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Open Thread 74.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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754 Responses to Open Thread 74.25

  1. victa20 says:

    Today, ESPN canned a shitload of people. I’m curious what anyone here thinks sports coverage is going to look like in the near and distant future. All games on Netflix? Player salaries plunging? It certainly feels like a “sports bubble” has been happening for a while and will get worse.

    • victa20 says:

      Also, does anyone buy Clay Travis’s explanation that a big part of ESPN subscriptions are being canceled because of ESPN’s shift to the left?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        The consensus (at least amongst the center-right pundits cheerfully tap-dancing on ESPN’s grave) is that ESPN’s fundamental problems are due to cable-cutting reducing their revenue at a time when they’re locked into wildly expensive contracts with the major sports leagues. The politicization is a reaction to that, either an attempt to scrabble at a new audience, or else just the typical “roll hard left and die” tactic.

        • victa20 says:

          Wow, thanks. That’s an interesting theory. The major people at ESPN won’t have a problem finding work if the whole network tanks, but I can’t imagine what the hell is going to happen to all of these reporters and anchors. Maybe they’ll roll hard left and die on Twitter, or roll hard right and live by doing a YouTube shows or something.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The politicization is a reaction to that

          I don’t believe there is a consensus about politicization, let alone what might theoretically prompt it.

          • keranih says:

            HBC –

            Can you link to any discussions that hold the idea that there is less politicization, or no more than before, say, 2005?

            All the stuff I’ve seen has been pretty clear that yes, there’s been a strong leftward shift. (I think the cable cutting impact is stronger, for a variety of reasons, but that’s different than saying the politicization didn’t happen.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            Let me put it this way:

            Does ESPNs stance on issues differ very much, if at all, from the stances of most large corporations? Has it ever?

            Now, I will say that, the broad move, on every media outlet, is to producing more and more “yell at each other” content. That’s going to look like increased politicization, but I don’t think it is.

            “The Sports Reporters” has been going since 1988.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Does ESPNs stance on issues differ very much, if at all, from the stances of most large corporations?

            In the sense that it aggressively supports hard-leftist positions on social issues? No, in that respect it indeed does not differ from the stances of most large corporations.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Now, I will say that, the broad move, on every media outlet, is to producing more and more “yell at each other” content. That’s going to look like increased politicization, but I don’t think it is.

            Huh, interesting. Do you mean that the “yelling at each other” is over non-political topics, or is there more to it?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thirteenth Letter:

            Hard leftist

            [snort]

            @Gobbobobble:
            Consider “Survivor”, MTVs “The Real World”, “The Apprentice” or other “reality TV” fair.

            or the average panel discussion on a cable news show

            or shows like “Around the Horn”, “The Sports Reporters”, “First Take” (which is on Fox), or, really anything involving characters like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

            “Conflict” is interesting. Strong takes about how this that or the other person is an idiot, disgraceful, horrible, etc. are consumed.

            There is a scene in the Howard Stern biopic Private Parts that explains this:
            Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes a day. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.
            Pig Vomit: How could this be?
            Researcher: Answer most commonly given: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”
            Pig Vomit: All right, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?
            Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.
            Pig Vomit: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?
            Researcher: Most common answer: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

          • Matt M says:

            I wish you’d stop lumping the Sports Reporters in there. While it is, categorically speaking, a debate show, it generally (or at least it used to) emphasizes older experts with legitimate credentials having a calm and reasoned debate on topics of the day. A far cry from the eight solid hours of sports shouting that ESPN offers today…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Sure “The Sports Reporters” is designed to be a little more sedate than the current shows, but the last segment is/was called “Parting Shots” for a reason. It’s a venue designed to give a 3 “hot takes” to end the show (best followed by Schaap’s kind-old-man take).

            Lupica and Conlin would go at each other regularly. Albom and Bob Ryan aren’t shrinking violets either.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @HeelBearCub: I did say “social issues,” and was speaking of their public stance on them.

            Can you really tell me with a straight face that the most common political position large American corporations publicly take is not pro-feminist, gender-is-a-spectrum, #blacklivesmatter, et cetera, et cetera?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            hbc: I am curious

            does your argument revolve around the idea that the leftism is actually a centrism – essentially, the center is left, but because of this social leftism is actually a center and therefore it is silly to call it as such, especially since “leftism” and “rightism” are only really deviations from a center, or at least are arguably to be

            if not, I think you lose

            if yes, I’d be interested to tackle that debate

          • episcience says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            Can you really tell me with a straight face that the most common political position large American corporations publicly take is not pro-feminist, gender-is-a-spectrum, #blacklivesmatter, et cetera, et cetera?

            Is that what “hard leftism” is now? This is a solidly liberal centrist point of view. As a way to sense-check where you peg social views, generally I think if you could imagine Hillary Clinton supporting left-of-centre positions they aren’t “hard left”, as most people on the left view Hillary as centrist or even right-wing by their standards.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Is that what “hard leftism” is now? This is a solidly liberal centrist point of view. As a way to sense-check where you peg social views, generally I think if you could imagine Hillary Clinton supporting left-of-centre positions they aren’t “hard left”, as most people on the left view Hillary as centrist or even right-wing by their standards.

            The fact that yesterday’s hard leftism is today’s liberal centrism (and tomorrow’s societal consensus from which all deviators must be punished) is precisely (what a large part of the right see as) the problem.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mr. X/Thirteenth Letter:
            Hard leftism positions are things like an end to corporate capitalism, the break up of Wall Street, communism, anarchy, etc.

            Those were hard leftism 50 years ago, and they are still hard leftism today.

            It makes no sense to describe positions like “People who are black, gay or trans have been discriminated against and we should consciously work to end that” as “hard” anything.

            @AnonYEmous:
            My position is that ESPN adopts stances that its advertisers feel comfortable with. They aren’t out in front of the advertisers when they give Jenner an award.

          • Jiro says:

            Hard leftism positions are things like an end to corporate capitalism, the break up of Wall Street, communism, anarchy, etc

            He said social issues, not economic issues. Those are all economic issues except maybe the anarchy and that still has economic implications.

            Obviously big companies aren’t going to support ideas that would kill big companies. That doesn’t keep them from supporting feminism or BLM.

          • Matt M says:

            Is that what “hard leftism” is now? This is a solidly liberal centrist point of view.

            They may not be “hard” but they are certainly left.

            Do you think a majority of beer-swilling football fans are left?

            The issue isn’t that ESPN’s political positions are particularly extreme, so much as it is that their political positions are not at all in line with the demographic they are (ostensibly) trying to serve.

            Nobody is alleging that MSNBC, the Huffington Post, or NPR are dying because they’re too focused on black lives matter. Their audience likes that stuff. What might be a smart move for them can still be a stupid move for someone who has an entirely different audience.

          • Matt M says:

            My position is that ESPN adopts stances that its advertisers feel comfortable with.

            Now this I agree with.

            But I think many of us have long been insisting to you that pretty much EVERY corporation has adopted leftist social positions across the board. Whether ESPN is doing this of its own volition, or whether it is taking marching orders from executives at Pepsi or Apple or whoever is sort of beside the point. The point is that ALL of them, the entire lot, are disconnected from their customers and are doing them a disservice by talking down to them rather than giving them what they actually want – which is an escape from being lectured on social justice issues for a few hours.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It makes no sense to describe positions like “People who are black, gay or trans have been discriminated against and we should consciously work to end that” as “hard” anything.

            Black Lives Matter and the gender-is-a-spectrum people make much stronger claims than just “We should consciously work to end discrimination”, as you well know.

          • dndnrsn says:

            First, what is being meant by “leftism” here?

            Second, I’ve gotten into this debate before, but I don’t think it’s a victory for “leftists” that large corporations have figured out how to use identity politics as a safety valve for discontent that might once have resulted in a serious threat to those corporations.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            …I mean, economic leftists stopped mattering when social justice took over leftism. So it really depends how you define the word.

            (Or shall we say, didn’t stop mattering entirely, but suffered a severe loss of power. Bernie might be the prototypical example of the economic leftist, but “white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor” was a pretty sure sign that he knew he needed to pander and pander like hell.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            “Leftism” connotes a certain degree of radicalism. A lot of the identity-politics folks are basically liberals without the good bits. There’s a fair number of people who focus on things like “is group x represented in board rooms?” over “what is the life of the median member of group x like?” or “what % of group x lives in poverty?” Which would suggest the opposite of radicalism – being fine with inequality, but being upset that the inequality is unequally distributed is hardly radical.

          • herbert herberson says:

            If anyone wants a pitch-perfect contemporaneous example, check out the Twitter-war going on right now between leftists condemning Obama’s recent Wall Street payout and center-left liberals like Imani Gandy calling them racist for it.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            “Leftism” connotes a certain degree of radicalism.

            Fuck White People
            Smash the Patriarchy
            Bash the Fash

            —————–

            look, I’m not happy about what happened either. But obviously it did. A lot of people noticed that Social Justice has a tendency to co-opt spaces it enters, like Atheism, many nerd cultures, and I hear even anarchy. I’m pretty sure they just did the same thing to leftism and no one noticed. In fact, the few that did are afraid to speak out, because it’s been co-opted so thoroughly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            For the first two, using radical slogans does not a radical make. Throwing “smash the patriarchy” in an article about what consumer products (helpfully advertised in the sidebar!) are the most feminist ones is not radical. It’s barely even reformist. For the final one, most antifa are radicals.

          • As a way to sense-check where you peg social views, generally I think if you could imagine Hillary Clinton supporting left-of-centre positions they aren’t “hard left”, as most people on the left view Hillary as centrist or even right-wing by their standards.

            Do they view her as centrist or right in terms of what she says or of what she does and is expected to do? I would find the latter more plausible.

            Is there a left wing equivalent of RINO?
            LINO for “Leftist in name only”?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Throwing “smash the patriarchy” in an article about what consumer products

            encapsulates perfectly the problem with what you think is radical versus what is radical

            i’ll say it as many times as you need: they are not economically leftist. They don’t care that they are helping corporations. Their radicalism comes from the desire to, literally, smash the patriarchy. They want to dismantle the entire system of “gender”, whatever that should mean, and also all racial prejudices, while giving women equal representation in every important field. That’s…a radical transformation of society. The fact that they’re willing to co-opt corporations for it means little.

            “But the corporations are co-opting them” no it’s an alliance. Because the more mouths speak the same propaganda, the more effective it is. I recall a story about Soviet Russia, where the point was simply to get people to speak the lies, to break their spirit, and likely to stop anyone from understanding how few disbelieved. This is the same exact thing. What do the feminists care if the corporations get rich? Eventually, half that wealth goes to women, in their eyes.

          • Tekhno says:

            HBC:

            It makes no sense to describe positions like “People who are black, gay or trans have been discriminated against and we should consciously work to end that” as “hard” anything.

            The important distinction is liberalism vs radicalism. There is a liberal version of “end discrimination” and it’s equality before the law. A radical version of “end discrimination” involves stuff like state enforced quotas, hate speech laws, seeking out and punching hateful people etc; policies that are distinctly illiberal and tending towards the redefining of opposition in of itself as discriminatory, and thus illegitimate, and presumably eventually illegal.

            Since we’ve already achieved the liberal version of “end discrimination”, the liberal-left’s project is finished, and there’s only the more illiberal left version remaining to be achieved. Just because that’s more mainstream now doesn’t make it not radical in its scope versus the liberal tradition.

            The only thing that remains is radicalism, unless we are willing to call it a day and hold the laws where they are.

            dndnrsn

            A lot of the identity-politics folks are basically liberals without the good bits.

            This is a meme pushed by the socialist left, where anyone who is not a socialist is automatically a liberal. I would argue that the ideology the intersectionality activists push is deeply illiberal in its very premises.

            If legal equality and social programs aren’t sufficient then you are leaving the realm of liberal principles into something else. That something else is a view of equality where it can only be achieved by creating inequality in law for dominant groups in the near term to correct “historical inequalities” that exist outside of the legal mechanism.

            The other issue is that the identity politics stuff kind of encompasses what most modern socialists believe anyway. You go to r/socialism, and they speak the language of “social justice”, banning a girl who drew political catgirls on the grounds that she was engaging in objectification. You go to revleft, and it’s the same. You look at the antifa protesters and they aren’t trying to bring about socialist revolution when they crash Trump rallies and free speech rallies, but shut down hate speech, even though many of them are self-identified anarcho-communists and not liberals in any sense of the word. Only extremely marginal tiny communities like 8chan’s /leftypol/ have a firm stance against what they call idpol.

            The anti-identity politics left (sometimes called brocialists) isn’t a huge force today. Marxists might have thrown feminists out of the first international back in the day, but today identity politics holds sway over both the socialist contingent and corporate centrist contingent, so that even if one is more radical on economics, both share radicalism when it comes to what laws need to be put in place to deal with cultural inequalities.

            There’s a fair number of people who focus on things like “is group x represented in board rooms?” over “what is the life of the median member of group x like?” or “what % of group x lives in poverty?” Which would suggest the opposite of radicalism – being fine with inequality, but being upset that the inequality is unequally distributed is hardly radical.

            The situation we have is that, yes, you have those people, but then the people who support communism generally ALSO support near term gender quotas, and shutting down “hate speech”, so on this issue what is the difference? There are a handful of dissenters writing things like “Exiting the Vampire Castle” but they get roundly attacked by Weird Twitter for it.

            Also, you don’t have to believe in total equality to be a radical, otherwise the radical right couldn’t exist. If you have an anti-white, anti-male, anti-straight, anti-cis ideology and you try to apply that by repealing liberalism (the center) and create inequalities in the law against the oppressor class, then I don’t see how that isn’t radical.

            Sure, you’re not smashing stuff and punching people, but then the communists and anarchists who are totally on board with the identity politics go and do that anyway. The whole thing is bolstered by this weird climate of simmering violence, where activists are fighting people in the street, and then Pepsi is sanitizing it in an advert and coming pretty clearly down on one side.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            i’ll say it as many times as you need: they are not economically leftist. They don’t care that they are helping corporations. Their radicalism comes from the desire to, literally, smash the patriarchy. They want to dismantle the entire system of “gender”, whatever that should mean, and also all racial prejudices, while giving women equal representation in every important field. That’s…a radical transformation of society. The fact that they’re willing to co-opt corporations for it means little.

            And yet they have no gameplan for radically changing society, no proposals as to how to get rid of gender beyond a vague mumbling and hand-waving in that direction, etc. Saying “we need to radically transform society! Let’s radically transform society!” means nothing when nothing that you propose would actually radically transform society.

            @Tekhno

            This is a meme pushed by the socialist left, where anyone who is not a socialist is automatically a liberal. I would argue that the ideology the intersectionality activists push is deeply illiberal in its very premises.

            So, see, I’m not a socialist. I am a liberal. I say “liberals without the good bits” because they have little to no respect for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, all that good stuff. They’re the bad bits of leftism plus the bad bits of liberalism.

            As for the rest of what you said, I’m not gonna pretend that identity politics didn’t come and steal class-based leftism’s thunder. It was able to do this because it was more easily co-opted by the power structure, capital, the system, Moloch, whatever you want to call it.

            Right now the situation is one where feminist slogans get mouthed, but most women won’t see any improvement, where BLM slogans get mouthed, but most black people won’t see any improvement, etc. Even the rhetoric has given up on pretending life is gonna get better – can get better – for the poor and the working classes. A relative handful of rich socially-adept high-IQ white men are still on top – they’ll just be joined by a few women, a few black people, etc.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            And yet they have no gameplan for radically changing society, no proposals as to how to get rid of gender beyond a vague mumbling and hand-waving in that direction, etc. Saying “we need to radically transform society! Let’s radically transform society!” means nothing when nothing that you propose would actually radically transform society.

            So if someone is willing to radically transform society but doesn’t know how, they don’t count as radicals?

            Besides, this is nonsense anyhow. Feminists know how they want to do it, and it even maps to economic leftists, or at least socialists. Some socialists want a vanguard party that institutes socialism politically; feminists want a vanguard party that mandates 50% quotas, and a cultural vanguard party that enforces their propaganda. Political correctness alone has transformed society, and they played no small part in its creation. Other socialists want a bottom-up grassroots where all the grassroots embrace socialism and share their wealth, and other feminists embrace a bottom-up grassroots where all the grassroots embrace “equality” and reject gender norms.

            edit:

            As for the rest of what you said, I’m not gonna pretend that identity politics didn’t come and steal class-based leftism’s thunder. It was able to do this because it was more easily co-opted by the power structure, capital, the system, Moloch, whatever you want to call it.

            Well that’s fine if you admit it.

            But I also think it stole class-based leftism’s thunder because calling people “racist” and “sexist” is really effective. Maybe it’s really effective because the power structure allowed it to be effective because it could be co-opted though. Not sure about that one.

          • Aapje says:

            But I also think it stole class-based leftism’s thunder because calling people “racist” and “sexist” is really effective. Maybe it’s really effective because the power structure allowed it to be effective because it could be co-opted though.

            Perhaps it’s effective because people are fundamentally pretty decent…albeit quite irrational.

          • rlms says:

            @AnonYEmous
            “feminists want a vanguard party that mandates 50% quotas”
            Name three. Please note, arguing in favour of quotas is not the same thing as wanting a vanguard party that mandates them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            So if someone is willing to radically transform society but doesn’t know how, they don’t count as radicals?

            There’s a difference between wanting something, and wanting to want something. Or being willing to do something, and wanting to be willing to do something. If someone says “I want to get slim” but doesn’t bust their ass in the gym and diet, they don’t really want to get slim, or at least they aren’t willing to. They want to want to, or want to be willing to.

            Someone who talks about smashing the patriarchy and getting rid of gender norms while doing nothing to do either, in fact, frequently shoring up one or both, doesn’t really want to, or at least isn’t willing to.

            Besides, this is nonsense anyhow. Feminists know how they want to do it, and it even maps to economic leftists, or at least socialists. Some socialists want a vanguard party that institutes socialism politically; feminists want a vanguard party that mandates 50% quotas, and a cultural vanguard party that enforces their propaganda. Political correctness alone has transformed society, and they played no small part in its creation. Other socialists want a bottom-up grassroots where all the grassroots embrace socialism and share their wealth, and other feminists embrace a bottom-up grassroots where all the grassroots embrace “equality” and reject gender norms.

            As rlms noted, [citation needed].

          • AnonYEmous says:

            citation needed

            http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/03/economist-explains-14

            citation granted

            I guess you can quibble about if they literally want a vanguard party. But as I understand it, a vanguard party is a political group that imposes socialism before society has naturally organized itself into it; the feminist version imposes “gender equality” before society has naturally organized itself into it. The only difference is that feminism is more willing to co-opt existing parties via political pressure, but I bet socialists would be willing to do that as well if it worked (maybe in some European countries it does and they do.)

            If someone says “I want to get slim” but doesn’t bust their ass in the gym and diet, they don’t really want to get slim, or at least they aren’t willing to. They want to want to, or want to be willing to.

            I think most of the problems with this example are contained within the quirks of the example itself.

            For starters, “get slim” isn’t radical, which removes the statement from radicalism (admittedly, because it wants to discuss willingness, so fair game). But more importantly, what in this context is “bust their ass in the gym and diet”? In other words, what’s the action that feminists should be taking to convince you of their seriousness and to accomplish their stated goals?
            Political activism? Because feminists do plenty of that. More concrete action? Some feminists do this and there’s no doubt; for all the hubbub about Milo Yiannopoulos, his biggest crime is stating that “feminism is cancer” and AntiFa, many of whom would describe themselves as intersectional feminists, shut him down. More importantly, many economic leftists are no longer taking this type of concrete action either, and many never did – champagne socialists, anyone?

            Most feminists take some action within their own life, participate in some political activism, and shift the overton window. I imagine most economic leftists did and do the same. Both of their goals are radical. Heck, feminism nearly got Hillary Clinton elected – if that ain’t radical I don’t know what is 😉

          • rlms says:

            “I guess you can quibble about if they literally want a vanguard party.”
            I can also quibble that 40% isn’t literally 50%, and indeed I think I will. I would prefer a less pedantic SSC comment section, but if pedantry is going to be applied it should be done evenly.

            “Heck, feminism nearly got Hillary Clinton elected – if that ain’t radical I don’t know what is”
            Electing a President on a platform that isn’t just “do what the last guy did, but a bit worse”? It could happen!

          • quanta413 says:

            “Heck, feminism nearly got Hillary Clinton elected – if that ain’t radical I don’t know what is”

            What? Hillary Clinton nearly got elected because she and her husband are masters of boring normal political stuff. Having supporters in the important committees, giving speeches to the important bankers, hoovering up those sweet donations, tacking with the political winds, etc. I feel pretty safe claiming that the main thing feminism has to do with Hillary Clinton is just normalizing the idea of having female politicians.

            EDIT: Seriously, I don’t see how if Hillary had been a man or had not embraced feminism that would have made her worse off. People mostly vote straight down the party line anyways.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            can also quibble that 40% isn’t literally 50%, and indeed I think I will. I would prefer a less pedantic SSC comment section, but if pedantry is going to be applied it should be done evenly.

            Sure, but I could also quibble that some of the means of production under socialism are given to friends of the government instead of the government themselves. My point is that feminists want gender quotas; even if 40% is actually their ultimate goal, which it probably isn't, that's still a gender quota, and in the boardroom no less, conferring an enormous amount of unearned power on women as a sex. (Whether or not they are united enough for that to be meaningful is entirely another discussion; let us say that theoretically they could be and feminists think they are and / or want to effect this unity.)

            With that said, I don't mind your pedantry and indeed appreciate it, 😉

            As to a perhaps intemperate remark of mine:

            Electing a President on a platform that isn’t just “do what the last guy did, but a bit worse”? It could happen!

            What? Hillary Clinton nearly got elected because she and her husband are masters of boring normal political stuff.

            I feel pretty safe claiming that the main thing feminism has to do with Hillary Clinton is just normalizing the idea of having female politicians.

            EDIT: Seriously, I don’t see how if Hillary had been a man or had not embraced feminism that would have made her worse off. People mostly vote straight down the party line anyways.

            To the last comment first; the following article

            http://fortune.com/2016/11/09/hillary-clinton-election-gender-gap/

            states that Hillary Clinton experienced the largest gender gap in voting ever recorded, though since exit polling only started in 1972 we have no way of knowing what came before. There is some give here, granted, as Al Gore experienced an almost-as-large gender gap (12% to Hillary’s 13) in his losing 2000 bid, but clearly Obama didn’t experience such an enormous gap.

            On top of this, the question of endogeneity arises; is the Democratic Party’s feminism attracting female voters and turning them into partisans no matter the candidate, or has the already-dominant female voter bloc simply turned the Democratic Party feminist by default?

            I’m willing to admit here that my strongest evidence is mostly anecdotal, or relies on using anecdotal evidence to spin statistics in one way even though other interpretations may be as strong or even stronger. So maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. But I still feel that there is something to it, even though I now admit that the evidence isn’t quite there.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            I guess you can quibble about if they literally want a vanguard party. But as I understand it, a vanguard party is a political group that imposes socialism before society has naturally organized itself into it; the feminist version imposes “gender equality” before society has naturally organized itself into it. The only difference is that feminism is more willing to co-opt existing parties via political pressure, but I bet socialists would be willing to do that as well if it worked (maybe in some European countries it does and they do.)

            But putting more women on corporate boards doesn’t get rid of gender differences, which is what radical feminists wanted, and still do. It creates an environment that is friendlier to businesswomen. Does this affect gender roles in wider society? Not necessarily.

            For starters, “get slim” isn’t radical, which removes the statement from radicalism (admittedly, because it wants to discuss willingness, so fair game). But more importantly, what in this context is “bust their ass in the gym and diet”? In other words, what’s the action that feminists should be taking to convince you of their seriousness and to accomplish their stated goals? Political activism? Because feminists do plenty of that. More concrete action? Some feminists do this and there’s no doubt; for all the hubbub about Milo Yiannopoulos, his biggest crime is stating that “feminism is cancer” and AntiFa, many of whom would describe themselves as intersectional feminists, shut him down. More importantly, many economic leftists are no longer taking this type of concrete action either, and many never did – champagne socialists, anyone?

            Are their actions serving the radical feminist goal, which was erasing gender differences, or social gender differences (this is where equivocation between sex and gender becomes a problem – if gender is entirely social, then all gender differences are social differences. You’ll find some who claim biological sex is a construct in part)?

            If your stated goal is “erase gender differences”, and you act in ways that reinforce gender differences, that’s… interesting. To give an example: it’s a common complaint in these circles (and, I think, a legitimate one) that you have self-proclaimed feminists, who talk about gender roles being bad, who then turn around and do things like ridicule men for being insufficiently masculine. Eg, if you mock a man for his man feelings (I’d spell it with a z, but that might be on the blocked word list), chances are you are doing so because he is showing vulnerability in some way. It doesn’t take a gender studies PhD to see how ridiculing a man for showing vulnerability is pure gender roles. It doesn’t take a great deal of clear-eyed insight to see how a lot of people say they want to break down gender roles, and say that they are doing so, but are doing nothing of the kind.

            They are pursuing a goal, but it is not a radical goal. They might think they are pursuing a radical goal, but they are not. Why? Well, one explanation is malice – they’re saying one thing and doing another because there’s a secret or not-so-secret plot. Given that incompetence is more common than malice, I think more likely is that they – being human, and thus fallible and fuzzy-headed, as we all are – have not overcome the contempt for weak (and thus unmasculine men) that is either biologically based, socially based, or probably both.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            But putting more women on corporate boards doesn’t get rid of gender differences, which is what radical feminists wanted, and still do. It creates an environment that is friendlier to businesswomen. Does this affect gender roles in wider society? Not necessarily.

            You mean, besides the gender difference in representation? Or even more important, the gender difference in power?

            Radical feminists want women to be treated equally to or better than men. The dismantling of gender as a system is one way to accomplish that, and many are working on it. It’s obviously not the only way, though. If women simply have the power to force equal treatment, or if the law simply forces equal treatment, or a combination of the two, who cares what the plebeians think?

            If your stated goal is “erase gender differences”, and you act in ways that reinforce gender differences, that’s… interesting.

            And if your goal is “smash the patriarchy”, and you act in ways that undermine the patriarchy, that’s… expected.

            Seriously, there are plenty of feminists who are also working to dismantle the idea of gender, and getting fairly far. Social scientists, educational heads, and so forth. There are also those who work to equalize the power imbalance they perceive. All of this is radical.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            Radical feminists want women to be treated equally to or better than men.

            Is that a fair definition of radical feminism? I don’t think it is.

            And if your goal is “smash the patriarchy”, and you act in ways that undermine the patriarchy, that’s… expected.

            How does being nasty to weak men undermine the patriarchy? The patriarchy is by and for strong men, who are as nasty as anyone else towards weak men.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            When I see a feminist on facebook posting an insult about men with small penises (this is always in the context of amplifying insults about bad behavior, it’s not about sex directly), I tell them it’s irrelevant and unfair. This has *always* been well received, as in the feminist then agrees with me that small penis jokes are bad.

            I don’t track them to see whether individuals have actually given up small penis insults.

            I don’t know what this says about feminism in general or the more radical fraction of feminism. Perhaps it’s just that when midandry collides with body positivity (the idea that people shouldn’t be attacked for physical features), body positivity wins.

            It’s probably also true that on Facebook, I’m selecting against mean people.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Nobody is alleging that MSNBC, the Huffington Post, or NPR are dying because they’re too focused on black lives matter. Their audience likes that stuff.

            The other day I realized something:

            The average African-American can go all day without thinking about racism.

            NPR can’t.

          • Viliam says:

            When I see a feminist on facebook posting an insult … I tell them it’s irrelevant and unfair. This has *always* been well received, as in the feminist then agrees with me …

            I wonder how much this reaction depends on the objection coming from a woman.

            I suspect that the same objection from me would be called “derailing the debate”, “making it all about men” or something like that.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Viliam, I wonder about that myself. My speaking up on the topic is probably an example of my using my privilege to get better treatment for unprivileged people.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Is that a fair definition of radical feminism? I don’t think it is.

          Radical feminists want women to be treated equally to or better than men.

          Frankly, I thought I was being charitable by stating that they might be satisfied with merely equal treatment. Almost any radical feminist demand can easily be interpreted as “treat women better than men”. Heck, gender quotas are simply that – give women more leeway than men. So yes, I would say it’s more than fair.

          How does being nasty to weak men undermine the patriarchy? The patriarchy is by and for strong men, who are as nasty as anyone else towards weak men.

          …Sorry, I honestly forgot you were talking about that because it was so irrelevant. Radical feminists give the game up in much more obvious and nasty ways than just making fun of men for being weak; for example, “drinking male tears” isn’t about making fun of men for being weak so much as it is reveling in men’s sadness, which is on a whole new level of wrongness. Anyways, I was actually talking about gender quotas, and I think that proves my point as well as anything. Not to mention that you’re being rational about something that doesn’t even really exist, which is a problem since once you’ve become rational about it ceases existing.

          Think that’s harsh and abusive of your good will? OK, maybe a little, and I’m sorry about that, but consider this: if patriarchy isn’t all men, then it’s just strong men and some women (Angela Merkel and Theresa May rule two large European countries and Le Pen might rule a third). OK, but are they coordinated in any real way? And don’t they also in many cases elevate women over weak men? Now given that this obviously dissociates patriarchy from gender, what are we even talking about any more? Just rebelling against the elites because society isn’t structured the way you like it even though most people are OK with that structure and enforce it themselves without elites forcing them to, all while the elites may not even be coordinated? The bottom line is that “patriarchy” is powered by the assumption of women vs. men; beyond that it is simply warmed-over Marxist revolutionary dogma, or something else that means “revolt against the leaders”, except it doesn’t even have the strength of economic class division because it’s all about weird things like “gender roles” which even if they are artificially imposed seem to sit lightly on the shoulders of most either way. And you’re going to need that strength, because by abandoning the idea of men vs. women or “the patriarchy” versus women oppressed by it you’ve already lost massive amounts of support; even if the idea is theoretically rational you’ve lost all your support by believing in it, which technically belies my earlier statement that the patriarchy stops existing but if the resistance to it stops existing then who cares? And this is why radical feminists are very rarely rational about patriarchy (not even getting into the many, many emotional reasons why they aren’t, no offense.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Where are you getting this definition of radical feminism from?

            A patriarchal society is one ruled for/by patriarchs – high status men. The notion is a useful one. The version one usually gets from feminism is missing a lot of pieces, because it focuses on women’s place in it. Consider the most patriarchal societies – they tend to be ones with polygyny, where the highest status men (usually older) have an unfair share not only of power and wealth but also wives, leaving lower status men (usually younger) out of luck.

            Gender quotas are reformist, not radical. What we are seeing is a patriarchal society turning into one that has patriarchs and matriarchs. High-status women are getting their turn in the sun now.

            As for “male tears” the sorts of feminists who stand out the most for this are the clickbait-feminist, liberal-but-use-radical-language-because-it’s-cooler types. Not 70s radfems dreaming of a future where everyone wears identical jumpsuits.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Where are you getting this definition of radical feminism from?

            Observation of reality. Seriously, where else would I get it? Feminism being what it is, it has a hundred different definitions and they’re all suspect anyways.

            A patriarchal society is one ruled for/by patriarchs – high status men. The notion is a useful one.

            But if those high status men don’t prioritize men over women and in fact prioritize women over men, how on earth do you propose to get women to do anything about this? And what about the high-status women?

            This is why being rational about it – in our society – collapses the entire construct, such that either it is nonsense or it is a logically coherent argument no one gives a rats’ ass about. Of course…

            Consider the most patriarchal societies – they tend to be ones with polygyny, where the highest status men (usually older) have an unfair share not only of power and wealth but also wives, leaving lower status men (usually younger) out of luck.

            Yeah, in polygynous societies that definition works great, because high-status men are actually hurting women and lower-class men. But in our society, the polygyny, such as it is, doesn’t involve marriage or pressure from cultural norms, because it is voluntary; i.e. Donald Trump has his pick of women to grab by the pussy, but they let him, and not for societal approval. In that kind of a society, the problem lower-class men have, if they have one at all, is that women choose rich men instead of them; the only way for them to deal with this is to establish norms or laws preventing this, which would most likely involve a return to traditionalism and so forth. Obviously feminists don’t want that, especially as it would be a retrenchment of the dreaded patriarchy.

            Gender quotas are reformist, not radical.

            Short of actually tearing down the position of “CEO” or “Senator”, this is the most radical thing that can be done. And it is certainly a fairly radical change to society itself; now the positions are no longer positions of respect, but money sacrificed to appease the gods of feminism. Our leaders are no longer worthy of the titles, but instead simply there because of some body part of theirs. Yeah, I’d say that’s fairly radical. And that’s not to even mention all of the “dismantle gender norms” stuff which has been fairly effective.

            As for “male tears” the sorts of feminists who stand out the most for this are the clickbait-feminist, liberal-but-use-radical-language-because-it’s-cooler types. Not 70s radfems dreaming of a future where everyone wears identical jumpsuits.

            OK, so those feminists have given the game up too. Seriously, feminist hypocrisy is so easy to prove that I don’t even bother demonstrating it. If someone asks me to prove it, I will, but it just functions as an easy way to weed out people who don’t know much about feminism. Which sounds like a dickish thing to say all around, but it’s true so *shrug*.

          • X hypocrisy is easy to prove for all values of X.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Have you considered the sterling lack of charity here?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Have you considered the sterling lack of charity here?

            The problem always goes like this: “Well men have this problem too” “Well feminists are also fighting for men”. Well…no you’re not.

            And the reason why you’re not is obvious; if men and women have the same problem and men don’t give a damn, then it begins to look like women are simply complaining about nothing, especially insofar as so few women these days identify as feminists. If you admit that “gender norms” help and hurt both men and women in complex ways different to every individual, AND most people don’t care because it’s not a big deal, then it’s very difficult to get a following together. This is doubly true when you consider that many gender roles and norms have stayed despite our society being quite libertine on these aspects, because those things are simply more related to DNA than cultural construction.

            On top of that, even if there isn’t a good reason you’re not, there is pretty much no case in recent memory where feminism helped men, and obvious cases where it hurt men, and even more obvious cases where it could help men but doesn’t. The easiest way to explain it is like this: the radicals go after men, and the moderates are Shocked, Shocked I Tell You, and then proceed to do nothing about it, all while the “radicals” are the most powerful people within the movement. (Note: “radical” in this context means hurting men; this is a way of winning the argument while being charitable, since obviously only “radical” feminists hurt men. Obviously.) It would be like the alt-right if Richard Spencer had more followers than Milo Yiannopoulos, and…uh, Ramz Paul, had more political power than Steve Bannon. A feminist MP stood up and laughed in Philip Davies’ face because of Men’s Day, and of course all the moderate feminists tried to vote her out right? If she’d laughed about Women’s Day that would be the end of her career. So no, I’m not charitable towards feminists, because they have very clearly shown their colors. I’m very happy for people to attempt to convince me otherwise, but I really, really doubt that will ever happen.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Are these things failures by feminists due to human nature, deeper socialization, etc, or are they intentional and part of feminism? I would argue the former. I would also note that your definition of radical is idiosyncratic.

            Additionally, a clear way feminism has made men’s lives better, for a certain definition of better, is that it’s made it way easier to get laid without visiting a prostitute.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Fewer men are getting killed by their wives, but it’s complicated.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2000/05/18/us/study-shows-a-racial-divide-in-domestic-violence-cases.html

          • John Schilling says:

            Observation of reality. Seriously, where else would I get it?

            The overwhelming majority of reality occurs beyond your direct observation. Responding to any question of the form “what is your source for that?” with any answer of the form “reality, duh”, reflects arrogance and/or ignorance of such magnitude as to make reasonable people question whether it is worth continuing the discussion.

            Try again.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Additionally, a clear way feminism has made men’s lives better, for a certain definition of better, is that it’s made it way easier to get laid without visiting a prostitute.

            This is certainly not true. The sexual revolution of the 60’s is mostly responsible for freer sexual relations than previous. This has nothing to do with feminism, which became a thing in the 70’s. If anything, feminism has partially been a backlash against freer sexual relations, in particular the more radical feminists like Dworkin that consider all intercourse to be rape, or at least that is strongly insinuated.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mark V Anderson:

            Second-wave feminism began in the early to mid 60s. First wave feminism began considerably earlier The sexual revolution is far less feasible without antibiotics (which feminism had nothing to do with) and the pill (pro-birth control activism was a feature of both the first and second wave). Further, sex-positive feminism does exist.

      • Matt M says:

        I generally buy it. I feel like there was a time, maybe 10 years ago or so, when being a sports fan and being a regular ESPN viewer were essentially synonymous. You couldn’t be one without the other.

        Today, I feel like well over half the sports fans I know (including both casuals and die-hards) absolutely loathe ESPN. I’d say it’s a mixture of political, of them straying from their core mission (too much general “pop culture” stuff), and of them focusing too much on the “big” stories (obsession with Tom Brady, LeBron James, whatever).

        I don’t feel like sports in general are becoming significantly less popular or culturally important. Just ESPN is. There are tons of other options, many of which will cater to your specific niches – you can find blogs that devote coverage exclusively not just to your favorite sport, but to your favorite team, and maybe even your political and cultural outlook as well. Why should I listen to a news anchor read a bunch of hours-old tweets about the NFL draft when, if I’m someone who cares about the NFL draft, I probably already read those tweets myself hours ago when they were first tweeted?

    • gbdub says:

      Sports fan here. Basically ESPN has one big really valuable thing: live sports broadcast rights. But they’ve paid through the nose for them assuming continuous growth, and that’s not something they can deliver right now.

      If cable were to go full a la carte, ESPN would be one of the most expensive channels, yet it’s on basic cable – people who never watch sports are in some sense subsidizing ESPN.

      They also suffer from the 24 hour news problem, but worse: they might have only one or two live games on a day, and they have to fill the other 20 hours with “something”. So they wildly overhype whatever minor news or scandal happened that week and trot out an array of talking heads and washed up former players to deliver “hot takes”.

      When that was the only sports content available, sports fans would watch just to satisfy their itch, but now there is a ton of online content, much of it more fan driven, team specific, and in-depth. Casual fans never really watched the non-live content, and now serious fans have other alternatives. Grantland was the best thing they had going, and they couldn’t figure out what to do with it and killed it.

      I’m don’t think they’ve “shifted left”, but they do seem to have more politically controversial content. Some of that’s not their fault – the story du jour last year was Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest, which was unpopular among fans but ESPN wouldn’t shut up about. But they did the same over-cover to death thing with Tim Tebow and then LeBron James, whose stories were not particularly left/right political. Now their talking heads, like most journalists, do lean left, so their “hot takes” will tend to have a more leftward tilt. Since the controversies of late have been more political, that sort of feels like a “leftward shift” even though I don’t think they’ve intentionally mpdecided to push left-leaning political content.

      Prior to the Kaepernick thing and subsequent need to ask everyone what they think about it (and e.g. the Black Lives Matter movement), I don’t think it was perceived to be as political. Only big ones I can think of were a) pushing the Michael Sam story (first openly gay NFL player, got a ton of coverage and hype for it, turned out to be a so-so player and quickly faded to obscurity and retirement). And b) their continual hype of the WNBA which has just never attracted much of a fan base.

      But again I think it has as much to do with hyping the stories that come up, and those stories being more political lately, than a decision to push politics, and in any case the issues facing ESPN go much deeper than that and are mostly economic.

      • victa20 says:

        This is a very fair take. It’s not totally their fault that say, e.g., a number of NBA players were wearing “I can’t breathe” shirts, and thus, ESPN had to wade into the BLM debate that day/week. It’s always been impossible to keep politics out of sports, but the 24/7 news problem you mentioned just magnifies everything, especially coupled with 24/7 social media coverage. 24/7 debates about who is/is not a winning formula.

    • Matt M says:

      The larger issue I find most interesting here is the continued pattern of “niche” television networks succeeding beyond all expectations by catering to their niche, then ultimately choosing to abandon it in favor of mass-market general programming. It seems to be an almost inevitable arc. The most famous example is probably MTV, but it certainly applies to things like the Discovery channel, History channel, A&E, AMC, Sci Fi, hell even Cartoon Network decided to start showing live action shows during an era where the variety and general acceptability of animated programming is higher than ever.

      ESPN has basically done that too. I recently saw an ad for a re-branded Sportscenter as “SC6” featuring two young-looking anchors (I don’t watch enough anymore to remember their names) and the tagline was something to the effect of “Sports, Movies, Music, Whatever” or something like that.

      This strikes me as nuts. You can get that “general appeal” sort of show literally anywhere. It seems like they are intentionally moving away from a market they nearly monopolize into a fiercely competitive market where they have no particular advantage. Why would they do this? Why does everyone inevitably do this?

      • Protagoras says:

        Once it is revealed that there is a market for something, competition develops. Thus, if they stayed with their niche, they would inevitably experience decline due to that competition at some point. Perhaps they should just accept the inevitable and take it into account in their strategies, but few businesses take that approach; they all seem to consider only endless growth strategies acceptable, and so when they have no plausible endless growth strategies, they fall back on implausible and risky ones.

      • Aapje says:

        @Matt M

        I think that it’s conventional wisdom that if you want many viewers, you have to appeal to many people.

        The problem is that in a world of abundance, such a strategy makes you 2nd or 3rd choice for everyone, instead of 1st choice for a solid group.

      • Incurian says:

        Is it related to the reason gas stations tend to cluster around certain intersections?

        • Matt M says:

          But in this case, it would be like opening up a gas station in an area that was wildly viewed as the middle of nowhere and could not possibly succeed, somehow succeeding wildly in spite of everyone’s predictions, and THEN deciding to close up shop and move to the busy intersection where there are already 3 gas stations around…

          • victa20 says:

            Amazing analogy!

          • Incurian says:

            So you’ve got your wildly successful gas station in the middle of nowhere, then someone decides it’s a pretty good location but puts theirs SLIGHTLY closer to the nearest town and starts gobbling up all your traffic. Then it’s a race to the center of town.

            Maybe only once everyone is back to the generic can niches be worthwhile again, and it’s just a cyclical thing (gas stations aren’t because they’re somewhat more difficult to move around than television programming).

          • Matt M says:

            Who is the competitor in this scenario? Almost everyone who has tried to compete head to head with ESPN on its own terms has been a massive failure. I think the theory here leans pretty heavily on the idea that ESPN’s shift away from a sports focus happened before ratings started to tank, not after…

          • Incurian says:

            Oh, I was thinking more about the general case. Dunno.

          • 1soru1 says:

            In such a case, the general population of CEOs would be people who believed that the location was bad. A single data point would not change that view, in the face of the theories they were taught in school, and the opinion of their peers.

            So first time the business changes CEO, it reverts to the default strategy. Some time afterwards, its consequent inevitable failure reinforces the truth that the location was bad.

            About the only exception you see to this rule are when a founder sticks around long enough that their story becomes part of the conventional wisdom of the CEO candidate pool.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        When I was a teenager, the local radio market cycled through music stations pretty frequently. When they first started up, they’d advertise “All music, all the time!” then they’d get a talk host and have less music in the morning, then they’d stop playing music entirely in the morning and I’d switch to another station (until I got a car with a CD player).

        There’s basically two reasons I can think of for this behavior. One, producing the personality-only show is cheaper than paying for rights to music. Two, having these personalities lets them differentiate from their competitors.

        I actually suspect that with ESPN it’s the market-differentiation more than the cost, but cost probably still has some sway particularly given the layoffs. If you just want to see highlights, you can do that on Fox Sports 1, or NBCSN, or Reddit or Twitter. If you want to see your favorite sportscenter anchors or your favorite ESPN talking head, you’ll tune into sportscenter – so they put their most popular personalities more front and center. The news reporters, the people who don’t provide takes you can’t get elsewhere? They’re most of who got fired.

        • Randy M says:

          There’s another possible explanation–being a talk host is more fulfilling/higher status than just playing music, even if the customers would rather hear music. As the station gets more successful, the hosts get more leeway, perhaps, and so interject more of themselves.

        • Protagoras says:

          Yeah, one of the reasons I don’t have Sirius XM any more is that I have Pandora these days, but another part of the reason is that XM didn’t have annoying DJs, and Sirius did, so from my perspective the service got worse after the merger.

    • gph says:

      I think direct-to-consumer streaming platforms will largely start to take over. But if that doesn’t fully work out for some of the less popular sports, I can see them striking deals with online betting platforms as well. Place a bet over a certain amount on a game = get a free live stream.

      • victa20 says:

        Virtual Reality could be big, too. If you can “sit behind home plate” or at the 50-yard line for the price of streaming or something, that would be quite the experience.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m actually hugely skeptical on this.

          You already have the ability to see a sporting event, via video, from the best seats in the house, because they place the TV cameras in the best seats in the house. In all honesty, if what you’re worried about is following the action of the event, the best place to watch a sporting event is on TV, not in the stadium.

          The “stadium experience” is appealing for a whole host of social and sensory reasons that I have no confidence VR can replicate. Being able to spin your head around and see the stadium around you would be an interesting gimmick. Most people would try it once or twice, and then get bored. If you’ve ever sat in seats at a sporting event where you constantly have to move your head around to follow the action, it gets tiresome very quickly.

          I feel like for all the “VR will change sports” hype, the reason we aren’t seeing it pushed more is because a lot of the people in charge intuitively understand this. VR can capture a lot of the annoyances of live sports, without providing nearly any of the benefits.

          • lvlln says:

            What about VR that places you in locations that are not accessible by going to the stadium? I’m thinking, a 360 camera located right at the sideline next to the coach, or maybe hanging on a wire or drone 20 feet above the playing field, or a 180 camera inside one of the players’ helmets (disregarding motion sickness issues for now) could make for pretty compelling experiences. Especially with replay and slomo, and also the ability to hop from any camera to any camera at any time, including just getting the direct feed of what’s being shown on TV through a simulated Jumbotron.

          • Matt M says:

            Those things might be cool to dick around with when you’re bored, but I can’t imagine really wanting to use them during a game for anything other than a gimmicky distraction.

            In fact, what you describe is basically already offered by most of the major networks on their online platforms during major events. As far as I can tell, it isn’t very popular. Nobody really wants it.

            I think you understatement the TV people. They’ve had decades to perfect the art of displaying sports via video. They have the cameras in the right places. They know when the best time to switch them is. They can do this better than you can manually.

          • gbdub says:

            It’s actually really weird to me that ESPN is suffering now, when TV technology is better than ever. Sports are basically the killer app for HD broadcast television, and frankly a 60″ flatscreen, a six pack, and a grill are a better way to watch than in the stadium, unless it’s “your team” in a big game.

            One theory I didn’t mention in my earlier post is that they’ve way overdone ad breaks – it seems like football broadcasts get longer every year even though the game hasn’t changed, and it certainly makes me less likely to watch e.g. the NFL if I’m not emotionally invested.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, sports are awesome on a huge HD TV.

            But the internet is ending sports as the sole lingua franca of young men. I have two 21 year old young men living in my house now. Neither of them are sports fans, but they aren’t anything like the geeks and nerds of my day who were the most likely candidates to eschew sports.

            They are far more obsessed with video games, which also look great on an HD TV.

            Plus the internet is also ending the cable monopoly, which has much more to do with ESPNs immediate financial woes.

          • Matt M says:

            it seems like football broadcasts get longer every year even though the game hasn’t changed

            I’ll push back on this a little bit. I think it’s changes in the game which have led to more ad breaks (although the disclaimer here is that I mostly watch hockey and soccer which don’t have this problem).

            Football has kept pushing for higher scoring, but scoring is one of the biggest ways to delay a game. The extra point-commercial-kickoff-commercial loop easily adds a good 5 minutes to game length. More scoring is exciting, but if the game ends up taking 4 hours, that’s a killer. Baseball has a similar problem with relief pitching. Nothing more mind-numbing than one half-inning that takes 45 minutes because the manager changes the pitcher (necessitating a 3-minute commercial pause) every five pitches.

          • gbdub says:

            @HeelBearCub – I agree that cable packages are a proximate cause of the bottom line issue, but ESPN does seem to be getting less popular among sports fans, and that’s the part that’s weird when coupled with better-than-ever watching technology. But yeah, more options for non-live content is a huge part.

            @Matt M – the “score-commercial-extra point-commercial-kickoff-commercial” loop is exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, those are natural game stoppages, but they aren’t two minute long each natural stoppages, the length is driven by the desire to run more commercials. Really that whole sequence ought to take about a minute, and on an NFL broadcast it’s more like 10.

            I’ve been at college games recently, and there’s a dude in a red hat that stands on the field indicating that the broadcast is on commercial break, and doesn’t go away until “we’re back”, signaling the refs to resume play. That guy is out there much more often than when I was in college even just 10 years ago. And the amount of time he’s out for a game on ABC nationally vs one that’s on ESPN2 and only in a local market is definitely noticeable. To the point he literally gets booed sometimes because everyone is standing around waiting to start play and it’s basically “awkward silence”.

            They’ve also added more and longer breaks to e.g. college basketball (such as a long break at the first stoppage after the 4 minute mark in a half).

          • Matt M says:

            I agree that cable packages are a proximate cause of the bottom line issue, but ESPN does seem to be getting less popular among sports fans, and that’s the part that’s weird when coupled with better-than-ever watching technology. But yeah, more options for non-live content is a huge part.

            Agree with this a lot. I think “sports” in general is starting to become oversaturated such that it’s almost impossible to be a “general sports fan” who keeps up with all sports unless you’re like, unemployed or independently wealthy or something. More and more, fans have to pick and choose. “Sportscenter” which attempts to cover all things becomes less and less valuable. If a fan is passionate about the NFL, MLB, and say MMA, they’re much better off spending 20 minutes on niche sites devoted to those three things than they are watching Spotscenter, which might spend 20 on the NFL, 15 on MLB, 15 on the NBA, and the remaining 10 on everything else, which MAY include some MMA sometimes, but usually won’t.

            And the niche sites seem less likely to go all-in on politics. Because ESPN tries to play the “general interest” game, that does make black lives matter potentially relevant. But a blog devoted specifically to the Boston Celtics is going to have a much tougher time trying to do that and maintain credibility without a very specific and obvious connection between BLM and the Celtics.

            So if you’re a sports fan, ESPN already has one strike against it in that its mix of coverage probably does not match the mix of ideal coverage based on your individual interests (and there are enough options out there that you can create this mix for yourself if you want). Add to that the fact that they regularly preach against your values, and why would you bother to continue to watch and support them?

            As far as the “live” thing goes, I agree that on demand is the future. Right now live sports are surviving only because of spoiler risk. The day someone creates a functional app/browser extension that can successfully hide all spoilers for teams/events you select is the day that sports goes the way of all other content, where “live” ceases to matter and everything is on demand.

          • gbdub says:

            Ehh, I don’t think live sports coverage is going away, though the delivery method might change. Even spoiler-free, you lose the ability to e.g. text your buddies across the country when a big play happens. The idea that you’re watching an event that’s happening live, is a powerful pull.

            Heck, we’re getting “live tweeting” events for TV dramas, which are obviously always pre-recorded and comparatively easy to avoid spoilers for.

          • Matt M says:

            Heck, we’re getting “live tweeting” events for TV dramas

            Conceived of and heavily promoted by the networks in an event to get actual live eyeballs on the screen to help out with ad revenues.

            This is their best response to a failing model, it’s them trying to round up the rats and stop them from fleeing the sinking ship.

          • gbdub says:

            Right, but what the networks have to artificially create for scripted drama already exists organically for live sporting events, and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.

            Another example might be the Olympics, where NBC is moving to all-live broadcast for 2018 across the US, rather than the time-delayed package re-aired in each time zone’s prime time. That’s a scenario where the internet has done exactly the opposite of what you propose – rather than hole up away from spoilers and watch on-demand, sports fans would rather follow on social media live, even if it means no or degraded video, than wait to watch the full-HD rebroadcast.

            Here’s a Vox article on why Olympics coverage sucks. It beats the “sexist and racist” drum a little harder than is probably warranted, but the core point is sound: by packaging the Olympics as exclusively “human interest entertainment” rather than sports, they produce lousy sports coverage.

            So maybe we end up with “pay-per-view streaming”, but I strongly suspect it will still need to be live.

          • Matt M says:

            I used to strongly agree with that sentiment, until I realized that nobody actually gives a shit about (most) olympic sports as sports. With the exception of things like basketball, hockey, maybe tennis and golf, the “human interest” story is the ONLY story.

            But once again, the thing you want (live coverage that shows events in their entirety and is presented like a sport rather than an entertainment program) already exists and is offered online and on the various apps. Last Winter Olympics I watched an hour of biathlon when I was home sick just for the hell of it.

            More recently with the summer olympics I joined the masses and just watched NBC’s two hours of primetime highlights and enjoyed it just fine, because it turns out I don’t actually give a single shit about the results of the various forms of weightlifting, judo, swimming, or whatever.

          • Nornagest says:

            With the exception of things like basketball, hockey, maybe tennis and golf, the “human interest” story is the ONLY story.

            There’s better basketball, hockey, tennis and golf on dedicated basketball, hockey, tennis and golf programming, though. I’ve thought for a while that the Olympics should get rid of all the sports for which another championship is more prestigious than an Olympic medal; they dilute the Olympic brand and aren’t fun to watch.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, as a pretty big hockey fan, I think that the Olympics has value solely because there are a small group of countries (Canada, USA, Sweden, Russia, maybe sometimes Finland) that have close to enough parity that they can all feasibly beat each other (despite Canada’s dominance in recent years).

            Although the NHL recently announced that they plan on banning their players from participating for greedy money-related reasons, so that may be gone soon (although they can always negotiate something at the last minute)

          • gbdub says:

            Matt, I think you’ve moved the goal posts on me. Earlier you asserted:

            As far as the “live” thing goes, I agree that on demand is the future. Right now live sports are surviving only because of spoiler risk. The day someone creates a functional app/browser extension that can successfully hide all spoilers for teams/events you select is the day that sports goes the way of all other content, where “live” ceases to matter and everything is on demand.

            Now you’re telling me that live sports streams online and that it’s great (which I knew). I’m not saying live sports will always be on NBC, I’m saying they will always be live. If you’re no longer defending your original opinion that the future of sports is the same as TV drama, exclusively watched on-demand at some delay, then I don’t really disagree with the rest of what you’ve said.

          • Matt M says:

            Now you’re telling me that live sports streams online and that it’s great (which I knew).

            Nah, I’m not saying it’s great. I’m saying that it exists, and the fact that most people ignore it (such that a lot of people aren’t even aware it exists) is evidence that it’s not a particularly compelling offering.

            If NBC thought most people wanted live sports as Olympic coverage, then that’s what they’d offer on the primary platform, right?

            I guess my general theory here is that people just like to complain, and that they underestimate how much time and effort TV networks spend on trying to figure out what people want, and what the best way to deliver it to them is.

          • Protagoras says:

            I do think the commercials are a factor. I have increasingly switched my entertainment consumption to things that don’t have commercials, even if it costs a bit more money (I pay for the no commercials option on Hulu, etc.) The no commercials options are harder to find for sports, and tend to be much more expensive instead of only a little more so, and that is probably part of the reason I spend more time watching whatever’s on Hulu or Netflix or Amazon and less time following sports than I used to.

          • Controls Freak says:

            as a pretty big hockey fan, I think that the Olympics has value solely because there are a small group of countries (Canada, USA, Sweden, Russia, maybe sometimes Finland) that have close to enough parity that they can all feasibly beat each other (despite Canada’s dominance in recent years).

            Pulling things out of the domain of culture wars, are you pro- or anti- the most recent iteration of the World Cup as an alternative to the Olympics? I like that Team Europe and Team NA injected a really fun aspect that mitigated some of the Canada/US dominance and consolidated many of the European countries who can’t compete in the Olympics.

          • Matt M says:

            Those features you mentioned were nice, but generally anti, as it’s pretty clearly a money-grab ploy by the NHL to replace the olympics with something similar, but with the money going into their own pockets instead. Not buying it.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I hear that a lot, but aren’t you an extreme capitalist? 😉 What’s wrong with a money-grab ploy if what they’re giving us is a better product than the Olympics?!

          • Matt M says:

            It’s a fair point and I don’t have a great response.

            I guess I also don’t like the timing. I watch A LOT of hockey during the season. Such that by the end of it, I’m usually burned out. The olympics happening during the season is fine because I’m in hockey mode. The World Cup happening in pre-season makes me hesitate… like… do I REALLY wanna start all this a month early?

            Also I’m not sure it ends up being a “better product” if the players don’t care about it as much (and you’ll never convince me they do).

          • Controls Freak says:

            Also fair. I don’t tend to really ramp up my hockey watching until my football team’s season is looking to be over (…and lately, they’ve been making the playoffs), so for me, it was a somewhat nice week of hockey in the middle of a large stretch of not much hockey.

            I agree that a lot of the players didn’t care as much, and I think that’s why Team Europe caught some people by surprise. It had guys who never get a chance to represent their country in the Olympics, so they seemed to care a bit more. I’m sure Bettman’s desired endgame is that 20 years from now, hockey at the Olympics will be dead, and all the players will care just as much as they used to care about the Olympics. I’m not sure if he can get there, but personally, so long as you can keep giving me games as entertaining as NA/Russia, I’m going to watch.

      • Nornagest says:

        “Fugitive cop killer” in a context like this is always Assata Shakur, “cop killer” unqualified is always Mumia Abu-Jamal.

      • goddamnjohnjay says:

        Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights (book that later became the TV show) eventually revealed that he spent a large portion of his royalty checks on women’s clothing.

        There seems to be a huge hole in the market for literary, emotionally in touch guy who can speak passionately about red tribe hobbies.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m also reminded of this bit by Bill Burr, which is not ostensibly about politics itself, but is mainly focused on issues we all agree with, like “cancer is bad.”

      A lot of sports fans watch sports as an escape from “messy” real life problems. The constant insistence on beating us over the head with important real life social problems rubs a lot of fans the wrong way, even if it’s for totally noble things like breast cancer research.

      • Schibes says:

        Nice link to Burr, Matt. Even though I don’t agree with all of his opinions I think he’s a valuable window into the psyche of large parts of the population, and even in those times I disagree with him (such as his rabid NFL fandom) I still find him funny.

        A lot of sports fans watch sports as an escape from “messy” real life problems. The constant insistence on beating us over the head with important real life social problems rubs a lot of fans the wrong way

        The problem with this statement of course is that the NFL itself became a messy real life problem this very decade once it became no longer possible to ignore the empirical evidence that a large percentage of its retired players are depressed, suicidal, vegetative half-wits with permanent, irreversible brain damage caused by their employment in the league.

        Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I feel like the discovery of this knowledge opened the floodgates for a whole bunch of other messy societal problems to infect the general sports media discourse. Unless this is a chicken and egg type problem here, and we only know about CTE due to sports media refusing to “stick to sports”, which I admit is totally possible.

        • Matt M says:

          The problem with this statement of course is that the NFL itselfbecame a messy real life problem this very decade once it became no longer possible to ignore the empirical evidence that a large percentage of its retired players are depressed, suicidal, vegetative half-wits with permanent, irreversible brain damage caused by their employment in the league.

          This issue has itself become largely politicized, and predictably mostly breaks along red/blue lines with the blue tribe considering it a big deal and a classic example of the evils of capitalism (these poor laborers were exploited by ownership!) and the red tribe more or less shrugging it off as “they get paid millions of dollars, cry me a river over here.”

          I do think that a significant segment of the football watching populace simply would rather not hear about it. Especially when increased research points largely to an inevitable conclusion of “football is fundamentally dangerous and there simply is no way to make it satisfactorily safe.”

          ESPN doesn’t have to cover this story. They choose to. Some of their fans appreciate it. Others are annoyed by it. Time will tell which group outweighs the other.

          • Schibes says:

            The blue tribe consider[s CTE] a big deal and a classic example of the evils of capitalism (these poor laborers were exploited by ownership!)

            As a (reluctant) member of the blue tribe I’ll give ownership a pass on their past exploitation since no hard science had been done linking the NFL to CTE until this decade. But now that the link has been established I find the continued existence of the league to be completely immoral and barbarous and I want nothing further to do with it. I realize this is an extreme and unrealistic “high horse” to ride around on which is why I won’t shout aloud from atop it anywhere but in a pseudo-anonymous Internet forum like this one.

            The red tribe more or less shrug[s] it off as “they get paid millions of dollars, cry me a river over here.”

            A very small percentage of players (10%) make in the millions, the average player makes in the low 6 figures. However, since the low 6 figures is still “cry me a river” territory for your average opiate-addicted ex-coal miner in flyover country all I can ask is that they feel a little sympathy for all the pre-millionaire era NFL guys like George Visger who turned their brains to mush in the 70s and 80s for a couple thousand bucks because none of them knew any better. I know that’s still asking a lot but hey, gotta start somewhere.

            Anyway thanks for your insights Matt, my own opinions aside I’m also very interested to see how this story continues to develop over the years.

          • Matt M says:

            But now that the link has been established I find the continued existence of the league to be completely immoral and barbarous and I want nothing further to do with it.

            This is a completely legitimate opinion for you to hold.

            … but surely you can understand that the average football fan might not care to hear you say it repeatedly, several times a day. And yet, ESPN continues to do so. They’re literally doing their best to strangle the golden goose.

            Of course as far as sports fans go, I’m an outlier myself with my belief in extreme capitalism. Let anyone do what they’re willing to do for the price. Researching the safety consequences is your responsibility, not employer’s. If I were in charge of sports, my first act would be to immediately legalize all PEDs, for one thing…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            find the continued existence of the league to be completely immoral and barbarous

            ESPN continues to … say it repeatedly, several times a day.

            This, put simply, is bullshit.

            ESPN does not regard the continued existence of the NFL as immoral and barbarous, nor do the constinuously repeat that as an opinion.

          • Matt M says:

            Well they’re smart enough to not say it directly.

            But more and more they are making observations that certainly imply it, and I’ve definitely heard ESPN personalities “wonder aloud” if, decades from now, we would look back on football as a barbarous relic similar to the way boxing is often regarded today.

          • But now that the link has been established I find the continued existence of the league to be completely immoral and barbarous and I want nothing further to do with it.

            Interesting. On paternalist grounds?

            Assume that the link between playing football and a high risk of brain damage is well established and well known (I don’t know if it is), so that players know about it. Do you think it’s wrong to permit players to accept that risk in exchange for whatever benefits they get, whether money, status, or just fun and excitement, for playing? If so, would you make a similar argument for other professions that are risky in other ways?

          • John Schilling says:

            One major problem for professional football is that it gets its players from college ball, which in turn recruits them out of high schools with athletic scholarships. At that point, you are dealing primarily with minor children who need parental permission. I find it hard to believe that parents who are fully informed on both the risks of CTE and the actual (small) probability of NFL megabucks, would sign off on such a thing.

            Can the football industry transition to a model where nobody gets to play full-contact ball until adulthood, when they have presumably already signed up for whatever education or employment would be open to them without an athletic scholarship?

          • Incurian says:

            Should the same paternalism apply to joining the military (maybe it should, but I think this question is a good sanity check)? At least the NFL gets paid.

          • Nornagest says:

            You don’t get paid nearly as well in the (American) military, but you do get paid, are more likely to learn transferable skills (you might be out of luck if you were e.g. infantry, but the armed forces needs a lot of clerks and mechanics and truck drivers), and you’ll leave with a valuable package of educational and medical benefits. And if you were career military, you can add a fairly nice pension to that.

            I haven’t actually done the math, but factoring in the low chance of making it in sports, I’d be surprised if the expected value here wasn’t a lot higher.

          • Matt M says:

            If you’re smart about joining the military it can be totally rewarding.

            I made double the market wage for an easy as hell job working less than 40 hours a week. Nearly 60k with no college education. Then the military paid for my Bachelors degree. Then I got out and they paid for my MBA. And when I apply for jobs people think the fact that I was in the military automatically means I have “leadership skills” and shit.

            Just gotta pick the right service and the right job.

          • Incurian says:

            I’m aware of how easy it is to get away with being a shammer. My point was that the NFL gets paid A LOT for concussions, is this not a fair tradeoff?

          • Schibes says:

            DavidFriedman, on me ripping the NFL as “immoral and barbarous”:

            Interesting. On paternalist grounds?

            Assume that the link between playing football and a high risk of brain damage is well established and well known (I don’t know if it is), so that players know about it. Do you think it’s wrong to permit players to accept that risk…?

            No I don’t, there are a lot of other things in human society that I find to be immoral and barbarous, and yet I tolerate them. But I refuse to support them and I hope they slowly die out. Boxing, bullfighting, cockfighting, trophy hunting of endangered species, whaling, pretty much anything else that borders on “bloodsport”. And I do think the NFL has the whiff of bloodsport about it these days. But I also realize taking too paternalist an attitude about it turns people off, which is why I’m griping about it to strangers on an Internet forum instead of lecturing my family, friends, and coworkers about it. I don’t want to come across as a boring party pooper now do I? But the fact remains, aside from everything else, that I just can’t derive enjoyment from watching the games anymore. All I can think about anymore is what the players will look like sitting in their wheelchairs in 2040, slowly drooling and quietly babbling incoherent gibberish. It’s just one of those creeping gut feelings of unease that I can’t shake nor do I feel like putting any effort into trying to shake, regardless of whether or not it was first planted in my brain by some golden goose murderer at ESPN.

            As for the relative (im)morality and barbarity of signing up for the military, well I think the tradition of conscientious objectors is pretty well established in this country by now, you don’t need me to repeat any of that. But there’s also the fact that large parts of the armed forces never get anywhere close to a combat zone, and a crafty enlistee such as our friend Matt M can exert a degree of influence in navigating a less-hazardous career path thru the service, whereas nearly every player in the NFL aside from a handful of placekicking specialists has a very real chance of developing CTE after their playing days are ended. They don’t have a choice, every player in the league wears a helmet because every one of them takes a shot to the head at some point. If the early studies are to be believed (and many more should be done, IMO) it is a much more elevated and widespread risk profile.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Incurian: ” My point was that the NFL gets paid A LOT for concussions, is this not a fair tradeoff?”

            The situation is somewhat worse than you imply. Some players get injured early in their career, and end up broke and crippled. Admittedly, they presumably take less brain damage, but the damage is also a result of head impacts from training which don’t cause concussions.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            also the military is at least theoretically necessary

            and even when not necessary, does big and important work

            all the NFL does is make money, and there’s not even solid proof that said money wouldn’t be spent some other way, but even assuming that it wouldn’t, fair assumption, it still only makes money. Fine, I understand that’s a bigger deal than some might think, but it’s still not that big a deal compared to things the military does (whether those things are positive or negative I leave to you to decide)

          • Incurian says:

            As long as they go in eyes open, and it would be difficult not to… *shrug*

  2. Corona says:

    Hey, SSC commentariat (specifically those of you in the tech industry, which I think there’s a fair number of you here)! I need your opinion on a situation. I’m going to be interning at Google over the summer, and part of my contract includes what I’m allowed to work on outside of Google and how much of my intellectual property Google owns. Basically, if I want to contribute to open source while interning there, Google owns my contributions. I’m forbidden to work on any of my previous apps due to potential conflicts on interest. In short, it seems I’m more or less forbidden to code outside of work unless it’s a very specific project that Google will own the rights to. It’s really rubbing me the wrong way. I’m a computer scientist because I love programming; it’s my biggest hobby. I feel like I’m being forced to abandon programming entirely outside of work.

    To those of you in the tech industry:
    What is your experience with restrictions like this (if any)? Is this only an intern thing, or do full time employees have to deal with it, too?
    How pervasive are situations like this? Is this something just the big companies do, or can I expect this everywhere from tech giants to startups?

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      It’s quite different from place to place, but yes, it does apply to full time employees too.

      In my experience, large corporate outfits will have policies like Google’s or even more severe, while independent companies will be much more relaxed and not get in your way. That said, even at the most relaxed places they won’t want you outright selling a product that would compete in the employer’s market segment.

      (And it’s worth asking someone at Google about how much leeway there could be in the contract. Sometimes they can be surprisingly reasonable about these kinds of things.)

    • pontifex says:

      It is not just an intern thing. Full-time employees need to deal with it too. The specific provisions that you are subject to depend on what US state you are working in. If you are working in California, the California Code applies, specifically section 2870: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=LAB&sectionNum=2870.

      Basically, if you can prove that:
      1. The invention was done on your own time (i.e. not work hours)
      2. The invention was done with your own equipment (i.e. not work laptop or resources)
      3. The invention was done without trade secrets from your employer
      4 . The invention does not “relate to the employer’s business”
      Then the invention can be yours.

      #1 and #2 are pretty easy to satisfy, as long as you are being caareful. #3 and #4 are what really make what you are proposing difficult. Google probably has tons of things they could plausibly claim are “trade secrets,” such as build systems, internal review systems, and so forth. Google is involved in pretty much every business at this point, so #4 is almost certainly false for you.

      As other commenters said, you can ask the legal team at Google if you can continue contributing to the project you want to contribute to. Unless they give the OK, I would stay away. Or just wait 3 months and mysteriously decide to drop a big patch after your employment finishes. It’s your choice! But if you try to contribute while you are working for Google you could be exposing the project and yourself to legal risk.

      And now for the editorial part. In my opinion, Google isn’t really that great a place to work any more. It was a great place to work in 2000 or 2007. Now it’s a big employer, similar to Amazon or Microsoft. The hype greatly exceeds the reality at Google.

      • Corona says:

        And now for the editorial part. In my opinion, Google isn’t really that great a place to work any more. It was a great place to work in 2000 or 2007. Now it’s a big employer, similar to Amazon or Microsoft. The hype greatly exceeds the reality at Google.

        That’s interesting. In your opinion, what are great places to work?

        • tumteetum says:

          i’m not pontifex but in my 30 years of experience as a programmer the best places to work are those companies who business is what you produce. so writing code for medical devices for a company who makes medical devices, or phone apps for a company that sells phone apps rather than say writing “enterprise” (shudder) software for some large corporate that actually sells golf equipment.

          there are no guarantees but at least that way you’re not seen as just some cost centre, they actually have a reason to care about what you’re doing. but even thats only the start, you still have to find a good team of people who are using a good process.

          • Chalid says:

            I think this is true generally, not just for programmers. You want to be one of the people bringing in money, or failing that, as close to the people bringing in money as possible.

        • pontifex says:

          “What are the great places to work” is a hard question to answer, because a lot of it depends on you. For example, if you are an expert on self-driving cars or machine learning, Google, Apple, and Uber are all great places to work because they value this very highly and are willing to pay top dollar.

          On the other hand, if you are coming out of school with a BS in Comp Sci, almost any big company is a good (but not great) place to start your career, as long as it’s not obviously dying like Yahoo or Toshiba are. It validates you as an engineer (oh, this guy must be good, he worked at X). Big companies tend to treat most new hires as junior, but that’s fine if you are just coming out of college anyway.

          Later in your career you will have established some kind of track record that opens new doors to you– and sometimes closes others. Experience working databases, or hardware, or front-end software, etc. will all affect your perception of what the best places to be are. As tumteetum wrote, you want to be working on the company’s main focus area, if you can. Otherwise you will get thought of as a cost center that needs to get minimized in favor of the important stuff.

          Note that Google is not a bad place to work, just an overhyped one. Companies have had the better part of two decades to copy all the interesting stuff like free drinks and free lunches, and they generally have. There’s also a perception that Google is open to engineers working on their own projects — nothing could be further from the truth. 20% projects must be approved by your manager and generally relate directly to the company’s business. If you are just starting out as an engineer, though, sure, go for it. It will look good on your resume and you can always hop after a few years.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        As a recent college graduate, now at Google. It is a great low stress place to work where I get to interact with almost universally smart engineers who put in effort to do their jobs well. While I don’t feel like I am changing the world with what I do, it is an enjoyable first position in my career with a very nice paycheck while I am here. Currently I see no reason why I would switch for another large corporation. With that said, there is the possibility that I would leave for a small company to get away from some of the things that are unavoidable at a company with 70k+ employees.

    • Anonymous says:

      Basically, if I want to contribute to open source while interning there, Google owns my contributions.

      This does not seem to bar you from doing it.

      I’m forbidden to work on any of my previous apps due to potential conflicts on interest.

      In your shoes, that would be a dealbreaker for me.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Google is one of the worst in this regard (I won’t say _the worst_, because I don’t know Apple’s policies). They do have a process for being able to work on projects outside Google not owned by them (IARC), but it’s not appropriate for interns because it takes so long. Their process for making open source contributions owned by them is very heavyweight as well, and when people complain about one or the other, the answer has been basically that it’s not going to change and if you don’t like it you can quit.

      Most of the industry is not as bad for various reasons; either their policies are lighter, or the scope of their business is smaller, or both.

      • Matt M says:

        As someone not in tech, this strikes me as so weird. Going to business school, Google was always held up for its policy (the name is escaping me) where employees spend like 10% of their time working on “whatever they want” or something like that. The implication was that they knew they had smart people and letting them go do random things would inevitably result in cool inventions or whatever. It was always presented as a great way to foster innovation.

        This policy seems like, well, basically the exact opposite of that.

        • Anonymous says:

          No, no, they do whatever they want. And Google owns whatever they produce. Win-win, right?

        • The Nybbler says:

          That was (is?) the 20% time policy. It was neutered some years ago. But the 20% projects (last example I know of is Google Cardboard) always belonged to the company; they were done on company time and with company resources, and at least ostensibly had some relation to the company’s goals.

          • Garrett says:

            Pretty much. But since you have goals and every team’s basically understaffed by 30% by-design, well ….

        • pontifex says:

          20% time was never about employees working on “whatever they wanted.” It was always about employees working on new products for the company. Sort of a way of generating new product ideas. Over time it got more bureaucratic and the original point of the policy got lost. It’s mostly ceremonial now, unless you are very senior.

      • pontifex says:

        > Google is one of the worst in this regard (I won’t say _the worst_, because I don’t know Apple’s policies).

        Haha! Nailed it.

        Apple and Amazon are terrible places to be if you want to work on open source. Even worse than Google. Which makes me curious what Microsoft’s policies are these days.

    • zz says:

      On the meta-level, I suggest giving yourself a crash course in intellectual property. I strongly recommend Examples and Explanations’ take on it. I timed myself: including the time to do the exercises and Anki reviews, the whole thing comes to just under 30 hours. You also seem to be a smart techie with no background in law, so I anticipate you should have similar results. Also, you probably aren’t interested in the trademark stuff, so you’re looking at <25 hours total.

      I certainly think the payoff justifies the investment.

    • Brad says:

      I’m a computer scientist because I love programming; it’s my biggest hobby.

      A culture note — and I’m sorry if this comes across as nasty or mean — most of us that program professionally aren’t and don’t consider ourselves to be computer scientists. If you limit it to those of us without Phds it rises to nearly all of us.

      Maybe you are interning from a Phd program and will be working at google on developing novel homomorphic encryption algorithms, in which case feel free to ignore.

      As to your question: IP assignment documents are absolutely pervasive in tech jobs. But my experience matches the Nybbler, outside of the finance industry Google’s has a reputation for being the strictest.

      • Corona says:

        A culture note — and I’m sorry if this comes across as nasty or mean — most of us that program professionally aren’t and don’t consider ourselves to be computer scientists. If you limit it to those of us without Phds it rises to nearly all of us.

        No problem, that doesn’t come across as nasty or mean at all. I just wasn’t sure what best to describe myself as. In your experience, how do people refer to themselves?

        • Brad says:

          Engineers, developers, or programmers. There are nuances to each, but you probably can’t go wrong with developer to start.

    • Chris Hibbert says:

      I’m currently at Google. To start with, Google isn’t much different than other Silicon Valley companies I’ve worked at over the decades. They’ve all got more legalistic over time, and they’re all well-aware of the California law.

      When I started at Google, I had just been working primarily on an open source project of my own. When I got an offer, one of my first concerns was to negotiate an agreement that made it clear that everything I knew about Prediction Markets was my IP, and not theirs, and secondly that they would agree that they didn’t own anything related I did in my spare time. Since I was being hired on to do something quite different, they didn’t have any problem with that.

      I think if I wanted to work on some other open source project unrelated to my current work, I could easily get approval in writing.

    • Garrett says:

      I work for Google now. There’s an internal form you can go through to keep working on OSS stuff (or independent for-profit work). But it needs to be done on a per-project basis. And I have no idea how it applies to interns.

      My previous mega-company pretty much had the exact opposite terms in its employee contracts. They explicitly excluded ownership of everything except if it was work related or competitive. But that’s a lot easier to do when you’re in a single vertical market. The result is that a lot of employees had small software businesses on the side (think cell phone games) and didn’t stress about it.

    • former_character says:

      I don’t know if it’s different for interns, but when I joined part of the paperwork was listing all my preexisting IP that I wanted to keep separate from Google. I had no issues working on updates to those projects, and I went through IARC for a couple of new projects that were approved within a week and owned entirely by me.

      I’d contact your recruiter and ask for more details, especially about your existing apps.

    • lycotic says:

      There are lawyers.

      These lawyers are paid to get the best deal for the company and protect the company from things. It’s true for every company large enough to have lawyers (and was true for Google 10 years ago, sorry for the tarnished golden era).

      The IARC process isn’t so bad though it has dissuaded me from sending little fixes. I’ve never heard, however, of a blanket restriction on prior projects before. Nor can I find anything on the relevant pages. Your prior project might be restricted for other reasons though, like super-aggressive licensing (looking at you, Affero).

      Maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but those who complain that Google is just like any other big company have often not worked at *any other company*, big or small. These kids don’t know how good they have it. Also, get off my lawn.

    • Viliam says:

      To me (in Europe) this sounds like serfdom, but from what I see online I guess this is quite normal in USA. I am not trying to be condescending here; I am quite afraid that tomorrow this could become a new normal here, too.

      I would say that you don’t have to abandon programming, only to abandon publishing. You are not allowed to do anything useful for anyone other than your current master.

      But there are still a few things you can do:

      First, you can learn new technologies, as long as you keep it on your local disk and don’t publish anywhere. So, maybe you could make a list of interesting programming languages and frameworks, and then make a short “hello world” project in each of them.

      If you desire to help existing projects, maybe you could contribute something else than code. Perhaps you could maintain a project wiki page, or research and say what could be done, without actually doing it.

      On the darker side of law, use a pseudonym. Or have a friend send the contribution using their name.

  3. onyomi says:

    While the youth of the UK largely opposed Brexit, Le Pen apparently outperforms with France’s youth. Why the difference? My best guess is that UK youth fear Brexit might limit their ease of getting a job or doing business with companies on the continent, whereas French youth are having more of a “Bernie” moment (and with Mélenchon out, Le Pen is the next closest thing?)?

    • Mark says:

      The free movement thing is part of it – when you’re 21 there is still a possibility that you might decide to go and live in Poland, and having that taken away feels like a loss. When you’re 31 you realise that you don’t want to do that, that you can’t be bothered to learn Polish etc. etc.

      But I don’t think that’s the main reason. In my experience, young people are genuinely scared that Brexit will destroy the economy and that they are the ones who will suffer, and also are genuinely angry that something that they view as largely driven by racism/xenophobia is being pushed upon them.

      So, maybe being more economically vulnerable and more credulous of official pronouncements (“gotta believe those experts!”) is the real cause.

      I think with Le Pen, there is a whole political program attached – remember Corbyn is also very popular with young voters in the UK and he is pretty anti-EU.

      It’s just that in isolation, exiting the EU can be painted as a right wing policy (crush the poor, racist), especially when all of the parties calling for it are right wing.

      I’m not too sure why there are the different attitudes to race/immigration, though. Or why British young are more likely to view the EU as a means of economic salvation. Perhaps, young people are more likely to follow fashion, so they’ll swing more violently one way or the other?

    • quarint says:

      Nah, she didn’t outperform noticeably with the youth.
      In the last polls before the first round, which coincided remarkably with the results, she was estimated at 23% among 18-24 yo and 20% among 25-34 yo against an overall 21,5%.
      She was outperformed with the youth by both Macron (27% on both categories against 24% overall) and Mélenchon (with respectively 27% and 22% against an overall 19,5%).
      In the current polls for the second round, she’s given 24% among 18-24 yo, 37% among 25-34 yo, and a surprising 50% among 35-49 yo.

      (Sources are in French : 1 and 2)

      • onyomi says:

        What about news stories like this (admittedly before the election, so it could be they just changed their minds, or the 40% stat is based on an outlying poll, etc.)?

        Even if she just does as well as average with the youth, she’s still doing way better than Brexit, which youth overwhelmingly opposed (though maybe one can’t assume that every potential Le Pen voter would vote “leave” in a hypothetical “Frexit” vote).

        I don’t see anything on those pages about people over age 49. Does she just keep doing better or as well as voters get older, or does she have an unusual peak of support among the French age cohort equivalent of Gen X? If I recall, other stories I’ve seen claim the older generation supports the more “establishment” candidates, so it would be interesting if she had an unusual peak of support in the middle there.

        And of course the other, big question, is how many Mélenchon voters will switch to her: it makes sense that, collectively Mélenchon and Le Pen would take the youth vote, since youth are generally more radical in general, in addition to being more left wing. I guess in the upcoming vote the question becomes whether they are more anti-establishment or more left wing?

        Maybe it just comes down to France having higher youth unemployment (hovering around 25%??? I’m surprised there isn’t more radicalism and unrest, honestly)?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’d caution against trying to draw any conclusions from one data point, especially when if you don’t know the baseline. So, trying to draw a correlation between Le Pen and Brexit, when you don’t know how young voters typically vote in France seems a little premature.

          But, generally speaking, I agree that young people are disproportionately drawn to more radical movements. The either don’t care about politics, or they are very passionate about things that need to be changed.

        • quarint says:

          I have a serious doubt about this 40% number. There was one poll focused on the youth with n > 1000, and it gives a number of 29% for Le Pen, but it seems to predate Le Pen’s fall in the polls and the matching rise of Mélenchon (who, to be fair, also took supporters of Macron and Hamon). At this time, Le Pen was between 26% and 28% in the polls, so the support from the young would be a bit above average.
          But you are right, average support from the youth compared to the population already seems a lot.
          But that’s in the first round. In the second round against Macron, 24% among 18-24 yo is noticeably inferior to the 35-40% she’s given over the whole population. I can’t help but notice that it almost exactly matches the 25% unemployment rate for young people you gave. Le Pen has very a large support from unemployed people although, paradoxically, she’s not seen as the most competent in order to improve the employment rate.

          And yes, she does seem to have an unusual support rate among Gen X, for the second round at least (she seems almost equally consistent in all categories in the first round). The complete numbers from the poll I’ve given are actually perfectly symmetrical :
          18-24 : 24%
          25-34 : 37%
          35-49 : 50%
          50-64 : 37%
          65+ : 24%

          As for Mélenchon supporters, there is a large debate going on between them about whether they should vote for Macron or not vote at all. No one is vocal about voting for Le Pen. Some polls say 50-60% of them would vote for Macron, and only 10% of them would chose Le Pen.
          Le Pen and her party have a very strong racist connotation. Most Mélenchon supporters will vote for Macron because of this. Many Mélenchon supporters come from the more traditional left wing, who always opposed the Front National at all cost.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I think it would be more accurate to say that the youth of the UK were largely apathetic, since 65% of 18 to 24-year-olds didn’t vote at all. (This also means that, whilst those who did vote tended to vote Remain, the percentage of Remain voters in the demographic as a whole was the lowest of any age demographic. I find this a useful fact to have when one comes across a moaning youngster complaining that “Those evil xenophobic old people stole our future!”)

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://blogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/blog/2017/04/25/we-have-been-here-before/

    “Speakers on college campuses (and also college professors speaking in other civic institutions) have been banned or disinvited or protested continuously since the late 1940s. Great historical work by scholars like Andrew Hartman and L.D. Burnett, among others, detail the way higher education has been a part of “culture wars” around speakers, curriculum and other issues.”

    • victa20 says:

      On the one hand, I don’t totally understand these whole, “campuses are now a hotbed of illiberalism” type takes, especially when it comes from those who should know that this is just the same old thing, coming from the left now, though…but I do get why people are concerned in a different way than before: it’s far easier today to start/join a mob against anyone, anywhere, thanks to social media, etc.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This sort of “bad stuff happened before, perpetrated by people I claim are on YOUR side, so it’s not bad when it happens now perpetrated by my people” article is infuriating. McCarthyism is nigh-universally seen as a bad thing. So are the various anti-civil-rights measures. But now it’s OK because “But sometimes, just sometimes, we’ve given that withering advice about people who really had no business being on a university campus”

      No. The reaction to McCarthyism and to the measures taken against civil rights activists are part of what established the norm of allowing speakers, even controversial ones, mostly on the left. We shouldn’t just discard it by saying “McCarthy did it” when the speakers are on the right. Doing so retroactively turns all of the civil rights stuff into mere tribal warfare.

      • Zorgon says:

        Well, you could conclude that those who opposed McCarthy on the civil rights stuff comprised an alliance of two major groups – those who supported freedom of speech as a philosophy and a basic right, and those who were involved for tribal warfare reasons.

        That the latter would then turn on the former once they had the opportunity to do so and the ability to suppress freedom of speech became an apparent benefit in their tribal warfare should not be a surprise to anyone. The primary surprise to me is just how many of them were in the latter group.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        As I read it, Burke’s claim is not that it’s ok, but that students should be left alone to resolve this and trusted to ultimately make the right call.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think Burke was also saying that this is nothing new, it matters but don’t panic.

    • John Schilling says:

      banned or disinvited or protested continuously since the late 1940s

      This part would have been more convincing if their evidence consisted of more than, A: literal McCarthyist stuff from the 1950s, B: a bunch of conservatives examples from the 1960s all of which conspicuously include the phrase “tried to”, and C: ” And yes, it happened because left-wing students opposed speakers they believed to be reactionary or racist, all the way back into the 1960s”

      Yes, we have been here before. For a few years, fifty-plus years ago. I thought the lesson we learned from that, left right and center alike outside of the lunatic fringe, was that this was a Bad Thing and we shouldn’t let anybody do it again. Maybe we did learn that lesson then, but it’s been forgotten. OK, people forgetting history and repeating its mistakes is an old, old problem. People mining history for past mistakes and saying “…but it will be wicked awesome now that we get to do this to them!”,
      no, let’s not do that.

      • Zorgon says:

        “No bad tactics, only bad targets”.

      • Zorgon says:

        That said, I can remember occasions where conservative and primarily religious rightist factions were very much in favour of suppressing speech (in particular, performances) as recently as the mid-2000s.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Springer:_The_Opera

        • John Schilling says:

          “In Birmingham, performances attracted a few protesters…”

          “In York, leaflets were handed out by small numbers of Salvation Army…”

          “In Edinburgh, one man from Christian Voice handed out leaflets on a few of the nights…”

          “100 church leaders in Cardiff and throughout south Wales signed a letter…”

          “The Christian Institute pushed for supporters to lobby local council members … only a few protesters picketed the theatre”

          You really see this as remotely analogous to the present situation?

          • secondcityscientist says:

            I posted an example of a left-leaning speaker being successfully no-platformed due to death threats to the speaker and the audience a few years ago, but it appears that discussion of this speaker is a forbidden topic here.

            The actual identity of the speaker isn’t really relevant, but suffice it to say there are definitely examples of this sort of thing happening to left-leaning speakers.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You mean the anti-Ant queen, Anita Hoopearingsen? She was a left-leaning speaker and she did receive death threats, deemed non-credible. The administration did not cancel the event; she did. And the anonymous threatener did not receive support.

            On the other hand, the threats against the Republicans in the 82nd Avenue Rose Parade did cause a cancellation by the organizers (not the Republicans), were backed up by two organized groups, and at least so far are considered credible.

            Finding superficial similarities, ignoring essential differences, and claiming symmetry, is not particularly convincing.

          • secondcityscientist says:

            So it’s OK to have death threats if the speaker finds them credible, but not OK if the authorities find them credible? That’s the distinction we’re working with here?

          • Tekhno says:

            Neither are OK, but death threats are taken more seriously when they are issued in the name of a unified gang in black uniforms that like throwing bombs at people.

          • John Schilling says:

            So it’s OK to have death threats if the speaker finds them credible, but not OK if the authorities find them credible?

            If it is “Not OK” to have death threats that only the speaker finds credible, then every speaker is motivated to find every death threat credible – including the ones they made up themselves – so as to declare their opponents as a class Not OK. The end result is that every side of every controversy is Not OK on account of the death threats allegedly made by some people on that side. To avoid this undeniable outcome, it is necessary to set the bar higher.

            Or to limit the Not-OKness of the death threats to the people actually making those threats, but nobody actually does that.

        • herbert herberson says:

          I think the far better example is the discourse around war and patriotism between 9/11 and when popular opinion started turning against Iraq (2004/2005). There were high profile cases like Bill Maher, the Dixie Chicks, and Phil Donahue, and there was a set of harder-to-document-but-I-sure-as-hell-remember-it low level obligations to thank every vet for their service, etc, etc.

          In fact, personally, I think there’s a causal relationship. Society as a whole embraced that stuff out of the not-crazy perception that it was an extraordinary time, but for the people reaching adulthood at that time that context wasn’t there, and the subsequent infamy of the Iraq War only increased the perception that you didn’t need a high threshhold to police the discourse, i.e., if you were going to do it over a single terrorist attack and a dumb war, why wouldn’t you do it over widespread and centuries-old problems like racism and sexism?

          • Matt M says:

            There were high profile cases like Bill Maher, the Dixie Chicks, and Phil Donahue, and there was a set of harder-to-document-but-I-sure-as-hell-remember-it low level obligations to thank every vet for their service, etc, etc.

            To reiterate John Schilling’s point above, I don’t think this is remotely analogous.

            Can you link me to a story of the Dixie Chicks having to cancel the rest of their tour following an event where masked right-wingers showed up and started beating up their fans while the police stood by and did nothing?

          • herbert herberson says:

            No.

            On the other hand, we’re also talking about the difference between people whose have written entire books supporting positions that are offensive (or at least perceived as such) to certain viewpoints, and in some cases did so very intentionally and repeatedly vs. a very popular band that was ejected from their industry due to a single comment expressing shame about a politician and despite an immediate apology. The efforts against them included a very successful boycott, rallies centered around ostentatiously destroying their music, and many death threats, some of which seemed credible. The only reason their careers weren’t completely destroyed was that they were able to successfully jump tribes (their next album after that, which was a pretty direct response to the controversy with a lead single called “Not Ready To Make Nice,” won several Grammys and had a lot of sales, but barely scratched country radio and didn’t win any CMAs)

            Were you politically aware in the early aughties, by the way?

          • Matt M says:

            That’s right when I was becoming aware.

            I think this is a key area where the left and the right are talking past each other.

            The right says “Look at the intensity of these protests, the left has never faced anything like this!”

            The left replies “Sure we have, leftists have been boycotted and denounced and denied platforms for incredibly benign reasons in the past!”

            I’ve bolded the disconnect. The right is objecting to the severity of the left-wing protests, which basically involve masked thugs starting literal riots to prevent Milo from speaking.

            The left counters by objecting to past instances wherein leftists faced some pushback for what they deem to be insufficiently valid reasons.

            These are two separate debates.

            I think the meat of your post is basically implying that the difference between Ann Coulter and the Dixie Chicks is that Ann Coulter deserves it while the Dixie Chicks didn’t. And the right’s argument is that nobody deserves this level of protest.

            Like, you may be right that Ann Coulter and Milo are, fundamentally, more offensive and more deserving of protest and pushback than Bill Maher and the Dixie Chicks are, but I don’t think that is the matter that the right is trying to dispute here.

          • random832 says:

            And the right’s argument is that nobody deserves this level of protest.

            What level, specifically? Why isn’t the death threat in the article he linked over the line?

            And isn’t it awfully convenient for the right (and the left, I suppose, but I don’t actually recall any left-wing attacks on the legitimacy of those protests) to say that the kind of protesting that is used against them is the only kind they oppose?

            And then there’s the type of political violence each side’s extremists are better equipped for. Says the right: One guy threatening to shoot someone is fine, a lot of people with blunt weapons are not. The “lone wolf” advantage, wherein one side’s violent extremists are not organized and so do not reflect on the movement as a whole.

          • herbert herberson says:

            I more-or-less agree with that post, except for the parts that suggest its some kind of competition–I’m just trying to make comparisons and explore a possible genealogy (for many reasons, one of which being that if it were a competition, you’d probably have the better side of it).

            But, you really do raise an interesting point in there are two ways of describing what’s going here, and that a lot of people might only be thinking of one or the other without ever spelling out exactly which they mean (or even realizing that they need to):

            a. People are having wildly disproportionate reactions to the things that offend them. Sometimes, this means taking a single statement by an entertainer and launching a huge boycott (.5 offensiveness units * 100 reaction coefficient = 50 tractors crushing CDs underfoot); sometimes it means taking a person who has built an entire career on being provocative and starting a streetfight in protest (10 offensiveness units * 100 reaction coefficient = 1000 Richard Spencer facial bruises). Here, the big problem is that way-too-high reaction coefficient, and the best thing we can do is to get people to settle the fuck down.

            or,

            b. People are blowing past a boundary that they shouldn’t be. This perspective says that you can fuck with whatever reaction coefficient you want, proportionality isn’t all that important, just don’t cross the line (which I guess is violent no-platforming?). Here, the best thing we can do is to react against anyone who goes ahead and crosses it anyway via both social opprobrium and law enforcement.

            Personally, I think a. is the better framework, because I think disproportionate reactions that don’t rise to the level of semi-organized street violence can still be totally poisonous. But I can see the advantages to b., too–its easier to implement, for one!

          • Wrong Species says:

            There is nothing illegitimate about boycotts and no one is supporting death threats. That’s the difference.

          • Matt M says:

            My other response to that would be that “less offensive” right-wingers have ALSO experienced boycotts, death threats, etc. People like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have definitely gotten those things, so that’s basically a wash.

          • gbdub says:

            The Dixie Chicks are an interesting case because the perception was that they had “betrayed their fans”, and certainly the statement they made got the most pushback from their own fans and from country fans in general. For better or worse, country music has a culture of down-home patriotism, and if you violate that culture you’re going to be seen as inauthentic at best.

            Milo is not being protested by disgruntled former Milo fans.

            It feels like there’s a difference between “publicly declaring that you won’t listen to someone any more, and encouraging others to do the same” and “actively working to prevent people who are still fans from hearing”.

            Also, I don’t recall any articles defending death threats against the Dixie Chicks, whereas I’ve seen defenses of e.g. the Berkeley riot as “self defense” against “Milo’s violent speech”.

          • random832 says:

            @Wrong Species

            There is nothing illegitimate about boycotts and no one is supporting death threats. That’s the difference.

            But no-one paints right-wing reactions as a coherent whole that includes boycotts and credible death threats and should be condemned as a whole for the death threats, as people do with left-wing reactions and street violence.

            “Anyone who boycotted someone that someone else sent a death threat to” would be laughably ridiculous to give any kind of punishment. “Anyone who attended a protest where anyone was violent” can have their property forfeited in Arizona if the Republicans get their way.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Hey guys, does this conversation really need to be a competition about particular events occurring to particular people and which is worse? Because let me tell you, if you want the left to take your complaints about political correctness seriously, “the current situation is similar to what you may have experienced during the early 00s if you had happened to take a strong anti-war position, only worse” is going to get you a lot further than “nah it’s nothing like anything else that’s occurred in the last 60 years.”

          • Randy M says:

            as people do with left-wing reactions and street violence.

            I’m sure someone has done that, but I don’t think it is the trend. Antifa as an organization is being painted as violent, since it’s own members have been seen beating, hurling objects, using pepper spray, etc. Authorities seen as allowing or encouraging such, like the Berkley mayor or PD have been criticized. And individual, unaffiliated supporters are being criticized to the extent that they explicitly sympathize with violence (“Yay, punch a nazi!”).

            But I don’t think the focus has been widened to non-violent, non-disruptive protesters, for example the women’s march, science march, or other demonstrators, as being illegitimate (versus object level wrong).

            In the commentary I’ve seen, anyway. You may proceed to prove me wrong if you’ve seen otherwise.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Herbert Herbertson

            Personally, I think a. is the better framework, because I think disproportionate reactions that don’t rise to the level of semi-organized street violence can still be totally poisonous. But I can see the advantages to b., too–its easier to implement, for one!

            I think I more or less agree with this. Ideally, everyone would have a cooler head, and not let things get poisonous when there’s a good alternative. I think “easier to implement” could use some expanding. I think an important bit is that there’s subjectivity vs objectivity. “This reaction is disproportionate” involves more subjectivity than “that guy just sent a death threat” or “someone just got punched.”

            Likewise, “death threats are bad” and “initiating violence is bad” are social norms that involve more objectivity than “don’t react disproportionately”; legally speaking assault and death threats are already illegal, while I can’t think of any way to ban “disproportionate reactions” that wouldn’t be a total mess.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Randy M — Antifa has always been violent; it’s its scope that’s changed, not its methods. Up until about a year ago, if you were in an antifa group, that meant you’d get together with a few other punk-rock fans, put on your bandanas and black hoodies, show up at a (literal, self-identifying) neo-Nazi rally and stomp on some people you’re not going to feel bad about stomping on. The authorities tolerated this partly because no one likes Nazis, partly because the scale was always small, and partly because it was basically consensual; the Nazis were looking for a fight too.

            It’s just recently that the acceptable targets list has expanded to cover other right-wing organizations. Six weeks ago I would have said “alt-” or “non-traditional”, but if Ann Coulter fans are a target then that’s not the case anymore. That’s new, and to me it’s at least a little scary, although things don’t seem to be moving as fast as I’d feared immediately post-election.

          • LHN says:

            News out of Oregon at least suggests that it may now have further widened from Coulter to simply “Republicans”. (Though since it’s an anonymous email that led to the parade cancellation, it’s hard to be certain.)

            http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/apr/26/oregon-rose-parade-cancelled-after-radicals-threat/

          • herbert herberson says:

            I’m not willing to categorically condemn all nazi-punching, but that’s insane–both for the antifa, for all the obvious reasons, but also for the authorities in question. I’m guessing “east Portland” is close to Portland, but you’re telling me there isn’t enough available manpower to defend a community parade from whatever small group of people is actually willing to inflict violence on it?

            I suppose it could be a fake, but with that address it would have had to have been a stolen account–riseup.net has been around for a while, and “thegiver@” probably couldn’t have been created last week.

          • Brad says:

            Are there any statistics, or even good guesses, as to how many antifa participants there are in the US?

          • Nornagest says:

            I doubt it. It’s not a group that got a lot of attention pre-election, and I wouldn’t trust any numbers post-.

            I’d ballpark it as a few thousand serious antifa in the US, mostly concentrated in major cities, plus maybe ten thousand or so occasional participants who may or may not identify as such. But that’s an educated guess.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m guessing “east Portland” is close to Portland, but you’re telling me there isn’t enough available manpower to defend a community parade from whatever small group of people is actually willing to inflict violence on it?

            As a native Oregonian, what I’ll tell you is that there is no political will to have the police stop leftists from doing whatever they want to do (including beating up Republicans). The majority of Portlanders probably sympathize with Antifa and regard the local Republican party as the far more dangerous and despicable organization.

          • The Dixie Chicks are an interesting case because the perception was that they had “betrayed their fans”

            For a parallel case on the other side, consider the reaction when the head of Whole Foods, who is a libertarian, came out in favor of school vouchers.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Let’s start this comment with an Important Preface: suppressing speech is very bad. Suppressing speech which goes against a dominant narrative and punctures the echo chamber is insanely bad. If everyone is doing something, and we’re wrong, then we need to know that we’re wrong, and if dissenters are silenced then we won’t find out.

            I’m also pretty strongly anti-war; in fact, 100 days in I’m thinking that I made the right choice in voting for Trump, as his actions have thus far been opening moves which failed to escalate, though I could end up being wrong to all of our sorrows.

            What I will say is this: most countries and most people believe that, in a time of war, certain liberties can be discarded for the greater good. As already noted, I disagree with this on every level, but I understand it. In the case of the Iraq war…we were at wartime. There might be some argument that Iraq wasn’t an existential war, but it was still a war. Though I would definitely try to convince anyone who believes in the “wartime exception” that (in addition to being wrong) it is not even warranted, I understand that those who haven’t thought it through feel that it applies, and that not everyone would have their minds changed by thinking it through or speaking to me.

            AntiFa believe that we are at war with…Fascism, I suppose. Nazism? The Dreaded Alt-Right? And so they have invoked, amongst themselves, the “wartime exception”. But…again, while the Iraq war was hardly existential in nature, occurring thousands of miles away from us, it was a war, and our soldiers were dying on the front lines. The war against “Fascism” more or less does not exist, beyond <1,000 idiots in costumes bashing each other on the streets of Berkeley to let off steam.

            Once again, I am not attempting to support the idea of a wartime exception. But at least I understand that many people have this mental model, and will apply it when it fits the facts. AntiFa are using the same model, but they cannot even fit the facts to it. That is the major difference.

            p.s. They probably also have a lot of "hate speech isn't free speech" floating around. Not sure if anyone was ever stupid enough to say "unpatriotic speech isn't free speech" or propagate it as a standard, though I bet they were stupid enough to think it.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @AnonYESmouse

            Antifa aren’t applying a wartime model, though, they’re applying an Antifa model. It is not a new thing, but rather a received tradition, mostly-European, of essentially building and using a leftist street gang to oppose Nazi street gangs.

            And in that core form, I’ll defend it. If the Klan or some skinheads were truly and meaningfully claiming my neighborhood, I’d be happy to see them violently driven out–civil society norms in that case are already being broken, and are less important to me anyway than the physical security of the people those groups target. The problem is that the current situation has as much similarity to that one as the Iraq War did to WWII.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @herbert herbertson:

            I, more or less, agree. I’m not a free speech absolutist, more a free speech utilitarian – allowing repugnant speech (short of objectively determinable harassment, incitement, etc) is the lesser evil to giving someone the power to ban speech – because who can be trusted to apply the power to ban speech evenhandedly? I don’t think anyone can.

            Likewise, who gets to determine who is a Nazi? If those punching Nazis were filling out a form on proposed punchees and mailing it to Ian Kershaw and waiting to see what he says, that would be one thing. But there’s a large supply of people whose definition of “Nazi” or “fascist” is determined by who they want to punch.

            There’s also the tactical issue. Punching actual fascists can work: fascists tend to worship strength, and making them look weak can thus be effective. On the other hand, Charles Murray is not a fascist. Trying to punch him does not seem to make him weaker.

          • Tekhno says:

            Maybe both sides could pretend it’s all equivalent and cease with the oppression measuring contests so we can get back to mutually condemning the behavior altogether, and then hopefully stand half a shot at preventing it from happening to either side.

            Could a bit of “rational irrationality” be warranted here?

        • The Nybbler says:

          No, the distinction is between non-credible anonymous threatener with no identifiable support, and possibly-credible anonymous threatener backed up by identifiable groups threatening to shut the march down.

    • BBA says:

      Meanwhile, at Fordham University in the Bronx, Students for Justice in Palestine isn’t allowed on campus.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Note the right-wing FIRE takes them to task over this.

        • lvlln says:

          The FIRE isn’t right-wing. They’ve been painted as such recently because recently the “individual rights” they’re defending in schools have been mostly of right-wing students.

          • random832 says:

            In the contexts I was aware of them before ‘recently’, it was in defending male students against maybe-false-but-certainly-without-evidence accusations of sexual assault, and policies which allow them to get expelled for such accusations. Which still fits “right-wing”.

            Do you have an example of them doing something that can’t be considered right-wing? Not that it stops the ACLU from being “left-wing” even when they defend the KKK.

          • Randy M says:

            In the contexts I was aware of them before ‘recently’, it was in defending male students against maybe-false-but-certainly-without-evidence accusations of sexual assault, and policies which allow them to get expelled for such accusations. Which still fits “right-wing”.

            Wow, really? Is Scott going to say that maybe conservatives should back off of that lest presumption of innocence is tarred by association with them, same as freedom of speech is now being?

          • gbdub says:

            They actually started out mostly opposing speech codes, on a viewpoint neutral basis. The sexual assault stuff is more recent.

            Just recently, they’ve come out against Fordham’s rejection of a pro-Palestinian student group

            EDIT: they also maintain a database of disinvited speakers (and disinvitation attempts). Split is about 60% “from the left”, 30% “from the right”, 10% “other”. So certainly they appear to be capturing issues on both sides, rather than being partisan about it.

          • lvlln says:

            random832:

            In the contexts I was aware of them before ‘recently’, it was in defending male students against maybe-false-but-certainly-without-evidence accusations of sexual assault, and policies which allow them to get expelled for such accusations. Which still fits “right-wing”.

            No it doesn’t. That is incredibly uncharitable to left-wingers. It’s true that some of the most powerful forces in the left have abandoned due process and presumption of innocence in certain cases, but that’s by no means a universal position among us. The right wing doesn’t get to own those principles, not any more than they get to own the principle of free speech just because powerful forces on the left have recently decided to abandon that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They are typically described as right-wing (by left-wing groups) when they’re opposing speech codes and kangaroo courts. Example from alternet. By contrast, the ACLU is usually described as left wing.

            If the left wing gets credit for the ACLU defending the Illinois Nazis, the right wing gets credit for FIRE supporting the right of students to form an SJP chapter.

          • Schibes says:

            FIRE isn’t right-wing. They’ve [just] been painted as such recently

            Yeah, one of their board members (Nat Hentoff, who died a couple months ago) was a huge pro-Israel campaigner in the public sphere so for them to take a stand at Fordham in favor of a pro-Palestinian group is proof that there are some free speech “true believers” in their organization.

            Not that this matters all that much, after all, the ACLU’s past 40 years of sticking up for Nazis and Klansmen hasn’t done much to enhance the free speech credentials of “The Left” recently. We’re in very much a “what have you done for me LATELY” mindset these days because of how quickly the ideological ground is shifting beneath our feet. When all it takes is a single Tweet for thousands of ideological foot soldiers to do an abrupt about-face, no one cares that you stood in line at a courthouse for four hours in 1993 to file a legal brief on behalf of a smelly illiterate pig farmer with a habit of calling himself “The Grand Wizard”.

          • herbert herberson says:

            edit: this was in reply to a comment that now appears to be no more but I’m leaving it up so deal w/ it

            The invocation of the difference between free speech violations by the state and free speech violations by individuals/private orgs/etc is usually trite, but seems fair to apply to a civil liberties org. Maybe there could be some claim around the failure of whichever universities happen to be public to provide proper security constituting a violation by omission, but it’s entirely possible that there isn’t, or that there is but they need a better factset for their test case (I imagine “we tried but failed” would go a long way).

            Plus there’s the part where at least some of those individuals have more than enough resources to press their cases all by themselves. The ACLU filed an amici in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, but they didn’t represent Flynt, because they didn’t need to.

            Plus, plus: https://twitter.com/ACLU/status/857413652718026753
            https://twitter.com/ACLU/status/857350947827331072

          • Matt M says:

            I believe FIRE’s analysis regularly calls out whether a university in question is public or private, and clarifies that while private universities are free to adopt whatever sort of nonsensical speech codes they want, that doing so is counter-intuitive to their stated commitments towards protecting academic freedom, or something like that.

            They definitely reserve extra ire for public universities, which are (you know, in theory) compelled to follow the constitution.

          • gbdub says:

            +1 to Matt’s comment. FIRE’s article on Fordham made it clear their major beef was that their actions go against their previous statements and existing policies regarding student freedom of expression, not that Fordham necessarily has any Constitutional duty.

          • John Schilling says:

            the right wing doesn’t get to own those principles, not any more than they get to own the principle of free speech just because powerful forces on the left have recently decided to abandon that.

            I’m pretty sure that they do. If the left conspicuously abandons free speech while the right defends it, the right gets to “own” free speech. How could it be otherwise?

            If only some “powerful forces” on the left abandon free speech while others defend it, then maybe the left and the right get to share free speech. That would be best, I think. But it requires that there be powerful forces on the left defending free speech and being seen to defend free speech.

            I can’t think of any good examples of that lately. The left’s response to the Trump administration’s “gag order” on e.g. the EPA might qualify with a bit of properly-oriented spin, but the left has chosen to spin that as a defense of Science rather than of Free Speech. Unless I’m missing someplace where powerful force on the left (or even the center) is conspicuously presenting their actions as a defense of Free Speech, the right gets to own it. What am I missing?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders don’t count as powerful forces on the left, where are such to be found?

          • Vorkon says:

            Interestingly enough, the ACLU recently put out a tweet strongly condemning the protesters at Berkeley causing Anne Coulter to cancel.

            I actually recently got into a minor argument with a (very) right-wing friend of mine over this. The ACLU may be biased when it comes to freedom of religion, or any of the other other freedoms implied (but not directly stated) by the First Amendment, such as freedom of association or freedom of expression, but when it comes to defending someone who is being persecuted for a specific verbal or written statement, you can pretty much count on them 100%.

            You’ve gotta’ give credit where it’s due, at the very least.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m pretty sure that they do. If the left conspicuously abandons free speech while the right defends it, the right gets to “own” free speech. How could it be otherwise?

            I don’t think it’s particularly constructive to, when a left-leaning person calls upon other left-leaning people to not cede the free speech ground, to respond with “no, it’s ours now” :/ If one’s principles are stronger than their tribal affiliation, they should encourage the other side of the aisle to pick up principled causes.

          • Chalid says:

            Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders don’t count as powerful forces on the left

            Obama spoke in favor of campus speech several times as well. So this looks like the mainstream left position to me.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that it’s fair to say that the fight hasn’t been lost on the left. There are still strong elements in favor of free speech.

            However, many of those elements tend to not speak out for actual individual cases, which is a major issue. If you speak out for ‘free speech’ in general, but if you are silent when someone like Murray is silenced, you are still letting the no-platformers win.

            A right that only exists in the abstract is no right at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            You’ve gotta’ give credit where it’s due, at the very least.

            Indeed, the ACLU is always due credit for its consistent defense of freedom of speech against official censorship. There is, alas, the concern that this consistency may cost them their home in the rather less consistent coalition of the left, because they aren’t going to find a home on the right and much as I would like them to find one in the center I am not sure it is possible.

            Warren and Sanders also deserve credit on this one; their status as powerful figures of the left has diminished somewhat over the past year or so, and the response to their calls on this matter may be a way to gauge that.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            However, many of those elements tend to not speak out for actual individual cases, which is a major issue. If you speak out for ‘free speech’ in general, but if you are silent when someone like Murray is silenced, you are still letting the no-platformers win.

            Yeah. I don’t want to criticize the ACLU and Obama too much here because at least they’re supporting the principle of free speech instead of opposing it like too many of their friends, but waiting until weeks after the event is over to quietly complain about what happened isn’t optimal. Sanders has been much better in this regard.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Yes.

        Sadly, even as someone who benefits from it, this happens and I really, really wish it didn’t.

        I really understand how anti-semitic Jews exist. I love Israelis, but American Jews are all…either insanely progressivetarded, or Neoconservatives, or doing this crap. Though I think the same ones doing this crap are the progressives, which they somehow justify to themselves. And now they’ve tried (and, I hear, succeeded) to insinuate themselves into the social justice stack. I’m…not oppressed, and I don’t want to have the ability to use my “oppression” in that way.

        …just a rant. Oh well, I’ll probably be living in Israel long term anyhow. Especially with how this country is going down the tubes, xd

        • BBA says:

          I’m…not oppressed, and I don’t want to have the ability to use my “oppression” in that way.

          Speaking as one of those insanely progressivetarded Jews you slag earlier in your rant: amen to this.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            hey, as long as you agree with that part its all good G

            seriously, it’s not even the progressivism as such. I just feel like progressivism has hit a point where sympathy is starting to do more harm than good, and it can’t be rationally discussed in those terms because the sympathy happens to be extended towards people of a Different Color (trademark). But I still like sympathy (race-neutral, even).

  5. Ceofy says:

    Does anyone remember an SSC article about vampires that could subsist on orange juice, but chose to humanely farm humans instead? I remember it being the final push that resulted in me choosing to be vegetarian, and I wish I could find it again.

    • Tibor says:

      I haven’t read the article but I’d argue that under some conditions those vampires might be doing it better.

      Assume that the humans are largely unsuitable to life “in the wild”, i.e. outside of the farming environment, they’d likely die out. Also assume that they are really farmed humanely to a point where they get a lot more comfortable life than they’d have otherwise – they have very good healthcare they are not capable of otherwise, they have quality food every day and they don’t have to worry about predators or other dangers (until they are killed of course). They also don’t seem to yearn for much more than that, as far as the vampires (or any disinterest observers) can say. Finally, their lifespan, on average is better than it would be in the wild. The difference is in variance. Some humans would live a longer or even much longer life in the wild, but most would die a lot sooner than on the farm (not to mention a lot more painfully).

      I think you can make a case against eating veal or similar “baby meat” products and against at least some kinds of factory farming. But if your moral approach is essentially utilitarian, I find it hard to justify being a vegetarian/vegan for moral reasons.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Butler’s _Fledgling_ has a fairly good deal for humans (200 year lifespan) who are servants to the better-behaved vampire families.

      • MNH says:

        Some portion of vegetarians and vegans are so for environmental reasons (as a subset of moral reasons). I’m inclined to agree with you on all of this except the phrasing of your last sentence, which I think should probably read “…for animal welfare reasons.”

        Disclaimer: I’m a vegetarian for convenience and virtue signalling reasons, but if you ask me in person I’ll say it’s the environmental ones. I’ve never actually done the research to verify that the environmental arguments are valid, though (since I have yet to be challenged on them).

        • Tibor says:

          I don’t know about environmental reasons but I think there is a case to be made to eat a bit less meat than us nowadays usual. I try to eat meat at most once a day, from what I gather it is healthier. Also, it forces me to add a bit more variety to my cooking. A lot of Italian food is actually vegetarian and tastes amazing (it also uses loads of cheese, which is probably why, although there are even vegan dishes which are tasty – guacamole for example or a vegan brigadeiro – a type of Brazilian chocolate ball, normally with condensed milk and extremely sweet, but the vegan version uses coconut butter instead an a lot tastier). Of course, to get the milk for the cheese you still have to keep diary cows.

      • rlms says:

        I think the moral justification comes from the fact that the vast majority of farming *is* done in terrible conditions, so making a stand against bad kinds is pretty much equivalent to not eating any meat.

        • Tibor says:

          Not necessarily. I buy almost exclusively “bio” meat (or I guess it is marketed as “organic” meat in English speaking countries?), partly because I think the meat is of higher quality, since the growth is not subsidized by adding hormones to the feed and also because the standards for how the animals are treated are a lot higher. Also, at least with some animal product there is an easily recognizable difference in taste, or more precisely the best “bio” milk where I go shopping* tastes better than the best non-bio milk (on the other hand the “bio” avocados are pretty bad there and the regular ones are a lot better…and cheaper). Also, if you do some research you can probably also find conventional farms where the animals are treated quite well.

          One thing I find a bit annoying is, that especially in Europe there is this big anti-GMO sentiment (and in Germany even more than elsewhere) which means that you can’t have “bio” in the sense no hormones and good treatment of animals while simultaneously using GMOs to keep the price down – GMOs are banned in the entire EU by some EU directive.

          *The chain is called Tegut, probably unknown to most outside of roughly central Germany and Switzerland, but it is supposedly more or less a discount store in Switzerland and a rather “high-quality” supermarket in Germany

          • rlms says:

            I get the impression that animals reared free range/for organic meat aren’t actually treated that much better than those in factory farms, especially when it comes to inhumane methods of slaughter (PETA often makes dubious arguments, but they make some specific points here). It may be different in Europe.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            It’s illegal to give growth hormones to animals kept for meat in the EU, so I think that you are wrong there.

            There is very little difference in the EU between organic/bio and regular meat. AFAIK the only difference is that the animals get organic food.

          • keranih says:

            partly because I think the meat is of higher quality, since the growth is not subsidized by adding hormones to the feed and also because the standards for how the animals are treated are a lot higher

            You might benefit from doing more research into modern agriculture (as practiced in your region) and just exactly what goes into each sort of system.

            For example:

            “Pasture-raised” meat (hogs, cattle, meat chickens) comes from animals that are significantly physically older than ‘conventionally’ raised livestock. They are also less ‘finished’ – ie, they have fewer fat reserves because they have been struggling to continue to grow to their adult size while not getting enough nutrients. So the meat is older, tougher (has more connective tissue in the muscle) and has less fat, which changes how it tastes and how it cooks. Many people like it better this way. Most people don’t – they want meat that is more tender, permits faster cooking, and tastes more like fat.

            growth is not subsidized by adding hormones to the feed

            This is…this is not even wrong. Hormones are not fed to livestock in feed, as this is a highly inefficient way to manage growth. Instead, hormones are typically used in a slow-release capsule in the skin of the ear for cattle. (In the USA, swine can be fed a non-hormone beta agonist molecule that shifts the metabolism from putting down fat to putting down muscle meat – see here.) And no one feeds hormones to poultry – it’s grossly ineffective compared to making changes in the breeding stock. If someone talks to you about modern livestock being fed hormones, they don’t know what they are talking about.

            the standards for how the animals are treated are a lot higher

            To say that this is a subject of great controversy would be understating it. In most cases, the process for “improving how animals are kept” under organic/bio systems has been to describe in aesthetic terms how the consumer wants the animal housing to look, and to legislate those requirements. There has been no requirement to limit the degree of illness, lameness, loss due to predators, or other causes of avoidable death during production. Animals in “organic” systems tend to be sicker and more subject to death and disease than animals in “conventional” systems. If this were not the case, then every organic promoter would be showing studies of how their cows were sick less often, how fewer chickens per flock died, and how much lower the burden of parasites were on their hogs.

            This information is not promoted – not because the organic and conventional farmers don’t know which system has more sick animals, but because the organic farmers don’t want the consumer to know that the cows and pigs and chickens are not only cheaper to raise but also healthier in the barns.

            I’ll caveat this by saying that very well run small pasture-based organic farms in geographically ideal locations with careful limits on stocking density can do very well with both husbandry and profitability. But that’s at a tremendous expense in terms of non-wilderness land in very select locations, and the yield per animal (life) remains very low.

        • keranih says:

          @ rlms –

          I think the moral justification comes from the fact that the vast majority of farming *is* done in terrible conditions

          I accept that many/most/nearly all “ethical vegans” hold this to be factually correct – and if it were, it would be a logical justification of their lifestyle choice.

          However, the definitions of “terrible” and “vast majority” used to reach these conclusions are generally not very rigorous, leading to false conclusions.

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t remember that, but this exchange (follow links at bottom to four posts) between Caplan and Huemer is the most interesting discussion on the ethics of vegetarianism I’ve read.

      I tend to be slightly more persuaded by Huemer than Caplan, but am not a vegetarian due to uncertain ethical qualms+cognitive dissonance, thus far, being less unpleasant than foregoing the yuminess of meat+added inconvenience at restaurants, parties, etc.

      I do, however, think, that Huemer, probably only proves, at most, that factory farming is immoral, not that eating the meat of say, a cow that enjoyed a happy life outdoors and was slaughtered relatively painlessly, is immoral.

      • keranih says:

        I do, however, think, that Huemer, probably only proves, at most, that factory farming is immoral,

        onyomi, how does Huemer prove that? To my read (and thanks for that link, btw) “factory farming is immoral” is a prior assumption, not something demonstrated in that set of posts.

        • onyomi says:

          I think his argument is roughly:

          We don’t usually accept the idea that suffering is a problem in proportion to intelligence: low-IQ people suffering is just as bad as high-IQ people suffering.

          Even if we do accept that there is some connection between intelligence and capacity for suffering/the degree to which suffering should concern us, it doesn’t seem like humans have a capacity for suffering, say, 1 million times greater than that of a cow.

          Even if we heavily discount the suffering of farm animals relative to human suffering, factory farming, due to its sheer volume and the intensity of the unpleasantness to which the animals are subjected, is the most significant source of suffering in the world today. To make it not so requires us either to accept that “animal suffering doesn’t matter at all,” or “animal suffering is so infinitely less important than human suffering that the torture killing of a million cows is not as bad as, say, one human dying a relatively painless death.” These seem implausible, therefore factory farming is a moral evil.

          I actually don’t know the answer to the question “how many cows would you sacrifice to save one human life?” Some would probably say “infinite.” I don’t think I would. I think torturing a million cows for years on end is probably a greater evil than say, killing one human painlessly. Of course, I would selfishly rather torture a million cows than kill myself or a close friend or family member, but I would consider that a case of me being selfish, not a case of me being objectively right. In support of this, I would say that it would strike me as a greater tragedy for every pet dog and cat in the world to die an agonizing death (without taking into account the pain that would cause for the owners) than for one human I’ve never met to die a painless death.

          My entirely subjective impression is that animals do have a capacity for suffering, that capacity is somewhat related to intelligence, that that suffering is bad, and that while much less than humans, it isn’t so different that e.g. the suffering of a human is a million times worse than the suffering of a cow. To shoot from the hip, it seems more plausible to me that cows, cats, dogs, pigs, monkeys, etc. have in the range of 1/100-1/1000th our suffering capability as opposed to say, 1 trillionth.

          • Aapje says:

            The problem with that argument is that nature is cruel. It is not obvious to me that an animal that lives in nature and suffers starvation, disease, predation and exposure to the elements, suffers less than an animal that is fed, treated medically, kept fairly safe from predators and can sleep and weather storms under a roof….

            even if the latter doesn’t have an optimally happy life.

          • keranih says:

            factory farming, due to its sheer volume and the intensity of the unpleasantness to which the animals are subjected

            See, this is where it breaks down for me, because this is accepted as a prior, and is not supported by the facts.

            (Added to make more clear: “sheer volume” implies that there is something more wrong with 10K animals being treated at X level of cruelty in lots of 1K, than of 10K animals being treated at the same level of cruelty in lots of 10 at a time. It’s the same level of misery. And in the case of modern farming, there are fewer animals involved because of increased gains and reduced waste.)

            If “torture killing” were a thing of modern ag, then sure, I could get behind the whole “‘factory farming’ is evil.’ But it’s not, so the argument fails for me.

            Likewise, I’m really not clear on how we can use toxins to kill vermin (including really intelligent animals like rats) without running into the same moral hazard (or even more) when we humanely slaughter animals for needed nutrients.

          • rlms says:

            I think many vegetarians, and all vegans, would oppose poisoning rats. It’s focused on less because it’s presumably less of a problem and it’s a harder sell (people like cute pictures of calves, they generally don’t like rats sharing their houses).

  6. keranih says:

    I was talking with a friend the other day about life paths (our own) in particular related to martial arts, and about SFF movies/etc (another shared interest) and realized that all of the big stories, all the *popular* stories we could name were about *students*, not teachers.

    Now, “all” is an exageration. There are several “lit” films and stories about teachers – Dead Poets Society, Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, Mr Holland’s Opus and even ones that aren’t about teaching itself deal with the material (Farewell My Concubine had a couple nice moments, I think). Even more so, even in films that are about the young student warrior going off to take out the evil prince, we still have Obi-wan Kenobi, Masters Shufi and Oogway (KFP), all the Shaolin monks of Caine’s boyhood, Blade’s Whistler, and all the other archtypes. (CJ Cherryh’s Paladin is one of the few I can think of that focuses from the start on a martial arts teacher.) (And I’m probably forgetting a dozen or a score or a hundred others. Feel free to remind me!)

    But what my friend and I were discussing is how our pop culture is full of concepts of how to be a student. What we don’t have so much is explorations of what it means to be a teacher – to be the shaper, instead of the one shaped. How to learn to do that. (The conversation started with a comparison of errors that had gravely impacted others, and which went on to negatively impact still more people, and which we wish we had not done.)

    We had a bit of a laugh when we realized that what we wanted was a school for teaching, and we already had that, it and it was called “life”. But the difference in pop culture still stands.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The basic issue is probably that far more people have been students than teachers, which leads to more people being able to connect with such stories.

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        I think that is why high school is the setting of so very many modern stories.

        It is the last universal experience almost everyone in the paying audience has had.

        • keranih says:

          Yeah, agreed.

          Which leads one to wonder about the trend over the last generation to do away with the Western Canon in literature, and the (more recent) replacement of Harry Potter as the ‘common touchstone’ of Western Culture.

          Part of me is really freaking frustrated by the loss of the Iliad, Bible, Shakespeare etc – as I think the modern replacement is severely lacking in comparison. Another part is at least glad that this common core at least *exists*, which it did not for a couple decades. And the last part grudgingly acknowledges that “Common Western Canon” should never have attempted to be prescriptive in the first place, and should always have been descriptive of what “everyone” read.

          • rlms says:

            Shakespeare and the Bible are still part of a “common touchstone”, they’ve just sunk so deeply in that the phrases they’ve coined are unnoticeable (see a list of Shakespeare’s phrases here.)

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      The distinction between an outstanding teacher and an outstanding student isn’t easy to articulate, is it?

      In “Interview with Yakov Sinai” (Notices of the AMS, 2015) mathematician Yakov Sinai offers numerous observations upon this theme, which include the following:

      I participated in many olympiads in mathematics during my school years but never had any success and never won any awards. I say this to young people who have never won in olympiads; there may be compensation in the future. […]

      Q  Do you remember when you found out that you had an exceptional talent for mathematics?

      A If at all, it happened very late. I was a graduate student when I brought my paper on entropy to my advisor, A. N. Kolmogorov and he said, “At last you can compete with my other students.”

      But I am not sure that he was right and that I have an exceptional talent for mathematics. […]

      I like to teach undergraduate courses rather than graduate courses for the following reason: when you teach undergraduate courses you can easily see how your students become cleverer and more educated as they absorb new notions and connections and so on. [ ]

      My basic principle is as follows: if people do not understand my explanations, then this is my fault.

      Similarly in pop culture, the psychiatric comedy Analyze This (1999) with Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro, generates its humor by blurring the teaching-versus-learning boundary, in the sense that Crystal (the nebbish-therapist) learns comparably much as De Niro (the mobster-client).

      One overall lesson, perhaps, is that outstandingly effective teaching environments do not exclusively focus upon teachers directing students to “march” (mnemonically and ratiocinatively), but rather focus too upon students and teachers practicing together how to “dance” (intuitively and empathically).

      In all of the STEAM professions, a successful transition from “marching” to “dancing” marks the beginning of professional maturity, creativity, and responsibility — and there is a strong STEAM-consensus that this crucial cognitive transformation is not achievable solely by directive teaching and passive learning (or measurable solely by IQ either).

  7. mrcrashsite says:

    I kinda wanted to suggest a book to review, or more generally just wanted to promote a book that I really think is special, I have no idea if this is the best way to do it but anyway.

    The book is called “Stiffed” by Susan Faludi; it is about American masculinity. The reason why I think it would be a good book to look at is partly due to the fact that it is more or less a qualitative piece of work, in contrast with the books that I feel are normally review on this blog.

    I studied sociology at university and I have a particular interest in masculinity, however much of the literature was either about “queer” masculinity – as the field is called – or in fact seemed to not really be about men (one essay sticks in my mind as positing that talking about male issues detracts from women’s issues, in a book about masculinity this seems like a losing proposition). This is not one of those books, it really looks at men first, not to say it discounts women, but their experience is there to help explain masculinity, not as a focus in of itself . In fact it quite neatly ties into a lot of issues discussed on this blog: gender, groups (/tribes) and economics (in a particular context).

    It also provides a kind of history of America, because of the range of men that she looks at, you get insights into shipyards, gay rights movement, Vietnam war and American football. It is the wide range that really makes the book special, each once provides a social history.

    Above all it is a wonderfully written book, the introduction and the first chapter especially are beautiful in their presentation. It is a joy to read, so even if it doesn’t get review I do encourage anyone who is interesting in the subject to get a copy.

    I am annoyed because I am failing to articulate just how good I think this book is, I have bought and given away numerous copies to friends and family if that is an indication of my feelings for this book.

    • Urstoff says:

      It looks interesting, thanks for the suggestion!

      I’ll add it to the pile of sociological books that I need to read, along with Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” and Edin & Kefalas’s “Promises I Can Keep”. Do you have any other sociology books that you find important?

      • mrcrashsite says:

        Honestly, while it is sociological in topic it is much closer to journalism than anything, still well worth a read.

        In terms of actual sociology if you haven’t read the classics then go for them. Foucault is great; Mill’s on white collar workers is good; Goffman was my favorite (ideas about social roles as performances and people as actors with masks/roles, really good); Bourdieu if you are interest in social class; Du Bios if you have interest in race; and Habermas if you like your sociology to be philosophical.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        Not sure about important, but I get my sociology fix from the BBC Thinking allowed podcast which often contain references to interesting further reading.

  8. meh says:

    Would anyone care to reopen the dicussion on the industrial revolution from this open thread?
    http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/20/open-thread-73-75/

    • Vermillion says:

      I didn’t participate in the first discussion but I have been thinking a lot about the Industrial (and subsequent) Revolutions a lot.

      One question I have is in terms of time lag, this idea of a dichotomous before and after revolution and that it is some great technology that spurs the productivity jump. But really the more I look at it this jump seems to be more a somewhat steeper slope than a cliff, which makes me think that the term revolution is just the closest approximation of the derivative of the slope, and that they just pick a likely invention from close to that inflection point but really that’s more drawing the bullseye after the fact.

      Also the time to adoption of these technologies is getting shorter but productivity isn’t jumping substantially faster than it did after Watt’s steam engine or alternating current, so maybe the cultural changes that have to happen before innovation can have an effect are more tied to like, basic human cognitive abilities and are thus stickier.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      I have read the cultural, economic, and technological reasons why the industrial revolution didn’t happen before. Are there any resources on possible biological reasons? 2000 Years is a long time in which the population level baseline of some psychological traits (intelligence, sociability, entrepreneurship, conscientiousness, obedience) could reasonably have shifted. Were average (or maybe top 0.1%) 300 BC Greeks different from 1700 CE Englishmen in a way that mattered? I can think of ways how selection pressures during medieval times could cause that, but I am wondering to what degree this is realistic, and how big a part this could have played.

      • cassander says:

        it’s not exactly biological, but I’ve heard that the brains of literate people are different from those of the illiterate in measurable ways. 1700CE in the UK wasn’t teh first society with mass (e.g. greater than 50%) literacy, but it was one of the first, and decidedly larger than any other I know of.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        There’s always caffiene. It might be worth a few IQ points.

        • Chalid says:

          I wonder if maybe it’s not that caffeine had positive effects, but rather that coffee and tea led people to drink less alcohol, which would definitely be worth a few IQ points.

      • psmith says:

        Nancy is probably right about caffeine, especially considering the extent to which tea and coffee substituted not for water but for weak beer. (Compare: China, cigarettes, opium.).

        Greg Clark does not explicitly invoke genetics in his discussion of downward mobility (summarized e.g. here), but the reader may draw his own conclusions.

        Frost and Harpending have a paper about the possible population-level effects of the shockingly high rates of execution in parts of early modern Europe as well, I believe.

        • onyomi says:

          Tea didn’t really gain widespread popularity outside Buddhist communities in China until the late-Tang-Five Dynasties-Song period and that period also happens to be when China made some of its biggest economic and technological advances.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Wow. This might be another filter that contributes to the Fermi paradox.

            I don’t think there’s any reason to think there’s a bias towards nature supplying the right sort of stimulant.

      • Protagoras says:

        There’s a lot of technology that was not around in 300 BCE that was around in 1700 CE, so I think a lot of what prevented the 300 BCE industrial revolution was the technological base just not being there, and people don’t realize it because the missing elements included a lot of less obvious details. Metallurgy, to take a still somewhat obvious example; some of the ancients could, with enormous effort and luck, make steel, but techniques for working iron pretty steadily improved throughout the 2000 year period in question and had gotten vastly better by the end of it. Europe didn’t have blast furnaces until near the end of the period (though China had them much earlier, so they aren’t the only factor, just one of the many pieces). Complex machines require either insanely expensive carefully crafted and carefully tested parts, or manufacturing processes that are consistent, and the latter won’t happen if the materials the parts are made of aren’t consistently high quality (and the former won’t produce enough machines to generate any kind of revolution). And techniques more related to social organization probably also matter; the industrial revolution happened after the rise of the nation state, and it happened in the newly risen nation states.

  9. toBoot says:

    I’m a military lawyer and am planning on getting out of the military in the next few months and shifting my career towards something more research oriented. I’d love to work for a think tank or do some investigative journalism. My plan right now is pretty vague and mostly involves taking some time out to build my publication record. I was also thinking of taking some quantitative research methods classes and/or some statistics classes. Skill in quantitative research seem to be somewhat lacking in my field (international relations/international humanitarian law/national security), and generally the research is not very empirical, so I might be able to build more a niche this way.

    Does pursuing this quantitative route sound like a good idea to other folks? If so, any advice on what I should be looking for? Any particular software programs or programming languages (like R) that I should focus on?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I don’t want to be discouraging, but I have a friend whose schtick in academia was going to be qantitative research in international relations. His conclusion after sticking around for a while was that natural language processing is not yet where it would need to be for this to get off the ground (you can’t analyze big batches of laws or treaties or news articles yet (well you can but it is very very crude (but still pretty neat, check out non-negative matrix factorization applied to frequencies of word appearance))) (but this might change in a decade or so).

      • toBoot says:

        Oh, I’m not thinking of going for quantitative analysis of natural language stuff. Just more data driven studies of national security issues/law of war issues. For example, if we delegate authority to engage enemies offensively, rather than in self-defense, down to groun troops, how does that affect numbers of civilian casualties, and numbers of friendly casualties? Or how does the use of drones compare to the use of ground troops in mitigating civilian casualties? These are relatively straightforward studies once you have the data – the trickiest part is in getting reliable casualty numbers. But I can think of lots of areas in this field where more sophisticated data analysis could shed light, but it doesn’t seem like it’s being done.

        • keranih says:

          Emm. I was thinking about this when I read your first comment, and then your reply here kinda cemented my thought –

          – there is no way for an individual or even a moderate sized group to gather enough information to control enough variables in order to get a decent n for government/warfare/regulation intersection studies.

          I would strongly encourage you to look into an epidemiological program – up to and including self-study – so that you can get a handle on just how hard it is to define cases across national boundaries.

          I completely agree that solid empirical research into governance outcomes is very lacking on this planet, but without forty planets observed over 10k years, we can’t even get a decent baseline of what is the *normal range* for the social human condition on earth-like planets, much less what represents pathology.

  10. Well... says:

    Sporadically in the open threads I’ve asked for recommendations on sci-fi books based on my favorite-to-least-favorite ordered list of the Neal Stephenson books I’ve read. (Least favorite by no means implies I didn’t love reading the book, only that I liked the other books even more.)

    I’m now most of the way through The Diamond Age and I’m not sure where I’d place it, though it clearly belongs in my top three. As literature writing, it is the best I’ve seen by Stephenson. It’s also the most emotionally gripping–some of that owes to the fact that the 4 year-old Nell character (though not her circumstances) reminded me so much of my own daughter. But so far there’s no outer space component, and outer space stuff is really the main thing I like in sci-fi and where I really let my imagination be captured.

    So below I place The Diamond Age at #3 but really it would be #1 under a slightly different lens.

    1. Seveneves
    2. Anathem
    3. The Diamond Age (note: I’m still only about 5/6ths through it)
    4. Snow Crash
    5. Zodiac
    6. Reamde

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Post-Stephenson readings reasonably include:

      • along the harder-core science-respecting outer-space axis: Carter Scholz’ (super-dark) Gypsy (2015)

      • along the harder-core science-respecting math-cognition axis:Ted Chiang’s (collection) Stories of Your Life and Others  (2016)

      Compared to Stephenson, both Scholz’ and Chiang’s works are considerably farther out along the sober-and-serious axis (hence neither sells as well).

      • herbert herberson says:

        Did you read/like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora? Was looking up Gypsy since I’d never heard of it (and will have to check it out now for sure) and it sounds like it may be ruminating around similar lines

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I devoured Aurora in a single day last year. Absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the generation ship genre.

          I read the Mars trilogy and thought it was only -okay,- Icehenge never really grabbed me, but I loved Aurora. Highly recommended to everyone, really.

          • Iain says:

            I second the recommendation for Aurora. I read it while crammed into the middle seat on a plane; there aren’t many things that are improved by hours of your best sardine impression, but books about generation ships might be one of them.

          • herbert herberson says:

            “Absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the generation ship genre.”

            Ha, this seems like sort of a cruel bit of advice, given how ruthlessly Aurora poked holes in that particular idea. Strong agreement otherwise, though!

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Hmm. So Aurora is better than the Mars trilogy? I have Robinson on my no-buy list because I read Red Mars and found the second half annoying (it was supposed to be about the colonization of Mars, so I would expect it not to have so many holes in its realism). I’ll look at Aurora and maybe read it.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            The only Robinson I’d read before Aurora was Red Mars, and like you I didn’t really care for it that much.

            But as it happened, I travelled up to Kirksville, MO, population 15,000, to take some professional development courses, and forgot my dang Kindle at home, so I was bookless for the week. I went to Wal-Mart, about the only bookstore in town, and looked through their paperbacks. Robinson was the only author I recognized, and Aurora was the only book there not a harlequin romance, so I decided to give him another shot.

            As a book meant to last me a week, it was a total backfire. I had it finished by the next evening. I liked it much better than Red Mars, even if as Trofim says below he does some deck-stacking to get his story to come out right. It was enough to get me to go back and read the rest of the Martian trilogy. I think it’s worth a shot.

        • cassander says:

          I thought the first half was amazing, the second a bit of a let down when (rot13) gur pbzchgre fgnegf fbyivat nyy gurve ceboyrzf. Naq jnl gbb zhpu qenzn vf znqr bs gurve svany nccebnpu.

          Still, the best sci fi book I’ve read in a while. If you have other recommendations in that vein I’d like to hear them.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I feel about Aurora the way Dr. Beat feels about Blindsight: An author rampantly stacking the deck in order to make a point that’s questionable at best without said deck-stacking.

          • DrBeat says:

            Unexpected validation! Yay!

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Well, mind you I disagree with your opinion on Blindsight, which I greatly enjoy 😉

            But I certainly understand how you come to feel that way about that story.

          • DrBeat says:

            Understanding how I arrived at that conclusion and recognizing it as a valid conclusion even though it is not what you made is still way more validation than I usually get.

      • Well... says:

        My interest is piqued about Gypsy.

      • Marshayne Lonehand says:

        Herbert herberson and “Well …”, it would be cool if either or both of you contributed an SSC-themed Goodreads-style review of Gypsy; a hard-science space-SF book that (for me anyway) was one mighty sobering read … imagine Kim Stanley Robinson’s near-future eco-universe, technologically hybridized with the biology-is-destiny themes of (e.g.) James Tiptree’s “Love is the plan, the plan is death“.

        • Well... says:

          I will try to get a copy of Gypsy in the next month and read it. I don’t know what a Goodreads-style review is, but I’d be happy to write some kind of review of it in an OT here after I’m done reading it.

          Are you making the request because you like my writing, or because you like my taste?

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Your taste. Like many folks, I admire and enjoy the works of writers like Neil Stephenson and Kim Stanley Robinson. “Carter Scholz’ Gypsy” is the answer to the question “What are the most thought-provoking ideas of near-future SF narratives that remain, after Stephenson’s heroic adventurism and Robinson’s heroic optimism are (mostly) excised?”

            If you enjoy Gypsy, then try Karl Marlantes’ (nonSF) Matterhorn (2010), which addresses similar human themes (if not technological themes).

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I went out and got a copy of Gypsy and read it. So a few notes (spoilers follow):

        1. The politics are eye-rolling, but that comes with the territory.
        2. This may be unfair of me but: especially after reading The Nine Billion Names of God in the same story collection, Scholz comes off as one o’ them highfalutin’ lit’ry types like Margaret Atwood who doesn’t have a lot of respect for SF, especially hard SF. But on the other hand, he did a really good job of writing some hard SF here (unlike Margaret Atwood.) I’m not qualified to state whether the ship’s science is accurate, but it certainly felt accurate.
        3. I don’t think the story ultimately says what he thought it was saying. [SPOILERS – rot13 to decode]: Ur jnagf gb fhttrfg gung gur fgnef ner whfg orlbaq bhe ernpu, ohg… gur fuvc jnf ohvyg va frperg jvgu yvgrenyyl fpencf yrsg bire sebz gur abezny bcrengvba bs uhzna grpuabybtvpny pvivyvmngvba, jnf qrfvtarq ol n penml bofrffvir, vapbecbengrq n ohapu bs hagrfgrq grpuabybtl, jnf cbbeyl fgnssrq, naq rapbhagrerq n ybg bs onq yhpx, lrg rira gura gurl pnzr ernyyl pybfr gb znxvat vg. Jung gung fhttrfgf vf gung vs n angvba be znlor rira n ynetr pbecbengvba jnagrq gb frggyr gur fgnef, vg jbhyq or ragveryl qbnoyr.

    • Incurian says:

      My faves were Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle, I’m curious to see what you think. Also I think it’s weird that you liked Anathem but it didn’t make it to #1 (I’ve mostly seen people put it at the top or bottom). Seveneves at the top, VERY interesting, I don’t know anyone who likes that one best.

      I want to reiterate my recommendation for The Culture by Ian M Banks, and Heinlein’s weird later stuff that most people don’t like because they have wrong opinions. Honorable mention for The Quantum Thief. Anti-recommendation for Revelation Space (although if you mostly like the space stuff you might like it).

      • Well... says:

        I think it’s weird that you liked Anathem but it didn’t make it to #1 (I’ve mostly seen people put it at the top or bottom). Seveneves at the top, VERY interesting, I don’t know anyone who likes that one best.

        I liked Anathem a lot; I think I like Seveneves more because it required less suspension of disbelief up front (and maybe overall come to think of it). Also, it was almost all in space while Anathem was only in space for the last bit. Anathem was also just a tad cornier. And finally, there’s the fact that I read Seveneves first so it had the point-of-comparison-bias thing going for it.

        Someone in the last OT I posted in on this topic said his/her list was ordered exactly like mine with Seveneves at the top.

      • John Schilling says:

        Seveneves at the top, VERY interesting, I don’t know anyone who likes that one best.

        Seveneves suffers from having two mismatched stories, and if they don’t both click you’re going to put it in the good-but-not-great category. The first two-thirds of Seveneves, is close to the best Stephenson has done, IMO.

        The Baroque cycle is so much longer and deeper than anything Stephenson has ever done, and so unlike just about anything anyone has ever done, that it is difficult to compare to anything, even other Stephenson. But I agree that it is very, very good.

        • Incurian says:

          On Seveneves, rot13:
          V ernyyl yvxr obgu cnegf qrfcvgr gurz orvat zvfzngpurq, ohg zl ovt pbzcynvag vf gung vg raqrq gbb rneyl. V jbhyq unir yvxrq vg orggre nf n gevybtl creuncf, jvgu gur gur svefg cneg orvat... gur svefg cneg, gur frpbaq cneg pbhyq terngyl rkcnaq hcba gur rcbpu bs gur frira rirf naq znlor n fancfubg bs gur fgngr bs uhznavgl rirel srj trarengvbaf, naq gur ynfg cneg jbhyq or gur ynfg cneg cyhf svavfuvat hc gur nep jvgu gur cvatref. Urpx, V xabj ur'f abg gung xvaq bs jevgre (fb sne), ohg bs nyy uvf obbxf gung bar vf creuncf orfg fhvgrq gb na batbvat frevrf. Ybgf bs zngrevny gurer.

          • Well... says:

            I’m glad he doesn’t write ongoing series. Ongoing series would require me to functionally become a “fan” to keep up, and that rubs me the wrong way.

          • Incurian says:

            Well, Ian Banks died :(, so you can read The Culture series without fear of need to keep up.

            P.S. my use of “well” is the verbal filler kind, not the your name kind, although in this case it was also addressed to you, in case you were wondering.

    • Chris Hibbert says:

      Have you read much of Vernor Vinge? his “Fire Upon The Deep”, “Deepness In the Sky”, and “Children of the Sky” Series is extremely good.

      I don’t know your political persuasion, but I don’t think you have to be libertarian to like the winners of the Prometheus award, given annually for ‘best libertarian science fiction’. Not everything there will be to your taste, but starting from their list, and reading reviews to find novels that sound good to you is likely to be a productive path.

      Disclaimer: I’m a past president and current treasure of the LFS who are responsible for the Prometheus award.

      We’ve given awards recently to Stephenson, Daniel Suarez, Cory Doctorow, and Ramez Naam. Last year’s nominees included Gene Wolfe, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Harry Turtledove, and Eliezer Yudkowsky, not all of whom can be counted as libertarian.

      • Well... says:

        I started on Rainbows End and quit reading it after 100 pages or so. I still can’t really figure out exactly what it was I so disliked about it.

        Nice to have e-met you, Chris Hibbert, Treasurer and former President of the LFS responsible for the Prometheus award. Remember me when I write my sci-fi novel! (I can’t be counted as libertarian either.)

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Yes I have Vernor Vinge on my list of SF authors not to get another one because Rainbows End was so boring. But Chris didn’t mention that book — maybe his other books are better?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ll recommend Vinge’s Marooned in Real Time, A Fire upon the Deep, and A Deepness in the Sky.

            Admittedly, Marooned in Real Time might not be as big a deal now– it introduced the idea of the Singularity, and I found that really exhilerating, especially because in those days it hadn’t occurred to me that the Singularity could be a very bad deal for old-style humans.

            My relationship to the other two books is weird. I enjoyed A Fire Upon the Deep tremendously on the first reading, and haven’t been able to get into it since. I haven’t made a second try at A Deepness in the Sky.

  11. onyomi says:

    Let’s suppose the following premises are all true:

    1. Some version of “Muggle Realism” is true and will eventually be widely accepted as true.
    1a. Big, real differences exist among cultures and ethnicities that won’t easily melt away when e.g. third worlders come to the first world. a.k.a. assimilation is harder than it seems.

    2. The first world closing its doors to the third world and splintering into relatively monocultural ethnostates is a bad thing. Reduction in meaningful culture exchange, viewpoint diversity, trade, etc. is bad. Decreased opportunity for the third world and people from the third world to enjoy first world-levels of opportunity, development, and technology is bad.

    3. Everyone in the world gradually absorbing into one, universal culture, speaking one language, possibly with one world government, or, at least, moving in that direction, is also bad. Leveling of the playing field by making the first world more like the third world is bad.

    Is there some other, better direction for the future to go in? My personal preference is widespread adoption of an anti-authoritarian/anti-statist/anarcho-capitalist viewpoint allowing unlimited secession, thereby forcing no one to be in a political union with anyone they don’t want, but also allowing political units of all sizes and based on all kinds of reasons, to develop. Most would probably split along ethnic or linguistic lines, as they do today; but maybe there would be more opportunity for “propositional nations”–i. e. ours is the nation where we accept anyone who believes in non-violence, etc.

    Of course, even a widespread acceptance of ancap philosophy, itself quite unlikely, would not solve all the problems of 2 or 3, especially in the short term: it could result into everyone splintering into monoethnic enclaves or third world emigration on an extremely disruptive (though not necessarily long-term net negative) scale.

    If 1 and 1a. are true, as I think they are, there are a lot of scary ways things could go, the most likely probably not the Nazi sort of route everyone fears, but I imagine, instead, a new kind of paternalistic technocracy (rule by educated, high-IQ elites who know what’s best for the world). This seems to be the biggest brewing conflict in the world right now; I wish I saw more people addressing it head-on? Or are they doing so and I’m not seeing quite how?

    It seem, rather, that most people are either in a kind of denial, trying to have their cake and eat it too (assuming away 1 and 3), or else too quickly giving up on the tremendous economic, technological, cultural promise of globalization (and opting for 2).

    • Well... says:

      1. I don’t know what “Muggle Realism” is and as far as I can tell from a DuckDuckGo search it’s related to Harry Potter, which I haven’t read but know to be a series of fantasy books for kids. So I don’t know why “Muggle Realism” would be true unless you were using the term in some non-Harry Potter way. Maybe you could explain what you mean?

      1a. Strikes me as obviously false or at least problematic. Assimilation is hard, but far from impossible. And then, how hard is it really? In fact you might say it’s astonishing how well various peoples have assimilated into the cultures they have, not least into Western culture. For this to happen I suspect you do need certain things to be in place (guessing here): an ethos encouraging assimilation; a predominating nationalist pride of some sort among the assimilators; a lasting and widely-enforced taboo on some particular thing or set of things in order to focus tribal tendencies away from keeping assimilatees shut out; fertility rates appropriate to the evolving economic needs of the society; etc. None of those things seem that difficult to acquire in a culture. They’re certainly existent in ours, just no longer dominant.

      • publiusvarinius says:

        “Muggle Realism” is a euphemism for a recently banned term. Its advocates believe that some people have more… magical aptitude… than others. See e.g. the previous Open Thread announcement.

        • Urstoff says:

          Oh good god, these euphemisms are just getting stupid.

          • DrBeat says:

            Isn’t that a good thing?

            Better than the euphemisms having super cool names that make the speakers out to be a heroic underground.

          • Urstoff says:

            If those are the two alternatives, then I think you’re right; better dumb than “cool”.

          • powerfuller says:

            Was banning the term intended, in part, to make the conversation clearer (i.e. tabooing it)? These euphemisms are having the opposite effect and just make the conversation more jargon-y.

            I was hoping “Muggle Realism” would turn out to be the opposite of Magical Realism — stories about fantastical characters having very mundane experiences.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’ve lost track (gee, wonder why), but it’s possible that one reason to taboo these words was just that: to get people to taboo their words. So anyone who wants to make some claim about Muggle Reality or Sapient Meatscape or Redneck Zeitgeist or Totally Not A Euphemism or whatever can do so only if they make their claim as specific as it really ought to have been.

          • Nornagest says:

            Has that ever worked?

          • Vorkon says:

            No, it was banned to prevent the site from showing up on Google searches for the term the euphemism replaced. Scott specified this in the intro to the last open thread.

            It should be clear by now that these word bans do the exact opposite of making conversation clearer. If Scott wants to keep doing them anyway, that’s his prerogative, but it’s definitely being done at the expense of clarity.

            (@Nornagest: I’ve seen the Rationalist Taboo work, very occasionally, on a one-on-one level between two people who are actively trying to be as polite and charitable with each other as possible, and agree that a certain term is loaded, and it would be better if they avoided it, for that specific conversation. I’ve never seen it work as an edict from on high, and I’ve certainly never seen this “ban random words, but not the topic itself” moderating system that this site uses result in anything other than crazy euphemisms.)

          • Deiseach says:

            I suppose it shows that if people really, really, really want to raise a particular topic for discussion/pulling and dragging there is no way of stopping them (bar a Reign of Terror).

          • birdboy2000 says:

            The euphemisms are hilarious.

        • Well... says:

          OK makes sense. I’m often baffled at how this kind of knowledge spreads, and so quickly. I always seem to be the last to know. Is there an email list I was supposed to sign up for or something? 😛

          • Zodiac says:

            If there isn’t it might not be a bad idea to start one. I am completely lost on at least half the euphemisms employed.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Nah, no email list. just read every single comment in every open thread, and you’ll be fine.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I’ve been racing for weeks to catch up on the open threads, because I stopped reading for about a month in March and I felt out of the loop.

            There’s probably a psychological study to be done on the reasons I feel compelled to read every single comment (or least know what every comment is *about*, even if I collapse long culture war threads).

          • Vorkon says:

            There’s probably a psychological study to be done on the reasons I feel compelled to read every single comment (or least know what every comment is *about*, even if I collapse long culture war threads).

            Ugh, yeah, I’d comment here a LOT more often if I didn’t have this problem. I wonder how widespread it is?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Muggle realism is a euphemism.

        Anyway, onyomi is positing a least convenient possible world for both cultural nationalists and multiculturists, and assuming away the premises is cheating 🙂

      • Randy M says:

        Maybe you and Onyomi should clarify/taboo assimilation. Well… seems to be using it as “basically not making trouble” and I think Onyomi is using it as something like “No glaring achievement gaps” or so.

        • Well... says:

          I meant “assimilation” in a more involved way than that: taking on the dominant culture’s dress, cuisine, technology, values, lifestyle choices, language including dialect and accent, etc. until one’s primary identity is primarily as part of the dominant people. (Other distinct identities may be held but they are kept subordinate and mostly private or else lighthearted, e.g. Irish-Americans.) You could think of it as pervasive cultural appropriation but without the pejorative connotation.

          I wasn’t thinking about achievement gaps. You can always find achievement gaps if you’re obsessive enough about looking for them.

      • onyomi says:

        1a. Strikes me as obviously false or at least problematic. Assimilation is hard, but far from impossible. And then, how hard is it really? … For this to happen I suspect you do need certain things to be in place (guessing here): an ethos encouraging assimilation; a predominating nationalist pride of some sort among the assimilators; a lasting and widely-enforced taboo on some particular thing or set of things in order to focus tribal tendencies away from keeping assimilatees shut out… None of those things seem that difficult to acquire in a culture. They’re certainly existent in ours, just no longer dominant.

        If 1a. is false then why did the US just elect a guy whose biggest promise was “build a wall to control the inflow of foreigners”? Why did the leader of a previously fringe party, whose platform is basically “keep France French,” just finish a strong second in a four-way French election? Why, in the US, are there still really obvious black and white neighborhoods, despite black and white people having lived there together for 400 years?

        The denial of 1a. so common today seems largely based on the success story that is the European immigration to North America. As you mention, previously important ethnic identities like Italian, Irish, etc. have largely melded into a semi-homogeneous “white American” identity. But what if that success wasn’t so much because Americans had the right attitude (though maybe non-xenophobic attitudes are a necessary, if not sufficient condition for assimilation), but because the acceptance of one European group by another was never fundamentally very difficult?

        For example, linguistically, ethnically, genetically, geographically, the area we now call China, especially if you count areas like Tibet and Xinjiang, but even if you don’t, is probably as diverse, if not more diverse, than Europe. Imagine, then, a bunch of Chinese from different parts of China all moved to say, some relatively sparsely populated part of Australia, where they proceed to get along pretty well, all speaking some variation of Mandarin, and, over a few generations, letting their regional Chinese identities mostly fade away. Would we say “this is an example of why assimilation works!” or would we say “this is an example of how the regional differences among different groups of Chinese were not as deep or lasting as we thought once they transplanted themselves to a different place which was original home to none of them”?

        In other words, the experience of European immigrants to North America is cited as an impressive assimilation success story, but we probably wouldn’t be very impressed if a bunch of Chinese from different parts of China managed to all live together harmoniously on another continent.

        Maybe the biggest problem for thus-far unassimilated or under-assimilated populations is pure bigotry or racism on the part of the majority population. As David Friedman notes, there are historical examples of e.g. Gypsies assimilating once the majority stopped looking down on them (which also has its pros and cons from the perspective of Gypsy culture, of course). But even if we accept the assimilation problems are all related to bias (which I don’t think they are, though bias is surely part of it), then that still indicates assimilation of people who look noticeably different, to say nothing of people who look noticeably different and come from a culture at a very different stage of development, is quite hard.

        In the US, for example, enough people are progressive enough in their thinking on race to elect a black president in a majority white nation, yet still you find “the black neighborhood” and “the white neighborhood” in most American cities, without all that much sign of improvement.*

        In other words, as soon as you move away from the example of e.g. Europeans mixing well with other Europeans and instead look at third worlders attempting to integrate into first world society, or people with visually obvious racial differences trying to live alongside each other harmoniously, I don’t think assimilation’s record is nearly as good, thus far, as you think it is.

        Which is not to say it’s impossible or not desirable (I say this as a guy who enjoys hearing different languages as he walks down the street and enjoys having, say Diwali festivities, in addition to Christian festivities, in his neighborhood; I think I enjoy these things more than most, however), just that it’s very hard, and whatever we’re doing recently (welfarism, focus on identity politics of individual groups within a nation) may be making it worse (the correspondence between the drop-off of black-white integration in the US and the start of LBJ’s “Great Society” is highly suspicious to me).

        *I am curious however, to learn more about the individual examples of highly racially integrated towns cited in the second review, and whether they have anything in common.

        • The Nybbler says:

          What of the rather more successful assimilation of East Asian and South Asian immigrants into the United States? While you still have e.g. Indian neighborhoods and Chinese neighborhoods, you also have Indians and Chinese (and other Asians) mixed in with the white population. A look at the “racial dot map of the United States” shows a pattern of a lot of areas which are mixed white and Asian, with other areas mixed black and Hispanic.

          You could argue, I suppose, that Indians aren’t so different in appearance from Southern Europeans; certainly no further than Southern Europeans are from Scandinavians. But I don’t think that works with East Asians.

          • Anonymous says:

            East Asians and Whites will readily live together, because they tolerate each other as neighbours. IIRC, same with Indians. They’re very definitely still different identities. The non-White residents and citizens still think of themselves as distinct from regular (White) Americans. It’s just the White Americans that tend to* have no ethnic identity and loyalty other than “White American”.

            * There are exceptions, such as the Jews.

          • onyomi says:

            I think there is an extent to which many of the disasters of US foreign policy of the past few decades have been misguided attempts to replicate the success of places like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. We bombed the hell out of Japan and a few decades later they’re a thriving, advanced democracy who love us! We bomb the hell out of Iraq…

            If forcibly exporting American democracy to different places has highly variable success, it should probably be no surprise that people coming here (forcibly or voluntarily) would as well?

          • Nornagest says:

            @onyomi — Well, you know this, but it’s probably relevant that Japan had spent most of a hundred years Westernizing about as fast as it could before WWII. The interwar/fascist period walked that back in some ways (more emphasis on Japan’s warrior traditions, e.g.), but continued it in others, for example by trying to establish Japan as a major colonial power.

            Iraq doesn’t have that context.

          • BBA says:

            Iran and Turkey spent a few decades Westernizing as fast as they could. It didn’t take.

        • Civilis says:

          The denial of 1a. so common today seems largely based on the success story that is the European immigration to North America. As you mention, previously important ethnic identities like Italian, Irish, etc. have largely melded into a semi-homogeneous “white American” identity. But what if that success wasn’t so much because Americans had the right attitude (though maybe non-xenophobic attitudes are a necessary, if not sufficient condition for assimilation), but because the acceptance of one European group by another was never fundamentally very difficult?

          Does the experience of black Americans generalize to other non-European ethnicities? The only minor disagreement I had with your point 1a was the assumption that culture was tied to ethnicity. If you can say that the diverse European ethnicites are still close enough to have a common culture, what’s the limit of who can have values close enough to be culturally compatible?

          I think one factor may be the role of religion in culture. My mother (half-German, half-English) received some disapproval at her marriage because my father (half-German, half-Irish) was Catholic and not Protestant. Fast forward four decades and that sort of prejudice is almost unheard of, yet I still think some of that undercurrent remains. A lot of East Asian immigrants are some form of Christian, often either Catholic or mainstream Protestant, giving them some level of shared values with the “white American” or “generic American” identity.

          It could also be some level of social or work class based cultural connection; Asian Americans of all varieties are disproportionately engaged in white collar professional occupations, mixing them in solidly with the blue tribe white Americans.

          A final factor is the reason for coming to the US. Most Asian immigrants are voluntary immigrants who came to the US to stay and have a better life. A lot of the Vietnamese, on the other hand, are political refugees with ties to their home culture yet some level of gratitude to the US. Most black Americans are descended from slaves. It’s been noted that recent immigrants to the US from Africa and the Caribbean do much better than the average American black. A fair number of Hispanic immigrants come to the US for economic reasons while retaining cultural and familial ties to their homelands. Cuban-Americans are political refugees. At some level, there’s a difference between ‘here because we want to be Americans’, ‘here because we’re politically like you’, ‘here because you’re rich’, and ‘didn’t want to be here and didn’t have a choice in the matter’ (or ‘never asked for you to come here’ in the case of Native Americans).

          Looking at it at a generalized case by case basis: Asian immigrants generally fall into the ‘here because we want to be Americans’ and ‘here because we’re politically like you’ and share values either via religion with the red tribe or by economic class with the blue tribe (or both) so probably have a good chance of assimilating. Hispanic immigrants are ‘here because you’re rich’ and might share a religious connection, but if they’re not here with the intention of assimilating, it’s not going to happen. Native Americans and non-immigrant blacks have a grudge against the ‘white culture’ and have political leaders with reasons for discouraging assimilation.

          The test would be to see how sub-groups compare. We can look at the results of recent immigrants from the Caribbean and West Africa against non-immigrant blacks and the results of Christian refugees from Southwest Asia against Muslim immigrants, for example.

          (Another unrelated thing to consider is the role of the US military in forcing military members into a unified culture. Ex-military officers and professional soldiers, regardless of ethnicity, tend to be very similar in values.)

          • onyomi says:

            Asian immigrants generally fall into the ‘here because we want to be Americans’ and ‘here because we’re politically like you’… Hispanic immigrants are ‘here because you’re rich’ and might share a religious connection, but if they’re not here with the intention of assimilating, it’s not going to happen.

            I think a lot of earlier Asian immigrants probably came here just to make money, but that’s probably more true of more recent immigrants. What you mention about “here because you’re rich” is another issue with third world immigration: if you have someone moving from one first world country to another, one can assume they are probably at least somewhat positively disposed to the new culture and hoping to join it because they aren’t getting a huge jump in standard of living just by being there.

            Some third worlders may love American culture, values, etc. but even those who hate first world cultures still have a strong incentive to come.

          • Civilis says:

            I think a lot of earlier Asian immigrants probably came here just to make money, but that’s probably more true of more recent immigrants.

            Again, my tendency to write while I think may be at work here; apologies if it seems half finished.

            There’s a difference between (exaggerated):
            A) “It’s impossible to work here because the country’s too corrupt. I’m going to immigrate to that other country and start a business and my children will be rich.”
            B) “Hey, that other country gives immigrants free stuff, and it’s better off than here! I’m going to move there and get my free stuff!
            C) “I could really use more money. I’m going to work over there in richer country, get rich myself, and come back home.”

            The people in group A share an important value with most of the West (in theory, if not in practice): a belief that one should get ahead through hard work and entrepreneurship rather than bribing the right people or being related to ruling party leadership It’s the recognition that the values of the culture you’re going to are what generates long term wealth. Nobody’s going to get rich running a dry cleaners in NY, but it might get your kids into good schools and help them get rich.

            The people in Group C may share that value, but their focus is on the short term and have no reason to assimilate as long as they get paid. I’ve been a member of Group C, working overseas for a brief period in return for extra money and a boost at the job. While I liked the country I was in, I had no desire to adopt their values or culture.

        • Wander says:

          I do think that European immigration is a different story, largely because of similarity in appearance. Enough generations away from the British Isles and you stop being able to tell apart Englishmen and Irishmen, in much the same way that many Americans struggle to differentiate e.g. Koreans and Chinese. But the differences across broader racial lines are much more obvious, meaning that the minority will always be visible, regardless of culture.

          • onyomi says:

            It seems very crude and unenlightened (and maybe it is), but I think this is still a really big factor. If a Korean moves to Japan and gets really good at Japanese, he can basically become, for all intents and purposes, Japanese. I will never be mistaken for Japanese no matter how hard I work on my Japanese–not even if I were Japanese (that is, born and raised in Japan). For better or worse, people judge a lot based on physical appearance, and that’s hard to get around.

            On the more encouraging side, as Charles Murray says, you can learn more about a person by talking with them for two minutes (assuming you can speak a common language) than you can by knowing their race. Which is why I was so much happier with the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover/color-blind” approach to racial issues they mostly preached when I was younger.

          • Civilis says:

            I was going to comment on this in my original post, but since it’s all anecdotal I didn’t include it.

            To some degree, I think the amount of intermarriage between Asians and Europeans has helped stir the melting pot, as it were. My first boss was half-Japanese, and I didn’t know it until I met her mother (I’m sure there’s a story involved and one of the things I regret was that I was too worried about offending to ask). On the other hand, I made a Vietnam War reference joke around a gaming buddy without realizing his wife was the daughter of a Vietnamese immigrant. If I know what to look for, I can tell, but it’s hard.

            Yet another gaming buddy who looked every inch the wizened Native American liked to tell stories where he had some well-meaning person attempt to empathize with him about the unfairness his ancestors had suffered at the hands of the white man. The friend’s response was ‘thanks, but I’m Basque’. The legendary ‘Iron Eyes Cody’ of the famous ‘Weeping Indian’ ad was 100% Italian.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            onyomi asserts  If a Korean moves to Japan and gets really good at Japanese, he can basically become, for all intents and purposes, Japanese.

            Min Jin Lee’s recent, much-praised novel (3,279 GoodReads ratings; 699 reviews) Pachinko (2017) is an extended account of how and why it comes about, that hopes of Korea/Japan assimilation commonly are not fulfilled (there are lots of writers in my family circle, is how I came to read Lee’s book).

            In a nutshell: Pachinko is all about how looking alike, dressing alike, and talking alike are relatively simple and easy, compared to the much tougher challenge of thinking alike … and Japanese society highly values thinking alike.

        • Deiseach says:

          I say this as a guy who enjoys hearing different languages as he walks down the street and enjoys having, say Diwali festivities, in addition to Christian festivities, in his neighborhood

          Okay, I’m going to ask the unpleasant question: how much do you enjoy the Diwali festivals as “quaint local traditions adding colour and vibrancy”, as long as the people have assimilated the Correct Attitudes re: women’s rights, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, sex outside of marriage, marriage for love and divorce, employment/economic issues, etc.?

          Because it seems to me that a lot of the people who position themselves as pro-open borders and equality and “no human being is illegal” are happy to make the bargain “you assimilate my values on these things and in return we grant you the right to get very upset about Hallowe’en costumes and whitewashing in movies”. That is, if the immigrants bring other traditional attitudes with them (such as “a woman who is sexually active outside of marriage is a slut who has shamed her family”) then the “every culture is equally valid and expecting people to give up traditional ways is colonialism and hyper-nationalism and white supremacism” attitude suddenly goes away and these are Bad Old Attitudes which they need to shed now that they’re in the land of liberty.

          I’m thinking of , for example, back in 2008, when the Anglican Communion was very badly divided over LGBT rights between the Global South (traditional on doctrine and Scripture, against gay rights or ordaining gay and lesbian clergy) and the European/North Americans (the opposite), the allegation was made that Barbara Harris – an African American Suffragan Bishop of Massachusett – said the African Bishops’ loyalty had been “bought with chicken dinners” by the conservative American Anglican Council. Certainly the liberal, inclusive, racism-is-bad Anglicans/Episcopalians got very shirty about the African bishops and their congregations to the point of making statements that would otherwise have been denounced from the pulpits as the worst kind of bigotry if anyone else had said them, e.g. (retired) Bishop Spong in 1998 saying in an interview with a church paper that “They’ve moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity. They’ve yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we’ve had to face in the developing world. That’s just not on their radar screen” and when being asked if that was patronising to African and Caribbean bishops, said “If they feel patronised that’s too bad. I’m not going to cease to be a 20th Century person for fear of offending someone in the Third World”.

          • Matt M says:

            Totally agree with this.

            Everyone loves the quaint little Diwali festival on the weekend that you go to and eat tasty ethnic food.

            Let the Muslims set up loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer five times a day and see how well that ones goes over…

          • Civilis says:

            I think this covers what I was trying to say from the opposite direction.

            Culture isn’t so much a matter of ethnicity, nation, or religion, but a set of shared values, and the First World (at least the America / Canada / Western Europe parts of it) has gotten to the point where ethnicity, nation and religion aren’t a guarantee that they will share values. It’s why the blue tribe and red tribe exist as differentiable concepts.

            Most of the immigrants to the West that choose to live in and around the dominant tribal cultures do so because they already closely match the values of the Western tribal culture they join. An upper-class Jordanian that immigrates to the West for professional education then settles down to raise a family in a Western blue-tribe enclave likely is rather liberal. The difficulty is that he’s the one the blue-tribe voters think of when they think of Middle Eastern immigrants, not the economic migrants that settle down in an enclave of fellow Middle Eastern immigrants where the values haven’t been Westernized.

          • onyomi says:

            how much do you enjoy the Diwali festivals as “quaint local traditions adding colour and vibrancy”, as long as the people have assimilated the Correct Attitudes re: women’s rights, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, sex outside of marriage, marriage for love and divorce, employment/economic issues, etc.?

            This is a very important point.

            On the one hand, I’m a pretty live-and-let-live sort of person and can tolerate, even enjoy, a lot of variability in customs so long as they aren’t violent, criminal, or unusually disruptive.

            But on the other, there’s also an important difference between “tolerating” and actually feeling a sense of community. A city of many cultures all living side by side peacefully but where nobody ever talks to their neighbors or else hides in little ethnic enclaves isn’t really ideal either. Wasn’t Bowling Alone about this issue (albeit not just from the ethnic/cultural angle; haven’t actually read yet, but somewhere on my list)?

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            The elders of many religions attempt to fossilize their religious cultures, whose ideological armor-plating 11,363,255 (mostly) young (mostly) believers are fast dissolving … it’s unsurprising that young people of faith are irretrievably winning, aren’t they?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            (mostly) believers

            John Lenon’s “Imagine”

            Good luck with that.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            FacelessCraven’s sends best wishes “Good luck with that [Lennon’s Imagine]”

            Lol  young folks who hilariously reimagine “Imagine” — just imagine! 🙂 What’s next? … Mennonerds? 🙂 … Seventh Gay Adventists? 🙂 … comedic Catholicism? 🙂 … inclusive Islam? … faith that’s more about living in heaven than going to heaven? 🙂

            Century-in and century-out, no amount of angry-elder fulmination has succeeded in reversing a cumulatively progressive — and joyously hopeful too — cognitive synthesis of religion, rationality, and science, isn’t that so?

            There’s more to religious faith and practice than fearful alt.ignorance and hellish alt.repression, isn’t there?
            The genie of free-and-faithful thinking resists the imprisoning alt.bottle, doesn’t it?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Uncle Ilya – “… faith that’s more about living in heaven than going to heaven? 🙂”

            I’m for it. I don’t think Lennon was, in a meaningful way.

            Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
            Mohammed, and ourselves.
            He was a good moral teacher though we think
            His good morals were bad.
            We believe that all religions are basically the same-
            at least the one that we read was.
            They all believe in love and goodness.
            They only differ on matters of creation,
            sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

            “Century-in and century-out, no amount of angry-elder fulmination-”

            I’m pretty sure you’re quite a bit older than me.

            “-has succeeded in reversing a cumulatively progressive — and joyously hopeful too — cognitive synthesis of religion, rationality, and science, isn’t that so?”

            If your God is progress, I’m strictly agnostic. Human nature doesn’t seem to have changed from Uruk till now. Sin continues to work in the same old way. Our toys are flashier, but progress appears to be missing an engine and all four wheels.

            “There’s more to religious faith and practice than fearful alt.ignorance and hellish alt.repression, isn’t there?”

            Indeed so, just as there’s more to it than empty good feelings.

            “The genie of free-and-faithful thinking resists the imprisoning alt.bottle, doesn’t it?”

            Anyone who thinks their thinking is the only way to think, isn’t much of a thinker. If people are clamoring for an alternative to your vision, maybe it’s because they’re evil. Alternatively, maybe your vision doesn’t work so well in practice.

            In all our conversations, I’ve never seen a single indication that you entertain even the slightest doubt in your position, even the slimmest notion that you might be wrong. Only prophets and madmen are that certain, and prophets are very, very rare.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Humor and compassion are important to me, and that is why, the older I get, the more Fred Rogers is a specially important role model for me.

            That Fred Rogers knew doubts is certain; that his doubts (unusally) did not find expression in cruelty, or intolerance, or prejudice, or exclusion, or willful ignorance, or bluster, or cowardice, or quibbling, or abuse, or mockery, or violence in any form, or (the worst?) insincerity, was Fred Rogers’ triumph (the way I appreciate it).

            Following (what I take to be) Fred Rogers example, when I am in an “unfriendly neighborhood” — and the alt.SSC isn’t very friendly, is it? — then it seems best not to comment over-directly upon those matters regarding which I personally am most doubtful.

            Instead, it seems more “neighborly” to instead provide a link to a thought-provoking poem, song, novel, essay, or website (as above). Consciously, I try to link solely to material of which Fred Rogers would approve (there’s no doubt my success is imperfect) — an element of (kindly) humor is especially welcome. 🙂

            Needless to say, not a few folks just plain dislike and mock Fred Rogers and the values and practices that he exemplified, a mistaken judgment that, in the long run, is the “Rogers haters” misfortune (as it seems to me).

            As for me, March 20 will always be “Won’t You Wear a Sweater Day” 🙂

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            One piece of moral progress– a lot of people have been convinced not to want to own slaves. As far as I can tell owning slaves and wanting to own slaves was the human norm until just a few centuries ago.

            And I don’t think it was just economics that ended slavery. I don’t see any economic reason to not have domestic slavery. It just got mostly eliminated and what was left driven underground because enough people got disgusted with slavery.

            And another– people used to be pro-war. I don’t mean favoring a particular war, I mean pro-war in general as a way for men to cultivate and show courage, or at least that’s how I understand the argument. So far as I know, WW1 knocked that out of the culture.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Uncle Ilya – “…it seems best not to comment over-directly upon those matters regarding which I personally am most doubtful. Instead, it seems more “neighborly” to instead provide a link to a thought-provoking poem, song, novel, essay, or website (as above).”

            There’s a story I heard once from an English professor: back prior to the American Civil War, Northerners read the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin and were horrified by the depiction of slavery’s cruelties. According to the professor, the northerners seemed to view books as sort of like computer code. You read the bible, and it shapes your thoughts and actions directly. You read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and you become an abolitionist. Northerners bought thousands of copies and sent them to random southerners to read, and seemed to genuinely believe that this simple act they could transform southerners into abolitionists and end slavery at a stroke. It failed, obviously; what they considered literally “thought provoking” was nothing of the kind; all it amounted to was preaching, and without even the connection of a meaningful relationship to give that preaching some semblance of traction it proved worse than useless. Southerners grew more hostile to the message of freedom, not less, and soon enough the War swallowed everything. That’s how the prof told it, anyhow.

            Compare that story to this one. Davis talked to people, disagreed with them sometimes and agreed other times, built a connection, and that connection brought walls down. How much different would his story have looked if he’d handed them a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and then hurried out the door, or if he’d preached at them about how awful they were without giving them a word in edgewise?

            I think I’d like talking to you. I smile every time I see you pop up again under your newest crazy handle. But the way it has been, where you toss questions and then don’t really engage with the answers, where you deflect any attempt at dialogue in favor of reading lists, that’s not talking.

            However you reply, this is the closest we’ve gotten to an actual conversation in quite a while, and I’m grateful for it.

            @Nancy Lebovitz – “One piece of moral progress– a lot of people have been convinced not to want to own slaves. As far as I can tell owning slaves and wanting to own slaves was the human norm until just a few centuries ago.”

            Good point.

            “And another– people used to be pro-war. I don’t mean favoring a particular war, I mean pro-war in general as a way for men to cultivate and show courage, or at least that’s how I understand the argument. So far as I know, WW1 knocked that out of the culture.”

            This seems a lot more questionable. I was thinking of the general post-WWI consensus about only waging war in defense, but is there really that much difference in the casus belli claims pre- and post-WWI? And is that norm really what drove the decrease in war? If it’s not actually reducing war, I’m not sure it’s even a good thing at that point.

          • Aapje says:

            @FacelessCraven

            Before WW I, war was a way for the aristocracy to gain status and for young aristocratic men to ‘become men.’ It was seen as a rite of passage.

            Afterwards, this kind of thinking got a lot of opposition and in general, it became far less acceptable to have war to merely win land.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Possibly I should read The Better Angels of Our Nature. Are there other good discussions about changes in the reasons for and the amount of war over time?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Nancy: It’s not collected in one spot, but Walter Russell Mead’s Special Providence gives a lot of background of US perceptions of the role of war over history. It’s organized by schools of thought in foreign policy (four in all), rather than by foreign policy topic (war, trade, aid, etc.). But all four schools have to think about it, and had to for over two hundred years.

            My general sense of violence in general from my days as a country boy suggest that violence of a controlled sort is still a rite of passage among men, and to be avoided among women. War was always something to be avoided until all other options were expended. It is always simultaneously on the table, and all the way over to the end of it.

            I’ve often remarked that the rural, Jacksonian cohort of America contains the nation’s most fervent pacifists. They want little more than to be left to their secluded country lifestyle, and never stick their noses into anyone else’s without invitation. If ultimately forced to go elsewhere and fight a war, they strongly favor fighting it in such a way that they never, ever have to go back and fight it again.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Thank you for your thoughtful remarks, FacelessCraven. Any comment that I might make in regard to Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin would be informed by an arc of narratives extending from 1852-2014:

            • Harriet Beacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
            • Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865)
            • Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (1885)
            • Jefferson Davis’ A short history of the Confederate States of America (1890)
            • Heath Hardage Lee’s Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause (2014)

            As a perspicacious GoodReads reviewer noted, in respect to Jefferson Davis’ account of the American Civil War, “The Lost Cause has no better exponent, which is why it lost.”

            My sympathies are entirely with Mr. Lincoln’s

            “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”

            How could someone of my own literacy predilections ever take issue, with an author so skilled as Lincoln, at asking convoluted questions, that have no very evident answer?

            Note too, that Lincoln was himself no slouch at using em-dashes 🙂 — 🙂 in which regard, please look for further observations on the above arc of Civil War narratives, to be posted here, in the next day or two.

            In closing, thank you again for your respectfully expressed and well-reasoned comments.

        • Well... says:

          @onyomi:

          I have lots to say in response to this but very little time. I will try to write a reply and post it in the next OT or the one after (.5 or .75). I’ll include your name so you can find it by searching.

        • quanta413 says:

          If 1a. is false then why did the US just elect a guy whose biggest promise was “build a wall to control the inflow of foreigners”? Why did the leader of a previously fringe party, whose platform is basically “keep France French,” just finish a strong second in a four-way French election? Why, in the US, are there still really obvious black and white neighborhoods, despite black and white people having lived there together for 400 years?

          How important “muggle realism” is depends a lot on whether assimilation is “not at all possible” or “can happen but is not guaranteed to happen and happens much more slowly than some people would like”. The majority wasn’t even trying to integrate African-Americans into the American polity (they were working on the exact opposite goal) for hundreds of years. And now by some sort of voodoo magic, people expect after African Americans winning a few battles in the 50s and 60s we’ll have this shit done anytime now.

          I think it’s probably true that the libertarian dream of open borders is probably not workable with how modern societies are structured since the cost of travel has dropped so much, but at the same time, I think the cracks in the current U.S. polity aren’t really a big deal compared to a lot of the earlier fissures such as any time before the civil war and aren’t even a big deal compared to the chaos of the 60s and 70s. The media just has to act like everything is super terrible even when it’s mostly ok. Maybe it’s not as great as the 90’s economically, but you can’t have higher growth than the last decade, every decade, forever.

          Reading Frederick Douglass or people at the time who could remember both before and after slavery, my impression is they seriously expected it would take about 100-200 years to achieve economic parity looking around at their own society circa late 1800s. We are still closer to the low end of the range than the high end. If you take a long perspective, things are actually going in a workable direction even for the least accepted group of Americans who was brought over by force as slaves and only obtained equal rights about 50 years ago. There are still a significant number of people who were alive during segregation who are alive now. If I was trying to make realistic guesses on such a complicated process I would think it’d be at least a one or two full turnovers of the population before you’d see something resembling de facto equality in things like economics etc. Every other group of immigrants to the U.S. started from a less terrible position and appears to integrate considerably more easily including recent African immigrants.

          • onyomi says:

            If you take a long perspective, things are actually going in a workable direction even for the least accepted group of Americans who was brought over by force as slaves and only obtained equal rights about 50 years ago.

            I’m not sure this is true. I was born in the 80s in a majority-black city and have lived most of my life in majority black cities, sometimes in majority-black neighborhoods. My (admittedly subjective) impression is that black-white relations are, if anything, worse now than then, and the economic achievement gap greater.

            What’s more, in my hometown, at least, one could definitely argue that part of what’s giving blacks trouble is the large number of Hispanic immigrants. When I was a child, certain jobs like construction worker and line cook were done mostly by blacks. Now they are done overwhelmingly by Hispanics. But my impression isn’t that the blacks just now have better jobs; my impression is that they are just more likely to be unemployed.

            On the one hand, my libertarian instinct is to blame e.g. the drug war and welfare rather than competition, and that black people aren’t any more “entitled” to particular jobs in my city than Hispanics, who probably come from even poorer economic backgrounds, but I can also see the Ann Coulter argument that a. Americans owe it to black Americans to prioritize their successful socio-economic integration since they were here first and were mostly brought against their will and the victims of discrimination and b. therefore, let’s concentrate on integrating the people already here before we start letting in a lot more people, especially if the addition of those people arguably undoes, or makes harder, the previous progress made.

            So I agree with you that, on the grand scale of things, American blacks haven’t been given a fair chance for all that long, and that some historical trends point to the possibility of greater socio-economic parity and harmony; however, I’m also not convinced we’ve been going in the right direction, necessarily, at all for the past 30 or 40 years. And part of that may owe to us overestimating the integrative power of the American system.

          • quanta413 says:

            @onyomi

            It’s certainly true that it’s arguable how well African-Americans have done compared to whites in the last few decades, but I would argue that some of the strongest reasons the gap hasn’t changed much are historically contingent economic details like the accumulation of wealth to the upper classes and the decrease in social mobility compared to (supposedly, I don’t really know how much I trust these things) high mobility post WWII (which also hurt most whites, but since more blacks are/were poor than whites, had a disproportionate effect). Or to ride Charles Murray’s hobby horse, the decline of standard family arrangements has been damaging to the poor but has basically left the rich unaffected.

            Blacks have been displaced by other groups in manual jobs before (such as the Irish in the early to mid 1800s), so I’m not sure I’d be too worried about this phenomenon as a difference from the past. Although it sounds like it hurt then and it probably hurts some now too, so maybe I shouldn’t be so blithe.

            And part of that may owe to us overestimating the integrative power of the American system.

            Probably. I think it’s harder than a lot of people expected. I also worry that in some ways, the integrative power of the American system actually has weakened as American (and really most first world values) have diverged more from everywhere else. But I’m not sure I’d trade away that change in values just to match other places better either. A lot of those changes I like in and of themselves and a lot of changes kind of came together as a tangled ball even if they aren’t logically dependent on each other.

          • onyomi says:

            Blacks have been displaced by other groups in manual jobs before (such as the Irish in the early to mid 1800s), so I’m not sure I’d be too worried about this phenomenon as a difference from the past. Although it sounds like it hurt then and it probably hurts some now too, so maybe I shouldn’t be so blithe

            Yes, I definitely think it’s possible it hurt then and is hurting again now.

            Also, if this is correct (that black Americans being crowded out by Hispanic immigrants is only the latest example of a trend with some precedent), I can see roughly two* possible explanations:

            1. Due to “muggle realism,” black Americans are just not going to achieve economic parity with whites and Asians en masse no matter what we do. The best we can hope for most black Americans is the best we can hope for members of other groups on the lower ends of their respective curves–that is, that they find fulfilling, reasonably well-paid work in fields that don’t require a high level of the sort of intelligence necessary to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.

            2. Black Americans can move up the socio-economic ladder en masse such that most of them are doing better jobs than the type of job available to most unskilled immigrants, but, in order for them to do so, we need to stop letting new groups come in and kick them off the bottom rungs of the ladder before they’ve gotten up it.

            It seems like both possible interpretations (as well as any preferred combination of the two) would justify (especially if one thinks America, as an institution, owes a special consideration to black Americans because of history) a restriction of new immigration (or, at least, of low-skilled immigration), though, in the first case, it might need to be permanent, while in the second it could possibly be temporary.**

            *I’m sure many would posit possibility 3: Black Americans can move up the socio-economic ladder en masse, but if they haven’t done so so far, it’s not the fault of successive waves of new immigrants, but rather of unresolved, deep institutional racism. The problem with this is that it would seem to require that institutional racism was weaker between 1940-70, when the black-white gap was closing faster, than between 1970-today, which seems highly implausible to me.

            **And I say this as someone who is, in principle, at least, opposed to just about any form of immigration restriction on ethical grounds. I am just exploring what may or may not be justified depending on different priorities, and given that certain aspects of the status quo are not likely to change (example being that many of the problems of immigration might be alleviated if we didn’t offer any possibility of citizenship rights, including the right to vote and receive assistance, to them or their children; but given that that’s not going to happen, it may be worth considering second-best solutions).

          • My (admittedly subjective) impression is that black-white relations are, if anything, worse now than then, and the economic achievement gap greater.

            You give a number of rightish explanations for that, but there is a very obvious leftish explanation: the worsening relations are caused by the increasing SE gap. Do you have a response?

          • Brad says:

            On that point, Elizabeth Warren on the radio claimed that the black-white economic gap narrowed from 1950 to 1980 and has widened again since. She used it as evidence for her thesis that Reaganite tax reform, deregulation, and anti-unionism ruined upward mobility in the US.*

            However, I think I reject the original premise. I do think whites are more aware of black unhappiness for various reasons and more likely to feel defensive about it. But I don’t think that can be summed up as worse black-white relations.

            *N.B. I don’t fully endorse the Warren position.

          • onyomi says:

            @theancientgeek

            the worsening relations are caused by the increasing SE gap

            That certainly seems possible, but it just pushes the question back a level: if a growing socio-economic gap is causing worse relations more than the other way around, what’s the source of the growing socio-economic gap?

            Edit to add: if we assume the ideas Brad mentions (tax reform, anti-unionism, and deregulation of the Reagan era) are part of the explanation (though that wouldn’t explain why “white flight” began in the 70s, not the 80s), then that still leaves the question of disparate impact: why did these policy changes hurt black upward mobility more than white, Asian, or Hispanic upward mobility?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @onyomi

            The problem I see with #2 is… how is it these new groups can so easily kick blacks off the lower rungs of the ladder every time a new group moves in? They should have home field advantage.

            I might posit another explanation, the ‘generational welfare’ one. That between black cultural knowledge and (mostly white) politicians, a large group of poor blacks have carved out a niche as permanent welfare recipients.

          • onyomi says:

            @The Nybbler

            I might posit another explanation, the ‘generational welfare’ one. That between black cultural knowledge and (mostly white) politicians, a large group of poor blacks have carved out a niche as permanent welfare recipients.

            That is probably true to some extent, though I imagine there might be a much bigger group whose existence would also help explain some of Warren’s claims: namely, the strong tendency, developed since I’m not sure when (though would be interested to know if someone wants to dig for stats), for blacks to work in the public sector. This arguably makes their prosperity, or lack thereof, more “fragile,” in that such jobs depend, to a greater degree than most, on the whims of the legislative process.

            One could say “ah hah! by gutting the public sector, Reagan and co. destroyed the traditional way for black Americans to get ahead!” I mean, okay, but even if we accepted the notion that the government should hire people just for the sake of giving them a leg up, public sector jobs would seem to be uniquely unsuited to this, at least as they have traditionally existed: rather than encouraging you to move up in the world, they seem instead to be more like “gold-plated cages”: they never pay very well, nor offer a lot of opportunity for advancement, but it’s very hard to get fired and there are a lot of benefits which make you never want to quit.

            One might say that dad’s public sector job pays for junior’s college, meaning blacks need more public sector jobs to achieve intergenerational mobility… again, maybe? But if dad’s public sector job has high job security, early retirement, and a pension, what job is junior really going to want to do? Until the funding runs out, of course.

            That is, it’s just as conceivable–more conceivable to me–that public sector jobs, like welfare, are as likely to become a trap as a “leg up,” and there’s definitely the argument that the “Great Society” came along at just the right time to catch black Americans in that particular net.

            This would also not jibe with the notion that falling union membership is the problem, since the public sector is the area where union membership has taken the least hit, with union membership among whites consequently falling faster than union membership among blacks, I believe (though I guess one could make the opposite case that blacks, being in unions, are most hurt by anti-union legislation, but public sector unions’ power, again, has taken the least hit, and blacks historically, in any case, are more concentrated in the South, where private sector unions were never as big of a thing).

          • quanta413 says:

            @onyomi

            That certainly seems possible, but it just pushes the question back a level: if a growing socio-economic gap is causing worse relations more than the other way around, what’s the source of the growing socio-economic gap?

            I sort of alluded to this but the idea is that the same thing that has increased the gap between poor whites and rich whites is the same thing that increased the gap between poor blacks and rich whites. There would not be any change in the gap between group averages if blacks were just as likely to be poor or to be rich as whites, but that isn’t true.

            Nothing racial had to happen at all to halt progress except that (A) economic mobility dropped for everyone, and (B) a larger percentage of black people started in the poor group than the rich group compared to white people starting in the poor group rather than the rich group.

            Basically, if the gap between Appalachia and Manhattan has not closed or has widened in a similar way to a gap between the Bronx and Manhattan then we’ve changed the question to something that has nothing to do with race. And as obvious as it may seem that the gap has to be mostly race related, I suspect that’s actually a distraction from a causal point of view in the short term. Black people were not equal before the law and thus for obvious reasons weren’t going to be as wealthy as white people in the 1960s. It takes multiple generations for mixing to close those sort of gaps and then the whole bottom half (or more) of households (in wealth) got stuck in the mire shortly later. So we should expect progress to be slow. Poor whites aren’t doing so hot either, and immigrant latinos are as poor or poorer than blacks. The U.S. may be creating long lasting racial lower classes if it takes for granted that the present should be like the relatively recent past and relies on a rapidly dropping socioeconomic mobility to integrate new groups.

          • John Schilling says:

            This arguably makes their prosperity, or lack thereof, more “fragile,” in that such jobs depend, to a greater degree than most, on the whims of the legislative process.

            How often are any significant number of public-sector jobs eliminated by the legislative process? Examples?

          • onyomi says:

            @JonhnSchilling

            How often are any significant number of public-sector jobs eliminated by the legislative process? Examples?

            Yes, I was thinking about this possibility after I wrote it, and my impression is that, while in my academic world the existence or lack of funding for e.g. certain grants seems highly variable depending on whether the GOP has recently made a show of cutting something, the “golden bird cage” model of public sector jobs is probably closer to the mark than “precarious due to legislative” whim model.

            The “gutted public sector” narrative, in particular, would have to show that public sector jobs have actually decreased in number relative to the size of the economy since Carter, and I don’t think that’s the case at all.

          • onyomi says:

            @Quanta

            Nothing racial had to happen at all to halt progress except that (A) economic mobility dropped for everyone, and (B) a larger percentage of black people started in the poor group than the rich group compared to white people starting in the poor group rather than the rich group.

            But that doesn’t explain why, today, blacks enjoy a lower rate of upward mobility and suffer a higher rate of downward mobility than whites of the same income level.

          • quanta413 says:

            @onyomi

            Thanks for report. Looks interesting; I’ll give it a longer read later. I withdraw my guess as having any explanatory power. My old explanation would require some sort of disparity along another axis (new variable) to even be salvageable and the new variable would be the important thing. Better to just look at remaining ideas or find new ones.

          • what’s the source of the growing socio-economic gap?

            Could you not guess the answer? “Republican policies”.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Can 1a and 3 really both be true at once?

      Anyway 1 is mostly irrelevant (unlike 1a); there are already muggles in our society, so we need a way to accommodate them regardless.

      For me, 2 is a concrete, measurable benefit while all this culture stuff is hazy and oversophisticated, so I prioritize 2.

    • random832 says:

      Two of your “premises” are “X is bad”, those aren’t things that can be “true” in a factual sense unless everyone agrees on the definitions that make them bad. I think fundamentally this whole ‘front’ of the culture war boils down to people who agree with 2 and not 3 fighting against people who agree with 3 and not 2 (and incidentally think that their enemies’ preferred policies will cause or are aimed at causing the bad scenario discussed in 3 to happen); and the extent to which people think that 1 is true or false and/or that it supports their preferred policies or those of their enemies is a sideline.

      • onyomi says:

        The reason I am positing that two seemingly opposite things are bad is because I am interested in whether there is a third option besides 2 and 3. Because, frankly, I don’t really want 2 or 3 to happen.

        My point is precisely that the debate seems to boil down to people who ignore the problems with 3 while expressing an irrationally strong fear of 2 and people who exaggerate the problems with 3 in order to embrace 2.

        I understand that the badness of 2 and 3 may just be my opinion; I am simply positing that they are bad (perhaps “undesirable” would have been better) for the sake of soliciting alternatives.

        Of course, the most likely future involves some combination of 2 and 3, as well as other, new trends I can’t predict. And maybe some combination of 2 and 3 is actually ideal. But I’m not sure what it would be or how to get there in a relatively peaceful way. Ideas about that are also what I’m asking for.

        • cassander says:

          I can’t see what’s so terrible about a bunch of cultures all of which are relatively atomized. Nothing about that setup necessitates reductions in trade. As for diversity, the only way you can get that is to have people that are, you know, different, and people being what they are, that means you’re going to need cultures to be different.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Q  (asked above) “Is there some other, better direction for the future to go in?”

      A  Given the substantial human genetic diversity, which is seen in all populations, and given too the sustained selection pressure, that is statistically attendant to one-third of all women bearing two-thirds of all children, it’s evident (isn’t it?) to liberals and conservatives alike, that there existss no rational reason for concern whatsoever, in respect to the genetic future of humanity.

      In less technical terms, so long has the fundamental human right of female choice is scrupulously respected, everything is going to work out just fine, genetically speaking! 🙂

      It is necessary, therefore, solely to avoid the main threats to technological civilization, these being (1) institutionalized warfare in all of its variously combatative, economic, and nuclear forms, and (2) cumulative environmental degradation in general, and climate-change in particular. Fortunately, market forces are effective in highly mitigating the problems of warfare and environmental degradation; it being sufficient to economically embrace:

      (1) significant all-nation tax-breaks for intermarriage across national, racial, religious, linguistic, and caste boundaries, together with

      (2) an unscammably-large all-nation pool of carbon-dividends sufficient to accelerate the transition to a carbon-neutral global energy economy.

      Since these two mitigations both are highly effective, and both will happen in the long run anyway — intermarriage being irresistibly attractive in the internet-era (“just swipe right!”) and carbon-resources inherently finite — it is evident (isn’t it?) that market-forces are best deployed so as to ensure that both mitigations proceed as rapidly as feasible.

      As to the rational efficacy and moral desirability of these common-sense, science-respecting, economically feasible, ecologically sound mitigations — namely, intermarriage and carbon-dividends — SSC’s conservatives and liberals alike assuredly can agree (on the simple grounds that intermarriage and carbon-dividends are alike in being “progressive” in the most universal sense of that word).

      Hence, a shared better future is (reasonably) assured! 🙂

    • Some version of “Muggle Realism” is true and will eventually be widely accepted as true.
      1a. Big, real differences exist among cultures and ethnicities that won’t easily melt away when e.g. third worlders come to the first world. a.k.a. assimilation is harder than it seems.

      I think this depends a lot on the first world institutions. My grandparents came to the U.S. early in the 20th century. I can empathize with the immigrant Ashkenazi culture that Leo Rosten affectionately portrays in The Joys of Yiddish, but it isn’t mine–I am an Ashkenazi flavored American. And that flavor is more a personality style more common in that cultural group than elsewhere than an independent culture.

      On the other hand, I can easily imagine that in a reasonably generous modern welfare state, it would have been much easier for the immigrants to remain as an unassimilated lump.

      On the third hand, modern toleration makes maintaining ethnic enclaves harder. Anne Sutherland wrote a very interesting book about American Romani, based on first hand observation about 1970. Last year she published a second book on the same people now. She isn’t quite willing to say it, but what she is describing is the dissolution of what was a fiercely independent culture, the same pattern my ethnic group followed most of a century earlier. Part of what had kept that culture independent for about a thousand years was the hostility of the host cultures, and in modern day America that largely vanished.

    • Kevin C. says:

      First, some support for your point 1a from economist Garett Jones: “Do Immigrants Import Their Economic Destiny?

      This is one of the great policy questions in our new age of mass migration, and it’s related to one of the great questions of social science: Why do some countries have relatively liberal, pro-market institutions while others are plagued by corruption, statism, and incompetence? Three lines of research point the way to a substantial answer:
      •The Deep Roots literature on how ancestry predicts modern economic development,
      •The Attitude Migration literature, which shows that migrants tend to bring a lot of their worldview with them when they move from one country to another,
      •The New Voters-New Policies literature, which shows that expanding the franchise to new voters really does change the nature of government.
      Together, these three data-driven literatures suggest that if you want to predict how a nation’s economic rules and norms are likely to change over the next few decades, you’ll want to keep an eye on where that country’s recent immigrants hail from.

      As for the rest, I think it should be pretty clear that I’d very much dispute your #2, which, as random832 notes, is more a moral proposition than a factual one. But, assuming #2 and #3, then yes, some manner of pan-secessionism looks to be best, but I think that essentially, the Earth is too “small”, too “full”, and too well-connected by modern technologies for that sort of thing to work. For too many people, “live and let live” only works by way of “out of sight, out of mind” and “tall fences make good neighbors”, the sort of busybodies who believe it their moral obligation to correct anyone, anywhere who is Doing It Wrong, and sufficient distance and ignorance (from little contact or communication) is the only real defence. That, and existing polities are unlikely to give up territory for the formation of new states.

      So, if you’re looking for “some other, better direction for the future”, why not Contolism?

    • Chalid says:

      Whether or not you believe in the biodiversity of homo sapiens it seems like it will be irrelevant in a few decades with, at least, the advance of genetic technology. Conservatively we will get embryo selection which is already almost here; likely we will get something even more disruptive. This probably leads to increased diversification of humankind, increasing the gains from trade between people (addressing #2) and making #3, universal culture, more unlikely.

      • Kevin C. says:

        This probably leads to increased diversification of humankind, increasing the gains from trade between people (addressing #2) and making #3, universal culture, more unlikely.

        First, why would “increased diversification” alone, genetically speaking, reduce #3? Wouldn’t it specifically require diversification of (genetically-influenced) congnitive traits relevant to compatibily with different cultural forms? If two groups are sufficiently divergent that both sharing or assimilating to a single culture is highly unlikely, then is not that difference (and the like inferential distances between the views of the two groups) likely to serve as a basis for conflict, instead? There’s a reason there’s only one hominid species left alive on Earth today.

        So, where would you put the odds at genetic engineering-driven “increased diversification” leading to increased conflict? (Watch out for genetically-enhanced Sikhs, maybe? Or talk of defending our pure and blue Earth?)

        • Chalid says:

          For the first, don’t you think there’s going to be a correlation between culture and what parents choose for their children? And over multiple generations there’s probably positive feedback as the kids grow up to have an even more different culture, leading to even more different choices, etc.

          Absolutely it seems like an obvious basis for conflict.

      • Aapje says:

        Chalid,

        Universal culture will then just be the culture of the elite, who can afford the genetic technology.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        A quibble: Genetic technology will reduce genetic diversity, not increase it. But you are correct that this will make 1 irrelevant.

        • Chalid says:

          Well, in the short run it probably reduces diversity – the lowest-hanging fruit is probably to get rid of obviously harmful traits like Huntington’s, not that this is the kind of diversity that anyone will miss. In the very very long run, diversity obviously increases – you’d imagine that a group of people optimized to live in an asteroid colony or something would be extremely different both mentally and physically from people optimized to live in cities on Earth.

          As soon as technology develops to the point where we can actually manipulate traits that aren’t universally seen as “good” or “bad,” you’ll get a powerful push toward diversification, because people’s desires for their children vary widely and they will have much more ability to create the children they think they’ll prefer. I think that happens as soon as we are able to make tradeoffs, e.g. if, say, a set of genes for musical ability was incompatible with a different set for physical strength.

          • onyomi says:

            because people’s desires for their children vary widely and they will have much more ability to create the children they think they’ll prefer. I think that happens as soon as we are able to make tradeoffs, e.g. if, say, a set of genes for musical ability was incompatible with a different set for physical strength.

            This is pretty creepy in a way that would probably make for a good dystopian sci-fi plot: if parents can not only optimize their children to be “smart, talented, and healthy” in some general sense, but also optimize them to be “natural soccer players” or “born violinists,” one imagines a world of extreme “stage moms” where each generation chooses the next generation’s “fascinations” for them, based, presumably, on whatever they themselves might like to have done had they not been a born [cellist, engineer…]

          • Anonymous says:

            Fascinatingly, this is explored in a sci-fi book. Dunno if there’s an English translation, though.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            This theme is explored too in Ted Chiang’s short-short (one-page) SF story “Catching crumbs from the table” (Nature, 2000). Blurb: “in the face of metahuman science, humans have become metascientists.”

            Some mathematicians perceive homologies of Chiang’s themes in the problematic (for mathematicians) reception of Shinichi Mochizuki’s “inter-universal Teichmüller theory (IUT)

          • Dahlen says:

            In the very very long run, diversity obviously increases – you’d imagine that a group of people optimized to live in an asteroid colony or something would be extremely different both mentally and physically from people optimized to live in cities on Earth.

            This doesn’t seem to me* that it would obviously increase diversity, unless we’re talking a whole bunch of de novo artificially-induced mutations that aren’t already in the human genome. Through natural selection processes, some variations are promoted, while others are culled; but the way humans tend to intend to implement such technologies, we seem to do it with the goal of making everybody uniformly “good”/ “not-bad” on certain metrics, which works towards reducing diversity. Nature seems to produce more random and varied outcomes, since it doesn’t have our concepts of good and bad.

            In your particular example, asteroid-people might be considerably different from city-people, i.e. diversity between populations might be high, but what matters for healthful reproduction is diversity within populations, since that’s where reproduction takes place. Right? I’m not sure that the different environments imply anything for variation within populations.

            * = Disclaimer: IANAG (geneticist)

          • Deiseach says:

            This is pretty creepy in a way that would probably make for a good dystopian sci-fi plot

            It’s also explored in Tanith Lee’s 1981 science-fantasy romance “The Silver Metal Lover” where parents can choose – and apparently control – every aspect of their children’s lives; as we see with Jane, it can be very smothering to have your mother decide everything from your hair colour on up:

            [My mother] is sixty-three, but looks about thirty-seven, because she takes regular courses of Rejuvinex. She decided to have a child rather late, but the Rejuvinex made that perfectly all right. She selected me, and had herself artificially inseminated with me, and bore me five months later by means of the Precipta method, which only takes three or four hours. I was breast-fed, because it would be good for me, and after that, my mother took me everywhere with her, sometimes all round the world, through swamps and ruins and over broad surging seas, but I don’t remember very much of this, because when I was about six she got tired of it, and we went to Chez Stratos, and more or less stayed here every since.

            …I am sixteen years old and five feet four inches tall, but mother says I may grow a little more. When I was seven, my mother had a Phy-Excellence chart done for me, to see what was the ideal weight and muscle tone aesthetically for my frame, and I take six-monthly capsules so I stay at this weight and tone, which means I’m a little plump, as apparently my frame is Venus Media, which is essentially voluptuous. My mother also had a colouressence chart made up to see what hair colour would be best for my skin and eyes. So I have a sort of pale bronze colour done by molecular restructuring once a month.

            …[My mother] has a lot of opinions, which is restful, as that way I don’t have to have many of my own.

            The book also addresses the replacement of jobs by robots; since these are so plentiful, jobs for humans are scarce, and so if rich parents vouch that they will support their children, the State will not give them training in jobs skills – there’s no need for them to be employed and too much competition for what jobs remain. This traps Jane so that she is completely dependent on her mother and the allowance her mother makes her, and so her mother controls her life completely (until she finally gets enough courage to break away and sink into the underclass, as it were, where she does have to live ‘off the grid’ and does suffer poverty).

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            …[My mother] has a lot of opinions, which is restful, as that way I don’t have to have many of my own.

            Lol … Tanith Lee’s young lady’s cognition is markedly atypical of “wild-genome” teenage cognition … and atypical too of (e.g.) Amish romance-narratives … and atypical in general of “lives worth living” as such lives are generally experienced and appreciated.

            Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Principal Principle of Cognitive Optimization  It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.

            So let’s not edit humanity’s wild genome too much:)

          • As soon as technology develops to the point where we can actually manipulate traits that aren’t universally seen as “good” or “bad,” you’ll get a powerful push toward diversification

            It doesn’t have to be universal. If most people think being tall (but not gigantic) is good, a common if unfortunate prejudice, then good genetic technology will tend to reduce the weight on the lower tail of the distribution. Similarly if most people think being smart is good, which they probably do, being healthy is good, … .

            It’s a balance between the effect of differing tastes on some characteristics and of common tastes on others.

            It’s possibly relevant that hair lighteners are popular with Afro-Americans (only women?), suggesting that where a group is low status and identified by appearance there is some pressure to shift the appearance more towards that of the higher status group.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Lol … yes, DavidFriedman’s reasoning is entirely correct!

            Because it’s immensely attractive — isn’t it? — to appear to be blended-race, and blended-religion, and blended-ethnicity, and blended-language, and caste-transgressive (preferably all at once) for the common-sense reason that potential mating-partners and social-partners are strongly attracted to the manifold genetic and social benefits — not to mention, the sweet romance — that attend the (literal) embodiment of alt.diversity!

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It may also be that various desirable genetic traits conflict – maybe you can only get that perfect shade of blonde by giving up a receptor that aids in gluten digestion, for example. Or the gene that yields an estimated 10% increase in three-dimensional situational awareness is linked to one that gives you an unusually big nose.

            So different parents today will seek different tradeoffs in their kids’ genes. Unhappiness in the current tradeoffs may lead to scouting for new code combinations, and even a premium placed on individuals known to have been born “outside the system”, to see whether they have undiscovered valuable talents.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Work from 3 backwards.

      There’s too much mixing of each country’s elite, causing them to form a ruling monoculture. So keep them from moving out of their homeland. Cut off student visas. Make the difficulty of immigration proportional to a person’s IQ.

      The quality of a society is very heavily driven by its average IQ, so now we’re making it possible for each society to uplift itself instead of having its best and brightest stolen away. The poorer can still leave as an escape hatch, so we still get access to ethnic foods, and have a certain level of cultural exchange. The smart have strong incentives to make their country a better place, because they’re stuck with it, which will help create more opportunity for everybody overall. And their independence from other countries’ elites will enable them to try a more diverse range of solutions to the problems of modern living.

      • Marshayne Lonehand says:

        Hmmm … skill-retaining emigration-restriction policies worked just fine in East Germany … or did they?

        What could go wrong (both economically and spiritually speaking)?

        More broadly, why are STASI-compatible political views notably prevalent among SSC commenters? The world wonders (well, me at least).

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        But when high IQ skill people leave their countries of origin, they often send money back home. To such an extent that during the height of Mexican emigration, many communities in Mexico became richer, not poorer.

        And their independence from other countries’ elites will enable them to try a more diverse range of solutions to the problems of modern living.

        Why not simply use some of the extra wealth obtained from migration for controlled economic experiments? That seems like a more direct and less distortion-y approach to the same goal.

        EDIT: Lastly, a question. We should be able to find some natural experiments, maybe not about elite migration but about elite assimilation. For example, when Jews began to be admitted into the American elite (going to Ivy League schools etc.) did it hurt low-IQ Jews overall? Similarly question for Blacks. This is an honest question, I really have no idea.

      • Marshayne Lonehand says:

        Whenever mate-choice increases — through more open immigration and/or diminishment of racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and caste prejudice — then which race benefits?

        That’s easy — isn’t it? … the human race! 🙂

        • Mark says:

          The important point is that mate choice should increase – and that the criteria by which the choice is made is good – if mate choice is limited by some weird and (socially) unhelpful criteria (as most modern 4-chan racists believe… and as most people believe to a lesser extent) then it’s not so good.
          If there is a socially acceptable element by which any “choice” available to us is determined, then the social decision has to come first. The decision that “x” is good has to come before the social rule that “x” is good.
          Let’s say that we like clever people, well, if people choose mates according to other criteria, then we won’t necessarily maximise cleverness. We need to establish social rules to ensure that our identified virtues are reflected in individual choice.

          Actually, I don’t think it makes sense to speak of increased individual choice if our individual choices are to a great extent determined by general social influences.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            In practice, isn’t it the case that multi-national, multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith, and multi-gendered nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and cousins of every degree of consanguinity, in aggregate act so as to effectively remediate all but the most intractably “weird and (socially) unhelpful” prejudices?

          • Mark says:

            Hmmm… as a vaguely intelligent and sensitive person who has lived my entire life in a community not especially well disposed towards overt intelligence or sensitivity, I am biased towards the idea that there is no natural tendency for “positive” individual characteristics to be rewarded by a society.
            The brute fact of a society existing doesn’t mean that that society encourages a particular individual “value”.

            What is the mechanism by which our multi-national etc. society eliminates “unhelpful” prejudices? Individual choice is largely determined by society. The social system comes first. The social system engages in inter-societal competition, and is found to be strong or wanting.

            But even if the society which reflects individual values is strong in inter-socital competition, that doesn’t mean it is immune to internal change.

            The strongest man isn’t necessarily immune to a poison. It isn’t a weakness to choose not to take it, though you might be able to imagine a man, stronger still, who could.

            [In practice, yes a multi-ethnic etc. society will probably be better, given certain rules. It wouldn’t be better if being multi-ethnic undermined those rules, though.]

          • Nornagest says:

            Mark, I feel obliged to warn you that you’re trying to have a conversation with a John Sidles alt. He’s been banned more times than I can conveniently count, essentially for being a frustrating and unproductive conversationalist, and shows no signs of toning down any of the stuff that got him there.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Mark opines (without evidence) “The social system comes first [in mate-selection].”

            Hmmmm … this is undeniably true, and objectively speaking, free-market romance-narratives socially favor multi-cultural mate-selection, don’t they? How do alt.worldviews explain this?

            It appears to me that “social system” of romance-readers is consistently pro-love (and vehemently anti-shirt) more than any other single social value! 🙂

          • Mark says:

            I’m strongly opposed to the anti-John Sidles prejudice and welcome his contributions.

          • Mark says:

            @Marshayne Lonehand
            “free-market romance-narratives socially favor multi-cultural mate-selection”

            No? If so, fashion?

            Regarding lack of evidence, how does the rate of interracial marriage now compare to 60 years ago?

            I think the alt right (worldview?) would explain increased interracial coupling as being a result of some mad and deeply unpleasant individual impulse to prefer the worse, combined with slack social controls.

            I think the incoherent liberal explanation would be that social controls are completely unimportant (don’t exist?) and that only individual choice matters. (Though what an individual human might choose without reference to a society is never explained.)

            I would say that a society that valued “good” characteristics above all else would have a large degree of racial mixing and that in and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing. (But also that culture is important and that races are kind of cool.)
            Society has to determine what the “good” characteristics are.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Mark says:  “Society has to determine what the “good” characteristics are [in mate-selection].”

            Well, there’s your problem, right there! The SSC’s (much-deprecated) alt.Enlightenment folks conceive that individuals should determine what the “good” characteristics in their own mate-selection.

            Delegating mate-selection criteria to “society” — no matter how well-intentioned that “society” may be in theory — in practice leads directly to the STASI, doesn’t it?

          • Aapje says:

            @Marshayne Lonehand

            ‘Society’ means the aggregate outcomes of many people acting individually, but in a culture where there is pressure to do certain things.

            You seem to interpret it as the government forcing people to do things.

            In the way that people are actually using ‘society,’ your claim of them advocating Stasi treatment makes no sense. Of course, the Stasi never mandated mate-selection anyway, so your accusation doesn’t even make sense if people were advocating a government agency telling people whom to reproduce with.

            @Mark

            I would like his contributions better if they made sense. Instead, they tend to range from ‘wrong, in very obvious ways’ to ‘unintelligible.’

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Why do the SSC’s alt.commenters imagine that STASI was solely a governmental institution?

            History-minded alt.Enlightenment folks appreciate that even today, Stasiland (2004) is a robustly persistent alt.state of mind!

            The SSC’s alt.Boeotian alt.Counter-Enlightenment commenters are ardently embracing the oppressive social objectives and contorted rationalizations of the alt.Stasiland, eh?

          • JulieK says:

            I’ve read that 60 years ago, about 50% of people said they would disapprove if a family member married someone of a different race or religion, and 5% disapproved of marrying someone with a different political affiliation… and that now, the percentages are reversed.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            The first half of “What Juliak heard” is strongly supported by objective evidence:

            Continuing to represent one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history, 87% of Americans now favor marriage between blacks and whites, up from 4% in 1958.

            The second half of “What Juliak heard” receives support from Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood’s “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization” (2014).

            Perhaps as the Flynn Effect takes hold, perhaps cognitive and empathic traits are increasingly perceived (rightly, as it seems to me) as having greater social significance than race traits!?

            Thank you for that pertinent and outstandingly thought-provoking observation, Juliek.

          • JulieK says:

            Who is John Sidles? Should I be worried, if his alter ego likes my comments?

        • Not clear. Part of the point of the The Bell Curve was that assortative mating led to wider spread of abilities, which meant that the people at the top not only thought they were much smarter than the people at the bottom, they were much smarter, and that that had potentially corrosive effects on human society.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @JulieK:
            A commenter who has been floating around the cluster of blogs which SSC is a part of, and has been banned from most/all of them, I believe.

            Mostly because he insists on posting things sound interesting, but when you dig I just a little bit make almost no sense, with supporting links that bear little relation to the point he is trying to make.

            Trying to have a conversation with him is sort of like talking to a chat bot.

        • Aapje says:

          @Marshayne Lonehand

          Whenever mate-choice increases — through more open immigration and/or diminishment of racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and caste prejudice

          Note that the former does not imply the latter. My society has migrant groups that are extremely unwilling to reproduce with the natives (as in: they are ~5% of the population, yet marry within their group ~90% of the time).

          The assumption by multi-culturalists is usually that it is the natives who have prejudice, as opposed to the ‘noble savage.’ This then tends to lead to a large willingness to accept and even facilitate migrant prejudice.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Cultural/racial/religious/ethnic/caste isolationism (both genetic and social)? There’s an app for that!

            Just wait till the next generation … “They can take away my Tinder app by prying my iPhone from my cold, dead hands!” 🙂

            Inescapable conclusion: around the world, in every culture, the walls of alt.Stasiland are falling.

      • onyomi says:

        This is a very interesting idea, since so counterintuitive: generally, every country claims to want the best and brightest from around the world, but not those of lower ability. And perhaps it is better, from any individual area’s perspective, to try to accept only the best and brightest. But arguably movement of the best and brightest (not only from say, India to the US, but arguably from Idaho and Mississippi to NYC and the Bay area) is worse from the perspective of the whole world, whereas movement of the less talented brings the sort of things elites tend to want (cheap labor, delicious ethnic food).

        I guess the real incentive from the perspective of any area’s elite would be “we get to move around, but all other elites have to stay put.”

        But even without exceptions like that, it’s hard to imagine the world’s elites would all cooperate to voluntarily restrict their own mobility.

        Then again, I think technological innovation is often the most important driver of progress, and from that perspective, getting the best and brightest from around the world concentrated into a few areas may be better than having them evenly distributed where they don’t talk to each other as much. The scary part is that, if they’re all concentrated in a few areas, they’ll get really out of touch with everyone else (as is already happening). The good part is that it isn’t long before they get around to marketing whatever they invent to the proles.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Full disclosure: I proposed it mostly for the sake of playing Devil’s Advocate (not in spite of it being so counter-intuitive, but precisely because it was counter-intuitive).

          I was originally going to close with “binding the elites to the land is left as an exercise for the reader.” But as I typed it, I realize that, oh crap, that’s precisely what “landed gentry” was. All that Jane Austen stuff with entailments and social class being a matter of having a lot of land which produces income with strict rules governing its ownership did precisely what I just outlined.

          I don’t know how you’d get there now that land doesn’t have much to do with producing wealth, but I think I accidentally stumbled upon another lost social technology. Moldbug in all things.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Did it, though? In the Middle Ages, you had a lot of people with estates in both France and England, or in both France and the Germanies, and so on. In the Early Modern Era, you have the Prince of Orange (in southern France) taking the throne of the Netherlands, a whole class of English gentry with estates in Scotland, and so on. They may be tied to the land in the sense they get their income from it (or maybe not), but that’s not what we’re talking of here.

          • JulieK says:

            Already by Jane Austen’s time, the manufacturers and bankers were getting to be richer than the landed gentry.

      • Dahlen says:

        You might find that these high-IQ folks greatly resent this policy and use their high IQ to devise ways to get around it. Sure, they’re smart enough to understand the reasoning behind it, but then they’re smart enough to move beyond that reasoning and rationalise their preferences for greater freedom of movement. Besides, I’d really like to see exactly what category of people is meant to act as an enforcer of this policy against the best and brightest of a society. This falls into that common pitfall for political discourse, in which an abstract “We” (a royal “We”?) is implied to be the agent that enacts all sorts of policies proposed by the speaker.

        I understand where you’re coming from, and I certainly notice this problem in my own country, which suffers from massive brain drain. A big concern of policymakers is how to convince educated professionals not to emigrate, especially after the country spent lots of resources educating them, without going back to draconian Communist-era emigration restriction. But, aside from an ardently patriotic fraction of high-IQ individuals, lots of these people would really hate such policies, and might move abroad even in spite of economic incentives (which our economy is not yet able to provide). Corrupt public institutions, which provide barriers to entry even or especially to capable and well-meaning young people who could then “clean them up”, are one of the reasons why. In a low-quality society with bad human stock, being part of the cognitive elite is no use against being ruled by scoundrels, if these people are dispersed and powerless. (In case this appears to contradict the first paragraph — “if they’re so smart, surely they’d somehow think their way into power?…” — first, one immigration policy is not as difficult to uproot as endemic corruption and dysfunctionality; second, it’s already happening, but slowly and painstakingly; third, lower average IQ means fewer and less smart people at the far right end of the bell curve, in other words, their peaks are not as peaky as those of higher-average-IQ societies.)

        Another factor is the quality of the social and daily life of these smart people, which their average countrymen cannot provide. Their enclaves are small and porous, the cultural landscape less satisfying (fewer noteworthy cultural events), the cutting-edge advancements in various fields mostly happening elsewhere, etc. Besides, as many of us probably already know since high school, being smart is no guarantee of the ability to communicate effectively with less smart people, and may indeed impair that ability.

        And in case you think that people should altruistically put all of that aside for blood and soil, I’d like to bring up the fact that, from the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution and eras preceding and succeeding those, scientists, intellectuals, and artists were to a great degree transnational all across Europe, and this seemed to foster the exchange of ideas and their export to less advanced territories. When nations of the Far East started developing at an accelerated pace and established tighter connections and better communication with the West, again that exported a whole lot of knowledge and opened up much human intellectual potential; today it seems rather rare to find scientific papers without at least one Chinese author, to take a superficial view of this distribution. In my country, most of our illustrious scientists and intellectuals studied abroad, and there’s reason to believe this was the only way they could have had contact with the Western intellectual environment, back in the 19th century when there was no internet. On the whole this seems to help more than hinder their home countries.

        • Anonymous says:

          Besides, I’d really like to see exactly what category of people is meant to act as an enforcer of this policy against the best and brightest of a society.

          It’s actually pretty simple to implement (not necessarily easy). Just make the local elites (who are in charge) feel that admitting the best and brightest from other places will increase the competition for themselves – that the smart migrants will take their jobs. Then they’ll forbid anyone too smart from immigrating themselves.

          • Dahlen says:

            Dude, being “in charge” means that your job is that of a legislator. Seats in the parliament and other ruling bodies in public institutions, not to mention the presidency, are not always open to migrants, not to mention that a successful political career can’t be built in just a couple of years, and if you’ve spent 20 years of your adulthood trying to gain citizenship, well…

            Politicians are really among the last professional category in which immigrants can displace natives. Their job security is a-OK. This argument does not work.

          • Anonymous says:

            That is the crux of the problem. The politicians are not thinking long-term. They’re not thinking much past the next election cycle, nevermind whether their dynasties will be around and in charge in a hundred years. The difficulty of the solution is, indeed, to make them think and care.

        • John Schilling says:

          I understand where you’re coming from, and I certainly notice this problem in my own country, which suffers from massive brain drain. A big concern of policymakers is how to convince educated professionals not to emigrate, especially after the country spent lots of resources educating them, without going back to draconian Communist-era emigration restriction.

          How much wealth, power, and/or status are these policymakers willing to share with the educated professionals they are trying to persuade to stick around?

          Because I’ve heard this story before, even in large sectors of the American economy, and the implied “…without, you know, paying them” makes me roll my eyes and stop caring.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The idea is there’s no obligation to pay them well because they have an unsatisfiable debt to the country that “spent lots of resources educating them”.

          • Dahlen says:

            I think I’ve said something to this effect. The answer is, not much.

            lots of these people […] might move abroad even in spite of economic incentives (which our economy is not yet able to provide).

            It’s not just public employees (although they’re currently trying to do something to this effect, and judging by our budget, the next few years will be spent sitting and watching the economy implode), the private sector isn’t uniformly better either, and it’s mostly foreign companies that don’t have a vested interest in making things better for the local populace.

            Shit sucks, but we’re used to it. *shrug*

            @The Nybbler

            I’d like to feed you the past few months’ worth of economic news coming from properly pro-free-market outlets, which have been busy collectively losing their shit because the government is running our budget into the ground, specifically because they’re trying to live up to their phantasmagorical campaign promises. It’s not that simple. Of course a higher standard of living will incentivise these people to stick around and be productive, but sometimes the $$$ for that isn’t there. I’m not saying I like this, I have all the reasons to hate it, I’m just telling it as I see it.

          • Incurian says:

            Is this one of those situations where if they just liberalized their markets etc. instead of trying to buy the love of their educated professionals, things might work out ok? (serious, if naive question)

          • cassander says:

            @Incurian says:

            Is this one of those situations where if they just liberalized their markets etc. instead of trying to buy the love of their educated professionals, things might work out ok? (serious, if naive question

            Sure, but that would destroy their existing political base, which is probably premised on preserving some form of market illiberalism.

      • Deiseach says:

        The poorer can still leave as an escape hatch, so we still get access to ethnic foods

        Isn’t that still a form of colonialism and exploitation, though? “We let you into our country so we can enjoy a bastardised form of your quaint native folkways, as long as you promise to otherwise assimilate to our values and customs and sufficiently entertain us”?

        Suppose they want to be bank tellers and not cook interestingly spicy to your palate food? Agreed, there’s no reason they can’t be bank tellers and mechanics and journalists and the rest of it and still have local shops selling their ingredients and restaurants cooking their own foods which we then get to go to, but it’s a bit wince-inducing if we’re thinking of the exchange on the level of “we get access to ethnic foods”, it really is the commodification of culture in a way that makes it unauthentic and plastic for the second and third generation. I don’t think, for instance, Chinese restaurants and Indian takeaways are selling the types of food or operating in the manner they would if they were set up in their place of origin, or that they would succeed for Westerners if they were authentically “this is the same as an Indian restaurant in India”. And I don’t think the trendy upscale upmarket fusion or ‘authentic’ places catering to Westerners do the same, either; it’s the equivalent of the packaged “Irish pub”: even over here, there are pubs that you can tell are catering to the tourist trade and the genuine local pubs (which are more likely to be on the scale heading towards dives, or at least tacky and unattractive).

        • Evan Þ says:

          I don’t think, for instance, Chinese restaurants and Indian takeaways are selling the types of food or operating in the manner they would if they were set up in their place of origin

          Well… Some of them, sometimes, sort of. When my Chinese friends and I go out for dinner together, I know by now what restaurants will have a menu where they can find a corner, or a page, with generally authentic Chinese food. Or sometimes it’s a totally different menu written just in Chinese. It tastes pretty different from the normal Americanized Chinese food, and I rather like it.

          Yes, the restaurants do it here because there’s a large Asian immigrant community that goes out to eat and wants the food they’re used to. I don’t think I’d find it in, say, North Carolina where I grew up. And all the restaurants still have the usual General Tso’s, cashew chicken, etc. on the menu, and looking around, most of the other European-Americans still seem to be eating it.

          As an interesting footnote, there’s another restaurant that advertises Chinese food the way they cook it in India. Never been there myself, but I hear it’s pretty different.

        • Jiro says:

          I don’t think, for instance, Chinese restaurants and Indian takeaways are selling the types of food or operating in the manner they would if they were set up in their place of origin,

          I don’t think that McDonalds is selling the type of food or operating in the manner they would if they were cooks in pre-McDonalds Western culture. And they didn’t even have to move to another country to deviate so strongly.

      • quanta413 says:

        There’s too much mixing of each country’s elite, causing them to form a ruling monoculture. So keep them from moving out of their homeland. Cut off student visas. Make the difficulty of immigration proportional to a person’s IQ.

        As shocking as people might view this when they first see it. This does not actually strike me as very different from what the U.S. has in practice. We already have waaaaaay more poor mexican immigrants (many illegal, but they’re not going to vanish anytime soon) than all rich immigrants combined. We educate lots of rich, foreign Chinese students here in exchange for money and then we promptly send them back to China. So your bit about cutting off student visas seems mostly like an irrelevant detail.

        Basically, if I was more conspiracy minded, I’d accuse someone who put forward this proposal seriously of being part of the elite trying to import a more pliable lower class to do the servant work (gardening, construction, nannying, etc.) of the rich for cheap while simultaneously keeping out anyone who could compete for the top positions in society.

    • JulieK says:

      If 1 and 1a. are true, as I think they are, there are a lot of scary ways things could go, the most likely probably not the Nazi sort of route everyone fears, but I imagine, instead, a new kind of paternalistic technocracy (rule by educated, high-IQ elites who know what’s best for the world).

      I would think that the patenalistic technocracy could be in the cards with or without “muggle realism.” Even within single race, you have high-IQ elites and the proles.

    • cassander says:

      Two and three seem entirely incompatible to me, as in you can assert one or the other, but not both. You can’t say that breaking down cultural barriers being bad AND keeping cultural barriers up is also bad. Or, at least, they ought to be bad in different ways.

    • Anonymous says:

      1. Some version of “Muggle Realism” is true and will eventually be widely accepted as true.
      1a. Big, real differences exist among cultures and ethnicities that won’t easily melt away when e.g. third worlders come to the first world. a.k.a. assimilation is harder than it seems.

      I’ll accept that without quibbling.

      2. The first world closing its doors to the third world and splintering into relatively monocultural ethnostates is a bad thing. Reduction in meaningful culture exchange, viewpoint diversity, trade, etc. is bad. Decreased opportunity for the third world and people from the third world to enjoy first world-levels of opportunity, development, and technology is bad.

      I’d say that the bad thing here is the unification of local cultures into national, unified ones. Which is making tribes with tens-of-millions of members. And tribal warfare is very nasty. But you do have a point.

      3. Everyone in the world gradually absorbing into one, universal culture, speaking one language, possibly with one world government, or, at least, moving in that direction, is also bad. Leveling of the playing field by making the first world more like the third world is bad.

      OK.

      The premises make sense at least arguably.

      Is there some other, better direction for the future to go in?

      I’d propose imperial ethnarchy, similar to the Ottoman Millet system. States are big, but include many different nations within them. Every nation has its own legal system, and in case of interaction between nations, the victim’s system is used (though I suspect the ruling nation will make it so in any case involving one of them, their system is used regardless).

      In addition, I’d very strongly advocate removing all compulsory, unified schooling systems, as well as all efforts to standardize language.

    • Dahlen says:

      Is there some other, better direction for the future to go in? My personal preference is widespread adoption of an anti-authoritarian/anti-statist/anarcho-capitalist viewpoint allowing unlimited secession, thereby forcing no one to be in a political union with anyone they don’t want, but also allowing political units of all sizes and based on all kinds of reasons, to develop. Most would probably split along ethnic or linguistic lines, as they do today; but maybe there would be more opportunity for “propositional nations”–i. e. ours is the nation where we accept anyone who believes in non-violence, etc.

      I remember having had one such debate in the past. People don’t have enough agency to secede fractally, and on top of that have other priorities in their life that compete with political goals. The only organisations that seem to act with sufficient agency are those who are invested in preventing fractal secession, i.e. states.

    • Deiseach says:

      The first world closing its doors to the third world and splintering into relatively monocultural ethnostates is a bad thing. Reduction in meaningful culture exchange, viewpoint diversity, trade, etc. is bad. Decreased opportunity for the third world and people from the third world to enjoy first world-levels of opportunity, development, and technology is bad.

      What is a problem there is that it seems by this paradigm Third World people can only enjoy First World-levels of opportunity, etc. by coming to the First World countries and immigrating to them. So where does that leave the developing world? If we throw up our hands and say it’s all a hellhole and will never get any better, what does that do for those countries and their inhabitants? Equally plainly it’s impossible for every single person in the Third World to move to First World nations, which leaves only (a) the re-introduction of colonialism in some form, where First World nations effectively take over the running of Third World nations – be that in the form of marching in with armies and setting up as the government, or via industrialisation where the big companies, by means of their economic clout, are able to dictate to the government of the nation “we want more computer programmers, start casting your education system in a manner to churn them out” (does China count as a First World nation? Chinese investment in Africa seems to be running in a way analogous to this, though I’m going by third-hand accounts)

      Or (b) we throw up our hands and let them sink or swim by their own efforts, acknowledging that yes, the people there will never have the same levels of opportunity we do nor enjoy the same rise in lifestyle. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are allowed uncontested domain of the Third World; all we are concerned about is keeping our borders sealed and extracting from it what economic benefit that a globalised economy allows. That doesn’t seem much better.

      Why isn’t there (isn’t there?) an option (c), where the Third World can develop into the same kind of First World levels from within, so people don’t have to leave for the First World and be part of the wave of immigration? I know – poverty, disease, corruption, war, revolution, unstable governments, tribal conflicts, all the rest of it, but unless the improvements happen at home, what else can realistically be done? You can’t move every single person in the continent of Africa to the USA, much less the entire Third World into the First World.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Why isn’t there (isn’t there?) an option (c), where the Third World can develop into the same kind of First World levels from within, so people don’t have to leave for the First World and be part of the wave of immigration?

        If you accept Human Vibrancy or Muggle Realism or Scientific Racism or whatever we’re calling it today, it’s because the people of the Third World are simply incapable of it. Most of the ones with the capacity left a long time ago, leaving only the dregs behind.

        There are also a variety of options which say it can’t happen because the First World existed and exists. e.g. the First World has plundered the natural resources of the Third, leaving them without enough to bootstrap themselves into modernity. Or the legacy of colonialism has damaged the psyche of the people. Or that there will always be some advantage to those in the Third World who can make a deal with some unscrupulous First Worlders to screw over the rest of the Third World (hi, Moloch!). Or that the First World can’t help but interfere with the things that would move the Third World forward (this could include things like peacekeeping in wars and alleviation of famine, not just obviously harmful stuff)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        One more alternative– if the problem in a third world country is poverty, but not absolutely dire conditions, a lot of people don’t seem to want to all leave. Instead, some leave, work in a first world country, and send money home to their families.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        The third world is getting better — I think the rate of those in desperate poverty has halved in the last 10-20 years? Admittedly this is mostly a function of improvements in China and India, but that consists of a lot of people. Also I think the 3rd world is dramatically improving almost everywhere now, even outside China and India. Perhaps Africa is somewhat of an exception, but its turn will come.

        There is no reason that emigration to the 1st world for some and increase in the economy they are leaving can’t both happen. If the Human Vibrancy model Nybbler mentions were truly destroying the IQ of the home country, why is India advancing rapidly, with all the brilliant minds constantly emigrating to the West? I think part of the reason this works is because of the remittances as Nancy mentions. Few emigrants fully abandon their country of origin, especially in this day and age of easy world-wide communication, and much easier world-wide travel then previous.

        • keranih says:

          If the Human Vibrancy model Nybbler mentions were truly destroying the IQ of the home country, why is India advancing rapidly, with all the brilliant minds constantly emigrating to the West?

          Is India advancing all that rapidly? I mean, compared to what kind of powerhouse it could be if it were less…err…corrupt, caste-controlled and overly regulated?

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, my impression is that Indian development has thus far been pretty disappointing as compared to e.g. China.

            Related, though the Chinese have a culture of the best and brightest getting approval stickers from Harvard, MIT, and Oxbridge, my impression is that they tend to return home to start a career.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          India has definitely been growing quickly.

          Yes, China is a better example of growth over the last few decades, especially in manufacturing. But I think that is more related to Indian culture vs Chinese culture, and not related to all the emigration of talent from India. And India is certainly growing at a rapid pace the last few years.

          • onyomi says:

            But I think that is more related to Indian culture vs Chinese culture, and not related to all the emigration of talent from India.

            I don’t claim to know whether you’re right or wrong about this, but how would one even go about proving it one way or the other?

      • onyomi says:

        @Deiseach

        Why isn’t there (isn’t there?) an option (c), where the Third World can develop into the same kind of First World levels from within, so people don’t have to leave for the First World and be part of the wave of immigration?

        Regarding what’s taking the third world so long, one doesn’t even necessarily need to blame e.g. “Muggle Realism,” though that could be a part of it; what if the West and East Asia are just a few thousand years ahead in terms of some human development which gradually tends to happen anywhere, but sometimes on drastically different timescales? Like the Aztec and Inca seem to have been somewhere around “Ancient Egypt” levels of development when the West showed up, but now we’ll never what a South America in isolation would have looked like two or three thousand years later. But I can guess no one there would have wanted to wait 3000 years, anyway.*

        I think recuperating the reputation of “colonialism,” or, more realistically and less problematically, things like charter cities, which have been decried as “neo-colonialism” is probably important.

        This is also where I see the linkage between government and ethnic identity as so harmful: I, personally, don’t much care about the ethnic identity of the people ruling me. I only care that they not suck. If you could replace the government of the US by the board of Toyota, I’d probably be much happier. But most people seem to feel some sense that they’d rather be ruled by their own super-crummy leaders than by e.g. the British. But the British have a much better track record than most third-world governments, since those governments’ hold on power is always so tenuous, meaning they are often highly constrained in attempting to positive reform, even if well-intentioned. Me, I don’t like rulers, period. If I have to have rulers, I’d rather have competent ones than ones who look like me.

        But this conflicts strongly with my notion that well-integrated, harmonious diversity is hard to do in the sense that, historically, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identities have been the basis for the vast majority of state formations other than empire, and if I could cast an “ancap spell” over the world, presumably those are the lines along which people would tend to break (though maybe not entirely?).

        To take a pessimistic view, if the problem is that third world populations need to spend a few hundred years executing their most violent members… well, that’s going to take a lot more than just a few decades of foreign investment to fix, though with, e.g. increased knowledge of the genes likely to cause e.g. high-time preference, criminal behavior, maybe it could happen much faster and less gruesomely.

        What is definitely not a good approach is just kind of…wishing there weren’t more intractable problems than simple colonialism or racism or bad luck holding back the third world, because is that the sort of just world we’d rather live in, and then proceeding to act as if that wish were true. In fact, the results, as we’ve seen in recent decades of US foreign policy, can be really catastrophic.

        *Big tangent, but I always wonder about Star Trek’s “Prime Directive.” It is presented in the show as obviously right, though they do occasionally explore some of the difficulties it presents, like when a planet becomes suddenly uninhabitable to a European Dark Ages-ish civilization and they have to choose between violating it and messing up their culture, or else just letting their culture go extinct entirely. I always kind of disagreed with the Prime Directive. Is the real-world analogy of the Prime Directive the difficulty of sticking to a non-interventionist, non-colonialist foreign policy?

        • Incurian says:

          Regarding the Prime Directive (in Star Trek, not in the real world), I don’t agree that it’s presented as obviously right, it’s presented as obviously the law. Most of the instances I can remember of the PD being invoked, it was highly controversial and much of the episode was a debate about whether to do the right thing or the legal thing.

  12. Urstoff says:

    A dumb IHE thread got me thinking again about what it means to be offended, and whether one can be “rationally offended”. In my view, emotions can be rational and irrational, and it’s important self-knowledge to be able to discriminate between your rational and irrational emotions. I think I can probably use that notion to construct a theory of being “rationally offended”, but before I try to re-invent the wheel here, has there been much conceptual work on offensiveness done elsewhere? Googling “offensive behavior” and related terms gives me lots of HR guidelines for companies.

    • Incurian says:

      In case no one responds and you get discouraged: I don’t have a good answer but I’m interested to hear your analysis.

    • gbdub says:

      I’m not sure I’d agree with “rational emotions” but I’d be interested in hearing the argument.

      If I had to define types of taking offense, I’d probably say “reasonable”, “unreasonable”, and “strategic”.

    • JulieK says:

      There’s a line in Citizen of the Galaxy (Heinlein) about how a wise man never feels insulted, because the truth is not insulting and an untruth is not worth paying attention to.

      • Marshayne Lonehand says:

        Child-rearing practices in Heinlein’s juveniles borrow heavily from Seneca’s On the Firmness of the Wise Man and other Stoic works … as Heinlein hoped that adults would recognize when they studied the Roman Stoics later in life … ouch! 🙂

    • Dahlen says:

      A good starting point would be to check for whether the one who emitted the offending message had the intention of causing offense, or, less rigorously, was indifferent to the potential of the message to cause offense, although they could have anticipated that it might. You do this just like you interpret any other meaning of acts of communication, by looking for the usage of words with pejorative connotation, the verbal expression of contempt, or cues from the social context and the interaction that indicate a hostile exchange. Our capacity to feel offended by things is meant to accurately detect status hits in just this kind of situation.

      Of course, this approach is vulnerable to the bias induced by the interpreter’s ego or paranoia, but that’s par for the course in all interpersonal matters. The extent to which the results approach the ideal of rationality is proportional to the ability to filter out one’s own bias and gauge exactly what the other person actually had in mind when they said or did the thing in question.

      I’m not aware of what is already out there regarding this topic, if you were looking less for SSCers’ random guesses and more for academic work.

    • Deiseach says:

      Possibly the idea of “righteous anger”? That is, there is a difference between the “he insulted my mother so I got mad and punched him in the nose” anger, and the “no, there is a good, sufficient and sensible reason for me to be outraged by this” anger, as in the Non-Conformists against slavery.

    • Waring says:

      The locus classicus is probably Joel Feinberg, Offense to Others (OUP 1985).

      There’s a large academic philosophy literature on the rationality of emotions more generally which is easily googleable. Often cited in my field is Kahan and Nussbaum, ‘Two Conceptions of Emotion in Criminal Law’ (1996) 96 Columbia LR 269.

  13. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Something that’s been on my mind for a while: the trope/meme of “aliens are constantly baffled at how dumb humans are” never sat entirely right with me. I get that it’s a good way to make a point about how silly something we do is, but why the assumption that other intelligent life would not be like that? Presumably natural selection could occur elsewhere, and presumably similar pressures that resulted in our cognitive biases could have similar effects on other organisms.

    Am I missing something or does anyone else feel this way?

    • random832 says:

      In my experience the trope tends to be associated with an assumption that the aliens had to have either evolved past such things or somehow never had them at all in order to develop the technological achievements required for interstellar space travel, and in those settings humans tend to not have done so (either not having interstellar space travel at all, or having somehow cheated their way into it)

    • John Schilling says:

      What you are missing is that the aliens in question are always presented as fundamentally smarter and wiser than humanity, usually manifested in their having invented starships with which to come visit us rather than vice versa But not limited to mere mechanics, and beyond such things as cognitive biases. “Obviously”, a race with Ineffable Cosmic Wisdom will be “baffled” by why an allegedly intelligent species like humanity can’t recognize obviously-true things, e.g. the political and social beliefs of the story’s author. But it isn’t all humans who are bafflingly dumb. You, the reader, aren’t one of the dumb ones, right?

      You’re not the only one who feels that this is a silly trope (except when it graduates to annoying or offensive).

      • random832 says:

        Eh, it’s not always political beliefs. There’s a series of tumblr posts floating around where it’s stuff like keeping cats (dangerous carnivores) as pets.

        • John Schilling says:

          Hence “political and social” beliefs. Though with cat ownership, I’m going to guess it’s a mix between cat-hating writers getting in a cheap shot and genuinely thoughtful “what would smart aliens really find baffling about smart humans”?

          OK, now I want the story where the alien is baffled by keeping cats as pets and in the next chapter infuriated by the vermin he can’t quite eradicate from his spaceship.

          • Randy M says:

            Which shows that the aliens can’t be all that smart if they make the objection. Certainly they might simply not grok inter-species companionship for reasons of lacking whatever biological quirk makes humans enjoy that–that is, maybe the author is trying to show a fundamental cultural gap–but for an alien to think that domestic cats are dangerous to their keepers after any sort of investigation shows a wildly miscalculated threat assessment. Assuming they aren’t these aliens.

            Although that would make sense if these are the same aliens that want to destroy humanity for being a threat to the rest of the galaxy because of how we treat each other/other species/the planet/etc.

          • The story I’ve wanted someone to write is the one where the aliens are impressed by how amazingly tolerant of nature humans are–they even have gigantic plants growing next to their homes and living creatures of a wide variety of sizes and shapes running or flying in and around them. A reversal of the “humans as destructive, aliens as good environmentalists” trope.

            I think it came to me standing near the Hudson river, looking out over Bergen Country, Suburban N.Y.–which from that viewpoint looked like a forest.

          • random832 says:

            It was more “the whole concept of pet ownership is something aliens might think is weird”, not from an animal rights standpoint but from a “why do humans want to live with animals” one – large dogs were also used as an example, along with alien wildlife with invented dangerous properties that hit the same “cute fuzzy thing” buttons.

            Also an alien roomba.

        • DrBeat says:

          The worst is the one that has the aliens unable to grasp the concept of heat.

          • Randy M says:

            Presumably that story ended when the aliens attempted to land on a planet’s surface?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The only story I can think of like that is aliens who came from a planet with little temperature variation that they were very well suited to.

            When they came to earth, they were chilled (possibly also frostbite) and couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. This doesn’t strike me as extraordinarily stupid. Sometimes the hardest thing is figuring out what question you need to ask.

            There’s a reasonable chance that the story was by Russell or Anvil.

            Here’s one which is a bit more even-handed. Radio broadcasts(?) are found from aliens who have learned how to not have wars, but they don’t explain what their method is. Their civilization has advanced to the point where they have lead plates to eat off of, but they can’t figure out why they’re dying.

          • Vermillion says:

            Oh yeah, that was a David Brin story. It shifted back and forth between a human scientist arguing with a politician about funding his radio telescope vs. something with for the military. And an alien doing the same with an alien politician that wants to cancel their program so they can fund public health research about why the whole population is getting sick.

            The humans admire the irony of how they finally managed to clean up the air and rivers just in time for them to get incinerated by nukes. The alien bureaucracy meanwhile when the scientist complains says something like, well obviously you’re free to go to any other country and ask for funding but they’ll all tell you the same thing, then the alien admires the progress of industry, belching smoke into the air and eating off of modern lead utensils.

            Pretty sure it’s Just a Hint from this collection.

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s a mini-genre of short stories, popular on Tumblr, about how awesome humans are through alien eyes. Stuff along the lines of how we eat, drink, breathe, and swim in highly reactive compounds, regularly survive broken bones and other injuries that would be crippling in most other species, poison ourselves for fun, and earlier in our history used to catch prey by following it relentlessly until its heart exploded from exhaustion.

          Can be fun in small doses. I think it’s a reaction to the genre Alex described in the ancestor, though.

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            On the imageboards that’s “Humanity, Fuck Yeah,” if I’m reading you right. It’s a fun way to turn a lot of sci-fi tropes upside down at once.

            There’s also an older short story in that vein, I think by Larry Niven, premised on warp drive technology being a relatively simple mathematical discovery that humans, for random biological reasons, managed to overlook. The aliens then get blindsided when their bronze-age starships succumb trivially to Earth’s thousands of years of finely-honed weapons technology.

            Actually here, I found it: The Road Not Taken, by Harry Turtledove.

            Edit: Ninja’d by five hours. I ought to read the whole thread before posting.

          • Deiseach says:

            There’s the Larry Niven story where the Puppeteers hire a human to explore how an expedition, travelling in a spaceship equipped with one of their patented impregnable hulls, all died suddenly (and messily).

            Not alone is it going to be bad for business if the species of the galaxy think that something can break through their hulls, but as a paranoid and pacifist species they’re terrified of something unknown that can be a threat to them when travelling in space. (So paranoid that they don’t let any information leak out about their home world: where it is, what it looks like, conditions on it, etc.)

            The human eventually solves the mystery and also throws in a bit of blackmail about “Your planet doesn’t have a moon, does it?” which he figures out from why the Puppeteers didn’t think of the obvious (to humans) reason the mysterious deaths happened.

          • Since someone mentioned Niven’s “Neutron Star,” I can’t resist throwing in my critique. Critical to the plot is the idea that the Puppeteers didn’t think of tidal forces because they had no moon.

            When I read the story, I had never thought about the physics of tides, didn’t know how it worked, why there are two tides a day instead of one. Reading the story, it was clear from simple physics what was happening. At which point it occurred to me that that was the explanation of tides (or I realized it when the protagonist mentioned it–I don’t remember).

            The Puppeteers surely knew as much physics as I do, so their not figuring it out, after devoting much more thought to it than I did, is inconsistent with my figuring it out.

            Which wrecks part of the point of an elegant plot.

          • LHN says:

            Niven eventually came to the same conclusion. (Especially after deciding the Puppeteers were capable of moving planets and rearranging them into complicated gravitational relationships in Ringworld.) IIRC, he decided retroactively that the Puppeteers were humoring Schaeffer for reasons of their own.

        • Rowan says:

          That sounds like one of Tumblr’s many takes on the “what if humans were exceptional, instead of the boring normal race they are in typical space opera?” prompt. Some of them kinda make sense as things that might actually make humans exceptional relative to the average galactic citizen, most are just really dumb.

      • Matt M says:

        In fairness, I think most adequately developed universes go both ways on this.

        Yes, humans seem dumb and un-evolved compared to the Vulcans I guess, but at the same time, they certainly don’t hesitate to look down their own noses at the Klingons or the Ferengi…

        • random832 says:

          Of course, there’s the extent to which they’re looking down at the Ferengi for, very specifically, social/economic beliefs that the Ferengi share with present-day humanity and that future humanity has “evolved past”.

          (The amount and quality of actual explanation as to how Trek!Humanity’s post-capitalist society works is about on par with the explanation of how the ‘Heisenberg compensator’, a gadget that fixes all the ways in which the transporter breaks physics, works: “It works very well, thank you.”)

      • Civilis says:

        There is a point that I can see to it in the context of science fiction parables about nuclear war (or similar weapons of mass destruction). The idea is that the more technologically advanced you get, the more powerful weapons get, therefore any race which hasn’t sufficiently suppressed any warlike nature it has (at least regarding its own species) will eventually kill itself when it gets the level of technology to do so.

        On the other hand, there are some neat subversions of the trope to be had. I can think of examples where more advanced and “enlightend” species discover they need a species capable of waging war (ie, humans) to do their dirty work and examples where the development of FTL spaceflight leads to technological stagnation, and it’s the aliens that are backwards.

        • random832 says:

          I remember one story like that – I can’t remember the title or the author, but apparently there was a really easy path to both FTL and stuff like keeping a breathable atmosphere in that humans somehow missed, and the aliens were literally flying in wooden ships. And this particular faction had apparently conquered lots of weaker planets, and Earth was next on their list. I’m not even sure whether they had gunpowder or not.

    • herbert herberson says:

      It’s definitely true that the best stuff in that area grounds those different perspectives in concrete biological (or at least historical) reasons.

    • Urstoff says:

      I don’t understand that trope either. Do aliens not have their own anthropologists who understand that cultures differ?

      • random832 says:

        Maybe all of the ones we actually hear the opinions of are right-wing “dumb-humans realists”, and there’s in fact a wider variety of opinions within the aliens’ population as to whether other species’ cultures are better/worse than their own or not.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Correct analogy would be alien ethologists. And human ethologists have been known to throw up their hands and say “this behavior is inexplicable and seems kind of dumb” (e.g. flamingo mating parades)

        • Urstoff says:

          That would depend on if the aliens can make a reasonable radical translation of human languages. If all they have to go off is non-verbal and uninterpreted verbal behavior, then it’s probably more akin to ethology.

    • Skivverus says:

      Selection bias for narrative impact: aliens aren’t going to comment on the portions of our psychology they find ordinary.
      Of the areas they find unusual, it seems plausible that some strike them as dumb. There may also be ones they find smart (which they’ll adapt as quickly as possible, so you won’t see these mentioned much outside of first-contact stories), and ones they find mystifying. Similar reactions will likely be observed going the other way.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Aren’t the aliens generally far older (as a species) and more technologically advanced? Could be fairly analogous to “moderns constantly baffled at how dumb medieval people were” or to “adults constantly baffled at how dumb teenagers are”

      • Matt M says:

        Broadly speaking, I think the general rule in sci-fi is something like “Whoever has the best tech is also assumed to be the wisest and most civilized” or what have you (with the occasional noteworthy exception).

        And if you think about sci-fi as a genre largely written (and consumed) by intellectual nerds who may have been mocked or bullied or what have you, it makes a lot of sense. Like, duh, of course the smartest people are the “best” people. And of course that’s not humanity, because we all know that humanity does not provide the proper level of respect and reverence for those with superior intellects.

        • John Schilling says:

          The phrase “superior intellect”, to me, invokes a particularly disrespectful treatment from a particularly popular example of genre sci-fi.

        • Marshayne Lonehand says:

          “The general rule in sci-fi is something like “Whoever has the best tech is also assumed to be the wisest and most civilized”

          Le Guin’s still-in-print, much-translated The Dispossessed (1974) has been both much-praised and vigorously damned for swimming directly against that stream.

          Which recent SF works exceed The Dispossessed’s 50,429 ratings and 2,799 reviews on GoodReads?

          Examples: Red Mars is appreciably behind (at 47,957 ratings and 2,118 reviews), while Diamond Age is appreciably ahead in ratings (at 64,664), and slightly behind in reviews (at 2,751).
          ————
          Aside: GoodReads ratings and reviews carry considerable weight (with me anyway), because this is a community that ardently loves to read. Good on `yah, GoodReads! 🙂

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Now we’re going to have to get SA to, uhh, find the forgotten Chesterton science-fiction story about how superior humans are because they’re medieval.

        • LHN says:

          Poul Anderson’s The High Cruaade should suffice till then.

          • Evan Þ says:

            My very liberal and progressive sci fi book club is going to be reading that in a couple months. I’m looking forward to it.

        • Deiseach says:

          the forgotten Chesterton science-fiction story about how superior humans are because they’re medieval

          Do you mean The Napoleon of Notting Hill? 😀

          Written in 1904, set in the (then) far-flung future of 1984 but very much different to Orwell’s view of how things would turn out: England ends up going back to the future, as it were.

          Very few words are needed to explain why London, a hundred years hence, will be very like it is now, or rather, since I must slip into a prophetic past, why London, when my story opens, was very like it was in those enviable days when I was still alive.

          The reason can be stated in one sentence. The people had absolutely lost faith in revolutions. All revolutions are doctrinal — such as the French one, or the one that introduced Christianity. For it stands to common sense that you cannot upset all existing things, customs, and compromises, unless you believe in something outside them, something positive and divine. Now, England, during this century, lost all belief in this. It believed in a thing called Evolution. And it said, “All theoretic changes have ended in blood and ennui. If we change, we must change slowly and safely, as the animals do. Nature’s revolutions are the only successful ones. There has been no conservative reaction in favour of tails.”

          And some things did change. Things that were not much thought of dropped out of sight. Things that had not often happened did not happen at all. Thus, for instance, the actual physical force ruling the country, the soldiers and police, grew smaller and smaller, and at last vanished almost to a point. The people combined could have swept the few policemen away in ten minutes: they did not, because they did not believe it would do them the least good. They had lost faith in revolutions.

          Democracy was dead; for no one minded the governing class governing. England was now practically a despotism, but not an hereditary one. Some one in the official class was made King. No one cared how: no one cared who. He was merely an universal secretary.

          …The King stopped suddenly, and his eyes shone.

          “Perhaps,” he said, “perhaps the noblest of all my conceptions. A revival of the arrogance of the old mediæval cities applied to our glorious suburbs. Clapham with a city guard. Wimbledon with a city wall. Surbiton tolling a bell to raise its citizens. West Hampstead going into battle with its own banner. It shall be done. I, the King, have said it.” And, hastily presenting the boy with half a crown, remarking, “For the war-chest of Notting Hill,” he ran violently home at such a rate of speed that crowds followed him for miles. On reaching his study, he ordered a cup of coffee, and plunged into profound meditation upon the project.

          …”To-morrow morning at twenty-five minutes past ten, if Heaven spares my life, I purpose to issue a Proclamation. It has been the work of my life, and is about half finished. With the assistance of a whisky and soda, I shall conclude the other half to-night, and my people will receive it to-morrow. All these boroughs where you were born, and hope to lay your bones, shall be reinstated in their ancient magnificence, — Hammersmith, Kensington, Bayswater, Chelsea, Battersea, Clapham, Balham, and a hundred others. Each shall immediately build a city wall with gates to be closed at sunset. Each shall have a city guard, armed to the teeth. Each shall have a banner, a coat-of-arms, and, if convenient, a gathering cry. I will not enter into the details now, my heart is too full. They will be found in the proclamation itself. You will all, however, be subject to enrolment in the local city guards, to be summoned together by a thing called the Tocsin, the meaning of which I am studying in my researches into history. Personally, I believe a tocsin to be some kind of highly paid official. If, therefore, any of you happen to have such a thing as a halberd in the house, I should advise you to practise with it in the garden.”

          …The Lord High Provost of the Good and Valiant City of West Kensington wrote a respectful letter to the King, explaining that upon State occasions it would, of course, be his duty to observe what formalities the King thought proper, but that it was really awkward for a decent householder not to be allowed to go out and put a post-card in a pillar-box without being escorted by five heralds, who announced, with formal cries and blasts of a trumpet, that the Lord High Provost desired to catch the post.

          The Lord High Provost of North Kensington, who was a prosperous draper, wrote a curt business note, like a man complaining of a railway company, stating that definite inconvenience had been caused him by the presence of the halberdiers, whom he had to take with him everywhere. When attempting to catch an omnibus to the City, he had found that while room could have been found for himself, the halberdiers had a difficulty in getting in to the vehicle — believe him, theirs faithfully.

          The Lord High Provost of Shepherd’s Bush said his wife did not like men hanging round the kitchen.

          The King was always delighted to listen to these grievances, delivering lenient and kingly answers, but as he always insisted, as the absolute sine qua non, that verbal complaints should be presented to him with the fullest pomp of trumpets, plumes, and halberds, only a few resolute spirits were prepared to run the gauntlet of the little boys in the street.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The Napoleon of Notting Hill would probably be a pleasure for a lot of gamers.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Napoleon of Notting Hill would probably be a pleasure for a lot of gamers.

            It certainly is for King Auberon, who is treating the whole thing as a massive game and, after ten years, is still getting a kick out of making shopkeepers and small businessmen dress up like mediaeval nobles in costumes of his own design, and march around with halberdiers and heralds trailing along:

            Ten years had not tired the King of his joke. There were still new faces to be seen looking out from the symbolic head-gears he had designed, gazing at him from amid the pastoral ribbons of Shepherd’s Bush or from under the sombre hoods of the Blackfriars Road. And the interview which was promised him with the Provost of North Kensington he anticipated with a particular pleasure, for “he never really enjoyed,” he said, “the full richness of the mediæval garments unless the people compelled to wear them were very angry and business-like.”

            Mr. Buck was both. At the King’s command the door of the audience-chamber was thrown open and a herald appeared in the purple colours of Mr. Buck’s commonwealth emblazoned with the Great Eagle which the King had attributed to North Kensington, in vague reminiscence of Russia, for he always insisted on regarding North Kensington as some kind of semi-arctic neighbourhood. The herald announced that the Provost of that city desired audience of the King.

            “From North Kensington?” said the King, rising graciously. “What news does he bring from that land of high hills and fair women? He is welcome.”

            The herald advanced into the room, and was immediately followed by twelve guards clad in purple, who were followed by an attendant bearing the banner of the Eagle, who was followed by another attendant bearing the keys of the city upon a cushion, who was followed by Mr. Buck in a great hurry. When the King saw his strong animal face and steady eyes, he knew that he was in the presence of a great man of business, and consciously braced himself.

            …The halberdiers of Bayswater wore a prevailing uniform of green, and the banner which was borne after them was emblazoned with a green bay-wreath on a silver ground, which the King, in the course of his researches into a bottle of champagne, had discovered to be the quaint old punning cognisance of the city of Bayswater.

            “It is a fit symbol,” said the King, “your immortal bay-wreath. Fulham may seek for wealth, and Kensington for art, but when did the men of Bayswater care for anything but glory?”

            Immediately behind the banner, and almost completely hidden by it, came the Provost of the city, clad in splendid robes of green and silver with white fur and crowned with bay. He was an anxious little man with red whiskers, originally the owner of a small sweet-stuff shop.

            …”Welcome, West Kensington,” said the King. “I have long wished to see you touching that matter of the Hammersmith land to the south of the Rowton House. Will you hold it feudally from the Provost of Hammersmith? You have only to do him homage by putting his left arm in his overcoat and then marching home in state.”

            “No, your Majesty; I’d rather not,” said the Provost of West Kensington, who was a pale young man with a fair moustache and whiskers, who kept a successful dairy.

            The King struck him heartily on the shoulder.

            “The fierce old West Kensington blood,” he said; “they are not wise who ask it to do homage.”

            Then he glanced again round the room. It was full of a roaring sunset of colour, and he enjoyed the sight, possible to so few artists — the sight of his own dreams moving and blazing before him. In the foreground the yellow of the West Kensington liveries outlined itself against the dark blue draperies of South Kensington. The crests of these again brightened suddenly into green as the almost woodland colours of Bayswater rose behind them. And over and behind all, the great purple plumes of North Kensington showed almost funereal and black.

            …The King of the Fairies, who was, it is to be presumed, the godfather of King Auberon, must have been very favourable on this particular day to his fantastic godchild, for with the entrance of the guard of the Provost of Notting Hill there was a certain more or less inexplicable addition to his delight. The wretched navvies and sandwich-men who carried the colours of Bayswater or South Kensington, engaged merely for the day to satisfy the Royal hobby, slouched into the room with a comparatively hang-dog air, and a great part of the King’s intellectual pleasure consisted in the contrast between the arrogance of their swords and feathers and the meek misery of their faces. But these Notting Hill halberdiers in their red tunics belted with gold had the air rather of an absurd gravity. They seemed, so to speak, to be taking part in the joke. They marched and wheeled into position with an almost startling dignity and discipline.

            They carried a yellow banner with a great red lion, named by the King as the Notting Hill emblem, after a small public-house in the neighbourhood, which he once frequented.

            And then something happens to spoil the joke, which is that one young man out of all the Provosts takes the whole fantastic creation dead seriously and is determined to block a nice little property deal which some of the other businessmen had been cooking up and which involved buying property in Notting Hill.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I wasn’t thinking about recreationists.

            Gurer’f n zna jub znqr n ubool bs guvaxvat nobhg ubj Abggvat Uvyy pbhyq or qrsraqrq, naq jura Abggvat Uvyy arrqrq gb or qrsraqrq, uvf cyna jnf hfrq. (sebz zrzbel)

    • The Nybbler says:

      I guess the boring answer is that the alien in that kind of story is just an author-surrogate put in to make the author’s point, and how they got to be just So Gosh-Darn Smart is not important.

      • LHN says:

        Seen even more clearly in the utopian story, especially when it involves a visitor from modern society who gets to be explained at throughout the book.

        (Something that was already being lampooned as far back as the 1930 film “Just Imagine”, where the Man from the Past is played by a dialect comic whose response to future efficiencies– food pills, drink pills, and especially the automatic baby dispenser– is “Give me the good old days!”)

  14. Brad says:

    Is there a strong reason for the net neutrality partisan line up to have ended up the way it did? I suppose I can see that one side looks like deregulation and the other regulation, but really it’s a pissing match between corporate giants — Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T vs Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and Google on the other.

    Also, in terms of political bases is there any enthusiasm at all on the Republican side for their end of the debate? Does e.g. Fox News ever report on this stuff and if so is the comment section filled with people taking the ISP side of things?

    • Matt M says:

      Not sure as much about Fox News, but I know that Glenn Beck used to cover this pretty extensively during the Obama years, with his viewers essentially falling in line with the “net neutrality is a government ploy to take over the internet and shut down conservative debate” position.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Could it be as simple as the content industry being almost exclusively urban and young, and largely in California, vs. the series-of-tubes sector being more geographically and chronologically diffuse/diverse?

    • Jordan D. says:

      I’m not sure, but- do you happen to know how long this political split has gone on? When I first heard the term ‘net neutrality’, back in the Bush years, there didn’t seem to be any kind of partisan charge in the discussion, and now it’s everywhere.

      • Brad says:

        If look at the voting records of FCC commissioners (by law no more than 3 of 5 can be from the same political party) it looks like partisan positions gelled into opposing camps some time early in the Obama administration.

        Near the end of the GWBush administration there was a pro-NN vote that went 3-2 with one Republican and two Democrats in the majority.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I am relatively conservative (for values of conservative) and I simultaneously feel strongly on the subject and feel like there is no good solution.

      I think a common carrier approach to ISP is probably the best way to go, and is important.

      AND

      I think that it will inevitably open the door to increased government regulation of the internet, which I oppose.

      BUT

      Private corporate regulation of the internet and public spaces is already getting really disturbing.

      So at this point I think it’s very much “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, damned if we can tell which is the damndest.”

      • Brad says:

        What kind of increased government regulation of the internet are you concerned about? Things on the more technical or financial side? Content regulation? Mandatory backdoors?

        Personally I think that NN regulations should apply where an ISP has a monopoly in broadband. And I wouldn’t let them cheese out of monopoly status by pointing to satellite, dsl, or wireless. If there’s only one coax or optical cable to a building that’s a monopoly situation.

        • Matt M says:

          Personally I think that NN regulations should apply where an ISP has a monopoly in broadband.

          My understanding is that most such situations are government-enforced monopolies, rather than the true “natural” monopoly we always hear so much about.

          In other words, we could solve that particular problem just by telling the government to stop creating and enforcing monopoly conditions.

          • Brad says:

            Tt is a little more complicated than that. I’m not sure there are *any* government granted monopolies in the sense of “municipal government says company X is the only one that can do business here” in the US. I have a hunch it would be illegal.

            What does exist, and this is certainly a real problem, is places where the rights of way, easements, pole access, digging rights, etc have been long since negotiated for one company and a lot of local interests, including governments, drag their feet or outright obstruct anyone else that wants to pull their own wires.

            But the solution that is not so simple as to “tell governments to stop creating and enforcing monopoly conditions”. It is disruptive to dig up streets, landowners would rather not have endless easements on their properties. If a company wants to use a utility pole that was paid for and is maintained by an electric company to run their own wires they should have to kick in something. So the naive libertarian take of corrupt local governments obstructing for no reason isn’t totally accurate.

            By regulating monopolies we reduce the incentive to be a monopoly in the first place, which in turn reduces the desire to corrupt local politics, and alleviate the suffering of the consumers that are nonetheless stuck buying from a monopolist. It’s a win-win.

          • herbert herberson says:

            w/r/t government created monopolies: There are a lot of state laws banning public/socialized municipal broadband, does that count?

          • Brad says:

            Herbert Herberson:

            I don’t think the classification quite fits.

            Above all because municipalities are creatures of state law. A state telling a city that they can’t do X is like headquarters telling a branch office they can’t do X. It’s such an inherent part of state power to decide what parts of itself should be doing that I’m hesitant to call such decisions granting a monopoly.

            Secondarily, because there are pro-competitive reasons to be leery of a government controlled competitor where much of the barrier to entry consists of getting government permission to do various things and to get the government to use its eminent domain power on your behalf.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          On the technical side my only real concern is that the combination of government’s lack of agility and limited technical knowledge (even blue ribbon panels can only do so much) tend to make for bad laws when it comes to rapidly evolving technology. “we use this 5/10/20 year old method that is inferior in quality/safety/speed/reliability because it’s the one mandated by law/the new one is hung up in approval processes” is a story I do not want to see repeated with the internet.

          On the surveillance/backdoor side, I think that bird flew to the coop YEARS ago, and at this point it’s mostly a matter of ensuring we have good procedural controls (H/T to Controls Freak for his effortposts on that subject).

          So for me it mostly comes down to two concerns:

          A) I don’t trust the government’s ability (or even desire) to foster robust competition rather than stifle it, and I am not confident that regulated regional monopolies are going to be superior to unregulated regional monopolies in terms of price and performance. Not when…

          B) I think that once we open the door to government regulation of ISPs, the next step to the FCC regulating internet communication and content is inevitable, and that’s a a power I don’t want to grant to ANYONE.

          Though to be honest, I feel like with the turn that Google, Facebook, Twitter, et al have taken over the past 15 years that THAT battle is probably lost anyway. In their growth they appear to be intent on creating a locked down and regimented medium, replacing the “wild frontier” atmosphere that allowed creative startups like them to bloom in the first place.

  15. Matt M says:

    The latest adventure in dumb licensing laws:

    Oregon man receives $500 fine for “practicing engineering without a license” when attempting to make the case to the government that its red light cameras are malfunctioning.

    Järlström is now suing the state board over that fine, arguing that it’s unconstitutional to prevent someone from doing math without the government’s permission.

    • Randy M says:

      Järlström is now suing the state board over that fine, arguing that it’s unconstitutional to prevent someone from doing math without the government’s permission.

      “As clearly stated in the first amendment–”
      “Objection! He’s doing it right here!”
      “Simply listing things ordinally is not doing math!”
      “I’m going to feel safer if get an expert opinion on that.”

    • The Nybbler says:

      Ahh, P.E.s. Very sensitive about all those other non-licensed engineers around, and very jealous of the Canadian P.E.s who have managed to seize the term “engineer” for themselves (in most US states either the term “engineer” isn’t protected or there’s a boatload of exceptions). They like to post on software blogs and tell us how we’re all wrong for calling ourselves engineers, at which point I like to ask them when they last drove a train or built a siege engine.

      • Jordan D. says:

        My mother used to work in the same building as our own state’s licensing boards for engineers and architects, who apparently were at each other’s throats 24/7.

        Perhaps that’s the way to solve this kind of problem. Dueling Boards.

    • CatCube says:

      I don’t know what it is about OSBEELS. They apparently fined a professor of engineering at the University of Portland for calling himself an engineer…because he was licensed in the state of California, and hadn’t registered himself with Oregon. I was getting this over lunch from somebody who took classes from the guy, so maybe it was that he was using “P.E.,” but still.

      I object to somebody trying to stamp drawings without licensure, but I’ve no idea why anybody should care about somebody calling themselves an engineer. As long as they don’t tell ostensible clients that they can approve designs for construction (or fake up a stamp), who cares?

      Similarly, the person in the article isn’t releasing anything for execution that has public safety implications. I’d say there’s an argument that he would have to stamp for implementing signal timing, because at that point you’re accepting liability if your timing causes accidents. But merely criticizing the decisions made for signal timing? That has no public safety implications–and there’s really no good argument for licensure except for public safety and code compliance. Nitpicking an ODOT engineer’s decisions has neither.

      On the object level, shortening the Y+R phase on a signal to increase revenue from red-light cameras is absolute bullshit, and any engineer who approves such should be disciplined and/or sued for malpractice. Even with standard timing, signals cause an increase in rear-end accidents, and playing cute games with timing probably increases that.

      • random832 says:

        because he was licensed in the state of California, and hadn’t registered himself with Oregon.

        Isn’t there something in the constitution about full faith and credit?

        • LHN says:

          Full faith and credit applies to “public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings”, not licensing. As witness the fact that it couldn’t be used to force states to recognize out-of-state interracial marriages during Jim Crow, or concealed carry licenses in states that don’t issue them more recently.

          (Drivers licenses clearly have some sort of interstate reciprocity going on, but I’m not sure of the formal details.)

          In practice, it’s strongest when applied to court judgments, which is why a divorce in another state was covered, hence Reno’s fabled role when divorce was harder to get in most states.

    • Deiseach says:

      As ever, on behalf of the bureaucratic minions, I’d say there are two sides to every story.

      It sounds like he’s trying to appeal his wife’s traffic fine by some “and this is why I’ve proven by MATHS that your traffic lights system is banjaxed” reasoning of his own as an amateur lawyer.

      Problem is, if he gets away with this, everyone is going to try and pull the “here’s my home-cooked reason for why I shouldn’t have to pay a traffic fine”*. They’re trying to avoid setting a bad precedent and falling back on fighting a quibbling technicality with a quibbling technicality.

      *The traffic fines section of the local council where I worked had a policy of annulling the fine if people could show that, say, they were out-of-towners who didn’t know the parking charges regulations. This only applied once, but you’d be surprised at the number of repeat offenders and local people who had no idea, no idea at all! that there were parking charges. As to the abuse the traffic wardens got – nobody likes traffic wardens, but equally nobody likes “and this guy was parked on the curb so I had to walk out into the traffic to get around his car, why doesn’t the traffic warden do something about this?”

      Turf wars can be stupid, though; in our national government departments (from what I’ve seen as a minor bureaucratic minion) the Department of Education will not talk to the Department of Health when it comes to joined-up thinking about setting up early years education for children with special and additional needs, and the Department of Finance likes setting out that it’s the one that controls the purse strings, bitches, every year in its little turf war with the Department of Education over third level grants.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Problem is, if he gets away with this, everyone is going to try and pull the “here’s my home-cooked reason for why I shouldn’t have to pay a traffic fine”

        Handling such things is what the courts are FOR. Slapping people down with fines because they attempted to defend themselves — particularly if their defense turned out to be correct — makes a mockery of the court system.

        • Deiseach says:

          Handling such things is what the courts are FOR.

          But going to court is expensive, time-consuming and can be messy. I’m not trying to say the System is always right but just that sometimes the Bold Crusader is a crank with a bee in their bonnet. That may not be so in this case, and if there is some jiggery-pokery going on, then good luck to him.

          I’m sticking up for the bureaucrats because often they’re between a rock and a hard place; the public officials are bound by regulations and rules and customary practice, and sometimes the management/town councillors go ahead and do crap that the staff can’t stop them doing, which then gets the entire system tarred with the same brush.

          For instance, the elected councillors in my town are in the local papers complaining (as they always do) that the housing department won’t give them details of new tenants for houses – not just “so many houses were allocated to new tenants”, which they can get; they want names, details, etc etc etc and are loud in their complaints that this is against the rules and why aren’t they getting this information and it’s preventing them from serving their constituents. The old town manager used to give them this information, but he did a lot of crap for the sake of an easy life that left massive problems behind him when he quit and took up another job (e.g. promising at least thirty people that they would definitely get a house/flat in the new housing development, which only had fifteen places, in order to get them off his back even though he knew this wouldn’t happen. And because he put it in writing for one person, they went to court and forced the council to allocate them a place that they were not entitled to, skipping over other people on the housing list. Crap like that is why the new regime is not giving out details to councillors or making promises to people about “you’re number four on the list”).

          There’s a very good reason the staff don’t want to give them this information, which can’t be said out loud: it’s because if they get it, they make an unholy mess of things spreading it around and make more trouble and complaints for the housing department to try to deal with. Becaue they all want to use this information for personal electoral advantage.

          (1) If they get told “Mrs Smith of Hill Street has been allocated a council house”, the first thing they will do is ring up or otherwise contact Mrs Smith about “I’m delighted to tell you that you’re getting a council house” and let Mrs Smith think they got it for her.

          WHICH IS ALL KINDS OF ILLEGAL IF IT HAPPENED – IT’S AGAINST THE REGULATIONS AND THE LAW TO LET ANY PARTY INFLUENCE DECISIONS ON HOUSING ALLOCATIONS OUTSIDE THE DEFINED LIMITS OF THE REGULATIONS. They can make representations, sure, but what they and the staff can’t do is “Hey, give Mrs Smith a house over Mrs Brown because I owe her a favour”.

          (2) That’s not how it works, anyway; decisions are made by the regs and by who is in most need. But I saw it with education grants when I worked there and the same in housing – a local politician who had no influence good, bad or indifferent on the decision will take the credit for it, which leads the general public to think “It’s all about who you know” and gives an impression of mild (at the very least) corruption and bias. This was very amusing to me after the last election when the councillors of four different political parties all took out ads in the local papers claiming credit for they themselves personally getting so much money from the government for local housing, when none of them had anything to do with it, it was a decision from the national government to give a funding increase.

          (3) Councillor Robinson tells Mrs Smith, before the housing department staff have time to send out the official offer letter which asks the potential tenant not to say they’ve been allocated a house yet as this is just a preliminary offer and please don’t tell anyone you’ve got a council house, that she definitely has got her house. Mrs Smith then tells all her friends and neighbours. Which then leads to Mrs Brown ringing up or calling in person to the housing department in screaming fury about “How come Mrs Smith got a house and I didn’t, when I have three kids and an invalid husband and am on the waiting list for four years?” and because due to the duty of confidentiality the staff can’t say “Actually, Mrs Smith has been moved up the list because her son is dying of liver cancer and she has mobility problems herself”, Mrs Brown is convinced that it’s all down to corruption and ‘pull’ and that she has been cheated out of her due and her rights.

          All because Councillor Robinson and Councillor Jones wanted to make sure they keep getting votes in the local elections by maintaining the false impression that “I’ll put a word in for you to move your application along”.

          If the housing department won’t play along by giving them the information they want, they can’t do this. And that’s why they’re complaining at council meetings and having it reported in the local papers.

          The next time you see a report about your local councillor saying the bureaucracy and red tape is holding them back from serving the public, remember: it’s all about vote-winning and vote-keeping as far as they’re concerned.

      • random832 says:

        This only applied once, but you’d be surprised at the number of repeat offenders and local people who had no idea, no idea at all! that there were parking charges.

        Maybe they should put up signs?

        • Deiseach says:

          Maybe they should put up signs?

          “Signs? What signs? Oh you mean that sign there on the pole with the hours and rates and directions to the ticketing machine? I had no idea it was there at all, or the other twelve signs all around the parking spots” 🙂

          Far as I could see, for the clerks dealing with parking and traffic fines it was an immense pain in the behind that they would gladly do without. The council certainly wasn’t raking in the cash from fines, and the lengths people would go to in order to avoid paying were silly in some instances. Mainly the bylaws about parking, etc. are in order to keep the flow of traffic in the town centre flowing and let everyone have a turn getting parking – I’m sure people on here have been annoyed by not being able to find a convenient parking space and have wondered why the authorities aren’t doing anything about it. Someone parking for X hours in a busy area where there is a lot of traffic where everyone else wants to park as well is clogging up the system and parking fines/traffic wardens are only trying to overcome the free rider problem here (the person taking advantage of everyone else obeying the rules about 1 hour maximum parking to take a space and keep it for more than the 1 hour).

          Nybbler’s point about “this is what the courts are for” – is it really a victory if the cost of a court case in lawyer’s fees is more than the fine would have been? Maybe it’s worth it in vindication but unless there was some SHOCKING DEFICIT IN PUBLIC SAFETY REVEALED BY MIS-TIMED TRAFFIC LIGHTS, I think most people’s attitude would be “Just pay the fine and forget about it”.

          Now, if the town council was rigging the lights to increase revenue from fines, sure, go ahead and make a public case of it. But unless that is the case, then automatically assuming every story of “little guy against city hall” is a case of the little guy being in the right, is not necessarily so 🙂

          • The Nybbler says:

            is it really a victory if the cost of a court case in lawyer’s fees is more than the fine would have been? Maybe it’s worth it in vindication but unless there was some SHOCKING DEFICIT IN PUBLIC SAFETY REVEALED BY MIS-TIMED TRAFFIC LIGHTS, I think most people’s attitude would be “Just pay the fine and forget about it”.

            So the answer to relatively small injustice should be to just accept it, and it’s OK for the state to deliberately punish people seeking redress for it? I mean, this really looks like “let the bullies have what they want”.

          • Matt M says:

            Far as I could see, for the clerks dealing with parking and traffic fines it was an immense pain in the behind that they would gladly do without.

            Well God forbid we inconvenience the poor bureaucrats. Won’t someone think of the bureaucrats!!!

      • CatCube says:

        The bureaucracy sending him a fine here has exactly zero to do with adjudicating tickets, though. OSBEELS only function is to regulate the licensure of engineers, architects, land surveyors, and I think photogrammetry. Their only objection is that he’s ostensibly “practicing engineering” by calculating what he believes to be a better signal timing after he was nailed by a red-light camera.

        I would actually agree with them if he, say, worked for Balfour-Beatty and had calculated the signal timing for a new installation in a subdivision. Then, I’d say he absolutely should have to put his stamp on them accepting liability for the work before they send somebody out to upload the timing to the signal controller. But he’s just saying that what somebody else did is wrong, and he should be able to make that statement. If the court adjudicating his traffic ticket doesn’t want to hear it, the court can tell him to piss up a rope, but the people in charge of licensing engineers should have no dog in that fight.

        Now, I haven’t been through what the man is saying, but he’s alleging exactly what you alluded to in one of your other comments: the signals have been mistimed to increase revenue. This is happening a lot in the US. I’m not a traffic engineer, and I’m going from memory on this, but IIRC the standard for many years for lower-speed signals was to have a 2.5 second yellow phase followed by a 1 second all-red phase.

        Signals with red-light cameras have sometimes had the yellow phase shortened to 1.5 or 1 second because that causes more people to run the light and therefore increases revenue for the camera. As a matter of fact, private companies have cut deals with jurisdictions where the company would install and operate the camera and split the take with the jurisdiction, but only if this shortened timing is used. I can’t remember the state now, but a state supreme court put a stop to the shortened timing in that state and one of the firms in this business line pulled out, because with the standard timing it was no longer profitable.

        The other effect of this shortened timing is that people will spike their brakes when the yellow light pops up, to avoid running the light in the shortened interval, and this causes a marked increase in rear-end accidents. Signals already cause a pretty eye-raising increase in rear end accidents (though they markedly reduce T-bone collisions, so on net they can be a good thing). So increasing them again, just so the city can pocket the money, is something that should be fought.

        • random832 says:

          I wonder if there’s any chance of making the state liable for the damages of a rear-end collision? That’d probably be put a much quicker stop to it than people fighting tickets, since enough people might not bother fighting for it to still be profitable if they ignore it and shorten the timings anyway, but it takes a lot fewer people (and game over if an insurance company does this for all their clients) if they manage to successfully make the state pay for their car repair.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://blog.bolt.io/heres-why-juicero-s-press-is-so-expensive-6add74594e50

    My impression is that wasting $120 million on a bad idea is a medium-sized mistake as such things go.

    I’ve heard that too much money too soon can get a startup into bad habits.

    • John Schilling says:

      Not clear that this is a bad idea:

      1. If you can convince lots of people to pay you $7 every day for a Juice Pack, you’re rich.

      2. Nobody is going to thing $7 juice packs are at all reasonable. They might think that $400 juicers are reasonable, if they are well-engineered and durable and signal sufficient upper-middle-class status

      3. Once you put the $400 out in front, most people won’t do the math on consumables with single-digit price tags. See also, printer ink. Or as the coyote notes, razor blades.

      4. Added bonus: If it gets out that you don’t actually need the $400 juicer, people may well think they are getting a great deal and putting one over on the greedy stupid manufacturer by just buying a $7 juice pack every day and saving the cost of that silly overpriced juicer.

      Laugh all the way to the bank.

      • random832 says:

        Razors don’t actually put a higher price tag up front – for Gilette Fusion for example, the handle (which comes with one or maybe two cartridges) costs $10-12, whereas the pack of four blades (the smallest available) is $16.

        And for a lot of people the first one’s free. They used to send coupons or even an actual razor to people on their 18th birthday (I don’t know what database they have that allows them to do this, but I do know my brother got one)

  17. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    Interesting coincidence of Internet communities this week.

    So, apart from SSC, the only other comment section I enjoy is the comment section on Shamus Young’s Twenty-Sided. Like here, it’s almost always civil and the discussions allowed are pretty free-ranging, with the exceptions that no religion and no politics are allowed in Shamus’s personal garden.

    For the last 7 years, the site also been host to the long-form LP show Spoiler Warning, which features a group of 3-5 hosts playing a game together and commenting on, analyzing, and criticizing the story, gameplay, trivia, etc. It’s a great way to explore games, and Shamus’s site is my favorite place on the Internet to follow nerd culture.

    Sadly, though, Spoiler Warning is coming to an end, in large part because of issues that come up here a lot in recent weeks. Namely, Shamus refused to censor comments that other hosts of the show found objectionable, so long as said comments were civil and polite. Two of the hosts thought this loose comment policy led to situations where “you can literally defend domestic abuse, so long as you’re polite” or “invalidate the humanity of other posters,” and left the site. Spoiler Warning will continue, but at another site and without Shamus.

    I can respect their decision – they simply chose not to associate themselves with a comments section they found objectionable, it’s not like they tried to shut the site down or anything. But it does sadden me. To borrow other commenters’ phrasing, Twenty Sided was one of the few places on the Internet free of the Blight, but now it, too, ahs been struck.

    🙁

    • LHN says:

      Yeah, the coincidence of the SW breakup happening on the heels of the tightening of SSC’s comment policy does make it feel as the tide has passed another mark of some sort. It was handled maturely and without open acrimony, but it’s still striking that the divide proved irreconcilable. (If you haven’t seen it, Josh Viel gives his position over at the SW Patreon site: https://www.patreon.com/posts/well-that-9299827 )

      The fact that Shamus is on one side of the divide and the other, younger hosts were all on the other (aside from Shamus’s daughter, who AFAIK hasn’t weighed in) reinforces my existing sense that we’re seeing a long-term generational shift taking place.

    • cassander says:

      >I can respect their decision – they simply chose not to associate themselves with a comments section they found objectionable, it’s not like they tried to shut the site down or anything.

      They did it about as well as possible, but ultimately they kicked him off they show. they didn’t just decide to host it elsewhere, with a different moderating policy. And presumably, most of the other non-shamus content is going to go away as well. that’s a pretty substantial breakup, one that will likely cost all parties substantial amount of income, in order to “make people feel welcome.”

      • LHN says:

        I don’t think we know that they kicked him off. I think it’s at least plausible that the decision not to host it at his site was the determining factor. The Twenty Sided Patreon is Shamus’s income source, so doing time-consuming stuff for another site when he can be doing content for his own might be something he wouldn’t choose to do. Especially if the resultant discussion has to take place under rules he’s not comfortable with.

        There is a separate SW Patreon (currently going to Josh since he does the technical side and gameplay), but not trying to renegotiate that under tense conditions strikes me as the better part of valor.

        (It also may be that there are more bad feelings on the side of either or both than they feel comfortable airing publicly, so that they want to take a break from working together for a bit. Though I hope not.)

        But yeah, in the short term it’s probably going to hurt them all by splitting the audience and casting a shadow over everything. But while I agree with Shamus’s site policy myself, it’s clear that the disagreement’s been building (probably at least since Mumbles left) and better an orderly separation than a blowup.

        • cassander says:

          >I don’t think we know that they kicked him off. I think it’s at least plausible that the decision not to host it at his site was the determining factor. The Twenty Sided Patreon is Shamus’s income source, so doing time-consuming stuff for another site when he can be doing content for his own might be something he wouldn’t choose to do. Especially if the resultant discussion has to take place under rules he’s not comfortable with.

          that’s possible, but it strikes me as unlikely that shamus would object to them hosting spoiler warning elsewhere, with their own moderation as long as he was allowed to keep 20sided as his own place. but then what do I know, your version is far from impossible.

          >(It also may be that there are more bad feelings on the side of either or both than they feel comfortable airing publicly, so that they want to take a break from working together for a bit. Though I hope not.)

          I have no doubt this is the case, but I actually think it’s a credit to them to keeping it polite in public.

          But yeah, in the short term it’s probably going to hurt them all by splitting the audience and casting a shadow over everything.

          It’s not just that, there’s nothing special about die-cast or spoiler warning. I’m not intending to cast aspersions on anyone on the show, but there are a million youtube channels with people talking about video games, the vast majority of which are less successful than SW was. SW succeeded not because of some cleverness of formatting, delivery, or content, but because the chemistry between the various participants helped make the show add up to more than the sum of its parts. Remove Shamus and you don’t just lose all the people that liked shamus, you also, eventually, lose all the people that liked how the other people responded to shamus, even if they didn’t realize that’s what they liked. I suspect it will end up like Top Gear made without Clarkson, Hammon and May, which is terrible.

          But while I agree with Shamus’s site policy myself, it’s clear that the disagreement’s been building (probably at least since Mumbles left) and better an orderly separation than a blowup.

          I was wondering if there there was some story there, I haven’t been a regular listener in at least a year, and only recently realized how long it had been since I’d heard mumbles.

          • LHN says:

            IIRC, some posters engaged in presumptuous armchair psychoanalysis (saying she was a sadist based on how she related to video game characters) and accusations of wrongthink (for expressing the wish that her characters in Bioware games could romance certain companions in violation of their established orientation).

            From the outside, it looked to me like a very small number, with a much larger number of posters immediately leaping in to defend her. But I get the impression that it was another last straw moment, and that she felt that she was generally getting attacks in ways the guys weren’t. (Including via Twitter, which I can’t speak to since I didn’t follow her.)

            At the end of the day, this was a hobby, so if it was getting unfun for her for whatever reason, that’s pretty much all that need be said.

            You’re probably right that both will need to find a new dynamic, which may or may not be possible. (Some ensembles do survive cast shakeups.) The Diecast was already suffering from a tendency to negativity that was beginning to wear on me, so it’s not impossible that new blood will rejuvenate it. Though honestly a lot of that is Shamus– whom I like, but who honestly has gotten pretty down on most new games by this point– so maybe not.

            (They had a Shamus-less cast last year where the rest of the cast shyly admitted to each other that they all actually liked the later Mass Effect games better than Shamus did. Which I found interesting, because that’s something that never came through– except from Mumbles to some extent– when Shamus was present.)

            My Spoiler Warning viewing was intermittent anyway, so I’m less likely to follow that wherever it goes. Maybe if there’s a game I’m really interested in seeing them do.

  18. Wrong Species says:

    Apparently, a recent study says that Kim Jong Un is perceived as weak by his generals.

    How seriously should I take this?

    Assuming it’s true, how should the US deal with North Korea?

    • cassander says:

      I wouldn’t take this particular study seriously. But the way to deal with north Korea remains unchanged regardless of if it’s true or not, cut a deal with the Chinese where they use their leverage over the Norks to encourage a coup in favor of someone who is interested in reforming, opening up, and normalizing North Korea.

    • John Schilling says:

      Apparently, a recent study says that Kim Jong Un is perceived as weak by his generals.


      The actual study

      How seriously should I take this?

      The claims in the CNBC article are not supported by the Rand study, but seem to come from an interview with the study’s author. The study itself cites only one defector, Thae Yong-Ho, as claiming that Jong-Un “cannot last”; Yong-Ho is a diplomat rather than a general, and is not regarded as credible by the US diplomats I have worked with on Korean affairs. More generally, defectors are a very questionable source of information on regime stability because A: obvious selection bias and B: economic incentive to tell compelling stories.

      That North Korea’s generals are making their private fortunes in the black market is almost certainly true, and not just the generals. I believe that most everyone in North Korea now does some degree of black marketeering on the side, even if only selling vegetables from their private garden at informal markets, with official quasi-tolerance. But see e.g. China, where the generals all had private business empires under Mao, Deng, et al; this provides motive and ability for running a more economically efficient dictatorship or oligarchy, not for democratic reforms and certainly not for reunification under an established market economy whose legitimate businesses and honest institutions will drastically narrow the scope of black-market profitability.

      That there is as yet no strong candidate to succeed Jong-Un within the Kim Dynasty is also true, but it is equally and importantly true that there is no strong candidate to succeed him from outside the dynasty. You don’t get coups or color revolutions in favor of “TBD the Liberator”; if you don’t have an actual leader, probably nothing is going to happen.

      Assuming it’s true, how should the US deal with North Korea?

      Bennett/Rand make some good suggestions for what might make North Korea’s non-dynastic elites more comfortable with the idea of reunification, which is the actual focus of their research, but I’m not sure they would be politically feasible in the South and I doubt they would make much difference in the North. There’s too much of a coordination problem in turning private “I would prefer unification” sentiments into public acts or statements of rebellion, when the regime already has a well-coordinated machine for turning such things into bloody examples for the next would-be rebel thinking of speaking out.

  19. Mark says:

    If you’re limiting discussion of a topic, your justification has to rest on you (as the limiter) having a better understanding than the people who might be exposed to the topic.

    So, for reasons of common fucking decency and modesty, anyone suggesting censorship of things that intelligent people read should be at least 60 years old and/or privy to information that normal people are not (“the aliens are coming, stop that shit”)

    Young people telling me not to discuss racial stuff should be told to get lost.

    • Zodiac says:

      So, was this intended as an answer to a comment/the recent change in comment policy or are you just venting?

      • Mark says:

        Mainly provoked by the comment about ‘Twenty-Sided’ above, but since I know nothing about that community, I thought I’d start a new thread.

        I’m not sure that I’m entirely in favour of free speech – I accept that evil propaganda can influence people to do evil things. Perhaps in certain circumstances we need controls, and, actually, the SSC policy of obfuscation seems like a reasonable solution.

        However, I don’t think that the movement provoking the recent change in comment policy has done any work to make sure that they are improving discourse, or to prevent evil propaganda. Or that they’d be likely to think about things in those terms.

        If they were saying that we should make certain ideas more obscure and less appealing as propaganda because of their danger, but let’s still discuss them, I think they’d have a point.

        It seems more like a load of (young, fashionable) people telling me not to think something because it isn’t fashionable, though.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Only trust folks older than 60? That’s mighty good advice!

      Obligatory Medical Warning: 
      Before reciting the works of seniors,
      ask your doctor if your heart
      is up to the romantic strain.

      Just trust me on this. 🙂

  20. Jaskologist says:

    There was a comment about a DACA kid who was dumped over the border by ICE, to which a Trump supporter said “eh, I don’t believe it.”

    This crossed my feed last night:

    The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Border Patrol, says none of that happened. “There are no records or evidence to support Montes’ claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on Feb. 18, 2017,” DHS said last week. The first time CBP agents encountered Montes, officials said, was the next day, Feb. 19, when they took him into custody shortly after he climbed the border fence from Mexico into the United States.

    Montes invalidated his Dreamer status, officials say, by leaving the U.S. without authorization and then attempting to re-enter illegally.

    Now there is another question about Montes’ story. Officials say CBP does not deport people “in the middle of the night,” and that there is, in fact, a policy forbidding Border Patrol officers from doing so.

    Understand: this sort of thing is basically a weekly occurrence. Stories in the “you must denounce Trump for this!” genre are rapidly approaching Rolling Stone in terms of credibility.

    I dunno, maybe this time it is true. But why should I believe it? It wouldn’t be the first time such a story was fabricated.

    • Wrong Species says:

      The immigration issue drives me crazy because we’re supposed to be outraged every time the government enforces the law. What’s the point of an immigration system if we just ignore it?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        The claim is that current immigration laws are like cutting peoples’ hands off for stealing – even if that really is the only way to prevent theft, it’s just not worth it. Free movement people are hoping that if fence-sitters take a good look at how immigration enforcement works, they will join the free movement side.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Except there isn’t a “free movement side” — not an honest one, other than a tiny skim of libertarians no one listens to. There’s a side that insists they totally aren’t in favor of open borders, no way, heaven forbid… oh, and also every conceivable way of enforcing immigration law or preventing illegal immigration makes you worse than Hitler for doing it.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            My read on the situation is that elite liberals agree with the tiny skim of libertarians on this issue but can’t admit it without losing union support.

        • Anonymous says:

          cutting peoples’ hands off for stealing – even if that really is the only way to prevent theft, it’s just not worth it

          That’s just, like, your opinion, man. There’s nothing wrong with being harsh for major transgressions.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Current immigration enforcement laws are like _taking back the thing you stole_ for stealing. There’s a lot wrong with the system (mostly in how and who it decides to allow enter), but deporting someone for entering and remaining in the country illegally would seem to be the minimum to stop the violation, not some sort of Biblically-harsh penalty.

          • Urstoff says:

            The analogy with stealing already assumes the severity of the crime. If you don’t consider entering the country illegally to be a major moral violation (or, indeed, maybe even a good thing, on net), the deportation seems malicious. You view it as returning stolen goods, someone else might view it as impounding your car for going five miles over an already too-low speed limit.

            These analogies just don’t really illuminate anything. The real question is whether current immigration law is good or bad; if there is disagreement there, then there’s no point in discussing whether deportation is malicious or not. If the agreement is that it’s good, then the methods of enforcement/deportation would be the focal point. If there is agreement that the law is bad, then the discussion would be (aside from how to reform the law) how should we view violators of bad laws. But all of these questions get jumbled together.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If someone is where they aren’t supposed to be, then we kick them out. Do you consider it morally wrong to kick out someone who snuck in to your movie theater? What about a hotel guest who won’t leave?

          • Randy M says:

            The analogy with stealing already assumes the severity of the crime. If you don’t consider entering the country illegally to be a major moral violation (or, indeed, maybe even a good thing, on net), the deportation seems malicious. You view it as returning stolen goods, someone else might view it as impounding your car for going five miles over an already too-low speed limit.

            It does assume that illegal movement is undesirable but not the severity. Viewing deportation for illegal entry as analogous to impounding a car for speeding or cutting off a hand for stealing is incorrect; it is resetting the offender to the status quo ante, not permanently or materially harming them in ways unrelated to the crime.

          • Urstoff says:

            Viewing deportation for illegal entry as analogous to impounding a car for speeding or cutting off a hand for stealing is incorrect; it is resetting the offender to the status quo ante, not permanently or materially harming them in ways unrelated to the crime.

            As I said, it’s neither correct nor incorrect without discussing whether you think the law is itself good or bad; favoring the prior status quo is just as incorrect as not favoring it.

          • Randy M says:

            Right, you said that, and I said you were wrong.
            A consequence that applies an additional punishment is not analogous to a consequence that merely reverses the offense. Regardless of how offensive the offense is.

          • Urstoff says:

            Whether it’s analogous depends on prior views on the law (and on your model of how the world works in particular cases), as that determines what elements you consider relevant to the analogy. This is why I think using analogies here is pretty pointless.

            I sketched a pretty simple conversation tree in my earlier post: do you think the law is good/bad (obviously a spectrum, possibly with multiple axes)? Do the interlocutors agree to a large extent? If no, then resolve that. If yes, then if you think it’s a good law, then what should be the proper enforcement methods? If no, then what should be the consequence (if any) of violating a bad law.

            Analogies don’t advance that conversation at all, and tend to confuse it. You may think that simple decision tree is incorrect, in which case I invite emendations.

          • Randy M says:

            emendations

            TIL…
            Anyway, if you disagree with the concept of national borders fundamentally, you won’t agree with any means of coercion to get people to follow them. Sure. But that gets us to Thirteenthletter’s point above that full advocates of open borders are rare, and people who oppose deportation often explicitly disavow an open borders position without positing any humane enforcement mechanism nor any immigration limits to place short of the full human population.

            Thus, the argument about the humaneness of any particular punishment is quite relevant, especially in response to hoghoghog’s claim that the minimum of enforcement will cast a dim light on the practice.

          • John Schilling says:

            As I said, it’s neither correct nor incorrect without discussing whether you think the law is itself good or bad; favoring the prior status quo is just as incorrect as not favoring it.

            If we accept that a thing is an offense that ought to be punished, prevented, or discouraged at all, then it is absolutely and definitively correct to favor the situation that would have prevailed if the offense had not been committed. You might as well say “bank robbery is a crime, but I am indifferent as to whether the bank or the robber should have the money”.

            I get that there are people who favor open borders, or at least maximal immigration of favored groups, and if they can’t make those things de jure legal will seek to make them de facto unstoppable by e.g. demanding in the name of “justice”, negligible punishments. The rest of us here are going to call out those arguments for what they are and dismiss them.

            If a law is to be passed or if action is to be deemed an offense, then the minimum punishment pretty much has to involve denying the perpetrator the advantage obtained from the offense, either by restoring the status quo ante or by imposing a penalty at least equal to the net gain from the offense. If the penalty for bank robbery is a slap on the wrist plus giving back all the money, that might dissuade would-be bank robbers, if the punishment were certain of. If the punishment for bank robbery is capped at a fine equal to half the sum of money stolen, that’s absolutely not going to work.

            And if the crime is e.g. spousal abuse, restoration of the status quo ante is impossible while determining the perpetrator’s net gain from the offense is hard, so it’s going to be tricky determining what the minimum effective punishment is. With illegal immigration, restoration of status quo ante is trivial and obvious, and is the minimum punishment that doesn’t make an absolute mockery of rule of law in this context.

          • random832 says:

            Right, you said that, and I said you were wrong.
            A consequence that applies an additional punishment is not analogous to a consequence that merely reverses the offense. Regardless of how offensive the offense is.

            Suppose we had a law that executes anyone who steals a loaf of bread to avoid starving. That obviously just “merely reverses the offense”, after all, if they had not eaten the bread, they would have died.

            Destroying the life they have built, leaving them still out the massive opportunity cost of not having built a life in Mexico instead, seems somewhat like a lesser version of that.

            This is what seems so disingenuous about “merely reverses the offense” arguments – it pretends there is no difference in severity of punishment in deporting someone who just crossed for the first time today vs someone who has been here for years.

          • Urstoff says:

            If a law is to be passed or if action is to be deemed an offense, then the minimum punishment pretty much has to involve denying the perpetrator the advantage obtained from the offense, either by restoring the status quo ante or by imposing a penalty at least equal to the net gain from the offense.

            “has to” to what end? In order that no one disobeys the law? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, especially if obeying the law produces benefits. In the case of immigration, there are some advantages to immigrating legally, particularly when it comes to being a part of the above-ground economy. There’s also tons of headache there too, so reducing that bureaucratic nightmare that is living here on a visa or just dealing with the immigration office in general would make following the law more appealing than breaking it. Obviously, allowing more legal immigration would do this, too, as people immigrate here illegally often because they can’t immigrate here legally anything resembling a timely manner.

            Interestingly (and tangentially), and I hadn’t anticipated this, but this does argue against giving illegal immigrants more benefits–if you can also open up legal immigration. From a pro-immigration standpoint, giving illegal immigrants benefits such as drivers licences weakens the case for legal immigration. However, I can still see an argument for doing it if opposition to increasing legal immigration is strong, as there is still the humanitarian rationale.

            As far as “rule of law” arguments, I don’t find them particularly persuasive given that that phrase seems slippery enough to simply be “people aren’t being punished in the way I want them to be”, and the laws that people are concerned with seemed to be idiosyncratic. There are more complex independent measures of “rule of law” done by various thinktanks and foundations, and the US always scores pretty high on those, so I’m not too worried about some collapse into anarchism because enough illegals aren’t deported.

            One more note: I’m not sure if some people are explicitly making the conclusion that if you don’t think illegals should be deported than you are ipso facto in favor of open borders, but it does seem like it. I don’t think that follows at all, though, given the points I made about the benefits of legal immigration. Mass naturalization is another matter.

          • Randy M says:

            Suppose we had a law that executes anyone who steals a loaf of bread to avoid starving. That obviously just “merely reverses the offense”, after all, if they had not eaten the bread, they would have died.

            I guess I could only counter that bit of obviousness if we had some system of devising and comparing the values of material goods.

            Destroying the life they have built, leaving them still out the massive opportunity cost of not having built a life in Mexico instead, seems somewhat like a lesser version of that.

            A so much lesser version as to be absurd, given that they are probably much more wealthy than they would have been if they hadn’t immigrated.

            This is what seems so disingenuous about “merely reverses the offense” arguments – it pretends there is no difference in severity of punishment in deporting someone who just crossed for the first time today vs someone who has been here for years.

            If they weren’t still coming out ahead, they probably wouldn’t be coming here in the first place.

            One more note: I’m not sure are explicitly making the conclusion that if you don’t think illegals should be deported than you are ipso facto in favor of open borders, but it does seem like it.

            If you are against all deportation, then you are ipso facto in favor of allowing anyone able to immigrate to stay, possibly only alongside instituting various levels second-class citizenship for those doing so outside official channels, but not actually against controlling immigration. Fair?

          • Urstoff says:

            If you are against all deportation, then you are ipso facto in favor of allowing anyone able to immigrate to stay, possibly only alongside instituting various levels second-class citizenship for those doing so outside official channels, but not actually against controlling immigration. Fair?

            That seems definitional, yes, but I’m not sure if that counts as “open borders”, although it seems hard to pin down what that means according to proponents and people that use it as a term of abuse. It’s also not inconsistent to maintain a similar position but still make allowances for some type of border screening, deportation of certain types of criminals, extraditions, etc. I favor incrementalism: a continuing relaxation of immigration restrictions until some unspecified future point; open borders is not an end goal but one possible end point that we may or may not want to reach depending on how the incremental steps toward it pan out.

          • Randy M says:

            I favor incrementalism

            That’s a reasonable way to approach social change, from a pragmatic and tactical standpoint.

          • John Schilling says:

            “has to” to what end? In order that no one disobeys the law?

            In order that anybody obeys the law.

            If the penalty for bank robbery is a fine equal to twice the amount stolen, and the police catch bank robbers more often than not, at least some would-be bank robbers will do the math and decide not to rob banks. As the penalty and/or probability of conviction increase, bank robbery will decrease. It won’t go to zero, but we can live with that.

            If the maximum penalty for bank robbery is that you have to give back half the money stolen(*), then no matter how reliable the enforcement is, bank robbery is a net win. $4,330 for, what, half an hour’s work? Simplistically speaking, every sensible person will rob banks until fiscally satiated, not robbing banks will mark one as a chump, land forcing bank robbers to give back half the take will roughly double the number of bank robberies. Until the system collapses and there are no more banks to rob.

            I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, especially if obeying the law produces benefits. In the case of immigration, there are some advantages to immigrating legally, particularly when it comes to being a part of the above-ground economy.

            Which are independent of the benefits of immigrating illegally. You can put your name on the wait list for a visa, using your mother’s address in Mexico, regardless of whether you actually live in El Paso or Ciudad Juarez.

            And that argument would be more convincing if we weren’t also being told how vitally important it is to make sure illegal immigrants can get drivers’ licenses and otherwise participate in the above-ground economy. Or are you going to tell me that the idea behind the DREAM act was that we would have a bunch of highly educated illegal immigrants lining up in the Home Depot parking lot for under-the-table construction work?

            * Assuming there’s no extrajudicial cost or penalty e.g. a risk of being shot by the bank’s guards, or six months in jail w/o bail while awaiting trial. I do hope your plan is not for us to replace judicial with extrajudicial punishments as a means of deterring either bank robbery or illegal immigration.

          • Urstoff says:

            The bank robbery analogy is just circling back to my original point about analogies. Not all laws are the same, and it’s more productive simply to talk about the law itself and the effects of obeying it or not versus trying to make a grander but inapplicable point about the rule of law.

            And that argument would be more convincing if we weren’t also being told how vitally important it is to make sure illegal immigrants can get drivers’ licenses and otherwise participate in the above-ground economy. Or are you going to tell me that the idea behind the DREAM act was that we would have a bunch of highly educated illegal immigrants lining up in the Home Depot parking lot for under-the-table construction work?

            I explicitly mentioned that in the second paragraph of my post. This seems like one of those bad habits of arguing. X claims Y, respond with “but B claims C”. You’re more interested in complaining about B and C than in discussing the merits of Y.

          • Jiro says:

            If you don’t consider entering the country illegally to be a major moral violation (or, indeed, maybe even a good thing, on net), the deportation seems malicious.

            If you think that abortion is murder, it would not be fair to describe an abortionist as “a murderer”. You may honestly think that he is committing murder, but it’s still misleading–calling him a murderer, without qualifying your statement, implies “he is committing murder by pretty much anyone’s standards“.

            Likewise, if you think an illegal alien is being treated harshly because enforcing all immigration laws is harsh, you need to make that explicit. If you just say “he is being treated harshly”, that implies that you think that his treatment is harsh by everyone’s standards. If you don’t actually mean that it’s harsh by everyone’s standards, you are being misleading.

          • That seems definitional, yes, but I’m not sure if that counts as “open borders”

            Speaking as someone who has been arguing for free immigration for forty or fifty years, I think it does. A proposal I have commonly made is that new immigrants not be entitled to collect welfare payments, since coming to live on welfare is one of the few plausible ways in which immigrants could make the rest of us worse off.

            I usually combine it with the new immigrants having their tax rates reduced by an amount representing the cost of the benefits they are not eligible for.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Urstoff:

            It’s also not inconsistent to maintain a similar position but still make allowances for some type of border screening, deportation of certain types of criminals, extraditions, etc.

            How is border screening meaningful when there are no penalties for simply crossing the border without getting screened, and you can’t be sent back merely for having done so?

            (And as a side note, if you favor deportation of criminals, then you’re already more of an immigration restrictionist than the sanctuary city folks running California. Hope you’re OK with being declared a Nazi!)

          • Jiro says:

            I usually combine it with the new immigrants having their tax rates reduced by an amount representing the cost of the benefits they are not eligible for.

            What’s the “cost of the benefits they are not eligible for”? Is it the cost of the benefit that a particular immigrant personally would otherwise be eligible for (possibly being nothing if he otherwise wasn’t eligible)? Is it the cost of the total benefits immigrants would otherwise be eligible for, divided equally among all immigrants? Is it the same, divided among all immigrants as a proportion of the taxes they would otherwise have paid? Is it the cost that a native would pay as a proportion of taxes for natives on welfare, but applied to the immigrants’ taxes? Is it the same, for the entire population? Also, when you “reduce their tax rates”, are you permitted to reduce their tax rates below zero?

            Certain answers to that, combined with certain differences between immigrant and native eligibility for welfare, may lead to immigrants being either a net loss, or a net loss compared to similarly situated natives.

        • Wrong Species says:

          If we could just give a blanket amnesty and illegal immigration was never a problem again I could accept this but incentives matter. Are we just going to encourage millions of people to move here illegally and sporadically give out amnesties every few years when they become attached? You might as well just declare open borders and stop the pretense.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Our current rate of amnesties is about one blanket amnesty every 15 years. Assuming amnesties continue, the disincentive to illegally immigrating is the inconvenience of living underground for ~7 years, and the chance of losing everything you’ve built if you don’t stay hidden long enough.

    • random832 says:

      Now there is another question about Montes’ story. Officials say CBP does not deport people “in the middle of the night,” and that there is, in fact, a policy forbidding Border Patrol officers from doing so.

      It seems more like there is an incentive structure forbidding them from making any official record of doing so. Why is this being presented as a problem with his story rather than as a concrete violation of the law by the CBP?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        It seems more like there is an incentive structure forbidding them from making any official record of doing so. Why is this being presented as a problem with his story rather than as a concrete violation of the law by the CBP?

        If we’re going to go down that road, there’s also an incentive structure forbidding anti-immigration enforcement advocates from accepting an official record that exposes the latest alleged outrage as a fabrication. Why are you presenting it as a concrete violation of the law by the CBP instead of as a problem with his story?

        • random832 says:

          I did say “concrete”, not “verified”. My point was mainly that if they violated their own policy, then objections to them doing so do not fit with narratives like @Wrong Species “we’re supposed to be outraged every time the government enforces the law”, since the outrage is at a (supposed) violation of the law, not lawful enforcement. It’s ‘concrete’ because it’s an answer to “what did CBP do wrong” that’s not “i want open borders”.

          This kind of facile “they’re just enforcing the law” argument is something that comes up all the time for all sorts of law enforcement abuses, not just immigration enforcement.

          In their story, what’s the guy’s motive for having visited Mexico without authorization?

          • Deiseach says:

            In their story, what’s the guy’s motive for having visited Mexico without authorization?

            Off the top of my head, I can imagine it is something like “Quick trip back to visit family/friends but didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting authorisation because of the fear that (a) he mightn’t get permission (b) he might be deported for being an illegal (c) he’d be let go to Mexico but he wouldn’t be let back in to the US, so it was easier to nip over the border and try nipping back, only he happened to get caught and now he’s trying a sob-story about being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and dumped on the wrong side of the border”.

            Lots of people take chances: oh my insurance is expired, ah I’ll chance driving while I’m waiting for the new one to be issued, etc. as the kind of “I could go through all the hassle for this petty thing but I don’t feel like it, sure I can get in trouble if I get caught but what are the chances I’ll get caught?”

      • Jaskologist says:

        That’s true for basically every policy, isn’t it?

        In this particular case, the article claims that the policy is enforced by The Wall:

        DHS arrangements for the repatriation of Mexican nationals, worked out between the U.S. and Mexico and available on the internet, indicate that repatriation is allowed for adults and accompanied minors at the Calexico port of entry between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. daily.

        Ralph DeSio, a spokesman for CBP in San Diego, confirmed that the statement of policy is accurate. “Yes, the information is correct,” he said via email. “The Mexican authorities have a lock on the repatriation gate. It is impossible for us to open that gate to repatriate someone unless the Mexican authorities are present to unlock their side of the gate.”

        • random832 says:

          And the border is otherwise impermeable? They couldn’t, for example, have walked him to the wrong side of the inbound road crossing (still in US territory, but with nowhere to go without being blocked)? Does the whole border close at night, or just this “repatriation gate”?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The deviations from The Protocol you’re suggesting, while possible, are becoming significant enough you have to ask: Why would they go to so much extra effort for this guy?

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, not to say I agree with the idea that this definitely happened, but I don’t think “Official government policy says they can’t do this therefore it cannot have happened” is an adequate response.

        • gbdub says:

          There are certainly reasons to distrust the government, but what’s the reason to distrust them more than you distrust Montes?

          And in any case, the time of day they deported him seems like the least important part of the whole story.

          • Matt M says:

            There are certainly reasons to distrust the government, but what’s the reason to distrust them more than you distrust Montes?

            I KNOW the government lies as a matter of course. I don’t know this Montes dude at all!

            That was mostly tongue-in-cheek. I’m not meaning to imply that either is more reliable than the other, just that “the government says they didn’t do the bad thing they are accused of” is not like, actual evidence they didn’t do it.

          • gbdub says:

            Interestingly, in Brad’s post below, it sounds like Montes admitted under oath to entering illegally via hopping the Calexico border fence.

            This would have to be a heck of a string of lies just to avoid taking heat for deporting a dude whose DACA status expired back in 2015. Seems implausible.

            It’s one thing not to take government statements at face value, it’s quite another to assume they are always false.

    • Brad says:

      The DHS had that response the very first day. I saw it in the first (only?) article I read on this story. From ten days ago:
      http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/04/18/524610150/first-dreamer-protected-by-deferred-action-program-is-deported

      NPR asked Customs and Border Protection for confirmation that Montes had been expelled, and a spokesman sent the following statement:

      “Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez was apprehended by the Calexico Station Border Patrol after illegally entering the U.S. by climbing over the fence in downtown Calexico. He was arrested by BP just minutes after he made his illegal entry and admitted under oath during the arrest interview that he had entered illegally.
      “His DACA status expired in Aug. 2015 and he was notified at that time.
      “In addition, he has a conviction for theft for which he received probation.”

      CBP later updated its statement to say the U.S. Border Patrol arrested Montes-Bojorquez on Feb. 19, and that it:

      “has no record of encountering Mr. MONTES-Bojorquez in the days before his detention and subsequent arrest for immigration violations on February 19, 2017. There are no records or evidence to support MONTES-Bojorquez’s claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on February 18, 2017.”

      The problem is that people get their “facts” by looking at the facebook summary of buzzfeed’s slanted re-write of reporting done by legitimate outlets. And they treat that “knowledge” as if it were something they had witnessed themselves.

  21. Amy says:

    Hi there,

    Considering the popularity and amount of discussion on basic income, I was wondering if there were any good attempts to quantify the increase in the skilled labor force because of easier access to education and other forms of training and certification. Myself and many people I know aren’t able to go through formal education/training/certification not because of lack of ability, but because of lack of money and safe/stable living conditions. There seem to be two attractors here – one where one gets through the startup cost in money/stability and gets more qualifications, better jobs, more education, and grows at the rate of their ability – and one where the amount of income never suffices to get to the first attractor, and they live at sustenance level with their abilities mainly going towards hobbies – especially if one’s unemployed, stuck in a dangerous home or homeless, or has untreated medical conditions. Has this effect ever been analyzed and quantified?

    • Aapje says:

      I don’t see how you can quantify that as the outcome will basically mirror the assumptions you start with. Basically, if you assume that the basic income will be generous (unlikely, IMO) and the education costs will be low (unlikely, IMO), then you will have easier access. If you assume the opposite, for example, if the government cuts assistance for poor students to pay for the base income, access to education can become less.

      • random832 says:

        It seems possible that the government cutting education-specific funding might drive education “costs” (really, the market price of education) down.

        • Aapje says:

          If the costs go down, but the ability for poor people to afford it goes down faster, it would become more exclusive.

    • keranih says:

      if there were any good attempts to quantify the increase in the skilled labor force because of easier access to education and other forms of training and certification.

      I think you’d need to start further upstream of this, and quantify the utility of the education/training/certification. Which is going to be rilly, rilly hard so long as credentialism has the stranglehold it does on the upper end of the education market.

      Myself and many people I know aren’t able to go through formal education/training/certification not because of lack of ability, but because of lack of money and safe/stable living conditions.

      Emmmm. These are…at least two different things. And you go on to give four examples of specific situations which (sort of) cover those situations – while leaving other specific situations (raising children, geographically isolated from the education facility, literacy in the given language) that are also barriers to “accessing education for the otherwise able” unspoken.

      So I think it’s worth stepping back and looking at the broader picture – what’s the purpose of “becoming more skilled”? If it’s in order to make sufficient money to support more than one person (ie, raise a family) then the skill certification is worth quite a lot – probably worth the investment of several people for a couple years.

      This is what happens when adults support their near-adult children through college and training programs. (In both the USA and in other countries.) And ‘by support’ I also include “letting them live in the basement” – along with a whole host of other compromises where in the student is not (yet) a functional member of society, but is (somewhat) a continued drain while this investment goes on. This was the “traditional” college program, which was not easily accessed by the children of single parents and/or “rootless” people. This need was, to some extent, met by charities (of all sorts) who granted scholarships to those who needed more support than their families could leverage.

      Then we had federal-backed student loans, which (in theory) would have allowed even more lower-resourced students to meet the minimums required to get schooling, but which were seized upon by the already-college bound (because they weren’t STUPID) to increase their reach upwards into more rewarding training/credentials.

      So what you’re asking for, essentially, is that “someone” (ie, the State) step in and expand the resource-gifting pool even further, so that people who are unmediated, not signed for their own home (ie, living on some else’s couch/basement) without purposeful employment, and otherwise marginally present in society can benefit from upper-level medical care, quality local housing, transportation, and receive an education/training in some (hopefully) marketable skill.

      In my (darkly pessimistic) view, this is going to have two effects –

      – firstly, it’s going to significantly decrease the motivation of students and their family/community to conduct their lives in such a way to manage to get an education/credential for those students *without* drawing on the federal pot of money. The amount of money that “should” be available for allowing those who definately would not succeed without it will be drained by those who *might not* succeed without it.

      – secondly, a non trivial amount of that money will go to attempting to support students who are a negative return on investment. The average student with untreated medical conditions, living among people who are dangerous, who can not leverage the economy into providing a stable home, and who is not currently employeed is also below average academically, and will not succeed at the same rate at their classmate who does not face medical challenges, has a stable home, and who has a part-time job.

      I think it is certainly possible to pencil out some ranges and limits to assistance which could reduce the failure rate to something like 1 of three. But even that may not be enough to make “increasing access to education” through a state run program beneficial to society as a whole.

  22. Unirt says:

    I’m waiting and waiting for the SSC commentariat to comment on Elon Musk’s latest startup, Neuralink.

    http://waitbutwhy.com/2017/04/neuralink.html

    Do you think it will evade the dangers of machine intelligence? Create an even better paradise on earth than we have now? Fail miserably?

    • gph says:

      I think fail, but not miserably. Giving a bunch of money to fund research in these areas should hopefully produce interesting results, even if they don’t succeed in their ultimate goal of creating a human/computer interface. Most likely it will lead to new insights in neurology.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      There was some discussion a few weeks ago: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/26/ot72-commentaschen/#comment-480852

      To summarize my own views from then: I think that a surgically-gated class of ubermench is likely to have negative effects on social mobility.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I still don’t see why neuralink would be worse than the alternatives. Genetic engineering and mind uploading would probably have a much bigger gap between the “ubermench” and the normal people over a shorter time period. General AI would be a gradual process but it ends with such a big gap between humans and machines that we no longer control our future. You could always just try and stop all of these technologies from being built but then you miss their benefits. So which option sounds best?

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Yeah, I’m not exactly a proponent of any of those 🙂

          Of the three, I’m most open to genetic engineering. At least if a designer baby has kids with a normie, the next gen can inherit some of the benefits.

          And the proposed applications are more for “fixing medical problems” instead of “we must go faster faster faster”, so it seems less likely to cause as much a capability gap as an MMI. But that’s my untrained opinion.

          If we could somehow get to a Ghost in the Shell society where *everyone* has a cyberbrain, then sure, I’d be more okay with it. But I don’t see that happening without a shitton of conflict, and I’m not convinced that it’s worth that.

        • pontifex says:

          I think people tend to panic about the inequality-producing aspects of new technology much more than they ought to. I don’t see why a 50k neural interface in 2020 (or whatever it ends up being) will have more effect on inequality than a 200k college education in 2017. In both cases, you need the McGuffin to get access to the remaining white collar jobs. And in both cases there will end up being financial aid for the poor.

          The really scary thing about neural interfaces is the ability to literally control people’s minds. This isn’t just another peripheral, even though that’s the spin they’re putting on it. It would be nice if there were a taboo against actually altering people’s emotions and moods. But the psychiatrists will want to open that door…

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            And in both cases there will end up being financial aid for the poor.

            Unclear why this should be true. Financial aid is typically justified as improving the educational experience of rich, tuition-paying students. No analogue for neural nets.

  23. Marshayne Lonehand says:

    In breaking news, if you’re marching with Don Knuth — Donald Knuth the celebrated computer scientist, devout Lutheran, ardent recreational mathematician, and irrepressibly kindly humorist — then you’re marching on the side of history. Because “Good algorithms are YUGE!” 🙂

  24. Dahlen says:

    So, everybody around here is always going on about student riots and how college-aged SJWs rule the cultural landscape of America, while professors watch passively as they’re fired and beaten up for wrongthink. Meanwhile, somewhere across the pond, there’s the opposite problem. Professors get off scot-free for egregious abuses, all the students have a spine made of jelly and turn each other in, and there seem to be no venues for offering feedback or reporting problems, nor student interest groups of any influence. We get some anonymous feedback forms at the end of the semester, but we have no guarantee that they don’t go straight into the paper shredder, aside from one prof who once made a lot of noise for receiving less than stellar feedback from students.

    What are the administrative mechanisms by which your young’uns have their voices heard (I mean papers and student bodies, not loudspeakers) and how did they develop a culture of freedom and involvement (say what you will about the results of their involvement, but the fact that they give a damn, you gotta give it to them)? Basically, how do you get from here to there without literally taking a plane or ship?

    Is it the fact that US students pay tons of money for their higher education, while around here it is free (and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for)?

    • rlms says:

      Where across the pond? I think the UK is somewhere in between the two extremes you describe.

      • Dahlen says:

        Eastern Europe, ex-Communist country. Hopefully you’ll excuse my lack of specificity, I don’t want to be too pinpoint-able…

        That’s my answer right there, I guess?…

      • Protagoras says:

        The U.S. is also between the two extremes described. It is a mistake to assume based on the amount of attention the high profile incidents get around here that such incidents are actually common on U.S. campuses.

        • quanta413 says:

          Agreed. On less exciting stuff that doesn’t involve burning shit down, I would bet that administration probably wins more often than they lose. And in the rare cases when stuff is burning or people are being pepper sprayed by antifa, administrators don’t stop it because it doesn’t actually materially hurt their interests much compared to the media blowback they’d get for imposing order via police, not because the students have serious power over them.

          Similarly, professors can often get away with egregiously bad behavior as long as they aren’t stupid enough to trip any of the cultural alarms in place (which is pretty easy). I’ve heard secondhand of a professor at one of the top tier institutions in the U.S. who abandoned a graduate student in the middle of Africa during fieldwork and then the student almost died of disease. And this was merely the worst thing the professor had done in a history of bad behavior, and it still didn’t result in them being fired although they did finally lose access to graduate students. Treating your students like shit or mismanaging might hurt a professor but mostly because his colleagues might not want to work with him and his students might leave or be unproductive. It’s probably roughly comparable to being a jerk boss i