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Open Thread 77.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. As the off-weekend thread, this is culture-war-free, so please try try to avoid overly controversial topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit, the SSC Discord server, or the Cafe Chesscourt forum.

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670 Responses to Open Thread 77.5

  1. bean says:

    (Series index Jutland Part 1 Part 2)
    Jutland: The Run to the North
    As the British turned north, the battle began to shift. The weather was getting worse, as it often does in the North Sea. Beatty finally signaled Jellicoe ‘Fleet action is imminent’, although he did not give details, and took five more hits from Hipper before his ships pulled out of range, without hitting back. The German battle fleet divided its fire between the escaping HMS Southampton and the 5th BS (under Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas), who also suffered under Hipper’s fire. Malaya, in the rear of the line, was particularly badly hit, suffering a total of 7 from the German battleships. None were fatal, although a large cordite fire put the starboard 6” battery out of action and killed over 100 men. Barham took four shells from Derfflinger and Warspite two from Seydlitz (who had been hit by a destroyer torpedo as the British turned north).

    Evan-Thomas was not idle, though. Barham and Valiant targeted the battlecruisers, while Warspite and Malaya fired back at the approaching battleships. Despite being outnumbered 4 to 9, they held their own. In exchange for their own 13 hits, they managed to land 13 on the German battlecruisers and 5 on the battleships, although only one did serious damage, to Markgraf.

    There is some controversy over what happened next. Beatty claimed that Evan-Thomas took up station on his disengaged side, although German accounts and several notable historians disagree. (This is a common occurrence in accounts of Jutland.) As the 5th BS outran the High Seas Fleet, Beatty began to turn northeast, threatening to cross Hipper’s T. Hipper was forced to turn east, which put Beatty between him and the approaching Grand Fleet.

    At around 1745, the battle resumed, with Beatty’s gunners finally gaining the advantage. Seven hits were scored in nine minutes, on both Hipper’s and Scheer’s ships. At this point, Beatty was getting close to the Grand Fleet, although Beatty had still not told Jellicoe where the Germans were, and in fact had briefly lost sight of them. In fairness, Lion’s radio had been destroyed early in the action, although several other battlecruisers still had operational sets. (Jellicoe’s job was made even more difficult by the fact that all ships had to resort to dead reckoning, and most of the reports were off by several miles.) Nor had Beatty’s subordinates sent back reports. In their defense, radio was very primitive, and the sets in use at the time only left a very limited number of channels, which had meant strict discipline in when to use the radio. Military technologies are rarely used correctly at first, and modern doctrine emphasizes the importance of reporting, even when you’re pretty sure someone else already has.

    Jutland: The deployment
    At 1738, the cruiser HMS Chester first sighted the lead elements of Hipper’s screen. She was part of the screen for Rear Admiral Horace Hood’s 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, and was outnumbered by the German scouting group until Hood’s 3 battlecruisers came to her rescue. At 1756, Invincible disabled the light cruiser Wiesbaden. Hood was off to the east of the main body of the Grand Fleet, while Beatty was coming up from the west. At 1800, Lion was finally sighted from Iron Duke, Jellicoe’s flagship. Beatty had lost sight of Scheer, and Hipper’s ships were driven to turn south by a torpedo attack by the cruisers and destroyers of the Grand Fleet.

    At about this time, another action was occurring. The armored cruisers Defence and Warrior were attached to Jellicoe, but had been lead south, cutting so close in front of Beatty that Warrior almost collided with Lion, and the other two ships of the squadron were trapped north of the battlecruisers. The closed on Weisbaden, but at 1815 found themselves at short range from Derfflinger and four German battleships. Defence was hit by at least three shells, and exploded at 1820, taking all 903 men aboard down with her. She was visible from the ships of the Grand Fleet, not an encouraging sight. Warrior was spared a similar fate by a mishap that befell Warspite as the 5th Battle Squadron raced to catch up with the end of Jellicoe’s line. Her steering gear jammed, leaving her steaming in circles in sight of the High Seas Fleet. Warrior, badly damaged, survived until the next morning. Warspite took 13 hits, but survived to have an illustrious career in WW2. She was detached and sent home, while the other three ships of the 5th BS joined the end of Jellicoe’s line.

    While all of this was going on, Jellicoe was wrestling with the decision to deploy. The Grand fleet was steaming southeast in six columns of four ships each. On Jellicoe’s orders, the leading ship in each column would turn either port or starboard, with the rest of the ships in its division following it into the turn, to eventually form a unified battle line going either east or west. Unfortunately, he didn’t know if the High Seas Fleet was directly ahead or off to starboard (west). In the former case, a deployment to the east would silhouette the Germans against the dusk sky while hiding the British, possibly cross Scheer’s T, and put the Grand Fleet into a better position to cut them off from their base, while going west would bring him closer to Scheer, but probably put them broadside-to-broadside. Either deployment would take 15 minutes, and Jellicoe could not afford to be caught in the middle of the deployment, as ships would turn on the same spot, giving the Germans easy targets. At 1815, Jellicoe finally ordered deployment to port (east), one of the most vital decisions of the war. It turned out to be the right one, although fate and quick action on Scheer’s part meant it was less decisive than it should have been.

    The maneuver itself was carried out successfully, despite the difficulties inherent in maneuvering 24 dreadnoughts and 120 screening ships in close proximity while German shells fell around them (mostly overs from shooting at the battlecruisers). It wasn’t entirely smooth, and some ships even had to back to avoid collisions, but it was a magnificent example of shiphandling. The leading ship, King George V, did not head at 90 degrees to the previous course, but instead turned more to the south, to cross Scheer’s T. The result was a concave arc of British battleships, straightening out cleanly across Scheer’s course. Oddly, though, it was the ships of the rear division, Marlborough and Revenge, that opened fire first, at 1817. Six minutes later, Iron Duke joined them, although she initially fired as Weisbaden, as did many other British ships. At 1830, she shifted her fire to the battleship Konig, and turned in one of the best gunnery performances of the battle, hitting Konig seven times out of 43 shells fired in the next five minutes.

    To the east, the battlecruisers were fighting again. Hood’s 3rd BCS was engaging Hipper, while Jellicoe came up from the rear. Hood’s gunnery put Beatty’s earlier to shame. Invincible alone pumped 8 shots in 8 minutes into Lutzow, including two that caused extensive flooding in the bow and ultimately doomed her. However, at 1831, Lutzow and Derfflinger took their revenge, and Invincible, despite her name, followed Indefatigable and Queen Mary to the bottom of the North Sea after a hit on Q turret, taking all but six of her crew of 1,032 with her. (Oddly, one of the survivors had been in Q turret, and was somehow blown clear.) The bottom where she sank was so shallow that her bow and stern, standing upright, protruded above the surface for some time.

    Scheer reacted quickly to the appearance of the Grand Fleet, ordering his famous Gefechtskehrtwendung, “battle about turn” at 1834. Within four minutes, the entire High Seas Fleet was headed southwest, hidden from the British by the mist. It was a carefully-practiced maneuver, and it worked brilliantly, leaving Jellicoe’s forces facing the empty sea.

    We’ll continue next week with the further maneuvers of the battle fleets.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      You say the British at Jutland made their communication errors due to the novelty of radio technology. How did their practice differ from what they would have done before radio? Would they have just never let the battlecruisers out of flag range in the first place?

      • Vermillion says:

        Related question, how well did other nations do with it?

        • bean says:

          The Germans operated the Scouting Group as part of the HSF, instead of an independent unit. They didn’t have quite the same problems the British did. I don’t have details on other nations to hand.

      • bean says:

        I’m not sure that it would have helped. The problem was that people weren’t reporting back, instead assuming that Jellicoe knew what they could see. This can happen regardless of your means of communication, although it was probably exacerbated by the limited number of radio channels, and the resulting injunctions against frivolous traffic. Also, the British had a good direction-finding organization, and to this day they’re more concerned with emissions control than anyone else, and probably more than is good for them. I’m still figuring out the night action, where this comes into play again.
        Beatty in particular failed to remember that his job was to scout, and not to win the war himself. Even once back in flag range, he was unhelpful. Only the commodore of one of the Light Cruiser Squadrons (on Southampton) did a good job of reporting.

        Pre-radio, I think they would have used light cruisers as relays. But even that wouldn’t have helped if Beatty had forgotten to talk. (And it wasn’t just to Jellicoe. He barely gave orders to Evan-Thomas, and ignored his screen for something like an hour and a half.)

    • Eric Rall says:

      Jellicoe’s job was made even more difficult by the fact that all ships had to resort to dead reckoning, and most of the reports were off by several miles.

      I’d imagining that maintaining accurate dead reckoning while under fire would require a lot of skill and discipline and a fair amount of luck.

      • John Schilling says:

        It helps that you have a navigator whose job is only to do the dead reckoning, but you’re right that he can’t be wholly isolated from the stress and chaos of battle. One could imagine a separate and mostly-soundproofed navigator’s office, but then the people making the reports would likely forget to ask the navigator where they are.

      • bean says:

        It wasn’t just battle. Jellicoe’s reckoning was about 4 miles out at 1800 (before he’d engaged), while Beatty’s was about 7 miles, IIRC. This was in the days before electronic navigation aids, and the weather was too bad to let them do celestial.
        Even their gyrocompasses weren’t particularly brilliant at the time. I’m not going to go into the travails of helm-free plotting, but accurate and reliable position and direction estimates are a relatively recent invention.

    • gbdub says:

      Poor Damn Evan-Thomas? Commands a squadron of the best ships on either side, but Beatty’s SNAFUs keep him from ever being in the right place at the right time, and the 5th BS’s main contribution seems to be taking a beating during the run to the north instead of the remaining tinderbox British battlecruisers.

      I know I sort of asked this before, but any more thoughts on how a well-deployed 5th BS might have made more of a difference?

      • bean says:

        They did do some very good shooting, disabling Von Der Tann, and hurting both the leading battleships and most of the battlecruisers. But if they’d been there from the start, I’d guess we only see one BC sunk on the run to the south (simple division of fire) and probably at least one more German BC disabled. Maybe even another one sunk, if they hit them hard enough. I’m not sure if that’s huge in terms of tactical effects. But it would have made Jutland a lot less of a shock, and that in the long run might well be a bad thing for the RN.

  2. I recently created a Twitter account. I intend to use it to promote my blog when I have more time, but also to get ideas of articles to read, so I’d like recommendations of people to follow who frequently post interesting stuff. It can be people who are anywhere on the political spectrum, as long as they are smart and frequently share good articles. I’m interested in politics, philosophy, mathematics, economics, biology, statistics, sociology, etc. I’m pretty much interested in everything, so if you know people who share interesting stuff on Twitter, please let me know. I’m also interested in anything that explains how Twitter works and what are some of the ways in which it can be used.

    • andrewflicker says:

      You don’t appear to have tweeted yet, so why are you advertising your twitter? Anyway, I’m @aflicker, but I don’t tweet often and when I do I’m as likely to be joking about work or talking about my classes as I am talking stats or politics. I do try to share other interesting things on occasion, but avoid sharing most of the interesting political or philosophical things I read because several work colleagues and hyper-political friends know my twitter account.

      EDIT – but check out my follow list for some good political or mathematics follows!

      • I don’t have time to promote my blog on Twitter at the moment, which is why I haven’t tweeted anything yet, but I plan to do it eventually. However, even if I probably won’t start tweeting until a few weeks from now, I would like to use Twitter to get recommendations of interesting articles before that. I just gave a link to my Twitter because I’m already following a few people and I figured that it might help people get a sense of what I’m asking for. Anyway, thanks for telling me about your account, I will check out the people you are following.

    • lvlln says:

      I really like Sarah Haider (@SarahTheHaider) & Maajid Nawaz (@MaajidNawaz) for sharing stuff concerning ex-Muslims and Muslim reformers respectively. I think they’ve been getting more active on Twitter lately for obvious reasons given the news.

      Julia Galef (@JuliaGalef) is a co-founder of Center for Applied Rationality and host of her podcast called Rationally Speaking. She doesn’t tweet too much, but she tends to share interesting articles when she does, I think.

      I find Christina Hoff Sommers (@CHSommers) usually does a pretty good job keeping up to date with modern culture war issues.

      I also can’t recommend enough Real Peer Review (@RealPeerReview) which isn’t so much a person as a curated list of interesting absurd papers that purportedly passed the peer-review process.

      And don’t forget @SlateStarCodex, though he doesn’t post all that often.

  3. rlms says:

    Anyone know of good resources for learning Latin? I’m currently going through Wheelock’s Latin after having chosen it pretty arbitrarily.

    • dndnrsn says:

      See if you can get somebody to test you frequently. Back when I was doing ancient languages, the classes that seemed the most effective were the ones with near-constant testing. I also found rote memorization quite helpful: making flashcards, using flashcards, and just copying (and testing myself on, effectively) paradigms over and over.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Bought my wife (who’s also working on learning latin) a human-translated copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Latin. Lots of good reviews as a learning device. https://www.amazon.com/Harrius-Potter-Philosophi-Lapis-Philosophers/dp/1582348251

    • Purple says:

      Pretty fortuitous for an arbitrary choice, make sure to do the end-of-chapter exercises. Here’s a database of Wheelock’s vocab.

      As dndnrsn said, drill yourself on paradigms. I printed them on free school printers, so cost of paper/ink might be prohibitive for you, but making a synopsis form with labeled boxes to fill out saves you the time of writing out “person/number/tense/mood/voice” when you’re practicing.

      38 Stories is good for beginning translation. I know we must’ve done some stuff after 38 and before Cicero but I’m blanking on what they were. I’ll let you know if I remember.

    • neciampater says:

      One of my undergrad majors was Latin. My advice may be unfair because I’ve been taking Latin since 9 years of age. I’ve experienced a lot of the curricula.

      Keep in mind that a lot of our words derive from the 4th principle part of the Latin verbs.

      I’d recommend not worrying about translation. In school, we’d “sparse” (derivative of a 4th principle part of a Latin verb) a sentence. Underline subject. Double underline verb. Parenthesis prepositional phrases. Bracket Ablative case nuttiness.

      Once you see and get used to Latin structure, read the Latin by thinking, “This nominative noun did something to this accusative noun toward this dative noun by this preposition phrase and ablative means.”

      Once you’re comfortable, a favorite “real Latin” beginner’s read is the story of Daedalus and Icarus in Ovid’s metamorphoses. It’s quite beautiful. It has a lot of figures of speech to discover.

      Latin is a language of verbs. Verbs are turned into nouns and adjectives. It’s all very verby.

    • rh says:

      The “Lingua Latina per se Illustrata” series.

    • powerfuller says:

      I’d recommend the Moreland and Fleischer intensive Latin textbook, though you should expect it to be slow going, as it is very dense. Personally, I’ve found the route of memorizing all the declensions and conjugations up front and then adding vocabulary and grammar to work much better than the method of slowly introducing new forms (a la Cambridge Latin Course). I like M&F because it hits you with the hard stuff early (i.e. the subjunctive). When I learned Latin in high school, we didn’t touch the subjunctive until the third year, at which point I found it such a curveball it soured me on the language for a long time. It sucks more at the beginning, but it’s ultimately easier, I think, to tackle it early.

      This page has a list of good introductory Latin texts for translation: http://hiberna-cr.wikidot.com/reading-material, including Latin “Dick and Jane” type stories, which is a nice change of pace if you get sick of myths and Caesars.

  4. rlms says:

    Anyone in Cambridge UK, the third SSC meetup is being organised here. Everyone welcome (i.e. including people who haven’t come to previous ones)!

  5. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    Here are two rival claims about military spending that I find compelling:

    1) It’s good for some of the mostly-non-revisionist states (US, China, France, Saudi Arabia) to have big militaries, since this should decrease armed conflict and armed threats overall (see e.g. Bean and John Schilling on freedom of the seas in the last open thread).

    2) Some of these countries are guilty of stupid-bordering-on-evil adventurism. Their elites are so immature that the only way to prevent such adventurism is for the public to make them give up their toys. That’s not going to happen in Saudi Arabia but it could definitely happen in the US.

    How to decide?

    • bean says:

      I’m not sure they’re 100% rivals. It depends on the breakdown of your forces. Freedom of the seas is best enforced by the Navy and the Marines. International Peace is enforced by the Air Force and Navy. Freedom in other countries in enforced by the Army (and, due to a quirk of the US, the Marines). If you want free seas/international peace but don’t want foreign adventurism, then you have a big Navy and a small Army. Exactly how practical this is in a US political context is of course the problem.
      (The last time we tried it, it worked pretty well. But then the Army managed to get the politicians to make it relevant again, and we got Vietnam.)

      • John Schilling says:

        Freedom of the seas is best enforced by the Navy and the Marines. International Peace is enforced by the Air Force and Navy. Freedom in other countries in enforced by the Army (and, due to a quirk of the US, the Marines)

        This presumes you live on an island or peninsula, or have a continent to yourself (at least in military terms). If you are e.g. Russia or China, or France or Germany and the EU isn’t a sure thing, then the most pressing aspect of international peace, the one where nobody is invading you, requires an Army as well.

        Which in turn suggests that if you want a Pax, you want isolated maritime powers enforcing it. They are better able to reach the trouble spots, and compelled to take a relatively light touch in handling the trouble. I think history mostly bears this out, but I’m going to want to ponder it a bit.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Compelled to take a relatively light touch personally, that is. Remember how Britain kept buying allies’ armies during the 1700’s and early 1800’s.

    • johan_larson says:

      Some of these countries are guilty of stupid-bordering-on-evil adventurism.

      One of the problems is that the elite generally do not have military experience, which makes it hard for them to understand the actual experience of war, no matter how clever or well-educated they may be. Also, they don’t have skin in the game. If they call for war, they won’t be at the front, and neither will their sons, generally.

      Not really sure how to fix that. A draft would do it, but that’s an awfully big hammer to swing.

      • Nornagest says:

        The opposite used to be true, and then WWI happened. That makes me suspicious of the idea that the experience of war is the missing ingredient that’d keep us from getting into pointlessly destructive pissing matches with other nations, given that WWI was basically the biggest and most pointlessly destructive pissing match of all time.

        Arguably modern warfare is qualitatively different from the warfare of the 19th century and earlier in a way that’d work to guard against adventurism if the elite started channeling their sons into the officer class en masse again, but I doubt it.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Most of the experience of war that national elites had in 1914 was asymmetrical colonial conflicts: the Zulu Wars and Boer Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, etc. The Franco-Prussian and Austro-Prussian wars were almost 50 years in the past by 1914. The only nations involved in the start of WWI that I can think of having relatively recent experience of peer-level conflicts were Serbia (which had revisionist territorial goals against Austria-Hungary) and Russia (which felt painted into a corner by Austria and Germany, and was being pushed by France to take a hard line besides).

          But if experience of peer-level wars is the missing ingredient, maintaining that in your elite subcultures while simultaneously avoiding big wars is a conflicting goalset.

          • Nornagest says:

            Maybe the Ottoman Empire too, if the Russo-Turkish Wars (1878) were recent enough to qualify — probably not too many active officers in 1914 that would have served there, but there’d certainly be living memory.

            But I take your meaning. The same would be true for non-elites, though, so in context I think the point stands.

      • WashedOut says:

        Mandatory fixed-term military service for school-leavers? The Finnish and former South African models come to mind.

        I have the uncommon and somewhat internally-inconsistent view (w.r.t. libertarian principles) that this is a good idea on balance. Also I live in a country where this has never been a government policy. Do others have views on the benefits or effectiveness on this?

        • Dabbler says:

          I should point out that as long as mandatory military service doesn’t apply to women (and in practice it won’t), as a policy it is very sexist.

          • Anonymous says:

            And there is nothing wrong with sexist policies. Especially where the appropriateness of discrimination is rather obvious, like female ability to meet the physical demands of soldiering.

          • Creutzer says:

            Especially where the appropriateness of discrimination is rather obvious, like female ability to meet the physical demands of soldiering.

            The appropriateness of discrimination is rather less obvious if the reference class is “waste n months of your life in forced labour for the government”. There is an argument to be made, sure, namely that it’s better for half the population to do an awful but necessary thing than the whole population, but if you value equality per se, then you can’t make this argument and you might think about coming up with at least some useful civil service for the women.

            Also, Israel.

          • Anonymous says:

            Also, Israel.

            >implying Israel isn’t in the non-enviable position of being surrounded by more numerous enemies, thereby requiring the use of every warm body regardless of ability
            >implying Israel makes substantial use of infantrywomen /anyway/

          • rlms says:

            >>>implying Israel makes substantial use of infantrywomen /anyway/
            >implying the military consists purely of infantry

          • Anonymous says:

            >>implying the military consists purely of infantry
            >implying that a camp follower is a soldier

            Kidding aside, per Wikipedia, the IDF’s “combat soldiers” are constituted in a stunning 3% of women. For all of Israel’s memetic fame for martial gender equality, the Israelis are in the business of actually winning the wars they fight.

          • bean says:

            Kidding aside, per Wikipedia, the IDF’s “combat soldiers” are constituted in a stunning 3% of women. For all of Israel’s memetic fame for martial gender equality, the Israelis are in the business of actually winning the wars they fight.

            It’s actually worse than that. The only gender-integrated Israeli ‘combat unit’ is actually border guards, not infantry. I believe this is an attempt to keep the Israeli feminists happy.
            (And they’re not nearly as good as they think they are. It’s just that the Arabs are even worse.)

          • Evan Þ says:

            Since we’re considering a draft for the purpose of making sure voters understand what the military is like, isn’t it absolutely vital to make sure it applies to women as well as men? Since they both have the vote?

            But I’m wondering whether this’d actually work. The peacetime military is qualitatively different from the wartime military; for one, you aren’t getting shot at. So unless we’ve got a constant brush war to funnel draftees through (ahem, Iraq? Afghanistan?), they still won’t get to see what actual combat looks and feels like.

          • johan_larson says:

            @Evan Þ

            So unless we’ve got a constant brush war to funnel draftees through (ahem, Iraq? Afghanistan?), they still won’t get to see what actual combat looks and feels like.

            Oooh, that raises a nasty possibility, suitable for the darkest of comedies. “Sorry, Podunkistan. We’re going to war with you, just for practice. Gotta keep the edge sharp, you known. Lotsa love, Uncle Sam.”

          • Zodiac says:

            Oooh, that raises a nasty possibility, suitable for the darkest of comedies. “Sorry, Podunkistan. We’re going to war with you, just for practice. Gotta keep the edge sharp, you known. Lotsa love, Uncle Sam.”

            I remember a short story I read as a child in which the Roman Empire acted pretty much like that occasionally. I think the story was supposed to somewhat faithful to history but take this with a grain of salt.

          • Anonymous says:

            Since we’re considering a draft for the purpose of making sure voters understand what the military is like, isn’t it absolutely vital to make sure it applies to women as well as men? Since they both have the vote?

            Well, you know, female suffrage is optional. As is suffrage in general. 🙂

            But I’m wondering whether this’d actually work. The peacetime military is qualitatively different from the wartime military; for one, you aren’t getting shot at. So unless we’ve got a constant brush war to funnel draftees through (ahem, Iraq? Afghanistan?), they still won’t get to see what actual combat looks and feels like.

            Mercenaries! There’s always some conflict or other, and you might as well make a buck while sending your troops to have valuable combat and life experiences.

            >inb4 international law bans mercenaries

            The ban is rather trivially avoided, in practice.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Evan Þ

            So unless we’ve got a constant brush war to funnel draftees through (ahem, Iraq? Afghanistan?), they still won’t get to see what actual combat looks and feels like.

            @johan_larson

            “Sorry, Podunkistan. We’re going to war with you, just for practice. Gotta keep the edge sharp, you known. Lotsa love, Uncle Sam.”

            And here I’m reminded of the Aztec Empire’s “flower wars” (xōchiyāōyōtl).

        • johan_larson says:

          I’ve discussed mandatory military service with three people who had direct personal experience. All three absolutely hated it. The initial training was hard, and the make-work during the rest of their terms of service was boring.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ll add that my perception from when I was actually IN the military is that nobody in the military wants this either.

            They take a certain amount of pride and satisfaction in being volunteers, and a bit of safety and comfort in the fact that the guy in the foxhole next to them is a volunteer as well. Nobody wants to be sharing a foxhole with someone who is only there because they were forced to and whose loyalty and commitment may be questionable.

          • Wander says:

            As a counterpoint, every Swiss man I’ve ever talked to seemed to have a decent time. It’s a very common point of bonding.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            When other factors are taken into account, do volunteer militaries outperform conscript militaries (whether peacetime conscription, or wartime-only conscription)?

          • Matt M says:

            We probably don’t have enough all-out wars between comparably-equipped superpowers to start making scientific pronouncements about what types of militaries “out-perform” others. Sample size is ridiculously small and the experiments aren’t very well controlled…

          • dndnrsn says:

            Would looking at the past work? Obviously, not enough samples to do a control, and the sort of modern all-volunteer military the US has hasn’t really fought a war against an opponent of equivalent stature. And you can’t compare a modern, national volunteer military to volunteer mercenary armies of a few centuries ago.

            Is there, though, a reason to think that all other things being equal, a conscript military (like most sides used in WWI and WWII) suffers problems with loyalty and commitment?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Is there, though, a reason to think that all other things being equal, a conscript military (like most sides used in WWI and WWII) suffers problems with loyalty and commitment?

            When they’re performing a single definite task which the people believe in, like pretty much all the Allies during WWII – no.

            When either of those tasks fail – like the French around the middle of WWI when they no longer believed victory was possible, or the Americans a couple weeks after the end of WWII when the definite task was finished – absolutely, yes.

        • John Schilling says:

          So are our future politicians going to be fighter pilots, for whom war is now fun and glorious and safe in a way it hasn’t been for anyone else since the 19th century, or SOF operators selected from the 1% most likely to enjoy the stress and the danger, or everybody else, for whom the American way of war is tedious boredom and pointless harassment while other people get all the glory?

          Oversimplified, but the point is that unless you are constantly fighting the worst sort of wars, most of your conscripts are just going to experience two years of an odd sort of hazing, and the history of hazing is that it makes the targets more likely to perpetrate the system.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        I don’t think the problem with leaders lacking experience is that they enter too many wars, but that they ensure that the wars they do enter are fought incompetently.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        The idea that “If the elites and the political leaders and their family had to fight, they would choose peace” is trivially disproven by most of recorded history (Just ask Richard III, Gustavus Adolphus…). Heck, you know the periodic bloviating about how “Only 1% of congress has a child in the military”? That’s still a bit higher than the base rate (Since only 0.4% of the US population is in uniform, even if we assume that both parents of every single service member are still alive and in the current population that’s still 0.8% vs. 1%), and even with the number of veterans in positions of political power dropping steadily for decades, veterans are still over-represented in politics relative to the general population.

        There may be good reasons for mandatory military service, but the avoidance of war isn’t one of them.

        • Anonymous says:

          There may be good reasons for mandatory military service, but the avoidance of war isn’t one of them.

          Can you think of some?

          • Aapje says:

            – Creating a database showing who is/was fit for duty and those who are not, so if you want to draft, you’ve already done a pre-selection
            – Giving some training, so it takes less effort to train soldiers when you start drafting
            – Increasing societal cohesion by giving much of society a shared experience
            – Mixing people who normally would not interact so intensely, increasing societal cohesion, reducing class differences, reducing polarization, etc
            – Reducing the earnings/career length of men, resulting in a smaller lifetime earnings gap between men and women and hampering the ability by men to achieve top positions a bit
            – Allowing the government to grant exemptions in return for benefits. For example, Turkey taxes the diaspora by offering a much reduced military service after payment
            – Keeping the regular soldiers happy by providing them with slaves to use and abuse at will (Russia)

            Whether these are good reasons depends on your beliefs….

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t know if this is in any sense a good reason, but increasing loyalty to the larger society by forcing people to contribute to it. I see a lot of this one on the left, where it’s an argument for univeral national service but not necessarily military service. I think I’ve seen it on the right, where it’s specifically for military service.

          • Anonymous says:

            FWIW, I’m against it on the grounds that it makes civilians legitimate military targets. The martial aristocracy should damn well fight their own wars, amongst themselves, and treat us peasants as resources, not competition.

          • Matt M says:

            Anon,

            That is an excellent point that I have never considered before.

            But doesn’t having a draft, at all, accomplish that as well?

          • Anonymous says:

            But doesn’t having a draft, at all, accomplish that as well?

            You mean, turning civilians into hostiles? Yes. So does nationalism and tribalism. There’s more than one way to make genocide rationally attractive to an enemy.

          • Matt M says:

            OK, so from the modern U.S. perspective, right now, we have a system where the government can press a button and instantly weaponize the civilian population.

            Does the calculus of “targeting civilians” really change much if they actually press the button? Does the enemy, prior to the button being pressed, say things like “We don’t have to worry about civilians, because they haven’t pressed the button yet.”

          • Anonymous says:

            No, I don’t think so. I also don’t know how to, or if it’s even possible, to deescalate the modern situation.

          • hls2003 says:

            The current terrorist mode of operation seems to have moved from “hard targets” (airliners, prominent buildings) to “soft targets” (e.g. the recent vehicle and stabbing attack in London). If almost everyone in your average population has basic martial training and experience in acting as a unit, you could make your whole society somewhat more resistant to this type of attack; your targets become somewhat less soft.

          • Anonymous says:

            True, but that’s a rather inefficient solution to terror attacks (well, it doesn’t even actually stop them, just mitigates the fallout). The simple and effective one is physical removal of the hostile population from our countries. I mean, the US interned the Japanese residents during WWII, after all. It’s not like there’s precedent for blanket measures like this.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @GreyAnon

            Pros:

            -Depending on length/intensity of training and exact structure of reserves, you have a potentially much larger military ready to go if you need it.

            -Provides an excellent opportunity to inculcate shared cultural/philosophical values to a wide swath of society. I would argue this reason actually trumps national security when it comes to the Swiss model in the 21st century.

            -A good reserve/militia system, especially if coupled with realistic guerrilla training and weapons stockpiling makes you a bitch to invade even without a large standing army. Or rather, makes your territory a bitch to -hold-.

            Cons:

            -Conscripts are lower quality soldiers than volunteers. They take training less seriously, have a higher rate of disciplinary issues, and are less reliable in combat. In a purely defensive war and in the aftermath of a sufficiently devastating attack (e.g. Pearl Harbor, 9/11) you can offset the motivation and discipline issues to some extent, but even that only goes part way to levelling the playing field, it doesn’t make the conscripts superior.

            -It CAN create an opportunity for good training, but likewise having everyone serve can also create intense political pressure to lower training standards and/or to avoid that inculcation of cultural/philosophical values.

            -I wouldn’t say it makes your entire civilian population “fair game” under the current understanding of the law of armed conflict, but it certainly provides a strong argument for a looser ROE w/r/t military-age males (or military-aged persons if the draft includes females as well)

            -A good militia system with realistic guerrilla training and weapons stockpiling makes an excellent prep course for home-grown bad actors. A volunteer military can work to weed them out before they get too far along. A draft military has a harder time.

            @Wander

            Can you elaborate on “decent time”? Because my first reaction is that one of the key points of military training is that good training, well executed, should be “fun” only for a very particular type of person, and only a very particular kind of “fun”, and so if lots and lots of conscripts are having a gay old time it makes me wonder to what extent they’re getting that good training…

            @Dndnrsn

            -British Army force defeats twice its number of Argentinian conscripts in the Falklands.

            -Contrast the quality, discipline, and reliability of troops in Vietnam in 1969 with the troops in Afghanistan or Iraq in 2009.

            For modern examples off the top of my head.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko:

            I think the Argentinians had much bigger problems going up against the UK than a conscript instead of a volunteer military.
            Iraq and Afghanistan vs Vietnam is a better comparison. The Vietnam-era draft was a particularly poorly handled example of the wartime draft, and wartime-only conscription (or selective peacetime conscription) is inferior to near-universal peacetime conscription in the style of the continent.

            A volunteer-only army does usually mean higher-quality non-commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers (officers to a lower degree because they’re more likely to be professionals in conscript armies), but is that because of better motivation, or is it because they spend more time on active duty and thus end up better-trained (eg, the average volunteer term in most Western armies is 3 or 4 years, whereas the German conscripts in the early 20th century spent 2 or 3 years in active service)>

            When conscript national armies replaced mercenary armies, one of the advantages they had was higher morale, due to patriotism. So conscription in the modern sense does not inherently mean crummy motivation. Some of the best-performing militaries of recent history have been primarily conscripts. One could argue that the current volunteer system one sees in most Western countries is the best of both worlds: professionalism and patriotism.

            You’re right that conscription in a modern developed country is probably not optimal from a military perspective: any war a modern developed country is going to enter into that is serious enough for conscription to be on the table is probably going to involve a major nuclear exchange before the reserves can be mustered, let alone fresh draftees in a wartime-only system enlisted and trained.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Regarding “the continent”, you mean like Germany (All-Volunteer since 2011), France (AVF since 2001), Poland (AVF since 2010), The UK (AVF since 1972)? Those countries comprise the lion’s share of the EU’s military power and the balance skews even further if the UK does leave.

            Once you factor in the countries that nominally continue to conscript but have cut their militaries down so small that they can fill them entirely with volunteers anyway (Denmark, Norway, Lithuania), you’re left with Estonia and Finland (who both focus heavily on defense against invasion that relies as much on post-invasion guerrilla/partisan warfare as stopping it at the border), Switzerland (see Estonia and Finland), Austria, and Russia (which has been going to an All-volunteer force as hard and as fast as it can for years now.)

            And honestly? I think it comes down largely to time in service and skills acquired. Denmark’s terms of service are 4-12 months. Germany’s pre-abolishment had been 6 months for awhile. It takes 2-3 months minimum to turn out what I’d call a decent professional 21st century infantryman. Longer for a lot of other skill sets. BCT+AIT for my MOS in the US Army took about 8 months.

            Add another month for any airborne troops. Add another week or two for airmobile/air assault operations. Any technical jobs (UAVs, SIGINT, Repair and Maintenance) can likewise be measured in months. And that’s just to get you people who are fresh out of school and ready to start turning theoretical knowledge with a smattering of practical application and drilled-in automatic responses into something resembling a functional body of knowledge.

            Even jobs like rifleman, machine gunner, or howitzer crew member are not as simple as a lot of people outside the military think. they’re more like skilled trades.

            And the added experience gives a robustness whose importance CANNOT be overemphasized. A functional Platoon Sergeant HAS to be able to fill in as Platoon Leader if need be. Team Leaders need to be ready to step up to be Squad Leaers, and so on. That also requires time and seasoning.

            Frankly, I think any conscript force going into actual heavy fighting is going to need to be proportionally larger, because it WILL take notably heavier casualties.

            What examples are you thinking of when you’re thinking of “best performing armies of recent history being primarily conscripts”? The only one I can think of post-Vietnam is Israel, to which the response is the same as was given recently A) existential threat and B) fighting Arabs.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            The continent used to have a different conscription model before the current downscale.

            Edit. And I just remembered that Sweden recently decided to reintroduce conscription.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’m well aware, Nimin. My point was that all these countries shifted away from that model, and that it’s worth noting that one reason universally noted for the switch was to make it possible to maintain an effective fighting force, something that was made much more difficult under conscription.

            EDIT: Sweden recently reintroduced conscription because it’s cheaper than fixing their FUBAR-ed military.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Being a former history student, I mean “recent history” in the sense of “within the past hundred years or so.” I should have specified this. When I say “the continent”, I’m referring to how the European countries, all right next to their potential opponents, had complicated systems usually involving some active service for men of a certain age, after which they were shuffled through different levels of the reserves, some of which would be put on the front lines along with the active troops, with quiet or lesser fronts getting higher proportions of reserves, the jobs of guarding POWs put to old men, etc.

            In comparison to this, Britain and the other Anglo countries were mostly separated by water from potential enemies, and so tended to have a highly-trained but small volunteer army in peacetime, some sort of voluntary reserve component, and maybe draft people in times of serious war (although often too little too late – see conscription in Canada in both World Wars).

            So, when I say “best performing militaries,” I mean, say, the Germans in WWI (where even Niall Ferguson, no fan of the Germans, acknowledges they performed better overall at the tactical level) and WWII (where German tactical leadership was again markedly better than their opponents – German soldiers were not one-for-one superior to their opponents overall, their logistics were mediocre at best, their equipment was overall no better than their opponents; their advantages came almost entirely in tactical leadership at different levels).

            I am pretty sure that the Germans (by WWII certainly, and maybe WWI) were the first to institutionalize troops taking on a higher-level role in the case of casualties (as opposed to it being an ad hoc thing), just as modern methods of training and selecting officers (esp staff officers) and planning operations were innovated by the Prussians (as opposed to the time-dishonoured method of putting the highest-ranking aristocrat in charge, expecting them to figure it out, and viewing military planning as being vaguely sissy). This was done with armies built around peacetime conscription, although it was conscription with terms of active service measured in years, not months.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @dndnrsn
            Ok, so last hundred years or so. I know some historians who use “recent” to mean “Post Peace Of Westphalia”, so it seemed good to nail that down.

            The problems with using the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht as data points are that:

            A) they weren’t fighting professional, all-volunteer forces. Even before the Battle of Ypres the WW1 BEF was at least 80% reservists and conscripts (400,000 regulars expanded up to field a force of approximately 2 million). British forces in WW2 started from an even lower 230,000 regulars. By the time the first American soldier entered WW2, the US army was 94% conscripts at a minimum and that ratio was most likely higher when you look at the composition of actual brigade and below units. If anything, the Reichswehr pre-WW1 maintained a larger percentage of its force as regulars in the Inspectorates than the Brits and Americans did.

            B) As far as the Germans go, I will absolutely agree that on a tactical level they had the best leadership and unit performance. However, as you yourself noted this comes down to superior doctrine, which we (or at least the US, UK, and Australia,) shamelessly imitated and learned from in the aftermath of WW2. There was also the early-war effect of superior doctrine in terms of taking better advantage of the advances in military technology, but the other belligerents learned those lessons faster than they picked up the underlying principles of what the Prussians called Auftragstaktik. But all that tells you is that mission-based tactics are superior to task-based ones, and we’ve known that for some time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            A. Sources on the Brits? The BEF in September (?) was something like seven divisions – I don’t know the breakdown of regulars and Territorials – and conscription wasn’t introduced until 1916. They weren’t fighting professional, all-volunteer forces – but did a large all-volunteer force like the US military is today (1.3 million active-duty troops for a population of ~330 mil – nearing double the personnel:population ratio of the UK, to give a comparison to another country with a capable military) exist back then? No. Could one have had? Logistically speaking, probably, but politically, probably not – it was only after WWII (and with the Soviets suddenly controlling half Europe) that the US shifted over to heavy peacetime spending.

            B. All true, but my point is that the Germans in WWI and WWII were working with a mostly-conscript military. Did it cause them significant motivation problems? After WWI it was a common belief that the military could have kept fighting – certainly false in terms of resources, but merely an exaggeration in terms of morale. In WWII, the military kept fighting long after the war was lost, despite the opinion of a lot of the generals that the war was lost (they then went on to make up a bunch of BS about how they hadn’t done war crimes after the war – classy bunch), and this couldn’t have been done if morale among the troops was an issue – which it wasn’t until quite late in the war, by and large.

            Volunteer militaries seem superior for non-balls-to-the-wall wars where national survival isn’t at stake. But an actual “total war” seems to produce a great deal of motivation among the conscripts.

            EDIT: Which is of course one of the reasons Vietnam was the graveyard of American conscription. I think also there was a paradoxical effect – trying to reduce the impact of the war on the home front, past a certain point, can harm home front morale: if people are rationing gasoline and saving their tin cans and planting Victory Gardens, and most everybody’s brother/husband/son is off overseas, they’re gonna feel a part of the war effort, and the sunk costs fallacy is gonna kick in. If, on the other hand, things seem “normal”, and educational deferments are easy to get etc…

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @dndnrsn

            Sources for pre-WW1 strength on the brits (approx. 400,000 regulars, 300,000 reserve/territorial for a total of a bit over 700,000) is my copy of The Guns Of August.

            Upon going back to it, you are right and I am wrong regarding the force composition prior to 1916, and I gave the peak number of brits deployed in France, not the number in fall of 1914. I believe my point holds regarding the WW2 figures.

            Regarding German morale and troop discipline, I have to disagree as far as WW2 goes. As demonstrated above my familiarity with WW1 is notably lower, so I don’t know enough to argue with you there. That said, Everything that I’ve read indicates that the WW2 Wehrmacht had discipline and morale issues almost on the scale of the US Army in Vietnam, especially from1942 onwards. To the extent that the Wehrmacht held together as well as it did, I think we can give credit to the flying court martials and summary executions of the feldjagerkorps (sounds fancy but that basically just means military police) and the threat (and heavy and continually growing use through the course of the war) of penal battalions.

            As for the idea that conscripts will fight harder in a defensive war, I think that depends entirely on the conscript. I can give you plenty of examples of units falling apart during total war during the defense of their country, starting with the Germans and Russians in WW2 (both of which countered with brutally repressive disciplinary measures). Actually, there were literally tens of thousands of deserters among both the US and UK contingents as well even in WW2.

            So using the US examples:

            Conscription Army, “Good” war: 0.4% desertion rate (based on the rough estimate of around 50,000 deserters from US forces from the book Deserters by Charles Glass out of 11 million people who served in the military overseas during WW2)

            Conscription Army, “Bad” War: 2-3.5% depending on whose figures you believe for Vietnam (I think it’s around 2% or a bit less)

            Professional Army, “Bad” war: ~1% (Confidence level on this one is lower, but it’s based on DoD desertion statistics since 2001 versus Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, which is lower than Iraq and Afghanistan veterans + still-serving military personnel, so I’m trying to err on the side of inflating this statistic)

            If switching from conscription to a professional military cut our desertion rate by 1/2 to 2/3rds in the case of bad wars, what makes you assume it wouldn’t also cut the desertion rate for “good”/”defensive” wars to lower than for conscripted forces, too?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Regarding German morale and troop discipline, I have to disagree as far as WW2 goes. As demonstrated above my familiarity with WW1 is notably lower, so I don’t know enough to argue with you there. That said, Everything that I’ve read indicates that the WW2 Wehrmacht had discipline and morale issues almost on the scale of the US Army in Vietnam, especially from1942 onwards. To the extent that the Wehrmacht held together as well as it did, I think we can give credit to the flying court martials and summary executions of the feldjagerkorps (sounds fancy but that basically just means military police) and the threat (and heavy and continually growing use through the course of the war) of penal battalions.

            Do you have sources on German desertion numbers? As I understand it, summary executions etc only became a big factor in the German military relatively near the end of the war. The Allies predicted German collapse repeatedly, and were repeatedly unpleasantly surprised when it didn’t happen (until it did).

            As for the idea that conscripts will fight harder in a defensive war, I think that depends entirely on the conscript. I can give you plenty of examples of units falling apart during total war during the defense of their country, starting with the Germans and Russians in WW2 (both of which countered with brutally repressive disciplinary measures). Actually, there were literally tens of thousands of deserters among both the US and UK contingents as well even in WW2.

            Not necessarily a defensive war – but a total war, where it can plausibly be said that everyone’s in it to win it. German units that fell apart late in the war were usually wildly understrength and poorly supplied, and often encircled, and Soviet units that fell apart had varying contexts as far as quality and so forth went, but were usually encircled and snuffed out in a way that was only really possible in the large spaces in the East.

            So using the US examples:

            Conscription Army, “Good” war: 0.4% desertion rate (based on the rough estimate of around 50,000 deserters from US forces from the book Deserters by Charles Glass out of 11 million people who served in the military overseas during WW2)

            Conscription Army, “Bad” War: 2-3.5% depending on whose figures you believe for Vietnam (I think it’s around 2% or a bit less)

            Professional Army, “Bad” war: ~1% (Confidence level on this one is lower, but it’s based on DoD desertion statistics since 2001 versus Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, which is lower than Iraq and Afghanistan veterans + still-serving military personnel, so I’m trying to err on the side of inflating this statistic)

            If switching from conscription to a professional military cut our desertion rate by 1/2 to 2/3rds in the case of bad wars, what makes you assume it wouldn’t also cut the desertion rate for “good”/”defensive” wars to lower than for conscripted forces, too?

            I would argue that Vietnam was in many ways a better war than Afghanistan or Iraq. The US was assisting a proxy against aggression from an enemy proxy. In large part Vietnam was a bad war because of the draft – a method of recruiting that had previously been a last resort in wars where a lot was at stake was used, and applied very poorly, in a war that was not on the level of the Civil War, WWII, etc. In large part, the draft (and how it was implemented) made Vietnam a bad war. By the early 70s, when US troops had mostly been pulled out, the South Vietnamese were capable of stopping a major Northern offensive with US air support, etc. It was only when that support evaporated that the North won. “Vietnamization” seems to have been more successful than the attempts to turn the task of fighting the Taliban or holding Iraq together over to Afghans and Iraqis.

            You’re probably right that an all-volunteer force would cut down on deserters, but there’s probably diminishing returns. Tens of thousands of deserters in a military of over 10 million isn’t a huge deal. From what I’ve read, the morale problems in WWII manifested themselves less in desertion and more in poor combat performance in some units as a reaction to crummy casualty-replacement systems (just shuffling individual guys into units at the front) and rear-line personnel who thought they had safe jobs getting repurposed as infantrymen, often in the form of individual replacements (the US Army especially suffered significantly higher infantry casualties than expected and so made up for it in part by doing this, but it seems to have been common in the Western Allied forces – I’ve read about Canadian units by late ’44 to early ’45 in the Netherlands receiving replacements who didn’t know how to operate Bren guns). And this was a war where large numbers of men were needed – would they have gotten the same number of volunteers? A comparative number would be over 25 million Americans overseas today – could that be done with an all-volunteer force (of course, as previously noted, that would not be necessary today – but the comparison breaks down in both directions.)

            To consider the example of the British in WWI, there was an immediate surge of volunteers – more men than they knew what to do with, to the point that they could refuse a lot of them on medical grounds – but the casualties among the original troops in 1914 were so heavy, and the casualties among the new units in 1915 and 1916 were so heavy, that they had to bring in conscription anyway. (Meanwhile, in Canada in both wars, conscription became a political hot potato that ended up being viewed as necessary, but was in both cases brought in too late to do much good.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Do you have sources on German desertion numbers? As I understand it, summary executions etc only became a big factor in the German military relatively near the end of the war. The Allies predicted German collapse repeatedly, and were repeatedly unpleasantly surprised when it didn’t happen (until it did).

            The commons source given for an estimate of 350-400,000 deserters (of which 100,000 were imprisoned and another 30,000 sentenced to death, though not all of those were executed) is Thomas Goldmacher’s “Never Again!”. Unfortunately I can only find various people citing the figure (a mix of german language newspaper and magazine articles, german language wiki articles, and a few english language academic cites) rather than the original context.

            The whole feldjagerkorps “Flying Court Martial” system ramped up massively in the final year or so of the war, yes, but even before that you had tens of thousands of troops being sent to the penal battalions (which wasn’t all that different from a death sentence given how they were employed) and the frequent and widespread discipline problems leading to orders to turn guns on balking troops. I’m drawing this impression from books like Omer Bartov’s Hitler’s Army . I think it’s pretty clear that Bertov has a bit of an axe to grind (his work is definitely aimed at pushing back against the narrative of the apolitical and relatively clean-handed Wehrmacht vs. the war criminals of the SS), but his information here is still accurate.

            German units that fell apart late in the war were usually wildly understrength and poorly supplied, and often encircled.

            Do you consider ’42-’43 “late in the war”? Again, see the sources above, but I think it’s pretty clear the Germans were having serious discipline issues prior to D-Day.

            I would argue that Vietnam was in many ways a better war than Afghanistan or Iraq.

            To be clear, I put the quote marks around “Good” and “Bad’ for a reason. I am using that entirely to refer to public perception of and opposition to the wars here in the US, not my personal opinion. Iraq was an unpopular war, but while I’m only 35 I feel secure enough in my history to state that it was not AS unpopular or divisive as Vietnam, if only because of the draft vs. no draft.

            “Vietnamization” seems to have been more successful than the attempts to turn the task of fighting the Taliban or holding Iraq together over to Afghans and Iraqis.

            low-trust, highly tribal (in the extended family sense of “tribal”, not the political/identitarian sense) societies with cultural norms that mediate more or less directly against the sort of behaviors and attitudes required in successful modern militaries. This shouldn’t be that surprising.

            As for “diminishing returns”, that may be so, but it’s still a -notable- improvement, and only one of the multiple benefits already discussed like increased combat effectiveness. Even with the US Military, our regular units outperform most Guard and Reserve formations with the exception of edge cases like firefighters, medics and transport pilots who are actively doing their job 24/7/365 in the civilian sector, something that is notably not true for jobs like fighter pilot, combat information center crewman, gunnery officer, MLRS crew, infantry, armor, etc, etc.

            To which I’d add that when you substitute conscripts for professionals, even with the same basic training and refresher training as regulars, they take higher casualties! Without the -time- to build teams and to translate those trained skills into something internalized and intuitive rather than rote memorization, you end up depending on the darwinian effect of combat to do that. To invert an old saw: “The less you train, the more you bleed.”

            Again, to be clear I am not arguing against the use of conscription in a Total War scenario where you have to mobilize as much of your young, fit citizens as possible without compromising your economy and put that economy on a war footing. I agree that you cannot scale up to a multi-million person military without using some form of conscription.

            However, it does not follow that we should then therefore not bother maintaining more than a skeleton training cadre. The larger a core of professional soldiers we have, the more institutional knowledge we can retain, and the easier it will be to scale UP to that larger size.

            I’m fine with keeping a 450,000 person Army in peacetime and scaling that when needed for a Total war. I think we could even cut our current numbers a BIT (by say 25-33%) in return for intensified training and spending on the forces we retained.

            But cut that to something the size of, say, the British Army (a bit under 85,000 regulars) and you basically give up the ability to do anything but defend your territory absent military cooperation.

            I think that at the end of the day, that goes in the “feature, not bug” column for most of the advocates of moving to a conscription model. Their end goal is to make it harder for us to operate our military for anything other than coalition-based humanitarian missions and homeland security.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Do you consider ’42-’43 “late in the war”? Again, see the sources above, but I think it’s pretty clear the Germans were having serious discipline issues prior to D-Day.

            Besides Stalingrad – where the morale of the troops in the pocket wouldn’t have helped – the Germans didn’t suffer major collapses until late ’43, did they? And even then that was in North Africa, a secondary front. It wasn’t until ’44 that they really started facing situations where shuffling troops around couldn’t fix things.

            low-trust, highly tribal (in the extended family sense of “tribal”, not the political/identitarian sense) societies with cultural norms that mediate more or less directly against the sort of behaviors and attitudes required in successful modern militaries. This shouldn’t be that surprising.

            What I’ve read about South Vietnam’s ability to fight the war suggested that they had all sorts of morale-related problems: there was a gap between the often Catholic leadership and the mostly Buddhist masses, pay in the ARVN was often crummy which led to stuff like widespread theft from civilians (in the same way that low pay for police leads to bribery), both of valuables for money’s sake and of foodstuffs in the classic “living off the peasantry” fashion (I’m recalling a picture of an ARVN soldier walking along with a live chicken strapped to his bag).

            As for “diminishing returns”, that may be so, but it’s still a -notable- improvement, and only one of the multiple benefits already discussed like increased combat effectiveness. Even with the US Military, our regular units outperform most Guard and Reserve formations with the exception of edge cases like firefighters, medics and transport pilots who are actively doing their job 24/7/365 in the civilian sector, something that is notably not true for jobs like fighter pilot, combat information center crewman, gunnery officer, MLRS crew, infantry, armor, etc, etc.

            To which I’d add that when you substitute conscripts for professionals, even with the same basic training and refresher training as regulars, they take higher casualties! Without the -time- to build teams and to translate those trained skills into something internalized and intuitive rather than rote memorization, you end up depending on the darwinian effect of combat to do that. To invert an old saw: “The less you train, the more you bleed.”

            This is all true. The amount of training your average infantryman, for example, got in WWII is considerably less than the norm in equivalent militaries now. Can’t recall a number, though.

            Again, to be clear I am not arguing against the use of conscription in a Total War scenario where you have to mobilize as much of your young, fit citizens as possible without compromising your economy and put that economy on a war footing. I agree that you cannot scale up to a multi-million person military without using some form of conscription.

            However, it does not follow that we should then therefore not bother maintaining more than a skeleton training cadre. The larger a core of professional soldiers we have, the more institutional knowledge we can retain, and the easier it will be to scale UP to that larger size.

            I’m fine with keeping a 450,000 person Army in peacetime and scaling that when needed for a Total war. I think we could even cut our current numbers a BIT (by say 25-33%) in return for intensified training and spending on the forces we retained.

            But cut that to something the size of, say, the British Army (a bit under 85,000 regulars) and you basically give up the ability to do anything but defend your territory absent military cooperation.

            I think that at the end of the day, that goes in the “feature, not bug” column for most of the advocates of moving to a conscription model. Their end goal is to make it harder for us to operate our military for anything other than coalition-based humanitarian missions and homeland security.

            It would be rather absurd for the US to have 85,000 regulars, even if that’s just the Army – the Canadian government just announced plans to expand the military as a whole to over 70k regulars, and there’s 10x as many of you as there are of us.

            Absent some technological development (like actually-useful defence against nuclear weapons) there probably won’t be a total war where conscription of either sort is useful. The real possible benefit of conscription at the current point – which you noted earlier – is that it might create a sense of cohesion in the public at large, and this would only happen with peacetime conscription. If everybody spent a couple years in the military (or, presumably, some sort of alternate service for the medically unfit, conscientious objectors, etc), coupled with periodic reserve responsibilities afterwards, that would maybe heal culture war rifts a little. It would likely have to be planned to force people from different backgrounds/places together, though. It would probably be impractical in a lot of ways, however.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Ah-hah! I think we’ve found a key spot where our viewpoints are diverging. If you define “major” as “the entire side of one battle collapsing”, then sure, but here’s the thing: Yes, you can fix the collapse of a single battalion by “shuffling troops around”, but in the meantime you’re taking casualties you wouldn’t have taken otherwise. You’re wasting time and resources patching up holes when you should be using it positioning for the next maneuver. It’s increasing friction and sapping your momentum, and when it happens on a semi-regular basis (as it was as early as mid-1942) that has a cumulative effect.

            In much the same vein you pointed out that 0.4% desertion rate was pretty tiny, and in absolute terms sure it is, that’s another way of saying 99.6% of troops didn’t desert, tens of thousands out of over ten -million-, 3 orders of magnitude difference….BUT, that’s roughly a CORPS worth of men. That’s an entire Corps, or 2-3 divisions, or 3-5 brigades you couldn’t field because the men that would have made up that formations went instead to replace losses in existing units.

            War is absolutely chock full of “for want of a nail” moments, where big differences in outcome turn on small differences. A few thousand, or a few hundred, or even a single person that was in place A instead of B, or did X instead of Y.

            I’m not saying that the majority of these deserters had impacts like that. I’d be willing to bet that the majority didn’t. But it adds up.

            RE: Starvin’ ARVN, that’s certainly consistent with my understanding. My point was more that fielding a modern, professional, all-volunteer (much less conscript) force from Arab culture (and I believe Pashtun, but I am less familiar with the ins and outs there) is REALLY hard. You run into basic stuff like “If I teach other people how to do this job, it makes me less important, therefore I must hoard knowledge to increase my value to my superiors”.

            Re: Total War, I am less confident that we’ve seen the end of Total/Great Power war, and as more countries get nukes (as I expect to happen over the next few decades) I expect the current model of deterrence to fall apart. Not saying that huge wars are inevitable, but I wouldn’t put money on a bet like “There will be no wars between Fully Developed 1st World nations involving total commitment of their militaries before 2100”, and I think anyone whose confidence level on a statement like that exceeds 50% is more hopeful than realistic.

            I agree with you on the potential benefits in terms of social cohesion (as I said I think that’s a big reason the Swiss have stuck with their model. It’s core to their culture at this point). As far as implementing it, my concern is that I think the amount of time required to make someone a worthwhile soldier, and to retain their utility and the relevance of their skills as a soldier, is actually even higher than the level we currently have here in the US for Reserve and National guard, the practically-memetic “One Weekend A Month and Two Weeks A Year!” that was heavily featured in all the recruiting ads until just after 9/11.

            Even that level gets disruptive to businesses pretty fast if more than one or two employees is a reservist. Increase the amount of time spent actively training AND the number of reservists, and…well, I won’t say it’s totally impractical, but I think it would require a pretty big re-orientation of our entire attitude towards national service, towards work-life balance, and so on.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Ah-hah! I think we’ve found a key spot where our viewpoints are diverging. If you define “major” as “the entire side of one battle collapsing”, then sure, but here’s the thing: Yes, you can fix the collapse of a single battalion by “shuffling troops around”, but in the meantime you’re taking casualties you wouldn’t have taken otherwise. You’re wasting time and resources patching up holes when you should be using it positioning for the next maneuver. It’s increasing friction and sapping your momentum, and when it happens on a semi-regular basis (as it was as early as mid-1942) that has a cumulative effect.

            In much the same vein you pointed out that 0.4% desertion rate was pretty tiny, and in absolute terms sure it is, that’s another way of saying 99.6% of troops didn’t desert, tens of thousands out of over ten -million-, 3 orders of magnitude difference….BUT, that’s roughly a CORPS worth of men. That’s an entire Corps, or 2-3 divisions, or 3-5 brigades you couldn’t field because the men that would have made up that formations went instead to replace losses in existing units.

            War is absolutely chock full of “for want of a nail” moments, where big differences in outcome turn on small differences. A few thousand, or a few hundred, or even a single person that was in place A instead of B, or did X instead of Y.

            I’m not saying that the majority of these deserters had impacts like that. I’d be willing to bet that the majority didn’t. But it adds up.

            You’re certainly right that continual losses are very, very bad. One thing I think is underappreciated in, say, popular conceptions of war, is the degree to which war destroys the units taking part in it. The difference between this happening in victory and in defeat is pretty big, though. The Germans lost about a million casualties during Barbarossa, and less than half that during the (admittedly shorter in type) Typhoon. But the latter was a victory that fell short, and the former was a serious crisis and setback (which, judging by Goebbels’ account of things, was a major psychological blow to Hitler).

            Still, it’s hard to see how a force that large (the German strength was almost 4 million for the beginning of Barbarossa) could be raised with volunteers alone.

            RE: Starvin’ ARVN, that’s certainly consistent with my understanding. My point was more that fielding a modern, professional, all-volunteer (much less conscript) force from Arab culture (and I believe Pashtun, but I am less familiar with the ins and outs there) is REALLY hard. You run into basic stuff like “If I teach other people how to do this job, it makes me less important, therefore I must hoard knowledge to increase my value to my superiors”.

            I read an article to this effect. I’ve got a close friend who works in business consulting, and described doing consulting work for a business from somewhere in one of the Gulft States. It was a completely different corporate culture, and this is not a coming from a guy whose background is some irreverent youth culture t-shirts-and-jeans startup or whatever. He made it sound like the hierarchy was completely stifling.

            Western interventions in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years really have suffered from a staggering lack of cultural and religious insight – maybe a model of military more appropriate to the context could have been built.

            Re: Total War, I am less confident that we’ve seen the end of Total/Great Power war, and as more countries get nukes (as I expect to happen over the next few decades) I expect the current model of deterrence to fall apart. Not saying that huge wars are inevitable, but I wouldn’t put money on a bet like “There will be no wars between Fully Developed 1st World nations involving total commitment of their militaries before 2100”, and I think anyone whose confidence level on a statement like that exceeds 50% is more hopeful than realistic.

            It’s not that I think total war or great power war won’t ever happen again, it’s just that I think if it does, given the imbalance between nuclear offence and defence, things will probably have been settled by nuclear exchanges long before vast armies could be raised. The age of conscription started with the rise of the modern nation-state and started to fade with the Bomb.

            I agree with you on the potential benefits in terms of social cohesion (as I said I think that’s a big reason the Swiss have stuck with their model. It’s core to their culture at this point). As far as implementing it, my concern is that I think the amount of time required to make someone a worthwhile soldier, and to retain their utility and the relevance of their skills as a soldier, is actually even higher than the level we currently have here in the US for Reserve and National guard, the practically-memetic “One Weekend A Month and Two Weeks A Year!” that was heavily featured in all the recruiting ads until just after 9/11.

            Even that level gets disruptive to businesses pretty fast if more than one or two employees is a reservist. Increase the amount of time spent actively training AND the number of reservists, and…well, I won’t say it’s totally impractical, but I think it would require a pretty big re-orientation of our entire attitude towards national service, towards work-life balance, and so on.

            Yeah, it’s probably politically impractical. The states that had it really had to have a culture that valued the military in a very participatory way – I remember reading a historian making a reference along the lines of “professors trying to get reserve commissions so they could get into the good parties.” Switzerland manages, but the whole “we are prickly and independent” seems pretty core to their identity.

      • Garrett says:

        I don’t think that understanding the actual experience of war is what’s involved. I suspect that there’s this weird intersection of “people overseas are suffering” and “we have the power to do something”. Notwithstanding Afghanistan, most of the US military involvements since WWII have been couched in some kind of suffering/freedom issue. The original Iraq invasion gained a lot of support based on the false story of babies being removed from incubators. Even Vietnam was worried about the spread of Communism, both as a military threat but also one of freedom for the citizens. John McCain has occasionally quipped to “bomb Iran” (to the tune of Barbra Ann), yet it’s impossible to claim that he isn’t aware of the horrors of war.

        Instead, I suspect that the problem is the population at-large who wants to “do something”. Knowing that “war is hell” isn’t going to change that. It might alter either what people have sympathy for, in that current suffering might be viewed as trivial in comparison to forced military service. But that’s the “we’ve become soft” line of thinking, which is similar but not necessarily related.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Also, they don’t have skin in the game. If they call for war, they won’t be at the front, and neither will their sons, generally.

        Doesn’t that prove too much? “Women shouldn’t vote because they’re unlikely to end up in foxholes?”

        Then again, some people believe this.

    • The Nybbler says:

      How to decide?

      Assume #2 is true. Any country which gives up its toys is at the mercy of the stupid-bordering-on-evil adventurism of those who don’t. I don’t see a dilemma, really; if the choice is between my elites engaging in stupid/evil adventurism and being the subject of such adventurism, I pick the former.

      • albatross11 says:

        So how do we convince our elites to stop engaging in stupid and evil adventurism without disarming ourselves against other countries’ elites’ stupid and evil adventurism? I mean, I definitely agree that it’s better to be the hammer than the nail, but it seems like there’s a lot of excluded ground in there….

        • pontifex says:

          Stop them from being educated stupid and evil by cubeless educators ignorant of nature’s harmonious Time Cube.

        • johan_larson says:

          So how do we convince our elites to stop engaging in stupid and evil adventurism…

          The three things that come to mind are elite education, legal constraints, and force structure. Under the first heading, the federal government has enough levers to pull to ensure that all or nearly all BA and BSci graduates take a course in American history and that this course covers the US’s participation in foreign wars. Under the second, there could be laws that include various checks and balances so going to war is actually fairly difficult. The requirement that only congress can declare war was a step in that direction. And under force structure, the military can be designed so it really can’t sustain a large or long effort abroad without calling up reserves, which tends to draw all sorts of scrutiny.

          Those are the solutions that spring to mind. Not sure how effective these would be. Maybe there are others.

          • Do you think having the government decide what course with what orientation everyone has to take is a good idea? I would have said that the strongest argument against government involvement in education, at any level, is that it makes it possible for the government to control what people are taught.

            As you note, under the Constitution, which is supposed to be the most binding part of the law, going to war requires Congressional assent. The last time that condition was satisfied was during WWII. The U.S. has been involved in a number of wars since then.

            So, given that the law is there, how do you get the government to obey it? Are you arguing for strict interpretation of the Constitution, and if so how do you suggest we implement that?

  6. johan_larson says:

    Over in the sciences, there are a couple of areas of study that are generally acknowledged to be particularly demanding, and those who major in them are accordingly either admired as geniuses or mocked as hopeless nerds: physics (particularly theoretical physics) and mathematics (particularly pure math).

    Are there equivalents in the humanities?

    • andrewflicker says:

      Philosophy definitely has a reputation of intelligence among the humanities, although probably not quite so strongly as does physics or math on the STEM side.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Philosophy majors do have the third highest IQ, barely below math. And contrary to stereotypes, their career prospects are not that bad.

        • Garrett says:

          Funny thought looking at that list: aren’t most of the top majors listed male-dominated?

        • currentlyinthelab says:

          Nonono. Never ever ever bring up IQ as a single score again. You lose so much from that.

          https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1806210914

          It really is biologically possible to be a “genius” in a field and terrible in another intellectual field.

          Engineers and writers/lawyers really *do* have brains where its foolish to give a straight IQ comparison, and if you do so you lose street knowledge, to put it one way.

          Who is fitter? A strong-man competator, or a marathon runner? These are extremes, but the intellectual equivalent are those with perfect LSAT reasoning, and only average mathematical talent, and vice-verse. Browsing scores online, there are 800 math SAT’s with average reading scores.

          It is a straight up far more accurate way of looking at the world by using Howard Gardners multiple intelligence idea, instead of a single IQ score or G factor, and that apparent “modules” in the brain such as those linked to memory such as hippocampal size vs those linked to verbal processing can differ relatively in their proportions of brain area.

          • albatross11 says:

            My understanding is that:

            a. IQ scores broadly predict success in all those fields. You can do a little better splitting into more quantitative and non-quantitative scores, but philosophers and lawyers and academic historians have higher-than-average scores even on the quantitative questions.

            b. Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory doesn’t actually produce any useful predictions.

          • currentlyinthelab says:

            B first

            Yes his multiple intelligence’s theory does give useful predictions. And you can look at the “extremes” and look at MIT mechatronics engineers vs Yale lawyers and typical cognitive balances of the two. A good portion of the both, while succeeding at their respective domains, fail when placed in the other environment.

            It also predicts the notable existence of occasional memory “savants” or 99.99 percentile people in terms of memory capability, while only sub-par general “intelligence” capabilities.

            A

            The word *broadly* loses so much real world knowledge that you lose so much that whenever possible, try not using a single score. And when you say “higher-than-average”, remember that its true *on average*, again. Not all do, even with training.

            A good example on some tests is the speed-ness portion of it. Extreme example is how quickly can a person add 100 basic sums together. An *IQ* score can be created with that and IMO performance, but you just made the final score poorly predictive of both tasts.

            When reading debates on the LSAT, the variability of cognitive speed and its correlation with untimed power tests and the tradeoffs in a real world setting become important.

            Some tests actually include that on the final measure, when its really far better to simply present multiple categories.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:

            IQ scores broadly predict success in all those fields.

            Just note that, assuming their are multiple “g”s, if the IQ score gets input from these multiple “g”s it will be correlated with that success.

            Just in the same way a general fitness score would be correlated with both powerlifting and marathon running. It doesn’t disprove the idea of separate components of fitness that can be maximized.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think it’s entirely clear that there is either one g or many–perhaps it’s just a lot of different mental capabilities that are all positively correlated. But if you assume there’s a verbal and a math g, they’re *also* positively correlated.

      • Brad says:

        The hardest non-STEM course I took in college was a philosophy course. It was harder than some of the STEM courses, but not hardest over all. Then again, something like Ancient Greek or piano, which I certainly would have flunked, I never even considered signing up for.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Generally speaking, the more and harder languages something involves, the more something is “genius nerd” territory.

      • johan_larson says:

        Interesting. I know the theology students I shared a dorm with in grad school lived in fear of Greek, and generally thanked the Maker that Hebrew was no longer a requirement for most courses of study.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I can confirm that both are quite brutal, but in different ways. Classics students tend to look down their nose at the kind of Greek theology and religious studies students would take. The documents are not quite on the same level – as far as I can tell, one showed erudition in ancient Greek by making your sentences as long and complex as possible. On the other hand, reading a language that’s basically the second language of a whole region is difficult in its own way. Meanwhile, word formation in Hebrew can be very bizarre, and you have to learn a certain degree of it just to use the standard lexicon, because it is organized by root.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Koine is much easier to read than Attic Greek, in my own experience. Because it’s the common language of the Eastern Med,* it’s been vastly simplified compared to the native tongue, with more straightforward grammar and less complex vocabulary. I can just about read the New Testament without reference to a dictionary. Admittedly, that could be because the New Testament itself is a relatively simple text, and I’m already familiar with most of it in English so I know what each sentence “ought” to say.

            Attic is tough. Plato is okay to read, though he does use a lot more complex sentences than Paul does, and Homer is a total bitch. Just my own experience of the language.

            overall though I find it a lot more elegant and easy to read and comprehend than Latin.

            *what year is it

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I’m not a humanities major so I can’t really say what was the perception of them in their respective programs, but a guess:

      It’s still mathematics, especially the mathematical logic branch of it. You very occasionally see an ambitious philosophy student.

    • mindspillage says:

      At least within the college of music, the music theory majors have this reputation.

    • I used to know someone with an MA in Sanskrit– that impressed me, and I was a physics/maths nerd.

    • Anatoly says:

      Linguistics, and in particular theory-laden (e.g. generative syntax) or data-laden (e.g. corpus linguistics) parts of it.

  7. Well... says:

    I want to resurface a suggestion another commenter made in previous OT: duplicate the “hide” button at the top of each comment. Maybe just before or after the timestamp but on the same line?

    • BBA says:

      Also, do something about the email reply links so they don’t break thread order.

      • CatCube says:

        Y’know, I’m not getting reply links in the e-mail, or I’m just slow enough to not see them. Where are these showing up?

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m skeptical, but I’ve never used that feature so I don’t know for sure. I’ll turn it on and see what I can discover.

          • Nornagest says:

            EDIT: Guess you don’t see them for self-posts.

          • CatCube says:

            @Nornagest

            Let me know. The only person I’ve seen with this issue is bintchaos, and I’m curious what’s going on.

          • Nornagest says:

            Testing. This is the second post.

            ETA: Well, I’ll be damned, it does work.

            Okay, so what’s going on is that new comments are indexed in order below the comment with the ID matching the one URL encoded in the reply button. They get tabbed over too, but only if the thread hasn’t reached its max tab depth yet — otherwise they’re inserted in the comment stream at max depth, potentially in the middle of a thread.

            You can’t do that in the Web interface without screwing with the URL encoding (though it’s not hard to do that maliciously or experimentally, as I discovered when the Dreaded Jim was doing it), because the reply buttons are suppressed at max depth. But the links still appear in the WordPress notification emails. Following them gives you a nonstandard reply box, but fill it out and the comment will appear in mid-thread as alleged.

            I don’t know how to fix this. You’d want to change the link in the reply email to match the parent one level up, but I don’t know if that’s even possible — WordPress is black magic to me.

          • Nornagest says:

            Testing. This is the first post.

          • CatCube says:

            @Nornagest

            What puzzled me, to include during my interactions with bintchaos, is that I’m not getting a Reply link in the e-mail at all. Maybe there was some checkbox when I created it that suppresses it, but all I get a link to the replying comment (e.g., the e-mail for your comment has this one: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/11/open-thread-77-5/#comment-509705) and an “unsubscribe” link.

            Edit: I also recall that the e-mail program only runs every 25 minutes or so, so you won’t get instantaneous messages when somebody replies to you.

          • Nornagest says:

            I got email from donotreply@wordpress.com, containing the two links you describe, the text of the reply, a reply-to link with the id of the reply (http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/11/open-thread-77-5/?replytocom=509703#respond for the one I just posted, for example), and a “comments” link taking you to the top of the comments tree. Happened pretty much immediately, too; I don’t think it was on a 25-minute poll.

            This was generated after I checked the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” checkbox and jumped through some registration hoops. Did you do that, or were you using some other method?

          • CatCube says:

            OK, yeah, I am using something different.

            @the verbiage ecstatic posted a reply system in 76.25 here, which sends e-mails from no-reply@sscnotify.bakkot.com.

            I had signed up for the e-mails with the checkbox before, and it sent me e-mails for every comment, not just the ones replying to me. I unsubscribed after about two or three hours.

            Edit: I also think I was referring to a slightly different “checkbox”–the one I used was the one under the top-level box that creates a new thread. Are you using the one under a particular reply? I’ve not tried that one, but the one I’m subscribed to gives me replies whenever somebody replies to one of my comments or uses @CatCube (I think) on any thread. For example, I haven’t done any particular subscription for anything in 77.5, and I get a reply notification when you use the link in your e-mail; you haven’t yet put @CatCube in any replies so I don’t know for sure if the @ reply function is working for this OT.

          • Nornagest says:

            Under a particular reply, yes. I was getting notifications for every new comment too, though; I turned it off pretty much immediately after I confirmed what I was looking for.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      While we’re requesting site fixes, the new(ish) Report button should really have a confirmation dialog like the old one did. It’s pretty easy to misclick.

  8. James says:

    A while ago Bakkot posted a gizmo for collapsing every top-level comment by default and also showing the first line of collapsed comments. I activated them at the time but they seem to be deactivated now, and I can’t remember how to activate them again. Was it by visiting some super-secret magic URL?

  9. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Picking up on a previous discussion about sizes (mostly about clothes for fat women) and pricing. I hadn’t noticed the mention that shoes in large sizes were more likely to be absent rather than have higher prices, but I did think to check Auditions Shoes which sells shoes for women in a much wider range of sizes than most stores, and has consistent prices for all sizes.

    They are a treasure to me– after having gone to a number of stores and not found *anything* that fit, it was reasonably easy for me to find shoes at Auditions. I take an 8W (probably an 8D), which isn’t all that unusual. I may never go into a shoe store again. They also tell you how high the heel is.

  10. Brad says:

    I’m not 100% positive this isn’t culture war, but I think as long as the conversation stays on topic it shouldn’t be.

    Do any non-US countries have the phenomenon where most people strenuously deny that they are rich or wealthy even beyond the point where it passes the straight face test? What about talking about how much you earn / have, is that taboo in your non-US country (or one with which you are familiar)?

    • Eltargrim says:

      Canada.

      Largely yes to both, though I doubt that you’ll find this surprising, given our many similarities.

    • Zodiac says:

      Reporting for Germany.
      I have noticed that people have very weird perceptions of being rich or poor and wealth in general. In short: nobody thinks of themselves as rich and so they think of themselves as poor for all effects and purposes, even though knowing that they are not at the bottom.
      I’ve talked to people that made 6.000 Euro a month (average is 3.600), had great cars and lived in pretty big apartments and were talking as if they were the poster example of the poor proletariat.
      Most annoying to me however is that house owners never seem to count their house towards their property. So you have people owning 400k houses, fully paid, that say that they don’t own anything of worth. I’ve also encountered this for cars but less often.

      • Matt M says:

        I’ve talked to people that made 6.000 Euro a month (average is 3.600), had great cars and lived in pretty big apartments and were talking as if they were the poster example of the poor proletariat.

        I caught one of my coworkers who makes over $150k a year (roughly 3x the US median household income) in a rant about how she didn’t understand how our other co-workers could afford to have three kids, given how expensive raising a family is.

        Usually I let stuff like that go but that time I did interrupt and said something to the effect of “You know there are millions of people raising three kids on one-fifth of your salary, right?”

        So you have people owning 400k houses, fully paid, that say that they don’t own anything of worth. I’ve also encountered this for cars but less often.

        This one is probably less common in the US. Very few people own houses “fully paid” unless they are very old and/or inherited the house. Given the 30-year mortgage combined with how interest amortizes such that you don’t pay down the principle until much later, I’d say the average homeowner probably owes more than they have paid.

        • Anonymous says:

          Usually I let stuff like that go but that time I did interrupt and said something to the effect of “You know there are millions of people raising three kids on one-fifth of your salary, right?”

          What was her reply?

          • Matt M says:

            Stuttering embarrassment, I guess. Something like “oh yeah, well of course I know that’s true, and that’s even harder for me to imagine…”

        • The Nybbler says:

          One of the iron laws of practical economics: expenses rise with income. (“at a higher rate” would be the cynical version). Taxes, obviously, but not just taxes. Making more money usually means living in a higher-COL area, meaning housing, transportation, groceries, utilties, etc all cost more. That’s a big chunk but it still doesn’t get you there. Then there’s lifestyle/class issues, and while some of them are optional (e.g. vacations, new cars), others come as a package particularly when it comes to kids. It’s difficult to live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood and raise your kids as cheaply as the poor (or even lower-middle) do.

          • hls2003 says:

            The term I always heard used was “golden handcuffs.” When you’re in your early 20’s, living on $100K per year seems unimaginable luxury. So when joining an industry with starting salaries in the six figures that rose fast, lots of people I talked to planned to work for 10-15 years and retire at 40. But then they’d get married, have kids, buy a house with a mortgage, pay higher taxes, pay for private school or at least extracurriculars for the kids, etc. Before long, they were in their 30’s and living on $100K seemed unimaginable penury. They had to keep working just to keep the wheels spinning and avoid disrupting their lives and their loved ones’ lives. Plus, retiring at 40 would have been giving up a lot more lucrative salary than their starting salary. In the end, almost nobody did it, and they’d vaguely curse the “golden handcuffs” before talking about going up to the lake house over the summer.

            And for the record, I think it was the 20-something that was naive, not the 40-something.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From memory of Man, Economy, and State— returns to all investments tend to become equal, though they never get there because of changing conditions.

            This implies that if anyone is getting an unusually high return, anything which is needed to get that return will become more expensive.

            This is an added theory, not meant to eliminate the idea that people develop more expensive tastes and commitments as they get more money.

          • Brad says:

            I’ve only ever heard golden handcuffs in the context of a vesting schedule.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Brad – Probably the terminology was borrowed from that context, same context that brought the world “golden parachute.”

          • Brad says:

            Probably. FWIW it’s worth I have heard the sentiment before from friends and accuantances in finance, just not in those words. More along the lines of warnings against letting the monthly nut grow too large.

          • caethan says:

            A lot of it is lifestyle. The biggest problem is that luxury expenses that get you excited when you get them turn into necessary expenses that get you upset when you don’t get them. A broader knowledge and familiarity with other lifestyles helps too. E.g., my cousin manages three kids on two small salaries, hence I find it hard to whine about our much larger salaries with a single kid.

            For once, I actually like a quote from Gawker about this sort of thing – how the rich complaining about how broke they are comes across: “Sure, it’s an objectively large sum of money,” they say. “But it is far smaller after I spend it.”

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s worth remembering that a lot of differences in income track with cost of living. $150K/year in the Bay Area isn’t remotely the same thing as $150K/year in mid-Missouri. So while it’s true that people get on a treadmill where they can’t imagine *not* having an expensive vacation every year and a new car every three years, it’s also the case that having three times the median income isn’t as impressive as it sounds, if you live somewhere with twice the median cost of living.

          • it’s also the case that having three times the median income isn’t as impressive as it sounds, if you live somewhere with twice the median cost of living.

            Real estate costs vary a lot from place to place, but does anything else vary nearly that much? Amazon sells things at the same price wherever you are. Food doesn’t seem strikingly more expensive in the Bay Area than elsewhere. Some labor costs are higher.

            A quick look at cost of living in cities suggests that even in New York and SF the cost of living is probably less than twice the median value.

          • Matt M says:

            Also to clarify my particular example, I’m in Houston, Texas, which I have to imagine is one of, if not THE cheapest big city in the US. And the woman in question grew up here, so it’s not as if she’s a recent New York transplant for whom 150k doesn’t seem like all that much.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Real estate costs vary a lot from place to place, but does anything else vary nearly that much? Amazon sells things at the same price wherever you are.

            But our cost of living is definitely higher than the national average here in Alaska, and it’s not (just) land, but most everything. Why? Shipping costs. As per your example, Amazon may have the same price for the item, but shipping it here definitely costs more.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Shipping costs are definitely a thing, and you don’t have to go to Alaska to notice them. I lived in Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan (at the very tip of the UP where it connects to Canada) and everything was notably more expensive despite being a rural and economically depressed region.

          • Brad says:

            I think cost of living arguments are somewhat overstated. The market clears. If you look at median household incomes by MSA you don’t find anything too far above the national median. SF-Oakland-SJ is an outlier at 21% above. Your $150k is 2.88x median in the country and 2.38x in the Greater Bay Area. That’s not a difference in kind.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad

            Median income and cost of living are not the same thing. The most common cost of living by area index seems to be from the Council for Community and Economic Research, and it’s measuring cost of living for a household consisting of two college-educated people and one child, with at least one of the adults “has an established professional or managerial career with a record of growing responsibility and authority, and is salaried”. So when you see median income not much different than the rest of the country, but cost of living much higher, what you’re seeing is that is is much more expensive to live a “upper-middle class” lifestyle in those areas. See, more equality!

            http://coli.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-COLI-Manual.pdf

            (Also note that the cost of living index doesn’t include taxes, which are very significant)

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler
            Doesn’t that presume that markets don’t clear?

            It’s one thing when you are looking internationally with very significant barriers to labor mobility, but within a country the much more likely hypothesis is that when you do a cost of living exercise you aren’t comparing apples to apples. You are substituting a false and meaningless objectivity for peoples’ actual expressed preferences.

            Even the “objective measure” types are forced to concede to real world preferences. They don’t start looking for a 4 bedroom house on a half acre in Manhattan for their cost of living comparisons.

            An upper middle class lifestyle is the lifestyle that those in the upper middle class choose to use their resources to create, not the other way around.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad

            Doesn’t that presume that markets don’t clear?

            No, and as far as I can tell this is a complete non-sequitur.

            It’s one thing when you are looking internationally with very significant barriers to labor mobility

            There are significant barriers to labor mobility in the professional and managerial fields as well. Depending on the field you’re in, there are often only a few places there are significant concentations of such jobs — and Peoria probably isn’t among them.

            You are substituting a false and meaningless objectivity for peoples’ actual expressed preferences.

            This conflicts with the statement quoted below.

            An upper middle class lifestyle is the lifestyle that those in the upper middle class choose to use their resources to create

            Yes, and in dollars that costs more in San Francisco than Kansas City.

          • Brad says:

            There are significant barriers to labor mobility in the professional and managerial fields as well. Depending on the field you’re in, there are often only a few places there are significant concentations of such jobs — and Peoria probably isn’t among them.

            What about those that aren’t in these industries? Why aren’t they all flocking to Peoria? Why are there any doctors at all in NYC or SF? Retirees? Independently wealthy?

            Yes, and in dollars that costs more in San Francisco than Kansas City.

            By observation many people prefer a certain lifestyle in San Francisco to what you consider a better lifestyle in Kansas City. They have the choice of either and they pick the former. Why should we substitute your judgement for theirs?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Real estate costs vary a lot from place to place, but does anything else vary nearly that much? Amazon sells things at the same price wherever you are. Food doesn’t seem strikingly more expensive in the Bay Area than elsewhere. Some labor costs are higher.

            Every time I price out my budget, rent ends up being the elephant in the wallet. It’s literally half of what I spend. The car was about half of the remainder – until this month, huzzah! …which means rent is now around two-thirds. If I moved from Maryland to Texas, and still rented for some reason, my total living expenses would decrease by about a third, just from housing alone.

            Skewing this is the fact that I tend to live very frugally by habit. I almost never eat out; convincing myself to go out regularly once a week was a Big Deal. And I generally buy things very rarely, and value things that last a long time. (I am a very poor example of fashion.) So everything’s strapped down to what I consider essential, and that includes rent.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad

            You appear to be having a conversation about a completely different topic.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like the usual big regional expense is real estate, specifically buying a house in a good school district. (If you don’t have kids, this isn’t all that big a deal; if you do have kids, you either buy in a good school district or plan to pay for private school or homeschool.) But there’s also stuff like commuting costs, which can matter a lot in your budget, and there are places where the commute is nothing and other places where you couldn’t afford to (or wouldn’t dare to) live within an hour’s drive of your workplace.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      First, framing: I live in Argentina, and my experience is with lower-middle to upper class people, mostly upper-middle, mostly under 30.

      So, in my observation:
      * In upper-middle and middle class (non-programmer) white collar professional/academic circles, people very much try to downplay their wealth, to the point where it has gained meme status.
      * In traditional upper class circles wealth is more of a given, so it’s discussed more freely. Little flaunting, though, that’s unseemly.
      * Outright talking about how much you earn and/or have is still pretty taboo. I consider myself more honest than average on the subject, and I’d never ask someone who’s not a friend how much they make, and even them never in public.

    • Matt M says:

      I feel like this changed a lot, and I’m not really sure when.

      My perception is that for most of human history, people were encouraged to exaggerate their wealth and power positively. If you were going to lie about your income, you would lie positively and claim to have more than you actually do.

      But at some point the social dynamics shifted that the opposite is now true. People lie and exaggerate downwards.

      I could advance some theories, but it would certainly take us into CW territory…

      • The Red Foliot says:

        It is because authority in the past flowed from power and there were no checks on it, no concepts of impartial justice or democratic representation, to limit its abuse. Under those circumstances, everyone was incentivised to signal their power as heavily as they could. Liberalization put power under scrutiny, so that now it is something of a liability if revealed.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I feel like there have always been societies where some form of humbleness was in place and others where it wasn’t. Can’t prove it, mind.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          That humility tended to be in deference to one’s social superiors and didn’t preclude forms of ostentation, especially among the privileged.

    • Aapje says:

      The Netherlands here.

      Talking about salary is a bit of a taboo. It’s also not considered nice to call someone rich. That also means that there is little reason to deny it as one is rarely called rich (to one’s face).

      BTW, one can also define denial of being wealthy as willingness to spend money vs excessive frugality. I have relatives who grew up in relative poverty and who are stuck in a very frugal spending pattern, despite having a decent amount of wealth. In fact, I myself have this to some extent.

      PS. A job board company did a survey about whether people talk about their salary in some EU countries. The graph is in Dutch, but you can probably understand it if I tell you that:
      – dark blue = don’t tell anyone
      – light blue = only tell good friends
      – orange = tell anyone, but colleagues
      – red = tell anyone

      • Brad says:

        Thanks that’s an interesting survey. Incidentally, most of the country names I could figure out but I had to look up Oostenrijk. I knew it had something to do with east but that wasn’t enough for me to guess.

        • Nornagest says:

          “Austria” in German is “Österreich”, so I guess my high-school German was good for something after all. Makes sense, since Dutch often seems midway between English and German.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, it’s just a literal translation of the German name.

            Austria was a prefecture of Bavaria created in 976. The word “Austria” is a Latinisation of the German name and was first recorded in the 12th century. At the time, the Danube basin of Austria (Upper and Lower Austria) was the easternmost extent of Bavaria, and in fact of all the Germans, as at the time the territory of the former East Germany was populated by Slavic Sorbs and Polabians.

            Please pretend that I didn’t copy/paste that.

          • Zodiac says:

            Please pretend that I didn’t copy/paste that.

            I actually was about to compliment you on your extensive knowledge on German/Austrian history.

          • Aapje says:

            I’ll pretend that you complimented me and I pretend to thank you.

    • John Schilling says:

      Most of the replies so far seem to involve upper middle class people, and I don’t think that’s going to change. So possibly you need to specify what definition of “rich” you are using, and whether you are also interested in upper middle class people pretending they are not upper middle class, and upper middle class people correctly noting that they are not rich.

      • Brad says:

        I didn’t really want to get into the object level debate, which is why I left it up to the reader what doesn’t pass the straight face test. It’s certainly true that there are some people whose personal definition of rich is so far out there that virtually no one qualifies and for such people the question probably doesn’t make much sense. That’s okay, they can just not answer. One of the things I’m trying to figure out is if the same kind of people exist outside the US or it is an American quirk.

      • Aapje says:

        It’s contextual in any case. Put me next to the average Chinese person and I’m rich. Put me next to Bill Gates and look like a beggar.

    • dodrian says:

      I think that talking about how much you earn is taboo in most places, but claiming that you’re not rich in face of the evidence is the socially-acceptable way to bring attention to your wealth.

      At university (in the UK) I noticed a tendency to worry out loud about how much work someone had to do (and how little they had done any of it). In most cases it was a humblebrag along the lines of “I’ve left a huge amount of work for tonight before my deadline tomorrow but that’s okay because I can handle that much work in one night.” Even if those saying it hadn’t intentionally put themselves in the situation in order to brag about it, the ones who were genuinely unable to make the deadlines were not talking about it – they were meeting with their tutors to try and solve the problem.

      This is along the same lines. “I’m not really that wealthy” can be code for “I’m have such rich tastes that I struggle to meet them all.” At that level of wealth the ones genuinely in financial trouble will be quietly looking at ways to cut their bills or downsize, and they’re not likely to be talking about it except with really close friends.

  11. Deiseach says:

    This was triggered by a comment of bintchaos elsewhere about reading Unsong (sic), and it occurred to me that using UNSONG is a good example of what the Sad Puppies idea was originally about (I’m not going to talk about the Rabids, since I have no contact on that side).

    UNSONG is a work that is very open to criticism of the kind Tor Books personnel indulged in, when it was rowing in on which of their authors were on the side of the angels in the whole Puppy saga.

    I get to read a lot of “But representation is easy, so if you’re not doing it, you must have an ulterior motive!” stuff when discussing fiction of the kind I prefer to read, so you lucky people get to share the kind of critiques I commonly see (I’m particularly thinking of a Chinese-American blogger who first said “there’s no reason not to include Asian characters in your fiction”, then spent about three pages on proper Chinese naming, how they would know if you took the easy way out of copying a name from a Chinese text so as to be sure of getting it right, and repeated at length how they would jump up and down on your bones if you made any one of the myriad mistakes a Westerner could make in naming a character, you should go out and pay a Chinese person to check your character’s names for you if you were going to write a Chinese character – even in fanfiction – and if you didn’t this showed that (a) you didn’t care about getting it right (b) you wanted POC to work for free for your entitled white ass, but yeah it was easy to include Chinese characters with Chinese names and if you didn’t, it was all down to racism):

    (a) The main romance in UNSONG is boring and heteronormative: cis het white straight people being cutesy. No inter-racial couples, no LGBT couples, no trans people. Conventional, safe, easy, and erasure of/denial of representation to those not fitting into the ‘normal’ socially-mandated bracket of romance and sexuality

    (b) The ‘heroes’ are all white. POC are villains (Malia Ngo, Dylan Alvarez) or are stuffed into the Magical Negro trope: Uncle Vihaan is the houseboy and even the Comet King just mopes about ineffectually after his failure to overthrow Hell and it’s his white wife Robin who provides the needed motivation for the eventual success of his mission, which relies on others (such as the narrator’s girlfriend, Ana, who has been driving the second side of the plot) to succeed

    (c) The trope of ’emotional woman who only wants love and to be validated by a man’ is in full flow – see Sarah

    (d) Saturation of Judaeo-Christian Western values; the ‘God’ of the UNSONG universe is the monotheistic God of American Christianity (and to a lesser extent, Judaism); it cannot even be referenced as Abrahamic faiths since Islam is ignored. Instead we get Jewish traditions and a Jewish world-system, backed up by Christian supporting characters such as Father Ellis and the Universalist Unitarians. The Comet King and Vihaan’s Hindu heritage and beliefs get no mention or impact on events at all, and we are to presuppose that that faith system is false by the rules of this universe

    (e) Everyone is able-bodied and neurodivergence, if mentioned at all, is in an appealing, convenient form as applies to the narrator (“oh I’m not ‘normal’, I have much too high an IQ to fit in with the mundanes and get on in the ordinary world”). Manic Pixie Dream Girl is narrowly averted with the girlfriend

    (f) Speaking of the girlfriend, this relationship is problematic for more than the cis-normative, heteronormative elements. The narrator is the classic Nice Guy who, despite several protestations of disinterest by Ana and indeed clear statements that she is not interested in him as a boyfriend and won’t go on a date with him, still regards her as the object of his romantic intentions and as attainable if he only persists in ignoring her clear ‘no’ and wears her down to accept a romantic relationship with him on his terms

    In sum: the lack of disabled, non-cis het, non-white, non-male as central character, non-Western centric characters and background to the universe is a shocking lack of representation and diversity, and fits in quite well with this reviewer’s summation of the whole Sad Puppies and the Hugos affair:

    The rightwing lobby are gunning for books to win the sci-fi awards that match their ideological project. They really don’t care about writing well…mostly male, very white, and overwhelmingly conservative. Unhappy with sci-fi’s growing diversity…At this point, we must be reminded that these are amazing times for science fiction and fantasy storytelling. … And the hack writers and sloppy sentences championed by the Sad Puppies deserve no place in that picture; for their politics, yes, but also their sheer shoddiness.

    You might say that UNSONG is more concerned with the story and theme than in checking off “is there a bi-racial wheelchair-using neurodivergent trans woman main character in a same-gender relationship?” on the list, but that is bad if you want to be a writer of SFF in these brave new days of diversity and representation!

    • CatCube says:

      This is interesting, but kind of culture-warry for the x.5 thread.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I don’t think it fits in well at all, unless you think Unsong is not good as fiction. The article you quote from makes the same case that I’ve always identified with the anti-Puppy side: the objection to the Sad Puppies isn’t a lack of diversity, it’s that their books aren’t all that great, along with an unwillingness to give them reverse-affirmative-action just because they incorrectly think that there’s a plethora of other mediocre writers floating by on “SJW” cred.

      It really all turns on subjective taste, which is probably why it’s intractable

      • albatross11 says:

        I think the Sad Puppies claimed their kinds of books weren’t being given awards for ideological reasons–they failed to check the right ideological boxes, either within the work or in their outside statements. I don’t know whether or to what extent they were right, as I’ve not generally read most of the Hugo-nominated books or the next tier down of top books that could have been Hugo-nominated.

      • Deiseach says:

        I definitely do think UNSONG is good as fiction. What I wanted to say was

        (a) you can take any piece of work and find “problematic” elements in it

        (b) in defence of the Sad Puppies position, the steelman version of it is “a SF/F story should have science fiction or fantasy elements as an integral part and not bolted-on or as a veneer”.

        If you take The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere, the magic truth-telling water has no discernible impact in the story (apart from reassuring the narrator that yes, it’s True Love with his boyfriend). There is nothing about the impact something like this would have on society as a whole, there’s no attempt at “and our best guess scientific theory for magic truth-telling water right now is…”, and you can easily peel away the thin layer of SF/F elements to leave you with a fairly conventional and solid literary fiction short story about a Chinese-American guy worrying about coming out as gay to his traditional parents.

        You can’t do that with UNSONG, you can’t strip away the “an archangel runs this world on maths by brute force” layer and leave a story about the narrator, his girlfriend, and their slacker buddies. UNSONG doesn’t work like that, and to turn it into a conventional literary fiction piece of young(ish) adult anomie where the under-achieving narrator drifts through late 20th/early 21st century American life, you would have to do a whole heap of work to re-work the universe and concepts.

        So UNSONG does qualify as SF/F and Water does not, but if you’re sitting there with a checklist about “diversity in SF”, UNSONG is not going to score very highly. It’s not a question of “you must have either/or”, it’s “there’s no reason you can’t have both, but if it comes down to it, a SFF story is about science fiction or fantasy first, and diversity representation second“.

        I suppose that my original comment was culture-warring but that’s not what I intended. I’ll take it down if people think I should.

        EDIT: Or move it to 77.25 thread which is where it probably should belong, so I’ll cut’n’paste that right now.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      (c) The trope of ’emotional woman who only wants love and to be validated by a man’ is in full flow – see Sarah

      Also, literally an object owned by the male protagonist.

    • Atlas says:

      I haven’t finished reading UNSONG, but I think your perceptive-seeming comment touches on a point of tension in SJ views:

      On the one hand, we need more representation of [insert “marginalized” group here], so if you don’t include [“marginalized” group members] in your art, you’re contributing to systemic -ism or -phobia. Hey, talking to you, cis-het white males! You need to include more marginalized group members in your writing!

      But on the other hand, writers tend to like and be good at writing what they know. In this case, I presume that many of the elements of UNSONG (like coastal subgroups of high-IQ people, Kabbalah, William Blake’s poetry,various specific figures) are based on Scott’s interests and personal life. So more generally, it’s hardly surprising that white writers tend to write somewhat disproportionately about European (in an ethnic sense) people and things that interest them. So if cis-het white males started contriving to include more non-cis-het white males in their work, they’d probably get attacked for not accurately representing the lived experiences of whichever group they’re writing about. (And also their writing would be less interesting.)

      So it seems like a catch-22 to me: if white males don’t include enough non-white males in their writing, they’re attacked for that. But if they do include more non-white males, they’ll probably be attacked for (allegedly) doing a bad job depicting non-white males. (I somehow suspect that this contradiction will be resolved with some sort of affirmative action.)

      • Aapje says:

        So if cis-het white males started contriving to include more non-cis-het white males in their work, they’d probably get attacked for not accurately representing the lived experiences of whichever group they’re writing about.

        Not ‘probably’, they already are.

        The end goal seems obvious (replace X with Y).

    • Murphy says:

      I know you’re parodying this kind of analysis and it pretty much perfectly matches every similar tripe-analysis I see in articles even down to the level of making me annoyed at untrue statements.

      re:(b) aren’t all the cometspawn half-indian at least? And isn’t Malia Ngo sort of not-evil?

      re:(e) isn’t Sohu missing a hand?

      • Jordan D. says:

        >Isn’t Malia Ngo sort of not-evil?

        I think one of the major themes of Unsong, by the end, was that even the literal devil isn’t evil if you take the right perspective. I’d say she can fairly be called an antagonist, but to be honest I was really rooting for her by the finish.

      • Deiseach says:

        re:(b) aren’t all the cometspawn half-indian at least? And isn’t Malia Ngo sort of not-evil?

        Oh, I could point out the Problematic there till the cows come home, but I have to agree, that would get into culture-warring and this is not the thread for that 🙂

        Mainly my point, which could have been made more succinctly, is that perhaps works that don’t have a genderqueer half-alien multiracial heroine saving the world are not that way because of the evil racist neo-Nazi cis het old white men who write them, but because that’s not what the story is about or needed, and I used UNSONG because bintchaos’ comment about getting their view of conservative thinking from (amongst other things) reading UNSONG blew my mind (as they used to say). Scott may be a white cis het male but he’s not a racist, or conservative, or any of the bad terrible things in that Guardian review, yet if we did the required “diversity box-ticking” on UNSONG, it wouldn’t come out with a high enough score to please the panjandrums of equality. So maybe if the Sad Puppies are arguing it’s all about the story on their side, they are not necessarily lying about that as a cover for wanting to bring about the Eternal Rule Of The Pure Aryan People.

  12. Matt M says:

    Has anyone ever made any sort of effort to compile an “SSC reading list”

    I feel like every OT, someone makes a “what should I read” post, and a bunch of people give really interesting-looking recommendations and I keep meaning to write them all down, but I never do.

    Is someone else doing this for me somewhere, or do I have to be less lazy and start doing it myself?

    • rlms says:

      The general interest books on my to-read list that I think came from SSC recommendations: The Righteous Mind, Seeing Like A State, The Better Angels Of Our Nature, The Blank Slate, The Fate Of Africa, Thinking In Systems, The Selfish Gene, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. In terms of fiction: Blindsight, various Neal Stephenson books, Chesterton, Too Like The Lightning, Worm.

    • Matt M says:

      Argh, you guys. I’m not asking for more recommendations! I’m asking for a big giant list of what’s already been recommended and why. (Or clarification that such a thing does not exist, and if I want it, I have to create it myself)

      • Brad says:

        I don’t believe any such list exists. I have never seen a reference to one.

      • rlms says:

        Yes, my list is of previous recommendations (from other people). I can’t remember specific occurrences of people recommending the first four, but they’re referenced all the time. The Selfish Gene came up in answer to “recommend books about biology”, the rest of the non-fiction ones were from a general “recommend books”, and the fiction ones were general “recommend fiction”, as far as I remember.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It looks like the grand list doesn’t exist.

        Would it have a happy home on reddit? Should there be a good stuff from ssc wiki?

  13. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/conventional-wisdom-may-be-contaminating-polls/

    Argues that pollsters are downplaying their more surprising results.

    There is no escape from Goodhart’s Law, which I phrase as “Any measurement which is used to guide policy will become corrupt”.

  14. dndnrsn says:

    What do people think about Seven Surrenders (Too Like The Lightning sequel, Palmer)? ROT13.

    V’z nobhg 60 cntrf gb tb naq… zru. Gur svefg obbx jnf fybj bcravat ohg V ernyyl tbg vagb vg. Guvf bar vf abg ernyyl qbvat vg sbe zr. Gur jbeyqohvyqvat vf terng, ohg gur jevgvat fglyr trgf ba zl areirf. Gur cybg vf arrqyrffyl pbzcyvpngrq, naq vg srryf yvxr punenpgre’f zbgvingvbaf xrrc fuvsgvat jvyqyl. Punenpgref frrz gb or haeryvnoyr aneengbef, ohg jvgubhg nal vaqvpngvba gung gurl ner. Gurer frrzf gb or n terng qrny bs “vasbezrq novyvgl” – W.R.Q.Q. Znfba vf fhccbfrq gb or boivbhfyl qvivar naq vafcvevat naq oynu oynu oynu jul rknpgyl? V trg n erny frafr gung guvf obbx ehaf vagb gur ceboyrz bs jevgvat punenpgref jub ner fhccbfrq gb or ulcretravhfrf. Gur cybg tvirf zr juvcynfu. Naq guvatf xrrc unccravat gung srry yvxr gur bccbfvgr bs Purxubi’f Tha – fghss gung vf fhccbfrqyl vzcbegnag whfg cbcf hc bhg bs abjurer (rt Zrevba Xenlr – jurer qvq gung pbzr sebz? Nz V whfg n qhzzl zvffvat fghss?)

    • rlms says:

      Vg vf irel qvssrerag gb gur svefg obbx. V guvax V yvxrq gurz nobhg rdhnyyl, ohg V pna qrsvavgryl vzntvar crbcyr jub yvxrq Gbb Yvxrq Gur Yvtugavat qvfyvxvat Frira Fheeraqref. GYGY sryg yvxr n qrgrpgvir fgbel, jurernf FF erirnyf cerivbhfyl uvqqra zbgvingvbaf naq vf zber yvxr n uvfgbevpny fghql ba n fbpvrgl gung unccraf gb or svpgvbany. Gur raqvat vf irel vagrerfgvat gubhtu. Nyfb, vs vg’f abg orra erirnyrq lrg, jub qb lbh guvax gur Nabalzbhf vf?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Gur jubyr “nyy punenpgref fhqqrayl unir uvqqra zbgvingvbaf” guvat srryf… hasnve, orpnhfr gung jnfa’g gur pnfr va gur cerivbhf obbx, nf sne nf V pna erzrzore. Vg’f yvxr n qrgrpgvir fgbel jurer gur raq vf bhg bs yrsg svryq. Ba gur bar unaq, lrnu, gung unccraf va erny yvsr. Ohg gur pbairagvbaf bs gur “qrgrpgvir fgbel” serdhragyl vaibyir fbzr rkcrpgngvba gung gur ernqre pna chmmyr vg bhg gurzfryirf. Yvxrjvfr, fbzrbar guebjvat bss gurve znfx naq fnlvat “vg jnf V nyy nybat, lbhe ybat-ybfg oebgure!” vf jrveq vs gurer unf orra abguvat gb fhttrfg n ybat-ybfg oebgure ng nal cbvag.

        Vs “Napryrg vf gur Nabalzbhf” vf gur erirny, vfa’g gurer fbzrguvat va gur svefg obbx jurer gur jubyr “fur vf univat n frperg nssnve jvgu gur Nabalzbhf, ohg vg gheaf bhg ure uhfonaq vf gur Nabalzbhf, naq gurl ner qbvat fbzr xvaq bs Cvan Pbynqn fbat guvat sbe jrveq frk ernfbaf” guvat trgf pbirerq? V qba’g jnag gb fnl “lrnu V’z fb oevyyvnag V cvpxrq gung hc”, orpnhfr V’z abg, ohg V erzrzore guvaxvat fbzrguvat nybat gubfr yvarf gur svefg gvzr, sbe fbzr ernfba.

    • Anatoly says:

      It was a junk conference. A non-event.

      The real STEM-be-not-proud moment in my opinion is the Bogdanov affair.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        The real STEM-be-not-proud moment in my opinion is the Bogdanov affair.

        Can I get a quick rundown on this?

        • Aapje says:

          Two brothers write rather nonsensical papers. Papers get accepted to peer-reviewed journals with low to medium impact.

          A few physicists start emailing each other that the papers are nonsense. They open a thread on Usenet to discuss it. The Bogdanovs discuss their work there and give poor arguments. Professor Yang defends the Bogdanovs. Very strong evidence is found that Yang is a sockpuppet from Igor Bogdanov.

          Igor Bogdanov edits Wikipedia to make himself look better. Gets banned.

          Astrophysicist Alain Riazuelo publishes the thesis of Grichka Bogdanov with critical commentary. Grichka Bogdanov sues Riazuelo for copyright infringement. Gets convicted and fined for 1 euro. 170 scientists publish a letter objection to this conviction.

          Various people argue that this affair shows that many peer reviewers just glance at a paper, which may be especially true if they are asked to peer review a paper outside of their expertise:

          the writings of the Bogdanovs, to the extent that one can make sense of them, have almost nothing to do with string theory. … I first learned of the relevant papers in a posting on the internet by Dr. John Baez. Having found a copy of one of the relevant papers available online, I posted that “the referee clearly didn’t even glance at it.” While the papers were full of rather abstruse prose about a wide variety of technical areas, it was easy to identify outright nonsense in the areas about which I had some expertise. … A pair of non-string theorists were able to get nonsensical papers generally not about string theory published in journals not generally used by string theorists. This is surely an indictment of something, but its relevance to string theory is marginal at best.

      • James says:

        I only skimmed the article, but my god, they’re good-looking.

        EDIT: after further research, I amend that to they were good-looking. Now they just look… weird. Surgery? Ho hum.

      • quarint says:

        What’s worse, the Bogdanov brothers are highly mediatized figures in France, and they’re pretty much the face of science for the non-scientists.

  15. Evan Þ says:

    So, Puerto Rico voted for statehood.

    Or, the 23% of eligible voters who actually turned out for the referendum – after opposition parties declared a boycott over biased language in the ballot question – voted for it.

    Opinions? Given that more than half the headlines are blaring “PUERTO RICO VOTES FOR STATEHOOD,” and that turnout is less than half normal, I think the opposition boycott was counterproductive. Fortunately, Congress doesn’t have to recognize this vote; it has the authority to admit new states or not as it chooses. In my opinion, it should ideally call a new referendum with specifically-defined language. And, since there’re four options under consideration, and people’s ranking of the options probably caused confusion in the last referendum, why not use instant runoff voting?

    • Brad says:

      If I had my druthers Congress wouldn’t give them the option of the status quo. Statehood or independence. I don’t think we should be in the territory holding business. Places like Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands are so tiny that there aren’t great options, but for PR it is big enough that their status should be regularized one way or the other.

    • BBA says:

      Congress will do nothing, regardless of however the island votes, so my recommendation is to stop holding referendums.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I think Congress would give them independence (with or without a Compact of Free Association) if they voted for that. At the very least, international opinion would force them to.

        But now that you bring it up, publicly announcing that they’re no longer going to bother with referendums would be a good way to get international opinion behind getting Congress to do something.

        • BBA says:

          International opinion? We must be talking about different Congresses.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Touché. But on this point and in this hypothetical, I think domestic opinion would also be in line with international. If Puerto Rico squarely voted for independence, I think they’d get it, probably in the next ten or fifteen years.

    • Nornagest says:

      Didn’t that happen a couple years ago?

  16. PedroS says:

    In US-based media, one will sometimes find news with the following structure:

    – “Human-interest hook” : Man/woman-of-the-street John McDoe has some experience
    – legislation regarding that experience has been proposed by some think thank. Enter one quote by Angus O’Doe (think tank member) .
    – a few paragraphs of Pros/cons, with supporting quotes by Distinguished Gentleman Doe Donell and Senator Mary Jane Doe
    – and then the grating part: at this time, I have already forgotten the names of all intervenients. I do remember their roles (man-of-the-street, think tank member, representative, senator, etc.) . But the last paragraphs with the opinions of each of them to the proposals/rejoinders/rebuttals of each other are introduced by their names rather than their roles. “O’Doe counters that X, McDoe is happy that someone is taking matters to higher levels, Doe intends to gather support, etc.”

    I have been reading US sources for 20 yrs and I still keep forgetting to pay attention to the names of “occasional people on the news” and find myself having to go back to find the sentences where their roles are stated and wishing that there were a list of “Dramatis Personae” in the beginning of every newsstory, or that (like in my country’s news) all contributions from each person appear in the same paragraph, rather than as “back-an-forth”.
    Am I the only weirdo who finds this stylistic quirk of US sources annoying?

    • Matt M says:

      I have this problem all the time, not just in news articles but in books and such as well.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Yes – a whole lot of the time when I’m starting a new novel, I have a lot of trouble keeping characters straight. Once in a while, a SF/F book will have a glossary of names in the front; I love that.

        • Matt M says:

          I actually have less issues with novels (good writers are aware of this and generally try to pre-emptively fix it by reminding you who people are), and more with non-fiction, particularly historical stuff when they assume that of course you know that Lord Brownstone was Prime Minister of Australia in the 1940s or whatever.

          • Well... says:

            I see it in nonfiction, where the author is covering a topic previously covered in an apparently more famous work by another author, and keeps referring (often in footnotes) to that author by last name only, leaving me to fill in the blanks that this was another guy who wrote an apparently more famous book on the same topic a long time ago.

        • WashedOut says:

          Crime and Punishment has a wonderful character list at the front of the book, complete with role and a rough English translation of their Russian name. Brilliant.

    • Brad says:

      I’ve definitely noticed and been annoyed by this. If you introduce Mr. John Jones, random Hoover Institution staffer, in paragraph 3 and don’t mention him again until paragraph 6 you need to remind me who he was, not just say Mr. Jones.

    • This is only in the US? I thought it was some kind of genetic foible of journalists. Well, it never occurred to me that others have this problem too. Yes, it would be very nice if they labeled their characters more than once, so I don’t spend half my time scanning the earlier part of the article to figure out who this guy is that said such a ridiculous thing. Glad to hear other countries do a better job.

    • CatCube says:

      I thought I was the only one!

  17. R Flaum says:

    Something I’ve always wondered: when the Mafia takes control of a business because it isn’t able to pay back its loans, they enforce this by threatening to break the legs of/kill the owner. Given the power of this threat, why do they even have to make the loan? Why can’t they just go up to any owner and threaten to have him bumped off if he doesn’t let them take over the business? Is the idea that an owner who’s taken a loan from the Mafia is less likely to go to the police, or what?

    • Brad says:

      Something like that happens too. It’s called a protection racket. Generally they go for a recurring revenue stream in that case.

    • Matt M says:

      Why can’t they just go up to any owner and threaten to have him bumped off if he doesn’t let them take over the business?

      They kinda do this too, it’s just a “protection racket” rather than loan sharking, and they don’t take over the business, they just demand a certain monthly cut of it.

    • John Schilling says:

      Because moral authority is a Big Deal in human affairs; even in a state of anarchic nature we don’t just go about making everyone less powerful than us do what we want and kowtowing to everyone more powerful than us. Cue game theory and evolutionary biology to explain why.

      But a businessman who agreed to pay back a loan and stands to have his legs broken is much more likely to pay back the loan than a person who merely stands to have his legs broken is to hand over his own hard-earned money. A bystander (policeman or otherwise) is more likely to come to the assistance of a robbery victim than to meddle in someone else’s business deal gone bad. And the Mafia itself will find more legbreakers willing to collect debts than it will for extorting random innocent citizens.

      As Matt M notes, “protection rackets” are also a thing, but they have to at least credibly pretend to offer some sort of protection, if only from rival organized crime groups. Same reasons.

    • qwints says:

      As other mentioned, this is called a “protection racket” [link to Monty Python sketch on the subject]

    • Randy M says:

      IANAMD, but wasn’t the Italian Mafias, at least, big on an image of looking out for their community/tribe? They want to be barons, not roving bandits, and so forth. Of course, if you don’t pay back, you are disrespecting them and their generosity, not worth being considered family any more, etc.

      • As best I can tell by Gambetta’s book, the Italian Mafia was mostly engaged in real protection–protecting businesses from thieves, enforcing contracts, and the like. They did some extortion as well, but that wasn’t their main business model.

        Part of the explanation may be that a population that mostly disliked them would have made it harder for them to operate than a population that mostly liked them.

        • The Nybbler says:

          My great-grandfather, who was a shop owner who left Sicily at least in part because of trouble with the Mafia, probably wouldn’t agree with Gambetta. But I guess “some” extortion covers a lot of territory.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        On the topic of mafiosi trying to seem un-threatening: Codes of the Underworld claims that mafiosi went out of their way to appear incompetent at regular business, so that shop-owners wouldn’t worry that they would eventually expropriate their businesses

  18. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    How do you see the role of scientific publishers developing in the future?

    Right now, at least in my field, almost all research is available online and is searchable with services like PubMed, Web of Science or Google Scholar. There’s no need to get a physical copy of a journal every month to be aware of the latest findings. And while journals do provide some services like editing it’s hard to tell the difference in quality between a preprint and it’s eventual published paper.

    Of course we all know that the reason journals can charge $3,000 per submission is because publication in peer-reviewed high-impact journals is tied into funding and hiring decisions. Preprint repositories like bioRxiv can’t compete with journals as long as publication is the name of the game.

    So how do you see this playing out? I’d like to see journals become less central, seeing as they’re not really providing a service so much as extracting rent. But they’re pretty entrenched and I’m not entirely sure what the system which replaces them would look like.

  19. schazjmd says:

    What is “muggle realism”?

    Sorry, I’ve been reading SSC and the comment threads for awhile, and usually I can figure out unusual references by context or with a web search, but I can’t figure out that phrase — not even if it’s positive or disdainful.

    (ETA: I do know what a muggle is.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Muggle Realism is an euphemism for the idea that evolution doesn’t stop below the neck. Scott banned the non-euphemistic term for reasons not quite clear to me, so euphemisms sprang up like mushrooms after rain. This place has apparently quite a soft spot for Harry Potter-inspired terms for banned things.

      • albatross11 says:

        One good reason to ban a term is to require people to spell out what they mean by it. For example, aitch bee dee might mean anything from “all observed differences between races are genetic and intractable” to “the observed differences in important life outcomes between at least one pair of racial groups is more than 0% genetic.”

        • Wrong Species says:

          It just makes discussions around the topic incredibly confusing because people are going to use a replacement word instead of writing out “the observed differences in important life outcomes between at least one pair of racial groups is more than 0% genetic” every single time it’s mentioned.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Usually if you see an out-of-place Harry Potter reference, it’s a euphemism because Scott added the term in question to the word filter as a means of banning discussion of the topic.

      Death Eaters are n e o r e a c t i o n a r i e s
      Muggle Realism is h u m a n b i o d i v e r s i t y

      I should add that he doesn’t do this just to be a dick. It looks bad if his blog comes up in the Google results for crimethink. Pseudonyms only go so far.

      • rlms says:

        That latter term is arguably euphemistic itself.

        • Anonymous says:

          “Scientific Racism” doesn’t quite fit, though.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          It’s a case of euphemism or dysphemism. I can’t think of a term which isn’t derogatory or self-applied.

          That said, if I wanted to introduce the topic to normies I’d just call it evolutionary biology or population genetics because that’s where the serious work is being done. We’re at the point where a lot of the phenotypic differences can be assigned a genotype, and we’re moving in on big-ticket items like educational attainment. There’s no need to reference seventy year old psychology studies if you can point to a specific allele or pathway.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think finding specific alleles or pathways that explain most of the observed differences is still quite a ways off, and also that it will continue to be possible to apply no-true-Scottsman and isolated demands for rigor to claim that any scientific evidence that’s published in the next 10-20 years isn’t *really* proof of a genetic basis between racial groups. And this is made easier by the fact that untangling those differences really is very complicated and messy.

            I see on major part of the value of aitch bee dee discussions as having something in common with the value of AI safety discussions. My sense (again, as a non-expert) is that the case is very strong for some relevant-in-society racial differences being genetic, and that this case will grow stronger over time. Right now, the set of people willing to contemplate the implications of that being true isn’t necessarily the one I’d like to see doing all the thinking about how society ought to respond to it.

            I can imagine the dam breaking and received wisdom shifting rather abruptly on this, not because the evidence shifts all that much, but because a lot of the uniformity of expressed opinion is based on what people expect to hear and what people expect to get in trouble for saying. And if that happens, it’d be nice if we had thought through how to still have a decent society in the presence of the received wisdom looking more like Steve Sailer’s worldview than Malcolm Gladwell’s.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            I can imagine the dam breaking and received wisdom shifting rather abruptly on this, not because the evidence shifts all that much, but because a lot of the uniformity of expressed opinion is based on what people expect to hear and what people expect to get in trouble for saying.

            And also because it’s a truth that actually favors a welfare state, as big differences in ability create a permanent black underclass in a strong meritocracy (where material well-being strongly correlates to ability).

            Of course, much of the left is neoliberal today, but this is not tenable in the long term, as they cannot deliver results to the lower and middle classes this way, but only to an elite. The reality of an increasing gap between the elite and the rest can only be obscured by rhetoric for so long. People are not (complete) fools and more and more people will realize that identity politics without results is not the answer.

            I see increasing numbers of people clamoring for a base income, including many on the left…and Charles Murray.

          • Anonymous says:

            And also because it’s a truth that actually favors a welfare state, as big differences in ability create a permanent black underclass in a strong meritocracy (where material well-being strongly correlates to ability).

            Another is relaxing the meritocracy. Reinstituting titles of nobility, etc.

          • Aapje says:

            Nobility fixates the various classes, so it’s not really an answer, unless you are the one who happens to end up in the upper class.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not sure what you mean by that.

            Another option that comes to mind: millets. Set the various identities apart, have each have their own status and economic hierarchy. Limit interactions between them.

          • And also because it’s a truth that actually favors a welfare state, as big differences in ability create a permanent black underclass in a strong meritocracy (where material well-being strongly correlates to ability).

            That depends on what the underlying argument for redistribution is. If it’s justice along the lines that appeal to both libertarians and Marxists–you deserve to get what you create–then the fact that some people are less productive makes it legitimate that they get less. If it’s equality, then observed inequality justifies redistribution whether or not the basis is genetic, so determining that it is genetic doesn’t strengthen the argument.

            Evidence on genetic differences supports one basis for redistribution, the idea that being lazy is your fault, being stupid is not. But it undercuts the argument that income differences are due to discrimination, and discrimination is unjust.

          • MoebiusStreet says:

            @aapje

            People are not (complete) fools and more and more people will realize that identity politics without results is not the answer.

            But they believe that they are getting results. They’re being told (and believing) that their legislators are passing all these regulations to help them, but the craven capitalists are redoubling their greedy efforts. Thank God that you’ve still got right-thinking representatives like us to keep defending you!

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            My observation is that people favor meritocracy the strongest if they see it as rewarding the hard-working and punishing the lazy (that’s the entire idea behind the American Dream, as well). When people are considered incapable, the most obvious being the physically handicapped, people generally favor government aid to those people.

            Now, I agree that it undermines the case for discrimination as the cause, but that merely means that the SJ explanation loses out to the more classic left-wing explanation. My point is if that adopting some facts causes one left-wing belief system to be strengthened, while another left-wing belief system to be weakened, it does not make sense to argue that the left needs to give up their leftiness before they can adopt these facts, but rather, that they can ‘just’ adopt the more correct lefty belief system.

          • Anonymous says:

            they can ‘just’ adopt the more correct lefty belief system.

            They are somewhat discouraged from doing that, though, if the combined vector of the changes doesn’t increase their purity/leftiness.

          • My observation is that people favor meritocracy the strongest if they see it as rewarding the hard-working and punishing the lazy (that’s the entire idea behind the American Dream, as well). When people are considered incapable, the most obvious being the physically handicapped, people generally favor government aid to those people.

            In the extreme case of someone who is blind or crippled, I think you are correct. But I think most people also consider it appropriate that talented people who produce a lot of value to others get rewarded accordingly–which implies that less talented people get less reward.

            Note, further, that your line of argument could also be used to claim that being lazy isn’t really the fault of the lazy person, just a result of his genes and environment. Take the determinist argument all the way and nobody deserves anything. That’s usually interpreted as meaning that everyone deserves to get the same outcome, but that doesn’t follow–if nobody deserves anything then, in particular, I don’t deserve either a better outcome than you, a worse outcome, or the same outcome.

            Where do you draw the hereditarian line to reward the hard working but not the intelligent or strong? Or do you abandon the whole idea of desert and replace it with something like utilitarianism?

    • Nornagest says:

      An irritating euphemism for a banned phrase involving biological differences between human subpopulations.

    • Randy M says:

      It’s a euphemism for the theory that useful human traits are both heritable and correlate with less useful but more superficially evident traits at some coefficient between zero and one.

    • schazjmd says:

      Oh duh, now it makes sense! Thank you all for your quick replies.

    • Well... says:

      Because I’m a grown man and don’t read kids’ fantasy books, I prefer to use the following euphemisms, which are more accessible anyway:

      – Ray Sree Lizzum
      – All Trite
      – Knee O’Ryack Shun (alternative: Knee O’Arrex)

    • Thanks for asking. I have been meaning to ask the same thing. I imagine I have read the explanation before but I forget these things. I will probably ask again in a few months.

      There are lots of euphemisms and acronyms in SSC that confuse me. I do ask for pity for those of us who don’t do a good job of catching everything to keep these to a minimum and to occasionally define the ones that are used.

  20. johan_larson says:

    I’m reading through The Last of the Mohicans, and to my surprise it is not the simple adventure story I had expected. The sentences are long and complicated, and the vocabulary is really rather recherche. Just in the first paragraph, Cooper gives us “adverse”, “impervious”, “expended”, “effecting”, “recess”, “satiate”, and “monarchs”. It reads as if written for the early-morning class of the hardest-bitten juku in town.

    What’s going on here? Was Cooper showing off his erudition, or am I simply stubbing my toes on two centuries of linguistic drift?

      • Salem says:

        Twain’s essay was written 70 years after Cooper wrote Mohicans, and more than 40 years after he died, so it’s a little unfair to expect him to have incorporated all the criticism.

    • Anatoly says:

      I’m not sure what sort of vocabulary you expected, but Cooper thought he was writing a historical novel for adults, not an adventure story for kids. I imagine it should be similar in vocabulary with other historical novels of the era, e.g. Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.

    • Deiseach says:

      Was Cooper showing off his erudition, or am I simply stubbing my toes on two centuries of linguistic drift?

      Probably a bit of both. I haven’t read “The Last of the Mohicans” since my teens, and had to refresh my memory over on Project Gutenberg.

      I think what Cooper was trying for was to be the American Sir Walter Scott, i.e. a Serious Literary Writer of Native Historical Fiction. Unfortunately, that made him try too hard to emulate the British models, and copying Scott was probably not a good idea either. A simpler style would have suited the story better, there was no need to throw in the kitchen sink with Shakespeare quotes and so forth. That, though, was probably to appeal to the educated taste of the day and demonstrate that he wasn’t merely a hack relaying tall tales of the backwoods, but could handle the approved literary forms.

      But Cooper was trying to rise above “penny dreadful” style stories and produce a Proper American Literature – the great project of American writing seems to be the perennial effort to produce the Great American Novel, and we can’t be too hard on Cooper trying to show that America could produce its own national works drawing on local history and events and geography without having to write copies of British and European works.

  21. Well... says:

    A surprisingly large amount of the time I find that whatever is puzzling me can usually be resolved by reminding myself of how extraordinarily fortunate (or unusual) I am (or my life is) in one sense or another and that the reason few others see things the same way is because they lack that fortune (or because their lives are less unusual).

    But if a lot of other people have this same sensation, then I might have to reevaluate it.

    • Randy M says:

      But if a lot of other people have this same sensation, then I might have to reevaluate it.

      Without an example it’s hard to know what you are talking about. But it’s perfectly possible for everyone to deviate from the norm in some way or another, and the norm to still be an approximate median. There are a lot of parameters that define a person.

      • Iain says:

        Interesting semi-related article. The US Air Force tried building cockpits in the 1950s to fit the “average” pilot, only to discover that literally nobody was actually average on all the relevant metrics.

        • Randy M says:

          Yes, exactly, but it’s hard to believe they would make this mistake:

          In the early 1950s, the U.S. air force measured more than 4,000 pilots on 140 dimensions of size, in order to tailor cockpit design to the “average” pilot.

          Don’t Aerospace engineers learn about tolerance? In the mechanical, not social, engineering sense. If they already have their pilots in mind, even if every pilot had the same proportions (that is, the smallest was the smallest in every measure) making the average cockpit is going to discomfort or exclude half the pilots!

          [edit: situation was slightly more complex on further reading, of course]

      • Well... says:

        Without an example it’s hard to know what you are talking about.

        Example (this is a generic case, not a reference to something specific that happened): Someone says something that indicates he is relatively sheltered (e.g. in the Charles Murray “Bubble Quiz” sense), and the thing he said would seem less true to him if he was relatively less sheltered. Knowing this, I disagree with the person and subconsciously harbor an expectation he should see it my way. Then I remember that I have had an unusually high variety of life experience (I can get more into this elsewhere; incidentally, my Bubble Quiz score is quite high) and I cannot reasonably expect most other people to have the same perspective to draw from.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I definitely feel this way. I’m pretty forgiving, to the point that grudges seem weird to me. But I wonder if this is just because I’ve never had to fight anyone for anything.

    • Zodiac says:

      I think that is pretty much a universal human experience, some of us are just more aware of that compared to others. You will find that it often takes a bit of time for people to reveal the unusual parts of their lives, which makes many people seem generic with generic experiences (I was very baffled to hear that my father once attended an old-school communist congress were caviar was served, especially since there are circumstances in his case that would make that seem even less probable).

      On a related note, do other people feel like novels, movies and maybe even video games foster actual understanding of other people in real life? This was one of the favourite arguments of people advertising reading for kids and teenagers.

  22. Well... says:

    Above, someone mentioned the brothers Bogdanov. Perusing their Wikipedia page, I thought they were interesting enough to warrant their own root comment. They are fraternal twins, which is less interesting to me than if they were monozygotic twins, but they look alike enough to still be interesting.

    As mentioned by another commenter, they are were very good-looking. I will go ahead and say Igor is was the better-looking one. (I hope people will think of the Bogdanovs’ plastic surgeries when they think of transhumanism!)

    What do we make of the twins having to share a Wikipedia page? What do you suppose they make of it? Growing up, I had to share every-damn-thing with my twin brother. If we wound up today sharing a Wikipedia page that would really tick me off.

    Speaking of Wikipedia, the entry says Igor has six children, two of whom were “…born of his marriage at the Château de Chambord in 2009 with writer Amélie de [Frenchity McFrencherton, etc.].” Is that a tic of the Wikipedia writer, or is his whole marriage to that woman really defined by this chateau? The way it’s written also makes me think it is known that this is where the children in question were conceived.

    Grichka (the worse-looking one) never had kids. Those French women apparently agree with my assessment.

    The backstory of the grandmother who raised them is interesting. Worth reading the paragraph on the Wiki page. Go check it out.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Who do you believe, wikipedia or your lying eyes?

    • Aapje says:

      @Well

      They spent most of their life doing things together, so apparently they have a really strong bond. I don’t see why they would feel upset about being grouped together on Wikipedia, when they choose to group themselves together in real life.

    • James says:

      I will go ahead and say Igor is was the better-looking one.

      Agreed.

      Further intrigue: what I find weird is that they both appear to have gone for pretty much the same surgeries, presumably at pretty much the same time. Did they both intrinsically, independently come to want the same, bizarre look, in some kind of weird twin synchrony? Did they come to the conclusion jointly, after having talked it over together enough that what they wanted converged on the same look? They do seem very close (as Aapje notes) so it’s possible. Did one of them talk the other into it, maybe on the grounds that they were twins so it would look weird (more obvious) if only one of them got the surgeries? (Joke’s on him, if so: they couldn’t look any weirder than they do now.) (I didn’t realise at first that they weren’t monozygotic/identical.)

      The fact that they both went for the same thing reminds me, in a bizarre way, of Genesis P-orridge and his wife’s creepy project to turn themselves into the same person.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        On a similar subject, during the NBA playoffs it came up that one of the Washington Wizards players and his twin brother (also an NBA player, but for a different team) have the same tattoos. This spawned a conspiracy theory when the Washington twin injured his ankle but was able to return from the injury very rapidly.

  23. onyomi says:

    I am pretty agnostic on global warming. I don’t have the expertise to evaluate the object level issues and studies, though I’m also highly skeptical of those claiming significant, concerted government action is necessary to avert a catastrophe. Some questions for those who think it is necessary:

    1. Is it not true that the Earth has gone through fairly dramatic periods of warming and cooling in the past, absent human influence? How can we be sure the current trend is primarily our fault?

    2. Whether it is or is not primarily anthropogenic, how can we be sure that the current warming is going to be a bad thing? Life has tended to flourish better in warmer times than cooler times, and the amount of land on Earth which is unusable due to being too cold is more than the reverse. Any change will bring about costs, but how do we know they outweigh the benefits, especially if the cost of preventing the change is itself very high?

    3. If we assume the current warming trend is a bad thing, why is reducing emissions, which carries a very high economic opportunity cost, the best way to go about addressing it? To cite a crazy-sounding example which probably is crazy but is just an example: scientists have hypothesized that a “nuclear winter” could result from nuclear war–why then couldn’t we set off a few bombs somewhere far from habitation (or otherwise throw up a bunch of steam or particulate matter, ideally without the radioactive fallout) and lower global temperatures that way?

    3a. Are CO2 emissions harmful in some way unrelated to warming, such as sea acidification, or if we solve the warming do we save the coral reefs, etc.? That is, if we can cheaply avoid the harmful warming without reducing CO2, do we still have a big problem? Aren’t there also some possible benefits to increased CO2, given that, e.g. plants live off it?

    4. Given that, in other areas, like economics, politicians and academics always seem to coincidentally hit upon that view of reality which best justifies giving more power to politicians and more funding to academics, should we not be prima facie skeptical of climate models and studies which justify giving more power to politicians and funding to academics?

    (Yes, I know we’ve had a number of mega-threads on this before, but they were frankly all extremely tl;dr for me. Obviously a great deal has already been written on this topic, but I am interested in succinct answers to these particular questions if anyone is interested in offering them).

    • I’m not one of the people you are putting the question to, but I’ll answer parts of it anyway.

      1. Is it not true that the Earth has gone through fairly dramatic periods of warming and cooling in the past, absent human influence? How can we be sure the current trend is primarily our fault?

      The Earth has been substantially warmer in the geological past, but I believe the estimates show a slower rate of warming.

      On the other hand, as best I can tell, our proxies for global temperature are not sufficiently precise to show a short, rapid, spike, such as what happened from 1911 to the present if it occurred more than a few thousand years ago. The ice core data show episodes of warming faster than what we have experienced but that’s for a single location, not a global average.

      2. Whether it is or is not primarily anthropogenic, how can we be sure that the current warming is going to be a bad thing?

      We can’t. That’s my main disagreement with the current orthodoxy.

      3a. Are CO2 emissions harmful in some way unrelated to warming, such as sea acidification, or if we solve the warming do we save the coral reefs, etc.? That is, if we can cheaply avoid the harmful warming without reducing CO2, do we still have a big problem? Aren’t there also some possible benefits to increased CO2, given that, e.g. plants live off it?

      Increased CO2 will lower the pH of the oceans. Some people believe that that will have large negative effects on aquatic life. I do not know if they are correct, but they could be.

      On the other hand, doubling the CO2 concentration increases the yield of C3 plants (most but not all crops) by about 30%, which is a big positive effect.

    • skef says:

      Not sure this is a very good non-culture-war topic, but I think I can keep my answer within bounds.

      WRT #2, let’s first abandon any requirement for certainty. The worries are about likelihood of risk. So there are many different ways of approaching the question. Here are a few:

      First, changing things in this way could tip one or another balance so as to lead to a catastrophe involving in many millions of deaths. The current ecological balance might be robust in the face of the changes and might fail to be.

      Second, the expected changes (with the main degree of uncertainty being time-frame) represent a likely disaster for certain sub-populations. Given that the cause of these changes is a kind of pollution, which gets handled a certain way within at least western countries like the U.S., there are ethical rationales for handling this case an analogous way. Climate change Minimizers often claim this is best handled through some kind of reparation system. But these are the same people who tend to argue for, for example, global trade on the total boost to the domestic economy, and then argue against any kind of redistribution. If Minimization followed by laissez-faire amounts to “let them drown”, that’s just catastrophe of another form.

      Third, consider total economic costs and benefits in isolation, assuming we do try to make things right for the affected areas. The economic argument against lowering CO2 is that it would be too economically disruptive. But a good deal of the impact of a fast-changing climate is a corresponding fast mismatch between the environment and a lot of very big and expensive infrastructure. Where we catch water for personal, farm, and industrial use, for example, is closely tied to climate patterns. If those patterns start changing such that the amount of rain not just decreases in aggregate but changes location, all of the sudden a whole lot of concrete is in the wrong place. The risk is that those who are not terribly disadvantaged will refuse to sacrifice much, leading to great suffering on the part of those who are. Some of these changes are entirely expected. Areas that are not now deserts are likely to become deserts. Some areas that are may get more rain, but it could be decades or centuries before they have the right soil for farming.

      • But a good deal of the impact of a fast-changing climate

        The rate of change of global temperature so far is about a degree a century, might go up to several degrees a century. That’s invisibly slow from the standpoint of a human observer of his own environment, very slow in terms of human adjustment costs. It’s fast only from the standpoint of adjustment of organisms that adapt by evolution rather than rational choice–the potential problem with ocean pH. Similarly, sea level rise so far is less than a foot a century, might go up to a few feet a century.

        So whether it’s “fast changing” depends very much on what sorts of problems you are imagining.

    • skef says:

      On #3, this way of thinking vastly increases the risk of extreme catastrophe. For the near future we have one planet. If the climate is pushed to some extreme that puts many people at risk, or looks expensive to mitigate, there will be great pressure for some sort of global environmental intervention. If that intervention has some bad side effect, there will be pressure for further intervention. Beyond nuclear war, which currently seems to be less likely than in (for example) the 60s and 80s, I doubt there is any greater risk of global catastrophe than the combination of climate change and the psychological unwillingness to pay for its costs. If there is one major bad side effect of the first intervention, the aversion to being personally responsible for that effect will create immense pressure for further intervention.

    • reducing emissions, which carries a very high economic opportunity cost,

      Reducing emissions by how much carries a very high cost? That barely makes sense. For one thing, if you reduce emissions by economising on fossil fuel, you have more fossil fuels to use in the future, so it is not an opportunity cost in that sense.

      • Anonymous says:

        He probably means “as much as they would need to be reduced to stop AGW”. Preindustrial levels?

        • Aapje says:

          No one is seriously trying to stop AGW. The current attempts are to slow it down.

          In any case, different measures have costs and benefits (not just AGW benefits, but also others). Some measures are a net benefit even if AGW turns out to be no problem. Some are pretty much neutral. Some have a net cost, ranging from small to huge.

          IMO, rational behavior is to do the first two categories anyway. Then how far you go for the latter category depends on your risk assessment.

          • Anonymous says:

            No one is seriously trying to stop AGW.

            To my mind, that shows a certain lack of imagination.

          • Aapje says:

            (Utopian) imagination killed millions of people, so I prefer realism.

          • Anonymous says:

            Fair enough, although I object to lumping the commies’ social engineering with megaengineering.

          • Aapje says:

            The commies actually also had a propensity to megaengineer.

            Not surprising, since the social engineering they did consisted of very risky moves based on huge theoretical advantages, while the megaengineering they did consisted of very risky moves based on huge theoretical advantages.

            In general, I am very ware of people who claim that their untested plan with many unknown costs and risks of failure is obviously so much better than more predictable plans.

            Note that this doesn’t mean that I oppose research into such solutions, but it seems that we shouldn’t be too eager to use methods that potentially cause massive negative effects themselves. We only have one Earth, so it’s unwise to mess it up.

          • Anonymous says:

            The only thing that comes to mind is the Aral Sea. What else did they megaengineer?

          • Jiro says:

            We only have one Earth, so it’s unwise to mess it up.

            This is less convincing when

            1) We’re told that this is a massive looming catastrophe and that it justifies extreme measures such as drastic carbon reductions. When you’re screaming out that it’s such a danger that it demands extreme measures regardless of the risk, you don’t get to limit it to extreme measures that you like.

            2) We only have one Earth, but we only have one economy and one USA. Cutting down on carbon could destroy those.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            – Northern river reversal (at one point, the plan was to detonate 250 nukes to achieve this, fortunately the plan was ultimately abandoned)
            – Three Gorges Dam
            – The Great Leap forward involved a massive shift from agriculture to backyard smelting
            – White Sea–Baltic Canal
            – South-North Water Transfer Project
            – China and Russia have been pumping chemicals in the atmosphere to control the weather for various events

            @Jiro

            1) The issue is that we are most likely terraforming Earth by pumping out huge quantities of CO2 and such. Not doing that extreme thing is, in itself, the opposite of taking a huge risk.

            2) This is a hysterical argument. The cost of cutting down on carbon depends on how much carbon emissions you want to cut, how fast you try to bring it down and how smart you go about it. It’s beyond idiotic to assume that nations will let their economies collapse, rather than find ways to minimize the costs. If, despite it already being quite evident that investments in alternative energy, more efficient use of energy and such are creating huge improvements in quality and costs, it turns out that sufficient technological improvement is not possible, we can always change course and choose a new path. Either by finding solutions to deal with the consequences or a Hail Mary solution. Presumably, the effort into reducing emissions won’t have been wasted then, but will reduce the remaining problem.

            Anyway, your entire comment is hyperbole layered on straw men, based on the idea that ‘the other’ is some evil, mindless automaton with no ability to update their beliefs and changing their course upon choosing an initial solution.

          • Randy M says:

            @Aapje

            The issue is that we are most likely terraforming Earth by pumping out huge quantities of CO2 and such. Not doing that extreme thing is, in itself, the opposite of taking a huge risk.

            I read Jiro’s point as being “If we’re risking the only earth we have with a high-probability catastrophe, then why isn’t anyone talking about stopping entirely carbon emissions, rather than just limiting the rate of growth?” It seems that half measures being proposed shows the advocates as being disingenuous, though perhaps they are going for the maximum politically achievable result.

          • Jiro says:

            My point was more that throwing a huge monkey wrench into the economy is, in fact, a risky change to a very complex system. The arguments against risking the Earth also apply to risking the economy.

            The proponents of anti-AGW measures, however, think that the threat of AGW is so great that risks like that don’t matter by comparison.

            So if you’re going to take the possibly catastrophic risks of upending the economy, what’s so terrible about taking the risks of geoengineering instead?

            (Of course, the answer is that the people proposing severe anti-AGW restrictions are ideologically opposed to using fossil fuels. To them either the risk is actually a feature, or the risk according to their ideology does not exist.)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Proposal: We institute a Carbon Tax, on the condition that for every dollar of carbon tax, two dollars of other taxes have to be cut.

            All in favor?

            [EDIT] – To elaborate, I’m an AGW-sorta-skeptic who would enthusiastically embrace the above, provided I was confident it would be implemented in good faith. I expect a lot of other AGW Skeptics would do likewise. I’ve never, ever seen anyone on the AGW Crisis side propose an idea like this.

            If AGW is a crisis, why don’t we see proposals like this? If the primary opposition to AGW solutions is due to economics, why don’t we see a whole lot more focus on addressing economic concerns?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            ‘the other’ is some evil, mindless automaton with no ability to update their beliefs and changing their course upon choosing an initial solution.

            I’d call it more like Moloch. Once you start one of these massive regulatory endeavors, they do not stop. They develop their own support and reinforcement systems, independent of whether they’re accomplishing any of the goals for which they were enacted.

            I’m also not impressed with the ability of progressives to change course upon choosing an initial solution (present company excluded, natch). I’m sure this is my own biases speaking, and I’m not sure how to say this charitably, but I see progressives as knocking down an awful lot of fences, oblivious to the bulls now goring people all around them, and wandering off to the next fence.

          • Iain says:

            @Faceless Craven:

            The entire point of a carbon tax is to dissuade people from producing carbon, thereby driving the revenue from the tax down over time. Trying to replace normal government funding with sin taxes is a bad idea.

            I don’t think most proponents of a carbon tax particularly care where the income goes. The whole point is to increase the financial cost of carbon emission to match the environmental cost; the fact that a carbon tax raises money is more of a nuisance than anything else, because you end up having political debates about where that money should go. I’d personally be happy to just hand it back as a flat rebate to all citizens, which seems like the least distortionary thing to do with it.

            I assume your proposal of cutting two dollars per dollar raised is a joke, but I would seriously be willing to support a plan that handed out one dollar of tax rebates for every dollar raised by the carbon tax, provided that the overall effect isn’t regressive.

            Edit: Oops, didn’t see your edit. I don’t follow your logic. Why, exactly, should we see proposals like that? Is the idea that progressives should be so desperate to deal with climate change that they should be offering up a bunch of completely unrelated tax cuts in an attempt to attract conservative votes? I can understand a desire to keep a carbon tax revenue-neutral, but revenue-negative seems hard to justify.

            It’s not like we haven’t seen revenue-neutral proposals. Here’s one from the Canadian Liberals in 2008.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – “I assume your proposal of cutting two dollars per dollar raised is a joke, but I would seriously be willing to support a plan that handed out one dollar of tax rebates for every dollar raised by the carbon tax, provided that the overall effect isn’t regressive.”

            It wasn’t a joke at all, actually. I’d certainly be a hell of a lot happier with that than without it, but I’ve never, ever heard a Carbon Tax proposal that worked this way, and I have regrettably obvious suspicions for why that is.

            The objection from Red Tribe to Carbon Taxes is that it’s raising taxes, which they already see as way too high and which they want much lower. The argument from Blue Tribe is that a Carbon Tax wouldn’t actually be that big of a deal anyway, and it addresses a very serious problem.

            If the problem is very serious, and if Carbon Taxes wouldn’t be that big of a deal, why not accept a serious cut to actual taxes, in exchange for a carbon tax and a solution to a problem people regularly describe as an existential threat? People in this very thread are talking about how unrestrained Climate Change is likely to kill many millions of people; are seriously large tax cuts not worth saving many millions of lives? Where’s the urgency?

            [EDIT] – Damn edit wars. Sorry about that. Will wait for replies before replying further.

          • Matt M says:

            Proposal: We institute a Carbon Tax, on the condition that for every dollar of carbon tax, two dollars of other taxes have to be cut.

            The state of Washington recently tried a 1-for-1 swap and it was resoundingly defeated when the progressive left came out opposed to it because it was “too regressive” or what have you. So you can forget your two for one deal. Even one for one is unacceptable to them.

          • Brad says:

            If there weren’t any limitations on what the offsetting tax cuts would be, just the total amount of tax cuts, I’d go for it.

          • Matt M says:

            Is the idea that progressives should be so desperate to deal with climate change that they should be offering up a bunch of completely unrelated tax cuts in an attempt to attract conservative votes?

            Yes, exactly.

            If you truly believe that climate change, if left unchecked, will completely destroy civilization as we know it, I expect that you MIGHT be willing to at least CONSIDER sacrificing some of your short-term political goals in order to achieve it.

            The fact that absolutely nobody is proposing things like “Okay right-wing, you agree to this carbon tax and we’ll agree to stop harassing Christian bakers about gay wedding cakes” suggests, to me, that the panic is overblown and that people don’t truly believe the situation is as bad as they claim it is. It’s just this supposedly super-terrible thing, and yet, apparently not terrible enough to get you to agree to cutting the overall tax burden by even a single cent.

            No compromises are allowed. The ONLY acceptable solutions are ones that are in line with the types of proposals the left would have favored anyway even if climate change didn’t exist. Nothing that moves us rightward, on any axis, (or even that locks in the status quo) is even up for consideration.

          • Iain says:

            If conservatives really care so much about abortion, why do they never try trading away big tax increases for abortion restrictions?

            A carbon tax is a good start to reducing carbon emissions. It isn’t going to save the planet single-handedly. If you are trying to tackle a long-term problem, you don’t start by setting a precedent that you’ll pay a king’s ransom to anybody who chooses to deny that your problem exists. That’s just going to make your job harder down the road.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Matt M – Would you go for it, though, if it were on offer and assuming enforcement of the two-for-one deal were absolutely ironclad?

          • Matt M says:

            If conservatives really care so much about abortion, why do they never try trading away big tax increases for abortion restrictions?

            Happily conceded. I’ve long said that the right’s rhetoric on abortion does not match their observed behavior towards it (i.e. if most people truly believed it was murder, there would be MUCH more abortion clinic bombings, etc.).

            How about this one. Give me a list of absolutely everything you would want to fix climate change. Higher taxes, shifting kinds of taxes, global regulatory structures, all of it. Everything you want.

            THEN make a list of other political areas where you’d be willing to sacrifice to get what you want. Would you trade everything you need to solve climate change for a Muslim ban? For a border wall with Mexico? For eliminating the minimum wage? For more liberal gun rights?

            What, exactly, are you willing to give up, to solve this problem? If the answer is “absolutely nothing” then I am not convinced the problem is nearly as serious as you claim it is. Serious problems require serious sacrifice. “Give in to all the demands I was already making before this problem existed” is not sacrifice. Requiring that your political opponents make huge sacrifices while you make none does not count either.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Matt M

            The fact that absolutely nobody is proposing things like “Okay right-wing, you agree to this carbon tax and we’ll agree to stop harassing Christian bakers about gay wedding cakes” suggests, to me, that the panic is overblown and that people don’t truly believe the situation is as bad as they claim it is.

            Improve that argument a little bit with things attractive to the right wing that would also help reduce carbon emissions, like banning immigration from the low carbon footprint 3rd world into the high carbon footprint 1st world.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – “If conservatives really care so much about abortion, why do they never try trading away big tax increases for abortion restrictions?

            The overwhelming majority of Blue Tribe seems pretty sure that Climate Change is at least as bad as another World War. The overwhelming majority of Red Tribe does not feel that way about abortion; even the overwhelming majority of pro-life hardliners find it appalling, but not worth drastic measures to solve. This argument is not a good one, I think.

            “A carbon tax is a good start to reducing carbon emissions. It isn’t going to save the planet single-handedly.”

            And here we come to the rub. If it’s not going to solve the problem single-handedly, what are the other hands involved, and how much do they cost?

            “If you are trying to tackle a long-term problem, you don’t start by setting a precedent that you’ll pay a king’s ransom to anybody who chooses to deny that your problem exists. That’s just going to make your job harder down the road.”

            What you are saying here seems to boil down to “the problem is not serious enough to require cooperation from our opponents”. That is in fact your opponents position. If cooperation is not worth compromise, then why should others compromise or cooperate? If you aren’t willing to compromise secondary goals to achieve primary ones, which goals are really which?

          • Matt M says:

            “@Matt M – Would you go for it, though, if it were on offer and assuming enforcement of the two-for-one deal were absolutely ironclad?”

            Two for one? In a second. Hell I’d take one for one if I actually believed it would be enforced that way (worth noting that in most jurisdictions that have tried this, they’ve fudged the numbers and it has NOT actually been enforced that way)

          • Protagoras says:

            Offering purely hypothetical trades when you’re not actually one of the decision-makers seems pointless, and indeed strategically unwise; it carries all the potential to antagonize members of your coalition who are especially attached to whatever you express willingness to trade away without any of the potential benefit that might come from actually engaging in the trade.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Protagoras

            Offering purely hypothetical trades when you’re not actually one of the decision-makers seems pointless, and indeed strategically unwise

            But the decision makers never propose these things, either. Would they consider any of these trades, like stopping immigration from low carbon nations to high carbon nations? Are they just bad negotiators, or is there some other reason for not considering such trades?

          • Sivaas says:

            @Iain: Could that potentially be reworked as a big chunk of additional federal aid (maybe for education?) to states that ban abortion, conditional on that ban remaining in place (like they did with the drinking age and highway funds)?

            I think you could get the right to go for that, and I don’t think it would go over well on the left (since the states who would most quickly make that deal are the most conservative). So I must have changed something fundamental in the rework. Any thoughts on what?

            What sort of mechanism would you propose here?

          • Iain says:

            @Faceless Craven:

            Okay, then pick two other prominent conservative issues. Why won’t conservatives trade off taxes for immigration? Why didn’t they trade gay marriage for military spending?

            Politicians who go up to their counterparts on the other side of the aisle and say “look, we’re really desperate; throw us a bone and we’ll give you everything you want” tend not to be successful. That’s not unique to discussions of carbon taxes.

            If you’re looking for people who take climate change extremely seriously, you don’t have to look any further than the example of the Washington carbon tax that Matt M brought up. Here’s a statement from one of the environmental organizations that opposed the measure; the key take-away is that they opposed it because it didn’t go far enough. Being revenue-neutral means not investing the income of the carbon tax in clean energy; if you believe that the problem is urgent enough that we need clean energy investment now, then cooperating with your opponents is a luxury you can’t afford. I would personally have voted for the measure, but I don’t think the opposing stance is unreasonable or demonstrates a lack of commitment.

            And here we come to the rub. If it’s not going to solve the problem single-handedly, what are the other hands involved, and how much do they cost?

            Subsequent increases to the size of the carbon tax, to keep up the pressure to reduce emissions? Targeted investment in various technological projects to accelerate the development of green energy? Infrastructure spending to, say, accelerate the large-scale build-out of charging stations for electric cars? There are lots of other projects that could help, none of which are best advocated from a position of abject submission.

            What you are saying here seems to boil down to “the problem is not serious enough to require cooperation from our opponents”. That is in fact your opponents position. If cooperation is not worth compromise, then why should others compromise or cooperate? If you aren’t willing to compromise secondary goals to achieve primary ones, which goals are really which?

            Try: “The problem is serious enough to require willing cooperation from our opponents, rather than constant obstruction. If we start rewarding them with significant political victories for standing firm on climate change denial, we’re all screwed.”

            @Sivaas:

            I’m not seriously proposing that conservatives should trade taxes for abortion, or abortion for taxes. I’m just pointing out that a reluctance to trade off Priority X for Priority Y is hardly unique to this situation, and is not proof of a lack of conviction in Priority Y.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m just pointing out that a reluctance to trade off Priority X for Priority Y is hardly unique to this situation

            If your position is that climate change is not unique among political issues then we’re in agreement on that one.

            The problem is huge portions of the left are insisting that it IS unique. That it’s a very unique threat the nature of which requires immediate action.

            Okay. If true, you should approach a unique problem with unique solutions (like compromising with your hated enemy). The fact that you are unwilling to do so suggests that this is NOT unique, that it’s just another boring game of politics. Yawn.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – “The problem is serious enough to require willing cooperation from our opponents, rather than constant obstruction.”

            You have not been able to get it, nor are you likely to any time soon. Red Tribe is not going to wake up tomorrow and decide that no, wait, the Blues were right about everything all along, are they?

            “If we start rewarding them with massive political victories for standing firm on climate change denial, we’re all screwed.”

            They really and truly do not believe that Climate Change is a problem worth addressing out of their own pocket. They have believed this for decades, and show no signs of stopping. You can believe that this is a deliberately perverse strategy on their part, just as they believe that carbon taxes are a deliberately perverse strategy on your part. Unfortunately, the status quo is that they get what they want, and you get nothing. What are you willing to do to change that status quo?

            Further, at a meta-level, the refusal to consider compromises on an issue of supposed-existential-threat proportions *massively and unavoidably* undermines confidence in Blue Tribe sincerity about those positions. If Blue Tribe really thought Climate Change were as serious a problem as they have claimed consistently, non-stop, *for decades*, the conversation would not go the way it does.

            And yes, this absolutely goes the other way as well! Red Tribe kept their guns when a great many of them became single-issue voters on the subject of Gun Control. That meant sacrificing every other issue, hence by your logic rewarding their opponents for threatening guns, right? Only rather than emboldening Blue Tribe, the pro-gun voters actually won one of the only clear Red Tribe victories of the last decades, more or less won the issue outright, and helped strengthen the rest of Red Tribe as a result.

            “Here’s a statement from one of the environmental organizations that opposed the measure; the key take-away is that they opposed it because it didn’t go far enough.”

            …Which is exactly why Carbon Tax opponents oppose Carbon taxes. Of course it doesn’t go far enough. Of course more will need to be done, more sacrifices need to be made. Of course that means Red Tribe losing and Blue Tribe getting what they wanted all along.

            As long as this is the dynamic, Red Tribe will fight every step of the way. If you can afford to wait out that obstruction, then we have no problem because Climate Change isn’t actually all that important, is it? If you can’t afford to wait, then you need a compromise.

            “I would personally have voted for the measure, but I don’t think the opposing stance is unreasonable or demonstrates a lack of commitment.”

            I wouldn’t have been opposed to it before, but when you yourself tell me that it’s only an opener, and that of course it can’t stay revenue neutral and will have to be jacked up later, well, see above.

            “There are lots of other projects that could help, none of which are best advocated from a position of abject submission.”

            See Matt M’s response above. As he says, Climate Change is not supposed to be just another issue. If it is, then I’m pretty comfortable with the Red Tribe consensus, and apparently you are too.

            [EDIT] – Nor is this a one-way street!

          • albatross11 says:

            Political movements aren’t individuals, and often won’t have internally consistent values or ideas or goals. Finding inconsistencies in the values of political coalitions is entirely unsurprising, and it doesn’t say anything at all about the sincerity of the beliefs of the individual members of those coalitions. This really comes down to the Arrow Theorem, right?

            Also, political movements are coalitions. The Republicans as a whole oppose abortion and gun control, and favor lower taxes and fewer social programs. But that’s really three or four mostly-distinct groups within the big Republican coalition. The Republicans as a whole can’t accept public funding of abortion in order to get lower taxes, say, because they’ll lose a big chunk of their supporters when they make that trade. The Democrats can’t accept a ban on abortion in exchange for carbon taxes because that will lose *them* a big chunk of their supporters, who will stop supporting them when they stop being the pro-choice party.

          • Matt M says:

            Political movements aren’t individuals, and often won’t have internally consistent values or ideas or goals.

            That’s fine. I’m not asking a “political movement.” I am asking you, individuals who identify as left-leaning, on this blog, to step forward and tell me what YOU would sacrifice to fix climate change. I understand you are not representative of the entire left and that many others on your side would not accept your compromise. I understand that even if they did, many on the right would not accept it and it might not happen.

            I want a few individuals, as a gesture of good faith, to step forward and prove to me that this issue is so serious that you’re willing to sacrifice things that you wouldn’t sacrifice for any normal issue.

            As an example, many prominent libertarians officially endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and later Trump in 2016, under the explicit terms of “I understand that this person is horrible on economics, but they are slightly better on foreign policy, and that is far more important from a libertarian standpoint. Therefore, I am willing to sacrifice taxes/tariffs/immigration/whatever in order to reduce the amount of people killed in pointless wars.”

            It didn’t matter. Nobody cared what “prominent libertarians” had to say about much of anything. And both Trump and Obama still warmongered plenty. But it at least showed you that you were dealing with mature intellectuals who understood the concept of tradeoffs.

            I feel like I’m ready to invoke my inner Illidan Stormrage here. Or at least a random Illidari NPC. “I’ve sacrificed everything! What have YOU given?”

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Albatross11 – “The Democrats can’t accept a ban on abortion in exchange for carbon taxes because that will lose *them* a big chunk of their supporters, who will stop supporting them when they stop being the pro-choice party.”

            You’re saying that it’s easier to convince members of a hostile tribe to sacrifice their own sacred values and adopt yours, than it is to convince members of your own tribe to trade one sacred value off against another.

            I will grant you that the latter is not easy, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than the former. This argument holds no water.

            @Matt M – I started a thread on this topic on the r/SSC culture war thread, here.

            At least a few from both tribes were willing to agree this was a good idea. And in another refutation to Iain’s argument, the fact that they were willing to agree that such a deal seems like a good idea reduces my own unwillingness to set the deal at a lower rate than 2-for-1!

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re saying that it’s easier to convince members of a hostile tribe to sacrifice their own sacred values and adopt yours, than it is to convince members of your own tribe to trade one sacred value off against another.

            It sounds to me more like different parts of the coalition have different sacred values and the people in charge of the coalition can’t afford to lose any of them. You could hope to peel off parts of the other guys’ coalition in trade, but that is a project.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            You’re saying that it’s easier to convince members of a hostile tribe to sacrifice their own sacred values and adopt yours, than it is to convince members of your own tribe to trade one sacred value off against another.

            I will grant you that the latter is not easy, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than the former. This argument holds no water.

            Sounds like polarization in a nutshell to me. Hardly anyone seriously tries to convert the other side or make compromise anymore, it’s just a contest of blocking actions and shouting each other down.

          • Jiro says:

            Okay, then pick two other prominent conservative issues. Why won’t conservatives trade off taxes for immigration? Why didn’t they trade gay marriage for military spending?

            Because conservatives think that both of the items in the pairs are comparable, so completely losing one item for a small chance at getting the other one is a bad tradeoff..

            Leftists claim that climate change is really world-destroying catastrophic and not comparable to anything else. So they don’t have this excuse.

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M:

            If your position is that climate change is not unique among political issues then we’re in agreement on that one.

            The problem is huge portions of the left are insisting that it IS unique. That it’s a very unique threat the nature of which requires immediate action.

            “Requires immediate action” and “not unique among political issues” are mutually compatible statements. Political issues can be hugely important.

            This is yet another instance of one of my least favourite arguments: “The actions of my political opponents do not conform to my model of their beliefs. Therefore, my political opponents are being disingenuous!” It’s especially tiresome when it treats said political opponents as an undifferentiated lump, which is presumed to act with a single will. Take, for example, the Washington carbon tax measure, which you claim proves that the left won’t vote for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. The measure got 42% of the vote. Where did all those votes come from, if not the left? Do you think that the right suddenly decided to vote for carbon taxes? According to Washington’s Office of Financial Management, the measure was expected to decrease overall revenue by $797M over the next six years; it still came within 8% of passing. Concluding from this that the “progressive left” is categorically unwilling to negotiate is preposterous.

            Most of this argument falls apart as soon as you realize that there are multiple distinct groups on the left side of the aisle, and the people with the most power to make deals are also the people with the strongest incentives to remain relatively moderate to capture centrist voters.

            @Faceless Craven

            And yes, this absolutely goes the other way as well! Red Tribe kept their guns when a great many of them became single-issue voters on the subject of Gun Control. That meant sacrificing every other issue, hence by your logic rewarding their opponents for threatening guns, right? Only rather than emboldening Blue Tribe, the pro-gun voters actually won one of the only clear Red Tribe victories of the last decades, more or less won the issue outright, and helped strengthen the rest of Red Tribe as a result.

            Wait, what? How is this at all parallel? The equivalent here would be blue tribe voters deciding to vote purely on the basis of environmental issues — which is, you know, what a number of them have actually done. The equivalent of your 2-for-1 proposal would be pro-gun Republicans approaching the Democrats and offering to support Obamacare in exchange for an abandonment of the assault weapons ban, which did not even remotely take place. What exactly are you proposing that Republicans offered to trade away for gun rights?

            I wouldn’t have been opposed to it before, but when you yourself tell me that it’s only an opener, and that of course it can’t stay revenue neutral and will have to be jacked up later, well, see above.

            I did not say it could not stay revenue neutral. I said that you would probably have to increase the tax paid per unit of carbon. A carbon tax provides an incentive to reduce emissions; as more efficient (say) cars hit the market, it becomes necessary to increase the tax so that there is a continued incentive to reduce emissions. The goal is not to bring in any more money; indeed, without raising the rate the amount of money being brought in would hopefully plummet. You can still keep handing it all back as tax rebates, so long as we’re still applying pressure to cut emissions.

          • Proposal: We institute a Carbon Tax, on the condition that for every dollar of carbon tax, two dollars of other taxes have to be cut.

            All in favor?

            In favor, provided that cutting really means cutting, not subsidies pretending to be tax cuts.

          • the fact that a carbon tax raises money is more of a nuisance than anything else, because you end up having political debates about where that money should go. I’d personally be happy to just hand it back as a flat rebate to all citizens, which seems like the least distortionary thing to do with it.

            A reduction of any distortionary tax, such as an income tax or a sales tax, is less distortionary than a demogrant–minus ten is less than zero. Isn’t that obvious?

            Suppose I reworded your position as “we should have a carbon tax and use it to fund a basic income for all.” Isn’t that exactly equivalent to what you proposed? Does it look to you like a politically neutral proposal motivated only by concern with AGW?

          • On the question of whether the behavior of people in the climate movement is consistent with their claimed beliefs, we have better evidence than hypothetical bargains. Nobody claims nuclear reactors produce CO2. Not many people claim they threaten the end of the world through other mechanisms. They provide a direct substitute for fossil fuel, power 24 hours a day whether or not the sun is shining or the wind blowing.

            So if warming is really a catastrophic threat, almost everyone in that movement should be in favor of nuclear energy. A few people are, most notably James Hansen, most are not.

          • John Schilling says:

            Proposal: We institute a Carbon Tax, on the condition that for every dollar of carbon tax, two dollars of other taxes have to be cut.

            All in favor?

            One problem with this, and a reason almost nobody who matters is really in favor, is that the American political system (and I believe most others) donesn’t really allow “two dollars of other taxes have to be cut”. You can promise to cut taxes under circumstances X and Y, but that promise isn’t legally binding more than two years into the future and it isn’t legally binding on the congressmen who will sooner or later be elected to replace the ones who made the promise.

            It might be possible to impose a carbon tax and wholly repeal some other tax that is reasonably forecast to raise about the same amount of money from about the same taxpayers, trusting the institutional inertia against imposing wholly new taxes – which, after all, is why we don’t have a carbon tax now. But even that is going to generate skepticism. Unlikely that most Republicans would go for it, not because they don’t think it is a good deal, but because they don’t trust the deal.

            Still, that makes it even better as a cheap signal. Propose a revenue-neutral carbon tax (2:1 is too unrealistic even as a signal), wait for the GOP to shoot it down, and score points for perceived reasonableness that you can turn into votes at the next election. Or, peel off enough moderate republicans to actually pass the thing. Win-win.

            That the green wing of the Democratic party isn’t doing this, is IMO both a big cultural blind spot and evidence of insincerity at least w/re the alleged magnitude of the problem. They may well think it is important; they don’t really think it is more important than winning the usual sort of political victories.

            See also: nuclear power.

          • A carbon tax provides an incentive to reduce emissions; as more efficient (say) cars hit the market, it becomes necessary to increase the tax so that there is a continued incentive to reduce emissions.

            The objective of a Pigouvian tax, such as a carbon tax, is to transfer the cost imposed by an action to the actor so that he will properly take account of it. If the externality from CO2 is, say, $50/ton, then you want a $50/ton carbon tax to start with.

            Why would you want to increase it in response to a decrease in emissions? The objective isn’t to raise money, it’s to get the tradeoff between the costs and benefits of burning fossil fuels right.

          • Nornagest says:

            That only works if the externality is linear in the resource you’re consuming, which carbon might not be.

          • Brad says:

            The objective of a Pigouvian tax, such as a carbon tax, is to transfer the cost imposed by an action to the actor so that he will properly take account of it. If the externality from CO2 is, say, $50/ton, then you want a $50/ton carbon tax to start with.

            What if the marginal externality of what you’re are taxing with the Pigouvian tax is not constant? Not even linear?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – ““Requires immediate action” and “not unique among political issues” are mutually compatible statements. Political issues can be hugely important.”

            I rather strongly disagree. Name an issue we’ve taken action on in the last ten years where no action would have been widely discussed as a risk to our entire civilization, or even plausibly brought our country down if we hadn’t done it. Political issues can be hugely important, but I don’t think most are, and the position that Climate Change is THE most important issue is not a rare one.

            “Wait, what? How is this at all parallel? The equivalent here would be blue tribe voters deciding to vote purely on the basis of environmental issues — which is, you know, what a number of them have actually done.”

            Yes, that is roughly the parallel I am drawing. I do not think it would actually take many of them to make that commitment to actually get the above deal through; I think an awful large part of Red Tribe would be all for it.

            “What exactly are you proposing that Republicans offered to trade away for gun rights?”

            We won on guns. We lost on Abortion, Gay Marriage, Sex Ed, Censorship, and a whole host of other issues that people don’t even remember any more. It seems arguable to me that the hard stance on Gun Rights was a significant boost for the Libertarian faction of Red Tribe at the expense of the Christian Conservative faction, which in fact has vastly diminished in relevance since 2000.

            “This is yet another instance of one of my least favourite arguments: “The actions of my political opponents do not conform to my model of their beliefs. Therefore, my political opponents are being disingenuous!” ”

            This was addressed specifically at Matt, but I’d like to address it. The reality is that large sections of both tribes are being disingenuous. see for example this comment and my reply to it. Their disingenuousness is creating gridlock, by concealing viable compromises between the two Tribes and encouraging both to see every problem as solvable only by complete hegemony. This is a very bad thing, and I think poking at people’s positions by offering deals like the one above is a good way to solve this problem. Workable compromise is my actual interest here.

            “I did not say it could not stay revenue neutral. I said that you would probably have to increase the tax paid per unit of carbon.”

            Ah, my mistake.

            The importance of the tax cuts being greater than parity is that it rules out the Carbon Tax being compatible with tax increases generally. That is a very serious concern from the Red Tribe perspective. Telling them that the new tax that they didn’t want will stay revenue-neutral isn’t any assurance at all; they know your tribe tends to favor higher taxes, and if they had any control at all you wouldn’t have gotten this tax in the first place. If you want cooperation, their concerns need to be addressed in a convincing way. As is, Blue Tribe screams bloody murder whenever Red Tribe tries to cut freakin’ NPR or PBS! You can’t have everything as the absolute first priority. At some point, you are going to have to compromise.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s especially tiresome when it treats said political opponents as an undifferentiated lump, which is presumed to act with a single will.

            I’ve already said this, but I will repeat myself. I’m not asking “the left.” I am asking you, Iain, individually, what would YOU sacrifice? What would you give up for extensive and complete action on climate change? If the answer is “nothing” then I’ve proven my point. If the answer is “something” then we have a negotiation and I can trust that you’re acting in at least somewhat good faith and progress can be made.

            I make this offer to any other left-leaning person concerned about climate change who is reading this comment as well. Tell me what YOU, individually, would sacrifice in exchange for whatever it is you think would solve climate change.

          • Matt M says:

            The objective isn’t to raise money, it’s to get the tradeoff between the costs and benefits of burning fossil fuels right.

            And herein lies the problem. Many on the left cannot conceive of a world where raising money for the state is not an obviously good thing. And therefore, any measures that do NOT raise money for the state are assumed to be regressive and pointless (like what happened in Washington).

            But hey, when your great-grandchildren are dying of thirst from an unsolvable global drought, be sure to tell them that you made the right call, because allowing the right to demand a 10% decrease in total tax burden in exchange for solving climate change would have been a poor strategic decision and would have put your voting coalition at risk.

          • Brad says:

            You are doing a heck of a job with that whole no culture war thing.

            Please tell us more about what those on the left think. I’m sure we all appreciate your expertise on the subject.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I am asking you, individuals who identify as left-leaning, on this blog, to step forward and tell me what YOU would sacrifice to fix climate change

            Oh man, it is really hard to get out of the “negotiating” headspace when answering a question like this! I had to delete my last comment.

            Anyway, I’d be happy to outlaw abortion (cheap since I’m a man), abolish the department of education, let the republicans decide what to do with all our carbon tax revenue, withdraw from the WTO, start 2 wars of their choice (but not with Iran, I like those guys), and lower the tax on corporate income by an amount of their choice.

          • Aapje says:

            @FacelessCraven

            The reason why people are wary to offer huge early compromises is because their opponents then usually start treating the offered compromise as if it wasn’t a compromise, but what the group actually wants. So they demand another compromise, which if offered, is treated as if it wasn’t a compromise, etc, etc. So you end up with nothing if you play this game.

            I’ve seen progressives argue for a move from income tax to a pollution based consumption tax (like carbon tax). This in itself is highly regressive and thus a major sacrifice, as many progressives believe that we already have unsustainable income/wealth differences. That you don’t see this offer as progressives giving anything up, but rather, as getting everything they want, just proves that you are not objectively evaluating the situation, but are working from perceptions.

            An issue is that perceptions have more to do with narratives than facts, which is where the game theory elements come in that previous posters have discussed. You have to start massaging people’s irrational beliefs so they feel that the other side is giving up a lot, that they get a major victory, etc.

            PS. Your 2-for-1 suggestion is also dumb in the same way that all plans to cut taxes are dumb. You first decide which spending to cut and then you can decide which taxes to cut. The opposite is irresponsible.

            They really and truly do not believe that Climate Change is a problem worth addressing out of their own pocket.

            This is the kind of sentiment is beyond toxic. You are not willing to see that many conservatives do believe in climate change, that moving to sustainable energy has benefits outside of the climate change effects as well, etc, etc.

            The entire idea with living together and compromising is that in most situations, compromises make everyone better off, exactly because few conflicts are pure black/white.

            This extreme polarization is really bad and is exactly why the red tribe irritate the shit out of me as well. This underdog complex is not sane.

            @DavidFriedman

            The reason to not price in the entire externality from the start, but price it in more and more over time is to do exactly what Jiro argues the carbon tax advocates are not concerned about: not destroying the economy. The idea is to gradually price in the entire externality, so society has a chance to adapt gracefully, by developing new technology, slowly phasing out polluting capital goods in favor of less polluting ones, etc.

            That even you don’t get this is really telling to how little understanding of carbon taxes exists here and why the critics here are mainly debating straw men.

            This stuff is carbon tax 101.

          • Rob K says:

            I would do a 1:1 carbon tax/cut to other taxes; would prefer payroll tax, which seems like a pretty clear win regarding input costs.

            That said, the entire “refusal to trade other political goals for it shows its not a crisis” line is horseshit. A norm of “parties that oppose action on society-wide problems get to trade necessary action for their priorities” incentivizes defecting and pretending not to believe in future society-wide problems. Yes, climate change is a very serious problem, but I also believe we’ll encounter other similarly serious problems in the future, and numerous less serious problems, and the norms around how those are handled are going to matter.

          • Matt M says:

            A norm of “parties that oppose action on society-wide problems get to trade necessary action for their priorities” incentivizes defecting and pretending not to believe in future society-wide problems.

            So, once again, you are willing to risk the supposed extinction of life on Earth because stopping it might “incentivize defecting.” Um, okay.

            Yes, climate change is a very serious problem, but I also believe we’ll encounter other similarly serious problems in the future, and numerous less serious problems, and the norms around how those are handled are going to matter.

            And here we have it. This sounds all very logical and reasonable. But I can’t help but also see it as an admission that it won’t stop with climate change. That once the right rolls over and gives you everything you want to solve this “very serious problem” we will immediately shift priorities such that inequality will now be a “very serious problem” and admitting refugees will be a “very serious problem” and so on and so forth.

            You’re right that compromising here would encourage defecting. Of course, from the right-wing perspective, compromising with you here encourages hyperbole and framing every problem as a catastrophic threat to the continued existence of mankind.

            But no compromise essentially means the continuation of the status quo. The right is presumably fine with that, because they don’t believe CO2 emissions are going to wipe out all life on Earth. If you DO believe that, you best get compromising….

          • random832 says:

            This seems more or less equivalent to why the Right isn’t willing to allow even the smallest measure of gun control. The argument I tend to see is that if you change your position to be halfway between yours and your opponents, and theirs does not change at all, then once you iterate this a few times they have everything they want and you have nothing you want.

            EDIT: This is the no culture war thread? Oh well, I’m not going to delete my single small contribution to what is by now a sprawling mess of a culture war subthread. Scott can delete the lot if he feels like. (Maybe we need a way to move subthreads)

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M: If I were a politician with the capacity to set up deals, and I were certain that jettisoning various leftists priorities was the only way to pass a carbon tax, I would go ahead and make the best deal I could. I am not a politician, and I do not believe that there is no way forward on carbon taxes.

            The carbon tax in British Columbia was implemented by the conservative party in the province (confusingly named the Liberals). One of the candidates for the leadership of the Canadian federal Conservatives ran on a platform of supporting a carbon tax, and came in fifth (out of like fifteen). A majority of Americans in every state wanted the US to stay in the Paris Accords. (Only 56% of Republicans wanted to pull out.) Slowly but surely, my side is already winning.

            Climate change is important. Over the next few decades, we are going to have to make significant changes. If the price for getting started a few years sooner involves significantly empowering the most obstructionist elements of the opposition, I don’t see that as a good trade. Faceless Craven brings up guns as one of the most successful issues for the right in recent years; coincidentally, it’s an area where the right has completely refused to bargain. Forgive me if I do not accept your completely unbiased tactical advice to meekly submit to your demands.

            Anyways, this has clearly become way too culture-war-ish for the no-culture-war thread, so I am bowing out. If anybody really feels the need to hear more from me on this issue, ping me in a future open thread.

          • The reason to not price in the entire externality from the start, but price it in more and more over time is to do exactly what Jiro argues the carbon tax advocates are not concerned about: not destroying the economy. The idea is to gradually price in the entire externality, so society has a chance to adapt gracefully, by developing new technology, slowly phasing out polluting capital goods in favor of less polluting ones, etc.

            That even you don’t get this is really telling to how little understanding of carbon taxes exists here and why the critics here are mainly debating straw men.

            That you don’t understand the economics underlying the proposal you support is really telling of how little understanding there is of economics even among intelligent laymen.

            Pricing inputs at their true cost doesn’t destroy the economy, it produces net gains. Failing to do so means that the economy is producing goods that cost more than they are worth or failing to produce goods that are worth more than they cost. Cost of change are among the costs that are, and should be, incorporated in the market process.

            Are you similarly in favor of taxing or restricting new technologies in order to protect the old technologies they replace, thus letting society adapt gracefully to them? It’s the same argument.

          • Barely matters says:

            This conversation is excellent, and I agree with a lot of points on both sides, but c’mon, Culturewar free thread. Let’s take this outside to the parking lot, or at least think on it and start again next Open.

            As a point of clarification, in Canada the Liberals aren’t the conservative party. They’re the center left led by Trudeau and known for things like affirmative action quotas, LGBT talking points, legalized weed, and excellent hair. The right wing party goes by the even more confusing name the “Progressive Conservative” party and stands mostly for crony capitalism and energy subsidies. The Libs are exactly the sort of party that typically proposes carbon taxes elsewhere

          • albatross11 says:

            FacelessCraven:

            The war on terror was advertised with exactly this justification–Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is a threat to our very existence as a society and so justifies whatever we must do to fight it. Our first warning might be a mushroom cloud rising over an American city.

            In both cases, the claims are massively overstated, as far as I can tell. (AGW is likely to raise average temperatures, screw up agriculture and coastal developments, and require spending some money and enduring some hardship to adapt to. Islamic fundamentalist terrorists can’t dream of threatening the existence of the vastly more successful Western cultures they attack sometimes; at worst, they can help us along our march toward a high-tech police state.)

          • Eltargrim says:

            @Barely Matters:

            Federally, you’re correct, but this is about the provincial Liberals in BC. As I’m sure you’re well aware, provincial parties often behave differently than the federal parties of the same names.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Eltargrim

            Geez, you’re right.

            BC is a wacky place, given that the first thing the conservative party does when it gets into power is to raise minimum wages and make trouble for oil pipelines. Thanks for the heads up. I seriously never would have guessed.

          • Eltargrim says:

            @Barely matters:

            Given the history of the BC Libs, calling them the conservative party of the province is a fair description. Also given that the BC Libs have no formal ties to the federal Libs, and haven’t for decades, comparing them to Trudeau only serves to further possible confusion.

            I’d also like to point out that when the BC Libs first took power in 2001, the first thing they did was cut provincial income taxes by 25%. Clark may be further left than Campbell, but the party is still the most conservative major party in BC.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Eltargrim

            To the right of everyone else is exactly the crazy point! I’ve voted NDP my entire life, but recognize them as being a hair’s breadth away from lunatic fringe on a lot of points, and the Greens are well on the other side of the line.

            If those are the choices, then I can absolutely see the libs as relatively conservative. I’m heading out there in a few months, so it sounds like it’s going to be a blast.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Pricing inputs at their true cost doesn’t destroy the economy, it produces net gains. Failing to do so means that the economy is producing goods that cost more than they are worth or failing to produce goods that are worth more than they cost. Cost of change are among the costs that are, and should be, incorporated in the market process.

            If you don’t price in externalities and then suddenly start doing so 100%, that is very disruptive and destroys investments in the short term. It also means that you often won’t have very good new technology ready yet, which is a crucial difference from your comparison to creative destruction after new technology has already been developed.

            If your goal is to produce long term change, where it’s way more important to have significantly lower emissions for the next century, it’s not really that important to achieve major gains in the actual production processes in the next 5 years, rather than the next 15 years. It’s important to start developing the technologies to replace the current production processes. So we can afford to trade some speed for less disruption.

            Let me give an example with scenario 1:
            – You price in the full externality tomorrow.
            – Factories with mature technology X are now no longer profitable (they now produce tchotchkes for $10, rather than $5 as before). On average the factories are 50% written off, so the owners/society lose half of the original capital investment.
            – Factories with usable, but still somewhat immature technology Y are now profitable, as they produce at $7.
            – Over the next 5 years, technology Y is developed further, reducing the cost per tchotchke to $6.
            – Over the next 10 years, a lot of effort is put into developing new technology Z, which is promising with the priced in externality. It turns out to work out and can actually produce tchotchkes cheaper than ever before at $4 and also the production process has even fewer emissions than using technology Y. Oops, we just built a ton of new factories for technology Y*, so either owners/society get to lose almost the full cost of these factories or we have to wait until they are mostly written off, while in the meantime, we are stuck with the greater emissions from using technology Y.

            Scenario 2:
            – We price in some of the externality and precommit to raising this step by step in the future.
            – Factories with technology X are still profitable, as they now produce tchotchkes for $7.
            – When factories with technology X are written off, it is rational to now replace them with factories with technology Y. They currently produce at the same cost, but:
            a) As technology Y is underdeveloped, you can expect that it can be optimized over time to be cheaper.
            b) When more of the externality is priced in, a factory with technology Y becomes relatively more profitable.
            – Over the next 5 years, technology Y is developed further, reducing the cost per tchotchke to $6. It becomes more sensible to replace the factories with technology X before they are fully written off. Let’s say after they are 90% written off. So capital owners lose 10% of their investment, rather than 1/2 in scenario 1.
            – There is a strong incentive to put a lot of effort into developing new technology Z. When it is available after 10 years, you still have some relatively new factories using technology X that weren’t yet replaced by Y, that will be now replaced by factories with Z.
            – Because it generally doesn’t make much sense to replace new factories unless the gains are huge and because you can’t expect new technology to be there right away, it can actually be better to not simply replace all factories using X with Y right away, but to have some go from X straight to Z a bit later. The emissions can then be lower than if you have to wait for the factories

            PS. A key factor that I couldn’t express in my scenario’s very well is the difference between the marginal cost of producing goods vs the cost when including amortization of the initial capital investment. The greater this difference, the more sense it makes to not replace your old factory, even if you will never earn back your initial investment completely. Because of this, it’s often favorably to not rapidly replace factories with currently available technology with a relatively small improvement in emissions, by making the old technology hugely unprofitable, but to create an environment where the main incentive is future unprofitably, so that in the short term, more effort is put into developing major breakthroughs in technology, rather than replacing factories.

            * Note that replacing all factories at the same time is a bad idea for other reasons as well, because it makes it much harder to smoothly develop new technology. If you always have factories that are written off and need to be replaced, they each new factory can make small improvements in their design/processes and then the next factory being built can take advantage of that, while making their own little improvements, etc. If you replace many factories at once and then replace almost none for some period, this iterative development doesn’t happen as much.

          • Jiro says:

            Pricing inputs at their true cost doesn’t destroy the economy, it produces net gains.

            If the cost of using fossil fuels is the complete destruction of the Earth, then their true cost is pretty big, and destroying the economy to stop it produces a net gain (one Earth with no economy is better than no Earth).

            But the point was to compare it to geoengineering. If the cost of destroying the economy is positive because it causes what would otherwise be a catastrophe but averts something worse, than so is the cost of geoengineering. The anti-geoengineering argument was that it is dangerous and could cause a catastrophe. If the destruction of the Earth is worse than an economic catastrophe, it’s also worse than a geoengineering catastrophe.

          • random832 says:

            @Jiro

            The anti-geoengineering argument was that it is dangerous and could cause a catastrophe. If the destruction of the Earth is worse than an economic catastrophe, it’s also worse than a geoengineering catastrophe.

            Huh? The point is that a geoengineering catastrophe could also “destroy the Earth” as much as global warming. An environmental disaster doesn’t become less of a disaster because you caused it by deliberately messing with things vs being an accidental consequence of something else. It’s the same kind, and there’s no reason to think it can’t be more or less the same degree, of catastrophe.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          If you really want to get into this type of discussion (and in this particular thread, no less) why not discuss the total disinterest in nuclear energy from many climate change enthusiasts? Not all, mind, but many are even actively against it. That’s the questionable bit, for me.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Is nuclear power actually more practical than, say, wind? My understanding is that these installations are too big for the private sector, which means you’re never going to get buy-in from the right.

          • Aapje says:

            The advantage over wind is that the wind doesn’t always blow. Nuclear gives a solid fixed production.

            It’s also a very risky investment, because nuclear has huge upfront costs and thus is highly dependent on a stable situation. The amusing part is that AFAIK, no nuclear plant has ever been built without huge government support in one way or the other, so you can just as easily imagine a slightly different world where most progressives support them and most conservatives reject them as the government meddling with the free market.

            In general, the politics of energy production are kinda weird, as alternative energy sources tend to be smaller scale and with lower investment costs. Individuals can fairly easily put solar on their roof and my country has cooperations that fund windmills. None of that is true for big electricity plants. So from my perspective, alternative energy sources tick a lot of conservative ‘get off my lawn’ boxes, if you ignore the subsidies, which are meant to be temporary.

            What is the difference between the guy who drills an oil well, while exclaiming ‘this is my land, I get to do with it what I want’ vs the guy who puts a windmill there, while exclaiming ‘this is my land, I get to do with it what I want’?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Is nuclear power actually more practical than, say, wind?

            That depends on how your defining “practical”. From a strict engineering perspective? Absolutely. In terms of cost per megawatt, modern closed-loop reactors out-perform all existing options by an order of magnitude.

            The primary problem is that they require a great deal of “up-front” investment while simultaneously being politically unpopular. No private entity wants to spend a billion dollars and three years building a power station only to see the project canceled because the local government got cold feet.

            Edit:
            Smaller nuclear power plants can be practical as there’s no reason (other than politics) that one couldn’t pull the reactor out of a Los Angeles class submarine and hook it up to a municipal power grid. The issue there is that having a larger number of smaller privately run reactors basically means kissing a lot of our non-proliferation measures goodbye.

          • Brad says:

            In addition to the issue of upfront investment, and when that’s practical without at least loan guarantees, there’s the question of how much, if any, insurance a nuclear powerplant ought to be required to maintain. Setting that too low is arguably another subsidy.

          • bean says:

            Smaller nuclear power plants can be practical as there’s no reason (other than politics) that one couldn’t pull the reactor out of a Los Angeles class submarine and hook it up to a municipal power grid. The issue there is that having a larger number of smaller privately run reactors basically means kissing a lot of our non-proliferation measures goodbye.

            You can deal with some of those with technical measures. There are reactors which run on natural or near-natural uranium, which is a lot less of a proliferation hazard than the bomb-grade stuff you find in a submarine reactor. (Yes, it is that enriched, or close to it. This is to give better power density, as refueling is not an easy operation on an SSN.)

          • What is the difference between the guy who drills an oil well, while exclaiming ‘this is my land, I get to do with it what I want’ vs the guy who puts a windmill there, while exclaiming ‘this is my land, I get to do with it what I want’?

            Economically speaking, the difference is that oil is a common pool resource–by pumping it out of his well he is probably reducing the amount under his neighbors’ land. The similar effect for wind is, I think, trivially small.

            I don’t think I have ever seen conservatives arguing that people shouldn’t be allowed to build windmills on their land, and people have been doing so in rural areas for centuries, usually for pumping water not producing electricity. The argument against renewables is that they are being subsidized, not that people shouldn’t be allowed to have them.

            On nuclear power, the same people who push for renewables also tend to favor shutting down nuclear reactors, with Germany the obvious big example.

            The problem with fully private nuclear, as I understand it, isn’t that the projects are too big–private firms build quite a lot of very expensive projects. It’s that the industry is heavily regulated, so an investor risks spending lots of money only to have the local government impose further constraints that it cannot meet. Governments have some ability to overrule that, depending on the country.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Economically speaking, the difference is that oil is a common pool resource–by pumping it out of his well he is probably reducing the amount under his neighbors’ land. The similar effect for wind is, I think, trivially small.

            A fairly high number of people seem to experience fairly strong disutility from looking at windmills, which is far less true for solar. I’m not sure whether the people that put up the signs are mainly progressive, conservative or both, so let’s pick solar instead, which doesn’t get anywhere near the reaction by people who dislike how it looks.

            So I think we agree that (aside from subsidies) solar seems superior from a ‘get off my lawn’ conservative POV to a technology that conservatives generally embrace (oil wells).

            So if subsidies are no longer needed, then the technology ought to fit extremely well with the beliefs of many conservatives (aside from tribal concerns, like people not wanting to look like environmentalists).

            AFAIK, solar is already more than price competitive in some states and becoming cheaper at a rapid pace. So my argument is that conservatives ought to embrace solar if they live in a place where it is price competitive or better.

    • James says:

      In Superfreakonomics, they talk about cooling the climate by deliberately injecting the upper atmosphere with particles that have a cooling (reflective? I can’t remember the details) effect. I have no idea whether this particular idea has any merit, but it does seem to me that this kind of avenue – deliberate countermeasures by other means than reducing carbon emissions – is relatively underexplored. I fear it could be the only realistic way to sufficiently reduce warming (if we grant – as I think I tend to – that warming would otherwise happen and that it would be net bad).

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Aerosolized sulphate compounds in the stratosphere are the standard approach to this. Yes, the idea is that it increases the albedo of Earth and thus reduces insolation (if that’s too jargon-y, it makes the atmosphere more reflective, so more sunlight gets reflected out into space and thus does not warm the earth).

        It would have to be an ongoing process — the sulphates would quickly leave the stratosphere and the Earth’s albedo would go back to normal. It seems by current estimates that it would be a fairly large ongoing investment but not a catastrophically large one. It would not change things like ocean acidification.

        There are a few other geoengineering proposals that try to attack large climate change problems through means other than emissions reductions. This may get culture-war-y, but fundamentally I think that to evaluate people’s enthusiasm for geoengineering, you have to understand political coalitions.

        People who are “very concerned about the possibly catastrophic effects of global warming and would like to try to ‘do science’ to avert these effects” are in coalitions. Specifically, they’re in the environmental coalition, and the environmental coalition is in the liberal coalition.

        The environmental coalition is mostly made up of a combination of the “people who are very concerned about the possibly catastrophic effects of global warming and would like to try to ‘do science’ to avert these effects” and “people who are broadly suspicious of technological modern society and would like it if humans had less of a footprint on the world.” That latter group of people likes emissions reductions (footprint-lowering) much more than geoengineering (footprint-raising).

        And the environmental coalition is in the liberal coalition, which obviously includes lots of people whose first priorities are lots of other things besides environmental issues. Indeed, it’s crucial to understand that the environmental coalition does not bring a lot of money or votes to the table of the liberal coalition.

        If the science-y worried-about-global-warming people push hard for things that upset their coalition partners, they lose what political power they have. Emissions reductions are the policy that makes their coalition partners most happy, while advancing their own agenda somewhat.

        Here’s a really interesting article about the Washington carbon tax proposal that failed in 2016: https://www.vox.com/2016/10/18/13012394/i-732-carbon-tax-washington

        Here’s me babbling at more length about how the environmental movement works: https://sandoratthezoo.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/scientific-environmentalists-are-junior-coalition-members/

        • James says:

          The environmental coalition is mostly made up of a combination of the “people who are very concerned about the possibly catastrophic effects of global warming and would like to try to ‘do science’ to avert these effects” and “people who are broadly suspicious of technological modern society and would like it if humans had less of a footprint on the world.”

          Yes, I feel like I see this general conflict a lot. My other go-to examples: nuclear power, GM foods. (You can probably guess which side of the question I tend to fall on.)
          Edit: haven’t read you babbling at length, but god, that vox article is a sad story. The bill sounds near-perfect.

        • albatross11 says:

          Just as an aside, one argument for carbon taxes as opposed to geoengineering is that it seems like we can probably manage carbon taxes and a slow but steady drop in CO2 emissions over time, whereas geoengineering projects look to be high risk, high reward affairs, where it’s not clear either that we can get them to work or that if we do, they won’t have some nasty unforseen side effect.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            This is a sensible objection if you do not buy the idea that climate change is an imminent and catastrophic threat, or even has a reasonably high chance of being an imminent and catastrophic threat.

          • Aapje says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            That is not what people commonly believe, though.

            Those who argue that we need to act now, believe that if we need to do so now because the slow but steady approach is…slow and steady. So we need to get serious about that long before climate change becomes an imminent threat.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Aapje

            My point is that you see people say things like:

            Global climate change is a crisis which has the potential to kill billions of humans this century or wipe out humanity. It is the biggest threat we face. We have already created irreversible climate change, and in order to avoid the most catastrophic consequences on the order of billions killed, we need to make drastic, immediate, worldwide cuts in carbon emissions.

            And the logical consequence of believing the above is that a lot of the objections about side effects of geoengineering are small potatoes compared to the consequences of inaction. But:

            People who are like, “Yeah, we should do geoengineering!” get cut out of the environmental movement and their voices are marginalized (because their powerful but less vocal coalition partners don’t like geoengineering).

            People who are successful in the environmental movement and believe the above have tended to have adopted the consensus view of what is and is not acceptable to the point where they’re mostly blind to the logical contradictions of their views.

            And most people who use the above rhetoric do not by revealed preference truly believe it. That is, they like saying it but they aren’t willing to put it at the top of their policy agenda — even within the frame of “the only acceptable way to make these changes is by reducing consumption or substituting wind and solar for fossil fuels” — in a way that suggests that they truly think that billions will die if they don’t make changes. What they truly believe is a much milder claim that this is one reasonably important policy goal of many. Which may be what you’re saying, in which case we’re in agreement.

          • Aapje says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            My experience is that people frequently make hyperbolic statements that don’t reflect their actual full priorities, but which are intended to have a certain rhetoric effect.

            Also, people can have multiple fears of catastrophes that they want to be averted. If a person is worried about preventing much suffering due to the expected consequences of climate change and worried about preventing much suffering due to the expected consequences of income inequality; then it’s not inconsistent for them to be resistant to solutions that improve one, but make the other worse. Especially if they believe that a solution exists that achieve both. The two catastrophes don’t have to be equally bad for this logic to hold, merely both ‘bad enough’.

            Also, most people are even less rational than the SSC commenters and/or haven’t actually thought their position through. If their environment convinces them of a problem and convinces them that solution A works, but solution B doesn’t; then it is not a sign that they are disingenuous if they can’t actually argue why B doesn’t work, why A is better, etc, etc.

            This just shows that the memeplex of their subculture is simplified for easy consumption. However, most subcultures have this, since emotionally resonant and intellectually simplified memes have obvious advantages over more accurate and complex memes.

            This is why some rationalists have argued that it is better to examine a steelmanned position, if you care about truth finding, because many people are poor advocates for their position.

          • My experience is that people frequently make hyperbolic statements that don’t reflect their actual full priorities, but which are intended to have a certain rhetoric effect.

            Yes. Some of us describe this as lying, and conclude that nothing those people say should be trusted. There’s a story on the subject.

            I’ve been involved in climate issues for a long time, and before that in the similar controversy over population. The arguments for crisis in both cases were unconvincing and in the latter case repeatedly dishonest. The response to the failure of unstoppable mass famine to appear as predicted in the 1970’s was the traditional response of end of the world cultists–it’s still happening, we just got the details wrong.

            If the climate movement took as the upper bound of its rhetoric what the scientific parts of the IPCC report actually support, it might be worth taking seriously. It doesn’t and isn’t. For two of my favorite examples (from the IPCC):

            Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.

            With these recognized limitations, the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0% of income … .

            Contrast those to the climate catastrophe rhetoric and think about what conclusions follow.

          • Matt M says:

            Contrast those to the climate catastrophe rhetoric and think about what conclusions follow.

            That alone would be bad enough, but it’s actually worse.

            The most hyperbolic rhetoric is treated, by and large, as if it is the scientific consensus, such that if you reject the hyperbolic rhetoric, you are treated as some ignorant, drooling, science-denier. Don’t you understand that 97% of scientists agree world-ending catastrophe is imminent?

            I’d love to do an experiment where you quote specific selections from the IPCC and ask people what they think the political orientation of the person being quoted is. My guess is that many people would say “very conservative.” If you asked, “Does this person represent the consensus view on climate change?” most would say no.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Yes. Some of us describe this as lying, and conclude that nothing those people say should be trusted.

            All groups do it though, including your tribe*. So you should trust no one, then.

            * True for any tribe you feel member of.

            Also, just because people exaggerate, that is not valid reason for exaggerating the other way and being completely unwilling to make a sacrifice to the extent that the science does suggest produces net positive utility.

      • Aapje says:

        One proposed method is to install a mirror in space, as space sunshade.

    • rahien.din says:

      1. Until recently, I also had a high degree of skepticism about the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide being anthropogenic.

      But I learned that the proportion of radiocarbon in the atmosphere is decreasing, or, the proportion of non-radioactive carbon in the atmosphere is increasing. As far as I know, the natural sources of non-radioactive carbon have not been more active in the past two centuries. So, the remaining plausible explanation is that the excess non-radioactive carbon is from the burning of fossil fuels.

      For me, this is the key piece of evidence. If we are putting more carbon in the atmosphere, and given we know how that affects temperature, then we are warming our planet. Everything else flows from that.

      2. What are the unintended consequences of letting the earth warm up? Do we even know? See your 3a. Continuing to artificially warm our planet without understanding if everything will get wrecked is the very definition of negligence.

      3.

      A. Because it addresses the source of the problem, rather than applying a band-aid.

      B. If you profess agnosticism as to whether we even understand the climate, you can’t credibly suggest that we could deliberately alter it with any hope of success.

      C. I’m not convinced it is even correct to cite economic opportunity costs. Sure, we could spend the money on something else, but that isn’t necessarily wise. If you have a leak in your roof, the right thing to do is spend the money to fix the leak in your roof. Only an idiot would claim “When I put a bucket under the leak in my roof, I avoided the economic opportunity costs of fixing my roof” and thereby enthrone their bad decisions.

      That goes doubly for global warming. If the unintended consequence of our doing business in the way we have is that we are significantly altering our climate, then to some degree, our current prosperity is an artifact of unwise environmental stewardship. Similarly, the manager of a restaurant could avoid certain economic opportunity costs and make themselves more prosperous by not cleaning as frequently.

      4. Proves too much. That reasoning is just as valid when applied to economists, to small business owners, to farmers, to social workers, to lawyers, to physicians, to stay-at-home moms, etc. We should only be so prima facie skeptical insofar as we are prima facie skeptical of every profession.

      • The Nybbler says:

        As far as I know, the natural sources of non-radioactive carbon have not been more active in the past two centuries.

        No, but the decidedly non-natural sources of radioactive carbon have been less active since the end of atmospheric nuclear testing.

        • rahien.din says:

          Necessary followup question : how much radioactive carbon was introduced into the atmosphere as a result of atmospheric nuclear testing? This should have an available or roughly-calculable answer. You need not stop at insinuation – tell me how significantly this contributes to our observations.

          Moreover, the half-life of C14 is on the order of 5700 years. If a significant amount of radioactive carbon was produced as a result of atmospheric nuclear testing, that pulse is still there, practically unchanged. Therefore, the proportion of C12:C14 should not be any different than in the late 70’s. My understanding is that the proportion has continued to change, despite the end of atmospheric nuclear testing.

          I doubt your implicit claim.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Atmospheric concentrations of C-14 nearly doubled as a result of nuclear weapons testing; it has fallen sharply since then but has not returned to background. It is falling much faster than the half-life, so the main mechanism must be by the C-14 falling out to carbon reservoirs on the surface; the amount of C-14 emitted was significant relative to atmospheric carbon but tiny compared to surface carbon. The chart on the Wikipedia page shows a drop from about 130% of baseline in 1980 to 118% of baseline in 1995

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14#/media/File:Radiocarbon_bomb_spike.svg

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a certain amount of turnover. Carbon gets taken out of the atmosphere, incorporated into plants or dissolved in seawater; it also gets put back into the atmosphere by other natural processes (fire, animal respiration, decomposition, volcanoes). If nuclear testing in the Fifties and Sixties gave us a spike in atmospheric C14, we would expect this to decline over time as it settled down into the various sinks in the carbon cycle. Eventually it’d reach a steady state. But these things take time and fifty years might not be long enough.

            That said, fossil fuels do play a role. It’s not like it’s a mystery how much carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere; we know about how much fuel we’re burning and we know what happens to it chemically. Figuring out what proportion of atmospheric CO2 that shakes out to is basically just arithmetic.

          • rahien.din says:

            Fair points, I’ll update.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        If you have a leak in your roof, the right thing to do is spend the money to fix the leak in your roof. Only an idiot would claim “When I put a bucket under the leak in my roof, I avoided the economic opportunity costs of fixing my roof” and thereby enthrone their bad decisions.

        The problem here is that you’re assuming higher CO2 concentration is analogous to a leak in your roof. The central point a lot of people are making is that higher CO2 might not be an actual bad thing. Or, to think more on the margin, the point is that higher CO2 might be preferable to whatever measure is required to lower it. It might not be some short-term solution such as a bucket under a leak, but rather something more considerable, such as foregoing a better school for your children, or any of hundreds of other things.

        • rahien.din says:

          Paul Brinkley,

          The problem here is that you’re assuming higher CO2 concentration is … an actual bad thing.

          I have to, because it was stipulated in the question :

          3. If we assume the current warming trend is a bad thing, why is reducing emissions, which carries a very high economic opportunity cost, the best way to go about addressing it?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Okay, but that still leaves:

            Or, to think more on the margin, the point is that higher CO2 might be preferable to whatever measure is required to lower it.

            You’re still assuming a leaky roof is worse than any conceivable remedy.

          • rahien.din says:

            Paul Brinkley,

            Or, to think more on the margin, the point is that higher CO2 might be preferable to whatever measure is required to lower it.

            [Objecting to that claim is necessarily to assume that] a leaky roof is worse than any conceivable remedy.

            This is a logical error on your part. Restated :

            A. AGW may be preferable to any conceivable remedy

            ¬A. Any conceivable remedy is preferable to AGW.

            The inverse of “X is greater than every member of group Y” is not “Every member of group Y is greater than X.” It is “Some member(s) of group Y is(are) greater than X.”

            Corrected :

            A. AGW may be preferable to any conceivable remedy.

            ¬A. Some conceivable remedy may be preferable to AGW.

            Continue?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @rahien.din: Once again:

            A. AGW may be preferable to any conceivable remedy

            This is not the claim I was reading as implied from

            If you have a leak in your roof, the right thing to do is spend the money to fix the leak in your roof.

            Rather, the claim implied is

            There exists no conceivable remedy to AGW that is worse than AGW.

          • rahien.din says:

            Paul Brinkley,

            You are the one who said “The point is that higher CO2 might be preferable to whatever measure is required to lower it.” I paraphrased your claim as “AGW [anthropogenic global warming] may be preferable to any conceivable remedy.” I made that legal paraphrase because I wanted to point out what I saw as a logical error but you are the one who made that claim. I am responding to your claims.

            Let me also assert (again) that : No. I am not assuming a leaky roof is worse than any conceivable remedy. Nor am I required to.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Your paraphrase is incorrect. I did not assert that “AGW may be preferable to any conceivable remedy.” That would imply that for all remedies R, R is preferable to AGW, which I do not nor ever have believed, let alone asserted.

            What I asserted is that your assertion that “[i]f you have a leak in your roof, the right thing to do is spend the money to fix the leak in your roof” implies another assertion which is false.

            Moreover, your statement in bold doesn’t really matter; this all started with your claim, not mine.

            I am not assuming a leaky roof is worse than any conceivable remedy.

            We were never talking about any conceivable remedy. We were talking about the class of remedies you necessarily implied in your claim that started all this.

            I mean, what’s the purpose of shaming someone who uses a solution to AGW other than the ones you settled on? If not to imply, on pain of being regarded an “idiot”, that they’re all preferable to AGW? They’re not. And no, again, this is not the same set of remedies as you claimed I was talking about.

          • rahien.din says:

            Paul Brinkley,

            Paul Brinkley : You’re still assuming a leaky roof is worse than any conceivable remedy.

            rahien.din : No. I am not assuming a leaky roof is worse than any conceivable remedy.

            Paul Brinkley : We were never talking about any conceivable remedy

            This is genuinely my understanding of this interchange.

            Something is clearly not working here. I don’t know what it is. But regardless, I don’t see how our conversation can proceed.

            You may be right and I regret that I have no opportunity to understand your thinking here.

            Have a good day.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Okay, okay, sorry. I wasn’t speaking in formal logic (because nobody does that), so I can forgive your reading that. And I didn’t completely re-re-read every comment we made in that light, so every time I read “You’re still assuming a leaky roof is worse than any conceivable remedy” I of course interpreted it as “namely, the ones you’re in favor of”. Of course there exist conceivable remedies to AGW that no one advocates. But no one’s trying to push those, because no one tries to push those. Sheesh.

            So try it again that way if you wish. My intended point is still the same.

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            I mean, what’s the purpose of shaming someone who uses a solution to AGW other than the ones you settled on?

            If the most promising solution only has a chance of working if everyone/most people commit to it, it is logical to shame people into committing to it.

            For example, imagine an experiment with two switches 10 feet from each other that are currently in the neutral position. The instructions are that a banana is released if both switches are simultaneously put in the correct direction and that you only get 1 try. If you favor ‘up’ and I favor ‘down’, it is foolish for us to put the switches in opposite directions, because this is guaranteed to fail.

            If I perceive myself as better able to judge the direction and have social capital to shame you into my solution, it is rational for me to shame you into my solution.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If the most promising solution only has a chance of working if everyone/most people commit to it, it is logical to shame people into committing to it.

            I can see how that would work. But I can also see how it wouldn’t – namely, if the target of shame knows that that’s what you’re trying to do.

            Which is exactly the case above.

      • 1. Until recently, I also had a high degree of skepticism about the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide being anthropogenic.

        I didn’t. It seems the obvious explanation.

        If we are putting more carbon in the atmosphere, and given we know how that affects temperature, then we are warming our planet.

        Agreed. But how much we are warming it is still an open question, given uncertainty on sensitivity and a very complicated system. It’s worth noting that the present warming started in 1911 but the IPCC only claims humans as the major cause starting sometime midcentury.

        Continuing to artificially warm our planet without understanding if everything will get wrecked is the very definition of negligence.

        Is preventing the planet from warming without understanding if everything will get wrecked as a result also the very definition of negligence? An end to the current interglacial would be a climate catastrophe larger than any plausible result of current warming.

        We know that the planet has been substantially warmer in the geological past, at a time when mammals were doing very well for themselves. We know that life has managed on an Earth without ice caps through most of Earth’s history. We know that humans currently prosper across a range of temperatures much larger than the shift projected due to AGW. So your “everything gets wrecked” makes sense only in the same context as my end of the interglacial–it’s possible, in a complicated system, that there will be very bad results to any policy, but we don’t have reason to expect very bad results from either alternative.

        • rahien.din says:

          DavidFriedman,

          Sure, it does depend on the degree to which anthropogenic effect will cause harm. We could/should turn this into an expected-value calculation. No objection from me.

          Is preventing the planet from warming without understanding if everything will get wrecked as a result also the very definition of negligence?

          Sure, preventing normal warming cycles (terraforming!) with incomplete understanding would be negligent.

          That is not the question. The question is, if we know we are warming the planet, is it negligent to allow anthropogenic warming to continue?

          This question becomes even more important in the setting of a natural warming cycle. To analogize : a person is overheated, and is wearing a sweater. The obvious necessary solution is to take off the sweater. One can not object “But consider that you are hot because it is the middle of August,” because that is all the more reason to take off the sweater.

          If preventing anthropogenic warming in the setting of a natural warming cycle is negligent, this requires that natural warming would not be sufficient to prevent overall harm to humanity, and therefore we should augment it.

          The question as you have posed it constitutes an argument for terraforming. I think that, whether we oppose or augment natural heating cycles, terraforming without full understanding is negligent.

          Edit : got myself turned around there somehow…

          • I asked:

            Is preventing the planet from warming without understanding if everything will get wrecked as a result also the very definition of negligence?

            Rahien responded:

            Sure, preventing normal warming cycles (terraforming!) with incomplete understanding would be negligent.

            I said nothing about natural warming cycles. “Natural” doesn’t imply “good.” The end of an interglacial is a natural event that has happened repeatedly during the current ice age.

            If it happened tomorrow, from entirely natural causes, it would be a catastrophe–every port in the world high and dry and half a mile of ice over the current locations of London and Chicago (obviously not instantly).

            I should have been clearer. What I was saying was that it is possible, although I think not likely, that AGW is what is keeping the current interglacial from ending. If so, preventing AGW would cause a catastrophe. Why isn’t that just as good an argument for the claim that doing things to prevent AGW is “the very definition of negligence” as your argument that not doing such things is? Why should we only count low probability high cost risks in one direction?

            If it were a good argument (and your version not), that would be an argument for deliberate terraforming. But that wasn’t my point.

            Do you believe that nature is a benign deity? If not, why does the question of whether the warming is natural matter?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Probably tangential to your thesis but

            I should have been clearer. What I was saying was that it is possible, although I think not likely, that AGW is what is keeping the current interglacial from ending. If so, preventing AGW would cause a catastrophe.

            We would then observe the cooling coming before it reached dangerous levels of and, thanks to our century of fossil fuels, have knowledge of what could be done to counteract it, wouldn’t we?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Unless, of course, the “scientific consensus” said that the past burning of fossil fuels caused the cooling. And was wrong. And so led to a positive feedback cycle.

          • rahien.din says:

            DavidFriedman,

            Yes, that could have been much more clear.

            Regarding your point, the costs are asymmetric, as pointed out by Gobbobobble. The problem of decreasing AGW and revealing global cooling has an obvious solution. The problem of permitting further warming does not, whether the earth would otherwise be warming, cooling, or staying the same.

            So it’s not, as you imply, isometrically low-probability high-cost.

          • The problem of decreasing AGW and revealing global cooling has an obvious solution.

            I don’t think so, for two reasons:

            1. We don’t understand the mechanism of glaciation/interglacial well enough to be sure that, once it was clear a glaciation was started, we could stop it by increasing fossil fuel consumption. Greenhouse effects are slow, because the heat capacity of the Earth is enormous–think of it as warming a bathtub with a match flame. That’s why, contrary to the rhetoric, the significant effects of AGW are all well in the future although we have been burning fossil fuel in substantial amounts for well over a century.

            2. You, like a lot of people in such discussions, are implicitly analogizing humanity to a single actor. If that were a good analogy, war would have stopped happening a very long time ago. It’s easy enough to imagine a future in which rational analysis showed that we ought to be burning more fuel in the hope of stopping a glaciation and it didn’t happen.

            There is even a moderately entertaining novel of that future.

          • rahien.din says:

            David Friedman,

            I see your points, aind as to the first, sure. I could/should soften that claim. Now we are in the realm of competing prior-to-evidence beliefs.

            As to the second, I would quibble that if we invoke the possibility of (for all intents and purposes) unified action that then permits glaciation, it is necessary that we capable of similarly-unified action in order to counteract glaciation. If humanity can not be analogized to a single actor in that circumstance, then it cannot be analogized to a single actor in any circumstance, and therefore any discussion of action on a global scale is totally moot.

            IE, you could have just led with “It’s too much of a coordination problem for us to have a meaningful discussion.”

            Edit: I had replied to the wrong post at first.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            _Fallen Angels_ was indeed moderately entertaining, or at least I read it…but most of what I remember was an effort to present science fiction fans as the good guys and fantasy fans as the bad guys, completely ignoring that the two groups have a lot of overlap.

    • Murphy says:

      re: bombs

      That’s probably covered under the same category as geoengineering.

      You could try setting out on some big project to intentionally change the climate but you’re likely to get sued by anyone who’s negatively affected. It’s hard to sue someone because their factory increased CO2 by 0.0000001% and the overall rise caused your crops to produce excess cyanide and become too poisonous to sell. You can’t practically sue every CO2 producer and any one will only owe you a tiny tiny amount.

      On the other hand if someone tries some crackpot geoengineering scheme that goes wrong (or even goes nominally right but still harms some individuals) it’s probably much easier to link your crop failures to that big geoengineering project which caused a load of extra storms.

      You can get sued for harm but nobody is obliged to pay you for helping them so even if on balance you massively improve the climate and improve human welfare overall nobody ends up owing you money but anyone negatively affected can sue you.

      geoengineering is also politically unpopular because people take a sort of deontological view of it: as long as you don’t touch it you can’t be blamed for anything. If you intentionally intercede then you become morally culpable for any failure or side effects, again, even if the overall effects are positive.

      • geoengineering is also politically unpopular because people take a sort of deontological view of it: as long as you don’t touch it you can’t be blamed for anything.

        That, at a slight tangent, is why both sides of the climate argument pay so much attention to whether warming is due to humans. Logically speaking, if warming is natural but will have terrible effects that’s just as good an argument for finding ways to stop it as if it is due to humans–the only difference is that if it is due to humans that suggests some additional ways of stopping it. But everyone has the gut level feeling that “if it’s our fault we should do something about it, if not not.” That may to some extent be combined with the irrational belief that natural things are good.

    • Taichiud says:

      1. Yes, the earth has gone through cycles of cooling and heating in the past. We can have some confidence that humans are having an impact because a) we observe that we are emitting large amounts of carbon, and that the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is increasing, b) we know that carbon is more effective at retaining heat than the previously existing mix of atmospheric gases, and c) we observe the temperature increasing. In other words, we should expect to see an impact from our actions, and we do see that impact. It is possible that we are wrong and something else is going on, hence the vast amount of effort by climate scientists, but a rising temperature is not an unexpected result.

      2. Global warming will have costs and benefits. Examples of benefits include a longer agricultural growing season in areas that currently have harsh winters, and a navigable Northwest Passage. Examples of costs include a rise in sea levels that will either submerge trillions of dollars in real estate or require hugely expensive protective measures, the extinction of large numbers of species, and an increase in the range of malaria-spreading mosquitoes, with the massive associated costs of that disease. I would say that the costs are likely to outweigh the benefits. I could be wrong, but I don’t see a strong case for global warming turning out to be a net positive.

      3. We could engage in geo-engineering to offset the rising temperature. Geo-engineering is likely to have associated costs. More importantly, if we continue to emit increasing amounts of carbon, we will also have to escalate our geo-engineering to keep up. Much better to strike at the root of the problem, by reducing carbon emissions.

      It is true that this comes with an opportunity cost, but hopefully that opportunity cost will fall as scientific and engineering progress take place. We see this happening now, i.e. falling solar costs, Tesla, etc. It is also the case that some carbon emitting activities, like burning coal, also generate massive negative externalities independent of their emissions.

      3a. As you say, carbon emissions have negative non-temperature effects as well, with ocean acidification being the most prominent. You are also correct that higher atmospheric CO2 will have some positive impacts as well. I doubt that these positive impacts will outweigh the negatives though- we are weighing the relative benefits of a marginal increase in agricultural productivity from increased CO2 against the flooding of a significant portion of our most valuable cities.

      4. This would imply that we should disregard everything said by politicians and academics, not just global warming. If that’s your view I won’t argue, but not because I think you might be right.

      • Examples of benefits include a longer agricultural growing season in areas that currently have harsh winters, and a navigable Northwest Passage.

        The most unambiguous big benefit is probably increased yield due to CO2 fertilization. Doubling the CO2 concentration, which is the scale of change usually being discussed (one degree C with no feedbacks, 1.5-3°C given current sensitivity estimates), increases the yield of C3 plants by about 30%. That’s a big increase in food supplies, and much less speculative than arguments about droughts, flooding, and the like.

        Examples of costs include a rise in sea levels that will either submerge trillions of dollars in real estate or require hugely expensive protective measures

        The high end of the IPCC high emissions scenario for 2100 is about a meter of SLR. Do you think your description applies to that? For the U.S. Atlantic coast, the rule of thumb is about a hundred meters shift in the coastline for a meter SLR, which is invisibly small on a geographic scale.

        I would say that the costs are likely to outweigh the benefits

        .

        I would say that we cannot know the sign of the net effect. That was also my view back when the looming catastrophe of the day was population growth.

        For one minor example of the uncertainty, you mention the increased range of malaria carrying mosquitoes. How likely do you think it is that, over the next century, we will find neither a cure for malaria nor a way of eliminating the variety of mosquito that carries it?

        • Taichiud says:

          The USDA lists the value of all farmland in the US at about $2.5 trillion in 2014. Lets assume that your 30% increase in yield translates to a 30% increase in the value of that farmland, or $750 billion.

          In 2014, there were $3.5 trillion in assets exposed to a 0.5 meter sea level rise in Miami alone (cite: http://www.business insider.com/cities-exposed-to-rising-sea-levels-2014-4).

          I don’t think the risks are symmetrical.

          • Matt M says:

            Are the prices of assets exposed to sea level rise going up or down?

          • [For some reason, only the first part of your URL is a link. To get your source, one has to copy the whole thing and then post it in]

            That’s an assertion on a graphic, without any explanation of the calculations it claims to be based on or what it means by “at risk.”

            There is a flood maps page that lets you see the effect of any level of SLR. Try setting it to 2 meters, zooming in on Miami, and seeing how it compares to the claim on that graphic.

          • Taichiud says:

            @ Matt M
            I don’t know, but if you want to extract a signal from those prices, keep in mind that you’ll have to disentangle the effect of the National Flood Insurance Program, wherein the federal government subsidizes flood insurance at sub-market rates. According to Wikipedia, private flood insurance is not available in Florida.

            @David Friedman
            Let’s say those numbers are inflated x1000, and the real number for Miami is $3.5 billion. I still don’t see any way to make the numbers add up so that increased crop yields make up for coastal damage.

            I chose that article to draw a quick contrast. If you want a comprehensive overview of the risks of climate change, google “IPCC”. They’ll do a much better job than I will.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If your source were in fact talking about 2014, that $3.5 trillion in assets would be preposterous on its face; that was an OECD projection for 2070.

          • Matt M says:

            you’ll have to disentangle the effect of the National Flood Insurance Program

            I’d love to. I’ve heard plenty of libertarians argue against this program (John Stossel famously had an entire segment where he bought a beach house in a hurricane zone, watched it get destroyed, then had the government buy him a new one).

            Are climate change fearing progressives onboard with ending these free subsidies to rich elites who would use the state to allow them to escape the economic consequences of climate change? If so, I am happy to have them as allies.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Incidentally, the same OECD report predicts that in 2070 Miami would have $3.2T in assets at risk without climate change– and that’s leaving out the effects of land subsidence as well.

          • If you want a comprehensive overview of the risks of climate change, google “IPCC”. They’ll do a much better job than I will.

            I’ve been following the reports for quite a long time. I even had a blog post where I went through the first three, in each case asking what, on the basis of that report, I would expect global temperature to do thereafter, and comparing it to what happened.

            I like quoting the IPCC at alarmists, especially Figure 10.1 of the latest, which shows estimates of the net cost of climate change. Also pointing at their retraction of the claim of a link between AGW and drought. Here is another favorite quote.

            Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.

          • In 2014, there were $3.5 trillion in assets exposed to a 0.5 meter sea level rise in Miami alone

            Your source cites as its source the OECD “ranking port cities …” paper, which is webbed. Looking at Table 2, I find $3513.04 billion for the exposed assets in the final column. Is that your $3.5 trillion?

            That column shows scenario FAC, which is 2070 with future climate, population, and assets. The column before it is FNC, which is 2070 with present climate, future population and assets. The figure there is $2340.32 billion. So the increase in assets at risk due to climate change, which is what is relevant, is $1.16 trillion, not $3.5 trillion, and the figure is for 2070, not 2014.

            I couldn’t find a clear description of what “assets at risk meant,” although it is apparently assuming a hundred year storm. I think they mean “buildings on land that would be under water,” in which case expected damage would be much less than the full value of the buildings.

            Do you agree with my description of the data? If so, was your “2014” a typo for “2070”? Do you agree that $3.5 trillion is not the relevant number, since most of it is property that would be at risk without climate change?

            Take the number down to $1.16 trillion and assume that flooding the ground level of a building destroys ten percent of its value (low for a two story house, high for a skyscraper), and we now have a cost due to climate change of $116 billion once a century for the U.S. city most at risk. Compare that to your $750 billion for the whole country and it is not at all clear whether net costs are positive or negative.

            There is a lot of uncertainty here–in particular my ten percent figure may be much too low. On the other hand, the OECD calculations depend on a lot of quite uncertain assumptions, in particular taking the high end of SLR from the high emissions scenario in the IPCC report. The proper conclusion is that we do not know whether the net effect of AGW will be positive or negative.

            I’m interested not just in your views on this issue, which I would not expect to change, but on whether the difference between what you posted and what the OECD report said reduces at all your confidence in the reliability of your approach to forming opinions.

          • John Schilling says:

            In 2014, there were $3.5 trillion in assets exposed to a 0.5 meter sea level rise in Miami alone

            Leaving aside the debate over whether $3.5 trillion is the proper figure, how much of that “asset value” is e.g. buildings valued for their structure and innate functionality, and how much is the market valuation of intangibles like ocean views and beach access?

            Because those aren’t going to disappear; at worst they are going to move inland a bit. So, maybe farmland increases in absolute value by $750 billion, the potential for global hunger is reduced, and $3.5 trillion is transferred from its current mostly-rich holders to a new group of not-so-rich. I’d think some people would find this a more appealing prospect than others, but not in ways that match their observed behavior.

            And then there’s the innate value of the buildings, but how much of a loss that is depends on how fast the timescale of sea level rise is compared to the economic timescale of building replacement.

          • Taichiud says:

            @Matt M
            I am onboard with ending NFIP.

            @Paul Zrimsek
            You’re right that the correct figure would be the difference between the $3.5 trillion and $3.2 trillion, or $300 billion, and that I should be using figures from the same year for both costs and benefits. Page 57 of the OECD report gives the current assets at risk for Miami as $416 billion. Assuming the same proportion of additional assets at risk [(3.5-3.2)/3.5]*.416 gives $35 billion.
            I think that flood damage to Miami will be substantially less than 1/20 of the total costs to the US of global warming, so I’m going to stand by my original point: costs of climate change will exceed benefits.

            @David Friedman
            I remain confident in my approach. I start from the knowledge that there is simply a lot more economic activity along the coast than there is on farms. Having that coast move significantly is going to do damage. As you say, there is going to be a lot of uncertainty in any specific figures, not helped by hastiness in gathering them on my part on Wednesday. But for climate change be economically neutral, the benefits to farmland would have to be proportionately higher than the costs to an extent that I think is unlikely.

            @John Schilling
            Fair points regarding ocean views, beach access, and building lifecycle. However, there will be much less incentive to build the houses, hotel, restaurants, and infrastructure needed to make the most of the oceanfront location, so I stand by my assertion that sea level rise will impose substantial costs.

          • Having that coast move significantly is going to do damage.

            Indeed it might. How large a shift do you consider significant?

            The latest IPCC report shows, as the high end of the range of SLR by the end of the century on the high emissions scenario, about one meter. The rule of thumb for the U.S. Atlantic coast is that a meter of SLR shifts the coast in by a hundred meters. Is that what you were thinking of? Did you have any specific size of shift in mind?

            Obviously it would be more than that in some places, less in others. But if the average shift is a hundred meters, do you consider it significant? And that’s without considering diking, which the Dutch managed to do with medieval technology and resources.

            But for climate change be economically neutral, the benefits to farmland would have to be proportionately higher than the costs to an extent that I think is unlikely.

            You are comparing one positive to one negative. The most natural comparison to the effect of SLR in reducing usable land area is the effect on usable land area of shifting temperature contours towards the poles–human activity at present is limited by cold but not, with minor exceptions, by heat. I have not seen any careful calculations of the magnitude of the effect but when I tried a back of the envelope calculation, it looked as though the gain in usable land was two to three orders of magnitude larger than the loss. Of course, the average value of the lost coastal land will be higher, but probably not that much higher.

            Similarly, one negative is increased mortality due to hotter summers. That should be compared to decreased mortality due to milder winters. I again don’t have precise numbers, but the greenhouse effect tends to cause a larger temperature shift in cold times and places than in warm, and current mortality from cold is nearly twenty times current mortality from heat (Lancet article a while back).

            Or in other words, there are a lot of positives and negatives, the size of most is quite uncertain, so there is little reason to be confident of the sign of their sum.

            If I correctly followed your analysis–I’m not clear on the most recent iteration–in the course of the exchange you reduced your estimate of the expected cost of AGW to Miami from $3.5 trillion to 35 billion, or by two orders of magnitude. I have just offered a reason to think that that is still substantially too high. Shouldn’t that sequence convince you that your estimates of costs are wildly uncertain?

            There is an asymmetry in the argument that you may be missing. You are claiming to know the sign of the net effect. I am claiming not to know it. So discovering that your estimates are much more uncertain than you thought supports my position.

          • Assuming the same proportion of additional assets at risk [(3.5-3.2)/3.5]*.416 gives $35 billion.
            I think that flood damage to Miami will be substantially less than 1/20 of the total costs to the US of global warming, so I’m going to stand by my original point: costs of climate change will exceed benefits.

            You are assuming that “assets at risk” means “assets whose value will be reduced to zero about once a century” (the figures are for a hundred year flood).

            Can you find anything in the OECD report to support that assumption? I couldn’t, and guessed that they meant “assets sitting on land that will be under water in such a flood.” A flood doesn’t annihilate everything sitting on the land, it just damages some of it.

            So unless I am misinterpreting the report, you are overstating the cost by a factor of several.

          • I start from the knowledge that there is simply a lot more economic activity along the coast than there is on farms. Having that coast move significantly is going to do damage.

            On the other hand, the area of land used for farming is enormously greater than the area of land within a hundred meters of the coast, the latter looking like a high estimate for the amount of land lost due to SLR by the end of the century.

            Figure the latter at about 500 square km (very back of the envelope–mental estimate of the length of the coastline multiplied by .1 km shift). The U.S. is about 40% farmland, which comes to about 4 million square km. So your argument requires the density of economic activity along the coast to be about eight thousand times as high as on farmland.

            Did you realize that you were making that assumption? Did you make any attempt at a calculation along those lines–I don’t guarantee my numbers are right, but they should be the correct order of magnitude.

            The kind of argument you are making isn’t adequate to produce even a guesstimate answer to the question we are discussing–you have been off by orders of magnitude (more than two orders of magnitude in the initial Miami argument if I correctly understand your corrected version, between one and two orders by my interpretation of the data, almost four in this argument). It requires careful calculation and attention to how large the uncertainties are for even an informed guess, which is the most I would claim to be able to offer.

        • Aapje says:

          @DavidFriedman

          Increased plant growth presumably means increased need for fertilizer, which means that peak phosphorus will come sooner.

          I favor trying to reduce the human population or at least hugely slowing down the growth, which makes is far easier to have a sustainable economy. If we do that, it seems to me that the increased yield is not necessarily needed. If we don’t curb the growth of humanity, that 30% increase in yield will just postpone large scale starvation.

          • Anonymous says:

            I favor trying to reduce the human population or at least hugely slowing down the growth

            A little hard to do, since those who accept those terms will reproduce less than those who reject those terms. Trying to reduce population growth by non-forcible means will likely yield a situation where most of the policy’s survivors are wired to defect on this.

          • Aapje says:

            The idea is more that people are disincentivized from having children.

            We are already quite good at this in the West.

            China had an alternative approach, which worked quite well, but in a fairly oppressive way.

            Neither approach has a huge problem with defectors.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’ll only breed people resistant to these disincentives. A few decades is hardly a relevant timeframe here.

            If you want a picture of the future man, imagine an illiterate, patriarchally-inclined, non-conformist zealot who is deathly allergic to latex and most pharmaceuticals. If this is not an enticing picture, I would suggest finding a way that rewards good behaviour with more offspring, not less.

          • Aapje says:

            Low-capable women do seem more eager to have children, which is an issue, yes. Your conclusions seem overly pessimistic though.

            However, it seems more that this calls for additional measures, rather than to try to get the highly capable to breed much more.

          • Anonymous says:

            Pessimistic? I dunno, I’m mostly fine with the prospect of a new age of food scarcity.

            What I would propose, if I were to share your goals, would be to cut all welfare. All of it. Effectively force people to either be productive/useful, pitiable enough to merit charity, or starve. Do NOT reward people for being unproductive/useless.

          • Zodiac says:

            If you want a picture of the future man, imagine an illiterate, patriarchally-inclined, non-conformist zealot who is deathly allergic to latex and most pharmaceuticals. If this is not an enticing picture, I would suggest finding a way that rewards good behaviour with more offspring, not less.

            How much time would it take to get there? I don’t understand a lot about genetics but I was directly told by more invested people that no “real” biological evolution has happened to humanity in the last ~3000 years simply because evolution is too slow.
            If it actually takes that long I am not convinced by the argument. There is too much that can happen in between, the one-world-government effectively implementing a two child policy, space travel becoming feasible or any of the transhumanist scenarios.

            Edit:

            pitiable enough to merit charity

            I can’t wait to compete with other people to try to prove how mentally retarded I am so that the overlords see fit to bestow on me a monetary bone with a bit of meat on it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            When people can’t attain sufficient well being by being productive/useful within the system, they have a strong incentive to ensure their well being outside the system.

            So you would be courting crime/war/revolution/etc.

          • Anonymous says:

            How much time would it take to get there? I don’t understand a lot about genetics but I was directly told by more invested people that no “real” biological evolution has happened to humanity in the last ~3000 years simply because evolution is too slow.

            Whereas according to my learnings, there has been substantial criminality/aggressiveness reduction in the Europeans in the last millennium or so. I blame the practice of executing criminals. Have you read dr. Gregory Clark’s books, by any chance?

            If it actually takes that long I am not convinced by the argument. There is too much that can happen in between, the one-world-government effectively implementing a two child policy, space travel becoming feasible or any of the transhumanist scenarios.

            Nolo contendre.

            I can’t wait to compete with other people to try to prove how mentally retarded I am so that the overlords see fit to bestow on me a monetary bone with a bit of meat on it.

            Do you expect yourself or your descendants to be largely useless and incapable of securing their existence otherwise?

            When people can’t attain sufficient well being by being productive/useful within the system, they have a strong incentive to ensure their well being outside the system.

            So you would be courting crime/war/etc.

            We agree, then. 🙂

            Seriously, though, these people would be handled by law enforcement, as usual. Both my suggestion (no welfare) and yours (no excessive children) require enforcement. The difference is that my solution produces orderly, productive people, and yours produces fecund criminals. Mine is also useful in a situation where you only have enforcement over some of the world.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            The real thing that prevents crime is that people believe that crime is not worth it, compared to the alternatives. Law enforcement is too ineffective to keep people away from crime, if legal jobs are perceived as much worse than the illegal jobs.

            What we actually see in such environments is that law enforcement become criminalized itself, people stop cooperating with the police so they become ineffective, etc. So it’s really, really important to make people willing to cooperate because it benefits them, rather than punish them if they don’t.

            Both my suggestion (no welfare) and yours (no excessive children) require enforcement.

            No. I’ve argued for incentives, not a ‘one child policy.’

            For example, pensions/social security/medicare are major factors that reduces the need/desire for children.

          • Anonymous says:

            The real thing that prevents crime is that people believe that crime is not worth it, compared to the alternatives. Law enforcement is too ineffective to keep people away from crime, if legal jobs are perceived as much worse than the illegal jobs.

            This is technically true, but useless. Consider the Murray-Hill riot, also called “Montreal’s night of terror”, caused by the police going on strike. Being reasonably certain that you will be punished for disobedience/crime is factored into people’s decision process whether to commit a given act or not. Take away law enforcement, and there will be trouble. The police really do suppress crime.

            What we actually see in such environments is that law enforcement become criminalized itself, people stop cooperating with the police so they become ineffective, etc. So it’s really, really important to make people willing to cooperate because it benefits them, rather than punish them if they don’t.

            In which case you are either:
            a) trying to enforce laws that are incompatible with reality, such as often happened under Communist regimes,
            b) not using enough grapeshot.

            Knowing the difference isn’t trivial, but common-sense laws, such as those based on the Golden Rule, or the Decalogue, tend to be understood to be legitimate even by criminals. The thief – unless he’s a commie – doesn’t regard property as illegitimate, he just wants to have yours while keeping his.

            No. I’ve argued for incentives, not a ‘one child policy.’

            For example, pensions/social security/medicare are major factors that reduces the need/desire for children.

            I see. It does seem you are indirectly selecting for low intelligence, low conscientiousness, high time preference, low savings rate, etc, etc.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            Law enforcement is the cherry on top. You can’t make a cake just by stacking a lot of cherries on each other.

            If you incentivize people doing X, so they actually see X as their best choice, they will X even if the police is not looking. If you punish people for doing ‘not X,’ while they see X as their best option, people will only do X as long as they think the police may be looking. Also, because it is hard to police the police, you incentivize them to take bribes.

            The former solution is much more stable than the latter.

            It does seem you are indirectly selecting for low intelligence, low conscientiousness, high time preference, low savings rate, etc, etc.

            That makes no sense, as people who earn less have less ability and motive to prepare for their elderly years. By encouraging this through measures and subsidizing it for the poor, the less well off are more disincentivized from getting kids to have them care for them in their old age, than the rich.

            So the effect of these measures is actually that the poor get far fewer children, while the rich are less disincentivized (they were already disincentivized by their wealth, though).

          • Anonymous says:

            We seem to differ on the general effectiveness of the stick.

            That makes no sense, as people who earn less have less ability and motive to prepare for their elderly years. By encouraging this through measures and subsidizing it for the poor, the less well off are more disincentivized from getting kids to have them care for them in their old age, than the rich.

            I don’t think this is how the poor think. If they thought this way, I don’t think many of them would be poor.

            So the effect of these measures is actually that the poor get far fewer children, while the rich are less disincentivized (they were already disincentivized by their wealth, though).

            Then why are the poor still outreproducing the middle class and the elite?

          • Increased plant growth presumably means increased need for fertilizer, which means that peak phosphorus will come sooner.

            I’m not sure if that is correct or not. CO2 fertilization actually reduces the need for water, because less gas passing through the leaves means less evaporation. I don’t know the effect on fertilizer consumption.

            I favor trying to reduce the human population or at least hugely slowing down the growth, which makes is far easier to have a sustainable economy. If we do that, it seems to me that the increased yield is not necessarily needed. If we don’t curb the growth of humanity, that 30% increase in yield will just postpone large scale starvation.

            We are very far from a risk of starvation due to population growth. Consider how much of our agricultural output goes to feed animals and could, with minor changes in crop varieties, go to humans. Or consider how much land there is not in use for agriculture–forest area in the U.S. has been trending up since sometime in the 1920’s.

            Back in the 1960’s, the orthodoxy was that we were going to run out of food due to population growth. Since that time, calorie consumption in the third world has trended up, not down, and extreme poverty fallen sharply–about a third the rate it was then.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            I don’t think this is how the poor think. If they thought this way, I don’t think many of them would be poor.

            The point of smart mandatory/default schemes is that it doesn’t matter so much that many of the poor (and not so poor) have poor thoughts, because domain experts make smart decisions and set up society so that doing the right thing is highly incentivized.

            Then why are the poor still outreproducing the middle class and the elite?

            Because our current meritocracy incentivizes women with good ability to invest strongly in a career during their most fertile years, while those with lesser ability are incentivized to find a sugar daddy (which can be a man or the government). Your solution increases these different incentives, actually, although you also cut them off as much as you can. The end result is not going to be socially acceptable, so you’ll just have poor people with lots of children being cared for by private charity (Western people will not let them starve).

            @DavidFriedman

            In one of the AGW threads, you argued that rahien shouldn’t assume coordinated action by all of humanity, but here you do that yourself by assuming that everyone will become vegetarian/vegan.

            It’s logical to assume that in a sufficiently libertarian society with major wealth differences, those with high wealth/productivity will keep consuming meat, even if shortages of crops result due to this. The poor then may not have the buying power to price the rich out of their meat consumption.

    • pontifex says:

      1. Is it not true that the Earth has gone through fairly dramatic periods of warming and cooling in the past, absent human influence? How can we be sure the current trend is primarily our fault?

      Why does it matter whether it’s “our fault”? If it’s a problem we could fix with lower CO2 emissions, then we should.

      2. Whether it is or is not primarily anthropogenic, how can we be sure that the current warming is going to be a bad thing?

      It’s going to kill off a lot of animal and plant species, which is bad because we might want them for food, medicines, and the enjoyment of the natural world. Biodiversity is good and we should be trying to protect it. Also, we don’t fully understand the climate, so radically changing the composition of the atmosphere is irresponsible. If we get into some kind of runaway feedback loop (like the clathrate gun hypothesis) we may not be able to get out of it.

      3a. Are CO2 emissions harmful in some way unrelated to warming, such as sea acidification, or if we solve the warming do we save the coral reefs, etc.?

      Yes, higher CO2 levels have acidified the ocean, and it is going to get worse. Anything with a calcium shell is going to die eventually as the acidity rises. This problem is separate from warming and just results from the change in the earth’s atmosphere.

      4. Given that, in other areas, like economics, politicians and academics always seem to coincidentally hit upon that view of reality which best justifies giving more power to politicians and more funding to academics, should we not be prima facie skeptical of climate models and studies which justify giving more power to politicians and funding to academics?

      If you understand the science, then let’s have an argument about the science. What does it matter what people’s motivations are?

      • If you understand the science, then let’s have an argument about the science. What does it matter what people’s motivations are?

        That seems right, but the problem is that almost everyone, in practice, is going on second hand information. Thus you write:

        higher CO2 levels have acidified the ocean, and it is going to get worse. Anything with a calcium shell is going to die eventually as the acidity rises.

        You do realize that oceanic pH is moving towards neutral, not away? That doesn’t eliminate the calcium carbonate problem but does make “acidified the ocean” a bit misleading.

        Do you know how much the pH has fallen? How much it has varied in the past? How much it varies from place to place in the ocean? At what range of pH calcium carbonate is stable?

        If you don’t know such things, your views are not based on your scientific knowledge but on believing other people who claim, perhaps truthfully, to know the relevant science.

        Similarly, you write “It’s going to kill off a lot of animal and plant species.” What is your reason for believing that? Do you know what the IPCC has reported on species loss so far? Do you know how many species exist and how many are threatened and on what evidence?

        Again, it sounds as though your views are based on second hand information, possibly reliable, possibly not. In which case the incentives of those generating the information are relevant.

        Think about how many different areas of expertise one would need to simply evaluate the arguments with any real hope of judging them:

        Chemistry, physics, statistics, economics, history, political theory, geology, …

        And you still have the problem of evaluating complicated arguments that depend on those sciences. Being a physicist isn’t enough to tell which climate scientists you should trust because climate is a very complicated physical system, hence its own specialty.

        As far as I can tell, the best one can reasonably hope for is to evaluate bits of the controversy that happen to overlap things you are competent to judge, and form your opinion of whom to trust on that.

        This is, of course, a problem much broader than any particular political controversy.

        • pontifex says:

          You do realize that oceanic pH is moving towards neutral, not away?

          Come on, this is farcical. Why does it matter whether oceanic pH is “moving towards neutral rather than away”? If your doctor told you your blood pH had dropped from 7.35 to 7 and you were going to die, would you be happy that you were “moving towards neutral rather than away”? Or if you fell out a 30th floor window, would you be happy that you were “moving towards neutral elevation rather than away”?

          tangent: Unless you read The Northern Caves too many times and you felt a sense of DEFINITE WRONGNESS about being on the 30th floor…

          Do you know how much the pH has fallen? How much it has varied in the past? How much it varies from place to place in the ocean? At what range of pH calcium carbonate is stable?

          The first link on Google says it has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1.

          Anyway, what’s your point? You don’t believe that more co2 will lead to more acidification? This seems like very basic chemistry. It doesn’t even require computer models or simulations, just basic high school chemistry.

          If you don’t know such things, your views are not based on your scientific knowledge but on believing other people who claim, perhaps truthfully, to know the relevant science.

          David, if you have an argument for why ocean acidification will not happen, let’s hear it. Attacking my qualifications is not going to get us anywhere.

          And you still have the problem of evaluating complicated arguments that depend on those sciences. Being a physicist isn’t enough to tell which climate scientists you should trust because climate is a very complicated physical system, hence its own specialty.

          Correct. This is why we have climate scientists who specialize in this stuff. And you are arguing that they are wrong– an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence.

          But instead of evidence we get ad hominem attacks (X is unqualified! X is too qualified because he’s part of the establishment), absurd isolated demands for rigor (how do you know that carbonated water REALLY has a lower pH? How do you know that rapid environmental changes will REALLY cause extinctions?), misdirection (changing the topic, bringing up new arguments rather than answering existing ones), and rhetorical tricks.

          I consider climate change denialists to be as far outside my personal Overton Window as anti-vaxxers or Creationists. Or maybe even farther, because at least Creationism is a coherent philosophy.

          Climate change denialism seems to be a mass of incoherent ad-hominems, conspiracy theories, and self-contradictory misunderstandings of settled science. I hear people making multiple arguments that aren’t even self-consistent. The climate isn’t changing! Or if it is, it’s not our fault! Or if it’s our fault, it will be good! Or if it isn’t good, it’s going to be gradual!

          It’s like someone is testifying in court. And he says that he didn’t rob the bank. Even if he did, he didn’t shoot anyone. Well, maybe he did shoot someone, but only because they fired first. Well, maybe the other guy didn’t fire first but he was going to fire. Etc. etc. It’s just so obviously a desperate attempt to avoid engaging with the truth, like a drowning man grabbing at anything in reach.

      • Aapje says:

        @DavidFriedman

        Similarly, you write “It’s going to kill off a lot of animal and plant species.” What is your reason for believing that?

        One example is that the Wadden Sea, the intertidal zone in the southeastern part of the North Sea is probably going to disappear. This area is an important migration stopover and wintering site for birds, for one.

        The Wadden Sea is less resilient to sea rises than in the past, because humans have locked down the land with dykes and such. Without these, the rising sea could simply eat into the land, shifting the intertidal zone.

        • @DavidFriedman

          Similarly, you write “It’s going to kill off a lot of animal and plant species.” What is your reason for believing that?

          One example is that the Wadden Sea, the intertidal zone in the southeastern part of the North Sea is probably going to disappear. This area is an important migration stopover and wintering site for birds, for one.

          That presumably means a reduction in the population of some species. What species are there that disappear if that particular area shrinks or vanishes?

          • Aapje says:

            250 plant species only exist there, so they’ll vanish for sure. Animals are much more mobile, but seals birth their young there, some fish release their roe there and 10-12 million birds spend long periods there, while other birds use it as a stopover while migrating elsewhere.

            So losing the area can severely harm the survival chances of many species.

            Of course, we cannot perfectly predict the effects, because our scientific knowledge is insufficient. We might also be able to provide some alternatives, like artificially creating wetlands, but that has associated costs as well and is not as good as the original.

  24. onyomi says:

    What do people think about Bitcoin on a theoretical level?

    Apparently Bitcoin seems to defy some traditional economic theories, such as Mises’s “regression theorem,” which posits that money develops naturally from barter as a way to solve the double coincidence of wants.

    Where Bitcoin seems to defy conventional theories is that, unlike commodity money backed by e.g. gold, or fiat money, backed by governments’ power to tax the productivity of its citizens, Bitcoin is seemingly not backed by anything of inherent value. Yet obviously it does have real value right now–close to $3000–at least for now.

    The answer I’ve heard to this is that the ability to keep a record and easily exchange without the need for trust is precisely Bitcoin’s value. That is, Bitcoin is both a payment network (like Paypal) and the only unit that can be exchanged on that network. The latter derives its value from the usefulness of the former. An example I’ve heard is of islanders exchanging ownership rights to certain monolithic rocks on their island as a form of money. The rocks themselves were useless, but being able to claim and exchange ownership of them provided a way of record keeping, and maybe that is what money is really all about–record keeping which does not rely on trust.

    Absent political concerns like whether or not governments will inevitably try to shut it down, is there any practical reason Bitcoin couldn’t serve as the primary, day-to-day currency for e.g. a whole nation, or, indeed, the world?

    • currentlyinthelab says:

      I don’t know what you mean by theoretical level on this. More precise questions are needed.

      Its another option, if one becomes involved in…risky activities of various sorts. There were three categories of people I knew in real life who used it, summed up cracked.com style as this

      1. Enthusiastic and probably too optimistic guy who thinks this funds noble revolutionists to great extent. Who knows, maybe this has been used in activities that “officially” justify its usage. All activity of that sort is really hidden though, and there’s too many unknown unknowns for me to think about except in a very vague fashion that *really* relies on stereotypes from mission impossible type movies.

      2. That guy who uses it to buy silk-road drugs online. Like idiots, they tended to announce they have done so, braggadocio style, while hinting at their deep dark secret knowledge of the deep web. I prefer the old 70’s style of guys with illicit botanist tendencies foraging about.

      3. He who thinks the currency that has so far shown the volatility of currency of unstable third world countries is a great bet to invest and possibly mine in for the future. Usually blended with 1.

      I don’t know enough about the algorithm and the classes of mathematics involved to know if its possible for someone really clever to make a profit off of mining them*, but it seems most cases lose after the cost of electricity and hardware breakage is factored in. At the least, the practical laws of people tells you that the marginal value of bitcoin mining goes down over time. And of course, there is the opportunity cost of time spent, which *probably* makes it negative.

      Chances are, the real money is in the selling of the hardware to the guys mining.

    • qwints says:

      In its current state, bitcoin is far too slow to serve as a primary, day to day currency at the transaction value required for a large country. The median transaction timeos now over ten minutes with only a few hundred thousand transactions per day (https://blockchain.info/charts). Even a tiny country going onto the block chain for day to day transactions would significantly increase wait times. Combine that would the two competing fork proposals and it’s impractical right now. It’s an also a very expensive system to maintain that allegedly relies on miners using state subsidized power.

      In the medium to long term, it seems quite plausible in a world where the user experience is identical to venmo/PayPal/etc. I’m far more afraid of systemic risk to funds on PayPal, and I’m fine using it as are many (most?) other people.

    • WashedOut says:

      is there any practical reason Bitcoin couldn’t serve as the primary, day-to-day currency

      1. Governments aren’t likely to let go of the reigns of monetary policy that easily.

      2. It requires a certain level of technological literacy. Absence of such literacy leads to distrust and frustration. Of course in a few generations this might be completely overcome.

      3. Robustness issues and the apparent “black-box” workings of the currency mining/storage. What does Joe Blow do if his Bitcoin wallet is suddenly empty and a giant middle finger is on his computer screen in the morning?

      In any case a fully cryptocurrency future would likely comprise of not just Bitcoin but perhaps dozens of currencies like it.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Yet obviously it does have real value right now–close to $3000–at least for now.

      So do some Beanie Babies. Supply and demand. But I (obviously) don’t think a BB currency is likely or warranted.

      A large problem with Bitcoin and other type of digital currencies is their inherent limited supply. This gives them a deflationary nature, but also makes them prone to large swings in valuation.

      • onyomi says:

        Why does limited supply cause large price fluctuations? I don’t think that follows.

        The large price fluctuations in bitcoin are caused by the small market, not the small supply.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @onyomi:
          Because the smaller the supply, the larger the change in price for the same demand increase.

          Reduction ad not absurdum:
          If you only have one of something, if it is unique, you only need two people to bid up the price. Heck, sometimes you only need one if their is uncertainty about the number of bidders.

          ETA: and I think small market and small supply march roughly together. Sure, you could have millions of units that are traded by only a few people, but I think we would find that a) either the millions of units is deceptive and the item is only useful in distinct chunks, or b) the market is actually big, despite having only a few traders.

          ETA2: Although, events like the EpiPen pricing kerfuffle would argue against this, I suppose.

          • onyomi says:

            Because the smaller the supply, the larger the change in price for the same demand increase.

            This proves nothing about volatility–only that, given Bitcoin’s currently small market, the potential upside and downside is very great relative to other currencies. That is, if 1% of those currently using dollars decide to switch to Bitcoin, it would mean a massive gain for Bitcoin, but that is because the current demand for Bitcoin, relative to dollars is so low, not because the supply of Bitcoin is limited.

            It is the small market for Bitcoins which currently makes big price swings relative to other currencies likely. If the market for Bitcoin ever became comparable to that for, e.g. dollars, we could expect it not to change so much.

            Also, the potential supply of Bitcoins is actually quite large relative to other currencies because Bitcoins are hugely divisible. The supply of Bitcoins is relatively static (actually slowly increasing to a certain maximum after which it will be completely static, I believe), but it isn’t small in any absolute sense. The total number of “Satoshis” (that is, each .00000001 of a Bitcoin) which can ever exist is something like two quadrillion one hundred trillion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Those are good points about both the market size and the divisibility of bitcoin.

            However, I don’t think they cut against what I am saying as much as you think. Currently there are about 14 million bitcoins mined, which is 2/3s of the total possible, and we are well past the point where the total seems like it will be added to appreciably.

            Thus, almost the entire likely near future monetary supply is owned. At ~$42 billion in current market cap, there just isn’t enough of it compared to other currency. Compared to global demand for currency, there is a very, very tiny supply of bitcoin, and that doesn’t change no matter how much you subdivide the bitcoin. There are multiple individuals who could theoretically buy out bitcoin entirely.

            So, like other commodities that tend to trade off vs. currency (precious metals), I think we would expect to see it be fairly volatile.

          • At ~$42 billion in current market cap, there just isn’t enough of it compared to other currency.

            (about bitcoin)

            Suppose the total supply is fixed. The value isn’t. If people find bitcoin a useful replacement for other monies, they will bid up its value as high as is necessary for there to be “enough.”

            The real argument on volatility of a currency has to do with sensitivity of quantity to price. If a currency is based on a commodity that is easily produced, then an increase in currency value results in more of the commodity being produced, which pushes the value back down again, giving you a reasonably stable value.

            The extreme example is a commodity bundle currency. Bring in a million Friedman dollars and I give you 300 pounds of grade A steel, ninety bushels of grade B wheat, … . Any time the market price of the bundle gets above a million, people trade dollars for goods, reducing the stock of dollars and bringing the price back down. Any time the market price of the bundle bets below a million, I take the opportunity to issue more dollars, pushing the price back up. So the price of the bundle in Friedman dollars is stable.

            Bitcoin has a bit of this effect due to mining, but the total supply is limited.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Suppose the total supply is fixed. The value isn’t. If people find bitcoin a useful replacement for other monies, they will bid up its value as high as is necessary for there to be “enough.”

            That was (roughly) my point. And the supply of bitcoin is now (roughly) fixed. 2/3s of all bitcoins have been mined and the supply curve is likely to be near flat from here on.

            Not only that, but the amount of bitcoin (in current valuation) is tiny compared to the over all currency market. I think that has to mean its price will be more volatile, all other things being equal. Movement into and out of bitcoin is not going to be driven by the economy overall, but specific things that trade-off vs. other currencies. Someone needing to launder a large sum of money, for example.

          • Nornagest says:

            The supply of gold has been roughly fixed at various times, yet gold-backed currency supported an exponentially expanding economy into the Sixties. Deflationary currencies have problems, but “not enough currency” isn’t one of them, as long as the store of value is fungible (which Bitcoin is).

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The ultimate supply of Bitcoin is 21 million. (I don’t know if it’s exactly that.) About 14 million mined so far. Bitcoins are divisible; the smallest fraction is called a satoshi. 100 million satoshi = 1 bitcoin. (That, at least, is exact.)

            If 1 satoshi were valued at 1 US cent, then all the bitcoins mined so far would equal about 14 trillion USD, or about 1/7th of the current world GDP.

            However, a satoshi could be valued higher – say, a US quarter, probably the lowest amount you might want to transfer if transaction costs were reasonably optimized – and then the total current bitcoin supply could stretch to almost four times world GDP.

            Moreover, while bitcoin supply is enforced by Math, the satoshi division is arbitrary – one could alter the protocol to enable transfer of fractions of a satoshi. I’m guessing the limiting factor here would be upgrading all software to handle the new protocol, and ultimately the overhead of representing that many digits. We could probably handle that latter limit indefinitely. (There’s also some blockchain limitations I don’t fully understand.)

            But overall, it sounds like Bitcoin could represent an entire world’s GDP in theory, if it had to.

            Which raises an interesting question to me. Suppose GDP is an accurate measure of all the money that actually changes hands (as goods and services flow in the other direction). How much extra money would be needed in an economy to reasonably minimize the chance that someone wanted to sell something, but couldn’t, because the customer lacked the actual bitcoin in their wallet, and necessitated them falling back to bartering? Is that even a thing economists think about?

          • John Schilling says:

            But overall, it sounds like Bitcoin could represent an entire world’s GDP in theory, if it had to.

            The issue isn’t that it is literally impossible to break down the bitcoin supply into enough tokens to run an economy. The world’s gold supply can be broken down into roughly 2E31 zeptodoubloons if necessary; gold has still at times been a deflationary currency, and that’s not good.

            The problem is, the ratio of Stuff:Bitcoin will predictably increase, which causes anyone who has Bitcoin now (however divided or divisible) and doesn’t vitally need Stuff today, to hoard their Bitcoin in the expectation of buying more Stuff tomorrow. Also, people who are not Homo Economicus often see the resulting nominal wage reductions as an intolerable “demotion” even if the new wage allows them to buy more Stuff than the old one.

          • LHN says:

            And if they have large fixed debts, it’s not just a nominal demotion. If nominal wages and prices fall in half simultaneously, the effect isn’t neutral on those whose monthly mortgage payment has effectively doubled.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:

            yet gold-backed currency supported an exponentially expanding economy into the Sixties.

            This elides a great deal of complexity.

            The go-to phrase here is “cross of gold” as in “you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold” as stated by William Jennings Bryan in 1896. There was long disagreement on the deflationary aspects of fixed monetary supply.

            The currency of the 60s was “backed by gold” all of the post war expansion happened in an environment where currency was not domestically convertible to gold anymore (Breton Woods in ’44).

    • beleester says:

      Where Bitcoin seems to defy conventional theories is that, unlike commodity money backed by e.g. gold, or fiat money, backed by governments’ power to tax the productivity of its citizens, Bitcoin is seemingly not backed by anything of inherent value.

      I’d disagree. Bitcoin is, functionally, a commodity-backed currency where the rare commodity is cryptographically significant large numbers. Bitcoin works because the hashes it uses to sign transactions can’t be created without massive expenditures of computer power, kind of like how gold works as a currency because you can’t add gold bars to the economy without digging a mine.

      As for why it wouldn’t be used as the day to day currency? The same reason you don’t use large stacks of dollar bills or gold bars as your day to day currency. Banks are more convenient and offer useful services like traceability and the ability to reverse fraud.

      (Yes, in principle you could have a bank that holds and lends BTC in the same way that banks handle dollar bills, but in that case why bother making the switch?)

    • John Schilling says:

      Bitcoin is seemingly not backed by anything of inherent value. Yet obviously it does have real value right now–close to $3000–at least for now.

      Bitcoin is monetized coolness. Its value is backed by the same thing that backed the value of every dot.com stock that never had a credible plan to turn a net profit – the greater fool theory, with the very greatest fools actually believing that all money in the intertubes would flow to the early adopters or investors of the coolness du jour because mumble something underpants mumble economic transformation.

      Is there any practical reason Bitcoin couldn’t serve as the primary, day-to-day currency for e.g. a whole nation, or, indeed, the world?

      So long as the economy continues to generally grow, which most people anticipate for the foreseeable future, Bitcoin’s absolutely capped supply makes it inherently deflationary. And significant deflation is a Bad Thing, for reasons we have discussed here before. So long as bitcoin is a tiny tiny fringe, its value will grow or shrink based on the guesses of lesser fools as to what the greater fools will be thinking tomorrow, and to no great consequence. As the currency of a nation, it would lock in long-term deflation and basically end economic growth.

    • etmoseley says:

      Onyomi– The Regression Theorem doesn’t say that commodity money results from barter, the Theorem suggests that the only way commodity money can come into existence is by “Regression” meant in a near-literal sense of the term. People had seen in the past that a commodity money could be used as an intermediate in exchange for a third commodity, so they exchange for it in anticipation that they, too, can exchange it with someone who will similarly have demand for it due to its past use, and potential future use, as an intermediate in exchange. A tautology implied in the theorem is that, at some point, the commodity must first have been exchanged as an intermediate for a third commodity to start the process.

      If you look at a bitcoin in general, and historical charts of the price of bitcoin in particular, you can see that is was absolutely the case.

      Also, you are missing that the utility of bitcoin as distinguished from other commodity moneys is that it allows for the anonymous transfer of funds– we saw this during the Cypriot Financial Crises, where Cyprus began to freeze assets and the citizens needed a means to funnel their assets out of the nation.

      • pontifex says:

        Is bitcoin truly anonymous, though? I thought that it was pretty easy to track, and that people had to use third-party services if they wanted any kind of anonymity.

        • Nornagest says:

          Depends what you mean by anonymous. Transfers within the blockchain network are fully public, but you can theoretically make it hard to put a name to a wallet; most of the reputable public exchanges want bank account-style information before they’ll give you one, but there’s nothing in the protocol saying you have to work with a major exchange.

        • beleester says:

          Bitcoin is pseudonymous – it’s public knowledge that, say Wallet #1234 transferred 10 BTC to Wallet #2468, but the owner of those wallets isn’t known, and anyone can create a new wallet at any time. Wallets can only be identified when they interact with the real world in some way (say, when you try to exchange BTC for dollars).

          You can also use a “tumbler” service to shuffle money through different wallets and make it hard to determine how much was sent where – instead of #1234 transferring 10 BTC to #2468, now they send 5 BTC to #3456 and 5 to #4567, who forward the money to other wallets, until they finally converge at their destination.

  25. BBA says:

    Legal weirdness of the day: a few years ago, some baccarat players at an Atlantic City casino noticed that their dealer was using an unshuffled deck, and proceeded to win over $1 million betting on the obvious patterns in the cards being dealt. The casino, naturally, refused to pay, and after winding its way through the courts the ultimate decision rested on the fact that the rules of baccarat, as enshrined in state law (N.J.A.C. 13:69F-7.1 through .12), require the use of a shuffled deck. Without a shuffled deck, it wasn’t a legal game of baccarat and the casino had no enforceable obligation to pay out to the players.

    The part I found interesting was that New Jersey has enacted the rules to casino games into state law. This regulatory regime has been followed by some of the states to legalize gambling since NJ did, but Nevada (the first state to legalize gambling and still the largest center of gambling) only requires rules to new games to be approved by the Gaming Commission, with a list of games that were already widespread specifically exempted. That list of known games (currently NRS 463.0152) includes the games you see in every casino today (blackjack, craps, roulette) as well as a few games that used to be popular but have drifted into obscurity (faro, seven-and-a-half). And then there’s one game, by the rather offensive name of “big injun,” that’s a complete mystery. It’s been legal to play in Nevada since 1931 and it’s specifically banned in a few other states’ laws, but the only information about the game I’ve been able to scrounge up is that nobody else knows anything about it either.

    So there’s an interesting quandary. If some enterprising casino mogul starts some tables for a new game and calls it “big injun,” can the authorities come after him for an unlicensed new game? Or is he safe because who’s to say his game isn’t the one named in the law? (Or would the impending shitstorm for using an ethnic slur in the game’s name outweigh any possible legal consequences?)

    • AnonYEmous says:

      If some enterprising casino mogul starts some tables for a new game and calls it “big injun,” can the authorities come after him for an unlicensed new game?

      this is an Unsatisfying answer, but they can probably just change the laws afterwards

      i guess if they don’t want to, he’s in the clear. Except yes, as you mentioned, he might catch some heat for doing what he did. Also, unclear if people are interested in playing new games (I mean really unclear, I have no idea personally, just throwing it out there)

    • Aapje says:

      @BBA

      Without a shuffled deck, it wasn’t a legal game of baccarat and the casino had no enforceable obligation to pay out to the players.

      Wasn’t it fraud by the casino then? The players put in money based on the assumption that they would win/lose money based on the rules of baccarat.

      Did the casino pay back all the players who lost money to the casino? If not, it seems like a very one-sided decision by the courts.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Presumably, this law is written to protect casinos from their own dealers colluding with the players. This gives an incentive to the players to call the dealer out on an unshuffled deck, rather than betting on it.

        Furthermore, as they aren’t legal games, the casino is presumably liable to return bets, but probably only for a “legitimate” claim. House always wins, ya know?

      • BBA says:

        I don’t think anybody lost money (or if they did, it was completely offset by their later winnings). The unshuffled decks were limited to a single table and a few hours’ worth of play. The pattern would have become apparent after the second or third hand.

        The casino also sued the card manufacturer for selling them a “pre-shuffled” set of decks that wasn’t. If this is the case, there does not appear to be any fraud on the casino’s part, though I assume they’d be more inclined to shuffle their own cards in the future.

        • Aapje says:

          I thought this was a systemic problem at that casino, so if it was just a brief issue, that would make the ruling more sensible.

          However, your paragraphs appear to be in conflict. Was it a single table for a few hours or did they systematically use unshuffled decks (although perhaps only very briefly, when using a new deck, before it was shuffled by the dealer)?

      • gph says:

        >Wasn’t it fraud by the casino then?

        Not a lawyer, but I think there would have to be provable intent to consider it fraud. I don’t think a legitimate mistake/error would be considered fraud.

  26. Mark says:

    I’m male, and I don’t really understand why I don’t have sex with prostitutes.

    It would really cost me a fairly insignificant amount of money. I could afford to have sex with a prostitute every day.

    And, I’m not all sexed out. There is definitely room for more sex in my life.

    But I really don’t want to do it.

    So, what’s going on there?

    [As far as anyone can tell, I’m not an evolutionary dead end.]

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m male, and I don’t really understand why I don’t have sex with prostitutes.

      FWIW, I feel similarly. The prospect of having sex with prostitutes disgusts me.

      Best I can offer is that having sex with prostitutes is probably not a great strategy for propagation of your genes. Might be that some males evolved a “meh” response to prostitutes, who not only offer very poor chances of reproduction, but also are risky with regards to venereal diseases, which would further retard one’s ability to have children.

      • Mark says:

        So an evolved response to the dangers of sexually transmitted disease.

        It can’t be an evolved response to the concept of prostitution though, can it? I guess it would have to be a more general distaste for non-exclusive relationships.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, prostitution is called the world’s oldest profession. It *might* be evolutionarily relevant.

          • onyomi says:

            Also, even if we didn’t evolve to have particular feelings about prostitutes, per se, the male fear of female promiscuity has a good evolutionary basis: you won’t know if it’s your kid.

        • Wrong Species says:

          It’s not about biology but culture. If you had been raised to believe that prostitution was a normal thing people engaged in, it probably wouldn’t bother you as much. You say that in a society like that it would still bother you but it’s hard to imagine what a different world is like. Think about the difference between having a one night stand 100 years ago versus today. Many women back then probably believed that only the lowest of the low would do something like that but it’s not uncommon today.

          • Anonymous says:

            Many women back then probably believed that only the lowest of the low would do something like that but it’s not uncommon today.

            And, indeed, even more unthinkable to behave like a prostitute and not charge the john. 😉

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Aapje beat me to it, but I think that his first suggestion is the most likely.

        The old saw about humans being “feeling machines that think” rather than the reverse might be cliched, but it’s also entirely true, even if you are more inclined towards abstract ideation and less connected with your emotional feedback mechanisms than the average person.

        At the risk of throwing out an ad-hoc hypothesis, I would suggest that one of the reasons we experience emotions the way we do is the profound power of emotion to incentivize and disincentivize behavior, and while you can probably get a lesser emotional fix to go along with the physical fix of orgasm from a prostitute, for a lot of men it’s not really all that superior to various forms of assisted masturbation, and it’s far -inferior- to even a friendly emotional relationship involving mutual attraction and desire for companionship, much less a romantic one.

        So, to sum up, I think the reason you (and more men in general) who could seek out prostitutes don’t is that in reality the sexual pleasure reward is less the driver of our mating behaviour than the emotional pleasure reward, and both of those are stronger than a conscious but abstract thought of “I should propagate my genes”.

    • Aapje says:

      Perhaps:
      – what you actually want is sex with someone who wants to have sex with you (rather than your money).
      – the social taboo on sex with prostitutes makes you feel like a social reject if you think about it.
      – you feel bad about potentially enabling abuse/criminality/etc.
      – you feel apprehension at the risk of getting caught by the police.
      – you feel bad about having sex with someone who has had many sex partners.
      – a combination of these things and/or other reasons.

      I suggest that you visualize some scenarios that remove these fears and assess whether it increases your desire to have sex with prostitutes:
      1. Imagine a person who wants to have sex with you, but is in county jail, to be released after paying a fine. You get to have sex with her if you pay the fine. Does visualizing this make you eager to pay the fine?
      2. Imagine a society where having sex with prostitutes is completely normal and accepted by your friends and family. Does visualizing this make you more eager to have sex with prostitutes?
      3. Imagine that you have a good friend whom you are attracted to and who is in financial trouble. She wants to work as a prostitute for a pimp. Imagine that you make a deal where you regularly pay her for sex, so she gets the money she needs without the risk of being abused or taken advantage of. Does visualizing this make you more eager to have sex with her than with a random prostitute who may be abused/taken advantage of?
      4. Imagine a society where prostitution is fully legal. Does visualizing this make you more eager to have sex with prostitutes?
      5. Imagine having sex with a prostitute where you are her first client. Does visualizing this make you more eager to have sex with her?

      (Numbered so you can easily report the results to us if you feel like doing so.)

      • Mark says:

        1. I feel like if I’m the person properly responsible for getting someone out of jail, I should get them out of jail whether or not they will have sex with me. So, no.

        2. I think it’s very hard to know how I would actually react if I’d been raised in such a society, but imagining me, now, dropped into such a society doesn’t make me more eager. No.

        Actually, I don’t know… maybe? It depends on how cool the prostitutes are.

        3. Yes. But it seems like a really bad idea, long term. She would be dependent upon me, but have no loyalty – so, I might do it short term while she sorts herself out, but long term I like to think I’d have more sense.

        4. No.

        5.No, I think that seems far worse.

        • Aapje says:

          Comment about 1:

          1. My example was poor, since helping someone out of jail is never morally neutral. Perhaps a better example is paying for the (high) travel costs of a poor person who wants to have sex with you, because she can’t afford that. Assume that if you don’t do this, she has sex with someone who she likes slightly less, so paying for her expenses is minimal altruism and mostly to your benefit.

    • WashedOut says:

      You might be put off by lack of conquest. When you make an effort to dress nicely and impress at a bar or club or social event, you start on a path of demonstrating to yourself and others that you can persuade others to like you enough to sleep together. Prostitution circumvents this whole aspect of people’s sexual drives.

    • M.C. Escherichia says:

      The term “sex with prostitutes” is rather vague. There are big differences between street prostitutes, brothel prostitutes, and “escort” prostitutes, and within each of those classes there are a wide range of types. What sort of prostitute are we talking about?

    • Brad says:

      Maybe armchair evo psych is far too reductionist. That would be my guess anyway.

      • Anatoly says:

        That’s what I think, too.

      • currentlyinthelab says:

        Not only is it too reductionist* to be useful its not *nearly* as fun as armchair Freudian analysis.

        oedipal complex, penis envy, and topped off with some variant of “So, why does the prostitute remind you of your mother? ”

        *reductionist isn’t even the right word….but i’m having trouble thinking of one that fits.

        —-okokok, too risque for this crowd?

    • rahien.din says:

      This strikes me as similar to the escalator standers/walkers problem. In brief, escalator efficiency has a U-curve. The lower local maximum is when everyone stands, the higher local maximum is when everyone walks, and the minimum efficiency is a mixture of standers and walkers. The mixed strategy is least-efficient because the strategies interfere with one another, and as a result, people wait longer to get on the escalator.

      Maybe the sexual satisfaction function has a similar U-curve. The lower local maximum would be masturbation, and the higher local maximum would be sex with a non-prostitute. Sex with a prostitute is the least-efficient point on that function. That could suggest that it is a mixture of mutually-interfering strategies.

    • J Mann says:

      1) Regarding evolution, maybe you’re smart enough to see there’s no adaptive payoff. Sex with the prostitute is almost guaranteed to be non-procreative. (But why aren’t you contributing to sperm banks?)

      2) So that leaves your goal of maximizing pleasure. The simply economic hypothesis is that you prefer the alternative of using the $100 on something else (and possibly engaging in Onanism, which is close to free).

      2.1) Ok, but economic theory also tells us that you should value an occasional visit to a prostitute more than any individual daily visit. Maybe he or she would do some stuff you enjoy that you can’t effectively substitute with your existing partners or yourself. So why don’t you? (Even if you generally prefer apples to mangos, declining marginal returns suggests you would once in a while eat a mango).

      2.1.1) Maybe it’s just personal taste. Some people just don’t like mangos, full stop.

      2.1.2) Maybe your personal tastes would be different if it were legal and socially acceptable, and it would be more like trying absinthe or going to a strip club – something you try once or twice to see if you like it, then probably quit.

      3) One more thought – maybe you’re a do it yourselfer? I just don’t like paying people for things if I can avoid it. Financial advice, massages, decorating, personal training, home repairs, home cleaning – I don’t deny that all of those things would probably benefit me on paper, but they rub me the wrong way. (No pun intended).

    • John Schilling says:

      It would really cost me a fairly insignificant amount of money. I could afford to have sex with a prostitute every day.

      I am skeptical of this claim. If, e.g., the guys at Freakonomics are to be believed, the average price for a single “sex act” from a street prostitute in Chicago is $35. That still comes to over $12,000/year, which most people would not consider “insignificant”, and if what a Chicago streetwalker will do for $35 is the standard then I am not surprised it doesn’t appeal. I believe that for e.g. a one-hour visit by a low-end callgirl, something like $100 is the minimum, and at that point you’re over $36k/year.

      • Randy M says:

        Millennials these days, paying $16.50 for avocado toast but won’t drop $35 for a Chicago streetwalker.

      • Anonymous says:

        Someone actually did crunch the numbers on the relative financial efficiency of game vs prostitution, here.

        • Protagoras says:

          Strikes me as an apples to oranges comparison. A sex worker is likely to have greater skills and be more focused on their partner’s pleasure, thus making the actual encounter itself more pleasurable, while a “notch” is something a guy can tell stories and boast about. I expect interest in one or the other to be more heavily influenced by which of those are more motivating for a guy to a greater extent than by cost.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I thought men spend money on learning game. No?

          • Nornagest says:

            I would be willing to bet at pretty long odds that spending serious money on game (above the level of, say, buying a $20 book) is a lot rarer than spending the same kind of money on prostitution.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            IME, most of the money you spend is on dates. And pretty much everyone teaching Game has their own system for how to date as cheaply as possible.

            Training courses and seminars are where the authors make their money but I would be very surprised if they’re very more helpful than written advice. It’s a skill you get better at through practice: after all, nobody really expects to learn to play tournament level golf in a one-week course.

          • Aapje says:

            AFAIK, PUAs tend to argue that you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on dates (or buying people drinks), as it signals desperation and thus that the man is low value in the dating market.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think half the reason men try so hard to obtain sex is so they can tell other men about it. Having sex with a “10” raises your status. Hiring a prostitute can lower it.

      • Well... says:

        I don’t think that is generalizable. Most men might feel a status boost from the knowledge they had sex with a “10,” but few men over the age of 16 (at least in my experience) realistically think it’ll do anything for their status to go around bragging about it. Adolescent men might stand around talking about their sexual encounters, but (again, in my experience) adult men for the most part do not.

        • hls2003 says:

          There’s also the perspective that the key person who would know is you. Knowing that you were able to do well with an attractive woman will boost your confidence – which will then make you more attractive to other women down the line, as confidence is known to be sexy.

          Which would also be why prostitution is less attractive – it signals (to yourself, even if no one else) that you can’t get with a woman without paying, and thus hamstrings your future prospects. It’s a confidence torpedo instead of a boost.

          • Well... says:

            I was thinking that having sex with a “10” is a confidence boost but talking about it with other guys is already way into diminishing returns.

            You’re proposing it’s negative returns because it signals “this guy can’t get laid without paying someone” which might be true (it’s what I would probably think, at least instinctively, of a guy who told me he slept with a hooker). But I also remember (approximately, and this was told to me by someone else) Charlie Sheen’s quip when someone asked him why he sleeps with hookers since he’s rich and famous and handsome: he said, “I pay them to leave!”

      • M.C. Escherichia says:

        Secret sex is (I think, and I presume I’m not unusual in this) vastly superior to a reputation for having sex, while actually having none. Is that not the normal attitude?

        • Protagoras says:

          I agree, but I do not get the impression that it is in fact the normal attitude. It has always puzzled me that so many people behave as if they believe the opposite, but I tend toward the default conclusion, that they behave that way because they do in fact believe the opposite.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          No, because you can bootstrap a reputation into reality.

          If you’re a virginal man, especially above 20, it’s very challenging to convince women who know that fact to sleep with you. To a lesser extent this applies if you’re a man who has had a non-zero but small amount of sexual experience. I could spin theories as to why that is but it would be hand waving: the point is that it’s an easily verifiable fact.

          So pretending you have had more experience can pay off, and pays off more the less experience you actually have. It’s risky, because trying too hard makes you look even more pathetic. But if you’re smart or lucky* it’s not actually that hard.

          *I was lucky. At some point in my early 20s women started offhandedly saying things to me like “of course, you probably have more experience than me” or asking me for bedroom advice. I’m still not sure why but I ran with that misconception until I had a high enough N that it didn’t matter. The girl who took my virginity still doesn’t know.

    • Well... says:

      Personally, even if I wasn’t married and a believer in chaste monogamy, and even if I felt like spending my money that way, I’d be put off by the potential to catch a disease, which I assume would be greater with a prostitute than with a girl I’d normally sleep with. (If a girl’s had more than about half a dozen sexual partners that’s for the most part a dealbreaker.)

      Heck, with a prostitute I’d even be concerned about funny smells, etc. Something about prostitution seems inherently dirty.

      • Protagoras says:

        The research on STDs suggest that people who have a few partners in their lifetimes are the major risks, as they are least likely to consider safe sex necessary. More promiscuous people are more likely to use condoms, to a sufficient degree that it apparently more than offsets the increased risk from extra partners. This seems to extend all the way to prostitute level of promiscuity; studies of STD rates find prostitutes to be below the population average. Of course, if the “seeming dirty” is a turn off, you probably wouldn’t enjoy seeing a prostitute, but I think you are letting the “seeming dirty” lead you to draw conclusions about the actual health facts that are not accurate.

        • Well... says:

          The research on STDs suggest that people who have a few partners in their lifetimes are the major risks, as they are least likely to consider safe sex necessary. More promiscuous people are more likely to use condoms, to a sufficient degree that it apparently more than offsets the increased risk from extra partners. This seems to extend all the way to prostitute level of promiscuity; studies of STD rates find prostitutes to be below the population average.

          Those findings seem implausible and I reflexively question the experimental design and/or data analysis methods. But at any rate, “considers safe sex necessary” outside marriage is also a trait that would be selected for among the types of girls I’d be likely to sleep with.

        • Brad says:

          Do you know if that applies to oral sex as well? My impression is that safe oral sex on women (i.e. using a dental dam) is vanishingly rare and that safe oral sex on men is considerably rarer than safe PIV sex.

          • Protagoras says:

            I’m not an expert on this field, more relying on what I’ve heard from experts and read from a few studies. But it is my impression that as a general rule STDs are considerably harder to contract from oral than PIV sex. However, diseases vary. HIV in particular seems to be nearly impossible to transmit orally, and of course people are especially concerned about that one. On the other hand, anyone who would consider it a major disaster to contract herpes probably shouldn’t visit a sex worker (or have sex, PIV or oral, with anyone, or kiss anyone, really).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Read something a while back about a strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea being transmitted primarily through fellatio.

          • Nornagest says:

            Oral sex is inherently safer, though. Varies by pathogen, of course, but with HIV, for example, transmission by that route is negligible.

        • dndnrsn says:

          These seem like studies that would have all sorts of problems with doing them properly. I would be unsurprised if high-end escorts were significantly more responsible with protection than the average person, and thus had lower rates of STDs, but I would also be surprised if the highest levels of STDs were found among other sorts of sex workers.

          • Protagoras says:

            I should add the caveat that all the studies I’m familiar with involve first world sex workers. What I’ve read about the situation in poorer countries appears to be quite different, but I haven’t seen as much detailed information on that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            By all accounts, even in first-world countries, prostitution of the “survival sex” variety is quite unsafe. In part because the more desperate someone is, the more likely they are to accept an extra 10 bucks or whatever in exchange for not demanding the john wear a condom.

  27. Zodiac says:

    Just a quick check: The ANOVA does not have comment function hidden away somewhere, correct?

    • qwints says:

      Not that I’m aware of. Looks like a standard wordpress installation with comments except for linkbacks turned off. He’s fairly responsive to twitter replies to the tweets announcing the various posts.

    • Zodiac says:

      That’s a shame. I really hoped I just somehow overlooked them or that my browser had eaten the button or something. The studies he presents seem perfect for coming up with a variety of explanations that would warrant discussion.
      Admittedly however I would also have really liked to see if I was the only one (along with seemingly Scott) who is rubbed the wrong way about his view of school as a safe haven.

    • Zodiac says:

      That’s a shame. I really hoped I just somehow overlooked them or that my browser had eaten the button or something. The studies he presents seem perfect for coming up with a variety of explanations that would warrant discussion.
      Admittedly however I would also have really liked to see if I was the only one (along with seemingly Scott) who is rubbed the wrong way about his view of school as a safe haven.

      PS: I tried posting this yesterday but couldn’t. Copy-pasting this now gives a duplicate warning. What is going on?

  28. johan_larson says:

    I’m hearing a steady drone of complaints about the F-35 program. If it were cancelled, what would the various US services and allies do?

    Off-hand, some F-22s supplemented on the low end by the Silent Eagle looks pretty good for the Air Force. Maybe the Advanced Super Hornet for the Navy. The Marines probably don’t have a good solution for VTOL once the Harriers wear out, so maybe they’d give up on that and follow the Navy’s lead on the Hornet.

    • bean says:

      We don’t have a good alternative, but we don’t need one. The F-22 would be very hard to restart. It got shut down the better part of a decade ago, and the supply chain is gone. We’d probably be better off doing a SuperRaptor, although it would be expensive.
      But the F-35 is something new, and rather different from possible alternatives. They’re working on a whole new level in terms of sensor and systems integration. The idea is that it doesn’t need to dogfight because it is going to be very, very good at seeing the enemy first. And that’s ultimately what matters in combat. The F-35 is finally starting to come good, and cancelling it now would be almost criminal. Everything which has been said about the F-35 was previously said about the V-22, the F-16, the F-14, and the F-111, just for a start. All of them have turned out to be pretty good planes. The F-35 will, too. I just hope that the firestorm over it is memorable enough that people actually start to learn that this is a normal part of the procurement cycle. But I’m not optimistic about it.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        this is news to me, and interesting news.

        has the V22 gone through a similar redemptive process?

        • bean says:

          this is news to me, and interesting news.

          All weapons go through three phases. First, they exist only on paper, and will be wonderful and amazing. Then, they go to prototype, and the cost and schedule go out the window. Then they are terrible. Not only are they expensive and late, but they’re also going to be useless once they get into the field, vastly inferior to whatever the enemy du jour has. Lastly, they’re in service, and are generally good hardware. Not as good as promised during phase 1, but nowhere near as bad as predicted during phase 2. This phase doesn’t get a lot of press. “New weapon proves to work pretty well” is not a good headline.
          The V-22 moved from 2 to 3 in the past 10 years. The F-35 is beginning the transition now.

          (This also happens in other fields. A recent and prominent example is the 787 Dreamliner. It was going to be amazing and change everything, then it was late, expensive, and prone to catching fire, and now it’s a good airplane that works well and allows some new routes.)

          has the V22 gone through a similar redemptive process?

          Pretty much. There’s still some minor squabbling over metrics, but the Marines love them, and they’re doing good work. I talked to a V-22 pilot who had come from Harriers, and he told me that despite not having an ejection seat and being responsible for two dozen guys in the back, he was more confident in it than anything else he had flown.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Most interesting! Any good reading on this subject you can recommend?

          • bean says:

            Unfortunately, no. This is the sort of thing which generally doesn’t get carefully studied because it’s of little interest outside the field, and there’s no clear professional path in for people to write textbooks on. I may try to write up a more rigorous version at some point.

          • Aapje says:

            @bean

            So when will the Zumwalt be redeemed? 😛

          • bean says:

            It won’t. As best I can tell, the people running that project took media reports of defense procurement problems, and assumed that was how the program was supposed to be run. Yes, there are occasional exceptions to the rule that programs eventually come good, but in most cases, we’ve had the good sense to cancel them before they got as far as the Zumwalts. It’s the fault of the Maine congressional delegation that it wasn’t. The Navy wanted to get rid of them.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          To add another example, the UH-60 Blackhawk and its variants are generally considered a solid family of proven designs these days, but during their initial deployment they were called “Crashhawks”, and the name has stuck around.

      • Protagoras says:

        As an outsider, shutting down the F-22 looked like a mistake to me; cancelling the F-35 and modifying the F-22 to serve more roles seemed like obviously a better move, insofar as the F-22 is a larger, more powerful plane. Just being bigger means any small changes are more likely to be practical, so it seems more likely that you could reasonably modify it to be more multi-role. Obviously, this is completely water under the bridge at this point, but I’m wondering if there is any merit to this opinion of mine or if the special features of the F-22 meant it was harder to modify than I’m giving it credit for.

        • bean says:

          Not really. The F-22 was built to fill a very different niche from the F-35, and it was a lot more expensive. (The latest F-35A is actually cheaper than the Super Hornet.) Two engines, bigger airframe, more comprehensive stealth package, it all adds up.
          Also, the big secret of the F-35 is the fact that it’s going to be a generation past the F-22 in terms of electronics. The sensor fusion stuff they’re doing is pretty incredible, although there isn’t a lot of talk about it because it’s hard to understand why it’s a big deal if you’re not in the defense world. The F-35 can be thought of as the first software-defined fighter.

          • gbdub says:

            While I agree that the F-35 and F-22 fill different roles, and can’t really be swapped, I still think the F-22 was shut down early. There simply aren’t enough airframes – fighter airplanes, especially stealth ones, can’t fly forever, and we risk the F-22 turning into a hangar queen because we can’t afford to lose / wear out any of them.

            The F-22 seemed to be a victim of that ridiculous budget logic, where the response to an increase in cost-per-unit is to cut the orders, and then be shocked, shocked I say when the cost-per-unit goes up again from the cut.

          • bean says:

            I totally agree with all of that. I’m not defending the early shutdown of the F-22 program, just pointing out that an F-22 variant isn’t a good replacement for the F-35A, much less the B and C models. We need both, and we already don’t have enough F-22s. I’d rather we didn’t make the same mistake on the F-35.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I saw on the F-35’s wiki page:

            Deliveries of the F-35 for the U.S. military are scheduled until 2037[13] with a projected service life up to 2070.[14]

            Is this as extraordinary a lifetime as it sounds? Do we still have any planes from the ’50s/’60s kicking around?

          • Nornagest says:

            Do we still have any planes from the ’50s/’60s kicking around

            Yep. The B-52 (introduced 1955, still in service, projected retirement around 2040) is probably the most famous example. There’s also the C-130 cargo plane (introduced 1956), the U-2 spy plane (introduced 1957), and others.

            Many of the helicopter platforms we use are pretty old, too. The CH-47 Chinook was introduced in 1962; the OH-6 Cayuse observation helicopter, in 1966. The Marines still use Hueys, introduced in 1956; these have been heavily upgraded over the years, but the twin-engine platform in current use was introduced in 1969.

          • gbdub says:

            Yes, the B-52 and KC-135 are both (updated) versions of aircraft that first flew in the 50s.

            The T-38 first flew in 1959. The F-15 and F-16 are 1970s designs.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Thanks! I saw on the wiki for that one that it’s projected to go all the way to the 2040s. Pretty impressive.

          • bean says:

            Thanks! I saw on the wiki for that one that it’s projected to go all the way to the 2040s. Pretty impressive.

            One thing I will say is that military airplanes aren’t used nearly as hard as commercial ones. The current B-52s have something like 16-18,000 hours on them. On an airliner, that’s just getting broken in. An A320 or a 737 flies that in probably four years.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I seem to remember the claim that there was a Rolls-Royce engine (airliner turbofan, not luxury car) somewhere with a service life that measured in the millions of hours.

          • cassander says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Fathers, sons and grandsons have all flown the same B-52, and the last B-52 pilot has not yet been born.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’m going to push back on the idea that the F-35’s troubles are normal for defense procurement. The magnitude of the cost and schedule slips are unprecedented and, IMO, unnecessary. I attribute this to the “one system per generation, thus the one system must incorporate every item on everyone’s wish list, therefore will be hideously over budget and behind schedule, therefore we can only afford one per generation” effect described earlier regarding the LCS.

        And on the aircraft front, we know from hard experience that we are headed for trouble when we try up front to design one aircraft to be all things to all services. But if we just try to design, e.g., a good Navy fleet defense interceptor, we may wind up with one of the most versatile multi-role and multi-service combat aircraft in history. There’s no excuse for some of the decisions made early in the F-35 program.

        If the F-35 requirement had been split into e.g. a fifth-generation Air Force strike/SEAD aircraft to complement the pure air superiority F-22, a 4th-generation VTOL Harrier replacement for the Marines, and some long-term technology development and integration work, we would I suspect have spent less money for more and better platforms in service today and a clearer path to 6th-generation systems in a decade or so.

        But bean is right that this is a sunk cost. We have the F-35, close enough to fully operational that quitting now would save us less than nothing in the long run.

        • bean says:

          All of this is true, and I perhaps overstated the degree to which the troubles the F-35 has had are normal. The types of trouble we’ve seen are pretty common, although the magnitude is larger than we’ve seen in some time.

    • gbdub says:

      I know the sunk-cost fallacy is a thing, but at this point the F-35 program’s public perception seems to be suffering from, I don’t know, the sunk-cost fallacy fallacy, or reverse sunk cost fallacy?

      Yes, we’ve spent far too much time and money on it, but at this point it is so far along that switching to a different option would probably cost as much or more – and result in a much less capable fighter at the end.

      The relevant question is starting from today, which is more cost effective: continuing the F-35 program, or starting/ramping up a new procurement program for an upgraded version of an existing fighter (Silent Eagle and/or Advanced Super Hornet)?

      It’s also worth noting that the Eagle and Hornet are both Boeing products while the F-35 and F-22 are Lockheed Martin designs. Boeing has been so far shut out of 5th generation fighter (and bomber) contracts, so a lot of people pushing hard for Silent Eagle / Advanced Super Hornet are quite literally trying to sell you something.

      • bean says:

        The relevant question is starting from today, which is more cost effective: continuing the F-35 program, or starting/ramping up a new procurement program for an upgraded version of an existing fighter (Silent Eagle and/or Advanced Super Hornet)?

        Well, the F-15 program is behind schedule and over budget, and McDonnell Douglas is promising that an updated F-4 will be just as good. Maybe we should….
        Oh, wait. Wrong decade.

        In seriousness, the F-35 is going to open up lots of new capabilities that we can’t get with legacy airplanes without spending even more on them than we have left to pay on the JSF. Technology moves forward, and while 4.5-gen fighters are useful to fill out the bottom end of the card, we need to spend our budget on the JSF, or we’ll end up in the same position as the F-22.

        • gbdub says:

          I fully agree. Probably should have implied as much more strongly.

          One program I find intriguing is the Air Force’s OA-X, a light attack aircraft for use in “permissive” environments (little to no anti-air defenses) such as Afghanistan. These would be comparatively cheap, subsonic aircraft (the Super Tucano, Texan, and Textron Scorpion are the current competitors).

          An argument for this program I hadn’t considered is, basically, the major relief such a bird would be to the existing advanced fighters. Not only would we stop risking and wearing out high-end planes on relatively simple bomb-truck missions, but the pilots of the high end planes could spend more time training for the sort of near-peer conflict that their planes were designed for (lest we degrade that important skillset).

          • cassander says:

            OA-X is a very good idea for exactly that reason. Sending 100 million dollar aircraft (that cost 30k dollars an hour to fly) into low risk environments is just wasteful. I’ve often argued that we need to keep the A-10s around, not because of the gun and not because they’re amazing at CAS, but because they’re fine for CAS and having them do it is cheaper than having top end fighters do it.

          • gbdub says:

            Even the A-10 is overkill, being designed for taking out front-line Soviet tanks in contested airspace. It’s a great plane, I love seeing them fly, but they are getting rather long in the tooth. A single-engine turboprop with long loiter time and fully modern avionics seems like a great solution.

          • bean says:

            @gbdub
            I’ve been saying that for several years now, and it’s why I think the A-10 should be immediately retired, and all examples rendered totally unflyable. (Yes, the A-10 partisans have started to really get on my nerves.)

          • John Schilling says:

            An A-10 that exists today is better than an OA-X that doesn’t, and it’s better than an F-16 that costs more but doesn’t bring extra capability to the CAS game. It would be a shame if we couldn’t use that capability while it lasts because of stupid intraservice and procurement politics. But the A-10 won’t last, and nobody on either side has any rational plan for phasing it out of service as it ages out of serviceablility.

          • bean says:

            An A-10 that exists today is better than an OA-X that doesn’t, and it’s better than an F-16 that costs more but doesn’t bring extra capability to the CAS game.

            All of the possible OA-X platforms exist. We just need to figure out which one to buy. If we wanted to, it would be in service in a year or two. The A-10 doesn’t bring extra capability over an F-16 in a modern CAS environment, and when you take fleet costs into account, it’s more expensive to run. I believe the 280 A-10s cost about as much as 330 marginal F-16s to run, although I failed to find a cite the last time I looked.
            Right now, it’s sucking up money which should be going to other projects, and I’m tired of people going around banging on about it. It’s been obsolete since it was built. It’s a nice piece of engineering, but it’s had its day, and it’s the thing we can most easily afford to sacrifice.

          • John Schilling says:

            All of the possible OA-X platforms exist. We just need to figure out which one to buy. If we wanted to, it would be in service in a year or two.

            Does that include the protest lawsuits by all the losing bidders because we rushed the process in a way that wasn’t fair to their bid?

            I agree that a credible plan for early service entry of OA-X would pretty much do away with the case for holding on to the A-10. But I’m not seeing such a plan from the “kill the A-10 now” side. An obvious compromise would be one-for-one replacement of A-10 with OA-X, in the same squadrons, as OA-X actually enters service.

          • bean says:

            Does that include the protest lawsuits by all the losing bidders because we rushed the process in a way that wasn’t fair to their bid?

            At this point, I think our best bet is to get the GAO audit started when we take the bids, and operate under the assumption that the lawsuit will be filed, so we might as well save time.
            (I thought about making snarky comments about Beechcraft in my earlier post, but decided against it.)

            I agree that a credible plan for early service entry of OA-X would pretty much do away with the case for holding on to the A-10. But I’m not seeing such a plan from the “kill the A-10 now” side. An obvious compromise would be one-for-one replacement of A-10 with OA-X, in the same squadrons, as OA-X actually enters service.

            I could buy that, but I’m more concerned with getting the A-10 out of service than getting the OA-X in.
            I’d also think it might be worth looking at something a little higher-end, probably a variant of the T-X winner, to replace some of the A-10s. I’m not certain of this, but it’s worth investigating.

      • cassander says:

        Now is literally the worst possible time to switch to a different fighter. All the development money has been spent, and F-35s are rolling off the line at about 95* million per, more for the B and C. that is cheaper than the Eurofighter, Rafale, and F-15I, and only a little more than super hornets. If anything, the Navy should be accelerating its F-35 buy.

        As for a new hornet, boeing has put forward two suggestions, the advanced hornet and the block 3 hornet. the advanced hornet more or less the F-18 based version of the silent eagle. It was higher priced, higher stealth version of the F-18. It was both less capable and more expensive than F-35s would be at this point. There are very hard limits on how much you can stealth up a platform not designed for stealth from the ground up, and much of what could be done was already done.

        The block 3 hornet (the super duper hornet) is a much better idea in that it forgoes promises of serious additional stealth in favor of squeezing more range out of the F-18 airframe and better integrating its sensors with the F-35. It’s the low half of a high low mix and would be a good way for the navy to cheaply deal with its looming fighter shortage as the legacy hornets age out of the fleet faster than planned.

        Also, boeing hasn’t just been shut out of 5th gen designs, they’ve never built a jet fighter, period. The last figher they designed was this guy. Basically all the super hornet design work was done by Mcdonnell Douglas.

        *note, calculating the cost for aircraft, particularly military aircraft, is an incredibly complicated business that is almost never done apples to apples because aircraft are so unique. All numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, 95 million is the price in latest US military contract with Lockheed.

        • bean says:

          A couple of points. First, any Boeing jet fighters are being built in St. Louis by the old McDonnell Douglas team. That’s why Boeing bought McDD. The McDD airliner division was shut down over a decade ago, but the military side is still going strong. Second, the actual last fighter Boeing designed was this.
          But yes, the Boeing alternatives to the F-35 are not good ones.

    • cassander says:

      The silent eagle was a pretty shitty deal. Boeing was offering a price of 125 million for an aircraft that was much less stealthy and had worse sensors than the F-35, which is currently rolling off the line at 95 million. it was almost as much as the late F-22s, which were 125-150, depending on whose numbers you believe. there are pretty hard limits on how much stealth you can add to a platform that isn’t designed for it from the ground up, and all the engineering in the world can’t really change that. The advanced hornet had similar issues.

      As for the marines, there’s a reason they’re the service that’s most enthusiastic about the F-35, it’s a huge upgrade over the harrier, an aircraft that first flew in 1967. If I were dictator of the US military I’d have done things differently, but you can’t call the F-35 a bad plane, just a plane that’s over budget and schedule and behind schedule, which is just about every plane ever developed.

      • John Schilling says:

        The value of Silent Eagle and Super Duper Hornet are that it allows Congress and the USAF to tell Lockheed-Martin, “You don’t actually have a monopoly; the republic will not fall if we refuse your blank-check demands and buy the competition’s technically inferior but for the moment adequate aircraft”. So it would be worth keeping those lines operating (for foreign sales) as long as reasonably possible, and not killing our negotiating position by denouncing them as worthless overpriced crap.

        But the development costs, however excessive, are sunk, and the unit cost going forward is not unreasonable, so that’s a trigger we don’t want to be pulling this year. If LM says next year that oops, they miscalculated, the F-35 has to cost $250 million each up front and an extra $500 million for the service plan and extended warranty, then maybe we buy Silent Eagles and Super Duper Hornets and put Northrop-Grumman to work on a 6th-generation replacement.

  29. Atlas says:

    I’m sure this has been suggested before, but:

    So I see articles about the idea of a universal basic income in publications like the New York Times and Vox pretty frequently, and hear it mentioned on podcasts like the Weeds and Econtalk, and I hear about all kinds of varying degrees of prominent people like Charles Murray, Andy Stern and Elon Musk endorse it to some extent. I think it’s thus fair to say that it’s kind of a “trendy” idea by the standards of economic policy proposals these days. I really never understood the whole “universal” thing—in fact, every couple of months or so when I randomly start thinking about it, I have to go and Google search articles arguing in favor of it to double check that, yes, they actually mean universal basic income, like Bill Gates and me and a homeless guy on the subway are all getting the same amount of money per month from the program, no this isn’t just some crazy weak/straw man that my unconscious maliciously invented.

    But leaving the universal vs. means-tested thing aside, it seems like a lot of people’s support for a UBI, like that of Elon Musk, is predicated on the notion that mass automation is nigh, and if we don’t act soon we’ll see mass technological unemployment. And some people’s response to that is something along the lines of, well in the past people have predicted this and been wrong, because people just spend money on different goods, or something about how technological progress has slowed down in the sense that Robert Gordon and Tyler Cowen have argued. But my response to this, which I can’t imagine is original but which I don’t think I’ve really seen elsewhere is more like:

    “Wait, so you’re telling me that the advent of technology that will allow machines to perform a dazzling array of jobs so efficiently that humans will be completely unable to compete even at subsistence wages is going to be a bad thing?”

    That is to say, I hear this idea of advances in automation being so rapid that they lead to technological unemployment presented as a dystopia, the prevention of which is a Serious And Important Issue Of Our Time. But to me, it seems more like it would probably be something of a utopia, and the question of what to do about technological unemployment would be trivial enough to resolve on a Saturday afternoon while waiting for progress on space exploration. (Or whatever the symbolically-equivalent great adventure of the future will be.) This is sort of like what Scott argued in “Considerations on Cost Disease”, namely that a lot of current debates about redistribution would just be obviated with higher productivity. Is there something I’m missing here?

    • Nyx says:

      “I have to go and Google search articles arguing in favor of it to double check that, yes, they actually mean universal basic income, like Bill Gates and me and a homeless guy on the subway are all getting the same amount of money per month from the program, no this isn’t just some crazy weak/straw man that my unconscious maliciously invented.”

      Not necessarily. As many people have pointed out, the rich will ultimately pay far more through progressive taxation than they receive in benefits. Ultimately, what UBI amounts to is a negative income tax, whereby the very lowest earning (and those that earn nothing) receive money from the government rather than paying in. It might also be thought of as a very direct method of redistribution.

      The advantages of a UBI are that it’s easier to administer and generally speaking fairer than the current Frankenstein’s monster that welfare has become. There’s no need for arbitrary or complicated means-testing. Income is still taxed progressively, but that’s easier to do, and you don’t need to means-test benefits if taxes are progressive enough. The disadvantage is that anything like a livable income would require scrapping some quite good government programs like Medicaid, which probably produce more value per dollar than the same amount spent on UBI would.

      • Atlas says:

        Not necessarily. As many people have pointed out, the rich will ultimately pay far more through progressive taxation than they receive in benefits. Ultimately, what UBI amounts to is a negative income tax, whereby the very lowest earning (and those that earn nothing) receive money from the government rather than paying in. It might also be thought of as a very direct method of redistribution.

        Indeed, note that I said originally “get the same amount of money from” not “benefit equally from” the program. Of course, given a progressive taxation system, a flat distributional scheme for public money raised through taxes will be re-distributive. But it would be more re-distributive/cost less for the same amount of redistribution to means-test, as in e.g. the E.I.T.C., it seems to me.

        The advantages of a UBI are that it’s easier to administer and generally speaking fairer than the current Frankenstein’s monster that welfare has become. There’s no need for arbitrary or complicated means-testing. Income is still taxed progressively, but that’s easier to do, and you don’t need to means-test benefits if taxes are progressive enough. The disadvantage is that anything like a livable income would require scrapping some quite good government programs like Medicaid, which probably produce more value per dollar than the same amount spent on UBI would.

        The point about fairness and administration costs seems to me (though I might be misinterpreting what you mean by “fairness”) reasonable enough, except that it’s an advantage a negative income tax would share with UBI, at a considerably lower cost. I’m not sure if the “arbitrary” point matters as much to me, considering that a negative income tax would naturally vary based on income and so be a continuum rather than a binary. Is means-testing really that complicated? And is the cost of resolving its complications really more than that of giving a livable income to every adult with an already livable income?

        I agree with your point about Medicaid, though my understanding was that part of the reason government programs like Medicaid are considered desirable by progressives is that there are market failures in health care/insurance that the government can alleviate, which is a tangential consideration to the re-distributive one.

        • In thinking about a UBI, it’s worth doing some arithmetic. What level per person do you regard as acceptable and how much would it cost?

          Both questions interact with the issue of what you are replacing. If the UBI is supposed to replace all programs justified as helping the poor that frees up a lot of money, but you then have to ask how big the UBI has to be to replace Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment compensation, … . If, alternatively, you assume that most of the existing structure remains in place, paying for anything that supporters of the UBI would consider appropriate is hard.

          Suppose, for instance, we have a UBI of $10,000/year per person, which I suspect most supporters would consider too low. That costs three trillion dollars a year, which roughly doubles the Federal budget.

          • It’s also worth remembering that most serious UBI proposals involve raising taxes — a lot — in the sense that working people pay in additional tax what they get back in UBI. Non-workers can receive UBI based on the total already spent on welfare, but distributed diffferetnty. So no nett cost for them, and with workers paying their own UBI, there is no nett cost for them either, so there is no nett cost overall.

            I’ve noticed that a lot of people are horrified by the extra tax, and carrry on being horrified, and when I point out that you get it back and wouldn’t even notice, they carry on being horrified.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Have you read Manna? (very short, should only take ~30 minutes to read). That’s basically the issue. The robots produce everything. Who gets the results of the production? The very few owners of the robots, or the people whose jobs the robots took?

      My concern about UBI is more on the spiritual/social level. UBI may solve material issues in such a society, but man does not live on bread (manna?) alone. Men compete, women select from the best male competitors for mates. What will men compete over when “resources” aren’t it? (This thought is not well articulated, I’m still trying to process what I’ve gleaned from discussions of Martin Daly’s Killing the Competition, about how wealth inequality and the inability to access the material wealth status ladder contributes to inner city violence.)

      • Atlas says:

        Have you read Manna? (very short, should only take ~30 minutes to read). That’s basically the issue. The robots produce everything. Who gets the results of the production? The very few owners of the robots, or the people whose jobs the robots took?

        I have not, it looks interesting, will likely check out. Your point about inequality is well taken, and I was considering adding a paragraph about that in the original comment, but what I was thinking was along the lines of:

        As Scott noted in “Considerations on Cost Disease”, a lot of debates about redistribution become less difficult with more wealth. So in a world where a few capital owners reaped all the gains from automation, I think they’d probably be so fantastically wealthy that they’d give considerable sums to (hopefully EA) charity and not really care so much if their taxes were raised for panem et circenses. Also, I would argue that if consider the process of liberalization and technological change that’s happened over the past 200 years, even though yes there have often been winners and losers and troubling inequality, on the whole it’s clearly been a big positive on many dimensions, even with relatively lax government oversight as in Gilded Age America.

        Or: getting to the point where anyone is fabulously wealthy from automation seems more important to me than figuring out now how to divide the gains when we get there. (Though of course they’re not mutually exclusive.)

        My concern about UBI is more on the spiritual/social level. UBI may solve material issues in such a society, but man does not live on bread (manna?) alone. Men compete, women select from the best male competitors for mates. What will men compete over when “resources” aren’t it? (This thought is not well articulated, I’m still trying to process what I’ve gleaned from discussions of Martin Daly’s Killing the Competition, about how wealth inequality and the inability to access the material wealth status ladder contributes to inner city violence.)

        I strongly agree, and I think that a failing of neoliberalism/libertarianism, as powerful as those philosophies can be, is an inability to think about society except in terms of individual rational choice in the marketplace. I wouldn’t go as far as him, and be warned that MPC is an incredibly noxious 4chanesque community, but I think Pleasureman made an interesting point when he claimed that the flaw with libertarianism is that it views the basic building block of society as the individual, rather than the bond between two or more individuals.

        • Wrong Species says:

          The point of UBI is that instead of hoping that the one percent will donate to charity out of the kindness of their heart, the government will make sure that it happens.

        • IrishDude says:

          I strongly agree, and I think that a failing of neoliberalism/libertarianism, as powerful as those philosophies can be, is an inability to think about society except in terms of individual rational choice in the marketplace. I wouldn’t go as far as him, and be warned that MPC is an incredibly noxious 4chanesque community, but I think Pleasureman made an interesting point when he claimed that the flaw with libertarianism is that it views the basic building block of society as the individual, rather than the bond between two or more individuals.

          As a libertarian, I’m highly supportive of communities and relationships. The key for me is that these connections are entered into voluntarily. Mutual aid societies, charities, community sports leagues, churches, internet communities of all stripes, etc. are wonderful things to be appreciated, as interacting with other people is one of the most important things that makes life worth living. Markets are phenomenal at coordinating peaceful, mutually beneficial exchanges between strangers, and I’m highly supportive of them, but non-market relationships that occur among families, friends, and communities are really, really important too.

          It’s coercive relationships that bother my libertarian sensibilities, not voluntary bonds among people.

          • Aapje says:

            Truly voluntary communities don’t exist. Starting at birth, people get groomed into being good members of various communities and punished if they violate social norms.

            IMO, your beliefs are built on a false dichotomy, where you see the strictures of government as fundamentally different from the strictures of society. In reality, the differences are more a matter of degrees.

            PS. I didn’t get to choose my parents. Should all kids be taken from their parents and get to pick whatever parent they fancy and wants to have them, so the parent-child relationship becomes voluntary?

          • IrishDude says:

            Truly voluntary communities don’t exist.

            SSC fits my definition of a voluntary community. I can read and write posts on it of my own volition, and exit the community with ease if it doesn’t do it for me any more. Scott could ban me from posting, but he can’t coerce me to participate.

            I have a mini voluntary community among my group of friends. We all choose to hang out with each other and are free to stop hanging out without fear of any of us physically coercing the others into hanging out.

            Starting at birth, people get groomed into being good members of various communities and punished if they violate social norms.

            I think there’s a difference between saying, “If you want to interact with me, here’s my expectations for your behavior, otherwise I might give a disapproving face or stop hanging out with you” and “You must interact with me whether you want to or not and I’ll use physical coercion to enforce this relationship”. The former is not inconsistent with my idea of voluntary community while the latter is.

            IMO, your beliefs are built on a false dichotomy,

            Like many dichotomies, voluntary/involuntary are on a sliding scale and you can have more or less of each. I have a strong presumption in favor of voluntary relationships, of people choosing who they want to interact with, and have a high bar for when it is just to have coercive interactions between individuals.

            IMO, your beliefs are built on a false dichotomy, where you see the strictures of government as fundamentally different from the strictures of society. In reality, the differences are more a matter of degrees.

            The difference between my relationship with government and my relationship with the rest of society seems pretty stark to me. One involves political authority and the other doesn’t. If I smoke pot on my front porch, a policeman can use physical coercion to arrest me and lock me in a cage, and if I continually resist he can use force that results in me being harmed or killed. The cop would be considered to be doing his duty and engaging in moral behavior. If my neighbor did the same things the policemen did –locking me in a cage for smoking pot, or harming/killing me if I resisted– people would likely consider him a psychopath, and certainly engaged in immoral behavior. It’s this special moral status for state agents that I object to.

            Here’s a short snippet from Anatomy of the State I read recently that seems relevant with respect to the conflation between government and society and a claim like “we are the government”.

            Do you really not see any important difference between mutual aid societies, charities, community sports leagues, groups of friends, etc., and interactions between citizens and the state?

            PS. I didn’t get to choose my parents. Should all kids be taken from their parents and get to pick whatever parent they fancy and wants to have them, so the parent-child relationship becomes voluntary?

            Kids are tricky because their brains are developing and it’s hard to determine what they can consent to. I generally lean towards giving kids more agency at relatively young ages, and think when kids reach the age of consent they ought to be able to voluntarily exit their relationship with their parents. I don’t support involuntarily and preemptively taking kids from their parents to have them pick new ones.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @IrishDude

            Kids are tricky because their brains are developing and it’s hard to determine what they can consent to. I generally lean towards giving kids more agency at relatively young ages

            That’s kind of an understatement. You can’t really give a kid “agency” when he’s kicking the kitty because he doesn’t know kicking kitties is wrong. Everything you do in bringing up a child is a kind of brainwashing. They’re constantly imitating you, so however you act is how you’re brainwashing your kid to act. And constantly asking you what you’re doing and why.

            It’s one of those “if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice” kind of things. Nothing in your kids’ lives are voluntary because they have no power, and even the processes by which they might go about making an informed choice about anything is heavily, heavily shaped by you. You are the God of their tiny world.

            Relying on voluntarism is a problem because an awful lot of things we think of as voluntary choices are illusions of choice.

          • rahien.din says:

            There may be another axis on which to describe interactions, transactional vs. nontransactional, separate from voluntary vs. involuntary.

            Moreover, even if the unit of a society is a relationship, we should apply these descriptions to the individuals within the relationships. A congresswoman may see her relationship to constituents as voluntary transactional, and her constituents may see it as involuntary. A child may see their allowance as part of a voluntary transactional interaction, whereas the parent may see it as involuntary nontransactional.

            I think each of these has its place in a society. We can’t say that all interactions should be voluntary. We can’t say that all interactions should be nontransactional. Or vice-versa. There are situations best solved by command structures, and some best solved by movements, etc.

            Involuntary nontransactional : Homes
            Parent-child, jailer-prisoner
            The defining feature of the interaction is not an exchange of goods or services (loosely defined). The parties have no choice as to whether to be those things to each other.

            Voluntary nontransactional : Movements
            Members of a church congregation, members of a mob
            Even if there is a common purpose, there is no necessary exchange of goods and services between members. You can leave this relationship at any time.

            Voluntary transactional : Goal-directed behaviors*
            Members of an amateur sports team, customer-proprietor, prostitute-john
            The defining feature of the relationship is exchange of goods and services. You can leave this relationship at any time

            Involuntary transactional : Command structures
            Government-citizen, officer-enlisted, perpetrator-victim
            You’re not allowed to leave the relationship. There is some exchange of goods and services.

            * Needs a better word.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Irishdude

            Let’s say that you grow up in an apartment complex. Your parents pay rent while you follow all the rules and regulations. You live in this apartment complex your entire life, even after your parents left. On the issue of consent, how is this any different than a government?

          • Are you the sort of libertarian who thinks govt. welfare should be replaced by charity? Because if you make someone livelihood dependent on handouts from a religion, say, you are creating a powerful tool to manipulate people — turn up in church, or you don’t eat.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Nothin