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Open Thread 78.75

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

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1,069 Responses to Open Thread 78.75

  1. Douglas Knight says:

    What was the effect of the camera on art?

    Many people say that it caused impressionism or modernism to avoid competing with the camera. It certainly destroyed the business of portrait painting. While a large shock, why did that have the effects it did?

    I recently came across a somewhat different claim. Interviewed by Bret Easton Ellis, Peter Bogdanovich says at 1:13 (heavily edited)

    When still photography came in, it was the death of the amateur painter—they took a picture instead. Auguste Renoir, the old man, regretted that very much because he said that amateur painters could appreciate how difficult it was to paint a picture. They understood how difficult it was to do what the impressionists did, or what Rembrandt did.

    Have you seen this before? Do you have the original source? When did he say it? “The old man” suggests late in life, but the film director Bogdanovich might just be distinguishing him from the director Jean Renoir. Renoir died in 1919, which is fairly early to talk about modernism. I don’t know if he was talking about the evolution of painting, or just complaining about the kids these days. But it should be relevant to the evolution of painting. And he is certainly denying that impressionism was a response to the camera.

    • smocc says:

      I don’t have much to add except to link to this Quora answer, arguing that photography has distorted what people perceive as “realistic.” While cameras are very realistic, they do have biases and introduce unique distortions, but people are so used to these that other realistic media that are also very realistic start to feel strange. (Another example that occurs to me: lens flare in first-person video games)

      • Well... says:

        Awesome read at that link, thanks.

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        As a photographer, I’d say that your brain pretty regularly lies to you (these lies are often why optical illusions work) about what you see, while the camera doesn’t so painters can capture the what you see far better than a camera can (a great deal of the skill in photography is learning how to predict what the camera will see and how to then use your eyes to observe conditions likely to make a great picture that you can’t “see”).

    • James says:

      Paul Graham has a quip somewhere in Hackers & Painters that it had a deleterious effect insofar as it destroyed the best day job for artists–portrait painting.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        In the essay he says that, but it’s not very specific. If painting merely declined, would we be talking about it? It looks to me like there is still plenty of technical skill around. Maybe it isn’t as good as it used to be, but the question is why the canonized art doesn’t look skillful to the untrained eye.

        In the book he elaborates

        The worst thing photography did to painting may have been to kill the best day job. Most of the great painters in history supported themselves by painting portraits. Soon after the invention of photography they were undercut by hacks who worked from photographs. (This method is also easier on the sitter.) The class of technically skilled painters then more or less disappeared, and the role of skill in the price of painting was superseded by brand (which also depends greatly on photography, or, more precisely, on photographs reproduced in books and magazines).

        The second point, wide distribution of photographs of paintings contributing to a winner-take-all effect, is very good. But if brand beats technical skill, there is no need to provide an additional explanation of a decline in skill (the first point).

        The first point also seems very odd to me. Most people say that photography wiped out the portrait painting business. But Graham says that it made it cheaper, at least in terms of the time of the sitter. Regardless of whether the field got bigger or smaller, how did photography allow “hacks”? Why couldn’t they invade earlier?

  2. bintchaos says:

    Ok, I would like to comment on the Competition Cooperation Paradigm and the way it has changed game theory and current understanding of the Selfish Gene.
    And answer any questions anyone has.
    Faceless Craven said that of course, a mix of cooperation and competition is the optimal strategy, and hes partly correct. The thing about complexity science is that these obvious truths are first level accessible– a “commonsense” model. Complexity science is all about modelling Nature, and two good introductory books are Per Bak– How Nature Works and Yaneer Bar-Yam — why Things Work.
    So Dawkin’s model in the Selfish Gene is what is described as a gene-centered model– that is

    it pulls together the “gene-centered” view of evolution: It is not really individuals being selected for in the competition for life, but their genes.


    So in Dawkins POV we humans are just vectors for hosts of quasi-parasitic DNA codon sets.
    Here is Dr. Bar-Yam’s non-technical explanation. Bar-Yam wrote the textbook I used in school for Complex Systems.

    • bintchaos says:

      I will break this up so I dont use too many links.
      Farnam Street blog–

      Genes are competing with each other, as are individuals, tribes, and species. Yet at every level, they are also cooperating. The success of the human species is clearly due to its ability to cooperate in large numbers; and yet any student of war can attest to its deadly competitive nature. Similar dynamics are at play with ants, rats, and chimpanzees, among other species of insect and animal.


      Dr. Baranger–

      Complexity involves an interplay between cooperation and competition.
      Once again this is an interplay between scales. The usual situation is that competition on
      scale n is nourished by cooperation on the finer scale below it (scale n+ 1). Insect colonies
      like ants, bees, or termites provide a spectacular demonstration of this. For a sociological
      example, consider the bourgeois families of the 19th century, of the kind described by Jane
      Austen or Honor ́e de Balzac. They competed with each other toward economic success and toward procuring the most desirable spouses for their young people. And they succeeded
      better in this if they had the unequivocal devotion of all their members, and also if all
      their members had a chance to take part in the decisions. Then of course there is war
      between nations and the underlying patriotism that supports it. Once we understand this
      competition-cooperation dichotomy, we are a long way from the old clich ́e of “the survival of the fittest”, which has done so much damage to the understanding of evolution in the public’s mind.

      So this has led to research efforts on the nature of altruistic behavior in animal populations, like why do grey wolf packs restrict breeding to the dominant male and female pack-leaders? Or why some species quit breeding altogether in a shared environment with other species?
      http://me.necsi.edu/cooperation/4.html

      • bintchaos says:

        And here is a link to Dr. Bar-Yam mathematical proof by mean-field-approximation for the mathematically inclined.
        So like Haidt’s openness/conscientiousness? model, or Dr. Alexander’s Thrive/Survive model, I have my own model based on the CCP.
        In the EEA (environment of evolutionary advantage) I think there were two peer phenotypes– lets call them soldiers and explorers. Soldiers were brave, loyal, scrupulous about following orders, inclined to obey authority, good providers. Explorers were intellectually curious, sensitive, empathetic, feckless wanderers and rebellious against authority. These phenotypes had fitness parity and a within species beneficial interplay between cooperating and competing– they took care of different environmental niches.
        Fast forward to the 21st century– in a high-tech, globalized, connected world the traits of the soldier phenotype just arent as beneficial anymore. Our current environment places higher status on explorer traits, especially intellectual curiousity (education ) but also on empathy and sensitivity (entertainment and the arts).
        So I think polarization is the breakdown of the US CCP because of relative fitness disparity– we need more explorers and fewer soldiers going forward.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          Are other advanced countries also as polarized as America? Your theory predicts that the same sort of polarization should occur everywhere there’s a phenotype imbalance, and since every country on Earth has drastically changed over these past hundred years (they’ve all been pulled towards the so-called explorer-favored environment) there should be similar problems everywhere. But it seems like America is a lot worse off than other countries.

          This couldn’t be because America is the most advanced country. There are other more advanced countries like Sweden, Denmark, Israel, and Japan, all of which have their local problems, but none of which seem to be experiencing anything like America’s current turmoil. At least, as far as I can tell.

          This could be because America has an extreme imbalance in explorers/warriors, but that begs the question of, why? Canada was populated in much the same way as America was, but Canada does not seem as troubled. There don’t seem to be any obvious reasons why America should be different from other countries in this regard, so it seems like an unlikely explanation.

          If we accept your theory as true, it also says that not only should warriors be unfit for modern society, but explorers should be as well. As both of them exist on a continuum, and since the shift in environmental exigencies has been absolutely catastrophic over these past centuries, all parts of the continuum except those at the left-most extreme should now be obsolete (and maybe even them, as well). Not only our warriors are unfit for modern society, but our best explorers probably are as well, because our modern environment is utterly unlike our historical one. It is so different, that a whole other species is practically required for it.

          Should not explorers be horrified by their expected obsolescence, as well?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Canada never had plantation slavery anywhere remotely near the scale the US did, and the legacy of plantation slavery is a big driving factor in America’s problems. Further, Canada seems less confrontational in general – not just in terms of “is there political bad news going down.”

          • johan_larson says:

            @dndnrsn

            Canada also never had a successful revolution or a civil war.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            My understanding of bintchaos’ theory is that it contends the warrior/explorer traits are ingrained in genetics and that it is the genetic legacy of the past evolutionary environment which forged the present disposition. So to understand my own contentions, you must take cognizance that I am not suggesting there aren’t any reasons why America is different from Canada, but questioning what differences in America’s migratory or evolutionary pasts, specifically, could have caused it to gain greater amounts of ‘warriors’ locally (this being what the argument vis-a-vis ‘America’s exceptional social problems’ is contingent upon).

          • bintchaos says:

            Can we please say “soldiers” instead of “warriors”?
            I think warriors implies some sort of crazed aggression.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @johan_larson

            We weren’t created by revolution like the US was, and we don’t have a “heroic little guy fighting the power” narrative. However, we have had stuff that, while never on the scale of the US’ civil war, certainly exhibited some level of internal unrest.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          Also, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the dichotomy between explorers and warriors is false. Historically, the folk going out and exploring places were very often the warriors as well! The social conservatives of history would have been the parochial farmers and artisans casting a wary eye at any foreigner who came to intrude on their communal life. Picking up the spear and galavanting off to foreign lands wouldn’t have been characteristic of them.

          The main purpose of terming what you describe as warriors and explorers seems to be to provide a romantic air to the latter while depicting the former as violent blood-crazed killers.

          A better pair of terms for what those traits describe would probably be individualists and communalists, which avoids the partiality of the former terms while also depicting a dichotomy relevant to nature.

          • bintchaos says:

            individualists and communalists,


            That would be fine…I was just trying to think of descriptives that conformed to the principles of the CCP. I didnt think of soldiers as blood-crazed killers…it was more like soldiers would guard the community and be police or troops or rulers and governors while explorers were inventors or teachers or authors or artists.
            And certainly our legacy wiring from the EEA is persistant– like our deadly love of fats and sugars.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Bintchaos – Thanks much for the more detailed writeup! A few questions:

          “So I think polarization is the breakdown of the US CCP because of relative fitness disparity– we need more explorers and fewer soldiers going forward.”

          If you don’t mind, I’d like to try to expand this out to be a little more explicit. As I understand it, you’re saying something along the lines of the following:

          A. The current environment has fewer opportunities for Soldiers, and more for Explorers.

          B. As a result of fewer available opportunities, Explorers do less well than Soldiers. Make less money, have less successful careers, etc. Explorer-type solutions and policies work better than soldier-type alternatives.

          C. The current explorer-friendly/soldier-unfriendly environment is a natural result of impersonal historical/technological forces, not social group/class/caste bias. It’s not anyone’s fault that soldiers aren’t needed, it’s just the way things are. Trying to change things would be massively inefficient and probably wouldn’t work well anyway.

          D. Soldiers respond to the above with resentment and bitterness toward explorers, who they see as oppressing them. This bitterness expresses itself as attacks on Explorers, their institutions and policies. These attacks are motivated by some mixture of ignorance of reality and outright spite. This hostility is the major driver of polarization.

          Do the above four points generally match your views?

          [EDIT] – …And your argument is the Explorer/Soldier split is genetic in origin also, correct?

          • bintchaos says:

            And your argument is the Explorer/Soldier split is genetic in origin also, correct?


            Yes, but not just genetic– remember the 4 paths of inheritance (Jablonka 2006)– genetic, epigentic, behavioral and symbolic. eg, an individual inherits their environment and their parents and their parents/ancestors environment.

            B. As a result of fewer available opportunities, Explorers do less well than Soldiers.


            I think you mean Soldiers do less well than than Explorers.

            The current explorer-friendly/soldier-unfriendly environment is a natural result of impersonal historical/technological forces, not social group/class/caste bias.


            Yes, its just evolution of the environment. America is the richest most tech advanced country in the world so the effects are exaggerated here, and US has the highest proportion of non-native immigrants– we are all descended from immigrants unless we are native americans, right? The puritans were probably mostly soldier-type– at least the ones that survived the crossing and the travails of settlement. Both phenotypes are historically successful– at times in history the environment was much better for soldiers– like frontier america for example. And the stoics were likely soldier type in the Ancient World.
            But the Internet changed everything– we aren’t going back.
            Now a fifth point might be…hereditary soldier types can learn to be explorers–at least up through early 20s– this is happening in universities and colleges. Like Dr. Alexander’s valedictorian in Eternal Struggle. And yes, in-group selection for memetic kin is likely partly responsible for the skewed ratio of professors in academe, but that is a small part of what is happening.
            Of course if we had a radical change in the global environment like a nuclear war or collapse of ecology due to climate change or alien invasion then Soldier-phenotype would become instantly more successful. Its how the species is antifragile.

          • JulieK says:

            US has the highest proportion of non-native immigrants–

            Canada is pretty similar, I think.

            we are all descended from immigrants unless we are native americans, right?

            Even they are, if you go back to prehistoric times.

            The puritans were probably mostly soldier-type

            I would have thought explorer-type, since they broke away from the dominant culture and set off to create their own society. Their descendants seem to be blue tribe, I think.

        • Mark says:

          Isn’t the better model one where people will fill whichever social role is necessary, and in which the group is the level on which selection mainly occurs? People adapt to social circumstance.

          Defectors are killed and individualists don’t exist. There are no explorers, because the main “authority” is a love of the family/in-group.
          You only oppose authority when there is a higher one at play.

          • bintchaos says:

            Kinship-selection doesnt explain what is happening– thats the whole problem with gene-centric view of evolution, eg the Dawkins model from The Selfish Gene.

          • Mark says:

            So, it is cultural, and the soldier culture is unfit.

            I don’t think the soldier culture is unfit. I think it’s more the case that resource rich elites will tend towards cultural degeneracy. Cultural mutational load.

            Your model has culture as both the test and the unit of selection.

          • I think it’s more the case that resource rich elites will tend towards cultural degeneracy.

            Roughly speaking, Ibn Khaldun’s model. Leading to a cycle of takeover, corruption, takeover by a new and not-corrupt tribe, which in its turn gets corrupted.

          • Kinship-selection doesnt explain what is happening

            What does that mean? Kinship selection, extended reproductive success, is an explanation of genetic evolution. Are you claiming something is happening in genetic evolution that it doesn’t explain? Nobody proposes that it explains everything that happens in the world.

          • bintchaos says:

            Kinship selection alone doesnt explain the results of evolution — it is the principal tool of the gene-centric (Selfish Gene) view of evolution.
            http://necsi.edu/research/evoeco/multilevelkin.html

          • Nornagest says:

            Kin selection can happen theoretically, but when you actually work through the math (for animals with a mammalian reproductive scheme) it turns out that the bar’s set really high: as a toy example, if you’ve got an SNP conferring a disadvantage to the individual and an advantage to his siblings, the sum of the latter needs to have twice the magnitude for it to work out, because the siblings only have a 50% chance of carrying the SNP. And then it exponentially decays from there.

            There are probably places where you can find it, but I’d expect them to be rare (again, in mammals).

          • bintchaos says:

            Thankx, good data, Forager/Farmer is part of the dichotomy too. Thing is, going forward, cognitive genomics and social physics will be able to refine my gross approximations of Soldier/Explorer phenotypes and genotypes. Those are sort of arbitrary name conventions– I was just trying to capture complementary and yet competitive traits that would play in a CCP.
            But again, short term solution for now is education of soldier types for explorer type jobs.
            This is actually happening.

        • JulieK says:

          Interesting theory. Can you suggest some predictions that we could investigate in order to have more data on whether it’s correct?

          • bintchaos says:

            Can you suggest some predictions that we could investigate in order to have more data on whether it’s correct?


            Cognitive genomics and social physics.

      • The usual situation is that competition on scale n is nourished by cooperation on the finer scale below it (scale n+ 1).

        As stated, this seems too simple. Both cooperation and competition appear as human strategies, but they aren’t consistently layered in the way the quote implies.

        Consider the steel industry. Firms are competing to sell steel. They are cooperating to lobby congress for a tariff against steel imports.

        Consider a university department. Members are cooperating to decide who to hire, to organize the curriculum, to vote on rules and the like. Sometimes they cooperate to coauthor papers. But they are also competing for university resources and for academic status.

        What’s the reason to think of the layered version as somehow special?

        • bintchaos says:

          What’s the reason to think of the layered version as somehow special?


          Scale. Complexity is the interaction between scales.
          Social network flow of ideas and communications adds a lot of “layers” to human models. A simple animal example might be two species sharing an environment that is being stressed by niche overpopulation. Although the two species are in direct competition for resources, in cooperation both species reduce their reproductive rate. This contradicts Dawkins’ gene-centric view of evolution.

          • A simple animal example might be two species sharing an environment that is being stressed by niche overpopulation. Although the two species are in direct competition for resources, in cooperation both species reduce their reproductive rate.

            That seems to imply that part of the reason species A reduces its reproduction rate is to leave more food for species B, which strikes me as unlikely. The fact that I do something for my own interest that happens to benefit you isn’t what we normally call cooperation.

            Consider a simpler biological example with a prey species and a predator species. Individuals of the prey species do things–eat food, produce offspring–that increase their population and so benefit the predator species. Would you call that cooperation?

            If not, what is different in your example?

          • bintchaos says:

            Predator/prey isnt actually competition.
            The particular example I’m referring to postulates some kind of interspecies signalling about reducing reproductive rate in an shared environment. I will look for the particular paper.
            Also Nornagest makes a point here:

            Kin selection can happen theoretically, but when you actually work through the math (for animals with a mammalian reproductive scheme) it turns out that the bar’s set really high: as a toy example, if you’ve got an SNP conferring a disadvantage to the individual and an advantage to his siblings, the sum of the latter needs to have twice the magnitude for it to work out, because the siblings only have a 50% chance of carrying the SNP. And then it exponentially decays from there.


            Bar-Yam mathmatical explanation is mean-field approximation rejection of gene-centric view of evolution–there was a lot of argument on the internet last year about this, and in particular Dawkins “rowers” analogy.

            In the rowers analogy, we think about races between teams of rowers in boats. A rower is analogous to a gene, and a boat is analogous to an organism. There is a “rower pool,” with rowers that are placed into boats, with all boats having the same number of rowers. The boats run heats against each other and the winners are placed back into the rower pool to compete again. To make up for the rowers that lost so that we always have the same number of them, the rowers “replicate,” i.e., the the number of successful rowers are increased in number while retaining the same qualities.


            An example Dawkins describes is a competition between English speaking and German speaking rowers. The languages affect the race because one-language boats have an advantage — the rowers can understand each other — and win. What will happen over time to the rower pool? If there are more English speaking rowers, there is a higher probability that a boat will have all English rowers. Moreover, German speaking rowers will tend to have English speaking partners. This means that English speaking rowers will win the race more often than German speaking rowers. Over time, the number of English speaking rowers will grow and the number of German speaking rowers will shrink. Eventually there will be an all English speaking rower pool. Alternatively, if we start out with a rower pool that has more German speaking rowers, over time the number of German speaking rowers will grow, and we will end up with an all German speaking rower pool. In either case, we can think about this as a competition between the rowers, with one type of rower winning over the other type over time.
            The difference between taking the rowers at random and not at random can be understood in terms of the probability distribution of the rowers in the boats. Taking them at random means that the likelihood of a particular rower is given by the probability of the rower type in the rower pool, independent of other rower types in that boat or other boats. This is exactly the mean field (averaging) approximation, which is wrong for the linear rower pool. When we take them from a particular part of the rower line, the probability of one rower type is not independent of the type of the previous and subsequent rower that are chosen along the line because they all come from the same part of the rower pool that is much more likely to have the same rower type than the rower pool as a whole.
            The biological analogy of the linear rower pool is the mating of organisms that are nearby to each other geographically (or alternatively mating according to traits that lead some organisms to be more likely to mate with others of similar types, assortative mating). It is enough for animals or plants to reproduce near to the place where they were born to change dramatically the conclusions of Neo-Darwinian theory. This change is surprising to many who are not familiar with the difference between mean-field and non-mean-field behaviors.

          • Predator/prey isnt actually competition.
            The particular example I’m referring to postulates some kind of interspecies signalling about reducing reproductive rate in an shared environment.

            Why does a gene for responding to such signaling increase rather than decrease in the signaled population? It looks as though an organism that doesn’t respond will have greater reproductive success than one that does. Is the argument based on group selection?

          • bintchaos says:

            Bingo.
            Group selection, assortative mating.
            Or when your virtual kin is your memetic tribe (like in humans).

          • The particular example I’m referring to postulates some kind of interspecies signalling about reducing reproductive rate in an shared environment.

            If I understand you, you are saying that species A reduces its reproduction rate in part to avoid the effects of overcrowding on species B. How do you distinguish that empirically from the obvious alternatives:

            1. Group selection leading members of species A to reduce their reproduction rate to avoid the effects of overcrowding on other members of species A.

            2. Individual selection leading individuals of species A to reduce their reproduction rate because overcrowding produces an environment in which the optimal reproduction rate is lower. Reproduction is costly, and bearing costs in order to produce more offspring is less profitable if the offspring are less likely to survive to themselves reproduce, also less profitable if the costs in your chance of surviving to reproduce again are higher due to a shortage of food.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Slight tangent: What is it about “complexity science” that makes it a science, as opposed to a field of mathematics? (Contrast: game theory, not game science) What sort of lab/field work is there?

      • bintchaos says:

        The math isnt there yet…this is all really new, leading edge of the waveform stuff.
        For the last half century we have been smoothing the sh** out of everything with integration in the science of the really, really small (q-physics).
        Dr. Baranger–

        Everything can be reduced to little pieces of straight lines, therefore everything
        can be known and understood, if we analyze it on a fine enough scale. It may take a lot
        of work, and sometimes it may not be worth doing, but in principle we have absolute power! Yes, the enormous success of calculus is in large part responsible for the decidedly reductionist attitude of most twentieth century science, the belief in absolute control arising from detailed knowledge. Yes, the mathematicians were telling us all along that smooth curves were the exception, not the rule: we did not listen!
        Chaos is the anti-calculus revolution.
        Chaos is the rediscovery that calculus does not have infinite power. In its widest possible meaning, chaos is the collection of those mathematical truths that have nothing to do with calculus. And this is why it is distasteful to twentieth century physicists. In terms of applications, Chaos Theory solves a wide variety of scientific and engineering problems which do not respond to calculus. This is not saying that calculus from now on will be considered outmoded, that we must focus all our attention on chaos. No, calculus retains all its power, but this power is limited.
        Calculus is only part of the truth.


        Nature is the field lab for complexity science.

        At the present time, the notion of complex system is not precisely delineated yet. This is normal. As people work on complex systems more and more, they will gain better understanding of their defining properties. Now, however, the idea is somewhat fuzzy and it differs from author to author. But there is fairly complete agreement that the “ideal” complex systems, those which we would like most to understand, are the biological ones, and especially the systems having to do with people: our bodies, our groupings, our society, our culture. Lacking a precise definition, we can try to convey the meaning of complexity by enumerating what seem to be the most typical properties. Some of these properties are shared by many non-biological systems as well.

  3. J says:

    Anecdata on metabolic set points: I’ve had depression on and off my whole life, recently it’s been pretty bad, very lethargic. Also been trying to lose a little weight for a while (just a few pounds above optimal on BMI), but my body likes to stay right where it’s at. Noticed that I seemed to be eating almost nothing, added it up and got around 1000 calories per day (maintenance should be ~2000 for me). Made myself eat a bunch more, and immediately have been way more motivated and energetic. So apparently my metabolism doesn’t even bother to make me hungry, and would rather leave me staring at the walls in a stupor all day than burn fat.

    • malcolmcleaton says:

      Some people have found that a low-carb diet helps with this problem. I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice, your mileage may vary, etc.

    • ShemTealeaf says:

      Have you ever confirmed that 2000 is actually maintenance for you? In my experience, those online calculators can be off by quite a bit compared to the number of calories that actually maintains a given person at a constant weight.

      My own personal experience is similar to yours in terms of the ‘staring at the walls in a stupor’ aspect, but I do usually manage to lose weight while I’m doing that. How long did you try that for?

      • J says:

        It creeps up slowly when I’m over 2000, so maybe 1800 or something is ideal, but apparently my metabolism just takes whatever I give it and adjusts my energy level accordingly. For about 3 years I’ve fluctuated within about a ten pound range.

    • cvxxcvcxbxvcbx says:

      Thanks for sharing, I’m glad you did. Forcing oneself to eat a bunch of food is certainly not as bad as some depression treatments.

  4. johan_larson says:

    The housing market in San Francisco (and more generally the Bay Area) gets increasingly dire. No one seems to be able to agree on what to do about it.

    https://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/

    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/metropolis/2017/06/yimbys_and_the_dsa_can_t_get_along_despite_their_common_enemy_high_rent.html

    https://techcrunch.com/gallery/actual-rooms-for-rent-in-sf-that-are-more-than-your-midwestern-mortgage/

    I’m surprised some of the major employers like Apple and Google haven’t started saying, loudly, that if this mess isn’t cleared up they will start migrating more of those sweet, sweet six-figure jobs to cheaper places.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m surprised some of the major employers like Apple and Google haven’t started saying, loudly, that if this mess isn’t cleared up they will start migrating more of those sweet, sweet six-figure jobs to cheaper places.

      It would be a meaningless bluff. They won’t, and everyone knows they won’t. The principals of the tech companies are too rich to care, and the employees are willing to live in small shared spaces and have hellish commutes in order to work for the tech companies. Most of the employees would shudder at the idea of moving to the Midwest; while they’d like cheaper housing and a better commute, they want it in distinctly rich Blue Tribe territory.

      • genisage says:

        Most of the employees would shudder at the idea of moving to the Midwest; while they’d like cheaper housing and a better commute, they want it in distinctly rich Blue Tribe territory.

        Don’t be scared. I’m a Northern Californian who fled to the Midwest and I think it’s pretty great. The horizons are unnervingly flat, but software companies everywhere seem to be at least bluish, and you can still find areas that have all the obvious “rich people live here” qualities.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Don’t listen to that nonsense.

          The midwest is terrible, terrible I tell you, the people are terrible, the food is terrible, the weather miserable, the open spaces unbearable. Nobody in their right mind would ever want to live anywhere but the coasts.

          • genisage says:

            I’ll give you the people and the open spaces. But who doesn’t feel like they should do more of their own cooking? Wisconsin food will force your hand. And once you’ve decided that your tolerance for the conditions outdoors makes you superior to everybody in a temperate climate, it sort of balances out CA’s year-round good weather.

          • johan_larson says:

            Meh. As soon as you’re near any significant university, you’re in the Distributed Republic of Berkeley. The quaint customs of the natives in the surrounding countryside are just local color.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            @genisage
            What’s wrong with Wisconsin food? What are you, some sort of pinko-commie who hates beer and cheese?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Shh…

            I’m trying to get them to stay away.

          • Matt M says:

            As someone who grew up in Oregon, I very much recognize hlynkacg’s line of reasoning here 🙂

          • genisage says:

            @AnarchyDice
            Pretty much. Cheese is good, but it’s supposed to be a topping, not the majority of the meal. And they could stand to include some vegetables (other than potatoes) and fruits every once in a while.

          • Protagoras says:

            It’s quite easy to find good Thai food in Minneapolis (and good food of other varieties, Thai is just a particular strong point), and many of the people are lovely. And while that’s the Midwestern city I’m most familiar with, it is not my impression that the others are nearly as awful as you suggest; as Johan says, there are pockets of livability all over the place. Though you have a point about the weather.

          • Nornagest says:

            the Distributed Republic of Berkeley

            I’m gonna borrow this phrase.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            The IQpelago.

    • pontifex says:

      Well… for any reasonably sized we, “we” haven’t decided that it’s a problem. A decrease (or even a cessation in the increase) of property values would wipe out a big chunk of a lot of the middle class’ savings in the Bay Area.

      AmaGooFaceSoft don’t care because those companies have achieved de-facto monopolies in various market segments. They have never been very price sensitive. All that matters is whether they can maintain their control of the market segments or not. Saving a few bucks by hiring Karthik in India instead of Chad in Mountain View doesn’t move the needle on that. The companies that compete on squeezing labor cost to the bone are not going to be competitive in the US Midwest, let alone on the West Coast.

      • johan_larson says:

        A decrease (or even a cessation in the increase) of property values would wipe out a big chunk of a lot of the middle class’ savings in the Bay Area.

        I wonder, would loosening the development rules really cause existing property owners to lose money?

        Suppose you own a house of 2000 square feet worth a cool million, which is $500 per square feet. Suddenly the rules change so you and others like you are allowed to build quadruplexes. So if you tore down and rebuilt, you could own (or sell or rent out) maybe 4*1500 square feet. Even if rates per square foot were cut in half, you’d still come out ahead, financially at least.

        It seems like there is a lot of room for both sides to benefit here.

        Maybe the only people who lose are the ones who really really want their neighbourhoods to stay exactly as they are.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The cost of the house is substantial. You have to increase density a lot to make it worthwhile to tear down a house and exploit the new rules. And even if they do make it possible to build apartment buildings in place of your house, what usually happens is that a few people do it, saturate the market, and the option value isn’t worth much anymore. In most places, increasing density doesn’t help the property values of the median home owner.

          But Silicon Valley may be an exception. If every town doubles allowable density, it hurts property values, but if one town decides to become much higher density, they can probably make a lot of money, even for the lots that keep the single family house.

        • pontifex says:

          Your example seems a bit odd to me, since you’re assuming that the price per square foot of housing will stay the same when more of it becomes available. Also, renovation is a very capital-intensive business which most people are not in a position to do, even if their house is worth a million on paper. The gains would probably go mostly to big developers who have the capital to invest, not to the average homeowner. And… probably about a dozen other objections that I haven’t thought of yet 🙂

          I think the best thing we could do at this point is get better transit. Give up on the high-speed rail boondoggle and make CalTrain and light rail work well. Extend BART.

          • johan_larson says:

            You missed a sentence. This one: “Even if rates per square foot were cut in half, you’d still come out ahead, financially at least.”

            Of course rates would drop if the supply were dramatically expanded. That’s the point of doing so. But the property owner may still come out ahead because they could have a lot more space to rent out.

            Would it work out that way? Not sure. It depends on the shape of the supply and demand curves in that range. And tear-down and build-out costs, I suppose. Is there an economist in the house?

          • pontifex says:

            Sorry, you’re right, I did miss that sentence. Looks like my original reply got lost as well?

            Anyway… tl;dr is that rezoning favors big property developers with capital to burn on improvements. Not the average family.

      • mister64738 says:

        I live in a condo in Mountain View that I’ve owned for nearly 20 years, and am fine with lots more housing. I don’t think it’s much of a threat to my property values. Whenever given the opportunity (voting box, community surveys from the City, town halls) I’ve always made that opinion known. And I think mine is a fairly common opinion; voters have made the City Council here much more pro-growth since the latest economic boom started.

        The reality of why housing is expensive in the Bay Area is multifaceted and complex. Unfortunately many people seem to have glommed onto the notion that it’s all caused by existing property owners trying to restrict supply so as to drive up the value of their holdings. Probably because that turns a complex economic situation into a simple morality tale of greedy NIMBYs vs young folks just trying to find a place to live. This isn’t to say such NIMBYs can’t exist, but I don’t see any evidence that they play even a minor role in the discussion around housing here in Mountain View.

        • Nornagest says:

          What in your opinion are some of the clearer facets to that complex, multifaceted situation?

        • Matthias says:

          Why is the discussion complex at all? Just allow people to build? What’s the complexity?

          • johan_larson says:

            If you want to understand the issues in the SF Bay area specifically, this article is an excellent place to start:

            https://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/

            If you are asking more generally why we have building codes and zoning laws and such, that would require a different and more theoretical answer.

      • Brad says:

        @pontifex

        A decrease (or even a cessation in the increase) of property values would wipe out a big chunk of a lot of the middle class’ savings in the Bay Area.

        How would flat property prices wipe out savings? And what do you mean by middle class?

        • A decrease (or even a cessation in the increase) of property values would wipe out a big chunk of a lot of the middle class’ savings in the Bay Area.

          If you plan to stay in the house you are living in and leave it to the kids, as many do, a drop in property values doesn’t wipe out anything–the house still provides the same services it did before the drop. It’s only if you are planning to sell and move somewhere else, or move into some much smaller home locally, that you lose from a drop.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you or your kids are planning to e.g. borrow against the value of the home to finance their university education and then pay it back with their professional earnings, a decrease in property values could well force them to use unsecured student loans at a substantially higher interest rate.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @John: Isn’t this fake value, however? As David Friedman implies, the utility of the house is still the same; it’s not actually higher.

            Hypothesis 1: it is indeed fake. The banks know this, being in the business; they know these home equity loans aren’t truly backed up. But as long as this isn’t common knowledge, they can continue to operate this way for a long while.

            Hypothesis 2: it’s not fake, but it is propped up by arbitrarily low supply. Property values are truly as high as the market indicates so long as local law throttles new construction. Again, the banks know this, and may even have an incentive to lobby to limit supply – it may be easier for them. Likewise for current property owners (homeowners, landlords). Arbitrarily flattening property values would be one market fix on top of another, making true information about it even harder to extract.

          • Brad says:

            Arbitrarily flattening property values would be one market fix on top of another, making true information about it even harder to extract.

            I’m not sure what you mean by arbitrarily flattening property values. As I understand it the proposals amount to removing the government market distortions.

            In the Bay Area that conversation is mostly around de jure and de facto building restrictions, but other government distortions abound — including the roles the government (including GSEs and the Federal Reserve) play directly in the housing market, tax advantages for housing, advantageous treatment for mortgage debt in banking regulation, special treatment for residential real property in the context of bankruptcy and default, de facto private school admission on the basis of property ownership, and many other ways large and small.

            No matter how many distortions the government introduces they still aren’t going to be able to give incumbents and industry players what they demand — above the rate of general inflation increases forever. The smart ones know that and don’t care, they just hope the gravy train lasts through their own lifetimes.

          • JulieK says:

            If you plan to stay in the house you are living in and leave it to the kids, as many do, a drop in property values doesn’t wipe out anything–the house still provides the same services it did before the drop.

            What if increased traffic means your commute time is longer? The house is the same, but living there is not as pleasant.

          • What if increased traffic means your commute time is longer?

            Certainly possible–I was only responding to one argument.

            On the other hand, if San Francisco loosened its restrictions on housing commute time from San Jose would get shorter, because lots of the people who now commute into SF could live there instead. That would save a lot of time both for the people who moved and the ones who didn’t.

          • If you or your kids are planning to e.g. borrow against the value of the home to finance their university education and then pay it back with their professional earnings, a decrease in property values could well force them to use unsecured student loans at a substantially higher interest rate.

            That’s true, but I’m not sure how significant it is in the Bay Area. If my house value falls from a million to eight hundred thousand instead of going up to 1.2 million, I still have security for more than enough to put my kids through college.

          • Matt M says:

            Also I think a lot of the people who are bringing up “what about…” scenarios are explicitly contradicting what David originally said. As a reminder, here’s David:

            “If you plan to stay in the house you are living in and leave it to the kids, as many do, a drop in property values doesn’t wipe out anything”

            This is absolutely true. Someone who buys a house with the intent of later selling it and moving somewhere else is NOT included in this conversation, nor is someone who, as a major factor in their purchase decision, is planning on “borrowing against the value” for whatever purposes.

            I feel like these conversations often have a sort of motte-and-bailey effect. The motte is “every family just wants to buy a home so they have a decent place to live out the American dream” and the bailey is “but also they should expect that the home will be a low-risk, high-return financial instrument which they will be able to flip for a comfortable profit or use as collateral for other financial transactions as they choose.”

            If you buy a home because you want a home, the value doesn’t matter much. My parents bought a house in 2006. They had a fixed-rate mortgage. Often, throughout the financial crisis, I asked them how the price was doing and they never knew. They didn’t care. It didn’t matter to them, at all. They bought a house to live in, they weren’t “investing in a long-term asset.” The house was still the house. Their payment was still the same. It made no difference.

        • pontifex says:

          Maybe “wiped out” is the wrong word. But certainly, if you have 1 million dollars invested in a house, and it’s worth only 1 million ten years later, you have lost out. Firstly, because inflation happened and 1 million dollars is now worth less than before. Secondly, because you could have had that money in another asset class like stocks that would have earned you a better return. Thirdly because you pay yearly property taxes, and transaction costs for buying the house that can be as high as 5%. In any case, you’re not going to be happy with the politicians that caused the situation.

          • random832 says:

            An abstract statement like “cessation in the increase of property values” can reasonably be read as applying to the real values (adjusted for whatever metric of inflation you like) rather than the dollar amount, so your first point doesn’t really fit.

            To really benefit from the house – if it is owner occupied, as the “middle class” statement implies – then to treat it as “savings” that may have been wiped out or failed to earn a return or whatever, you have to sell it and buy a different house or rent. So what’s really important is whether it has lost value relative to the rest of the housing market.

            You, in effect, gain the ability to profit from moving if and when everyone else’s houses drop in value more than yours. Which makes the whole thing zero-sum for people who own or rent a single residence. And I would like to hear the definition of “middle class” that includes people who own a second property in the Bay Area.

          • JulieK says:

            @random832:

            A lot of people plan to sell their house and move to a smaller residence when they retire. The value of their house is an important component in their retirement savings.

          • Aapje says:

            @JulieK

            And if someone is mainly living in the city to have a good job, they can move to a rural area upon retirement where the housing prices are way lower.

    • James Miller says:

      If they worked together they could get an amazing deal from whatever place they moved to. Imagine how much a city/state would be willing to pay to get, say, 50k high tech jobs. Plus, if lots of people moved at the same time, much of the culture and networking opportunities would move with them.

      • johan_larson says:

        They wouldn’t even need to do anything so dramatic. They could just hire more in their satellite offices, and less at HQ. Those offices are in some cases in nice respectably blue-tribe locations like Denver and Portland.

    • As a Google employee (don’t speak for them, yadda yadda yadda) here’s my belief for why this hasn’t happened (and yes, we’re aware of the idea; it’s constantly floated by low level people internally): it’s all about feudal power dynamics.

      Sometimes it’s floated that the high level execs are too rich to care about bay area living costs, and that is in fact true, but that doesn’t explain why they want to be in the Bay. The reason they want to be there is that Larry and Sundar (and Zuckerberg, etc) are there. If you’re a SVP at Google, your job is to sit there playing politics with Sundar and his clique, and that requires face to face contact on a regular basis.

      The rest follows from that. The SVPs need to be in the Bay to play power games. They want their fiefdoms to be around them physically (and the next layer down of PMs and directors want to be around the SVP for the same reason the SVP wants to be near Sundar.)

      Even where AmaGooFaceSoft have satellite offices, they are forced to be as big and uniform as possible, because that’s how the executive who made the decision about the office existing get power: a huge fiefdom in one campus making him look good–and someone is willing to win the Seattle Power Broker Game at the cost of conceding the Bay Power Broker Game.

      Conclusion: if Larry and Sundar randomly decided to move to Cleveland and stay there for a year, Google would follow in rapid succession. Short of telepresence good enough to play politics at no disadvantage to a local (and also somehow good enough to convey the same status to an exec as having 10,000 drones in his building!) nothing else will.

      • James Miller says:

        So why doesn’t Larry at least pretend to consider moving to Cleveland to get more political leverage in the Bay area?

        • The bay doesn’t care about us and won’t subsidize us usefully. They think we’re dirty pathetic losers.

        • pontifex says:

          Google (and the other majors) want to hire people who they think will let them dominate more industries the way they dominate search and mobile phone OSes. They want monopolies or semi-monopolies, like any good capitalists. Labor costs aren’t the limiting factor on Google’s growth. If they were, Google would already be in India or Vietnam. There are rumors that the Google has even gone as far as opening entire new satellite offices just to get one artificial intelligence professor. (This rumor was swirling around the Pittsburgh office, not sure if it’s true.)

      • Garrett says:

        As someone similarily situated, I’ve frequently pointed out that if we can find a way to get the whole remote office/remote working thing to actually work, we have a work-around and possibly a solution to a huge amount of the geographic issues in the US. It would then be just as easy for a qualified applicant to work from a half-dead coal mining town as from Silicon Valley.

        This issue also occurs in other areas of life. You’ll note that a large amount of the Federal Government’s employees are located in Washington DC. The exceptions are either military bases which are distributed for various reasons, or because they provide services to where the people are. Just about everything that involves policy-making is centrally-located.

        Find a way to make that not-a-problem and a lot of these problems become much more tractable.

        • Corey says:

          I’m a little more leery of telework because anything that can be done from a dead mining town can be done cheaper from India.

          • James Miller says:

            Why doesn’t all manufacturing activity for export take place in low wage nations?

          • rlms says:

            @James Miller
            If the proportion of programming jobs located in the US changed to match the corresponding proportion of manufacturing jobs, I think a lot of SSC commenters would swiftly become unemployed.

          • Protagoras says:

            @James Miller, That’s an extremely complicated question, but one doesn’t need to go into detail to note that the needs of manufacturing and the needs of telework are fairly different, so while it might be the case that the latter shares the feature of sometimes being advantageous to do in high labor cost areas (because of other offsetting factors), it is not automatic that it will. But if all you’re saying is that Corey also hasn’t shown that it won’t, fair enough.

          • Corey says:

            The usual solution to the macro puzzle James Miller brings up is that grouping people together generates positive externalities. This applies both geographically (you put your factory in Shenzhen because lots of other people already have, so that’s where the suppliers, toolers, experienced workers and supervisors, etc. are), and within an office (ease of collaboration, hallway conversations, smoother politics, etc.)

            Individual remote workers push against those factors. On the third hand, that makes a barrier to having any individual remote workers – they have to save enough money and/or add enough productivity to compensate for those lost externalities.

        • pontifex says:

          I’ve worked in technology for a pretty long time at this point. I’ve been a full-time remote employee, had a full-time remote boss, even worked in groups where everyone was remote. But most of my jobs are still with people who are right here.

          I can’t remember a company I’ve been at ever hiring a remote worker because they were cheaper. In fact, in many cases, remote workers were located in very high-cost locations like London, New York City, or Los Angeles. The main reason to hire a remote person was because you felt that person was the best possible applicant. In general, companies almost never hire remote workers who are junior. The perception is that remote workers are hard to manage, so you have to hire people who can manage themselves. Time zones were a huge problem that inevitably required everyone to make big sacrifices.

          If you are a remote worker, you have to be very careful about what you say. All electronic communication is monitored and logged. If you say someone is a bozo in the cafeteria, probably nobody will ever know. If you send an email saying that, it’s very likely to get out at some point. Courts can force companies to literally print out all of their emails, so that prosecutors can comb through it to look for incriminating clues. Executives have more at risk, so they tend to be even more guarded and fake-cheerful in online communications.

          So to a certain extent, being remote means being out of the loop. In most cases, you can’t really get promoted unless you are local. And people will also (correctly) believe that your commitment to the company is less. This is especially a big deal at the major technology companies that highly value loyalty and want to promote people like themselves (who are “googley” or “amazon-y”).

          So basically… telecommuting is no panacea for inequality or inefficiency. At most it gives a few more options to the high end of the labor market.

          • Matt M says:

            I can’t remember a company I’ve been at ever hiring a remote worker because they were cheaper.

            Well yeah, a worker is quite unlikely to be replaced one-for-one with someone in India. It happens an entire division at a time via outsourcing. And I think the general point does in fact stand. If you don’t need [functional group X] to be located in one of your main offices, then you probably don’t need them to be located in a western country at all.

          • johan_larson says:

            I think you are right that remote workers in the software industry are second-class citizens. I work remotely, and my peers and I are not quite connected with the culture of the company.

            One factor I have heard some entrepreneurs complain about is VC sensitivity. Some VCs are basically looking for a reason to reject any candidate company, and being distributed (or maybe too distributed) is enough.

            Still, I think we are currently in the early days of remote work in this industry. Telepresence will keep improving. And companies are likely to get more and more comfortable with remote work as they get experience. A big push toward remote work is coming from the open source community, where very distributed teams are more common.

            At some point I think we’ll see our first big distributed company, where even the senior execs aren’t colocated. A lot will hang on how it does.

          • pontifex says:

            MattM wrote:

            Well yeah, a worker is quite unlikely to be replaced one-for-one with someone in India. It happens an entire division at a time via outsourcing. And I think the general point does in fact stand. If you don’t need [functional group X] to be located in one of your main offices, then you probably don’t need them to be located in a western country at all.

            Basically, I agree (with a lot of caveats that aren’t really central to the main point).

            johan_larson wrote:

            At some point I think we’ll see our first big distributed company, where even the senior execs aren’t colocated. A lot will hang on how it does.

            GitLab is a VC-funded startup which is totally remote. As to how it is doing… well, it had a big meltdown earlier this year which lost user data. It seems to be still around, though?

            Personally, I think that remote work will never be as desirable or productive as working locally until you can socialize remotely. So maybe VR needs to get to a certain level first?

  5. Well... says:

    I got into country music kinda late but even before then I’d heard lots of people say they liked Hank Sr and Hank III, but not Hank Jr. Now that I’m somewhat familiar with all three, I still hear it from people, and I don’t really understand. I think Hank Jr.’s voice is incredible. What is it about him–and not his father or son–that so many people object to?

  6. pontifex says:

    Broken Things in Human Biology

    I first started thinking about this topic when I read this excellent article about the discovery of Vitamin C. Apparently Vitamin C was a very hard discovery for scientists to make, for the simple reason that it is not a vitamin for most animals! Dogs, cats, chickens, etc. can all produce their own vitamin C– they don’t need to consume it.

    So naturally whenever scientists tried to reproduce vitamin C deficiency (also known as scurvy) in animals, they failed. When they finally did figure it out, it was because they stumbled across an animal that had the same genetic problem (inability to synthesize vitamin C) as humans. And that enshrined the guinea pig as the archetype of all scientific test subjects.

    There’s a lot of things in evolution that are tradeoffs or non-obvious adaptations. But then there are things that are just straight-up broken. It’s hard to see how the non-functional vitamin C synthesis genes humans have could ever be helpful to us.

    Another example where things seem broken is kidney stones. Kidney stones don’t help. They only hurt. God, do they hurt! The reason they happen is because human blood has uric acid in it. The uric acid occassionally drops out of solution and forms crystals. In most other mammals, the uric acid gets converted to allantoin to prevent this from happening. But not in humans. This is another example of where what’s normal in humans is considered a genetic disease in dogs.

    You know how you can only go 2 days without water before dying? Yeah. That’s because you have inefficient kidneys that use a lot of water.

    Don’t get me wrong… there’s a lot of wonderful ingenuity in human biology. But there’s also a lot of systems that don’t work very well that we never think about because it’s “normal”…

    • onyomi says:

      I feel like you’re not fully taking into account the cost-benefit issue. The evolutionary past is a time of extreme calorie scarcity. Therefore, anything the body can get away without doing will be a calorie saver.

      I don’t know how many calories it takes to make one’s own vitamin C; maybe not much? But sometimes even a tiny advantage is enough if vitamin C can be taken for granted in the environment the evolution happened in. I’ve also heard it described: “whatever is unavoidable becomes indispensable.” (Think about gravity and your musculoskeletal system).

      You can definitely go longer than 2 days without water, though not nearly as long as a bear, it’s true. But are there no costs associated with the bear’s ability to do this? I doubt it.

      I think the cases where you can point to real “design flaws” tend to be a result of path dependence/needing to fix the airplane while flying it. There might be some radically different spine design which would have been better for humans to develop once they started walking upright, say, but small changes that work well enough for survival and reproduction are much more likely to happen and achieve fixation than a radical departure from all that came before.

      • pontifex says:

        I feel like you’re not fully taking into account the cost-benefit issue. The evolutionary past is a time of extreme calorie scarcity. Therefore, anything the body can get away without doing will be a calorie saver. I don’t know how many calories it takes to make one’s own vitamin C; maybe not much? But sometimes even a tiny advantage is enough if vitamin C can be taken for granted in the environment the evolution happened in.

        All of the explanations of vitamin C loss that I’ve read describe it as a “neutral mutation”– i.e. a mutation that results from genetic drift, rather than being selected for. For example, see here.

        In general, it’s considered very bad in evolutionary biology to assume that a change is adaptive without investigating it thoroughly. There is a huge role for randomness, founder effects, and genetic drift that we’ve come to understand in recent years.

        You can definitely go longer than 2 days without water, though not nearly as long as a bear, it’s true. But are there no costs associated with the bear’s ability to do this? I doubt it.

        The link I posted earlier basically said, we’re screwed, because birds and reptiles did it better.

        We like to think of ourselves as highly advanced. Why don’t we have kidneys as efficient as those of the reptiles and birds? It is the luck of our inheritance. The line of vertebrate evolution that produced the mammals split off before the evolution of the diapsids whose ability to convert nitrogenous wastes into uric acid was passed on to all their descendants, including the lizards, snakes, and birds.

        Have you ever seen a bird peeing? No, because they don’t need to.

        This group developed the ability to convert their nitrogenous waste into uric acid. Uric acid is almost insoluble in water so its excretion involves little loss of water. (It is the whitish paste that pigeons leave on statues.) This modification largely freed the diapsids and their descendants from a dependence on drinking water; the water in their food is usually sufficient.

        • onyomi says:

          Have you ever seen a bird peeing? No, because they don’t need to.

          I feel like there’s a difference between “not being a chimera combining all the best features of every existing animal” and “broken.”

          I, for one, am glad not to have a cloaca.

          • pontifex says:

            I feel like there’s a difference between “not being a chimera combining all the best features of every existing animal” and “broken.” I, for one, am glad not to have a cloaca.

            Sounds like you need more of a growth mindset.

    • James Miller says:

      In a sense, even broken things result from trade-offs. Because of new harmful mutations new things keep breaking. Evolution selects against the worst new mutations, and occasionally for new beneficial ones. If a mutation is just a little bit harmful evolution might “choose” to use its selection powers on something more important and allow this harmful mutation to spread. It’s kind of like with children where you are supposed to pick your battles and ignore the minor irritations.

      • pontifex says:

        To a certain extent I was being deliberately provocative. There are clearly tradeoffs to every evolutionary decision… sometimes very non-obvious ones. My point was mainly that we shouldn’t assume that humans have the best of everything, evolutionarily speaking. For example, mice don’t get diabetes (there have been attempts to artificially create diabetic mice, with varying success).

    • Don’t get me wrong… there’s a lot of wonderful ingenuity in human biology. But there’s also a lot of systems that don’t work very well that we never think about because it’s “normal”…

      Mencken commented on this point. His example was comparing the lovely design of the human hand with the very poor design of the human knee. His conclusion was that the world was designed not by a god but by a committee of gods. Once one of them got something right, the others had to improve it.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      From an evolutionary perspective, if it can be broken without decreasing your fitness then you didn’t really need it.

      We are bombarded by a constant torrent of small mutations. Those which break something important are selected against while the rest slowly accumulate. That’s why we use how conserved a sequence element is as an indication of how likely it is to play a functional role.

      Does that make sense?

      • pontifex says:

        My point wasn’t really about evolution. It was just that a lot of things we take for granted as part of being alive are really just specific issues with being human. For example, why can’t you just yank out a tooth when it gets a cavity, and grow a new one? It works great for alligators.

        It’s kind of amazing how different different creatures really are from us. Birds can eat hot chili peppers and feel nothing, because capsacin doesn’t affect them. On the other hand, artificial grape flavoring is intolerable to them.

  7. SamChevre says:

    Following up on the discussion of the Western canon in the prior open thread,starting here.

    I think of the Western Canon as a combination of two things: a set of stories (the Bible, Homer, Plutarch, maybe a few others) and a set of interpretive tools from Greek philosophy, primarily Plato and Aristotle (definition of perfection, form/substance/accident distinction, principle of non-contradiction). The Western Canon is the application of those tools to those stories, and of both to people’s lives, over time.

    Just the stories doesn’t get you there; just the tools don’t get you there. Both are awesome, but the Western Canon is the interaction.

    Thoughts and comments?

    • johan_larson says:

      Surely we’ve come up with a few things in the past two thousand years that were important enough to make it into the Canon but couldn’t be readily traced to the ancient Greeks and ancient Jews? The works of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, for example.

      • SamChevre says:

        I would count those–along with the whole Alien Machinery of liberalism, most of Shakespeare and Goethe, modern mathematics and physics, and a lot of other things–as important, something everyone should know, but not part of the Western Canon.

    • onyomi says:

      It seems roughly accurate, but would you say it’s fundamentally different from e.g. the Chinese canon, which also consists of major philosophical texts frequently used as a lens to interpret famous stories and historical events?

      • SamChevre says:

        I’d say it’s the same kind of thing, but not the same thing: the Chinese canon has different foundational stories, and as I understand it a different set of philosophical tools. It’s a canon, but a different canon.

  8. Collin says:

    Does anyone have any resources on how to handle a delusional, paranoid parent (pre-diagnosis)?

    Perhaps this is the wrong place to ask considering this is an area where logic fails, but it’s also a place where people are interested in cognitive phenomena, so whatcha got SSC?

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    When the city of Ur was founded, there were already cities old beyond living memory, like Uruk, Eridu and Kush. Do you think their citizens were haughty and said “lol Ur noobs”?

  10. BBA says:

    As I prepare for an upcoming trip to Los Angeles, where as a non-driver I will partake of its rapidly growing transit system, I would like to dispel a myth. There’s a story that up until the ’40s, every city in America had an efficient, functional streetcar system, but then General Motors bought them all up and shut them down in order to sell more cars, thereby dooming America to decades of traffic jams, unwalkable cities and suburban sprawl. The truth is that GM was in fact involved in the shutdown of most American streetcar systems, but it wasn’t in order to sell more cars. It was in order to sell more buses.

    Streetcars are expensive to build and maintain, and even in the ’30s many lines no longer had the ridership to justify the expense. The owners of National City Lines realized that buses were going to replace streetcars in most of the country, and wanted to be the company to do it. They managed to secure investments from GM, Firestone, and Chevron (among others) in exchange for giving them exclusive contracts to supply buses, tires, and fuel (etc.) to the growing national transit conglomerate. This worked out well for all involved, until the government caught wind of what was going on and brought an antitrust complaint, on which NCL and its investors were eventually found guilty.

    But nowhere in the antitrust ruling is it suggested that there was something wrong with killing the streetcars, or that it had anything to do suburbanization or GM selling America on driving to work or anything like that. Those were much bigger trends than any one company, even a behemoth like GM at its peak, could create.

    Somehow this story mutated into the one you’ll hear from transit buffs and urbanists and environmentalists, that this was all a nefarious capitalist plot hatched in Detroit. I like streetcars plenty, and I love that the old Pacific Electric line out to Santa Monica is running again, but that narrative simply isn’t true.

    (Despite falling for this myth, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a good movie anyway.)

    • There’s other countries in the world , you know #467/oo.

      If streetcars/trams are inherently awful, why do they still exist in some places (eg Brussels) and why have they been re introduced in others (eg Manchester UK)?

      • beleester says:

        My city (Cincinnati) reintroduced a streetcar system recently, but it was very controversial. The argument for it over buses was that a streetcar line is permanent and thus businesses would be able to rely on it better than a bus line which might get taken out of service. So it would encourage businesses to come back to the downtown area.

        I’m skeptical of this explanation, but don’t have any data to prove it one way or the other.

        • Matt M says:

          Non-permanent seems like a feature, not a bug. The fact that you can take an unnecessary/unprofitable bus line out of service (or, more precisely, move or modify its route to adjust to changes in local traffic patterns) is a GOOD thing. This is like saying “Having a desktop PC is better than a laptop because if you have a laptop someone might pick it up and move it around.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Flexibility is better in some ways, but not in all ways. If you want me to adapt my life to your public transit system (buy a house based on the existence of good public transit from my house to the places I want to go, like my job), then having it be expensive for you to change or cancel routes is a win.

          • Matt M says:

            Cities are slow-moving bureaucracies. If anything, they are too slow, not too quick, to modify infrastructure to suit changing population needs.

            In other words, your job is likely to move before the bus route does. If the city decides to move the bus route near you, it’s because nobody is taking that route anymore (and hasn’t been for awhile), which means you probably have bigger problems than the bus route…

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            Your faith in the wisdom of local government decision-making is touching, but does not match my experience.

        • Protagoras says:

          As I understand it, there has been some research on this, and establishing a rail line has been shown to sometimes have benefits for local business growth, while adding bus lines never seems to.

          • I would want to see the research. It sounds like the sort of thing that gets produced to order when there is a political controversy about whether to spend money doing something.

          • Matt M says:

            Right up there with “building sports stadiums is good for the economy?” eh, David?

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        I don’t know enough of the technical details, but one hypothesis regarding the recent revival of the (electric) streetcar / trams: technology has improved and/or there has been other changes in the urban environments, so the tram is again competitive.

        This does not explain why many cities in Europe never got rid of them in the first place, though.

        • Nornagest says:

          This is pretty speculative, but Europe has historically shown different patterns of urbanization than the US did. More medium-density creep, less suburban sprawl and on the other hand less ultra-dense highrise construction. I don’t think it showed the population movements in and out of the suburbs that the US has over the 20th century, either. Either one could make streetcars more attractive.

      • episcience says:

        Could it be that much of America (and some of England) followed urbanization -> suburbanization -> recentralization trends? And perhaps in older cities in Europe, the central city population has been more stable, so streetcars/trams have remained useful and efficient.

        Just a entirely spurious guess.

        • Matt M says:

          This is also legit. So long as the streetcar is both:

          a) Properly utilized (not empty all the time)
          b) Sufficient to meet the demands of its route (not 110% full all the time either)

          There’s really no particular gain to be had in replacing it. And my impression from older European cities is that, with a few occasional exceptions, the city center has always been the city center. The financial district has always been the financial district. The ritzy suburb has always been the ritzy suburb, etc. Within areas where streetcars have already existed, population and traffic patterns haven’t changed much.

      • John Schilling says:

        If streetcars/trams are inherently awful, why do they still exist in some places (eg Brussels) and why have they been re introduced in others (eg Manchester UK)?

        Streetcars can be forced to run along evenly-spaced rectangular grids. Bus systems really can’t; people will notice that the buses aren’t actually going where people want to go, people will complain about the unnecessary transfers, etc, and no politician can resist the pressure to tweak the system into some godawful non-rectilinear mapping. With streetcars – and even more so subways – the rectilinear grid can be literally carved in stone before anyone has a chance to object. Much more fun to be a city planner that way, as any recovering Sim City addict can attest.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Except, I am not sure if this is true at all. The trams tend to go where the roads go (because that was the only space available when the tracks were first laid out), and in European older cities, the road configuration can be quite non-rectangular. And the busses will run along the exactly similarly rectangular urban configuration as the trams, if the road configuration is rectangular in the first place.

          And to be frankly, things are similar with metro trains. The schematic maps sure look rectangular, but I believe most of them still look like this in the reality. Here are the Brussels tram network in 2009, Paris / Ile-de-France.

          edit.

          I apologize not realizing the “rectangular grids” link was different that the “evenly-spaced” that did link to the Seeing like a State review (and thus I read it after the writing the comment above). However, I don’t understand what the Bloomberg article has to do with rectangular grids; it’s about signaling.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think you are reading “rectangular grids” more literally than even Scott intended when he introduced the term. The issue isn’t the relative willingness to adapt to preexisting geography. The issue is the insistence on imposing a grand master plan a priori on (in this case) your transportation infrastructure, and using the planned transportation infrastructure to impose a grand master plan on the rest of urban society.

            With streetcars, subways, and light rail, city governments do approximately get to be Sim City players, saying “There will be commercial hubs here, here, and here, this is where the rich people who do business will live, and over here are the poor people who will stock the shelves and mop the floors, etc. Dissenters will face two-hour commutes.”

            With bus systems, you’re pretty much telling people, “Here’s where there’s City Infrastructure; figure out where you want to set up shop and where you want to work, when you get around to petitioning City Hall we’ll pretty much have to reroute the bus lines to accommodate you as best we can.” Setting up car-friendly roads, even more so.

            These are two very different things even if, because of the riverfront and the legacy main street and boulevard, the Grand Master Plan isn’t literally rectilinear.

          • BBA says:

            I’ll push back a little on the “rails = high modernism” angle. The apotheosis of high modernism was the planned city of Brasilia. Niemeyer & co. filled their perfect city with wide, car-friendly streets and didn’t include any kind of rail transit at all, operating under the assumption that everyone who counts would drive everywhere. Likewise for practically everything Robert Moses ever built.

            Granted, there is a good deal more central planning needed for a rail line than a road, but even the sort of planners who loved power for power’s sake didn’t just put trains everywhere.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I think you are reading “rectangular grids” more literally than even Scott intended when he introduced the term.

            I probably did. (There’s also a point that there are rectangular grids and rectangular grids. The cities with approximately grid-like layout of independent blocks with an inner courtyard and the roads in-between, emergent structure arising from the need to impose fire breaks, are generally considered quite pleasant, at least compared to the 1960s urban plans often involving brutalist architecture that were main target of “rectangular grids” bashing.)

            However, back to the argument. I believe your thesis that there is a drastic difference between “roads for cars = authorities serving individualistic wills of the people” and “rails = imposing their will on the public” is still false.

            1. Most of the functioning public transit systems tend to be centrally planned, no matter the vehicle. Stupidly built rail lines will be as disused as stupidly routed bus lines. I believe examples can be readily found.

            2. The bus lines are restricted by the road system, which as far as I’m aware, also tends to be centrally planned. If the local authorities are prone to execute grand master plans taking minimal or no input from the reality on the ground, a couple of tram lines are insignificant in comparison to the effects of their decisions on where the highways and roads and parking lots and sidewalks and bike lines [1] go (and of course, zoning and all the other aspects of city planning). The bus line is useless if you can’t walk from the bus stop to place you actually want to be going because everything is designed for cars, not for people when they are not in cars. The “car friendly road” is useless if the network planned in a silly way and you spend lots of time stuck in a traffic jam.

            [1] If they make a decision to designate bike lines in the first place.

            And of course, the heyday of high modernist urban planning (the one associated with rectangular grids and brutalist architecture) also was the time when the old light rail systems were removed and replaced with a cars-and-buses-based urban plans.

            edit. I’ll also add that I’d view successful urban planning is an organic process in itself. Zoning and traffic network plans (both rails and tarmac) will respond to the evolving situation on the ground; the society adapts to the planned framework and if the plan is successfully adaptive to the needs of the people (i.e. resultant state of successful cooperative coordination), the society thrives.

          • John Schilling says:

            1. Stupidly built rail lines will be as disused as stupidly routed bus lines. I believe examples can be readily found.

            The difference is that the stupidly built rail lines will continue to be operated, in hopes of “nudging” people towards using them, while the stupidly routed bus lines will be rerouted.

            2. The bus lines are restricted by the road system, which as far as I’m aware, also tends to be centrally planned.

            The road system wasn’t centrally planned in some older cities. But one way or another, the road system is constrained by the requirement to deliver truckloads(*) of construction materials to anyplace that is going to be really city-like, more truckloads of goods to any place that is going to be a commercial district, and still more truckloads of raw materials to the industrial districts. If necessary, this will be enforced by the market not building homes, shops, and factories in the places where the master planners failed to provide truck access.

            Whether road design favors cars, bicycles, pedestrians, Segways, or skateboards, is secondary. Adequate truck access is an absolute requirement on urban transit. And any road network that can handle that, can almost certainly handle a reasonably efficient bus service covering all actual residential, commercial, and industrial districts. Or a grotesquely inefficient bus service, if you insist on setting one up, but that won’t last.

            * Wagonloads, in older cities.

          • random832 says:

            There’s also a point that there are rectangular grids and rectangular grids. The cities with approximately grid-like layout of independent blocks with an inner courtyard and the roads in-between, emergent structure arising from the need to impose fire breaks, are generally considered quite pleasant, at least compared to the 1960s urban plans often involving brutalist architecture that were main target of “rectangular grids” bashing.

            Can you name an example? Your description brought Barcelona to my mind, but browsing the Wikipedia article seems to show that there was very much a modernist plan involved in getting that layout (but in the late 19th early 20th century rather than the 1960s).

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Can you name an example?

            I might be misremembering something because I seem to unable to find good sources after a cursory search, but highlight the word “approximate”. Not exact rectangles, but vaguely rectangular (usually four corners, not always, but identifiable as a block from street level view). And they are not very old, at least the buildings themselves (but older than the 1960s, which was the point), the 19th century sounds about right. Maybe also 18th for very old ones. (Usually there are not that many that old buildings left around.)

            This print of Leipzig of the 17th century has the right idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leipzig_1632.jpg

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            The difference is that the stupidly built rail lines will continue to be operated, in hopes of “nudging” people towards using them, while the stupidly routed bus lines will be rerouted.

            Well, I can’t really say anything else than throw my hands in the air and say in my experience there are no categorical difference. Sure, there’s stupid rail decisions. There’s mediocre rail solutions. Sometimes it will take a long time before planners adjust to the reality.

            But on the other hand, there’s also outdated rail solutions: once they worked, today they don’t. How they are recognized as outdated? They are unmaintained and not used by any train cars, that’s why (instead of empty cars moving back and forth ‘nudging’ people). I’ve seen an occasional ghost train station and severely underused and totally disused rails (it takes time so that people get around to dismantling them after they are no longer used, or left there as an outdoor museum). And as already mentioned, several cities have built and got rid away of light rail systems and somewhere already now built them again. Many places change the routes for the heavier rail often enough when someone decides that a harbor needs to move because the old one is small or a local factory moved its heavy operations to somewhere else. (America has more or less decided it does not need intercity fast heavy rail.)

            Tunnels are rarely filled, but sometimes they become disused too (but usually tunneled metro are built to serve areas with high enough traffic needs that it does not happen).

            It’s much rarer to see a stupidly built high-traffic road solution to go anywhere, though. After some roads are laid out and space between them with buildings according so-and-so zoning restrictions, they will stand there for eternity or until very major works that are seldom done. Thanks to this, I’m often enough annoyed by the fact that the local neighborhood suffers from the decision made ~50 years ago when someone did not figure in their Grand Plan a convenient way for the people living one side of the road cross it to the other side of it, except by stopping the all of the cars to standstill with traffic lights. And the road that halves the natural local shopping area is supposed to “an artery” to some distant suburban area.

            Rails are relatively cheap (especially leave to rot). Refactoring a light rail system into or out of the urban landscape does not appear to that much grander operation time or resource-wise than “refactoring” street setup otherwise, even less so when we are talking about 4-way motorways or the necessary elaborate bridges and ramps for the large-scale junctions between them. (Another random unsourced factoid: bombing railways in WW2 was done, but it was necessary to make it a continuous effort because otherwise the bombed lines would be rebuilt).

            Re: trucks. That I won’t dispute; that’s how the goods find their way to the shops from the nearest hub, however they get there. (Nobody proposed to replace all trucks with rail.) But I still argue 1. that the rails are not categorically different from the road system when it comes to the lasting effect of the decisions of city planners (and sometimes you have enough commuters in highly packed areas that moving them on the special light rail line makes sense instead of just adding more buses), 2. decisions exactly where to lay out the roads and what kind of roads and what’s in between them and at the end of them and where there’s parking and how much parking and what kind of parking and who pays for the horizontal space being parking instead of something else — these are decisions that have at least as lasting influence than some rails. More influence than light rail, comparable to the heavy rail. There’s more to city life than just trucks moving goods. For example, do they move them to a shopping district or a bunch of large warehouses scattered on unused farmland? Or the other example from the previous comment:

            The bus line is useless if you can’t walk from the bus stop to place you actually want to be going because everything is designed for cars

      • BBA says:

        There are two basic reasons why an old-style streetcar wouldn’t be replaced by buses: (1) it ran through a tunnel or somewhere else it’d be impractical to run a bus (as in Boston and Newark – yes, Newark, of all cities!), and (2) Communism (as in Prague and San Francisco).

        It took a while to figure out that light rail isn’t inherently awful and can be a fine middle ground – cheaper to build than a metro, higher capacity than a bus – provided that they the trains are running in a separate right-of-way from vehicular traffic. Los Angeles and Portland are among the American cities to reintroduce them successfully, though L.A. is so spread out it’ll never be comprehensively served by any transit system.

        If a streetcar is running in traffic, then it’s basically a really expensive bus you can’t reroute. A lot of cities in America are unnecessarily building them anyway because they’re trendy, flashy, and can get federal transit grants. I expect most of them to shut down once the novelty wears off.

  11. James Miller says:

    In Against Murderism Scott wrote “I don’t want civil war. I want this country to survive long enough to be killed by something awesome, like AI or some kind of genetically engineered superplague. Right now I think going out in a neat way, being killed by a product of our own genius and intellectual progress – rather than a product of our pettiness and mutual hatreds – is the best we can hope for. And I think this is attainable! I think that we, as a nation and as a species, can make it happen.”

    Evidence against Scott’s hope.

    • MrApophenia says:

      How would a civil war actually work? In the last one you basically had one contiguous geographical region that formed a government and had a war with another discrete region and government. This made organizing a war, and knowing who to fight, reasonably convenient.

      But how does a war of “every city vs. everywhere else” actually even happen in any meaningful sense, even if a bunch of people are mad enough to give it a try?

      • Anonymous says:

        IMO, the Brazilification of the USA is far more likely.

        For there to be proper civil war, you need an organized counter-elite to challenge the powers that be. Plenty of people are discontent. But who, really, will lead them to overthrow the US government? Next to that, the” cities vs everyone” problem is a trivial issue.

      • Corey says:

        This factor also makes peaceful secession unlikely; if we were going to split into “US of Canada” and “Jesusland” we’d have to move most/all of the cities (or city dwellers) from the latter to the former.

        But without civil war, peaceful secession, or most people somehow adopting a synthesis of values and realities that are currently mutually incompatible, what’s left? Limping along like this forever-ish is my guess. (I suppose that’s a special case of Scott’s hope, where the AI/tech/whatever apocalypse doesn’t happen).

        Maybe this is where theoretical libertarian ideas come into play: we stick a national border around every metro area, confederate them into US of C, leave them embedded in surrounding Jesusland?

        • Maybe this is where theoretical libertarian ideas come into play: we stick a national border around every metro area, confederate them into US of C, leave them embedded in surrounding Jesusland?

          Walled cities with walled high speed train tracks stringing them together; little pearls of blue outposts in red territory and vice versa?

        • Kevin C. says:

          Maybe this is where theoretical libertarian ideas come into play: we stick a national border around every metro area, confederate them into US of C, leave them embedded in surrounding Jesusland?

          Except how do you keep the citizens of the US of C from meddling in “Jesusland” because those awful Jesuslanders are heathens in need of converting violating people’s inalienable human rights?

        • @Kevin C

          You don’t.

          Libertarian ideas will only have traction in an autarchic society comprised only of libertarian type people. Libertarians are a permanent sliver of the population and can only console themselves with the fact that they have more influence than their dark mirror universe twins, the national bolsheviks, which might be all an elaborate joke anyway, with literally 10 people who think it’s real. Libertarianism is demographically marginal, has always been demographically marginal, and will always be demographically marginal. I gave up the ideology as soon as I realized this. It’s nice to dream.

          It’s nice to dream but us alt-neurotypes will always be oppressed by the tyranny of left vs right, the unslayable double headed dragon, the avatar of the vile masses. Libertarians are very weird and are pretty much space aliens, and should just accept that the ideology of libertarianism is only a weird attempt to translate our bizarre terminal values into human moral terms. Give up the ideology, and become who we are; a race, and then maybe at least we can get some pity bucks as a cognitively marginalized group.

          The only way libertarians will ever end up with a society they are happy with is if somehow we all turn into robots and escape to the final frontier, but even then it’s far more likely that we are humiliated because a big centralized friendly progressive AI controls everything, or in a cosmic joke, we win the freedom argument for once, and then deregulated autonomous corporations turn us all into paperclips, finally getting what we all secretly wanted all along, which is to literally become private property.

          Uh… yeah. It won’t work. Human society has two modes. The part where progressives and conservatives “choose” their candidates under extreme duress, pulling the lever to keep the same muddled mess going, and then the part where the stress becomes too great and they finally flip out and start killing each other. In the first case, libertarians act as a beaten spouse to rightists, and in the second case, they play act as fascists or die, so pretty much the same thing.

          I suppose that’s what it’s like for absolutists too. But at least you had a system once.

          • Libertarianism is demographically marginal, has always been demographically marginal, and will always be demographically marginal.

            “To expect, indeed, that the freedom of trade should ever be
            entirely restored in Great Britain is as absurd as to expect that an
            Oceana or Utopia should ever be established in it.” (Adam Smith, 1776)

            England moved to free trade c. 1840.

            It’s unlikely that a society fitting every detail of what current libertarians want will be established–and, by the time it was, libertarian ideas of what they wanted would have changed some. But there have been societies that implemented large parts of the libertarian program, including the U.K. from about 1840 on, and there is no good reason to assume that there will not be such in the future.

            Or in other words, you are making the best the enemy of the good.

          • Or in other words, you are making the best the enemy of the good.

            I dunno. I try to push a moderate gradualist agenda most of the time. I do think libertarians need to become more Fabian in their thinking, rather than just laying all their cards on the table at once. I’m being melodramatic to be sure.

            Take the (yellow and) black pill.

          • pontifex says:

            If I were a libertarian, I would be trying to influence the Republicans to move closer to my agenda. I don’t think it’s quite as absurd as you’re making it sound. For example, libertarians might look at loosening regulations on hair braiders as a small win. Or something like that. The goal of any fringe political party or viewpoint in a democratic system will always look kind of like this.

          • For example, libertarians might look at loosening regulations on hair braiders as a small win.

            As you may know the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, has been pushing things like in the legal arena for quite a while, with some success.

            Libertarians within the Republican party do try to push the party in a more libertarian direction. But I think the more effective tactic is to push the electorate in a more libertarian direction, persuade people that particular libertarian policies, such as a reduction in professional licensing or marijuana legalization, are desirable. If we succeed, one or both parties are likely to adopt those policies. It doesn’t have to be the Republicans–my impression is that the Obama administration was starting a push against unnecessary licensing restrictions near the end. And it was under the Carter administration that the airline and trucking industries were deregulated.

            The model is the Socialist Party, which never elected anyone to high office but saw much of what it advocated at the beginning of the 20th century supported and implemented by both parties by the end.

          • pontifex says:

            If we succeed, one or both parties are likely to adopt those policies. It doesn’t have to be the Republicans–my impression is that the Obama administration was starting a push against unnecessary licensing restrictions near the end. And it was under the Carter administration that the airline and trucking industries were deregulated.

            That’s an interesting fact about the Carter administration. I had heard people say before that some of the stuff we associate with Reagan (like tighter monetary policy and deregulation) began under Carter. I didn’t realize that trucking and airline deregulation were among those things. Of course, it took someone like Reagan to actually face down the PATCO strike…

            Do you have a citation that the Obama administration was considering doing something about licensing restrictions? It’s very surprising to me, actually, considering the general tenor of the Obama years. But then again, Obama was a bit more nuanced than either his fans or his detractors ever seemed to understand.

          • Do you have a citation that the Obama administration was considering doing something about licensing restrictions?

            No. I think it’s something I remember seeing, probably a news story of some sort.

      • Aapje says:

        @MrApophenia

        See Northern Ireland. You had republican paramilitaries terrorizing loyalist communities & loyalist paramilitaries terrorizing republican communities.

        One can easily imagine a situation where the tribes start attacking each other’s communities, symbols, politicians, etc.

        @Corey

        But without civil war, peaceful secession, or most people somehow adopting a synthesis of values and realities that are currently mutually incompatible, what’s left?

        Ethnic cleansing and genocide are options too.

        • bintchaos says:

          In the sci-fi novel (Thirteen/Black Man) Jesusland (aka the Confederated States of America) builds a wall which starts as a border wall to keep people out but winds up as a sort of prison wall keeping people in.
          Much like the wall separating East and West Berlin was until it came down.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            The Berlin wall was all about keeping people in, right from the beginning.

          • bintchaos says:

            Sorry…I wasnt there…but I was led to believe that it was about keeping spies and Russian agents out of West Berlin as well.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The Communists built the wall, and claimed that it was to keep western agents and provocateurs out. However, the fact that the fortifications and minefields generally faced east rather than west strongly suggests otherwise.

          • Odovacer says:

            @bintchaos

            East Germany built the Berlin wall to keep East Germans from leaving. People in West Germany could visit East Berlin and travel throughout West Germany and (mostly) the world. West Berliners had some restrictions about visiting East Berlin, but eventually could come and go. People from the East could not visit the West for the most part.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            The German wall (note: usually peple mean the inner German border, not just Berlin division) was built from the beginning mainly because the entrepreneurial, the educated, and the well-off were bleeding out to the west after the course of post-war politics became clear in the Soviet occupation zone. E.g., more than one engineer “made over” with one luggage for personal belongings and another full of blueprints, formulas, etc.

            The border was, however, sold to the GDR population and trumpeted to the world as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (Antifaschistischer Schutzwall), despite the fact that everyone could see that almost all the defense mechanisms were facing inwards.

          • bintchaos says:

            yes, excellent comment.

            the entrepreneurial, the educated, and the well-off were bleeding out to the west after the course of post-war politics became clear in the Soviet occupation zone.


            Exactly how the Jesusland border wall is framed to the confederation citizens in Thirteen.
            Aso, Jesusland only has private, expensive education, while the Rim has free college for everyone.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            Thanks for the compliment!

            [For the interested who like to watch desasters live, I may add that a GDR-like drain (of those valuing rule of law, of educated who predict the economy going down, of more secular/liberal/nonideologiclly oriented) is in an early phase in Turkey right now, and there are few developments conceivable that will not eventually lead to similar measures as taken by GDR.]

      • Salem says:

        In the real Civil War, support for the Union/Confederacy didn’t break down cleanly, which is why you had events like the Draft Riots, the secession of West Virginia, the Kentucky situation, and more generally Copperheads and Scalawags aplenty. What happened was that the CSA was able to take physical control of some areas, and unable to take physical control of other areas, and the feelings of the inhabitants had something to do with that, but not everything (consider Maryland, for instance). If, heaven forfend, the US has another civil war, it might go the same.

        But Americans seem to assume that another Civil War would look much like the last one –
        it ain’t necessarily so. Another model of a civil war would be the Vendee, which basically was every city vs everywhere else. It was still pretty obvious who to fight. Sure, there were plenty of people in Republican-controlled areas who hated the Montagnards (probably the vast majority, in fact) but if they can’t organise into military forces then they aren’t much of a threat. They didn’t have to be defeated, just terrorised.

      • John Schilling says:

        How would a civil war actually work? In the last one…

        What do you mean by “the last one”, when Wikipedia lists four going on simultaneously right now?

        If you mean “the last one fought in the United States”, the US is not obligated to do things in the future in the particular highly idiosyncratic way we’ve done things in the past. We can learn new ways of doing things by observing foreign nations, maybe even letting some of them immigrate and teach us in person. We can, for example, do civil wars in that style previously seen only abroad, where basically everybody looks across the street, notes that at least one of their neighbors is of the wrong tribe, and takes their gun off the wall and shoots them.

        Well, except for the fact that only half of us still have guns on the wall. But as much as I generally prefer America’s archaic and geographically organized style of revolutionary and civil warfighting, much as I distrust the “we must do things the foreign way, foreigners know so much more than us parochial Americans” argument, I have to admit that if we fight another civil war we probably will do it in their way.

        After the first round of neighbor-killing, the survivors do tend to segregate themselves pretty rapidly, which in the US probably means Blue coastal enclaves and a Red hinterland, with a few Blue cities in the interior being able to hold out at least for a while.

        • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

          The Balkans in the ’90es are an example. Overarching national identity and security architecture breaks down, everybody resorts to smaller-scale units of social cohesion in a spirit of “we must protect us against the others” and … the US would not end with Red vs. Blue but with a much finer grained hostility of many more factions.

          • John Schilling says:

            the US would not end with Red vs. Blue but with a much finer grained hostility of many more factions.

            I very much doubt that. Wars, more than anything else in human experience, motivate people to join the largest possible “Us” with the strongest possible level of commitment so as to survive against the monolithic “Them”. What, other than a war, could convince Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin to join Team Allies?

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            The likely scenario here will not include a war in the WWII sense, where pre-existing blocks (nations) shifted positions until they were locked in alliances.

            In a breakdown of superstructures, the largest possible “Us” still is a proxy for what promises the most security (promised/expected victory being a proxy for that), expecially immediate security. People cling to what is near and gives protection, not what is far away but strong. They band do defend the ‘hood against the neighbours, and don’t strategize about whose ideology/world view/lifestyle/religion will finally come out on top.

            Study the Balkans. [catastrophism on] They provide material much more likely to be relelevant to the looming intra-US turmoil than any classical war, civil or inter-national. Add a little fire accelerant from outside parties, a militarized police, a homeland security that can get away with an essentially free reign in 100 miles of any border including coasts (covering ~60% of the population IIRC), the coal-and-iron culture in its death throes, the eternally smouldering racial and native problems, and you have more ingredients for dark soc-fi than you’d like. [catastrophism off]

            Reason for EDIT: HTML-like tags for ‘catastrophism’ were swallowed by the system. And so it begins..

          • John Schilling says:

            Granted, John Doe doesn’t think beyond joining his local Block Militia or whatever. In anything remotely resembling even a Balkan-style civil war, the block militia captain is going to be looking for allies, and is not going to be applying fine-grained political litmus tests or making specific demands. Whoever isn’t “Them” and can provide the greatest number of Us-battalions at need, is the ally of choice.

            In anything resembling the contemporary United States, I don’t see how that adds up to anything other than one alliance composed of pretty much everybody who normally votes Republican and one alliance composed of pretty much everybody who normally votes Democratic. Anybody proposing to not be one of those two alliances, doesn’t get any allies worth mentioning – because who’d want to ally with such a tiny obvious loser when Team GOP and Team Democrat are looking for members?

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            In anything resembling the contemporary United States, I don’t see how that adds up to anything other than one alliance composed of pretty much everybody who normally votes Republican and one alliance composed of pretty much everybody who normally votes Democratic.

            Yup. That’s where we disagree. I guess you are approaching the speculations more in a top-down way of thinking, and assume the local militia leader does the same, going to plead allegiance to the biggest blocks. And that the developments allow for enough time to add up to what you say.

            I consider this bottom-up, going from the immediate shocks and the resulting tunnel-view (first the immediate threats! Secure bare survival necessities!) that can pit neighbours against each other, to its consequences. If a society collapses fast enough, the situation is extremely dynamic, intransparent, and volatile, so there will be little concern for long-range alliancing at first, and then the damage is done because small groups are in close combat or pose a near-field threat already.

            This happening in a population that is not just red-blue divided, but afro-hispanic-native-asian-x-y-z, and rich-middle-poor, while the ghosts of old stereotypes (Irish? Italien? Chinese? Catholic? Jews?) are bound to appear and old grievances promise to get revenged. Nah, that won’t sort into a nice and clear two-faction war, even the word ‘war’ will have to receive more re-definition than through the ‘asymmetric’ and recently ‘hybrid’ ‘wars’ of the last decades. Only after a long bleed-out, maybe there will emerge clear fronts between a small number of leaders or groups.

            May we never see who had the better guess.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @John Schilling

            I could be wrong, but isn’t the Syrian civil war pretty multipolar? At least in the sense that the various rebel groups don’t really get along? It seems not-inconceivable to me that more extreme elements of Team Red or Team Blue would use the chaos as opportunity to purge the traitors insufficiently orthodox.

          • @Gobbobobble

            As far as I can see, the Syrian War seems to have these factions:
            1: Regime loyalists/Syrian Army
            2: Free Syrian Army/subsidiaries
            3: Al Qaeda aligned Jihadists, Tahrir al-Sham etc
            4: ISIS and affiliates
            5: Kurdish separatists
            6: Foreign meddlers who meddle so haphazardly and randomly that it’s hard to split apart who they intend to be allied with and who they are de facto allied with

            So, it’s at least a 5 or 6 sided war in the long run. In the short run, alliances form and then split. The FSA allied with Al Nusra (now Tahrir al-Sham) IIRC, but then stopped after 2014. The USA alternates between assisting the regime in disarray (more recently under Trump before moving back to confused opposition), the FSA, AQ alligned Jihadists, and the Kurds.

            I think one of the main reasons everything hasn’t cohered into two really well defined factions is because of the foreign meddling from the USA (which doesn’t know what it’s doing) and Russia (which knows exactly what it’s doing), stirring the pot and separating the particles. In theory, things could settle down into three factions, the loyalists, the non-jihadist “democratic” opposition (perhaps the FSA comes to terms with the Kurds and other separatists), and the jihadist opposition (perhaps AQ jihadists reconcile with ISIS jihadists), with the USA backing the dems, the Russians backing the regime as usual, and the Saudis backing the jihadists to the USA’s chagrin.

            Syrian society (and many other societies in the region) seem split by three mutually incompatible divisions (authoritarian semi-secular pseudo-fascism vs “democrats”/liberals vs tradcons/jihadists)

            Western society is much more bipolar, so it should naturally cohere into two large factions as already exist. However, if foreign actors stir the pot then that may break down.

            Since Russia and to a much more cautious and limited extent, China, have supported the Western far-right, outside powers will likely influence more fracturing on the left. The right will be encouraged to cohere, and will come behind some general figure. I expect the American Civil War 2 to look more like the Spanish Civil War than either the first Civil War or the Syrian War/balkans conflicts. With the exception that this is happening in the seat of world power and will represent something more final and apocalyptic than the stabilizing effect of Franco rule.

            I expect the right to win because they’ve been preparing for actual physical war for longer, and have the military for their main institutions instead of cultural institutions like Universities and Hollywood, and have foreign backers interested in their unity and oppositional to left unity. Even looking on twitter, leftists are still arguing about their divisions, whereas rightists are pushing fusionist memes like “National Libertarians”. Obviously that’s a fringe few, but it’s the fringe few, and subcultural celebrities that eventually rise up to become world changing figures. Those outside of the establishment destroy it. The war would be like the Spanish Civil War, but the resulting regime would be more racialist and Nazi like (if economically faux-libertarian) than the “National Catholicism” outcome in Spain.

            I expect the right to win this conflict and form a dictatorship (possibly led by a general, I can’t see Trump being the guy) that institutes protectionist policies, impoverishing itself, while cutting taxes and social programs to keep its big business backers happy, creating a double whammy of high prices and no safety net, leading to greater poverty and various post-war revolts, eventually creating a slight move towards the National Socialist side of the natlib/natsoc fusion.

            The REAL Nazis who will be by this point part of the regime inner circle will attempt to resolve this tension with their allies by selling their social darwinist and racialist policies as a way to lower costs, thereby making their classical conservative/natlib ideological allies, and economic business class allies happy. This will lead to ethnic cleasing policies to lower food stamp rolls, and also to eugenics policies being instituted. The other thing that will happen is that foreign war will continue to be a balm for domestic trouble, only on a far greater, truly imperialistic scale, with “freedom and democracy” being replaced with a new crusade to crush Islamic countries utterly.

            The USA, Russia, (and quite possibly Britain) will become the main opponents of a beleaguered Europe, with China acting in more of opportunist and temporal manner towards the rival blocks. Gradually, liberalism will be pushed off the world stage as the European Union is defeated, perhaps only to re-appear as part of a new Berlin Wall moment many decades of imperial decline later.

            Or at least that’s how this crystal ball I bought in the junk store tells it!

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Forward Synthesis

            I expect the right to win because they’ve been preparing for actual physical war for longer

            As a counterpoint to that, let me point you to David Hines’s review of Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage, and his more recent essay at Jacobite: “Political Violence is a Game the Right Can’t Win“. To sum them up, organization is key, and since at least the 70’s the Left has held the advantage there. From the start of the second link:

            If there’s one thing righties believe, it’s that they could beat lefties in a fight.

            You see this attitude reflected over and over again, to the point that it’s probably something engrained in the right-wing psyche. Pajama Boy vs. tactical deathbeast? Pffft. No contest. Look, righties have the guns, righties have police and they have the military. If one day the balloon ever goes up, righties will just organize behind a leadership of their veterans, coordinate with the active service, give all the lefties free helicopter rides, and live happily ever after. Right?

            That’s pretty much what the Confederacy thought about the Yankees, and it didn’t exactly work out well for them.

            And later:

            The organizational capacity required to build a new world is the same organizational capacity have Lefties built to pressure government. So who’s in a better position to shape the big moment when it comes? Hell, if tomorrow civilization goes completely Mad Max: who’s got existing local networks of people who they’re used to turning out and doing stuff with on a regular basis? Answer to both questions: not the Right.

            Passivists say activism accomplishes nothing. What it actually accomplishes is practice. Practice for networking, practice for turnout, practice for speed, practice working as a team. Anybody who’s ever tried to get five people together for dinner knows it’s a pain, but look at the airport protests after the travel ban, and see how many people the hard Left can turn out on next to no notice. Say the balloon were to suddenly go up: forget having a detailed and specific plan; in that first five minutes, do you — not some veterans’ network you’re hoping will salvage things, not some imaginary Great Man; *specifically you* — even know who you’re going to call?

            The Lefties do. And that’s why righties who say the Right has nothing to learn from the Left are wrong. That’s because righties don’t read lefty books. I read lefty books and organizational manuals, and I can tell you: they’re smart.

            If you haven’t read at least the latter essay, please do so.

            and have the military for their main institutions

            While that might be true at the “rank and file” level, I’d dispute that at the level of the officer ranks. And you underestimate the power of “cultural institutions like Universities and Hollywood”.

            and have foreign backers interested in their unity and oppositional to left unity

            Really? Who?

            As for the rest of your crystal-ball-gazing, I’ll have to disagree; it’s far too unrealisticly optimistic about the Right’s chances.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            @Forward Synthesis
            Western society is much more bipolar, so it should naturally cohere into two large factions as already exist.

            I doubt that is bipolar enough for that, given internet and filter bubbles and the general value shift of the last half dozen decades, but lack data to back that up.

            As an aside:
            Or at least that’s how this crystal ball I bought in the junk store tells it!
            Please, write a dystopic novel or a treatment for an HBO series, (maybe in the Occupied style). Or Blog posts. Srsly.

      • hlynkacg says:

        As others have noted. I think the most likely scenario is some mix of Ireland during the troubles and the “Brazilification” of the US (though I would have picked Columbia or Mexico as better examples) where the federales don’t venture too far from the cities if they can help it, and signifigant portions of the interior fall under de facto control of local authorities, religious groups, or warlords as a result.

        Brian Wood explores this scenario in DMZ and while I found parts of the comic overwrought, I feel that the core premise is sound and setting fascinating. Sadly the story goes a bit off the rails in later volumes, a victim of continuous sequel escalation.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Wasn’t that also to some extent the general set-up in Snow Crash?

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            Snow Crash had tiny territories that were franchises of business companies, the mafia, or nations. They were mostly not in wars against each other.

          • bintchaos says:

            They were in perpetual war against the Raft-Warriors, Asherah, and general socio-entropic decay.

          • beleester says:

            Snow Crash was more of an anarcho-capitalist thing – private corporations providing law enforcement, jails, and so on, and providers of violence transforming into legitimate businesses, such as the Mafia pizza delivery service. The US government is pretty much a non-entity in the story.

            You could argue that the line between “regions falling under de facto control of local authorities or warlords” and “anarcho-capitalism” is pretty slim, but Snow Crash’s system is several degrees weirder than a state undergoing civil war.

          • random832 says:

            The US government is pretty much a non-entity in the story.

            Well… it doesn’t have much control over much territory. As I recall, what’s left of it does manage to hold its own in terms of story relevance, and I won’t say more in order to avoid providing spoilers.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Beleester

            You could argue that the line between “regions falling under de facto control of local authorities or warlords” and “anarcho-capitalism” is pretty slim

            I have indeed argued that. There’s this quote I’ve seen in various places, with various attributions, about how anarchy is the least stable form of society because it collapses into government at the slightest disturbance. This is why I feel favorably toward AnCap, despite considering it unworkable; because when an attempt to put it into practice “collapses into government”, the likely result would be best described as feudal.

          • Nornagest says:

            They were mostly not in wars against each other.

            It’s been a few years since I read it, but wasn’t there a bit early on where Hiro takes a detour to avoid sniper fire between the McDonalds and the Pizza Hut or something like that?

          • Nornagest says:

            the likely result would be best described as feudal.

            Unlikely. We’re pretty familiar with feudalism because of its role in th European Middle Ages, but it’s not a common form of organization from a broader perspective; the only places that have come up with anything much like it are Europe, Japan, and arguably Ethiopia. The exact criteria that give you it are controversial, but likely to include weak central authority, a particular type of honor culture, and a state of military technology that gives big force multipliers to people with the resources of e.g. knights or samurai, without requiring national-level infrastructure for arms production.

            We aren’t likely to get any of that except maybe the weak central authority.

          • random832 says:

            My impression is that anarchocapitalism mostly looks like feudalism before it collapses (i.e. before it runs out of the pixie dust that makes serfstenants and laborers obey property owners without the latter having access to overwhelming force), rather than after.

      • Rob K says:

        I think it’d have to start by getting back to a ’70s level of political violence first; shootings, bombings, assassinations as part of the normal backdrop of life. That’s an environment where it could start to make sense for non-fringe people to organize themselves for mutual defense, leading to pre-emptive (or “pre-emptive”) attacks, etc.

        The good news is that the ’70s level of political violence took place in an atmosphere of much higher lead exposure. For that reason alone I’d put money down against things getting to that level anytime soon.

        • Jaskologist says:

          We went from punching “Nazis” to shooting Congressmen in a matter of months. Growth mindset.

          • Iain says:

            Steve Scalise is hardly the first Congressman to be shot. There’s not much of a trend line there.

          • bintchaos says:

            Evolution of gameplay.
            Humans learn what is successful.
            Its what we do.
            Humans are also very beeg on reciprocity.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Sure, and fortunately, shooting Congressmen resulted in death by cop and no appreciable political gain.

            Question, if any of the assassinations had succeeded, does that trigger a special election or a gubernatorial appointment?

          • Brad says:

            The replacement of Representatives must be by special election. (Article I, Section II, Clause 4)

            For Senators, a state can choose to allow for temporary appointments until a special election can be held (17th Amendment, clause II).

      • Barely matters says:

        What would worry me most if things turned to open conflict between urban and rural groups is that cities are dense enough to allow for easy but significant attacks in a way that the countryside isn’t.

        One thing I’ve noticed over the last year working in remote country areas, is that country folk absolutely love drones. They seem to be filling a similar toy niche to quads, sleds, etc, and I see them all the time when I’m in the field. At one point I made friends with a farmer whose property I was stationed near, who was bored one day and we used one of his (several) drones to herd sheep.

        Combine ubiquitous unmanned air delivery with enough of an explosive or chemical payload to disrupt a street or two in the downtown core, and you’ve got a method of attack that’s cheap, allows the attacker to stay at a safe distance, is relatively low effort, and hard to counter symmetrically. I think modern technology would make a repeat of the Troubles a lot worse this time around for urban and suburbanites.

        • Kevin C. says:

          I hear similar arguments in my circles vis-a-vis Los Angeles and SoCal in general (often with reference to “CalExit” proposals), in regards to their dependence upon water from, and moving through, more “Red-state” areas, and the possibility of a “shut-off” or sabotage. Food is another such item discussed. Add in the spectacular power-grid vulnerabilities, NYC’s bridges and tunnels, etc. Plenty of folks here on the “rural” side of the divide seem to have put a good deal of thought (and some research) into exactly those sorts of “unequal vulnerabilities”.

        • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

          This is a likely sub-scenario. Consequence of seriously damaging the functioning of a city would be that the US loses most of the city-concentrated economic, scientific, entrepreneurial, social, cultural activity fast. More breakdown of overarching structures. Balkanization (I should make this a text module, on F7 maybe?).

      • Nornagest says:

        Rural insurgencies are really common, especially in postcolonial contexts; the usual pattern is that you’ve got an more Westernized, more urbanized elite that’s got all the formal power, and then you’ve got a more rural, less Westernized population, often of a different ethnicity or tribal group, that isn’t happy about any of that. Common exacerbating factors include Communism, religious differences, resource politics, and mismatches between populations and political divisions that came about because the United Nations mandate or whatever wanted to get its evenly-spaced rectangular grids in.

        The first example that comes to mind is the Tuareg insurgencies in and around Algeria, but there have been many more.

        • Matt M says:

          Didn’t ISIS start out as a “rural insurgency”?

          • Nornagest says:

            ISIS is complicated. They developed in the late Iraq War out of a mixture of Sunni militias (“rural insurgency”, to a first approximation), Al-Qaeda affiliates (who have a lot of rural support, but have too many international aspirations to really fit the pattern), and ex-Ba’athists (who were the urbanized elite if anything, but an urbanized elite that had developed after one round of postcolonial chaos, and had lots of ties to rural Sunnis). Then their actual ideology came into its own and now they’re their own weird thing.

            They remind me of the Taiping Rebellion in 19th-century China, or maybe the White Lotus Rebellion fifty years earlier (both millennarian sects with political ambitions systematically taking apart a clunky and overextended nation-state), but either one would be a pretty loose analogy.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Can you provide a summary of the video?

      • James Miller says:

        Transcript

        “They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding — until the only option left is for police to do their jobs and stop the madness.
        And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

        The video has 2.8 million Facebook views.

        • Brad says:

          I like how ‘they’ doesn’t even need a predicate. It is just assumed that the audience will know who she means.

          Is there a name for the opposite of gaslighting where someone deliberately reinforces another’s delusions?

          • MrApophenia says:

            Social media?

          • albatross11 says:

            They is usefully vague. If the speaker had to actually say who “they” are, the story would start getting messier and eventually would come apart. (Or it would become some big structural/sociological explanation in which nobody was exactly to blame, but those are emotionally unsatisfying.)

          • lvlln says:

            Unrelated aside: I highly recommend to anyone Jon Ronson’s book Them, about his experience conversing with conspiracy theorists who believe that “they” are controlling the world and forming a new world order and whatnot. Particularly the audiobook which he recorded, since Ronson has a soft smooth voice that’s a pleasure to listen to.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @MrApophenia

            You win one internet

          • James Miller says:

            They are the “cultural elite” named by Dan Quayle.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Them is great. A lot of it is hilarious – the Alex Jones/Bohemian Grove stuff is comedy gold. Also David Icke trying desperately to convince people the shape shifting lizard people aren’t code for jews, he really is just crazy.

            But it also has some legitimately fascinating stuff. Particularly the section about Ruby Ridge.

        • veeloxtrox says:

          “They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their ex-president was another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their president to endorse the resistance. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding — until the only option left is for police to do their jobs and stop the madness.
          And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I’m the American Civil Liberties Union and I’m freedom’s last hope.”

          With a little modification, it could be used by the other tribe.

          • Nornagest says:

            Tone’s wrong, “freedom” and “assassinate” shouldn’t be there, and the bits about movie stars and the media don’t ring right either. And this isn’t in character from the ACLU, or even more culture-war centric left-wing institutions like the SPLC; it’d be more plausible in an editorial from the Washington “Democracy Dies in Darkness” Post.

            Still, it’s closer than I’d like.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            You are right that tone and word choice is not exactly blue tribe. I knew ACLU doesn’t quite fit but I couldn’t think of anyone better for such a formal appeal.

          • cassander says:

            “They use their media to suppress real news. They use their schools to indoctrinate children that their ex-president was another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and award shows to spread their message of hate and fear. And then they use their president to endorse this. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the weak— until the only option left is for police to do their jobs and to stop the madness however we can.

            And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their hate. The only way we stop this, the only way stop the rollback of progress is to fight this hate and ignorance with truth. We’re the American Civil Liberties Union and we’re the last hope for justice.

            The tone still isn’t quite right. It needs to be more about the dark forces and how they deceive than how we’re fighting back.

        • Tarhalindur says:

          This…. isn’t really a new phenomenon? Stuff like that video has been circulating in certain circles on the right for at least a decade now*, notably the militia-adjacent circles and the more extreme reaches of the Christian Right. Those circles are also major components of American gun culture, and the NRA has been following the obvious incentives and moving in their direction for years. Frankly, given the transcript I think that video was probably intended as organization advertising in the vein of the WWF/ASPCA ads you see on TV from time to time.

          Which doesn’t mean it’s not a warning sign for civil war, but it’s background tension rather than an escalation.

          * – I distinctly remember reading about a speech or sermon from a Christian Right figure sometime during W’s presidency – I want to say Tony Perkins in 2004? – which advocated reeducation camps for liberals. For a slightly more recent example, well, we were discussing the Oath Keepers a few OTs ago – tonally speaking, the original blog post proposing the Oath Keepers reads about the same as the video transcript.

    • SUT says:

      1. Don’t blame the NRA for coming out and saying what everybody is already thinking [privately] anyways. Even The New Yorker when chronicling what the blue tribe rich were worried about – outside an asteroid strike or nuclear war type catastrophe – and building contingency plans for, was basically BLM or OWS gaining more traction. You’ll note the ascendancy of Gilead isn’t a thing people actually pay money to protect themselves against. Without the Identitarian Left and EatTheRich Left, there doesn’t seem to be a plausible reason for Americans to fight each other. If there were, I think it would resemble WWI with opposing sides coming out during a cease fire to drink together and play soccer.

      2. The big question in any civil conflict in the U.S. is: is it still the richest country, the reserve currency, and the safest place for foreigners to park long term capital? If no Chinese students, no Saudi Private Equity, etc, no cheap credit available to Federal Gov’t, I wonder how economically appealing moving to these cities and university towns would be? Seems like it would look like Wall St. in Sept 2008, and the cities would see huge net outflows.

    • cassander says:

      I don’t much care about the NRA one way or the other, but damn, that’s ballsy. It also feels like it’s worth mentioning that the NRA is the only right wing political movement in recent decades to achieve a meaningful degree of success. It will be interesting to see if this sort of thing spreads.

    • skef says:

      So, on the heels of the chocolate milk marketing gimmick, and seeing as the NRA is often seen as a kind of industry group, is this best read as an advertising push to the other-than-usual side?

      “Look, we’ve armed the red tribe to the teeth and now we’re going to whip them into a frenzy. Better get a gun!”

  12. onyomi says:

    Re. the recent CNN sting operation (guy catches CNN execs on camera saying the Trump-Russia connection is mostly BS for ratings), a bigger question I’ve been thinking about recently:

    As a free market fundamentalist libertarian, I’m usually unimpressed by arguments taking the form “leaving x to the private sector produces terrible results, so government has to do it,” because there are often very good reasons the private sector could handle the objections.

    One I have more trouble with is news media: there seems to be an obvious market incentive to provide people with fear-mongering, sensationalist, partisan news about trivial matters and which flatters the ego of the target audience rather than nuanced, careful, challenging, measured consideration of issues that matter.

    Presumably in a real free market there would be more sources of news, and we see that, to some extent, happening with the internet. Yet it seems the kind of news almost everyone can agree would be good to have more of seems likely to be chronically underfunded on a free market. Ditto broadcasts of e.g. opera.

    Is there any way to deal with this without government? Or even with government? Nationalize the networks? But then they’ll just produce news obviously biased in favor of their source of funding, that is, whichever government coalition is holding the purse strings (that is, I think letting the consumer hold his own purse strings almost always produces the best results; I’m less sure that is the case here, but also doubt government solutions could do any better).

    • Anonymous says:

      Keep them private, but censor them. This maintains their for-profit incentives, but hopefully gets rid of 90+% of the shit-stirring. Norway is an example of a moderate-leftist country which has a state-capitalism media – they’re normal companies, but the government owns majority stock. Predictably, the media shows the moderate-leftist viewpoint on everything, and keeps out both the right and the extreme left. Not to mention material that would be destabilizing to the powers that be.

      Free news media is generally a luxury. Homogeneous states can handle it without a problem. Diverse places probably can’t afford having people who make money via stirring the pot of sectarian animosity.

      You could, alternatively, ban news media in general. And firewall away foreign internet while you’re at it, so only the really interested can get at it via trivial inconvenience.

      • kingofmen says:

        [In Norway] they’re normal companies, but the government owns majority stock.

        This is untrue. Where did you get that idea? The Norwegian government subsidises any newspaper with X circulation, but does not own any of them, either majority or minority. You may be thinking of the state TV channel, NRK, which however is not a normal company, it is 100% state-owned and run by the Department of Culture. It is however one channel among many, though when I was growing up that wasn’t true.

        As for the center-left editorial viewpoint, Norwegian newspapers are generally rather to the left of both the government and the people, but there exist far-right exceptions with tiny circulations that get the same subsidies as anyone else.

        • Anonymous says:

          Where did you get that idea?

          Extrapolating from the general way they do things. I stand corrected.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      No more paying via advertisements; you either secure subscriptions or come away empty.

      This is far from perfect, but does get rid of at least some of the bullshit. At the very least, you’ve got to go whole hog (like Fox) and then you get discredited (like Fox). You either have to get a totally devoted following which will subscribe for your subpar garbage, or you have to provide quality.

      • albatross11 says:

        I don’t know how this would work w.r.t. incentivizing better media, but the online advertising ecosystem is basically pure evil. Finding alternatives is a win even if mainstream news sources remain crap.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Best part being we won’t have to listen to busybodies crowing about how adblockers are theft anymore

    • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

      Is there any way to deal with this without government? Or even with government? Nationalize the networks? But then they’ll just produce news obviously biased in favor of their source of funding

      The Germans have an interesting approach in their “öffentlich-rechtlich” media. Funded with a per-household (including workplaces) tax-oid and staffed in the upper echelons with people from the most important societal bodies (parties, churches, etc.) in proportion to their predominance. There seems to be a permanent wrestling from these groups for more influence and sometimes ugly shenanigans to put a party-puppet in top positions, but the basic reporting and the work ethos appear pretty decent. Having stations from left-ish and right-ish countries compete nationwide under identical constraints seems to enhance quality for objective reporting, but still allows to tend for local identity and local preferences.

      Even more interesting is the French-German cooperation ARTE. High quality, cherished by the educated but not very popular with the masses. Here you could say they are biased in favor of their source of funding if that doesn’t mean a political party but the general more empowered class.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      You are buying uncritically something James O’Keefe is selling? Why on earth?

      I mean, I keep saying that the media is, job #1, trying to get consumers, so the very top level idea that you should look to the media with a jaundiced eye is something I’m sympathetic to.

      NPR seems to have some kind answer for you, which is that it is possible to generate a funding strea, dedicated to the idea of nuanced, longer form coverage not dedicated to merely hyping the spetacle of the day, that is de-linked from day to day advertising numbers.

      • ChetC3 says:

        If a source tells you what you want to hear, why examine it critically? The highest rationalism is applying critical thinking selectively and thus reshaping reality to your liking.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        You are buying uncritically something James O’Keefe is selling? Why on earth?

        Yeah, I rolled my eyes at that but luckily the rest of the post can stand up without it.

      • CarlosRamirez says:

        What are the issues with James O’Keefe? Skimming Wikipedia, the main criticism of his videos seems to be lack of context. But then, the individuals featured in several of the videos wind up getting expelled from the orgs they belonged to, so clearly the orgs didn’t think the videos were being uncharitable, or misleading.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          so clearly the orgs didn’t think the videos were being uncharitable, or misleading

          That doesn’t necessarily follow. If the interviews are being conducted clandestinely or under false pretenses, then heads roll for violating policy or lack of proper diligence. An org doesn’t need to actually be at fault for a hit piece to land them with a bunch of bad PR. And in corporate, Someone (Disposable) Must Be Held Accountable.

          • gbdub says:

            the interviews are being conducted clandestinely or under false pretenses

            And allegedly selectively / misleadingly edited.

            So basically O’Keefe is attempting to replicate the Michael Moore and John Stewart path to media stardom.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        You are buying uncritically something James O’Keefe is selling? Why on earth?

        Same reason we bought what 60 Minutes was selling, back in the day?

      • gbdub says:

        What is your critical interpretation of what O’Keefe is selling here? The videos exist, neither CNN nor the principals in the videos seem to be in a hurry to deny their authenticity, or provide additional context to neutralize what was said.

        Now, O’Keefe is probably pushing the narrative way too hard, neither Van Jones nor the other guy speak for all of CNN, and Van Jones in particular has previously more publicly stated that he doubts there are any serious smoking guns in the Trump-Russia investigation.

        But the videos themselves are apparently authentic, and O’Keefe is O’Keefe – then again CNN is CNN, do you really doubt they are flogging the Russia-Trump investigation for all (and more than) it’s worth? The only question is whether it’s a naked ploy for ratings, or a motivated effort to hurt the GOP (of course those are not necessarily mutually exclusive). Van Jones probably would say it’s all the former, O’Keefe the latter – but they seem to agree that CNN is pushing Trump-Russia harder than the bare facts can support?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I haven’t looked at the videos. Based on what I know of his previous work, my prior that anything he produces is as useful as a used Kleenex. “Deceptive editing” is far too kind.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            my prior that anything he produces is as useful as a used Kleenex

            then maybe you should look past your priors

            yes, he is a liar. That doesn’t mean nothing he says is true. Fair enough to you for not wanting to dig deeper, but that doesn’t give you the right to talk shit to those who don’t share this outlook.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            You know the old saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”?

            As you say, he is a liar. He is continually proved to be so. I recognize that my prior is just that and merely that. Past returns do not guarantee future results. But I still wouldn’t recommend buying that “sure thing” investment from the guy who has scammed you out of thousands multiple times in the past, no matter how good he makes it sound and no matter the “outside” evidence you think you can collect.

            And note my original comment on O’Keefe was “You are buying uncritically something James O’Keefe is selling? Why on earth?”

            Why would I waste time looking into something he produces at this point? There are so many other sources of information.

          • Jiro says:

            Why would I waste time looking into something he produces at this point? There are so many other sources of information.

            I doubt that there are many other sources of behind the scenes admissions about news coverage.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Having only a single source is a strike against, not a point in favor.

            As a general rule, if I don’t already have a high prior on a news source’s credibility, I assign low probability to the things they say until enough sources are in (loose) agreement. Not as in “well this clearly fradulent” but a “hmph. maybe. don’t care right now. if it’s actually a big deal I’ll hear about it again soon”

          • Jiro says:

            Having only a single source is a strike against, not a point in favor.

            Conservation of expected evidence means that if, as HBC seems to think, having other sources for the subject matter is a strike against the article, then having one source must be a strike in favor of it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            You are welcome to invest in Bernie Madoff’s next hedge fund. I will avoid it, and I won’t concern myself over whether I am missing out on a higher than average return.

          • Randy M says:

            Conservation of expected evidence means that if, as HBC seems to think, having other sources for the subject matter is a strike against the article, then having one source must be a strike in favor of it.

            Having one source increases the relative value of reading the article (it’s telling you something unique) but decreases the reliability of the article (it’s unverified). How that washes out depends on your priors for the credibility of the information.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            And note my original comment on O’Keefe was “You are buying uncritically something James O’Keefe is selling? Why on earth?”

            Probably because the specific thing he presents seems credible? But I agree – you shouldn’t buy it until he releases the full tape and other people can confirm.

            Why would I waste time looking into something he produces at this point? There are so many other sources of information.

            I hate to break it to you, fam, but the information he produces can’t be gotten from other sources. Similarly, if a highly placed stock investor offers to give you tips, you’d have to at least consider the offer, right? Of course, he might turn out to be a Madoff…or he might not. But you can’t act like the service is fungible.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:
            At this point we have Madoff telling you he has insider information for you. Again, no reason to bite on the probable con.

            And “inside scoop” information is not in anyway unique to O’Keefe, who doesn’t seem to actually get insider scoop info anyway.

            Why are you guys stretching so hard here?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, O’Keefe’s information is in the form of video evidence which seems to accomplish a political goal of his. In the past he has produced video evidence which accomplished a political goal of his, which turned out to have been heavily edited to make it show what he wanted shown. This makes me really skeptical that this time, his video evidence can be relied upon.

            The plausibility of the claim he’s trying to prove doesn’t really enter into this calculation. I would not be even slightly surprised to discover that a lot of CNN journalists were pushing stories that they thought would further their political goals, despite suspecting they were all smoke and mirrors. But that doesn’t tell me I should give his evidence a lot of weight.

            Imagine a criminal trial. You might suspect the defendant really did rob that bank. And yet, you might still suspect that the jailhouse informant who “overheard” the defendant confessing to the crime[1] is not a reliable witness, and so discount his testimony.

            [1] And then, in an entirely unrelated development, the prosecutor dropped those drug possession charges against the jailhouse informant.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            At this point we have Madoff telling you he has insider information for you. Again, no reason to bite on the probable con.

            Assuming Madoff wasn’t in prison and actually had access to that type of insider info…I’d have to at least consider it, and see what his angle is.

            In this specific case, the angle is “CNN sucks”. But it does, so reality could well line up with the footage. And it seems difficult to imagine that this specific footage has been edited beyond comprehensibility to extract a few key quotes; the quotes seem to stand on their own, at least. But as usual, I’ll wait for further confirmation. And I agree that people who don’t should do the same thing, because O’Keefe has been known to lie before. My bad that I didn’t notice this part of your comment earlier.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:
            I fail to believe you would be such an easy mark if it weren’t for confirmation bias. That or this is arguments are soldiers.

          • keranih says:

            HBC –

            With your repetition of “easy mark” you seem to be implying that those who entertain the idea that Okeefe’s video is accurate are being fooled.

            Is it then your contention that staff at CNN never said such things, and never held the attitudes that the video proposes that they do?

            I mean, really, This. Is. CNN. They’re a news business, not a group of saints, and its pretty obvious which way their biases have leaned for over a decade.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I give due weight to my priors.
            Thou art subject to confirmation bias.
            They will believe anything.

    • Zephalinda says:

      Yet it seems the kind of news almost everyone can agree would be good to have more of seems likely to be chronically underfunded on a free market.

      I think it’s just one of those cases of us not really wanting what we think we want. Or, put another way, our notion of “news” itself is fundamentally flawed/ incoherent.

      • Matt M says:

        This. Revealed preferences matter. People SAY they want neutral, factual, rational, unbiased news. And when such a thing is offered, literally nobody watches it. Expressing a preference for “real” news is quite different from actually preferring real news. Signaling that you don’t want bias is quite valuable. But in the end, most people do, in fact, want bias.

        The market is providing the exact amount and distribution of goods that people actually want, rather than what they claim they want. You sort of see this same dynamic play out with say, healthy food vs McDonalds.

        If anything, the fact that most government-funded sources ARE the boring, dry sort of news people claim to want but don’t actually want suggests the opposite problem is happening. We might have too much real news. If people actually want C-SPAN, why does the state need to fund it?

        • Jon S says:

          While there’s definitely a lot of that going on, I think that part of it is an issue of externalities. When people say that they want more high quality news, part of what they mean is that they want other people to watch more high quality news, not necessarily that they want to watch it themselves.

          I think that I am better off if other people consume more quality information than they would choose to do so on their own, so I’d be happy for (a tiny portion) of my tax dollars to go towards subsidizing quality information.

          • Matt M says:

            Having my tax dollars go to NPR does not fulfill your goal of “more people listen to NPR” unless people actually want to listen to NPR (or unless we have some sort of law requiring them to do so)

            As I said with C-SPAN, if people actually wanted to listen to NPR, they wouldn’t need your tax dollars. Ever stop to ask yourself why Rupert Murdoch isn’t out there conducting pledge drives to ensure the continuity of FOX News?

        • albatross11 says:

          Not literally nobody, just not very many people. High quality sources of information have a market, but they’re not really entertainment for most people.

        • ShemTealeaf says:

          You sort of see this same dynamic play out with say, healthy food vs McDonalds.

          I think the dynamic for food is a bit more complicated. For example, when I lived with my family, there was unhealthy snack food around on a regular basis, and I ate that unhealthy food. Now that I live alone, I don’t really buy that kind of food, and I don’t eat it. Based on that, I think it’s overly simplistic to say that “I want to eat unhealthy snack food”. A more complete description would be that “I don’t want unhealthy snack food to be available for me to eat, but I do want to eat it if it’s available.”

          I think many people have the same preference when it comes to McDonalds. They don’t want McDonalds to be available for them to eat, but they do want to eat it if it’s available. Whether it’s reasonable to ask society to conform to that preference is a different question, but I don’t think people are lying about their preferences.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think it’s reasonable to burden the rest of society with one’s lack of individual willpower.

            If you don’t want McDonalds to be available to you, then simply decide to never go to McDonalds.

            The whole “I don’t like X, therefore nobody should be allowed to have X” is one of the most offensive and terrible attitudes we generally accept in society, imho.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            I don’t think it’s reasonable to burden the rest of society with one’s lack of individual willpower.

            If you don’t want McDonalds to be available to you, then simply decide to never go to McDonalds.

            The problem I see with a society run on that sort of principle (yet another of my criticisms of Libertarianism) is that, in my experience, the bulk of humanity simply don’t have the necessary level of willpower. We all pretty much are “burdened with their lack of individual willpower” if we don’t want spectacular collapse. Most people simply don’t have the self-control, future-time-orientation, rational assessment of self-interests, etc., to thrive in Libertopia (there are reasons “libertarian” attitudes are both very rare, and very skewed WEIRD, white, male, and high IQ).

          • ShemTealeaf says:

            @Matt M

            I’m not making a value judgment on how we should organize society; I’m just objecting to your claim that people are lying about their preferences.

            However, I do think that there’s a difference between “I don’t like X, therefore nobody should be allowed to have X” and “Having X causes widely recognized harm to a huge portion of the population, therefore nobody should be allowed to have X”. I still don’t agree with banning unhealthy food, but I think there’s a plausible utilitarian case for that sort of thing.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            I recall a big part of Scott’s recent post on obesity being about how willpower is an easily depleted resource that can’t be counted on for withstanding long-term temptations. So criticizing people for lacking ‘individual willpower’ makes no sense, as, in this case, no one has sufficient individual willpower to withstand temptations over long periods of time. As Kevin C. points out, humanity as a whole is basically flawed in this regard. All you can do is rearrange things so people’s willpowers aren’t constantly tested (and inevitably depleted).

            If you refuse to style society around human nature, then you are basically ignoring a profitable means for improvement. If you do so only out of sheer disdain, then you are foolishly damning yourself to a negative outcome. There is just no point in not taking it into account.

          • albatross11 says:

            The common form of this is “Choice X is dangerous and destructive, and a large fraction of people offered it will end up worse off and will damage the surrounding society in taking it.” This is the argument against legalizing heroin, for example. It may be right or wrong, but I don’t think it’s crazy.

          • baconbacon says:

            The problem I see with a society run on that sort of principle (yet another of my criticisms of Libertarianism) is that, in my experience, the bulk of humanity simply don’t have the necessary level of willpower. We all pretty much are “burdened with their lack of individual willpower” if we don’t want spectacular collapse. Most people simply don’t have the self-control, future-time-orientation, rational assessment of self-interests, etc., to thrive in Libertopia (there are reasons “libertarian” attitudes are both very rare, and very skewed WEIRD, white, male, and high IQ).

            And how does this get resolved outside of libertopia

            “lets vote on what foods to ban” Ok
            “lets vote on how much money to give to our grandparents, but don’t forget to properly weight how much will eventually come out of your paycheck, and to structure the system properly”….. ummm, ok, sounds pretty iffy
            “lets vote in person X and have them make the decisions, and hope that he has the willpower not to abuse his position” Ah crap.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @baconbacon

            Remember, I’m a guy who is also opposed to “let’s vote on X”. I want propertization of authority.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbacon

            “lets vote in person X and have them make the decisions, and hope that he has the willpower not to abuse his position” Ah crap.

            In a democracy people are supposed to kick out the people who do that. Of course, politicians can and do ‘hack’ people, which they are susceptible to for many reasons. However, we seem to be doing relatively well compared to most of history.

            You have to keep in mind that Utopia is not on the table here. You get to pick your poison.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          People SAY they want neutral, factual, rational, unbiased news.

          Do they, in significant numbers? Or is that the sort of SSC sampling bias that would lead one to expect a much larger proportion of libertarians out in meatspace?

          • Matt M says:

            I think they do. But as has been pointed out elsewhere, to them, their tribal propaganda piece counts as neutral and unbiased.

            Red says “We need more neutral sources like FOX News and less propaganda like MSNBC”

            Blue says the exact opposite.

          • bintchaos says:

            I think libertarians are unicorns.
            Scratch them and they bleed conservative.

          • JulieK says:

            I think libertarians are unicorns.
            Scratch them and they bleed conservative.

            You’re saying you think a lot of people here are liars? Perhaps you would like to put that more diplomatically.

          • rlms says:

            @JulieK
            How many arguments where the opposing sides can broadly be described as libertarians and conservatives have you seen here? There probably have been a couple (although I can’t think of any), but well over 90% of our political arguments are basically left vs right, where libertarians fall in the latter category.

          • Randy M says:

            All of the discussions about immigration?

          • Iain says:

            I’m more concerned by the claims about unicorn blood. Unicorns bleed conservative?

          • Zodiac says:

            Before that: Who would hurt a unicorn in?

          • AnarchyDice says:

            They are old, white, have a thing for virginal women, and open carry…

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Iain

            In most lores, unicorns only hang out with virgins, right? Sounds more church-conservative than hippie-liberal to me 😉

            ETA: Damn, AnarchyDice beat me to it

          • Brad says:

            @Randy M
            No, we have more than one self declared libertarian that support immigration restrictions. In fact, other than David Friendman I’m hard pressed to think of anyone that has ever argued in these comments for open borders in anything approaching the here and now (as opposed to arguing for it only after the melting away of the state).

          • Nornagest says:

            I think libertarians are unicorns.
            Scratch them and they bleed conservative.

            You know what I said earlier about not treating the commentariat as a thousand-headed conservative monster?

            Yeah, this would be the kind of thing I was talking about.

          • Randy M says:

            other than David Friendman I’m hard pressed to think of anyone that has ever argued in these comments for open borders in anything approaching the here and now (as opposed to arguing for it only after the melting away of the state).

            Really? I remember there was Vox Imperatorix, but he left awhile ago. (Did I chase him off? Didn’t mean to). I thought more.

          • I think libertarians are unicorns.
            Scratch them and they bleed conservative.

            Let me try to put that belief to an empirical test.

            You pretty clearly, from your comments, think I am a conservative, possibly one masquerading as a libertarian. So predict my views on the following issues:

            Immigration
            The War on Drugs
            Abortion
            Gun control
            The death penalty
            Gay marriage

            No fair cheating by googling for my published writings.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            @Gobbo Yeah, mythologies and monsters are my thing. Although I can now imagine the buzzfeed quiz “what mythological creature are you based on your politics”…

            Like what David said, the types of issues that are discussed here are, by selection effects, the ones where conservatives and libertarians agree more often. Start offering up arguments for the drug war, led prayer in schools, flag-burning laws, or farm subsidies and you might think “scratch a libertarian and find a liberal”.

            Even the cases where conservatives and libertarians agree, it is often coming from different values and reasoning, meaning that if you model, say, David Friedman as a conservative, your predictions of what he might support elsewhere will tend to be wrong or “not-even-wrong”.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, we have more than one self declared libertarian that support immigration restrictions.

            Only to the extent that, e.g., the Democratic Party and all of its candidates support immigration restrictions, that all of the various judges who voted to strike down Trump’s “travel ban” nonetheless support immigration restrictions.

            Outside of literal anarchists(*), pretty much everybody on the American political spectrum supports immigration restrictions. Unless you can pin down which immigration restrictions they support, that’s not terribly useful for placing people on the Liberal Conservative political axis.

            * Of whom we have several on the libertarian side, not just David Friedman. But also not all of the libertarians.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Iain
            Sorry.
            Libertarian unicorns bleed conservative.

            @DavidFriedman
            I mistakenly thought you were a christian triumphalist and die-hard western civ fan-boy and I apologized. I’m not claiming that I know anything about you at this point…except that you are seemingly obsessed with the artificial society “toy problem” of the iPD as a model for the Complex Adaptive System dynamics of US polarization.

          • Brad says:

            @Randy M
            I seem to recall that VI and I didn’t overlap for all that much time.

            @AnarchyDice

            Like what David said, the types of issues that are discussed here are, by selection effects, the ones where conservatives and libertarians agree more often.

            What selection effects are you thinking of? I agree with your description of the dynamic, but I’m unsure of why it’s the dynamic.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Brad

            In fact, other than David Friendman I’m hard pressed to think of anyone that has ever argued in these comments for open borders in anything approaching the here and now (as opposed to arguing for it only after the melting away of the state).

            Pretty sure I’ve stated my support for open borders here before, but even if I haven’t you can count me as an additional libertarian open border advocate.

          • rlms says:

            My impression is that out of the libertarian and libertarian-leaning right-wing commenters listed in the link here, the majority hold views on immigration closer to the conservative average than the liberal one. Although David Friedman mentions his support for open borders relatively frequently, I don’t recall any libertarian-conservative arguments about it. My memory of arguments about the Muslim ban is that they were largely liberal vs conservative/libertarian.

          • schazjmd says:

            @IrishDude, what’s your reasoning for supporting open borders?

            I’m curious because I don’t have a strong opinion on it one way or another.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’m somewhat libertarian and I more or less support open borders. Of course, I already have mostly open borders, so I guess it’d count as a conservative view for me.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            @Brad If I’m guessing (rampant speculation), I’d chalk it up to the blue-greyness of Dr. Alexander attracting people in that neighborhood, the norms of politeness/conscientiousness being a fence to the “taxation is theft, you statist!” red-grey idiots and edgelords that would shitpost on a blue-grey site to troll(which thankfully generally keeps out the “checkmate atheist”, “property is theft”, and other related internet idiots too), and some combination of the near-far group dynamics. Libertarians on a blue-ish site will tend to disagree more over the near disagreements over blue-related issues, rather than the far group red related issues that few here are vocally advocating. I mean, even the Catholics here promote religion more as an intellectual endeavor than to proselytize.

          • IrishDude says:

            @schazjmd

            @IrishDude, what’s your reasoning for supporting open borders?

            I’m curious because I don’t have a strong opinion on it one way or another.

            I don’t believe in political authority, so I consider it improper coercion to prevent individuals from living and working with people that willingly provide them housing or jobs. Also, I think open borders would greatly improve the standard of living for most people, especially for the globally least well-off (as people moving from 3rd world nations to 1st world nations become an order of magnitude more productive). I think it unjust to prevent poor people from improving their lives if other people are willing to assist them.

            So I support open borders for political, economic, and moral reasons.

          • Nornagest says:

            Although I can now imagine the buzzfeed quiz “what mythological creature are you based on your politics”…

            Reminds me of those political compass memes that’ve been floating around on RatTumblr.

          • Well Armed Sheep says:

            @schazjmd

            OpenBorders.info is a great resource for pro-open borders arguments. I found it very persuasive when I first looked into the issue.
            __________________________

            While I’m commenting, I’m going to play guess David Friedman’s views on the two interesting ones, the others have fairly orthodox libertarian positions that follow straightforwardly from libertarian first principles.

            Abortion — not especially easy to predict, there are certainly pro-life libertarians and I think they should be regarded as members in good standing of the community. I’m going to guess pro-choice, either in a straightforward “fetus is morally irrelevant” sense, a violinist sense, or in an “I’m not sure enough about the moral significance of the fetus and so default to liberty” sense.

            The death penalty — again, not something where I think there’s a “correct” libertarian answer. I’ll guess anti- but only in a prudential sense. The problem is frying the wrong guy, not a stronger claim that killing e.g. serial killers is intrinsically wrong. But could see it going either way, really.

        • massivefocusedinaction says:

          Note that the state doesn’t fund C-SPAN, a private non-profit funded by 6 cents a month from every subscribers bill.

    • Corey says:

      BBC’s government-funded and generally considered high-quality news. Don’t know enough about either UK politics or BBC to know if they have a serious pro-government bias.

      • Protagoras says:

        BBC was my first thought, too, as the obvious first thing to do is to see if anybody is getting better results and try to figure out what they’re doing right. American public broadcasting, while not nearly as well funded as British, also doesn’t have the worst reputation, and in particular one thing it isn’t commonly accused of is massive pro-government bias. So there seems to be some evidence that it’s possible to build in protections against government funding just turning something into a propaganda service.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          In both cases it’s not a pro-government bias, no, but it’s a pro-the-sort-of-left-wing-luvvies-who-control-intellectual-culture bias. I’m not sure that’s better.

          • gbdub says:

            So then the best thing would be to keep the government right-wing. The media will hold them accountable, they’ll enjoy doing it, and they’ll get great ratings doing so.

    • John Schilling says:

      Yet it seems the kind of news almost everyone can agree would be good to have more of seems likely to be chronically underfunded on a free market.

      Everyone, or just everyone here?

      I would wager that approximately 50% of “everyone” want there to be less market-based news media, in that someone should shut down Fox and Breitbart and Right-Wing Talk Radio so that the deplorables will have to turn to responsible media outlets like CNN, NPR, and the New York Times and thus be properly instructed in the Truth. The other approximately 50% of everyone wants the same thing except that it is CNN, NPR, and the New York Times that they’d like to see go away.

      • bintchaos says:

        Re. the recent CNN sting operation (guy catches CNN execs on camera saying the Trump-Russia connection is mostly BS for ratings),


        Pardon…the SSC commentariat accepts James O’Keefe style stings as empirical data?
        We are so doomed…

        • Brad says:

          There is no SSC commentariat hive mind.

          • albatross11 says:

            We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your blue tribe will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          James O’Keefe style stings

          Or. as they’re known to those of us with longer memories, 60 Minutes-style stings.

          • albatross11 says:

            Same sh-t, different a–hole. O’Keefe is about as reliable a source of information as the Weekly World News.

          • J Mann says:

            @albatross11

            Nobody disagrees that the interviews are real, right? I mean, no one argues that O”Keefe hires voice actors to overdub different words, or an actual actor to pose as a CNN reporter.

            As I understand it, the main criticisms of O’Keefe are that (1) he allegedly omits context that his critics think he should include, and (2) he often lies to get access to the people he interviews.

            Are those it, or do you have other concerns?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the vid in question, so this is secondhand.

            It has a shitton of cuts, from what I’ve heard. It’s not so much omitting context as destroying it and repackaging the soundbites to create a new implied context engineered to convey what you want it to demonstrate.

            If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

          • albatross11 says:

            Previous O’Keefe videos have been heavily and misleadingly edited. I expect this one is, too. My impression is that this was also typically true of 60 minutes ambush interviews.

          • John Schilling says:

            My impression is that this was also typically true of 60 minutes ambush interviews.

            Yes. In 1979, 60 Minutes set out to do a hatchet job on a nuclear power plant in Illinois, but didn’t think to object when Illinois Power Company made as a condition of access that they could run their own cameras side-by-side with the alleged journalists. When the 60 minutes segment aired, IPC released their own version. This was literally a textbook case in deceptive journalistic practices for several decades, though it seems to have faded from view in recent years.

          • gbdub says:

            @John – didn’t right wingers start doing a similar thing (demanding their own recordings) to The Daily Show or similar at the GOP convention?

          • Randy M says:

            Did that end up hurting 60 minutes, or were they able to ride out any trouble by having the bigger microphone?

          • John Schilling says:

            I believe their reputation took an enduring but not terribly severe hit, mostly among political conservatives. 60 Minutes came on the air at a time when the perception of mainstream journalistic integrity was at its highest, and became one of the first mainstream outlets to effectively give viewers permission to say, “I don’t have to believe this or to justify not believing this except to say that these guys are partisan hacks”. But most people, even most Republicans, didn’t yet want to do that, and 60 Minutes maintained strong ratings for decades thereafter.

        • J Mann says:

          the SSC commentariat accepts James O’Keefe style stings as empirical data?

          Bintchaos, do you deny that they’re empirical, that they’re data, or both, and why?

          I think that you and I might understand at least one of those words differently, and would be interested to know which – thanks!

          • bintchaos says:

            Y’all think I’m a “leftist”.
            I’m Science Tribe all the way down.
            A-priori data is that O’Keefe is a scam artist.
            quant. suff.

          • baconbacon says:

            I didn’t understand the poem so I ran it through a universal translator and this is what I got

            “I’m science tribe so I don’t acknowledge my fault in culture wars
            A-priori means I round up and don’t investigate
            so I can ignore that my truth has error bars”

          • bintchaos says:

            @baconbacon
            Bad translation.
            The culture wars are natural and antifragile because of How Nature Works.

          • J Mann says:

            @Bintchaos – Thanks for the response, but I don’t think you have answered my question.

            I’m not judging – I’m just actually curious what you understand “empirical” and “data” to mean in the context of your post. Thanks!

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m Science Tribe all the way down.

            As opposed to the rest of us who just hate science and think all knowledge should be based on feelings.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Your Markov generator is slipping; it’s only working to zeroth order now. You still have the buzzwords but now they aren’t being combined meaningfully. Neither “Science Tribe” (except as a sneer at the “I Fucking Love Science” types) nor “A-priori data” makes sense.

          • Brad says:

            Leftist isn’t a tribe and there is certainly no Science Tribe. (Re-)Read “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup” to get a better understanding of how ‘tribe’ is being used.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ baconbacon
            Less of this sort of thing please.

          • bintchaos says:

            @J Mann
            Let A and B_j be sets. Conditional probability requires that
            P(A intersection B_j)=P(A)P(B_j|A),
            (1)

            where intersection denotes intersection (“and”), and also that
            P(A intersection B_j)=P(B_j intersection A)=P(B_j)P(A|B_j).
            (2)

            Therefore,
            P(B_j|A)=(P(B_j)P(A|B_j))/(P(A)).
            (3)

            Now, let
            S= union _(i=1)^NA_i,
            (4)

            so A_i is an event in S and A_i intersection A_j=emptyset for i!=j, then
            A=A intersection S=A intersection ( union _(i=1)^NA_i)= union _(i=1)^N(A intersection A_i)
            (5)
            P(A)=P( union _(i=1)^N(A intersection A_i))=sum_(i=1)^NP(A intersection A_i).
            (6)

            But this can be written
            P(A)=sum_(i=1)^NP(A_i)P(A|A_i),
            (7)

            so
            P(A_i|A)=(P(A_i)P(A|A_i))/(sum_(j=1)^NP(A_j)P(A|A_j))
            (8)

            (Papoulis 1984, pp. 38-39).

          • baconbacon says:

            The culture wars are natural and antifragile because of How Nature Works.

            Buzzwords and assertions without nuance. Yep, definitely science tribe.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @bintchaos

            How does that in any way answer J Mann’s question?

            You can’t just throw naked references at a wall and expect it to constitute knowledge, unless I suppose if your brand of Chaos is Tzeentchian.

          • bintchaos says:

            My brand of chaos is Gleikian (James Gleick).
            I guess that means mathematical chaos.
            Here is a text book.
            I paid ~120$ for it I think…because that is how much textbooks cost unless you want to just rent them.

          • I’m Science Tribe all the way down.

            Then why don’t you care about whether things you say are true? I keep pointing to your claim some time back that a graphic you linked to showed the Republican median moving right from 1994. Those of us who looked at the graphic noticed that it was moving left for the first ten years of that period, then right. We pointed it out. You never either offered some argument that we were wrong or admitted you were mistaken–just kept repeating the conclusion (polarization increasing from the mid-nineties) without ever conceding that the evidence you had offered in its support was inconsistent with it.

            If you don’t already know that what you claimed was false and can’t find the graphic to check, here is another one from Pew, presumably from the same data, showing the situation in 1994, 2004, and 2014.

            The same pattern shows in your references to game theory. You use the jargon at the level someone who had taken an undergraduate social science course by someone who used the jargon might use it, but you show no evidence of understanding the subject at the level that someone who had taken a good math course on game theory would–for instance, you repeatedly confuse games with strategies.

            I’m science tribe. You pretend, probably to yourself as well as others, to be.

            Also, you are fond of “a priori” but don’t seem to know what it means. That O’Keefe is a scam artist is a conclusion from past evidence, not a priori knowledge. I think you are confusing a priori with prior probability in Bayesian statistics.

          • bintchaos says:

            The Pew gif is subject to subjective interpretation. My opinion is also informed by other data I have assimilated on asymmetrical polarization.

            You use the jargon at the level someone who had taken an undergraduate social science course by someone who used the jargon might use it


            Is that your professional opinion as a teacher?
            Are you saying that Axelrod’s tournament WASN’T based on the concept of artificial societies?
            This is one of the textbooks used for my class– what books do you use?
            We also used JMS Evolution and the Theory of Games. Would you like me to demonstrate that I can do the math in the appendices?
            If I may, can I suggest that my course work is much more focused on theoretical population genetics, sociobiology/evolutionary biology, and Complex Adaptive Systems Dynamics than on economics.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            No, both of you are wrong. It is I, in fact, who’s Science Tribe… whatever that’s supposed to mean.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I am Spartatribe!

            Also, @bintchaos, this Coursework Defense is exactly the sort of sophomoric stunt that David Friedman’s talking about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What is up with all of the references to Daily Show? It’s always been clear those interviews were edited to within an inch of their lives for comedic purposes. If anyone is mistaking those as journalistic endeavors that’s more on them.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Aapje
            @HBC
            @J Mann
            It was pretty disengenuous of the original commenter to not mention O’Keefe’s name wasnt it? He mentioned CNN.
            I think it was deliberate because, O’Keefe is actually a criminal.

            @Gobboble

            this Coursework Defense is exactly the sort of sophomoric stunt


            so I’m not allowed to “punch back” ?
            How do I defend myself against the constant ad hom attacks here?

          • Zodiac says:

            It was pretty disengenuous of the original commenter to not mention O’Keefe’s name wasnt it?

            Was it?
            Aside from not knowing if onyomi is familiar with the name he doesn’t even want to discuss the video. He wants to discuss solutions to the failure of media that dissolves into fearmongering. He could easily have discussed this with a different introduction.

          • hlynkacg says:

            so I’m not allowed to “punch back” ?

            You can punch back, but Queensbury rules are in effect and the judges will dock points for failure to abide by them.

            You meet arguments with counter arguments, and defend yourself against ad hominem attacks by identifying them as such.

          • bintchaos says:

            According to “the rules”, how do I legitimately and fairly punch back against a college professor and book author who is also a longtime member of the SSC community… unless its by showing my coursework?
            I’m not credentialed (yet), and I’m a n00b here.

          • Jiro says:

            >I think it was deliberate because, O’Keefe is actually a criminal.

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/

          • Barely matters says:

            @Bint

            You’re being invited to punch back. They’re asking you to punch back *better*.

            So far you’ve tried dropping buzzwords, dropping links to your coursework, dropping sweeping generalizations about the commentariat in general, and even more victimhood games.

            How about trying the middle ground where you argue the case made in those links, clearly, concisely, and understandably to a reasonably intelligent lay audience? That’s what the other commenters are inviting you to do.

            If you feel the need to type things like:
            “You. Do. Not. Get. Me.”,
            consider that it’s because:
            You. Are. Not. Expressing. Yourself. Well.

          • bintchaos says:

            I did that.
            I pointed out to Friedman that Axelrod’s tournament was based on the concept of an artificial society, and corrected him when he said the optimal iPD was AllC v AllC, because that is only optimal until there are sufficient AllC for the AllD to invade and take-over.
            His response was to say I didnt know anything about game theory, and he is a Full Professor– I’ve spent most of my life in academe. Thats pretty intimidating.
            I spent a significant amount of energy at the top of this thread explaining the most recent developments in Evo Theory of Cooperation and evolutionary games theory…so those arent exactly buzzwords.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Bint

            If you think you’ve already succeeded at the standard of “clear, concise, understandable”, let me be another voice in the queue saying that you are mistaken. I’ve been following many of these conversations, and still can’t even come close to articulating any concrete point you’ve made.

            David Friedman said that your understanding of game theory is weak, as you frequently confuse games and strategies, and he’s not wrong about that. Thus far I haven’t seen any evidence that you can accurately understand or articulate other people’s criticisms of your arguments. Maybe start practicing there.

          • bintchaos says:

            Approx 50% of my response comments are eaten by the comment monster, and then I often get a timeout before I can comment again lasting from an hour to two days or so. I expect I fail the kindness gate, but I tend to lose the thread of the conversation and forget what the argument was about.
            I am kindof weirded out by the commentariat’s acceptance of O’Keefe as an investigative journalist when he’s demonstrably a criminal propagandist.
            Also (tangentially related) the discussion of what ethnicity Kevin C’s mail-order bride should be is quite strange…a puzzling moral certitude– or maybe moral flexibility– that has to have a biological component. But maybe its some kind of joke? Like I originally thought Dr. Cochran’s comment about the allergies of jews was a joke or sarcasm.

          • Randy M says:

            Approx 50% of my response comments are eaten by the comment monster, and then I often get a timeout before I can comment again lasting from an hour to two days or so. I expect I fail the kindness gate

            I do not believe there is this sort of moderation. If your posts are not posted, it is because of some technical issue, too many links, or using one of a few banned terms that someone might be able to give you a pastebin of.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Bint

            The comment monster troubles us all equally. The rest of us fight it by copying our comments into a notepad and then editing them if they fail to post. This is not an excuse.

            In failing the kindness gate, you leave yourself very little legroom for other failures. Were you a perfect AI whose every statement is unfailingly true and useful, this would be alright. You are not. So if you’re dead set on being unkind, you’ll have to try a lot harder to keep up with the discussions, and at very least be able to accurately report what your interlocutors are saying.

            On that note, I’ve been skimming the O’keefe shenanigans, and as far as the crowd here goes, the commenting body seems to near unanimously agree that O’keef is some stripe of unreliable liar. I don’t know anything about him, but I can tell you that any widespread acceptance you’re seeing is your imagination.

            As for Kevin’s proposed mail order bride. Yes, those commenters are joking.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I am kindof weirded out by a subset of the commentariat’s acceptance of O’Keefe as an investigative journalist when there is evidence he’s demonstrably a criminal propagandist.

            FTFY

            Also (tangentially related) the discussion of what ethnicity Kevin C’s mail-order bride should be is quite strange…

            Yeah, it is, but that’s ’cause he’s an actual white nationalist “monarchist kyriarchist”. And is coincidentally one of the few people on this board who is as hard to have a constructive conversation with as you. But he’s at least usually not a douche about his fringe views, so he doesn’t get banned. Do not make the mistake of assuming Kevin C is representative of the commentariat.

            Like I originally thought Dr. Cochran’s comment about the allergies of jews was a joke or sarcasm.

            Link? I have no idea who you are talking about. You have this odd tic of referring to people as Dr Soandso instead of their actual handle.

          • According to “the rules”, how do I legitimately and fairly punch back against a college professor and book author who is also a longtime member of the SSC community… unless its by showing my coursework?

            I assume you are referring to me.

            One way would be to stop ignoring my repeated references to your making a demonstrably false statement, contradicted by the evidence you yourself linked to. You could either try to show that I am wrong, that the distribution which appears in the graphic to be moving left from 1994 to about 2004 was actually, as you claimed, moving right. Or you could concede that what you said was not true, apologize for the error, and perhaps point at some other evidence that supports your claim about polarization.

            But as long as your response is resolute silence, I will conclude that you do not care whether what you say is true. That is not an ad hominem argument–I am not claiming that socio-physics is wrong because you are supporting it. It is a conclusion about you, based on your behavior.

          • bintchaos says:

            Oh…I was using a-priori as “from what came before” as signifying membership in the set of prior events.
            You are correct in saying that is not the logic definition.
            I should have said “set of prior events”.
            and I did try to correct my mistatements on strategy after I thought about it, but my comments got eaten and then I couldn’t post at all for a while and then I got busy doing something else. I think after multiple fails I cant even log in because of jetpack. I’ve tried to fix it by white listing but since I use Tor and a VPN a single white listing does nothing for me, and the addresses are randomized so I cant even whitelist a block.
            Sorry for my mistatements…but you tossed everything else I said that was true after that…seems kind of draconian.

          • JulieK says:

            @bintchaos: You may have noticed that there are a number of people here with political [*] views that are very far from the mainstream, in various directions. Just roll with it.
            [*] Also non-political. (If not for this phenomenon, I might have thought that the commenter who claimed to be a Karaite was trolling me.)

            @Gobbobobble: It’s a reference something Cochran said in the (first) Hungarian thread, about Jews being resistant to theories about IQ being genetic.

          • bintchaos says:

            Cochran said “allergic”.
            Not resistant.

          • Sorry for my mistatements…but you tossed everything else I said that was true after that…seems kind of draconian.

            I’ve been criticizing things you say when I think they are mistaken, not because something you said earlier on a different subject was wrong. Your saying something that wasn’t true and then not responding when people pointed it out was a reason to reject your self-description (“science tribe all the way down”), not a reason to disagree with other things you said.

          • Cochran said “allergic”.
            Not resistant.

            It was a while back, but I think the point he was implying was that Jews are uncomfortable talking about what can be interpreted as evidence that they are genetically superior to gentiles for fear that it will provoke an anti-semitic response.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I think this is one of the worst dogpiles I’ve seen here, at least recently.

             

            I didn’t understand the poem so I ran it through a universal translator and this is what I got

            funny, fine on its own, no fault.

            As opposed to the rest of us who just hate science and think all knowledge should be based on feelings.

            You can respect science without being “science tribe”. There are people who understand science and people who identify with science. Saying you’re the latter doesn’t mean no one else is the former (or the latter actually), and definitely not that people hate it.

            Your Markov generator is slipping; it’s only working to zeroth order now. You still have the buzzwords but now they aren’t being combined meaningfully. Neither “Science Tribe” (except as a sneer at the “I Fucking Love Science” types) nor “A-priori data” makes sense.

            not very nice. See above about ‘science tribe’. Also a priori data doesn’t make sense but a priori is used colloquially to mean ‘in advance of seeing the new data’, because you always have some kind of data.

            Buzzwords and assertions without nuance. Yep, definitely science tribe.

            this isn’t that bad but it’s like the 5th “na, fuck you” comment.

            Also I’m pretty sure she isn’t using those as buzzwords to overawe you or something. There’s a huge difference between using words idiosynratically in a way you, (and as it happens, I) don’t follow, and bludgeoning people with buzzwords, or throwing them out deliberately as a smokescreen. I’m pretty sure what bintchaos is saying means something to bintchaos, and that is also the assumption you should generally proceed on.

            >David friedman’s post

            Not an ideal place to raise this ongoing point of contention imo, but the criticisms are of higher quality and this an ongoing thing so eh. I might be biased but I feel this is totally fine. (I have said before that a serious/genuine attack is is better than a snide one)

            Also, @bintchaos, this Coursework Defense is exactly the sort of sophomoric stunt that David Friedman’s talking about.

            I don’t understand why that’s a sophomoric stunt, so I find this pretty aggressive.

            This is how I interpret it, probably slanted a bit for generosity towards bintchaos.

            ‘you don’t know wtf you’re talking about’

            ‘no I know what I’m talking about at least a bit, observe’

            ‘pah, what a sophomoric stunt’

            What am I missing? (serious question)

            You can punch back, but Queensbury rules are in effect and the judges will dock points for failure to abide by them.

            You meet arguments with counter arguments, and defend yourself against ad hominem attacks by identifying them as such.

            In theory. When it’s six on one you get some leeway, which bintchaos, amazingly, hasn’t been using *at all* in this thread. Also ‘punch back’ was just bintchaos’s random word choice, which you’re repeating back with the same fallacy as the MLK ‘criminal’ argument. Offering to do coursework isn’t a vicious attack, even if someone loosely describes it with words that are sort of vaguely like that.

            You’re being invited to punch back. They’re asking you to punch back *better*.

            So far you’ve tried dropping buzzwords, dropping links to your coursework, dropping sweeping generalizations about the commentariat in general, and even more victimhood games.

            How about trying the middle ground where you argue the case made in those links, clearly, concisely, and understandably to a reasonably intelligent lay audience? That’s what the other commenters are inviting you to do.

            If you feel the need to type things like:
            “You. Do. Not. Get. Me.”,
            consider that it’s because:
            You. Are. Not. Expressing. Yourself. Well.

            This is where it gets ridiculous. In the middle of a pile on, off the back of a ‘worst argument in the world’ meaning-substitution, an attack is launched that consists of nothing but aggressive contradiction and assertion.

            You’re being invited to punch back. They’re asking you to punch back *better*.

            This is just an assertion of a wildly distorted and false perception

            So far you’ve tried dropping buzzwords, dropping links to your coursework, dropping sweeping generalizations about the commentariat in general, and even more victimhood games.

            pure personal judgement, in multiple senses. no argument made

            How about trying the middle ground where you argue the case made in those links, clearly, concisely, and understandably to a reasonably intelligent lay audience? That’s what the other commenters are inviting you to do.

            “how about you don’t suck so much as you clearly do?” (except of course I can’t capture the malice with that compression of the propositional meaning)

            If you feel the need to type things like:
            “You. Do. Not. Get. Me.”,
            consider that it’s because:
            You. Are. Not. Expressing. Yourself. Well.

            Mimicing someone aggressively back to themselves is textbook aggression, and telling someone to be more humble and be more about others perspectives, -in the middle of a denouncement off a piece of bullshit, in the middle of a pile on, is the kind of thing decent people usually stop themselves before doing (I don’t say always), recogising that when someone is getting ganged up on is not the time to make recommendations of that kind.

             

            If you think you’ve already succeeded at the standard of “clear, concise, understandable”, let me be another voice in the queue saying that you are mistaken. I’ve been following many of these conversations, and still can’t even come close to articulating any concrete point you’ve made.

            David Friedman said that your understanding of game theory is weak, as you frequently confuse games and strategies, and he’s not wrong about that. Thus far I haven’t seen any evidence that you can accurately understand or articulate other people’s criticisms of your arguments. Maybe start practicing there.

            Again, “I speak for the community when I say you suck”. This guy seems to have a real authoritarian streak to be going with this so deep in a pile on. There’s also some factual distortions but I can’t be bothered with those.

            The comment monster troubles us all equally. The rest of us fight it by copying our comments into a notepad and then editing them if they fail to post. This is not an excuse.

            In failing the kindness gate, you leave yourself very little legroom for other failures. Were you a perfect AI whose every statement is unfailingly true and useful, this would be alright. You are not. So if you’re dead set on being unkind, you’ll have to try a lot harder to keep up with the discussions, and at very least be able to accurately report what your interlocutors are saying.

            On that note, I’ve been skimming the O’keefe shenanigans, and as far as the crowd here goes, the commenting body seems to near unanimously agree that O’keef is some stripe of unreliable liar. I don’t know anything about him, but I can tell you that any widespread acceptance you’re seeing is your imagination.

            As for Kevin’s proposed mail order bride. Yes, those commenters are joking.

            Some actual points but also more of the same.

            ___

            Anyway, TL:DR, ban barely matters.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Pardon…the SSC commentariat accepts James O’Keefe style stings as empirical data?

          Do you have a specific objection, or is it just “James O’Keefe icky”? What is your proposal on how he falsified the video, or placed it in a false light?

          • Corey says:

            Not OP, but given O’Keefe’s history, it seems best to give him a similar level of credibility as Michael Moore, for similar reasons.

            I don’t yet know what context is omitted from this one, other than that the producer shown isn’t involved with any Russia coverage.

          • J Mann says:

            I’d give O’Keefe a similar level of credibility as Daily Show interviews (in that they both are credibly accused of selective editing), but put Michael Moore at a different level. Moore creates both misleading footage and misleading narrative, IMHO.

          • bintchaos says:

            Do you have a specific objection, or is it just “James O’Keefe icky”


            A-priori data.
            dude, you guys Do. Not. Get. Me.
            Polarization is healthy and natural.
            Racism is antifragile.
            Rachets work.

          • Zodiac says:

            dude, you guys Do. Not. Get. Me.

            This is a non-argument and you should stop saying that all the time.

          • Brad says:

            Or maybe find some other place to post where they. do. get. you.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @bintchaos

            This is basically how every conversation goes with you:

            Bintchaos: (Insert buzzword), therefore I’m right.
            Anyone else: You can’t just say (buzzword), you have to explain what it means.
            Bintchaos: God, I said Buzzword. Why do you guys not get this?

            Do you not get that you have to explain how your words fit in to the discussion rather than being conversation stoppers? We’re not going to bow to your mighty intellect just because you said a word.

          • bintchaos says:

            I just devoted significant expense of energy to explain the CCP.
            What else would you like me to explain?
            I’m taking requests.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @J Mann:

            Moore creates both misleading footage and misleading narrative, IMHO.

            If anything, this is even more true of O’Keefe.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @bintchaos

            You could start by explaining how O’Keefe, a priori data, and your model are connected in any way.

          • J Mann says:

            @Heelbearcub: Reasonable point – I’ll check it out.

          • bintchaos says:

            @HBC
            that is a thing I do not understand about SSC… It it never about about if this is a wrong thing to do or a right thing to do…its always about the other guy did it first.
            Like, sure, O’Keefe BUT 60 minutes and Micheal Moore.
            Isnt that a playground argument?

          • J Mann says:

            @Bintchaos – I read the recent discussion as answering the question “how much confidence should we put in a James O’Keefe tape?”

            In that context, “about as much as 60 Minutes / a Michael Moore interview / a Daily Show interview” is informative.

            You could also use the same process for “how much of a scumbag is James O’Keefe – “about as much as Michael Moore” would be a level set, but I don’t think anyone has said he’s morally equivalent, just that he’s about as reliable/unreliable as those comparison points.

          • Aapje says:

            @bintchaos

            People did not argue what you think they argued.

            This kind of false reading seems very common with you. Combined with the issues with your debating style that Wrong Species explained, the debates between you and others appear to me to be extremely unproductive.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Aapje

            Combined with the issues with your debating style that Wrong Species explained

            I guess the problem is that I’m not debating. I dont think I can change anyone’s mind. I just get shocked at the things people here say sometimes, like Dr. Cochran and his “Jews are allergic to IQ studies” comment. I guess people can say anything they want but how is that being a rationalist?
            James O’Keefe is famous for his contrived “gotcha videos” and has been arrested and charged for attempting a sting operation to illegally wiretap a congress person’s office and place listening devices. His Acorn video was heavily edited and featured actors and costuming. The judge in the case dismissed it as a product of extreme bias.
            I’m just still trying to adjust to the concept of a “rationalist” community that apparently has a unitary focus on “punching back” against “SJWs” and “leftists”.

          • bintchaos says:

            @J Mann @DavidFriedman
            Is the fact that O’Keefe is an actual criminal a-priori data?

          • Zodiac says:

            Is the fact that O’Keefe is an actual criminal a-priori data?

            Fixed that for ya.

          • J Mann says:

            @bintchaos – I think it’s empirical data, not a-priori data. We could have gotten to this point earlier if you had addressed my questions.

          • bintchaos says:

            Yes of course.
            Its all my fault.
            Got it.
            I guess I must have imagined the torrent of false equivalencies between OKeefe and Michael Moore/ Jon Stewart/ 60 minutes, and the sensation that I was, once more, under attack.
            I’m sure that was onyomi’s secret point about fearmongering in media too.
            Here is my take-away.
            Red Tribers are willing to tolerate extreme behavior in their standard bearers as long its perceived as punching back at the Blue Tribe. Like Trump’s incessant lying and Milo’s “soft pedophilia”.

          • Corey says:

            @bintchaos: I brought up Moore originally and I’m liberal. I did it to provide an example that conservatives would universally agree is agenda-driven and spin-heavy. (I admit this about Moore even though I agree with him on lots of things). I couldn’t give an example of a conservative documentarian who’s similarly agenda-driven and spin-heavy for two reasons:

            1) I don’t actually know of any except O’Keefe
            2) If I did, some fraction of conservatives might think the person is actually fair and balanced, and take my point as “O’Keefe is impartial, like X” which was the opposite of my point.

            TDS interviews are a little different; rather than spun for political reasons it’s usually spun to make the subject look silly (not that there’s not politics in who they select to pick on). They also don’t have to spin nearly as hard because they get to pick subjects that are silly to begin with.

          • I’m just still trying to adjust to the concept of a “rationalist” community that apparently has a unitary focus on “punching back” against “SJWs” and “leftists”.

            I’ve been here for ages, and I am noticing the same thing. SJ is a widespread beluief outside this forum, but has no representatives within it. We do have multiple representatives of right-liberatriansim and neo-monarchism, both of which are rare outside the forum. How could that not add up to rightward slant?

          • Corey says:

            As for the slant, it threw me for a loop also when I first came.

            From the survey posts, it’s important to keep in mind that SSC readers and even SSC comment-readers skew liberal as a whole. The comments skew conservative / libertarian because, like everywhere, most comments are made by a small fraction of the community.

            I think since conservatives and libertarians are unwelcome in many places of Internet discussion, it’s inevitable that they’ll dominate in places (like here) were they are welcome. For this place it’s worth the tradeoff IMO, though YMMV.

            I think it’s improved over time; it seems to me there used to be more random bitching about liberals in open threads, now people realize that insults a large yet quiet swath of the community and avoid it.

          • random832 says:

            @Zodiac I’m not sure what you think you fixed, but it is important to include “http://” (or https as the case may be, though The Hill doesn’t appear to have it configured correctly) in URLs. Like so.

          • Zodiac says:

            My bad. Just saw that the link is not working. However your link doesn’t seem to include it either or is my browser just filtering that out?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Corey:

            I think since conservatives and libertarians are unwelcome in many places of Internet discussion

            I’m not sure this really is a true, or at least true in a meaningful way.

            It might be true that the conservatives and libertarians who post here are not welcome in many places that they wish to comment. But, given that is true, it might tell them something.

          • Jiro says:

            If black people are not welcome in places that they wish to eat, would that tell them something similar?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            If they don’t wish to eat at any establishments where black people are welcome, and where the broad population of black people eat, it does indeed tell them something. It tells them that they don’t actually like the food served there and/or the company.

          • random832 says:

            My bad. Just saw that the link is not working. However your link doesn’t seem to include it either or is my browser just filtering that out?

            Some browsers filter it out for display, most will still include it if you copy link location or select all / copy from the address bar. Some sites will fix it for you if someone posts a link that starts with “www.something” or “something.com”, others (and apparently wordpress) do not.

          • Is the fact that O’Keefe is an actual criminal a-priori data?

            No. You don’t seem to know what the term means. Here is a definition:

            a pri·o·ri
            ˌā prīˈôrī/
            adjective
            adjective: a priori; adjective: apriori

            1.
            relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge that proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience.
            “a priori assumptions about human nature”

          • Artificirius says:

            @AncientGeek

            I’ve been here for ages, and I am noticing the same thing. SJ is a widespread beluief outside this forum, but has no representatives within it. We do have multiple representatives of right-liberatriansim and neo-monarchism, both of which are rare outside the forum. How could that not add up to rightward slant?

            How are you defining Social Justice in this context? If you are defining it as ‘Outcomes should be precisely equal to population proportion,’ perhaps paired with ‘ We should make any and every effort to bring the previous about’, then I suspect that yea, SJ is probably not a strong belief around here, but I would point out that under the letter of that particular set of directives, there probably isn’t a single person on the face of the planet who qualifies. They are almost certainly countable on the fingers of one hand. As such, this is probably not a good metric of Social Justice belief.

            Would you share what you are thinking of when you think Social Justice?

            @HBC

            You are changing the terms of the contention in that second post. It’s not that they don’t wish to eat there, it’s that they are not welcome to eat there, which is reversal from your other post in which you seem to be darkly hinting (Is it darkly hinting? It seems like darkly hinting.) that the reason they are not welcome is intrinsic to them. A PEBKAC error, if you will.

          • Brad says:

            Black isn’t a relevant analogy for libertarian. Treating them as analogous is part of the noxious “identify as” trend. Being a libertarian isn’t some intrinsic part of your being and no one is compelled to go on and on about how taxation is theft.

            There is nothing immoral about a forum owner or community deciding they don’t want to read any more libertarian posts. On the contrary, aren’t private property and freedom of association two of those liberties that libertarians stand for?

          • IrishDude says:

            I think since conservatives and libertarians are unwelcome in many places of Internet discussion, it’s inevitable that they’ll dominate in places (like here) were they are welcome.

            I occasionally post in other places. What distinguishes this forum from others is the high quality arguments, civil discussion, and range of perspectives. I think other forums exist where you might find two out of the three characteristics, but it’s pretty rare to find all three. There exist other forums where libertarians are welcome (e.g. reason.com), but those places are less likely to have well-argued diversity of opinion.

            I’d think this applies to other political persuasions, where liberals could find other forums that are welcoming, but then less likely to have diversity of opinion as well. So, I don’t know why the three characteristics of this site would necessarily lead to a more than proportional participation of libertarians here (I wouldn’t say they dominate). My self-serving guess would be that libertarians might be more likely than other political affiliations to be interested in civilly engaging with high quality arguments from a diversity of opinions. It’s true for myself, at least.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Artifcirius:

            You are changing the terms of the contention in that second post.

            No. I’m not.

            If people do not wish to post in the places they are welcome, and only wish to post in the places they are not, the analogy follows.

            Side note: What Jiro did feels to be in poor form, and the kind of thing that the commentariat likes to jump on when liberals engage in, namely the equating of any behavior one wishes to criticize with “the worst” behavior.

          • What do people hear mean when they say they hate social justice? That’s what I mean. There is a thing that is repeatedly derided here, and it doesn’t have any proponents here either. That thing.

          • What do people hear mean when they say they hate social justice?

            I can’t remember ever seeing anyone say that. The negative comments are usually about social justic warriors.

            I would be willing to say that I dislike “social justice,” the term, because I think it represents a collection of fuzzy ideas and bad arguments. The way I usually put it is to ask what “social” adds to “justice.” As best I can tell by observation, the answer is that “social justice” means either:

            1. Ideas of what is just that people on the left like.

            or

            2. The approach to every possible issue that starts by asking “how does it affect the poor?”

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            2. The approach to every possible issue that starts by asking “how does it affect the poor?”

            SJ is often criticized for avoiding that question and asking questions that they claim are equal or better.

    • J Mann says:

      It makes me feel bad to write this, because I find myself agreeing with it and don’t want to.

      Here’s a possible free market response to onyomi’s concern:

      If people prefer scare mongering partisan news to sober analysis, who are we to judge? Should we really deny them the ability to select their own information filters just because we think we’re smarter then them? There’s a lot of reason to believe that people don’t use their understanding of world events much in their daily life anyway, including in their voting decisions, so if they get a lot of enjoyment from believing that Republicans are assholes who enjoy killing the poor and who are bought and paid for by the Kochs, who are we to decide they shouldn’t consume crappy information, any more that we feel comfortable telling them they shouldn’t consume crappy food?

      • albatross11 says:

        There are two sides to this:

        a. I want high-quality sources of information for myself.

        b. I would like a higher-quality information environment in general, so that voters had more of a clue what was going on in the world.

        As fa as (a) goes: My sense is that I have better sources of information on most things I care about today than I did 20 years ago. Blogs, podcasts, raw data, papers, lectures–all are routinely available online for free, and include some really high-quality information. I have pretty-much opted out of MSM coverage of science these days, because it’s generally pretty low-quality, and because I can find and use much better sources of information. There is some information that’s just not being collected anymore, though–local newspapers have been dying off for decades now, leaving nobody whose job it is to, say, keep track of what the county council is up to.

        As far as (b) goes: I’m not entirely clear on whether the new media environment is actually making people more wrong than they used to be about questions of fact. (Is there good data on this somewhere? Pew has survey data about how much current affairs stuff people know; maybe that’s a place to start.) What I think *is* pretty clear is that there used to be more of a shared worldview enforced by the big three networks and the major newspapers and such. That worldview was often 100% dead wrong[1], but it was a shared view of the world, which made it possible for most people to discuss politics from a shared based of assumed facts. Losing that shared set of beliefs probably makes politics a lot uglier.

        [1] Who lost China? The missile gap! Gulf of Tonklin! Iraqis dumping Kuwaiti babies out of incubators! Iraqi WMDs!

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, as much as everyone wants to pretend that [banned term] is some new problem that just started last year, I definitely recall being taught in high school US history that “yellow journalism” falsely led us straight into the Spanish-American war. So yeah…

        • That worldview was often 100% dead wrong … [footnote] Who lost China? The missile gap! Gulf of Tonklin! Iraqis dumping Kuwaiti babies out of incubators! Iraqi WMDs!

          But those are mostly factual claims from political rhetoric, not “world view”. Even in the old non-partisan media world, there was open skepticism.

          The Eisenhower/Cronkite consensus world view wasn’t disproven as false, rather, it was rejected, first by the Left, and then by the Right.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      there seems to be an obvious market incentive to provide people with fear-mongering, sensationalist, partisan news about trivial matters and which flatters the ego of the target audience rather than nuanced, careful, challenging, measured consideration of issues that matter.

      Another point. The consumers of the media are also consumers in the rest of the economy, and often also a political force (in countries with Western-style elections). There is obvious incentive to run a news media as an elaborate form of advertising [1] for one’s economical / political benefit. Especially if the news are not profitable business.

      [1] the old word is “propaganda”.

    • baconbacon says:

      It is difficult to disentangle what parts of the modern media market would have evolved under a free market system and what are artifacts of legal monopolies (or cartels) that were created and supported through legislation.

      The other note is that most of the BS news that is out there relates to politics, and much of it would fade either in volume or importance if the government’s power were greatly reduced.

      • Kevin C. says:

        The other note is that most of the BS news that is out there relates to politics, and much of it would fade either in volume or importance if the government’s power were greatly reduced.

        It would also fade if the government were more openly independent of what the masses think.

    • Iain says:

      I would argue that good journalism is a public good, in the formal sense. The case for being non-rivalrous is pretty clear — the marginal cost of allowing one more person to read a well-researched news story is irrelevant next to the cost of producing that story. The case for non-exclusivity is a bit more subtle, but I think still compelling. It is obviously possible to put up a paywall and prevent any given person from consuming your journalism. However:

      a) it is quite difficult to prevent the content of that journalism from leaking. You might have to pay to access the latest long-form article at ReliableNewsMedia.com directly, but if you just want to know what it says, there will be innumerable alternative sources who are discussing and summarizing it.
      b) The value of good journalism is not solely in being personally informed. There is also value in a generally more informed society. To the extent that the news media is a necessary part of, say, holding politicians to account, the fact that people out there are able to better hold politicians to account benefits me, even if I do not personally consume any of the same journalism.

      That pushes towards some form of publicly funded news media. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of obvious problems with giving politicians control of the purse strings for their own watchdogs. You plausibly want multiple news organizations, and you want them at arm’s length from the people on whom they will be reporting. I don’t know what the best answer is, but I suspect that it is easier to solve the problem of keeping media and government separate than it is to construct free-market incentives that push news media away from “fear-mongering, sensationalist, partisan news about trivial matters”.

      • baconbacon says:

        it is quite difficult to prevent the content of that journalism from leaking. You might have to pay to access the latest long-form article at ReliableNewsMedia.com directly, but if you just want to know what it says, there will be innumerable alternative sources who are discussing and summarizing it.

        Exclusivity comes down to value to the consumer. If consumers only care about a summery of the facts then you are saying that the majority of the production cost was wasted. If you admit that there are some who want the full story, and some who want some portion of the story then you have eliminated the case for non-exclusivity. Those who want the full story will be willing to pay some amount to access it, those who are happy with a portion are consuming a different product and so non-exclusivity fails.

        The case for being non-rivalrous is pretty clear — the marginal cost of allowing one more person to read a well-researched news story is irrelevant next to the cost of producing that story.

        This would be true if the relevant cost for the consumer was the price of the article, the relevant margin for most consumers is the combination of opportunity cost of not following another news source and the value of getting timely news. If all the value came from simply reading an article then there never would have been a golden age of print, most people would have been free riders picking up old newspapers and reading the articles or listening to second hand recounts from friends/neighbors/coworkers. The fact that private news organizations have ever existed is a strong argument against your position.

        • Iain says:

          If consumers only care about a summary of the facts then you are saying that the majority of the production cost was wasted.

          This does not follow. Compare: the original proof for the four-colour theorem was hundreds of pages long. It was certainly necessary for some number of people to actually read through the proof and verify it. Now, however, you can easily get away with just reading the abstract and trusting the descriptions of others. That doesn’t mean that the proof itself was wasted effort. Similarly, you can get most of the knowledge in a fraction of the time by reading a summary of a Supreme Court decision, instead of reading the whole thing yourself.

          In general, there are many situations where it is reasonable to care that details have been provided and evaluated, without requiring direct personal access to those details.

          This would be true if the relevant cost for the consumer was the price of the article, the relevant margin for most consumers is the combination of opportunity cost of not following another news source and the value of getting timely news.

          You appear to be confused. I’m talking about the marginal cost to the media of allowing one extra customer to consume the news. Take broadcast television, for example: once I am broadcasting the six o’clock news over the local airwaves, additional viewers have zero marginal cost. (Indeed, broadcast television is the go-to example in the Wikipedia article on rivalry.)

          • baconbacon says:

            This does not follow. Compare: the original proof for the four-colour theorem was hundreds of pages long. It was certainly necessary for some number of people to actually read through the proof and verify it. Now, however, you can easily get away with just reading the abstract and trusting the descriptions of others. That doesn’t mean that the proof itself was wasted effort. Similarly, you can get most of the knowledge in a fraction of the time by reading a summary of a Supreme Court decision, instead of reading the whole thing yourself.

            If an approximation of the proof is good enough for everyone, then yes the pages of the proof were wasted. This isn’t the case for proofs, or for news stories.

            You appear to be confused. I’m talking about the marginal cost to the media of allowing one extra customer to consume the news.

            You are only presenting half the equation. The marginal cost of production has to coincide with the marginal cost of consumption. If news paper prints a story it cannot control how many people read one copy of the paper, so it appears as if a newspaper is non rivalrous. However there is an unstated assumption here that being the first person to read the paper provides exactly the same value as it does to the 2nd -> nth persons. This is part of the definition of a rivalrous good, and it cannot be established without considering both curves.

            (Indeed, broadcast television is the go-to example in the Wikipedia article on rivalry.

            From the Wikipedia article

            In economics, a good is said to be rivalrous or rival if its consumption by one consumer prevents simultaneous consumption by other consumers.[1] A good is considered non-rivalrous or non-rival if, for any level of production, the cost of providing it to a marginal (additional) individual is zero

            To come up with this definition (or the interpretation of the definition) you have to have homogeneous preferences for your consumers. Take the bolded portion, and think about news. If someone produces a news story about the dangers of backyard swimming pools to small children this will be of different value to groups based on how many children (and nieces and nephews, and friends with children), how old those children are, how prevalent swimming pools are in their immediate area and if they have heard the information before from another source. The story is now inherently rivalrous (to a degree), attempts to grab the attention of people with small children will come at the cost of producing a show that would be watched by people without small children.

            To qualify as a public good people must choose to consume them that their marginal cost of consumption, which is not identical to the marginal cost of production.

          • Iain says:

            If an approximation of the proof is good enough for everyone, then yes the pages of the proof were wasted. This isn’t the case for proofs, or for news stories.

            You are not reading what I am writing.

            An approximation of the proof is not “good enough for everyone”. The fact that the entire proof is written out in full detail is critical. If you do not include all the detail, it is not a proof — it’s just oddly notated handwaving. You need all the details to make the proof. In the same way, good journalism will involve many details about the situation being reported, including information about the provenance of those details and why the journalism should be trusted.

            Given a sufficient number of trustworthy eyeballs on the proof, it is rational for an individual to make an 80/20 tradeoff, and get most of the valuable information — in our running example, the knowledge that the four-colour theorem is true — with significantly less effort. This is only possible because those details exist, and other people you trust have checked them for you. This is basic division of labour.

            The rest of your post appears to be disagreeing with economics in general, and not me in particular. The key phrase from the wiki article that you seem to be missing is: “Non-rivalry does not imply that the total production costs are low, but that the marginal production costs are zero.” Yes, it costs money and time to produce a segment on drowning children. It similarly costs money and time to “produce” national defense and clean air. That’s irrelevant to rivalry. A good is non-rivalrous if, once you are producing it, it does not cost you anything to extend the use of that good to others.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m with Iain on this one.

            While most people are content to read a summary, that doesn’t mean that they’d be just as content if the summary was the only thing that existed. They still need to be reasonably confident the longer and more thorough proof does exist and was read by the person offering the summary.

            You can’t write a book review of a book that doesn’t exist. Or, if you tried, nobody would derive any particular value from reading it.

          • John Schilling says:

            You can’t write a book review of a book that doesn’t exist. Or, if you tried, nobody would derive any particular value from reading it.

            Hmm. Pretty sure that if all that existed of e.g. Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” was the collection of reviews that were written of it, and some bindings with nice dust jackets but blank pages, most people would get the same value out of that as they do from the version with actual text inside. But in practice I expect at least a few of the reviewers would feel obligated to call out the absence of the Emperor’s New Book.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            You can’t write a book review of a book that doesn’t exist. Or, if you tried, nobody would derive any particular value from reading it.

            Stanislaw Lem wrote a whole book as a collection of fictional reviews, and it was tremendous fun to read.
            (I pride myself in not being a nobody.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Sounds like the kind of thing Jorge Luis Borges would write. Actually, I’m not sure he didn’t.

          • baconbacon says:

            An approximation of the proof is not “good enough for everyone”.

            I did read what you read. I said “ifan approximation of the proof is good enough for everyone, then yes the pages of the proof were wasted”

            I made a conditional statement in an attempt to clarify how your analogy would have to be altered to fit the conversation.

            Let me reply to what I think is the spirit of your comment, and the direction of the conversation in general.

            If you watch the news and give me a summary this does not make the news a non rivalrous good, because the summary is not the same product as the actual news. You are producing an entirely new good and providing it to me, non rivalrous goods only occur when the consumers are getting identical* goods, which is not satisfied by this example, so lets go to the broadcast TV example which is much closer to the definition.

            Lets look at the underlying assumptions of broadcast TV as a rivalrous/non excludable good. First you need a receiver. If owning a TV is a state of nature, or if everyone has identical preferences and income then it makes sense to consider the margin of adding a new viewer to be near zero. Once you include differences in consumer preferences to reach a new user you have to convince them to buy a TV, and also convince them to watch your program vs another program aired at the same time.

            *perhaps a better phrase is “have access to identical”

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Sounds like the kind of thing Jorge Luis Borges would write. Actually, I’m not sure he didn’t.

            You should read “Three Versions of Judas”, if you haven’t yet.

          • Iain says:

            @baconbacon:

            Sure, let’s grant your claim. Good journalism is not excludable; instead, after you successfully exclude people from good journalism, a very close substitute will pop up at zero cost, and most people will choose the substitute instead. Is that meaningfully different?

            The point of establishing non-excludability is to show that good journalism is vulnerable to the free rider problem. It is hard to limit access to good journalism; meanwhile, once good journalism has been produced, it is extremely cheap to share it with additional people. Those are the classic requirements for a public good. Like other public goods, we should expect that the market equilibrium will be socially suboptimal. This is Econ 101.

            All of your quibbles about consumer-side requirements (like TV receivers) are irrelevant. There are plenty of factors that affect demand, but none of them make it any easier for creators of good journalism to extract the actual value of their work from consumers. Adding a new viewer doesn’t get you anything unless that viewer is going to give you money.

            One option is to flip the equation around; instead of selling journalism to viewers, you can sell viewers to advertisers. At that point, though, the incentive structure leads you straight downhill. Before you know it, you’re no longer in the business of journalism. You’re just an entertainment company with a funny hat.

          • Protagoras says:

            Lem’s book, which I was too late to be the first to mention, is A Perfect Vacuum; concur with TheEternallyPerplexed on its being quite wonderful.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            Isn’t a huge part of the problem that many/most people absolutely cannot distinguish a good summary from a bad summary or even a completely made up story from a story which offers decent evidence for its claims?

            Imagine having three stories:
            1. The full one: New New York Jets owner Gentile McGentileson traded player Jew McJewson for Christian McChristianson because he wants to change to strategy X to which McJewson is not well suited because his skills are A and B.
            2. The summary: New York Jets traded player Jew McJewson for Christian McChristianson because they want to play a different strategy
            3. The summary which appeals to prejudice: Gentile McGentileson traded Jew McJewson for Christian McChristianson because McGentileson is an antisemite.

            It seems to me that many people prefer a story that caters to their prejudice/preconceived notions over a story that matches the evidence. So if they already believe that antisemitism is on the rise or if they see McGentileson as an antisemite (perhaps he spoke out against Israeli settler policies), they would much prefer 3 over 2.

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje: That is completely orthogonal to my point. I’m talking about the production of good journalism (think: long form investigative journalism); you’re talking about the market for entertainment.

            I claim that the market will under-supply the former, because the latter is much easier to sell (in the sense that click-bait attracts click-fish who can be sold to advertisers).

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t think that ‘news’ that is (intentionally or not) tailored to seem correct, but is not actually correct, can be classified as entertainment.

            I think that people generally see pizzagate articles as a different kind of thing than a funny cat video.

    • I think the ultimate answer doesn’t have to do with the media at all, but with the listeners.

      A voter has no good reason to care whether the beliefs on which he votes are true, since his vote has a near zero probability of affecting the outcome of the election. So he can choose to believe whatever is most emotionally satisfying, fun, simple, flattering to himself. A consumer can make the same mistakes but he pays for them and, in most cases, gets fairly immediate evidence that they are mistakes when the flashy product he bought stops working or turns out to be gathering dust because he has no real use for it.

      So the solution, insofar as there is one, is to change the society to that more decisions are made on the market, fewer in the voting booth.

      • Aapje says:

        This does not follow, if the voter believes that his vote does matter, which many clearly do.

        If Alice votes for Trump and he chooses a policy that harms her, then she has evidence that she was mistaken.

        • Zephalinda says:

          Harms and benefits from national policy decisions in a country the size of the US are never going to be sufficiently clear-cut to provide useful voting feedback for Alice.

          In fact, insofar as the media are the ones who get to sort through all the messy piles of data-points about how all 300 million of us are doing, and package the selected few into tidy tragic or inspirational stories, then harm/benefit from policies is effectively another part of the media narrative we all consume. Right about now, Alice could absolutely choose to be convinced that Trump is helping or hurting her, simply by clicking through to one or another TV news channel.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      The problem with the news media is not that it’s biased; it’s that the news media is effectively an unaccountable center of power. It’s staffed with wealthy and privileged elites who graduate from the right colleges and travel in narrow aristocratic bubbles, it has extensive influence over government and effective immunity from laws that your ordinary shmoe does not, it can punish arbitrary citizens by directing the ire of its readers at them, and it is responsible to no one since it doesn’t turn a profit anyway. It’s too big to fail, and so failure is its only mode of operation.

      If the media was considered a profession like, say, auto repair, a lot of our problems would go away. Return to the era of hard-drinking ink-stained wretches who barely graduated from high school and are regarded by the powers that be as pests instead of fellow aristos. They’ll still provide sensationalist and inaccurate news, mind you, but at least we will be aware of the quality of the product. And if we as a populace regain the ability to identify sensationalist and inaccurate news, that implies we can identify news that is not sensationalist and inaccurate, and afford respect to either group as is appropriate.

      • Kevin C. says:

        If the media was considered a profession like, say, auto repair, a lot of our problems would go away. Return to the era of hard-drinking ink-stained wretches who barely graduated from high school and are regarded by the powers that be as pests instead of fellow aristos.

        Except that I don’t think you can really do this, not on a long-term basis. Because, as you note, under a democracy, anyone who can shape or shift the opinions of a large number of citizens has power, and I don’t see how institutions with that much power don’t end up enmeshed with the other power centers. Because, to the extent that the media really can influence how the masses vote, then they simply already are “fellow aristos,” and I’m not sure how you prevent that.

        (Besides ending democracy, of course.)

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I don’t see how institutions with that much power don’t end up enmeshed with the other power centers

          This is ostensibly what an elective republic is supposed to be a step away from. Elections are supposed to periodically shake up the power centers. Now one can argue that it doesn’t go too far enough, but that’s what I look to as the driving principle.

          • Kevin C. says:

            This is ostensibly what an elective republic is supposed to be a step away from. Elections are supposed to periodically shake up the power centers.

            Except that this implies that the electorate and their opinions are endogenous, or at least independent of the power centers. But if the bulk of what occurs in the voting booths is a downstream product of the Mass Media Megaphone, and thus controlled to no small degree by the power center that is control of said megaphone, then how are elections anything more than a “rubber stamp” for the elite via the “manufactured consent” of the manipulated masses?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I did say you can argue it doesn’t go too far enough. And heavily implied that it’s not really achieving those goals. “Worst form of government except all the others that have been tried” and all that jazz.

            That doesn’t mean “ending democracy”, presumably in favor of some regressive fedualistic power fantasy, is a tenable solution for the problems you describe.

      • Aapje says:

        @ThirteenthLetter

        You are treating the media as a single entity, which is wrong. It’s pretty clear that historically, we can point at many cases where one part of the media has lost out to other parts of the media, which shows that some accountability exists.

        You could make your same argument to declare that businesses are unaccountable.

    • DeWitt says:

      What is your opinion on state media of US-adjacent countries: the Anglosphere at large, Western Europe, et al?

      In my experience and opinion both, the results are at least decent. Imperfect, to be sure, but in my own country, state TV news is much less sensationalist and biased than the private networks are, though I’m not sure if something new might spring up were state TV cancelled. There are no state newspapers, but the spectrum there is fairly broad as well, so I suppose that works out.

      • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

        Some a general thoughts and observations.

        High-quality independent media aiming to be as neutral as possible, by their very existence, serve as an anchor against a race to the bottom of journalistic quality. I doubt that private-sector general interest media can ever replace this function.
        Payment would deter a large part of the audience and incentivises to humour the payers. Advertising pushes for maximal audience which entails lowering of quality. Private sponsorship or trusts can be subject to withdrawal threats or financial crises, the former also may lower neutrality, at least credibility.

        That does not mean that even in the best media there are not the occasional managerial idiots who define their success by reader/viewer/listener numbers, demand lower quality to get wider reach, and thus betray the very foundation of their institution.

  13. p duggie says:

    Nice piece on a racism taxonomy. But the definition by consequences has a little bit more to say for itself, at least in terms of whether an injustice is intended to be redressed or whether the status quo will stay unchallenged.

    The term of art for the def by consequences is usually “structural racism’ or “institutional racism.” Because there were bad schools for blacks, less blacks get enough STEM training and the pipeline for black stem workers keeps getting narrower and narrower, but there are plenty of indians who can come here since there is a big pipeline of them. So Google is affected by structural racism. They can choose to do something about it, or they can ignore it. Once they decide to ignore it THEN the racism-by-motive definitions start getting deployed.

    That said, I notice that its hard for people to describe the “structures” of “structural racism” at any specified level of detail. If Castilles killer gets off it indights “the structures enabling the perpetrators to avoid prosecution” Like what? Juries? Blackstone’s maxim? Defense attorneys?

    Anyway, the problem is that correcting injustices usually doesn’t require killing ten million rich white people and taking their stuff. But it doesn’t involve zero disruption either, at least as imagined. And so white folks say “sure, racism and slavery and segregation and FDRs redlining HURT black people and they have less money now” but don’t take any money from me to even the score. And so the ‘structure’ of america, which had racist-by-motive actions in it (let white people live by themselves in whitopias) will remain racist. If you don’t care about fixing it, then you have to ask what your “motive” is. Do you like the status quo because you benefit?

    • albatross11 says:

      When you define structural racism or institutional bias by consequences, it seems like you smuggle in an assumption (by words like “racism” or “bias”)–that the observed differences in outcomes are the result of some external force which can be blamed for them and also can be changed to get rid of those differences in outcomes. That’s a lot more plausible for some differences in outcomes (higher unemployment) than for others (higher rates of unwed birth).

      Of course, it’s possible to define these terms in such a way that all differences in outcomes which can’t be ascribed to purposeful discrimination/racism are explained by structural racism, by definition. But then those terms don’t seem to have a whole lot of explanatory power, since they apply as much to externally-imposed stuff (employers not calling you in for an interview if your name is DeShawn Jones, whereas they’ll call Sean Jones in for that interview) as to internally-imposed stuff (unwed pregnancies).

    • Brad says:

      @p duggie

      That said, I notice that its hard for people to describe the “structures” of “structural racism” at any specified level of detail. If Castilles killer gets off it indights “the structures enabling the perpetrators to avoid prosecution” Like what? Juries? Blackstone’s maxim? Defense attorneys?

      There’s multiple justice systems acting in parallel. If you were to shoot someone you would not face the same justice system Yanez did. Not even close.

      For just one example, look at the number of grand juries that have returned no true bill in homicide cases involving police officers. That is completely unheard of in cases not involving police officers. The presentations that were made to those grand juries was fundamentally different from what happens in a normal case.

      I’m not sure I would call this structural racism, but that’s how it works.

      • p duggie says:

        I wasn’t aware Yanez was tried by a jury that differed in any substantive way from other criminal juries. Cite? Did the prosecutor not try hard enough?

        • Brad says:

          I wasn’t aware Yanez was tried by a jury that differed in any substantive way from other criminal juries. Cite?

          That’s what you got out of my reply? Did you really think I was claiming the jury was made up of of Yanez’s friends and family?

          • p duggie says:

            I couldn’t make sense of it. The jury made the call. Can you tell me what about the justice system differed for Yanez? Is it because he had a good lawyer? Is that the structural diff? public vs private defense?

            How does the difference in treatment by the nonjury parts of the justice system (which parts) cause the *outcome* of the case to differ so much?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @p duggie

            People in general seem to give cops more leeway to make the argument “I felt threatened so I shot.” This affects how they are treated by the justice system when they shoot someone in what they present as self-defence.

          • Brad says:

            Most cases never end up before a jury. More than 90% of cases are plead out. Do you think it is just a coincidence that this one did?

            The differential treatment starts from the very beginning. Normally, when one person shoots and kills another, the police arrive and immediately start trying to build a case. While the shooter is still in shock they start to question him to try to elicit incriminating evidence. Yanez wasn’t questioned until the next day, and then only in the presence of two attorneys. Of course everyone has the right to remain silent and ask for an attorney, but in most cases the police try to manipulate suspects to get them to waive their rights. Do you think that happened here?

            On the other end of things, juries aren’t the only actors in criminal trials. Judges, their rulings, their demeanor, and how they charge the jury play a big role too.

            The prosecutor can’t go all out against a police officer because he has to work with other police officers that are sympathetic to the defendant every day to build cases. In the Yanez case one of the defense’s chief witnesses was the St. Anthony Police Chief. How can a local prosecutor that will have to work with that chief cross examine such a witness to the full extent he ought to?

          • AnarchyDice says:

            There are factors like police officers getting mandated minimum amounts of time following a use of force incident before they can be questioned per the police union (I believe three days), which is a significant amount of time to collect ones thoughts, and get a consistent story on the incident whereas civilians are forced to give a testimony immediately or are at least arrested/detained in order to extract such. A seemingly small factor like this can allow use of force cases in the courtroom, which hinge on the officer or civilian credibly depicting true fear or threat as a case of self-defense, to turn on the fact that the officer gets three days to order their thoughts before giving their statement while civilians have to generally do with the scrambled thoughts right after an incident.

            Police generally get solid representation from their police union due to the incidents occurring on the job, while civilians get what they can afford or the available public defender. Experienced and competent defense can maximize the wording of any statements or situation to key directly to the state’s self-defense statutes, especially compared to over-worked or underprepared private attorneys a non-officer is likely to have.

            Neither of those factors require any malfeasance on anyone part either, so there could also be factors of prosecutors pushing for overreach against police knowing a jury will reject those charges, or fellow officers providing the accused officer with information about the suspect that they can provide during their initial statement that a civilian would not have access to. Evidence tampering by the officer’s buddies (“lost” phone footage or mysteriously appearing weaponry on bodies) is another possibility.

            There can be plain old bias in the minds of juries that police are in general upstanding people, which means their is a higher bar to clear before convicting one, and since use of force often hinges on adversarial testimonies, having the officer get a de-facto trust bonus swings things quite unfairly compared to a similarly accused civilian.

            Edit: Lots of states have varying minimums before police can be questioned. Wisconsin for example is 2 days, while places like Dallas are 72 hours, and Baltimore had as much as 10 days. Also, it isn’t illegal for them to view the evidence collected before making that statement, as I suggested, and is a common practice to let the officer view transcripts and video before making a statement. This is part of the non or less adversarial position they take to investigating a fellow police officer that Brad mentioned.

          • albatross11 says:

            Right. The non-crazy reason for this is that we expect policemen to go into dangerous situations sometimes, where we’d expect civilians to avoid them. However, I strongly suspect that (as others have said) everyone in the chain from police to jurors tends to treat policemen rather differently than other people in these cases.

        • Corey says:

          I think for police in particular the effects of different law dominates any effect of disparity in the justice system. If I understand correctly, the black-letter law and judicial precedents are such that there are approximately no situations where it’s illegal for a police officer to kill a civilian.

          • Brad says:

            No, that’s not true. The black letter criminal law with respect to deadly physical force is pretty similar.

            There are some differences, mostly having to do with dangerous felons fleeing from the scene of a crime or escaping custody, but those clauses rarely come into play.

            In the vast majority of cases the affirmative defense used by police officers that commit homicides is self defense–that the officer thought his life or occasionally the life of his partner was in imminent danger. The standard for that is generally the same for officers as it is for civilians.

            What is vastly different is how every actor in the criminal justice system from investigating officers all the way through to appeals courts treat police officers that have committed a homicide as compared to how they treat civilians that have done the same.

          • gbdub says:

            I generally agree that cops get away with far too much – the chance that any civilian would get away with shooting a guy (not to mention nearly hitting his kid and girlfriend) in public in broad daylight because “his hand was near his pockets and maybe a gun was there, not that I could definitely see it” is basically null. Maybe if there were no other witnesses and the shooter could get away with claiming a more definitive threat.

            So that’s structural. But is it structural racism or is it structural unfairness that happens to fall more heavily on one race? Because police interact with African Americans more often, and it is at least partially justified by increased rates of criminal activity. But cops seem to get away with an awful lot regardless of who their victims are.

            I’m very confident that Yanez would be going to jail if he were not a cop. I’m much less confident that he would be going to jail if Castille were white, which is what BLM and the strong version of the “structural racism” theory wants me to believe. In other words, I agree Yanez got away with a crime. I don’t agree that the race of his victim played a significant role in the verdict.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @gbdub:

            Yanez would probably have gotten off if Castile had been white, but Castile would have been significantly less likely to get shot if he had been white. So, bit of column A, bit of column B. I think it’s more column B than a lot of people do – the police in the US shoot plenty of whites – but you cannot deny that column A is at play.

            The biggest way it manifests is that the police seem to treat most black people as though they were dealing with obvious lowlifes, whereas the existence of white lowlifes does not mean the cops treat all white people as though they were lowlifes. I have zero chance of getting hassled by a cop unless I blow a stop sign or something like that – whereas black friends of mine who talk, dress, act like I do (basically, educated middle class people)
            do have stories about getting hassled by cops for no apparent reason.

            EDIT: I believe there was a post here a long time ago that showed that, while stats for police shootings are much less conclusive, there definitely is more police harassment of black people, proportionally speaking.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnsrn said:

            … but Castile would have been significantly less likely to get shot if he had been white.

            I don’t think this is obviously true. It contradicts the best available information I’ve seen, which is available on that Washington Post page I linked to a few open threads ago. Basically, blacks and whites get shot in proportion to their fraction of arrests. Once you’re being arrested, you’re about equally likely to be shot whether your skin is black or white.

            Also Fryer had a paper that analyzed data from (iirc) three big city police departments. Stops of blacks were no more likely to lead to shootings than stops of whites, though they were much more likely to lead to all other kinds of unpleasant interactions (handcuffing, shoving to the ground, arresting, etc.).

            Now, it may very well be that someone in Castille’s situation was more likely to be shot with black skin than with white skin. But I don’t know of any actual evidence that says that. There’s a lot of implication along those lines in media coverage of police shootings of blacks, but it’s not what the data that I’ve seen says.

          • Brad says:

            If blacks are more likely to be arrested or stopped than whites then I don’t think the evidence you are offering refutes the underlying claim.

            The claim was about the probability of being shot based only on skin color, not conditional on already have been pulled over or arrested.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            What Brad said. If he’d been white he would have probably not been pulled over in the first place. He was pulled over for a busted tail light, and that’s something cops often use as a pretext.

          • gbdub says:

            but you cannot deny that column A is at play.

            What albatros11 says pretty much matches my understanding of the data, which is basically that black people are more likely to have interactions with cops, but not more likely to get shot. Maybe white Castile doesn’t get pulled over in the first place? I don’t know.

            What’s really difficult to suss out is the correlation vs. causation, and it’s also very difficult to determine what level of scrutiny / forceful policing is appropriate in the places that black people tend to live (which really are higher crime on average). Cops backing off does seem to increase crime to some degree.

            If I could switch off all racial disparities in crime rates (and instantaneously plant this knowledge in the head of every cop), do the disparities in harsh policing (but not apparently shooting) change? Do they go away? I think that’s a hard question to answer definitively.

            Anyway, I agree that police should be trained to escalate more slowly and be held more accountable for their use of force. I suspect that this will disproportionately help minorities, regardless of whether racial animus plays a role in the current numbers. The tricky bit is that such training and accountability will probably result in somewhat more cops getting injured/killed on the job. I believe the tradeoff will be net positive, but it would be a hard sell.

          • Iain says:

            It’s worth noting that Castile had been previously pulled over 52 times for petty traffic offenses. A previous study showed that black drivers were pulled over 310% more frequently than white drivers in the area.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @gbdub

            Yeah, white Castile probably doesn’t get pulled over. Black guy with a busted light, cop is far more likely to pull him over. Low-level stuff like drinking in public if you’re being somewhat discreet about it, weed in public if likewise, minor car-related infractions, etc, black people are much more likely to get hassled over it than white people.

      • J Mann says:

        After reading the thread, I basically agree with Brad.

        If you grant that (1) we have a legal system that for various de facto and de jure reasons, allows police officers a measure of benefit of the doubt when they shoot suspects; and (2) African-Americans disproportionately come into contact with police in situations where shootings are a possibility, then all other things being equal, African-Americans are going to be shot disproportionately more likely than other. You can call that structural racism or disproportionate impact – I won’t argue, but we all agree with those facts.

        Putting a finger on the causes and effects lets us discuss possible solutions or areas for possible future investigation.

        If you believe Yanez’s story, then he stopped Castile because Castile resembled a suspect in a robbery, and ultimately shot Castile because Castile kept reaching for an unknown object notwithstanding instructions to the contrary.

        Assuming that police shoot roughly in proportion to contacts, then you could theoretically fix that problem by adjusting the rules of engagement to reduce risk to suspects and increase risks to officers by some amount (for example, no shooting until you literally see a gun, or obviously too extreme, the suspect gets to take the first shot). These would reduce total shootings, but if African-Americans are still disproportionately coming into contact with the police, then the new smaller number of shootings will still be disproportionate.

        Alternately, you could have a race-specific correction – 1 time in 10 or whatever, when you would otherwise stop an African-American driver or respond to a domestic dispute called regarding an African-American, you just don’t. (That’s obviously unsatisfactory, at least in the latter case).

        • dndnrsn says:

          Google suggests that Castile was pulled over for a busted taillight. Yanez’ “ah he looked like a guy I’d been told to watch out for” thing sounded awfully post hoc.

          Forget about adjusting the rule of engagement: stop doing things like stopping cars and going up to the window for busted taillights! That would keep everyone safer. Cops would no longer worry about the guys they were pulling over shooting them, and thus, cops would be less likely to shoot the guys they were pulling over. Instead, take a picture of the license plate, and then find some way to communicate “your taillight is busted and you should fix it and if you haven’t in x time you’ll get ticketed” or something.

          Remove all laws that are unserious enough that the cops can easily justify not doing something. Either decide that smoking pot is so terrible that you have to bust everybody, or decide it’s no big deal and stop busting anybody. As it is right now, there are a lot of places where you can smoke weed in public, or drink beer in the park, and as long as you are remotely discreet, cops will only give you trouble if they want to. Whether they want to depends on a whole bunch of factors, including your race, your class, etc.

          These would also have the huge advantage of making relations with cops less confrontational. If fewer people get hassled by cops, they will be more likely to cooperate when they see an actual real crime happen. Fewer confrontational police-civilian encounters would do a lot of good, and a lot of the confrontational encounters are unnecessary if not counterproductive.

          • Randy M says:

            Instead, take a picture of the license plate, and then find some way to communicate “your taillight is busted and you should fix it and if you haven’t in x time you’ll get ticketed” or something.

            Eventually you’re just going to have to go after them for unpaid tickets. Unless you bite the bullet and

            Remove all laws that are unserious enough that the cops can easily justify not doing something.

            Oh, hey.
            Yes, that’s pretty much the key. It’s a hard change to make, since that cuts down on the revenue cities and police forces have at hand.
            Also because different people/cultures have different ideas on what is petty and what is serious. Do the cops go in to bust up the party at 1:30 in the residential neighborhood, or is that okay to let pass? Then do the neighbors take matters into their own hands and start brawling? Do you bust the guy selling loose cigarettes, or repeal the vice taxes?

          • J Mann says:

            @dndnrsn, I thought the recorded radio calls prior to the stop were clear that Yanez thought Castile resembled the suspect prior to questioning him. I can’t listen to the audio at work, but here’s the link.

            http://www.startribune.com/police-audio-officer-stopped-philando-castile-on-robbery-suspicion/386344001/#1

            Now it’s entirely possible that Yanez was less good at recognizing similarities in an African-American suspect – IIRC, there are studies that most witnesses aren’t as good at cross-racial recognition as they are within their own group.

          • Skivverus says:

            Remove all laws that are unserious enough that the cops can easily justify not doing something.

            This.

            Though on the other hand, “but this law (e.g.: speed limits) is an Important Exception” inertia (Chesterton’s Fence, etc.) is a thing, and often a sensible one: the impulse to throw everything out and start from scratch is not always, in fact, a shortcut, even if refactoring looks impossibly complicated.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            Yeah, it would be a hard change to make, but it would probably produce better results than the current situation, where some people can get away with raucous parties, and other people might get shot because the cop who shows up to shut the raucous party down thinks someone is going for a gun.

            As for selling loosies, I don’t get the prohibition. If someone wants to buy a pack of smokes, paying tax for them, and then sell individual smokes for a buck apiece of whatever, I’m not sure I understand why that is worth killing someone over.

            Far as I’m concerned, there’s only about seven things deserve the force of actual criminal law: murder, rape, physically attacking others short of murder or rape, theft (including fraud), trespassing, destruction of property, and threatening others with any of the previous.

            If a party’s really gotten raucous, probably some of those rules are getting broken. If it hasn’t, a healthy society can probably deal with it without men with guns.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            As for selling loosies, I don’t get the prohibition. If someone wants to buy a pack of smokes, paying tax for them, and then sell individual smokes for a buck apiece of whatever, I’m not sure I understand why that is worth killing someone over.

            Obviously the goal was not to kill him, so that is a rather biased way to put it. ‘Not worth risking killing someone’ is a more reasonable way to put it.

            Anyway, some reasons not to allow that sort of thing:
            – There may be rules for selling products that the street salesman is probably not adhering to, like not selling to minors.
            – People may dislike being solicited in the street or other inconvenience it causes.
            – It can work as a cover for drug selling. If you allow ‘Psst, do you wanna buy a cig’ then you just legalized something that looks very much like a drug transaction from a distance. So it then becomes harder to distinguish the two.
            – There may be a very high chance that no (or too little) tax was paid for the cigarettes. Cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting is a huge market. This even works interstate, as NY City has twice the tax as Pennsylvania and almost 10 times more than Virginia. It’s much harder to combat this for street salesman than for shops.

          • Randy M says:

            Aajpe makes good points why others may disagree with you (us, really); but I didn’t realize you were so libertarian-ish.
            I can see this leading to a situation where fines are levied automatically from your account, so the city/state can punish/extract revenue from you without ever risking escalation, and those without accounts are ignored for such minor offenses. Of course at that point we probably just have fines and fees deducted from our monthly UBI.

          • J Mann says:

            @dndnrsn – it turns out that’s a really interesting question.

            There are two answers:

            (1) Federal law requires that cigarettes be sold with the tax stamp to ensure the tax was paid. (And presumably by licensed dealers to minimize sales to minors).

            (2) Until the FDA assumed regulation of tobacco in 2010, ATF allowed sale of single cigarettes in individual tax stamped packages. Once the FDA took over, they forbade the practice, presumably in response to anti-smoking lobbyists, who had argued that single cigarette sales encouraged youth smoking.

            http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/need-to-buy-one-last-cigarette-too-bad-singlestick-sales-halted/

          • J Mann says:

            More officers should certainly go to prison. Just because I agree they aren’t being acquitted because of racism doesn’t mean that the reasons they are being acquitted are good ones.

            I completely disagree. IMHO, the cause of acquittals is that (1) we ask police officers to enter armed into dangerous situations on behalf of the community; and (2) we grant criminal defendants the benefit of the doubt.

            I wouldn’t change #2 – it would lead to more wrongful convictions along with more rightful ones, just like if you changed it for other defendants.

            I’m open to changing #1 by reducing the number of laws police are required to enforce, or by disarming police, or by changing the rules of engagement.

          • Brad says:

            I wouldn’t change #2 – it would lead to more wrongful convictions along with more rightful ones, just like if you changed it for other defendants.

            De facto it already has been changed for other defendants. Only police officers, the very rich, and celebrities (including temporary celebrities) get the justice system they teach you about in grade school.

            Whether we should have the cop system for everyone or cops should have the regular system — either way it is entirely unjust to have two separate systems. Far more unjust than it would be to subject cops to the flawed system the rest of us subject to.

          • Matt M says:

            either way it is entirely unjust to have two separate systems

            I’m not entirely sure this is necessarily true. Consider this a bit of devil’s advocate, but I think it’s logically consistent to say “Because we are asking cops to do this dangerous and undesirable (but highly necessary) thing, we are willing to be a bit more tolerant in giving them the benefit of the doubt when things go poorly.”

            At least, my impression is that’s what juries typically think. They are reluctant to convict cops, under the thought process of “If I ever need a cop to come save me, I don’t want him to be worrying about getting in trouble for excessive force.” Strictly speaking yes, that’s probably unfair, but it might still be a very good idea.

          • J Mann says:

            @Brad – respectfully, I think you’re mixing up two issues in the justice system, in particular when you put the rich on the side of the cops.

            1) It’s definitely true that if you’re rich, you can present a more effective defense than if you’re not.

            2) It’s also true that police are in a different situation than other shooters because the facts of most of their cases is that the officer was in a potentially dangerous situation in the course of his or her duties and is authorized to use force under appropriate circumstances.

            Those aren’t the same thing. It’s also true that if you take a injury before you shoot your assailant, you will experience “different justice” from someone who shoots in self defense without being injured. Whether or not their are witnesses will also change the course of your trial. But those are just different facts.

            Asking police to go to jail because you’re mad that rich people can afford better lawyers isn’t a good solution, so I wouldn’t conflate the two.

            I like adding a lot more cameras, and stamping down on any police officer who tries to prevent citizen recording. That’s a solution that lets us know more facts.

            In the Castile case, one of two things happened:

            1) Possibility one: Yanez is lying about Castile continuing to reach for an object after being instructed not to. If so, the solution is body cameras, so we know what happened in police-civilian interactions.

            2) Possibility two: Yanez is telling the truth. If so, the solution is either (a) rules of engagement that would require officers to hold off shooting until they see a gun, albeit at a higher risk of getting shot themselves, or (b) more education to obey police instructions.

          • Brad says:

            @J Mann

            @Brad – respectfully, I think you’re mixing up two issues in the justice system, in particular when you put the rich on the side of the cops.

            Respectfully, I have direct experience with the justice system and it is a grouping that makes sense. If anything cops are even better treated than the very rich.

            2) It’s also true that police are in a different situation than other shooters because the facts of most of their cases is that the officer was in a potentially dangerous situation in the course of his or her duties and is authorized to use force under appropriate circumstances.

            As I explained a few threads up, this is generally not a legally relevant distinction. Police officers are authorized to use non-deadly force in a wide variety of circumstances where civilians are not. But they are only specially authorized to use deadly force in a few very narrow circumstances that are not the ones that these cases have been arising in. Almost every last one of these cases has been the cop presenting a self defense or defense of a third party justification for using deadly force. Those defenses are virtually identical for police officers and for civilians.

            And in any event, even if the black letter law was different it still wouldn’t explain or justice having entirely different investigatory and adjudicatory mechanism.

            Unless your point is that every single actor in the criminal justice system ought to put their thumbs on whatever scales are available to him in favor of police officers, regardless of what the rules say, because they have a tough job then I don’t think this point is well made.

            Those aren’t the same thing. It’s also true that if you take a injury before you shoot your assailant, you will experience “different justice” from someone who shoots in self defense without being injured. Whether or not their are witnesses will also change the course of your trial. But those are just different facts.

            For the vast majority of defendants there won’t be a trial.

            I am not talking about a difference in degree. When a state’s attorney presents a case to a grand jury, he slants all the evidence to convince the grand jury to return a true bill and the grand jury returns a true bill. The grand jury today is a vestigial institution.

            Yet when a cop is on trial and the state’s attorney doesn’t want to take responsibility for not prosecuting a homicide, all of a sudden the grand jury “looked at the evidence and decided not to prosecute”. (E.g. http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-ohio-police-shooting-20170519-story.html) That’s not different facts producing different outcomes, that’s one criminal justice system for the privileged and one for everyone else.

            Asking police to go to jail because you’re mad that rich people can afford better lawyers isn’t a good solution, so I wouldn’t conflate the two.

            No longer respectfully, this isn’t a fair summary of my position.

            (a) rules of engagement that would require officers to hold off shooting until they see a gun, albeit at a higher risk of getting shot themselves

            The rules as written already require police officers to take on more risk than they have been. To wait until there is an imminent risk to their or another’s life. But many refuse to do so and the justice system refuses to hold them accountable for such refusal. Now what?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje/@Randy M
            It’s not that I’m a libertarian. It’s that I think the cure is worse than the disease. When you have armed representatives of the states enforcing petty little rules, it causes huge problems. Criminalization of acts should be limited to the acts that are so obviously bad, and so commonly recognized to be bad, that when cops (or other authorities) look the other way when someone’s molesting children/beating their significant other/stealing, it’s a scandal.

            The current situation feeds a vicious cycle: it’s easier to hassle people for minor petty crimes than to investigate murders, rapes, robberies, and so on. It’s easier to hassle poor people, certain visible minorities, etc. Those people then don’t want to deal with police, who are apparent mostly frisking them for looking suspicious and handing out tickets they can’t afford for their license not being up to date or whatever. So, investigating murders, rapes, robberies, etc in those communities (which tend to see more than the average of those) becomes harder…

            Perhaps little rules about what gets taxed and how, who can sell what and where, who can do what when, etc, could be enforced by non-cops, so when someone sees a shootout happen they have less reason not to tell the cops what they saw. If people start shooting at the Revenue Agency guys, then call the cops. The current situation is one where the police are trusted least, and behave the worst, where they are needed most, and where many laws are applied based on who you are, not what you did. This is socially toxic.

            @J Mann

            That’s interesting. Thanks. I’d never seen individual cigarettes sold in shops, but I’m up in Canada.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s not that I’m a libertarian. It’s that I think the cure is worse than the disease.

            I didn’t think you were a card carrying member, but you are making their case pretty well. I’m sure your point about the cure being worse than the disease (that is, many laws regulating non-destructive behavior for our own good is worse than letting people make bad decisions) is one libertarians here would appreciate.

            Thoughtful libertarians don’t think that there would be no costs, no social friction between citizens if the state took a minimalist approach, just that the state ensuring compliance, ultimately by force, is worse.

            Perhaps little rules about what gets taxed and how, who can sell what and where, who can do what when, etc, could be enforced by non-cops

            You can’t spell enforce without force. At least not yet, which is why I was speculating about automatic funds removal from electronic accounts as a way of not needing to involve physical force to punish people. Actually sounds like a quite reasonable way for a ‘dystopia’ to evolve.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            I didn’t think you were a card carrying member, but you are making their case pretty well. I’m sure your point about the cure being worse than the disease (that is, many laws regulating non-destructive behavior for our own good is worse than letting people make bad decisions) is one libertarians here would appreciate.

            Thoughtful libertarians don’t think that there would be no costs, no social friction between citizens if the state took a minimalist approach, just that the state ensuring compliance, ultimately by force, is worse.

            I would say a big part of the problem is that “for our own good” is unclear. It’s obvious why you shouldn’t be allowed to rape, murder, or steal (I’m OK with the government taking a defined cut of people’s money, which is why I’m not a libertarian). Laws where it’s not obvious why something is banned tend to cause trouble.

            Things like drug laws are something where the libertarians are right.

            You can’t spell enforce without force. At least not yet, which is why I was speculating about automatic funds removal from electronic accounts as a way of not needing to involve physical force to punish people. Actually sounds like a quite reasonable way for a ‘dystopia’ to evolve.

            I think a division between the front-line enforcement and the violence should be strong. So people think “fuck, it’s the taxman” when they see the taxman, not when they see the cop.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            There are quite a few comments saying the cost of enforcing minor offences is worse than the disease. I would submit the cleaning up of New York City as evidence that one way to clean up major crime is to enforce the minor offences. Below is a link (found quickly on google) to one article stating what happened in New York and the positive effect it had.

            The conclusion I draw from this is that if police stopped enforcing minor offences then major offences would rise. Thus police should continue to enforce minor offences.

            I would be happy to hear any arguments against either the evidence or the logic to reach the conclusion.

            https://www.city-journal.org/html/how-new-york-became-safe-full-story-13197.html

          • Brad says:

            @veeloxtrox

            The conclusion I draw from this is that if police stopped enforcing minor offences then major offences would rise.

            New York City is undertaking just this experiment as we speak. This is the latest in a line of such announcements: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/nyregion/subway-fare-beating-new-york.html

            I guess we’ll find out.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are many places where fines from police enforcement of rules are an important revenue source. I think that sets up such an awful conflict of interest within the justice system, and such a bad dynamic between citizens and their government, that it should be stamped out. If it were up to me, all collected fines and seized property and such would go to some huge neutral charity (funding malaria vaccine research, maybe) and never touch the budget of any level of government again.

            Other rules that seem like small-stakes stuff from your armchair may seem a lot bigger to people actually living with the consequences of their violation. For example, a loud party house that the police won’t shut down and that ruins the quality of life for lots of neighbors is likely to end up with the police called for the fight that breaks out when the neighbors confront the party house owner, or when someone slashes his tires and puts a brick through his window. There is actually a reason why noise ordinances exist.

          • Iain says:

            @veeloxtrox:

            There are a number of criticisms of broken window theory. I am personally persuaded by the simple argument that crime rates fell across America during the 90s, not just in New York, so it’s unlikely that a New-York-specific tactic was the true cause.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @Brad
            That article is from today, I couldn’t have planned that if I wanted. That article makes a good point that New York might have went to far and needs to lighten up some.

            @Iain
            I understand it is not undisputed. I just wanted to bring it into the discussion happening.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I don’t like the term “broken windows policing” because it means several different things. It is most associated with William Bratton, who did several things, some not even under any definition of “broken windows.” He should not be credited with cutting homicide in half in NYC when it was cut in half all across America. But NYC homicide fell by a factor of 4 and maybe he should be credited with this additional halving. LA credited him and thus decided to hire him even after their homicide had been cut in sync with America. After he arrived, it again halved, while the rest of America barely changed.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            As others argued, some of those minor offenses have major quality of life implications for citizens, especially in a closely populated environment.

            Ultimately, social pressure can only achieve to much (especially as sociopaths exist), so at one point you have to be able to escalate, even for relatively minor things like petty vandalism. Gay people have been forced to move over stuff like that, happening over and over to their property.

            Anyway, this article claims that US cops only get an average of 19 weeks of classroom training vs 3 years in countries like The Netherlands. I looked into it and they are actually incorrect, as half of those 3 years is classroom instruction. So the proper comparison is 19 weeks vs 1.5 years, which is still a very large gap.

            Another issue may be instructions, my perception is that US cops are considerably more likely to kill people for not following orders, rather than being an imminent threat, than Dutch cops.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There was a time where these things were less enforced than now, if enforced at all, and crime was much lower. Would broken-windows policing have made crime lower in the early 1950s, or is it simply an unfortunately necessary corrective to the massive and hard-to-adequately-explain crime wave, being a major part of a ditto crime drop more recently?

            Even if it’s necessary, for the love of God don’t make there a financial incentive for authorities to enforce these kinds of things.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Aapje:

            Anyway, this article claims that US cops only get an average of 19 weeks of classroom training vs 3 years in countries like The Netherlands. I looked into it and they are actually incorrect, as half of those 3 years is classroom instruction. So the proper comparison is 19 weeks vs 1.5 years, which is still a very large gap.

            We’ve been through this here before. Most American police officers have ~19 weeks of training at a police academy, and 2+ years of classroom training at a college or university with a degree program in “pre-cop”. The policemen who don’t come through such degree programs, are typically military veterans with law-enforcement relevant experience (military police, coast guard, etc), with all of that training behind them.

            Your source is about as accurate and unbiased as the average 60 Minutes or James O’Keefe video segment, and if you “looked into it” yourself you missed the biggest part of the US police training program. Do better next time, please.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            I just looked into the Dutch part, as I assumed that they would be able to read English sources. Guess not.

        • gbdub says:

          Define “disproportionate”. I would argue that this is the crux of much of the issue. The common thing is to assume “proportionate” means “similar to their proportion of the general population”.

          But is that the proportion that’s really relevant? Should it be?

          Argumentum ad absurdum for a moment, let’s say the “right” function for “probability cop shoots someone and gets away with it” is X * probability that person is a violent felon, where X is exactly the same regardless of any other factor. This is facially race neutral, but even if it is applied perfectly, black people will still get shot “disproportionately” relative to their percentage of the population, because a disproportionate fraction of violent felons are black.

          So as long as crime rates have racial disparities, we either have to be okay with “black people” as a whole group, getting shot disproportionately OR we have to be okay with “black violent criminals” being disproportionately unlikely to get shot.

          And it’s even more complex than that, because black people are also more likely to be victims of crime. But if we care a lot about that disproportionality, the only readily available policy hammer we’ve got for that nail seems to be “police more harshly”, and that’s going to make the “getting hassled by cops” disproportionality worse.

          What is the optimal level of disproportionality, because it seems like “zero, for all disproportionalities” is realistically unachievable?

          None of this reduces well to simple moral good / evil distinctions and that’s my problem with applying a racism label – it encourages thinking in simple moral terms about a problem that lends itself poorly to that analysis.

          • rlms says:

            The real question is how “probability that person is a violent felon” is calculated. Are you taking population of violent felons over total population? Or are you restricting the population by race?

          • J Mann says:

            I don’t disagree with your reasoning. I do think it’s more helpful to go the other way, which is basically saying “I see why you’re upset that the poor are arrested for sleeping under bridges more than the rich. Now let’s look at what remedies are available, and if any are likely to help without imposing unacceptable costs.”

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            Suppose African-Americans commit proportionately more violent crimes than White Americans but the result could entirely be explained by correcting for lead exposure. Suppose further that disproportionate lead exposure could in large measure be causally traced back to explicitly racist government policies in the 40s and 50s.

            Where along the chain of causality ultimately leading to a series of acquittals of police officers killing black men even though they weren’t objectively in mortal danger do you cut off “structural racism” as a legitimate explanation?

          • J Mann says:

            @Brad

            If we knew your hypo to be true:

            1) Then I as a first point, hooray – we could solve the problem for future generations by clearing up lead exposure.

            2) We could decide if a targeted remedy were appropriate now.

            a) We could just declare that African-Americans should be given sentences only X% as long as populations not exposed to lead. But this might have negative effects if our goal is to reduce crime. What’s more, if it turns out that the victims of high-lead crime are also disproportionately African-American, it might increase the structural racism inherent in being a victim of crime.

            b) We could establish some kind of compensation fund.

            c) We could shrug out shoulders and say “sorry – we’ll do better next time.”

            3) But in any event, we would know that it doesn’t make any sense in that case to demand that more police officers go to jail – that won’t solve the problem, and seems unfair to the officers.

          • gbdub says:

            Brad, if the problem is ongoing effects of explicitly racist policies from 50 years ago, then turning the usual tools of anti-racism to the problem won’t help, because the racism itself isn’t ongoing, just the lasting impact.

            Consider the magic race-erasing switch in my comment below – if we flip that, the population formerly know as black will still have been exposed to lead, so how much of the getting-shot-by-cops problem will disappear?

            That doesn’t mean the problem shouldn’t be addressed, just that treating it as merely a symptom of irrational dislike of people due to their skin color is not likely to be a complete or efficient solution (for one thing, people get awfully defensive when you accuse them of being closeted Klansmen). I know you can say “that’s not what I mean by structural racism”, but the “racism” part of that phrase was chosen for a reason, precisely because of its emotional impact.

            Otherwise I agree with J Mann’s assessment.

          • Brad says:

            More officers should certainly go to prison. Just because I agree they aren’t being acquitted because of racism doesn’t mean that the reasons they are being acquitted are good ones. On the contrary, they are awful reasons and we ought to all be ashamed of having a two (three really) track justice system.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            More officers should certainly go to prison. Just because I agree they aren’t being acquitted because of racism doesn’t mean that the reasons they are being acquitted are good ones.

            Sure, but it also doesn’t mean that the criticism of the acquittals or the solutions to bad acquittals are good.

            If the narrative is (structural) racism, where contrary to the steelmanned version of SJ, the blame is put on white police officers specifically, then the goal becomes to get more white officers in prison. If black officers are no less likely to abuse their power and in fact, are more likely to abuse their power against black people (because black officers tend to police black communities more often), then bad acquittals of black officers are ignored. We see in practice that a common BLM demand is more black on black policing, so if that happens in combination with not holding black officers accountable, life will not actually become better for black communities.

          • Brad says:

            @Aapje
            There have been several non-prosecutions or acquittals of non-white police officers and they have lead to protests. Jeronimo Yanez was born in Mexico.

            Not everything is about the “social justice narrative”. The actual justice system in the United States is broken when it comes to police officers. That’s should be a concern for everyone — including those of us on the left and those of you on the right.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Not everything is about the “social justice narrative”.

            Then maybe you should’ve said that instead of pulling out the “structural racism” bit. Look, I totally agree that, beyond social justice narratives, there are very strong and relevant criticisms of police to be made. But the social justice narratives tend to dominate criticism of police, which creates a clusterfuck. And that’s about that in terms of productive discussion.

          • Brad says:

            I did:
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/28/open-thread-78-75/#comment-516926

            I’m not sure I would call this structural racism, but that’s how it works.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            It sure seems like you went back on that in this section of the thread. Or were you just trying to prove a point?

          • Brad says:

            I was responding to what gdbub wrote with a hypo in order to try understand what he was thinking. You know like what happens in a good conversation. As opposed to one where one party is only listening for a barely plausible hook on which to hang yet another attack on the social justice boogieman.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I was responding to what gdbub wrote with a hypo in order to try understand what he was thinking.

            So you were really just raising a point to raise the point?

            I mean, fine, if that’s what you wanted to do. That actually sounds to me like the opposite of a good conversation, but if you were enjoying it then I’m sorry I intruded and I retract anything else I said on the subject.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            The actual justice system in the United States is broken when it comes to police officers. That’s should be a concern for everyone — including those of us on the left and those of you on the right.

            I agree. I just want that to be the main narrative.

    • stucchio says:

      The term “structural racism” seems to be defined as “whatever causes statistical disparities”. Is there a more specific definition than this?

      Concretely, are there any statistical disparities that are NOT caused by “structural racism”? For example, consider the vast underrepresentation of whites (relative to Asians) in technology. Is this caused by “structural racism”? If not, why not?

      And so white folks say “sure, racism and slavery and segregation and FDRs redlining HURT black people and they have less money now” but don’t take any money from me to even the score. And so the ‘structure’ of america, which had racist-by-motive actions in it (let white people live by themselves in whitopias) will remain racist. If you don’t care about fixing it, then you have to ask what your “motive” is. Do you like the status quo because you benefit?

      I fully accept that slavery/racism/etc hurt a set of individual humans X to benefit some alternate set of humans Y.

      I also fully accept that many other bad actions were performed which harmed other humans Y who were not in X.

      Now, you have chosen one set of humans B (which is a superset of X) and have declared that B^C (everyone outside of B) somehow owes B recompense for these actions. How did you choose the set B?

      Concretely speaking, your set B seems to be “black people”. But why can’t I alternately choose B = {anyone individually harmed} U {Irish people} or B = {anyone individually harmed} U {anyone who’s social security # ends in 7}? From what I can tell, my definitions are as morally meaningful as yours.

      Clearly you have some unstated principles driving your choice of grouping. It might be worth fleshing those out.

      • Brad says:

        The United States is being treated as an artificial person. That is an entity capable of causing harms and having obligations. You wish to disregard that reification and look behind at all the sets of natural people involved. Of course that is going to get you a conceptual mess. But do you do that consistently or do you just wish to disregard it for this particular case?

        • stucchio says:

          In most cases I do this. E.g. I favor punishing bad cops as individuals, not the taxpayers forced to pay their salaries.

          But in this case there are two artificial persons in your reasoning – the US government and also “blacks”.

          For example, “blacks” includes folks never harmed by the USG, e.g. immigrants and folks born after segregation ended.

          • Aapje says:

            For example, “blacks” includes folks never harmed by the USG, e.g. immigrants and folks born after segregation ended.

            And non-black tax payers/citizens/voters who cannot reasonably be said to have caused harm, like immigrants and folks born after segregation ended.

            You can treat the United States as an artificial person, but its tax revenue comes from actual non-artificial people.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think I am becoming less and less interested in making examples of cops who shoot people unnecessarily, and more and more interested in examining police shootings NTSB style (There are only 1000 or so a year, so this is doable with a moderate budget.) and then trying to figure out what changes to training or rules of engagement would have prevented the shooting, if it was unnecessary.

            There are probably not many police shootings where the cop goes out with the intent of killing someone he doesn’t like (for personal reasons or reasons of racial hatred). Most of the cases I ever read about (admittedly a biased sample) look like the cop panicked and shot someone unnecessarily. Sending the cop to prison for that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be very effective at keeping the next cop from panicking and shooting someone unnecessarily. It actually looks like some kind of lottery–some fraction of the time, the cop panics and can’t come up with a plausible sounding story for why he felt his life was in danger, and so he goes to prison. We can already see the consequence of that–police get trained and coached on what to say if they’re investigated for a shooting.

            What looks like it might actually help is figuring out how to change the rules of engagement for the police, or the weapons mix, or police training, or police selection techniques, to get the number of unnecessary shootings down. This isn’t emotionally or politically satisfying, and it’s not at all the kind of thing that would calm down a riot, but it seems like a better way forward than what we’re doing now.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @albatross11

            Rules of engagement changes aren’t going to do the job without incentives. If there’s no punishment for a cop who shoots someone because he felt like it, cops are going to continue shooting people because they feel like it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            A big part of why people are outraged is the sense of impunity. You have cases where, at the very least, the officer was incompetent to the point of negligently causing death. It is extremely rare that a police officer go to prison for killing someone. It is not even necessarily the case that they lose their job – the police union will fight for them, for one thing.

            If you killed someone in the course of doing your job, due to incompetence, would you escape prison? If you escaped prison, would you keep your job? Police officers are both given special authority by the state and are treated more leniently when they screw up using that special authority than a private citizen would be.

            Now, we might say, some level of incompetence is inescapable – we can work to reduce it (train officers better to respond to those situations) but there are always going to be screwups. So one good response would be reducing the amount of interactions where such incompetence might rear its head. I’ve addressed this elsewhere. One way to put it would be, if cops are always worried when they walk up to a car window that some guy is going to pull a gun and shoot them, so they go to their guns too readily, then them going up to car windows should be reduced as much as possible.

          • albatross11 says:

            What fraction of police shootings do you estimate could be best explained by “he felt like shooting someone?” My guess is that it is a very small number.

            When people are scared and have very little time to think, they tend to do (in the best case) what they’ve trained to do. Since I think unnecessary police shootings are primarily a problem of someone panicking and overreacting to a perceived threat, I think better training and better procedures could decrease the number of these shootings.

            The Castile shooting looks to me, without any deep analysis or investigation, like the cop panicked and shot Castile where, if he’d been able to stop and spend five more seconds thinking about it, nobody would have gotten shot. But he didn’t stop and think, because he thought for an instant that Castile was drawing a gun and he was about to be shot.

            Maybe that just means he shouldn’t have been a cop. Some unnecessary shootings will happen no matter what we do. But it sure seems like there might be some procedure they could put into place to make this kind of unnecessary shooting a lot less likely.

            Now, it’s true that changing procedures and rules of engagement and training only helps if those changes actually happen–if it’s just that the rules on paper change, then we’ve done nothing. But I don’t think it’s an intractible problem to actually cause those things to change over time, especially in a world with body cams and dash cams.

          • Brad says:

            If we are going to change the justice system to be designed more along utilitarian lines and less along retributive lines, then those most privileged by the current system ought to be last in line to benefit from the changes.

            You can always make an isolated case that a particular defendant or class of defendants ought to get the benefit of the doubt, but when you step back and look at the big picture what you’ve done with these special pleadings is created an extremely unjust dual track system. That’s true for the affluenza kid, for the Stanford swimming rapist, and it is also true for cops.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            What fraction of police shootings do you estimate could be best explained by “he felt like shooting someone?” My guess is that it is a very small number.

            An extremely low fraction. But someone doesn’t have to have primarily harmful intentions to do harm.

            When people are scared and have very little time to think, they tend to do (in the best case) what they’ve trained to do. Since I think unnecessary police shootings are primarily a problem of someone panicking and overreacting to a perceived threat, I think better training and better procedures could decrease the number of these shootings.

            The Castile shooting looks to me, without any deep analysis or investigation, like the cop panicked and shot Castile where, if he’d been able to stop and spend five more seconds thinking about it, nobody would have gotten shot. But he didn’t stop and think, because he thought for an instant that Castile was drawing a gun and he was about to be shot.

            This is all true, but an ordinary person who shot someone because they thought they were getting drawn on would be considerably more likely to get convicted, let alone tried.

            Maybe that just means he shouldn’t have been a cop. Some unnecessary shootings will happen no matter what we do. But it sure seems like there might be some procedure they could put into place to make this kind of unnecessary shooting a lot less likely.

            I think that besides better training and perhaps better selection, it would be better if you simply didn’t have cops approaching people’s windows like that on the regular. Maybe by handling someone having a busted taillight differently, or maybe by simply not making having a busted taillight an immediate offence (who knows, in Ancapistan someone’s insurance company will come after then with mercs if they get in too many accidents).

            Now, it’s true that changing procedures and rules of engagement and training only helps if those changes actually happen–if it’s just that the rules on paper change, then we’ve done nothing. But I don’t think it’s an intractible problem to actually cause those things to change over time, especially in a world with body cams and dash cams.

            Certainly.

          • Barely matters says:

            What fraction of police shootings do you estimate could be best explained by “he felt like shooting someone?” My guess is that it is a very small number.

            For straight up shootings I would agree, that said, I work closely with the police as part of the EMS system and see a lot more intentionally knocking perps’ heads against curbs and then colluding to lie about it than I’m entirely comfortable with. The police I know are happy to laugh and tell you all about the ways they can escalate a situation so that they’re allowed to strike back in self defense is they think you’re on their team.

            Just this week I was hanging with a prison guard who told me in great detail about how when they’re transporting a prisoner, they’ll rake their ribs with their knuckles, then when the guy flinches to protect his abdomen, it looks to the cameras like he’s resisting, giving them legal cover to beat the shit out of him in self defense.

            So while cops outright shooting people for sport is rare, especially here in Canada, there are enough cops who just like to hurt people they think deserve it to make this a real problem.

            I find I’m getting more disgusted with the behind the scenes aspects of policing with every passing year I work with them. I can tell you that many of them absolutely do enact violence because they know they can get away with it, though most keep it low level enough not to ruffle too many feathers, and are good at picking vulnerable targets that no one will step up to defend.

            More than anything, I’m hoping that ubiquitous, reliable, always-on body cameras start chipping away at their ability do this kind of thing.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            @albatross11
            An interesting perspective on the game theory aspect, from a biologist with a biting style and bad personal experiences.

      • p duggie says:

        why are you calling B a superset of X? what does B include besides X? B is Xand X’s descendants, who have less money because X had less money too. (no valuable house in Leavittown to pass on value to the family)

        Consider: laws that prohibit “blacks” from doing X which harms the people prohibited from the X. If a black person who gets overlooked and is allowed to do X is never discovered, does it really matter if we redress the harm prohibiting X to blacks caused and we include the overlooked black person?

        I dunno who owes the recompense per se. But the harm happened and the harm should be redressed, because it harms social cohesion and the general welfare of all to have unaddressed harms hanging around.

        • Aapje says:

          @p duggie

          Once you get down to the individual level, all kinds of harms and unfairness happened. One person(‘s forefather) had to serve in the army and suffered harm due to this, the other had ‘pull’ and managed to avoid it.

          The concern for some who got shafted and lack of concern for others seems very biased to me. Furthermore, in practice the recompense seems to primarily go to those who were least harmed in the group deemed to need recompense.

          Finally, your belief judges some bad luck as just and other bad luck as unfair, in a way that I find morally repugnant. For example, let’s take two people:
          – Bob is born poor because his grandparents were drug addicts.
          – Jeremiah is born equally poor because his grandparents were prevented from buying a house for racist reasons.

          Why it is just for Bob to suffer from his poverty and have less chances in life due to this, but is it unjust for Jeremiah to suffer from his poverty and have less chances in life due to this? Both had similar bad luck to be born to the same level of poverty, with the same effects on their chances in life. That Bob’s grandparents caused their own poverty cannot be blamed on Bob. He never had a choice in this, anymore than Jeremiah had a choice.

          Isn’t it much more fair to improve the chances in life for all poor people regardless of the cause?

          • Iain says:

            Everybody has an equal chance of having drug addicts for grandparents. Certain racial groups are much more likely to have grandparents who were denied home ownership. If you are legitimately concerned about both of these injustices, you will end up allocating more resources to disadvantaged racial groups.

            There is suffering everywhere, but it isn’t evenly distributed.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            My reading of the discussion is that this reply is a bit of a misdirection – the claim is that help should be directed based on (need/injustice/whatever) rather than racial grounds; arguing that this would result in a racially-biased distribution of need is beside the point, I think.

          • Certain racial groups are much more likely to have grandparents who were denied home ownership.

            I assume this is a reference to red-lining, discussed earlier. As best I understand it, that means unable to buy a home because they couldn’t get a loan to do it, and the reason they couldn’t get a loan was that they lived in an area where banks believed home loans were a bad risk.

            There is a sizable gap between “I can’t buy a home because nobody will lend me the money” and “I have been denied home ownership.” You don’t, at least as I think most people conceive of rights, have a right to have people loan you money.

          • random832 says:

            There is a sizable gap between “I can’t buy a home because nobody will lend me the money” and “I have been denied home ownership.”

            The size of the gap is roughly the size of the set of people who can realistically save up enough cash to buy a home while renting. And even for those who can, the state of affairs inflicts opportunity costs.

            the reason they couldn’t get a loan was that they lived in an area where banks believed home loans were a bad risk.

            The whole point of talking about redlining as racism is that either that belief was unjustified or they did not even actually hold it and merely had it as an excuse.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            Everybody has an equal chance of having drug addicts for grandparents. Certain racial groups are much more likely to have grandparents who were denied home ownership.

            This is completely irrelevant for the individual baby, though. A white person with poor parents didn’t get the average outcome over a large number of possibilities. He got one single outcome.

            Your argument is like debating what the chance is that human life came to exist on earth. It doesn’t matter to our existence if the chance was 100% or 1^-1000, in both cases we got the outcome that we got, regardless of what the chance was.

            If you are legitimately concerned about both of these injustices, you will end up allocating more resources to disadvantaged racial groups.

            The nice thing about my solution is that it will automatically favor disadvantaged racial groups, as those groups have relatively more poor people and thus, solutions that effectively help poor people, help those racial groups relatively more.

            It’s quite elegant that way and way better than just assuming that people are disadvantaged due to them having traits that merely correlate to poverty and which are frequently false, so you’ll end up helping Obama’s children, even though they will have more chances than 99% of white people, while not helping Appalachian whites.

            Keep in mind that there are more poor whites than poor blacks in America, so it’s not like helping black (poor) people exclusively will even make you address most of the problem of generational poverty.

            There is suffering everywhere, but it isn’t evenly distributed.

            Sure, for example, white Appalachians suffer way more than other whites. However, they often aren’t considered to be a group deserving special aid by those who do want to give special aid to black Americans.

            These groupings of those who deserve special help and those who don’t are often extremely arbitrary and based on skin color, while that doesn’t always make sense.

            I see this a lot in anti-racists/SJ: a desire to abandon certain ways of looking at the world, while the advocates themselves seem frequently very stuck in the same limiting views that they want to get rid of.

        • because it harms social cohesion and the general welfare of all to have unaddressed harms hanging around.

          I think it harms social cohesion and the general welfare of all much more to establish the principle that if you are a member of a group that was wronged in the past that gives you an enforceable claim to recompense from members of the group that wronged members of your group in the past, even if there is no evidence that the present members of the second group themselves wronged members of the first group, let alone you.

          Secure property rights are important. Without them large amounts of resources get used up fighting over who gets what and long run planning and investment become unworkable because you don’t know whether, if you build a house today, it will still be yours tomorrow. What you are advocating is an approach under which anyone can claim compensation from anyone else, provided only that there is enough political pressure in his favor.

          My ancestors moved here from Eastern Europe early in the 20th century and, so far as I know, didn’t wrong any blacks. But they or their ancestors were massively wronged by Russians in the past and a lot of members of their ethnic group (Ashkenazi) even more massively wronged by Germans more recently. Does that give me a claim for compensation from any Americans I can locate of Russian or German ancestry? Maybe Italian too–consider what the Roman Empire did to Jerusalem.

          This isn’t a box you want to open.

      • gbdub says:

        Concretely, are there any statistical disparities that are NOT caused by “structural racism”? For example, consider the vast underrepresentation of whites (relative to Asians) in technology. Is this caused by “structural racism”? If not, why not?

        This is my question as well.

        Let’s see tomorrow I could flick a magic switch and render every single person in the United States racially indistinguishable. Everyone is the same color, speaks the same vernacular, and has names randomly assigned from a pool of the currently most common male and female names. But I maintain a secret database of who came from which race originally, so I can track outcomes for the former groups. 20 years from now, how much better are things for the group formerly recognized as African American and their offspring? Are they doing significantly worse or better than former white people who started the experiment similarly socioeconomically situated?

        I’d be comfortable calling problems that disappear under this experiment products of “structural racism”. But I suspect that the outcome would be much less dramatic than people who talk about structural racism would like to think.

        To me, lumping “structural racism” with “racism” has two big flaws. First, since we consider racism to be such a bad thing, we privilege disparities caused by racism more than disparities due to other causes, regardless of how bad or how unfair those disparities are. Second, because we ascribe racism to a moral failing, an irrational malice towards other races, we think we can solve it by teaching people to not have irrational malice toward other races. But that won’t work, because it’s not the root cause.

        • stucchio says:

          Suppose black Americans are more likely to make choices like becoming single mothers and this causes bad outcomes. Blinding race does not change this individual behavior so the disparity will remain.

          Are statistical disparities resulting from individual choices also “structural racism”?

          • On the question of definitions, is it structural racism if blacks have lower incomes because of lower IQ’s due to genetics? My impression is that the answer is it is not–that part of the point of people rejecting the evidence for genetic differences by race is in order to claim that any observed inequalities of outcome by race must be to racism.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Because there were bad schools for blacks, less blacks get enough STEM training and the pipeline for black stem workers keeps getting narrower and narrower, but there are plenty of indians who can come here since there is a big pipeline of them.

      And at this point, I say.. “Wait. You’re telling me Indians — not Indian-Americans, but people from literal third-world India — have had it better than African-Americans since the mid 1990s (when today’s new grads were being born)? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

      If Castilles killer gets off it indights “the structures enabling the perpetrators to avoid prosecution” Like what? Juries? Blackstone’s maxim? Defense attorneys?

      The bias in that case is blatantly obvious; the system protects its own. The main color you need to be looking at it is “blue”, not “black”.

      And so white folks say “sure, racism and slavery and segregation and FDRs redlining HURT black people and they have less money now” but don’t take any money from me to even the score.

      My family wasn’t even in the country when slavery was going on; best I can tell my first US ancestors landed at Ellis Island in 1897. They lived in the North since they got here, and in redlined areas no less. So why are you proposing to take from me again? My skin color?

      • Matt M says:

        Wait. You’re telling me Indians — not Indian-Americans, but people from literal third-world India — have had it better than African-Americans since the mid 1990s

        Yes. I would say that this is true.

        With the qualifier that the “better” which matters is not “they had access to nicer schools with fancier computers” but rather “they had two parents who told them that studying hard was very important”

        • The Nybbler says:

          With the qualifier that the “better” which matters is not “they had access to nicer schools with fancier computers” but rather “they had two parents who told them that studying hard was very important”

          Which calls for a rather different set of remedies; notably, it’s pretty clear that taking stuff from white people won’t help here.

      • p duggie says:

        Indians may as a country have had it worse. But it is still the case that the numerical superiority of STEM trained Indians (who can come via immigration, or are already here) is >> STEM trained blacks in america.

        If “the system” protects its own, does it make sense that 12 random citizens of Minneapolis are all “blue”. Maybe that works, but that’s a strange system. Describe this system in more detail. If the system is “blue” then are cops calling the shots? Does the rest of Minneapolis exists to support cops?

        • The Nybbler says:

          If “the system” protects its own, does it make sense that 12 random citizens of Minneapolis are all “blue”.

          They aren’t picked at random. They’re not criminals; they’ve probably never been accused of a crime (that was a question on a jury questionnaire I once took), they’ve almost certainly not had negative experiences with the police worse than getting a traffic ticket. There are likely other ways they’ve been chosen to be blue. They’ll be given blue-tinged instructions by the judge and yes, the prosecutor will probably not push too hard.

      • rlms says:

        “And at this point, I say.. “Wait. You’re telling me Indians — not Indian-Americans, but people from literal third-world India — have had it better than African-Americans since the mid 1990s (when today’s new grads were being born)?”

        You know that not all Indians grow up in hovels, deprived of all education, right? I don’t think many Indian immigrants in STEM come from the illiterate 25%.

        • John Schilling says:

          How many African-Americans working in STEM came from the inner city, or the rural south?

          • rlms says:

            From Wikipedia’s list of African-American women in STEM fields, there are quite a few in both categories (most pages have no relevant information beyond a city). But I don’t see how that’s relevant.

          • John Schilling says:

            If it’s relevant whether the Indians come from Bangalore rather than some backwater rice paddy, then it should be similarly relevant whether the African-Americans we are comparing them to come from San Jose rather than South-Central LA. If you’re arguing about whether some group of foreigners “had it better” than Blacks in America, then it is very relevant whether you mean all Blacks or just middle-class Blacks.

          • rlms says:

            p duggie originally stated that the reason few STEM workers are black is that the population of black Americans they are drawn from has little access to the education necessary to work in STEM (this correlates with poverty). TheNybbler objected that there are plenty of Indian STEM workers, even though poverty in India is much worse than in black America, with the implication that if extreme poverty doesn’t stop Indians, a lesser degree of poverty shouldn’t stop black Americans.

            I pointed out that extreme poverty does in fact stop a lot of Indians from becoming STEM workers. It is true that STEM can draw workers from relatively wealthy, well-educated black Americans without poverty and correlates being issues, just as as it can draw from the the corresponding group of Indians, but the population of India is large that even with differing poverty rates it would not be surprising for the pools of potential STEM workers in India and black America to be of similar size. Regardless of how big they are (I don’t know, although I’d be interested to find out), the backgrounds of black Americans in STEM (as opposed to black Americans in general) is irrelevant.

            The distribution of backgrounds of black Americans in STEM is relevant if we are discussing whether Indians or black Americans in STEM have it better. As per the previous paragraph, this question isn’t connected to the overall argument, but it might be interesting to answer anyway. Looking at the first 17 women on the list I linked, I make out 6 from inner city, rural Southern, or otherwise deprived backgrounds, 3 from definitely non-deprived backgrounds, 7 that can’t be placed, and 1 from before the 20th century who probably isn’t relevant to the topic.

        • stucchio says:

          According to data from Branko Milanovic’s book, 95% of India lives below the bottom 5% of the USA. My experience, living on both India and the US, agrees with this.

          https://ourworldindata.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/within-country-income-percentiles-versus-world-income-percentiles-by-country-milanovic.png

          Various consumer-level statistics agree with this. E.g., 75% of poor Americans own a car and 25% own > 2 cars, as compared to 2% of Indians.

          So yes, most likely those immigrants did have it materially worse.

          • rlms says:

            Sure, but the population of India is sufficiently large that even the relatively wealthy Indian elite (specifically, the top 3%) is comparable in size to the population of black Americans.

          • albatross11 says:

            The subset of Indians that makes it to the US for a graduate program or a tech job is not drawn uniformly from the whole population of Indians.

  14. I rather enjoyed Scott’s post on racism (Against Murderism), but I think there’s one important point he ignored: racism doesn’t have to mean actively wanting to harm a racial group; in common usage, it can also mean devaluing them. To put this in utilitarian terms, racism doesn’t necessarily mean assigning negative weight to one race’s utilities, it can also mean assigning a lower but still positive weight. When you view it this way, I think that liberals don’t come off as quite so out-of-touch with the world.

    • gbdub says:

      This seems to be a common misreading of Scott, and I’m confused by it.

      Scott is arguing against the common usage of “racist”. The fact that his preferred definition doesn’t match the common usage is the whole point, not a fatal flaw in his argument.

      • Iain says:

        This is a weird reply.

        If Scott is arguing against the common usage of racist, then he should address that common usage. If you want your preferred definition to win out, you should compare it to the definitions that people actually use. If Thomas Redding’s definition is indeed part of the common usage of the term, and it is not adequately discussed in Scott’s post*, that is a weakness in Scott’s post, and it is worthwhile to point that out.

        *: You could argue that valuing people of one race less than people another is a milder form of Scott’s definition by motives (“An irrational feeling of hatred toward some race that causes someone to want to hurt or discriminate against them”). If you do, though, that weakens Scott’s argument. It’s hard to believe that a large segment of the population have hatred of a particular race as a terminal goal, but it is depressingly easy to believe that a large segment of the population are willing to (consciously or not) ascribe lesser value to people because of their race.

        • gbdub says:

          I guess I read Against Murderism as addressing devaluing (as opposed to negative-valuing) people, but choosing not to call this racism / arguing it should not be. Scott’s examples I think cover the “not really being anti-whoever, just not valuing them quite as highly” e.g. the very first example. Or the last example, both of which are basically “not saying so-and-so are bad, I just want to be around people more like me”.

          And I therefore read Thomas Redding’s post to be “Scott, this is commonly called racism, but it’s not included in the definition of racism you propose we use”. If what he really meant was “I don’t think you talk about this at all” then I retract my objection, but would instead object that I think Scott did talk about it, or at least what he did talk about covers the situation.

          I confess this is colored by my reaction to HBC’s criticism of Scott’s post, which seemed to be that Scott didn’t talk about structural racism, despite that (in my mind) being exactly what the entire “racism by consequence” part was obviously referencing.

  15. albatross11 says:

    Riffing on The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula LeGuin:

    There’s another pseudo-utopia, a few miles down the road from Omelas, called Le Samo.

    Le Samo is in a physically beautiful location, nestled in a mountain valley. The town square has nice restaurants and quaint fun stores. Crime is almost unheard of in Le Samo, and the few local police mainly end up hassling an occasional teenager for minor vandalism or underage drinking. There’s a very good hospital in town. Pretty-much all the houses are nice, the yards well-maintained, the quality of life very high. The schools are good, and the kids are all (literally) above average. There are nice parks and libraries, which are safe and pleasant for small children and new moms to use. There are chess games and sparkling conversations happening at the local coffee shop, alongside occasional poetry readings and musical performances. Families are almost always made of two parents raising their kids together.

    Le Samo isn’t Heaven, of course. There are local tragedies–the kid who died young in the car wreck, the man whose wife left him for someone else, the old man dying of cancer despite all that modern medicine can do for him. But it’s a really good life, somewhere close to the high end of what humans can get out of life at current technology levels.

    And you don’t even have to keep any crying children in a basement. Instead, they’re simply not let in. The poor and the dumb can’t afford to live in Le Samo, or anywhere close to it. Indeed, only pretty successful people can live there, and their kids (with the benefits of both genes and upbringing) end up being generally pretty smart and functional[1], so the schools are pretty good. The local police will run off any homeless people or crazies who come around, and they have a reputation for coming down so hard on criminals that all the criminals in the area wisely give Le Samo a wide berth. By design, there are no services for the poor or crazy or dumb that would attract or retain them.

    Now, other places have all those people. They have poor familes and single-parent homes, they have crime and poverty and dysfunction. But not Le Samo. The child crying in the basement lives down the road in some poor village somewhere, never having even seen Le Samo.

    My impression is that a lot of the good places to live in the US are more like Le Samo than they are like Omelas. We don’t need to torment any children to keep our near-utopia, we just have to avoid with the people who cost the most (in money and time and social friction) to deal with.

    Many of the people who walk away from Omelas seem to end up in Le Samo.

    [1] Though thanks to regression to the mean, they usually can’t afford to move back to Le Samo when they graduate college.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Le Samo isn’t a pseudo-utopia, it’s just a nice place to live. There’s nothing wrong with what it’s doing. The inhabitants of Le Samo don’t have any obligation to support all those other people, nor to constantly have to put up with the problems they cause.

      • Randy M says:

        Obviously you aren’t a consequentialist utilitarian who thinks there is no meaningful distinction between inaction and action. Likewise myself, but I think that is the point that will be under contention ultimately.

        • beleester says:

          Most of the people in Omelas are only committing inaction as well. They didn’t set up the system, they just live there. Their only participation in the project is not opening the locked basement.

          I think the main contention is different – should location matter in whether or not someone has moral weight? Omelas says they won’t let the child out of the basement because it’ll bring down the system. Le Samo says they won’t let the child in because it’ll bring down the system. The only difference is whether the victim already lives in the community or is outside of it.

          And on the one hand, Nybbler’s statement that you don’t need to feel obligated to support the whole world seems pretty reasonable. But on the other hand, making location an explicit part of your utility function, in some weird Newtonian Ethics system, seems absurd. So where does that leave us?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think one difference in how these two cases feel comes down to the Copenhagen interpretation of ethics, where simply by interacting with a problem you’re somehow more responsible for it. Walk by the homeless guy without feeding him, you’re responsible for his plight; live somewhere inaccessible to homeless people so you don’t have to walk by him, you’re guilt-free.

            Christian ethics certainly don’t lead you to the conclusion that it’s okay to leave the poor, halt, and lame to their fate and move to a really nice suburb where they’re all kept outside the gates. Though it’s not obvious what is needed there. Suppose there’s a village down the road from Le Samo that has excellent poverty programs, houses the homeless, feeds the hungry, etc. Suppose everyone in Le Samo pays a special surtax to support those programs. Does that change the moral status of people who decide to live in Le Samo?

            I think the most extreme version of Le Samo I’ve personally seen is the Yale campus, FWIW.

          • Kevin C. says:

            But on the other hand, making location an explicit part of your utility function, in some weird Newtonian Ethics system, seems absurd.

            How so? It doesn’t seem at all absurd to me. (But then, I reject utilitarianism in favor of a sort of duty-based-ethics built around “concentric loyalties” in a Confucian-style “society as network of interpersonal relationships” model.)

          • Randy M says:

            Most of the people in Omelas are only committing inaction as well. They didn’t set up the system, they just live there.

            Ah, yeah, that’s true, I was oversimplifying and missing an important distinction.

            Nybbler’s statement that you don’t need to feel obligated to support the whole world seems pretty reasonable. But on the other hand, making location an explicit part of your utility function, in some weird Newtonian Ethics system, seems absurd.

            If you do group the whole world into your utility function, you end up having to support each of those 7+ Nigerians being born to each family as Kevin C mentions downthread. Which removes any pressure for them not to continue that cycle. Exponential utility monster situation if having very large families are a terminal value and we don’t move to post scarcity.
            The better model is one of an expanding circle of duties outward, with diminishing responsibility as dependence, familiarity, relatedness, and relationship decreases. (ETA) Similar to what Kevin mentions just above me.

    • I really like this thought experiment – thanks!

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Some points to consider, especially if we are trying to move Omelas to a slightly more realistic setting.

      Le Samo, as described, probably could let in a handful of the crying children, and given its general excellent economic conditions, integrate them without too much a hassle. The problem is that the world outside has more than a handful, and if they all were allowed to enter at once, at some point, Le Samo would stop being a nice place.

      And of course, turning the dial between allegorical stories and realistic scenarios for ethical analysis for more realism, there’s always once in a while statistical fluke and someone (even given the decent upbringing and all the silver spoons) who turns out to grow maladjusted. Or maybe someone loses their job and their life turns into downward spiral. (Are such cases kicked out?)

      Wait. Let’s go a back a couple of steps. Did I say economic conditions? Yes I did. Everything is nice in Le Samo, but how, exactly, is the all material worth (that enables the nice living conditions to exist) produced? The moral hypothetical, if it is supposed to be relevant in resolving real-life problems in ethics, must take these into account.

      If El Samo is 99% self-sufficient community of homesteaders, I doubt it can be argued that they are morally bankrupt if they do not welcome every crying child coming their way (there’s an upper limit of how much homesteaders can subside on area of a given size). However, such communities mostly disappeared in the course of industrialization (and seldom were perfectly self-sufficient even then), and they did not have the material benefits of modern human lifestyle.

      The nature of the hypothetical city changes quite a lot if it’s El Samo a walled community where all billionaire board of directors moved in from the outside, but the companies they direct still operate (and the customers and menial workers and all the other participants in the economy live) in the outside world.

      Of course, to throughly answer the question, we also need more details what is meant by “letting in” and the nature of the outside world. Do the police officers brutalize everyone who does not have an I.D. identifying them as a member of El Samo but nevertheless tries to enter? Or do the police let the decent-looking persons in but brutalize everyone who looks like a beggar? Or maybe buying a house or renting an apartment in El Samo is just very expensive?

      Somewhere along these lines we enter the realm of the traditional discussion of politics.

      • onyomi says:

        Re. the ability to accept a limited number of refugee babies into the gated community, but not a lot:

        A Canadian friend recently mentioned, somewhat offhandedly, something like “oh, you know how America makes everyone assimilate, but in Canada they just let people form all kinds of communities. I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone spoke Italian all the time.” Thinking about e.g. the Chinese population of Vancouver (friend is not from Vancouver, so seems to be a more general Canada thing), this seems roughly correct (I have met young people who grew up in Vancouver and have a heavy Cantonese accent), but I wonder why, exactly?

        I don’t think Canada let groups in in much bigger numbers, historically than did America. Or did they? Is there some other factor at work creating the difference between “integrate and become a mostly indistinguishable member of the local population in one or two generations” and “establish a little enclave where you only have to deal with people from the old country”?

        • hollyluja says:

          In the “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” book by Colin Woodard , he points out this dichotomy going back to the first European immigrants. The Frenchmen would marry the native women, exchange children for cultural education, etc. In general it seems to have been a relationship of equals from the beginning.

          Contrast that to the English just decimating the native population, or the
          Spanish enslaving it. You can see why the minority would be more pressured to assimilate and “pass”

      • The nature of the hypothetical city changes quite a lot if it’s El Samo a walled community where all billionaire board of directors moved in from the outside

        It changes, but perhaps not by as much as you think.

        Our intuitions of freedom work pretty well for a world of isolated homesteads where everything my family has we produced ourselves by our own hard work. Things get more complicated in an interdependent society where the reason I have lots of stuff is that I am buying inputs from other people, selling outputs to other people, and pocketing the difference.

        But what we learn from economics is that, to at least a first approximation, each person is receiving the net benefit of what he does. On the margin, I buy the inputs at a price equal to both the cost to someone else of producing them and the value to someone else of not getting them to use for what he is doing, sell the outputs for the value to the person who gets them–filling that out and explaining more precisely what it means takes a semester of price theory. So even though the system is interdependent, there is a real sense in which (again to a first approximation–I’m ignoring lots of complications) your income is what you produced, just as in the homesteading case.

        So your gated community full of rich people isn’t as far from the first version as it seems.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          I’m slightly amused about this response, given that recently we’ve spent considerable time discussing Polanyi-adjacent ideas how some features of communities are mayhaps not to compatible with being traded on market, and may in fact lose some their characteristics in the process.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The idea of introducing interdependence is to at some point to say “a-HA, all those nasty rich people in El Samo are making their living off the backs of the poor and dumb and the crying children, and therefore they DO have an unlimited obligation to them”.

        There will be some sleight-of-hand in the the argument somewhere, of course.

        I don’t live in El Samo; it’s the next town over. (My town borders several El Samos, actually; one demapped the one road leading to my town to keep the riff-raff out. It also contains one as an actually-gated community). But I can’t imagine what good would come of moving all the problems of the towns on the other side of mine into theirs. You can’t solve the problems; you don’t have the tools required and if you did the means would be morally questionable at best. You can only try to keep them contained.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          But I can’t imagine what good would come of moving all the problems of the towns on the other side of mine into theirs. You can’t solve the problems; you don’t have the tools required and if you did the means would be morally questionable at best. You can only try to keep them contained.

          This is why I said the details on what is meant by “letting the crying children in” are important regarding this thought experiment. Do they also boot out the “needy children” (/ people who develop troubles not in alignment with the harmony of El Samos) they manage to produce on their own? Do the pay (national level) taxes (or is the El Samos a Monaco) and if yes, what kind of politicians they vote for and what is their platform regarding the use of tax money and the issues of the crying children in the outside world?

          I’m personally agreeable towards an idea of “our community gets to decide what we do; we don’t need to fix all the troubles in the world”. However, if suddenly the well-off part of my community decides that they actually don’t want to be involved any more with the rest of the people who were considered a part of the wider community a generation or two ago, and build a wall around their well-off neighborhood and cease participating with the rest of the community, that’s quite different. Especially if the El Samosians are the beneficiaries of decisions made in the community some generations ago.

  16. Kevin C. says:

    One thing I find notable (particularly around here, where risks and caution around possible future technologies comes up frequently) is the general lack of concern for the negative possibilities, as genetic technologies get cheaper, of home/DIY “biohacking” and gene engineering. I was reminded of this, in particular, when over in a political discussion space, someone on my side suggested our best hope for our side/faction/tribe would be some young biohacker doing something based of the results here and here. Now, recall that I’m “Mister Punching Back” here, and even I find that idea rather concerning — metaphorical comparisons to opening Pandora’s pithos come to mind. (I got the same feeling with Nick Land’s comments about secessionist entities defending against hostile existing states with “cheap deterrents” based on “$10000 smallpox” here.)

    • cassander says:

      Such possibilities exist, and have always existed. Technology is enabling, it always carries risks. But we have roughly two centuries of industrial civilization under our belts and life seems to keep getting better, on average, for most people. Will that trend continue inevitably? Perhaps not, but after two centuries of people making the same argument and being proven wrong, that’s how I’d bet.

  17. Kevin C. says:

    So, I ran into a friend earlier this week, whom I’ve known since the start of high school, and we got to talking and catching up. And I brought up the whole discussion on here about me having kids (as the best way to fight for my tribe’s survival and to get Hlynkacg, Deiseach and co. to stop calling me a perdiferous traitor). He, laughing, agreed that my becoming a parent is impossible, “because that would require you to talk to girls,” and that I’d fail even if I tried my best, because I am “visibly uncomfortable talking to anyone with an IQ under 130”, and detailed the specific body language I display and how it visibly says “why do I have to bother talking with you?”

    Add in that I despair at least a little whenever I contemplate the fact that I’m smarter than something like 99.9% of the population (and most of them, a lot smarter than), despite the fact that I’m really not all that smart. (If I was, would I be such a total unemployable loser?)

    So, I ask my fellow 150-range IQ types here, how do you do it? How do you tolerate having to put up with the “normies”? Particularly when they are (comparitively) so, so stupid? Or the fact that there’s just so, so many more of them than us?

    • Matt M says:

      despite the fact that I’m really not all that smart. (If I was, would I be such a total unemployable loser?)

      See, you say this, but your attitude suggests to me that you don’t really believe it. Particularly when you go on to say stuff like this…

      How do you tolerate having to put up with the “normies”? Particularly when they are (comparitively) so, so stupid?

      While I’ll admit to being occasionally frustrated with difficulties I have in interacting with most people, I really don’t have this attitude at all. Throwing people into harshly judged categories like “people like me” vs “normies” does not help your life whatsoever. I suggest you stop doing it.

      My perception is that you see yourself as obviously superior to most people. Your attempts to reconcile this with some of your personal failures come across as forced and half-hearted, as if you don’t really believe them. Under truth serum, I suspect you would say “I am so much better! It’s everyone else’s fault my life sucks! If only I had been born in a better society which would properly appreciate my obvious genius!” And I concede that this may, in fact, be true. But such an attitude essentially ensures that you will be miserable forever.

    • baconbacon says:

      I don’t know, perhaps I should ask my wife (IQ in the 145-150 range) why she puts up with me (IQ in the 130-135 range).

      Actually I do know, her life doesn’t revolve around her intelligence, between the facts that she gets lots of mental stimulation at work and I am smart enough to give her some distilled information on subjects she has some interest in but that she doesn’t want to follow intensely and that I have some domain specific abilities, the gap though it would be notable in some situations isn’t noticeable in most daily interactions. There is still plenty of room to enjoy each other in the facets of life that don’t require matching IQs to get along.

      If your whole life revolves around intellectual ability then you will have a hard time getting along with people several standard deviations below you in this regard, but if you are able to enjoy things that don’t revolve around it then you can connect with people far more easily.

      • dndnrsn says:

        145-150 to 130-135 is not a huge gap, though. My entirely unscientific hypothesis is that a gap of about 30 points is the point just before the smarter person starts thinking “this guy doesn’t understand me; what an idiot” and the dumber person starts thinking “I can’t understand this guy; what an idiot.”

        It’s no coincidence that politicians seem to fall into the 120s-130s range: it means they can communicate both with the average voters (people below a certain IQ tend not to vote, it would appear) and the occasional hypergenius who’s telling them about the atomic bomb research that will let them win the war or whatever.

      • If your whole life revolves around intellectual ability

        The original post implied two questions–how to get along with people and how to find a mate. I’m not sure anyone’s whole life revolves around intellectual ability, but intellectual matters are important to some.

        After my first marriage broke up, I concluded that one requirement if I married again was a wife whom I could talk with about ideas without feeling as though I needed a translator. Part of the reason for that requirement is that creating and working with ideas is a good deal of what makes me feel good about myself so I want to be able to share that with the person sharing my life. What I was looking for wasn’t only IQ, also the degree to which ideas are real and interesting to a person, but IQ is part of it.

        The requirement was satisfied and we’ve been happily married for something over thirty years.

        But that requirement doesn’t exist for everyone I interact with, not even for all friends. It’s nice to share what feels most important to me with others, but there are lots of other interactions I enjoy as well. I enjoy interacting with small children. With people online who see the world differently than I do. With people interested in learning something I can teach, not necessarily something to do with ideas. With people I like and admire for reasons not having to do with intellect.

        Going back to the original issue of finding a wife … . The IQ distribution is tighter for women than for men, so if you are male and near either tail, there are fewer women than men in the same location. On the other hand, I have at least heard it claimed that many men don’t want smart girlfriends or wives, especially not smarter than they are, so the number of smart women looking for smart husbands might well be as high as the number of smart men looking for smart wives.

        And, of course, there are lots of institutions that effectively filter by IQ, so you don’t have to interact with a random population either for courtship or other interactions. You are, for instance, interacting with people here. If you go to a good university, a chess club, or any other setting that tends to attract higher IQ sorts, your odds improve. Of course, if you are looking for a mate and are heterosexual, it also has to be a setting with a substantial number of women.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Thanks to geographical sorting by intelligence, there’s no real shortage of reasonably intelligent people to talk to in places I’m likely to be. As the saying goes, “Thank God for Mississippi”, and I don’t live there. Nor in Newark, nor in any of the other places the less-intelligent tend to end up. I suspect your particular circumstances have landed you in a place where you’re in more contact with the low and average IQ than would be usual for a high-IQ person.

      Of course, it also helps to try to control your tendency to be arrogant.

    • bintchaos says:

      Mostly avoidance and sticking to my bubble.
      My attempt to be a SSC commenter is an experiment that may certainly fail.
      My real language is LaTeX.
      Hard to convey.

    • genisage says:

      detailed the specific body language I display and how it visibly says “why do I have to bother talking with you?”

      Start with that. Stop doing all of the things your friend told you about. It can’t be helping your ability to cope with the IQ gap if they’re also picking up on your body language that’s saying they aren’t valuable. If somebody is enjoying talking to you, and you don’t give them a reason to think you can’t wait to get away from them, you’ll probably find it much easier to give them a pass for saying some dumb things. You might end up with a bit of eye strain when they start talking about one of your areas of interest, but they might also appreciate hearing a more knowledgeable person explain some of their misconceptions.

      • Kevin C. says:

        How do you control unconscious body language? For that matter, how do you even notice it?

        • Mark says:

          You don’t.

          You have to change your thinking.

          Having said that, you could force yourself to do something to calm yourself, or whatever, but it’s more the effect that a physical action will have on your internal state.

          If you feel hatred, contempt, weariness with someone, you’re never going to be able to fake the body language to a necessary degree.

        • James Miller says:

          Just a guess, but study acting.

          • Kevin C. says:

            I tried in high school with a drama class… after the first couple of sessions I was permanently exiled to working backstage. Much like how when I took dance in high school, I ended up after a couple of weeks permanently on soundboard duty.

          • johan_larson says:

            Or if not acting, then perhaps strict observance of formalized social protocol. This would be easier in a society that has formal manners, but it should be possible even in our own.

            My own Rock-Bottom Rules for the Socially Incompetent go like this:
            1. If you can say nothing, say nothing. (It’s hard to give offence by being too quiet.)
            2. If you must say something, punctiliously observe the rules that have been taught to you by parents and teachers as good manners. (You won’t be sincere about it, and people will be able to tell, but in good manners, effort counts.)
            3. If your best attempt at good manners aren’t getting it done, just say what you want clearly. (Now you’ve done it. Someone is going to get upset. Clarity is the best you can hope for.)

        • genisage says:

          ETA: @James Miller’s advice is probably better.

          It depends on the body language. Something like unconsciously glancing around for more interesting things might be really hard to change, but other things like having a closed-off sort of posture are easy to stop doing when you make an effort, and the only hard part is maintaining it, so you just have to remind yourself to take control of it periodically.

          Noticing it might also depend on the body language, but generally having somebody else notice it for you is probably easiest. If it’s hard to notice even after you’ve been told about it, you can spend some time in front of a mirror trying to get a better feel for it.

          I’m possibly being overoptimistic here, but hopefully a small decrease in standoffish body language will result in a small increase in the enjoyableness of interactions, which will make the next decrease in standoffishness easier.

          • Mark says:

            I think the acting/control route is a bit of a hard ask, and not just for an asperger person.
            You certainly get people who are good liars, but, in general, most of us are naturally fairly transparent, at least when it comes to strong emotions (I feel bad/ I feel good).
            As a natural skill it’s almost another extreme of mental illness to be able to detach from your emotions to such an extent and have complete control of your expressions.

            And if you are going to learn to do the social thing through acting, you’re going to have to be doing pitch perfect, improvisational movie acting in one take.
            It’s become the best actor in the world vs. try and change your attitude.

          • genisage says:

            I think we broadly agree. But I might be more optimistic about how much a small behavioral change could influence interactions. I did try to be clear that I didn’t think acting was a good long term solution. My hope was that a little bit of acting could produce slightly more pleasant conversations, and then in future interactions there would be less acting required.

            We both think that in the long term, an attitude change is what will improve interactions. I’m suggesting that one way to initiate that attitude change is by faking it to whatever degree you can, and then seeing that the results are more positive than what you’re currently getting.

            And I do think (absent proprioception issues) it’s not that difficult an ask to have somebody periodically do the opposite of some bit of body language they’ve been told about during a conversation. Whether small changes will have any noticeable results, or if you really would have to get to a high level of acting before people didn’t see through you and treat you exactly the same, I’m less confident about.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, I agree.

            I don’t think acting classes would be the best way to achieve that though – probably better to find some way to record yourself having a social interaction, and see if there are any big body language no-nos going on.

            I recorded myself doing a job interview practice and I realised I was rubbing my legs a lot while grinning insanely. It looked mental and I was completely unaware I was doing it.

            As you say, trying to consciously adopt relaxed body language can make a bit of a difference as a stepping stone to addressing the underlying emotional issue.

            I’m not too sure how that applies to aspergers, but a somewhat inept but well meaning person would probably be better than an inept and irritated/condescending one.

          • genisage says:

            I don’t think acting classes would be the best way to achieve that though – probably better to find some way to record yourself having a social interaction, and see if there are any big body language no-nos going on.

            You could be right. I’ve never tried one; I just assumed they would have figured out some better strategies than I could come up with myself. I would be shocked, though, if recording yourself and studying it wasn’t a major component of any decent acting class.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          How do you control unconscious body language? For that matter, how do you even notice it?

          It’s like breathing, once you have it pointed out to you, it’s possible to make a conscious effort to manage it.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @genisage, @Whatever Happened To Anonymous

            See, when I started out in preschool, I was in Special Ed for speech delay and both gross and fine motor skill difficulties. The latter were given a diagnosis of what was then called Sensory Integration Dysfunction (tactile-defensive subtype), now Sensory Processing Disorder. I’ve, over the course of my life, had to train myself to resist the powerful instinct to sit on my feet, which instinct occurs because otherwise my brain loses track of where they are. While I can mentally plot parabolic trajectories, I can neither throw nor catch things with any real skill because of the difficulties of trying to move and position my body so as to produce or respond to said trajectory. I schedule trips to the bathroom because my ability to perceive the need to use it is somewhat limited compared to the average person. I have difficulty telling when I’m ill. In short, I have lousy proprioception compared to the average person.

            Edit: I and my brothers also took Gōjū-ryū karate as a kid for a time — because it was the cheapest option for an athletic activity — and was never even able to get the first kata down.

          • bintchaos says:

            Aspies as a rule are not physically graceful.
            That’s why I had extra-curricular forced classical dance training from the age of 5.
            A dance studio wont switch you to soundboard.
            I took AP classes or independent study my senior year in HS.
            The company of animals also worked very well for me. Volunteer for dog or cat rescues, or for horse rescues if those exist in Alaska.

          • genisage says:

            @Kevin C.
            Ah sorry about all that. That probably puts your situation outside of my abilities to predict what might work, but one thing that could be worth trying is to find some body language you can manage to do deliberately that might be weird, but at least isn’t whatever is currently causing problems. Like, instead of being my normal, hunched over, fidgety self when I end up in a social situation, I’ll juggle, or stand on one foot, or do card tricks. No idea what specific things might be applicable for you. But if there’s something that’s easy to do without focusing much, and incompatible with whatever particular body language you’re trying to avoid, it might plausibly help.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            For what it’s worth: Do something proactive when meeting people?
            I read about an asperger person with face agnosie (couldn’t recognize anyone by face) who always handed out a leaflet explaining the asperger condition and some relevant concrete consequences of his difficulties, along the lines of “when I meet you on the street (i.e., in a different context situation) and do not greet you it is not my intention, please tell me who you are. If you have altered your hairdo/glasses/shoes I will certainly not recognize you unless you give me a strong clue.” etc. it was a double-sided sheet, IIRC.

            If you happen to have any diagnosis that can be whittled and massaged into similar excuses (maybe putting a bit of ‘unconventional cognitive processing style’ blame onto yourself) that may go a long way of people accepting you and not reading too much into your body language. This in turn should ease some of the problems you have in accepting them — not being able to fine-control your body language does not mean you’re not sending, nor reading theirs unconsciously! Once people realize you are a penguin in their savannah the interaction becomes less tense, it may even open into a friendly curiosity (there will still be lions trying to eat you, but also flamingoes trying to show you their oase lakes [this metaphor starts to fray…]).

    • Randy M says:

      If you can’t stand being around your intellectual inferiors, how do you expect to deal with children?

      • Kevin C. says:

        I don’t. That was my point in the earlier discussion. But I’ve got folks around here like Deiseach and Hlynkacg telling me that accepting that my tribe is utterly doomed is despair, and therefore Absolutely Forbidden under penalty of being denounced as a perdiferous traitor, and thus I have do something no matter how futile to fight for my side, and folks like Well… going on about the best way to do that is reproduction: ‘if you want the world to have more people like yourself, use the means nature equipped you with for making more people like yourself,’ or something like that.

        So, if having kids is not the way for me to do my duty to fight for the survival of Borderer Kyriarchy, what is, then?

        • johan_larson says:

          You are intelligent, articulate, and you have a lot of time. You want to propagate your values, some of which overlap with more mainstream groups, and others which do not.

          I think you should become an online essayist for some collection of topics that the general conservative readership is interested in and overlaps with your own values. Become the absolute expert on those topics. Write lots about all sorts of aspects of them. And whenever anything concerning them comes up in the conservative blogosphere, join the conversation and link to your work. You’ll know you’re succeeding when others start pointing people to your writings and (ideally) mentioning your ideas directly.

          Also, you need to start presenting yourself in different terms. “White Monarchist Kyriarchy” isn’t going to fly right now, even among distinctly conservative people. It’s way outside the Overton Window. Tone some of that stuff down as much as you can without feeling like a liar.

          All of this is going to be the work of years and will require some compromises on your part. But you might actually succeed, and if you did you would shift our cultural meme-cluster slightly in the direction of your ideals. And that’s what you want, isn’t it?

          • bintchaos says:

            Do you mean Kevin is going to have to become a missionary and prophet?
            And wander in the wilderness for 40 years?

          • johan_larson says:

            @bintchaos

            Do you mean Kevin is going to have to become a missionary and prophet?

            No. Since he is an atheist, those terms are definitely inappropriate. More apt words would be blogger, essayist, advocate, or political commentator.

            And wander in the wilderness for 40 years?

            Again, no. I am advising him to find common ground with more mainstream conservatives so he will gain an audience more easily and won’t have to figuratively wander the wilderness for forty years.

          • bintchaos says:

            Aren’t Dawkins and Harris missionaries of atheism, then?
            And arent they creating prophecy with their claims that atheism is inevitable?
            Maybe Kevin should move to Australia.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @johan_larson

            I think you should become an online essayist for some collection of topics that the general conservative readership is interested in and overlaps with your own values.

            I’ve thought a bit about this the last few days, and I’m coming up dry with regards to any such topics. The more I look at it, the less I seem to have in common with “general, mainstream conservatives” except our common enemies on the left. And I’m especially coming dry with any such thing where I have the means (within my limited mobility and budget) to “become the absolute expert on the topic”; not an expert, but the expert, literally the absolutely most knowledgeable on the entire planet expert.

        • Aapje says:

          My armchair psychologist opinion is also that it would probably be a very bad idea for Kevin C to have children. Ever since Moldbug quit, I’d say that there is a niche for him there (Kevin Moldbug?).

      • baconbacon says:

        If you can’t stand being around your intellectual inferiors, how do you expect to deal with children?

        If you define intellect by knowledge then children are dumb as shit. If you define by ability to learn then even children who will measure at a standard deviation or two lower than you in IQ will be superior to you for stretches of your life.

        If you don’t like kids, don’t have kids, but don’t assume that just because you don’t like adults with an IQ sub X that you won’t like kids with an IQ sub X, they are very different beings.

        • Randy M says:

          It depends on what is the salient point in Kevin’s interactions with others. I assumed it was something like “an ability to converse about complex topics” which a bright five year old isn’t likely to be able to do much better than a 105 IQ grown up.
          Yes, it’s quite possible that any given child will have a greater potential than a brilliant adult, but the adult will still require patience in their interactions. There’s a reason “explain it to me like I’m five” is a saying.

      • Some people find that dealing with their own children is different.

        A friend of ours agreed with his wife that their children would be primarily her responsibility for the first few years, then when they got older his, because he knew he didn’t like small children.

        It turned out that he was mistaken. He even ended up creating children’s stories. Good ones.

    • Urstoff says:

      Just be a nice person? Listen, be polite, don’t put them down, etc. Also, don’t divide up the world into “smart people like me” and “stupid people not like me”. That’s just a bad perspective to be carrying around.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        I suspect this is a common side effect of both bullying of smart kids in school and also the fact that sometimes people end up with high intelligence test scores + few accomplishments. Both of those encourage a kind of self-serving mental model of the world in which intelligence is the really important thing that determines the value of people.

        • Kevin C. says:

          At one point in high school, I was in serious danger of being unable to graduate. Why? Because, thanks to my accelerated pace in math, I took calculus, the highest-level math course the Anchorage School District, as a freshman. How is that a problem, you ask? Because one had to take two and a half years of math (2.5 math “credits”) to graduate, no exceptions. I had one year’s credit, and no classes left to fill the other 1.5 years. What were the teachers and administrators’ response? The same one I got throughout my youth when these sorts of problems came up, and I quote: “if you’re so smart, Kevin, you figure it out.”

          So, clearly, the fact that I’m unable to solve my problems means I’m not really that smart. Is this not the community that understands that a computer with nothing more than an internet connection, or just a text interface, could still take over the world and wipe out humanity if it’s smart enough. That any obstacle short of the laws of physics themselves can be overcome with enough intelligence?

          • baconbacon says:

            Did you graduate?

            Who figured it out?

          • Matt M says:

            The same one I got throughout my youth when these sorts of problems came up, and I quote: “if you’re so smart, Kevin, you figure it out.”

            Suck it up, take pre-calc, and cruise to an easy A while reading comics and playing tetris on your calculator during class.

            There, I figured it out for you.

          • genisage says:

            @Matt M
            I don’t know about others, but my high school didn’t allow you to take courses they thought you were already past.

            With a sympathetic teacher, an individual curriculum with them could count. Or if there’s a local community college, taking math there might work.

          • Urstoff says:

            Also, be less bitter. Bitterness repels people of all levels of intelligence.

          • Matt M says:

            My guess is they didn’t allow him to take a course his freshman year which would then make it literally impossible for him to graduate, then, when this was pointed out to them, shrugged their shoulders and told him to “figure it out.”

            But I could be wrong.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            They don’t let you move “backwards” like that.

            The answer for how I graduated:

            You could take courses at UAA or APU (the local colleges) and, under certain conditions, use them for high-school credit, at a reduced conversion rate. However, being poor, my family could not afford these, and the administration knew it. (In a different battle with an ASD administrator, his explicit attitude when pointed to a provision in state education law was “so what, we know you can’t afford the lawyers necessary to make us comply with it.”)

            What happened then was the “Anchorage is a small town” effect, whereby, my mother, in the course of, with the free daytime hours that came with being a housewife, making herself a persistant and belligerent irritant to the ASD administration, caught the attention of a kind-hearted individual in the Gifted Program personnel (who, as it turns out, was passingly professionally familiar with my retired-Special-Ed-teacher grandmother due to the Gifted Program being administratively grouped under Special Ed in Alaska, and who is also a second cousin of a childhood friend of mine) finally, out of charity, personally paid out-of-pocket for me to take two years of college calculus (whereupon, when asked by classmates to join them in study sessions thanks to being near the top of the class, I had to remind them that I was under eighteen, being driven by my mom, and still had a bedtime), which converted to the necessary year-and-a-half so I could graduate. Had said woman not stepped forward and given so generously, I would not have graduated.

            Edit:
            @urstoff

            How do you do that? I mean seriously, I don’t know how. Same as how I just don’t get how to “let things go”.

          • Urstoff says:

            Counseling / therapy would be a good start. It really can help people get over anger and bitterness (assuming they want to).

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Urstoff

            I’ve been receiving various psychiatric care since my 2004 suicide attempt. Remember, everyone, this is me with therapy and on antidepressants.

          • Urstoff says:

            ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            For overcoming bitterness perhaps some Stoicism?

    • baconbacon says:

      If I can suggest an exercise, dedicate a day or two to turning off all the electricity where you life (if possible). Spend most of your day there without lights, heat/AC, internet etc. The guy that wired your house probably had an IQ 3-4 SDs below yours, and yet he was able to be a major piece in providing you with comfort and entertainment for years just by doing his job. There is so much more to the world than just being smart, and if you honestly feel like you are an unemployable loser perhaps trying to appreciate some other valuable qualities will be a good step forward.

      • Zodiac says:

        I second this.
        It also helps if you can rewire your concept of “smart” to include forms that don’t hinge on being an intellectual. A carpenter might have a lower IQ than a top-linguist but he will be to do the things the linguist can not accomplish.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Baconbacon, Zodiac,

        You might not have read any of my comments where I shared this information, but I spent time growing up in a rural locale with no electricity, running water, sewer, and with only a woodstove for heating (in Alaska). And for longer than I’ve been alive, my father has worked in building maintenance and carpentry-type work (he used to be the maintenance guy for the very apartment building I live in back when it was owned by a different landlord).

        (Then again, it was primarily undianosed dyslexia and ADD that led to his dropping out of high school and entering blue collar trade.)

    • johan_larson says:

      Sounds like you need to find an environment where there simply are not many intellectually low-performing folks. A top law firm, college, or major tech company would be the sort of place where you would feel at home. And if you were also to live in a place where most work at such places, you would only rarely need to deal with the left-hand side of the distribution.

      • dndnrsn says:

        If he actually does have a problem interacting with people below IQ 130, you will still find plenty of people in the 120 range in good law firms, academia, etc.

        • johan_larson says:

          Oh sure. But the distribution will be much more favourable. It will be like a hay-fever sufferer moving from a farmhouse to a big-city highrise.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Unfortunately, first, as I’ve explained before, I’m pretty much stuck where I am, for multiple reasons not readily remedied. And second, while I’d probably fit in better to the sort of places you list in terms of intellect, I would be even more likely expelled over the tribal/political differences.

        • On the other hand, the internet makes it possible to be part of non-geographical social groups.

        • Reasoner says:

          Unfortunately, first, as I’ve explained before, I’m pretty much stuck where I am, for multiple reasons not readily remedied.

          Share the reasons and see if we’re creative enough to find a solution you didn’t think of?

          I would be even more likely expelled over the tribal/political differences.

          Discussing politics at work is generally taboo. I wouldn’t worry about it.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Reasoner,

            I shared the reasons I can’t move before in an earlier open thread. But to summarize:
            First, I’m on disability, and at least some of the benefits I live off of don’t transfer with me if I move to a different state (one, my rent subsidy, is lost if I so much as move to a different apartment in the same apartment building, and has a waiting list that runs literally years to get (back) on).
            Second, my entire social support network — family and friends — are all here, and the last time I tried to go without them and live in a different state, I was psychiatrically hospitalized twice in a roughly six month period.
            Plus, there’s overlap of these two, in that my SSI requires me to have a Representative Payee who recieves my govt. funds for me; this job is done by my mom, and it would be nigh-impossible for her to do so if I was in a different state.

    • Mark says:

      If I could turn it around, what is it about normal people that irritates you?

      I would say I’m in the medium intelligence category (nearer the top of “normal person” ( though I did end up in the top 1% for the Cambridge brain science test thing, so who knows?)) – and I find it very annoying when people are really amused by simple vulgarity, or when they take ideas seriously when they aren’t really prepared to think about them.

      Examples that come to mind are non-respectible working class, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. How I cope with these people is to look for good intentions, and I also try to make their lives more enjoyable, as the purpose of the interaction.
      If you end up looking like a stick-in-the-mud, or an unbeliever, sometimes people can enjoy that. So, be an honest misunderstood genius and think about all the fun normies are having out-grouping you.

      • Kevin C. says:

        If I could turn it around, what is it about normal people that irritates you?

        They seem to mostly care about, spend their time talking about, paying attention to, etc. so much pointless nonsense (celebrities, sports, fashion, “reality TV”, whatever it is the other kids were discussing on the playground while I wandered around by myself in elementary school, the weather, and so on). Innumeracy. Difficulty connecting cause-and-effect alternating with confusing correlation with causation. Having to be walked through the most basic logical reasoning. Emotion substituting for reasoning. Inability to recall previously learned information. But I guess the strongest is still the fact that (as ISTM) that about 90% of what “average people” discuss is not only of no interest to me (while what I tend to focus on is of no interest to them), but seems like pointless wastes of time and energy that could be spent on much higher pursuits. Pretty much nobody has any good reason for caring about anything involving the Kardashians, which team won a basketball game, or “who wore what best on the red carpet”.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          You should probably look for productive things that don’t involve other people. For example, you could take up art or writing. You could write clever political satires in the form of science fiction novels, innocent enough to find a publisher, but secretly infused with your political ideas. At the very least, it would give you a purpose in life.

          • Kevin C. says:

            You should probably look for productive things that don’t involve other people. For example, you could take up art or writing.

            Kind of already trying, as it were. But fine motor skill problems (and financial and space limitations) get in the way of most art. And as for writing, particularly fiction, I am trying, but “characterization” is both key and difficult, and most writing advice boils down to “write what (and who) you know”, so when one’s life experiences are as limited, and social circle as small and stagnant, as I am, it isn’t very useful advice.

            (It’s why probably my most “creative” activity with any sort of productiveness is conlanging.)

          • The Red Foliot says:

            I think a better adage is: “great artists steal”.

            Seriously, I’m in much a similar situation to yourself, and I’m finding fiction writing is a lot more about understanding established tropes than drawing from life experiences. That and practice. Huge amounts of practice. I drink coffee and practice 2-3 hours every day — that’s done the most to augment my skill, and let me tell you, I was a shit writer starting off.

          • I think a better adage is: “great artists steal”.

            One of my favorite secondary characters in Salamander, my second novel, is stolen from Dorothy Sayers–my female protagonist’s mother, based on Peter Whimsey’s mother.

            Some other characters are based on real people. After I finished my first novel I concluded that I had based the personality of the protagonist largely on my father.

            I think both approaches work. So if you want to write fiction, reading fiction would be one substitute for experiencing life.

            At a slight tangent. Charley Stross is a moderately successful sf writer. At least one of his novels has an anarcho-capitalist society as part of the background. I knew Stross online long ago and am reasonably sure that, at least at that time, he knew nothing about the literature on the subject. My guess is that his A-C society is based not on Rothbard or on me but on the A-C societies portrayed by other sf authors such as Vinge. Political theory at second hand. It should work for characters too.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @The Red Foliot

            I think a better adage is: “great artists steal”.

            I suppose. I mean, that does pretty much explain E. L. James, yes?

            That and practice. Huge amounts of practice. I drink coffee and practice 2-3 hours every day

            How exactly does one practice fiction writing. Yes, “sit down and write”, but sit down and write what?

            @The Red Foliot, @DavidFriedman

            Sure, tropes and other fiction; I’ve read a lot, yes. But that still doesn’t help with the basic problem of character-driven over plot-driven: how to figure out how a given character will act, in a given situation, as a product of their personality/character (rather than “because the plot demands they do X”). How do you know how this made-up person — who isn’t you, and doesn’t have your reactions — will react in a given situation?

            I’ve read plenty of authors talk about how their characters “speak to them” or “take over the story” or such. For example, I remember a bit from Tite Kubo about how at times writing Bleach, he felt like Aizen was using his “Absolute Hypnosis” on him. Or Thomas Harris talking about how writing often feels like “looking in” and watching his characters — and how he can never totally shake the feeling that Hannibal Lecter may just be looking back.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            My very first practice story was about some medieval people who find an abandoned castle in a forest, decide to shelter there for the night, and then get attacked by living shadows. A crude story and poorly written; but by writing schlock like that for an extended time, I was eventually able to progress to things more complex and meaningful.

            Some other things I did were write down lists of things I had seen in published fantasy works, analyze them for similarities, and then conjecture on what was needed for them to work.

            For instance, characters who form the basis for serials, such as Conan the Cimmerian or Elrik of Melnibone, all need to have cool names, all need to have forceful personalities and strong beliefs, and can stand to have a wide variety of ‘quirks’ such as sword canes or ‘big appetites’ or whatever. In other words, they need to be really colorful. And speaking of stealing, one doesn’t even have to mine extant fiction for ideas for quirks or strong beliefs–there is already a catalog in the form of TVTropes. Also, those characters are often derivative of others from older works. Conan is something of a Western cowboy hero transplanted to a medieval world, and Elrik derives his appearance from some albino detective hero of the 1930’s, while his existential conflict comes a 19th-century gothic novel called Melmoth the Wanderer.

            I also write down theories I have about storytelling. One that I wrote down recently was about how character trajectories are better imagined as pieces of wood being whittled down rather than them being blown out from a cannon.

            And this is besides just writing down stupid stories I imagine. Even if a story I write is bad, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am getting practice that will eventually allow me to write better stories. I critique my work in the margins of the page so that I know what I should do to improve during my next practice session, and I make sure to get at least some writing done every day.

            If you want to get some more in-depth info on how to write, there are a variety of good books available for storytelling. I will list some of my favorites here:
            The Art of Fiction, John Gardner
            The Art of Fiction, Ayn Rand
            Scene and Structure, Jack Bickham
            Setting, Jack Bickham
            Screenwriting 101, FILMCRITHULK

            I’ve also come across lots of essays or brief asides given by authors about how they work. They are often highly idiosyncratic. I think true mastery comes when you’ve internalized and consolidated various storytelling methods to the point where you can fluidly recall them as you are writing. In the parlance of psychology, the term for doing that would be ‘chunking’.

            I don’t think it matters too much what your methods are, just that you have them, and that they have at least some level of efficacy. And that means it’s more about practice than what particular approach you take.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @The Red Foliot

            Aside from the list of books, I’m not sure how that was an answer to my questions. How do you figure out what to write for your writing practice? What do you do when you see that blank page and your mind goes equally blank? And how do you effectively “critique” your own work? How do you determine if your practice is, or isn’t, making you a better writer? And, again, how do you figure out your characters’ behavior?

          • How do you know how this made-up person — who isn’t you, and doesn’t have your reactions — will react in a given situation?

            I don’t think I can tell you this, anymore than I an tell you how I run or how I write poetry. I just do it. Once I know a character, who isn’t me but is someone I have observed in real life or well written fiction, I have at least some feel for what he will to in a situation.

            The way I sometimes put it is that no plot survives contact with the characters. In order for the story to work they have to do what they would do, not what you planned for them to do.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @DavidFriedman

            The way I sometimes put it is that no plot survives contact with the characters. In order for the story to work they have to do what they would do, not what you planned for them to do.

            Apparently I’m not being clear. That bit I just quoted, that’s my problem. The characters “have to do what they would do”, not what the plot demands. The problem is that I don’t know what that is! I only know the plot, not what a given character does in a given situation. How do you figure that out? You say that you “have at least some feel for what he will do in a situation.” I don’t. So how do I get that “feel”?

          • The Red Foliot says:

            I don’t think characters have to be realistic or true to life to work. Just look at Stephen King novels, how wacky his characters so often are. Certainly, in the Conan stories the characters just do whatever the hell the plot wants.

            The conception of characterization you’re referring to sounds overly romantic literary to me. My own observation is that consistency is what you want to strive for, not ‘realism’, whatever that even is, and that ‘virtuosity’ is probably the most useful metric you could use in assessing a character’s actions (so as to keep them consistent).

            Virtuosity is of great relevance in determining a character’s actions. It comes up a lot; in fact, it is relevant to just about any situation where a character could plausibly take action. If you are wondering whether a character should lie or tell the truth, reference their virtuosity; if you want to know whether they would help someone out or not, look at their virtuosity; even if you want to know how hard they would study for a test, virtuosity can be the key, even exclusive, metric you consider. Most existing characters could be placed on a scale of virtuosity and have their story-actions reliably predicted. That is how key virtuosity is in considering fiction. But it is not all-encompassing; while much of character activity pertains to it, there is some that fall outside its realm, and for it, you must think a little bit more expansively.

            The basis for my woodcarving analogy was my idea that character essences can be captured by short character sketches or statements of theme. Jaime Lannister, for instance, is a handsome, competent self-assured knight whose virtue is quite poor. From that short summary, you can accurately predict most of his story-actions. He would always be ready for a fight, he would have little compunction for harming others or telling lies (or sleeping with the king’s wife), he would generally do competent things but rarely would he help others, besides his kin.

            So there is the piece of wood in the analogy–the sketch. Just like a true woodcarver, you might spot a certain ‘shape’ in a given piece of wood, waiting to be carved out. Maybe one piece of wood has the potential for a bow, maybe another for a model boat. Or maybe its just a piece of wood, whatever. Most secondary characters are just pieces of wood, in that they never change.

            But for a character like Jaime, you might see some potential. If virtuosity is such a key metric, then having him change his moral behavior would seem to be a great way to approach him and pretty much all other characters. In the books, since one of his key aspects was his competency, losing his hand was a devastating alteration. Without it, the world treated him differently, and he had to rethink his approach to the life. All that was required on the author’s part was to have Jaime contemplate his actions, whenever a relevant plot event arose, to note how he was now worthless as a knight, how actions he would previously have taken were no longer possible under his current circumstances; and from there to slowly adjust his philosophy to something better suited to his position. Basically, he is forced to reconsider actions he would formerly have taken for granted, and thereby alter his essence. That is how he was ‘whittled away at’ to be made into something new. His new sketch might be, ‘formerly-competent maimed knight striving to be more virtuous’. That sketch predicts pretty much all of his actions following his alteration.

            And it seems another key point here is simple consistency. There’s nothing really profound about having a character always acting a certain way until he loses his hand, then acting in a different way thereafter. The point is just to anchor the character so that there are recurrences in their behavior; until, at least, you begin to (consciously) whittle him differently. It’s less important to have a character be ‘true to life,’ than to simply be consistent. And I don’t think just ‘throwing your characters in the air and seeing where they fall’ would let you achieve this kind of character arc, so I would suggest forgetting about ascribing it all to intuition. A lot of fiction is based on your writerly caprice, but at the same time, I think you need rules in order to maintain consistency, as well as heuristics like ‘looking at virtuosity’ to help you easily recognize potentialities and to look at fiction more fluidly.

            I maintain that a lot of competency in writing and other crafts come from chunking the ideas you have so that you can access them fluidly as you work or plan.

            The way I come up with story ideas is either by just writing and seeing what comes up, even if its shit, or by using diffuse thinking to come up with good ideas. I’m the type of person who has to do things by iteration–a basher rather than a swooper, if you will–so my ideas tend to flesh themselves out more as I work on them and redo them and so forth. So it’s basically a lot of work, and I’m probably not yet good enough to be published under current circumstances, even after 500-1000 hours of practice, but I’ve seen substantial improvement in my work, and if this were 60 years ago and pulp magazines were still around and easy to get into, I probably would be good enough to get into print.

          • How do you figure that out? You say that you “have at least some feel for what he will do in a situation.” I don’t. So how do I get that “feel”?

            As I already said:

            I don’t think I can tell you this, anymore than I can tell you how I run or how I write poetry.

            Human beings have very good pattern recognition software. We use it, but we don’t know how it works. I am observing behavior, either in real life or in fiction, and getting from that a pattern, a personality, which tells me how that person would act in a situation.

            I’m currently working on a passage in my third novel where two men are conversing. I write something one of them says, look at it, and see if it feels like what that person would say. If not I try to change it so it does.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I am observing behavior, either in real life or in fiction, and getting from that a pattern, a personality, which tells me how that person would act in a situation.

            See, the problem is that I don’t have that. My “software” is defective. So how do I substitute for that deficit? Or is writing fiction, like so many other things, simply not for me? (Once again affirming that I am a useless defective with no redeeming features.)

            @The Red Foliot

            Have you read Poul Anderson’s essay “On Thud and Blunder“?

          • The Red Foliot says:

            Some of what he said is inaccurate, and I don’t agree with the thrust of his argument that fantasy benefits from historical accuracy, but overall I enjoyed Poul’s essay. It gave me an idea for a story that I’m excited about. A motif will be Viking seamanship. It will have an evil wizard named [redacted], will take place in a world reminiscent of Earthsea, and will have a theme concerning hardiness vs. decadence, illustrated by the contrast between pseudo-Vikings and a vestigial empire. Why do you bring it up, though?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @The Red Foliot

            You ask why I pointed you at that essay? Because you said things like this:

            Some other things I did were write down lists of things I had seen in published fantasy works, analyze them for similarities, and then conjecture on what was needed for them to work.

            For instance, characters who form the basis for serials, such as Conan the Cimmerian or Elrik of Melnibone, all need to have cool names, all need to have forceful personalities and strong beliefs, and can stand to have a wide variety of ‘quirks’ such as sword canes or ‘big appetites’ or whatever. In other words, they need to be really colorful. And speaking of stealing, one doesn’t even have to mine extant fiction for ideas for quirks or strong beliefs–there is already a catalog in the form of TVTropes. Also, those characters are often derivative of others from older works. Conan is something of a Western cowboy hero transplanted to a medieval world, and Elrik derives his appearance from some albino detective hero of the 1930’s, while his existential conflict comes a 19th-century gothic novel called Melmoth the Wanderer.

            At least a portion of Anderson’s whole argument is all about avoiding that sort of hacky pastiche of genre clichés and tropes. And whose advice should I give more weight to, a successful and well-known author, or some random person on the internet who admits they’re “probably not yet good enough to be published under current circumstances, even after 500-1000 hours of practice”?

            Edit: if you want to continue this conversation, we should probably take it to the new open thread.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            Started a new thread.

    • JulieK says:

      The following passage offers inspiration that even if something doesn’t come naturally, you can compensate and learn to do it:

      …he walked very carefully, with his eyes on the road, and when he saw a tiny ant toiling by he would step over it, so as not to harm it. The Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything.

      “You people with hearts,” he said, “have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful. When Oz gives me a heart of course I needn’t mind so much.”

    • TheZvi says:

      I have a child and I think having kids, especially smart people having kids, is pretty great. So I support the idea in principle. It will take work to fix the problems and full advice would be very very long (you can email me at “theXXX@gmail.com where XXX is my first name if you want to chat about things, I had to go through some reasonably similar things, and I empathize enough that I want to devote a little time and try to help, if I can) but I’d say two things to start out:

      1. You should (partially) fix the can’t-tolerate-normies thing by treating normies as systems to learn from via observation, rather than an equal to relation. Dale Carnegie said he never met a boring person, and there’s wisdom in that. Yes, they can’t think like you can, but you’re trying to figure out what makes them tick, what made them who they are, what matters to them, how you can help, and how you can improve your world model, and also share their joy/sadness/whatever and maybe even make them like/love you. None of that requires them to be *smart*. When you have to deal with such people, you then don’t think of it as being forced to have an intellectual talk with a (relative) idiot. You’re sort of combination playing a (very deep and difficult to master) game and studying the (very complex) world. As you say, in an important sense you’re not all that smart – yet. Time to get smarter.
      2. You don’t want to actually marry a normie. Yes, this and age and gender and a few other conditions you clearly have given your other statements will together filter out 99.9%+ of the population but you only need one success and you have some rare positives to offer too. If you’re serious about this, you need to be in the places where you have a chance to meet people you could date and that wouldn’t bore you, so you can at least get the practice, and prioritize that, etc etc.

      I’d also assure you that yes, you can get pretty far along in life with all of these problems, overcome them, and have a great family at the end of it, if you want it enough and do the work. And you should want it. And you should do the work (and the work is worthwhile just to improve your own life experience on your own, with the rest as bonus).

      None of that is earth shattering or genius or even weird advice, of course. The work is the work.

      But what inspired me to actually start typing this comment is the part where someone these Hlynkacg, Deiseach and co. called you a perdiferous traitor and that this seems to be your motivation for going through the (by your current estimate, Shut-Up-And-Do-The-Impossible-Level-Hard task) so that these people would *stop calling you names*.

      I don’t know what kind of warped dynamic is going on there, but it sounds pretty freaking terrible. If you want to have kids so you can fight for the future of yourself, your family, your tribe, your memes, humanity, whatever, I have less than no problem with that. If those guys convinced you that this is the right thing to do, I have no problem with that either. But that’s not what you said! What you said was that this was so those people would stop calling you a traitor. This is very different from you thinking that not doing this would actually make you a traitor.

      You are taking on a task that will take up a huge portion of your remaining life even in the best case of huge outrageous instant success. It has great rewards. If your heart is in it, I encourage you to do it! But don’t do it so other people stop calling you names. As a general rule, don’t do ANYTHING so some guys on the internet stop calling you names. It’s a stupid reason, and if you try to have a family for that reason your heart will NOT be in it, it will be obvious to you and to everyone else, and it will… not go well.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Most of your numbered “advice”, and my objections, limitations, and barriers thereto, were covered in the previous discussion which started here. But, to quote from that opening post, I described myself as

        an unemployed, introverted, ultra-rightist atheist with Aspergers, who doesn’t drink for medical reasons (medication interaction), and who (for multiple reasons) cannot move from his current city of residence, who has a practically nonexistent sex-drive (even before antidepressants) and literally no dating experience

        And when I say I’m an “ultra-rightist”, I mean I think that, in terms of politics, culture, society, and pretty much everything but science and technology, the entire “Enlightenment” is a terrible, terrible mistake. That we’ve been going in the wrong direction for at least 500 years. That we should bring back feudalism and hereditary aristocracy. Forget gay marriage or no-fault-divorce, I think we need to roll back the whole “romance” thing toward arranged marriages again. Even though I’m an atheist personally, a fan of Arnaud “Kill them all and let God sort them out” Amalric and the Inquisitions. I’m a self-described Kyriarchist.

        So, I ask of you the question I’ve asked others: if marrying and having and raising White Monarchist Kyriarchist children isn’t the way for me, personally, to fight for the survival of White Monarchist Kyriarchy (as folks like Well… claim it is), then what is?

        • BBA says:

          I noticed you pulled a bait-and-switch. In those other discussions, where those other commenters ordered you not to despair, you were talking about the survival of “your tribe” or “your people.” But now you’re explicitly talking about the survival of “White Monarchist Kyriarchy.” The issue is not whether you have any chance of perpetuating your philosophy, the issue is that they disagree that everyone must follow your prescriptions to prevent the inevitable destruction of the white race, or whatever it is you’re actually arguing for. (I admit, I find your philosophy hard to follow, partly because the implications about (((my people))) make it hard for me to approach it objectively.)

          They aren’t saying “don’t despair, because there’s a chance that kyriarchy will spread and save the Borderers”, they’re saying “don’t despair, because your beliefs are wrong – the Borderers aren’t doomed.” But you’re stubborn about your beliefs and they haven’t argued against them, so instead we’re going back and forth over whether your beliefs are grounds for despair.

          Of course your beliefs are grounds for despair. You think everything is terrible and everyone is doomed. Now if I ever reached that conclusion, I would wonder if there was something wrong with my premises, but honestly I don’t have the patience or fortitude to engage with your beliefs any longer. I just want to make it clear what we’re really talking about here.

          • Kevin C. says:

            they’re saying “don’t despair, because your beliefs are wrong – the Borderers aren’t doomed.”

            And they’re clearly wrong.

            Now if I ever reached that conclusion, I would wonder if there was something wrong with my premises

            Why? Why is “everything is terrible and everyone is doomed” automatically always not a reasonable conclusion to come to when the evidence supports it?

          • BBA says:

            Because it means I wouldn’t enjoy every sandwich as much as I could.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            (((my people)))

            let (((my people))) gooooooo
            ————————————
            Kevin C, look, my guy. Under your philosophy, everyone is screwed.

            In reality, people will probably find a way to make it work. We’re adaptable. The current situation can’t continue on forever (and if it can, then we’re fine regardless). The worst-case scenario is usually that our society will collapse and we will fall back into some sort of Dark Age…but considering your outlook, isn’t that basically what you were looking for anyways?

            Not to mention that people are rebels. Many young people nowadays are going more “traditional” or “conservative” or “reactionary” or even just “anti-SJW”. I think humans are designed towards a pendulum effect, as an automatic corrective – thus, children rebel against their parents, and society constantly changes.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @AnonYEmous

            The worst-case scenario is usually that our society will collapse and we will fall back into some sort of Dark Age…but considering your outlook, isn’t that basically what you were looking for anyways?

            Except for the industrial technology that could potentially be lost for all time in the collapse of society. Because the Industrial Revolution is a once-per-planet event. See John Derbyshire, discussing John Gribbins’ Alone in the Universe here, under the heading “04 — Technological civilization is a one-way street.”

            If one of those dreadful things happened, [Gribbins] argues, to a civilization at our level or a bit higher, the survivors would not be able to rebuild back to our level. Why not? Because we have extracted and used up all the natural resources — like metal ores and fossil fuels — that were easy to get to.

            We’re still extracting all that good stuff, of course; but nowadays we need lots of technology, metals, and fossil fuels to do the job.

            My great-grandparents in mid-19th-century England, according to family lore, owned a “butty mine.” That’s a deposit of coal close enough to the surface that a man with a shovel could dig it out and sell it to his neighbors.

            There are no more butty mines in England. I doubt there are any elsewhere. To get coal now — or iron, or copper, or oil — you need lots of technology … and coal, and iron, copper, and oil. So the survivors of a major catastrophe wouldn’t be able to get technological civilization going again. We might get back up to the level of Ancient Egypt, but then we’d be stuck at that level. For ever.

            If this argument is right — it sounds right to me — the human race is performing trapeze without a net.

            (Emphasis in original)
            [edit:tag fix]

        • a fan of Arnaud “Kill them all and let God sort them out” Amalric

          There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that he actually said it.

        • Why is “everything is terrible and everyone is doomed” automatically always not a reasonable conclusion to come to when the evidence supports it?

          The evidence doesn’t support it. It can’t. Human society is too complicated and technological change too rapid and uncertain for the evidence to provide adequate support for either that claim or its denial.

          Which at least suggests that your belief in it may be due to things other than evidence.