be made that having kids earlier, out of wedlock etc, is a pretty obvious factor contributing to poverty across multiple generations.

          But as far as crime goes, the U.S. justice system also became much harsher in backlash to the earlier rise in violent crime in the 60s and 70s, so the drop shouldn’t be assumed to show a degradation in respect for the law (anyone have a way of showing such a drop does or doesn’t exist?) doesn’t matter. I don’t think the following causal chain is actually true, but if there really was a drop in respect for the law that caused a crime wave and we compensated by drastically ratcheting up punishments that strikes me as a pretty good argument for respecting the law.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Good question. I’ve been thinking about this. I have two answers, one concerned about people doing BAD things, and one more mundane.

            1) I don’t want people to get in the habit of doing things just because they are the law. Have you heard of the Milgram experiment done in the ’60’s? In that experiment, researchers induced participants into torturing subjects with electricity based on authorities saying it was okay. I don’t have an example where people are doing this, but it can happen.

            2) On a more mundane level, I want people to stop feeling guilty about walking against red lights because it is illegal. I don’t want people to say smoking pot is a bad thing because it is illegal, even though drinking is worse for you in so many ways. I tell my kids not to smoke pot because the consequences of getting caught are bad, not because breaking the law is a bad thing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mark V Anderson:

            History’s full of cases where people did awful things, even things they put up some resistance against, based on authority figures telling them to do that. Milgram’s experiments provided some level of lab support for what already appeared to be the case based on anecdote.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Mark V Anderson

        I wasn’t saying that I don’t believe in laws. I am not an An-Cap

        At the risk of being a pedantic off-topic interjector, I just want to say that I think Ancaps, at least in theory, do believe in laws, they just believe that those laws should be private and market exposed. Sometimes they behave as if they oppose law altogether, but theoretically, the issue is about what basis the law should be structured upon.

    • suntzuanime says:

      You do not wish every one would act under their own conscience and not blindly follow laws. Society has its problems on the margin but it beats the hell out of anarchy.

      See also http://lesswrong.com/lw/3h/why_our_kind_cant_cooperate/

      I mean, strictly speaking everyone is always acting under their own conscience. It’s just that their consciences are saying “blindly follow laws”, and that’s a good thing. And note that there are levels of blindly following laws; people who speed by 3mph will not necessarily rob convenience stores. What people blindly follow is much closer to “social norms” than “laws”, but there’s a norm to broadly follow the law.

      • Matt M says:

        “And note that there are levels of blindly following laws; people who speed by 3mph will not necessarily rob convenience stores. What people blindly follow is much closer to “social norms” than “laws”, but there’s a norm to broadly follow the law.”

        I wonder if any studies have been done on this – I would guess that people who speed by 3mph probably are more likely to rob convenience stores than people who never, ever, speed (assuming we can find enough of these people to constitute an experimental group).

        As I said from my own experience above, I think habits can be formed with stuff like this. Things like “It’s okay to speed a little because most cops don’t even care and everyone I know does it” could easily morph into “It’s okay to steal from a convenience store” if you happen to live among a peer group where stealing is glamorized. It’s easy to say “if people just follow social norms everything will be fine” if you’re looking at the social norms of your ingroup, but some other groups have strikingly different ones….

    • Not A Random Name says:

      As you pointed our there are clearly situations where not following the law seems to be the better choice (for me anyway). So while it is my default as well I don’t think anything’s wrong with breaking it per se.

      That said I often see people breaking the law in what I think to be stupid and dangerous ways. A good example of this is people who want to drive faster then I’m currently going and then start getting really close to my car. So close in fact I’m confident they’d crash into me if I had to perform an emergency break. I’m sure they think they’ve got it under control. But I’m fucked as well if things go wrong. It really annoys me.

      So I try not to be like that. If I’m confident I know better I’ll ignore the law and not feel bad about it. If I’m unsure I tend to err of the side of cautious, especially if I feel a desire to chose the more dangerous option.
      All in all this makes me a pretty law-abiding citizen I’d say. Probably more so then average, at least on mundane topics like going over the tempo limit or crossing red lights.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        All in all this makes me a pretty law-abiding citizen I’d say. Probably more so then average, at least on mundane topics like going over the tempo limit or crossing red lights.

        I suspect I may be more law abiding than the average person also. But only when those laws make sense to me. I hate tailgaters too, but I suspect that those people that tailgate don’t think they are dis-obeying the law. They are dis-obeying common sense, and that is the rule I try to obey.

    • sflicht says:

      I’m interested to know what people think about this in the international law context, i.e. replace the individual perspective with the national one. Very topical given the recent brouhaha over Israel.

      • Controls Freak says:

        I tend to do a universalization-like calculation, because I think that my behavior has (maybe marginal) effects on (perhaps just the local) culture. As a matter of coincidence, I recently made an analogy to international law to my hockey team on the issue of ringers. “We should internally enforce the norms we wish to project externally.” I like to use the example of Kosovo. It was called “illegal but legitimate”. Sure enough, it came back round to be Item Number One on Russia’s list of why their activities in Crimea are justified.

        I think the disconnect comes in because people feel, uh, disconnected from the process of making culture… and especially the process of making law. They view law as something that is merely imposed by others rather than a joint endeavor. Sometimes, it kind of is, which is also why I care more than others about norms and legitimacy in process. As I’ve opined here before about the structure of federalism, the point of legitimate process (if we structure it well) is to minimize this disconnect. So, while I wouldn’t commit to an absolute duty to follow the law (I don’t think anyone would; there are plenty of examples of law which is expressly written for the purpose of setting a line from which exceptions are intended to be made), I would claim that absent extremely compelling reasons (and I have a high barrier for this), we have a duty to follow laws enacted by legitimate process so as to not aid in delegitimizing that process (and possibly begin tearing down the benefits we get from a legitimate process).

        All that being said, international law is an interesting realm. In many ways, it’s more like a local culture or a small hockey league than a nation of laws. For all the outside commentary involved, there are really just a relatively small number of actual State actors, norms develop fluidly over time, and it seems to be incomprehensibly difficult to agree on legitimate process beyond explicit all-party agreement to terms. For example, this is why we see noise every so often about what the ICC “wants” to do with respect to some US official or act, and the US response is always, “Lol, don’t care.”

      • Matt M says:

        I’m not sure “international law” is directly comparable to national law in this way. It seems that violations of international law are very inconsistently prosecuted and enforced – that often, it boils down to either military supremacy or political concerns rather than objective evidence in similar courts with similar standards.

        International law is, at the end of the day, based entirely on a tangled web of various agreements that are only binding to the extent that they can be enforced, and unlike the state in the national picture, there is no one entity that has the power to enforce these things on say, the U.S., China, Russia, or various countries that one of those three chooses to maintain very close relationships with (Israel comes to mind – I’m sure there are others).

        I almost feel like it’s a term that shouldn’t even be used – because it’s so different than any other form of “law” we typically recognize.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        If international law was anything but a sick joke, the UN wouldn’t spend all its time attempting to enforce it upon only one nation that is not even remotely the worst offender.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you think you have duty to follow the law?

      Yes, per the 4th Commandment.

      OTOH, legislation of late in recent decades has become so prolific and fluid in some places that I physically cannot know what the law even is. I’d have to have a full-time speed-reading lawyer advisor just to keep up, and that’s outside of the reach of all but the most rich. So I mostly default to Christian morality and ethics, because that at least has the virtue of not changing much, and any human laws contradicting God’s law are invalid anyway.

    • Tibor says:

      I think that laws should change so that people follow them, not the other way around. Laws can be very strict and always enforced if almost everyone can agree on them. In this, the 51% kind of democracy is just a too low a standard. I would prefer a state where you’d need something like 75% support to pass a new law, but only 51% support to repeal an old one”. The result would be a country with very few laws which almost everyone would find important and would follow them. Switzerland seems to be close to that model since if you want your law to last, you have to make sure people don’t repeal it in a referendum a few months after – unlike in other countries you can get your laws repealed even during the same term you introduced them. This also makes legislation very slow, but I think that’s a feature, not a bug.

      David’s example is a nice case – 21 is a ridiculous minimum drinking age, so almost nobody respects this law. In Germany, you can drink weaker alcohol from the age of 16 and all alcohol when you’re 18. That is something that is much easier to follow, since there’s a much bigger consensus that it makes sense. The result might as well be that you have fewer 14year olds drinking in Germany than in the US.

      If there are a lot of laws a sizable minority of people disagrees with and disrespects, it reduces the respect for law in general and that’s a bad thing. Conversely, if almost everyone is on board with almost every law, people tend to follow even the laws they are not so sure about, because they believe that by and large the legal system makes sense and because everyone else seems to follow them which is a form of peer-pressure. Of course, this does not hold for laws you find completely immoral and wrong, but in the system I mentioned there should hopefully not be many of those.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think that laws should change so that people follow them, not the other way around.

        I think laws shouldn’t substantially change, and fads-of-the-current-generation shouldn’t make it into law in the first place. Also, there shouldn’t be as many laws that an average intellect cannot memorize the whole thing with some effort – certainly not more than a Koran’s worth – because people will obviously not follow stuff they don’t know.

        • Tibor says:

          “Fads of the current generation” should be avoided by the requirement that you need significantly more than 51% support to pass a new law.

          • Anonymous says:

            Fair enough.

          • Matt M says:

            Constitutional amendments are a lot harder than that, and yet…

            Noteworthy in that it was one of the few fads which made it into law but was eventually successfully repealed, rather than simply sticking around forever because “It’s the law!”

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think this has come up at SSC before, and I’d say there’s no duty to follow the law just because it is the law. If the law proscribes something that is wrong in itself, then the duty follows from the duty not to do wrong. If the law sets a standard which may be arbitrary but makes things work better than without it, there is a duty to follow it (usual example here is which side of the road to drive on). But if the law is (as is so often true) just something a bunch of politicians in a room somewhere decided on with the connivance of various interest groups….well, a law set down by a king chosen by a watery tart throwing a sword has as much legitimacy.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I would say it is more of an “obligation” than a duty, as there are higher obligations and considerations that can take precedence. That said, yes I have an obligation to follow the law, and I’m actually somewhat surprised and disturbed to find so many people saying otherwise.

      At the most basic level I view wider society and coexistence with those outside my in-group as an iterated prisoners dilemma where respect for the law is essentially an agreement to pick the “cooperate” option, with all the implications that follow.

      I feel that a lot of people in “WEIRD Countries” take their prosperity for granted and thus fail to appreciate / ignore the social norms that make it possible.

    • Jiro says:

      To which I answer, “I wish every one would act under their own conscience and not blindly follow laws.”

      I don’t wish this at all.

      Don’t assume that everyone’s conscience says the same things as your own. There are ways in which many people’s conscience tells them to act that I would really rather not have them act.

      • hlynkacg says:

        IKR?

        This is a large component of why I say that a lot of people (too many IMO) take our prosperity and social norms for granted.

      • CatCube says:

        Yeah, I typed (then elected not to post) “Huh. It’s not often you see somebody defending Kim Davis. Good on you.” (For the record, I actually agree with her on a personal basis. Also think that people should obey the law regardless of their feelings.)